National Lawyers Guild Seeks Justice for Agent Orange Victims

Friday August 10, 2012 marks the 51st anniversary of the day the United States began spraying the defoliant Agent Orange over the southern part of Vietnam. That spraying continued for at least 10 years and caused horrific damage that persists today. The U.S. veterans exposed to Agent Orange have achieved some compensation for their illnesses but the Vietnamese spraying victims are still suffering the deadly consequences alone.

Members of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) will join the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign on August 10 to mark the 51st year since the spraying began. Starting at 12 noon, NLG members will join people around the world in observing 51 seconds of silence to commemorate of the victims of Agent Orange and the victims of all wars. After that remembrance, the NLG asks members and friends to take action by visiting and signing an orange postcard to Congress supporting the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act.

According the Judgment of the International people's tribunal of conscience in support of the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, the Vietnamese people exposed to Agent Orange suffer from cancer, liver damage, pulmonary and heart diseases, reproductive defects, and skin and nervous disorders. And today, their surviving children and their children’s children live with severe physical deformities, mental and physical disabilities, diseases, and shortened life expectancies. The forests in large parts of southern Vietnam remain desiccated too, having lost centuries-old habitats to Agent Orange. Agent Orange also continues to contaminate whole water tables and to cause erosion and desertification. Taken together, this environmental trauma is disrupting the landscape across Vietnam and threatening whole species with extinction.

Over the past half-century, the Vietnamese people have sought to hold the U.S. and chemical corporations accountable for their toxic legacy. A 2004 lawsuit brought by Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange in U.S. federal court failed but nevertheless spawned a modern accountability movement. The momentum resulted in the pending Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act (HR. 2634), which attempts to provide medical, rehabilitative, and social compensation to the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, as well as remediation of dioxin-contaminated "hot spots," and medical services for the descendants of U. S. Vietnam veterans and Vietnamese Americans born with the same diseases and deformities.

The United States and the chemical company manufacturers of Agent Orange, most notably Dow and Montsanto, share a responsibility to address the consequences of their illegal action.

The National Lawyers Guild’s advocacy around Agent Orange has been spearheaded by the Agent Orange Working Group, a subcommittee of the NLG International Committee, which works to connect human rights and social justice movements in the United States and abroad.

The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.