Twentieth Century War Paradigm
Agent Orange/dioxin in Vietnam
Visit By Bernie Meyer and Catherine Sagan
Commemorate 40th Anniversary of DC Nine Action
December 24, 2008 to January 9, 2009
“When we initiated the herbicide programme in the
1960s, we were aware of the potential for damage
due to dioxin contamination in the herbicide. We
were even aware that the military formulation had
a higher dioxin concentration than the civilian
version, due to the lower cost and speed of
manufacture. However, because the material was
to be used on the enemy, none of us were overly
concerned.” Military scientist James Clary
NOT JUST “THE ENEMY”
“The War Behind Me establishes, sadly, the
terrible fear that emerged from the horrors of My
Lai --- that its easy cover up suggested that
deliberate killing of civilians was widespread in
heavily contested areas of south Vietnam. Yes,
this book says, it did happen, and yes, as at My
Lai, many of those Gis who did the killing were as
much victims as those they fired upon.”
Vietnam was dominated by China for the first
millennium A.D. Ly Thaito defeated the Chinese
by a creative use of water technology. The photo
of his statue is in Ha Noi. Vietnam understands
“occupation” and resistance.
Vietnam Association for the Victims of Agent
Orange (VAVA) received Catherine and Bernie in
Ha Noi to initiate our visit. Dr. Nguyen Thong
Than, Vice President of VAVA received us with
Ms Lak and another official. We left with the
“Proceedings of the 2006 Conference on Agent
THE FRIENDSHIP VILLAGE
On Christmas day we visited The Friendship
Village initiated by George Mizo in 1998 to serve
victims of Agent Orange, both Vietnamese and US
allies, both children and adult.
The village is a very moving story of peace and
reconciliation. George's platoon was completely
wiped out during the 1968 Tet Offensive by troops
under command of a general who associated with
George in the establishment of the village.
Placard and flags of the nations
Persons and Groups from seven nations
participate in the establishment and maintaining of
The Friendship Village. Vietnam, France,
Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and the
Dioxin, element in Agent Orange, is the most
toxic chemical known to humans. It attaches itself
to fatty tissues in the human body, causing
numerous diseases and bodily defects. The
United States sprayed 80 million liters of
“defoliants” from 1961 to 1971 on jungle,
crops,and around roads/bases, the most
chemicals ever used in a war, a true weapon of
mass destruction. There are an estimated
3,000,000 victims today out of 4.8 million
Cancer of lung, skin,
Lethality of Dioxin in Agent Orange
About one half of the defoliants sprayed were
Agent Orange. Estimates of quantities of the
dioxin contained in Agent Orange spraying run
from 336 Kg to 500-600 Kg.
80 grams inserted in the drinking water of
Manhattan would kill 8 million inhabitants.
More than three million hectares of forests
(including mangroves) were sprayed with toxic
chemicals. Wood resources, jungle animals and
jungle specialties disappeared. Floods, soil
erosion, droughts seriously affecting agriculture
Agent Orange also was used extensively to
Lake with B 52 wreckage
A good friend said there was a downed B 52 in an
Ha Noi lake. My tour guide took me to the lake
which is down an ally from the road in an urban
Visit left me with this question.
Why does a government or a corporation
sacrifice both military and civilian victims? Ernest
Becker attributes this to guilt due to human
puniness in the universe and aggrandizing
power in an insightful chapter. Becker, Ernest, Escape
From Evil, “The Nature of Social Evil,” pp 96-127.
Rural Women's Mobile Market
From our Municipal Hotel in Ha Noi's old
neighborhood we saw typical rural women who
come to town selling farm produce, craft products,
and many other items.
On the outskirts of Ha Noi we visited Silk Village.
Here, an entire community produces silk from
moth cocoons, cloth with many designs and
colors, clothing and other items. Stores complete
Ho Chi Minh
Entrance to a Ha Noi park to commemorate Ho
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh's body is preserved for viewing. This
is similar to Lenin's body in Moscow.
Ho Chi Minh Museum
The Museum contains a history of Ho Chi Minh's
life before he became leader of the nation when
he traveled the world and his leadership against
the French after WW II and the United States after
the French defeat.
Entrance to Museum of Literature
This Museum includes three major buildings
preceded by large gardens. The sequence builds
the steps of initiation to knowledge according to
Confucius, which is attained only by a few.
The King's Shrine is in the third building
representing the highest level of knowledge. The
Confucius presence and influence is due to the
one thousand year domination by China.
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
The Viet (or Kinh) make up 86% of the population
of Vietnam, comprising the largest of 54 ethnic
groups belonging to 5 ethnolingusitic families. The
Museum has an exterior site for village buildings
and an interior building for cultural displays.
The Ha Noi Army Museum has both outside and
inside displays from wars, especially the War,
Vietnam and the United States.
The Museum has both outside and inside displays
to show the history and results of war.
VAVA Hue Reception
Catherine and Bernie are received in Hue by
Nguyen Cuong and Le Chi after a night train ride
from Ha Noi to Hue. At each reception we share
information: VAVA about the services in the local
area, we about the DC Nine action, the reason for
our visit, and a donation of $100.00 to each site.
Family visits in Hue
VAVA arranged visits to three families in Hue. The
first family composed of grandfather, father, two
children victimized by AO and a normal sister.
The second family had Van Du (father), Ton Nu
Thi Phuong and eight children, four with Agent
Orange. The third family were adults with three
AO men cared for by their sister.
Thien Hien Pagoda
Bernie and Catherine visit with a monk who spoke
good English about many subjects, including
Thich Nhat Hanh who became a monk and
received his training here.
VAVA in Da Nang
We meet with Nguyen Thi Bien, VAVA leader in
Da Nang. Bien said our arrival and visit is
“emotional” for her. Among other things she said
her niece is a victim of Agent Orange. Her brother
sold his house to pay for her treatment.
The Cham people once dominated this area of
Da Nang U.S. Airbase
The Airbase is huge and closed. It is known as
one of the three identified “hot spots” for Agent
Orange. Situated close to the China Sea coast,
the neighboring area is being developed for condo
VAVA in Ho Chi Minh City
VAVA received us at a hospital for victims of
Agent Orange funded by Germany. Dr. HuynhThe
Cuoc (center) and Mr. Le-Duc were among the
New Year's Day late afternoon
Bernie and Catherine visit with Ms Tran Thuy Nhu
Khanh, who set up the itinerary, and Do who was
interpreter and tour guide with Peace Tours.
This Presidential Palace is where the infamous
Diem brothers resided before the coup ended their
lives. They were most repressive to the Buddhists
and citizens of South Vietnam. President Kennedy
wanted to spare their lives, but his ambassador,
Henry Cabot Lodge, allowed it. Kennedy was
assassinated a few weeks later.
Village memorial to War dead in Cu Chi area,
typical in every village.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The people in the Cu Chi area began resisting the
French by digging tunnels to conduct guerrilla
warfare. They also set up traps for the US troops
like those which they historically used for animals.
Shrine to Buddhist Monk
On June 11, 1963 Thich Quang Duc burned
himself to death in Saigon City to protest the
treatment of Buddhists in South Vietnam while in
the sitting lotus position. This caught the world's
War Museum In Ho Chi Minh City
This is an extensive war museum. It includes a
film about Agent Orange. General Walt Zumwalt
was a commander who ordered the use of Agent
Orange in his command area. His son was a
lieutenant who died due to Agent Orange. He also
suspects that the disease of his grandson was
due to Agent Orange.
An added event
After Catherine left, I had two days left in Vietnam.
On one of the days I visited Da Long Bay north of
Hanoi, a place of 3,000 islands.
Why we humans kill
“All our human problems, with their intolerable
sufferings, arise from man's ceaseless attempts to
make this material world into a man-made reality
… aiming to achieve on earth a 'perfection' which
is only to be found in the beyond … thereby
hopelessly confusing the values of both spheres.”
Otto Rank quoted by Ernest Becker, Escape From Evil, p. 91