Sunday, June 20, 2010

Agent Orange Clean-Up: Who Really Pays?

Agent Orange spraying over Mekong Delta, 196935 years after the Vietnam War, a $300 million price tag has been placed on the most contentious legacy still tainting US-Vietnam relations: Agent Orange. The US military sprayed this chemical in vast quantities over South Vietnam, to destroy crops and jungle cover shielding communist guerrilla fighters.
A US/Vietnamese joint panel of policymakers, citizens and scientists last week urged the US government and other donors to provide $30 million annually over 10 years to clean up sites still contaminated by dioxin (a toxic chemical used in the defoliant), and also treat Vietnamese suffering from disabilities, including those believed linked to Agent Orange. Vietnamese woman with horrendous dioxin deformities
Wonderful!! Highly commendable! Better late than never. About damn time...
The Aspen Institute, a nonprofit group keeping this ball rolling, says: "We'll get private money and a little bit of government money and we'll clean it up." Er...hold on a minute...if the US government can DEMAND $20-billion from BP as its responsibility price-tag for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, why can't a 'price-tag of responsibility' also be delivered retrospectively to the Dow Chemical Company? It was Dow that made Agent Orange for the US Government (some of its components were produced here in NZ at New Plymouth – scene of past fruitless public compensation claims... but that's another story).
Dow will no doubt use the same line that Union Carbide did over the 1984 Bhopal disaster - "We're not responsible coz we weren't there!" And once again, the public (via the government) and private philanthropic organisations are left to clean up global messes... while Big Business relaxes in the boardroom with another cigar.

PS: see also the outcome of a study on dioxin birth defects in New Plymouth, NZ, where this product was made.

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