#21 The LAST war post, of Agent Orange, the War Remnants Museum, US veterans claims, and Jeff Sharlet

Huey gunship at war remnants museum

Post #21 from SE Asia
February 25th, 2010 Saigon
The LAST war post, about dioxin-laced Agent Orange, the War Remnants Museum, US Vets claims, and Jeff Sharlet

This is the last thing I say about the Vietnam War in this blog. BTW, here they call it the ‘American War’.
I went to the War Remnants Museum here in Saigon yesterday. It is the most visited museum in Saigon. Thousands of people walking thru it daily. Most all of them appear to be international visitors.

Get this straight. This is a grim museum. The Vietnamese government rubs your face in it. It takes hours to cover it all. Yes, the Vietnamese government gets to display what they want. And they do it with a vengeance. 100’s and 100’s of large photos, taken mostly by US freelance photographers, of the war, the dead, the maimed, the civilian casualties. The results of carpet-bombing areas from 40,000 feet, where civilians were living. The Vietnamese resistance takes no credit at the museum for any of the civilian deaths, and this is self-serving and not true. But the evidence is that most of the civilian deaths were from US air strikes.

I saw US college coeds leaving the museum crying, people walking out unable to finish the tour, somber faces. Not one smile the whole time I was there. As a citizen of the USA who loves his country, I came out feeling very disturbed. This museum may be here for a long time. It is not a pleasant message to see. I feel I must ask whether there will be an equivalent museum in Baghdad in NN years, with equivalent photos and documentation.

I want to say something about the spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam. The War Remnants Museum has a non-stop documentary on the effects of Agent Orange along with several large walls of children suffering birth defects because of it. To me, this was the worst part of the museum. My mom always said to me ‘kids are innocent. So you protect them’. Well, the UN estimates there are over 220,000 people in Vietnam suffering long-term disabilities, The majority of them are children suffering birth defects. These are NGO numbers, not Vietnamese government numbers.

Vietnam sued the US for damages in the World Court over the use of Agent Orange. The US resisted all the way, and just recently won. Vietnam has no further appeals left.
This should not surprise anyone, because the US Veterans Administration resisted for almost 20 years all claims being made by US veterans said to be suffering from the effects of Agent Orange. Their policy turned out to be deliberate. Deny and stall as long as they can. The VA was applying the accountant’s rule of ‘least and latest’. The longer they stalled, the fewer claims there would be. They knew that dead veterans do not file claims for disability benefits. It was not until the 1990’s that the Veterans Administration began acknowledging the wide range of disabilities that Agent Orange can cause.

We see the same behavior with ‘Gulf War Syndrome’. The Veteran’s Administration has until recently denied the existence of Gulf War Syndrome. Studies are showing that the probable causes are:
1. pyridostigmine bromide, a nerve gas antidote,
2. chemical weapons,
3. exposure to organophosphate pesticides, and perhaps most ominously
4. depleted uranium.
The evidence shows that breathing depleted uranium (U-236) is highly toxic. There were large areas where we used depleted uranium and then sent our troops in. Yet the Veteran’s Administration is behaving similarly to how it dealt with the original Agent Orange claims.

In the same areas in Iraq where we used depleted uranium, the cancer and birth defects among the Iraqis have increased around ten-fold. So, were there nuclear weapons in Iraq? Yes. We began using them with depleted uranium, U-236.

I want to also tell you about Jeff Sharlet, a friend of mine in college days who died suddenly of cancer at age 27. I met Jeff at Indiana University in 1965 while he was working on a PhD. Jeff was once speaking at an anti-Vietnam war rally when a heckler shouted to him “How do you know about Vietnam? You’ve never been there!”

Jeff paused, and forever soft-spoken, answered “Yes I have.” Silence.

Jeff had spent 2 years in Vietnam as an Army Security Specialist. He spoke excellent Vietnamese and was assigned to Intelligence gathering. After what Jeff had seen, he became opposed to the war. As a public speaker, he was incredibly effective. And then, in 1969, Jeff was diagnosed with cancer. He declined and died quickly. There is reason to think that Jeff had also been exposed to Agent Orange. There is a documentary movie about Vietnam GIs dedicated to Jeff Sharlet. And a book should be out shortly.

If you want to read any more about this extraordinary man, here is a website for him.

I want to acknowledge another fine man, cut down way too quickly in his life.

6 Responses to #21 The LAST war post, of Agent Orange, the War Remnants Museum, US veterans claims, and Jeff Sharlet

  1. Denny. The other person I was referringto who was’cut down’ was Steven Stofko. But so many more, whom of you knew.

  2. We all know the war metaphors that accompanied the first mass marketing of industrialized pesticides in the US. Straight out of the war industry. Agent Orange seems to be when they stopped trying to deny the connection.

  3. True…true…true……………I was on two spray missions myself. Our choppers were providing gun support for the missions. What I am most pissed about over it all is that the dixon was first used in the 50’s…..and the gov KNEW the dangers and effects then………..they NEVER said anything to us……….NEVER provided any protection……we were just used. While in Desert Storm I was tasked with reading the G2 reports and forwarding the info back to my CO in Kuwait. Those classified documents were VERY interesting !! Dwight, you have done a good job with your reporting. I take my hat off to you. But TRUST me………the VC killed more civilians than all of our bombs………they were brutal.

  4. I met Jeff at a conference in Stockholm in 1968. Powerful speaker. Great guy!

  5. It’s funny this was written about a week after my ex husband died from agent orange related diseases. He served as a med-evac pilot, and on a trip back to base, agent orange was spilled on him… almost an entire barrel.

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