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Oct-03-2009 02:07printcomments

Typhoons, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Forgotten Victims, and possible links to the spread of Agent Orange

A tough week – the Philippines, Indonesia, American Samoa, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and of course, Vietnam.

Photo: Geoffrey Cain/IRIN At least 92 people were killed when Ketsana  struck central Vietnam on Tuesday
Photo: Geoffrey Cain/IRIN
At least 92 people were killed when Ketsana
struck central Vietnam on Tuesday

(DA NANG, Vietnam) - One thing amazes me during and after a natural disaster occurs – including those that have occurred in our own United States – has it ever occurred to anyone, or is it just me? Those that are mostly affected are those that need these disasters the least.

Not to minimize anyone on our planet, their resources, the destruction and devastation that they have experienced, but why is it that the poor, those that have been through so much, those who have to beg for a few Dong just to eat seem to be the most gravely affected? It’s been an impossible week for so many people, so many countries.

Is it our global climate change? Who knows and I doubt we will ever know. My heart goes out to ALL who have been affected. Living in Vietnam however, and in Da Nang especially, I feel a sense of brother and sisterhood – those who were once our enemies, all joined together this week as one nation, as one people – human beings helping human beings.

My neighbors here in Da Nang, Son Tra Province to be specific which is a stone’s through from the ocean, all came knocking on my door. The Vietnamese families that have “adopted” me, dropped what they were doing, stopped boarding up their own homes, just to make sure I was OK and offered their help. With my very limited Vietnamese, and their very limited English, we communicated in our own form of sign language, and ensured we would and always will, count on each other – in good times and bad. And my friends, this week was BAD and we all kept our words – we helped each other, placed others before ourselves – especially the children.

My friend, colleague, mentor and of course, fellow Marine, Willie H. and I recollected the Monsoon season here during the war – neither of us could remember it ever being this bad.

Café in the Morning

For those of you who don’t know, Da Nang is located on the coast of central Vietnam. (Please see the link to a map below). During the war years, it was attacked by both VC as well as NVA. Hue City is very close by. There are many Vietnamese who live here and in the general area who fought for the south and some who fought for the North. I happen to have coffee each morning (by the way, if you haven’t tried it, you must! Vietnamese coffee is some of the finest in the world) with a Vietnamese man who has become my friend. About my age and fit as can be – he finally told me he was a former VC and not proud of it. Many Vietnamese are not proud of their affiliations from the past – but the past is the past. Guess who was the first to knock on my door the day after the storm? My new VC friend. He calls me “bạn chiến đấu” which means “brother in arms”.

Here is a great tool, it is the Google Maps link that will indicate where this is taking place.

Why so Little coverage of Vietnam's Disaster?

I have my own theory, and in my opinion, as we have publicly come out to say time and time again, the war is behind us, the major difference is this - the Vietnamese really mean it when they say it. I also believe that there is indeed a link to Agent Orange and the potential spread of Dioxin via floods like what was just experienced. Some of you have read the question I posed to many experts in the field, and I am still sifting through all of this very valuable information. Thank you so much for all of you who contributed. Could it be, in some bizarre fashion, that by offering more aid to Vietnam, especially with flooding and the potential of spreading the poison Dioxin, we are indeed admitting guilt to war crimes? We all know that the chemical companies that created this nightmare are guilty of creating an uncontrollable negative future. We also now have proof that the US knew all along that this was a poison that would cause extremely serious consequences if used – beyond just being, excuse the pun, your garden variety weed killer.

I read and I write – especially about the war that I was part of, and the negative consequences it has brought on to so many of us. I see widespread press coverage by other countries as a result of this disaster – especially coming from the US. But I see little, if any, regarding the number of people killed, the homelessness, the destruction that has been created and the potential worsening of the dioxin problem here in Vietnam. (Kudos to the Wall Street Journal – they appear to be the only exception). Isn’t it ironic that I rely on finding this info from other countries but not the US? We are not putting our wealth nor are we offering assistance, to the country of Vietnam. Could this all be related? I believe in my heart of hearts that it is.

Once again, I don’t dare minimize what these other countries have been through this week – but where is the coverage we owe to Vietnam, and the aid that is rightfully theirs from a global, if not THE Global Leader – the US? Our Secretary of State pledged $100,000! No typo folks. I am embarrassed to even state that number.

Audacity and Arrogance Defined

As I sift through all of this information, I find this story from a Canadian publication:

In brief, “Efforts to clean up contamination from the wartime herbicide Agent Orange in Vietnam took a step forward Thursday when the United States awarded a contract to prepare for dioxin containment. The US said the 1.69-million-dollar project will involve building a secure landfill site to hold contaminated soil and sediment at Danang airport. Full-scale decontamination could take years”.

Give me a break! It will cost billions to clean up Vietnam and give the medical attention to those of us who served here, the Vietnamese, our allies and the offspring that continue to be born with afflictions that can only be caused by such an insidious poison – dioxin.

I have to thank my good friend and colleague, Rena K. for pointing this out : if we use the number 3 million victims and this $1.69million in money just released by the US, that equates to $.56 (fifty-six cents) per victim PRIOR to administrative costs. As she puts it, this is worse than shameful, much worse – it’s an insult!

Timed perfectly by the Canadian Press – but I have yet to find any retort, any argument in favor of what the US continues to do – which in my opinion is nothing.

Links to Related Stories

Please friends, take some time and check out these links. I invite any and all comments, for and against what I am stating here. But please, show compassion to all, not just a select few.,typhoon-ketsana-death-toll-rises-to-101-in-vietnam.html

This one has to be a mis-print. But please read what our secretary of state had to say:

On Friday, the United States said it would provide 100,000 dollars worth of assistance to help victims of the typhoon after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her country stands ready "to assist the people of Vietnam as they recover from this tragedy".

That comment was noted by this publication:

The stories go on and on, the tragedy and deaths continue, and the suffering just seems to be non-stop. And “poor us” in the US complain about the price of a Big Mac increasing.


Chuck Palazzo is a Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran, the Interim Editor for Agent Orange, and a longtime Vietnam Veterans Against the War Member. Chuck Palazzo has spent years since the war studying the impacts and effects of Agent Orange, a defoliant chemical sprayed by the U.S. govt. on the jungles of Vietnam. He says Dioxins have been re-discovered to cause all sorts of damage to humans. These include Heart Disease, Parkinsonism, Diabetes etcetera. Dioxins are already known to produce serious birth defects and a variety of cancers. The chemical is still sold in Third World Countries and causing the same problems.

We at welcome Chuck aboard and look forward to sharing more of his stories with our readers in the future. You can send Chuck an email at this address:

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.