Earlier: Bob Kerr reminds us in new column. (h/t Bob Plain). I wrote about Agent Orange in my first book, back in 1980, profiling for the first time the woman at the V.A. in Chicago who was key to exposing it. Kerr talks about the damage to our vets, but also:
On the other side, of course, it is far worse. The government of Vietnam estimates that 400,000 people were killed or maimed by Agent Orange, and 500,000 children were born with birth defects because of it.
I saw it firsthand when I went to Vietnam in 2003. I was taken to the home of a woman in the village of Dong Ha. It was just one room with a large bed in one corner, and it was where the woman raised her son, who was stick-thin and unable to move or speak. Doctors told her that Agent Orange was responsible. The woman, who had served in the South Vietnamese army, told me she did not blame American troops for what happened to her son. She blamed the people who had sent them.
Moving through Vietnam for two weeks, I saw other victims, including children on the streets of Hanoi who moved with a spastic, stumbling lurch while selling chewing gum.
We have never done right by the Vietnamese for the horror inflicted by Agent Orange, and we have never done right by the Americans who see the pain and the loss from it decades after the war’s end.