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Vietnam: War's Lasting Legacy

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WITH FAREED ZAKARIA A lingering battle over the legacy of the Vietnam War will soon find its way to a New York courtroom. Later this month a group of Vietnamese citizens will ask a federal appeals court to hold some U.S. chemical companies liable for Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the U.S. military in Vietnam. The suit was dismissed two years ago in a lower court on grounds that it had no basis in U.S. or international law. Agent Orange has been blamed for a range of health issues including birth defects, but rigorous scientific study has been complicated by some very political tensions. Reporter Christie Aschwanden and filmmaker George Lerner recently traveled to Vietnam on behalf of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and filed this clip. [♪dan bau music playing♪] "Agent Orange: Vietnam's Lasting Legacy" Reporter, Christie Aschwanden Filmmaker, George Lerner From 1961-1971, the U.S. military sprayed some 19.5 million gallons of Agent Orange over Vietnam Agent Orange, a herbicide, was meant to destroy the vegetation that sheltered Viet Cong guerrillas from U.S. forces Agent Orange contained the toxic chemical Dioxin The impact of that Dioxin is still being felt in Vietnam Nguyen Thanh Son, Vietnamese Army Veteran, Hanoi [Sounds of camera clicking] When the American airplanes sprayed chemicals on the battlefield I breathed it in My comrades and I felt dizzy We felt a burning in our throats blood came from our mouth and nose The chemicals seeped into the ground and went into the water and we drank that water We breathed the chemicals in the air My daughter was born in 1975 Her name is Nguyen Thi Phuong Thuy Since she was born she hasn't been able to see hasn't spoken a word hasn't sat up hasn't taken anything in her hand She is still like a three old child My son is Nguyen Thanh Tung born in 1979 He is blind in both eyes but he studies by braille He graduated university with two degrees One in music composition the other in traditional music with a specialization in the single stringed instrument known as the dan bau. [♪Sound of son playing the dan bau♪] Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin Dr. Nguyen Trong Nhan, Fmr. Minister of Health The victims of Agent Orange have the hardest lives and the worst health problems like cancer and infertility. The studies show that the rate of sickness and deformed children is much higher in communities affected by Agent Orange. [Sounds of traffic and car horns] The National Institutes of Health agreed to fund a study into the link between birth defects and Agent Orange in Vietnam The study was cancelled in 2005 after officials from Vietnam and the United States failed to agree on scientific protocols >>This is a political issue, all of the scientific issues are magnified tenfold because of the sensitivities around us, perhaps the very scientific -- maticulous scientific concerns -- >> Dr. Mark Rapoport, Pediatrician living in Hanoi Rapport was to be part of NIH study <<of the people at NIH, it's advisory panels, it's administrators, and all. On the one hand -- on the other hand -- I think a high level of suspicion on the part of a number of people within the Vietnamese government -- meant that every time one side changed the other side had to study it again, to try to understand why there was a change -- was there more to change than met the eye, were they in some way being manipulated. And the net result of that was, despite a very long time working at it, no agreement.>> My name is Dang Hong Nhut I am director of the Society for the Support of Vietnamese Handicapped and Orphans During the war I was living In the region of Cu Chi (near Saigon) One day the American planes sprayed chemicals I didn't know about Agent Orange. When we heard the plane coming we were afraid they would bomb so we hid, and when the plane was gone, we came out from the bunker. I could see the whole sky was foggy. A white powder was on the leaves. There was a smell that was so irritating that I had to cover my nose with a towel. When the war ended I wanted to have children. But everytime we tried, I had a miscarriage. In 1977, I was six months pregnant when the fetus died in utero. When it was removed, we found out it was deformed. If the baby had survived, she would have suffered a lot more. In 2005, the Tu Du Maternity hospital removed some of my fat tissue to be tested abroad. They informed me that dioxin was still in my body. [Sounds of chairs moving across floor] Nhut was among the Vietnamese plantiffs who filed suit against U.S. chemical companies that produced Agent Orange In 2005 a U.S. federal court judge dismissed the case. A U.S. Appeals court in New York will hear an appeal in June 2007. It doesn't matter if the companies won't admit their crimes. What really counts is that people see that a crime took place. [♪Sound of dan bau playing♪] I hope that this lawsuit, whether we win or lose, will awaken the humanity in us. [♪Jazzy-pop music playing♪] WITH FAREED ZAKARIA MONEY TRAIN Vietnam plans to build a high-speed railroad between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City Source: The International Herald Tribune The 1,100 mile railway will cut travel time from 30 hours to less than 10, and cost $33 billion dollars 70 percent of project's cost will come from the Vietnamese government, mainly in the form of Japanese development assistance WITH FAREED ZAKARIA Producer/Director/Editor: George Lerner Reporter: Chrisite Aschwanden Produced by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting "Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria" is produced by Azimuth Media For more information about this reporting project visit: www.pulitzercenter.org

Video Details

Duration: 8 minutes and 34 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
Director: Filmmaker George Lerner and Christie Aschwanden
Views: 343
Posted by: pulitzercenter on Apr 25, 2008

As featured on Foreign Exchange. A lingering battle over the legacy of the Vietnam War will soon find its way to a New York court room. Later this month a group of Vietnamese citizens will ask a federal appeals court to hold some U.S. chemical companies liable for Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the U.S. military in Vietnam. The suit was dismissed two years ago in a lower court on grounds that it had no basis in U.S. or international law. Agent Orange has been blamed for a range of health issues, including birth defects, but rigorous scientific study has been complicated by some very political tensions. Reporter Christie Aschwanden and filmmaker George Lerner recently traveled to Vietnam on behalf of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and filed this clip.
For more information, visit www.pulitzercenter.org/showproject.cfm?id=31.

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