U.S. RESPONSIBLE FOR HEALTH PROBLEMS ON GUAM

Editorial

Agent Orange contamination during Vietnam war

Marianas Variety

SAIPAN, CNMI (July 29, 2008) – The storage and spraying of Agent Orange and other defoliants in Guam during the Vietnam War period have been an open secret.

The Department of Defense has never officially acknowledged the presence of toxic contamination caused by herbicide use and storage in military installations on island. There has been no public acknowledgement that this toxic activity was done outside of Vietnam.

But more and more fully documented claims pertaining to Agent Orange use on Guam have been made available in recent years.

Besides testimonies from Vietnam War veterans who were detailed in Guam between the 1960s and 1970s, the 2004 Dow Chemical Risk Report offered the most solid confirmation about the dioxin contamination in Guam, specifically in areas surrounding Andersen Air Force Base.

Last week, House Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) introduced H.R. 6562, titled "The Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008," which would clarify the laws related to VA benefits provided to Vietnam War veterans suffering from the ravages of Agent Orange exposure and restore benefits due them.

Guam's Democratic senators then filed a timely resolution to support Rep. Filner's bill and to ask for Guam's inclusion in the compensation program.

Filner's bill, according to Sen. B.J Cruz's (D-Piti) Resolution 172, "will correct the injustice" that the federal government has committed on veterans, who exposed themselves to danger to accomplish a war mission.

Most of the U.S. servicemen who either flew planes to release a cloud of chemicals or simply sprayed them on the ground are now sick and aging. Most of them are suffering from similar symptoms and common diseases, such as diabetes and cancer that are believed to be the long-term effect of their exposure to herbicides.

Most of the sick servicemen have long left Guam and curiously, the types of diseases that they are suffering from are the same maladies that are prevailing on island, where many residents are inflicted with diabetes and cancer.

Resolution 172 may not be legally binding, but it is a timely expression of the community's desire to force the US government to acknowledge its obligation not only to the sick veterans who have left Guam, but to local residents, whose illnesses may have been the result of environmental contamination.

This may be a complicated proposition that requires scientific work to prove, but if that's what it takes, then the community must demand it.

This may also be the right time to demand an update from the military about the toxic cleanup being done in Guam.

Incidentally, Filner's bill might be a good start to finally heal one of the haunting wounds from the Vietnam War.

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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