A Secret Conflict. Many years of Struggling. Will the U.S. Ever Make Good in Laos?

A Secret War. Decades of Suffering. Will the U.S. Ever Make Good in Laos?

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It was a scorching hot October 2019 morning on the old Ho Chi Minh Trail, an intricate network of truck roads and secret trails that meandered across the densely forested and mountainous border between Vietnam and Laos. Susan Hammond, Jacquelyn Chagnon and Niphaphone Sengthong claimed a rocky creek along the way and came to a village of about 400 people called Labeng-Khok, where there was once a logistics base in Laos that was used by the North Vietnamese army to bring troops into the Infiltrate south. In one of the stilt houses made of bamboo and straw, the ladder to the living area was made of metal pipes that used to contain American cluster bombs. The family had a 4-year-old boy named Suk who had difficulty sitting, standing, and walking – one of three children in the extended family with birth defects. A cousin was born dumb and didn't learn to walk until he was 7 years old. A third child, a girl, died at the age of 2. "He couldn't sit up," said her great-uncle. "The whole body was soft as if there were no bones." The women added Suk to the list of people with disabilities they had compiled on their temporary wanderings through the sparsely populated border districts of Laos.

Hammond, Chagnon and Sengthong form the core of the staff of a non-governmental organization called the War Legacies Project. Hammond, a self-described army brat whose father was a senior military officer in the Vietnam War, founded the group in 2008. Chagnon, who is almost a generation older, was one of the first foreigners allowed to work in Laos after the conflict a representative Quaker organization, the American Friends Service Committee. Sengthong, a retired school teacher who is Chagnon's neighbor in the state capital, Vientiane, is responsible for the record keeping and local coordination.

The main focus of the War Legacies project is to document the long-term effects of the defoliant known as Agent Orange and to provide humanitarian aid to its victims. Agent Orange, named for the colored stripe on the barrels, is known for its widespread use by the U.S. military to clean up vegetation during the Vietnam War. It is known for having a chemical contaminant added to it called 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-P-dioxin, or TCDD, considered to be one of the most toxic substances ever made.

The United States' use of the herbicide in the neutral nation of Laos – clandestinely, illegally, and in large quantities – remains one of the last untold stories of the American war in Southeast Asia. Decades later, the spraying of Laos is only marginally mentioned in official military documents. When the Air Force finally published its partially edited official history of the defoliation campaign, Operation Ranch Hand, in 1982, the three pages received almost no attention in Laos, save for a statement by General William Westmoreland, a former commander of the U.S. Forces in Vietnam, that he knew nothing about it – even though he had ordered it at all. Laos remained a forgotten footnote on a lost war. This was hardly surprising to those who followed closely the aftermath of the conflict. It was only in the past two decades that the United States finally recognized the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam and assumed responsibility for it. You have allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to help the victims and clean up the worst-contaminated trouble spots there.

While there are records of spraying in Laos, the extent to which the US military has violated international agreements has not yet been fully documented. An in-depth, month-long review of ancient Air Force records, including details of hundreds of spray flights as well as interviews with many residents of villages along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, reveals that a conservative estimate of at least 600,000 gallons of herbicides rained on the seemingly neutral during the war Nation.

Hammond and Chagnon were aware of the spraying in Laos for years, but the remote areas affected were almost inaccessible. With new paved roads connecting the capitals and many smaller villages accessible via bumpy roads in the dry season, they were able to begin systematic visits to the villages of Bru, Ta Oey, Pa Co and Pa the Co Tu, four of the ethnic ones, in 2017 Minorities whose houses are on the border between Laos and Vietnam. It was the first time anyone tried to assess the effects of the defoliant on these groups today.

Of the 517 cases of disability and birth defects documented to date by the War Legacies Project in Laos, about three-quarters, like malformed limbs, are recognizable to the untrained eye as conditions of the kind now associated with exposure to Agent Orange. "When we started the survey, I told American government officials we were doing it and I honestly said we didn't know what we were going to find," says Hammond. “In fact, I hoped we wouldn't find anything. But as it turned out, we found a lot. "

Hammond's call for the United States and Laos to recognize the long-term effects of spraying has so far been met with bureaucratic rationalizations for inaction: Congress can do nothing without a clear signal from the Lao government; The Laotian government has hesitated to act without hard data. Officials from the US Agency for International Development in Vientiane have been sympathetic, but other senior embassy officials have turned the issue off. "One said if we were that interested in what the US did in Laos, why didn't we look at what the Soviets and the North Vietnamese did?" Hammond remembers. “It was like a time warp, like dealing with an officer in Vietnam in the 1990s. So we were on this endless treadmill. "

So far, these conversations with officials have been informal, but this month she plans to share the group's findings with both governments and document the extent of the spray recorded on the Air Force records and the number of obstructions identified by the War Legacies Project. Then the governments of the United States and Laos will have no reason to avoid actions that are long overdue.

For Hammond and Chagnon, the personal connection to the war is deep. Chagnon took time off from college in 1968 to work in the Catholic relief ministry in Saigon. He later lived on land near the Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base. Although public opinion had turned sharply against the war since the Tet Offensive earlier this year, it was not an anti-war activist. "I've never been to a demonstration," she says. "My parents were angry with me for going to a war zone."

The first jolt to her innocence, she recalls, came when Saigon newspapers published gruesome photos of deformed babies and fetuses in Tay Ninh, a heavily sprayed province on the Cambodian border. By the late 1960s, Vietnamese doctors had strong evidence that these congenital defects might be related to the chemical defoliants. When Chagnon returned home in 1970, the defoliation campaign was about to end as the potential health effects became increasingly controversial. But her fear increased. Many of the early sprays were started by Tan Son Nhut, and she was concerned about her own exposure and the long-term effects of having children. Those fears seemed to be borne out when their daughter Miranda was born in 1985 with multiple birth defects. There was no evidence that dioxin was responsible and that surgery and medication could treat Miranda's ailments, but that barely suppressed Chagnon's concerns about Agent Orange.

At the time, Chagnon and her husband, Roger Rumpf, a theologian and noted peace activist, were living in Vientiane and visiting remote areas few outsiders ever ventured into. They had heard strange and disturbing stories in Xepon, a small town near the Vietnamese border. Doctors reported a rash of mysterious birth defects. A veterinarian told of farm animals that were born with extra limbs. There have been isolated reports of aircraft following a fine white spray. But it was impossible to find out more. "Back then there were no roads into the mountains," says Chagnon. "Sometimes you had to run for days."

Hammond was born in 1965 while her father was serving at Fort Drum, New York State – a dark coincidence, she says, "since it was one of the first places they tested Agent Orange." From there, her father's military career took the family to Okinawa. He was based in Danang and was responsible for building military installations in the I Corps, the northernmost tactical zone in South Vietnam.

Hammond first went to Vietnam in 1991 when talk of normalizing relations was in the air. She fell in love with the place, gave up the idea of ​​a PhD, moved to Ho Chi Minh City to learn the language in 1996, and organized educational exchange programs and conferences for the next decade to address the humanitarian needs of Vietnam after the war discuss. At one of these events she met Chagnon.

Since the start of the project, the project has provided modest material support to disabled people in rural areas of Vietnam that have been heavily sprayed – for example a wheelchair ramp, vocational training or a hatching cow to increase household income. Then, in 2013, Chagnon's husband died. "After Roger passed away, we discussed the idea of ​​conducting a survey in Laos," says Hammond. "I think Jacqui saw it as an opportunity to honor his memory." After lengthy negotiations with the Lao authorities, the War Legacies Project signed a three-year memorandum of understanding that promised a full report by March 2021.

More than the half The cases identified by the War Legacies Project are children under the age of 16. They are the grandchildren of those abandoned during the war, and possibly even the great-grandchildren, as people in these villages traditionally got married when they were teenagers. Club feet are the order of the day. So are cleft lips, sometimes accompanied by cleft palates. There are troubling groups: five babies born with missing eyes in Nong County; a family with five deaf-mute siblings; An excessive number of short legs, misshapen legs, and hip dysplasia in Samuoi District – the latter a condition that is easy to treat in infancy but, if neglected, results in severe pain, a waddling gait, and more severe deformity. The rudimentary health system in rural Laos means that few or no babies are diagnosed.

In every village the women visited, groups of elders gathered to share their stories, many in their 70s but still with sharp memories. At first, they said, they had no idea who was spraying and bombing their villages or why. But over time they learned the names of the aircraft: T-28, C-123, B-52. In most of the villages, dozens were killed or starved in the bombings. The survivors lived in the woods or in caves for years. They dug earthen shelters large enough to hide an entire family and covered them with branches. "We haven't had rice in nine years," said an old man. Sugar cane and lemongrass survived the spraying. Cassava too, although swelling to a fancy size and becoming inedible – Agent Orange accelerated plant tissue growth and killed most of the leaves.

For the most part, the old men told their stories dispassionately. But a Pa co-elder in Lahang, a place full of birth defects, was bitter. He was an imposing 75-year-old named Kalod, tall, with a straight back and silver-haired hair. He wore a dark green suit with an epaulette shirt that gave him a military demeanor. Like most of his people, Kalod saw the boundary as an artificial construct. During the war, people walked back and forth between Laos and Vietnam depending on which side was bombed and sprayed at the time. He leaned forward and gestured angrily. "Vietnamese who are affected by chemical spraying receive compensation," he complained. "In Laos we need support from America as it is getting in Vietnam."

The 600,000 gallons of herbicides dropped in Laos is a fraction of the roughly 19 million sprayed on Vietnam, but the comparison is misleading. Between 1961 and 1971, around 18 percent of South Vietnam's land area was targeted, about 12,000 square miles. In Laos, the campaign that began on the Ho Chi Minh Trail between Labeng-Khok and the Vietnamese border was compressed in time and space. It focused on narrow, defined strips of path 500 meters wide (approximately 1,640 feet) and on nearby cornfields, and the heaviest spraying was concentrated over a four month period at the start of the war. It was as intense an increase in the defoliation campaign as any major war zone in Vietnam at the time.

To make matters worse, the newly examined Air Force records show that during the first intensive spraying phase in Laos, it was not Agent Orange, but the much more toxic Agent Purple, whose use was discontinued in Vietnam almost a year earlier. Tests showed that the average concentration of TCDD in Agent Purple, another chemical formulation, was three times higher than that in Agent Orange.

Long before the first Marines disembarked in Vietnam in 1965, infiltrators trickled down from the still rudimentary Ho Chi Minh Trail to the south, and the loyalty of tribal groups along the border was in doubt. In response to the growing uprising, US special forces set up small camps near the Laos border, particularly in Khe Sanh, which later became a gigantic naval combat base, and in A Shau Valley, which was later used for the Battle of Hamburger Hill and Hamburger Hill was notoriously regarded by US strategists as the most important war zone in South Vietnam.

Operation Ranch Hand was in its infancy. By July 1962, only a handful of missions had been flown that stripped the perimeter of the highways, power lines, railways and waterways of the Mekong Delta. The US Forces Commander in Vietnam, General Paul D. Harkins, has now requested approval to hit six new targets. One of them was the A Shau Valley, and it would be the first mission aimed at destroying crops that could feed the enemy. The joint chiefs of staff refused: the location was too sensitive; The valley was right on the border, and Laos' neutrality was only a few days away from the guarantee of an international agreement. Harkins pushed back, arguing that the proximity of the unsecured border was exactly the point. Despite President John F. Kennedy's strong reservations about the destruction of crops, the mission continued.

The following January, a 25-year-old Army Captain from the South Bronx arrived at A Shau Base. In February, "we wrote down the thatched huts and started the fire with Ronson and Zippo lighters," he later wrote. “The destruction got more subtle. Helicopters delivered us, a forerunner to Agent Orange, 55 gallon barrels of a chemical herbicide. … Within minutes of spraying, the plants began to turn brown and wither. “The young officer was Colin Powell, future Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State. The chemical was Agent Purple. By the end of the defoliation campaign, at least half a million gallons of herbicides would be used in the A Shau Valley, making it one of the most heavily sprayed places in Vietnam. Thousands eventually got sick or died.

The influx of North Vietnamese troops en route only increased, and by the end of 1965 the C.I.A. reported that hundreds of kilometers of new roads were being built or upgraded to carry trucks. The air force was already bombing North Vietnam, so the obvious answer was to escalate the bombing on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

In addition to the neutrality of Laos, there was a second problem: where exactly was the way? It ran through one of the most remote and inhospitable areas on earth, hidden by dense rainforest, largely invisible to U-2 spy planes, infrared sensors from other planes and even low-flying helicopters. The solution was to remove the forest area to expose the bomb targets: the truck convoys and logistics centers like Labeng-Khok.

In essence, the initial spraying of Laos was a mapping exercise formally incorporated into a massive bombing campaign called the Tiger Hound. In early December 1965, the awkward C-123 plane, the workhorses of the herbicide campaign, crossed the Laotian border for the first time. Within a week, the first wave of B-52s hit the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

The details of these flight operations in Laos were largely unknown until 1997, when Chagnon and Hull met in the residences of the US embassy in Vientiane. They were friends with Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin, who was on her way to Washington, Chagnon recalls. Was there anything you needed? Yes, said Rumpf, you can get the air force bombing Laos. While you're at it, said Chagnon, never shy, how about the Agent Orange records?

By then, Chagnon and Hammond had met Thomas Boivin, a scientist at a Canadian company called Hatfield Consultants who was conducting a landmark study of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese side of the border in the heavily sprayed A Shau Valley (now known as) the A Luoi Valley named after its capital). The records were in the form of computer punch cards and had to be carefully converted into a database showing each recorded flight with its date and the geographic coordinates at which each spray run began and ended. Boivin later calculated that more than half a million gallons of chemicals had been sprayed on Laos, but other declassified Air Force documents show additional amounts not found in those initial records, and several village elders gave convincing reports of flights that appeared to be non-compliant to the official dates.

"I'm sure the records are incomplete," says Jeanne Mager Stellman, professor emeritus of health policy and management at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, who played a vital role in documenting spraying in Vietnam and calculating it Risks played by dioxin exposure for American veterans. "And I understand that the people assigned to missions in Laos were pledged to maintain secrecy." Boivin adds that “the C.I.A. Herbicides undoubtedly also used in Laos, but their records have never been released. "

In an effort to get the US government to take responsibility for its actions in Laos, Hammond realized that it would take many years to acknowledge the plight of American veterans and their descendants, and much longer until the same compassion was extended to the Vietnamese victims of dioxin. The Agent Orange Act of 1991 was only passed after a fierce 14 year struggle by veterans seeking recognition that the chronic diseases that tens of thousands of them developed may be directly related to dioxin exposure. After the laws were passed, it was determined that if you set foot in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 and under any of the conditions for the growing V.A. List, you were entitled to compensation. This resolution was more a question of political pragmatism than hard science. Although there has been increasing evidence of the herbicides' toxicity, studies of their health effects have been inconclusive and highly controversial. But the Veterans formed an angry and influential constituency, and politicians had to put a fair amount of guilt, both their own and the public, over the trauma of those who fought in a lost war that most Americans preferred to forget.

Taking responsibility for the horrors of the Vietnamese took much longer. Even after diplomatic relations were restored in 1995, Agent Orange remained a political third line. Vietnamese complaints about the effects of herbicides on human health, raising issues of reparation, corporate liability and possible war crimes have been dismissed as propaganda. American diplomats were forbidden to speak the words. It wasn't until around 2000 that the United States was finally forced to acknowledge its commitments after Hatfield Consultants completed their study of the effects of dioxin and showed US officials indisputable evidence of how TCDD climbed the food chain, invading the human body and was transmitted to infants through breast milk.

The reconciliation between the United States and Vietnam was an intricate dance that depended on mutual steps to unravel the three most controversial legacies of the war. After Washington achieved full cooperation in accounting for the Americans missing in action, it began assisting Vietnam's efforts to remove the enormous amount of unexploded ordnance that still covered its fields and forests, killing and maiming tens of thousands. These steps and Hatfield's groundbreaking study have finally set the stage for the two countries to deal with Agent Orange, the toughest problem of all.

The United States' relationship with Laos was similar. Since the late 1980s, joint American-Laotian teams have carried out hundreds of missions to search for the remains of aircrews who went missing in bombing raids. Over the past quarter century, Washington has allocated more than $ 230 million to ordnance removal and related programs. The missing move was Agent Orange, but in the absence of data on its human impact, the Laotian government had little incentive to raise such a historically problematic topic. Few government soldiers fought in the sprayed areas controlled by the North Vietnamese, so there were no veterans demanding recognition of their post-war ailments. "In Vietnam, the scale of the problem made it impossible to ignore," says Hammond. "But in Laos it was on a smaller scale and in remote locations outside of the political mainstream."

All these years later the mountainous border strip in the Panhandle in southern Laos is still a landscape marked by war and disease. Unexploded bombs are everywhere. The road that follows the Ho Chi Minh Trail south is a kind of living archive of the conflict, in which its remains and relics were incorporated into the structure of everyday life. Men fish in boats made from the dropped fuel tanks of American fighter-bombers. B-52 strike bomb craters are everywhere. Some are now fish ponds in the middle of the rice fields.

Cluster bomb shells have turned into vegetable planters or replace wooden stilts to support the thatched huts that store rice and frustrate the claws of hungry rats. Everywhere the soundtrack of the village is the dull clink of cowbells from sawn-off projectiles. "These are our gifts from the villagers of America," an old man told me.

Once or twice the War Legacies team had to turn back, defeated by roads that were impassable after the recent monsoon floods. Halfway to the village of Lapid, the 4×4 stopped in the hard mud. Chagnon got out and walked up and down the steep slope, inspecting ruts deep enough to swallow a whole person. There was no way through. It was frustrating because Lapid had been badly hit. In the nearby hills, an Operation Ranch Hand plane with its full load of chemicals had been shot down, and after the war, villagers named the area the "Leper Forest" because of the high incidence of cancer and birth defects. On a previous visit to Lapid, the War Legacies Project found a paralyzed girl, a 4 year old with a club foot, a teenager who was born without eyes.

The survey was a slow and arduous process. Since 2017, the women have visited numerous villages in heavily sprayed districts in two of the four target provinces: Savannakhet and Salavan. In each village, they record the age and gender of each person affected, a description of their condition – if possible with a clear diagnosis – and a comment on any person who could benefit from a referral to a hospital in the provincial capital or in Vientiane. They exclude disabilities that are clearly unrelated to dioxin exposure, such as the large number of limbs lost to cluster munitions bombs. Their October 2019 trip was mainly meant to review cases they had already recorded, but they also found several new ones, like the boy in Labeng-Khok.

Hammond recognizes the limits of her work. Some of their results need to be verified by medical experts. "We're not doctors or geneticists," she says. However, she, Chagnon and Sengthong are the first to attempt what has long been routine in Laos, where dioxin-related disabilities are systematically logged through community-level surveys and household questionnaires, and where victims receive small government grants and, in some cases, humanitarian aid the United States.

It was Hatfield Consultants who opened the door to this aid, first through their four-year survey of the A Luoi Valley and then through subsequent studies of the former Danang Air Force Base. There was never a secret about the large amount of defoliants used in Vietnam and evidence of congenital disabilities in the sprayed areas was inevitable. Hatfield connected the dots and showed how the two were linked and how dioxin could be carried from one generation to the next. However, this was not Hatfield's only insight. According to the so-called “hot spot” theory, the continued risk of exposure today was greatest at former military facilities such as the Special Forces base in A Shau, where the chemicals were stored or spilled. Boivin wondered if there could be similar dioxin hotspots on the Lao side of the border.

In 2002, Laos signed the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, a class of 12 “forever chemicals”, including the dioxin family. All signatories were required to report the extent of contamination in their countries. Boivin received a small grant from a US agency to study dioxin in Laos because the nation had little scientific expertise of its own. He found very little, but in pursuing his suspicions about Agent Orange, he made an arduous journey to the remote border areas where there was strong suspicion that the C.I.A. had built secret runways, the kind of facilities that could have been used by herbicide planes and that would have been routinely sprayed to keep vegetation down like they were in Vietnam.

Near a village called Dak Triem, he noticed a strikingly flat piece of land. Yes, said the village elders, it had once been a runway. After the war they looked for scrap and found some barrels painted with orange stripes. Boivin had time to take superficial samples only, but found elevated TCDD levels sufficient to classify the site as a potential hot spot and recommend further investigation. Er und Hammond kannten sich seit Jahren und arbeiteten 2014 mit Mitteln von Green Cross Switzerland und der Europäischen Weltraumorganisation an einem detaillierteren Bericht, der eine chronologische Tabelle aller bekannten Herbizidflüge in Laos und eine Liste enthielt von Hunderten von geheimen CIA Einrichtungen, die ein anhaltendes Gesundheitsrisiko darstellen könnten.

Boivin reichte seine Berichte bei der laotischen Regierung ein, aber sie fanden wenig Anklang. Dieser Mangel an Interesse mag verblüffend erscheinen, aber für erfahrene Laos-Beobachter ist dies keine Überraschung. "Die Dinge bewegen sich dort langsam und vorsichtig", sagt Angela Dickey, eine pensionierte Beamtin des Auswärtigen Dienstes, die als stellvertretende Missionschefin in Vientiane tätig war. "Für einen überarbeiteten Beamten auf mittlerer Ebene gibt es keinen wirklichen Anreiz, auf so etwas zu reagieren. Nur Menschen auf höchstem Niveau können kontroverse Themen berücksichtigen oder darüber sprechen. “

Es gab jedoch einen tieferen Grund für das Fehlen von Maßnahmen in Bezug auf Boivins Ergebnisse. Er hatte eine vorläufige Schätzung des Volumens der in Laos verwendeten Entlaubungsmittel vorgenommen und einen kontaminierten Luftwaffenstützpunkt gefunden. Aber er hatte sich nie vorgenommen, Daten über die Auswirkungen auf den Menschen zu sammeln. Das war das fehlende Puzzleteil, das in Vietnam zusammengestellt worden war, und das das War Legacies Project mit weiteren Mitteln des Grünen Kreuzes herausfinden wollte.

Wenn die Vereinigten Die Staaten einigten sich schließlich darauf, die Luftwaffenstützpunkte Danang und Bien Hoa in Vietnam, die beiden Hauptknotenpunkte der Operation Ranch Hand, zu säubern und den Opfern von Agent Orange in diesem Land zu helfen. Dies war ein wesentlicher Bestandteil der Vertrauensbildung zwischen ehemaligen Feinden, die zunehmend sehen sich als strategische Verbündete und militärische Partner. (Heute ist Bien Hoa ein wichtiger Stützpunkt der vietnamesischen Luftwaffe.) In einer der größeren Kuriositäten der Geschichte ist das schmerzhafteste Erbe des Krieges zu einem Eckpfeiler der Versöhnung geworden.

Im Jahr 2019 wurde U.S.A.I.D. machte eine neue fünfjährige Zusage, vietnamesischen Menschen mit Behinderungen weitere 65 Millionen US-Dollar an humanitärer Hilfe zukommen zu lassen, "in Gebieten, die mit Agent Orange besprüht und anderweitig durch Dioxin kontaminiert sind". Die Mittel werden über den Leahy War Victims Fund geleitet, der nach seinem Gründer, Senator Patrick Leahy, einem Demokraten aus Hammonds Heimatstaat Vermont, benannt ist, der seit Jahren die Bemühungen leitet, den Opfern von Agent Orange in Vietnam zu helfen. Warum sollte die gleiche Logik in Laos nicht gelten? "Wir waren uns nicht bewusst, dass in Laos in erheblichem Umfang gesprüht wurde", sagte Leahy per E-Mail. Aber wenn die Daten dies zeigen, müssen wir uns das ansehen und mit der Regierung von Laos besprechen, was getan werden könnte, um diesen Familien zu helfen. "

Hammond hat sich mehrmals mit Leahys langjährigem Adjutanten Tim Rieser getroffen, der gespannt zu sein scheint, was das War Legacies Project herausgefunden hat, als es seinem Chef diesen Monat seinen Bericht vorlegt. "Wir haben unsere Arbeit in Vietnam für uns ausgeschnitten", sagt er, "aber wir möchten auch wissen, was in Laos getan wurde, da eindeutig diejenigen, die beteiligt waren" – was politische und militärische Führer während des Krieges bedeutet – "nicht gemacht haben ein Punkt, um es weithin bekannt zu machen. Ich habe dies immer als das angesehen, was zur Lösung des Problems erforderlich ist. Wenn das Problem mehr enthält als wir wussten, müssen wir uns damit befassen. "

Hammond ist sich schmerzlich bewusst, dass sich bürokratische Räder langsam drehen. dass Leahy nach 46 Jahren im Senat möglicherweise nicht mehr lange dort ist; und dass Vietnam immer das Hauptproblem sein wird. Grundsätzlich sollte der kleinere Umfang des Bedarfs die Adressierung erleichtern. "Sogar 3 Millionen US-Dollar, mit denen die USA in Vietnam angefangen haben, würden in Laos einen langen Weg gehen", sagt Hammond. Inzwischen haben die Betroffenen keine Zeit mehr. Neun Kinder unter 9 Jahren, die auf der Liste des War Legacies-Projekts stehen, sind bereits gestorben.

DU SAGTEST. In Laos gibt es bereits ein Programm für aktive Behinderungen, das Hilfe für Menschen umfasst, die durch nicht explodierte Bomben verletzt wurden. “All we need to do,” Hammond says, “is add the language we use now for Vietnam, earmark some money for ‘areas sprayed by Agent Orange and otherwise contaminated by dioxin.’ That one little sentence. That’s all it takes.”

George Black is a British author and journalist living in New York. He is writing a book about the long-term human and political legacies of the Vietnam War, in Vietnam and Laos and in the United States. Christopher Anderson is the author of seven photographic books, including “Pia.” He lives in Paris.


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