tv Discussion Focuses on Agent Orange in Vietnam and Laos CSPAN September 4, 2016 3:35am-5:21am EDT
50sequences of agent orange years later. an update on the situation from the war legacies project. decades,two collaborating with research institutions, government agencies, and civil society organizations to address emerging problems in international affairs. this includes climate change, human security. also the consequences of war and conflict prevention. for our work in southeast asia, i would like to acknowledge the role the foundation has played in supporting those, particularly with respect to southeast asian issues.
the meeting today is timely. it is one week before president obama travels to take part in the summit of leaders of the association of southeast asian nation. he is, the third sitting president to visit that country, as you may have heard. the country has been subjected to a secret war during the age of the vietnam war. what has been the legacy of this war, and what might president obama the able to accomplish in terms of improving relations for the future with the laos people's democratic republic? here to share their perspectives on this issue are 2 of the most seasoned observers and
advocates. the resolution of the unfortunate legacy of the wars in laos and vietnam and the enduring impact on the population of those countries. to my far left, the founder and executive director of the war legacies project. she began her work on peace and reconciliation in laos, vietnam, and cambodia in the head 1980's. through on the ground collaboration has become one of the most informed specialists on agent orange data collection. with her is jacqueline, who we are pleased to welcome back to
the elliott school, from which she graduated. from 1968 to 1970 she worked in saigon, which is now ho chi minh city. at the time, she met with families with severely deformed babies and witness the defoliation caused by agent orange. that is the name given to the chemicals sprayed over the forest at areas of southern vietnam and laos to expose the supply routes taken by north vietnam. she has lived and worked in laos since 1978 to uncover the lingering postwar trauma caused by heavy bombing and chemical spraying. she and her deceased husband started the work on the laos agent orange survey in 1999. after susan and jackie talk i know that they will be answering
questions and taking comments. -- join meome me in jackie.ming susan and >> thank you very much. very happy to be here and that you came out on this beautiful late august day. 1995, since the middle 90's i have been working on this issue. let me say a few more words about my organization, the war legacies project. we are a small not-for-profit organization and vermont. we work to provide comprehensive support to families in southeast asia who have been impacted by that war.
we work to raise awareness in the u.s. about the war in southeast asia. many people know more about the war in vietnam, very few about the war in laos. we also work with veterans and their families who are trying to understand more about the impacts of agent orange. why laos now? i skipped one. i have been lucky to work with jackie, who is not only an expert on laos, but an expert in driving through fields and streams in southern laos -- not streams, roaring rivers to get to the villages where we were. i am going ahead of myself. i want to bring you back to one of the first press conferences that president kennedy gave after he took office on march 23
of 1961. [begin video clip] >> the president's press conference, march 23, 1961. >> i want to make a brief statement about laos. it is important for all americans to understand this difficult and potentially dangerous problem. my conversation with general eisenhower before the inauguration on january 19, we spent more time on this hard matter than any other thing. since then, it is before the administration as the most immediate of the problems that we found upon taking office. >> that was probably -- i was not around in 1961, but maybe the last of the public heard about laos for the most part.
he went on to state "i want to make it clear to the american people and the rest of the world all we want in laos is peace not war. a truly neutral government, not a cold war pond. a resolution at the conference table, not on the battlefield." unfortunately, we would not be here today if that turned out to be true. shortly after that press conference, the president handed over the war effort in laos to the cia, and over the next 10-years they conducted a multibillion-dollar war effort throughout laos that we heard very little about in this country, if anything. 40 years later, much of the information about the secret war in laos is still unknown. it is still classified information.
bits and pieces have been released, but we do not have the full picture of what happened during the war in laos. president obama, when he goes to laos, it will be addressing one of the war that we do know about. about 2000 u.s. state department release the bombing records in vietnam and laos. began, the u.s. began to increase efforts on
addressing the impact of unexploded ordinance throughout the country. there are still casualties today, but they have been dropping over the years. the president, obama, is planning on announcing an increase to 20 million for the effort to clean up unexploded ordinance in laos and provide assistance to those who have been affected, like this young boy. to date, the u.s. has not addressed any aspects of the use of agent orange and other chemicals throughout southern -- throughout laos. this is not even on their radar screen. that is why we are here to we are trying to put it on their screen. we do know that the u.s. air force, the ranch hand spray program, sprayed in parts of southern laos along the ho chi minh trail region of the country.
this is basically from the province to the south to the cambodian border, bordering the dmz of vietnam down to con tune in vietnam. about 200, we know from the records released -- i do not know why that is popping up. the c-123 ranch hand program, gallons of agent orange and ofover 291,00 gallons orange as well as agent blue and agent white were sprayed throughout laos for defoliation and to target crops. this is only a partial record. you can see in parts of southern laos today, and this is a few kilometers from the vietnam border, you cannot tell clearly in this slide, but the top of
the ridge line of the mountain is what appears to be from defoliation. we know this actual area was sprayed. the area to the far right is more likely rice production. the top ridge line, which is where a lot of the herbicides were targeted. what we do not know, really, is how much spraying was done by the cia. we have, i have spoken to some air america, we know the cia had its own private airline, air america made up of many military members who took a little bit of a leave from the efforts in vietnam or came over specifically and were flying as civilians in unmarked planes as part of the cia effort here in one of the air america pilots told me that they did fit a plane to spray herbicide in 1969
they also sprayed around the base in northern singquang to do perimeter spraying around the base to clear the foliage. there are bits and pieces that come out and people there who say we did spray elsewhere, but none of that information is officially public. it is all ancedotal at this point. we are trying to uncover this 40 years later.
we suspect that some of those bases, this is in vietnam not laos, but we suspect some landing zones, there are 450 landing zones throughout laos, some large, some used for weeks or months, some throughout the war effort, but we suspect that there were barrels like these stored on the basis, even if they were only used for perimeter spraying. the concern is, and we suspect the long tien base was one where barrels were stored. you the problem is, a long of th -- a lot of the basis that were cleared became population settlements. they were already populated, but after the war effort, people would go to the base that was cleared and settle. that is the concern.
if there were barrels stored on the bases, chances are dioxin has leached out of the barrels into the ground and could be causing a public health risk. we do not know, because we do not know from the cia were effort where or if they were using these chemicals. it is one of the big question marks. we do know a lot about the impact of agent orange in vietnam. again, the u.s. released spray records from the ranch hand spraying, an organization based in canada did an extensive amount of research to identify
where out of all of those thousands of bases and landing zones, other sites in vietnam, where the u.s. had a presence, how many would be a potential dioxin hotspot today? after looking at the various sites and talking to the vietnamese military, they narrowed it to 28 potential hotspots throughout the southern part of vietnam. three of those, which you probably cannot see, but they are listed in red, three of those were where the ranch hands spray program was located. millions of euros of the herbicides were stored on the paces. those are significant hotspots today. some of to 400, 500 times the limit of contamination required to begin remediation efforts.
i looked at the air bases in laos to see if we can come up with a similar list. unlike in vietnam where they did testing on the ground to see if there was dioxin, none of these sites in laos have been tested, except for number 14, an army base. hatfield did limited testing and found elevated levels of dioxin in the soil. the other bases have not been tested at all. we narrowed down the list from 450 by deciding how long the base was used by the u.s. military, whether there is a population center nearby,
because then a dioxin hotspot would be a concern, and we even looked at google earth. they had the technology to look through satellites. we looked to see if there seems to be cleared regions around the bases. we came up with this list. these are only potential places where we thought because of the geography, history of use of the base, that the u.s. may have had some clearing done with herbicides. the u.s. has been very involved over the past decade in vietnam to address the long-term environmental impacts of agent orange.
we have, we have vast spray records, so we know where it was sprayed. the vietnamese have records of populations who are living in the sprayed areas. it is estimated 4.2 million vietnamese lived in areas sprayed during wartime. how many of those are affected by the dioxin in the herbicide? the vietnamese estimate 3 million have some health impact. 150,000 children are born with disabilities. that is a bit of a controversial point that we can talk about in the question and answer time, but i am not going into the scientific debate at this point. the u.s. has been providing, of those 3 dioxin hotspot, the u.s. has started to work with the vietnamese to clear up the da n ang hotspot. this is the start of the cleanup in da nang where they compiled the soil that was on the air
base onto a gigantic oven that was several football fields wide. they turned on the electric a probes to heat the soil above will 365 celsius to break down the dioxin in the soil. half of the soil, contaminated soil in da nang has been decontaminated in that way. they have started the second process. this is $100 million u.s.-funded project to decontaminate the soil in da nang. that soil will go back onto the air base to expand the runway.
it will be at the point of 150 parts per trillion, anyone who follows the environmental standards that the new epa standard is for industrial sites. it will be below that. the u.s. has invested since 2007, when the first funding came out of senator leahy's office at $3 million to address the agent orange dioxin issue in vietnam. it has increased over the years. i like to take a tiny bit of credit for that. to the point now that it is over $140 million allocated by the u.s. government to address the dioxin contamination problem in vietnam. of that 140 million, $37 million has gone to health care. the u.s. does not say this is
funding for people that have been affected by agent orange. they address disabilities regardless of cause in vietnam. through our efforts, and efforts of my colleagues, we have targeted the money that has gone to people in vietnam who have severe multiple disabilities. who live in former sprayed areas of the country. we have been pushing them in the direction of getting funding to those whom the vietnamese believe our agent orange-impacted. we know more about dioxin these days than when the war first started. the u.s. in 1991 interested -- entrusted the research on dioxin.
and the herbicides used in vietnam, to see what health conditions might be related, or have association to the herbicides or dioxin. they found 20 different conditions. some have sufficient evidence. they have different categorization whether there is sufficient evidence, suggested, or no. they have sufficient or suggested evidence to an association with dioxin. many are the same conditions that the vietnamese say are related to exposure to dioxin. the va provides benefits to veterans who have one of 15 different conditions, or in the case of their offspring, spinal bifida. that is the only birth defect that they acknowledge might be that they acknowledge might be related to the father's exposure to agent orange in vietnam. if you are a female veteran, of which there are only 8000 of the war in vietnam, the va will provide compensation to your child if you have one of many different types of birth defects.
cleft palate, cleft lip, hip dysplasia, all kinds of different conditions. basically, any condition that does not have a known cause or family history. we are very limited members of children receiving the benefits. there were only 8000, and these are rare conditions. they make it clear this is not due to agent orange, but service in vietnam. there is a clarification. if you are a female who served in vietnam, if you were a laos woman or vietnam woman, you were and it now for 10 years and exposed to whatever environmental condition was that caused birth defects.
him him him him i see many of these conditions in my work in laos and vietnam. him they say that the vietnamese believe that about 150,000 children and now grandchildren of those who were exposed from the north down to the south, or living in the sprayed areas, have a birth defect caused by their parents' or grandparents'
exposure to agent orange. we are still learning. in animal studies, dioxin causes birth abnormalities, miscarriages, congenital deformities. that is proven in animal studies, but you cannot do that kind of study in a human or you have to look at studies to compare populations that are exposed and not exposed, and it is difficult to get the smoking gun proof that dioxin is causing these disabilities. in part because a condition like this is rare.
you would need a large population to cvs elevated levels -- to see these elevated levels. more studies are being conducted, which even in the limited studies done so far, they are showing that environmental toxics can cause problems in future generations. stress can cause problems in future generations. there has been research after world war ii in holland that the famine during world war ii caused problems within the grandchildren of people in holland that were famished. you cannot make a straight line, but there is enough, for me, evidence that i think there is something here. when it comes to actually working with children that we have come across in our work in laos and vietnam it does not matter the cause. -- what we need to do is to help
this child with a severe club foot. i will turn it over to you. i do not know what this is. there you go. >> she is far more technologically capable than i am. i am too old. but, i am a good driver. in laos, we obtained for the first time the bombing records and spray records in 1999. it was because of a conversation over a swimming full with -- swimming pool with the american ambassador when she said to my husband and i we need a goodwill gesture to present to the lao to get better cooperation on mia/pow's.
can you suggest anything? we said get the bombing records and the chemical/herbicide records. we did not realize she would come up with the herbicide records. she did. in 1999, it is the first time that we have concrete u.s. air force records that indicate that there was spraying of herbicides in laos from major aircraft. that you see in the green portions, maybe you can point it out. you saw a better picture of it earlier, the more intense picture. and, it does not look like a lot, but when you look at the data it is repeated spraying over nine years, constantly. him my brother-in-law used to
fly on some of those planes. he was a mechanic in the cia. he was in civilian clothing. he told me that the spring -- that the spraying missions happened sometimes as much as two times a month. he is a farmer. he said the chemicals were much stronger than anything we used here. up to 50 times stronger. he died a year and a half ago of alzheimer's disease related to his agent orange exposure. his father died a year a year and half ago related to his exposure as well. a lot of americans are talks to seem to know someone who died of those kinds of problems that susan was talking about.
some children with those problems. him him this was a secret in our family. we could not talk about it. he was not able to talk about it publicly. we went out to the barn to talk about it, because he did not want his wife to know. this was after he retired. so, the secret has to come out. we half to expose it. now. have to expose it it is affecting the children of children of children. when we looked at the spray records and the poverty records in laos, we see that the bright red here matches the orange. him here is where i want to explain to you our findings in the
field. these are remote villages until five years ago. we could barely get to some of these districts without walking for two or three days in the jungle. there are some people here who have done that. it is not an easy place to service. him medically, it is difficult for people to get to hospitals. these areas, what did they look like before? they had families out there with between 10, 20, 50, 100 head of cattle and buffalo. that is rich by most asian standards. they had plenty of fish, crops,
they grew upland rice before the war. after the war, things changed. during the war these people had to evacuate the villages because the trail ran right through them. they went into the mountain-area and were still sprayed. they talk about taking huge holes to secure their families. they would have to move those holes every three days to four days because the bombing might come again. these people are the people that we are looking at today. the grandparents tell us very clearly that they feel poor today. that they were not poor before
the war. that the war drove them into deep poverty. it is a food issue today, in the sense that the nutrition seems to be much lower than the rest of laos. we do not have statistics clear enough on all of this, because laos has very few scientists, as does vietnam. on this map, you see some of the villages we are targeting. it is based on the spray records submitted by the u.s. air force. we are hoping that by going into these villages and simply seeing how many people have the kinds of disabilities we see in vietnam that seem to be related to dioxin is number one. number two, we ask for the history, we record the history of the elders about the war and what happened, the spraying, and we ask them to tell the history. they tell us about the planes flying in formation.
sometimes, they talk about helicopters. sometimes, about other planes. they can tell the difference between a c-130 and a b-52. most americans can't, but they can. most of these people today have no idea that what happened to them 40 years ago is having a consequence, potentially, on their children. they have never made that connection.
this is a difference between laos and vietnam. you ask a vietnamese farmer what is agent orange, and what are the consequences today, and they talk about deformities and issues they face. you ask in laos, they do not know. big difference between the two countries. here, we find similar cases. this is a microcephaly child. this is a hydrocephalus child. she is in wei hospital. she had just gone there. they're trying to relieve the swelling.
it has gotten worse and worse. she should have been addressed when she was born, as happens in vietnam. people in her village and area did not know that she should go immediately to the hospital. that baby could have been relieved from the beginning. a lot of this has to do with services not yet reaching those areas, and the local people understanding that they can help their child to get better. we found an unusual number of cleft palates, cleft lips, and in the case on the left, spina bifida. that picture, we talked with government district officials, and all of a sudden a few days later, incomes on what's app, the cell phone, a picture of
this baby. it is clearly spina bifida. we immediately said to the parents, would you like to have this child checked? has the child ever been checked? no. we sent the child to wei hospital. it was the closest. it turns out the child not only had spina bifida, but hydrocephalus, the swelling of the brain. that child has been serviced with some funds we have for humanitarian assistance. this is yin. at that time she was 13-years-old, now 14.
she has double left hand, double clubbed foot, and a serious hip issue. was it caused by polio? what is actually going on here? we weren't sure. we do know that her parents lived under the spraying. so did her grandparents. that leads, those two points coming together, leads us to say that it is probable that she could have been affected today. yin is now outside of the capital, but she is also being serviced.
i will have a picture of her later. she has now had one of her legs addressed. it will take a series of operations over the next four to five years to help her if we can. there are children like this that people are now sending us photos. we do not know if this is the cause of agent orange. we have to visit the family first. it makes us think, investigate, and help regardless, these are children and we do need to help.
their villages are closer to vietnam then it would be to transport them to the capital of laos. one issue that we constantly look for as we go through the villages is where are they getting water supply? we take a look around. we take her out where there might have been areas sprayed in the mountains. we are particularly concerned in a place like this where the water supply is coming into an area that is a bomb crater. here, we have to ask ourselves, is there a contamination. in this particular village, we found 30 cases of people with probable relationship to agent orange dioxin. 30 cases. the population is only 300. that is a lot of cases for a village. it puts a big question mark. this will be one of the target places for us to go and do testing for dioxin. in the process of what we are doing, we are always trying to set with villagers and have them relate their story about what happened during the war.
how was their life before the war, what happened during the war, and what happened after the war. that gives us a picture that they went from feeling well off, or adequately fed, to being rather poor. there are significant differences between vietnam and laos. first, the u.s. military controlled the war in vietnam. they were the ones determining the flights and bombing patterns. in laos you have the cia. also, the u.s. ambassador. it is one of the first times
that a u.s. ambassador is charged with deciding bombing routes. in vietnam, there were 3.2 million soldiers, american soldiers, observing, seeing, experiencing, agonizing. in laos there were 3000 covert troops in civilian clothing said -- clothing seconded to the cia. they are not allowed to talk about it for many decades. 25-years before my brother-in-law felt comfortable to talk to us about it.
the u.s. families learn a lot about the vietnam war and very little about the laos war. next to nothing. if you ask americans, where is laos? they cannot pinpoint it on the map. yet our taxpayer money went to multibillions of warfare in the country. a lot of people, and this is a point i want to make strongly, call laos a sideshow. excuse me. multi-billions went into laos. a sideshow? nine years and 10 years of warfare, is that a sideshow? i do not think so. foreign media experienced vietnam intensely, firsthand. put on the plants, went everywhere. foreign media in laos, couldn't go p are you are not allowed to go on the air america plans like you were in vietnam.
we did not get a record of it from our media. the vietnamese and foreign people heard daily about the war on tv, radio, and press. i'm talking about local people. in vietnam, you could hear it all. in laos, nothing. hardly anything about the war. when my husband and i arrived in 1978 in the capital, the most educated area of the country, very few people knew what had gone on in places like the ho chi minh trail area. very few, unless they had actually lived it and then
there. -- and been there. that shocked us. bombing and herbicide spraying took place in vietnam close to the major centers of population. it did not happen close to the centers of major population in laos. it happened far away, into the mountains, into the areas where no one goes unless you live there. every vietnamese, rich or poor, became affected by the war. not every lao was affected by the war. most of the bombing affected 1/3 to one half of the population. the other half did not seem to know there he much about what went on. they were shocked when my
husband and i brought back photographs of the bombing that we witnessed in 1978, the effects of it. they were shocked. congress held constant hearings about via, the bombing and the spring. in laos, we got the first hearing in 1971, then a series after that until 1975, then finished. nothing else was hurt about that issue, until we opened the p.o.w./mia issue, and the u.s. congress began to take interest in unexploded ordinance. you cannot go into these areas without cleaning the area first, because you do not want your
personnel to be hurt. congress holds continual hearings on the bombing and the spraying since 1966 in vietnam. there is not much said about laos, until 1971. the first wave of refugees who come here from vietnam, and who sided with the u.s. in the war, they talk a lot about the war. they were followed up by economic refugees. the refugees who came from laos where the cia troops in the
beginning. later, the second wave was economic. what you find is a lot of the people, the first wave new about the war. the second wave of refugees did not know much about the war. they do not talk much about spraying and bombing. they were mostly coming from the river areas. so, we do not get the intense discussion about the bombing and the spraying. those are the differences that we see. these are some of the barrels that we found in areas areas. these could be gasoline barrels or agent orange barrels. we do not know for sure. they were used for collection of water by the village. this was taken in 2014 -- 2015,
sorry. war has brought many problems in the postwar area. one of the most important things for me that i question when i came to gw, was why do we not talk about postwar consequences? it usually takes 20 to 40 years to recover from serious warfare. ask any european who live through world war ii. we have to have mechanisms to help each other recover.
we made a list of issues that we think the united states could think about for goodwill measures. we really want to ensure that humanitarian assistance gets to disabled persons in the former wartime war zones that were sprayed as well as bombed. these are the areas of high poverty. that is one area where we could increase goodwill, adding simple legislation. words could be inserted into the current legislation for humanitarian assistance to include the sprayed areas. then, the babies with the disabilities of limbs which were not caused by bombs but by congenital birth defects could be addressed. so, we are trying to push that the 2017 bill for humanitarian assistance in laos would address
the people in the southern regions that were definitely sprayed, and maybe might be having the consequences of that. vietnam's assistance already includes the sprayed victims. laos' does not. simple wording. another issue is that we want to urge the u.s. to increase support to special facilities that would help assist these children and adults who have congenital birth defects in their area. for these people to travel to the capital, where the best hospitals are, is very difficult. for lack of about $20, yin's
parents could never take her to even the district hospital. it was not too far away, about 3 crossings of major streams, six small streamlettes is what it would take. her mother has tuberculosis and her father is 65 years old and is getting weak. she never saw a doctor until she was 13-years-old. we need to have facilities close to these people. there is hardly anything there.
even at the district level, hospitals are very modest. further. the u.s. could also quietly investigate old cia bases and outposts for looting residues that need to be cleaned up and remediation, address remediation if it is needed. we created a lot of landing spots all around laos. it is unbelievable, when you go into the old villages and talk about how this used to be old americans landing spots. and it is in the middle of remote areas where there is a village all around it.
and for sure they sprayed by hand around those outposts when they were being used. the u.s. could take part in cooperative action with laos and vietnam in cleaning up old pollutants, like dioxin. there is a step forward on this. s, who is ined vietnam, is interested in this idea of pulling together vietnamese, lao, and u.s. teams to come together and talk further about how to be very practical about addressing some of these issues. we hope that will come forward
in the near future. and i have just received word that the lao would like to make a study mission commissioned with some senior people to look at how vietnam has been addressing agent orange, dioxin with the united states at this time. that is a totally new opening that we have gotten in the past week. the u.s. could declassify the records inside laos, and especially the agent orange or dioxin spraying use, because those are the spots we really need to investigate, whether there are residues and whether
we need to provide humanitarian assistance. so one day i came out of my house and the girl was staying there temporarily because we were waiting the doctor, for the doctor to operate on her. and she wrote in the dust of my car something in lao. she now had one foot fixed she can stand on it. but she cannot quite walk because the other foot does not work right.
it displays like a chicken leg. so we are waiting for the doctor, maybe at the end of this year, maybe at the beginning of next year to come back again to operate. he is a british doctor who is going to try and help her. there are many more and we would like to help them. but we have got to have the data. you have got to stop the dioxin and hopefully raise this issue a little bit more so this does not happen again. thank you. [applause] ms. yarr: wow. thank you very much, susan, and this is a really
thought-provoking and heart-tugging presentation that really gets us some insight as to what it really takes to get to the bottom of these issues. it is not just looking for the data in archives. will him it is getting into the villages. it is talking to people. it is hearing from them what they can tell us about their lives, both before and after the war. thank you very much. if i could start off, i am sure we will have lots of questions for you, but to have your list, if i may, and given that we are university, it strikes me that one of the really good -- would you think that a really good use of our development
assistance with the to training scientists, training epidemiologists, training people who can look at those barrels and see if there was dioxin inside or something else. do you think that could be perhaps added to your list of -- your wish list for what the u.s. government could do as a way in this post-conflict time? ms. chagnon: yes, definitely. the lao people are very different in one major aspect in terms of education. in 1978, when my husband and i first went to work intensely in laos and in vietnam, we noted that the number of people who had even graduated from high
school was only 5% in the entire country. this is 1978. and the entire population has only 5% who graduated from high school. the number of those who had gone to university was about 1.5% to 2%. and you compare that to vietnam where you had numerous people who had achieved university education and had even ph.d.'s. so they are in great need of further advanced educational opportunities. and particularly in the deep sciences, such as epidemiology, i believe we have one
epidemiologist in the entire country at this point, and he is brand new. so one. we need also people who are versed in science so they can understand how the process of dioxin get in the human chain. that is a question that always intrigues people -- how does it get into us? where does it lie? ms. hammond: yeah, dioxin is not water soluble. so it is stored in the fat of animals -- dioxin can adhere to soil particles, and the fish or animals who are grazing in that dioxin-contaminated zone, just
ingestust the the dioxin chemical in their body and they would be stored in the fat. dioxin gets stored in the human body. that is a way to remove dioxin from your body is to breast-feed. so women who are breast-feeding will transmit the dioxin to the fatty aspect of their breastmilk to their infant. that is part of the problem. the reason the u.s. government is spending millions of dollars in danang to clean up the dioxin contamination in the soil is that testing is done in a population that surrounded that today's, this -- surrounded that lake, had high levels of dioxin in their blood.
everybody in industrialized nations has dioxin in their blood. that is part of the chemical process that created during the manufacturing of herbicides. usually it is eight to 10 parts per trillion. they were finding people who live in the hot spot who had hundreds of parts per trillion in their blood. that was proven that 40 years after the war that base was causing a public health impact on the population, who were eating animals that were raised in that place. the same thing was founded in another place, by the way. ms. chagnon: let me add one other story. this is a story about the united states. we have a major contamination issue in a place called times beach, missouri. times beach, missouri, it was a
small town, a couple thousand people, and one of their dirt roads was going to be paid with chip and sealed in missouri. i live in missouri, so i understand this. after having this done, someone noticed that these very well-off race horses had collapsed and died. the epa was called in to figure out what was going on. is the epa said, there dioxin in these horses. the only place they could figure out was the track around which they ran had been paved with chip and sealed. and they started checking out
the roads, and the roads in this area were checked out. then they started checking out the kids, and he found the kids in the school had 200 parts per trillion in their bloodstream. the town was destroyed. moved. and this is 1983. you can go up on youtube, google times beach, and you will know about. most missourians know about it, but not much of the united states does. what happened to those people? i asked an epa official. that is a good question. i do not know if we followed up. so far i have not had an answer yet. i would like to know if they had children that have these problems.
so we had it here as well. and where did that dioxin, from? the manufacturing of agent orange. there were several factories all around st. louis that were making it. and the man who did the chip and sealed got residue from the factories, and that is how it came into the environment of times beach. it is a very fascinating little story, and the 30-minute video will tell you the story more deeply. ms. yarr: we can open it up for questions and comments. >> [indiscernible] vietnam was such a public thing. [indiscernible] ms. chagnon: it is a very good question. i have never been able to get an answer from a u.s. official that was involved in it.
except that laos was supposed to be neutral according to an agreement that was signed in 1961. and there were several actors trying to get into the act. one was the soviet union at that time, and then the united states. the united states moved in after the french got defeated at -- in vietnam, and then laos became independent. and so at this point, the united states wants to influence laos and gradually builds up a secret force over the period starting in 1958. they were looking for guerrilla soldiers.
and there were both lao -- all of those ethnic groups participated to some degree, but not all groups. you cannot say that all ethnic groups supported the cia. that is totally incorrect. and they created a secret military i think because of the neutrality agreement. they did not want to admit that it was really going on. so when people flew in, let's say, a cia agent flew in to the air base, they never went through vientiane. you did not even know they were there, because it was a restricted area.
so their operations were kept very, very quiet and undercover. in the film of that pbs film called "american experiences," there is one whole series on vietnam, and one portion of that series is laos and cambodia. and there is an excellent discussion in that film with the former cia agent about how this occurs and what takes place. we were afraid that china was going to be a player and that china would then come down and swooped down and take over laos, take over thailand, take over much of southeast asia. i do not think china had the desire or ambition to do that at that point. frankly, right now they are
doing an amazing takeover through capitalism, through investment. and it is shocking everybody. it is distressing in some ways because there is a lot of difficult things happening inside various countries. >> was the question why it was kept secret? congress did not approve going into laos. ms. chagnon: that is right. >> and one of the reasons we went in was to interrupt the flow of supplies in the ho chi minh trail, which was in lao. ms. chagnon: yes, but that comes later. we were in laos -- we were already forming the secret army in 1961-1962.
the war in vietnam against in 1965. the bombing of laos begins five months before the bombing in destin bombing in laos begins five months before the bombing in vietnam. >> so you are referring to the bombing, because there was also the incursion of the troops into lao -- the actual american troops went into lao. ms. chagnon: yes, later, that was in 1971 but there were not a lot of troops in uniform. they were always in civilian dress. >> i was in uniform and i went into lao. april of 1971. ms. chagnon: that was a terrible
situation. >> i was told it was to interrupt the flow of supplies on the ho chi minh trail. that was the military reason. ms. chagnon: it was a disastrous undertaking for the vietnamese that went in as well, as the americans. it was a terrible battle, but has not been recorded very well. that is one of the areas we are working in. >> i also had a question. given all the evidence, what is it that there is so much resistance to acknowledging that agent orange has caused all these consequences? >> that is a good question as well. you could say part of it is financial, taking responsibility
for not just those in vietnam who have congenital deformities that may be caused by agent orange. children of vietnam veterans here and veterans of the war in laos and cambodia also are born with disabilities, deformities. there is a new group that started about three or four years ago called the children of the veterans health alliance. primarily a facebook group, and i do not know what the number is, but there are several thousand children of veterans who are part of this group who are sharing about what types of health issues they are facing today, and their children are
facing today, that the v.a. does not acknowledge. part of it is a financial question, and the evidence is really -- we have it in animal studies, but you cannot inject a human with dioxin and see what it does to its offspring. there is not evidence of a direct link. it has become the excuse to do nothing, that there is no scientific proof that this causes problems in humans, but there is no scientific proof that there is not. and the iom that comes up with that conditions veterans that the v.a. determines what diseases may be receiving benefits, they only look at existing studies. they do not do their run research. -- they do not do their own research. they look at what has been done, what research is already out there, and they determine where they find there is evidence of association. a lot of these -- the rare birth
defects, there is no research that has been done. to make the connection clearly. they typically rely on the lack of scientific evidence as an excuse not to say that you cannot say 100%, so it must not be. >> if it is largely financial driven, i saw on one of the slides that there is compensation for service in vietnam. what is the difference if there is compensation for service in vietnam, but not for a link to agent orange? ms. hammond: for those birth defects that are found among the children of female veterans, there were only 8000 mainly nurses who were serving the country. those were just -- spina bifida -- it is hard to get out of the v.a. the details of how much money is going to spina bifida,
how much money is going to veterans with parkinson's. they do not break down their records, so it is hard to know those numbers. vietnam-era veterans, there is so much money going to that population. but it is not broken down by condition. each time the iom finds another condition that they believe is associated, like stroke was at fairly recently, hypertension was added, well, you are talking about a population of 3 million veterans who served in the country. i do not know how many are alive today. they are in a 60's, 70's. my father was in his 80's when he died. chances are a lot of them have that condition. part of it is financial, but
also the v.a. is often careful to say people who talk about why veterans in america benefits as opposed to, say, vietnamese who have the same condition, they hear it is very political. we are going to support our veterans. but that does not mean we are going to do the same in a country that was our former enemy. >> the pictures are heartbreaking. so what i thought was there was poison gas in world war i, and there were rules of war, and the geneva convention. where would agent orange, blue, white and all these classes fit into the scheme of things? i'm against all war, but if you are called to fight a war, how is this supposed to be able to
be used on civilian populations and legalities and that kind of stuff? >> that has been a big question of lawsuits that have been filed in the united states by veterans, and in 2004 the vietnamese also filed a lawsuit in u.s. against the chemical companies about, wasn't this a war crime? and the courts have ruled that the dioxin in this herbicide was a byproduct. it was not supposed to be there. it was created with the chemical companies produced, 2-4-5-t, one of the components of agent orange, and there is a lot of rainbow colors. when they produced that herbicide, 2-4-5-t, they were
producing it quickly, and the dioxin chemical was created during the manufacturing process. it was not supposed -- it was not supposed to be in there, and dow was the only chemical company was the only company that tried to reduce the dioxin. all of them had dioxin in the 2-4-5-t. the courts ruled the herbicides were not used as a poison. war were inons in the geneva dimension of time. they were not targeted at humans. they were not targeted to kill. they were targeted to kill trees, so therefore it was not a war crime. that is what the courts have said in the last couple years. since then, the u.s. has signed on to a protocol that forbids
first use of these types of chemicals in war. but we used herbicides in colombia against cocaine, but i guess that is not war, so that is ok. ms. yarr: any other questions? i should have mentioned, kindly identify yourselves when you -- >> my name is lewis woolf. i was in laos. i want to thank this gentleman. the may be the first person of my knowledge to ever publicly say that he was on the ground, in uniform in laos. thank you. the cult of secrecy around laos, which jackie and i and some of the others who have been in laos and work there -- and jackie and her husband, roger, were in a
group called international voluntary services, which was a precursor to the peace corps. we lived in the villages. we spoke lao. we ate their food. we loved the lao. we loved their people and the culture. one thing that escapes public knowledge is this -- secrecy around laos, which, for example, today the vietnam war more to my -- the vietnam war memorial, to my knowledge, there is no single u.s. military personnel who is identified on the wall as having died in laos. like it did not happen. maybe some of your colleagues were killed during the operation. some were. even before from outside of -- they were on the ground.
maybe some of you have heard about an investigation which was held in detroit in the 1960's, and the second investigation more recently, where men testified under oath in public, on film, to the fact that they were in laos, in operations in laos. and lastly, i will mention the fact that henry kissinger, when he signed the geneva agreements, you can go and see the paper that he signed, in the national archives. i saw it in the war museum in hanoi, vietnam, and he did not actually sign it. he goes "h k". that is not a signature. maybe it is fair to say the u.s. did not really sign a peace agreement.
maybe others did. william sullivan was one of the key players. the cult of secrecy around the the cult of secrecy around the war in laos -- and that is what it was -- a war against the people of laos -- where it was mentioned in the early slides that susan showed that more ordnance was dropped in laos than anywhere in all warfare. if you allowed that before the war, which was said to be in the range of 5 million to 6 million, after the war -- jackie or susan? >> 6.5 million now.
>> before the war it was a lot more. the people of laos have suffered tremendously from a war that it is not known as a war. ms. hammond: i remember reading a few weeks ago that the first medal of honor that went to a veteran, that he was awarded the congressional medal of honor -- i cannot remember exactly -- for service in laos, it the first time any person -- and he had gone -- he was a medic -- and he had gone in and stayed -- i do not remember if it was part of the safe home, but it was 40-something years later that he was honored. before that he could not admit that he was there, and he had saved many lives of his fellow soldiers during that effort.
secrecy continues. it was very hard. i have been able to talk to a few -- you have to get introduced, introduced, introduced before -- and when my father was a veteran, so i am coming at this from an army brat perspective, and you have to lay your credentials out before you even get that first door open to talk to one of these veterans. now they are starting to write memoirs. you can come across some memoirs online. but they had hold on to the secret, many to their graves. ms. chagnon: my sister-in-law did not know her husband had been in laos until six months before he died. his children did not know either.
at that point, he was suffering from alzheimer's, and he could not remember much. i had the task with my husband, who was still alive at that time, to explain to them what happened and why they did not know. he had only confided in my husband and i. and it was a very painful, painful event for him. ms. hammond: which brings up the point if you were a veteran who had boots on the ground, you automatically qualify for any conditions that the v.a. acknowledges. if you were in thailand or laos, it is a much harder -- you have to prove exposure. it is not the presumption of exposure that it was in vietnam. you have to prove you were in an
area that was sprayed. so that i mentioned that i have not heard from them -- but there are many of these air america and those who went into vietnam -- i mean, went into laos that may have parkinson's, that may have diabetes, or some of these other conditions, veterans in the vietnam era, who if they were just there for one hour, they could qualify for, and these cannot even prove they were there. there are many veterans i believe who are not receiving the assistance from the government, our government, that they should. never mind the lao that we are trying to get the help for. ms. yarr: questions? >> i am working for video free
asia from laos. i would like to add something, because i have worked there for years in the south. the area where -- agent orange. i just traveled through the ho chi minh trail, and during that time, i assumed that the spraying of agent orange was -- or not, because the townspeople told me the vietnamese -- travel along toward the ho chi minh trail at night. and the trail was made of rocks and stones made by the human labor. i was surprised.
how was the ho chi minh trail made? they put the rocks all together, and during that time i was told that the vietnamese troops traveled during the rainy season, during the rainy season. and during that time it was thick forest. sometimes the spraying of agent orange, it works only in one -- you see -- only in the rainy season. but when the rainy season comes, what can we say, the leaves come. and then five years ago, i was
there, and i saw it is very difficult to get to the target area. the target area is not in the center of the town of the province. it is about 100 miles from the town, but it takes four days to get the area. and the people in that area are very, very low educated. i happen to see -- and i was surprised that the people understand -- they do not know anything about -- they do not know anything about the agent orange. so my question is, what can be done for the lao?
ms. chagnon: it is going to take both the lao government asking for assistance and the u.s. government responding. now, why hasn't the lao government asked? i think because they thought it was gone. it is 40 years ago. they did not have the science to realize that this was an ongoing problem. in 1999-2000, my husband and i began a small effort to try to educate a person in the ministry of health, including the vice minister of health, about this issue. and we took them then to a conference in vietnam.
it was sponsored by the u.s. government. it was the first time these young doctors had ever heard about the consequences. now, these are some of the most highly educated people in laos at that time, but they did not know. and subsequently, there has been no follow-up until this work by the war legacies project, which is why i decided that in my retirement this is what i was going to do. i was going to try to make this an issue. i should tell you that the uxo issue took us over 20 years to bring this to the table, to put
it on the table, that not only would the lao not ask for it, but that the u.s. would respond. when we first mentioned it as it is in 1979-1980 here in washington, it was like -- no, it was bombed that much, really? we had to show photos and lots of proof before people began to realize that that much of the bombing that went on in laos. that is why i say, please, do not call it a sideshow. it is the most heavily bombed country in the history of the world per capita. it is not a sideshow. it was sprayed with tremendous amounts of chemicals, some of which we do not even know what they are. the uxo teams are finding weapons that they cannot identify. and there are people who, when they go and defuse them, are seriously injured.
we visited with one of those young women. there was a young woman, and she had been working for five years on a uxo team, and she does not receive assistance today, and yet you can still see the burn marks on her entire body. something exploded and burned her very badly. and nobody could explain what it was. to this day. that happened in 2000 -- i think it was in the year 2000. to this day, we do not know what kind of weapon it was. there is a definite need for cooperation on this, and that is why i said i am very pleased to see that vietnam, which has a lot of scientists, a lot of experience, is now able to assist lao and coming to
understand more of the data behind this and the consequences. the united states also has to participate as a goodwill gesture. ms. hammond: your point that these areas are very remote, the remote areas on the spraying that where the herbicides were sprayed onto which is an trail, are very remote, and the population does not travel out of their home villages. these stories that we are taking, crossing river after river to get there, in a four-wheel drive truck, the only way you can get there, you have to go to them to get the stories
and information. that information is not coming out. and they, as you said, are not very well educated, ethnic minority populations that do not have the ability to let their people know in vientiane does not know what their issues are. they do not live on a cash economy. it is a subsistence economy. they do not have the cash to buy a bus ticket. that is another one of the problems, that this information is not getting -- the areas that are heavily sprayed, remote. very few people get out of them. organizations, other organizations that are working in laos, primarily have been focused in the north, in other areas. they are not working in -- but not in the areas that are along the ho chi minh trail. they are not providing programs there. they're not getting their
stories out and are not advocating for more funding or support from the less government. ms. chagnon: it is a difficult problem because the roads have only been constructed in the past four, five years. we have to wait for a very specific time when the weather is dry and we can make it into those villages. it is that difficult. otherwise, you are slogging in mud up to here. it is hard to walk in mud that deep. ms. hammond: where you see the rocks and stones that were placed so many years ago. ms. yarr: any other comments or questions?
well, i think this has certainly been an enlightening question -- and has given us the kind of in-depth understanding of what the true consequences of a war would be, a declared war, a secret war, any kind of war has on local populations. and essentially a research agenda, i would think. many of us, students at g.w., as well as anyone else who wants get to the base of these issues so more change can happen and the kind of assistance actually targeted and brought to bear on these populations. so please join me in thanking susan and jackie for their outstanding presentations. [applause]
ms. yarr: i would also like to thank another individual for assisting in bringing this session together as well as our friends from c-span. thank you. ms. hammond: could i add one thing? none of this work we are doing could we be doing without the financial support in laos from green cross international, which is a fund based in switzerland that was started by gorbachev after the chernobyl incident, after he retired, and it addresses toxics around the world. we receive support to help children through the year of giving generously, which is another path to ivs, because the father was a former ivs-er who died in laos. also another foundation is a
supporter of our work as well, and without them i would not have been able to afford a plane fare to come down here. so thank you. ms. chagnon: much of our work is based on volunteerism and i have say packed susan salary is not a lot. i am a volunteer. i do not receive a salary. but they help to pay for travel when we are moving around laos. and as well, my colleague, who is our country program person, she also works on a volunteer
basis. and she is very committed to this and receives phone calls from various people until midnight sometimes. they are calling to see if their child to be able to go to get examined by a doctor for their problem. and it is a very rewarding piece of our work. but the most important thing i think we have to do is see what our government can do, let me also say, if anybody is interested in cambodia, there are three provinces that were also affected by agent orange, dioxin, and those still have not been investigated. those would make a good research paper.
ms. yarr: thank you all for coming, and with that, we will close this event. thank you. >> thank you. weekend, bookday tv brings you nonfiction books and authors. live at noon, in-depth is from michigan with a radio host. the ninee author of " questions people ask about judaism." "happiness is a serious problem."
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