Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2021; and The U.S. Role In Cuba Destabilization

Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2021

The Vietnam War ended in 1975, but Vietnamese people today continue to suffer the effects of Agent Orange, the deadly dioxin-containing chemical weapon that the U.S. sprayed over 12 percent of South Vietnam from 1961-1971, poisoning both the people and the land. The defoliant was used to more effectively prosecute the war against the Vietnamese people, exposing their hideouts, destroying their crops and food.

Descendants of approximately 2 to 4 million Vietnamese people, hundreds of thousands of U.S. Vietnam veterans, and Vietnamese-Americans who were exposed to the toxin continue to record disproportionate rates of congenital disabilities and higher rates of many diseases.

U.S. veterans receive some compensation from the U.S. government, but very little assistance has been given to the Vietnamese people, who were the intended victims of the defoliant Agent Orange. Thus, on May 25, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) introduced H.R. 3518, theVictims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2021, in the House of Representatives. TheVietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign (for which I serve as co-coordinator) assisted Lee in drafting the bill.

Lee said, The United States has a moral responsibility to compensate the victims of the Agent Orange campaign. In the same way we are focused on beginning to repair the damage of systemic racism in the form of reparations, and the war on drugs with restorative justice, it is also our responsibility to try and atone for this disgraceful campaign during the Vietnam War.

Susan Schnall is co-coordinator of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign. She was an active duty Navy nurse during the conflict in Vietnam and in 1969, she was tried and found guilty by general court martial of conduct unbecoming an officer for dropping anti-war flyers over military bases in the San Francisco Bay area and an aircraft, and wearing her uniform in the GI and Veterans March for Peace demonstration in San Francisco.

Guest – Susan Schnall is a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and the American Public Health Association. She is also President of the New York City Veterans for Peace chapter and a board member of national Veterans For Peace. Susan organized and led a delegation of Science/Public Health professionals to Vietnam in 2013 to survey the land that had been contaminated by the US use of Agent Orange/dioxin and visit the people who had been harmed by the chemicals. In 2006, Susan was awarded the medal for peace and friendship between peoples by the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations.

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The U.S. Role In Cuba Destabilization

First the Trump and now the Biden administration have accelerated their efforts to destabilize and overthrow the Cuban socialist government with the aim of reestablishing capitalism on the island.

This effort is 62 years old going back to 1959 when a popular revolution lead by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara succeeded in getting rid of the U. S. imposed dictator Batista. The still popular revolution has improved the lives of the Cuban people. Back in 1959 Cuba was a U S. colony. Its resources were owned by US corporations, its dictatorial government was a puppet of the United States.

The population, both urban and rural, was desperately poor. These were the people who made the revolution. The new government instituted land reform. They offered to pay the US corporations for the value of the land. The corporations refused so the Cuban government nationalized the land and re-distributed it to the peasantry, as was their legal right.

In retaliation, the US-owned oil refinery was shut down, crippling the Cuban economy. So the Cubans nationalized the oil refinery, the telephone company, the nickel mines and so on. This all came under control of the Cuban people. This is the essence of the Cuban revolution. The US Government immediately instituted its policy, which continues to this day, of isolation and aggression. It started in 1960, a year after revolution. President Dwight D Eisenhower, pursuant to a 1960 memo written by a senior state department official, the US Government instituted a financial, economic, and commercial blockade of Cuba which is enshrined in our law and continues to this day.

Trump introduced some 200 new measures to overthrow the Cuban revolution. Biden continued this effort with even more measures. The US government and its counter-revolutionary supporters in South Florida promoted the recent July 11 demonstrations in cities throughout the island. These demonstrations were joined by many Cubans who have valid criticisms about bureaucracy, mismanagement, and corruption in the Cuban government. For example, there are long lines people have to wait in to buy food and a lot of items are unavailable.

The situation of the Cuban people is one of hardship brought about by the 60 year old commercial and economic blockade set up at United States. Their suffering has been further exacerbated of course by the pandemic. Cubans suffer a shortage of food and medicine and a blow to the economy which was largely based on tourism. The US counter-revolutionary efforts involve a massive spending of money on social media and a direct role in organizing opponents of the Cuban government. After the July demonstrations a new one was planned for November 15. It was a total flop.

Guest – Attorney Art Heitzer, author and head of the Cuba subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild.

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