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The deadly double standards of the West

A fraction of the money poured into devastating wars would alleviate the ongoing suffering of people affected by Agent Orange, writes JOHN GREEN

WHILE the media rages over the alleged use of poison gas by the Syrian government, they are not in the slightest bit concerned about the poisoned individuals who provide emotive front page images, but are soon forgotten.

The media is only interested in the use it can make of such photos in order to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

If they were really concerned about the real humanitarian repercussions they would also be devoting attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis unleashed by the US in Vietnam from 1961-71.

The US used more chemical weapons in that war than any other country in history.

More than 80 million litres of poisonous chemicals — most damagingly Agent Orange — were sprayed widely over Vietnam.

This cocktail contained nearly 400kg of dioxin, one of the most toxic substances ever produced and deadly dangerous in the minutest of quantities.

Dioxin is almost indestructible and remains active for many years. In Vietnam it has entered the foodstream through the contamination of land and rivers.

It causes various kinds of serious physical and mental disorders, many severe and disabling. It is possible that the poison damages genes and the effects passed on from one generation to the next.

No-one knows how many generations will be affected. At the present time in Vietnam around three million individuals are affected and over four million have been exposed and are likely to suffer severe health damage at some stage in their lives.

Those most afflicted are also the poorest in the country and many families have several members disabled by the poison. A large number are seriously disabled, unable to obtain employment and are invariably unable to look after themselves, thus becoming a heavy burden on their families.

The British charity Medical and Scientific Aid for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (MSAVLC) has been working closely with the Vietnamese Association for the Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) over many years in its effort to help such victims, setting up rehabilitation centres, providing specialised equipment and such simple things as wheelchairs so that people can at least leave their homes.

At the same time, the United States is spending $4 million every hour in Afghanistan and $117,035 every hour in Iraq. The total cost of US wars since 2001 has now reached the mind-boggling sum of $1.817 trillion and this is rising continuously as I write.

This money is used simply to kill and maim poor people and destroy infrastructure on the other side of the world.

A tiny fraction of this sum could transform the lives of those in Vietnam, as well as in Afghanistan and the Middle East, but the US refuses to spend even a single penny to purchase a few basic wheelchairs for victims of Agent Orange.

Without charities like MSAVLC, which ensures that 98 per cent of monies raised actually go to help the victims of war, little would be done to relieve the suffering of these marginalised victims of US imperial wars.

The same situation is being deliberately created in Afghanistan and the Middle East. They too will be left destitute, maimed and forgotten once the US decides to withdraw.

What are the international war crimes courts doing about such state terror and atrocities? We need to demand that all states are held accountable, not just those deemed to be terror states by the globally powerful.

For more information about MSAVLC visit msavlc.org.

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