Thursday, March 10, 2005

Payback?


I've been following a class action lawsuit against the manufacturers of Agent Orange. We all know that Agent Orange, a dioxin laden herbicide was used extensively by American forces during the Vietnam war. At the time, the dangerous side effects of dioxin were not well understood. We now know that dioxin contributes to birth defects, diabetes and a whole host of other disorders. Want proof? See here. Want to learn more about the factors behind the use of Agent Orange? See here.

Vietnamese plaintiffs sued Dow Chemicals, Monsanto and a whole host of corporations to redress the litany of health problems caused by the use of Agent Orange. A judge dismissed the case today. I agree with the defense in this case. The suppliers of the chemical should not be held responsible for the actions of the American government. Don't get me wrong, I feel for these poor people whose children have been born without limbs or eyes. I wish something could be done to address their suffering. This lawsuit just didn't seem like a sensible way to do so.

Moreover, I've been thinking about reparations. African Americans wanting reparations for the sins of slavemasters shouldn't receive payment. Yes, slaves were treated horribly. They suffered and endured more than I can imagine. Their great grandchildren, on the other hand, have not. I simply do not believe that the social suffering of one generation necessarily translates into suffering for the next generation. Take my family as an example. My maternal and paternal grandparents (God rest their souls) grew up impoverished in a third world country and suffered during political upheaval. None of their grandchildren have suffered as they had. Do I deserve payment for the woes of my grandparents? Of course not.

The Vietnamese plaintiffs, on the other hand, may deserve something for their agony. It is a biological fact that the suffering of their predecessors has affected their lives. This court case, however, was simply not the way to do so. It is surprising, however, that chemical manufacturers were willing to pay 180 million dollars to settle with American Vietnam veterans in 1984 and are unwilling to do the same now.

UPDATE: Looks like the people of Vietnam are none too happy with the court decision. Check it out.

4 Comments:

Blogger thc said...

Nice post, Vavoom. I've never understood why I should have to pay restitution for something my great, great, great great-grandparents did (which was legal at the time). Nor should chemical companies who made agent orange be responsible to Vietnamese victims. What would be next, sue Boeing because the chemical was sprayed from planes built by them?

9:00 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

Right you are, thc. If they are going to sue anyone it should be the US gov't. At least then they're going after the right people.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous little john said...

I wonder how many lawsuits are filed against the government in the worker's paradise of Vietnam?

3:36 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

little john: I'm not sure, but they'd probably have a hell of a case. Which organization could help them most? Oh yeah, the UN. Oh yeah, never mind.

4:17 AM  

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