The Guardian 22 June, 2005

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Letters to the Editor

Tragic legacy of war

The Vietnam war was officially over 30 years ago. The devastated country started rebuilding and has made a tremendous effort to deal with the consequences of the war. There was an enormous problem with dealing with after effects of Agent Orange which had been dumped on vegetation in Vietnam. Never before such large-scale poisoning of the environment had taken place.

Thirty years later and the effects of the poison are still there. Children are still being born with horrific deformities. All these years the Vietnamese doctors have been trying to help the victims. There is a joint Vietnamese/Russian research facility which was established after the war ended.

Amid great publicity in 2001, the US government announced that it would cooperate in researching the connection between Agent Orange and the millions of disabled in Vietnam. But in January 2005 the funding for the project was cancelled and the US withdrew from the commitment to joint research.

The decision was taken by Dr Anne Sassaman of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and was supported by Dr Marie Sweeney at the US Embassy. The Embassy issued a memorandum which ridiculed Vietnamese scientists and called the alleged Agent Orange disabilities mere propaganda by Vietnam. It rejected the research done not only by the Vietnamese scientists but all other overseas scientists who have been involved in the research. The memorandum also implied that US scientists involved in the research would find no connection between Agent Orange and disabilities in Vietnam and that Vietnam somehow was interested only in getting US money.

The US government loves to carry on about war crimes and how the perpetrators should be punished for them. Canít agree more in case of Agent Orange and the civilian population who bore the brunt of its use. Is the US government prepared to admit to its crime? Not on your life. It also denies the connection between depleted uranium and the so-called Gulf syndrome. In other words, not only the innocent victims of wars will be suffering for years to come but the US servicemen and women are also the victims of their governmentís policies and attitudes.

K Price
Wentworthville, NSW

Save the Whales

There seems to be a lot of talk about how the whales are worth more alive than dead so people can continue to make $$ out of whale watching. Sure, that exposes one crazy aspect to the barbaric act of killing whales but surely whales have a right to exist in their own right irrespective of how much $$ humans can make from them.

Once I was surfing off Tallowís beach below the lighthouse at Byron Bay when a young humpback whale came within touching distance and looked me in the eye. The bliss of that contact will be with me till I die and has probably inspired me to act on their behalf now. I hate to think that this yearís passing off Byron could be its last.

So Iím doing all I can and hope others will take some time out to act now to help protect the whales. I have prepared a whale page on my website with links, form letters, petitions and email addresses of the people who need to be pressured to stop the continuing slaughter. My site is Letters, E-mails, Japanese Boycotts, Protests, Prayers, Meditations, all are needed now, for us as much as the whales.

John Howard needs to stop pussy footing around if he is serious about saving the whales and take Japan to the International Court of Justice now, before there are no more whales left.

Dean Jefferys
Whale Action Group
Mullumbimby NSW

French set example

I have never been a fan of the French since The Rainbow Warrior. However I take my hat to the people of France. Firstly they supported a shorter working week and banned overtime. At a time when other countries force longer working hours that increased stress and cause family disintegration, a shorten week was a courageous move. Banning overtime meant there was more work to be shared out for the greater good of all people.

Secondly the French had the sense to vote "Non" to the EU new constitution. Masses of sensible people, not business and government, recognised the decline in their standard of living. By voting Non they challenged the sell-off of their traditional French way of life that was eroding under EU and free trade agreements. The Dutch followed their lead and made a stand too.

Today Australians are seeing their traditional dream of home ownership, a secure job, and a good education and health service disappear at the altar of World Free Trade. Will the Australian people be given the opportunity to vote on these fundamental changes to our way of life? Who can doubt that the great Australian dream is under threat today from a trade agreement that appears to lower our living standards.

Why the rush to sell off Telstra and other public owned services and institutions like our universities, water and energy resources? Australian intellectual property, ethical and moral values are being sacrificed at the altar of the World Free Trade Agreement by a naÔve government who talks of mutual obligation. Where is their obligation to ensure a safe future for our grandchildren? When everything is owned by offshore cartels what will the governmentís obligation be then? The French wisely rejected a takeover that meant a master/servant relationship that would control their way of life. We wonít have a choice.

Mary Jenkins
Secretary of Stop MAI
Spearwood, WA

One family left in Nauru, remember?

There is one family left in the detention camp on Nauru.

What a shame there was no mention of Nauru in the Prime Ministerís statement about the detention of children.

If there is one family that needs urgent community accommodation in Australia, it is this little family.

The parents are watching over the despair and isolation of their children with increasing alarm and distress.

How much more damaged will these kids have to become before the Minister notices them? Are they out of sight and out of mind?

Elaine Smith
West Haven, NSW

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