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Agent Orange: Federal Court Sides Against Vietnam Vets, Vietnamese People

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Even as the costs of the Iraq war pile up, the human costs of the Iraq war continue to ripple out. On Friday, a federal appeals court rejected an effort by Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange to reinstate claims that U.S. companies (including Monsanto and Dow) committed war crimes by making the toxic chemical defoliant used in the Vietnam War.

Incredibly, the three judge panel ruled that Agent Orange was not used as a weapon of war against human populations.

"It is significant that plaintiffs nowhere allege that the government intended to harm human beings through its use of Agent Orange," the three-judge panel said.

This, even though the National Cancer Institute reported as early as 1966 that Agent Orange caused birth defects in mice and rats. Other studies conducted during the war showed that even "vanishingly small" amounts of dioxin in an animals diet could cause cancer. Researchers also found that lower concentrations of dioxin produced the same effects as higher concentrations, but merely took longer to do so. As these studies continued to show the damaging, toxic effects of Agent Orange, the spraying continued.

All of this is documented in an excellent 1994 report by the federal Institute of Medicine.

In a separate opinion, the appellate court also said companies are protected from lawsuits brought by U.S. military veterans or their relatives because the law protects government contractors in certain circumstances who provide defective products.

All in all, a good day for Dow and Monsanto and a bad day for the Vietnamese people and US war veterans.

Lawyers for the Vietnamese government and US veterans groups are vowing to appeal their case to the US Supreme Court.

Did you know?

VA hospitals and clinics have treated 263,909 unplanned patients from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

How well do you know your facts about U.S. veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan? Take the War Comes Home "Did You Know?" Quiz and find out!

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Pacifica radio network reporter Aaron Glantz is author of the new book "How America Lost Iraq" (Tarcher/Penguin). More information at
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