When I was a child at school and learned moral lessons, many of the exemplars of good will were students who write with their feet.
Photos by Philip Jones Griffiths
This girl, age 14, born stunted with deformed fingers, proudly demonstrates her excellent penmanship, 1998.
Nine-year-old Pham Thi Thuy Linh, was born in Ho Chi Minh City with no arms and has learned to write using her feet. Her grandfather was an army officer in the former regime and worked on the aircraft that carried and dispersed Agent Orange during the war.
“Agent Orange is the combination of the code names for Herbicide Orange (HO) and Agent LNX, one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its chemical warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971.
The Vietnam Red Cross reported as many as 3 million Vietnamese people have been affected by Agent Orange, including at least 150,000 children born with birth defects. According to Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 people being killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects. Women had higher rates of miscarriage and stillbirths, as did livestock such as cattle, water buffalo, and pigs.
On January 31, 2004, a victim’s rights group, the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin (VAVA), filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, against several U.S. companies for liability in causing personal injury, by developing and producing the chemical. Dow Chemical and Monsanto were the two largest producers of Agent Orange for the U.S. military, and were named in the suit, along with the dozens of other companies (Diamond Shamrock, Uniroyal, Thompson Chemicals, Hercules, etc.). On March 10, 2005, Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the Eastern District – who had presided over the 1984 US veterans class-action lawsuit – dismissed the lawsuit, ruling there was no legal basis for the plaintiffs’ claims. He concluded Agent Orange was not considered a poison under international law at the time of its use by the U.S.; the U.S. was not prohibited from using it as a herbicide; and the companies which produced the substance were not liable for the method of its use by the government. The U.S. government was not a party in the lawsuit, due to sovereign immunity, and the court ruled the chemical companies, as contractors of the US government, shared the same immunity. The case was appealed and heard by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on June 18, 2007. The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the case, stating the herbicides used during the war were not intended to be used to poison humans and therefore did not violate international law. The US Supreme Court declined to consider the case.”