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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

HAVE YOUR SAY

Memories of Agent Orange; Fukushima folly

I am a victim of Agent Orange

Thanks for your story on AO in Okinawa ("Evidence for Agent Orange on Okinawa" by Jon Mitchell, Zeit Gist, April 12).

Just like those of us stationed and exposed to AO on Johnston Island after all the AO was sent there in April 1972 from Vietnam, we also get nothing but "turndowns" from VA (the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs). Like Okinawa vets, there have been a few approvals from the VA Appeals Court, but the VA Regional Offices continue to deny until we die!

I have been fighting since 2002 with VA and I just found out that my case was approved to go to the VA Appeals Court (after they sat on it for 18 months). Now I have possibly another two- to three-year wait before I get to court.

My primary AO illness is the extremely rare form of recurring soft tissue sarcoma called liposarcoma. Cancer.gov, the

government's own website, states that a primary cause is from "herbicide exposure."

My first surgery removed a 26 lb (12 kg)liposarcoma tumor along with my left kidney, spleen, some colon and some adrenal bed. Now, several surgeries later, I no longer have any large intestines, some back muscles are gone, as is most of my adrenal bed.

The VA medical side says I was exposed on Johnston Island to AO. The benefits side of VA states that AO never leaked until 1974, which ignores proof of leakage in 1972 (I arrived in November '72 on JI).

Thanks again for getting the word out about VA and the Department of Defense's coverups.

PAUL TRAVIS

Part of tragic Okinawan story

I read this article ("Evidence for Agent Orange on Okinawa") with great concern.

As a high school student in Okinawa from 1969 to 1972, I can remember well how barren and disfigured the vegetation around the military base perimeter fences was at the time. We, as curious teenagers, would often go exploring around the bases, as there was often not a lot else for us to do, and of course we had no idea of what we were walking through.

To the people who have been frustrated by the VA, picking their claims off one by one, I wonder if a class-action suit might get their attention more fully.

One might see this as one incident in the long litany of frustrations in the Okinawan story, beginning with the fiction concocted by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito's staff to give the farmers whose land was taken by force the impression that the land was leased, not taken.

The problem, it seems, is much wider, though, when expedient misinformation from government to the general population is standard fare. This is not limited to the U.S. government; it also extends to Japan. The current nuclear crisis is bringing this culture to light, with the Japanese government even going as far as to blame "exaggerated foreign opinions" for the concerns of locals about leaking radiation.

Now, as an example, the Greenpeace initial assessment of the level of the radiation risk has been proven to be more accurate than the government's figures. Hopefully this will help persuade the government to begin to be more accountable to its own people.

The Japanese media can help stimulate these processes if the media can begin to move from the culture of polite acquiescence to government spin towards critical and honest investigative reporting.

Change is desperately needed.

NICK RANDALL
Aldinga Beach, Australia

Japan, nuclear power incompatible

Brian Victoria's letter ("Who pays for nuclear nightmare?" Hotline to Nagatacho, April 19) got it precisely right: In natural disasters, blame is usually shifted during the chaos in order to excuse the guilty.

The cliche "disaster waiting to happen" is well grounded in history. After the very recent Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand, it was revealed that for almost a century experts had warned that the region was prone to earthquakes, but when there is money to be made from real estate it is easy to ignore the geological reality.

It is well documented that seismologists pointed out that nuclear power and Japan's seismic activity are not compatible. But even in such an environment, had Tokyo Electric Power Co. used extra safety standards, it might have prevented the Fukushima nuclear disaster (higher sea walls, etc.).

Finally, it's worth asking: What is the connection between nuclear arms and nuclear power? Is the latter completely innocent? In U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1953 speech he said that "atoms for peace" would help give the world safe, cheap energy, but this has not been so. Japan itself has the missiles and the nuclear materials to build nuclear weapons, and the connection of nuclear waste to depleted uranium armaments used in wars in Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afganistan is also related to this issue.

RICHARD WILCOX
Tokyo



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