Monday, August 13, 2012

Update on Congressional and IOM Efforts

Okay, enough is enough.  So the Marines, who seem to always get what they want, get their Camp Lejeune contamination benefits.  And the Vietnamese get millions of dollars to cleanup around Danang. 

Yes, both are certainly and most assuredly well deserved.  So indeed are the pending benefits for the Blue Water Navy. 

Just to put something into perspective, there are some other things at play here regarding the Danang cleanup. 

A few years ago a very senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs committee spoke to a few of us in a hallway after a joint House-Senate VA hearing.  His comments baffled us at the time.  He said, “Danang!  We ought to take that back!” 

The Chinese and the Philippines have laid claim to two small island groups off Vietnam, the Paracel Islands, and the Spratley Islands.  In fact, the Vietnamese Navy, built mostly of Russian ships, tangled with the People’s Republic of China Navy twice over those islands, back 25-35 years ago.  Each side won one confrontation. 

What’s the big deal about those Islands? 

Oil and Natural Gas.  Both island groups have rather large fields of gas and oil under them. 

Enter the Russians.  They, too, are seeking a future supply of gas and oil.  So they are seeking a naval and air base in Vietnam.  Likely they are after Cam Ranh Bay.   

So, when that Senator said “Danang!  We ought to take that back!”, we had no clue then what he was talking about, but it certainly becomes evident now why we are cleaning up Danang.  It is good will building in hopes of gaining access to the Naval and Air facilities there after they are cleaned up.  It would be an economic boon to Vietnam.  It would provide us with a partner in the area, that we lost after the Philippines kicked us out.  It would allow us a base of operations in the South China Sea, and to be able to counter any threat from the Chinese [or the Russians?].

Just a word of caution to future US Military who may visit the Danang area…don’t eat local, especially the seafood, and don’t drink the water. 

On the other hand, we have visited several Senate offices, and several House offices, and made some inroads into co-sponsorship in the House.  We still await the very cautious Senators' responses to visits as far back as mid-June. 

We are pressing on in both houses. 

In late June we had the distinct honor to make a presentation to the Institute of Medicine’s Committee to Review the Health Effects in Vietnam Veterans of Exposure to Herbicides (Ninth Biennial Update), and asked them to gain approval and find the funding for a proposed Mortality and Morbidity Study Among Vietnam and Vietnam Era Veterans.  The study would provide an expansive body of data about all who served during that time, and a control group of men and women of the same age that did not serve.  It is divided by where you served, and asks simply, what diseases have you been diagnosed with, and is not limited to the current list of Agent Orange diseases.  The Membership of the Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War have kindly offered most of them as participants in the study, should it come about.  We have had no feedback on it, but it seemed to be received with interest. If they do take on the study, and it comes out the way we suspect it will, Congress will not like it because it will mean enormous increases in the VA budget, and the VA will simply not like it either, having spent the past 45 years fighting tooth and nail to deny those benefits to all. 

Stay tuned.  Congress is in recess, and September-October will be hectic with the approach of the election. 


”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

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  1. Anonymous13:58

    The Russians HAD a major naval base at Cam Ranh Bay for years, wonder what happened to it?

  2. Anonymous13:59

    The Russians HAD a major naval base at Cam Ranh Bay for years, wonder what happened to it?

  3. The Russians had a rent-free presence, mostly air but some naval, from 1972 to 1993 when they renewed it four years early. They left on their own in 2001-2002.

    It sounds like they were there as "protectors " until the Vietnamese Military grew up and into the 21st century. They aren't completely there yet, but they buy some pretty sophisticated naval craft from western sellers.

  4. Anonymous18:57

    I think your dates are a bit off, The US was in Vietnam until 1975 and, as one who was there at the time, I can tell you the Soviets were NOT at Cam Ranh before we left despite our diminishing presence there. I think after South Vietnam fell to the North would probably be more like it.

  5. You are correct. They began moving in during 1979.