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Orange crush



News Hits is consistently amazed at the breadth of information dispensed by the Enviro-Mich listserv, a discussion forum and an automatic e-mail distribution system sponsored by the Mackinac chapter of the Sierra Club.

We mention this now because of an item posted this week directing attention to a New York Times article regarding Agent Orange, an herbicide used to denude the jungles of Vietnam during our misbegotten war in that country. The issue is of interest to people in this state because Midland’s Dow Chemical is one of the Agent Orange manufacturers being sued in a class-action civil suit filed on behalf of millions of Vietnamese. Agent Orange contained dioxin, one of the most toxic substances known. Dioxin contamination in and around Midland remains an ongoing controversy.

As the Times article points out, the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Vietnamese accuses the companies who supplied it to our military of committing war crimes. Plaintiffs are drawing parallels to companies that furnished Zyklon B, a lethal hydrogen cyanide gas, to Nazi death camps. According to the article, two manufacturers of that gas were convicted of war crimes and executed.

Now the U.S. Justice Department, though not a party to the lawsuit, has sided with the makers of Agent Orange. Our government, according to the Times, argues in court filings that: “The implications of plaintiffs’ claims are astounding as they would (if accepted) open the courthouse doors of the American legal system for former enemy nationals and soldiers claiming to have been harmed by the United States” during war.

A federal judge in Brooklyn was set to hear arguments in the case Monday.

We’ll keep you posted.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or

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