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The circumstances surrounding the production of the McLeod Report raise many disturbing questions. There is no reason to doubt the motives of the government in commissioning the report. The aim appears to have been a genuine desire to prevent services to New Zealand veterans from falling behind those available in Australia and the United States. The government, and New Zealand's veteran community, were entitled to expect something better than the shoddy research and remarkable ignorance of the subject matter shown by the authors of the McLeod Report.

The authors of the McLeod Report made no attempt to find out where New Zealanders served during the Vietnam War. They made no attempt to find out where herbicides and pesticides were sprayed during the Vietnam War. They made no attempt to find out what exposure models are currently in use. They made no attempt to access freely available information on indirect exposure. By depriving themselves of this information, the authors of the McLeod Report have disqualified themselves from making any comment on the exposure of New Zealand veterans to herbicides and pesticides during the Vietnam War.

The McLeod Report claims to have conducted a comprehensive, critical analysis of a number of epidemiological studies relevant to the health of the children of Vietnam veterans. Yet it is clear that the authors of the McLeod Report have only read the summaries of those studies. They have not actually read or thoroughly researched the studies. My own research shows that there is important information buried in the detail of those studies, some of which contradicts the summaries that have been released to the public. The McLeod Report's failure to find any of that important information makes it clear that they have not conducted any research into the studies.

The McLeod Report has apparently not bothered to find out that some of the studies it has cited have been the subject of United States congressional inquiries into malpractice, falsification of data, misrepresentation of results, and political interference. This is common knowledge to any reader familiar with the topic. The McLeod Report's failure to find this easily available information casts serious doubts on its research.

The McLeod Report has failed to inform the New Zealand Government that its own conclusions are out of step with the Agent Orange Scientific Task Force, a body with a significantly higher level of expertise than that of the McLeod Report. Surely the authors of the McLeod Report are ethically bound to inform the New Zealand Government of the existence of a significant body of opinion that disagrees with their own.

The McLeod Report has been subjected to a review process at a number of levels. It has allegedly been subjected to peer review, although the reviewers apparently wish to be anonymous. It has also been reviewed by the New Zealand Department of Health. (1) This should be a matter of serious concern to the New Zealand Government. The review process has failed to pick up any of the research failures I have outlined above. I find this staggering, since these failings are obvious to anybody familiar with this topic.

The McLeod Report has ignored female Vietnam veterans. This is a significant omission. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has found the rate of birth defects in the children of female Vietnam veterans to be too high to ignore. It offers treatment for all birth defects in the offspring of female Vietnam veterans that are not caused by a familial disorder, a birth related injury, or a fetal or neo-natal infirmity with a well-established cause. Although the number of New Zealand female Vietnam veterans is small, it would have been useful to count them, together with American and Australian female veterans, to add their statistical weight to the mix.

The McLeod Report apparently wants the New Zealand Government to believe that somehow New Zealanders in Vietnam were invisible soldiers. They served alongside Australians and Americans, but magically they were not exposed to the same dangers as their allies. As Senator Daschle noted in his comments on the theory of eternal recurrence, the Agent Orange deception has been going on far too long, targeting Vietnam veterans and their families. It is time to bring it to an end. The New Zealand Government should throw the McLeod Report into the rubbish bin, where it belongs. By doing so, they would send a message to New Zealand's Vietnam veterans that, at least in the eyes of their government, they are not invisible.


  1. New Zealand Department of Health report, subject: Health Outcomes of the Children of Vietnam and Operation Grapple Veterans. File ref: 20022290, date: 22 July 2002.

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