KOS, David




CITY/TOWN: Salt Spring Island, B.C.

DATE OF BIRTH: July 23, 1944

PLACE OF BIRTH: Rock Springs, Wyoming

ARRIVAL IN CANADA: May 1971

ANCESTRAL BACKGROUND: Slovenian

EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Instructor, ESL, Malaspina University College, Nanaimo, B.C.

BOOKS:

A Measure of Undoing (Maipenrai Press, 2003). Republished as The Desserts of War - a novel of 21st Century Vietnam (England: Tagman Press 2011), paperback 978-1-903571-72-9.

BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS:

Kos has taught English Literature and ESL in Canada, the United States, Nigeria, China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. He also worked in First Nations education as a teacher, counsellor and administrator.

PHOTO: David Kos (green sweater) with director Dang Vu Dung and disabled adults at Friendship Village, a training centre for victims of the American War in Vietnam, specially those hurt by Agent Orange. The Friendship Village was founded in 1988 by an American war veteran and Vietnamese veterans. More info: www.vietnamfriendship.org

[BCBW 2012]

A Measure of Undoing (Trafford $23.45)
info


from BCBW 2003
The Can Tho Children’s Hospital is a 180-bed facility in Vietnam, treating children with malaria, dengue fever, dysentery and the effects of the chemical weapon Agent Orange. Salt Spring Islander David Kos has fictionalized some of his own experiences in Vietnam, where he taught English as a second language, and he has represented the Can Tho Hospital as a major setting, in order to self-publish his novel entitled A Measure of Undoing (Trafford $23.45). The central characters are American. Having worked at the hospital for 30 years, Dr. Seb Kloster is estranged from the United States, bitter about the devastation wrought by an unnecessary war, and sickened by the napalm-induced deformities and poverty of the people he treats. He has taken refuge from his pain with opium and with a lover named Ky who manages a high class brothel on the boats of the Mekong River. His two closest friends are a one-legged cyclo driver named Hao whose life he saved as a child after Hao stepped on a landmine at age ten and needed his leg amputated, and an heroic colleague at the hospital named Dr. Trang Anh Nguyen. Kloster's shakey equilibrium is upset by the arrival of an obnoxious, multi-millionaire American entrepreneur, Richard Samuelson, who wants to build a shoe factory that will pay Vietnamese workers 1/400th of what his factory workers would be paid in the U.S. Fifty percent of proceeds from the sale of the book go to Doctors Without Borders. Kloster discovers he cannot allow Samuelson to proceed unimpeded. "This book," wrote reviewer Goody Niosi, "lyrically and beautifully written, brings alive the stifling heat of the Mekong Delta, the raw pain and sorrow as well as the joy and resilience of the people who inhabit this land--it brings alive tension and suspense and it leaves us somehow questioning, What is right? What is justice? How far should one go?" 1-4120-0573-6


The Desserts of War
Press Release (2008)



American-born David Kos immigrated to Canada in 1971 and became a Canadian citizen in 1980. He has taught English literature in the United States, Canada, Nigeria, China, Thailand and Japan – but it was during two teaching stints in Vietnam at Can Tho University in the Mekong Delta that he became incensed at the Agent Orange-related suffering he saw in a local children’s hospital – one particular child had been born without an anus. Haunted by the memories he returned home to write The Desserts of War in an impassioned surge of sustained creative effort. In a brief factual postscript to the book (copy attached to this Press Release) he outlines the tragic facts about Vietnam and Agent Orange: three million civilian Vietnamese victims; more than 100,000 deformed children and a recent miserly American offer to provide $3 million dollars aid without any admission of guilt or responsibility -- while some 10,000 American war veterans are receiving disability benefits for their exposure to the chemical.

AUTHOR’S POSTSCRIPT

For ten long, war-torn years between 1962 and 1971 the United States sprayed up to 90 million litres or 23 million gallons of Agent Orange defoliant over Vietnam’s jungles and countryside in ‘Operation Ranch Hand.’ The key Agent Orange dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals ever produced and the campaign’s purpose was to destroy the natural ground cover of trees and undergrowth, thereby exposing enemy Viet Cong fighters to American bombs.

But tragically it did much more than defoliate the jungles because the dioxin also poisoned the soil and water. Consequently peasant villagers, including women, children, and the elderly, became innocent victims and three million Vietnamese have suffered serious health problems. The unborn were, and are, especially vulnerable. According to the International Red Cross, more than 100,000 babies have been born deformed, physically and emotionally, because their mothers drank the water and ate the meat, fish and rice that had been contaminated by Agent Orange.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the United States insisted that there was no evidence linking Agent Orange to serious health problems, including birth deformities. American corporations, specifically Dow Chemical and Monsanto, also denied any liability, claiming that they were ordered by the Pentagon to manufacture Agent Orange in patriotic support of the war.

U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have both visited Vietnam, promising funding for scientific research, but nothing by way of monetary compensation is so far being provided to the Vietnamese victims. In fact, in 2005 the U.S. Federal Court ruled that the use of Agent Orange, although toxic, did not fit into the definition of ‘chemical warfare,’ and therefore did not violate international law. On September 12, 2007, the Canadian Government finally offered compensation to its soldiers and civilians who were exposed to Agent Orange at a Canadian military base which the Americans secretly used in the 1960s with Canada’s official approval to test the effectiveness of Agent Orange as a herbicide.

The U.S. Government has recently agreed to cooperate with Vietnam in an effort to contain the dioxin contamination in several Agent Orange ‘hot spots.’ But this was not accompanied by any apology which would have implied moral guilt and possibly triggered legal actions involving hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. To date, the U.S. Congress has allocated a paltry $3 million to this cooperative project. In my view this is a pittance in relation to the funding required to clean up the contaminated sites in Vietnam and provide proper health care for the innocent victims – past, present and future. Nevertheless more than 10,000 U.S. war veterans are presently receiving disability benefits for serious health problems caused by their exposure to Agent Orange. This to me seems to beg the question: Is the life of an American soldier more valuable, more deserving and more precious than the life of a Vietnamese child? I felt angry and sad on discovering all this at first hand in Can Tho. That anger has not subsided with the passage of time -- and it became the mainspring for the writing of this novel.

David Kos, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia,Canada; March 2008





The Desserts of War (Tagman Press)
Article (2012)



American-born David Kos, of Salt Spring Island, immigrated to Canada in 1971 and became a Canadian citizen in 1980. He has taught English literature in the United States, Canada, Nigeria, China, Thailand and Japan.

During two teaching stints in Vietnam at Can Tho University in the Mekong Delta, Kos became incensed at the Agent Orange-related suffering he saw in the Can Tho Children’s Hospital, a 180-bed facility that treats children with malaria, dengue fever, dysentery and the effects of the chemical weapon Agent Orange. One particular child had been born without an anus.

Haunted by his memories, Kos has written The Desserts of War (Tagman Press), a novel that was originally self-published, and now has been republished in Britain. Here Kos outlines the facts about Agent Orange in Vietnam and its three million civilian Vietnamese victims, more than 100,000 deformed children and a recent miserly American offer to provide $3 million dollars aid without any admission of guilt or responsibility. Some 10,000 American war veterans are receiving disability benefits for their exposure to the chemical. Here is an excerpt from The Desserts of War by David Kos.

For ten long, war-torn years between 1962 and 1971 the United States sprayed up to 90 million litres or 23 million gallons of Agent Orange defoliant over Vietnam’s jungles and countryside in ‘Operation Ranch Hand.’ The key Agent Orange dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals ever produced and the campaign’s purpose was to destroy the natural ground cover of trees and undergrowth, thereby exposing enemy Viet Cong fighters to American bombs.
But tragically it did much more than defoliate the jungles because the dioxin also poisoned the soil and water.
Consequently peasant villagers, including women, children, and the elderly, became innocent victims and three million Vietnamese have suffered serious health problems. The unborn were, and are, especially vulnerable. According to the International Red Cross, more than 100,000 babies have been born deformed, physically and emotionally, because their mothers drank the water and ate the meat, fish and rice that had been contaminated by Agent Orange.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the United States insisted that there was no evidence linking Agent Orange to serious health problems, including birth deformities. American corporations, specifically Dow Chemical and Monsanto, also denied any liability, claiming that they were ordered by the Pentagon to manufacture Agent Orange in patriotic support of the war.

U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have both visited Vietnam, promising funding for scientific research, but nothing by way of monetary compensation is so far being provided to the Vietnamese victims. In fact, in 2005 the U.S. Federal Court ruled that the use of Agent Orange, although toxic, did not fit into the definition of ‘chemical warfare,’ and therefore did not violate international law. On September 12, 2007, the Canadian Government finally offered compensation to its soldiers and civilians who were exposed to Agent Orange at a Canadian military base, which the Americans secretly used in the 1960s with Canada’s official approval to test the effectiveness of Agent Orange as a herbicide.

The U.S. Government has recently agreed to cooperate with Vietnam in an effort to contain the dioxin contamination in several Agent Orange ‘hot spots.’ But this was not accompanied by any apology which would have implied moral guilt and possibly triggered legal actions involving hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. To date, the U.S. Congress has allocated a paltry $3 million to this cooperative project. In my view this is a pittance in relation to the funding required to clean up the contaminated sites in Vietnam and provide proper health care for the innocent victims—past, present and future. Nevertheless more than 10,000 U.S. war veterans are presently receiving disability benefits for serious health problems caused by their exposure to Agent Orange. This to me seems to beg the question: Is the life of an American soldier more valuable, more deserving and more precious than the life of a Vietnamese child? I felt angry and sad on discovering all this at first hand in Can Tho. That anger has not subsided with the passage of time—and it became the mainspring for the writing of this novel.

The central characters in The Desserts of War are American: Having worked at the hospital for 30 years, Dr. Seb Kloster is estranged from the United States, bitter about the devastation wrought by an unnecessary war, and sickened by the napalm-induced deformities and poverty of the people he treats. He has taken refuge from his pain with opium and with a lover named Ky who manages a high class brothel on the boats of the Mekong River. His two closest friends are a one-legged cyclo driver named Hao whose life he saved as a child after Hao stepped on a landmine at age ten and needed his leg amputated, and an heroic colleague at the hospital named Dr. Trang Anh Nguyen. Kloster’s shaky equilibrium is upset by the arrival of an obnoxious, multi-millionaire American entrepreneur, Richard Samuelson, who wants to build a shoe factory that will pay Vietnamese workers 1/400th of what his factory workers would be paid in the U.S. Kloster discovers he cannot allow Samuelson to proceed unimpeded.
Fifty percent of proceeds from the sale of the book go to Doctors Without Borders.
978-1-903571-72-9

[BCBW 2012]