We Owe These People Something


 

13_laos16_laos_0©2005/Jerry Redfern©2008/Jerry Redfern

 

We weren’t at war with Laos. Heck, we weren’t even officially at war with Vietnam, but poor Laos didn’t even have much of an army to fight back, and they were certainly no match for our constant aerial bombardment. For eight years we dropped an average of a B-52 load of bombs on that country every eight minutes. Because we weren’t officially even there, there was no strategy. When pilots asked what was the target, they were told “anything that moves.”

 

When I was in Laos, I saw huts in the countryside with fish ponds in front of them. I assumed these were enterprising people who had dug fish ponds to harvest a food source. Then I realized these ponds were all around. Then I realized they weren’t fish ponds, but bomb craters filled with rainwater.

 

The side of Laos that borders on Vietnam we dubbed the “Ho Chi Minh Trail.” At one point, we even considered dropping nuclear weapons on it.  North of  Vietnam’s DMZ, Laos is about thirty miles wide, and Vietnam is about twenty miles wide. The ground along the border is often mountainous, which means that the unexploded ordnance isn’t routinely uncovered by farmers planting rice. But it’s still there. Maybe we might offer to help clean it up? Of course, we have some pressing business to take care of back home. Building the wall between us and Mexico should strain the budget for a while.

 

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Laos bombed by the U.S.


http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/08/laos/allman-text?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social&utm_content=link_fb20150718ngm-laos&utm_campaign=Content&sf11097960=1

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• There were more than 580,000 bombing missions on Laos from 1964 to 1973 during the Vietnam War.
• That’s equivalent to one bombing mission every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years.
• Over two million tons of ordnance was dropped on the country, with up to 30 per cent failing to explode as designed.
• More than 270 million cluster munitions (or ‘bombies’, as they are known locally) were used; up to 80 million failed to detonate, remaining live and in the ground after the end of the war.
• Approximately 25 per cent of the country’s villages are contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO).
• All 17 provinces suffer from UXO contamination.
• More than 50,000 people were killed or injured as a result of UXO accidents from 1964 to 2008.
• From the end of the war in 1974 to 2008, more than 20,000 people were killed or injured as a result of UXO accidents.
• There have been approximately 300 new casualties annually over the last decade.
• Over the last decade 40 per cent of total casualties were children.

When our carpet bombing of Laos was happening it was a secret war, and no one was authorized to talk about it. Later, after our defeat in Viet Nam, nobody wanted to think or hear about it.

I recently spent eight days in Northern Laos and was struck by the sweet nature and good cheer of the people I met. I’d like to go back and visit the most heavily bombed areas in the south of the country.

check out this animated map. It’s quite moving. The Vietnamese had an army and an air force of sorts that could fight back, but Laos was largely undefended. There are already NGO’s involved in the removal of UXO (un-exploded ordinance,) but the problem is so great that any attention brought to it would not be a bad thing.