by jay janson
Feature article in New York Times, 7/11/2012 Vietnam War’s Legacy Is Vivid as Clinton Visits Laos by Jane Perlez
Accompanying photo shows Mrs. Clinton at an artificial-limb center, visiting with a nineteen year old, who lost his forearms and sight from a blast of an unexploded bomb, dropped by the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. The bomb, unexploded for decades, finally blew up three years ago.
Clinton’s brief four hour stop-over in Laos was the first visit by an American secretary of state since President Eisenhower’sSecretary of State, John Foster Dulles, came here in 1955, and tried to persuade the Lao royal family to drop its neutrality in the cold war and join the American camp. (But already from 1953 on President Ike had had the CIA, not so covertly, operating on the side of the French colonal army in the First Indochinese war both in Laos and in Vietnam – just as he had the CIA overthrowing democratically eleccted, but insuffiently pro-American governments, in the Congo and Guatemala.)
“The young man, Phongsavath Sonilya, gesticulated with his arm stumps as he explained to Mrs. Clinton that more than three decades after the end of the war, not enough had been done to stop the use of cluster bombs and to support those who may be injured in the future by bombs still lying unexploded in the countryside. The United States has not signed the Convention on Cluster Bombs.”
Laos was hit by an average of one B-52 bombload every eight minutes, 24 hours a day. Between 1964 and 1973, US Bombers dropped more ordnance on Laos in this period that was dropped during the whole of the Second World War. Of the 260 Million bombs rainded down, some 80 million failed to explode, leaving a deadly legacy. Laos is the most heavily-bombed country, per capita, in the world. Because it was particularly heavily affected by cluster bombs during this war, Laos was, Laos was a strong advocate of the Convention on Cluster Munitions to Ban the Weapons and assist victimes, and hosted the first meeting of states parties to the convention in November 2010.(The US has consistently opposed the ban.) [The Guardian, UK]
“The government of Laos is run by the Communist Party, and five of the nine members of the Politburo, including the prime minister, … are veterans of the Pathet Lao guerrilla group that supported North Vietnam against the United States. … After Saigon fell, more than 1,200 Americans were evacuated from Laos.” In 1975, with the withdrawal of the massive US Army, Navy and Air Force from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, the Pathet Lao, an intellectual Marxist nationalist independence movement born to fight against the US backed French restoration of brutal colonialism in 1949, that had bravely withstood all the inexpressively horrific US bombings, became the government of all Laos. This historic crime against humanity of bombing a tiny agricultural colonial population mercilessly flowed forward from Eisenhower dutifully preaching, in the name of the miltary-industrial-complex, that retaining control of Laos was the key to retaining control of all South-East Asia.
[The Guardian, UK]
Now Laos is closely aligned with China. The Chinese built many of the main buildings in this relaxed tropical capital and are now constructing a new convention center … for a European-Asian summit meeting in November, a meeting that does not include the United States.
There was no news conference with the prime minister but a carefully worded statement negotiated by both sides that noted the coming entry of Laos into the World Trade Organization, and cooperation between the United States and Laos on environmental protection.
At the center that provides artificial limbs, … Mrs. Clinton viewed a map embedded with red dots that showed where bombs were dropped along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and on the Plain of Jars. There were more than 580,000 bombing missions by the United States Air Force, making Laos the most heavily bombed country on a per-person basis, the text said.
At the end of the war, more than 30 percent of the bombs remained unexploded, leaving Laos with a deadly problem in rural areas that persists today.
Each bomb contained about 600 bomblets, and in recent years about 100 people have been killed by unexploded ordnance, 40 percent of them children.”
… As she toured the center, … There was evidence, too, of the low-cost nature of some of the homemade limbs that farmers put together using bamboo, metal tubes from bombs and wood, while they awaited more professional limbs.
After the visit to the center, Mrs. Clinton said it was “a painful reminder of the Vietnam War era. “The international community will join us in our efforts to bring this legacy of the Vietnam War to a safe end.”
Reading this NY Times article, what immediately jumps up in one’s mind, is ‘boy if the “war’s legacy” had been millions of unexploded bombs in the soil of New Jersey, for instance, they would have been all cleaned up right away.
The article incredulously, reports that Mrs. Clinton “as she toured the center, asked several times “why more sophisticated technology could not be used to find the bombs”
Why indeed, “the international community” is busy in Afghanistan, in Syria and just about everywhere in the Middle East. Busy, not cleaning up, but laying down unexploded bombs that the locals will, as in Laos and elsewhere, eventually be trying to find and explode the unexploded that the US and other Colonial powers leave behind.