9th, August 2010-Walker
"No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now. Rarely have so many people been so wrong about so much. Never have the consequences of their misunderstanding been so tragic."[Nixon]
~This is the same non-crook who told the public there were no American combat troops in Laos in 1969. Fancy choice of words…Mr. Nixon, of course they were not IN Laos, they were simply flying over the country dropping explosives every few minutes for nine years. Not a big deal, I guess.
I am not sure I'd give him any credit for a wonderful quote, but I thought it was appropriate for this entry.
Maybe I was absent the day my college history class went over the Vietnam war; or maybe I have been ignorant and lazy in ever researching the issue, but today I have been enlightened and disgusted by what I have learned. By now, I'm sure we can come to the agreement that the Vietnam War, also known as the "American War," was not only embarrassing, but more importantly, it was violence that should have never occurred the way it did. Good intentions, or fear of communism, all were current during the era; but our tactics for resolution were completely inhumane and unnecessary. This blog, however, is not to go into a history lesson about the Vietnam War. This blog is about what I have learned about Laos and the unexpected/forced role it played during a war that was kept secret for the nine years in which the bombings were occurring.
After three hours of walking around Laos, asking approximately twenty people how to get to Mines Advisory Group (MAG) all pointing me in different directions, and a thirty minute trek in the mud, I found it. Here is where I learned how long a war can really last, but first, I want to paste in a little history lesson (which is probably on the blog prior to this but a little refresher never hurts):
Massive aerial bombardment was carried out by the United States. The Guardian reported that 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 than was dropped during the whole of the Second World War. Of the 260 million bombs that rained down, particularly on Xiangkhouang province, 80 million failed to explode, leaving a deadly legacy. It holds the distinction of being the most bombed country in the world.-
Unfortunately, up to 30% of some types of ordnance did not detonate. Decades later, this Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) still affects a quarter of all villages. 20,000 UXO casualties occurred after the war and the number is still rising thirty-five years after the war; sixty percent of UXO accidents are fatal. Laos, which the U.S. was not supposed to be fighting, was getting bombed like crazy because it borders Vietnam. America thought that this tactic would impact the Ho Chi Minh trail (which obviously it did) to the point that it would be easier to win the conflict (which obviously we did not).
-side note, I hate that I keep referring to America as "we" because I had nothing to do with the war in Vietnam. However, being an American I will share the responsibility of my country and do what I can to bring awareness to issues that have either been overlooked or forgotten.
Anyways, back to the point. America does damage to Vietnam and bordering countries. That can be expected in any war. What is often unrecognized, ignored, or disregarded is the aftermath of the battles.
With so much of Laos land being destroyed, farming (their main source of income for most) is quite difficult. With the price of scrap metal going up, locals are looking for the metal as another way to feed their families. This new cash crop (scrap metal) is being "harvest" and sold by people in need of funds.
However, dealers will not purchase the UXO when it is in one piece. It is dangerous to transport and the dealer will not risk his life for the explosive device. In order to make any profit from these UXOs, children will break apart the devices to salvage the metal.
Another danger is when children see the "bombie" (Laotian term for these devices, cute), they sometimes think they are a piece of fruit or ball and start throwing them to one another, causing explosions.
Other children go on bombie hunts to dig them up and sell them for their families who are already crippled or dead from previous explosions. One little girl who couldn't have been older than eight said, "I want to sell it to get money for my mother."
A father who lost both his legs from an UXO stated, "yes, I am still alive, but my life is nothing." When the entire family depends on the man for income, and when the man is disabled, the entire family will suffer.
For any readers that take this blog the wrong way, I apologize. I am not trying to look like an ungrateful or complaining American. Although, I am not "proud to an American (southern accent)" I do feel blessed and lucky to be from that country. I am also not trying to offend anyone and I do support and appreciate all our troops, then, now, and in the future. However, I never will agree with war. It's ugly and never solves a damn thing.
Those who are thinking "duh, Walker, that's the face of war, it has never been pretty." I hope you are thinking that from the comforts of your homes, cubicles, maybe even in your beds on your laptops and never have to look into the eyes of a woman who is holding her baby who no longer has hands because of that face of war; not to mention a husband that is unable to support the rest of her family.
To leave on a good note, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is one of the fastest humanitarian convention to come into force with 38 governments banning cluster bombs and overall 108 signed the treaty.
I'll be posting more information, as boring to some as it may be, everyday :) There are organizations that deal with this issue that I could never neglect and have to share some of their stories as well.
To be continued....