The USA military dropped 260 million bombies in Laos during the Vietnam War. That’s about 86 bombies per person. When I visited the province of Xieng Khouang UXO (Unexploded Ordinance) office, they showed me where the bombs were dropped. Each red dot, in the photo below, represents a bombing site. The data came from the US military’s bombing logs and they were fed into Google Earth. Enough red dots for you? It gets better. Only 40% of bombing logs have been processed and the remainder 60% of the data has yet to be processed. Only 0.02% of UXOs have been processed in 16 years. It’ll take 2 to 3000 years to clear at this current rate.
A Face Behind the Numbers
Meet Mr. Lee. He lives in Yodt Phaer Village. He was clearing land to grow food for his family when a bombie blew off his legs and some of his fingers. It took over three hours for his fellow villagers to bring him back to the village — it’s normal for a Hmong person to travel for hours if not days to where he farms. It took another 10 hours to get him to the hospital. It’s impossible for me imagine the pain and the fear that this man had to endure.
His spirit is crushed. A Hmong man’s pride is to be able to provide food for his family. How can he prosper if the land he depends on is a death trap? The US has taken his rights to grow food for his family and to lead a productive life.
The responsibility of growing rice and finding food is left to his wife. She weighs less than 90 pounds and her hard life has made her look like a 50 year old woman. In reality, she’s in her early 30s. This year, she couldn’t grow enough rice for the family. She could only plant and harvest 2/3rd of the rice they need for the year. The family will need to supplement the rest with casava. When I asked her if the area she is growing the casava has been cleared of UXOs. “No” she said flatly, “I just dig softly.” A rational we would never dream of making but she does it everyday. Death by starvation or death by a bomb.
Facts of Moral (Ir)responsibility
In today’s dollar, the USA spent $17 million a day to bomb Laos. During Iraq war, the USA spent $275 million a day. In 2010, the USA spent less than $14,000 a day to remove UXOs in Laos.
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