I have just returned from being in Laos for a month. I found the country to be beautiful and the people to be extremely gentle and kind. These positive experiences had a strong underlying black current as I visited caves where villagers lived for 10 years during the 1965 to 1975 period of the time of the Vietnam War. In villages, onions were growing in the shell casings and fish were being raised in the bomb craters.
I visited two educational centers, Mines Advisory Group that had films and exhibits dealing with cluster bombs and other nondetonated bombs. It became clear to me that the Laotians, after 38 years, are still suffering the effects of the U.S. secret war. In fact, each of these unexploded artifacts represents a war crime perpetrated by the U.S. government on the Laotian people in defiance of the U.S.-signed neutrality treaty with Laos. The U.S. dropped more bombs per capita on Laos than on any other country in any other war. There were more than 2 million tons of ordnance dropped during 1964-1973, and it is estimated 30 percent did not detonate.
As I traveled by minibus through the country, I saw Mines Advisory Group teams searching the land so farmers could extend their fields without fear for their lives and their family’s lives. I began to understand how MAG says that this contamination is a key cause of poverty in Laos and is one of the prime factors limiting the country’s long-term development. Mines Advisory Group works in Laos, but it emphasizes that these munitions are still being used in warfare in many countries today with the same devastating results on these populations.
I am very thankful that Sens. Leahy and Feinstein have introduced a bill, the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2013, to restrict the use and deployment of these dangerous cluster munitions. Please let them know that you support their efforts. Thank you.
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