U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Laos on Sunday, foreshadowing a visit by President Obama sometime this autumn. It will be the first ever visit by a U.S. President to Laos. There are probably several reasons for the visit, including strengthening ties, checking Chinese power in the region, etc. Most relevant to me is the hope that more will be done to alleviate some of the damage done during the war years, especially by removing leftover unexploded ordnance (UXO).
A CNN article mentions two emotions that Americans might feel toward President Obama’s position towards Laos: guilt and optimism. It quotes Channapha Khamvongsa, who founded he NGO Legacies of War, which works to raise awareness of UXO in Laos.
“one of the main drivers of funding for unexploded ordnance is the guilt some Americans feel.
“I think this President believes it’s never too late,” said Khamvongsa, who is “incredibly optimistic” about Obama’s visit. “This visit can show that no matter what has been done in the past, there is always a sense that a wrong can be righted and we can do the right thing.”
Of the two emotions, I think it’s a good time to feel some optimism. I hope things work out for the best.
Of course, one should remain optimistic that the US will accept its responsibility for what it has done in Laos and other countries. But the wrong can never be righted for those killed or maimed by US bombs deliberately made to remain active and lethal. In addition to funding clearing and compensation, the US should stop using cluster bombs, sign the Convention banning their use and stockpiling, and recognise the use of such weapons as a war crime.
Worth perhaps mentioning that the book “Lao PDR 40 Years” (Lao and English versions), made by the Foreign languages press of Laos in 2015 and sanctioned by the Ministry of Information and Culture for distribution to diplomats and others within Laos, contained a damning criticism of US inactions re bombies. It was withdrawn shortly before distribution, perhaps because somebody in the Lao government felt it would offend the USA. In some ways Laos has been complicit in its own tragedy.
I don’t have much to add. I basically agree with everything you wrote. For some people, it is definitely too late. And the U.S. should join the many other countries that have rejected cluster bombs.