President Obama’s trip to Laos dovetailed nicely with a book I recently read titled, “The Ravens — The Men Who Flew in America’s Secret War in Laos.”
The book discloses the perspective of American aviators who served there, supporting the unsuccessful fight to stop the communist takeover in Laos and trying to stem the constant flow of supplies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail from China into Vietnam.
The president’s speech highlighted for the Laotian audience that “Over nine years — from 1964 to 1973 — the United States dropped more than two million tons of bombs here in Laos.” This as if they didn’t already know.
He pledged added reparations for our perceived war sins by doubling down on the recent U.S. funding for unexploded ordnance removal to $90 million over the next three years.
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There is no doubt that Laos, as well as other Southeast Asia countries, have ongoing challenges with the effects of UXOs They reportedly kill or maim 300 Laotians annually. Other countries responsible for the devastation in Laos, like China or Vietnam, aren’t as benevolent as the U.S. and other compassionate countries. It’s estimated that at least $250 million is needed to clear UXOs over the next decade in Laos alone.
The president didn’t mention that the U.S. suffered hundreds of POWs, MIAs, and KIAs as a result of supporting the “secret war” in Laos. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. sorties were flown resulting in thousands of targets hit. Over 100 U.S. aircraft were lost.
Bill Malec, O’Fallon