Following his historic visit to Laos in early September 2016, President Obama announced plans to increase our aid to the region exponentially. What was formerly a rather paltry $3 million annually was increased to $30 million for the next three years. While the dramatic increase does not go nearly far enough in repairing all of the damage the U.S. has caused in Laos, it’s still a very big deal. The United States blanketed Laos with over 270 million cluster bomblets during a nearly decade-long stretch of the Vietnam War—an estimated 80 million bomblets remain unexploded.
In the wide pantheon of brutal killing machines, cluster bombs stand out for their ability to kill hordes of civilians during, and for decades following a military conflict. They are currently banned in 119 countries. Cluster munitions leave behind unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the form of round, metal bomblets roughly the size of baseballs. The bomblets look like toys and are often picked up by kids, which is why children compose 40% of cluster bomb victims. An estimated 50,000 civilians have been killed by cluster munitions in Laos.
The $90 million pledge from the U.S. will go a long way in removing UXO from Laos, but the money is not guaranteed. Members of congress Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Sean Duffy (R-WI) are seeking to solidify the funds before the March, 28th deadline.
Here’s their letter:
Member of Congress Memb
2. CALL or WRITE your Representative and ask to speak with the staff person who covers State Dept/Foreign aid for the congressmember
3. EXPLAIN to the staff that you are a constituent and that you want the Representative to sign the “Support Unexploded Ordnance Removal in Laos” Dear Colleague letter – the deadline is MARCH 28th!
4. AFTER THE CALL (or message), send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the Congress member and staff person you contacted, so that we can follow-up with their office by email
by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.