When staying in Luang Prabang, the cultural center of Lao PDR (the correct name of this country is the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao, or Lao PDR…not Laos), I visited the UXO Center. UXO stands for unexploded ordnance. The center focuses on education for the public and for Lao adults and children, and clearing land of live bombs which still maim and kill people to this day.
As a US citizen carrying memories of the Vietnam War from when I was a child, I knew this afternoon would be an emotional one. I spent some time looking at the exhibits and watching a few documentaries, learning about the insanity of the war (in particular the 9 year depravity of carpet bombing perpetrated by the US administration, known as the Secret War 1964-1973).
As I stood there, crying openly, a kindhearted Lao woman on the staff said to me, “A lot of people cry when they come here.” I responded, “It would be really strange if they didn’t.”
If you’d like to help Lao people clear their land of the U.S. bombs left over from the Vietnam War that still pollute their land and hurt their children, go here: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/uxo-lao/. Thank you!
Here is some information taken from the UXO website, www.uxolao.org.
THE UNEXPLODED ORDNANCE (UXO) PROBLEM
Lao PDR has the unwanted distinction of being per capita the most heavily bombed nation in the world. Between the years 1964 and 1973, the United States flew more than half a million bombing missions, delivering more than two million tons of explosive ordnance, in an attempt to block the flow of North Vietnamese arms and troops through Laotian territory. The ordnance dropped include more than 266 million submunitions (known as “bombies” in Laos) released from cluster bombs.
Significant land battles, including those during the war for independence during the French colonial era and between the Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao forces, also contributed vast quantities of unexploded heavy bombs, rockets, grenades, artillery munitions, mortars, anti-personnel landmines, and improvised explosive devices.
It is estimated that up to 30% of all ordnance did not explode. Such unexploded ordnance (UXO) continues to remain in the ground, maiming and killing people, and hindering social-economic development and food security.
CLUSTER MUNITIONS PROBLEM
In excess of 270 million
Estimated number of sub-munitions (bombies) from cluster bombs dropped over Lao PDR between 1964 and 1973.
Estimated failure rate of sub-munitions under ideal conditions
Estimated number of sub-munitions that failed to explode.
446,711 or 0.55%
Number or percentage of estimated unexploded sub-munitions destroyed by UXO Lao from 1996 to May 2010.
Leaving the UXO Center, I prayed for peace on Earth. I also spent some time letting go and forgiving the entire situation.
The evil minds who manifested the idea and the attack on Laos were truly twisted. The entire country was used as a pawn in a larger, insane game … a vestige of the cold war. The US bombing of the supply lines of the Viet Cong on the Ho Chi Minh Trail never stopped supplies for more than a few days, so the people and land of Lao were sacrificed for nothing. Bombs still explode and maim people today…all for nothing…
I needed to release the guilt I felt for being a US citizen. I was three when the bombing began. Had I been older, I wouldn’t have known about this evil secret war until years later, and then I would have been in the streets with thousands of others to stop it (as I have been many times over the years). Guilt does not help me be a better peacemaker. It just weighs me down. So I let it go.
I AM the Light of the world. We ARE the light of the world, beyond all appearances. An excellent and necessary meditation…
A few days later…
I went to the Patok Caves close to beautiful Non Khiaw, a small town on the Nam Ou river. The caves sheltered villagers during the U.S. bombings and were also a regional headquarters of the Pathet Lao (Communist Lao Army).
When I went to the caves, which are empty now, I was prayerful. I said Ho’oponopono (I’m sorry, please forgive me, I love you and I thank you) and cleaned up some garbage. I tuned in to the people hiding for so long, fearful of the bombs dropping, cooking meals and sleeping and having babies there. Doing whatever it took to stay alive.
For the entire duration of my visit, I could hear a band playing. The happy music bounced off the limestone karst mountains in a playful, insistent way. In a nearby village, some lucky folks were getting married and the whole town was celebrating. The message to me seemed to be: the war is over (if you want it)!
Apparently, it was an auspicious day to get engaged or married, and I saw 4 different massive parties in 3 villages that day. War is over – it is time to LOVE! Hallelujah.
Again, if you’d like to help Lao people clear their land of the U.S. bombs left over from the Vietnam War, go here:http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/uxo-lao/. Thank you!