The war that the US waged against Vietnam was a monstrous war crime that inflicted immense death and destruction from the air on a defenseless people, using defoliants like Agent Orange as chemical weapons and napalm and all the other horrors that the military managed to think up to inflict on a backward nation that was trying to shake off the yoke of colonialism. It was understanding the true nature of this war that radicalized me personally.
Bruno Jantti describes the massive scale of the destruction that the US unleashed on that hapless country.
The U.S. air force dropped more bombing tonnage solely in South Vietnam than the total bombing tonnage of every single aerial bombing campaign by all sides in WWII put together. The total amount of U.S. bombings during the Vietnam War was more than twice the size of all the bombings in WWII.
12 million acres of forest and 25 million acres of farmland, at the bare minimum, were destroyed by U.S. saturation bombing. The U.S. sprayed over 70 million liters of herbicidal agents to Vietnam.
Reflecting the fundamental defects of the conventional narrative on the matter, the death toll of the Vietnamese caused by the U.S. military onslaught is routinely debated in hundreds of thousands, sometimes in millions. According to Robert McNamara, for example, 3,6 million Vietnamese were killed in the war.
Among the most comprehensive studies on the matter was published in 2008 by Harvard Medical School and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. They put the Vietnamese death toll at 3.8 million. According to Dr. Nick Turse, an American historian and investigative journalist who has conducted pioneering research on the Vietnam War, even the “staggering figure” of 3.8 million “may be an underestimate”.
Furthermore, the U.S. attack wounded 5,3 million Vietnamese civilians and up to 4 million Vietnamese fell victim to toxic defoliants used by the U.S. against large parts of the country. The U.S. assault created 200,000 prostitutes, 879,000 orphans, 1 million widows and 11 million refugees.
But sometimes forgotten is that Laos and Cambodia were also targeted by the US for a massive bombing campaign. These were the infamous ‘secret bombings’ that were no secret at all for the people in those countries who were being terrorized by the US. It was only a secret in that the US government carefully hid it from the American people and the media here made little attempt to inform them.
Matteo Fagotto writes says that Laos still suffers from the aftermath of that massive bombing campaign, with unexploded explosives continuing to cause deaths and injuries, especially to children.
It is 50 years since the first US combat troops entered Vietnam in March 1965. During that notorious conflict, the US dropped more than 270 million bombs in Laos as part of a CIA-run, top-secret operation aimed at destroying the North Vietnamese supply routes along the Ho Chi Minh trail and wiping out its local communist allies.
One-third of the bombs failed to explode on impact and have since claimed an average of 500 victims a year, mainly children and farmers forced to work on their contaminated fields to sustain their families. Despite tens of millions of dollars spent, only 1% of Laos territory has been cleared so far.
The legacy of the Secret War, as the American operation is now known, is clearly visible in this idyllic landscape of rolling hills and lush tropical forest. Scarred by thousands of explosion craters, the contaminated area is estimated to be 87,000 sq km , more than one-third of Laos’s territory.
In Xieng Khouang, the most affected province, UXOs [unexploded ordnances-MS] are found in forests and school buildings, roads and rice fields. Tim Lardner, the chief technical adviser of UXO Laos – the local company given the task of clearing the country – said: “I have been in this business for 25 years and I have worked in dozens of UXO-affected countries. When I go out on the field, my breath is taken away by the scale of the contamination. It’s like nothing anywhere else.”
According to Kingphet Phimmavong, the company’s provincial coordinator, 85% of UXOs found in Laos were left by the Americans.
For survivors of the war, such as 84-year-old Kampuang Dalaseng, memories are still vivid. “I hate Americans to this date. They bombed, burned and destroyed everything. If their president was here, I would slap him in the face.” A former professor of French, he was forced to flee the bombardments, abandoning the village of Bat Ngot Ngum in 1964 and taking shelter in a forest cave with his family and fellow villagers.
UXOs affect not only the daily life of millions of people but the long-term development of the country by delaying the construction of clinics, schools and factories. At the current pace, it will take more than two millennia to clear the country.
Around 40% of the victims are children, who are often attracted by the toy-like shapes of the unexploded cluster bombs.
US bombs. Causing death and destruction and making enemies all over the world and still continuing to do so. And Americans still wonder why ‘they’ hate us. Why can’t they see that when we invade their countries, bomb the hell out of them, topple their governments, kill and injure their people, use chemical weapons who effects last for generations, that we are doing it just for their own good and with the best of intentions?