In a bid to augment $100 million in aid to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic over the last two decades, President Obama announced an additional $90 million in assistance to the tiny Asian country on Tuesday to dispose of active explosive material dropped by U.S. aircraft during the Laotian Civil War.
Laos is hosting the 29th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Vientiane.
An extension of America’s global effort to blunt communism, the United States dropped over 2 million tons of ordnance on Laos between 1964-1973. It is estimated by the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in the Lao PDR one-third of all munitions dropped remain live, leaving the material a hazard to the country’s civilian population.
Since the end of hostilities in Laos in 1975, over 20,000 Laotians have been killed or maimed by unexploded ordnance.
“As a result of that conflict many people fled or were driven from their homes,” Obama said. “At the time America did not acknowledge its role. I believe the United States has a moral obligation to help Laos heal,” Mr. Obama said.
According to a White House Statement, the aid package accommodates victims of the unexploded bombs with rehabilitation programs, orthotics and prosthetic limbs.
Emblematic of his presidency, Mr. Obama, once again, travels overseas to proffer the United States as the chief villain in crimes of unprecedented horror and temperament.
Although stopping short of apologizing in Vientiane, akin to his remarks at Hiroshima, Japan, in May, Mr. Obama’s words were designed to insinuate the United States rejected alternatives which could have prevented bloodshed.
As with much of what Mr. Obama does on foreign trips, his words were specifically intended to distinguish between his predecessors who rained death and destruction, and him the healer aiming to shepherd reconciliation.
In doing as much, Mr. Obama continues with his grating habit of signaling American’s past foreign policy initiatives are either a symbol of repression or a malevolent force and it is in the best interest of Washington to express regret for its application of military power, with little or no concern to which country he asks forgiveness or whether it is viewed as appeasing implacable foes or creating a greater abyss with friends.
Deeply troubling, Mr. Obama’s utterances apparently took no account for the actions of our opponents which were involved in the same proxy war and certainly subsidized carnage all over Southeast Asia.
While the U.S. cannot deny its military action contributed to suffering in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, no mention regarding the culpability of Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam or possibly Cuba in Laos’ misery was mentioned during Mr. Obama’s trip.
Longtime patrons of the communist Pathet Lao, a cruel political movement which still lords over Laos today, Moscow, Beijing, Hanoi, Pyongyang and Havana are certainly blameworthy for the hardships endured by the Laotian people while the two superpowers and their allies vied for primacy on the ideological chessboard in Asia.
Russian and Chinese-made weapons found their way into the hands of communist guerrillas who, as a matter of deliberate policy, terrorized the Laotian civilian population, some of whom continue to suffer today as a result of unexploded ordnance provided by their communist benefactors.
No such apologies or gestures of amends have been offered these communist or former communist governments.
Similarly, Mr. Obama squandered an optimum opportunity to assail Laos for its abysmal human rights record. Under scrutiny from rights groups for decades, no account for the restrictions on civil rights, the repression of political or religious dissidents or Vientiane’s refusal to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Commission was mentioned by Mr. Obama.
Further, Mr. Obama made no demands on the Laotian government to reform, become a freer nation and did not secure any guarantee Vientiane would be more cooperative in the location and identification of missing U.S. military personnel.
With his peculiar fixation on accepting sole blame for the world ills, Mr. Obama is the wrong messenger sending the wrong message.
[BBC] [Photo courtesy aircraftinformation.info]