Friday, September 26, 2014

Laos? Where's Laos? The Pentagon could teach ISIS about real violence.

Laos: Red and Yellow are areas the US bombed
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
"In September 1969, after a recorded history of 700 years, the Plain of Jars disappeared.... It had become the first society to vanish through automated warfare." -- .Fred Branfman

“What the eyes don’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over.”, my mother said to me retrieving a potato that had fallen on to the kitchen floor and alighted there for a very brief moment.   It is one of those sayings that rings true and the institution that most Americans despise, the US government, lives by it. It is one of those weird abnormalities that workers, in this case Americans who hate and distrust government so much rally to the call when the very people they distrust demand support for their predatory corporate wars. Naturally, these ventures are not portrayed as slaughter on the behalf of corporations and the 1% but defensive battles against foreigners or foreign philosophies that threaten our way of life. 

US capitalism has succeeded in providing its citizens with cheap food, mindless mass entertainment and relatively unhindered mobility.  Freedom is riding down the road on one's Harley (without a helmet) with gun strapped to the side. Its media is extremely powerful and controlled and its religion is Christianity.  There are dangers everywhere, communists, dictators, African warlords and of course, African Bees. It is said that we learn about geography here after the US military has bombed a country and we can see CNN’s Wolf Blitzer standing atop an interactive map of the region.

President Obama made an impassioned speech for a global response to the rise of ISIS in the Middle East at the UN earlier this week.  ISIS is yet another of the numerous groupings that hate America and whose names change as the people remain the same. Most, if not all of the leading figures in these organizations are known to top US officials and are usually former friends and employees. Let’s not forget that the Egyptian tyrant, Hosni Mubarak, was considered  “family” by Hilary Clinton. And US capitalism with Obama as its chief spokesperson defended Mubarak in the wake of a mass uprising until it became impossible to continue doing so.

No God condones this terror….” Obama said at the UN referring specifically to the beheadings by ISIS of US journalists. Why beheading should be regarded as a greater act of terror than injecting someone with drugs that take 45 minutes to kill them or keeping human beings in solitary confinement for 30 years raises more questions than answers.Anyway, Washington's allies, the Saudi's are experts at it.
No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil.” Obama added.

ISIS is without doubt composed of some nasty characters.  But how and why such formations arise is more complicated and I refuse to be silent when criticism comes from a representative of an institution, the US government that, if I believed in such a thing as evil, would be leading the premier division. After revealing some of the crimes of US imperialism a friend asked me why I live here.  Is that the response that should have been given to a criticism of the Nazi rise to power or their treatment of minorities, labor leaders, gays etc? Was she implying we keep our mouths shut?  I think so.

I have used the murder of some 3 million Vietnamese as an example of the brutality the US establishment and its representatives inflict on weaker opponents that stand in the way of the US 1%’s rapacious quest for the domination of world markets and the profits that result. We are all too familiar with the brutality as we witness it back home. Ferguson is an example and the daily murder of black youth.  The way the poor, the weak or infirm and veterans are treated. The attacks on our living standards and wellbeing are intensifying overall. One of US capitalism’s most effective weapons in its domestic war against US workers and the middle class after racism and sexism is the foreign enemy but on a global scale, the crimes of ISIS pale when compared to the horror US capitalism has inflicted on foreign soil; the whole US government hierarchy is populated by mass murderers.

When I came to the US I remember first seeing these small Asian people, many of them rather disheveled and weary, often pushing shopping carts. They were colorfully dressed in what was obviously traditional costume. I learned that they were called Hmong and were tribal people from Laos.  The CIA had used them during the Vietnam War which made them very unpopular in their own country.  So beyond the mass murder the US government committed in Vietnam and Cambodia, let’s take a look at Laos, the small South East Asian nation that the US bombed for 5 years from 1964 to 1969. US capitalism dropped two million tons of bombs on one million people in that little venture.

Up to a third of the bombs dropped did not explode, leaving Laos contaminated with vast quantities of unexploded devices. Over 20,000 people have been killed or injured by these since the bombing ceased. (My added emphasis).  Here are some other startling facts about the U.S. bombing of Laos and its tragic aftermath:
  • Over 270 million cluster bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War (210 million more bombs than were dropped on Iraq in 1991, 1998 and 2006 combined); up to 80 million did not detonate.
  • Nearly 40 years on, less than 1% of these munitions have been destroyed.More than half of all confirmed cluster munitions casualties in the world have occurred in Laos.
  • Each year there continue to be over 100 new casualties in Laos. Close to 60% of the accidents result in death, and 40% of the victims are children.
  • Between 1995 and 2013, the U.S. contributed on average $3.2M per year for UXO clearance in Laos; the U.S. spent $13.3M per day (in 2013 dollars) for nine years bombing Laos.
  • The U.S. spent as much in three days bombing Laos ($51M, in 2010 dollars) than it spent for clean up over 16 years ($51M). Source Legacies of War.
Who needs farmland?

Thank you USA

Fred Branfman, commenting on AlterNet on the book he co-edited,
Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life under an Air War  which is a collection of stories and details of these events and what the bombing meant from the victim’s point of view wrote:
 “The bombing, which eradicated the 700 year old civilization and turned the survivors into penniless refugees, was quadrupled after a November 1968 U.S. bombing halt over North Vietnam. It leveled every village and burned, buried alive, maimed and drove underground tens of thousands of civilians, where they lived like animals until evacuated to refugee camps in the capital city of Vientiane where they wrote this material.

Branfman again: “When asked to explain the U.S. bombing escalation, U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Monteagle Stearns testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ‘well, we had all those planes sitting around and couldn't just let them stay there with nothing to do.’".

Such incredible, ruthless arrogance from one of the architects of the mass murder.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the book written by Laotian victims.

1. "A Life Whose Only Value Was Death,” by a Thirty-three-year-old Woman
A life whose only value was death. I saw this in the village of my birth, as every day and every night the planes came to drop bombs on us. We lived in holes to protect our lives. There were bombs of many kinds, as in this picture I have drawn. It is not beautiful but it shows the shooting and death from the planes, and the destruction of the bombs. This kind of bomb would explode in the air and was much more dangerous than other ones. I saw my cousin die in the field of death. My heart was most disturbed and my voice called out loudly as I ran to the houses. Thus, I saw life and death for the people on account of the war of many airplanes in the region of Xieng Khouang. Until there were no houses at all. And the cows and buffalo were dead. Until everything was leveled and you could see only the red, red ground. I think of this time and still I am afraid.

8. "They Died Like Animals Die In The Forest," by a twenty-seven year-old man
My village used to have hills, forests and homes next to our ricefields. Everyone had ricefields, buffalo and cows. We earned our livelihoods with happy hearts. We always helped each other to develop our upland and paddy ricefields. But then came the airplanes to strike at our houses until they were completely lost, until we had no place left to live. And we were afraid because the planes came almost every day. It was as if we were in jail. We couldn't go anywhere. All we could do was sit in the mouths of the holes.
In the third phase, we couldn't even put them in boxes anymore because we had no more wood. We just dug a hole at the foot of the hill and buried them. This is how it was when the people died in this region. They died like animals die in the forest because the planes bombed every day. Therefore we were afraid and didn't have the courage to do the right thing. Someone died and we just took him and dumped him and ran back very fast. Some people were not even buried, they were just dumped in a box and left in the forest.

9. "Why Did The Planes Drop Bombs On Us?," by a thirty-nine-year-old farmer
On March 14, 1967, four planes of the jet type dropped their bombs to gether to destroy my village and returned to shoot twice in the same day. They dropped eight napalm bombs, the fire from which burned all my things, sixteen buildings along with all our possessions inside, as well as maiming our animals. Some people who didn't reach the jungle in time were struck and fell, dying most pitifully. By the time the fire died down it was dark. Every one came out of hiding to look at the ashes of their houses. Even the rice was all burnt. Everyone cried at once—loudly and agitatedly. Some families had been wounded. We were all heavy hearted and mournful almost to the point of losing our minds.
The other villagers and I got together to consider this thing. We hadn't done anything, nor harmed anyone. We had raised our crops, celebrated the festivals and maintained our homes for many years. Why did the planes drop bombs on us, impoverishing us this way?
As time passed, the planes came and bombed all the neigh boring villages just as they had bombed us. Then the planes started viciously shooting in the forest and jungle and in all inhabited places, forcing us to steal away and hide in holes—to dig deep holes to live in. The fixing of food to eat together disappeared. The pagoda fell into disrepair; the monks were all hiding in holes and trenches. The miseries caused by the air planes were immense, because the bombs were large and if they fell in even a deep hole everything would be destroyed.

In a so-called “free” society, we can find this information. But compare the media-time given to selling prescription drugs for invented ailments or what perfume one should wear to important history like this.  Business secrets and important information about the functioning of government, especially its foreign adventures are not part of a public information process.  The US capitalist class learned a thing or two from their defeat in Vietnam.  Human beings have compassion.  Human beings have a strong sense of solidarity and feeling for the suffering of others no matter what their nationality or religion. They made a mistake allowing the media free reign. I remember well seeing the war on the evening news, the napalm, the bombs the killing; the bombs falling from the sky on peasant villages, falling by the hundreds of thousands and the flames engulfing the inhabitants, the animals, every living thing.

That was the end of that.  In their invasion of Panama we saw no dead bodies (check out The Panama Deception) Grenada next to nothing, Iraq, Afghanistan wherever the violence is waged we get the sanitized version and the “embedded” journalists are simply reporters for the US military and State Department.  The architects of slaughter don’t trust the American people with the truth because they know we won’t like it and it will divert our attention away from their stupid reality shows to reality.

It is important for us to become fully aware of this history, not the sanitized CNN broadcasting version of it but in its entirety; the real reasons behind the slaughter and the aftermath.  Even selfishly we can imagine that the trillions wasted by US capitalism’s for profit wars would be enough to provide a secure, leisurely and safe existence for every American and in fact every person on this earth.

It is important to know this history because the method of secret, sanitized war/murder has been perfected even further and is continuing in the Middle East. The drones further isolate the perpetrator from the victim.  It is this global policy, developed not by workers, not by ordinary Americans, but by representatives of the owners of the major sectors of the economy and their generals at the Pentagon that is the cause of the rise of Islamic fanaticism, not a religious book or tracts.  The government as Engels once remarked, is the 1%’s executive committee. It is a government of a small group of people, by a small group of people to defend and perpetuate the economic interests of a small group of people.

The reader should put oneself in the place of an Iraqi worker, a Palestinian or Syrian worker, an Afghani woman or man.  Every thinking Arab worker is aware that their oppressive governments are funded and armed by the US taxpayer. While you may never go to a place like Laos, think seriously about how the effects of the US government’s slaughter there affected people even to this day. Children in Laos and Vietnam are still being born with defects, in the case of Vietnam from the Dioxin the US poured on their food and their bodies, US veterans are also still dying from it.

Most people recognize that a people and governments are somewhat different things, but they still bombed and destroyed in our name and continue to do so. We are responsible and become more responsible if we refuse to do nothing, refuse to even reject their truth, their scripted information and develop our own views. ISIS is a very limited threat to American workers.  Our problems emanate from a much more familiar source. Settling accounts with our own 1% will eradicate threats like ISIS permanently and will open the door to world peace in a real way; we can speak as a class liberated.  We have to follow our gut instinct that leads even conservative workers to recognize that bosses and workers are not on the same team and reach across national borders and unite with our own kind.  That’s the problem with nationalism, their phony “united we stand” mantra, and why “Workers of the World Unite” is such a powerful idea.  

1 comment:

Sean said...

Thank you Richard. A powerful article. Reminding us again of the corporate war criminals and monsters who sit at the head off and run the US. Sean.