Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Visible Memories Of An Ugly War
It's amazing, the little details you'll encounter while wandering around the capital city of a Communist country. I was checking out a decrepit, crumbling government building in Vientiane, Laos, when I came upon this statue depicting a solider with his boot defiantly perched atop a U.S. bomb. It was 1998, and I remember thinking at the time how strange it was to be visiting a country that many experts believe to be the most-bombed nation in the history of war.
And most of this bombing was done by the U.S. From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. conducted more than 580,000 bombing raids over Laos, during which some 2 million tons of ordnance was dropped on the country. Although the bombing stopped more than three decades ago, several Laotians -- many of them children -- are killed each year by unexploded bombs.
And yet, despite being from the country that dropped the bombs, I was welcomed everywhere I went in Laos, and never saw anything but smiles from the people I met there. And I hear the same is true for U.S. travelers in Vietnam.