The United States has fought many large wars that are unknown to most Americans. One was from 1964-1973, when the United States dropped about 2 million tons of bombs, much of it cluster bombs, in Laos. About one-third of Laos was hit with the bombs, about one-third did not explode on impact, and about 1 percent have been removed or cleaned up. At the current rate of cleanup, it will take more than 1,000 years to remove these weapons.
Cluster bombs are weapons that explode in the air, fragmenting into hundreds of tiny bombs (or bomblets) that disperse over several acres. Some of the unexploded bomblets look like toys. Children pick them up or kick them, causing them to detonate.
Twenty-thousand Laotians have been killed or injured since 1974 by these weapons. In recent years, the number killed or injured has dropped considerably due to an effective education campaign undertaken by the Laotian government. However, Laotians are still being killed and injured each year by these weapons of long-lasting destruction.
The United States has a moral responsibility to clean up all the weapons the United States dropped in Laos within the next 10 years, even if it costs billions of dollars per year to complete this task. It is unacceptable that millions of Laotians must live their entire lives in fear that at any instant, either they, a family member, or one of their animals will be killed or severely injured by these weapons.
The United States should also cease using weapons that continue to kill and injure long after the war has ended.