12/07/2012

Clinton in Laos: "Human rights at the heart of messaging"

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Laos was destroyed by American bombs...

Laos was officially recognized as a neutral country during the Vietnam war. However, some top Washington officials, fearing Communist influence and the North Vietnamese transport of troops and weapons to the south through Laos, prepared and executed a clandestine war. Lao civilians found themselves being bombed relentlessly by a foreign superpower and bore the brunt of this indiscriminate bombing campaign.

The U.S. dropped more than 2 million tons of bombs on the North Vietnamese ally during its "secret war" between 1964 and 1973 – about a ton of ordnance for each Laotian man, woman and child. That exceeded the amount dropped on Germany and Japan together in World War II.  There were dropped 260 million cluster bombs on Laos over the course of 580,000 bombing missions. This is equivalent to a planeload of bombs being unloaded every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years — nearly seven bombs for every man, woman and child living in Laos.  It is more than all the bombs dropped on Europe throughout World War II.

While Laotians lives were taken throughout the course of the bombings, all of this was concealed from the American public as well as many other members of government.

Four decades later, American weapons are still claiming lives. When the war ended, about a third of some 270 million cluster bombs dropped on Laos had failed to detonate. Cluster bombs, explosive weapons that work by ejecting hundreds of smaller submunitions over a wide area, make up the majority of UXOs that plague the country. Nearly half of Laos is now contaminated with unexploded ordnances (UXOs), explosive weapons such as bombs, grenades and land mines.  More than 20,000 people have been killed in Laos since then by ordnance, according to Laos' government, and agricultural development has been stymied. 

Laos is historically referred to as “Lan Xang,” the land of a million elephants. Today, it would be more accurate to call it the land of a million bombs.

Clinton, gauging whether the nation can evolve into a new foothold of American influence in Asia, met with the prime minister and foreign minister, part of a weeklong diplomatic tour of Southeast Asia. The goal is to bolster America's standing in some of the fastest growing markets of the world, and counter China's expanding economic, diplomatic and military dominance of the region.

The U.S. has yet to join the international community of 107 countries who signed onto the UN’s Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions (www.clusterconvention.org).

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The arrogance of the American government

"In democracies, respecting rights isn’t a choice leaders make day-by-day, it is the reason they govern." — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

"Promoting freedom and democracy and protecting human rights around the world are central to U.S. foreign policy. The values captured in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in other global and regional commitments are consistent with the values upon which the United States was founded centuries ago. The United States supports those persons who long to live in freedom and under democratic governments that protect universally accepted human rights. The United States uses a wide range of tools to advance a freedom agenda, including bilateral diplomacy, multilateral engagement, foreign assistance, reporting and public outreach, and economic sanctions. The United States is committed to working with democratic partners, international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, and engaged citizens to support those seeking freedom." — The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, Diplomacy in Action

"Hate is hate, no matter who the target is, or whether it is based on age, gender, culture, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, or any other basis. Hate damages lives and communities, leaves people marginalized and excluded, and deprives us all of the best that people have to offer to our societies. For the one billion disabled people around the world, hatred is an all too common experience. It can take many forms, including verbal or physical abuse, being denied a job or education because of disability, being shut out of public spaces because of physical or communication barriers, and being shunned or ignored by those who are simply afraid of people who do not look, sound, move, think, or act like them." —  Judith Heumann, the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State

"Human rights should be at the heart of messaging from the United States to regional leaders when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the context of the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting." —  Human Rights Watch

http://www.state.gov/j/drl/

http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/rm/2012/194057.htm

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