Reprinted from Truthdig
As President Obama toured an exhibition of prosthetics made for Laotians who lost limbs when bombs exploded years or even decades after the United States dropped them on Laos during the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. announced it would provide $90 million over the next three years to help Laos clear the remaining explosives.
The unexploded bombs are 30 percent of the total that the United States dropped on the country -- a total Obama described as "more bombs on Laos than [on] Germany and Japan during World War II." So far, such ordnance has killed or injured more than 20,000 people.
On Thursday, Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer told The Real News Network that the sum the U.S. has offered Laos is "chump change."
Read a full transcript of Scheer's remarks provided by The Real News Network below.
--Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
DHARNA NOOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I'm Dharna Noor joining you in Baltimore.
On Wednesday President Barack Obama became the first sitting president of the US to visit Laos. Obama visited a prosthetic center that works with victims of bombs that initially failed to detonate when dropped on the country during the Vietnam war. He also toured an exhibition of prosthetic limbs and met with those involved with clearing unexploded ordinance in the Laos countryside.
The US announced earlier this week that it would provide an additional 90 million dollars over the next three years to help Laos clear the remaining ordinance.
BARACK OBAMA [in video clip]: But for all those years in the 1960's and 70's America's intervention here in Laos was a secret to the American people who were separated by vast distances and the Pacific Ocean and there was no internet and information didn't flow as easily. For the people of Laos obviously this war was no secret. Over the course of roughly a decade the United States dropped more bombs on Laos than Germany and Japan during World War II. Some 270 million cluster bomblets were dropped on this country.
NOOR: About 30% of the bombs dropped on the then secret war on Laos, failed to explode. They killed or injured more than 20,000 people since the 1970's. This comes as the United Nations wrapped up its annual meeting on an international treaty that bands the use of cluster munitions. The US has still not signed on to the agreement.
Now joining us to discuss all of this is Bob Scheer. Bob is the editor in chief of Truthdig and a veteran journalist. His latest book is They Know Everything About You: How Data Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy. Between 1964 and 1969 he was the Vietnam correspondent, the managing editor, and the editor and chief of Ramparts Magazine where he helped expose the secret war in Laos. Thanks for joining us Bob.
BOB SCHEER: Great to be here.
NOOR: So why was the US bombing Laos during the Vietnam War and why didn't the American public know the US was doing so? We just heard Obama say that essentially the American population wasn't privy to this information because Laos is far away and because we didn't have the internet. But your expose's from Laos actually helped disseminate information about the bombing campaign.
SCHEER: It's not just Laos, it was what we were doing in Vietnam and what we were doing in Cambodia. And it was basically genocide. It was carpet bombing. It was declaring huge areas where people had to leave or would be killed with very short notice. Fire free zones and so forth. We deliberately caused disease and illness with agent orange and everything.