Thursday, September 20, 2012

Titus Peachey MCC News

When Hillary Clinton met Phongsavath Souliyalat

Titus Peachey
July 27, 2012
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton touched down in Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) last week, she met Phongsavath Souliyalat, who had lost both his hands and his eyesight to a U.S. cluster bomb four years ago on his 16th birthday.
This marked the first time a U.S. secretary of state had traveled to Lao PDR and met with a wounded survivor of the U.S. air war that began more than 45 years ago.
I could not have imagined a visit from a U.S. official during my time as a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) worker in Lao PDR (1980-1985, 1994). In the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War, relationships between the U.S. and Lao PDR were so strained that high-level political contacts were not possible. Thankfully, diplomacy, trade and time have healed some wounds of war and led to much warmer relations in recent years.
However, as Secretary Clinton learned during her visit, fresh wounds from the years of war are a persistent reality in Lao PDR. The U.S. air war (1964-1973) over Lao PDR dropped more than 260 million cluster bomblets, many of which failed to explode on impact, constituting one of the most painful features of Lao village life over the past 40 years
Titus Peachey,  MCC U. S. Peace education coordinator, holds the head of a garden hoe that struck cluster bomb submuntion in Laos, killing the mother of eleven children.