This article in the NY Times provides one more piece of evidence–as if any more were needed–in an indictment of American callousness regarding the legacies of the American War against Vietnam. In Vietnam, Cambodia, & Laos, thousands of people, many of them children, have been killed, and tens of thousands injured, by unexploded bombs, landmines, and other lethal garbage left from the American War. I am glad that the Lao government took Secretary Clinton to see the actual human damage caused by these devices. Here are some reliable statistics that give some idea of the scope of the problem. Technologies exist for dealing with these devices, but the moral will, apparently, is lacking, at least in the United States. It occurs to me that the Secretary’s husband, former President Bill Clinton–so famous for being able to “feel your pain”–might gall up a few of his rich & super-rich pals, or talk to them on the golf course, and put together a fund dedicated to removing all the explosives over, say, a ten-year period. It was President Clinton who normalized relations with Vietnam in 1995. More than twenty-five years later, the United States needs to take moral responsibility for this ongoing tragedy. There is simply no excuse not to act. We could begin by signing the international treaty against cluster bombs. Perhaps Secretary Clinton could suggest this modest step to her boss the current president.
We live in a country where some people cannot afford to heat their houses in the winter and where others make 20 million a year and say in public that they are not concerned about the poor.
My colleague Stephen Casper sent this around via departmental email a couple of days ago & it seems prescient, which makes me feel old. I told Stephen when I saw him in the mail room that I’m glad I’m not, like him, just starting my academic career — because the old model of the university that’s being unbundled suited me fine. And maybe I would be more hopeful about these developments if they were not in so many cases driven by market forces unmoored from and value but that of the bottom line. Read Stephen’s blog, The Neuro Times.