Funding Request to Congress 2011

March 22, 2010

The Honorable Nita M. Lowey
Chairwoman, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
House of Representatives
Room HB-26 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Kay Granger
Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
House of Representatives
Room HB-26 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairwoman Lowey and Ranking Member Granger:

We are writing to request that the U.S. allocate $7 million for unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance in Laos for fiscal year 2011, with substantial additional increases over the next ten years. As appropriate, the total budget for weapons removal and abatement may need to be adjusted to assure that sufficient funds are available for UXO clearance in Laos.

We strongly believe that the continued deaths and injuries caused by United States (U.S.) bombs dropped in Laos nearly four decades ago are morally unacceptable. On February 22, 2010 five children, ages 10 to 14, were killed in a rice field by a BLU 3 cluster bomblet in southern Laos. This is just the latest chapter in a tragic history that has resulted in over 34,000 casualties since the end of the bombings – not to mention the grave risk to millions of Lao farmers who work on land filled with unexploded ordnances.

An increase in U.S. funding for clearing UXO would be an important step toward restoring the U.S.’s moral standing in the world and making the land safe once more for the people of Laos.

Laos has the tragic distinction of being the most heavily bombed country in the world. From 1964 to 1973 the U.S. dropped over two million tons of ordnance on Laos, the equivalent of a bombing mission every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years. U.S. bombing left close to half the country contaminated with vast quantities of UXO, including 78 million unexploded cluster bomblets that litter forests, rice fields, villages, school grounds, roads, and other populated areas. Accidents involving UXO have caused over 50,000 civilian casualties since 1964 — 40 percent have resulted in death. One third of UXO casualties are children.

Laos has some of the most heavily contaminated lands in the world and accounts for half of all cluster bomb casualties worldwide, but has received scant U.S. demining assistance. We ask only that Laos be given levels of funding commensurate with its devastating UXO problem. In addition to the terrible human cost of deaths and injuries, the impoverished Lao economy is further stymied by the presence of UXO. Hundreds of children have been orphaned. Families are left without the main breadwinner and struggle to survive. The extremely limited health care system is overwhelmed by the medical needs of UXO victims. Available funding does not begin to meet the demand for artificial limbs, rehabilitation or employment retraining. And infrastructure projects are burdened with the increased costs of first removing UXO.

The Lao government and nongovernmental organizations, with assistance from the U.S., eighteen other countries, and the UNDP, have made modest progress in removing UXO in several provinces (less than one percent of the contaminated lands have been cleared). Despite the many challenges, the removal program is efficient and effective. Charles A. Stonecipher, Program Manager for the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs has called the NRA’s UXO program in Laos “one of the best programs in the world – the gold standard.”

As one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions (the agreement enters into force August 1, 2010), Laos is committed to clearing its cluster munitions within 10 years. In reality Laos will never be able to clear all the contaminated land, but it must speed up UXO clearance on high priority lands in villages, school yards and other populated areas, as well as agricultural fields and infrastructure development.

U.S. funding must be substantially increased if Laos is ever going to make meaningful progress in a reasonable time frame. An increase to $7 million for UXO clearance in Laos would enable the country to move more quickly in implementing its comprehensive 10-year strategy for UXO removal on priority lands.

The U.S. cannot continue to ignore its moral obligation to clean up the UXO it left behind almost 40 years ago.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of our request. We understand that budgets are tight but we are confident that you will find removal of UXO on high priority lands and victim assistance in Laos to be an important humanitarian priority and in our national interest.

Sincerely,
Channapha Khamvongsa, Executive Director
Brett Dakin, Board Chair

cc: President Barack Obama
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Director, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, U.S. Department of State

Other members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: Representatives Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., Adam Schiff, Steve Israel, Ben Chandler, Steven R. Rothman, Barbara Lee, Betty McCollum, David R. Obey, Ex Officio, Mark Steven Kirk, Ander Crenshaw, Dennis R. Rehberg, Jerry Lewis, Ex Officio

Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

Senators Diane Feinstein, Jeff Merkley, Robert Menéndez, Jeff Bingaman, Susan Collins Sherrod Brown, Benjamin Cardin, Maria Cantwell, Barbara Boxer, Olympia Snowe, Robert Casey, Debbie Ann Stabenow, Patty Murray, Russell Feingold, Richard Durbin, Barbara Mikulski, Bernard Sanders, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tim Johnson, Ron Wyden

Representatives Jim McGovern, Tammy Baldwin, Charles Boustany, Peter DeFazio, Lloyd Doggett, Keith Ellison, Sam Farr, Bob Filner, Raul Grijalva, Maurice Hinchey, Michael Honda, Darrell Issa, Henry Johnson, John Lewis, Betty McCollum, James Moran, John Oliver, Nick Rahall, Janice Schakowsky, and Lynn Woolsey

Speaker & Film Screening in Boston Area

“The Bombing of Laos and the Continuing Tragedy of Cluster Bombs”

Forbush Memorial Library Westminster, MA January 20, 2010, 6-8PM

Walt Haney, Forbush Library Trustee and longtime resident of Westminster, will give a talk on “The Bombing of Laos and the Continuing Tragedy of Cluster Bombs.”

Haney spent more than three years in Laos, 1968-71 and 1975. In 1970 and 1971, he carried out two surveys of Lao refugees that helped document the widespread bombing of civilians in Laos. Reports on these surveys were both published in reports by the U.S. Senate.

Haney is also author of an analysis of U.S. involvement in Laos from 1950 to 1970. This analysis was published in Chomsky, N. and H. Zinn (Eds.) The Gravel Edition, The Pentagon Papers, Vol. V: Critical Essays (Boston: Beacon Press, 1972, pp. 248-293). Finally, Haney will describe his involvement with Legacies of War (http://legaciesofwar.org), a group organized to bring attention to the continuing tragedy of cluster bombs, not just in Laos but also in other war-torn countries around the world.

Following Haney’s remarks, there will be a showing of the award-winning film “Bombies” and a discussion. Light refreshments will be served. The lecture and film-showing are open to the public at no charge, but seating is limited.

National Traveling Exhibition Midwest Premiere in Minneapolis

Lao Assistance Center, Pangea World Theater and Intermedia Arts present

Legacies of War: National Traveling Exhibition and Community Programs

Curated by local artist Malichansouk Kouanchao, Bush Artist Fellow

Presented in conjunction with the Refugee Nation Touring Performance.

The Legacies of War National Traveling Exhibition tells the story of the U.S. secret bombing in Laos- a forgotten chapter in U.S. history – through the voices of villagers from Laos and the Lao diaspora at large.

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Opening Night Reception – September 30, 2010

In the 1960s and 1970s, when due to the bombing, Lao civilians became refugees of “The Secret War,” and had no language or tools to communicate with the outside world about their experiences except through a series of crude, hand-drawn sketches shown to visiting foreigners. But this art was enough to provoke questions that ultimately led to a global awareness of what was happening during the CIA’s covert war in Laos, and these sketches contributed to shaping the destiny of over 400,000 Laotians and Hmong in the United States today.

The National Traveling Exhibition has traveled to ten U.S. cities and to Dublin, Ireland. Its Midwest debut will take place at Intermedia Arts on September 30, 2010 (Special Opening Reception at 6:30pm) and run through October 24 with film screenings, community workshops and discussions throughout the month.

Artwork: Malichansouk Kouanchao

Legacies of War is presented in conjunction with the Refugee Nation National Traveling Performance, a collection of oral histories that reveals connections between American and Southeast Asian history, and the unique challenges faced by political refugees and their American children. It gives voice to the Lao Diaspora – often excluded from the American experience. Refugee Nation is about a young generation struggling to understand their history and the silence of an elder generation still healing from the traumas of war.

This project is made possible in part by support from Arts Midwest, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Asian Pacific Endowment. Refugee Nation is a part of Intermedia Arts’ Catalyst Series.

Intermedia Arts is located at 2822 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408 (map)


Events

» Exhibition

National Traveling Exhibition
September 30, 2010 – October 24, 2010
Daily 12pm-5pm
$3 suggested donation

Opening Reception
September 30, 2010 @ 6:30pm-8:30pm – FREE
Reception will include a blessing ceremony, guest speakers and community gathering.

» Performances

Refugee Nation
October 8-10, Friday – Sunday @ 7:30pm
October 14-17, Thursday – Sunday @ 7:30pm
*Post performance discussions October 9, 15 & 16
Tickets: $10 (advance, students, seniors); $12 (door)
Click here to purchase tickets.

» Workshops & Discussions

Community Art Workshop – Express Yourself
October 2, 2010 @ 1pm-4pm – FREE
Student Day
Two-part workshop: In Tapestry of Hope: Weaving a Bomb Free Future, participants will create art pieces to include in an international art exhibition to debut in Vientiane, Laos in November. In the Refugee Nation workshop, participants will engage in discussions and exercises about identity and community.

Community Discussion – Gen X, Gen Y and Gen G (as in RefuGee)
October 13, 2010 @ 12:30pm – FREE
Bring your lunch for this roundtable intergenerational discussion following the Refugee Nation matinee.

» Film Screenings

Bomb Harvest
October 12, 2010 @ 7pm
$5 suggested donation
Laos: The most bombed country, per capita, on the planet. A bomb disposal specialist has to train a new young “big bomb” team to deal with bombs left from the US “Secret War”, but meanwhile, the local children are out hunting for bomb scrap metal. Post screening discussion with the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and community members.

Bombies
October 19, 2010 @ 7pm
$5 suggested donation
Award-winning film portrays the aftermath of the carpet bombing of Laos with made-in-Minnesota cluster bombs and includes local footage of demonstrations at Honeywell and Alliant Techsystems (ATK).
Special guest speaker Marv Davidov, featured in the film as the founder of the MN-based Honeywell Project to end weapons manufacturing during the Vietnam War.

All events held at:
Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408 (map)

For more information, visit www.intermediaarts.org or call (612) 871-4444.


Media Contact

Theresa Sweetland
Executive/Artistic Director, Intermedia Arts
(612) 874-2813
theresa@intermediaarts.org

Photo/Interview Opportunities

Digital photos, audio, video, interview and photo opportunities are available upon request.


About the Presenters

  • Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota

    Minnesota has the third largest Laotian community in the US with 25,000 residents, many living in Hennepin County and particularly North Minneapolis. Many first arrived in the US as refugees in the early 1980s to rebuild to their lives. Many Lao in Minnesota received international recognition and awards for their art and community activism, and recently convened the first national Lao American Writers Summit. The Lao Assistance Center was established in 1983 with a mission to help Lao families meet their basic needs and to preserve their culture and traditions.

  • Pangea World Theater

    Pangea World Theater begins from the fundamental paradigm of diversity in the world. Our work expresses this reality and our organization advances this possibility consciously. Since its inception in 1995, Pangea’s goals have included creating a new literature with stories from different communities for theater, changing our methods of auditioning in order to include artists from diverse communities who are not trained in the traditional western methods of the audition process, and creating new possibilities and new aesthetic realities for a more diverse audience. As the community of the Twin Cities has become increasingly diverse with the influx of new immigrants, Pangea has actively sought individuals from these communities to be part of our artistic and advisory team.

  • Intermedia Arts

    As Minnesota’s premier multidisciplinary, multicultural arts center, Intermedia Arts builds understanding among people by catalyzing and inspiring artists and audiences to make changes in their lives and communities. We are a nationally recognized leader in empowering artists and community leaders to use arts-based approaches to solve community issues. From graffiti art to digital technology to performance art to spoken word, we work from the community up to unearth and enliven new and emerging artists and art forms while challenging and exploring the role of art in our lives. By stimulating civic dialogue and giving voice to the issues and experiences of underrepresented communities locally, nationally and internationally, we contribute to a stronger, healthier society.

  • The Catalyst Series

    Intermedia Arts’ Catalyst Series is a new program dedicated to collaborating with and providing support for artists, arts groups and organizations working as catalysts for change in their communities. The Catalyst Series is designed to engage audiences by provoking new performing, visual, literary, multimedia and film presentations that spark dialogue and inspire social change. Our goal is to provide artists, arts groups and arts organizations with the resources necessary to focus on their creative process, connect with their communities, advance their career, market their work, and develop new audiences.

First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (1MSP)

Legacies of War is attending the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (1MSP) in Vientiane, Lao PDR. Leading up to the meeting, we will be traveling around Laos and attending other events. We will be documenting our entire trip and experiences with a microsite: Legacies of War @ 1MSP. Check it for daily updates.

For more information on this historic meeting, visit http://www.clusterconvention.org/1msp/.

Legacies of War Exhibit in Brooklyn Center, MN

Check out the Legacies of War Exhibit at the Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center, MN. The exhibit will be there until June 1st.

Association of Asian American Studies Conference, New Orleans

Legacies of War will present Undigested War: Purging Official Narratives of U.S. Wars in Asia with Still Present Past at the Association of Asian American Studies Conference in New Orleans, May 18-21. Click here for more information on the conference.