June 18, 2012
It is my honor to sit on the Honorary Committee for the Legacies of War reception and celebration tonight. Channapha Khamvongsa and Legacies of War have worked tirelessly since 2004 to bring the story of the U.S. bombing of Laos into American consciousness and to right the wrongs inflicted on Southeast Asia decades ago.
During the Vietnam War, I served at the height of the Tet Offensive. In 2010, as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, I returned as the leader of a Congressional delegation to examine the legacies of the Vietnam War across Southeast Asia. My colleague, Congressman Mike Honda, another member of the Honorary Committee, and I saw with our own eyes the impact that these bombs continue to have on the lives of innocent people — people who are not and never were at war with us. When we returned, I held the first Congressional hearing on the Lao UXO crisis, 39 years to the day after the late Senator Edward Kennedy held a hearing in 1971 to address war-related civilian problems in Indochina, including Laos.
We have made great process since the 2010 hearing. My colleagues in the House and Senate have asked the State Department to increase its funding for UXO removal in Laos to $9 million in 2012, and prospects look good for an even greater appropriation in 2013. I am hopeful that Secretary Clinton, during her last year as Secretary of State, will champion this cause by making a long-term, sustained commitment to clearing U.S. bombs from Laos over the next decade — because it’s the right thing to do.
I applaud the work that Legacies of War has done to raise awareness in the U.S., and in Congress, on this issue, and I will continue to work together with them to see that we start a new legacy of peace in Southeast Asia.
The Honorable Eni F. H. Faleomavaega
U.S. Representative from American Samoa