Monday, June 15, 2009

Not An Award You Want To Win

Following on from the last few posts, something caught my eye today as I was checking the news. So here's the question: which country holds the unfortunate record of being the "most bombed nation on earth?"

Turns out the answer isn't WWII-era Germany, Russia or even the UK. The unlucky recipient of this dubious award is in fact Laos, at least according to this article. During the Vietnam war, some two million tons of high explosive rained down on Laos, costing some $7 billion dollars in total. This tonnage, "exceeds all the raids launched by every side in Europe during the whole of World War II."

Alas, the danger is not past. In the same article it states that even today there remains some 600,000 tons of unexploded ordnance to plague the population today, leading to an estimated 6,000-plus deaths since 1975.

Despite the obvious dangers, the Laotians have become adept at foraging parts from all the metal littering the countryside, turning them into very serviceable everyday items such as razor blades and roof guttering.

UXO clearance activities are proceeding, and it's actually well paid work in a country where high levels of poverty still remain, but with such a huge task facing them it will be many decades yet before the country is given the all clear.

Hope springs eternal that we'll manage to avoid making this kind of mistake in the future, and indeed smart bombs do seem to be greatly reducing the total tonnage used in conflicts whilst in parallel increasing the effectiveness of what is dropped. Still and all, we should never underestimate the ability of the human race to completely screw over the earth and a few of its inhabitants in the name of national security or political influence.

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