I'm not one to beg forgiveness for some long dead war or wax apologetically about American sins of the past for two reasons. First, they weren't my idea, and second, there's two or three competing sides to every story. But since I'm in Cambodia at present, I thought I'd offer up a very brief essay, or update if you will, on why the bombing of Cambodia along with the laying of tens of thousands of landmines, all of which occurred between 1964 and 1975, is still plaguing the small country today.
Back during the American/Vietnam War, Cambodia (along with Laos) was officially a neutral country. However, the Viet Cong, or Communist Vietnamese Guerrillas from the north who were essentially invading the non-Communist south, were slipping over the borders to shield themselves from any American and/or South Vietnamese attacks (it's a military practice that's as old as war itself). At the same time, the Viet Cong utilized the Ho Chi Minh Trail that stretched the vertical length of South East Asia as a crucial supply and resupply route. Part of that route ran through Cambodia. Since we couldn't exactly invade the neutral nation with ground troops, we decided to bomb them from the air instead, the method behind the madness being that we would draw the Viet Cong out of Cambodia and back into Vietnam (it didn't work...and yes, believe it or not, we thought we were doing Cambodia a favor...).
Whether or not the act was legal is still being disputed today, but what isn't at dispute are the thousands of unexploded bombs and mines that still litter the jungles, fields, and rice patties of Cambodia. While I wasn't able to grab a photo of them, I witnessed a band of victims of the unexploded ordinance in the jungle. One of them was missing two limbs. Another was blind, and yet another had lost his legs. They were playing simple songs on simple instruments in exchange for pennies. How else are they going to eat? But what really shocked me was that they were much younger than me.
Will Cambodia and other war torn countries ever be landmine free?
They tell you that war is hell, but what they don't tell you is that it can last a long, long time. Just because the B-52s are no longer flying over the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the landmines are no longer being planted by the Viet Cong or anyone else, doesn't mean the explosives still aren't doing the destructive job they were designed for.
Donate to this place to help dismantle as many landmines and unexploded ordinance as possible the world over:
The Halo Trust