Lynn Bradach understands the pain of war. On July 2, 2003, her son Travis, a U.S. Marine serving in Iraq, died when his team accidentally detonated an unexploded cluster bomb submunition. “The U.S. had fired thousands of these barbaric, inhumane little bomblets at the beginning of the invasion,” Bradach said. “Now, because of the submunitions’ large failure rate, viable bomblets still lay scattered about waiting for unsuspecting victims.”
She channeled her pain and anger into action. First, she learned all she could about the cluster munitions—weapons she calls “antiquated.” Indeed, the initial purpose of these weapons—explosives which open up midair releasing dozens of smaller bomblets over a wide area—was to slow down advancing troops and artillery. Bradach eventually joining Handicap International’s Ban Advocates, a group of cluster bomb and landmine survivors that advocates for the international campaigns to ban cluster bombs and landmines. Her goal? To see the U.S. join the two international treaties that would rid the country’s arsenal of these indiscriminate weapons.
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This month, Bradach is visiting Laos, the world’s most heavily cluster-bomb-contaminated country, to collect personal stories that can help to fuel the ongoing campaign in the U.S. She’ll be sending dispatches back to the U.S. along the way. Read her first update:
It is my first morning in Laos. I am back after four years to do advocacy work with my fellow Lao Ban Advocates and to document what has been achieved in these last four years. I am hoping to show that having a treaty like the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) does make a difference to the lives of the people in the countries most affected. I am hoping by doing this to bring more countries on board—especially the U.S.
When I arrived yesterday I took a walk along the river and into the city. It wasn't a long walk but it was a first glimpse of the progress that the Lao government is making in different areas. By being a signatory to the CCM, they have made a strong commitment to their people, especially the victims of these horrible weapons. Ramps leading up to the doorways of the newer hotels is an example of this.
The photo above shows a painting that I purchased on my visit four years ago. At first glance it appears to be a beautiful maiden surrounded by ancient broken jars. But on closer inspection you see she is surrounded by explosions, the skull of a water buffalo, bombs, and the ghost faces of those who have been killed by clusters. This painting hangs in my living room as a constant reminder of the work that I do, this and the pictures of my son, Travis.
It has been 50 years since the U.S. government dropped the first bombs on Laos during the Vietnam War and they are still killing and maiming the civilians here. How can any country justify the use of these weapons?