Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life under an Air War

Overview


During the Vietnam War the United States government waged a massive, secret air war in neighboring Laos. Two million tons of bombs were dropped on one million people. Fred Branfman, an educational advisor living in Laos at the time, interviewed over 1,000 Laotian survivors. Shocked by what he heard and saw, he urged them to record their experiences in essays, poems, and pictures. Voices from the Plain of Jars was the result of that effort.
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Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life under an Air War

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Overview


During the Vietnam War the United States government waged a massive, secret air war in neighboring Laos. Two million tons of bombs were dropped on one million people. Fred Branfman, an educational advisor living in Laos at the time, interviewed over 1,000 Laotian survivors. Shocked by what he heard and saw, he urged them to record their experiences in essays, poems, and pictures. Voices from the Plain of Jars was the result of that effort.
    When first published in 1972, this book was instrumental in exposing the bombing. In this expanded edition, Branfman follows the story forward in time, describing the hardships that Laotians faced after the war when they returned to find their farm fields littered with cluster munitions—explosives that continue to maim and kill today.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A classic. . . . No American should be able to read [this book] without weeping at his country's arrogance."—Anthony Lewis, New York Times

"[In Laos,] where a right-wing government installed by the CIA faced a rebellion, one of the most beautiful areas in the world, the Plain of Jars, was being destroyed by bombing. This was not reported by the government or the press, but an American who lived in Laos, Fred Branfman, who told the story in his book Voices from the Plain of Jars."—Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States

"Today, the significance of this book's message has, if anything, increased. As Fred Branfman predicted with uncommon prescience, the massive U.S. bombing of Laos during the Vietnam War marked the advent of a new kind of warfare—automated, aerial, and secret—that is just now emerging as the dominant means of projecting U.S. power worldwide."—Alfred W. McCoy, author of Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation

"In this small, shattering book we hear—as we are so rarely able to do—the voices of Asian peasants describing what we can barely begin to imagine."—Gloria Emerson, New York Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299292249
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 5/31/2013
  • Series: New Perspectives in Se Asian Studies Series
  • Edition description: 2, Expanded
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 1,411,768
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Fred Branfman is a writer and activist on issues of peace and climate change who lives in Santa Barbara, California, and in Budapest.
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Table of Contents


Foreword: Reflections on History's Largest Air War, by Alfred W. McCoy
Textual Note
 
Introduction: Laos and the Advent of Automated War
 
What sadness!
Have pity on the victims of the war!
May the life of a former nurse from Xieng Khouang pass away without returning again
Why did the planes drop bombs on us?
The day does not exist when we will forget
Three jets came together dropping bombs
He and his wife died together in the rice fields because of the airplanes
And so we sang with brave hearts
Then the F-105 warplanes strafed and dropped rockets and 150 kg bombs on the village and people without stopping
A bomb fell about fifteen meters from where my father was plowing
Then they bombed our village; hitting houses, the pagoda, the school; devastating our rice fields; and killing the cows and buffalo
We lived in holes all the time
In the forest, I would go from one hiding place to another
They died like animals die in the forest
This is my house, built of lumber twenty-six years ago. It was struck by the airplanes.
 
Epilogue: After the War Ended, 1975–Present
 
Appendix:
Complete Text and Supporting Documents of USIS Refugee Survey as Obtained by Congressman McCloskey
A Survey of Civilian Casualties among Refugees from the Plain of Jars, Laos, by Walter M. Haney
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