[ndlr] Nouvelle du décès de Fred Branfman publiée sur la liste du Vietnam Studies Group. A propos de cette disparition, hommage de Jeremy Kuzmarov à lire sur Counter Punch. Nous remercions Tran T. Nhu pour le signalement de cet article.
A Voice of Conscience Celebrating the Life of Peace Hero Fred Branfman
The noted peace activist Fred Branfman passed away this past week after suffering the effects of ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease). In 2002, while researching the history of the Vietnam War, I came across Fred’s slim volume, Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life Under an Air War in the Brandeis library and the book had an immediate effect on me. It was one of the few books written from the vantage point of the victims of the US air war in Indochina, or of US bombing and covert intervention carried out anywhere in the world. As a means of evading the Vietnam-era draft, Fred had signed on to work as a volunteer in Laos with the International Voluntary Service (IVS) and developed a deep attachment for the country’s people. Unlike many of his peers, he did not subscribe to the dominant US cold war ideology or to a paternalistic attitude towards the Lao, but loved and respected them. He struck a particularly close friendship with a village elder where he stayed, Paw Thou Douang, a devout Buddhist, farmer and medic whom he later found out was a local leader of the pro-communist Pathet Lao (the organization which had led Laos’ liberation struggle against the French and had sunk deep popular roots as a result of their commitment to nationalist principles and land reform).
After traveling into northern Laos, Fred was horrified to discover that the US government was carrying out a massive bombing campaign that had resulted in the killing and displacement of thousands of rice farmers. Fred interviewed many of the refugees who told him horror stories about having to live underground in caves for months and even years, and being only able to field their farms at night. Many suffered from malnutrition and disease, with a majority having lost loved ones. Pathet Lao soldiers were able to escape into the forests, so the main victims of the bombing were civilians, some of whom had never even heard of the United States before. The US strategy, Fred later discovered, was to “destroy the social and economic infrastructure of the civilian society” in northern Laos, which had emerged as a stronghold of the revolutionary Pathet Lao. The US government deployed its most sophisticated weaponry in the attempt to achieve this end, including computer censor devices and cluster munitions designed to penetrate the flesh. The US at the same time mobilized Hmong soldiers to serve essentially as cannon fodder in the war, with General Heine Aderholt noting: “it’s easier to lose your Hmong people than to lose Americans. It doesn’t make for bad publicity at home.”
Read more : Counter Punch, 01/10/2014.