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Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life under an Air War (New Perspectives in Se Asian Studies) Paperback – May 31, 2013

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Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life under an Air War (New Perspectives in Se Asian Studies) + Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos + Shooting at the Moon: The Story of America's Clandestine War in Laos
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

About the Author

Fred Branfman (1942–2014) was a writer and activist on issues of peace and climate change who lived in Santa Barbara, California, and in Budapest.

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Product Details

  • Series: New Perspectives in Se Asian Studies
  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 2, Expanded edition (May 31, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 029929224X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299292249
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #686,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By N Lombardi Jr on May 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
On the Plain of Jars, the saturation bombing that took place was a deliberate scorched earth policy to depopulate an area of innocent peasants, a cold-hearted, calculated targeting of civilians, the majority of whom were women and children.

Voices from the Plain of Jars is probably the most significant commentary about what happened, because it is straight from the mouths of the Laotian people who had gone through that horrible experience. This book was one of the key documents exposing the unauthorized military conflict, and led to Congress eventually becoming aware of the secret war that had been going on for years.

This is the book that opened my own eyes, as it highlights the innocence and bewilderment of simple people caught up in a Cold War conflict that they could not possibly comprehend.

Voices from the Plain of Jars shows exactly what it means to wage modern warfare, where the battlefields are no longer open fields, but the homes of blameless civilians who get caught in the middle.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mimi on December 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Besides the background this book gives -- the terrible destruction our country wrought on this country -- it is very moving to hear and see (the drawings) of the people who actually suffered through this terror, an ongoing terror as unexplored ordinance continues to maim and kill.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sheabody Butter on January 26, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When Fred Branfman died at age 72 in September 2014, he was hailed as the American journalist who exposed to the world the secret US bombing of Laos (1965 to 1973). The US Air Force dropped 2.1 tons of bombs on Laos, roughly one-third of 6.7 million tons dropped in all of Southeast Asia (North and South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos).

Branfman arrived in Laos in 1967 to work as an educational adviser for the International Voluntary Services (IVS). He lived in a Lao village 6.8 miles outside Vientiane, a village lacking running water and electricity. He learned how to speak Laotian, though he could not read the language. The time he spent with the Lao rice farmers gave him profound respect for the "kind, friendly, cheerful, decent, fun, honest, sincere, and trustworthy" villagers. He connected with the locals on a deep human level. One day in September of 1969, Branfman accompanied his friend Tim Allman, a New York Times journalist, to interview refugees from the Plain of Jars, a lush mountainous region in the northeast handle of Laos. Branfman and Allman had heard rumors of bombing denied by the US government but reported in "Le Monde" the previous spring.

Branfman learned about the horrific US bombings of Laos from the villagers he interviewed in the Plain of Jars. Survivors of the bomb attacks hid in shelters dug into mountain slopes, living like animals foraging for food at night. When Branfman later interviewed US soldiers stationed in Vietnam, he was disgusted with the arrogance of the military personnel who bragged about killing civilians. US officials in Southeast Asia denied any US air attacks in Laos. Branfman discovered that the US government went to war unilaterally without Congressional authorization.
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Branfman's book is a searing indictment of the mindless and cruel US bombing of Laos during the Vietnam War. It's a highly well thought-through and analytical treatment of the war coupled with powerful and evocative testimonies from Laotian peasants, farmers, and children from the Plain. For many this book will be an important reminder of one of the most devastating bombings in the history of "warfare" and for others it will serve as a shock to learn about this "secret" bombing.

Books like this remind us of the responsibility we each need to have when fellow human beings are being slaughtered. That this is a chronicle of the world's mightiest power being brought to bear against poor villagers who had to resort to living in caves or digging holes in the ground to live makes it all the more powerful.
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