Several decades have passed since the Vietnam war ended, but its destruction has still continued. Sometimes a bomb buried in the ground suddenly explodes, and people still die from their impact. These bombs, after all, were designed not so much to destroy buildings but to kill people.

These are not very isolated or rare incidents. Thousands of people are reported to have died in such delayed bomb explosions over the years. Some estimates even mention a figure of around forty thousand.

In a heartwarming gesture, some US army veterans have gone back to Vietnam in recent years, long after the war was over, to help in locating these bombs and defusing them so that they cannot cause any harm. They are generally members of an organization called Veterans for Peace. They also help to organize trainings in affected areas so that people can guard against the possibility of being damaged by such explosions. Children are a particularly vulnerable group in this context, so children are specially trained to recognize explosive objects and to remain away from such danger, also informing about suspicious looking objects. As a result of all these efforts, the mortality from such explosions has come down in the areas where such efforts have been made, but in other areas the tragic deaths continue.

Several people in Vietnam still continue to suffer from the tragic impacts of Agent Orange and other chemicals used in the war on a large scale by the USA. Veterans for Peace have tried to arrange treatment for some of them.

At the same time, however, tens of thousands of US army soldiers who fought in Vietnam have continued to suffer for decades from trauma, stress and guilt feelings and other health problems requiring hospitalization.

In Gulf War and Iraq war also the terrible destructive impacts of weapons used have remained with people for many years. In particular the impact of depleted uranium weapons has been most terrible and for years it has continued to result in high cancer rates and birth of deformed babies in those parts of Iraq where such weapons were used. On the other hand the US soldiers who came in contact with dangerous weapons, or who took certain medicines to escape such risks, or who suffered trauma and stress in the middle of the killing of so many people have also continued to suffer terrible impacts year after year ( Gulf War Syndrome).

Although landmines are now banned in many countries, these still continue to be used by the official armies of some countries as well as by some non-state militant groups. These can have very long-term impacts and even after a lot of time has passed completely innocent people including children continue to be trapped by them and their legs or hands are blown away. In land-mined areas an excessively number of people who have been disabled in very  cruel ways can be frequently seen.

Similar is the case in areas where cluster bombs have been used. The destruction inflicted by cluster bombs which remained unexploded can be very high many  years later. Children are a frequent victim.

While some longer-term impacts of wars were always there but due to the increasing availability of more destructive weapons the longer-terms destructive impacts have increased. More people are likely to have died with prolonged terrible pain  from the after-effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki compared to those who perished immediately.

The prolonged longer-term destruction of the conquered as the conquerors should be considered in any complete evaluation of any war and its consequences. This significantly adds  further to the already very strong case against war, militarization and proliferation of more and more destructive weapons.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and Planet in Peril.


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