Mapping the U.S. bombing of Cambodia

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to see a presentation by Taylor Owen of the University of British Columbia's Liu Institute for Global Issues as part of a conference on data and conflict. Owen has recently been looking into a remarkable database detailing the previously classified U.S. bombing campaign in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Bill Clinton declassified the data, which includes geospatial coordinates for thousands of bombing runs, in 2000, as a humanitarian gesture during his first trip to Vietnam -- the information would make it easier to find and dismantle unexploded ordnance.

The data allows for a remarkable visiual depiction of the secret bombing campaign known as Operation Menu: 

This graph shows the intensity of the bombing campaign over time: 

Owen sums up the significance of the data. :

In particular, I show that:  the total tonnage dropped on Cambodia was five times  greater than previously known; the bombing inside Cambodia began nearly 4 years prior to the supposed start of the Menu Campaign, under the Johnson Administration;  that,  in contradiction to Henry Kissinger’s claims, and over the warning of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, Base Areas 704, 354 and 707 were all heavily bombed; the bombing intensity increased throughout the summer of 1973, after Congress barred any such increase; and, that despite claims by both Kissinger and Nixon to the contrary, there was substantial bombing within 1km of inhabited villages.

For more on the history of the database an the implications of these findings, check out this article by Taylor from the Canadian magazine Walrus. 


'Qaddafi Files' wins National Magazine Award

We're thrilled to announce that "The Qaddafi Files," an examination of the archives of the late Libyan dictator -- including never-before-seen family photos, and articles by Human Rights Watch's Peter Bouckaert and Qaddafi scholar Dirk Vandewalle -- has just won a National Magazine Award for multimedia. The digital awards were presented in New York today by the American Society of Magazine Editors. 

It's the third year in a row FP has taken home a digital "ellie." In 2010, Tom Ricks' Best Defense won. Last year, it was Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay.

Thanks to all of you for making this another great year on the web for FP.  Let's do it again next year!