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Vang Pao
May 11, 2008 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Gen. Vang Pao’s Last War. "The U.S. government relied on Vang Pao and his Hmong soldiers to battle Communism in the jungles of Laos. Why is the Justice Department now calling him a terrorist?"

The Hmong in America and Vang Pao were previously discussed here and here.
posted by homunculus (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I don't have anything substantive to add to this discussion except to say that I find this story utterly fascinating. It's a true epic.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:39 PM on May 11, 2008


Many Hmong have settled in Wisconsin and Minnesota. A new school in Madison was to be named for Vang Pao, because he is a hero to the local Hmong. A huge debate ensued and the school board eventually decided it couldn't name a school for a war criminal.
posted by cogneuro at 1:48 PM on May 11, 2008


Pawns in the big game, just like the Kurds. I'm sure that at some point in the future the Hmong will once again be of geopolitical use to the US and they will be back on the "best friends forever" list. Unless the Laotian army manages to succeed in wiping them out first.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:10 PM on May 11, 2008


Terribly sad and gripping tale. And the accompanying photoessay: some of those images are just heartrending.

On a brighter note, Hmong music.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:18 PM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Missoula Montana, and witnessed a small influx of Hmong before I left in 1987. Evidently there are enough of them living there now to put on a fashion show.
posted by Tube at 4:27 PM on May 11, 2008


But if you go makin' some plans for invading Laos,
You ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow

Don't you know it's going to be alright?

posted by mullingitover at 4:28 PM on May 11, 2008


There's a Hmong community in northern California... while going to school there for journalism, I did a story for the school magazine about them, specifically about one man who fought on our side and developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

He tried to get help as a veteran, but we of course have trouble helping Americans who come home from wars with problems, so he had no chance at all. His wife told me at the time that he only slept a couple of hours a night. He wouldn't come into the room... I remember he stood around the corner and talked.

They also had trouble in the community because they sacrificed pigs in their backyards. The hypocrisy of his neighbors (presumably) scarfing down bacon for breakfast, then making their way downtown to complain about a squealing pig always angered me.

I wonder what happened to that guy?
posted by Huck500 at 5:26 PM on May 11, 2008


My question is, why is the US Attorney's office so hot to go after Vang? Why didn't they just pull the guy in, show him all the photos and let him know that they had enough to indict him. Then tell him if he kept up trying to overthrow the Laotian government, they'd definitely send him to jail.

Or , at the least, they could have used a backchannel to the Laotian community, to let the General and his supporters know that they were being watched, and that this was their last chance to knock it off.

To me that seems like a better way of dealing with the situation, rather than sending them all to jail. That is, if the goal was actually to deter Vang and his associates from causing a diplomatic incident with Laos.
posted by wuwei at 5:43 PM on May 11, 2008


This is a really interesting read. I'm just astonished that the U.S. kicks its allies to the gutter... this is horrendous long-term foreign policy. Good luck getting local help in future conflicts.
posted by crapmatic at 5:48 PM on May 11, 2008


I'm just astonished that the U.S. kicks its allies to the gutter... this is horrendous long-term foreign policy.

When DON'T we do this. Take France, for instance. If ever there was an ally of the US so completely loyal to us—so much in-line historically with our principles, despite a few bumps here and there—it is France. If it wasn't for France there would be no US. And yet every couple of decades it becomes ever so popular to trash and shit on the French. And when they told us that Iraq was going to be a big fucking disaster and tried to talk sense to us what did we do. "Surrender monkeys" and "freedom fries" and all that shit.

I'm hard pressed to think of an Ally of the US that we (the power establishment of the moment, anyway) haven't thrown under the bus eventually. It's disgraceful.
posted by tkchrist at 5:58 PM on May 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm hard pressed to think of an Ally of the US that we (the power establishment of the moment, anyway) haven't thrown under the bus eventually. It's disgraceful.

No, it's business. The benefit of running the country like a business is that allegiances only have to be maintained when profitable. If it's not profitable, why keep it? Corporations have adroitly demonstrated that workers are just units to be shuffled, moved, and if needed, downsized. Why wouldn't the same techniques apply for countries and administrations?

Memory and loyalty have little to do with profit margins, after all - it's "what can you do for us today?"
posted by FormlessOne at 6:17 PM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


FormlessOne nails it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:24 PM on May 11, 2008


While undoubtedly true... it's a very poor strategy that's not working out that well lately. IE: Our Coalition of the Willing in Iraq being made up of our "plentiful" stalwart allies of "New" Europe. Please note heavy sarcasm there.

I would say alliances of principle have "profit" long beyond this quarters earnings. Our inability to recognize this fact from administration to administration has cost us in greatly in the long run. Obviously, as we can see now in Iraq and in Afghanistan, our poor reputation leaves us in a very, very, bad place strategically.
posted by tkchrist at 7:42 PM on May 11, 2008


Why wouldn't the same techniques apply for countries and administrations?

Oh. I dunno. Because when you shit on political treaties, unlike with corporate layoffs, thousands of people die?
posted by tkchrist at 7:45 PM on May 11, 2008


tkchrist: I can't be sure, but I suspect FormlessOne's question was a sarcastic one, and that he is not defending the "corporate strategy = government strategy", but rather decrying it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:50 PM on May 11, 2008


Ah, General Pao. He was a formidable opponent on the battlefield but his chicken was irresistible.
posted by jonson at 8:10 PM on May 11, 2008


Yes. I understand. I speak sarcasm.

It's still a good idea, I think, to state the hard reality on the ground. Even in sarcastic exchanges.

I guess what we are talking about is Real Politik.

But today it's Real Politik with a spin.

This is the neocon post cold-war corporate version of Real Politik.

The big mistake the Globalized Neocons made is they left out the "reality" part of "Real." And the new "corporate" model they used was more akin to the disastrous Enron model than any successful workable Good Business practice. Reducing everything to short term profit. But thier deeply flawed balance sheets conveniently excluded any pesky facts that conflicted with the ideological goals.
posted by tkchrist at 8:14 PM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


""We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and these interests it is our duty to follow." - " Palmerston, British Foreign Secretary, 1848.
posted by alasdair at 11:32 PM on May 11, 2008


I'm hard pressed to think of an Ally of the US that we (the power establishment of the moment, anyway) haven't thrown under the bus eventually.

Ferdinand Marcos?
posted by cobra libre at 3:00 PM on May 12, 2008


A new school in Madison was to be named for Vang Pao

Yep, they've decided on Paul Olsen for the name. My daughter will be attending this September.
posted by thanotopsis at 4:32 PM on May 12, 2008


And when they told us that Iraq was going to be a big fucking disaster and tried to talk sense to us what did we do. "Surrender monkeys" and "freedom fries" and all that shit.

IMO the issues WRT Iraq were, in fact, "business". Saddam had pre-existing oil contracts with the French (and Russians) and associated civil infrastructure stuff that were on hold while the sanctions regime was in place.

9/11 gave the Bush Administration and its associated constellation of multinational interests the opportunity to kick over all of that and start with a tabula rasa.

As for the General, I have nothing to add but the factoid that more tons of bombs were dropped on Laos than Japan and Germany . . . combined.
posted by tachikaze at 6:32 PM on May 12, 2008


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