The Montagnard Moses
January 18, 2011 3:43 AM   Subscribe

Death of General Vang Pao who led the Hmong into exile. His exile was not uncontroversial as he was involved in Heroin trafficking and possible embezzlement.
Photos of Hmong guerilla fighters.
in 2010 the secret Hmong army was still fighting. Forty years on, Laos reaps still reaps the bitter harvest of the secret war where the US dropped more ordinance than the entirety of World war II. (previously)
posted by adamvasco (19 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I am compelled to correct your spelling, adamvasco, not because I am a spelling nazi, but simply because I love the proper spelling of the word so much, with that N following immediately after the D...

It's "ordnance".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:00 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

We used to stay with a family in this house in Northern Lao.
posted by gman at 4:22 AM on January 18, 2011

Laos was hit by an average of one B-52 bomb-load every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973. US bombers dropped more ordnance on Laos in this period than was dropped during the whole of the second world war. Of the 260m "bombies" that rained down, particularly on Xieng Khouang province, 80m failed to explode, leaving a deadly legacy.
Every eight minutes for nine years. A B-52 can carry 60,000 pounds of bombs.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:34 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Laos and Cambodia endured a tremendous degree of punishment during this time period, as this map from the US Army attests. It also led to the radicalization of the population behind the once unpopular Khmer Rouge. I'm grateful to learn more about Laos' side in this, as sad as the story is.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:52 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Amazing photos in your "Photos of Hmong guerilla [sic] fighters" link.
posted by nickyskye at 4:56 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Great scott. That amount of ordnance (beware of the compulsive spelling nazi) is indeed mind boggling.
What right does a country have to bomb another country thus?
posted by joost de vries at 5:08 AM on January 18, 2011

Laos was hit by an average of one B-52 bomb-load every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973.

Wow, really??? I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was THAT bad. I guess I'm off to read all these links.
posted by nevercalm at 5:29 AM on January 18, 2011

Eighty years is a ripe old age for a southeast Asian general.

Henry Kissinger won a Nobel Peace Prize.
posted by bukvich at 5:38 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is a great book about the difficulties of being Hmong in America (among other things). I highly recommend it, particularly for anyone in the helping professions.
posted by OmieWise at 5:42 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

A well-known name here in Madison, even outside the Hmong community, thanks to the controvery over Vang Pao Elementary School (now Paul Olson Elementary School.)
posted by escabeche at 5:52 AM on January 18, 2011

When I was hiking in Laos I enjoyed the hospitality of some of the Hmong villages that dotted the northern reaches of the Golden Triangle. I was invited by the head of one village (the elder, more symbolic head) to join me in a couple of pipes of opium. So we're lying there smoking, and somehow the topic of marijuana comes up, and the chief asks me if I want to smoke a bomb with him.

"Oh, you mean a bong," I laugh.

No, no, he insists, a bomb. So I make the universal pantomime of a plane with my hands dropping a whistling bomb that goes BOOM. "Bomb?" I confirm.

Yes, yes, bomb. And hands me some UXO that he discovered, disarmed, and converted into a bong.

I don't know if this is one of those "societies scarred by American influence" stories or "the incredible lengths potheads will go to" tales. But this is one of those rare times I actually have photographic evidence so I had to tell it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:57 AM on January 18, 2011 [15 favorites]

A significant amount of the ordnance (thank you flapjax) were cluster bombs many of which are still causing havoc.
posted by adamvasco at 7:01 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

WITNESSES TO A SECRET WAR from the best documentary series on television - Global Voices on PBS World.

It's a crime this series doesn't have a better web presence because honestly these are the best documentaries I have seen in years. Death of a Shaman dealing with the Mien peoples experience in America is just devastating.
posted by puny human at 7:37 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

That was a strange time (around 2003) when reporters were making contact with isolated groups of Hmong people in Laos who continue to hold out against the Lao government--mainly struggling to survive against constant threat. Some of these meetings were documented:
-TIME Asia: "Welcome to the Jungle" (photoessay, including pic of Gen. Vang)
-Al Jazeera: "The Lost Tribe" (1, 2, and 3)
-BBC: "One Day of War" (transcript)

At the same time, Thailand was threatening to repatriate Lao Hmong refugees who had escaped from Thailand (a process which is underway), which spurred such documentaries as "Hunted Like Animals" which captures some of the horror that these people suffer. (One of several videos, by SommerFilms (some of which are very graphic)).

The response in the US was really amazing with Hmong people coming together from around the country to raise awareness about the situation. Despite the rallies, concerts, and artwork (which continues to inspire many Hmong Americans), the situation remains unchanged with no prospect of change anytime soon.
posted by imposster at 8:16 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

"from Thailand" > "to Thailand"
posted by imposster at 8:20 AM on January 18, 2011

US Air Force pilots flew Forward Air Control over Laos. The Ravens now offer scholarships to Lao or Lao-Hmong descendants.
posted by theora55 at 12:29 PM on January 18, 2011

Was it Laos that received all that ordnance during the secret war? I thought it was Cambodia that received the bulk of the bombs dropped in that operation.

I commented on the More than WWII number in a previous discussion (short version: WII edges out the secret war 2,770,540 to 2,756,941 tons). The actual "winner" is debatable because the US hasn't released all the numbers. Either way it's a mind boggling mass of explosives.
posted by Mitheral at 8:40 PM on January 18, 2011

The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force on 1 August 2010.
The USA has not signed arguing that cluster bombs are an effective military tool that saves their soldiers' lives.
posted by adamvasco at 3:26 AM on January 19, 2011

The US Army has rejected a request for ethnic Hmong leader Vang Pao to be buried with full military honours in Arlington National Cemetery.
posted by adamvasco at 12:20 AM on February 5, 2011

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