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Laos general and Hmong leader Vang Pao dies in exile
#1
Laos general and Hmong leader Vang Pao dies in exile

[Image: _50697870_010960823-1.jpg] Vang Pao, accused of subversion against Laos in 2007, was revered for his war record
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Vang Pao, the former general and leader of his Hmong ethnic group in Laos, has died in exile in the US, aged 81.
He had been in hospital for about 10 days before his death late on Thursday.
As a young man, he had fought against the Japanese during World War II, and with the French against the North Vietnamese in the 1950s.
He led a 15-year CIA-sponsored secret war in Laos during the Vietnam War and, when it was lost, led tens of thousands of his people into exile.
Thousands of ethnic Hmong are expected to attend his funeral in Fresno, California.
"He'll be remembered as a great general, a great warrior, a great Hmong soldier," his friend Charlie Waters told AFP news agency.
However the response from the Laos government was muted. "He was an ordinary person, so we do not have any reaction," a government spokesman was quoted by AFP as saying.
'Last of his kind' Gen Pao was a controversial figure, deeply loved by many Hmong - an ethnic minority in Lao that complains of persecution - for his insistence on freedom from foreign domination.
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Former Central Intelligence Agency chief William Colby once called Gen Pao "the biggest hero of the Vietnam War".
But critics say that by allying himself with the US, Gen Pao caused his people untold suffering - something that he himself recognised.
"I lost 17,000 men, almost 10% of the total Hmong population. The Hmong sacrificed the most in the war and were the ones who suffered the most," he said at the Heritage Foundation think tank in 1987.
Americans who first came into contact with him found a man skilled in warfare and with the charisma necessary to sustain a dangerous, 15-year operation in support of the US against the North Vietnamese.
The CIA airline, Air America, carried Gen Pao and his fighters across the country.
Continue reading the main story The Hmong

  • Ethnic group that complains of marginalisation and persecution in Lao society
  • Backed the US in 1960s as conflict spread from Vietnam into Laos and Cambodia
  • Many fled abroad in 1975 when the communists took power in Laos
  • Big Hmong communities in California, Minnesota, Thailand and Australia

On the ground, he and his men disrupted Vietnamese supply lines and engaged in pitched battles to try to stave off the Vietnamese-backed communist victory in Laos.
When that effort failed in 1975, Gen Pao led many thousands of Hmong into what are now well-established exile communities in the US.
The Central Valley of California, Minneapolis and cities throughout Wisconsin have a Hmong presence of an estimated 30,000-40,0000.
In his later years, Gen Pao was accused of leading rebellions or sponsoring subversion against the People's Democratic Republic of Laos.
In 2007, he was charged along with nine others with plotting to use AK-47 rifles, missiles and mercenaries to overthrow the Lao government. Charges against him were later dropped.
He was regarded by some as an exiled head of state.
"He's the last of his kind, the last of the leadership that carries that reference that everyone holds dear," said Blong Xiong, a Fresno city councilman and prominent Hmong-American.
"Whether they're young or old, they hear his name, there's the respect that goes with it."
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#2
Quote:"He'll be remembered as a great general, a great warrior, a great Hmong soldier," his friend Charlie Waters told AFP news agency.

He should also be remembered as a great heroin exporter too - with his own CIA backed "lab" at Long Tieng, where Air America picked up his "product" and flew it to Saigon, where it became, I believe, part of Colby's "long silver train" -- an euphemism for the GI bodies returned to the US in silver caskets, where their bodily organs had been eviscerated and replaced with packets of pure No. 4 chinese white heroin.

According to McCoy, Vang was the mastermind behind the famous "French Connection"

Also, funds from the "Vang Po Opium Fund" were carried out in suitcases to Australia by Shackley, Clines and Armitage and deposited in banks there. Probably just one bank, Nugan Hand

A very profitable exercise for all concerned.
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14
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#3
Vang Pao?

Oh that Vang Pao.... :loco:


Excerpt below from transcript of Frontline: Guns, Drugs and the CIA

#613
Original Air Date: May 17, 1988
Produced and Written by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn
Directed by Leslie Cockburn

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/...gscia.html

Quote:NARRATOR
From the villages, the planes carried their cargo over the mountains to Long Chien, CIA headquarters for the war. It was a secret city. Unmarked on any map and carefully hidden from outsiders, Long Chien became one of the busiest airports in the world, with hundreds of landings and takeoffs a day.

ED DEARBORN, Former Pilot, Air America
At the height of the war when there were thousands of people in there, there were villages all over, there were landing pads up on what we called Skyline drive which was the ridge on the north side of Long Chien. T-28s were going in and out of there, C-130s were going in and out of there. It was an amazing place, just amazing.

NARRATOR
Ed Dearborn is a veteran of Long Chien and Air America. A key figure in the covert air operation.

ED DEARBORN
From a sleepy little valley and village you know, surrounded by the mountains and the karst, this great war machine actually was working up there.

It was the heart and pulse of Laos at that time, more commonly referred to as the CIA's secret base you now, heh heh heh.

NARRATOR
To lead their Meo army, the CIA selected Vang Pao, a former lieutenant in the French colonial army in Laos. The agency made very effort to boost his reputation.

CIA FILM

Speaker:
His name was Vang Pao, a charismatic, passionate and committed man. A patriot without a country.

NARRATOR
Vang Pao, however, did more than just lead his people in war. According to observers he and his officers dominated the trade in the Meo farmers' cash crop. In 1968, one visitor got a first-hand look at this trade in the village called Long Pot.

JOHN EVERINGHAM, Photographer
I was given the guest bed in the village, in fact the district headman's house, and I ended up sharing it with a guy in military uniform who I later found out was an officer of the Vang Pao army and one morning I was awoken very early by this great confusion of people and noise at the bottom of the bed, just, literally people brushing against my feet with the packets of black sticky substance in bamboo tubes and wrapped up in leaves and bits and things and the military officer who was there was weighing it out and paying off a considerable amount of money to these people and this went on for most of the morning and it went on for several mornings he brought up a great deal of this substance which I then started to think about and asked and had it confirmed that this was in fact raw opium.

NARRATOR
War photographer John Everingham has lived in Southeast Asia for over twenty years. He was one of the very few outsiders who dared to look for and photograph the secret army for himself.

John Everingham:
They all wore American supplied uniforms and the villagers very innocently and very openly told me, "oh they took it to Long Chien," and I asked them how they took it and they said, "oh well they took it on the helicopters as everything else that went to and from Long Chien went by helicopter and so did the opium."

Frontline:
And whose helicopters were they?

John Everingham:
Well they were the Air America helicopters which were on contract to the CIA.

NEIL HANSEN
We did not go down to the embassy and be privy to their secret briefings or anything else. We flew the airplanes. If they put something on the airplanes and told you not to look at it you didn't look at it, because you'd no longer be employed.

JOHN EVERINGHAM
I know as a fact soon after the army was formed the military officers soon got control of the opium trade. It helped not only them make a lot of money and become good loyal officers to the CIA but it helped the villagers. The villagers needed their opium carried out and carried over the land in a war situation that was much more dangerous and more difficult, and the officers were obviously paying a good price 'cos the villagers were very eager to sell to the military people.

HARRY ADERHOLT, U.S. General
That's hogwash. No way and as far as the agency ever, ever advocating that is do you think I would be in an organization where I've devoted my life to my country--involved in a operation like that without blowing the whistle?--absolutely not.



NARRATOR
For veterans like General Aderholt and General Secord the war in Laos is now commemorated at nostalgic reunions. Last fall they gathered at a Florida air base to talk over old times and current business.

While Vang Pao does not attend such functions, he is well remembered by his old comrades.

Frontline:
Was the agency responsible for people's salaries, were they paying Vang Pao?

Harry Aderholt:
Of course, they were a hundred percent responsible, because Vang Pao was responding to agency requirements, even though they may have come from the highest levels of the U.S. government, yes, of course.

Frontline:
He was in the chain of command.

Harry Aderholt:
Yes.

Frontline:
Did you work with Vang Pao?

Richard Secord:
Sure, all the time.

Frontline:
What was your relationship?

Richard Secord:
I was his supplier of air, therefore he stayed in close contact with me.

Frontline:
Were you in charge of supplying Air America planes?

Richard Secord:
For the tactical air operations, yes.

NARRATOR
The movement of Air America planes say witnesses were influenced by Vang Pao's business requirements.

Ron Rickenbach:
Vang Pao wanted control of the aircraft-- sure, he would do the work that needed to be done but it would give that much more freedom and that much more flexibility to use these aircraft to go out and pick up the opium that needed to be picked up at this site or that site and to bring it back to Long Chien, and there was quite a hassle and Vang Pao won. Not only did he get control of the aircraft, but there was also a question of the operational control of the airplanes that were leaving Long Chien to go south, even into Thailand, and there was an embarrassing situation where the Americans knew that this could be exposed and it would be a very compromising situation. The way they got around that was to concede, to create for Vang Pao his own local airline, and Xieng Kouang airlines came into reality as a direct result of this compromise that was worked out, and they brought in a C-47 from the states and they painted it up nice and put Xieng Kouang airlines on it and they gave it to Vang Pao, and that aircraft was largely used for the transshipment of opium from Long Chien to sites further south.

Frontline:
Air Opium?

Ron Rickenbach:
Air opium.

Harry Aderholt:
Those airlines didn't really belong to General Vang Pao.

Frontline:
They belonged to the agency.

Harry Aderholt:
They belonged to the agency. They were maintained by the United States government in the form of Air America or Continental, so they didn't really own anything. It wasn't something he could take away with him, it was something that we controlled every iota of that operation, lock, stock and barrel.

Frontline:
You know what the nickname for that airline was?

Richard Secord:
No.

Frontline:
Opium Air.

Richard Secord:
I've never heard that before.

NARRATOR
Back in the old days the men who flew for Air America and drank in the Purple Porpoise Bar in Vientiane were less discreet.

Most of them are long gone and far away from Laos now but one legendary CIA officer still lives across the Mekong River close to his old mountain battleground.

RON RICKENBACH
The man that was in charge of that local operation was a man by the name of Tony Poe, and he was notorious. He had been involved with the agency from the OSS days he was a World War II combat veteran and he had been with the agency from its inception and he was the prototype operations officer. They made a movie about him when they made Apocalypses Now. He was the caricature of Marlon Brando.

NARRATOR
Until now, Tony Poe has never talked publicly about the Laos operation. He saw it from beginning to end. one of Vang Pao's early case officers, Poe claims he was transferred from Long Chien because unlike his successors, he refused to tolerate the Meo leader's corruption.

TONY POE, Former CIA Officer
You don't let him run loose without a chain on him. You gotta control him just like any kind of an animal or a baby. You have to control him. Hey! He's the only guy that had a pair of shoes when I first met him--what are you talking about, why does he need Mercedes Benz, apartments and hotels and homes where he never had them in his life before. Why are you going to give it to him?

Frontline:
Plus he was making money on the side with his business?

Tony Poe:
Oh, he was making millions, 'cos he had his own source of, uh, avenue for his own, uh, heroin.

Frontline:
What did he do with the money?

Tony Poe:
What do you mean? U.S. bank accounts, Switzerland, wherever.

Frontline:
Didn't they know, when Vang Pao said 'I want some aircraft', didn't they know what he wanted that for?

Tony Poe:
I'm sure we all knew it, but we tried to monitor it, because we controlled most of the pilots you see. We're giving him freedom of navigation into Thailand, into the bases, and we don't want him to get involved in moving, you know, this illicit traffic--O.K., silver bars and gold, O.K., but not heroin. What they would do is, they weren't going into Thailand, they were flying it in a big wet wing airplane that could fly for thirteen hours, a DC-3, and all the wings were filled with gas. They fly down to Pakse, then they fly over to Da Nang, and then the number two guy to President Thieu would receive it.

NARRATOR
Nguyen Van Thieu was president of South Vietnam from 1967 to 1975. Reports at the time accused president Thieu of financing his election through the heroin trade. Like Vang Pao, he always denied it, remaining America's honored and indispensable ally.

Tony Poe:
They were all in a contractual relationship:Some of this goes to me, some of this goes to thee. And you know just the bookkeeping--we deliver you on a certain day; they had coded messages and di-di-di. That means so and so as this much comes back and goes into our Swiss bank account. Oh they had a wonderful relationship and every, maybe, six months they'd all come together, have a party somewhere and talk about their business:is it good or bad. It is like a mafia, yeah, a big organized mafia.

NARRATOR
By the end of 1970, there were thirty thousand Americans in Vietnam addicted to heroin. GI's were dying from overdoses at the rate of two a day.

WILLIAM COLBY
When the drug traffic became a real problem to the American troops in Vietnam, then the CIA was asked by President to get involved in the program to limit that traffic and stop it.

NARRATOR
But in 1972, a U.S. intelligence agent in Southeast Asia sent a secret field report to customs. It suggested a serious conflict of interest: quote--"It was ironic that the CIA should be given the responsibility of narcotics intelligence, particularly since they were supporting the prime movers. Even though the CIA was, in fact, facilitating the movement of opiates to the U.S., they steadfastly hid behind the shield of secrecy and said that all was done in the interest of national security." End quote.

VICTOR MARCHETTI
I doubt that they had any strong deep understanding of what they were allowing to happen by turning their head the other way and letting Vang Pao ship his dope out which was made into heroin which was going to our troops, which was corrupting people throughout Southeast Asia and back here, the effect it had on crime, I doubt that any one of them really thought in those terms at the time.

NARRATOR
While the heroin trade was flourishing by 1970, the war in Laos was going badly. As the communists steadily advanced, the civilian population faced a choice between evacuation to refugee camps or being bombed by the U.S. Air Force. These operations only added to the huge cost of feeding, training and supplying the secret army. For a war that did not officially exist, the CIA was spending heavily.

Harry Aderholt:
The money was always there. We had a program--In fact, that's the reason the agency supply system was so much better than the military supply system.

Frontline:
Cash?

Harry Aderholt:
Cash. They didn't have to go through a procurement system, a bureaucracy, that made everything cost three times as much.

Fred Platt:
On two different occasions I brought bags up that I knew was payroll. Wish I'd have crashed on those times, and been able to stick that somewhere in the jungle and go get it, 'cos it was unaccounted funds.

Frontline:
How much money would be in a bag?

Fred Platt:
Well I--you know, a bag would probably have a couple of hundred thousand dollars in it, depending on where you were going with it and who it was going to.

VICTOR MARCHETTI
I was sitting up there in the Director's--on the Director's staff, and that's where it all came together.

NARRATOR
The CIA Director's senior staff prepared the agency's official budget.

Victor Marchetti:
For Laos, I think it was around thirty million, perhaps forty million, but it was very small.

Frontline:
Was that enough to run this war?

Victor Marchetti:
Well, I don't think so. I would think the war was costing quite a big, probably--if all the costs were pulled together, I would imagine it would probably cost as much as the entire agency's budget.

Frontline:
How was the war in Laos financed?

Richard Secord:
U.S. appropriated funds.

Frontline:
Through which agency?

Richard Secord:
I think through the CIA and through the Defense Department both.

NARRATOR
A secret Pentagon report put the Defense Department contribution to the war in Laos at a hundred and forty-six million dollars in 1970. But the report also showed that the CIA was spending up to sixty million dollars more than they were getting from Congress.

Victor Marchetti:
Well, there may have been other funds generated by Vang Pao himself through his dope operations. After all I mean they were poppy growers and opium smugglers, so I imagine there was money being earned that way that was Vang Pao's contribution to the war.

Frontline:
Is it conceivable that the CIA would fight a war with dope money?

Victor Marchetti:
Well, yes, in the sense that they would not sell dope to earn money to support an operation. But they would look the other way if the people they were supporting were financing themselves by selling dope.

Harry Aderholt:
General Vang Pao was financed by U.S. government funds.

Frontline:
How much was he getting?

Harry Aderholt:
I don't know what General Vang Pao was getting, but the Meo program, I'm sure, ran several hundred million dollars. At the end, to fight a war like we were fighting, and to have an airline...I don't know what the funding was, but I'm sure the Congressional Committees have access to those records.

NARRATOR
As a former chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Narcotics, Joe Nellis did indeed have access to the records.

Joe Nellis:
Vang Pao had a heavy hand in the production of heroin in that area.

Frontline:
How much of the money that was going to pay these thousands and thousands of tribesmen to fight for us, for the CIA. Where was that money coming from?

Joe Nellis:
From the trade.

Frontline:
From the opium trade?

Joe Nellis:
Yes surely.

Frontline:
How would that work?

Joe Nellis:
Well, money would be paid for the transportation, and the safe arrival of the merchandise to its proper destination, and that money would be paid to the carrier, the person transporting the merchandise and that money would be used to pay off the farmers. But as I told you, they got so little of it that there was an enormous amount left over, and it was that money was used to feed to the peasants in order to get them to continue not only fighting for us but also continuing to give us very important intelligence about the movement of the North Vietnamese.

Richard Secord:
We wouldn't have permitted it, it would have been too dangerous.

Frontline:
Why?

Richard Secord:
Because the American system wouldn't put up with it.

Joe Nellis:
I have never revealed any classified information that I obtained when I was with the committee and I'm not going to start now, but I do know that that was verified.

Frontline:
That it was known here?

Joe Nellis:
Yes.

Frontline:
Well, without getting into classified information, was that at a high level or a low level?

Joe Nellis:
Well, I can't discuss the level. Let's put it this way; you're familiar with the Iran-Contra business.

Frontline:
Yes.

Joe Nellis:
That was known at a very high level, it was known at all sorts of levels really--it's amazing that they could keep it secret as long as they did, and I guess that was the situation with Air America. People in CIA certainly knew it, and at that time Dick Helms I think was the head of the office, and I'm sure he must have reported it to Nixon.

NARRATOR
Former CIA Director Richard Helms told us: "I knew nothing of this. It certainly was not policy."

RICHARD SECORD
It's patently impossible. There are thousands of people involved in the intelligence community in the United States who read the reports, who are intimately familiar with details of field activities, and no such operation could ever be kept secret from the authorities in Washington, and would never be tolerated, never, not for a minute.

Frontline:
How many people knew what was going on?

Joe Nellis:
Oh I don't think it was very many at all--

Frontline:
Five?

Joe Nellis:
--A handful--

Frontline:
Ten?

Joe Nellis:
--A handful, maybe a hundred.

RON RICKENBACH
I personally did not complain, not at the time. I certainly complained after the fact, but that came as a result of my own awakening as to the rather horrible implications of what we were doing and I left working for the government rather abortively because I just could not tolerate myself-what was going on.

NARRATOR
His disgust was not only at the drug trade, but at the human cost of a war in which the recruits were as young as eight years old.

RON RICKENBACH
These people were absolutely decimated. The war itself took its own toll. Thousands and thousands of these people were either maimed or killed or died of disease or malnutrition secondary to the effects of the war. Many were bombed, many were blown away by conflict and combat. What was left after the war was the exodus to the south or to the west.

These people have had their whole life destroyed for helping out in our war. For helping out in our war.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
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