In the mid-sixties, the United States was becoming increasingly suspicious in the growing power of communist groups in Southeast Asia, especially of the North Vietnamese government run by Ho Chi Minh. I learned of this in every school history book, but there seemed to be much neglected information. Laos lies along nearly the entire length of North Vietnam, stretching halfway into South Vietnam. To give up political control of this neutral nation could have provided a strong strategic advantage to the Viet Cong, especially in the middle of the Laos civil war between the newly formed government in the French absence and the growing communist opposition of the North. In response, the US launched the "Secret war" in 1961, a CIA run program to train Hmong warriors to rid Laos of the North Vietnamese and communist gorillas, who had been using Laos for the Ho Chi Minh trail to bring supplies to the South for their war of reunification. The Hmong army, led by agent Anthony Poe killed communists in Laos, mailing ears to the US government to show their success and dropping decapitated heads upon the houses of suspected communist leaders. Poe was the main influences for the character of Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now.
In 1964, the US started bombing the East and North parts of the nation. I was told in school that the US bombed some parts of Laos and Cambodia in the latter stages of the war on Vietnam, either by accident or following troops down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I wasn't told that they'd bombed Laos continuously for nine years, averaging one planeload of bombs every nine minutes. We weren't told how the US leveled more than a quarter of the coutnryside of the neutral nation, killing uncounted numbers of civilians and leaving nearly a third of the simple nation's population, mostly rice farmers and fishermen, homeless. The bombing did little to stop the Viet Cong, but it did manage to cripple an already helplessly poor nation and led to a staunch anti-Americanism that helped the Laos communists topple another domino in Southeast Asia. To think that our leaders approved of such horrific acts only to cause the opposite of their intentions angers me quite a bit. That our school system neglects to teach us this side of our history, to not teach us that even our home nation can commit illegal acts of war as a warning that our government can become too powerful and ignored the wishes of its citizens in the 60's and 70's angers me more. Just lounging in the beautiful country, surrounded by lovely, smiling people who choose to let go of their hate and sadness towards the west, is incredible. I hope John McNamara is proud.