June 5, 2007

Madison names an elementary school after Hmong military leader Vang Pao -- and now there are federal criminal charges against him.

The decision to name the school after this individual was controversial, but surely, now, the School Board will reopen the matter. From the Capital Times:
After learning of the charges late Monday, School Board President Arlene Silveira issued a statement saying the board will reconsider the name if the federal investigation uncovers damaging information about Vang Pao.
So, he's charged with federal crimes -- but it may not involve anything new. In other words, the School Board has already sorted through material that may be all the substance there is to the federal criminal charges. It seems to me that that Silveira's statement itself shows something is terribly wrong here. What an embarrassing admission coming from our school board president!
"Obviously if there is something that is negative and we would like to have a discussion, what we will do is have a reconsideration," she said.
If there is something that is negative!
Silveira said the School Board will begin to investigate the "nature of the charges" today and then determine the next steps it will take.

Several dozen people were at the meeting to protest the school's name -- most showing up without knowing of the charges against Vang Pao. Many held signs declaring Vang Pao was a "war criminal" and a "killer."...

UW-Madison history professor Alfred McCoy and others have long alleged that Vang Pao presided over drug running and summary executions while working with the CIA on the so-called secret war against communists in Laos during the Vietnam War. Many Hmong and other researchers deny the allegations.
Here's the AP article about the federal criminal case:
Authorities acted because weapons shipments were set to begin this month to areas in Thailand along the Laotian border, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento. The buildup was in preparation for a coordinated set of mercenary attacks that investigators said were designed to kill communist officials and reduce government buildings to rubble, the complaint said....

"We're looking at conspiracy to murder thousands and thousands of people at one time," Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Twiss said in federal court Monday.

He said thousands of coconspirators remain at large, many in other countries. Prosecutors said they believe all the leaders of the plot are in custody.

Vang Pao, now 77, led CIA-backed Hmong forces in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s as a general in the Royal Army of Laos. He emigrated to the U.S. about 1975 and has been credited by thousands of Hmong refugees with helping them build new lives in the U.S....

"No matter how strongly held their beliefs, citizens of the United States cannot become involved in a plot to overthrow a sovereign government with which the United States is at peace," Drew Parenti, FBI special agent in charge of the Sacramento region...

The defendants acted through the Lao liberation movement known as Neo Hom, led in the U.S. by Vang Pao. It conducted extensive fundraising, directed surveillance operations and organized a force of insurgent troops within Laos, according to the complaint.
Back to the Cap Times piece:
Cher Peng Her, who spoke in defense of naming the school after Vang Pao, said later that even if the charges against Vang Pao turn out to be true, Vang Pao is simply defending his own people from a Laotian government that has sanctioned the killings, rapes and persecution of Hmong.

Her said President Bush used similar rationale for overthrowing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. "Should we bring charges against our president for doing exactly what Vang Pao is alleged?" Her asked.

Joua Vang said Vang has fought communists for decades "for U.S., and the U.S. is charging him? For what reason? I don't see that it's right."
So, now, oddly, Madison is the leading edge in appreciating anti-Communist military action. How could that happen? Well, you know damned well how it happened. What a strange place this is!

ADDED: Lots of links and background on the story here.

23 comments:

MadisonMan said...

To understand this story is to understand Madison. I saw the headline on the front page of the WSJ this morning and couldn't help but chuckle over the absurdity of it -- especially linking the General's exploits to those of GWBush.

This is such a great place to live!

Hoosier Daddy said...

So, now, oddly, Madison is the leading edge in appreciating anti-Communist military action.

Wow. I’m thinking the end is in fact, nigh. Next thing you’ll see is a statue of Reagan at Berkley.

Sloanasaurus said...

Yes, what a strange one for Madison. I would have expected Ho Chi Minh High or Che Guevera middle school, but this is a surprise.

paul a'barge said...

I also would have expected Ho Chi Minh High School in Madison.

However, note that the anti-anti-communists are alive and well in Madison and doing their best to get the General's name off the school.

Jeff said...

Is there a diversity jelly bean for Hmong anti-communsts? I know what color Alfred McCoy's bean is!

The Drill SGT said...

The basic issue is that the citizens of Madison (aka the Left), love Hmong as long as they are "victims". Poor third world refugees. Multicultural icons. Point out that they were rabidly anti-communist and things change. They become "tools of the imperialist USA"...

The Hmong were the good guys. Long treated as barbarians by the ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese, they, along with the Nung were our most dependable friends. I loved this line from the article: Members of Laos' ethnic Hmong minority were recruited in the 1960s by the Central Intelligence Agency to fight on behalf of a pro-American government, but they were all but abandoned after communists took over Laos in 1975.

Two great left wing threads there. How the evil CIA corrupted them these poor people, and how the US just abandoned them (not mentioning that the US Congress cut off our help to them.)

In these days of anti-terrorist awareness, it is understandable that the US must be on guard not to support our favorite liberationists, while jailing somebody Else's. However, one has to feel a bit of sympathy for exiles who want their land back.

As for the school, I expect hypocrisy will win and the name will be changed.

PatCA said...

A fine example of the absurdity of racial identity politics.

Kev said...

Stories like this make me think that the school district where I teach is really smart to only name schools after dead people.

Also, what PatCA said.

Revenant said...

I wouldn't want a school I was funding named after the guy. But since the school board is democratically elected, I don't see the problem here -- if the majority doesn't like the name and the association, they can change it.

Eli Blake said...

Hey, we name high schools for former Presidents.

And believe me, a lot of them did some pretty terrible things before becoming President.

Pogo said...

I can't wait for Bill Clinton High.
Er, Not-High. Didn't even inhale.

And just you wait for the rules about teacher-student relationships!

Revenant said...

And believe me, a lot of them did some pretty terrible things before becoming President.

Or after becoming President, for that matter -- especially a lot of the 18th century ones.

Joe said...

How often does one have to state the obvious: name things after people only after they've been dead at least a decade.

Kirby Olson said...

You could also name schools only after saints, except that there aren't any.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Another solution: Name the schools generically/geographically. I live near West High School--across the county from East High School.

Crimso said...

"name things after people only after they've been dead at least a decade."

Probably a good idea, unless the person in question was a Confederate. Like, maybe Bedford Forrest. Then again, the campaign to have his name removed from a building hasn't exactly gotten a resounding statement of unequivocal support from the (black) president of the university where the controversy currently "rages." Maybe he figures there are more important things to worry about (like educating his students).

MadisonMan said...

Or after becoming President, for that matter -- especially a lot of the 18th century ones.

Are you talking about George Washington, or John Adams?

Pogo said...

You should have seen the hissy fit when the proposed name for our new High School was "Eleanor Roosevelt High." Dropped that like a hot potato. It became "Century" instead. Hard to be shocked by a number, I guess.

I thought at first it was a political thing, but it turns out the sports fans were not thrilled about the prospect of being on the Eleanor Roosevelt Fighting Tigers. (and no, definitely not the "ERHS Reds" ...ha!)

Mike said...

But wouldn't it be cool to be on the Vang Pao Boxing Team?

Revenant said...

Are you talking about George Washington, or John Adams?

I typoed "19th". :)

I was thinking of Jackson, mainly.

Dewave said...

No matter how strongly held their beliefs, citizens of the United States cannot become involved in a plot to overthrow a sovereign government with which the United States is at peace

I dunno, I think I'd rather see the Iranian government overthrown in some sort of coup than us actually declare war on Iran and invade it with a military force.

ssgt24 said...

I think that General Vang Pao had good intentions to liberate Laos just as President Bush wanted to liberate Iraq. I also believe that he should have asked his CIA friends for help first. Overall, I don't think someone should be punish for wanting freedom from genocide and persecution of his people by the communist in current Laos

Frances said...

When dealing with naming an academic institution, one must first weigh options before arriving at a decision. Some military prep schools for example, make use of names of well known veterans.