June 6, 2007

"Vang Pao... is a freedom fighter who will tower over any courtroom into which he is brought."

The NY Sun has an editorial on the arrest of Vang Pao:
We could barely believe our eyes. Vang Pao and the others arrested, according to the AP, were picked up during a sweep by more than 200 federal, state, and local agents. The news wire quoted a criminal complaint as saying the authorities acted because weapons shipments were set to begin this month to areas in Thailand along the Laotian border. The AP quoted Hmong leaders in Thailand as saying they found the charges unbelievable. "I don't believe Gen. Vang Pao planned to cause trouble in Laos. I think the charges are meant by rival Hmong in the United States to smear him," the AP quoted Ming Wui, a Hmong Christian minister in Thailand's Phetchabun province, as saying.

Federal prosecutors are quoted by the AP as saying, "We're looking at conspiracy to murder thousands and thousands of people at one time." Our instinct is that Mr. Bush will want to take a break between the Prague Conference and the G-8 summit and order up some adult supervision of whatever his justice department is doing in California. Or just exercise his unfettered pardon authority to nip this case in the bud. The only faction who have conspired to mass murder in Laos in our time are the communists, against whom Vang Pao has been our most reliable and inspiring ally. He is a freedom fighter who will tower over any courtroom into which he is brought.
I'm following this story because of the controversy in Madison over naming an elementary school after the man. Here's my post on the subject from yesterday (noting that "oddly, Madison is the leading edge in appreciating anti-Communist military action"). Here's today's local news coverage of that story:
[School board president Arlene] Silveira and board member Carol Carstensen said Tuesday that the board should reverse its April 9 decision to name the school in honor of former Gen. Vang Pao, who was among 10 people charged Monday in California with plotting a violent takeover of Laos' communist government.
I'm glad to see that Silveira has backed away from her original statement "Obviously if there is something that is negative and we would like to have a discussion, what we will do is have a reconsideration," which I mocked yesterday.
Board members Lawrie Kobza and Lucy Mathiak agreed the board needs to discuss the name of the school but said it's too early to say whether Vang Pao's name should be removed....

All four board members on Tuesday stressed a desire to show sensitivity to members of the Hmong community, who nominated Vang Pao's name for the school, while also taking the right stand for the community as a whole.
Seriously, how can you name an elementary school after a man who is under indictment? Even those who idolize the man should reject it, because it invites attacks on their hero.
Complicating that task is the history of America's withdrawal from the Vietnam War, after Vang Pao led his forces in a covert CIA-backed war on communists in Laos.

Many Hmong fled to Thailand and eventually the United States, but thousands are said to remain stranded in Laos where they remain subject to rape, killing and torture at the hands of the communist government — the regime Vang Pao is accused of attempting to overthrow.

Prosecutors called Vang Pao the mastermind of the plot, which involved raising money to recruit a mercenary force and equipping a small army to pull off a coordinated set of attacks with anti-tank missiles, grenade launchers and C-4 explosives. One prosecutor called it "conspiracy to murder thousands and thousands of people at one time."

An undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives secretly recorded a Feb. 7 luncheon meeting with Vang Pao, former California National Guard Lt. Col. Harrison Ulrich Jack and others at a Thai restaurant a few blocks from California's Capitol in Sacramento, according to the agent's affidavit. They then walked to a recreational vehicle parked nearby to examine machine guns, grenade launchers, anti-tank rockets, anti-personnel mines and other weapons, the agent wrote.

Hmong leaders had agreed to buy $9.8 million worth of military weapons, Jack said in a recorded conversation, with much of the money coming from immigrants throughout the United States, the affidavit states.

Contrast that to the Sun's quotation of "Hmong leaders in Thailand" saying "I don't believe Gen. Vang Pao planned to cause trouble in Laos." Does the Sun really think individuals who do what is charged in the indictment should be labeled "freedom fighters" and given presidential pardons?

UPDATE: More here on the reaction in the Hmong community:
[S]ome in [Madison's] Hmong community -- especially elders -- feel betrayed by Vang Pao's arrest, according to Koua Vang, the executive director of United Refugee Services in Madison.

"It was the U.S. government that came to Laos and said 'Help fight the Communists,'" Koua Vang said in an interview Tuesday. "Now they say continuing to fight the Communists is wrong. People are sad, they feel they are being betrayed."

Another source in the Hmong community -- a middle-aged man who in recent years has cautioned other Hmong about donating money to Vang Pao -- estimates that 90 to 95 percent of Hmong families support Vang Pao.

The source, who requested anonymity because the situation in the community is tense, said that many Madison Hmong, particularly the veterans and the elderly, consider it an honor to support Vang Pao and to give money to his organizations.....

In his years in America, Vang Pao took on mythic proportions as a godfather of sorts whose connections to the government paved the way for the eventual arrival of thousands of Hmong to the United States and whose continuing influence inspired the Hmong to prosper....

Koua Vang speculated that Vang Pao's arrest may buttress his support among younger Hmong who may not carry personal memories of all he has done for the community.

"The older people knew, but the young will understand he is truly committed to fighting the Communists, he did not give up fighting for freedom. Now it is open record," Vang said.
AND: Here's more on the role of former state senator Gary George:
[The San Francisco Chronicle] reported that George was "suspected of conspiring to violate the (federal) Neutrality Act and conspiring to kill or injure people in a foreign country," according to a report by an undercover agent included as part of the affidavit....

George wooed the Hmong community in Wisconsin while he was a state senator.

In 2003, he cast the deciding vote for the state budget only after demanding -- and getting -- a $3 million state grant for a planned Hmong cultural center in Milwaukee in George's district. In a rare move, the budget deal specified exactly where the center would be built and barred the state from considering other sites or supervising the construction or bidding process.

That plan was later vetoed by Gov. Jim Doyle, who argued that the proposal had not gone through the proper approval process for major state projects.

George's former aide, Locha Thao, was one of 10 people charged with trying to overthrow the Laotian government.

23 comments:

paul a'barge said...

Seriously, how can you name an elementary school after a man who is under indictment?

Vang Pao. The Duke Lacrosse team. We compare, you decide.

Apparently, up in Madison, all the anti-anti-communists have to do is make accusations, and the entire community reacts like a whipped dog.

MadisonMan said...

How about a compromise. The Indicted Vang Pao Elementary School

Uncle Jimbo said...

"One prosecutor called it "conspiracy to murder thousands and thousands of people at one time."

That is a foolish statement. If Pao has done exactly what has been reported he is a revolutionary, not a terrorist or murderer. The government of Laos is an atrocious regime and their overthrow would be a net gain for the planet. Pao and company probably violated some arms regulations, but simply plotting to overthrow the Laotian regime is not something we ought to be too critical of.

I remember something along these lines.

". . . whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government . . ."

That takes guns and explosives and as long as Pao and company only target the Laotian government, military and infrastructure they would have the same justification we did to revolt against England.

Cordially,

Uncle J

peter hoh said...

I'm not passing judgment on the indictment, but I think that schools should not bear the names of people who are still living. Give it at least 5 years after their death to bestow such honors.

The Drill SGT said...

what peter said...


However, I still think that there is more than a little bit of hypocrisy in the "do over" on the naming.

I would not have named the school for him in the first place, (see above), but having done so, isn't he innocent till proven guilty?

I think the real issue is that the anti-anti-communists (nice phrase Paul) discovered that Vang Pao was a CIA buddy as opposed to a Hmong race/class/gender victim. It went from "feel good token Hmong" to "condoning violence"

Ben Masel said...

I'm finding it odd that the Federal prosecutors are claiming probable cause on former State Senator Gary George with nothing in the fact record but one of the alleged co-conspirators, a 4 years ago aide to the Senator, dropping his name.

Affidavit in Laos coup plot names George
.

"Neither the indictment nor the affidavit states what George did exactly.

But both documents offer a detailed description of a pair of conversations that Lo Cha Thao, a former George campaign and state staffer, had last month with an unidentified friend from the Midwest on how to avoid getting trapped in an FBI sting."

Ann Althouse said...

He's innocent until proven guilty in the criminal trial, but I don't think that's the standard for naming schools!

Uncle Jimbo: Is our government supposed to tolerate revolutionaries on our soil plotting their attack on another country? How is that different from the Taliban harboring al Qaeda? I understand the notion that Vang Pao has -- if the indictment is correct -- a better target. Do you think the U.S. government should have worked with him and tried to overthrow the government in Laos?

Drill: I don't get it. The school board knew the story about the CIA. The new info is that the govt has indicted him. If your theory was right, they should like him better now that he's indicted.

Ben: That is weird but we're not seeing the indictment, just these news articles.

Bissage said...

*R17 Gen. Vang Pao’s Steamed Chicken (Hmong)
(one day request needed) Half $6.95 Whole $12.95

Bissage traverses the internet, so you don’t have to.

MadisonMan said...

The linking of Vang Pao's co-conspirator to Bob Welch and Gary George is interesting. It's a small world after all. Thanks for posting the js link.

Cedarford said...

I get Althouses point on the US harboring "our kind of freedom fighters" that do terroristic acts, or supporting those overseas that do.

If we are to regain our position in claiming to have some sort of consistent policy on attempting to curtail the use of terror as a tool to advance radical Islam, bring down nations...we have to attend to messes like Vang Pao and the Cuban exile that blew up a Cuban airliner that no has sanctuary here.

Just saying that terrorism is OK when it is aimed at bringing down immoral, despicable regimes such as Cuba. Laos makes us little different than Arabs that say terror is OK if directed at (what to them) is invading, land grabbing Zionists.

"Dirty Wars", though, are a fact of life. War will not end simply because some pack of vapid Lefties reasonably safe and secure behind the umbrella of competent fighting men and nuclear weapons deterring war say so. Warfare is a natural condition of human society, not an aberration - and it is deterred not by Lefty law and "human rights activists", not ultimately, but by men willing to kill if attacked.

The world does need to proceed to define what is legitimate armed resistance, what is terrorism beyond that acceptable point. That has been thwarted mainly by the Chicoms and Muslim nations - who have resisted getting an agreeable standard that could be used in a revised Geneva Convention....and by "enemy rights" lawyers who are determined to give greater rights to terrorists.

Revenant said...

Is our government supposed to tolerate revolutionaries on our soil plotting their attack on another country?

As long as they don't break our laws by doing so, sure, why not.
The government exists to protect our interests, not to protect the interests of Laos.

How is that different from the Taliban harboring al Qaeda?

The main difference is that Laos isn't likely to wipe us off the face of the Earth for sheltering Vang Pao. If you mean "what's the difference, morally speaking" I can't really answer you -- what's the moral difference between supporting the French Resistance and supporting the Vietcong? I guess it depends on who you think the bad guys are.

zaj said...
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zaj said...
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Kirby Olson said...

I can't understand why the school isn't named after someone who's spent their life in the local community and donated a huge bundle to the school. That's the usual case, I think.

Barring that, name it after some American who did a lot of good for the country. James Madison Elementary, for instance.

MadisonMan said...

Madison already has a James Madison Memorial High School.

I prefer names that tell you where the school is. Does anyone in Madison know where O'Keefe Elementary or Jefferson Middle School are? But Crestwood and Midvale -- well, they're in the Crestwood subdivision and on Midvale Blvd, respectfully.

Ann Althouse said...

Eh. I'm sick of insipid suburban place names like Crestwood and Midvale. Why not Woodvale and Midcrest. Always with 2 generic syllables like that. Might as well honor someone. But pick someone dead.

Kirby Olson said...

You could pick a name by lotto, or out of the phone book at random. Just for fun.

Sherrie said...

here's what i rememeber...'the media has the power to make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent'...

vang pao's intentions ARE good. not bad. since the Vietnam War ( a long ass time ago) Hmong-Americans have been seeking US aide in trying to help the Hmong who are still living in the jungles of Laos due to Communist Government. Don't think that these Hmong who are trapped there want to live in the jungles. They have no food, no clothes. NOTHING. the US recruited the HMong to fight w/ them during the Vietnam War, but they pulled out, they left the Hmong alone there to fend for themselves. The US Government thinks it's enough that they're allowing more Hmong immigrants to entered the US and hopes that this will make amends for what they're done, but sadly IT DOESNT!!! what about those who are still there to face the aftermaths of a war fought so long ago? if you want to know what it's like living the lives of these few good men and women, children, fathers, wives, mothers, husbands, then 'youtube it'. there's vid links that you can view!

GO AND EDUCATE YOURSELF!!

Sherrie said...

here's what i rememeber...'the media has the power to make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent'...

vang pao's intentions ARE good. not bad. since the Vietnam War ( a long ass time ago) Hmong-Americans have been seeking US aide in trying to help the Hmong who are still living in the jungles of Laos due to Communist Government. Don't think that these Hmong who are trapped there want to live in the jungles. They have no food, no clothes. NOTHING. the US recruited the HMong to fight w/ them during the Vietnam War, but they pulled out, they left the Hmong alone there to fend for themselves. The US Government thinks it's enough that they're allowing more Hmong immigrants to entered the US and hopes that this will make amends for what they're done, but sadly IT DOESNT!!! what about those who are still there to face the aftermaths of a war fought so long ago? if you want to know what it's like living the lives of these few good men and women, children, fathers, wives, mothers, husbands, then 'youtube it'. there's vid links that you can view!

GO AND EDUCATE YOURSELF!!

Revenant said...

what about those who are still there to face the aftermaths of a war fought so long ago?

They're not our problem.

Ant813 said...

This is just my opinion. General Vang Pao was promised by the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, that with the help of the hmong people in the Secret War in Loas against the commmunist, the US will help free the hmong people.

Well for those that are still in laos facing the aftermath of the war, they are our's/USA's problems. Why do I say that, I say that because the people that is still over in laos are son's and grandson's of the HMONG soldiers in the secret war against the communists, who never maded to the US. It is our's/USA's rights to help them. If the US never made a promise then my people, the Hmong would not be hunted down by the Laotion Government like animals.

I don't know if General Vang Pao tried to overthrow the Laos government or not, but if he did, I think he did to free his HMONG people that was left behind in Laos, because the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA has no intent to help the HMONG people who helped them in the SECRET WAR in Laos.

I am a born US Citizen and raised in the United States and am a proud AMERICAN.

Ex... said...

For those of you that are contemplating on what name should the school be named after because of all this...WHO CARES!!!!

MANY PROMISES HAS BEEN BROKEN... Revenant..Sherrie..Ant. I agree with all of you...

War is not the answer for peace…….but sometimes it's the only solution... Communist(ism) is a disease and it seeks and destroys whatever is in its path. If you’re not part of it or don’t look like it, you will be kill. Communist (ism) should be eradicated at any cost!

Some politicians act in self interest only, not the interest of the people…like the one in MN…..

youluvmeeh86 said...

To REVENENT....there is a problem....the problem is asking for people to sacrafice their lives in a forgotten war.....

You say "its not our problem..."oh yes it is....you don't have families and friends or are left behind to die...you don't have families or friends who are still living in jungles faced with death this very moment....

Why is there so much ignorance?...if not for Gen Vang Pao's arrest none of you will know the HMONG story...and yet there is still ignorance...