July 12, 2007

"Free General Vang Pao."

I'm not seeing any news reports of this large rally I encountered today at the federal courthouse in Madison, Wisconsin. This film clip gives an idea of the size of the rally, which stretched around the block in two directions.

You can hear the chanting in the background -- "Free General Vang Pao" -- but on this side of the building people were nearly silent. There were many signs, and clearly there was a plan to dress alike. Writing on various signs:
Please release General Vang Pao on Bail!!!

Hmong need peace

President Bush -- release General Vang Pao

Let freedom ring

Honor your war heroes. Don't jail them.

We need justice

Do not betray your allies. Free Vang Pao.

Hmong need freedom

Here is the backgound on Vang Pao's arrest:
A former Laotian general and a former California National Guard officer were among nine people charged Monday with plotting a violent overthrow of Laos's communist government.

The group was raising money to recruit a mercenary force and buy enough weapons to equip a small army, including antitank missiles and grenade launchers, prosecutors said.

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

Vang had led CIA-backed Hmong forces in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s as a general in the Royal Army of Laos...

UPDATE: Vang Pao released on bail:
He has been allowed to return to his southern California home under extremely strict conditions, but prosecutors say the 77-year-old is "the most dangerous" of the defendants and should be kept in detention pending his trial.


Internet Ronin said...

When I first returned to the United States, one of my best friends in the office was a Hmong refugee known within the community as a top lieutenant of General Vang. Other than the headlines, I've avoided this story for fear that, if I looked, I would find his name among the accused. Today, I looked and I did. How sad.

Nels said...

Sounds sort of like the Contra part of the Iran-Contra affair, except that General Vang Pao didn't fund his attempted coup with stolen taxpayer money. Let's hope he's punished just as harshly as John Poindexter and Ollie North were.

Seven Machos said...

It'd be really awesome to overthrow the crappy, terrible, cruel government of Laos. But, you can't get busted doing it. Revolutions need to be clandestine.

John Kindley said...

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

The U.S. tolerates no competition with its monopoly on the power to conspire to commit mass murder.

I don't know much about the Laotian communist government, but I assume it oppresses the Laotian people and violates their rights, along the same lines as the regime of Saddam Hussein from which the U.S. has endeavored to liberate the Iraqi people. I assume the thousands of people that the U.S. attorney was speaking of as the target of General Vang are the communist government oppressors, not ordinary citizens.

If for pragmatic foreign relation reasons the U.S. can't allow someone from within our borders without U.S. government approval to exercise the natural right recognized in our Declaration of Independence to revolt against oppressive regimes, then maybe the appropriate "punishment" is exile. It's certainly hypocritical for the U.S. to portray General Vang as a would-be "murderer."

Uncle Jimbo said...

This is the fourth week they've been at it.

For about four hours each time.


Uncle J

Seven Machos said...

Everyone has a right to successful revolution.

Naked Lunch said...

I live a block away, and I'll admit they've been pretty damn annoying. Their cause makes even less sense.

Wisconsin - You're Hmong Friends.

Revenant said...

I wish there was more detail available on who the targets were supposed to be. Were they government employees, or civilians?

The D-Day invasion could have been termed "a conspiracy to murder thousands and thousands of people" too, from a certain point of view. We don't generally say that because the "victims" were legitimate targets. If Vang Pao planned to overthrow the Communist government and targeted Communist officials, I don't see the "murder" here. I'm sure the Laotian government would consider it murder, but since the Laotian government has no legitimacy I see no reason to care about its opinions on the subject.

John Kindley said...

"Everyone has a right to successful revolution."

No, but plotting the violent overthrow of a foreign regime that may or may not be evil and oppressive is fundamentally different than plotting the violent overthrow of one's own government, and merits a different response from one's own government. It's certainly not the same as attempted mass murder. Plenty of U.S. citizens have gone abroad throughout our history to fight in foreign civil wars (e.g. the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War) without legal repurcussions. The fact that in General Vang's case certain preparations happened to be made on our soil doesn't seem like a major distinction (though I could well be wrong as a matter of current law). I'm sure that those who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War made preparations and associated and "conspired" here as well.

This is one area where the traditional conception of "trial by jury," where juries judge not only the facts but the justice of the law as applied to the defendant before it, makes even more sense than it already does. Obviously, some attempted violent overthrows of foreigh regimes are morally reprehensible, and a jury could treat them as such on a case by case basis. Apart from that, the government may have national security or foreign relations reasons for taking action to prevent such plots (e.g. exile), but apart from what a jury determines would have no inherent interest in "punishing" such behavior.

Internet Ronin said...

While we are disagreeing on another thread, on this one we agree.

The D-Day invasion could have been termed "a conspiracy to murder thousands and thousands of people" too, from a certain point of view.

That is in fact the point of view being used in the argument (that thousands would die, etc.) I'm not defending the accused, but it seems to me that what they wanted to attempt was exactly what the Bay of Pigs Invasion pretended to be. They are 40 years behind the times and lacked CIA support.

sean said...

You probably see much media coverage of this sort of event. The mainstream media can't see minority group members supporting a right-wing cause like overthrowing a Communist government. It's just invisible to most reporters.

Seven Machos said...

John -- I actually believe that everyone has the right to a successful revolution. It's a political thing, not like a bank robbery. If you successfully rob a bank, you still have to keep quiet about it and always you have concerns about evading capture. Successfully stage a revolution and you can stand right in front of the world as a country's leader.

I agree with much of what you say. Trial by jury is great, particularly here, and the USA may have deeper reasons to want to prevent someone from plotting revolution here.

I don't know what the law is, but I would say that the principle is: we don't want non-government actors plotting to overthrow any government anywhere from the United States. That's a good principle, even if the place to be overthrown in a craphole like Laos.

Seven Machos said...

I add: Laos is a craphole because of its government. I'm sure the people and culture are or could be great.

Seven Machos said...

Wherein Seven Machos does his best impression of certain trolls by posting three times in a row:

If only these folks would just come out against the Iraq War, I'm sure they'd be covered by hordes of journalists.

Internet Ronin said...

Fine job, Seven. A fine job. I've been doing my share of 3-posts-in-a-row myself. We're all turning into trolls, I guess ;-)

reader_iam said...

Under that definition, not only do I troll here, but even in the comments section at my own blog.

If I don't knock it off, I'll have to ban myself. Poor Althouse will have to settle for deletion.

; )

reader_iam said...

IR: How peculiar it must be, to have spotted that name. The thoughts that must have gone through your mind!

Internet Ronin said...

I suspended myself from my own blog for excessive commentary, not that anyone would notice.

As for the other, not much in the way of thoughts, just "How sad. Damn. How sad. Damn."

Pogo said...

1. No news coverage?
Then those involved must have the Wrong Politics, at least according to the AP News Stylebook.

2. Do not betray your allies?
Clearly these poor folks did not learn the lessons of Vietnam, the bay of Pigs, Poland, Budapest, East Germany, and the current debacle we are planning for Iraq. The US always betrays its allies.

3. Hey, if we are all trolls, here's my Pogo™ trollspam: Well, the Stodgy Inhibiting Meliorist sure got into the box of decaf early today!

MadisonMan said...

Yes, I saw them as I biked past the Blue Box Courthouse about a month ago -- all dressed alike then, as well -- black pants and white shirts.

Have the TV stations not covered them? I don't watch TV so I wouldn't know. It doesn't surprise me one bit that the State Journal and Capital Times haven't mentioned it.

replikk said...

The protests at the courthouse have been covered by the Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal. I see no reason for a daily story on identical protests over the past couple of months. Each newspaper has also covered in detail the controversies surrounding the school-name issue, published op-eds and guest columns, as has the weekly Isthmus. It is inaccurate and misleading to suggest otherwise.

Mike said...

They should have hired.......The A-Team!!!

Sory, could not resist. hope he is released.

M. Simon said...

The Isthmus?

If it is the Isthmus, ismuths be Madison.

John Kindley said...

"I don't know what the law is, but I would say that the principle is: we don't want non-government actors plotting to overthrow any government anywhere from the United States."

Come to think of it, what would be our criminal liability if we just sent money (i.e. a "charitable contribution") to an organization plotting or engaging in a civil war against an oppressive foreign government (assuming we were well aware it was thus plotting or engaging)? Where would you (or where does the U.S. currently) draw the line between that kind of support and what General Vang was engaged in?

Kathryn said...

This is the 4th week in a row it's been going on. Both local papers has covered it.

The was a pretty lengthy article on June 19th in the Cap Times, you can see online.

LUCY said...

I'm sorry but I am Hmong and not very much is known about our people. People only hears what the media puts out but doesn't hear the real story behind. A little history.. General Vang Pao was recruited by the CIA of the US to fight in the Vietnam War and was told to recruit Hmong people to fight in the war with the Americans. Hmongs knew the land very well and was taught how to use weapons and to fight against the Viets.. Later as the war ended, Americans took off and abandoned the Hmongs.. Later on, the doors opened up to let Hmongs come to America, France and so forth but then the doors were shut on the many thousands who found refugee in Thailand. Ever since the war and until now, our Hmong people have been hunted like animals for fighting with the Americans..

You can find a lot of facts on this by going to www.youtube.com and search for "Hmong hunted like animals" and also on the website "www.factfing.org. There you can see why we have huge rally, because General Vang Pao is not a criminal. He fought for US soil and helped saved many Americans lives.. My Hmong people also helped save American lives.. because of this, our people are hiding in the jungles and afraid of prosecution... Being killed from left to right. Women are being raped, while their fathers, husbands and sons are targets to be killed. Innocent children are dying from left to right because either they have no parents or there's no food for them to survive on.. If these were your people how would you feel..?

Xue Vue said...

Vietnamese had like 20 years after the Vietnam war to with draw their troops from Laos. The time is up and there is more troops there now since this incident, and for what purpose, to kill all Hmong people so that no one can rise up to, one day be the one to take down the government. The Lao's people and Vietnamese also plan to kill all those Hmong people being deported back to Lao's from Thailand of some 8,000 people. The information can be heard from Hmong Lao Radio from reporters from Lao's itself.

Davis said...

General Vang Pao's arrest affected all the Hmong people's lives through out the nation. Thousands of Hmong people who were left behind in Laos have been chased and tortured by the Communist Government of Laos for more than 30 years. Many of them were trying to find a way to escape but finally they ended up being killed.

Now General Vang Pao is arrested and accused to be a terrorist. This will encourage and/or allow the Communist Government of Laos to do whatever they want to do with these people. After the news of General Vang Pao's arrest, many Hmong were killed in Laos and homes were destroyed(News from Laos).

The US government is trying to save thousands of lives but unfortunately this will kill thousands of innocents. We should look back to "Hmong hunted like animals". Thousands of women and children were poisoned to death. Some became paralyzed after surviving from poison.

You can find more info from the following websites: www.factfing.org

or according to Lucy, search for "Hmong hunted like animals" in www.youtube.com

Proud2BHMOOB said...

Thanks to all the supporters and all the Hmong people, young and old who rally behind our leaders. I’m never so proud to be a Hmong, today I grew stronger and love my people more than ever. Just a little FYI, at this moment Hmong men, women, and children are being hunted down, rape, torture, dying of poison, starving, begging, crying..etc up in the jungle of Laos waiting and hoping to be rescue. There is something we can do and is for all Hmong people to become one. We all must stand for freedom, something all Hmong people fought so hard for from China all the way to America. The arrest of these leaders should be a wake up call to every Hmong and Non-hmong in the world about what is going on in the bigger picture. Please visit www.factfinding.org or go to you tube and search “hunted like animals”. The Hmong people hiding in the jungles are Americans. They are all allies of the United States; please don’t turn your back on your allies again. How many innocent lives must be lost? Please save our people. Nice job Lucy…and please don’t apologize be proud to be a HMONG!!

Davis said...

To overthrow other government is definitely wrong according to the law. But what if protecting your own people from being tortured by the government?

In the US, American dream is to be good citizens but in the mean time we also need good government. This is because we fear the government will use power over us. For this reason, we study moral and democratic value at school, so that we can be good citizens and able to vote.

In Laos, on the other hand, government use power to control the country. This is why the whole country is messed up. An addition to this is if government torture its own people too much, people will rise up to fight against it. Let's imagine you got punched and tortured by another man every single day without defense. Some day you will fight back. So these people, the Hmongs, are innocent. Women and young girls got raped before being killed. This is the whole reason they got up to fight.

In the news, you will find the term "overthrow the government of Laos". I think this term is not appropriate to be used in this case. We should use the term "protecting". To protect yourself or your own people from poinson and being raped and/or killed, you will need weapons in order to survive in such situation.

hanamoua said...

It is very ignorant for the media to portray the Hmong as trying to "overthrow the Laos government". The media is bias and they only want to see their side of the story. Do most people even know what Hmong is? Do people even care about our struggles in Laos and how many innocent people were persecuted? The United States does not seem to care, and yet when someone is doing something about it, they persecute him. Why? Don't they hear the cries of the murdered? It is very ignorant to try General Vang Pao for the purchases of weapons when they don't look at the whole history of how this came about. This situation is not as simple as the media portrays it to be. They are ignoring the masscre of Hmong people in Laos, the sole reason why General Vang Pao was trying to help. When a person takes a story out of context and are oblivious to the masscre, they are missing a whole big picture.

Shibbo said...

Sad... there was a time when the US would have gladly supported anyone fighting Communism. Now we're so wishy washy on the subject, aren't we.