The Rosett Report

More on Laos and the Long Wait for Freedom

There’s plenty to say about quack policy prescriptions surrounding the global warming debate, the latest UN cover-ups, and the verdict expected shortly in the bribery trial in NY federal court of UN procurement officer Sanjaya Bahel — and I expect to get to at least some of that soon. But right now I can’t get the story of the Laotian coup plot out of my mind (see post below, on the arrest in the U.S. of a group allegedly conspiring to amass an arsenal to overthrow the brutal communist government of Laos).

Most of those arrested, including the alleged ringleader, Vang Pao, were Hmong, a Laotian ethnic minority whose members allied themselves with the U.S. during the Vietnam war. A reader writes in (see second comment, with link in post below), to say that in Laos, the Hmong to this day have continued their resistance to the ruinous communist regime that has ruled their country since 1975 — a holdover of the totalitarian horrors of the last century.

I met some of the Hmong resistance fighters along the Thai-Lao border in 1990, back when I was covering Asia for the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal. The Hmong, outmatched by the communist regime entrenched in Vientiane, were still fighting for the liberation of their country. At the time, they had taken fresh hope from the wave of democratization sweeping East Asia, the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, and the buckling of the communist system in the Soviet Union. They hoped Laos might be next. But for them, it was a lonely fight. They were asking help from an America that according to our State Department had no interest in even listening. Laos had already become, as I wrote back then, “The Forgotten Domino.”

Today, almost all our attention, resources and sacrifices are devoted to dealing with the pathologies of the Middle East. No foreign government will ride to the rescue of Laos. The arrested Vang Pao, a former general of the Royal Lao Army, has been living in exile in the U.S. since 1975, watching his country sink into the shadows. Now 77 years old, he apparently — or allegedly — decided that before his life was over he had to make one more try to free his people, and his country. One can understand the need for America to uphold its laws, one can ponder the grand necessities of geopolitics and the smooth statements of our diplomats, who consider the regime of Laos a friendly power, or at least friendly enough. But in an era in which the word “tragedy” gets slapped onto everything from weather to celebrity news, the story of Laos, and the Hmong, including this latest chapter, is a true and haunting tragedy.

Update: The New York Sun has a terrific editorial on this today, and they get to the real point. Our President has just been speaking in Prague about the importance of the fight for freedom, while Vang Pao and his alleged co-conspirators — who have risked their lives in this cause — have just been arrested in California for what sounds like a last ditch attempt to liberate a country that has been abandoned by the free world. This is not simply a tragedy. There is a screw loose in American politics.