Their View: U.S. should aid those involved in our ‘Secret War'
A sad little coda to the Vietnam war is taking place in Southeast Asia.
Small ragged bands of Hmong, the survivors and descendants of a CIA-backed secret army, are trickling out of the northern jungles of Laos to surrender to the Communist government.
The CIA formed the Hmong Secret Army in 1960 and it raided North Vietnamese supply lines and fought Communist guerrillas until 1975 when we abandoned them with the fall of South Vietnam and their country fell to the Communist Pathet Lao.
The new government treated them harshly and hundreds of thousands of Hmong became refugees, others submitted to the brutalities of the new regime but some bands slipped into the mountains where they eluded government troops while living in ever more desperate conditions.
The United States, in its rush to forget that the Vietnam War had ever happened, did not treat the Hmong as generously as they deserved. Even so, the Census says as of 2000 there were 184,000 of them in the United States, concentrated in Minnesota, Wisconsin and California. They even have a Web site, hmongnet.org/.
What happens to the Hmong stragglers is somewhat of a question. A band that recently surrendered was loaded into Laotian army trucks and hauled off, presumably to one of those detention and reeducation camps typical of communist regimes.
It should not be asking too much for the U.S. government to use its leverage - and thanks to aid and trade we do have some - to see that the remnants of our Secret War (it was called secret because we never admitted to it) are treated humanely and that humanitarian aid and assistance groups have free access to them. And those eligible for resettlement in the United States should be allowed to come.
The book needs to be closed on the Vietnam War and the Hmong are the last chapter.
- Dale McFeatters,
Scripps Howard News Service