Former CIA Client Built An Army For Laos Coup

Federal agents conducted a series of raids across California to shut down a private army that intended to conduct a coup d’etat against the Communist government of Laos. General Vang Pao, a former CIA client in Laos, wanted to purchase explosives to conduct a terrorist attack on Vientiane and remove the Communists he failed to defeat decades ago:

The ageing former leader of the CIA’s “Secret Army” in Laos was in an American prison last night, accused of mounting a coup against his and Washington’s old Communist enemy. General Vang Pao, 77, and nine other people were arrested in dawn raids by more than 200 federal agents in dawn raids across California.
The detentions were the culmination of ‘Operation Tarnished Eagle’, a six-month investigation into an attempt to bring down Laos’ Communist government.
According to prosecutors Vang Pao and his co-conspirators planned to spend almost USD 10 million (pounds 5 million) on weaponry including assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, Stinger surface-to-air missiles, mines and C-4 explosives.
They were recruiting a mercenary force to attack government buildings in the Lao capital Vientiane and “reduce them to rubble,” they said.

How much has the world changed since Pao’s defeat in 1975? Ventiane remains Communist, but is only one of five outright Communist dictatorships left in the world, according to the Telegraph. They remain isolated and disengaged, still fighting internally against the Hmong, who oppose their brutal rule. Many Hmong migrated to the US; in fact, a fair number of them live in the Twin Cities.
Thirty years ago, the US would likely have provided assistance to Pao for fighting Communists. Now, however, we have no reason to target the Laotians militarily, and we certainly cannot allow Pao or any other asylum-seekers to use the US as a base for what appears to be terrorism. The cause may have some nobility, but the tactics appear unacceptable — and we simply cannot have private armies assembling in our nation for an attack on another nation. If we tolerated that, we would be responsible for the act of war just as if our own military had conducted it.
It will be interesting to see how this case plays out. Raising $10 million is no easy feat. Where did he get the money, and who else was involved in this proto-insurgency?

22 thoughts on “Former CIA Client Built An Army For Laos Coup”

  1. I’m confused by this statement:
    “still fighting internally against the Hmong, who oppose [the Communist] brutal rule.”
    You make it sound like the Leaders want to be brutal. But my college professor told us that The Party wouldn’t have to get brutal if the people would just realize they were being offered “accessible health care” and “affordable housing.”

  2. I didn’t read the whole thing yet, but wonder on what grounds they were arrested. You are beginning to slip into pontification, Cap–you today would seem to support the Left in their objection that Iraq was a sovereign nation which the US had no right to attack.
    Finally, I have it on good authority that the Hmong in the Twin Cities are not assimilating and pose many burdens on your social support systems.

  3. Well said Captain. We cannot allow this sort of thing to take place on our own territory. If we did, we would be just as guilty as the taliban were for sheltering OBL before, during, and after 9-11. As for Tom’s assertion that Captain Ed is supporting the left’s assertion that we shouldn’t have attacked Iraq… that’s nonsense. There’s a big difference between the army of a sovereign nation attacking the army of another nation due to a threat and a group of citizens of the US taking it upon themselves to attack a soveieign nation. The two are so different that I just can’t see how you could even compare the two.
    Jim C

  4. assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, Stinger surface-to-air missiles, mines and C-4 explosives
    Geez dude, these are not weapons of terrorism, they’re weapons of war.
    What these guys were preparing to do was kick some Communist butt. Instead of arresting them, we should have been giving them a medal.
    Do you people want to stand against Communism or not?

  5. I agree with the other Tom. If these Laotions want to organize and go back to fight their former oppressors, so what? There was a time when we would have openly supported this type of operation. Actually, there was a time when we would have aggressively gone after the Islamist Jihadists. That was before we became a nation of emasculated nambie pambies.

  6. Overthrowing dictatorship in your native land is not terrorism, it’s patriotism. We should let Laotian patriots do their duty.

  7. I believe that the communist Lation country should be left alone. A communistic country will not last long any way and it will be the cause of their downfall. I don’t care about overthrowing their government or revisiting a war that has been lost. However, I do believe that the hmong childrens, men, women and elders detain in communist Laos, whom are currently being torture, kill, rape, hunted, and unfairly treated for thier history in helping fight communism along side with the United States, needs help! If General Vang Pao’s main objective is to help these people then why not let him? The Hmong people in Laos has withstand the burden of standing against communist Laos for too long, who should help them if he does not?

  8. It’s a federal offense to plot the overthrow of a foreign government, unless you’re the U.S. government.
    There is an analogy here to the many years of Cuban exile efforts to overthrow Castro. Some exiles resorted to violence, and ended up in federal prisons for their troubles.
    I don’t blame people for wanting to violently overhrow tyrannies. They just can’t do it on U.S. soil.

  9. Ah man, I’ve been waiting to hear news like this for while a now. It’s a shame the operation did not go as planned for those Laotian American who wants to free their people from the communist Laos.

  10. “we simply cannot have private armies assembling in our nation for an attack on another nation”
    Texas? West Florida? Hawaii?
    Remember Cornelius Vanderbilt and William Walker in Nicaragua?

  11. jdege,
    Good Historical points.
    As an aside, last time I was in Honduras, I visited the grave of William Walker. Near Trujillo. One simple, tipped over headstone. IIRC next to his name was inscribed: “Fusilero”
    What a way to be “remembered”…?

  12. William Walker invaded Nicaragua before such adventures were outlawed. There is an historical marker memorializing him in Nashville, Tennessee, about a block from Ryman Auditorium.

  13. The word Hmong means “Free People”. They are the oldest known culture group in the world.This action by our Government is a reward to the Hmong for rescuing downed American flyers and joining the fight against the communist. It was the American CIA that devloped a cocaine economy to pay for this covert effort. But do not be concerned about the cocaine traffic, most of the product was sold in Europe. The communist murdered and raped a full 20% of their population before the Americans bugged out of Viet Nam. We bugged out of Southeast Asia, abandoning the Hmong to the communist.The War has not stopped being waged against the Hmong. All these people want is their county and Culture back.. The assault againist the Hmong continues.

  14. Ok, I get it. The Laos were violating Federal law in plotting to liberate Laos from tyranny. We also cannot assassinate anyone based on Gerald Ford’s executive order. Cloaking myself in such self-righteousness sure makes me feel better about American flaccidity.

  15. I now understand also why the MN Hmong are reluctant to assimilate here: They are DISAPPOINTED, DISCOURAGED,DEFEATED. Welcome to your new homeland and life among those that let you down.
    Thanks, charles P.

  16. Vang Pao has been extorting money from the Hmong for years; he also has multiple wives.
    I’m not sure that I can condemn him and his organization, they’re only doing what they think is right.
    The real culprit here is our State Department. For years they’ve supported the Hmong and Montagnards (but only if they don’t attack their former enemies).
    It really is time for us to clean up after the Vietnam war, and allow the communist regimes to fold.

  17. 200 Federal Agents (read FBI) involved in this foolishness that essentially did not involve the U.S. and was, in no way, against our interests. As far as I am concerned, this Agency’s 9/11 failure cannot, and never will be, forgiven. The time and resources utterly wasted by the FBI are legendary! They are happiest, Captain, when news organizations publish their absurd sats on closures of interstate auto theft cases. Please resist any temptation in this regard! It will only encourage them to ignore such minor matters as terrorism and serious organized crime (in accordance with J. Edgar, “the mafia does not exist”, Hoover).

  18. I had the pleasure of seeing Vang Pao in Laos in 1970…at one of the CIA’s clandestine bases… Amazingly he is still around at 77…..
    All Americans should hang their heads in shame for what we let a spineless congress do that resulted in millions of Lao and Cambodians deaths when we pullled our support from the South Vietnamese.
    Unlike the traitor skerry…I was actually there……

  19. What this article makes the hmong people seems as if they had no heart and just continuing the war because we lost? Ever lost a country anyone out there? If so tell me how it feels to lose your country, your culture, and your name.

  20. just think about it…if us Americans…
    were to go back to England and they kill u on the spot
    Now imagine how the Hmong people feels going back!!!

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