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Context of 'September 11, 1970-September 14, 1970: Sarin Possibly Used in US Attack on Village in Laos'

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In Laos, the CIA and State Department rig elections and sponsor coups at least three times between the years of 1958 and 1960 in order to keep the leftist Pathet Lao party from being included in the country’s government and to ensure that the government does not adopt a neutralist policy towards communism. US objectives in the country are carried out by a secret army (Armee Clandestine) created by the CIA. The army consists of Meo hill tribesmen, other Laotians, Thai, Filipinos, Taiwanese, and South Koreans. These forces are “armed, equipped, fed, paid, guided, strategically and tactically, and often transported into and out of action by the United States,” according to the New York Times. US soldiers supporting operations in Laos work for CIA-front companies like Air America. Those who die are listed as casualties of the Vietnam War. [Blum, 1995]

Timeline Tags: US-Laos (1958-1973)

During the administration of US President Richard Nixon, and under the counsel of his advisor for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger, the United States drops more than two million tons of bombs on Laos during more than 500,000 bombing missions—exceeding what it had dropped on Germany and Japan during all of World War II—in an effort to defeat the left-leaning Pathet Lao and to destroy North Vietnamese supply lines. The ordnance includes some 90 million cluster bombs, 20-30 percent of which do not detonate (see After 1973). A Senate report finds: “The United States has undertaken a large-scale air war over Laos to destroy the physical and social infrastructure of Pathet Lao held areas and to interdict North Vietnamese infiltration… throughout all this there has been a policy of subterfuge and secrecy… through such things as saturation bombing and the forced evacuation of population from enemy held or threatened areas—we have helped to create untold agony for hundreds of thousands of villagers.” And in 1970, Far Eastern Economic Review reports: “For the past two years the US has carried out one of the most sustained bombing campaigns in history against essentially civilian targets in northeastern Laos…. Operating from Thai bases and from aircraft carriers, American jets have destroyed the great majority of villages and towns in the northeast. Severe casualties have been inflicted upon the inhabitants… Refugees from the Plain of Jars report they were bombed almost daily by American jets last year. They say they spent most of the past two years living in caves or holes.” [Blum, 1995; BBC, 1/5/2001; Stars and Stripes, 7/21/2002; BBC, 12/6/2005] Meo villagers who attempt neutrality or refuse to send their 13-year-olds to fight in the CIA’s army, are refused American-supplied rice and “ultimately bombed by the US Air Force.” [Blum, 1995] The CIA also drops millions of dollars in forged Pathet Lao currency in an attempt to destabilize the Lao economy. [Blum, 1995] During this period, the existence of US operations in Laos is outright denied. [Blum, 1995; Stars and Stripes, 7/21/2002]

Entity Tags: US Congress, Richard M. Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson

Timeline Tags: US-Laos (1958-1973)

Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s assistant for National Security Affairs, convinces the president to begin a secret bombing campaign in Cambodia where Viet Cong and North Vietnamese have established logistical bases. The campaign, secretly referred to as “Operation Breakfast,” spurs the Vietnamese to move deeper into Cambodia causing US bombings to move further into the country’s interior. As in Laos (see 1969-1973), the US drops an incredible number of bombs on civilian areas. [Los Angeles Times, 7/8/1997] Craig Etcheson will later write in his book, The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea: “The fact is that the United States dropped three times the quantity of explosives on Cambodia between 1970 and 1973 than it had dropped on Japan for the duration of World War II. Between 1969 and 1973, 539,129 tons of high explosives rained down on Cambodia; that is more than one billion pounds. This is equivalent to some 15,400 pounds of explosives for every square mile of Cambodian territory. Considering that probably less than 25 percent of the total area of Cambodia was bombed at one time or another, the actual explosive force per area would be at least four times this level.” [Etcheson, 1984, pp. 99]

Entity Tags: Henry A. Kissinger, Richard M. Nixon

Timeline Tags: US-Cambodia (1955-1993), Nixon and Watergate

In Laos, a 16-member US Special Forces “Studies and Observations Group” (SOG) and about 140 Montagnard tribesmen are dropped sixty miles from the South Vietnamese border and several miles away from its targeted village. They are told that the objective of the mission, code-named “Operation Tailwind,” is to eliminate a village where VietCong, Russians, and American defectors are believed to be moving freely. The troops are instructed to kill anyone they encounter, combatant or otherwise, including American defectors who pose a special threat to the US because of the sensitive knowledge they possess. [ [Sources: Robert Van Buskirk, Thomas Moorer, Jay Graves, Jim Cathey, Mike Hagen, Unnamed SOG Recon team commando [1]] Another possible objective of the mission is to divert enemy attention from Operation Gauntlet, an offensive operation to regain control of territory in Laos. [US Department of Defense, 7/30/1998] The SOG and Montagnards are all equipped with M-17 gas masks for the mission. [ [Sources: Robert Van Buskirk, Craig Schmidt, Unnamed SOG Recon team commando [2]] For three days, the team fights its way to the targeted village. On the third night, they camp on the outskirts of the village while it is “prepped” by Air Force A-1s. The next morning, the unit raids the village. The battle ends quickly, in about 10 minutes, because of the previous night’s bombing and because most of the people are not combat personnel, but belong to a transportation unit. [ [Sources: Mike Hagen] When they enter the village, they find more than one hundred bodies. Some are combatants, but many are also women and children. [CNN, 7/2/1999 Sources: Robert Van Buskirk, Eugene McCarley, Mike Hagen, Jimmy Lucas] One member of the SOG sees Montagnard soldiers shove grenades down the throats of women and at least three children. [ [Sources: Robert Van Buskirk] The soldiers report seeing between 10 and 20 Caucasians among the dead and speculate that they were American defectors, though the Pentagon insists they were Russians. Platoon leader Robert Van Buskirk later tells CNN that he killed two American defectors during the attack when he dropped a white phosphorus grenade into a tunnel where the two had fled. [ [Sources: Robert Van Buskirk, Mike Hagen, Jim Cathey] Rescue helicopters are then called in and the troops head to a rice paddy and put on their gas masks. As the helicopters prepares to land, it drops gas canisters (CBU-14), probably sarin nerve gas, to incapacitate a swarm of enemy fighters who are coming down a hill towards the landing zone. The enemy fighters immediately drop and go into convulsions when the gas is deployed. [ [Sources: Robert Van Buskirk, Mike Hagen, Craig Schmidt, Mike Sheperd, John Snipes, Unnamed pilot [1], Unnamed pilot [2], Unnamed pilot [3], Unnamed pilot [4], Unnamed SOG Recon team commando [2]] As the rescue choppers are taking off, SOG members and Montagnards are vomiting and have mucous running uncontrollably from their noses. [CNN, 6/7/1998; CNN, 6/14/1998; Time, 6/15/1998; Oliver and Smith, 1999; CNN, 7/2/1999 Sources: Robert Van Buskirk, Mike Hagen, Mike Sheperd, John Snipes, Unnamed pilot [1], Unnamed pilot [2], Unnamed pilot [3], Unnamed pilot [4], Unnamed SOG Recon team commando [2]]

Entity Tags: Robert Van Buskirk, Jimmy Lucas, Jim Cathey, John Snipes, Craig Schmidt, Eugene McCarley, Mike Sheperd, Mike Hagen

Timeline Tags: US Military

John Murtha during his press conference.John Murtha during his press conference. [Source: Larry Downing / Reuters]Representative John Murtha (D-PA), one of the most conservative and hawkish Democrats in the House of Representatives and a longtime supporter of the military, stuns opponents and fellow Democrats alike by calling for the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Fighting back tears, Murtha, a former US Marine and a decorated Vietnam veteran, says the troops in Iraq suffer from poor equipment and low morale. Moreover, the troops’ presence there now serves as an impediment to Iraqi progress towards stability and self-governance. The war is “a flawed policy wrapped in illusion,” he says, and adds, “Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency.” Islamic insurgents “are united against US forces, and we have become a catalyst for violence.… I resent the fact, on Veterans Day, [Bush] criticized Democrats for criticizing them. This is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public knows it. And lashing out at critics doesn’t help a bit. You’ve got to change the policy.… It’s time to bring [the soldiers] home.” Murtha submits a bill to compel the withdrawal of troops as soon as feasible (see November 17, 2005). Congressional Republicans counter with accusations of cowardice (see November 18-21, 2005) and even siding with terrorists over their country. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) says: “Murtha and Democratic leaders have adopted a policy of cut and run. They would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans.”
Democratic Leaders Cautious - Democratic leaders such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and campaign chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) react cautiously to Murtha’s call for withdrawal. Pelosi has privately said that she will call for a complete withdrawal of troops in 2006, but does not yet join Murtha in his call for withdrawal, merely saying that he deserves to have “his day.” Emanuel is even more cautious, saying, “Jack Murtha went out and spoke for Jack Murtha.” As for Iraq policy, Emanuel says, “At the right time, we will have a position.”
Mishandling of Intelligence - Murtha joins with other Democrats in accusing the administration of deliberately misrepresenting intelligence about Iraq’s WMD and its connections to al-Qaeda. Vice President Cheney has called such accusations “dishonest and reprehensible.” President Bush responds: “I expect there to be criticism. But when Democrats say that I deliberately misled the Congress and the people, that’s irresponsible. They looked at the same intelligence I did, and they voted—many of them voted—to support the decision I made.… So I agree with the vice president.” Asked about the comments, Murtha retorts, “I like guys who got five deferments and [have] never been there and send people to war, and then don’t like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.” Cheney received five deferments during the Vietnam War which allowed him to sit out the war; Bush was a Texas Air National Guardsman who did not leave the country during that war. Other Democrats say that they were themselves misled about the intelligence on Iraq’s WMD.
Angry Rhetoric from Both Sides - The White House issues a statement in response to Murtha’s call for a pullout, declaring that Murtha is “endorsing the policy positions of [liberal filmmaker] Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party.” Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) responds that Bush and Cheney “have begun a new campaign of distortion and manipulation. Because of the polls showing that Americans have lost trust in the president and believe he manipulated intelligence before the war, the president and vice president have abandoned any pretense of leading this country and have gone back on the campaign trail.” They could not find weapons of mass destruction, Kennedy says, and “they can’t find the truth, either.” Kennedy’s Senate colleague Ted Stevens (R-AK) responds by accusing Kennedy and other Democrats of attempting to “undermine the people standing abroad by repeatedly calling [Bush] a liar.” House Republican Geoff Davis says Murtha’s statements are “shameful.” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) says that if the US does not prevail in Iraq, it will invite another 9/11-type attack: “Four years have expired without a second attack on our homeland because we’ve aggressively projected America’s fighting forces in the theaters in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) counters that the White House has “shamelessly decided to play politics” over Iraq. “We need a commander in chief, not a campaigner in chief,” Reid says. “We need leadership from the White House, not more whitewashing of the very serious issues confronting us in Iraq.” [Washington Post, 11/18/2005; New York Times, 11/18/2005; New York Sun, 11/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Ted Stevens, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel, Dennis Hastert, Geoffrey C. (“Geoff”) Davis, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Duncan Hunter, George W. Bush, John P. Murtha, Harry Reid, Michael Moore

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Jean Schmidt making her statement on the floor of the House.Jean Schmidt making her statement on the floor of the House. [Source: Pensito Review]Representative Jean Schmidt (R-OH) accuses fellow Representative John Murtha (D-PA) of cowardice. Murtha, an ex-Marine, decorated Vietnam veteran, and longtime military supporter, has called for US troops to be withdrawn from Iraq as soon as possible (see November 17, 2005) and November 17, 2005). Schmidt says she is merely quoting the words of a constituent when she says on the floor of the House: “Yesterday I stood at Arlington National Cemetery attending the funeral of a young Marine in my district. He believed in what we were doing is the right thing and had the courage to lay his life on the line to do it. A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp, Ohio representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do. Danny and the rest of America and the world want the assurance from this body—that we will see this through.” Democrats, appalled by Schmidt’s words, boo and shout her down; Democrat Harold Ford (D-TN) charges across the chamber’s center aisle and shouts that Schmidt’s attack is unwarranted. Democrat Martin Meehan (D-MA) shouts: “You guys are pathetic! Pathetic.” The conflict comes during a debate over a Republican “stunt resolution” that calls for the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all troops from Iraq (see November 18, 2005).
Defending Murtha - Some House Republicans later defend Murtha’s patriotism: Henry Hyde (R-IL) says, “I give him an A-plus as a truly great American.” But Democrats are unforgiving. “This is a personal attack on one of the best members, one of the most respected members of this House, and it is outrageous,” says Jim McGovern (D-MA). In the Senate, John Kerry (D-MA) says, “I won’t stand for the swift-boating of Jack Murtha.” Kerry is referring to false accusations against him launched during the 2004 presidential election by a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that challenged his Vietnam record. [Think Progress (.org), 11/18/2005; New York Times, 11/19/2005]
Schmidt Withdraws Statement - After the speaker pro tempore, Mike Simpson (R-IL) orders that her words be “taken down” (documented as possible violations of House rules), Schmidt attempts to backpedal: “Mr. Speaker, my remarks were not directed at any member of the House and I did not intend to suggest that they applied to any member. Most especially the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania. I therefore ask for unanimous consent that my words be withdrawn.” [Jesse Lee, 11/18/2005]
Bubp: Never Discussed Murtha with Schmidt - Three days later, Bubp, the reserve Marine colonel and Ohio state representative Schmidt claims to be quoting, says that he never discussed Murtha with Schmidt and would never impugn a fellow Marine’s patriotism. “There was no discussion of him personally being a coward or about any person being a coward,” Bubp says. “The unfortunate thing about all of that is that her choice of words on the floor of the House—I don’t know, she’s a freshman, she had one minute. Unfortunately, they came out wrong.… My message to the folks in Washington, DC, and to all the Congress people up there, is to stay the course. We cannot leave Iraq or cut and run—any terminology that you want to use.… I don’t want to be interjected into this. I wish she never used my name.” [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/22/2005]

Entity Tags: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Mike Simpson, John P. Murtha, Martin Meehan, Jim McGovern, Harold Ford, Danny Bubp, John Kerry, Jean Schmidt, Henry Hyde

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

President Obama presides over a deeply divided group of top advisers as he decides whether or not to release four Bush-era Justice Department memos documenting the Bush administration’s torture policies (see April 16, 2009). CIA Director Leon Panetta and his four immediate predecessors have already registered their flat disapproval of the memos’ release (see March 18, 2009 and After), as has Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan. On the other side are Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, and White House counsel Gregory Craig. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has indicated he supports the release because it is inevitable anyway—the memos are the subject of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit—and because Obama is willing to promise that no CIA officers will be prosecuted for abuse. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen sides with Gates. Obama presides over a “mini-debate” in the office of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, where each side designates a spokesperson to present its views. When the debate is concluded, Obama immediately dictates a draft of his announcement of the memos’ release. During the discussion, Obama rejects the proposal that the memos’ release be delayed in anticipation of a so-called “truth commission” to investigate Bush torture policies, saying that such delay would just create further divisiveness. Craig argues persuasively that the judge overseeing the FOIA lawsuit is unlikely to grant any delays. Obama aides later say the president’s decision is in keeping with his frequent campaign promises that he would not only stop the torture and abuse of prisoners in US custody, but get to the truth behind the Bush administration’s torture policies. [Newsweek, 4/18/2009; Washington Post, 4/24/2009]

Entity Tags: Robert M. Gates, US Department of Justice, Rahm Emanuel, Leon Panetta, Greg Craig, Dennis C. Blair, Barack Obama, John O. Brennan, Eric Holder, Michael Mullen

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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