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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]
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]
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 ] 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 ] 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 , Unnamed pilot , Unnamed pilot , Unnamed pilot , Unnamed SOG Recon team commando ] 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 , Unnamed pilot , Unnamed pilot , Unnamed pilot , Unnamed SOG Recon team commando ]
In Laos, unexploded ordnance, including the notorious BLU-64B cluster bombs, left by the United States’ massive bombing campaign (see 1969-1973) kills and injures thousands each year. One in every 384 people are amputees. By the end of 1998, some 38,248 people have been killed and 64,064 injured. [BBC, 1/5/2001; UNICEF Focus, 2002 ; Alternet, 1/7/2002; Landmine Monitor, 2003]
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