Editor’s note: WorldNetDaily.com international correspondent
Anthony C. LoBaido has lived, traveled and photographed the plight of
the Christian Hmong hill tribes in Southeast Asia during the past year.
In this report, LoBaido shows how the U.S. Congress, prompted by the
efforts of Hmong allies and WND’s reports, has finally stepped forward
to help the persecuted Hmong — formerly staunch military allies of the
LUANG PRABANG, Laos — After decades of abandonment and betrayal, the
tide is finally beginning to turn, albeit in a small way, for some of
America’s strongest and most loyal allies during the Vietnam war.
Young Hmong girl and baby sister at Thai refugee camp.
The Hmong hill tribes of Southeast Asia fought covertly in the CIA’s
Special Forces in Laos, on America’s side, during the Vietnam war. But
since the war’s end, they have paid dearly for their alliance with and
allegiance to the American ideals of political and religious freedom.
The 250,000 Hmong who survived the subsequent death camps, patrols,
landmines and jungles of Laos on their exodus from the nation when the
war was lost, found refuge in camps in Thailand. Others made it safely
to the U.S., Australia, France and England, where they were repatriated
by America and her allies. In all, some 35 countries took in Hmong
Forced back to Laos at gunpoint by U.N. soldiers and Thai
anti-riot police, Hmong refugees begin their sad journey “home.”
However, not all hope is lost. Thanks to a recent congressional bill, H.R. 371, ex-Hmong CIA Special Forces who fought for America will now have an easier time gaining asylum in the United States.
Passed overwhelmingly without a single dissenting vote, H.R. 371 will waive the English language requirement for potential Hmong refugees. Many Hmong have found learning English to be extremely challenging as Hmong has had no written form until the last few years.
The bill’s main proponent is Rep. Bruce Vento, a Democrat from Minnesota — which is home to 60,000 Hmong. A Senate version of the bill has been introduced by Paul Wellstone, D-Minn, and John McCain, R-Ariz. Another Minnesota politician, Gov. Jesse Ventura, a former Navy SEAL, has also lobbied on behalf of the Hmong in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., the House Judiciary Committee chairman, acknowledged the United States owes a debt to the Hmong.
“Those Hmong veterans who survived the war faced severe persecution for fighting with the U.S.,” said Hyde, who helped shepherd the bill to the House floor.
Philip Smith, Washington director of the Lao Veterans of America, which had pushed for the bill, called Vento an inspiration.
“When we heard that he had cancer, we were despondent as an organization,” Smith said. “This was something we could not win without his leadership.”
But the group was emboldened when Vento, from his hospital bed, had his staff call Smith to tell him he would continue to press for the bill.
“He’s really our hero,” Smith said.
According to Smith, there are roughly 70,000 Hmong and Lao veterans in the United States, and about half are not citizens. Most are permanent residents, but are not eligible to vote or hold a passport.
WND’s LoBaido at the legendary and heavily landmined “Plain of Jars” near Ponsavan, in Laos.
The Hmong lost over half their population during the holocaust enacted against them by the Pathet Lao government. They are hated by the communist government of Laos. The reasons are two-fold: First, they are anti-communists who sided with the United States against their Marxist revolution; and second, they are turning to Christianity in droves.
The Hmong soldiers “fight, work like buffalo, run, starve and die — and no one knows” said a Hmong tribal chief in the wake of his people’s betrayal by the U.S. government.
“While massive photographic evidence of the starved, stick-like bodies of the Hmong have been published in National Geographic (May 1980 edition), and the biological warfare used against the Hmong by the Soviets and Pathet Lao was documented by the U.S. Army’s top medical team — the media and U.S. government have denied the Hmong holocaust,” said Dr. Michael Korpi, a Baylor University film professor and expert on the Hmong genocide.
“Back in the mid 1970s, liberals like Hillary Clinton were busy impeaching President Nixon — the man who fought the communist murderers in Cambodia and Laos — too busy to fight the enemies of America and God. Cambodia was turned into a giant Auschwitz. And the Killing Fields there are common knowledge. The betrayal of the Hmong remains a national shame to all Americans.”
Operation White Star
Col. Carl Bernard was the point man on the “White Star Mobile Training Team” from the Army’s Special Forces at Fort Bragg. This was the U.S. Army’s official operation to recruit and train the Hmong to fight on the American side, against the communists in Laos. Having headed up that successful effort, Bernard has lobbied on behalf of the Hmong ever since.
In recent months, Bernard has taken
WorldNetDaily’s series of
reports on the Hmong to Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the International Relations Committee. At a press conference and a congressional forum on the plight of the Hmong and Lao veterans and their families in Laos and Thailand, Bernard, along with noted author Jane Hamilton-Merritt, tried to intercede on behalf of the Hmong.
“We filled the hearing room,” Bernard told WorldNetDaily. “Congressman Gilman was the important figure, and despite having no Hmong in his constituency, he learned the issues, packaged them and sponsored the concept of paying our moral debt to these people. We did the legwork he needed. The hearing put the issues into the public’s consciousness, and it become a reference point for all of us.”
For Bernard, H.R. 371 is a step in the right direction.
“Those who supported this bill, like Congressman Vento, were noble and earned the lasting gratitude of each of us,” he said.
Ask why he has remained loyal to the Hmong he trained so long ago, Bernard is resolute.
“My loyalty to the Hmong stems from their having paid an impot du sang — the French term for “blood tax” — for us. Simply, they fought and many died for us. They are “blood brothers” and cannot be abandoned. They earned our loyalty and it is a disgrace that they have been abandoned. Making the sins and shames of our predecessors known and undeniable is the only thing that can be done.
“These blotches on our nation need to be in the consciousness of each of our citizens, starting at about the age of joining the Boy Scouts. All of us must do what we can to reverse this shameful situation. That our betrayal of our allies, like the Hmong, Karen, Afrikaners, Rhodesians, UNITA, South Sudan and Kurds as a common behavior needs to become known, and a campaign launched to reverse that trend. If we keep betraying our allies, who is going to fight with us in the future?”
“Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos, 1942-1992″ by Jane Hamilton-Merritt.
Speaking of the efforts of Hamilton-Merritt, who has written extensively about the Hmong, Bernard says, “She maintained a very significant interface with the Hmong and the various power echelons — including the media — here in Washington. She counts, and I care for her because of her providing a product that none of us others had the wit, imagination, information, awareness, knowledge that it was needed, or energy to do. And she did not stop with the book. She hawked it everywhere that counted. I have a strong feeling about that old Greek phrase: “Words fly; paper stays.” Jane acted on that.”
As for the qualities that enabled the Hmong to succeed in taking out almost half of the Soviet supplies headed to the Viet Cong of the Ho Chi Minh trails, Bernard said this: “The Hmong are or were at least a simple, decent mountain folk, loyal to one another and to us. They became fine individual fighters, and excellent with their local tribal group. It would have been stupid to try to put them in a military unit like a squad or platoon with a bunch of strangers. Cohesion is what each collection of these people brought from their ‘long house,’ no greater military virtue.”
Bernard said the recent increase of guerilla attacks by the Hmong on the Pathet Lao was a product of “the nostalgia of the older Hmong leadership, which is understandable. However, it is not likely they will be returning soon, or ever. The muscle is here in the U.S., and where their focus must be. They will not — and must not — abandon their countrymen, and they won’t. Laos is, however, not the battleground. Washington is, and the weapon to use is the front page of the Washington Post. Those who wish to save the Hmong must convert some journalists and their editors.”
“There is also the Christian dynamic to be considered,” said Bernard. “At the outset of Operation White Star, the ‘White Fathers’ were part of my access to the Hmong. We should use the understanding of the Christians who have done so much with the Koreans as guides and muscles for the Hmong. How did these ‘missionaries’ succeed? Can they make the same effort for the Hmong? What Christian elements are targeting the Hmong?”
Hmong children waving goodbye
Korpi believes film and journalism can be valuable tools in educating and motivating Americans about the fate currently gripping the Hmong and other American allies.
“As King Solomon says in Proverbs 31:8, ‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Protect the rights of all who are helpless,’” he said.
“By helping the Hmong, even at this late hour, we take a great leap towards restoring America’s national soul.”