Post 3: The Secret War
The exercises we did in class this week couldn't have been more than a great start for my topic post for this week. This week, I will be touching on my ethnic/cultural identity.
I’d first like to start off with the history of the Hmong people. Note that many details will be cut to make this a readable post. The Hmong lineage can be traced back up to 5,000 years ago in what is now “China”. 5000 years back, there were 3 dominant rulers; the Yellow Emperor, the Yan Emperor, and Chi You. Chi You is said to have been the king of the Hmongs. His kingdom was located in the north east portion of China. Chi You’s army was described as indestructible. He won all his battles and casualties were minimum. To win over the Central Plains, the Yan Emperor and Yellow Emperor teamed up and fought against Chi You. After many battles and droughts, Chi You’s army lost and he was decapitated. His people were forced to migrate south of china and eventually into Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam). The Chinese label the Hmong people as “Miao” which Hmong people consider a derogatory term, as its meaning is associated with “barbarians”.
In the 1960’s, when the United States was most active in the Vietnam War, the C.I.A. recruited the native Hmong people in Laos assuring that the United States had their backs. They were ordered to block off the Ho Chi Min Trail (North Vietnam's supply route to South Vietnam) and to help downed American pilots. Many times, dozens of Hmong soldiers’ lives were lost in order to save one American pilot. “Over 100 Hmong pilots were recruited and trained by the US, and they ran mission after mission until they were all killed” (Lindsay). As the Hmong people were familiar with the jungle environment, they used guerrilla tactics to attack the North Vietnamese Army. At this same time, the country of Laos was going under a civil war, the Laos Royal Army versus the Pathet Lao Communists (result of the spread of Communism).
Throughout the Vietnam War and Laos civil war many Hmong villages were invaded by the Pathet Communist and the North Vietnamese. Women were gang raped and killed. Children and elders were slaughtered. In the early 1970’s, when the United States began withdrawing its soldiers from Vietnam, the killings grew tremendously. With the United States withdrawing, supply (artillery and such) to the Hmong Guerrilla Unit was cut off. The casualties within the Hmong Guerrilla unit were so bad they’d began to use 13-year old boys to fill in the spots of the fallen. The Hmong General, General Vang Pao, of the Guerrilla unit was soon airlifted out to a neighboring country, Thailand.
The promise of the United States was broken. “The Hmong was left to die”. In the absence of the United States army, the North Vietnamese army and the now Pathet Communist runned Laos army began to hunt and kill the Hmong in Laos. Many of the Hmong fled westwards through the thick jungles in hopes of seeking refuge in Thailand.
“ I have heard so many stories of sorrow and loss, the stories of desperate parents trying to hide their children from murderous soldiers, sometimes overdosing their children with opium to keep them from crying and revealing their hiding place….” — Jeff Lindsay
Not only were the thick jungles an obstacle in the Hmong’s journey to the west but the crossing of the Mekong River as well (a river which borders between Laos and Thailand). Many people drowned from high current river (as if the killings in the jungles from the malicious soldiers, landmines, aerial-bombings, chemical bombing, disease, malnutrition, etc., was not enough). There were more than 100,000 lives lost. About 100,000 of the Hmong people made it to the refugee camps. Those who did not were sent to re-education camps in Laos where most if-not-all died. Some people who made it to the refugee camps were sent back to Laos where they were eventually hunted down by the North Vietnamese or Laos army.
To this day, the Hmong are persecuted by the Laos and Vietnamese. Some hide with in the jungles of Laos migrating often to avoid being killed by Laos soldiers. I also read some articles about the oppressed Hmong-Vietnamese citizens, how they are denied medical care and are beaten to death by authorities.
As foot soldiers for the United States, the Hmong lost their homes, lives, and freedom.
I highly suggest, if you were to read any article attach as my bibliography, to read this one.
VIENTIANE PROVINCE, Laos - They call themselves America's forgotten soldiers. Four decades after the Central…www.nytimes.com
Here’s a Quote from the article:
“It’s clear that the wounds are recent and caused by guns,” said Gilles Isard, chief of the group’s mission in Thailand. Mr. Isard said many of the people in the camp who claimed to be former C.I.A. fighters had photographs of themselves as young soldiers and documents from the 1960s and 1970s that they say confirm their service.
But their renowned fighting spirit has all but disappeared. Nou Chue Xiong, 68, another of the veterans here, seemed resigned to die in the jungle.
“I guess you will leave here and try to help us,” Mr. Xiong told his visitor. “But if you can’t, don’t be sad.”
For about 2 decades, the United States Government denied acknowledgement of this “Secret War” (of the CIA’s recruitment of the Hmong and such), thus derived the name “Secret War”.
The refugee camps were closed in the early 1990’s. In short, through politics (acts that were passed and such), many Hmong families from the refugee camps were able to emigrate to different countries such as the United States, France, Australia, Germany, and more (Psstt…. That’s how my family emigrated to here).
This was the Hmong history of which I rooted out from. More on the Hmong-Laos people side. There are currently about 4–5 million Hmong people in the world. About 3 million in China, 1 million in Vietnam, half a million in Laos, 150,000 in Thailand, 260,000 in the United States, and the rest in other countries such as France and Australia. California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are the states that have the most population of the Hmong. Minneapolis-Saint Paul hold the record of having the most Hmong population living in a urban area (about 66,000 people)
Thanks for reading. It was a long post. Next week look forward to my interview results, personal family history (now that you know a little more about the Hmong people(just surface scratching)), my view and values on my ethnic identity, and how I feel my ethnic identity effects my first year.
Also I forgot to note that the Hmong people are a landless nation (which means we don’t have a country). Feel free to ask any questions. I apologize as my story telling and grammar is a little jumpy.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWUZ2OrDXt4 (Graphic: watch at own risk. Film is called “Hunted like Animals” by Rebecca Sommers)