Remembering The Courage Of The Cia’s Friends


Mar 30, 2010
Initially I put this under the Long Cheng thread yesterday..
GT-Rider makes it in to Long Chieng.

But after getting home and watching the documentary in full on the big TV...
Believe this deserves its own thread.

Starts off a little slow and there is a lot of Spanish.. But there is enough English to keep you interested.
Really starts to get interesting when the USA based Hmong activists cross the Mekong and meet the journalist on the other side of the river.

Then they head off and meet Hmong that are still fighting and stay at their camp..
Honestly.. There can't be too many left living and fighting like this.. You would think..

Well worth watching.. Very sad to see the young kids with weapons and so skilled at this way of life.

More information below..

Clandestino: the Lost Army of the CIA (full documentary)

Clandestino: the Lost Army of the CIA (full documentary) Follow up to our earlier post of the Wall Street Journal post. A new Spanish documentary film crew led by David Beriain recently undertook the fraught and dangerous mission of locating the doughty Hmong in northern Laos. The result is “Clandestino: The Lost Army of the CIA,” produced by 93Metros y 7yAccion in conjuction with The Discovery Channel. The film has screened in Europe and is now in negotiation for U.S. release. You may watch this version that was uploaded on Youtube in June 2016.

Remembering the Courage of the CIA’s Friends

Remembering the Courage of the CIA’s Friends
A new film honors a legacy that Obama overlooked during his visit to Laos last week.

Jack Jolis
Sept. 12, 2016 1:25 p.m. ET
Barack Obama last week became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Laos. Promising to “continue to deal with the painful legacy of war,” he announced increased U.S. aid to help Laos clear unexploded munitions from the so-called “secret war” of 1962-75. Having served as a CIA case officer in Laos in 1970, I know something about that legacy—particularly the bits that went unmentioned by Mr. Obama.

My own thoughts are with our most loyal and dedicated allies from that era, the dwindling Hmong of northern Laos, for whom the war never ended. A small population of Hmong persist today in their ancestral mountains of Xieng Khouang, waging a desperate struggle against the Laotian government’s punitive war of extermination. Their conflict now isn’t so much “secret” as forgotten or ignored, at least by the U.S. and other outside powers.

For centuries the Hmong have been fighting off encroaching foreigners—whether Lao, Chinese or Vietnamese. They were enthusiastic partners 40 years ago for U.S. officers seeking intelligence on the 40,000 to 60,000 North Vietnamese soldiers who, at any given time, illegally used Laos as a staging area and conduit to South Vietnam. As part of what was then the Royal Lao Army, the Hmong were invaluable to U.S. efforts to interdict and harass the invading North Vietnamese.

From the documentary “Clandestino: The Lost Army of the CIA.” Photo: Sergio Caro
Most of these brave Hmong were captured or killed following the U.S. withdrawal. In 1975 the Royal Kingdom of Laos became the “Lao People’s Democratic Republic,” which proceeded to rape, murder or torture more than 100,000 Hmong regardless of whether they were “guilty” of having helped the Americans. The lucky ones fled through Thailand to California, Minnesota and Wisconsin. By the 1990s, fewer than 10,000 remained in Laos and, as of 2016, perhaps 100 are still fighting.

These few maintain a threadbare guerrilla resistance against the genocidal policies of the communist government in Vientiane—the same regime that wined and dined Mr. Obama last week. Mr. Obama’s speech only mentioned the Hmong as part of “Laos’s tapestry of proud ethnic groups and indigenous peoples.” He is likely unaware of the dramatic reality in those mountains. The Laotian military restricts access to the area, often with landmines that are more reactive than unexploded U.S. ordinance.

An intrepid Spanish documentary film crew led by David Beriain recently undertook the fraught and dangerous mission of locating the doughty Hmong in northern Laos. The result is “Clandestino: The Lost Army of the CIA,” produced by 93Metros y 7yAccion in conjuction with The Discovery Channel. The film has screened in Europe and is now in negotiation for U.S. release.

The documentary traces the crew’s journey from Hmong exile groups in Minnesota, through the back alleys of Udon Thani in Thailand, and to the Laotian border, where they posed as tourists to enter the country. From there, the team trekked for two weeks to find the secret and constantly moving Hmong encampment. The regime in Vientiane calls these Hmong “insurgents,” but Mr. Beriain’s extraordinary footage shows that the handful of men, women and children are just fighting to survive.

“I was 9 years old,” an adolescent boy tells Mr. Beriain, recalling his first firefight. “They shot my grandpa, and I picked up his gun and started shooting.”

The Hmong suffer most of their casualties when venturing to find food. In one scene, a 20-year-old mother shows Mr. Beriain the scar on her arm from the day Laotian soldiers attacked while she cooked roots for her children.

The film highlights a few returned exiles among the Hmong resistance who snuck back into Laos from their refuges in America. Most of the film’s subjects are descendants of the Hmong who worked with the CIA decades ago. Combatants by birth, they have effectively been trapped and besieged their whole lives.

“Have you considered surrendering?” Mr. Beriain asks one Hmong man, who is no older than 40 and riddled with bullet wounds. “My nephew turned himself in,” replies the man. “The Lao Army killed him, so we can’t give up.”

Because I appear briefly in the film, I was invited to the opening in Madrid in May. Spanish press wanted to know what effect I hoped the documentary would have on the tragic situation in northern Laos.

No happy outcome seems possible under current conditions: The Laotian regime won’t tolerate the independent existence of a minority outside its totalitarian control, and the Hmong imperative to maintain their way of life seems inextinguishable. The Hmong have made repeated pleas to the United Nations for help, with little to show for it.

The best anyone can hope for is that enough people will see this film to bring moral pressure on Vientiane for a humane modus vivendi. The Hmong who survive in northern Laos are the living legacy of the “secret war,” and they want only to be left in peace. I salute the producers of “The Lost Army of the CIA” for making such an outcome more likely, however remote it remains.

Mr. Jolis was a U.S. Army officer in Vietnam in 1968-69 and a CIA officer with the Hmong in northern Laos in 1970.


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Ian Bungy

Sep 19, 2006
Incredible the History of this Part of the World. All of Asia in fact. And that this is still going on today so Close to where We live and the World is Oblivious! And of Course the Useless United Nations is of No Help to anyone! Basically this is War Crimes but as it is in all Wars Including the Second World War, Only the Defeated are Guilty of War Crimes Never the Victorious! So Sad!!!


Mar 30, 2010
That old guy in the video.. was probably fighting as a kid in the late 60's and 70's !!


It disgusts me that my government has made it a specialty to abandon people who have sacrificed so much in the pursuit of my governments policies. I grew up with and have worked with people involved in the Secret War and am well read on it as well because of these connections. The points made by Mr. Jolis echo the feelings of these men I have listened and learned from. Thank you for sharing this Brian! The Hmong need their story told.


Mar 18, 2013
More to read about Laos.

Legacies of War: http://
Hmong National Development: http://
Hmong Archives: http://
Hmong Studies Center: http:// Hmong
Cultural Center: http://
Books/Articles: Branfman, Fred, Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life under an air war. Vientiane, Laos: Cluster Munition Coalition, 2010 (second edition); originally published New York: Harper and Row, 1972.
Chan, Sucheng (edited by), Hmong means free: Life in Laos and America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994.
Conboy, Kenneth, with James Morrison, Shadow War: The CIA’s Secret War in Laos, Boulder, Colorado: Paladin Press, 1995.
Donnelly, Nancy D., Changing lives of refugee Hmong women. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Evans, Grant, A short history of Laos: The land in between. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen and Unwin, 2002.
Faderman, Lillian, with Ghia Xiong, I Begin My Life All Over, Boston: Beacon Press, 2005.
Fadiman, Anne, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. New York: The Noonday Press, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997.
Hamilton-Merritt, Jane, Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos, 1942-1992.
Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1999.
Haney, Walt, “The Pentagon Papers and the United States involvement in Laos”. In Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, eds. Vol. 5. The Pentagon Papers, Gravel edition: Critical essays. Boston: Beacon Press, 1972.
John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Hmong Art Tradition and Change. Sheboygan, Wisconsin: Sheboygan Arts Foundation, Inc. 1985.
Khamvongsa, Channapha and Elaine Russell, “Legacies of War: Cluster Bombs in Laos” Critical Asian Studies, Vol. 41, No. 2, June 2009, pp. 281-306.
Long, Lynellyn D., Ban Vinai, the Refugee Camp, New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.
Mote, Sue Murphy, Hmong and American. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc., 2004.
Moua, Mai Neng (edited by), Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002.
Pholsena, Vatthana, “ Life under Bombing in Southeastern Laos (1964-1973) Through the Accounts of Survivors in Sepon ”, European Journal of East Asian Studies. Vol. 9, No.2, 2010, pp. 267-290.
Russell, Elaine (forthc.), “Laos -- Living with Unexploded Ordnance: Past Memories and Present Realities”. In: Vatthana Pholsena & Oliver Tappe (eds.), Interactions with a Violent Past: Reading Post-Conflict Landscapes in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Quincy, Keith, Harvesting Pa

Chay’s Wheat: The Hmong and America’s Secret War in Laos. Spokane, Washington: Eastern Washington University Press, 2000.
Stevenson, Charles, The end of nowhere: American policy toward Laos since 1954. Boston: Beacon Press, 1972.
Stuart-Fox, Martin, A history of Laos. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Vang, Chia Youyee, Hmong in Minnesota. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2008.
Warner, Roger, Back Fire: The CIAs Secret War in Laos and Its Link to the War in Vietnam. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.
Yang, Dao, “Hmong at the Turning Point,” The Journal of American-East Asian Relations Dec 22, 1994,; Vol. v3, No. n4.Article Info Hmong at the Turning Point.
Yang, Kao Kalia, The Latehomecomer : a Hmong Family Memoir. Minneapolis : Coffee House Press, 2008.
The Journal of American-East Asian Relations Dec 22, 1994,; Vol. v3, No. n4 Article Info Hmong at the Turning Point. The Journal of Asian Studies Feb 1, 1994,; Vol. v53, No. n1 Films “Gran Torino” Warner Brothers, directed by Clint Eastwood, 2008.
Drama “Bomb Harvest” Lemur Films, directed by Kim Mordaunt, 2008.
Documentary. Distributor: TVF International, 375 City Road, London EC1V 1NB United Kingdom. Website: “The Betrayal (Nerakoon)” Pandinlao Films, directed by Ellen Kuras, 2008.
Documentary. Distribution: Cinema Guild, Ryan Krivoshey, 115 West30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001. Website: - This website is for sale! - thebetrayalmovie Resources and Information. “The Most Secret Place on Earth” Gebrueder-Beetz-Filmprodukion, directed by Mark Eberle, 2007.
Documentary. Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion Köln GmbH & Co. KG, Im Mediapark 6a,50670 Cologne, Germany. Website:
“Bombies” Bullfrog Films, directed by Jack Silberman, 2002. Documentary. Distributor: Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547. Website: by Mark Eberle, 2007.