817 – Laos – A Great Place to Have a War

War in Laos, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

A UXO Laos (Unexploded Ordinance Laos) team carry trip wire to detonate a mortar shell and other UXO’s in a field at Sam Syae village near Phonsavan, Xieng Khuang province, northern Laos, Thursday 11 September 2003. The area was a major theatre in the 1964-1973 secret war between the US and Hmong against the Pathet Lao and Vietnamese Communists. On average, a planeload of bombs was dropped every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day for nine years. Up to 30% of the bombs did not explode. Photo: EPA/BARBARA WALTON

In this episode we will take a look at a new book that lays out the story of how the CIA ran a “secret war” in Laos and in the process became a more prominent and permanent member of the US foreign policy apparatus, and ushered in the destruction of a neutral country. The book is titled: A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA. It was authored by Joshua Kurlantzick and released by Simon & Schuster. An interview with the author about his book appeared on the Southeast Asia Globe website and was titled: New book exposes inner workings of the US’ ‘secret war’ in Laos.

The article begins with a few opening comments about the book and then gets into a few questions to the author about the book. Kurlantzick based his book on information and insights he received from a slew of interviews he conducted with former CIA personnel. He also relied heavily on recently declassified documents relating to the secret war in Laos. All this shines new light on this forgotten war and the CIA mission known as Operation Momentum. Currently Kurlantzick is a senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In the Southeast Asia Globe article questions were asked about the following aspects of the book and the situation in Laos back during the Vietnam War Era and today:

  1. The motivation for investigating the origins of the CIA in Laos and writing the book along with the most interesting things discovered in the process.
  2. Background about the four major characters in the book and how they were accessed.
  3. The scope of the secret war in Laos and how it played a role in the war in Vietnam .
  4. How the CIA’s actions in the secret war in Laos changed its role to this day in the “shadow wars” the United States is engaging in across the world.
  5. The status of Laos today.

Kurlantzick’s answers to those inquiries are in this podcast episode.

It is highly recommended you read a copy of A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA to get a better understanding of one of the more disturbing chapters of our history.

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