Laos: The Shell GameSo some kind of bizarre imperative to treat the war in Laos as a SE Asian Bermuda Triangle -- into which U.S. planes and personnel just mysterious disappear -- kept our eyes off of the proverbial prize, namely, severing the windpipe of communists fighting in South Vietnam. Exhibit A for the unerring instinct of American politicians for getting American troops chewed up in vague, tentative campaigns.
The U.S. and North Vietnam always played a shell game with each other in Laos. Both sides treated Laos as a separate conflict from the Vietnam War. Washington maintained the charade of Laos’ independence and “neutrality” by using the CIA to run the ground war, while downplaying the massive bombing by U.S. planes flying from Thailand. For years the U.S. Air Force claimed that planes shot down in Laos were actually shot down in North Vietnam.
The North Vietnamese held to the fiction that they had no troops in Laos. They promoted the myth that the Pathet Lao guerrillas were allies completely independent of Hanoi when, in fact, they were order-taking puppets.
The North Vietnamese believed they were making more off the shell game than the U.S. And in fact they were. If the U.S. had treated Laos as part of the Vietnam War and sent troops there from start, they could have closed down the Ho Chi Minh trail and strangled Hanoi’s supply route into Vietnam.
"Let Us Go Forth and Achieve Something!"
It's as though "deniability" where Laos operations were concerned was the primary objective, all the more fantastical when the only ones kept in the dark were the American public. The Russians, Chinese, North Vietnamese, Laotians, Cubans, Hungarians, Romanians, Poles, Baltic States, East Germans, and North Koreans all knew so it was the American public who were the target of this disinformation campaign.
American public deceived.
Holy grail of "deniability" sought and attained.
Major communist supply line not severed.
55,000 Americans KIA. Tens of thousands WIA. Hundreds (?) MIA.
American foreign policy in action.
I thought at the time of all of this that Vietnam was only a meat grinder war. All that changed from day to day was how fast the handle got turned. The Cambodian incursion in my time was electrifying for its taking the war to the enemy's sanctuaries in Cambodia – what a concept – and for the dramatic end that it brought to any kind of significant enemy operations in the Mekong Delta. Needless to say, this fantastic initiative drove the anti-American, traitorous, nutjob, draft-allergic left in the U.S. completely dinky dao.
Nixon -- war criminal!!
Now we're all about pretending that Saudi Arabia and Iran are not mortal threats to Western civilization and that the Chinese aren't spoiling for a fight.
We never miss a beat when it comes to self deception and squandering men and resources to pursue pipe dreams. This time around, however, we have the man-child, Choom Gang freak with his hand on the tiller. The one who can't bring himself to salute when the national anthem is played. When you step back a pace or two, you know, it's just plain tragic.
"POWs Left Behind in Indochina. How It Happened." By Zalin Grant, Pythia Press, date unknown (emphasis added).