Pubdate: Sat, 27 Apr 2002
Source: Capital Times, The  (WI)
Copyright: 2002 The Capital Times
Author: Pat Schneider


State Sen. Gary George is calling on UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley to 
order an investigation into allegations by a UW-Madison professor that the 
commander of the CIA's secret army in the Vietnam War - now a leader of 
refugee Hmong in the United States - engaged in drug trafficking in Laos.

The allegations, 30 years old, resurfaced this month, enraging the refugee 

"We will seek the truth and follow that path wherever it leads," George 
said Friday at a news conference at the State Capitol packed with Hmong 
veterans and supporters of Gen. Vang Pao.

Professor Alfred McCoy wrote about his findings on the role of Vang Pao and 
the CIA in drug trafficking in southeast Asia in a 1972 book, "The Politics 
of Heroin."

McCoy said the U.S. government assisted Vang Pao in bringing opium, an 
important cash crop for the Hmong, to heroin factories to help Vang Pao 
seal his leadership role and ensure a supply of fighters who waged a secret 
war against the North Vietnamese in Laos.

Wiley and Phil Certain, dean of the College of Letters and Science, on 
Friday issued a statement of support of McCoy. Citing a university 
tradition of protecting academic freedom, they say: "Though the conclusions 
our faculty and staff draw from research and historical data sometimes 
prove unpopular, those conclusions are the very foundation of the academic 
freedom we cherish."

Since an April 17 article in The Capital Times recounting McCoy's 
allegations, Hmong veterans and leaders from throughout the state have 
protested his conclusions vigorously, picketing the University of Wisconsin 
and demanding that McCoy apologize.

The examination of Vang Pao's history was prompted by a proposal by Madison 
Park Board member Locha Thao that a new park on the far east side be named 
in honor of Vang Pao.

Vang Pao, through a statement read Friday by his representative, Xang Vang, 
vigorously denied the allegations.

"Professor McCoy has made numerous allegations against myself, which are 
without substance and are completely untrue," the statement said.

Vang Pao referred to an article in the Daily Cardinal newspaper in which 
McCoy said Vang Pao tried to silence him while he was in Laos in 1971, 
sending an armed ambush against McCoy and his contacts there.

"I think that Professor McCoy has been watching too many Indiana Jones 
movies," Vang Pao commented.

Jane Hamilton-Merritt, author of "Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the 
Americans and the Secret War for Laos," took up the challenge of the Hmong 
protesters, challenging McCoy to "show us the proof." She said she 
carefully examined the footnoted sources in his book and finds no proof of 
his allegations there.

Jack Knotts, president of the Air America Association, a group of former 
civilian employees of the CIA-owned airline that supported U.S. troops in 
Laos, said Friday the aircraft were not used to move drugs.

"The CIA was adamant about any of us not carrying drugs," said Knotts. As 
drug addiction among U.S. troops rose, drug-sniffing dogs were put to work 
at the airports used by Air America, he said.

A former pilot, Knotts said later that such trafficking could not have 
occurred without his knowledge and that a heroin lab McCoy says Vang Pao 
used definitely did not exist.

Hamilton-Merritt said it was important to know the truth about what 
happened then because "it's not only their history, it's our history too."

The Madison Park Board will consider the proposal for a Vang Pao park on 
May 8. A board committee voted not to recommend the name after questioning 
whether it would fulfill park naming guidelines, which emphasize 
contributions to the Madison park system and community.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart