Between 1961 and 1973, in a civil war in the tiny Southeast Asian country of Laos, the Central Intelligence Agency oversaw a massive paramilitary operation. CIA operatives, working with the U.S. embassy, Thai commandos, U.S. military advisors, and others, helped build an army of tens of thousands of anticommunist Laotians, mostly from the Hmong ethnic group.
Perhaps most notably, the operation went on for most of the 1960s with limited interest from the U.S. Congress or the public. Reporters, mostly based in other Southeast Asian nations, had little ability to access the remote sites where the twilight war was being led. A handful of congresspeople and aides traveled to Laos for brief visits, and produced some thorough reports, but were often unable to get the CIA or the embassy to tell them much about the operation. In this way, the secret conflict in Laos---managed largely by the CIA, with minimal oversight by Congress and a U.S. public that cared little about the impacts of the war overseas---was a harbinger of today’s twilight global war on terror.
For more on how the lack of oversight in Laos paved the way for today’s twilight war on terror, read my new article in The National.