The U.S. war in Laos is typically called a "secret war," and with reason. During the period of the most ferocious bombing of the civilian society of northern Laos, which even the U.S. government conceded was unrelated to military operations in Vietnam or Cambodia, the press consciously suppressed eyewitness testimony by well-known noncommunist Western reporters. Earlier, fabricated tales of "Communist aggression" in Laos had been widely circulated by a number of influential correspondents. 1 In the elections of 1958, which the U.S. government vainly attempted to manipulate, the Pathet Lao emerged victorious, but U.S. subversion succeeded in undermining the political settlement. At one point the United States backed a right-wing Thai-based military attack against the government recognized by the United States. All of this barely entered public awareness. The same was true of the CIA-sponsored subversion that played a significant role in undermining the 1962 agreements, a settlement which, if allowed to prevail, might well have isolated Laos from the grim effects of the war in Southeast Asia.
The hill tribesmen recruited by the CIA (as they had been by the French) to hold back the social revolution in Laos, were decimated, then abandoned when their services were no longer needed. Again, the press was unconcerned. When John Everingham, a Lao-speaking Australian reporter, travelled in 1970 "through dying village after dying village" among the Meo who had been "naive enough to trust the CIA" and were now being