Reporting Laos: The U.S. Media and the "Secret" War in Laos: 1955-1975

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From 1955-1975 the United States Government was involved in covert paramilitary efforts in Laos. Congress did not approve the Laos conflict, which pitted tens of thousands of American-hired ethnic mercenaries against the North Vietnamese army and featured a massive bombing campaign by U. S. aircraft. Yet approximately 500 Americans were killed or disappeared in Laos during the period, and hundreds of millions of U. S. taxpayer dollars were expended on the covert war. Up to 200,000 Lao civilians were killed in the fighting. Meanwhile, policy makers were able to keep secret the main details of American operations in Laos until late 1969. How they did so without being challenged seriously by the mainstream American media is the subject of this study. The thesis incorporates relevant secondary sources as well as interviews with more than 30 personalities associated with the war or the American media coverage. It concludes that the press corps did not begin to focus on the actual situation in Laos until very late, when the U.S. public began to demand an end to the Indochina conflict in general. Moreover, U.S. journalism was hampered in Laos by its own "professional routines," including an overwhelming dependence on U.S. Government sources to provide the "news."