Georgia Hmong New Years

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Well, my parents are in charge of the Georgia Hmong New Years 2009-2010 again this year.

Wow! This time they asked me to help make the flyer because they can count on me to not procrastinate on that.

Our New Years don't usually happen until November anyways but they want to get a jumpstart on it.

I have the pictures already and can not wait to start on it this weekend.

Debating whether or not I will play volleyball this year or just dress in Hmong.

I haven't dressed up in Hmong for the New Years since.......

Before I got married and had kids!

The styles are so modern and hip that I want to now.

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Beyond Clint Eastwood: Tribal Justice for the Hmong by Roger Warner

Friday, March 27, 2009

January 8th, 2009

Director-actor Clint Eastwood’s latest film, Gran Torino, is the gritty story of an old racist (played by Eastwood) and what he does when Asians from an obscure immigrant group, the Hmong, move in next door. An inner-city gang tries to get the neighbor’s teenage son to steal Eastwood’s prize car, a Ford Gran Torino. The old coot bonds with his Hmong neighbors, but the gang keeps making trouble, and Clint takes justice into his own hands – with a rifle, a pistol, and bare-knuckled moral outrage.

It’s a good Hollywood movie about vengeance and justice, an updated Dirty Harry. But in the real world, there are 200,000 Hmong in this country, and although they face a serious and deep crisis they don’t need an old white vigilante to save them. They need help from their government, and they aren’t getting it.

The Hmong are a tribe from the mountains of Laos, in Southeast Asia. They fought for the C.I.A. in a little-known sideshow to the Vietnam war. For a people that didn’t even use the wheel in their old country, the Hmong have done phenomenally well as immigrants to America. A solid Hmong-American middle class – soldiers, lawyers, accountants, chicken farmers, store owners and college students – far outnumbers the urban hoodlums. What haunts Hmong-Americans as an ethnic group is that the war they left behind in Laos has never entirely ended. And what frustrates them is that the U.S. government, while occasionally pretending to care, has made the problem worse instead of solving it.

A third of a century after the U.S. armed forces pulled out of Southeast Asia, Laotian soldiers of the old-line communist regime still hunt and kill men, women, and children belonging to the last few Hmong resistance bands. The leaders of the resistance bands were all trained by the C.I.A. when they were young. Most of them are grandfathers now. They have satellite phones, gifts from their American relatives. From remote jungle mountainsides, they call family members in Minnesota, or Wisconsin, or California, and forlornly ask when the U.S. military is going to come back and save them from their enemies.

This poignant leftover conflict in Laos has also spawned subsidiary conflicts in two other countries. Thousands of Hmong have fled from Laos to next-door Thailand, but the Thai government is forcibly repatriating them. And in the U.S. itself, the Justice Department has brought terrorism charges against a group of Hmong-Americans for allegedly planning to overthrow the Laotian regime. What’s going on? Why are Hmong – generally likable and industrious people – getting in so much trouble?

While the Hmong are famous for their stubbornness, and a few of them are real troublemakers, most of the harm done to them has come from national governments. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, one of the last communist regimes in the world, tops the list, followed by the government of Thailand. But the U.S. government also plays a huge unacknowledged role in perpetuating this tribal crisis.

When I visited the U.S. embassy in Laos in August 2008, for example, the staffers there told me they were deeply concerned about human rights violations against the Hmong. But it turned out they weren’t keeping track of Hmong resistance factions systematically, nor had they mapped out any strategies for ending this decades-long conflict through negotiations with the Lao regime. In fact, the embassy people eventually admitted that their proudest achievement was an exchange of military attach├ęs with the Lao regime. This new program will allow the U.S. government to aid the Lao army – the same force that is hunting the C.I.A.-trained resistance leaders. That’s right: The U.S. government has not only abandoned its old tribal allies but is helping those who are trying to kill them. It’s hard to see how a reputation for this kind of betrayal can help us recruit new tribal allies in our current wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The same kind of State Department doublespeak can be heard in Thailand, the country that is sending Hmong refugees back to Laos in violation of international law. When I visited the U.S. embassy in Bangkok, a diplomat working in an elegant, high-ceilinged office told me that human rights for the Hmong was terribly important to him, both personally and professionally . In fact, he said, he’d heard from a lot of congressmen about it. But he also admitted that he’d spent several days with the Thai general directly in charge of the repatriations without raising the subject of the Hmong even once. And why not? “Because he’s not at the same level,” the embassy official said. In other words, rank and protocol were more important to this diplomat than rolling up his sleeves and protecting the Hmong refugees he’d promised congressmen he would help.

To see the practical effects of this State Department neglect I visited Hmong refugees in a detention center in Nong Khai, Thailand. The 150 refugees there are the remnants from two resistance bands that stayed loyal to their old U.S. mentors and stayed on the run for more than thirty years before fleeing Laos for Thailand. They showed me their bullet scars. Their stories checked out. Now these refugees sleep like sardines on a floor of a windowless cell and are let outdoors two hours a day. They are going half-crazy from the confinement and from fear of being tortured when they are returned to Laos. Perhaps if the U.S. embassy officials lived on “the same level” as the Hmong in this detention center they’d try a little harder to improve conditions.

The State Department’s unwillingness to help the Hmong of Laos has set off a curious and self-perpetuating cycle. Historically, the cycle began when Hmong started arriving as refugees in the U.S. thirty years ago: Because the U.S. government wasn’t doing anything to stop the violence against Hmong in Laos, Hmong-Americans matter-of-factly undertook their own ethnic self-defense. Beginning in the 1980s, they raised money in their own communities and sent it to the resistance in Laos along with a few Hmong-Americans to help with the fighting. All of this violated U.S. laws, but the Justice Department didn’t crack down, because the Hmong were old allies, and because American interests weren’t being hurt, or so it seemed.

As time went by without U.S. law enforcement pressure, or any meaningful contact from the federal government, however, the Hmong-American support network grew bolder and less scrupulous. Fundraisers developed sticky fingers and lived off the money they collected. Hmong-Americans factions competed for the loyalties of resistance factions, promising U.S. military help that would never arrive. A succession of white Americans – Lawrence of Arabia wannabees, and military veterans suffering from “lost honor” syndrome – joined the Hmong cause, made promises, then drifted away. And Hmong-Americans started paying fees to smugglers so their relatives could enter Thai refugee camps, in hopes of free rides to America. Nobody was telling the Hmong-Americans they couldn’t. They were like investment bankers and mortgage brokers – under-regulated and opportunistic.

By the beginning of this decade, it was hard to tell how much of the Hmong resistance in Laos and the Hmong refugee influx to Thailand was indigenous and legitimate, and how much was being bought and paid for by Hmong exiles in America. Hmong-Americans funding had enlarged the Hmong phenomenon in Southeast Asia, and this made the State Department’s task of dealing with the Hmong overseas even more difficult. The cycle of futility was complete. Nobody was in charge, and nobody was getting what they wanted, not even the Hmong-Americans, because after all, their relatives were still being hunted down and shot in the mountains of Laos.

By 2007, after repeated offensives by the Laotian army, the Hmong resistance in the mountains of Laos was down to its last thousand or so members, most of them women and children. It had no offensive capability and controlled only a few villages in the boondocks. Resistance leaders spoke openly of wanting to surrender, if only their safety could be guaranteed. But in June 2007, when Justice Department finally acted, it didn’t have their interests in mind.

In Sacramento California, a federal anti-terror task force that needed to justify its existence and couldn’t find any al Qaeda sleeper cells to bust helped create an improbable $26 million plot to overthrow the entire country of Laos. The undercover agent in the case tried to lure nine Hmong-Americans and one U.S. military veteran – a Lawrence of Arabia wannabe named Harrison Jack – into signing up with the plot. (The case is known as U.S. vs. Harrison Jack et. al.) Though the defendants never committed to the plot, the prosecution is seeking multiple life sentences for those who nibbled at the bait.This poorly-timed and sloppy attempt at government entrapment has so outraged retired CIA operatives who worked with the Hmong in Laos long ago that these spooks have promised to testify for the defense if the case goes to trial. That’s right – the C.I.A. versus the Justice Department in a terrorism trial. Convictions seem unlikely, but the case has already had an international effect. The U.S. Justice Department’s branding the Hmong with the “terrorist” label has hardened the resolve of the governments of Laos and Thailand to get rid of their Hmong problem once and for all. It has given these governments yet another excuse to treat tribesmen there as sub-humans, to be hunted down or repatriated at whim. And so the Hmong crisis goes around and around, with nobody in charge.

Back to the new Clint Eastwood film, Gran Torino. Movies are satisfying because they distill broad social trends into small, tight human dramas. A family is threatened. A neighbor responds. We are wired to appreciate those neat, concise stories. The real-life Hmong crisis is much bigger and messier. It cannot be solved Hollywood style by an old white guy with a gun, even a cool old white guy like Clint Eastwood. But in real life, there is a son of tribesman – a Kenyan tribesman – who could bring justice to the Hmong, or at least give it an honest try.

The Obama administration has a lot on its plate, but it could certainly diminish and probably end the Hmong crisis if it chose. Basically, it could offer the Laotian government a deal: The U.S. government would guarantee an end to Hmong-American meddling in exchange for Laos’ guarantee that the last Hmong resistance forces could surrender peacefully – without punishment, under the watchful eyes of international monitors. And the most deserving Hmong refugees in Thailand could be resettled in western countries that have already expressed interest in taking them in.

Would this work? Well, it sure wouldn’t hurt to try. Conditions for an overall settlement are better now than they have been in the last thirty years. So let’s hope President Obama can hit the re-set button. Start fresh, with new thinking. If he and his national security council could knock sense into the State Department and Department of Justice, and get these bureaucracies to work together on a sensible peacemongering policy, this leftover insurgency, which is in nobody’s interests, could be brought to a peaceful end.

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Thailand & Laos agree on Hmong Repatriation and Land Demarcation

2009-03-25 22:12:13

BANGKOK, March 25 (Xinhua) --

Thailand and Laos agreed on Hmong repatriation and land demarcation, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Wednesday.

After finishing Thai-Lao Joint Committee meeting (JC) at former Lao royal capital of Luang Prabang, Kasit told a press conference that some 5,000 ethnic Hmong who have been living in Thailand's Phetchabun province would be repatriated to Laos within this year, Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.

Thailand will offer 1.5 million baht (42,247.5 U.S. dollars) to Laos to support a public health service in Pha Lak village outside the Lao capital of Vientiane for the repatriation. Thai Foreign Ministry would contact third countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States for considering to accept some Hmong who are unwilling to be participated, Kasit said.

According to TNA, many Hmong men were soldiers for the United States fighting against the communist Pathet Lao (Lao Peoples' Army) during the height of the Indochina War in the 1960s and 1970s.

After the communist victory in December 1975, many Hmong fled their home country to settle in the U.S. and other Western countries, while many still remain in Thailand.

The JC meeting also discussed the progress of the land boundary demarcation, Kasit said 676 kilometers of a total 702 kilometers had been demarcated already and the remainder would be worked out by the end of this year.

Kasit also said riverine demarcation for a total length of 1,108 kilometers is expected to be completed in 2010.

Also JC agreed to increase the number of border crossings from three locations presently to nine locations in an effort to continue the joint suppression of drugs and human trafficking along Lao and Thai common border, Kasit added.

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The C.I.A. Man Returns

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

[Part 2 in a series: The Strange New Life of an Old Secret War]

This is a series about a huge C.I.A. operation from long ago that's come to life again, in new forms - as a terrorism case in America, as a leftover insurgency abroad, and as a vexing personal challenge for the C.I.A. operation's retired founder. In the first part, an ambitious - but not very bright - federal undercover agent in Sacramento, California cooked up a spectacular plot to overthrow a foreign government, and then arrested immigrants he'd conned into the fringes of his plan.

Sleazy move! But it might not succeed! The immigrants - Hmong tribesmen from Laos, in Southeast Asia - came to the U.S. after fighting for the C.I.A. during the Vietnam war era. The C.I.A. operative who'd first recruited the Hmong, Bill Lair, looked into the Sacramento case and decided that the Justice Department's undercover man was out of his factually-impaired mind. Oops! The defense lawyer for the Hmong agreed with Lair, and recently filed a motion to dismiss the charges on grounds of "outrageous government conduct." And with that legal counterpunch, U.S.A. vs. Harrison Jack acquired an unenviable status as The Weirdest Terrorism Court Case in America.

As it happens, even before the Hmong arrests, Bill Lair and I had been traveling around the U.S., visiting Hmong-American communities. We did this because Lair - the architect of the second-largest paramilitary operation in C.I.A. history, and the man most responsible for Hmong coming to America - kept getting social invitations from the transplanted tribal people. I traveled with him, shooting video for a documentary and scribbling notes for a book, already having written a history of the Laos covert war (1961-1973) some years earlier.

It took a while for us to realize that the Hmong we were visiting in America were in a kind of quiet crisis - a tribal crisis that stretched from the U.S. to Laos and neighboring Thailand. It took even longer to understand the crisis' inner dynamics, because they were obscured by mythology, by rumors masquerading as facts, and by governmental misconduct of several kinds - the Sacramento terrorism court case being only the most visible example.

At every Hmong-American social gathering, Lair was asked if he could help the Hmong that still remained back in Southeast Asia. In Laos, where he and the Hmong had once worked together, a few Hmong were still fighting against their old enemies - the Laotian "reds," who took over Laos back in 1975. In neighboring Thailand, other Hmong were refugees - fleeing, we were told, from Lao government atrocities. It seemed bizarrely outdated, a conflict that should have ended long ago. Could Bill Lair do something about it, since he worked - used to work - for the almighty C.I.A.? Didn't he still have some connections, with the U.S. government, and with the Thais?

Lair and I got on a plane for Southeast Asia, to find out what was going on. An independent-minded octogenarian with an anti-bureaucratic streak, Lair told me bluntly that he was going to do things his way, and wasn't going to follow anybody's party line. We landed in Bangkok, Thailand, and decided to see Thailand's Hmong refugees as a first step in the investigation.
From Bangkok, we drove toward Lopburi, a medium-size city. South of Lopburi, we came to a Buddhist temple compound, called Wat Tam Krabok, a haven for Hmong hoping to resettle in the West. By then, most of this particular group had left for America, after what was supposed to be careful screening, so the temple grounds were nearly empty. But as we arrived, a few hundred were still standing around with their luggage. Then buses and vans pulled in behind us, to take the Hmong to the Bangkok airport, and then to America.

The retired spook sidled over to the tribespeople and began chatting with them. Decades before, he had mastered the knack of hunching his shoulders and appearing to be shy, to make himself seem smaller and less threatening when he was talking with shorter Asians. Lair also spoke Thai, which is almost identical to Lao, the national language of Laos, so he didn't need an interpreter. After a few minutes of what appeared to be small talk, Lair sidled back over to me, and grumbled, "They're fake. This whole thing is a fake. It's another U.S. government screwup."

I asked him what on earth he meant.

It turned out he was talking about this one group of a dozen or so people. "I talked with them!" said Lair. "They're Hmong tribespeople, all right, but they're not from Laos. These are Hmong from Thailand! They told me that themselves! They had no connection with the U.S. war in Laos whatsoever. They're just getting a free ride to America by passing themselves off as refugees. Looks like our brilliant U.S. government has mucked it up again!"

This wasn't what we had expected to find. But there are pockets of Hmong throughout the mountains of Southeast Asia. They live in Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and southern China. And America's only obligation is to those Hmong from Laos who fought with Lair's C.I.A. operation long ago.

We spent the rest of the day in the temple compound. Beyond the walls rose peaks of limestone, or karst, as picturesque as any Asia. As twilight fell, Lair and I walked around the Buddhist sculpture pavilion on the site, an enormous sitting Buddha in the middle, surrounded by a circle of gigantic standing Buddhas. And we tried to make sense of discovery of the phony refugees.
Neither of us thought the faux refugees made the real refugees less deserving. Every large social phenomenon has an outer layer of hangers-on and pretenders around a central core. And Lair didn't blame the fake refugees much - everybody wants to come to America, as he put it, and the Hmong do better than many immigrant groups. Which was not to say he was pleased.

But the ease with which this small group of Thai Hmong had conned resettlement officials also suggested something more fundamentally alarming. To generalize, it was the curious inability of U.S. government employees to get an accurate read on people from other cultures, regardless of mythologies. The U.S. resettlement people who had blown the screening seem to have bought into in one mythology - the purity and noble suffering of refugees. The mythology and the reality didn't match. And the undercover agent in the California terrorism case bought into exactly the opposite mythology, the myth of Hmong terrorism. The reality and the mythology didn't match there, either, but that didn't stop anyone - Hmong or Americans - from making bogus claims. It was like that fine old saying of Oscar Wilde's: Even the truth can be proved.

At any rate, we learned that a majority of supposed Laotian Hmong refugees in Thailand were just ordinary peasants and farmers hoping for a better life. They formed the outer layer of the refugee phenomenon but we were more interested in the genuine core. We wanted to find out about the hardcore Hmong, those who deserved American help and who were actually suffering. Most of all, we want to find out about the so-called "jungle" Hmong, who'd kept on fighting in Laos for more than thirty years after Lair's C.I.A. operation folded up shop and went home. Some jungle Hmong were still in Laos, others had escaped to Thailand recently. We needed to have Lair talk with them, directly, without interpreters. So the old spook and I headed for the boundary between Laos and Thailand. To the Mekong, the river of busted dreams.

We looked at our trip this way: Once we'd talked with the jungle Hmong, maybe we could talk with U.S. embassy people in Bangkok, to try to figure out what was going on the State Department. And once we'd talked with State Department people, we'd talk with the Thais, the human rights guys, and the rest of the players. Could Bill Lair - who had personally started the C.I.A.'s covert war in Laos, all the way in 1961, who had personally recruited the Hmong - help bring the aftermath of this war to a close? We didn't know. The odds were certainly against it.

But it sure seemed worth a shot.

Next week: The C.I.A. man meets the "jungle" Hmong - the remnants of the original tribal force he raised. Related video: My overview of the California "terrorism" case, focusing on Vang Pao, the former Hmong military commander, whom Bill Lair recruited long ago, and on the U.S. Justice Department's mistakes.

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The Weirdest Terrorism Court Case in America

[Part 1 in a series: The Strange New Life of an Old Secret War]

Good and bad news this week in the weirdest terrorism court case in the country -- a case that, if it goes to trial, would bring CIA veterans to the witness stand to testify against Justice Department agents.

On Monday, the chances of that government nightmare becoming a reality -- spooks vs. gumshoes! at war with each other! -- subsided a bit. The lead lawyer for the defendants, John Keker, filed a motion to dismiss the case for "outrageous government conduct," alleging that the prosecution alternately fabricated, suppressed, and distorted crucial evidence.

Hoping to connect with the new Obama administration, Keker also has asked Eric Holder's Justice Department to give the case an independent review. However, Justice's National Security division has hinted that it may bring additional charges in the future. So maybe the nightmare will come to pass after all, reopening the age-old split between overseas and domestic security agencies, and between the intelligence-gathering and law enforcement professionals.

Though maybe calling some of these guys professionals is stretching it.

The case, known as USA vs. Harrison U. Jack, et. al., was brought in Sacramento, California during the dark days of Alberto Gonzales's tenure as Attorney General. From what I can tell, it was generated by field men in the federal anti-terrorism bureaucracy who couldn't find any al Queda sleeper cells to bust and wanted to make their numbers. The prosecutors, going along with the field men's ambitions, have accused one Caucasian American and ten Asian Americans of planning to overthrow the government of Laos, in Southeast Asia, in a spectacular coup, complete with mercenaries, heavy weapons, and Stinger missiles. The prosecutors' mistakes? Not checking their underlings' work, and not knowing that the Asian American defendants had friends.

The Asian Americans are all from the Hmong tribe of Laos, which was recruited to fight by the CIA during the Vietnam war era.

Veterans of the CIA's operation in Laos (1961-1973) have jumped in the case on the side of the Hmong. The best-known of them is Bill Lair, the original architect of the CIA's Hmong operation (profiled in an admiring op-ed piece in Tuesday's New York Times). Lair and his former colleagues, authentic experts in the realities of warfare in Laos, have studied the court documents and have concluded that the so-called coup plan on which the prosecutors base their case reads like a bad adventure movie synopsis -- "not a serious plan by any stretch of the imagination," as Lair put it in a court affidavit. The defense lawyers agree and explain the coup was actually the brainchild of the Justice Department's undercover agent, who posed as an arms dealer with CIA connections.

In other words, the undercover agent created the conspiracy for which the Hmong were arrested. Some serious dirty work -- and, for a change, real C.I.A. guys are not being accused, but are trying to hold the government to higher standards of ethics and professionalism. The world is full of wonders ...

The core of the case is that 200,000 Hmong are living in America as U.S. citizens. They came here as refugees after the CIA war that Bill Lair once led (though his role as founder of that operation makes him a controversial figure, too). Unfortunately, the fighting in the Hmong home country of Laos didn't end when it was supposed to, in 1975, when their old Vietnam-era opponents -- Laotian quasi-communists -- took control over what is officially known as the Lao People's Democratic Republic. A few Hmong in Laos are still fighting -- a third of a century after the war was supposed to have ended -- and a few Hmong-Americans support them, sometimes by sending money, more often by encouraging them to stay and fight. It's a strange, stubborn conflict, part Iron Age, part 21st century. Though the Hmong resistance bands live on the run in the jungles and subsist on bark, roots, and insects, most have satellite phones. They talk often with their American relatives.

Though the C.I.A. has been out of the Laos picture for decades -- not counting the long-retired Bill Lair's social visits and private factfinding trips -- from time to time American private citizens attach themselves to the lost cause of the Hmong. Most of them are Lawrence of Arabia wannabees who know little about the cultural or historical reality of the Hmong, and Col. Harrison Jack fits within that sorry tradition. I met Col. Jack once, at his arraignment hearing. Seems like a nice guy -- but just as over his head as the law enforcement team trying to frame him.

This case is farcical when it isn't tragic. In his motion to dismiss, the defense lawyer John Keker points out that Harrison Jack himself is a New Age mystic who tried to raise money for the Hmong cause by selling "kinetically-charged" bottled water with alleged healing properties. When Harrison Jack offhandedly mentioned to his healing water water wholesaler that some of the Hmong still in Laos wanted rifles for self-defense, the wholesaler ratted on him to law enforcement authorities.

Months later, when a smoky character who claimed to be an arms dealer materialized, and offered much heavier weapons, and the use of mercenaries, Col. Jack had forgotten about the rifle idea entirely, and had to be reminded. He was also worried about the new man being an undercover agent. So he went to a Sacramento lady friend who gazed into a crystal and told him not to worry, that everything was going to be okay. (The prosecution itself provided documentation of all this, in papers it filed with the court case.) And yet if convicted on all charges and sentenced to the max, this "fool" -- as Keker called Harrison Jack in court -- would face two consecutive life prison terms plus 38 years. And so would most of the Hmong who were swept up with him in this sorry, contrived government-fuelled plot.

But the big tragedy of the U.S. vs.. Harrison Jack case isn't whether a few people go to prison who might or might not deserve to. And it is not even whether the mistakes and intramural feuds of the U.S. national security apparatus gets exposed if the case goes to trial. The real tragedy is that, whatever happens or doesn't happen with this misguided federal court case, some innocent tribal people are being killed. Why? In part because the U.S. government's labeling the Hmong "terrorists" has given a couple of Southeast Asian governments all the excuse they ever wanted to treat the Hmong as badly or worse than we've treated anyone in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. Here is my prediction: in the weeks or months ahead, you will hear about rioting or deaths in refugee camps for what used to be the C.I.A.'s favorite tribe.
And morality aside, for the moment looking only the practical effects, this -- like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo - is seriously bad P.R. Stay tuned.

Next posting: Bill Lair, a retired C.I.A. operative, returns to Southeast Asia to look for the remnants of the tribal force he once led, and finds a snake's nest of forgotten warriors, real and phony refugees -- and massive U.S. government indifference.

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My thoughts on Gran Torino

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A few days ago, I finally saw Gran Torino. Now, I've heard mixed reviews. The American audience generally loved the movie. While, the Hmong critics bashed it. I went in watching the film with a clear head. I didn't want any of their views to influence my thoughts. After watching the movie, I can see both sides. For me, I did like the movie. Me, being Hmong myself, I am not dumb to not know all my traditions. However, I do know that it is just a movie. I am proud and greatly honored by Clint Eastwood to have a movie that will show my people - the Hmong people - in a positive, yet negative light as well.

I am sure after watching this movie, for those who did know who Hmong people are went on Google to search Hmong people. People probably did not even know how to spell Hmong and google the ethnicity or nationality of the people in Gran Torino. I'm sure of this because this blog itself has gotten a lot of hits at one time about Gran Torino.

No one can argue the acting ability of Clint Eastwood. He's a legend and one of the best ever in Hollywood. What I find it more amazing is he gave Hmong people a place to shine in the movie. There are no professional Hmong stars, yet he gave two amateur Hmong actors a place in Hollywood -- Anhey Her who plays Sue & Bee Vang who plays Tao.

Walt is a grumpy, old man. He is a Viet veteran who has served his country but feels alienated in his own family. For some reason, he is unhappy with his life. Besides his kids who does not care for him. The only person who loves him so much is his wife but she is no longer living.

Who ever thought that a minority ethnic group called Hmong would open Walt's eyes up? Like many people who are ignorant about other people's cultures, Walt was eagered to shut his heart on these "chinks" who live next door to him.

He locked himself of the outside world, not knowing that times have changed. The best scene to portray this is when he had to visit his doctor.

Eastwood chose to show the good and bad of the Hmong people, which I thought was brilliant. You have Sue and Tao's family living next door. Then also have Tao's gangster cousin and his gangster friends.

To me, Ahney was very natural and really liked her. Plus I am so glad that she did not have a weak character. She had me laughing when she was sticking up for herself.

Bee Vang has the quiet role. He plays Tao, a boy who needs to man up in the house. A good kid with a kind heart but does not know where to go. His gangster cousin wants him to be in the gang with them.

The movie is titled Gran Torino for the car that Walt drives. The gangsters wanted Tao to steal the car to prove his macho-ness.

Another interesting point is the failing automotive industry. The film was shot in Michigan, where 80% of the automotive business lives.

Being a Hmong, there are some scenes in which I know isn't true. However, you have to watch the movie knowing it's just a movie. It is not a freaking documentary on Hmong people. If you want that, go watch PBS.

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