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Shooting at the Moon: The Story of America's Clandestine War in Laos Paperback – 20 Oct 1997


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Product details

  • Paperback: 436 pages
  • Publisher: STEERFORTH PRESS; 1st. Paperback Ed edition (20 Oct. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883642361
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883642365
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 901,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Jan. 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a balanced and informative book about the CIA's secret war in Laos. Roger Warner presents a gripping, straightforward account of this shadowy chapter in American history, and skillfully avoids the cliches and sentimentality that often accompany stories about allies abandoned by the U.S. Both scholars and general non-fiction readers will appreciate this book. The only minor flaw is dozens of typographical and editing errors.
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By H. Rogers on 14 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback
A well written and researched account of the secret war in Laos in the 60s and early 70s. As a sideshow to the much larger tragedy in Vietnam Laos, both the country and the people, was doomed from the start to be expendable. The author illustrates the cruelly paradoxically situation that as the US involvement in Laos increased decisions on the fighting campaign were increasingly taken higher up the chain of command by individuals ignorant of the realities on the ground and, in some cases, indifferent to the fate of the Laos people. The well intentioned Americans who went in at the beginning and knew the country and its people well were quickly marginalised and as Vietnam began to implode Laos and its people became a very small expendable pawn to be sacrificed on the alter of regional politics. Hopefully lessons have been learnt. An excellent well balanced book of a tragic conflict.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Hampus Eckerman on 9 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
Shooting at the Moon is a book covering the US military war in Laos. Though some information is passed upon the war in Vietnam or Cambodia, the details are few and only mentioned when having an impact on the Laos war. Good descriptions are made on all the main characters involved and the war is covered both on the washington perspective and on the agents on the field. Only the effects on the civilian population is missing. A short summary is done on what happened after the war, on the further destinies on the peoples involved, on Laos and the refugees in Thailand. No real mention is done about the royalist puppet government of the US, other than a futile attempt to forbid US to do massive bombing flights. There is barely any mention on US activities apart from the military, such as factfinding, espionage and interrogation techniques.
Writing: 5/5
The book is an enjoyable read, well written with an easy to understand chronology. It is written not as an ordinary fact book, but more as a story about the americans involved in the secret wars of Laos. There are few direct quotes and the footnotes hardly points out which facts are received from whom. This is understandable, as many of the sources to the book are still working for CIA and don't want their names tied to some given fact. The the war in Laos is still a touchy subject. You get a feeling of all the main characters in the book, understanding why they took the decisions they did. Also, you get emotionally involved with the american allies in Laos, the Hmong people (in the book known as Meo), how they are used in the war and ultimately betrayed
as the US sees bigger gains to be had by abandoning the people that have been fighting for them.
Facts: 4/5
There is no doubt that this book has been well researched.
Read more ›
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Jun. 1999
Format: Paperback
The subject of the US -and particularly CIA- involvement in Laos is usually treated lightly, taking into account only the broad picture or being the story of a handful of persons during a short period of the conflict. Shooting at the moon starts when it started and ends when the CIA had to pull the plug on its most romantic paramilitary operation. The story of the fighters and of this part of the Lao population, the Hmongs, is profoundly touching. The operations on the PdJ theater are clearly described. Their previsible end makes rapidly little doubt. The power struggle behind this so-called secret war finds its place within all this telling. The pieces are so clearly in place that one is not surprised to go from Long Cheng to Washington and back. This book is so well-balanced that it stands far above the rest.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 25 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Failed Strategies 4 Feb. 2001
By jkhooah - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Warner accurately captures the bizarre twists and turns of the U.S. surrogate warfare efforts in Laos. My experience as a direct participant during the 1972-75 time frame gives me the advantage of being able to attest to some of Warner's chronicle. The historical record also provides us information on the failed strategies used by the American State Department in their desire to control events in Laos. Although the North Vietnamese considered all of Southeast Asia as their theater of operations, the American effort, in contrast, became one of disjointed and , at times, bumbling entities running into each other without effective command and control. This does not in any way diminish the heroic efforts of honest men trying too carry out tactical operations while complying with unreasonable controls of the American government bureaucracy. The legacy of these failed strategies can be seen with the difficult acclimation of the Hmong into American society. Warner's spares us the micro detail and intense emotionalism of other books on the same surrogate warfare. This makes "Shooting at the Moon" a good compelling read. With the above bureaucratic absurdities in mind, Warner was right on when he said that "it was the Americans who were shooting at the moon"!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Shooting at the Moon is on the Mark! 7 Aug. 1998
By brcnge@rit.edu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Shooting at the Moon is the great image Roger Warner employs to shed light on the USA strategy in Laos and perhaps for all of Southeast Asia. With literary aplomb, Warner brings to life many of the key figures in the CIA 's covert attempt to level the playing field in Laos as the overt war raged in Vietnam. The incredible shift from a small operation to a technically air dependent approach in the context of global political strategy, set up the Hmong people, our allies, for inevitable genocide. Warner succeeds in placing the reader inside Laos in its last days of glory as "The Land of a Million Elephants and a Parasol." In the end, shooting at the moon eclipses the sincere efforts of a handful of people to stave off the darks days in Laos following the communist takeover.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Gripping Read! 1 May 2000
By Dean Barrett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The author of Shooting at the Moon certainly does capture the "magical perversity" of Laos which sometimes reads as a tragedy-comedy. And he does so by detailing not merely the lives of those involved but also by showing how their backgrounds prepared them for their roles. I arrived in Thailand in 1966 but didn't make it to Laos until 1972. Mr. Warner's book has the ring of truth as to the political and cultural background as the drama unfolded, and also portrays the almost indescribable feel of Laos, its perverse magic, its beguiling lethargy. It is certainly the most innocent who suffer the most. This is a fine book well worth reading.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
An Examination of Conscience 26 April 2000
By Jack Swelters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Meticulously researched and written in a style reminiscent of and often as moving as Dinesan's "Out of Africa", Warner's book tells the sad story of how our national hubris crushed and corrupted the intense love affair many of us had for Southeast Asia and particularly Laos in the 1960s. I've just read the book for the second time after yet another visit to Laos; Warner's book confirms my long held belief that this humble land may outdo us all in its capacity for living and letting live. Lasting scholarship, a joy to read.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Laos war from an american perspective 9 Jan. 2006
By Hampus Eckerman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Shooting at the Moon is a book covering the US military war in Laos. Though some information is passed upon the war in Vietnam or Cambodia, the details are few and only mentioned when having an impact on the Laos war. Good descriptions are made on all the main characters involved and the war is covered both on the washington perspective and on the agents on the field. Only the effects on the civilian population is missing. A short summary is done on what happened after the war, on the further destinies on the peoples involved, on Laos and the refugees in Thailand. No real mention is done about the royalist puppet government of the US, other than a futile attempt to forbid US to do massive bombing flights. There is barely any mention on US activities apart from the military, such as factfinding, espionage and interrogation techniques.

Writing: 5/5

The book is an enjoyable read, well written with an easy to understand chronology. It is written not as an ordinary fact book, but more as a story about the americans involved in the secret wars of Laos. There are few direct quotes and the footnotes hardly points out which facts are received from whom. This is understandable, as many of the sources to the book are still working for CIA and don't want their names tied to some given fact. The the war in Laos is still a touchy subject. You get a feeling of all the main characters in the book, understanding why they took the decisions they did. Also, you get emotionally involved with the american allies in Laos, the Hmong people (in the book known as Meo), how they are used in the war and ultimately betrayed

as the US sees bigger gains to be had by abandoning the people that have been fighting for them.

Facts: 4/5

There is no doubt that this book has been well researched. There is a wealth of information on the persons involved, the most important events, which types of weapons were used, the strategies involved and on all things military. The problems comes

mostly when the author alleges things that aren't directly connected to the Laos wars. At one place he tells us that the CIA has never been involved in drug dealing, even if that has thoroughly documented in books like Alfred W. McCoys The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Central America, Columbia. He states that the US had little to with when in 1965, the military regime of Indonesia slaughtered 300 000 indonesians, even though CIA was largely involved in the overthrow of the left-wing government of Sukarno, compiling lists of dissidents and turning them over to the right-wing generals. At another time, the author chides the CIA:s excessive caution regarding the bloody regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia, but never mentions that the US supported the Khmer Rogue regime with food and medicines to be used as a buffer against the Vietnamese. These are details, but as all these details show a will to hide the dirtier side of the CIA war, one wonders what else has been missed in the book.

Balance: 3/5

This is a book purely from an american perspective, although their Hmong allies are covered quite well. No greater depth goes into anyone fighting on the enemy side, no commanders are mentioned and the civilians (apart from the Hmong) aren't mentioned more than perhaps 2-3 times. This onesidedness are displayed directly in the first chapter describing a coupe in 1960 against the american backed royalist government in favour for a more neutral government, somewhere between the americans and the vietnamese. No where is it mentioned that this was in fact a counter coupe to when general Phoumi, with US help, rigged the ballots in 1958 to throw out the 21 leftist candidates from the national assemby.

However, this bias is moslty in the selection of what to cover. No moral perspective is given on the use of Napalm, or bombing Laos with the equivalent of 25 Hiroshima bombs, as no moral judgement is passed on the vietnames disregard of peace treaties and borders. While the vietnamese recruiting to the army is called 'brainwashing', the Hmong side 'hard recruitment methods' are also mentioned. What is more suprising is when the author names the CIA officers involved as 'descent people', even though one of them collects the ears from dead enemies and thinks that the marines should be sent against antiwar protesters instead of national guard 'because the marines shot better' and another officer thinks that Vietnam, the country they suppousedly are helping, should be bombed into the stoneage.

The faults mentioned above do not, however, deduct from the generally good experience when reading the book, and the story is genuinely fascinating. I recommend everyone to read this book. One should complement this book with some on the rest of the vietnam war, mostly regarding the effects of the weapons used on the population, as those parts are severly lacking form this book.
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