Dec 18, 2007
Roger Arnold's Still a Secret War
I like Roger Arnold’s photos. A lot. I like this video even better.
The context in which a photo is taken is as important to me the image itself. I like to know the story behind the photo. In this case the story and the image are tied so closely together that I can’t imagine one without the other.
For myself the last chapter in the story of the Hmong and the secret war in Laos will probably be those pictures of the group of Blia Shaua Her in Roger Arnold’s photos from June in 06. The more often I look at the pictures the more I recognise the people again. Tong Fang mourning his wife. Bla Yang Fang with his old M 16 tied together with rags, then with his new UN High Commission for Refugees certificate. Most memorable of all Tong Hua Her first with his face half shot off, then after surgery in Thailand.
Read the story in Roger’s own words at
Still A Secret War by Roger Arnold
What’s not covered in his story and what we do get a taste of in the video, is who the heck is this guy Mr. Arnold anyway. Two weeks in a Hmong village hidden in the jungle? Ten trips to Laos?
The presentation in the video is extremely factual, the delivery of a journalist. Roger’s refuses to speak in hyperbole. He doesn’t sensationalize. He admonishes those who would use his photos or story for anti Lao propaganda purposes not to do so. The completely rational, sober telling of the story in the first person adds untold power to the message.
It’s as if he’s saying, This is what has happened, and this is what is happening now, it’s up to the reader, or the viewer, to try to understand.
Undoubtedly the most amazing story coming out of Laos at the moment, weaving together the threads of a narrative that begins before the war in Vietnam itself and ties in the current war on terror and the political expediency of abandoning our comrades from thirty five years ago.