What Was David Duke Doing in Laos?
He probably didn't get fired for his chalkboard drawings
David Duke is probably the most well-known white nationalist in the country, a former state representative and grand wizard of the KKK.
His father worked at Royal Dutch Shell headquarters before joining USAID in 1966, working first in Vietnam and then in Laos.
Duke Jr spent two months in Laos in the summer of 1971 before beginning the career that made him famous. He was brought there by his father in June, who according to Tyler Bridges’ account, set him up teaching English to Laotian army officers at a DOD school. Bridges describes it as “a job many parents found for visiting sons and daughters.” Here’s the story of how he supposedly got fired:
Duke himself claimed to have been present on Air America flights that dropped rice to Hmong and other Laotian anti-communists. Air America is one of several CIA aviation fronts, and was alleged to have been involved in drug trafficking. Air America was taking heavy losses in 1971.
Whether the Air America stuff is true or not, and most writers on Duke’s past doubt it, the story about teaching in Vientiane strains credulity. Read this sentence again: “Green, who had participated in three wars, knew that such a drawing could encourage an impressionable soldier to make Molotov cocktails — and Molotov cocktails could be very dangerous in a strife-torn country.”
This is pure fiction. Laos was in the midst of a bloody civil war, the idea that army officers would be scandalized by a drawing of a Molotov cocktail is absurd. You also might wonder if English language skills were really much of a priority with North Vietnamese troops streaming over the border, an enormous secret bombing campaign that made Laos the most heavily-bombed per capita country in world history, and U.S. troops being withdrawn from Vietnam next door. It’s quite the summer job.
So what was Duke really doing there?