The wars of the 20th century destroyed many millions of people who once lived in the hillsides and valleys of remote rural worlds. Few were hit as hard as the Hmong, an ancient tribe whose members hewed out rough lives upcountry in Laos, west of Vietnam. Half a century ago, Laos became a cockpit of the cold war. The Hmong, led by a charismatic soldier named Vang Pao, sided with the United States in the fight against Communism in Southeast Asia. They lost everything — their land, their way of life, their country.