Sunday, 31 August 2008

Tibetan resistance, the CIA and the murky swamp of history

This story of the CIA's support of Tibetan resistance against the PRC is not often told in English-speaking media, but one you will often hear CCP supporters bring up, often in conjunction with allegations of the old chestnut WMB (western media bias). WMB is the Chinese version of WMD.

It's a cracking tale and an interesting look at how the US viewed mainland China in the couple of decades after the establishment of the People's Republic. It's also drives home the point of how utterly self-interested and lacking in prinicpal international geo-politics is and always has been.

I watched a documentary on this topic last year and remember one Tibetan fighter recalling how betrayed he felt when the US stopped aiding their cause. It was at that point, he said, that he and his comrades realised that the US had never intended to really help the Tibetans still pushing for independence - but just give them enough weapons and training to be a nuisance to the PRC as part of their wider strategic interests.

I must say I'm quite impressed by how well researched this WSJ article seems to be.
Revolt of the Monks
How a Secret CIA Campaign Against China 50 Years Ago Continues to Fester; A Role for Dalai Lama's Brother
By PETER WONACOTTAugust30, 2008
Chodak, an 83-year-old former monk, fled Tibet in the wake of a bloody Chinese invasion more than 50 years ago. Today, he spends his days trimming wool carpets at a refugee center perched above the tranquil tea plantations of this Indian hill town. The plight of Tibetan exiles like Chodak, and their Buddhist message of nonviolence, has drawn world-wide sympathy to their cause.

Tibet's history of resistance
But Chodak's story has a twist.
He's one of the last surviving guerrilla fighters who took up arms against the Chinese during a little-known chapter in Tibet's history. His life has been one of war, not peace. Starting in the late 1950s, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency trained scores of Tibetans, many of them monks, and then air dropped them back to their country with weapons and wireless radios. The linchpin of the operation was an older brother of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of 2.7 million Tibetans and today a Nobel Prize-winning symbol of peaceful resistance. "We were fighting to protect Buddhism from those who wanted to harm it," said Chodak in an interview, his eyes now clouded with cataracts. These days, armed
with little more than his message of peace and the occasional chortle at Beijing's expense, the 73-year-old Dalai Lama enjoys the upper hand in an international public-relations war. He inspires protests that embarrass the Chinese government around the world, including during the recently concluded Beijing Olympics. He also provokes over-the-top denunciations from Chinese officials. During the unrest in March, Tibet's Communist Party Secretary, Zhang Qingli, accused the Dalai Lama of sabotaging the region's stability and described the Buddhist leader as a "a wolf in monk's clothes, a devil with a human face."

The article goes on the describe how intimately involved in the resistance the Dalai Lama's immediate family was, and how the US support for the resistance waned due becoming bogged down in Vietnam, and then stopped altogether with Nixon's recognition of China.

I would like to take this opportunity to say something deep and profound, something well thought-out and insightful, something maybe even intelligent. But the best I can come up with is this:

Politics is a dirty business.

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