What's CIA up to with Dalai Lama?
On Aug. 14 the Dalai Lama--a religious figurehead of Tibetan
Buddhism-was in New York's Central Park. While in the city he
also appeared at three sold-out performances at the Beacon
Theatre plus other events--where wealthy individuals could pay
up to $1,000 a ticket to hear him speak.
He had official cooperation, including prominent news
articles in each of the three major dailies and subway posters
with directions to the park, compliments of the New York City
According to the New York Times, the Dalai Lama's every move
was mapped out and scheduled by the U.S. State Department. New
York City officials blocked off streets. Television crews from
around the world followed him. And every news or feature story
managed to push the issue of independence of Tibet from
Puerto Rico has about the same size population as Tibet.
Puerto Rico has been a U.S. colony for over 100 years. It has
had many great and dynamic leaders. Why aren't there similar
movies, posters and concerts bankrolled for Puerto Rico's
leaders, just to take one example?
Rock bands, movie stars and politicians all honor the Dalai
Lama and raise the call for a "free Tibet." This State
Department campaign has confused many people who are deeply
interested in freedom for political prisoners or in
environmental issues. But under a slick cover, this campaign
hides an unrelenting attack on the People's Republic of China
and the accomplishments of the Chinese Revolution.
The Dalai Lama, with considerable help from the major
corporate media, has become a cult figure. Ask anyone who's
tuned in to the media. Even if they hardly know anything about
politics, they will tell you the Dalai Lama is a good, saintly
person, a "holy man," a "spiritual force." His new book, "The
Art of Happiness"--co-written with Howard C. Cutler--was
promoted until it made the best-seller list for 29 weeks.
But is the Dalai Lama really apolitical? If so, why did this
"holy man," who supposedly would not kill an insect, support
NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia?
People concerned about social issues should know that, like
Pope John Paul and other conservative religious leaders, the
Dalai Lama denounces abortion, all forms of birth control and
U.S. imperialism has much experience in using the religious
sentiment of millions of people. The CIA formed a bloc with the
Pope, who has the allegiance of hundreds of millions of Roman
Catholics, to overturn socialism in Poland. It should come as
no surprise that the Dalai Lama is also utilized by the
On the other hand, religious figures who oppose U.S. policy
are demonized or become targets of assassination--from Bishop
Romero of El Salvador to religious Muslims in Lebanon and
Last year Hollywood released two major movies about Tibet.
The Hollywood studios love the Dalai Lama, who, we are told,
embodies the spirit and aspirations of the Tibetan people. The
rich conglomerates that now control Hollywood--Disney and
TriStar--both support the organization Free Tibet.
Hollywood glorifies the tiny Tibetan ruling class and its
presumed idyllic past in the same way the movie "Gone With the
Wind" glorified slavery and the racist ruling class in the old
One of these movies, "Seven Years in Tibet," was based on a
book written by an Austrian Nazi, Heinrich Harrer. He was
involved in some of the most brutal crimes of the fascists in
Austria. Harrer ended up in Tibet during World War II on a
secret mission for German imperialism, which was trying to
compete with British imperialism in Asia. He was accepted into
the inner circle of the court life among the Tibetan
All over the globe Indigenous societies of North America,
Latin America, Africa and Australia have been decimated. The
rich variety of their cultures, music and religious beliefs
have been ripped up, stepped on and ridiculed. Native peoples
have been crushed all over the world by the very forces who
today seem to be so respectfully in awe of Tibetan culture.
Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism would have been of little
interest to U.S. or British imperialism had it not been for the
great Chinese Revolution, which swept away all the old, corrupt
This was a revolution that involved mass movements of
millions of poor peasants organizing to distribute the land and
throw out the old landlords. This great social upheaval
unleashed the creative energy and participation of a quarter of
humanity. Yet the Western media instead glorifies the old
Era of divide and rule in China
For over 100 years, the imperialist powers of Western Europe
and Japan carved China into spheres of interest, just as Europe
carved Africa into outright colonies. Washington opposed these
special concession areas only because it wanted unrestricted
access to all of China for U.S. business.
In the 19th century, Britain, the dominant power, fought two
wars with the Manchu Dynasty for the right to impose the sale
of opium on China. In 1904 Britain launched a full-scale
military invasion of Tibet. In the Treaty of Lhasa, China was
forced to grant two trading areas to Britain and to pay huge
military reparations to cover the cost of the British war.
In 1949 the Red Army was close to finally defeating the
U.S.-supported Kuomintang army led by General Chiang Kai-shek.
Washington then plotted to let Tibet join the new United
Nations as an independent country. The effort failed because
Tibet had been considered a Chinese pro vince for over 700
years, and even the Kuomintang asserted that China had always
included Tibet and the island of Taiwan.
Today as U.S. imperialism grows ever more aggressive, it is
moving on several fronts to push for the separation of Tibet,
Taiwan and the western province of Xinjiang from China.
Just as in the Balkans and in the republics of the former
Soviet Union, U.S. corporate forces support and encourage
separatist movements to break up and control whole areas of the
globe that had earlier broken free of imperialist
Life in old Tibet
Pre-revolution Tibet was a completely underdeveloped region.
It had no road system at all. The only wheels were prayer
wheels. It was an agricultural, feudal theocracy based on
serfdom and slavery.
Over 90 percent of the population were landless serfs. They
were tied to the land but owned nothing. Their children were
registered on the landlord's property books.
There were no schools, except feudal monasteries where a
handful of young boys studied chants. Total enrollment in the
old-style private schools was 600 students. Education for women
was of course absolutely unheard of. There was no health care.
There was not one hospital in all of Tibet.
One hundred noble families and the abbots of 100 major
monasteries--also from ruling families--owned everything. The
Dalai Lama lived in the 1,000-room, 14-story Potala Palace.
Traditionally he was chosen in his youth from outside the
ruling circles. He remained a pawn under the control of
contending advisers from the nobility.
For the average peasant, life was short and miserable. Tibet
had one of the highest rates of tuberculosis and infant
mortality in the world.
Today Tibet has 2,380 primary schools, along with several
professional schools, where education is conducted in the
Tibetan language. Tibet now has 2,623 doctors, 95 municipal
hospitals and 770 medical clinics.
Class struggle in Tibet
In 1949 the Chinese Revolution first established Tibet as an
Autonomous Region with far more rights than it had under any
previous Chinese government. Chinese Communist Party policy was
to wait until conditions developed within the oppressed classes
of the Tibetan population to rise up and overthrow serfdom.
Serfdom was not outlawed until 1959, ten years after the
Chinese Revolution. This hap pened after a mass movement had
isolated the whole entourage of the Dalai Lama.
It's true, however, that Chinese Communists challenged
age-old customs in Tibet.
First of all, the Chinese government paid wages to Tibetans
who worked on a large national road-building program. This
totally disrupted the custom of servitude. Before this, a serf
could only survive by working for a landlord, not for wages but
Even more revolutionary was the CCP policy of paying wages
to children of serfs and former slaves to attend school and
providing them with books, meals and housing. In desperately
poor families even young children had had to work for the
family to survive. This revolutionary policy gave economic
leverage for the first time to the most oppressed layers of
this stifling class society.
CIA mobilizes ruling-class
Starting in 1955 the CIA began to build a
counter-revolutionary army in Tibet, much like the contras in
Nicaragua and, more recently, the financing and training of the
KLA in Kosovo.
In the Aug. 16 Newsweek magazine, an article entitled "A
secret war on the roof of the world--spooks, monks and the
CIA's covert gamble in Tibet" describes details of the CIA
operation from 1957 to 1965.
Similarly, a major article in the Jan. 25, 1997, Chicago
Tribune described the special training of Tibetan mercenaries
at Camp Hale in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado throughout the
These mercenaries were then parachuted into Tibet. According
to the famous "Pentagon Papers," there were at least 700 of
these flights in the 1950s. Air Force C-130s were used, as
later in Vietnam, to drop ammunition and submachine guns. There
were also special bases in Guam and Okinawa for training
Gyalo Thundup, the Dalai Lama's brother, ran the operation.
This was hardly a secret. It was his claim to fame.
The Chicago Tribune article was titled, "The CIA Secret War
in Tibet." As this article said so well, "Little about the CIA
skullduggery in the Himalayas is a real secret except maybe to
the U.S. taxpayers who bankrolled it."
The CIA gave a special retainer to the Dalai Lama throughout
the 1960s of $180,000 a year--a small fortune in Nepal, where
it had set up an army and virtual government in exile.
Washington also set up special radio stations aimed at Tibet
projecting the Dalai Lama as a god-king.
Ralph McGehee, who has written many exposés of CIA
operations and maintains a web site, described in some detail
how the "company" promoted the Dalai Lama. The CIA's National
Endowment for Democracy provided money for the Tibet Fund,
Tibet Voice and the International Campaign for Tibet.
This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news http://www.workers.org/orders/donate.php)
HOME :: U.S. NEWS :: WORLD NEWS :: EDITORIALS :: SUBSCRIBE :: DONATE