Free Tibet And Other Echos From The Past

You see those occasional bumper stickers “Free Tibet” and wonder who could really be that interested in a tiny far away place.  Most of us couldn’t even find Tibet on a map with a big hint that it is north of India and southwest of China.  There was a time when that was much more than just a slogan.  The US actually put men and resources into a real struggle to free Tibet from Chinese rule.  It is a very remote place and mountainous and difficult to control for any authority when the people are opposed.  By the late 1950’s Red China had consolidated its control over almost all China and China claimed regions like Tibet.  Even the Communists with all their resources had a hard time because except for a couple of towns there was no place to corral the people because they were scattered in the mountains.

In 1959 the Dalai Lama and several thousand followers fled to northern India.  There they hoped to regroup and launch an initiative back into Tibet and free it from the Communists.   Our CIA had succeeded the OSS following the War and saw this as an opportunity to make trouble for the Chinese Communist which was their job in the covert operations section.   Covert operations and special operation members are a very small portion of that agency and always have been.  Mostly it is an analysis organization and spy network to acquire useful information for the US leadership both civilian and military.  The vast majority of its covert work is spy work and propoganda.  This naturally lends itself to the lower side of the human beast.  It involves lying, conspiracy, extortion, bribery and other assorted socially unacceptable behavior.  That is the nature of the beast. 

The CIA always had a very small number of actual special operatives that engaged in paramilitary activity.  When they needed more boots on the ground they would recruit the help from mercenaries or local people who were inspired to fight commies or were willing to do so for pay.    Thus it has ever been since the days of Joshua and his spies going into the Promised Land.   The Tibetans were for the most part truly inspired to regain control of their country.  They had a natural hatred for the Commies and their atheistic policies and dogmatic controls of not just everyday life but the minds of the people.  The Chinese were foreigners to them in spite of Chinese claims that Tibet had been historically part of China and thus a legitimate target of their intrusions.  The Chinese controlled the cities such as they were but it was a fragile control much like we describe our control in Iraq today. 

The CIA trained and then equipped the Tibetans and helped send them into Tibet in the early ’60’s to foment civil war and rebellion.  Of course the Indians were complicit in the affair. They knew of the training and the general nature of the mission.  China was its enemy and rival then just as it is now to a greater or lesser extent.   Many in the CIA at the time thought the chances of success were nil but the training moved forward.   The CIA operatives on the ground with the Tibetans were more enthusiastic as would be expected since they worked with the men every day.  They got close to them and believed in the mission.    They sent them on their way with guns and horses.  The raiders did cause some disruptions and consternation to the Chinese but never really posed a genuine threat to their dominance of Tibet.

They would conduct raids on Chinese troops on occasion and destroy some military facilities and supplies but then have to retreat to the fastness of the mountains for protection against the overwhelming power of the Chinese army.  Sound familiar?  This clandestine war went on for several years overlapping our involvement in the early days of Viet Nam.  It became clear to all however that ultimate success would not come from these pinpricks against the Chinese juggernaut.   There never an official retreat or truce.  The fighting just frittered away slowly until the CIA in the late ’60’s quit offering any support or aid and the whole matter disappeared like those sand castles on the beach.   There was no news coverage of the episode because we tried to keep it secret, the Chinese would not acknowledge it because that would embarrass them to tell the world that there were rebels running loose in one of their provinces and no media had access to the region.   Some of the Tibetans eventually returned to Tibet and melted into the mist of time.  Who knows what happened to them?  Others found sanctuary in India and a few remain to this day in northern India–mostly around the Dalai Lama. 

It is not fair to judge this old mission as a complete failure.  It did not accomplish what some thought it would but to be fair others had serious doubts as to its effectiveness at the time.  It is hard after the collapse of the Cold War enemies and the emergence of China into the international trading arena to recall the intensity of the Cold War.   We were under attack from all quarters around the globe and the Communists made known their intention and desire to conquer the entire world and they had resources available to make that threat very dangerous indeed.  It was not a battle of our making or wishes but one that couldn’t be walked away from without dire consequences.  The hammer and sickle don’t fly over most of the world’s lands due in part to our fighting those little battles here and there around the globe.

The facts emerge slowly that Goldman Sachs did indeed buy those crazy synthetic CDO’s as an investment and did not short them.  Like the WSJ posits exactly who were they trying to defraud–themselves?  Be interesting to see all the facts as they seep out into the public domain.


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Filed under Foreign Affairs, government, history, military history, Politics, War

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