The Dalai Lama is one of those people I’ve always just sort of uncritically accepted. I never gave him much more thought than being this sort of vaguely pleasant dude with a robe and a smile and a massively successful franchise in contemporary spiritual markets. Recently, I came across some rather public information about him and his past which puts that all in quite a different perspective. He’s a CIA man!
Communist China asserted it’s claim on Tibet in 1950, and for the first few years allowed the Lamas to maintain local control. According to Wikipedia, “Prior to Chinese rule, over 700,000 of Tibet’s population of 1.2 million were in serfdom” - working on lands owned by the lamas, under a feudal society of warlords and even slavery. This system continued for a few years after the Chinese takeover, ruled comfortably by the lamas - that is, until the Chinese instituted a policy of land reform and redistribution in accord with communist principles. Then things started to get hairy:
In 1956 the Dalai Lama, fearing that the Chinese government would soon move on Lhasa, issued an appeal for gold and jewels to construct another throne for himself. This, he argued, would help rid Tibet of “bad omens'’. One hundred and twenty tons were collected. When the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, he was preceded by more than 60 tons of treasure.
Makes the esteemed Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, sound slightly less spiritual, doesn’t it? (Here’s a fun photo of the young Dalai Lama feasting beside Mao Zedong)
Anyway, the dam broke in 1959 with an unsuccessful “popular” uprising against the Chinese occupation. This came after several years of CIA-backed training and funding of Tibetan revolutionary forces.
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 1950s.
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 Tibetan soldiers.
A Vancouver paper continues:
But apparently the guerrilla army never did more than engage in border skirmishing. As early as 1964, in fact, its effectiveness and efficiency were called into question by the CIA, which nevertheless stuck with the plan. Funds to pay this army were funnelled through the Dalai Lama and his organization, which received US$1.7 million a year, later reduced to $1.2 million. (Of this, the Dalai Lama himself was paid $186,000 a year. But no one has ever suggested that he pocketed it. The money was used to operate his exiled government’s offices in Geneva and New York.) The last year in which the stipend was paid out was 1974. By then, of course, U.S. policy had changed to one of embracing China, not antagonizing it.
Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama’s personal representative in Washington, said last week in response to queries from the Times that he had no knowledge of the CIA’s $ 180,000-a-year subsidy or how the money was spent.
“I have no clue whatsoever,” Gyari said. Speaking more generally of the CIA’s past support for the Tibetans, Gyari acknowledged: “It is an open secret. We do not deny it.”
The money for the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama was part of the CIA’s worldwide effort during the height of the Cold War to undermine Communist governments, particularly in the Soviet Union and China. In fact, the US government committee that approved the Tibetan operations also authorised the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the Times said.
One of the best points in this whole thing though is this:
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?
You could change Puerto Rico to any other country of your choice. The fact remains that we only support freedom and self-determination when it serves our national interest.
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