Dalai Lama’s Links to CIA Still Stir Debate


TWO SORTS OF people were offended by Oliver Stone‘s film JFK. American patriots were outraged at the suggestion by Stone’s main character that Lyndon Johnson was complicit in John F. Kennedy’s murder. The others, deeply involved in North America’s fast-growing spirituality industry, gasped with disbelief when the unnamed U.S. intelligence veteran played by Donald Sutherland, reminiscing about the old days of the CIA, said, “Tibet ’59, we got the Dalai Lama out–we were good, very good.”

Followers of the 14th Dalai Lama, including such Buddhist theologians as Richard Gere and Harrison Ford, have often tried to ignore the long-time links between their exiled leader and the CIA. Doing so credibly, however, becomes harder each year.

When the People’s Republic of China invaded Tibet in 1950, it found Tibet much as it always had been: an unforgiving and feudal society where there were still warlords and even slaves. The Dalai Lama, who visits Vancouver April 18 to 20 (details at http://www.dalailamavancouver.org/), lived as the monarch in his 1,000-room palace in Lhasa without interference from the new occupiers of his country, which had often been invaded in earlier times and just as often had invaded others.

But some of his subjects did rise up, unsuccessfully and with CIA help. Rebelliousness grew until 1959, when the Dalai Lama himself joined in a more general revolt. It failed. He fled across the border into India.

Probably the first public revelation about supposed CIA help in the flight itself came in 1961 with the publication of Tibet Is My Country: The Autobiography of Thubten Jigme Norbu, Brother of the Dalai Lama. But the phrasing in this as-told-to book, translated from Tibetan to English via German, was ambiguous. Many were left to argue whether the springing of the Dalai Lama was actually a CIA covert op or if, as the CIA claimed, its people became aware of the escape only when it was already under way–though by then they long had American operatives at work inside Tibet.

In his 1995 The Very Best Men, Evan Thomas, Newsweek’s expert on the intelligence community, described the Dalai Lama and a CIA operative “racing down the runway of a remote mountain strip, a step ahead of the blazing guns” of the Chinese army. But in Orphans of the Cold War (1999), John Kenneth Knaus, one of the CIA’s point men in Tibet, said CIA help was limited to radio contact (as shown in Martin Scorsese’s 1997 film Kundun). That version was echoed in The Dragon in the Land of Snows by Tsering Shakya (also 1999). Many arguments still turn on this point. What’s become a lot less debatable is what the Dalai Lama and the CIA did next–together.

In the early 1960s, the CIA moved from dropping its own agents into Tibet to training a brigade of 2,000 Tibetan exiles, using secret bases in the Colorado Rockies and elsewhere. The band was supposed to invade occupied Tibet from Nepal. The Dalai Lama admitted as much in his 1990 autobiography Freedom in Exile, which sold one million copies and was the first of his many lucrative bestsellers (two in the past two years alone).

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.

Much of this information became public in 1997 in the far-right Chicago Tribune, of all places, confirming what Maoists had been charging for decades. In 1998 both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times added further details, using newly declassified agency documents.

Now the debate may be shifting. One former CIA agent named Ralph McGehee, admittedly a professional thorn in the side of his former employer, alleges that the CIA has been a prime funder of the Dalai Lama’s media profile as a symbol of meditative peace and Buddhist mindfulness. But the North American image of a spiritually pure Tibet–the Shangri-la idea that’s been building ever since Lost Horizon, the 1933 novel by James Hilton, who got the idea from photos in National Geographic–can also be viewed in other terms. It can be seen as a continuation of the Orientalism by which the western imagination has colonized and marginalized Asia and the Middle East for generations.

download (1)

via Dalai Lama’s Links to CIA Still Stir Debate | Georgia Straight.

via Dalai Lama’s Links to CIA Still Stir Debate.

About Old Boy

Love the past and the future but live in the present

Posted on March 12, 2013, in China, Communist, Government, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

90 +Wines in dublin

With a critical score of 90 points+


The Casual Way to Discuss Movies


...because it was never black & white


Trying to live a creative life


Movies, thoughts, thoughts about movies.


Saving you from one cinematic disaster at a time.

From 1 Blogger 2 Another

Sharing Great Blog Posts

Wonders in the Dark

Cinema, music, opera, books, television, theater

Just Reviews

Just another WordPress.com site

Mark David Welsh

Feeding Soda Pop to the Thirsty Pigs since 2013


Things I never thunk before.

News from the San Diego Becks

The life and times of Erik, Veronica and Thomas

The Silent Film Quarterly

The Only Magazine Dedicated To Silent Cinema

Leaden Circles

First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air.

My Archives

because the internet is not forever


Up to the minute, fair, balanced, informed film reviews.


A Shrine to Pop Culture Obsessiveness. With Lots of Spoilers

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

“Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be” – Peter DeVries


Viewing movies in a different light

Twenty Four Frames

Notes on Film by John Greco

Suzanne's Mom's Blog

Arts, Nature, Good Works, Luna & Stella Lockets & Birthstones

It Doesn't Have To Be Right...

... it just has to sound plausible

Rich Green Photography

The life of a photographer who likes to shoot just about anything.


A French girl's musings...

Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)

Australian movie blog - like Margaret and David, just a little younger

Octopus Films

A place for new perspectives on films, TV, media and entertainment.

scifist 2.0

A sci-fi movie history in reviews

The Reviewer's Corner

The Sometimes Serious Corner of the Internet for Anime, Manga, and Comic related things

First Impressions

Notes on Films and Culture

1,001 Movies Reviewed Before You Die

Where I Review One of the 1,001 Movies You Should Watch Before you Die Every Day

Movies Galore of Milwaukee

Movie Galore takes a look at Silent films on up to current in development projects and gives their own opinion on what really does happen in film!

The Catwing Has Landed

A Writer's Blog About Life and Random Things

Gabriel Diego Valdez

Movies and how they change you.

The Horror Incorporated Project

Lurking among the corpses are the body snatchers....plotting their next venture into the graveyard....the blood in your veins will run cold, your spine tingle, as you look into the terror of death in tonight's feature....come along with me into the chamber of horrors, for an excursion through.... Horror Incorporated!

Relatos desde mi ventana

Sentimientos, emociones y reflexiones

Teri again

Finding Me; A site about my life before and after a divorce

unveiled rhythms

Life In Verses

Gareth Roberts

Unorthodox Marketing & Strategy

leeg schrift


100 Films in a Year

12 months. 100 films. Hopefully.

%d bloggers like this: