Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In Defense of Rev. Jeremiah Wright By Mel Reeves

Black Agenda Report

I heard that great humanitarian Karl Rove criticizing Dr. Jeremiah Wright's sermon in which he talks about a black and poor Jesus being crucified by the Roman ruling class. He expressed outrage that Dr. Wright would say this. At that point it clarified for me why so many people had rushed to call Dr. Wright's words hateful and racist. The reverend had attacked all of America's sacred cows, including its civil religion, in which the idea of a black Jesus just doesn't fit.

The theology of liberation is a direct challenge to the philosophy and tenets of American Civil Religion. Civil religion, to paraphrase the scholar Robert Bellah, is a public religious dimension that is expressed in a set of beliefs, symbols, and rituals.

Civil religion's philosophy is essentially racial and political, rather than universal or spiritual. It has its own symbols, its own codes, its own holidays and even its own morality. Bellah, in his essay "Civil Religion in America" points out that the adherents of the philosophy have, "an obligation, both collective and individual, to carry out God's will on earth. God's work will be our own." And therein lies our problem.

One of the primary tenets of American civil religion is that the people who came from Europe were the new Israelites or, to be clear, the "Chosen People." These immigrants, like the Israelites of old, had made their "exodus" from Europe and were chosen to take over the "Promised Land." And like the Hebrews of the Old Testament, God had granted them the right to take over this land, by any means necessary. Some know it better as "Manifest Destiny," and according to its tenets and, of course, consistent with the Hebrew scriptures, they were compelled to take over the land of Canaan. Already inhabited, no problem, we are the chosen people, and the Indians, well, "not so much." What followed was the annihilation and dispossession of the Native Americans.

The land that the new Israelites inhabited was hard and unwelcoming. So they reached across the waters and again their canon of scriptures aided them. Their black African brethren -- the descendents of Ham who had been biblically cursed (Genesis 9:25) and designated to be "the lowest of slaves to his brothers" -- were perfectly suited for the task. When they needed to buttress this flimsy justification for dehumanizing their fellow human beings, they used Joshua 9:23, which spoke of another curse of folks, unfavored by God, who were to be Israel's "hewers of wood and carriers of water."

This is why the U.S. government's history of conquest and exploitation can be so easily explained away and there is so little national angst. It was blessed, sanctioned by the Almighty, a part of our destiny. Those others just got in our way and, besides, left to their own devices they would have done far worse. The Native Americans would have killed one another off anyway, and the Africans we kidnapped, would have knocked one another off eventually -- after all, look at them now. So we did them a favor by civilizing them. This kind of racist discourse is still considered acceptable in some circles.

Signs of this religion are everywhere. All one has to do is look at your currency, every bill says, "In God We Trust." Every time you attend an event, the national anthem (the religion's hymn) is played, and you pledge allegiance to its symbol, the flag, and acknowledge "one nation under God." Above the pyramid on the great seal of the United States, words in Latin proclaim, "God has favored our undertaking." It even has its own holidays, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day.

The beauty of civil religion is that it doesn't interfere with any specific religion, which is why conservative and right-leaning Christians have no problem with the doctrine. However, those who use a word other than God to address their Higher Power are looked upon with suspicion and enmity.

Other significant features of the pantheon of civil religion are the philosophical tenets (sacred cows) that keep its adherents from peeping behind the throne. When Dr. Wright criticized the role of "rich white folks" or the ruling rich for making many of our lives and folks in the rest of the world miserable he challenged the long-held myth that "you can get rich if you work hard enough."

Poor white folks and working-class white folks wanted badly to identify with the people who bear their skin color but who are really wealthy and run this country. They badly want to believe that they too can be rich and take their place in the front of the line and be exploiter rather than exploited, boss rather than bossed. Unfortunately, the Horatio Alger tale was a cruel exaggeration, and while a few actually rise above their class status, the rest are stuck. And while working-class whites may look like their richer cousins, the truth is, they are "their color but not their kind."

While pointing out the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as touching on the U.S. failure to stand with the rest of the world against the former Apartheid South Africa, the pastor challenged the blind loyalty that birthed the phrase "my country right or wrong." And this government has been wrong quite a bit. Its military adventures dating back to the pickpocketing of Mexico to its intervention in the Philippines to its more recent plundering of Vietnam and its meddling in Latin American affairs, while deposing leaders it didn't like, were not ordained by God but were dictated by capital's need for new markets, expansion and accumulation. And today U.S. imperialism is wrongfully in Iraq and, yes, Afghanistan as well. And nearly always its victims have been people of color.

Another sacred tenet states that "thou shalt not criticize Israel." And this is not because of a powerful Jewish lobby as many wrongfully interpret but because supporting the Israelis fits the needs and the desires of U.S. imperialism. The Palestinians are an oppressed people and deserve our sympathy and support as well as that of the rest of the world.

Wright even challenged the notion that white life is more valuable than any other and challenged the idea of the sacredness of white womanhood. He took issue with the fact that night after night, the big business press trumpeted the continued search in Aruba for the then considered missing young Alabama girl, Natalie Holloway. What happened to young Holloway was indeed tragic. However, the constant trumpeting of her disappearance and the daily and almost hourly updates and attention paid to her was out of proportion. This was so, especially when one considers that the conflict in Darfur was going on, a war was being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a large part of the mostly colored Third World goes to bed hungry most nights and is being felled by preventable diseases and scourged by new ones such as AIDS. What can one conclude from this strange imbalance and preoccupation?

I read several websites, blogs and news sites in which respondents repeatedly accused Wright of being racist because he said, "The government gives them (poor blacks) drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strikes, and you want them to sing 'God Bless America.'" Of course the song is another hymn in celebration of the civil religion, but the anger directed at him is a result of their unwillingness to believe that this government really does give blacks and especially poor blacks, the back of its hand.

Ultimately what has some folks so up in arms is not that Dr. Wright was angry and seemingly hostile as many would have us believe but, rather, the implications of what he said. What Dr. Wright did more than anything was to challenge all the accepted illusions that allow citizens of all colors, sex and ethnicity to wrap themselves in a fake patriotism buttressed by a made-up religion, which prevents them from looking critically at their country and its policies.

Mel Reeves is an activist based in Miami. He can be contacted at mellaneous19 at

Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth by Michael Parenti

by Michael Parenti

I. For Lords and Lamas

Along with the blood drenched landscape of religious conflict there is the experience of inner peace and solace that every religion promises, none more so than Buddhism. Standing in marked contrast to the intolerant savagery of other religions, Buddhism is neither fanatical nor dogmatic--so say its adherents. For many of them Buddhism is less a theology and more a meditative and investigative discipline intended to promote an inner harmony and enlightenment while directing us to a path of right living. Generally, the spiritual focus is not only on oneself but on the welfare of others. One tries to put aside egoistic pursuits and gain a deeper understanding of one’s connection to all people and things. “Socially engaged Buddhism” tries to blend individual liberation with responsible social action in order to build an enlightened society.

A glance at history, however, reveals that not all the many and widely varying forms of Buddhism have been free of doctrinal fanaticism, nor free of the violent and exploitative pursuits so characteristic of other religions. In Sri Lanka there is a legendary and almost sacred recorded history about the triumphant battles waged by Buddhist kings of yore. During the twentieth century, Buddhists clashed violently with each other and with non-Buddhists in Thailand, Burma, Korea, Japan, India, and elsewhere. In Sri Lanka, armed battles between Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils have taken many lives on both sides. In 1998 the U.S. State Department listed thirty of the world’s most violent and dangerous extremist groups. Over half of them were religious, specifically Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist. 1

In South Korea, in 1998, thousands of monks of the Chogye Buddhist order fought each other with fists, rocks, fire-bombs, and clubs, in pitched battles that went on for weeks. They were vying for control of the order, the largest in South Korea, with its annual budget of $9.2 million, its millions of dollars worth of property, and the privilege of appointing 1,700 monks to various offices. The brawls damaged the main Buddhist sanctuaries and left dozens of monks injured, some seriously. The Korean public appeared to disdain both factions, feeling that no matter what side took control, “it would use worshippers’ donations for luxurious houses and expensive cars.” 2

As with any religion, squabbles between or within Buddhist sects are often fueled by the material corruption and personal deficiencies of the leadership. For example, in Nagano, Japan, at Zenkoji, the prestigious complex of temples that has hosted Buddhist sects for more than 1,400 years, “a nasty battle” arose between Komatsu the chief priest and the Tacchu, a group of temples nominally under the chief priest's sway. The Tacchu monks accused Komatsu of selling writings and drawings under the temple's name for his own gain. They also were appalled by the frequency with which he was seen in the company of women. Komatsu in turn sought to isolate and punish monks who were critical of his leadership. The conflict lasted some five years and made it into the courts. 3

But what of Tibetan Buddhism? Is it not an exception to this sort of strife? And what of the society it helped to create? Many Buddhists maintain that, before the Chinese crackdown in 1959, old Tibet was a spiritually oriented kingdom free from the egotistical lifestyles, empty materialism, and corrupting vices that beset modern industrialized society. Western news media, travel books, novels, and Hollywood films have portrayed the Tibetan theocracy as a veritable Shangri-La. The Dalai Lama himself stated that “the pervasive influence of Buddhism” in Tibet, “amid the wide open spaces of an unspoiled environment resulted in a society dedicated to peace and harmony. We enjoyed freedom and contentment.” 4

A reading of Tibet’s history suggests a somewhat different picture. “Religious conflict was commonplace in old Tibet,” writes one western Buddhist practitioner. “History belies the Shangri-La image of Tibetan lamas and their followers living together in mutual tolerance and nonviolent goodwill. Indeed, the situation was quite different. Old Tibet was much more like Europe during the religious wars of the Counterreformation.” 5 In the thirteenth century, Emperor Kublai Khan created the first Grand Lama, who was to preside over all the other lamas as might a pope over his bishops. Several centuries later, the Emperor of China sent an army into Tibet to support the Grand Lama, an ambitious 25-year-old man, who then gave himself the title of Dalai (Ocean) Lama, ruler of all Tibet.

His two previous lama “incarnations” were then retroactively recognized as his predecessors, thereby transforming the 1st Dalai Lama into the 3rd Dalai Lama. This 1st (or 3rd) Dalai Lama seized monasteries that did not belong to his sect, and is believed to have destroyed Buddhist writings that conflicted with his claim to divinity. The Dalai Lama who succeeded him pursued a sybaritic life, enjoying many mistresses, partying with friends, and acting in other ways deemed unfitting for an incarnate deity. For these transgressions he was murdered by his priests. Within 170 years, despite their recognized divine status, five Dalai Lamas were killed by their high priests or other courtiers. 6

For hundreds of years competing Tibetan Buddhist sects engaged in bitterly violent clashes and summary executions. In 1660, the 5th Dalai Lama was faced with a rebellion in Tsang province, the stronghold of the rival Kagyu sect with its high lama known as the Karmapa. The 5th Dalai Lama called for harsh retribution against the rebels, directing the Mongol army to obliterate the male and female lines, and the offspring too “like eggs smashed against rocks…. In short, annihilate any traces of them, even their names.” 7

In 1792, many Kagyu monasteries were confiscated and their monks were forcibly converted to the Gelug sect (the Dalai Lama’s denomination). The Gelug school, known also as the “Yellow Hats,” showed little tolerance or willingness to mix their teachings with other Buddhist sects. In the words of one of their traditional prayers: “Praise to you, violent god of the Yellow Hat teachings/who reduces to particles of dust/ great beings, high officials and ordinary people/ who pollute and corrupt the Gelug doctrine.” 8 An eighteenth-century memoir of a Tibetan general depicts sectarian strife among Buddhists that is as brutal and bloody as any religious conflict might be. 9 This grim history remains largely unvisited by present-day followers of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.

Religions have had a close relationship not only with violence but with economic exploitation. Indeed, it is often the economic exploitation that necessitates the violence. Such was the case with the Tibetan theocracy. Until 1959, when the Dalai Lama last presided over Tibet, most of the arable land was still organized into manorial estates worked by serfs. These estates were owned by two social groups: the rich secular landlords and the rich theocratic lamas. Even a writer sympathetic to the old order allows that “a great deal of real estate belonged to the monasteries, and most of them amassed great riches.” Much of the wealth was accumulated “through active participation in trade, commerce, and money lending.” 10

Drepung monastery was one of the biggest landowners in the world, with its 185 manors, 25,000 serfs, 300 great pastures, and 16,000 herdsmen. The wealth of the monasteries rested in the hands of small numbers of high-ranking lamas. Most ordinary monks lived modestly and had no direct access to great wealth. The Dalai Lama himself “lived richly in the 1000-room, 14-story Potala Palace.” 11

Secular leaders also did well. A notable example was the commander-in-chief of the Tibetan army, a member of the Dalai Lama’s lay Cabinet, who owned 4,000 square kilometers of land and 3,500 serfs. 12 Old Tibet has been misrepresented by some Western admirers as “a nation that required no police force because its people voluntarily observed the laws of karma.” 13 In fact. it had a professional army, albeit a small one, that served mainly as a gendarmerie for the landlords to keep order, protect their property, and hunt down runaway serfs.

Young Tibetan boys were regularly taken from their peasant families and brought into the monasteries to be trained as monks. Once there, they were bonded for life. Tashì-Tsering, a monk, reports that it was common for peasant children to be sexually mistreated in the monasteries. He himself was a victim of repeated rape, beginning at age nine. 14 The monastic estates also conscripted children for lifelong servitude as domestics, dance performers, and soldiers.

In old Tibet there were small numbers of farmers who subsisted as a kind of free peasantry, and perhaps an additional 10,000 people who composed the “middle-class” families of merchants, shopkeepers, and small traders. Thousands of others were beggars. There also were slaves, usually domestic servants, who owned nothing. Their offspring were born into slavery. 15 The majority of the rural population were serfs. Treated little better than slaves, the serfs went without schooling or medical care, They were under a lifetime bond to work the lord's land--or the monastery’s land--without pay, to repair the lord's houses, transport his crops, and collect his firewood. They were also expected to provide carrying animals and transportation on demand.16 Their masters told them what crops to grow and what animals to raise. They could not get married without the consent of their lord or lama. And they might easily be separated from their families should their owners lease them out to work in a distant location. 17

As in a free labor system and unlike slavery, the overlords had no responsibility for the serf’s maintenance and no direct interest in his or her survival as an expensive piece of property. The serfs had to support themselves. Yet as in a slave system, they were bound to their masters, guaranteeing a fixed and permanent workforce that could neither organize nor strike nor freely depart as might laborers in a market context. The overlords had the best of both worlds.

One 22-year old woman, herself a runaway serf, reports: “Pretty serf girls were usually taken by the owner as house servants and used as he wished”; they “were just slaves without rights.”18 Serfs needed permission to go anywhere. Landowners had legal authority to capture those who tried to flee. One 24-year old runaway welcomed the Chinese intervention as a “liberation.” He testified that under serfdom he was subjected to incessant toil, hunger, and cold. After his third failed escape, he was merciless beaten by the landlord’s men until blood poured from his nose and mouth. They then poured alcohol and caustic soda on his wounds to increase the pain, he claimed.19

The serfs were taxed upon getting married, taxed for the birth of each child and for every death in the family. They were taxed for planting a tree in their yard and for keeping animals. They were taxed for religious festivals and for public dancing and drumming, for being sent to prison and upon being released. Those who could not find work were taxed for being unemployed, and if they traveled to another village in search of work, they paid a passage tax. When people could not pay, the monasteries lent them money at 20 to 50 percent interest. Some debts were handed down from father to son to grandson. Debtors who could not meet their obligations risked being cast into slavery.20

The theocracy’s religious teachings buttressed its class order. The poor and afflicted were taught that they had brought their troubles upon themselves because of their wicked ways in previous lives. Hence they had to accept the misery of their present existence as a karmic atonement and in anticipation that their lot would improve in their next lifetime. The rich and powerful treated their good fortune as a reward for, and tangible evidence of, virtue in past and present lives.

The Tibetan serfs were something more than superstitious victims, blind to their own oppression. As we have seen, some ran away; others openly resisted, sometimes suffering dire consequences. In feudal Tibet, torture and mutilation--including eye gouging, the pulling out of tongues, hamstringing, and amputation--were favored punishments inflicted upon thieves, and runaway or resistant serfs. Journeying through Tibet in the 1960s, Stuart and Roma Gelder interviewed a former serf, Tsereh Wang Tuei, who had stolen two sheep belonging to a monastery. For this he had both his eyes gouged out and his hand mutilated beyond use. He explains that he no longer is a Buddhist: “When a holy lama told them to blind me I thought there was no good in religion.”21 Since it was against Buddhist teachings to take human life, some offenders were severely lashed and then “left to God” in the freezing night to die. “The parallels between Tibet and medieval Europe are striking,” concludes Tom Grunfeld in his book on Tibet. 22

In 1959, Anna Louise Strong visited an exhibition of torture equipment that had been used by the Tibetan overlords. There were handcuffs of all sizes, including small ones for children, and instruments for cutting off noses and ears, gouging out eyes, breaking off hands, and hamstringing legs. There were hot brands, whips, and special implements for disemboweling. The exhibition presented photographs and testimonies of victims who had been blinded or crippled or suffered amputations for thievery. There was the shepherd whose master owed him a reimbursement in yuan and wheat but refused to pay. So he took one of the master’s cows; for this he had his hands severed. Another herdsman, who opposed having his wife taken from him by his lord, had his hands broken off. There were pictures of Communist activists with noses and upper lips cut off, and a woman who was raped and then had her nose sliced away.23

Earlier visitors to Tibet commented on the theocratic despotism. In 1895, an Englishman, Dr. A. L. Waddell, wrote that the populace was under the “intolerable tyranny of monks” and the devil superstitions they had fashioned to terrorize the people. In 1904 Perceval Landon described the Dalai Lama’s rule as “an engine of oppression.” At about that time, another English traveler, Captain W.F.T. O’Connor, observed that “the great landowners and the priests… exercise each in their own dominion a despotic power from which there is no appeal,” while the people are “oppressed by the most monstrous growth of monasticism and priest-craft.” Tibetan rulers “invented degrading legends and stimulated a spirit of superstition” among the common people. In 1937, another visitor, Spencer Chapman, wrote, “The Lamaist monk does not spend his time in ministering to the people or educating them. . . . The beggar beside the road is nothing to the monk. Knowledge is the jealously guarded prerogative of the monasteries and is used to increase their influence and wealth.”24 As much as we might wish otherwise, feudal theocratic Tibet was a far cry from the romanticized Shangri La so enthusiastically nurtured by Buddhism’s western proselytes.

II. Secularization vs. Spirituality

What happened to Tibet after the Chinese Communists moved into the country in 1951? The treaty of that year provided for ostensible self-governance under the Dalai Lama’s rule but gave China military control and exclusive right to conduct foreign relations. The Chinese were also granted a direct role in internal administration “to promote social reforms.” Among the earliest changes they wrought was to reduce usurious interest rates, and build a few hospitals and roads. At first, they moved slowly, relying mostly on persuasion in an attempt to effect reconstruction. No aristocratic or monastic property was confiscated, and feudal lords continued to reign over their hereditarily bound peasants. “Contrary to popular belief in the West,” claims one observer, the Chinese “took care to show respect for Tibetan culture and religion.”25

Over the centuries the Tibetan lords and lamas had seen Chinese come and go, and had enjoyed good relations with Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek and his reactionary Kuomintang rule in China.26 The approval of the Kuomintang government was needed to validate the choice of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. When the current 14th Dalai Lama was first installed in Lhasa, it was with an armed escort of Chinese troops and an attending Chinese minister, in accordance with centuries-old tradition. What upset the Tibetan lords and lamas in the early 1950s was that these latest Chinese were Communists. It would be only a matter of time, they feared, before the Communists started imposing their collectivist egalitarian schemes upon Tibet.

The issue was joined in 1956-57, when armed Tibetan bands ambushed convoys of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army. The uprising received extensive assistance from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), including military training, support camps in Nepal, and numerous airlifts.27 Meanwhile in the United States, the American Society for a Free Asia, a CIA-financed front, energetically publicized the cause of Tibetan resistance, with the Dalai Lama’s eldest brother, Thubtan Norbu, playing an active role in that organization. The Dalai Lama's second-eldest brother, Gyalo Thondup, established an intelligence operation with the CIA as early as 1951. He later upgraded it into a CIA-trained guerrilla unit whose recruits parachuted back into Tibet.28

Many Tibetan commandos and agents whom the CIA dropped into the country were chiefs of aristocratic clans or the sons of chiefs. Ninety percent of them were never heard from again, according to a report from the CIA itself, meaning they were most likely captured and killed.29 “Many lamas and lay members of the elite and much of the Tibetan army joined the uprising, but in the main the populace did not, assuring its failure,” writes Hugh Deane.30 In their book on Tibet, Ginsburg and Mathos reach a similar conclusion: “As far as can be ascertained, the great bulk of the common people of Lhasa and of the adjoining countryside failed to join in the fighting against the Chinese both when it first began and as it progressed.”31 Eventually the resistance crumbled.

Whatever wrongs and new oppressions introduced by the Chinese after 1959, they did abolish slavery and the Tibetan serfdom system of unpaid labor. They eliminated the many crushing taxes, started work projects, and greatly reduced unemployment and beggary. They established secular schools, thereby breaking the educational monopoly of the monasteries. And they constructed running water and electrical systems in Lhasa.32

Heinrich Harrer (later revealed to have been a sergeant in Hitler’s SS) wrote a bestseller about his experiences in Tibet that was made into a popular Hollywood movie. He reported that the Tibetans who resisted the Chinese “were predominantly nobles, semi-nobles and lamas; they were punished by being made to perform the lowliest tasks, such as laboring on roads and bridges. They were further humiliated by being made to clean up the city before the tourists arrived.” They also had to live in a camp originally reserved for beggars and vagrants--all of which Harrer treats as sure evidence of the dreadful nature of the Chinese occupation.33

By 1961, Chinese occupation authorities expropriated the landed estates owned by lords and lamas. They distributed many thousands of acres to tenant farmers and landless peasants, reorganizing them into hundreds of communes.. Herds once owned by nobility were turned over to collectives of poor shepherds. Improvements were made in the breeding of livestock, and new varieties of vegetables and new strains of wheat and barley were introduced, along with irrigation improvements, all of which reportedly led to an increase in agrarian production.34

Many peasants remained as religious as ever, giving alms to the clergy. But monks who had been conscripted as children into the religious orders were now free to renounce the monastic life, and thousands did, especially the younger ones. The remaining clergy lived on modest government stipends and extra income earned by officiating at prayer services, weddings, and funerals.35

Both the Dalai Lama and his advisor and youngest brother, Tendzin Choegyal, claimed that “more than 1.2 million Tibetans are dead as a result of the Chinese occupation.”36 The official 1953 census--six years before the Chinese crackdown--recorded the entire population residing in Tibet at 1,274,000.37 Other census counts put the population within Tibet at about two million. If the Chinese killed 1.2 million in the early 1960s then almost all of Tibet, would have been depopulated, transformed into a killing field dotted with death camps and mass graves--of which we have no evidence. The thinly distributed Chinese force in Tibet could not have rounded up, hunted down, and exterminated that many people even if it had spent all its time doing nothing else.

Chinese authorities claim to have put an end to floggings, mutilations, and amputations as a form of criminal punishment. They themselves, however, have been charged with acts of brutality by exile Tibetans. The authorities do admit to “mistakes,” particularly during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution when the persecution of religious beliefs reached a high tide in both China and Tibet. After the uprising in the late 1950s, thousands of Tibetans were incarcerated. During the Great Leap Forward, forced collectivization and grain farming were imposed on the Tibetan peasantry, sometimes with disastrous effect on production. In the late 1970s, China began relaxing controls “and tried to undo some of the damage wrought during the previous two decades.”38

In 1980, the Chinese government initiated reforms reportedly designed to grant Tibet a greater degree of self-rule and self-administration. Tibetans would now be allowed to cultivate private plots, sell their harvest surpluses, decide for themselves what crops to grow, and keep yaks and sheep. Communication with the outside world was again permitted, and frontier controls were eased to permit some Tibetans to visit exiled relatives in India and Nepal.39 By the 1980s many of the principal lamas had begun to shuttle back and forth between China and the exile communities abroad, “restoring their monasteries in Tibet and helping to revitalize Buddhism there.”40

As of 2007 Tibetan Buddhism was still practiced widely and tolerated by officialdom. Religious pilgrimages and other standard forms of worship were allowed but within limits. All monks and nuns had to sign a loyalty pledge that they would not use their religious position to foment secession or dissent. And displaying photos of the Dalai Lama was declared illegal.41

In the 1990s, the Han, the ethnic group comprising over 95 percent of China’s immense population, began moving in substantial numbers into Tibet. On the streets of Lhasa and Shigatse, signs of Han colonization are readily visible. Chinese run the factories and many of the shops and vending stalls. Tall office buildings and large shopping centers have been built with funds that might have been better spent on water treatment plants and housing. Chinese cadres in Tibet too often view their Tibetan neighbors as backward and lazy, in need of economic development and “patriotic education.” During the 1990s Tibetan government employees suspected of harboring nationalist sympathies were purged from office, and campaigns were once again launched to discredit the Dalai Lama. Individual Tibetans reportedly were subjected to arrest, imprisonment, and forced labor for carrying out separatist activities and engaging in “political subversion.” Some were held in administrative detention without adequate food, water, and blankets, subjected to threats, beatings, and other mistreatment.42

Tibetan history, culture, and certainly religion are slighted in schools. Teaching materials, though translated into Tibetan, focus mainly on Chinese history and culture. Chinese family planning regulations allow a three-child limit for Tibetan families. (There is only a one-child limit for Han families throughout China, and a two-child limit for rural Han families whose first child is a girl.) If a Tibetan couple goes over the three-child limit, the excess children can be denied subsidized daycare, health care, housing, and education. These penalties have been enforced irregularly and vary by district.43 None of these child services, it should be noted, were available to Tibetans before the Chinese takeover.

For the rich lamas and secular lords, the Communist intervention was an unmitigated calamity. Most of them fled abroad, as did the Dalai Lama himself, who was assisted in his flight by the CIA. Some discovered to their horror that they would have to work for a living. Many, however, escaped that fate. Throughout the 1960s, the Tibetan exile community was secretly pocketing $1.7 million a year from the CIA, according to documents released by the State Department in 1998. Once this fact was publicized, the Dalai Lama’s organization itself issued a statement admitting that it had received millions of dollars from the CIA during the 1960s to send armed squads of exiles into Tibet to undermine the Maoist revolution. The Dalai Lama's annual payment from the CIA was $186,000. Indian intelligence also financed both him and other Tibetan exiles. He has refused to say whether he or his brothers worked for the CIA. The agency has also declined to comment.44

In 1995, the News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, carried a frontpage color photograph of the Dalai Lama being embraced by the reactionary Republican senator Jesse Helms, under the headline “Buddhist Captivates Hero of Religious Right.”45 In April 1999, along with Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and the first George Bush, the Dalai Lama called upon the British government to release Augusto Pinochet, the former fascist dictator of Chile and a longtime CIA client who was visiting England. The Dalai Lama urged that Pinochet not be forced to go to Spain where he was wanted to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

Into the twenty-first century, via the National Endowment for Democracy and other conduits that are more respectable sounding than the CIA, the U.S. Congress continued to allocate an annual $2 million to Tibetans in India, with additional millions for “democracy activities” within the Tibetan exile community. In addition to these funds, the Dalai Lama received money from financier George Soros.46

Whatever the Dalai Lama’s associations with the CIA and various reactionaries, he did speak often of peace, love, and nonviolence. He himself really cannot be blamed for the abuses of Tibet’s ancien régime, having been but 25 years old when he fled into exile. In a 1994 interview, he went on record as favoring the building of schools and roads in his country. He said the corvée (forced unpaid serf labor) and certain taxes imposed on the peasants were “extremely bad.” And he disliked the way people were saddled with old debts sometimes passed down from generation to generation.47During the half century of living in the western world, he had embraced concepts such as human rights and religious freedom, ideas largely unknown in old Tibet. He even proposed democracy for Tibet, featuring a written constitution and a representative assembly.48

In 1996, the Dalai Lama issued a statement that must have had an unsettling effect on the exile community. It read in part: “Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability.” Marxism fosters “the equitable utilization of the means of production” and cares about “the fate of the working classes” and “the victims of . . . exploitation. For those reasons the system appeals to me, and . . . I think of myself as half-Marxist, half-Buddhist.49

But he also sent a reassuring message to “those who live in abundance”: “It is a good thing to be rich... Those are the fruits for deserving actions, the proof that they have been generous in the past.” And to the poor he offers this admonition: “There is no good reason to become bitter and rebel against those who have property and fortune... It is better to develop a positive attitude.”50

In 2005 the Dalai Lama signed a widely advertised statement along with ten other Nobel Laureates supporting the “inalienable and fundamental human right” of working people throughout the world to form labor unions to protect their interests, in accordance with the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In many countries “this fundamental right is poorly protected and in some it is explicitly banned or brutally suppressed,” the statement read. Burma, China, Colombia, Bosnia, and a few other countries were singled out as among the worst offenders. Even the United States “fails to adequately protect workers’ rights to form unions and bargain collectively. Millions of U.S. workers lack any legal protection to form unions….”51

The Dalai Lama also gave full support to removing the ingrained traditional obstacles that have kept Tibetan nuns from receiving an education. Upon arriving in exile, few nuns could read or write. In Tibet their activities had been devoted to daylong periods of prayer and chants. But in northern India they now began reading Buddhist philosophy and engaging in theological study and debate, activities that in old Tibet had been open only to monks.52

In November 2005 the Dalai Lama spoke at Stanford University on “The Heart of Nonviolence,” but stopped short of a blanket condemnation of all violence. Violent actions that are committed in order to reduce future suffering are not to be condemned, he said, citing World War II as an example of a worthy effort to protect democracy. What of the four years of carnage and mass destruction in Iraq, a war condemned by most of the world—even by a conservative pope--as a blatant violation of international law and a crime against humanity? The Dalai Lama was undecided: “The Iraq war—it’s too early to say, right or wrong.”53 Earlier he had voiced support for the U.S. military intervention against Yugoslavia and, later on, the U.S. military intervention into Afghanistan.54

III. Exit Feudal Theocracy

As the Shangri-La myth would have it, in old Tibet the people lived in contented and tranquil symbiosis with their monastic and secular lords. Rich lamas and poor monks, wealthy landlords and impoverished serfs were all bonded together, mutually sustained by the comforting balm of a deeply spiritual and pacific culture.

One is reminded of the idealized image of feudal Europe presented by latter-day conservative Catholics such as G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. For them, medieval Christendom was a world of contented peasants living in the secure embrace of their Church, under the more or less benign protection of their lords.55 Again we are invited to accept a particular culture in its idealized form divorced from its murky material history. This means accepting it as presented by its favored class, by those who profited most from it. The Shangri-La image of Tibet bears no more resemblance to historic actuality than does the pastoral image of medieval Europe.

Seen in all its grim realities, old Tibet confirms the view I expressed in an earlier book, namely that culture is anything but neutral. Culture can operate as a legitimating cover for a host of grave injustices, benefiting a privileged portion of society at great cost to the rest.56 In theocratic feudal Tibet, ruling interests manipulated the traditional culture to fortify their own wealth and power. The theocracy equated rebellious thought and action with satanic influence. It propagated the general presumption of landlord superiority and peasant unworthiness. The rich were represented as deserving their good life, and the lowly poor as deserving their mean existence, all codified in teachings about the karmic residue of virtue and vice accumulated from past lives, presented as part of God’s will.

Were the more affluent lamas just hypocrites who preached one thing and secretly believed another? More likely they were genuinely attached to those beliefs that brought such good results for them. That their theology so perfectly supported their material privileges only strengthened the sincerity with which it was embraced.

It might be said that we denizens of the modern secular world cannot grasp the equations of happiness and pain, contentment and custom, that characterize more traditionally spiritual societies. This is probably true, and it may explain why some of us idealize such societies. But still, a gouged eye is a gouged eye; a flogging is a flogging; and the grinding exploitation of serfs and slaves is a brutal class injustice whatever its cultural wrapping. There is a difference between a spiritual bond and human bondage, even when both exist side by side

Many ordinary Tibetans want the Dalai Lama back in their country, but it appears that relatively few want a return to the social order he represented. A 1999 story in the Washington Post notes that the Dalai Lama continues to be revered in Tibet, but

. . . few Tibetans would welcome a return of the corrupt aristocratic clans that fled with him in 1959 and that comprise the bulk of his advisers. Many Tibetan farmers, for example, have no interest in surrendering the land they gained during China’s land reform to the clans. Tibet’s former slaves say they, too, don’t want their former masters to return to power. “I’ve already lived that life once before,” said Wangchuk, a 67-year-old former slave who was wearing his best clothes for his yearly pilgrimage to Shigatse, one of the holiest sites of Tibetan Buddhism. He said he worshipped the Dalai Lama, but added, “I may not be free under Chinese communism, but I am better off than when I was a slave.”57

It should be noted that the Dalai Lama is not the only highly placed lama chosen in childhood as a reincarnation. One or another reincarnate lama or tulku--a spiritual teacher of special purity elected to be reborn again and again--can be found presiding over most major monasteries. The tulku system is unique to Tibetan Buddhism. Scores of Tibetan lamas claim to be reincarnate tulkus.

The very first tulku was a lama known as the Karmapa who appeared nearly three centuries before the first Dalai Lama. The Karmapa is leader of a Tibetan Buddhist tradition known as the Karma Kagyu. The rise of the Gelugpa sect headed by the Dalai Lama led to a politico-religious rivalry with the Kagyu that has lasted five hundred years and continues to play itself out within the Tibetan exile community today. That the Kagyu sect has grown famously, opening some six hundred new centers around the world in the last thirty-five years, has not helped the situation.

The search for a tulku, Erik Curren reminds us, has not always been conducted in that purely spiritual mode portrayed in certain Hollywood films. “Sometimes monastic officials wanted a child from a powerful local noble family to give the cloister more political clout. Other times they wanted a child from a lower-class family who would have little leverage to influence the child’s upbringing.” On other occasions “a local warlord, the Chinese emperor or even the Dalai Lama’s government in Lhasa might [have tried] to impose its choice of tulku on a monastery for political reasons.”58

Such may have been the case in the selection of the 17th Karmapa, whose monastery-in-exile is situated in Rumtek, in the Indian state of Sikkim. In 1993 the monks of the Karma Kagyu tradition had a candidate of their own choice. The Dalai Lama, along with several dissenting Karma Kagyu leaders (and with the support of the Chinese government!) backed a different boy. The Kagyu monks charged that the Dalai Lama had overstepped his authority in attempting to select a leader for their sect. “Neither his political role nor his position as a lama in his own Gelugpa tradition entitled him to choose the Karmapa, who is a leader of a different tradition…”59 As one of the Kagyu leaders insisted, “Dharma is about thinking for yourself. It is not about automatically following a teacher in all things, no matter how respected that teacher may be. More than anyone else, Buddhists should respect other people’s rights—their human rights and their religious freedom.”60

What followed was a dozen years of conflict in the Tibetan exile community, punctuated by intermittent riots, intimidation, physical attacks, blacklisting, police harassment, litigation, official corruption, and the looting and undermining of the Karmapa’s monastery in Rumtek by supporters of the Gelugpa faction. All this has caused at least one western devotee to wonder if the years of exile were not hastening the moral corrosion of Tibetan Buddhism.61

What is clear is that not all Tibetan Buddhists accept the Dalai Lama as their theological and spiritual mentor. Though he is referred to as the “spiritual leader of Tibet,” many see this title as little more than a formality. It does not give him authority over the four religious schools of Tibet other than his own, “just as calling the U.S. president the ‘leader of the free world’ gives him no role in governing France or Germany.”62

Not all Tibetan exiles are enamoured of the old Shangri-La theocracy. Kim Lewis, who studied healing methods with a Buddhist monk in Berkeley, California, had occasion to talk at length with more than a dozen Tibetan women who lived in the monk’s building. When she asked how they felt about returning to their homeland, the sentiment was unanimously negative. At first, Lewis assumed that their reluctance had to do with the Chinese occupation, but they quickly informed her otherwise. They said they were extremely grateful “not to have to marry 4 or 5 men, be pregnant almost all the time,” or deal with sexually transmitted diseases contacted from a straying husband. The younger women “were delighted to be getting an education, wanted absolutely nothing to do with any religion, and wondered why Americans were so naïve [about Tibet].”63

The women interviewed by Lewis recounted stories of their grandmothers’ ordeals with monks who used them as “wisdom consorts.” By sleeping with the monks, the grandmothers were told, they gained “the means to enlightenment” -- after all, the Buddha himself had to be with a woman to reach enlightenment.

The women also mentioned the “rampant” sex that the supposedly spiritual and abstemious monks practiced with each other in the Gelugpa sect. The women who were mothers spoke bitterly about the monastery’s confiscation of their young boys in Tibet. They claimed that when a boy cried for his mother, he would be told “Why do you cry for her, she gave you up--she's just a woman.”

The monks who were granted political asylum in California applied for public assistance. Lewis, herself a devotee for a time, assisted with the paperwork. She observes that they continue to receive government checks amounting to $550 to $700 per month along with Medicare. In addition, the monks reside rent free in nicely furnished apartments. “They pay no utilities, have free access to the Internet on computers provided for them, along with fax machines, free cell and home phones and cable TV.”

They also receive a monthly payment from their order, along with contributions and dues from their American followers. Some devotees eagerly carry out chores for the monks, including grocery shopping and cleaning their apartments and toilets. These same holy men, Lewis remarks, “have no problem criticizing Americans for their ‘obsession with material things.’”64

To welcome the end of the old feudal theocracy in Tibet is not to applaud everything about Chinese rule in that country. This point is seldom understood by today’s Shangri-La believers in the West. The converse is also true: To denounce the Chinese occupation does not mean we have to romanticize the former feudal régime. Tibetans deserve to be perceived as actual people, not perfected spiritualists or innocent political symbols. “To idealize them,” notes Ma Jian, a dissident Chinese traveler to Tibet (now living in Britain), “is to deny them their humanity.”65

One common complaint among Buddhist followers in the West is that Tibet’s religious culture is being undermined by the Chinese occupation. To some extent this seems to be the case. Many of the monasteries are closed, and much of the theocracy seems to have passed into history. Whether Chinese rule has brought betterment or disaster is not the central issue here. The question is what kind of country was old Tibet. What I am disputing is the supposedly pristine spiritual nature of that pre-invasion culture. We can advocate religious freedom and independence for a new Tibet without having to embrace the mythology about old Tibet. Tibetan feudalism was cloaked in Buddhism, but the two are not to be equated. In reality, old Tibet was not a Paradise Lost. It was a retrograde repressive theocracy of extreme privilege and poverty, a long way from Shangri-La.

Finally, let it be said that if Tibet’s future is to be positioned somewhere within China’s emerging free-market paradise, then this does not bode well for the Tibetans. China boasts a dazzling 8 percent economic growth rate and is emerging as one of the world’s greatest industrial powers. But with economic growth has come an ever deepening gulf between rich and poor. Most Chinese live close to the poverty level or well under it, while a small group of newly brooded capitalists profit hugely in collusion with shady officials. Regional bureaucrats milk the country dry, extorting graft from the populace and looting local treasuries. Land grabbing in cities and countryside by avaricious developers and corrupt officials at the expense of the populace are almost everyday occurrences. Tens of thousands of grassroot protests and disturbances have erupted across the country, usually to be met with unforgiving police force. Corruption is so prevalent, reaching into so many places, that even the normally complacent national leadership was forced to take notice and began moving against it in late 2006.

Workers in China who try to organize labor unions in the corporate dominated “business zones” risk losing their jobs or getting beaten and imprisoned. Millions of business zone workers toil twelve-hour days at subsistence wages. With the health care system now being privatized, free or affordable medical treatment is no longer available for millions. Men have tramped into the cities in search of work, leaving an increasingly impoverished countryside populated by women, children, and the elderly. The suicide rate has increased dramatically, especially among women.66

China’s natural environment is sadly polluted. Most of its fabled rivers and many lakes are dead, producing massive fish die-offs from the billions of tons of industrial emissions and untreated human waste dumped into them. Toxic effluents, including pesticides and herbicides, seep into ground water or directly into irrigation canals. Cancer rates in villages situated along waterways have skyrocketed a thousand-fold. Hundreds of millions of urban residents breathe air rated as dangerously unhealthy, contaminated by industrial growth and the recent addition of millions of automobiles. An estimated 400,000 die prematurely every year from air pollution. Government environmental agencies have no enforcement power to stop polluters, and generally the government ignores or denies such problems, concentrating instead on industrial growth.67

China’s own scientific establishment reports that unless greenhouse gases are curbed, the nation will face massive crop failures along with catastrophic food and water shortages in the years ahead. In 2006-2007 severe drought was already afflicting southwest China.68

If China is the great success story of speedy free market development, and is to be the model and inspiration for Tibet’s future, then old feudal Tibet indeed may start looking a lot better than it actually was.


1. Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God, (University of California Press, 2000), 6, 112-113, 157.
2. Kyong-Hwa Seok, "Korean Monk Gangs Battle for Temple Turf," San Francisco Examiner, 3 December 1998.
3. Los Angeles Times, February 25, 2006.
4. Dalai Lama quoted in Donald Lopez Jr., Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West (Chicago and London: Chicago University Press, 1998), 205.
5. Erik D. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling: Uncovering Corruption at the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism Today (Alaya Press 2005), 41.
6. Stuart Gelder and Roma Gelder, The Timely Rain: Travels in New Tibet (Monthly Review Press, 1964), 119, 123; and Melvyn C. Goldstein, The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama (University of California Press, 1995), 6-16.
7. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, 50.
8. Stephen Bachelor, "Letting Daylight into Magic: The Life and Times of Dorje Shugden," Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, 7, Spring 1998. Bachelor discusses the sectarian fanaticism and doctrinal clashes that ill fit the Western portrait of Buddhism as a non-dogmatic and tolerant tradition.
9. Dhoring Tenzin Paljor, Autobiography, cited in Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, 8.
10. Pradyumna P. Karan, The Changing Face of Tibet: The Impact of Chinese Communist Ideology on the Landscape (Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 1976), 64.
11. See Gary Wilson's report in Worker's World, 6 February 1997.
12. Gelder and Gelder, The Timely Rain, 62 and 174.
13. As skeptically noted by Lopez, Prisoners of Shangri-La, 9.
14. Melvyn Goldstein, William Siebenschuh, and Tashì-Tsering, The Struggle for Modern Tibet: The Autobiography of Tashì-Tsering (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1997).
15. Gelder and Gelder, The Timely Rain, 110.
16. Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet 1913-1951 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 5 and passim.
17. Anna Louise Strong, Tibetan Interviews (Peking: New World Press, 1959), 15, 19-21, 24.
18. Quoted in Strong, Tibetan Interviews, 25.
19. Strong, Tibetan Interviews, 31.
20. Gelder and Gelder, The Timely Rain, 175-176; and Strong, Tibetan Interviews, 25-26.
21. Gelder and Gelder, The Timely Rain, 113.
22. A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet rev. ed. (Armonk, N.Y. and London: 1996), 9 and 7-33 for a general discussion of feudal Tibet; see also Felix Greene, A Curtain of Ignorance (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961), 241-249; Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, 3-5; and Lopez, Prisoners of Shangri-La, passim.
23. Strong, Tibetan Interviews, 91-96.
24. Waddell, Landon, O'Connor, and Chapman are quoted in Gelder and Gelder, The Timely Rain, 123-125.
25. Goldstein, The Snow Lion and the Dragon, 52.
26. Heinrich Harrer, Return to Tibet (New York: Schocken, 1985), 29.
27. See Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison, The CIA's Secret War in Tibet (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 2002); and William Leary, "Secret Mission to Tibet," Air & Space, December 1997/January 1998.
28. On the CIA's links to the Dalai Lama and his family and entourage, see Loren Coleman, Tom Slick and the Search for the Yeti (London: Faber and Faber, 1989).
29. Leary, "Secret Mission to Tibet."
30. Hugh Deane, "The Cold War in Tibet," CovertAction Quarterly (Winter 1987).
31. George Ginsburg and Michael Mathos Communist China and Tibet (1964), quoted in Deane, "The Cold War in Tibet." Deane notes that author Bina Roy reached a similar conclusion.
32. See Greene, A Curtain of Ignorance, 248 and passim; and Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, passim.
33. Harrer, Return to Tibet, 54.
34. Karan, The Changing Face of Tibet, 36-38, 41, 57-58; London Times, 4 July 1966.
35. Gelder and Gelder, The Timely Rain, 29 and 47-48.
36. Tendzin Choegyal, "The Truth about Tibet," Imprimis (publication of Hillsdale College, Michigan), April 1999.
37. Karan, The Changing Face of Tibet, 52-53.
38. Elaine Kurtenbach, Associate Press report, 12 February 1998.
39. Goldstein, The Snow Lion and the Dragon, 47-48.
40. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, 8.
41. San Francisco Chonicle, 9 January 2007.
42. Report by the International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet, A Generation in Peril (Berkeley Calif.: 2001), passim.
43. International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet, A Generation in Peril, 66-68, 98.
44. im Mann, "CIA Gave Aid to Tibetan Exiles in '60s, Files Show," Los Angeles Times, 15 September 1998; and New York Times, 1 October, 1998.
45. News & Observer, 6 September 1995, cited in Lopez, Prisoners of Shangri-La, 3.
46. Heather Cottin, "George Soros, Imperial Wizard," CovertAction Quarterly no. 74 (Fall 2002).
47. Goldstein, The Snow Lion and the Dragon, 51.
48. Tendzin Choegyal, "The Truth about Tibet."
49. The Dalai Lama in Marianne Dresser (ed.), Beyond Dogma: Dialogues and Discourses (Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books, 1996)
50. These comments are from a book of the Dalai Lama's writings quoted in Nikolai Thyssen, "Oceaner af onkel Tom," Dagbladet Information, 29 December 2003, (translated for me by Julius Wilm). Thyssen's review (in Danish) can be found at
51. "A Global Call for Human Rights in the Workplace," New York Times, 6 December 2005.
52. San Francisco Chronicle, 14 January 2007.
53. San Francisco Chronicle, 5 November 2005.
54. Times of India 13 October 2000; Samantha Conti's report, Reuter, 17 June 1994; Amitabh Pal, "The Dalai Lama Interview," Progressive, January 2006.
55. The Gelders draw this comparison, The Timely Rain, 64.
56. Michael Parenti, The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories, 2006).
57. John Pomfret, "Tibet Caught in China's Web," Washington Post, 23 July 1999.
58. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, 3.
59. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, 13 and 138.
60. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, 21.
61. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, passim. For books that are favorable toward the Karmapa appointed by the Dalai Lama's faction, see Lea Terhune, Karmapa of Tibet: The Politics of Reincarnation (Wisdom Publications, 2004); Gaby Naher, Wrestling the Dragon (Rider 2004); Mick Brown, The Dance of 17 Lives (Bloomsbury 2004).
62. Erik Curren, "Not So Easy to Say Who is Karmapa," correspondence, 22 August 2005,,0,0,1,0.
63. Kim Lewis, correspondence to me, 15 July 2004.
64. Kim Lewis, correspondence to me, 16 July 2004.
65. Ma Jian, Stick Out Your Tongue (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006).
66. See the PBS documentary, China from the Inside, January 2007,
67. San Francisco Chronicle, 9 January 2007.
68. "China: Global Warming to Cause Food Shortages," People's Weekly World, 13 January 2007

Israeli Minister: Jews too have behaved like Nazis

jews sans frontieres

Israeli Minister: Jews too have behaved like Nazis
Amid the news that the UN's new Special Investigator of Israeli Actions to its Human Rights Council, Princeton University international law expert Richard Falk, is being denied entry to Israel for "comparing Israel to Nazis," few probably remember Aharon Cizling. Cizling was the first Israeli Minister of Agriculture, and as quoted by Israeli historian Tom Segev, said in a Nov. 17, 1948 cabinet meeting, "I often disagree when the term Nazi was applied to the British ... even though the British committed Nazi crimes. But now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being is shaken."

Cizling is quoted today in Electronic Intifada by no less a personage than South Africa's intelligence minister, anti-apartheid resistance hero Ronnie Kasrils (who like Falk, is Jewish), in a piece titled, "Sixty years after Deir Yassin." It was sixty years ago today, April 9, 1948, that Zionist militias in gruesome fashion slaughtered over 100 of Deir Yassin's inhabitants. It was but one of 31 massacres of Arabs by the Zionists that took place between 1947-49, Kasrils notes. Fahimi Zidan, a Palestinian child who survived by hiding under his parents' bodies, recalled:

"The Jews ordered [us] ... to line up against the wall ... started shooting ... all ... were killed: my father ... mother ... grandfather and grandmother ... uncles and aunts and some of their children ... Halim Eid saw a man shoot a bullet into the neck of my sister ... who was ... pregnant. Then he cut her stomach open with a butcher's knife ... In another house, Naaneh Khalil ... saw a man take a ... sword and slash my neighbor ..."

Kasrils also notes:

Despite these sentiments, Cizling agreed that the crimes should be hidden, creating a lasting precedent. That such barbarism was conducted by Jewish people a mere three years after the Holocaust must have been too ghastly to contemplate, as it would constitute a major embarrassment for the state of Israel, held-up as a "light unto nations;" hence the attempts to bury the truth behind a veil of secrecy and disinformation. What better way to silence enquiry than the all-encompassing alibi of Israel's right of self-defense, condoning the use of disproportionate force and collective punishment against any act of resistance.

So Falk should take comfort; his treatment is part of an age-old Zionist tradition. The last word goes to Kasrils:

Israel will soon mark the 60th anniversary of its establishment. In so doing, Israelis and the Zionist supporters would do well to acknowledge the reasons why, for Palestinians and freedom-loving people throughout the world, there will be no cause to celebrate. Indeed, it will be a period of mourning and protest action; a time to recall the countless victims that lie in Israel's wake, as epitomized by the suffering inflicted on the inhabitants of Deir Yassin, the original site of which is ironically located just a stone's throw away from where the present day Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, was built.

U.N. Official Calls for Study Of Neocons' Role in 9/11 BY ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun

WASHINGTON — A new U.N. Human Rights Council official assigned to monitor Israel is calling for an official commission to study the role neoconservatives may have played in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

On March 26, Richard Falk, Milbank professor of international law emeritus at Princeton University, was named by unanimous vote to a newly created position to report on human rights in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. While Mr. Falk's specialty is human rights and international law, since the attacks in 2001, he has devoted some of his time to challenging what he calls the "9-11 official version."

On March 24 in an interview with a radio host and former University of Wisconsin instructor, Kevin Barrett, Mr. Falk said, "It is possibly true that especially the neoconservatives thought there was a situation in the country and in the world where something had to happen to wake up the American people. Whether they are innocent about the contention that they made that something happen or not, I don't think we can answer definitively at this point. All we can say is there is a lot of grounds for suspicion, there should be an official investigation of the sort the 9/11 commission did not engage in and that the failure to do these things is cheating the American people and in some sense the people of the world of a greater confidence in what really happened than they presently possess."

Mr. Barrett, who is the co-founder of the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth, said in an interview yesterday of Mr. Falk, "I would put him on a list of scholars who are sympathetic to the 9/11 truth movement."

He added, "Unlike most public intellectuals today, he is both honest and very, very knowledgeable in that he understands the probable reality of 9/11. He understands that the evidence that it was a false flag operation is very strong."

The narrative that the attacks from 2001 were a "false flag" operation is a recurring theme in the literature challenging the consensus that 19 Al Qaeda hijackers flew commercial jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. False flag refers to espionage or covert actions taken by one government made to seem like the work of another. The false flag thesis has it that the Bush administration is somehow responsible for the September 11 attacks as a pretext for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr. Falk yesterday did not return e-mails and phone calls asking for a comment. But in 2004 he wrote the foreword to the book "The New Pearl Harbor," by David Ray Griffin. Mr. Griffin has posited that such an inside job is the likely explanation for the attacks.

In the preface, Mr. Falk writes, "There have been questions raised here and there and allegations of official complicity made almost from the day of the attacks, especially in Europe, but no one until Griffin has had the patience, the fortitude, the courage, and the intelligence to put the pieces together in a single coherent account."

When asked for a comment about the appointment of Mr. Falk, a former American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton said, "This is exactly why we voted against the new human rights council." A spokesman for the American embassy at the United Nations offered no comment yesterday when asked.

A spokeswoman at the United Nations, Nancy Groves, yesterday also declined to comment. "I would not make a comment on how the member states vote on appointments. It is their council, they make their decisions," she said.

Mr. Falk's selection to the post as rapporteur has already prompted the government of Israel formally to request that Mr. Falk not be sent to their country. The Israeli press has reported that he may even be barred from entering the country.

The deputy permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations in New York, Daniel Carmon said, "We are asking the U.N. not to send him. We cannot agree to Mr. Falk's entrance into Israel in his capacity as the rapporteur."

One reason the Israelis are concerned about his appointment is that Mr. Falk has compared Israel's treatment of Palestinian Arabs to the Nazi treatment of Jews in the holocaust. In an April 8 BBC interview, Mr. Falk said he stood by the Israel-Nazi comparison.

The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, issued a statement yesterday saying, "This was clearly a singularly inappropriate choice for this position. Falk's startling record of anti-Israel prejudice should have been enough to preclude him from a position where an unbiased observer is needed to report on the status of human rights in the territories."

In a February 16, 1979, op-ed for the New York Times, Mr. Falk praised Ayatollah Khomeini and bemoaned his ill treatment in the American press. He wrote, "The depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false."Nearly nine months later, student followers of Khomeini invaded the American embassy in Tehran and held 52 diplomats hostage for the following 444 days.

Deir Yassin Remembered

Deir Yassin Remembered

Early in the morning of April 9, 1948, commandos of the Irgun (headed by Menachem Begin) and the Stern Gang attacked Deir Yassin, a village with about 750 Palestinian residents. The village lay outside of the area to be assigned by the United Nations to the Jewish State; it had a peaceful reputation. But it was located on high ground in the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Deir Yassin was slated for occupation under Plan Dalet and the mainstream Jewish defense force, the Haganah, authorized the irregular terrorist forces of the Irgun and the Stern Gang to perform the takeover.

In all over 100 men, women, and children were systematically murdered. Fifty-three orphaned children were literally dumped along the wall of the Old City, where they were found by Miss Hind Husseini and brought behind the American Colony Hotel to her home, which was to become the Dar El-Tifl El-Arabi orphanage. Visit

Omaha: Root of All Evil? By David Swanson

We're at Stratcom in Omaha, Nebraska, the Next Three Days: The Gates of Hell

Join us and learn more:

Omaha: Root of All Evil?
By David Swanson

What if a single nation on this planet were to pour more resources into its military than the rest of the nations combined, set up military bases in 80 percent of the other nations, stockpile more nuclear weapons than all other nations combined, develop new nuclear weapons intended for aggressive first-strike use, completely dominate the militarization of space, erase any policy lines between space and ground warfare and between nuclear and conventional weapons, and establish the goal of being able to quickly destroy any target anywhere on earth in order to protect its military and corporate investments?

I know what you're thinking: "Those Iranians may be evil, but I didn't know they'd advanced as far as all that. Do they still wear turbans?"

I don't know how to break this to you, so I'm just going to say it: The nation that has done everything I mentioned is the United States of America.

Now, here's a second riddle for you: What if the United States of America were to establish a command center outside of the Pentagon from which to run Bush and Cheney's illegal spying programs, the targeting of targets around the globe via satellite, and the full range of aggressive nuclear and conventional warfare, a command center that will control the next war against Iran or whatever other nation is chosen? Where would that Strategic Command center be located?
I know what you're thinking: "Isn't it in Dick Cheney's basement?"

But that's where they've fooled you. All they need to place in Dick Cheney's basement is a telephone into which our Ruler can utter things like "Take out Tehran." Dick Cheney's basement is hardly a suitable venue for annual weapons makers conventions or huge glossy displays of futuristic weaponry on which good patriotic Americans can spend their grandchildren's money, now is it?

That's where Omaha, Nebraska, comes in, and Stratcom, the Strategic Command center located 10 miles to its south, and the root of all evil, the hub of the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, what Bruce Gagnon calls the most dangerous place on earth.

Gagnon is the coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, which has decided to hold its annual conference this year in the same place where war profiteers so often gather: Omaha. At you'll find plans for the April 11th to 13th conference, which will include activists from around the world, including the leaders of groups that are opposing the construction of new "missile defense" and other U.S. military bases near their homes.

On the agenda for April is a rally in front of Stratcom, a manned terrestrial protest of a form of warfare that sends unmanned arial vehicles controlled by satellite to kill people in Iraq and Afghanistan. While other nations push for a ban on weapons in space, the United States is already using space and investing billions in plans to use it in new ways.

Some of the citizens of Omaha may drive past the front gates of Hell and have no idea what's inside. Others have produced a documentary telling the story of Stratcom. "Stratcom, the Gun That's Still Loaded" is a 58 minute DVD produced by Frances Mendenhall, who describes it as follows:
"Offutt AFB, 10 miles south of Omaha, Nebraska, has long caught the attention of the peace movement, since it has historically been tasked with targeting the nuclear arsenal of the US. But after 9/11 its missions grew nightmarishly in complexity and scope, so that it is now being called 'the most dangerous place on the planet.' Learn the details of this danger and why the Global Network is planning its April conference in Omaha. Even better, contact your public access station and get it aired."
Request a DVD:


Israel in Colombia: Death Do We Impart By José Steinsleger

Military links between Israel and Colombia date back to the first five years of 1980 when a contingent of the Colombia battalion "... one of the worst violators of human rights in the western hemisphere, received training in the Sinai desert from some of the worst violators of human rights in Middle East," according to the U.S. investigator Jeremy Bigwood (who) observed that the training of young Colombian paramilitaries could not have been done without the express permission of the highest authorities of the Israeli defence forces.

In those years, landowners and ranchers of the Caribbean region of Uraba and Magdalena Medio (among them Uribe) were not satisfied with the "inefficiency" of the army in its fight against the guerrillas of FARC and ELN for which, in 1983, a group of "young idealists" went to Israel, not exactly to study "agrarian socialism" of the chosen people.

Of land-owning family, Carlos Castaño was then 18. Six months later, filled with "patriotic fervour", he returned to Colombia and tried to apply blindly what he had learnt in Course 562 imparted by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). He went back to the Bombona battalion but, disillusioned, concluded that the army was not killing "seriously".
Together with his elder brother Fidel, Carlos organised the death squad Los Tangueros, a name taken from his ranch, Las Tangas. In My Confession he declared: "In fact, I copied the concept of armed ‘self-defence' from the Israelis". In his interviews (to Spanish journalist Mauricio Aranguren Molina), Castaño emphasised the relations he cultivated in Course 562 with an Army Colonel, Aflonso Martínez Poveda, and "other men of Colombia Battalion".

The serial killer comments abundantly about the "firmness of Zionism... that has always been ... defeating terrorism... from there I was convinced that it is possible to defeat the guerrillas in Colombia". Castaño died in 2004 and recent history remembers him like how he was: one of most bloodthirsty Colombian paramilitaries.

Not only was Castaño trained in Israel, but also Salvatore Mancuso, the other "historic leader" of the (paramilitary) AUC currently in prison. From about the Nineties, Mancuso organised the paramilitaries of Convivir, financed by Alvaro Uribe, then governor of Antioquia (and now the President). In an interview with Margarita Martínez of Associated Press (13/02/02), the paramilitary boss bragged of "... not executing more than three persons at the same time".
The ‘security' company Spearhead, headed by the retired Israeli Colonel Yair Klein, started to train paramilitaries in Puerto Boyacá after the ceasefire of May 1984 signed by President Betancur (1982-86) and the secretary of FARC.

At that time of global rightist gains, the ranchers of Magdalena Medio belonging to ACDEGAM (an agrarian pressure group) were not interested in peace. It bought arms manufactured by Industrias Militares (Indumil) and Army officials such as Lt.-Col. Luis Bohórques (Brigade 14, Bárbula Battalion) handed them over to the paramilitaries. Everything legal, everything in order.

Klein's paramilitary model turned out to be a ‘success'. Beyond the brilliant massacres of poor urban and rural people, four presidential candidates were assassinated. Enthused with the results, Klein filmed the training. The broadcast of the film by ABC News led to a global scandal. More than the Israeli professionals, the film showed known Australian mercenaries and British ones of the Special Air Service. The errant operative was getting in the way of the growing importance of the Colombian-Israeli economic relations like the purchase of 14 Kfir combat aircraft in April 1988. In February 1989 the Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot recognised the "possible participation" of Israelis in drug trafficking.

A case that resonated in 2001 was the sale of 3,000 AK-47 rifles and 2.5 million rounds of ammunition, a deal agreed in Guatemala by Oris Zoller, director of GIRSA, a subsidiary of the Israeli war industry. It was said the Nicaraguan police had bought the arms. The Colombian ex-President, César Gaviria, blamed the Nicaraguans in a report. Wes Carrington, State Department spokesman, was more imaginative, saying the automatic rifles were destined for "arms collectors in the United States". Finally, the nimble Israeli trafficker Simon Yelinek, resident in Panama, made sure the lethal cargo reached the clients: the AUC of Colombia.

The official presence in Colombia of Israel Ziv, retired IDF general, represents a qualitative leap in the war plans of Uribe and his Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos. Engaged for the moderate sum of $10 million, Ziv could well have collaborated in the attack against FARC in Ecuadorian territory. His experience gives him away: in October 2002, as head of the Givati Brigade, Ziv invaded the refugee camp of Al Amal (Gaza). Infantry troops, tanks and armoured vehicles caused a massacre in which the old, the disabled, women, children and babies died.

General Ziv is on the payroll of Counterterrorism International and is member of the Task Force on Future Terrorism (FOTFF), created in June 2005 by the Office of Homeland Security of — Israel? No, of the USA. FOTFF operates under the orders of Secretary Michael Chertoff and Lee Hamilton, director of the ultra-conservative Woodrow Wilson Centre, nest of academics, psychologists, businessmen and ‘intelligence' experts.

In Colombia, Ziv's operations base is in Tolemaida. He meddles at the highest level. The Defence Vice Minister Sergio Jaramillo described as "precious" the Israeli help. "They are like psychoanalysts to us: they raise issues we had not thought about."

What will they be?

Robert Fisk: Semantics can't mask Bush's chicanery

This goes beyond hollow laughter. Since when did armies go around 're-liberating'

After his latest shenanigans, I've come to the conclusion that George Bush is the first US president to march backwards. First we had weapons of mass destruction. Then, when they proved to be a myth, Bush told us we had stopped Saddam's "programmes" for weapons of mass destruction (which happened to be another lie).

Now he's gone a stage further. After announcing victory in Iraq in 2003 and "mission accomplished" and telling us how this enormous achievement would lead the 21st century into a "shining age of human liberty", George Bush told us this week that "thanks to the surge, we've renewed and revived the prospect of success".

Now let's take a look at this piece of chicanery and subject it to a little linguistic analysis. Five years ago, it was victory – ie success – but this has now been transmogrified into a mere "prospect" of success. And not a "prospect", mark you, that has even been glimpsed. No, we have "renewed" and "revived" this prospect. "Revived", as in "brought back from the dead". Am I the only one to be sickened by this obscene semantics? How on earth can you "renew" a "prospect", let alone a prospect that continues to be bathed in Iraqi blood, a subject Bush wisely chose to avoid?

Note, too, the constant use of words that begin with "re -". Renew. Revive. And – incredibly – Bush also told us that "we actually re-liberated certain communities". This, folks, goes beyond hollow laughter. Since when did armies go around "re-liberating" anything? And what does that credibility-sapping "actually" mean? I suspect it was an attempt by the White House speech writer to suggest – by sleight of hand, of course – that Bush was really – really – telling the truth this time. But by putting "actually" in front of "re-liberate" – as opposed to just "liberate" – the whole grammatical construction falls apart. Rather like Iraq.

For by my reckoning, we have now "re-liberated" Fallujah twice. We have "re-liberated" Mosul three times and "re-liberated" Ramadi four times. The scorecard goes on. My files show that Sadr City may have been "re-liberated" five times, while Baghdad is "re-liberated" on an almost daily basis. General David Petraeus, in his pitiful appearance before the US Senate armed services committee, was bound to admit his disappointment at the military failure of the equally pitiful Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Basra. He had not followed Petraeus' advice; which was presumably to "re-liberate" the city (for the fourth time, by my calculation but with a bit more planning).

Indeed, Petraeus told senators that after his beloved "surge" goes home, the US will need a period of "consolidation and evaluation" – which is suspiciously close to saying that the US military will be, as the old adage goes, "redeployed to prepared positions". Ye gods! Where will this tomfoolery end?

In statistics, perhaps. By chance, as Bush was speaking this week, my mail bag flopped open to reveal a letter from my old American military analyst friend, George W Appenzeller. He gently (and rightly) corrects some recent comparative figures I used on US casualties in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. "In previous wars," he writes, "the US army has not reported to the public the number of wounded who are treated and immediately released back to duty. They have reported these casualties in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars".

So here are a few Appenzeller factoids (glossed by Fisk, so the responsibility is mine!). The correct ratios for wounded in action vs killed in action for Iraq and Afghanistan is 8.13 to 1; for Korea, it's 7.38 to 1 and for Vietnam it's 6.43 to 1.

The true number of US wounded in Iraq until 18 March this year was 13,170, of whom 8,904 were so badly wounded that they required air evacuation to hospitals outside Iraq. The number of killed in action in Iraq is 3,251. (The other 750 died in accidents or of sickness.) But this does not include the kind of figure that the Pentagon and Bush always keep secret: an astonishing 1,000 or more Western-hired mercenaries, killed in Iraq while fighting or killing for "our" side.

But now I'll let George Appenzeller speak in his own words. "There are widely ranging estimates, but roughly 450,000 individuals ... fought on the ground in Vietnam ... At the height of the Vietnam war there were 67,000 ground combat troops there. That is roughly the number of ground combat troops the US presently has deployed in Iraq. Interestingly enough, that is also about the number of ground combat troops the US had fighting at any one time in the Korean war.

"The US army now has a much leaner and meaner organisation than in the past with a higher proportion of combat troops to total troops. All those American civilian truck drivers and Bangladeshi cooks have freed up troop slots that have gone to the combat arms."

No, Iraq has not yet reached Korea and Vietnam proportions. The three-year Korean war resulted in 33,686 US battle deaths and about 250,000 US wounds, an average of 94,562 casualties per year. The American phase of the Vietnam war lasted 14 years and resulted in 47,378 US battle deaths and 304,704 US wounds, an average of 25,149 casualties per year and an average of 66,792 during the four years of 1966-1969, the height of American fighting.

The Iraq war has lasted five years and has resulted in 3,251 battle deaths and 29,395 wounds, an average of 6,529 casualties per year. "Thus, the average number of killed and wounded during the Korean war was three times the total number of killed and wounded in the five years of the Iraq war. The average number of killed and wounded during each of the most difficult years of the Vietnam war was twice the total for the five years of the Iraq war."

Now for much more blood, the civilian variety. According to George, "About 1,600,000 were killed in the Korean war, 365,000 (according to American authorities) and four million (according to the Vietnamese government) during the American phase of the Vietnam war, and who knows how many in Iraq. No fewer than 250,000, certainly."

Not that long ago, Bush claimed that civilian fatalities in Iraq were "30,000 more or less" – again, note the "more or less" – but I can see why these statistics matter even less for him. It's not just that we don't care a damn about Iraqi lives. We are going to care even less about Iraqi civilian casualties when we walk backwards, when we are renewing and reviving and re-liberating all over again.

More than three billion people in the world condemned to premature death from hunger and thirst

THAT is not an exaggerated figure, but rather a cautious one. I have meditated a lot on that in the wake of President Bush’s meeting with U.S. automobile manufacturers.

The sinister idea of converting food into fuel was definitively established as an economic line in U.S. foreign policy last Monday, March 26.

A cable from the AP, the U.S. news agency that reaches all corners of the world, states verbatim:

“WASHINGTON, March 26 (AP). President Bush touted the benefits of ‘flexible fuel’ vehicles running on ethanol and biodiesel on Monday, meeting with automakers to boost support for his energy plans.

“Bush said a commitment by the leaders of the domestic auto industry to double their production of flex-fuel vehicles could help motorists shift away from gasoline and reduce the nation's reliance on imported oil.

‘“That's a major technological breakthrough for the country,’ Bush said after inspecting three alternative vehicles. If the nation wants to reduce gasoline use, he said “the consumer has got to be in a position to make a rational choice.”

“The president urged Congress to ‘move expeditiously’ on legislation the administration recently proposed to require the use of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2017 and seek higher fuel economy standards for automobiles.

“Bush met with General Motors Corp. chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner, Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group chief executive Tom LaSorda.

“They discussed support for flex-fuel vehicles, attempts to develop ethanol from alternative sources like switchgrass and wood chips and the administration's proposal to reduce gas consumption by 20 percent in 10 years.

“The discussions came amid rising gasoline prices. The latest Lundberg Survey found the nationwide average for gasoline has risen 6 cents per gallon in the past two weeks to $2.61.”

I believe that reducing and moreover recycling all motors that run on electricity and fuel is an elemental and urgent need for all humanity. The tragedy does not lie in reducing those energy costs but in the idea of converting food into fuel.

It is known very precisely today that one ton of corn can only produce 413 liters of ethanol on average, according to densities. That is equivalent to 109 gallons.

The average price of corn in U.S. ports has risen to $167 per ton. Thus, 320 million tons of corn would be required to produce 35 billion gallons of ethanol.

According to FAO figures, the U.S. corn harvest rose to 280.2 million tons in the year 2005.

Although the president is talking of producing fuel derived from grass or wood shavings, anyone can understand that these are phrases totally lacking in realism. Let’s be clear: 35 billion gallons translates into 35 followed by nine zeros!

Afterwards will come beautiful examples of what experienced and well-organized U.S. farmers can achieve in terms of human productivity by hectare: corn converted into ethanol; the chaff from that corn converted into animal feed containing 26% protein; cattle dung used as raw material for gas production. Of course, this is after voluminous investments only within the reach of the most powerful enterprises, in which everything has to be moved on the basis of electricity and fuel consumption. Apply that recipe to the countries of the Third World and you will see that people among the hungry masses of the Earth will no longer eat corn. Or something worse: lend funding to poor countries to produce corn ethanol based on corn or any other food and not a single tree will be left to defend humanity from climate change.

Other countries in the rich world are planning to use not only corn but also wheat, sunflower seeds, rapeseed and other foods for fuel production. For the Europeans, for example, it would become a business to import all of the world’s soybeans with the aim of reducing the fuel costs for their automobiles and feeding their animals with the chaff from that legume, particularly rich in all types of essential amino acids.

In Cuba, alcohol used to be produced as a byproduct of the sugar industry after having made three extractions of sugar from cane juice. Climate change is already affecting our sugar production. Lengthy periods of drought alternating with record rainfall, that barely make it possible to produce sugar with an adequate yield during the 100 days of our very moderate winter; hence, there is less sugar per ton of cane or less cane per hectare due to prolonged drought in the months of planting and cultivation.

I understand that in Venezuela they would be using alcohol not for export but to improve the environmental quality of their own fuel. For that reason, apart from the excellent Brazilian technology for producing alcohol, in Cuba the use of such a technology for the direct production of alcohol from sugar cane juice is no more than a dream or the whim of those carried away by that idea. In our country, land handed over to the direct production of alcohol could be much useful for food production for the people and for environmental protection.

All the countries of the world, rich and poor, without any exception, could save millions and millions of dollars in investment and fuel simply by changing all the incandescent light bulbs for fluorescent ones, an exercise that Cuba has carried out in all homes throughout the country. That would provide a breathing space to resist climate change without killing the poor masses through hunger.

As can be observed, I am not using adjectives to qualify the system and the lords of the earth. That task can be excellently undertaken by news experts and honest social, economic and political scientists abounding in the world who are constantly delving into to the present and future of our species. A computer and the growing number of Internet networks are sufficient for that.

Today, we are seeing for the first time a really globalized economy and a dominant power in the economic, political and military terrain that in no way resembles that of Imperial Rome.

Some people will be asking themselves why I am talking of hunger and thirst. My response to that: it is not about the other side of the coin, but about several sides of something else, like a die with six sides, or a polyhedron with many more sides.

I refer in this case to an official news agency, founded in 1945 and generally well-informed about economic and social questions in the world: TELAM. It said, and I quote:

“In just 18 years, close to 2 billion people will be living in countries and regions where water will be a distant memory. Two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in places where that scarcity produces social and economic tensions of such a magnitude that it could lead nations to wars for the precious ‘blue gold.’

“Over the last 100 years, the use of water has increased at a rate twice as fast as that of population growth.

“According to statistics from the World Water Council, it is estimated that by 2015, the number of inhabitants affected by this grave situation will rise by 3.5 billion people.

“The United Nations celebrated World Water Day on March 23, and called to begin confronting, that very day, the international scarcity of water, under the coordination of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with the goal of highlighting the increasing importance of water scarcity on a global scale, and the need for greater integration and cooperation that would make it possible to guarantee sustained and efficient management of water resources.

“Many regions on the planet are suffering from severe water shortages, living with less than 500 cubic meters per person per year. The number of regions suffering from chronic scarcity of this vital element is increasingly growing.

“The principal consequences of water scarcity are an insufficient amount of the precious liquid for producing food, the impossibility of industrial, urban and tourism development and health problems.”

That was the TELEAM cable.

In this case I will refrain from mentioning other important facts, like the melting ice in Greenland and the Antarctic, damage to the ozone layer and the growing volume of mercury in many species of fish for common consumption.

There are other issues that could be addressed, but with these lines I am just trying to comment on President Bush’s meeting with the principal executives of U.S. automakers.

March 28, 2007

Fidel Castro.

Italian lesson for the Dalai Lama By Francesco Sisci

BEIJING - Perhaps the Dalai Lama, king-god of Tibet, head of Lamaist Buddhism and icon of the present anti-Chinese protests, could have something to learn from Italy. Italy is the only country to have faced a problem similar to that of China with the Dalai Lama: of the occupation of a territory previously governed by a religious monarch. In the case of Italy, it was the pope, in the case of China, it is the Dalai Lama.

Between the two experiences there are very many differences. Italy and the Vatican shared the same capital, Rome. China, on the other hand, has Beijing as its capital, and Tibet stops at Lhasa. Italy has a major Catholic population, faithful, therefore, in spirit to the pope. In China, only a small minority is Lamaist Buddhist.

With that said, there is no experience in the world as similar as that of Italy and China, of dialectic and unity between state and church.

Here, there is a crucial problem for the Dalai Lama, whether as a religious or political leader. The Chinese government does not object to the Dalai Lama as a religious leader, but it opposes with force the political role of the Dalai Lama, icon of a possible future independent Tibet.

It is true that the Dalai Lama no longer asks for the independence of Tibet, but neither has he absolutely renounced independence for the mountainous territory. The renunciation of independence is presented like a temporary solution and other future political settlements have not been renounced in conclusive terms. To accept this limited renunciation, for China it means to admit the future possibility of the independence of Tibet, a politically destabilizing admission for Beijing.

Furthermore, in particular, the Tibetan government in exile in India, constituted of Tibetans who fled from Tibet at the time of the 1959 anti-Chinese uprising, it fights for the return of an independent Tibet. Besides, for "Tibet", the exiles do not think of the present Tibet Autonomous Region, but of the historical Tibet, a region approximately a quarter of Chinese territory that comprises all of the province of Qinghai, parts of Sichuan and of Gansu and Xinjiang.

The Tibetans in exile emphasize that the Chinese occupation of Tibet was an invasion. Perhaps, in that it was no different from the Italian occupation of Rome, taken by the cannon shells of Porta Pia in 1870. Neither one looks much different from the cavalry charges of the American army against the Indians in the same period.

The "invasion" of Tibet occurred 80 years after Rome was taken by the Italian state, and approximately 60 years after the defeat of the last Indian rebels in the United States. Fifty-seven years have now passed since Chinese troops marched into Lhasa.

To touch on history once again after such a long period is complicated, delicate and dangerous for all. Moreover, political geography, like physics, does not tolerate a vacuum or weak links. An independent Tibet not stable under the Chinese orbit will have to fall under another orbit, and in the area there is only India and Pakistan.

Any withdrawal of China from Tibet would be a concession of this fact to these two powerful neighbors, something that at the very least would destabilize the balance of the region and of the world, raising the specter of a war in which millions could lose their lives. This, without counting the loss of Chinese territory, to which the majority of the Chinese would not be at all favorable.

Therefore, we would like to argue that there are at least three powerful arguments for which the issue of Tibet's independence should be completely shelved: too much time has passed; the Chinese will not now, nor ever, renounce a quarter of their territory; and such a renunciation would destabilize the region and the world.

In other words, the political backdrop to the Dalai Lama looks similar to that when the pope had to renounce his temporal powers with the Lateranensi Pacts in 1929, 59 years after the takeover of Porta Pia.

There remains the problem of a homeland for Tibetans exiles, a noble issue, one of principle but perhaps hard to resolve.

In the past, the northern states of the US waged war against the Confederates of the South when they proclaimed secession from the Union. Today, it is still taboo to think of a single homeland for Kurds, a population straggling Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.

The recent history of Yugoslavia after the end of the Cold War proves the difficulty in creating national states where there was a transnational union. An independent homeland for Tibetans could create problems a thousand times greater than those of the former Yugoslavia.

Perhaps, then, we should stop talking about the invasion of Tibet, of the past destruction of its temples, of staging beauty pageants with the name "Miss Tibet" without "China", as happened a few months ago in Malaysia. This is history that cannot be rewritten.

There are thousands of real problems to face: safeguarding Tibetan culture, and the spread of its faith. These are all sacrosanct, but surely not at the cost of Tibet's isolation from the world. The rail link between Lhasa and Beijing is the fruit of modernity, the development of transport and communications, and not simply the brutality of the Chinese wanting to invade the region.

Sure, the Chinese should not use religion, such as the control of and the selection of the Lamas, to assert their political agenda in Tibet. But at the same time, one should not have pro-independence Tibetans using the religious prestige of the Lamas to assert their political agenda for Tibet.

As an inspiration, there is the renunciation in principle of the Vatican to the political control of Rome that has created the conditions for rapprochement with the Italian state.

If we could suggest something to the Dalai Lama, it would be to look at the Italian experience, knowing also that there are enormous differences: the Chinese are not Lamaists, and Lhasa is not the capital of China. These two elements, ultimately, will weaken the possibility of negotiation between the Dalai Lama and Beijing.

The margins for negotiations with Beijing today are tighter. There is mutual distrust and there is the conviction in Beijing of their ability to control the situation. When the Dalai Lama dies, Beijing will choose another who will be under its control. In response, the Dalai Lama could also reincarnate in America and have a successor elected among the Lamas abroad. But such a solution will only sanction the creation a Lamaist church outside Tibet, which, like the Catholic one of Avignon, in the Middle Ages, will be condemned to the political non-influence in China and Tibet, for the single reason of being far away and out of touch.

Paradoxically, the single way for the Dalai Lama to make a mark would be for him to try to re-enter China, at any price. This could re-establish unity between Lamaists in and out of Tibet. This would force Beijing into dialogue with the Lamaists, something that today can simply be disregarded.

Francesco Sisci, Asia Editor of La Stampa.