COVERT ACTION

By Region

Tibet

A - K

Bageant, Joe. "The CIA's Secret War in Tibet." Military History (Feb. 2004). [http://www.historynet.com/magazines/military_history/3025986.html]

"[T]he Tibetans did not simply let the Chinese roll over their country in 1951. For almost 20 years afterward they fought a long, bloody war of resistance.... [T]his largely unknown struggle ... got support from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which sponsored secret training camps and made arms and equipment drops to aid horse-mounted herdsmen against the bombers and artillery of the largest standing army on the planet."

Conboy, Kenneth, and James Morrison. The CIA's Secret War in Tibet. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2002.

According to Jonkers, AFIO WIN 16-02, 22 Apr. 2002, this book "contains stories and details of the operations by the CIA principals as well as Tibetan, Nepalese and Chinese (Taiwan) agents, and by Indian intelligence officers.... Reading will provide not only enlightenment about this part of the world and its peoples and cultures, but a view of the difficulty of resisting an occupying force, and the complexities of such an effort both internally and externally."

Rupert, Washington Post, 15 Sep. 2002, says that this "book is alive with the sitcom-style mishaps (and minor characters) that bedeviled the CIA as it tried to run a covert war in a land where its officers had almost never set foot." A reviewer in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Autumn 2002, calls this "a clear, well written, fascinating text, accompanied by many useful photographs and maps." Haines, Diplomatic History 28.3, finds this work "[d]ense with detail, dates, organizations, and people.... There is much useful information here on U.S.-Indian relations."

For Morgan, H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews, Jun. 2002, "one of the greatest strengths" of this book is its "detailed account of CIA collaboration with the Indian intelligence services in training and equipping Tibetan agents and special forces troops and in forming joint aerial and intelligence units.... This collaboration continued well into the 1970s and some of the programs that it sponsored ... continue into the present." Although the book "clearly describes the organization and execution of CIA operations," it "provides less detail about the higher level policy decisions affecting the CIA program."

Deane, Hugh. "The Cold War in Tibet." Covert Action Information Bulletin 29 (Winter 1987): 48-50.

Petersen: "Critical account of CIA support for Tibetan rebels in the 1950s and 1960s."

Dunham, Mikel. Buddha's Warriors: The Story of the CIA-Backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet. New York: Penguin, 2004.

Peake, Studies 49.4 (2005), notes that the author approaches his subject "from the point of view of the Tibetan participants." The story "is well told."

French, Patrick. "A Secret War in Shangri-la." Telegraph (London), 14 Nov. 1998. [http:// www.telegraph.co.uk]

"Tenzing Sonam and his wife, Ritu Sarin, have made a remarkable documentary film for the BBC which reveals the work of the CIA in Tibet and shows how desperately the Tibetans fought to get rid of the Chinese. For the first time, retired CIA agents and Tibetan veterans have given a full account of Washington's secret war in the remote Himalayan Buddhist kingdom." The documentary was shown on BBC1's "Everyman" program under the title of "Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet."

Hopkirk, Peter. Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Secret Exploration of Tibet. New York: Kodansha/Globe, 1994. [pb]

Surveillant 3.6: The author "ends this history with the invasion of Tibet in 1950 by the Chinese Communists."

Knaus, John Kenneth. "Official Policies and Covert Programs: The U.S. State Department, the CIA, and the Tibetan Resistance." Journal of Cold War Studies 5, no. 3 (Summer 2003): 54–79.

The author dates active U.S. involvement in Tibetan affairs to March 1951, when the U.S. Ambassador to India advised the young Dalai Lama to leave his country and seek asylum abroad. By 1956, armed resistance against the Chinese occupation was underway. Covert support began modestly, with the training of six Tibetans to engage in intelligence collection. Air drops of arms began in 1958 and grew into "a massive effort." The Dalai Lama finally fled Tibet in 1959. He received subsidies from the U.S. government for the next 15 years. Support to the resistance (training and air drops) continued into the Kennedy administration. From 1962, "the command and control" of the Tibetan forces operating out of Nepal "was a combined U.S.-Indian-Tibetan responsibility." By 1974, "organized Tibetan resistance in the field was over."

Knaus, John Kenneth. Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival. New York: Public Affairs, 1999.

Mann, Los Angeles Times, 16 Jun. 1999, points out that the author is a former CIA operations officer "who for a time was in charge of the agency's covert operations in Tibet." According to Knaus, "the American officials who supported the Tibetans were motivated by idealism in the spirit of Woodrow Wilson.... And yet Knaus confesses in the end to his sense of 'guilt ... over our participation in these efforts, which cost others their lives, but which were the prime adventure of our own.'"

For Tovar, IJI&C 13.2, Orphans of the Cold War is "a comprehensive. well-researched, very readable -- indeed fascinating -- history that is not likely to be improved upon in the near future." Pye, FA 78.5 (Sep.-Oct. 1999), notes that the author's' "story makes it clear ... that the CIA did not attempt to stir up a rebellion but supported an essentially Tibetan initiative.... It also underscores the limited effectiveness of such covert operations."

Mirsky, NYTBR 18 Jul. 1999, calls this work a "depressing" and "fascinating book, all the bleaker because true.... Knaus says regrettably little about his own involvement with the guerrillas, relying instead on publicly available C.I.A. documents and on interviews with senior Government officials, former C.I.A. colleagues and Tibetans who survived the operation." To Mufson, Washington Post, 21 Nov. 1999, the author writes "a compelling account of the CIA efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to support Tibetan guerrillas -- and harass the Communist government in China.... Knaus ... writes well and with feeling for the Tibetans with whom he worked."

A reviewer in CIRA Newsletter 23.2 finds that Knaus "offers vivid portraits of those who fought for -- and against -- Tibetan independence... Orphans of the Cold War shows an American policy and staff motivated by idealism and pragmatism and Tibetans who had both their virtues and their faults."

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