Wednesday, July 09, 2008
1. US Military & CIA
Interventions.China 1945 To 1960's
By William Blum. Killing Hope. Chapter One
Was Mao Tse-Tung Just Paranoid?
For four years, numerous Americans, in high positions and obscure, sullenly harbored the conviction that World War II was "the wrong war against the wrong enemies". Communism, they knew, was the only genuine adversary on America's historical agenda. Was that not why Hitler had been ignored/tolerated/appeased/aided? So that the Nazi war machine would turn East and wipe Bolshevism off the face of the earth once and for all? It was just unfortunate that Adolf turned out to be such a megalomaniac and turned West as well.
But that war was over. These Americans were now to have their day in every corner of the world. The ink on the Japanese surrender treaty was hardly dry when the United States began to use the Japanese soldiers still in China alongside American troops in a joint effort against the Chinese communists. (In the Philippines and in Greece, as we shall see, the US did not even wait for the war to end before subordinating the struggle against Japan and Germany to the anti-communist crusade.)
The communists in China had worked closely with the American military during the war, providing important intelligence about the Japanese occupiers, rescuing and caring for downed US airmen. But no matter. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek would be Washington's man. He headed what passed for a central government in China. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS, forerunner of the CIA) estimated that the bulk of Chiang's military effort had been directed against the communists rather than the Japanese. He had also done his best to block the cooperation between the Reds and the Americans. Now his army contained Japanese units and his regime was full of officials who had collaborated with the Japanese and served in their puppet government. But no matter. The Generalissimo was as anti-communist as they come. Moreover, he was a born American client. His forces would be properly trained and equipped to do battle with the men of Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai.
President Truman was up front about what he described as "using the Japanese to hold off the Communists":
It was perfectly clear to us that if we told the Japanese to lay down their arms immediately and march to the seaboard, the entire country would be taken over by the Communists. We therefore had to take the unusual step of using the enemy as a garrison until we could airlift Chinese National [Chiang's] troops to South China and send Marines to guard the seaports.
The deployment of American Marines had swift and dramatic results. Two weeks after the end of the war, Peking was surrounded by communist forces. Only the arrival of the Marines in the city prevented the Reds from taking it over. And while Mao's forces were pushing into Shanghai's suburbs, US transport planes dropped Chiang's troops in to seize the city.
In a scramble to get to key centers and ports before the communists, the US transported between 400,000 and 500,000 Nationalist troops by ship and plane all over the vastness of China and Manchuria, places they could never have reached otherwise.
As the civil war heated up, the 50,000 Marines sent by Truman were used to guard railway lines, coal mines, ports, bridges, and other strategic sites. Inevitably, they became involved in the fighting, sustaining dozens, if not hundreds of casualties. US troops, the communists charged, attacked areas controlled by the Reds, directly opened fire on them, arrested military officers, and disarmed soldiers. The Americans found themselves blasting a small Chinese village "unmercifully", wrote a Marine to his congressman, not knowing "how many innocent people were slaughtered".
United States planes regularly made reconnaissance flights over communist territory to scout the position of their forces. The communists claimed that American planes frequently strafed and bombed their troops and in one instance machine-gunned a communist-held town. To what extent these attacks were carried out by US airmen is not known.
There were, however, American survivors in some of the many crashes of United States aircraft. Surprisingly, the Reds continued to rescue them, tend to their wounds, and return them to US bases. It may be difficult to appreciate now, but at this time the mystique and the myth of "America" still gripped the imagination of people all over the world, and Chinese peasants, whether labeled "communist" or not, were no exception. During the war the Reds had helped to rescue scores of American fliers and had transported them through Japanese lines to safety. "The Communists", wrote the New York Times, "did not lose one airman taken under their protection. They made a point of never accepting rewards for saving American airmen."
When 1946 arrived, about 100,000 American military personnel were still in China, still supporting Chiang. The official United States explanation for the presence of its military was that they were there to disarm and repatriate the Japanese. Though this task was indeed carried out eventually, it was secondary to the military's political function, as Truman's statement cited above makes abundantly cleat.
The American soldiers in China began to protest about not being sent home, a complaint echoed round the world by other GIs kept overseas for political (usually anti-communist) purposes. "They ask me, too, why they're here," said a Marine lieutenant in China at Christmas-time, 1945. "As an officer I am supposed to tell them, but you can't tell a man that he's here to disarm Japanese when he's guarding the same railway with [armed] Japanese."
Strangely enough, the United States attempted to mediate in the civil war; this, while being an active, powerful participant on one side. In January 1946, President Truman, apparently recognizing that it was either compromise with the communists or see all of China fall under their sway, sent General George Marshall to try and arrange a cease-fire and some kind of unspecified coalition government. While some temporary success was achieved in an on — and — off truce, the idea of a coalition government was doomed to failure, as unlikely as a marriage between the Czar and the Bolsheviks. As the historian D.F. Fleming has pointed out, "One cannot unite a dying oligarchy with a rising revolution."
Not until early 1947 did the United States begin to withdraw some of its military forces, although aid and support to the Chiang government continued in one form or another long afterward. At about this same time, the Flying Tigers began to operate. The legendary American air squadron under the leadership of General Claire Chennault had fought for the Chinese against the Japanese before and during the world war. Now Chennault, Chiang's former air force adviser, had reactivated the squadron (under the name CAT) and its pilots — of — fortune soon found themselves in the thick of the fray, flying endless supply missions to Nationalist cities under siege, dodging communist shell bursts to airlift food, ammunition, and supplies of all kinds, or to rescue the wounded. Technically, CAT was a private airline hired by the Chiang government, but before the civil war came to an end, the airline had formally
interlocked with the CIA to become the first unit in the Agency's sprawling air-empire-to-be, best known for the Air America line.
By 1949, United States aid to the Nationalists since the war amounted to almost $2 billion in cash and $1 billion worth of military hardware; 39 Nationalist army divisions had been trained and equipped. Yet the Chiang dynasty was collapsing all around in bits and pieces. It had not been only the onslaught of Chiang's communist foes, but the hostility of the Chinese people at large to his tyranny, his wanton cruelty, and the extraordinary corruption and decadence of his entire bureaucratic and social system. By contrast, the large areas under communist administration were models of honesty, progress and fairness; entire divisions of the Generalissimo's forces defected to the communists. American political and military leaders had no illusions about the nature and quality of Chiang's rule. The Nationalist forces, said General David Barr, head of the US Military Mission in China, were under "the world's worst leadership".
The Generalissimo, his cohorts and soldiers fled to the offshore island of Taiwan (Formosa). They had prepared their entry two years earlier by terrorizing the islanders into submission—a massacre which took the lives of as many as 28,000 people. Prior to the Nationalists' escape to the island, the US government entertained no doubts that Taiwan was a part of China. Afterward, uncertainty began to creep into the minds of Washington officials. The crisis was resolved in a remarkably simple manner: the US agreed with Chiang that the proper way to view the situation was not that Taiwan belonged to China, but that Taiwan was China. And so it was called.
In the wake of the communist success, China scholar Felix Greene observed, "Americans simply could not bring themselves to believe that the Chinese, however rotten their leadership, could have preferred a communist government." It must have been the handiwork of a conspiracy, an international conspiracy, at the control panel of which sat, not unexpectedly, the Soviet Union. The evidence for this, however, was thin to the point of transparency. Indeed, ever since Stalin's credo of "socialism in one country" won out over Trotsky's internationalism in the 1920s, the Russians had sided with Chiang more than with Mao, advising the latter more than once to dissolve his army and join Chiang's government. Particularly in the post-World War II years, when the Soviet Union was faced with its own staggering crisis of reconstruction, did it not relish the prospect of having to help lift the world's most populous nation into the modern age. In 1947, General Marshall stated publicly that he knew of no evidence that the Chinese communists were being supported by the USSR.
But in the United States this did not prevent the rise of an entire mythology of how the US had "lost" China: Soviet intervention, State Department communists, White House cowards, military and diplomatic folly, communist dupes and fellow-travelers in the media ... treachery everywhere ...
The Truman administration, said Senator Joseph McCarthy with characteristic charm, was composed of "egg-sucking phony liberals" who protected the "Communists and queers" who had "sold China into atheistic slavery".
Yet, short of an all-out invasion of the country by large numbers of American troops, it is difficult to see what more the US government could have done to prevent Chiang's downfall. Even after Chiang fled to Taiwan, the United States pursued a campaign of relentless assaults against the communist government, despite a request from Chou En-lai for aid and friendship. The Red leader saw no practical or ideological bar to this. Instead, the United States evidently conspired to assassinate Chou on several occasions.
Many Nationalist soldiers had taken refuge in northern Burma in the great exodus of 1949, much to the displeasure of the Burmese Government. There, the CIA began to regroup this stateless army into a fighting force, and during the early 1950s a number of large- and small-scale incursions into China were carried out. In one instance, in April 1951, a few thousand troops, accompanied by CIA advisers and supplied by air drops from American C46s and C47s, crossed the border into China's Yunnan province, but they were driven back by the communists in less than a week. The casualties were high and included several CIA advisers who lost their lives. Another raid that summer took the invaders 65; miles into China where they reportedly held a 100-mile-long strip of territory.
While the attacks continued intermittently, the CIA proceeded to build up the force's capabilities: American engineers arrived to help construct and expand airstrips in Burma, fresh troops were flown in from Taiwan, other troops were recruited from amongst Burmese hill tribes, CIA air squadrons were brought in for logistical services, and enormous quantities of American heavy arms were ferried in. Much of the supply of men and equipment came in via nearby Thailand.
The army soon stood at more than 10,000 men. By the end of 1952, Taiwan claimed that 41,000 communist troops had been killed and more than 3,000 wounded. The figures were most likely exaggerated, but even if not, it was clear that the raids would not lead to Chiang's triumphant return to the mainland—although this was not their sole purpose. On the Chinese border two greater battles were raging: in Korea and Vietnam. It was the hope of the United States to force the Chinese to divert troops and military resources away from these areas. The infant People's Republic of China was undergoing a terrible test.
In between raids on China, the "Chinats" (as distinguished from the "Chicoms") found time to clash frequently with Burmese troops, indulge in banditry, and become the opium barons of The Golden Triangle, that slice of land encompassing parts of Burma, Laos and Thailand which was the world's largest source of opium and heroin. CIA pilots flew the stuff all over, to secure the cooperation of those in Thailand who were important to the military operation, as a favor to their Nationalist clients, perhaps even for the money, and, ironically, to serve as cover for their more illicit activities.
The Chinats in Burma kept up their harassment of the Chicoms until 1961 and the CIA continued to supply them militarily, but at some point the Agency began to phase itself out of a more direct involvement. When the CIA, in response to repeated protests by the Burmese Government to the United States and the United Nations, put pressure on the Chinats to leave Burma, Chiang responded by threatening to expose the Agency's covert support of his troops there. At an earlier stage, the CIA had entertained the hope that the Chinese would be provoked into attacking Burma, thereby forcing the strictly neutral Burmese to seek salvation in the Western camp. In January 1961, the Chinese did just that, but as part of a combined force with the Burmese to overwhelm the Nationalists' main base and mark finis to their Burmese adventure. Burma subsequently renounced American aid and moved closer to Peking. For many of the Chinats, unemployment was short-lived. They soon signed up with the CIA again; this time to fight with the Agency's grand army in Laos.
Burma was not the only jumping-off site for CIA-organized raids into China. Several islands within about five miles of the Chinese coast, particularly Quemoy and Matsu, were used as bases for hit-and-run attacks, often in battalion strength, for occasional bombing forays, and to blockade mainland ports. Chiang was "brutally pressured" by the US to build up his troops on the islands beginning around 1953 as a demonstration of Washington's new policy of "unleashing" him.
The Chinese retaliated several times with heavy artillery attacks on Quemoy, on one occasion killing two American military officers. The prospect of an escalated war led the US later to have second thoughts and to ask Chiang to abandon the islands, but he then refused. The suggestion has often been put forward that Chiang's design was to embroil the United States in just such a war as his one means of returning to the mainland.
Many incursions into China were made by smaller, commando-type teams air-dropped in for intelligence and sabotage purposes. In November 1952, two CIA officers, John Downey and Richard Fecteau, who had been engaged in flying these teams in and dropping supplies to them, were shot down and captured by the communists. Two years passed before Peking announced the capture and sentencing of the two men. The State Department broke its own two-year silence with indignation, claiming that the two men had been civilian employees of the US Department of the Army in Japan who were presumed lost on a flight from Korea to Japan. "How they came into the hands of the Chinese Communists is unknown to the United States ... the continued wrongful detention of these American citizens furnishes further proof of the Chinese Communist regime's disregard for accepted practices of international conduct."
Fecteau was released in December 1971, shortly before President Nixon's trip to China; Downey was not freed until March 1973, soon after Nixon publicly acknowledged him to be a CIA officer.
The Peking announcement in 1954 also revealed that eleven American airmen had been shot down over China in January 1953 while on a mission which had as its purpose the "air-drop of special agents into China and the Soviet Union". These men were luckier, being freed after only 2 1/2 years. All told, said the Chinese, they had killed 106 American and Taiwanese agents who had parachuted into China between 1951 and 1954 and had captured 124 others. Although the CIA had little, if anything, to show for its commando actions, it reportedly maintained the program until at least 1960.
There were many other CIA flights over China for purely espionage purposes, carried out by high-altitude U-2 planes, pilot-less "drones", and other aircraft. These over-flights began around the late 1950s and were not discontinued until 1971, to coincide with Henry Kissinger's first visit to Peking. The operation was not without incident. Several U-2 planes were shot down and even more of the drones, 19 of the latter by Chinese count between 1964 and 1969. China registered hundreds of "serious warnings" about violations of its air space, and on at least one occasion American aircraft crossed the Chinese border and shot down a Mig-17.
It would seem that no degree of failure or paucity of result was enough to deter the CIA from seeking new ways to torment the Chinese in the decade following their revolution. Tibet was another case in point. The Peking government claimed Tibet as part of China, as had previous Chinese governments for more than two centuries, although many Tibetans still regarded themselves as autonomous or independent. The United States made its position clear during the war:
The Government of the United States has borne in mind the fact that the Chinese Government has long claimed suzerainty over Tibet and that the Chinese constitution lists Tibet among areas constituting the territory of the Republic of China. This Government has at no time raised a question regarding either of these claims.
After the communist revolution, Washington officials tended to be more equivocal about the matter. But US actions against Tibet had nothing to do with the niceties of international law.
In the mid-1950s, the CIA began to recruit Tibetan refugees and exiles in neighboring countries such as India and Nepal. Amongst their number were members of the Dalai Lama's guard, often referred to picturesquely as "the fearsome Khamba horsemen", and others who had already engaged in some guerrilla activity against Peking rule and/or the profound social changes being instituted by the revolution. (Serfdom and slavery were, liter-ally, still prevalent in Tibet.] Those selected were flown to the United States, to an unused military base high in the Colorado mountains, an altitude approximating that of their mountainous homeland. There, hidden away as much as possible from the locals, they were trained in the fine points of paramilitary warfare.
After completing training, each group of Tibetans was flown to Taiwan or another friendly Asian country, thence to be infiltrated back into Tibet, or elsewhere in China, where they occupied themselves in activities such as sabotage, mining roads, cutting communication lines, and ambushing small communist forces. Their actions were supported by CIA aircraft and on occasion led by Agency contract mercenaries. Extensive support facilities were constructed in northeast India.
The operation in Colorado was maintained until some time in the 1960s. How many hundreds of Tibetans passed through the course of instruction will probably never be known. Even after the formal training program came to an end, the CIA continued to finance and supply their exotic clients and nurture their hopeless dream of reconquering their homeland.
In 1961, when the New York Times got wind of the Colorado operation, it acceded to a Pentagon request to probe no further.30 The matter was particularly sensitive because the CIA's 1947 charter and Congress's interpretation of it had traditionally limited the Agency's domestic operations to information collection.
Above and beyond the bedevilment of China on its own merits, there was the spillover from the Korean war into Chinese territory—numerous bombings and strafings by American planes which, the Chinese frequently reported, took civilian lives and destroyed homes. And there was the matter of germ warfare.
The Chinese devoted a great deal of effort to publicizing their claim that the United States, particularly during January to March 1952, had dropped quantities of bacteria and bacteria-laden insects over Korea and northeast China. It presented testimony of about 38 captured American airmen who had purportedly flown the planes with the deadly cargo. Many of the men went into voluminous detail about the entire operation: the kinds of bombs and other containers dropped, the types of insects, the diseases they carried, etc. At the same time, photographs of the alleged germ bombs and insects were published. Then, in August, an "International Scientific Committee" was appointed, composed of scientists from Sweden, France, Great Britain, Italy, Brazil and the Soviet Union. After an investigation in China of more than two months, the committee produced a report of some 600 pages, many photos, and the conclusion that:
The peoples of Korea and China have indeed been the objectives of bacteriological weapons. These have been employed by units of the U.S.A. armed forces, using a great variety of different methods for the purpose, some of which seem to be developments of those applied by the Japanese during the second world war.
The last reference has to do with the bacteriological warfare experiments the Japanese had carried out against China between 1940 and 1942. The Japanese scientists responsible for this program were captured by the United States in 1945 and given immunity from prosecution in return for providing technical information about the experiments to American scientists from the Army biological research center at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The Chinese were aware of this at the time of the International Scientific Committee's investigation.
It should be noted that some of the American airmen's statements contained so much technical biological information and were so full of communist rhetoric—"imperialist, capitalist Wall Street war monger" and the like—that their personal authorship of the statements must be seriously questioned. Moreover, it was later learned that most of the airmen had confessed only after being subjected to physical abuse.
But in view of what we have since learned about American involvement with chemical and biological weapons, the Chinese claims cannot be dismissed out of hand. In 1970, for example, the New York Times reported that during the Korean War, when US forces were overwhelmed by "human waves' of Chinese, "the Army dug into captured Nazi chemical warfare documents describing Sarin, a nerve gas so lethal that a few pounds could kill thousands of people in minutes. ... By the mid-nineteen-fifties, the Army was manufacturing thousands of gallons of Sarin."
And during the 1950s and 1960s, the Army and the CIA conducted numerous experiments with biological agents within the United States. To cite just two examples: In 1955, there is compelling evidence that the CIA released whooping-cough bacteria into the open air in Florida, followed by an extremely sharp increase in the incidence of the disease in the state that year. The following year, another toxic substance was disseminated in the streets and tunnels of New York City.
We will also see in the chapter on Cuba how the CIA conducted chemical and biological warfare against Fidel Castro's rule.
In March 1966, Secretary of State Dean Rusk spoke before a congressional committee about American policy toward China. Mr. Rusk, it seems, was perplexed that "At times the Communist Chinese leaders seem to be obsessed with the notion that they are being threatened and encircled." He spoke of China's "imaginary, almost pathological, notion that the United States and other countries around its borders are seeking an opportunity to invade mainland China and destroy the Peiping [Peking] regime". The Secretary then added:
How much Peiping's "fear" of the United States is genuine and how much it is artificially induced for domestic political purposes only the Chinese Communist leaders themselves know. I am convinced, however, that their desire to expel our influence and activity from the western Pacific and Southeast Asia is not motivated by fears that we are threatening them.
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