A Liberal Attempt to Whitewash U.S. Political Operations Against China

The Fulbright Program aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship.

—Senator J. William Fulbright

If you believe Senator Fulbright, then, as an old American saying goes, I have a bridge to sell you. Dave Lindorff, who was a Fulbright scholar, is trying to whitewash the U.S. imperial hand behind Occupy Central in Hong Kong. Here is a long excerpt from his recent article, “Accusing Hong Kong Activists of Being Tools of US Policy is Both Ignorant and Dangerous,” (I have marked portions of interest in red with my annotations interspersed between paragraphs):

“Let me tell a personal story to illustrate what I’m talking about with respect to jumping to conclusions:

Back in 1990, when my wife and I were between jobs, I applied for and was awarded a one-year Fulbright post in Shanghai, where I would be teaching journalism at Fudan University, one of China’s top schools.

[The Fulbright program is a front for the exercise of soft power or psychological warfare.]

Over that year I came to know my students, and some of my teaching colleagues, well. The kids were smart, and for the most part dedicated to being good journalists. There was one ardent Maoist from an important Communist family in the class, whom I learned along the way had been required to deliver the students’ papers to monitors in the school’s foreign affairs office (waiban) for vetting before they were turned in to me. Most of these kids were quite sophisticated politically. They were interested in the world and in the US, but were well aware of America’s crimes as well as of its virtues, just as they were aware of the good and bad aspects of their own country’s culture and politics.

[Maoists are bad guys to liberals, of course. It’s also bad, according to them, to defend your country by using overt authoritarian means like vetting student papers, but apparently it’s not wrong to use covert and semi-covert means of “soft power,” to put it nicely, to subvert a sovereign country – as long as you’re one of the good guys, i.e., American. Mr. Lindorff and his ilk go to China to ensure that young, impressionable Chinese students are interested in America even though the elites of that country are hellbent on undermining and eventually dominating China and making it a vassal state, along with the rest of the world.]

Midway through the year, there was a gathering of all 20 Fulbright professors at a tourist spot in Kunming. The event was hosted by the office of press and cultural affairs of the US Embassy in Beijing.

[U.S. embassies are always stacked with CIA officers, and in any case, again, the U.S. idea of diplomacy is to undermine foreign governments that don’t follow its orders.]

It soon became apparent that there was a big issue for us to confront. One colleague, a professor of economics from a university in Texas, had run afoul of the Chinese authorities at his school and in Beijing because he had given his students an assignment to write a paper analyzing the relative competitive benefit, if any, to one country using prison labor to produce products for export to another country. There was at that time a big scandal where Newsweek magazine had exposed a chain of Chinese prisons that were using forced prison labor to produce products for export to the US–including products owned by US companies that had moved their production facilities to China. (That edition of the magazine had been banned in China, but he had distributed copies of the article to his students.)

[Mr. Lindorff is very down on China and its repressive and authoritarian ways. Although he mentions the involvement of U.S. companies, China is the focus of his condemnation. And why did this poor, innocent professor distribute articles from a magazine he knew was banned?!]

The university had ordered the professor to turn over his students’ essays to them, and his students, who had waxed passionate against the prison and legal system in China, and against the widespread practice of “re-education through labor,” were pleading with him not to turn over their papers. He had refused to do so, and was being threatened with deportation and termination of his Fulbright appointment.

[Do these passionate dupes realize that there is also forced labor in U.S. prisons, and that the Chinese prisons in question were manufacturing products for U.S. companies, AND that the U.S. has more of its citizens languishing in prisons than does China? Not just as a proportion of the population, but numerically there are more people in prison in the U.S. than in China even though the U.S. population is much less than that of China! Something tells me the professor “forgot” to tell his students about that.]

The embassy, which the Fulbright Program had asked to mediate, was pressuring this professor to cave in and to sacrifice his students “for the sake of the program,” but the other 19 Fulbrighters, myself included, protested. I proposed that we take a vote to support him and we then unanimously demanded that academic freedom be respected and that the professor not be required to turn in the papers. We also demanded that the US oppose his deportation, with some of us saying we’d rather all be sent home in solidarity than have him forced out for defending his students from retaliation or worse. In the end, he burned the students’ papers and ended the issue. He was allowed to stay on for the rest of the school year and finish the program.

[The Fulbright program (front) asked its CIA handlers in the embassy to intervene. This entire scene with the unanimous vote and the “solidarity” and “demand that academic freedom be respected” and that the U.S. oppose deportation seems staged to me. I also quite enjoyed the phrase “for defending his students from retaliation or worse.” That’s real cute. Worse what? Were they in danger of being executed? Oh, my!]

A revealing moment in this struggle came when the head of the press and cultural affairs office at the US Embassy, a Special Forces veteran of the Vietnam War and, I suspect, a CIA officer who was using his official post as cover at the Embassy, lectured us saying, “Remember: You Fulbrighters are all special forces personnel parachuted behind enemy lines here in China.”

[Interesting comment. It’s true, of course, but did he really say that? And if so, was it designed to get a certain desired and expected response? And if Lindorff knows enough about how the CIA operates to suspect this guy of being a spook, he should know enough not to have gotten involved in the Fulbright program in the first place.]

While we were shocked to hear such a thing said about us, we were not surprised to learn that we were viewed in Washington as being cogs in America’s foreign policy strategy. Most of us came through the 1960s as anti-war and civil rights activists, after all, and we shared at least a jaded, or in many cases like my own, an oppositional view of US foreign policy. But none of us were cooperative “agents.” This guy was roundly denounced for saying what he had said about us, and we assured him we were not doing his bidding, but rather would act on our own — as we were all doing in our role as visiting professors. No one went along with his “orders” to surrender our colleague and his students.

[They were “shocked,” Dave tells us, to hear this charge spoken aloud, but they were not “surprised” by the actual information. If these Fulbright scholars were not at all surprised that Washington viewed them as “cogs” in its foreign policy designs, then how can they claim not to be agents? As Mr. Lindorff says, they were not “cooperative ‘agents,'” but I say they were agents nonetheless. Dave also mentions that he and his fellows came through the 60’s as anti-war and civil rights activists. So what? Is that supposed to clear them of being either witting or unwitting CIA assets? The way I see it they didn’t follow explicit orders, but as you can always trust a self-righteous bourgeois liberal to always act like a self-righteous bourgeois liberal, these learned scholars followed what is known in the intelligence industry as a “non-order” or a “non-directive” and this provided plausible deniability to the embassy and the invisible hand of the CIA. “See China,” the professors could proclaim, “no one is pulling our strings! On our own initiative have we defied the state department and stood up for our liberal values of free speech. That’s how things really work in America!”]

I tell this story to illustrate how the mere fact that someone participates, or at some point in the past participated, in a US government program, whether it’s the Peace Corps, the Fulbright Program, or some other project or conference sponsored by some organization like USAID or NED, does not mean that person is “bought” or “controlled” or even “influenced” by those organizations.

[It’s not a “mere” fact, jackass! It is just grounds for suspicion; not case-closed proof of guilt, but definitely grounds for suspicion. Chinese security services would be in dereliction of their duties not to put these folks under surveillance.]

Another story: After I had finished my year in China as a Fulbrighter, and was living in Hong Kong, working as a free-lance correspondent for Business Week, I was called by someone claiming he was a correspondent for Chronicle of Higher Education, a US journal for academics. He came to our house and started interviewing me about my experience as a Fulbright professor in Shanghai.

[First a Fulbrighter and then a freelance correspondent for Business Week? This guy has lofty bourgeois credentials! Not only that, but it is a fact that the CIA has always been heavily involved in the penetration of the media and has used journalists as agents for espionage and especially for spreading disinformation or “black propaganda.” This was first revealed by the Church Committee back in the 70’s, but the committee’s report was a whitewash and the investigations into CIA ties with the media and academia were stonewalled and eventually shut down due to CIA pressure. The excuse given? A threat to national security. Works every time!]

As the interview progressed, his questions started veering into areas that seemed curious, such as the ideological position of my students and faculty colleagues at Fudan, and my opinion about what Chinese students, faculty and ordinary people thought about their government. I found an excuse to end the interview, and then, after he had left, began investigating him. I called the Chronicle for Higher Education and found that there was no such contributor writing for them. They had never heard of him. The business card he gave me had a number that was not working. Asking around in Hong Kong, I learned that this guy was fairly well known in the foreign press corps as a US government operative — probably CIA.

[This story is also a little suspicious to me. I have to wonder if Lindorff is in fact a witting, cooperative agent spreading disinformation. If this story is true, the interviewer’s tradecraft was incredibly sloppy – too incredible. It is as if the officer wanted to be discovered; or Lindorff is spreading disinformation to back up his story and his reputation of integrity. If the “U.S. government operative” was that well know among the foreign press corp he probably would have eventually been picked up by Chinese counterintelligence and deported, all the while making a big splash in the international media about it.]

Clearly, the agents of US imperialism are tireless — and utterly without principle, as using journalists was barred by law — in their efforts to use people. Equally clearly, outfits like the NED or NDI are going to try to take advantage of movements like the current one in Hong Kong to make trouble for a country like China that is viewed as a US enemy, opponent or rival. But the mere fact that such efforts are made does not mean that they succeed. (Such organizations, remember, have an interest in exaggerating their own impact.)

[“The agents of U.S. imperialism are tireless . . .” He got that part right. At the end of this paragraph Dave gives his version of the popular refrain from CIA apologists (and collaborators) that they are not entirely competent enough to pull off all the coups and interventions they are accused of. No, they’re not infallible, but they’re far from incompetent; they’ve had lots of practice over the years!]

Particularly where there is an educated, well informed populace as in Hong Kong, and/or where there is a long tradition of popular movements in defense of liberty, as is also the case in Hong Kong, it a kind of Western arrogance to suggest that a moment [sic] like this must be the creation of US imperialism and its agents.

[No real Leftist that I know of has claimed that the Hong Kong protests are 100% for sure entirely the creation of the U.S. or that there aren’t real or even legitimate grievances, but there are highly suspicious indicators and actual links of collaboration and funding to certain, perhaps not all, but certain important leaders of Occupy Central and other groups; and the Western arrogance is exhibited by self-righteous bourgeois liberals like Dave Lindorff who think they have the right to spread “American values” to China or anywhere else!]

I find the gullibility of journalists and bloggers who glibly make such charges — most of whom have little if any knowledge of Hong Kong and its history of struggle — and the gullibility of some readers, who all to quickly are ready to believe the wildest of conspiracy claims on the flimsiest of evidence, disappointing and disturbing. And I’m not the only one. Read this latest piece by Ming Chun Tang in Counterpunch magazine. [link removed]

[Gullible, huh? Some of us who do know the history of Hong Kong find the West’s protestations regarding the upheavals  there to be disingenuous and hypocritical at best, and nefarious and suspicious at worst. There ARE troubling links between U.S. so-called NGO’s, including funding, and some of the leaders of the Hong Kong “pro-democracy” movement. And he went and threw out the C-word: Conspiracy! He who smelt it, dealt it. It’s the guy who accuses others of promoting or believing in “conspiracy” or “conspiracy theories” that is the apologist for the official narrative (a coincidence theorist) or even an outright collaborator in a conspiracy.]

The truth is, American activists have a lot to learn from activists in Hong Kong. I’m not saying that the NED, CIA, USAID and other such organizations should not be exposed for their efforts to infiltrate movements, and to try to sow chaos in Hong Kong and around the globe. But those who exaggerate the impact of such agencies, as some writers are doing in this instance, pose a threat to the people of Hong Kong. Beijing wants to claim that all protests in Hong Kong are the work of subversives and US imperialism, and those in the US who are saying that same thing are making China’s task easier.

What we on the left who oppose US empire should be doing is not undermining the indigenous activists in Hong Kong in their long and continuing struggle to defend and expand their liberty and autonomy, but rather working to insist that the US government and its secretive agencies of imperialism butt out of Hong Kong.”

[Maybe some of us DO want to make China’s task easier – to defeat U.S. imperialism’s attack on its sovereignty. Some of us, the majority of the world’s population in fact, feel that that U.S. is the world’s greatest threat to world peace – not China or anyone else. Mr. Lindorff, you are not “on the Left” you are a bourgeois, pseudo-Leftist charlatan and an asset, whether you sincerely intend to be or not, of U.S. imperialism.]

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2 Responses to A Liberal Attempt to Whitewash U.S. Political Operations Against China

  1. beetleypete says:

    A very interesting read. For a change, written by someone with some experience of the country, and its people.
    Best wishes, from England, Pete.

  2. Prole Center says:

    Mr. Lindorff also has experience in trying to undermine Chinese authorities and spread American bourgeois “values.” Many things about his background and the tone and content of his article raised red flags with me.

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