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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

An Apologist All Day Long: Barry Sautman's Magmum Opus of Smear

April 26, 2010

Josh Schrei,

Barry Sautman's magmum opus of smear, Vegetarian Between Meals, is an
impressive effort, designed to hurl every possible real or imagined
charge at the 14th Dalai Lama and his Tibetan Government in Exile. It
ranges from the valid -- highlighting discrepancies in the movement's
position on independence and nonviolence and questioning some of His
Holiness's more conservative statements on sexual morality -- to the
questionable -- calling His Holiness out for not condemning the conflict
in Kashmir, which is a completely understandable position given the
tenuous relationship of Tibetans in Exile to their host government -- to
the downright absurd: accusing the Dalai Lama of racism and of ignoring
the poor is an indefensible track, accomplished only with such
obfuscation of fact and manipulation of source material you can almost
tell Dr. Sautman barely believes it himself. I'm sure Desmond Tutu, for
example, one of the Dalai Lama's dear friends, would raise an eyebrow at
the assertion that the Tibetan leader supported apartheid, as would most
thinking people in the world.

However grand the breadth of Sautman's indictment, however, it is quite
simply not worth responding to point by point. I'll leave it to the
Tibetan Government in Exile and the Tibetan Youth Congress, should they
so choose, to defend their good names. But fundamentally, a smear is a
smear, and this is such an obvious one that its impact, especially given
the Chinese government's current international shenanigans, will be
minimal and most people of intelligence and political relevance will
either not notice it or will see it for what it is.

In the meantime, there is far more important work at hand than putting
Dr. Sautman's logical leaps and egregious omittances through the
shredder. The Tibet movement is engaged in a very real struggle to
improve the lives of actual Tibetans, to free political prisoners, and
to combat a regime that is known to be an abuser of rights and personal
freedoms, and such distractions by the likes of Sautman are just that --
a distraction.

The fundamental fact is that even with all his digging -- and I do
appreciate the time it took to dig -- the worst dirt Barry Sautman can
find on the Dalai Lama is the utterance of contradictory statements.

The same cannot be said for Sautman's bedfellows in Beijing, who it does
not take 30 plus pages and 315 footnotes to expose for who they are. No,
it is far easier to cast the leaders of the PRC as violent criminals
than the Dalai Lama, for the simple fact that they are and he is not.

Anyone with a shred of common sense -- or not on the Chinese
government's payroll -- understands who is the oppressor and who is the
oppressed in the China - Tibet conflict. On the one hand are a people,
who, while admittedly not perfect, are working towards democratic reform
and are openly embracing ideals and values of the modern world, a
herculean and under-appreciated task for any refugee community that is
also facing cultural extinction; a people, who, despite Sautman's
painstaking attempts to paint them as terrorists, have not in fact
resorted to regularly blowing up civilians to forward their struggle. On
the other hand is a totalitarian regime busily constructing an Orwellian
nightmare, using hacked data from western companies to spy on and arrest
human rights activists, throwing writers and filmmakers in jail for
expressing their political beliefs, continuing the widespread use of
torture and forced labor, and brazenly bullying governments and academic
institutions for exercising their right to free speech.

In the face of all the current revelations on the Chinese government and
just how deep the rabbit hole of their system of oppression goes,
attacking a people who are struggling for rights and a man who is
clearly trying his best in the face of a level of responsibility Dr.
Sautman will never know, seems not only mean-spirited, but paltry and
highly irrelevant.

No matter how hard apologists such as Sautman try to use the power of
their well-educated minds to make fact, history, and common sense bend
to their will, they are still on the wrong side of it all. No matter how
many hours they clock in the ivory tower trying to illegitimize the
Tibet movement, Tibetans still have the trump card. The trump card is
that the hypocrisies that exist in the movement -- which many of us are
very well aware of -- have always and will always pale in comparison to
the inexcusable actions of the psychopaths who are in charge of
Sautman's beloved China.

Barry, siding with a totalitarian occupier is a difficult cross to bear.
I certainly don't envy this position. But I would encourage you, in the
midst of your thankless task, to look up from your meticulous footnotes
and grow a pair of eyes.

Meanwhile, in the time it took you to construct such an elaborate
deceit, we will have freed another political prisoner.
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