Revolutionary Worker #1151, May 19, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
On May 6, the Prime Minister of Nepal, Sher Bahadur Deuba, met with George W. Bush at the White House. He is the first Nepali prime minister to meet an American president at the Oval Office. Afterwards, newspapers reported that an "upbeat" Deuba said, "I found President Bush frank, open, and warm... I am very glad, I am very happy, President Bush is very much supportive to our campaign against terrorism and he has assured us he will help in many ways."
Deuba also met with Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, various members of the U.S. Congress, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Since 1996, the government of Nepal has been fighting a Maoist insurgency led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). In a country where over 85% of the people are poor peasants living in the countryside, this revolution -- aimed at overthrowing the oppressive Nepalese government and monarchy -- has gained widespread support, especially in the western districts of Rolpa and Rukum. In liberated base areas the Maoists have established revolutionary forms of government where millions of peasants are exercising a "new people's power."
Since last November the government has unleashed the Royal Nepalese Army to wage a brutal "search and destroy" campaign against the People's War. Hundreds of people have been killed, arrested and tortured. Under a "state of emergency" all kinds of constitutional rights have been suspended throughout the country.
The government bragged it would quickly defeat the Maoists. But fierce two-sided fighting has continued with the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) suffering a string of significant defeats. And now, the government of Nepal says it cannot defeat the Maoists without outside help.
Nepalese military officials want the U.S. to provide the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) with night- vision goggles to fight surprise attacks in the dark. They also want more transport helicopters to deploy men quickly in rugged terrain. They want flak jackets, automatic weapons and rocket launchers.
India has already sent truckloads of military hardware. Deuba is asking for help from China, Russia and Britain. And now, after Deuba's meeting with Bush, the U.S. is set to give Nepal $20 million in military aid and will almost double development aid to Nepal, from $21 million in 2001 to $38 million in 2003.
Deuba's trip to the United States followed a visit to Kathmandu in January by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Then at the end of April, at least a dozen U.S. military personnel spent weeks with the RNA, touring western districts where fighting has been the most intense. A Pentagon spokesman said the team's mission was to assess how to best spend U.S. funds to help the Nepalese government fight Maoist insurgents. According to the Pentagon, the team was made up of personnel from the U.S. Pacific Command specializing in intelligence, aviation, logistics, engineering and medicine.
The People's War in Nepal is a genuine war of liberation--that has nothing in common with groups like Al Queda. But the government of Nepal has officially put the "terrorist" label on the Maoists--packaging its plea for foreign aid as a request for assistance in the "global fight against terrorism."
The growing involvement of the U.S. in supporting the counter-revolution in Nepal is an example of how the so-called "U.S. war on terrorism" is being used as a cover to justify war on any and all insurgencies which threaten U.S. interests--including genuine revolutions aimed at overthrowing oppressive governments.
Surprise Attack in Gam
For most of the six years since the People's War in Nepal began in 1996, the Gam area in the western district of Rolpa has been a Maoist stronghold. Police and politicians had been run out and peasants set up new revolutionary forms of government. Then two months ago, RNA soldiers retook control of Gam.
On Tuesday, May 6, as Prime Minister Deuba made the rounds, pleading for military aid in Washington, Maoist guerrillas launched a surprise midnight raid on Gam--delivering a significant defeat to the RNA.
There were reports that at least 500 Maoist guerrillas surrounded the government base camp, destroyed a transformer with a bomb and then attacked from all sides. News reports citing RNA officials said 105 policemen and 35 soldiers died--that there were no survivors on the government side in the battle that raged until 4:00 a.m. An RNA spokesman said it was assumed that after soldiers and policemen ran out of ammunition, hundreds of Maoists overran the post and killed all the security forces there. Military officials said 104 bodies of soldiers and police had been recovered from the battle.
One RNA officer told Reuters news service, "The raid came about midnight and we seem to have lost heavily. There were more than 140 soldiers and police officers at Gam and we have lost contact with them." Another officer told the press, "We fear this is a big loss for our side."
According to a New York Times article on the web dated May 11, the RNA has started to withdraw troops from Gam and another army base in Rolpa. A top RNA general is quoted calling the move a "tactical withdrawal."
Casualty Reports and Disinformation
The battle in Gam came after a week of intense fighting in the Rolpa area. What is clear is that the Royal Nepalese Army went on a big offensive, using helicopters to try and penetrate base areas of the People's Liberation Army. But what is unclear is just how successful the RNA was- despite news reports that hundreds of Maoist guerrillas were killed, while government forces suffered only a few casualties.
Reports of a big victory by the RNA started coming out on May 5. The numbers reported for casualties on the side of the guerrillas were inconsistent--but consistently went up. First it was said that 100 rebels had been killed. Then it went up to 250. By the time Deuba stepped out of his plane in Washington, news reports were saying the Maoists had suffered their deadliest defeat yet with 450, maybe 600 dead.
News services in Nepal and internationally--including AP, CNN, Reuters, and the BBC -- all reported that at least 400 Maoists had been killed. News commentators speculated that such a victory for the Nepalese government would help Deuba in his quest for military aid in D.C.--providing proof that the Maoist insurgency could be defeated with a little help from the United States.
On May 6, as Deuba was on his way to the U.S., one of his spokesmen told the BBC, "We estimate around 650 rebels have been killed since Thursday." There were reports that the successful government operation had boosted the morale of the RNA soldiers and police and that government forces had "finally penetrated the Maoist bases and hideouts."
For months now, the "state of emergency" in Nepal has given the government freedom to wage a huge war of censorship and disinformation. Reporters and human rights activists are not allowed to go into areas where fighting is going on. Journalists sympathetic to the Maoists have been arrested, offices of pro-Maoist newspapers have been raided and shut down. Editors of mainstream publications have been picked up and interrogated for simply quoting Maoist leaders. A total of 96 journalists had been arrested under the state of emergency--31 journalists are still being held under custody.
One human rights activist told the Christian Science Monitor , "The government leaders, the prime minister and his cabinet, say that for us to comment against military actions may demoralize the military. But because of the emergency provisions, we are not as free to report the facts. So the information one gets is one-sided..."
Those reading bourgeois news accounts of the war in Nepal would do well to heed the advice in the recent letter from the CPN (Maoist), "To our friends in America" (see page 5), which says, do not "get carried away by the one-sided propaganda of the feudal autocratic forces and their foreign imperialist masters and try to ferret out facts from fictions."
An article on May 9 in the New York Times reported:
"Nepal's Ministry of Defense asserted in a press release that more than 350 rebels were killed on Friday when security forces fought them near a Maoist base in the western district of Rolpa. But in an interview today, an army official said that report was mistaken. Fewer than 100 Maoists died, he said, and only 20 to 30 of their bodies were found. The rebels dragged away many of their dead before they could be counted, leaving bloody trails through the woods, he said. Tana Gautam, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, conceded the error today. `The number of bodies that were ultimately recovered didn't quite reach that number that we said,' he said. `It does raise a question of credibility.' ''
Another news report quoted Yubaraj Ghimire, editor of Nepal's largest selling mainstream newspaper group, Kantipur, saying, "The casualty figures are purely speculation. It depends on circumstantial evidence, like heavy firing from the army side and no response from the rebels..."
Apparently, government estimates are mostly based on circumstantial evidence found by soldiers. A spokesman for Deuba admitted, "It is very difficult to give precise casualty figures." Body parts or pools of blood may be found, he said, "or signs of bloodstained bodies having been dragged away."
In other words, the rising number of casualties, which reached 650, reportedly suffered by Maoist guerrillas in the days surrounding Deuba's visit to the U.S., were completely fabricated!
Revolutionaries in the U.S. have an internationalist duty to expose and oppose any and all U.S. support for the counter-revolutionary efforts of the Nepalese government. As the CPN (Maoist) says in their recent letter, "As co-fighters in the same side of the barricade of the exploited and oppressed of the world...we need to communicate with each other and thwart the evil designs of our common enemies."
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