Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The forgotten war 

It's hard to believe that as the whole world seems to be now dealing with the third millennium challenge of militant Islam (in itself a return to the first millennium), there are still some corners of the world where the seminal struggles of the last century are still playing themselves out. This story is one such reminder:
At least 36 bus passengers were killed and scores more wounded when Maoist rebels detonated a landmine along a road in southern Nepal yesterday in one of the bloodiest attacks against civilians in the nine-year-long insurgency.

The bus, which was travelling near Narayangadh, in Chitwan district, home to one of Nepal's most famous national parks, was crammed with more than a hundred passengers inside and on the roof.

It was blown apart as it went through the village of Madi, an area where Maoist rebels have been gathering in strength over the past couple of years. Army officers who arrived soon afterwards described a scene of carnage. "The place is littered with blood. Limbs are scattered around the site," one said. "Many women and children have been killed."
A few Nepalese villages must be among the last few places in the world - except certain Western university faculties - where Mao is still seriously venerated. Even in his homeland, Maoism has been successfully supplanted by Dengoism, or Marketism-Leninism. Nepal is notoriously impoverished, and if rebels have to remain wedded to a politically authoritarian program, at least they could adopt the pro-market policies of Mao's heirs. As it is, the "People'’s War" has cost 11,000 lives since 1996 and has managed to send this once tranquil Himalayan kingdom down a spiral of violence and instability, which recently saw the recent suspension of democracy by the King.

Speaking of Mao, it looks like Jung Chang (of the bestselling "Wild Swans" fame) and her husband historian Jon Halliday have written the definitive biography of the monster:
Just so you know where they stand, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday declare in the very first sentence of their impeccably detailed biography of Mao Zedong that he "was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other 20th-century leader." And that's one of the more positive things they have to say about the man who is still widely revered as the founder of modern China. To Chang and Halliday, Mao was a scheming opportunist who butchered his way to the top, then squandered the lives and wealth of his people in a bungled quest for global influence.
Sounds like a great book.


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