Twenty years ago the entire world watched some very brave Chinese University students create "the Goddess of Democracy." Art students in Beijing from the Central Academy of Fine Arts produced a thirty-foot tall Statue of Liberty with Chinese characteristics. A revolution was born in Tiananmen Square, but it didn't succeed.
Tragically, the fall of the wall that had swept the Soviet Union into the dustbin of history was not going to happen in China. The ruthless dictators of the Peoples Republic of China, seeing the power of people questing for freedom, chose to unleash the Peoples Liberation Army on defenseless students. The revolution was crushed in a bloody nationwide carnage.
In the gory days that followed, students were machined gunned, medical teams racing to help were fired upon, and parents trying to identify their children were killed. Brave American reporters saw the events in Tiananmen up close and personal and told the world of real evil in action. However, after the PLA moved into action both sides had a significant reason to cover up the uprising that almost ended Communist China.
The PLA rulers, seeing hundreds of other cities also erupt, denied everything. In fact a US-convicted Chinese agent, then in US government service, Dr. Ron Monpteperto had the PLA defense minister General Chi speak at the US National Defense University in 1996. General Chi, a real butcher, was allowed to report unchallenged that there had been only some minor "pushing and shoving" around the periphery.
The students and protestors also had a real incentive to go to ground since PRC internal security forces were identifying, tracking, and arresting anyone who had challenged Communist rule as an enemy of the state. One of the most powerful images in the 20th Century was "Tank Man," who was a single student standing alone in the street against a column of Chinese Tanks---his fate is unknown.
Twenty years later, in another youth lead revolution this time in Iran, the fate of a young student standing up against tyranny and oppression is well known. A beautiful girl Nada, a name meaning "voice" in Farsi, was shot and killed. The horrific image of her death went around the world. It now looks like the Iranian rulers are taking a page from the PRC playbook and will try to fully crush the revolution.
The key is to watch how far the Iranian rulers will go in following what the PLA did in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square. It will get very ugly, I think.
Internally, he PLA immediately upgraded their internal security with state-of-the-art communication systems -- thank you American and other countries selling cell phone and communication satellite capabilities to the PLA. This being the 21st Century, look for the ruling Mullahs to focus on the Internet.
The White House stage managing a question from an Internet reporter didn't help matters, because that action allows the Iranian Leadership to say "see American Press is a tool of American Intelligence and they are using the Internet" It wasn't the reporter's fault but the individual who allowed President Obama to act like it had all been orchestrated as a scripted intentional message aimed directly at Iran made a mistake.
American Intelligence Services do not use reporters as deep cover agents, but to a paranoid Mullah it may not look this way. The Iranian rulers will have Iranian internal security services intensively focus on Internet communications, in addition to censoring or blocking TV broadcasts, radio and print. Additionally, American reporters in Iran and other crazy paranoid countries may well have been put in danger as suspected spies; only time will tell
After the massacre the PLA immediately revised their SOP to better and more quickly move to put down potential revolutions, and I expect Iran is already working this problem. PLA security moved immediately to roll up student networks and others presenting any threat to the regime. This is why even today grandmothers practicing Falun Gong are arrested. "Re-education" camps were created and student leaders suffered capital punishment. Expect Iran to do the same.
International denial and deception became the PLA goal, and as seen by the actions of Professor Monteperto, they had some success in America. However, on this front the Iranian leadership will achieve little in the West because the courage of France and other countries speaking out sets the tone for Europe. Denial and deception on the "Arab street" is a different matter but it will only go so far in support of Persians, about whom the "Arab Street" has very mixed emotions.
Finally, it was not President Bush's greatest moment when he rather quickly sent Brent Scowcroft to China to assure the PRC leadership that in spite of Tiananmen, America would immediately put the incident behind us and engage.
President Obama still has a great opportunity. Off to a tepid start, he can still put a strong marker down for history that the current Iranian regime is essentially an illegitimate group of fanatical thugs. Our American President can treat the Iranian rulers with the disrespect they have well earned. A countries leadership saying death to everyone, including their own citizens and remaining adamant that they are going to wipe Israel off the map is simply an enemy of humanity.
The people of Iran have just shown the world they are a country filled with courageous citizens who simply want freedom and a better life for their children and not a bullet in their kid's head.
It is not yet over for both sides of this nascent revolution.
Ed Timperlake, Co-Author, with William Triplett II of: Red Dragon Rising, Communist China's military threat to America