The Subversion of
excerpted from the book
Intervention and Revolution
The United States in the Third World
by Richard J. Barnet
World Publishing, 1968, paperback edition
" We would be fools", Allen Dulles once answered an
interviewer who asked whether his function as director of the
Central Intelligence Agency was "to stir up revolutions,"
"if we did not cooperate with our friends abroad to help
them do everything they can to explore and counter the Communist
subversive movement." With a budget in excess of three billion
dollars and a staff in excess of twenty thousand, the Central
Intelligence Agency has conducted operations against legitimate
governments on three continents. In a few cases, such as the Trujillo
assassination of 1961, U.S. intelligence operations have worked
against traditional right-wing dictatorships. Most of their activities,
however, have been directed against regimes which have tried to
take a radical or nationalist position on questions of development
and foreign policy. Such regimes have attempted to nationalize
foreign enterprises, have flirted with Marxist rhetoric, or have
invited persons with real or suspected communist associations
into the government. Any of these deviations from the standard
which the United States has set for judging whether a foreign
government is a responsible member of the Free World has been
sufficient to convince the State Department that the government
in question is "subverted" and that it is fair game
for "countersubversive" operations from our side. While
on occasion CIA agents may act prematurely and display too much
zeal, and even sometimes, as in Laos in 1960, may act counter
to official State Department policy at the moment, in most cases
the agency is carrying out official policy that has been approved
by the President. Subversion is simply another facet of the campaign
against revolution. It is a technique which is cheaper and politically
less embarrassing than open support of one side in a protracted
civil war or landing American troops.
The intervention in Iran in r953 to unseat Premier Mohammed
Mossadeq was America's first successful attempt in the postwar
period to subvert a nationalist government. Mossadeq came to power
on May 1, 1951, and three days later seized the British-owned
Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. In a fiery speech the wispy premier
announced that Iran was taking rightful possession of "a
hidden treasure upon which lies a dragon." Oil companies
in the West boycotted the nationalized oil company and Iran lost
the major source of its foreign exchange. Much to the annoyance
of the British, the United States did not totally cut off aid
to the Mossadeq government. In 1951 and 195Z it gave sixteen and
a half million dollars for a small agricultural assistance program
and to make up foreign-exchange deficits. "It seemed to the
United States," Eden writes in his memoirs, "a reckless
policy to allow the situation to deteriorate, as they considered
it would if Mossadeq were left without any help." Eden's
own reading of the situation was different. He believed that if
Mossadeq fell, "his place might well be taken by a more reasonable
Government with which it would be possible to conclude a satisfactory
A year later the newly elected Eisenhower administration had
come to the British view. Mossadeq must go. Although the State
Department continued to hint that there was a link between Mossadeq
and communism, the political reality in Iran was quite different.
Mossadeq had come to power as the head of the National Front,
a nationalist coalition that had been energized chiefly by the
oil issue. The Tudeh party, as the local communist organization
was called, attacked the Front and on July 15, 1951, Mossadeq
suppressed a communist-sponsored demonstration of the National
Association for Struggle Against the Imperialist Oil Companies
in Iran, killing one hundred and injuring five hundred demonstrators.
In mid-l952 the Tudeh reversed its position, began to shift its
attacks from the premier to the shah, and asked for a united front.
But Mossadeq resisted the communists' call for a coalition, restated
his refusal to legalize the Tudeh, and imposed martial law in
Tehran. Less than a month before the coup that finally overthrew
him, he received another open appeal to join forces with the communists,
but despite the now transparent efforts of the United States and
its allies to get rid of him and the mounting opposition of the
shah, the army, the landowners, and the middle classes, Mossadeq
refused to accept their help. Two days before he fell, his troops
turned on communist demonstrators in Tehran. Nine years after
these events Soviet analysts ascribed the failure of the Tudeh,
which sharply declined in strength after Iran became a U.S. ally,
to the fact that the party "was in fact fighting on two fronts-against
imperialism and against Mossadeq."
The Eisenhower administration began its campaign against Mossadeq
with economic pressure. "There is a strong feeling in the
United States," the President wrote the Iranian, ".
. . that it would not be fair to the American taxpayer for the
United States Government to extend any considerable amount of
economic aid to Iran so long as Iran could have access to funds
derived from the sale of its oil products if a reasonable agreement
Exactly five weeks later, Mossadeq having rejected this offer,
Kermit Roosevelt, a grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt,
formerly a history professor and OSS agent and at the time ClA's
principal covert operative in the Middle East, arrived in Iran
to direct a coup against Mossadeq. His mission was to replace
him with General Fazollah Zahedi, who, despite his suspected Nazi
sympathies during the war, was considered far more willing to
cooperate with the oil companies and the State Department. Assisting
in the operation was Brigadier General H. Norman Schwartzkopf,
famous twenty years earlier as the New Jersey State Police officer
who investigated the Lindbergh-baby kidnapping and later as the
weekly narrator of the radio program "Gangbusters."
With the help of five U.S. agents and seven Iranian intelligence
operatives, Roosevelt plotted the coup from a Tehran basement.
An admiring CIA colleague called it "a real James Bond operation."
Shortly after the U.S. agent's arrival, the shah dismissed
Mossadeq, but Mossadeq's supporters rioted and forced the shah
to flee the country. On August 19' 1953, while his chief, Allen
Dulles, was conferring with the shah in Rome, Roosevelt was recruiting
street mobs to oppose the Mossadeq supporters and the Tudeh, which
was also demonstrating against the impending coup. With the help
of substantial sums, which Roosevelt used for hired demonstrators
to whip up the growing anti-Mossadeq mobs, and the support of
the Iranian army, heavily dependent on U.S. equipment, the insurgents
were able to turn the tide against the intractable premier and
to drive him from office. The U.S. Military Assistance Mission
in Iran took an active part in the operation. Major General George
C. Stewart, director of military assistance, later told the House
Foreign Affairs Committee:
When this crisis came on and the thing was about to collapse,
we violated our normal criteria and among other things we did,
we provided the army immediately on an emergency basis, blankets,
boots, uniforms, electric generators, and medical supplies that
permitted and created an atmosphere in which they could support
the Shah.... The guns that they had in their hands, the trucks
that they rode in, the armored cars that they drove through the
streets, and the radio communications that permitted their control,
were all furnished through the military defense assistance program
. . . had it not been for this program, a government unfriendly
to the United States probably would now be m power.
Once installed as premier, Zahedi concluded an agreement for
an oil consortium which was highly favorable to United States
companies. The details of the consortium agreement are still classified
by the National Security Council. ("Making them public,"
Secretary Dulles explained to Congress, "would adversely
affect the foreign relations of the United States.'' But the basic
nature of the agreement is known. The British lost their former
monopoly on Iranian oil. U.S. companies, including Gulf and Standard
Oil of New Jersey, received a forty-percent interest in the consortium,
which was negotiated for the United States by such oil-company
executives on loan as Herbert Hoover, Jr., of Union Oil, and Howard
W. Page, vice-president of Jersey Standard.
U.S. aid began to pour in. In 1954 85 million dollars was
sent, of which 1.7 million dollars was earmarked as "bonuses"
for the Iranian army and police. In the twelve years which followed,
the United States spent 1.3 billion dollars on aid, about 500,000
dollars of which went to support the twenty-thousand-man army.
"Do you know what the head of the Iranian army told one of
our people?" Senator Hubert Humphrey demanded in the course
of an investigation of the aid program. "He said the army
was in good shape, thanks to U.S. aid-it was now capable of coping
with the civilian population.'' In 1955 the Shah joined the Baghdad
Pact. While in recent years he has attempted some land reform,
the country continues to fit the familiar pattern of mass misery-in
1957 a congressional committee estimated illiteracy as high as
ninety-three percent, existing with fabulous privilege. The events
of the last several years have not overtaken the tempered judgment
which Professor T. Cuyler Young, director of Near Eastern Studies
at Princeton, pronounced in the January, 1962, issue of Foreign
Affairs: "They [Iranian patriots and nationalists] believe
that the United States is interested primarily in the status quo
and fearful of permitting any change that could mean social revolution.
That may seem unfair to Americans, but we need to realize that
this is our dominant image in Iran today." There is little
in the recent history of U.S.-Iranian relations to suggest that
the image is false.
Almost exactly nine years after the event, President Eisenhower
reminisced before the American Booksellers' Association about
the successful subversion of the government of Guatemala in 954
There was a time when we had a very desperate situation,
or we thought it was at least, in Central America, and we had
to get rid of a Communist government that had taken over....
The "desperate situation" had its origins in the
revolution of 194~, which overthrew General Jorge Ubico, a brutal
police figure who alternately compared his brand of justice to
God's and Hitler's. Proudly noting his similarity to the German
dictator, he liked to warn those he called his domesticated enemies,
"I execute first and give trial afterward." Because
the people of Guatemala "are not prepared for democracy and
need a strong hand," Ubico not only banned labor unions but
also declared the word "worker" subversive. After a
military junta overthrew the dictator in 1944, Juan Arevalo was
elected president by a wide margin. The new president abolished
forced labor on the banana plantations, raised the minimum wage
(to twenty-six cents a day), permitted unions, and began to pry
the economy from its near-total dependence upon the United Fruit
Company and other foreign corporations. (In 1948 the export of
bananas accounted for forty-one percent of the country's foreign
exchange. ) Such efforts to shake up the economic and political
stagnation of the country provoked violent reactions.. His program,
which Ronald Schneider in his book Communism in Guatemala found
to be "essentially moderate,'' was attacked as "communistic,"
and more than two dozen attempts were made to overthrow him in
his first four years in office. By 1950 the attempts to oust President
Arevalo, who showed a willingness to use local communists in the
bureaucracy, were growing more serious. He asked Ambassador Richard
C. Patterson to leave the country because he sympathized openly
with the conspirators and publicly attacked Arevalo for his "persecution
of American business." The ambassador "represented Boston"
(home of United Fruit), Arevalo charged in an interview with The
New York Times.
U.S. firms cut down their operations in Guatemala in retaliation
against such Arevalo reforms as the social-security provision,
which cost United Fruit about two hundred thousand dollars annually.
W. R. Grace and Pan American Airlines stopped promoting tourism.
Banana exports plummeted eighty percent between 1948 and 195~.
According to a United Nations report, "several companies
which were engaged in prospecting discontinued their activities
subsequent to the passage in 1949 of a petroleum law which they
considered unfavorable.'' The World Bank withheld loans and the
United States cut off military assistance.
In 1951 Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, a member of the military junta
that had overthrown Ubico, was elected president, receiving 267,000
votes, almost twice as much as all the other candidates combined.
Javier Arana, probably the most popular member of the junta, had
been assassinated two years earlier under circumstances that appeared
to implicate Arbenz. The new president's principal interest was
land reform. About two percent of the population owned seventy
percent of the land. By far the greatest landowner was United
Fruit, and much of the land was uncultivated. In March, 1953,
Arbenz expropriated 234,000 uncultivated acres, offering as compensation
six hundred thousand dollars' worth of twenty-five-year bonds.
(This was the value the company had declared for tax purposes.)
United Fruit protested and demanded compensation in the amount
of 15,854,849 dollars. The State Department, now headed by John
Foster Dulles, intervened to suggest that this was exactly the
amount of compensation required under international law.
A mammoth public-relations campaign was launched by United
Fruit. Articles appeared in The New York Times Magazine and in
other leading periodicals celebrating the company's beneficial
impact on the Guatemalan economy, with special emphasis on the
schools and hospitals it had built there. But the major thrust
of the campaign was that communism was taking over in the Western
Hemisphere. Spruille Braden, a former assistant secretary of state
for Latin American affairs turned unofficial adviser for United
Fruit, told the Great Issues Seminar at Dartmouth College in a
discussion of recent events in Guatemala:
Communism is so blatantly an international and not an internal
affair, its suppression, even by force, in an American country
by one or more of the other republics would not constitute an
intervention in the internal affairs of the former.
In March, 1954, Dulles persuaded the Organization of American
States to pass a resolution declaring that "the domination
or control of the political institutions of any American State
by the international communist movement, extending to the Hemisphere
the political system of an extra-continental power, would constitute
a threat to the sovereignty and political independence of the
What was the role of the communists in Guatemala? What sort
of a threat did they pose? There were perhaps as many as three
thousand Communist-party members or active sympathizers in a country
of three million. The Communists had no position in the cabinet
but they held four key seats in Congress. Although Jose Manuel
Fortuny, the party secretary-general, had lost his seat to an
anticommunist in 1953, persons who called themselves "communists"
held important positions in the labor movement and the official
bureaucracies. Most of them, however, were scarcely under the
discipline of Moscow. Indeed, the communist leadership itself
was split between Moscow-oriented and nationalist factions. The
U.S. White Paper charged Arbenz with implicitly accepting the
communists as "an authentic domestic political party and
not as part of the worldwide Soviet Communist conspiracy,"
and the charge is essentially correct. Arbenz, according to Ronald
Schneider's study, Communism in Guatemala, had a confused relationship
with communists, but there is no doubt that he numbered some of
the communist leaders among his close friends and that he turned
to them to help outline and administer some of his programs in
education, agrarian reform, and social security. Arbenz' principal
support, however, came from other leftist parties. The communists,
who had previously disparaged land reform as a reformist trick,
switched their position and lined up behind Arbenz. Communists
took over key positions in the ministry of education, and some
Marxist-leaning texts were distributed. They were also a leading
influence in the labor unions. To put the communist issue in its
darkest light, as Schneider does ("The author knows of no
government, short of an openly Communist one, in which the Communists
were so influential as they were in the Guatemalan government
during the last two years of the Arbenz regime"), local communists
were the leading source of ideas and political energy in the country.
It also appears true that a few top Guatemalan communists took
continuing direction from Moscow, but while they sought to deal
with genuine local concerns, they had neither a revolutionary
program nor a broad local constituency
What did all this mean? Guatemala was far from adopting a
communist economy or social system. She was receiving no aid from
the Soviet Union or indeed had any relationship with the communist
bloc. Arbenz was actually using the communists to help administer
a continuation of the moderate reformist program of Arevalo, who
was a rather strong anticommunist. Arbenz's program of nationalization
was neither more rapid nor more onerous than those of other noncommunist
countries of Latin America and Asia. The cry of communism had
been the traditional pretext for opposing reformers in Guatemala.
Now that both the pace of reform and the participation of communists
had been stepped up, anticommunism reached hysterical proportions.
In late 1953 the Eisenhower administration decided to arrange
a coup to rid the hemisphere of the Arbenz regime. Miguel Ydigoras
Fuentes, the conservative who later became president of Guatemala,
has given us an account of what the Eisenhower administration
proposed to him in order to accomplish this:
A former executive of the United Fruit Company, now retired,
Mr. Walter Turnbull, came to see me with two gentlemen whom he
introduced as agents of the CIA. They said that I was a popular
figure in Guatemala and that they wanted to lend their assistance
to overthrow Arbenz. When I asked their conditions for the assistance
I found them unacceptable. Among other things, I was to promise
to favor the United Fruit Company and the International Railways
of Central America; to destroy the railroad workers labor union;
. . . to establish a strong-arm government, on the style of Ubico.
Further, I was to pay back every cent that was invested in the
The CIA succeeded, however, in locating Colonel Castillo Armas,
who had been involved in earlier coups against Arevalo and was
quite prepared to become the American candidate for president.
John Peurifoy, a veteran diplomat who had been active in dealing
with the Greek insurgency, was suggested to the President by Allen
Dulles as an experienced man to lead the operation. Details of
"Operation el Diablo," most of which turned out to be
accurate, were discovered by Arbenz and published along with intercepted
correspondence of Armas. In early 1954 the CIA set up a headquarters
for Armas's forces in Honduras and later a training center on
Momotobito, a volcanic island off Nicaragua supplied by Nicaragua's
President Somoza, who was delighted to help overthrow the leftist
Guatemalan government. Arbenz appealed to the Soviet Union for
aid, offering to buy ten million dollars' worth of weapons. In
mid-May the Swedish ship Alihem, with an estimated two thousand
tons of small arms, set sail for Guatemala. The daily progress
of the Alihem was plotted in newspapers throughout Central America,
and despite the blockade which the United States had imposed on
arms shipments, the vessel was allowed to land. The rifles and
machine guns, which Dulles suggested might be used against the
Panama Canal one thousand miles away, provided a new pretext for
tightening the pressure on Arbenz. U.S. arms were now sent openly
to Nicaragua and secretly dropped inside Guatemala at the United
Fruit Company headquarters at Tiquisate.
On June 18, Armas, who had been trained at the Army Command
and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth shortly after World
War II, led his band of one hundred and fifty exile mercenaries
across the border. U.S. pilots flying four P-47 Thunderbolts were
bombing Guatemala City. (On June 20 Guatemala's charge that U.S.
fliers were involved was denied by U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations, Henry Cabot Lodge, but William A. Beall, a Texas pilot,
publicly admitted that he and two other U.S. fliers had crashed
off Guatemala since the beginning of the invasion.) Allen Dulles
urged the President to send reinforcements to save the operation.
Henry F. Holland, the assistant secretary of state for Latin-American
affairs, thought, however, that such action would amount to "intervention"
under international law. Since the United States had already spent
on the order of five million dollars on the invasion, the legal
arguments did not sit well. President Eisenhower recalls the scene:
Now different people, including Mr. Dulles and a member of
the State Department and so on, came into my office to give their
And the man who opposed going any further was very vehement
in his representation and he wanted no part. He thought we should
stop right there, wash our hands of the thing and let it stand
right there. Well, Mr. Dulles was on the other side. And when
all of the views were presented, I decided we would go ahead and
the orders went out [to send more planes].
... I said to Mr. Dulles ... before I made this decision
I said "What are the chances that this will succeed?"
Well, he said he thought about twenty percent. I told him later,
"If you'd have said ninety percent, I'd have said no, but
you seemed to be honest."
He told me later, "Well, you know, I knew that my opponent
had lost the argument because he came in your office with three
law books under his arm."
On June 27 Arbenz capitulated. Colonel Carlos Enrique Diaz
took over briefly but broadcast indiscreet remarks about "the
mercenary invaders" and promised to fight. Ambassador Peurifoy
strapped a .45 to his belt and began to lead the operation against
Diaz. The next day a U.S. pilot bombed the radio station and the
army headquarters in Guatemala City. Diaz was arrested by fellow
officers and Armas arrived in Peurifoy's embassy plane to take
charge of the government. In this way, as John Foster Dulles reported
in a TV address to the American people the next day, was the situation
"being cured by the Guatemalans themselves."
Arbenz had known about the impending invasion for a long time
On June, his minister of the interior had publicly announced the
plot, and throughout the months Arbenz' police were arresting
suspects from the opposition. According to Schneider's book, which
is based on affidavits collected by the Guatemalan Secretaria
de Propaganda y Divulgacion, Arbenz made widespread use of terror,
torture, and murder to discourage the plotters. The crucial factor
in his downfall was the refusal of the army to fight for him and
to distribute arms to the peasants. They refused to supply units
of the people's militia as Arbenz urged, because they feared that
this would strengthen the communists and destroy their own power.
The army turned on Arbenz because of their concern with the growing
influence of the communists and their disillusionment with the
government's program, which was causing dislocation but had yet
to show impressive results. Perhaps the most important consideration
was their altogether realistic fear that the United States would
not permit Guatemala to chart so independent a course as Arbenz
was attempting. The commitment of U.S. power, through the bombing
of Guatemala City, was looked upon by the officer corps as an
invitation to prudence. Arbenz's general popularity was probably
down from his peak strength in the last election, but there is
no evidence that popular feeling had turned decisively against
him. His downfall was the direct result of the defection of the
army under the stimulus of a foreign invasion financed and directed
by the United States.
In the next two years ninety million dollars poured into Guatemala
to shore up the Armas government. In the previous ten years Guatemala
had received about six hundred thousand dollars, exclusive of
road subsidies.) Armas promptly returned United Fruit's expropriated
lands and abolished the tax on interest and dividends to foreign
investors, a reform which saved United Fruit about eleven million
dollars. His National Committee for Defense Against Communism
launched a campaign which resulted in the jailing of between five
thousand and eight thousand persons. Armas also reformed the election
law to eliminate the secret ballot and to disenfranchise the "illiterate
masses" (about seventy percent of the country), enabling
him to win what President Eisenhower in his memoirs calls a "thundering
majority" in a one-candidate election.
In the United States the Subcommittee on Latin America of
the House Select Subcommittee on Communist Aggression conducted
an investigation of the history of communist penetration in Guatemala.
Congressman Thomas G. Dodd and subcommittee adviser Patrick McMahon,
who played active roles in the investigation, were also at the
time registered agents for the Armas government. Three years later,
Armas himself was assassinated. In the next decade the tiny country
would undergo other coups. But U.S. influence in Guatemala remained
secure. In 1961 Guatemala was used as a training base for an operation
against Cuba modeled on the success in
Guatemala. Again a group of exiles was organized and trained
by U.S. agencies. U.S. planes were provided. The story of the
ill-fated operation is too well etched in the American consciousness
to require repeating here.
In 1957-58 the United States tried unsuccessfully to support
the subversion of the Sukarno government in Indonesia. For a year
the Indonesian leader had been moving leftward. After a visit
to Moscow he began to expropriate remaining Dutch property and
launched a drive against west Irian (New Guinea). He suspended
the old parliamentary system, substituting for it a "guided
democracy," a coalition government run by himself, in which
the one-million-member Communist party had an important role.
On February 15, 1958, a Revolutionary Council was set up in
Sumatra under Sjafruddin Prawiranegara, Sukarno's former minister
of finance, who had been head of the Bank of Indonesia. The Council
accused the government of corruption and inefficiency and of permitting
the communists too great an influence. But the major sentiment
behind the revolt was Sumatran separatism. In his autobiography
Sukarno recounts how his cabinet analyzed the revolt:
A few discontented regional leaders claim three-fourths of
all revenue comes from Sumatra, but only a fraction returns there
because most of the money stays in Java. They complain the country
suffers from Djakartism [Djakarta is the capital city]. They demand
a greater division economically.
In 1957 Allen L. Pope, a former air-force pilot in the Korean
War who for three years had been flying for the Civil Air Transport,
a CIA airline that had helped drop supplies to the French at Dien
Bien Phu, was asked by the agency to fly missions in support of
the rebels. A small number of B-26 bombers were to be flown to
a rebel airstrip from the U.S. Air Force Base at Clark Field,
Manila. Sukarno charges in his autobiography that "tens of
thousands of light, American-made weapons were dropped by air.
Non-Indonesian pilots were smuggled in."
As the rebellion gathered momentum, the United States professed
neutrality. "The United States views this trouble in Sumatra
as an internal matter," John Foster Dulles declared. "We
intend to conform scrupulously to the principles of international
law that apply to such a situation." At a news conference
President Eisenhower denied that the United States was helping
the rebels but observed that he could not control the activities
of private "soldiers of fortune." A few days later,
on May 18, Allen Pope's B-26 was shot down. The ambassador continued
to insist that Pope was a "private American citizen involved
as a paid soldier of fortune," but the Indonesians held a
press conference in which they displayed the evidence of Pope's
official status-his past association with the air force and the
CIA; the possession of substantial foreign currency, including
scrip good only in U.S. military installations; and, above all,
his use of the air-force landing strip at Clark Field. At his
trial two years later Pope admitted that he received two hundred
dollars a bombing mission.
As a result of the exposure of its modest effort to overthrow
a government with which it had diplomatic relations, the United
States found it expedient to shift course and to support Sukarno.
Within five days of Pope's capture, the State Department had sold
rice and one million dollars in small arms to the Djakarta government.
Shortly thereafter the United States made available to Sukarno
twelve Globemaster aircraft, with which the Indonesian leader
stamped out the last traces of the rebellion. When Kennedy came
in, he recognized that Sukarno's distrust of America was compounded,
as Schlesinger puts it, by "his knowledge that in 1958 the
CIA had participated in an effort to overthrow him." Relations
with Indonesia did not substantially improve, however, until Sukarno
was finally overthrown in 1966 in an army coup with which the
State Department openly sympathized but in which, so far as can
be determined, U.S. agents did not play a significant role.
British Guiana, a British colony bordering Venezuela, composed
of about three hundred thousand East Indians and a slightly smaller
number of Negroes, had been the scene of anticolonial agitation
for many years. The key political figure was Dr. Cheddi Jagan,
an Indian dentist, trained at Howard University, a man who sometimes
spoke like a Marxist and whose American wife had once been a member
of the Young Communist League. For many years he had tangled with
the British authorities. In 1953 the British had suspended the
constitution and sent in troops after Jagan's Progressive People's
party had won the election and had begun some legislative reforms,
including repeal of the Undesirable Publications Law and the passage
of a Iabor-relations bill to strengthen unions. "It has been
evident," the Colonial Office stated, "that the intrigues
of Communists and their associates, some in Ministerial posts,
threaten the welfare and good administration of the colony....
The faction in power have shown by their acts and their speeches
that they are prepared to go to any lengths, including violence,
to turn British Guiana into a Communist state." Jagan spent
some time in jail after being turned out of office, but in 1957
was returned again to the colonial government and in 1961 was
reelected premier by a substantial vote. (Jagan's party won twenty
out of thirty-five seats in Parliament. The premier now began
to press for immediate independence for the colony.
In October, 1961, he came to the United States to meet President
Kennedy and to seek economic assistance. "We are not engaged
in a crusade to force private enterprise on parts of the world
where it is not relevant," Kennedy told Jagan. "If we
are engaged in a crusade for anything, it is national independence.
That is the primary purpose of our aid." The President and
his aides then began to examine Jagan on his political beliefs.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., describes the scene:
Jagan, after avowing his commitment to parliamentary government,
went on to say that he also admired the Monthly Review and the
rather pro-communist writings of Paul Sweezy, Leo Huberman and
Paul Baran. George Ball and I pressed him on this point, declaring
there was a large difference between Bevan and the Sweezy group.
[Jagan had said that he was a "Bevanite" and the President
had "responded agreeably" to this.] Jagan finally said,
"Well, Bevanism, Sweezyism, Hubermanism, Baranism-I really
don't get those ideological subtleties." Kennedy observed
later that this was the one time when his exposition rang false.
Jagan failed to pass ideological muster. The conversation
gave the President the "feeling that in a couple of years
he will find ways to suspend his constitutional provisions and
will cut his opposition off at the knees.... With all the political
jockeying and all the racial tensions, it's going to be almost
impossible for Jagan to concentrate the energies of his country
on development through a parliamentary system."' It was decided
to give him no commitments for aid but to consider support for
such individual projects as Guiana might submit. The State Department
thought that there was at least a fifty-percent chance that Jagan
would "go communist" and that therefore the risk of
congressional criticism made it unwise to give him any aid. The
British, anxious to cut loose their colonial responsibilities
in the Western Hemisphere, insisted that there was no alternative
to independence under a Jagan government. The Colonial Office,
as Schlesinger reports, responded somewhat sarcastically to U.S.
suggestions for a delay in the timetable of independence, since
the State Department had been prodding them for years to give
up their colonies in the rest of the world.
The British government had told the Kennedy administration
that Jagan was "possible to work with." Although a Marxist
in outlook, he had made no move to become part of the Soviet orbit.
Indeed, he had in seven years succeeded in doing virtually no
socialist planning and had continually applied to the United States
for aid. Despite the visits of trade missions from the U.S.S.R.,
Cuba, and Hungary, a contract with Cuba for rice at an advantageous
price and Castro's offer of thirty-five million dollars in loans
(which the British refused to let Jagan accept), the Kennedy administration
itself had no hard evidence that Jagan was about to make a "Cuba"
of his country. When the premier had asked the President in 1961
whether the United States would object to a trading agreement
with the Soviet Union, Kennedy replied that he would not, provided
it did not involve a "condition of economic dependence."
But as the early months of the new administration passed, the
Latin-American specialists in the State Department and the White
House became convinced that Jagan, "though perhaps not a
disciplined communist, had the kind of deep pro-communist emotion
which only sustained experience with communism could cure."
Hence, he had to go. The British, bowing to U.S. pressure on a
matter in its own hemisphere, acquiesced in the developing campaign
to oust Jagan.
The United States had for some time been conducting political
activities in British Guiana. During the 1961 election the U.S.
Information Service, departing from its usual practice, had taken
its films depicting the evils of Castroism from its own building
and had shown them on street corners. Fred Schwartz' Christian
Anti-Communist Crusade admitted spending seventy-six thousand
dollars in the election, a questionable activity for a private
organization, which the State Department did nothing to discourage.
Jagan wrote Kennedy that the opposition candidates claimed they
had commitments from the United States for "half a billion
dollars as loans to the Government for 'infra-structure' development
and half a billion for industrial development by private U.S.
investors." The prime minister noted that, "these statements
met with no denial from your Consulate-General, or any other U.S.
Now U.S. activities in British Guiana were intensified. The
major U.S.-sponsored anti-Jagan campaign in Guiana was conducted
through labor unions. A CIA agent, Gerald O'Keefe, posing as an
official of the Retail Clerks International Association; William
McCabe, inter-American representative of the AFL-CIO; and a host
of other U.S labor officials flocked to the British colony in
196Z and 1963. (There were more visits by trade-union representatives
from the United States in eighteen months than in the previous
eighteen years, Jagan observes.) They established close contact
with the Trade Union Council (TUC), an anti-Jagan union, headed
by Richard Ishmael, who had been trained in the United States
at the American Institute of Free Labor Development. The institute,
an organization set up by the CIO, with a board made up of business
and labor leaders, is designed, according to its charter, to assist
"in the development of free democratic trade union structures
in Latin America." Although officially described as a partnership
between labor, business, and government, it receives about ninety-five
percent of its annual six-million-dollar budget from the U.S.
Treasury. When Jagan was reelected in 1961, the institute began
a major campaign against him. 'It appeared to me," Serafino
Romualdi, the ATFLD director, later declared, "that young
democratic trade union leaders would need intensive training to
combat Dr. Jagan's efforts.'' Several Guianan labor leaders were
brought to Washington for training and upon returning to their
unions continued to receive a monthly stipend of two hundred and
fifty dollars from the institute. According to the London Times,
which in 1967 conducted an investigation of happenings in British
Guiana four years earlier, the account that Jagan gives in his
book The West on Trial is essentially correct. The British government
agreed to a campaign of subversion to unseat Jagan.
In 196Z Jagan presented his budget, but Ishmael's union called
a six-day general strike and the premier was forced to withdraw
it. The AFL-ClO; ORIT, a Latin-American AFL-ClO affiliate; and
the Retail Clerks International sent large amounts of food to
the strikers. The following March, Jagan introduced his labor-relations
bill, which provided for a commissioner of labor, a civil-service
official, to be in charge of determining proper bargaining units
and arranging representational elections. The Trade Union Council
demanded that the board administering the law have a majority
of TUC members and - business leaders. Although Jagan accepted
a few amendments to his bill, which was modeled on the Wagner
Act, he refused to compromise on the major objective of the bill,
the elimination of company unions and the strengthening of trade
The Tuc declared a general strike, which this time lasted
eighty days. The strikers were supported from the U.S. Treasury
in the amount of approximately one million dollars. Jagan puts
the figure at 1.Z million dollars. Polidor, a TUC official, estimates
that U.S. sources paid each of twenty thousand strikers three
dollars a week for about twelve weeks. One official of the Public
Service International personally paid out about one hundred thousand
dollars in strike benefits. Much of the money was paid through
the International Affairs Department of the American Federation
of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which, according to
The New York Times, was "actually run by two [CIA] aides
who operated out of the union's former headquarters in Washington
with the knowledge of the union leadership.'' Funds were transferred
to the union from the CIA through a paper organization known as
the Gotham Foundation. The activities of the CIA and the U.S.
unions in their service in British Guiana have been well publicized.
None of it has been denied by the government or the unions involved,
and some- such as the role of the American Federation of State,
County, and Municipal Employees-has been specifically admitted.
In the October 3, 1963, issue of Machinist, George Meaney noted
with pride that "in British Guiana other Institute graduates
are participating in the fight against the Cuba-oriented government
of Prime Minister Cheddi Jagan."
In June, 1963, rioting broke out in Georgetown, and in the
space of a week dynamite attempts were made on the principal public
buildings, including the ministries of home affairs, labor, health,
and housing. Rocks were thrown at Jagan and other government leaders
while they were attending a funeral. Mobs roamed the streets of
Georgetown, attacking people of Indian ancestry. At least fifty
were injured. According to a secret report of the British police
superintendent in British Guiana to the British commissioner,
written on September 1l, 1963, which came to light in a debate
in the House of Commons in 1966, the violence was instigated by
a terrorist group which included British agents. The document
states that O'Keefe, the CIA agent, financed these operations
through "monetary transactions" with Ishmael. The report
also included a letter of Jagan to the British governor charging
that the Americans "by lockouts and blockade . . . hope to
strangle my government financially and economically." U.S.
agents cooperated with Jagan's opponents to exploit the delicate
racial situation in Guiana by inciting feelings against the Indians,
who comprised an important element of Jagan's support. The anti-Jagan
union, TUC, began to distribute handbills urging violence ("Let
us not be afraid to SHOOT"; "We must be as RUTHLESS
AND MORE DESTRUCTIVE than CHEDDI'S Armed Forces ) .
The effect of all this subversive activity was to weaken seriously
Jagan's political position and to provide a justification for
securing British agreement to the further delay of Guianan independence.
When U.S. oil companies cooperated with the strikers in refusing
to unload petroleum, Jagan appealed to Cuba, which sent oil. Just
as Arbenz nine years earlier had under pressure turned increasingly
to the Soviet bloc, so Jagan now tried to get assistance from
the only governments willing to defy the United States.
While Jagan's rule was being undermined through these illegal
means, the United States was working to change the election law
so as to make possible the defeat of Jagan by the constitutional
process. Having concluded that Forbes Burnham, a former Jagan
associate and now his arch political rival, "would cause
us many fewer problems than an independent British Guiana under
Jagan," Schlesinger reported to the President that the "way
was open to bring it about" by persuading the British to
adopt an election law based on proportional representation. (In
1961 Jagan's party had won a plurality of 4z.6 percent of the
popular vote and under the existing law a substantial majority
of parliamentary seats.) In October, 1963, as a result of Kennedy's
conversations with Prime Minister Macmillan a few weeks earlier,
the British changed the law. In the elections the following year,
Jagan, despite the increase in his popular vote, giving him almost
six percent more than any other party, lost to Burnham, now backed
by a coalition of the other two parties. The terrorism that had
continued throughout 1964 came to an end. The Burnham government
quickly made it clear that despite election slogans advocating
nationalization, it did not intend to disturb the investments
of the Aluminum Company of America in bauxite, the Texas Oil Company's
oil field, or the manganese industry, also under U.S. control.
A few months after leaving the White House, where by his own
account he played an important role in the Jagan episode, Arthur
Schlesinger summed up these events in an olympian postscript so
apolitical in tone that he might have been describing a phenomenon
of nature rather than a clash of men: "With much unhappiness
and turbulence, British Guiana seemed to have passed safely out
of the communist orbit."
U.S. intervention in the Congo does not fit easily into the
familiar patterns that emerge from the cases of subversion discussed
in this chapter. In the typical situations a constitutionally
elected regime had demonstrated sympathy for communist ideology
or dependence on communist governments or had taken or threatened
some action inimical to U.S. business interests in the country
(including the foreclosing of future opportunities). Small-scale
clandestine operations conducted in collaboration with local politicians
and military men who opposed their own legally constituted regimes
were sufficient (except in Indonesia in 1958, Cuba in 1961, and
other failures that may not yet have come to light) to bring down
regimes which the United States did not like. The situation in
the Congo was considerably more complex than this simple model.
The Congo became a world problem on June 30, 1960, when the
Belgians granted the colony independence. As recently as 1955
the Belgians had been thinking in terms of a thirty-year program
leading to independence, but riots in 1959 and mounting world
pressure convinced them that they could preserve their economic
interests, which were considerable, only by giving up political
control. At the independence ceremonies Patrice Lumumba, the prime
minister, revealed how deep ran the anticolonialist sentiment
in the Congo by lashing out at the assembled dignitaries, including
the Belgian king, for the fifty years of "humiliating bondage"
and "colonial oppression" they had brought to the Congo.
Although it is common to call these bitterly anticolonial feelings
"nationalist," it is important to keep in mind that
tribal and regional allegiances were much stronger than any sense
of national identity.
Step by step the major powers were sucked into the Congo vortex.
In early July Congolese army units mutinied against their white
Belgian officers. Belgian civilians were attacked. Some women
were raped. A few days later Katanga province, the home of Union
Miniere du Haut-Katanga, a huge Belgian enterprise and the source
of over sixty percent of the wealth of the whole country, declared
its independence from the central Congolese government in Leopoldville.
Moise Tshombe, the Katangan prime minister, had tried unsuccessfully
to arrange for a separate province before the grant of independence,
for neither he nor the Belgians wished to have their mines taxed
to support the rest of the Congo. On the night of July 9 the Belgians
decided upon military intervention to rescue their technicians
and their families and to subdue the mutineers. Tshombe invited
the Belgians in and later police forces from Britain and Rhodesia
as well, wishing, as he later explained it, "to profit from
the occasion to proclaim independence for Katanga" under
The Eisenhower administration, which wanted to avoid "bringing
the Cold War into Africa," supported Lumumba's urgent request
for UN military intervention to keep out the Belgians and to end
the secession of Katanga. Lumumba had also cabled Khrushchev "to
watch hourly over the situation," but the Soviets at first
were reluctant to act independently in a traditional Western preserve
and supported the creation of a UN force. The Eisenhower administration
was split between those who felt that the United States must support
the nationalist element in Africa, represented by Lumumba and
Joseph Kasavubu, the Congolese president, and those who could
not bring themselves to oppose a NATO ally. But the State Department
decided to give wholehearted support to the UN operation, and
the UN force that was supposed to restore peace in the Congo was
transported in U.S. planes.
The Soviets, meanwhile, contrary to this agreement in the
United Nations, had decided to send trucks and planes outside
of the UN framework to strengthen Lumumba. The Congolese prime
minister, as Roger Hilsman has characterized him, was a man who
"played with Marxist verbiage" but above all was an
African nationalist. In response to growing Soviet influence,
President Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba, who was later kidnapped
to Katanga and murdered, and closed the Soviet and Czech embassies.
The United States and the Soviet Union were now in open diplomatic
warfare over the Congo as the Kennedy administration took office.
Lumumba had turned on the UN because the force was not aggressive
enough in his opinion in ending the Katangan secession. But the
new moderate premier, Cyrille Adoula, elected in the summer of
1961, also insisted on vigorous UN action to end the Katangan
revolt which Tshombe was maintaining, with the help of about five
hundred white mercenary officers recruited from South Africa,
Belgium, Rhodesia, and France. Arrayed against the pressure of
the Congolese government and African nationalists and their sympathizers
in Asia and Latin America was a powerful U.S. Iobby, "The
American Committee for Aid to Katanga Freedom Fighters,"
organized by Michel Struelens, a Belgian public-relations man.
It included Senator Thomas Dodd, who thundered that the suppression
of the Katangan secession was "the Hungary of 1961"
and continually pressed the State Department to restrain the UN
force. The Kennedy administration became increasingly split under
the mounting pressure between the Bureau of African Affairs and
the American ambassador, Edmund Gullion, who thought that the
United States would lose all influence in Africa if it did not
identify with the nationalists by backing strong UN action, and
those in the White House, who, in Arthur Schlesinger's words,
"had become openly critical of deeper American involvement
in the Congo." The latter group, who "regarded the conflict
as essentially an internal matter," had become convinced
that the communist danger had receded.
Around Christmas, 196z, political negotiations which Kennedy
had been promoting for a Congolese settlement broke down. The
British refused to support sanctions against Katanga, which did
not appear to be effective in any event, and Tshombe talked confidently
of a "scorched-earth" campaign against the central government
and the UN..
In Washington the Kennedy administration surveyed the alternatives;
there turned out to be only two because of the failure of political
negotiations and economic sanctions. One was disengagement which
was rejected because of the fear, as Hilsman puts it, "that
the Communists would parlay our disengagement into a position
of considerable influence, through a military aid program...."58
The remaining choice was to use U.S. military power, either directly
or through the UN. Thus the State Department, in conjunction with
the UN secretariat, began to develop a plan to crush the Katanga
revolt. The day after Tshombe made a speech threatening to "destroy
everything," the United States sent a military mission to
the Congo under Lieutenant General Louis Truman, a move which
the Soviet ambassador to the United Nations, Valerian Zorin, denounced
as "direct subversion," despite the Soviets' own unilateral
activities in the Congo. A few days later the UN began an offensive
which pushed into Katanga, and by the first of the year the force
had occupied approximately three-quarters of the productive facilities
of Union Miniere. When Tshombe threatened to make a stand at Kolwezi
and destroy all remaining facilities in his hands, the State Department
announced that the United States was about to send trucks, armored
personnel carriers, mine-clearing equipment, transport craft,
and aircraft within the week. President Kennedy had also decided
to send fighter aircraft upon request of the UN command. Under
the threat of the mounting advance and a stronger U.S. military
commitment, and the promise of an important political role for
himself in the reunified Congo, Tshombe ended the secession on
January 16, 1963. Willing to face the opposition of every other
major power involved in order to block possible Soviet initiatives
in the area, the United States had lent the crucial power to make
the shaky international peacekeeping operation a success.
It was, however, only a momentary success. The major U.S.
intervention in the Congo was still ahead. Tshombe was the principal
rival to the authority of the central government, but he was not
the only one. By the end of 1960 Lumumba and his associate Antoine
Gizenga had set up a government in Stanleyville, in the northern
province of Kivu, and had claimed to be the legitimate government
of the entire Congo. The Stanleyville regime was nationalist,
anti-Western, and sympathetic to Marxist rhetoric, and it looked
to the African neutralists such as Nkrumah and Sekou Toure as
well as to the communist countries as its natural friends. When
Lumumba was murdered in February, 1961, while in Tshombe's custody,
the more radical nationalist African states, including Guinea,
Ghana, Mali, and the United Arab Republic, as well as the communist
countries, including East Germany and Yugoslavia, promptly recognized
Gizenga's regime in Stanleyville as a legitimate government. The
Soviets also announced that Stanleyville was the "lawful
government" and that they were considering giving it aid.
The Kennedy administration favored a negotiated settlement of
the Congolese situation, and in the summer of 1961 an agreement
was reached with representatives from Stanleyville, which resulted
in Gizenga being named vice-premier in the central Congolese government
in Leopoldville. Gizenga's joining the government did not end
the rebel movement. Gizenga's party (Parti Solidaire Africaine)
sent representatives to Egypt, Ghana, and Nigeria to enlist support.
The Chinese sent small quantities of weapons. (In late 1960, while
he was deputy premier to Lumumba, Gizenga had written Peking "to
learn to what extent your government would be in a position to
support us in personnel . . . arms . . . and finances.")
On January 14, 1962, the United Nations force, with strong
U.S. encouragement, defeated the three-hundred-man Stanleyville
gendarmerie and arrested Gizenga, who was deposed as vice-premier.
Meanwhile, Pierre Mulele and Christopher Gbenye, two radical members
of the Gizenga group, enlisted the help of Nasser and other governments
in setting up a Council of National Liberation, the purpose of
which was intended to restore the Stanleyville government and
eventually to provide the basis for extending a radical nationalist
regime over the entire Congo. During 1963 they attempted to carry
out a coup d'etat against the Leopoldville government. At the
end of the Katangan secession, political opposition to the central
government mounted furiously in Kivu province. Gbenye returned
to lead the rebellion, which controlled a large area in the northeast
of the country. The Soviet Union agreed to replace any weapons
which African governments such as Guinea, the United Arab Republic,
or Ghana might care to give the Congolese rebels. The Chinese
supplied some arms directly through their embassy in Burundi.
Most important, units of the central Congolese army were defecting
to the Stanleyville government.
On June 30, 1964, the last units of the United Nations force
were withdrawn, having turned over many of their installations
and some of their equipment to the Leopoldville government. Beginning
in October, 196Z, the United States began a program of direct
military aid to the Congolese government without going through
the UN. By mid-l964 this amounted to over six million dollars.
Almost one hundred military personnel had been sent to train Congolese
troops, and a dozen Congolese officers were receiving training
at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in what the Defense Department called
techniques for protecting "legally constituted governments
against subversion and domestic disorder.'' According to a report
of the Brookings Institution, "two or three Americans recruited
by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reportedly flew combat
missions in Kivu Province until they were grounded by the State
Department. Under contract with the Congo Government, they had
flown American-built T-28 fighters and attacked rebel positions
near Bukavu." When the Soviets objected to the use of American
citizens for what they called "punitive operations against
Congolese patriots," Cuban exiles were used instead.
In the spring of 1964 there broke out in the Congo three separate
revolts. These were apparently coordinated by Gbenye but sparked
mostly by three local organizers, each with a base of rural support:
Pierre Mulele, Gaston Soumialot, and Nicolas Olenga. A Popular
Liberation army was formed, and on August 4 rebel forces again
With that victory behind them the rebels were able to recruit
thousands of partisans, who were called simbas (lions). The rebel
force was soon strong enough to confiscate UN trucks, together
with considerable stocks of weapons and ammunition left by the
retreating Congolese army. The rebel army spread out in many directions
and succeeded in ending the central government's administration
of Orientale province. The rebels were divided along factional
and tribal lines. The earliest group -to seize power in Stanleyville
were extremists, and a wave of assassinations followed.
President Kasavubu decided that only Tshombe and the five
hundred South African, Belgian, and other foreign mercenaries
he controlled could save his government. The regular Congolese
army was both inefficient and politically unreliable. So, although
he was the symbol of treason for most black Africans, Tshombe
was invited out of exile to become premier. He lost no time in
launching an offensive into Kivu province
As the mercenaries advanced on Stanleyville, the United States
sought to use this new pressure on Gbenye to force him to negotiate
an acceptable settlement with the: Tshombe government. The rebels
let it be known that they had over thirteen hundred foreigners
in Stanleyville whom they intended to use as hostages. In Kenya
Ambassador William Attwood tried to persuade President Kenyatta
to intercede or mediate between the rebels and Tshombe. He also
sought intervention on behalf of the Congolese government by the
Organization of African Unity. Finally, he negotiated directly
with Thomas Kanza, a representative of the Congolese rebels. "If
you persist in helping Tshombe," the Congolese told Attwood,
"the Algerians, the Egyptians and others will soon be in
the Congo and you will regret it." Gbenye agreed, however,
to release the hostages if Tshombe agreed to stop bombing Stanleyville,
but neither was willing to make the first move.
Early in November Gbenye arrested two hundred and eighty Belgians
and sixteen U.S. citizens as "prisoners of war" and
declared war on the United States. Having earlier announced that
Congo-Stanleyville was a "people's republic," he appealed
for more help from the communist countries.
In his study of the rebellion, Professor M. Crawford Young,
chairman of African studies at the University of Wisconsin, concludes
that the "communist role in the Stanleyville rebellion was
very small." Mulele had spent time in China and had studied
guerrilla tactics and Maoist ideology, but there is no evidence,
Young concludes, that he became a communist. Other rebel leaders
had contact with Chinese representatives in their embassy in Burundi,
but the Chinese, though they gave some aid, neither instigated
nor controlled the events. Indeed the rebels, despite their radical
rhetoric, had no revolutionary program whatever.
The United States had quite accurate information about the
extent of Chinese and communist influence in the rebellion. What
really alarmed them was the mounting wave of executions which
the rebels conducted throughout their territory. In all, Professor
Young estimates, as many as twenty thousand may have been killed
in a few weeks, many of them after being publicly tortured. The
State Department's humanitarian concerns were aroused only when
it appeared that Americans and Europeans might be the next victims.
But the earlier assassinations worried them for other reasons.
It looked like the entire country was out of control and that
the resulting chaos might be exploited by a communist power.
When Gbenye refused to release the American and Belgian hostages,
the United States prepared to execute Operation Dragon Rouge,
a drop from U.S. transport planes of five hundred and forty-five
Belgian paratroopers to rescue the white civilians. The paratroopers
were moved to Ascension Island and put on alert status.
A few days later Stanleyville radio announced that a U.S.
medical missionary, Paul Carlson, was in reality a spy and had
been sentenced to death. On November z4, 1964, the paratroopers
landed. They not only rescued the hostages (not including Carlson,
who had been killed), but they seized the strategic points of
the city and coordinated their operation with the advancing columns
of Tshombe's mercenary army that was moving swiftly toward the
city. The combination of the two Western forces armed with advanced
weapons brought the downfall of the rebel government. It is likely
that had Gbenye not taken U.S. hostages, the operation would not
have been mounted. Once the humanitarian basis was laid, however,
the paratroopers' mission was to destroy the Stanleyville regime.
Ambassador Attwood has given a good account of the African reaction
to the stunning act of unilateral intervention:
We saw the Stanleyville rescue operation as a dramatic effort
to save hundreds of helpless, innocent people. It was humanitarian,
and it was necessary, since all other attempts to release them
had failed. And the operation had to take place before the ANC
column entered the city, for the panicky Simbas would probably
have mowed down the hostages before fleeing from the mercenaries.
But if you could put yourself in the shoes of an average
educated African, you got a quite different picture. When he looked
at the Congo, he saw a black government in Stanleyville being
attacked by a gang of hired South African thugs, and black people
being killed by rockets fired from American planes. He did not
know about the thousands of blacks who were tortured and murdered
by the Simbas, but he did know that the mercenaries and their
Katangan -auxiliaries left a trail of African corpses in their
wake. (The orgy of looting and killing that followed the capture
of Stanleyville by the ANC was so bad that the Belgian paratroop
commander was glad to pull his men out of the city for fear they'd
start fighting the mercenaries.)
Even more galling to the educated African was the shattering,
of so many of his illusions-that Africans were now masters of
their own continent, that the OAU was a force to be reckoned with,
that a black man with a gun was the equal of a white man with
a gun. For in a matter of weeks, two hundred swaggering white
mercenaries had driven through an area the size of France, scattered
the Belgians in American planes, had defied the OAU, jumped into
the heart of Africa and taken out nearly two thousand people-with
the loss of one trooper.
The weakness and impotence of newly independent Africa had
been harshly and dramatically revealed to the whole world and
the educated African felt deeply humiliated: the white man with
a gun, the old plunderer who had enslaved his ancestors, was back
again, doing what he pleased, when he pleased, where he pleased.
And there wasn't a damn thing Africa could do about it, except
There is little doubt from Attwood's own account that had
the United States ordered Tshombe to stop bombing Stanleyville,
the U.S. and Belgian hostages would have been released. It is
equally clear that the prime objective of U.S. policy in the Congo
in 1964 was to bring down the Gbenye regime because of its reckless
character and radical orientation. Unlike the other cases discussed
in this chapter, Congo-Stanleyville, although it had earlier been
recognized by a number of African and communist states, had an
ambiguous status. It was not clearly a legitimate government that
had come to power according to constitutional processes, as had
Mossadeq, Arbenz, and Jagan. However, Kivu province had never
been brought under the administration of the central government
in Leopoldville. In fact, Gizenga and Gbenye had carried on administrative
and governmental operations in Stanleyville and the surrounding
area since 1960, an accomplishment which the Kasavubu government
had never been able to equal. Although U.S. officials sought to
justify the operation not only on the grounds of humanitarian
necessity but also on the UN mandate, the overwhelming majority
of black Africans who had approved of the suppression of Katanga
were outraged at Operation Dragon Rouge.
The Congo was a unique experience because of the role of the
United Nations force in the Katanga war and the use of a variety
of non-American troops in the Stanleyville operation. But once
again the criterion for intervention was traditional American
fear of communism, for the Congo was another case, along with
the Dominican Republic and British Guiana, of preemptive intervention
to forestall the possibility of a local communist government.
As Attwood's account makes clear, United States officials
were vigorous in lobbying the African states for support, but
the State Department showed very little willingness to be guided
by their wishes.
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