U.S. Policy / Africa

Gibbs, David N. The Political Economy of Third World Intervention: Mines, Money, and U.S. Policy in the Congo Crisis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. 322 pages.

This book is basically an excellent history of the Congo crisis. But the author is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Arizona, which means that there's a certain amount of academic baggage in these pages. Gibbs is using the Congo intervention to show that other schools of thought in international relations theory (national character, pluralism, instrumental Marxism, structural Marxism, statism and realism, and the bureaucratic model) do not explain the historical evidence as well as the "business conflict" model that he proposes. In other words, national interventionist policies tend to reflect competing business interests within and between nations, even as politicians pretend that strategic interests (such as anti-Communism) are paramount.

The crisis in the Congo has not received nearly as much attention as some other interventions -- Guatemala in 1954, for example -- that might confirm Gibbs' thesis. To his credit, he chose one that is not covered well in the literature, and added to our knowledge by researching private collections, obtaining 2,000 pages of government documents, and conducting over 30 interviews.


Ignatyev, Oleg. Secret Weapon in Africa. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977. 191 pages.

This slim book is typical of the Third World and Soviet press on the subject of the CIA, a half-dozen of which are in NameBase. It's the sort of broad anti-CIA polemic that would be considered propagandistic and anti-intellectual by "sophisticated" Western publishers. The facts presented in these books can rarely be disputed, since they are frequently compiled from accepted U.S. sources, but the shotgun approach preferred by the authors leaves no doubt as to where the real evil empire can be found. Occasional tidbits on CIA activities that appeared only in the foreign press make these volumes worthwhile. One criticism might be that the term "CIA" is sometimes used too loosely, and thereby understates the pluralism that may exist among U.S. foreign policy elites.

Oleg Ignatyev has worked for Pravda since 1964 and has written seven other books on national liberation struggles. This one is about the war in Angola from 1961-1976. Holden Roberto, Jonas Savimbi, FNLA, UNITA, MPLA, the Chinese, and the CIA figure heavily in his account, which is a mixture of historical description from the MPLA perspective and on-the-scene reporting. Ignatyev's observations about Savimbi's methods are as important today as they were then -- leftover cold warriors in Washington still support him as their hero despite continuing evidence of his disregard for human rights.


Kelly, Sean. America's Tyrant: The CIA and Mobutu of Zaire. Washington: American University Press, 1993. 273 pages.

Joseph Mobutu was an ex-army sergeant and police informer when the Congo received its independence from Belgium in 1960. His friend Patrice Lumumba made him secretary of state in the new coalition government. Then the CIA got into the act, and arranged for the assassination of Lumumba.

By 1965 Mobutu changed his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa za Banga, which means "the all-conquering warrior who triumphs over all obstacles." With unwavering CIA support over the years, and backed by the military might of apartheid South Africa, Mobutu became one of the world's richest men. Despite the fact the country has vast mineral resources, as recently as 1992 the Washington Post reported that "the cost of food is out of reach of most Zairians, so many eat just one meal a day." U.S. policy in a nutshell is this: we intervened immediately to get rid of Lumumba, but after 30 years we still haven't had enough of Mobutu.

Sean Kelly, a native of California, spent forty years as a journalist, half of them reporting for the Voice of America. He was on the scene during Mobutu's rise to power in 1965, and returned there several times to research this book. Kelly is now retired and lives in Namibia, where he writes now and then for the Associated Press.


Kwitny, Jonathan. Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World. New York: Congdon & Weed, 1984. 435 pages.

Kwitny, a long-time journalist with the Wall Street Journal, offers a penetrating criticism of U.S. interventions and meddling throughout the world, mainly during the 1960s to 1980s. He takes a moral stand against U.S. foreign policy, and is very critical of America's failure to support free-enterprise -- e.g., by supporting dictators who run state-controlled economies (which leaves a reduced role for American multinationals), or when multinationals, working with dictators, stifle local capitalism. When dealing with the question of capitalism vs. socialism, Kwitny clearly admires the former. But by equating socialism with Soviet communism he deals from a loaded deck and the discussion suffers accordingly.

The American foreign policy fiascos examined at some length are those in Zaire, the Congo, Angola, Afghanistan, Iran, and Central America. The section on U.S. involvement in the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 was largely excised from a 1986 Penguin Books edition due to a libel suit brought against Kwitny by former New York Times reporter Kennett Love.

-- William Blum


Ray, Ellen; Schaap, William; Van Meter, Karl; and Wolf, Louis, eds. Dirty Work 2: The CIA in Africa. Secaucus NJ: Lyle Stuart, 1979. 523 pages. (Essays through page 284, biographies of CIA officers from pages 301-494, and a list of CIA telecommunications personnel from pages 514-523.) Available from Covert Action Information Bulletin for $25.

The companion volumes Dirty Work and Dirty Work 2 represent the sort of quality research and writing that might eventually have brought peacetime covert operations to a halt. Instead, Congress made it illegal -- the research and writing, that is.

Each volume contains over 30 essays, and about 800 biographies of CIA officers. The essays are usually reprinted from the U.S. and European alternative press and deal with CIA covert activity in various parts of the globe. The bios are compiled from laborious cross-checking of State Department Biographic Registers and diplomatic lists. A typical bio includes birth date, higher education, a history of government rankings and foreign postings, and the wife's name. When available, the education information can be useful, as it is sometimes possible to locate a person by calling the alumni office of their alma mater.


Sampson, Anthony. Black and Gold. New York: Pantheon Books, 1987. 280 pages.

British journalist Anthony Sampson has several excellent books to his credit, most of which deal with the workings of big corporations and finance in international politics. In the early 1950s he was an editor of a black magazine in Johannesburg. Over the years he returned to South Africa a half-dozen times to cover stories, and added two more visits in the mid-1980s that form the basis of this book. It treats South African history mainly from 1978, when P.W. Botha became prime minister, to 1986, when pressure from the international boycott was bringing the issue of apartheid to a head. Sampson's broad experience, and his access to key players in South Africa and the international corporate community, make this a compelling narrative.

Several chapters of this book describe the dynamics of corporate policy toward South Africa, which were essentially reactionary. In the late 1970s, U.S. corporations felt significant pressure from a grass-roots anti-apartheid movement consisting of liberals, students, and religious groups. Frequently this movement manifested itself at shareholder meetings. Since most U.S. corporations were not making enormous profits in South Africa, some eventually pulled out just to reduce the nuisance factor. In 1986, as this book comes to a close, Congress passed a sanctions bill with a margin that prevented Reagan's threatened veto.


Stockwell, John. In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story. New York: W.W. Norton, 1979. 285 pages.

This chronicles the political evolution of a CIA officer that culminated in his resignation from the Agency. Stockwell was in the CIA from 1965 to 1977, including tours in Burundi, Zaire, Vietnam, and finally as chief of the Angola Task Force. In this last capacity he literally ran a war by carrying out the policy of supporting two guerrilla movements against the MPLA-controlled government. The lies and ideology that drove this war finally caused Stockwell to call it quits. The book deals primarily with Angola and is most instructive about the world of mercenaries and about Joseph Mobutu, the notoriously unscrupulous leader of Zaire and CIA comrade-in-arms.

Stockwell also tries to illuminate the CIA "mind": how the Agency's officials go about advancing their careers, covering their ass, lying to Congress, the American public, and to each other, and caring remarkably little about the fate or happiness of the foreign peoples for whose good they are presumably acting. It is not a pretty picture.

-- William Blum


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