U.S. Policy / Albania

Bethell, Nicholas. Betrayed. New York: Times Books, 1984. 206 pages.

The British and CIA involvement in Albania from 1949-1953 was not the first covert operation of the Cold War. In Italy, for example, the CIA passed out money to influence the 1948 elections. But Albania was the first time that armed saboteurs were infiltrated into a sovereign country during peacetime, without the approval of Congress, Parliament, Prime Minister Clement Attlee, or President Harry Truman. This book by Nicholas Bethell, a Conservative member of the House of Lords who lives in London, is the story of this paramilitary operation, which was an unmitigated disaster.

The major problem was that Kim Philby, MI6's joint commander of the mission based in Washington, was a Soviet mole who betrayed some of the operations from the start. The CIA prefers that we believe this was the only problem, and as of 1982 still refused to confirm that the invasion took place. But Bethell makes a strong case that there were other difficulties: "Poor planning, faulty equipment, ineptitude, the unforeseen strength and violence of the Communist forces in Albania, and the decision to go ahead with the operation despite the warning signals, led to the deaths of thousands."


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