USA in Angola War (add to pattern)

Chris Brady cdbrady at
Mon Apr 1 00:35:18 MST 2002

>From Old Files, a New Story of U.S. Role in Angolan War

New York Times, March 31, 2002

In the summer of 1975, with the cold war raging and the memory of
Saigon's fall terribly fresh, the United States sponsored a covert
operation to prevent another Communist takeover, this time across the
world, in Angola.

 The effort failed to keep a Marxist government from taking power but
ushered in a long and chaotic civil war, involving American, Chinese and
Russian interests, and Cuban and South African soldiers.

 Now, coinciding with the death last month of Washington's longtime
rebel ally in Angola, Jonas Savimbi, a trove of recently declassified
American documents seem to overturn conventional explanations of the
war's origins.

 Historians and former diplomats who have studied the documents say they
show conclusively that the United States intervened in Angola weeks
before the arrival of any Cubans, not afterward as Washington claimed.
Moreover, though a connection between Washington and South Africa, which
was then ruled by a white government under the apartheid policy, was
strongly denied at the time, the documents appear to demonstrate their
broad collaboration.

 "When the United States decided to launch the covert intervention, in
June and July, not only were there no Cubans in Angola, but the U.S.
government and the C.I.A. were not even thinking about any Cuban
presence in Angola," said Piero Gleijeses, a history professor at Johns
Hopkins University, who used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover
the documents. Similarly, cables of the time have now been published by
the National Security Archive, a private research group.

 "If you look at the C.I.A. reports which were done at the time, the
Cubans were totally out of the picture," Dr. Gleijeses said. But in
reports presented to the Senate in December 1975, "what you find is
really nothing less than the rewriting of history."

 Cuba eventually poured 50,000 troops into Angola in support of a
Marxist independence group, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of
Angola. The group held the capital in the months just before
independence from Portugal, declared in August 1975.

 But Dr. Gleijeses's research shows that the Cuban intervention came in
response to a C.I.A.-financed covert invasion via neighboring Zaire, now
known as Congo, and South Africa's simultaneous drive on the capital,
using troops who posed as Western mercenaries.

{* [Sections in parentheses did not appear in the on-line version of
this article; they have been transcribed from the print version of the
New York Times, 31 March 2002, page 4.]: The Marxist party, quickly
defeated the United States’ first ally in the war, the National Front
for the Liberation of Angola, based in Zaire.  Then, in a battle at the
village of Ebo in November 1975, 1,300 Cuban troops battled a much
larger South African column, halting its advance. }

 The United States gradually switched its support to Mr. Savimbi's
movement, Unita, and continued to support it intermittently during
nearly two decades of warfare.

 Dr. Gleijeses's research documents significant coordination between the
United States and South Africa, from joint training missions to
airlifts, and bluntly contradicts the Congressional testimony of the era
and the memoirs of Henry A. Kissinger, the former secretary of state.

 The work draws heavily on White House, State Department and National
Security Council memorandums, as well as extensive interviews and
archival research in Cuba, Angola, Germany and elsewhere. It was carried
out in preparation of Dr. Gleijeses's recently published history of the
conflict, "Conflicting Missions, Havana, Washington and Africa,
1959-1976" (Chapel Hill).

{* “The book does seem to have nailed Henry quite specifically on this
question,” said Thomas Hughes, a former director of intelligence for the
State Department during that period, referring to Mr. Kissinger.  The
book, Mr. Hughes said, “is an impressive account, a sad story that seems
to be written almost out of a feeling that it might be lost.

{    “It is an amazing story of Cuban resourcefulness and persistence.”

{    But in the end, Mr. Hughes said, the Cuban’s commitment meant
little.  “Angola, where they won, has been a disaster for 30 years, so
you can hardly speak of a triumph,” he said. }

 The book strongly challenges common perceptions of Cuban behavior in
Africa. In the 1960's and 1970's, when Havana and Washington clashed
repeatedly in central and southern Africa, Cuban troops in the continent
were typically seen as foot soldiers for Soviet imperialism.

 In fact, Dr. Gleijeses writes, Cuba intervened in Angola without
seeking Soviet permission. Eager not to derail an easing of tension with
Washington, the Soviets limited themselves to providing 10 charter
flights to transport Cubans to Angola in January 1976. The next year,
Havana and Moscow supported opposite sides in an attempted coup in
Angola, in which the Marxist government, Cuba's ally, prevailed.

 After reviewing Dr. Gleijeses's work, several former senior United
States diplomats who were involved in making policy toward Angola
broadly endorsed its conclusions.

 "Considering that things came to a head over covert action in the U.S.
government in mid-July, there is no reason to believe we were responding
to Cuban involvement in Angola," said Nathaniel Davis, who resigned as
Mr. Kissinger's assistant secretary of state for African affairs in July
1975 over the Angola intervention.

{ He is now the Hixon professor of the humanities at Harvey Mudd College
in Claremont, Calif. }

 Mr. Davis said he could find no fault with Mr. Gleijeses's scholarship.
Asked why the story of America responding to Cuban intervention in
Angola had persisted for so long, Mr. Davis said: "Life is funny. What
catches on in terms of public debate is hard to predict."

 The United States denied collaboration with South Africa during the
Angolan war, but it was quickly discovered by China, an erstwhile
American ally against the Marxists in Angola, and was suspected and
deeply resented by Washington's main African partners.

{ The entire following section was cut from the end of the on-line
version; therefore no more parentheses will be inserted based on that

    In a meeting at the White House on Dec. 3, 1975, between President
Gerald Ford and the Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, Mr. Kissinger
repeatedly urged the Chinese to resume its training of antigovernment
forces in Angola, but Chine demurred, citing Washington’s collaboration
with South Africa.

    “Please understand this with regard to African countries, even the
small ones,” Mr. Deng said.  “They are extremely sensitive on matters
involving national pride.”

    This lesson was brought home to the Ford Administration, when
Nigeria got wind of South African and American collaboration in Angola.
In October 1975, the South Africans invaded.  The Nigerians immediately
wanted the United States to deny any involvement in the matter, said
Donald Easum, Washington’s ambassador to Nigeria at the time.

    “Joe Garba, the Nigerian foreign minister, called me and said, ‘If
you can’t get denial from Kissinger right away, my head of state will
make a major announcement, and you will read about it in the
newspapers,’” Mr. Easum said  in a recent interview.  “I sent a cable to
Washington and waited, but nothing came, not even an acknowledgment.”

    Later, Mr. Easum said, “the Nigerians did what they said they would,
and recognized the government of Angola.”

    “The headlines in the press,” he added, “read, ‘Fatuous Insult: Ford
Insults Africa.’”

{End of printed copy.}

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