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Anniversary of CIA assassination of Lumumba....50 years ago today
Frank Carlucci and the Murder of Patrice Lumumba

16th January 2011

Also see: "An Assassination's Long Shadow" | NYT | January 16, 2011

Carlucci Can't Hide His Role in Lumumba'

Lucy Komisar,
Pacific News Service February 14, 2002
[Image: 50373733.jpg]

When HBO airs "Lumumba" starting this Saturday, viewers won't get the whole story. That's because former U.S. Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci has succeeded in getting the film's distributor to bleep out his character's identity from the film. But hiding the U.S. role in the popular African leader's assassination, writes PNS contributor Lucy Komisar, won't be so simple.
NEW YORKMost people would be thrilled to be a real-life character in a movie. Not Frank Carlucci. Lawyers for the former U.S. Secretary of Defense have pressured the film's distributor to remove his character's identity from the showings of "Lumumba" on HBO this month.
Carlucci doesn't appreciate the attention. Maybe that's understandable. In 1960, he was the second secretary in the U.S. embassy in Kinshasa, the Congo. That was the time when, according to declassified U.S. State Department cables and testimony to the Senate's Church committee on assassinations, the United States plotted with the incipient dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and the Belgians to bring down Patrice Lumumba, the popular nationalist leader who'd been chosen prime minister by a Brussels "roundtable" of Congo leaders. Lumumba's sin was that, when neither the Americans nor the United Nations would help him against Belgian-organized plots to destabilize his government, he turned to the Russians.
After an extensive parliamentary investigation, the Belgian prime minister earlier this month apologized to the Lumumba family for his country's role in the killing, an apology accepted by Lumumba's son. Carlucci, however, appears to have no regrets.
The scene he doesn't like shows U.S. Ambassador Clare Timberlake and an American that the uncensored film identifies as Carlucci in a meeting plotting Lumumba's murder. The Carlucci character is an oily fellow who makes a clearly disingenuous comment about how the U.S. doesn't "meddle" in other countries' affairs.
Carlucci claims he wasn't at that meeting. "The scene in which they portrayed me was totally inaccurate," he said. Neither, he said, was Timberlake accurately portrayed. "I was quite close to Timberlake and served as his interpreter in most of his meetings." (Timberlake didn't speak French.) "He had no role in it," Carlucci says, repeating that the United States had "no role whatsoever" in plotting Lumumba's death. He also said he'd had "no knowledge of the Belgian" role.
"There's no substantiation to that charge in any of the reviews done on Lumumba's death by the United Nations or the recent Belgian book or Maddie Kalb's book," Carlucci said. "If you go through the Kalb book, you'll find no references to me." "The Congo Cables," by Madeline Kalb, was based on declassified U.S. documents.
Timberlake is dead. Filmmaker Raoul Peck says he had reasons to believe that what he portrayed in the film was accurate. A Haitian, Peck spent 25 years in the Congo/Zaire after his father fled there as an exile from Haitian dictator Francois Duvalier. His film has won prizes at festivals in Los Angeles, Santo Domingo, Milan and Acapulco and was presented at the Directors Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival.
So let's take Carlucci's advice and look at "The Congo Cables." Kalb wrote about the efforts by the U.S. Embassy and the CIA to topple Lumumba: "Whenever Timberlake, accompanied by his French-speaking second secretary, Frank Carlucci, went to see Kasavubu … to try to persuade him that Lumumba was an extremely dangerous man, Kasavubu … would say nothing. … As Timberlake noted in a gloomy cable to Washington, I confess I have not yet learned the secret of spurring Kasavubu to action.'"
Of course you won't find a document from Timberlake saying, "We are pressing some Congolese to kill Lumumba." Ambassadors don't write such documents. You will find documents by Timberlake and CIA chief Lawrence Devlin talking about their desires and efforts to stop Lumumba, and even Devlin's unhappiness at one leader's refusal to commit murder. The State Department's official "Analytical Chronology of the Congo Crisis" talks about a plan "to bring about the overthrow of Lumumba and install a pro-Western government… Operations under this plan were gradually put into effect by the CIA."According to Kalb, Timberlake informed Washington on August 24, 1960, "If Lumumba and his wired-in communist advisers are not stopped by a policy of strength, we think this country is headed toward another China by way of technicians instead of bayonets." On August 24, CIA chief Lawrence Devlin reported "discouraging news: anti-Lumumba leaders had approached Kasavubu with a plan to assassinate Lumumba, but Kasavubu had refused, explaining that he was reluctant to resort to violence and that there was no other leader of sufficient stature (to) replace Lumumba."
Ludo De Witte, author of "the Belgian book" "The Assassination of Lumumba" wrote Peck that "from mid-August (when Eisenhower gave indirectly the green light for the assassination of Lumumba) till mid-October, there was a de facto collaboration and exchange of information between all important personnel in the U.S. Embassy (that is Timberlake, Carlucci and Devlin included), including on efforts to get rid of Lumumba."The Eisenhower "green light" is in testimony by NSC staff member Robert Johnson to the Church committee hearings of 1975-1976. Johnson said he was astonished to hear that Eisenhower had given an order for the assassination of Lumumba. The Church committee concluded that testimony permitted a "reasonable inference" that the plot to assassinate Lumumba was authorized by the president.
De Witte wrote Peck, "There is another thing: we know that Devlin and other U.S. personnel in the capital were informed about the transfer of Lumumba to the Kasai or Katanga (testimony by Colonel Louis Marlière, active in the entourage of Mobutu). Everybody knew that they were waiting for some subcontractors to do the dirty job, and, given the rank and the involvement of Carlucci in Lumumba-related activities from the U.S. Embassy, we may assume (although it's not proven) that Carlucci knew of what equaled a death sentence for Lumumba. Once again I turn to the testimony by Colonel Louis Marlière: nobody opposed the transfer."
Carlucci went on to a stellar career, including posts as ambassador to Portugal, deputy director of the CIA, assistant to the President for National Security affairs, and Secretary of Defense, the latter two positions in the Reagan administration. He is now chairman of the Carlyle Group, an investment firm.
Emily Russo, co-president of distributor Zeitgeist Films in New York, said the small company couldn't afford to go to court to defend its right to tell the story. Curiously, Carlucci sought to alter only the mass-market version shown on television or sold on videotapes and DVDs. Screenings at theaters around the United States and the rest of the world keep the original French track. HBO is showing two versions. One is an HBO dub in English: no "Carlucci" there. The other, an English-subtitled version, does not mention Carlucci in the subtitles, and replaces his name on the French soundtrack with a "bleep."
PNS contributor Lucy Komisar ( is a New York journalist who visited Zaire in the early 1990s to study the impact of U.S. policy there.
"Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"
Horrible excuse for a human being that man. And a coward to boot.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
The Congo: How and why the West organised Lumumba's assassination
Review of two BBC documentaries: Who Killed Lumumba?, and Mobutu
By Linda Slattery
10 January 2001

Later this year the Belgian parliament is due to report on the murder of the Congo's first prime minister after independence, Patrice Lumumba in January 1961. The circumstances of Lumumba's death have been shrouded in mystery for forty years, but as the Congo's vast mineral wealth is once again becoming a focus for imperialist rivalries, documents long hidden in official archives have been brought to light.

Last year, the BBC ran two documentaries on the tragic history of this central African state. Who Killed Lumumba?, was screened as part of the channel's Correspondent series. It drew heavily on the forthcoming new book by Belgian historian Ludo de Witte (The Murder of Lumumba, Verso Books, ISBN: 1859846181, published June 2001). De Witte has put together the facts of the case from official Belgian archives and the documentary also used archive film footage and interviewed surviving witnesses, to show that Lumumba was murdered in a plot masterminded by Western governments.

Mobutu, from the BBC's Storyville documentary series, reveals how the Western powers put Joseph Sese Seko Mobutu in power after the death of Lumumba, keeping him there for 32 years while he systematically looted the country. Mobutu became the west's main Cold War ally in Africa, and the Congo formed the staging post for CIA operations against Soviet-backed African regimes.

The film reveals the very close personal and political relationship that existed between Mobutu and several Western leaders. We see film clips of Mobutu being embraced by Jacques Chirac (now President of France), and sitting next to the British Queen in the royal carriage. For many years, until he fell out of favour at the end of the Cold War, Mobutu remained a friend of the Belgian king, but his closest friends were President George Bush Snr. and his family.

Between 1885 and 1908, some five to eight million fell victim to King Leopold of Belgium's personal rule over the Congo, under a barbarous system of forced labour and systematic terror. In 1959, the Belgium government finally decided to grant the Congo independence. The first elections brought Patrice Lumumba to power as prime minister. But his government was an unstable coalition of regional interests, and collapsed within a week. Sections of the army mutinied and the mineral rich province of Katanga seceded.

Who Killed Lumumba? featured important new material about the Katanga secession. Ludo de Witte has uncovered documents in the Belgian archives showing that Moise Tshombe, who led the secession, acted on orders from the Belgian government, which has always claimed that it only sent troops into Katanga to protect Belgian lives and property. De Witte's researches have shown that the Belgians plotted to dismember the Congo.

US Documents released last August reveal that President Eisenhower directly ordered the CIA to assassinate Lumumba. Minutes of an August 1960 National Security Council meeting confirm that Eisenhower told CIA chief Allen Dulles to "eliminate" Lumumba. The official note taker, Robert H. Johnson, had told the Senate Intelligence Committee this in 1975, but no documentary evidence was previously available to back up his statement.

Larry Devlin, the CIA's man in the Congo at the time, told the BBC filmmakers how he had been told to meet "Joe from Paris", who turned out to be the CIA's chief technical officer, Dr Sidney Gottlieb. "I recognised him as he walked towards my car," recalled Devlin, "but when he told me what they wanted done I was totally, totally taken aback." Gottlieb gave him a tube of poisoned toothpaste, which Devlin was to smuggle into Lumumba's bathroom.

He claims he never did so, because "I had never suggested assassination, nor did I believe it was advisable." Instead, "I threw it in the Congo River when its usefulness had expired."

The "usefulness" of the poison expired rather quickly because Lumumba was murdered very soon afterwards, at the hands of Belgian agents.

Eisenhower was not alone in coming to the conclusion that Lumumba must die. A British Foreign Office document from September 1960 notes the opinion of a top ranking official, who later became the head of MI5, that, "I see only two possible solutions to the [Lumumba] problem. The first is the simple one of ensuring [his] removal from the scene by killing him." What steps, if any, were taken to put this plan into action remain unknown.

De Witte's work reveals the steps that the Belgian government took to remove Lumumba. Belgian military chiefs made nightly visits to Mobutu, then head of the army, and President Kasavubu, to plot Lumumba's downfall. Colonel Louis Maliere spoke of the millions of francs he brought over for this purpose. The plot to kill Lumumba was called "Operation Barracuda" and was run by the Belgian Minister for African Affairs, Count d'Aspremont.

The Belgium government ordered Kasavubu to sack Lumumba, who turned to the new parliament and won two votes of confidence. Mobutu then lead a coup d'état and Lumumba was placed under house arrest, from which he escaped only to be captured by troops loyal to Mobutu.

Contemporary film shows UN troops standing by while Lumumba is first beaten in front of Mobutu, then paraded through the streets of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) and finally beaten again. When taken to Thysville prison, he almost provoked a mutiny among the guards.

Count d'Aspremont ordered him be taken to Katanga province and certain death. On the flight there, he and two supportersMaurice Mpolo and Joseph Okitewere beaten so badly the pilot complained the plane was in danger of crashing. All three were shot by a firing squad commanded by Belgian officers and watched by Moise Tshombe.

The Belgian commander of the Katangan police force, Gerard Soete, was given the grisly job of destroying the bodies. Enlisting the support of a friend, they chopped up the corpses before dissolving them in acid. Soete recalls that they were drunk for the two days because, "We did things an animal wouldn't do."

Both these films do a valuable job in bringing to the attention of a wider audience the new evidence about Lumumba's death and in revealing the way in which the imperialist powers supported Mobutu's dictatorial regime. However, what neither of them fully explains is why the West acted as it did. They present the assassination of Lumumba and the installation of Mobutu as simply part of the Cold War rivalry between the West and Moscow.

The central mystery of Lumumba's death remains. Why was he killed? Why was the might of at least three Western powers bent on eliminating this one maneven as he was held prisoner, reviled and beaten by his captors and was without military or political power. Some say the answer is that he posed a threat to the West because he was a committed Pan-Africanist, and since his death he has certainly taken on the status of a Pan-African martyr.

By late 1959 Britain and America had concluded that, far from representing a threat, Pan-Africanism offered the best chance for preventing revolution in Africa. And Pan-Africanists of much longer standing than Lumumba, such as Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Nyerere, Obote and Azikiwe had also come to power around this time.

The experience of the Congo, with its million-strong working class the largest on the continent outside South Africa, was a powerful factor in bringing them to that conclusion. When strikes and demonstrations broke out in 1959 as the mineral boom ended, the Belgian government decided to grant its colony independence. Their repressive apparatus was geared up to brutalising a divided and dispersed rural population, not an increasingly well-organised working class that was losing its local and communal loyalties.

When Lumumba showed that he could not be relied upon to control the Congolese working class, his fate was sealed. The West decided to make an example of him to the masses and to other African leaders, to show what would happen if they opposed imperialist dictates. Mobutu, who had impressed the CIA on his brief visits to Brussels as Lumumba's secretary, was chosen as the better candidate to safeguard Western interests. Through a mixture of brutality and political guile, Mobutu succeeded in ensuring that the Congo (renamed Zaire) did not become the flashpoint for an African socialist revolution.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass

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