"Nous Ne Sommes Plus Vos Macaques!"-- Anti-Racist Words That Moved The U.S. Power Structure To Murder A Nation's Founding Father
All little boys grow up under the impression that their country is the best in the whole wide world-- except in the U.S. where we grow up not even knowing that there is a whole wide world out there aside from the land of the free and the home of the brave. So when did I start recognizing that my own country was every bit as bad-- if not worse-- than every other political cesspool through time and space? My atheist dad helped by explaining how religion was an effective system that kept working people from killing the rich crooks who oppressed them. And my socialist grandfather helped by explaining why the U.S. was taking the wrong side in Cuba right around the time I was crossing over into teenagedom. But the ultimate moment of realization came for me just about 50 years ago on the nose.
I wasn't even 12 when I first heard of Patrice Lumumba, then in the midst of agitating for independence for the Congo from the brutal and inhuman captivity of the Belgian royal family. On June 23, 1960 Lumumba was elected Prime Minister on the newly independent country but on Independence Day celebrations (June 30) the Belgian fascists tried one last humiliation by leaving the new Prime Minister off the program. Instead, King Baudouin tried to talk about how wonderful his country's savage and violent regime in the Congo had been. Lumumba took the stage and gave a more reality-based speech that horrified Western conservatives, as reality-based speeches often do:
For this independence of the Congo, even as it is celebrated today with Belgium, a friendly country with whom we deal as equal to equal, no Congolese worthy of the name will ever be able to forget that it was by fighting that it has been won, a day-to-day fight, an ardent and idealistic fight, a fight in which we were spared neither privation nor suffering, and for which we gave our strength and our blood. We are proud of this struggle, of tears, of fire, and of blood, to the depths of our being, for it was a noble and just struggle, and indispensable to put an end to the humiliating slavery which was imposed upon us by force... We are no longer your monkeys!
The Belgians helped provoke a secessionist movement-- and civil war-- in Katanga, the mineral rich province they intended to hold onto for as long as they could. On September 15 the CIA backed a coup d’état by Joseph Mobutu, who promptly arrested Lumumba. Mobutu turned him over to the Katanga right-wing rebels where he was murdered by a firing squad commanded by Belgian army officers. Belgians later tried to destroy the evidence of the murder in sulfuric acid but some kept teeth and bullets from the body as souvenirs.
A few weeks ago, we looked at how the Nazi-oriented Dulles Brothers and their Republican Party allies illegally smuggled thousands of Eastern European Nazi war criminals into the U.S. for political purposes. But that isn't all the Dulles Brothers were up to after World War II.
Declassified U.S. cables from the year preceding the assassination bristle with paranoia about a Lumumba-led Soviet Communist takeover. The CIA was hatching plots against Cuban leader Fidel Castro and was accused of fomenting coups and planning assassinations worldwide. And Lumumba clearly scared the daylights out of the Eisenhower administration. "In high quarters here, it is the clear-cut conclusion that if [Lumumba] continues to hold high office, the inevitable result will [have] disastrous consequences... for the interests of the free world generally," CIA Director Allen Dulles wrote. "Consequently, we conclude that his removal must be an urgent and prime objective."
Even out of office, Lumumba remained under the microscope of Western spy services. His ties to Moscow frightened Washington. His fierce anti-colonialism unnerved Brussels. Belgium finally got its chance at Lumumba after Congolese authorities arrested him in December 1960. Belgian officials engineered his transfer to the breakaway province of Katanga, which was under Belgian control. De Witte reveals a telegram from Belgium's African-affairs minister, Harold d'Aspremont Lynden, essentially ordering that Lumumba be sent to Katanga. Anyone who knew the place knew that was a death sentence.
Firing squad. When Lumumba arrived in Katanga, on January 17, accompanied by several Belgians, he was bleeding from a severe beating. Later that evening, Lumumba was killed by a firing squad commanded by a Belgian officer. A week earlier, he had written to his wife, "I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakable, and with profound trust in the destiny of my country." Lumumba was 35.
The next step was to destroy the evidence. Four days later, Belgian Police Commissioner Gerard Soete and his brother cut up the body with a hacksaw and dissolved it in sulfuric acid. In an interview on Belgian television last year, Soete displayed a bullet and two teeth he claimed to have saved from Lumumba's body.
What remains unclear is the extent, if any, of Washington's involvement in the final plot. A Belgian official who helped engineer Lumumba's transfer to Katanga told de Witte that he kept CIA station chief Lawrence Devlin fully informed of the plan. "The Americans were informed of the transfer because they actively discussed this thing for weeks," says de Witte. But Devlin, now retired, denies any previous knowledge of the transfer.
Either way, Lumumba's death served its purpose: It bolstered the shaky regime of a formerly obscure colonel named Joseph Mobutu. During his three-decade rule, Mobutu would run his country, bursting with natural resources, into the depths of poverty. It took a civil war to oust him, and Congo has seen little peace since. Today, at least five countries are fighting in Congo and Lumumba's son, an opposition leader, spent several weeks in a Kinshasa jail cell on politically motivated charges.
At the time Lumumba was a hero to progressive young Americans and the CIA's involvement in his deposition and murder was a wake-up call for many, myself included.
Last week my friend Melody reminded me that January 17 was the 50th anniversary of the cold-blooded murder of Patrice Lumumba by the CIA and their Belgian and Katangan stooges. Allen Dulles claims Eisenhower ordered him to have Lumumba killed. Melody wrote that "the events really were important in shaping the fate of the Congo, and Africa in general [and are] a reminder that the US has had it's hand in all sorts of dirty deeds. Although the U.S. media has always chosen to ignore what the CIA did in the Congo and the anniversary was resolutely ignored in this country (NY Times excepted this time), she suggested that DWT readers take a look at the story last week in the Guardian:
Between 1961 and 1973, six African independence leaders were assassinated by their ex-colonial rulers, including Patrice Lumumba of Congo, who was killed 50 years ago today.
Patrice Lumumba, prime minister of newly independent Congo, was the second of five leaders of independence movements in African countries to be assassinated in the 1960s by their former colonial masters, or their agents.
A sixth, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, was ousted in a western-backed coup in 1966, and a seventh, Amilcar Cabral, leader of the west African liberation movement against Portugal of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde or PAIGC) in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, was assassinated in 1973.
Lumumba's death in 1961 followed on from that of the opposition leader of Cameroon, Felix Moumie, poisoned in 1960. Sylvanus Olympio, leader of Togo was killed in 1963. Mehdi Ben Barka, leader of the Moroccan opposition movement was kidnapped in France in 1965 and his body never found. Eduardo Mondlane, leader of Mozambique's Frelimo, fighting for independence from the Portuguese, died from a parcel bomb in 1969.
The loss 50 years ago of this group of leaders, who all knew each other, and had a common political project based on national dignity, crippled each of their countries, and the African continent. The effects are still evident today.
Ben Barka and Cabral were revolutionary theoreticians-- as significant as Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara. Their influence reverberated far beyond their own continent. At the 1966 Tricontinental Conference in Havana, organised by Ben Barka before his death, Cuban leader Fidel Castro's closing speech referred to "one of the most lucid and brilliant leaders in Africa, Comrade Amílcar Cabral, who instilled in us tremendous confidence in the future and the success of his struggle for liberation."
The Third World Movement, challenging the economic and political world dominance of the colonial powers, the US, and the neocolonial leaders favoured by the west, would have two short decades of ambition and optimism despite the long shadow of its great leaders' deaths.
Today, it is impossible to touch down at the (far from modernised) airport of Lubumbashi in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo-- in 1961 known as Elizabethville, in Congo (then renamed Zaire)-- without a shiver of recollection of the haunting photograph taken of Lumumba there shortly before his assassination, and after beatings, torture and a long, long flight in custody across the vast country which had so loved him. This particular failure of the United Nations to protect one man and his two colleagues was every bit as significant as that in Srebrenica in 1995, when 8,000 men and boys were killed.
Lumumba's own words, written to his wife just four months after the exhilaration of independence day in the capital Kinshasa are a reminder of who he was and why he meant so much to so many people then, and still does today.
"Dead, living, free, or in prison on the orders of the colonialists, it is not I who counts. It is the Congo, it is our people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage where we are regarded from the outside… History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington, or the United Nations will teach, but that which they will teach in the countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets… a history of glory and dignity."
Lumumba would not have been surprised that his successor, Joseph Mobuto was the US strategic ally in Africa for 30 years. Congo was too rich, too big, and too important for the west to lose control as they would have had Lumumba lived.
How ironic that Mobuto was succeeded by Laurent Desire Kabila, whose 10th anniversary of assassination, by his own guards, falls just one day before Lumumba's?
UPDATE: Russ Baker Wants To Make Sure We're Aware Of The Bush Connection
Baker points out that the CIA was a sponsor of Mobutu's and that George H.W. Bush later welcomed the savage kleptocrat and tyrant to America as "one of our most valued friends." Three days after Lumumba was murdered, JFK was sworn in as President of the United States and Baker's nook, Family of Secrets makes a hard to deny case for the involvement of the CIA, Dulles and... George H.W. Bush. From Baker's WhoWhatWhy:
In my book, Family of Secrets, I cite evidence that the elder Bush was deeply involved in C.I.A covert operations during the time in which both assassinations took place. I document his close ties to mining interests comparable to the ones Lumumba himself had angered-- by declaring, as Hochschild recounts, that it was not enough for the Congolese to gain political independence from colonial rule, but that “Africans had to also benefit from the great wealth in their soil.”
More troubling are the many inconsistencies and gaps that I discovered in accounts by Bush and others concerning his activities on and around the day of the assassination, all of which are extensively documented and footnoted. These include:
• Bush’s noted inability to recall where he was on November 22, 1963;
• his longtime friendship with George de Mohrenschildt, a mentor and confidant to Lee Harvey Oswald;
• a declassified FBI memo identifying Bush as a C.I.A officer working with Cuban exiles at the time of the assassination;
• FBI records documenting a call Bush himself placed to the Bureau on Nov. 22 from a location near Dallas, offering to identify a possible triggerman in the assassination-- a man Bush knew far better than he revealed at the time, and who he knew could not have been the triggerman
• Barbara Bush’s revelation in her 1994 book, Barbara Bush: A Memoir, that the Bushes were having lunch the week of November 22 with Alfred Ulmer, an old friend who, research shows, was one of the C.I.A.’s experts in deposing leaders.
• Bush’s close relationship with the military intelligence official whose unit and unit members played an astonishing array of roles on November 22, from forcing their way into the lead car of Kennedy’s motorcade to providing the interpreter who framed Marina Oswald’s statements in a way that implicated her husband.