Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chief of Station Congo or Out of the Shadow

Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the Cold War in a Hot Zone

Author: Larry Devlin

Larry Devlin arrived as the new chief of station for the CIA in the Congo five days after the country had declared its independence, the army had mutinied, and governmental authority had collapsed. As he crossed the Congo River in an almost empty ferry boat, all he could see were lines of people trying to travel the other way—out of the Congo. Within his first two weeks he found himself on the wrong end of a revolver as militiamen played Russian-roulette, Congo style, with him.

During his first year, the charismatic and reckless political leader, Patrice Lumumba, was murdered and Devlin was widely thought to have been entrusted with (he was) and to have carried out (he didn't) the assassination. Then he saved the life of Joseph Desire Mobutu, who carried out the military coup that presaged his own rise to political power. Devlin found himself at the heart of Africa, fighting for the future of perhaps the most strategically influential country on the continent, its borders shared with eight other nations. He met every significant political figure, from presidents to mercenaries, as he took the Cold War to one of the world's hottest zones. This is a classic political memoir from a master spy who lived in wildly dramatic times.


Chief of Station, Congo, [Devlin's] account of his stint in Kinshasa, then called Leopoldville, is an effort to finally set the record straight following years of rumors.

Financial Times

Must-read for those interested in the shaping of independent Africa . . . . this book is of pressing and immediate relevance.

[I]t's a rollicking great read . . . a memoir full of adventure . . .

Publishers Weekly

In this vivid, authoritative account of being CIA station chief in Congo during the height of the Cold War, Devlin brings to life a harrowing tale of postcolonial political intrigue, covert violence and the day-to-day reality of being a key player in a global chess match between superpowers. Posted to Congo in 1960, Devlin quickly found himself at the swirling center of conflictвЂ" the Belgian colonial rulers had pulled out, the local strongmen had begun what would be a decades-long struggle for power and the Soviet Union was sending agents to influence events. Arriving on the scene with his wife and young daughter in tow, Devlin finds "central authority had broken down; there was no one in control who could prevent random acts of barbarity." As the country begins to fall apart and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba starts flirting with the Soviets, orders come from Washington for "his removal." Within weeks Lumumba is not only out of power but dead. While the rest of the book is full of exciting cloak-and-dagger derring-do and scrapes with death, it is this incident that haunts Devlin. He devotes the last chapter of the book to a point-by-point refutation of his or the agency's involvement in Lumumba's death. That alleged assassination is often used to illustrate the hypocrisy in U.S. foreign policy. Devlin's straightforward, plainly written approach to the task lends credence to his assertion of innocence. (Mar.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Foreign Affairs

One of the more notorious CIA agents of the Cold War, Devlinhas written a matter-of-fact account of his role in the Congo's tumultuous early postindependence years. Although he readily admits that the Eisenhower administration ordered him to plan for the elimination of Patrice Lumumba, the country's first elected prime minister, whom Washington viewed as too pro-Soviet, Devlin claims not to have played any role in the actual assassination, which was apparently undertaken by rival politicians with assistance from Belgian security personnel. Devlin's tale is often entertaining, with lots of cloak-and-dagger drama in a chaotic and largely lawless capital city, Lйopoldville. On the other hand, his account of the complicated politics of the era is pedestrian and much too focused on a handful of individuals close to the U.S. embassy. As CIA chief of station, Devlin aggressively promoted politicians he viewed as favorable to U.S. interests; he remains unapologetic about having helped advance Joseph Mobutu, a young, second-tier politician at independence who emerged as the country's undisputed strongman within five years. Devlin seems still quite confident that the alternative to Mobutu's utterly disastrous 30-year rule would have been much worse: Soviet control of central Africa, or, as he calls it, "NATO's southern flank."

Kirkus Reviews

A spy comes in from the dripping heat. Devlin, long retired from The Company, recounts a busy career fending off Soviet ambitions in Africa as a CIA agent and then station chief, a spook's version of ambassador. In most parts of the world, he writes, that rivalry was an aptly named cold war, whereas in Congo, where he was stationed, it was decidedly a hot one. Newly independent from a once-rapacious Belgium, for whose colonial administrators Devlin has little use, Congo faced its first major crisis when the new leader, Patrice Lumumba, "promised all government employees a pay raise, all, that is, except the army." In a country where the army has all the guns, that is always a dicey proposition, and Lumumba found himself facing civil war, urged along by the American government, which wanted to see him gone; one memo of Aug. 26, 1960, puts its baldly: "if Lumumba continues to hold high office, the inevitable result will at best be chaos and at worst pave the way to a Communist takeover of the Congo. . . . Consequently, we concluded that his removal must be an urgent and prime objective and that under existing conditions this should be a high priority of our covert action." By his account conscience-stricken, Devlin resisted doing the wet work. By other accounts, which Devlin cites, he was roundly implicated in the eventual ouster and assassination of Lumumba. Given what seems to be an air of late-in-life candor, it seems reasonable to trust the author, but you can't ever know for sure. In whatever case, Lumumba's absence opened the door to long-reigning dictator Mobutu, whom Devlin considers a pretty good guy overall; America's interests were thus well served, thanks as much to Sovietineptitude as to anything the CIA did. An unusually open look at CIA operations in the Eisenhower-Kennedy era, adding an interesting, perhaps controversial, footnote to the still-much-debated death of Lumumba.

New interesting book: Peopleware: Produktive Projekte und Mannschaften

Out of the Shadow: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War

Author: Christopher Maynard

As America watched the fall of the Berlin Wall with great enthusiasm, President George H. W. Bush called the incident simply "a good development." He knew that the Cold War was far from over and that bringing it to an end would require not only symbolic gestures but also practical diplomacy.

During Bush's presidency (1989-93), the Berlin Wall fell, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, Germany was reunified, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Yet, many people believe the Cold War ended under Reagan and that Bush's foreign policy achievements were merely an extension of Reagan's policies.

In this in-depth look at the Bush administration's handling of the end of the Cold War, author Christopher Maynard argues that Bush actually made a fundamental shift in foreign policy regarding the Soviet Union. In part, he believes, historians have downplayed Bush's contribution because they have focused on the strong ideological rhetoric of Reagan and Gorbachev without looking at the day-to-day process of policymaking during the Cold War.

Out of the Shadow incorporates a variety of important, previously unused sources. Its focused treatment of the topic will appeal to scholars interested in both the first Bush presidency and the Cold War.

What People Are Saying

H.W. Brands
"An insightful and thought-provoking account of a crucial yet underappreciated chapter in recent world history. Winding down the Cold War looked simple, but appearances deceived. Christopher Maynard pulls back the veil to show how it happened."--(H.W. Brands, Dickson Allen Anderson Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin)

John Robert Greene

. . . a superb chronicle of an underappreciated moment in American diplomatic history—that moment when the first President Bush successfully managed the end of the Cold War. . . . a moment that Maynard narrates with grace and precision. An outstanding book. (John Robert Greene, Cazenovia College)

Ryan Barilleaux

Out of the Shadow is an important addition to the scholarship on the presidency of George H. W. Bush. Most of the work that has been done on the end of the Cold War tends to focus on Ronald Reagan or on other events. Additionally, most of the research on the first Bush presidency tends to be general assessments or studies of the Persian Gulf War. This is the only book-length study of the forty-first president's role in the end of the Cold War. (Ryan Barilleaux, professor and chair, Department of Political Science, Miami University of Ohio)

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