Document:Hammarskjold and Kennedy vs. The Power Elite
Kennedy's "Ordeal in Africa"
As many CTKA readers and observers of JFK symposiums will know, since the 2013 Cyril Wecht conference in Pittsburgh, one of the topics I have been researching and talking about is John F. Kennedy's reformist foreign policy. To some people this seemed kind of pointless. After all, in virtually every JFK assassination book Kennedy's foreign policy boiled down to Vietnam and Cuba. What else was there?
Quite a lot. What was new in my speech mostly came from Philip Muehlenbeck's volume, Betting on the Africans, which had been published the year before. (Click here for a review) Later, I discovered Robert Rakove's book, Kennedy, Johnson and the Nonaligned World. That book serves as a fine compliment to Muehlenbeck. (Click here for the CTKA review) I used much of the Rakove material to present my altered versions of the 2013 presentation at both the JFK Lancer in 2013 and 2014 and the AARC Conference in 2014.
These two books form a thematic line that extends back to Richard Mahoney's landmark volume JFK: Ordeal in Africa. That book was a trailblazing effort in the field of excavating what Kennedy's foreign policy really was, and where its intellectual provenance came from. It was published in 1983. Even though it bore the Oxford University Press imprimatur, it had little influence. It virtually had little or no impact in the categories of Kennedy biography, studies of the Kennedy presidency, or the JFK assassination field. Which, in retrospect, is stunning. Because what Mahoney did in that book was revolutionary. In a systematic way, he traced the beginnings of President Kennedy's foreign policy ideas. He did this with a wealth of data he garnered from weeks spent at the JFK Library. He used this ignored information to show how Kennedy's ideas on the east/west struggles in the Third World originated, why they were different than President Eisenhower's, and how they manifested themselves once he became president. No other book I had read elucidated this progress in such a detailed and rigorous way. In fact, when I was done with the book I actually felt like I had been snookered by relying on historians like Herbert Parmet, William Manchester, and Richard Reeves for my information on Kennedy's presidency and foreign policy. Mahoney made them look like hacks.
It became clear to me that there was, quite literally, a war going on. And as unsatisfactory as the Parmet, Reeves, and Manchester books were (with Manchester I am referring to his presidential profile book Portrait of a President) these would be superseded by even worse JFK books later: biographies by John H. Davis, Robert Dallek, Thomas Reeves, and worst of all—perhaps the worst imaginable—Sy Hersh's pile of rubbish The Dark Side of Camelot.
In 2008 Jim Douglass made a clean break with all the calculated trash. His fine volume, JFK and the Unspeakable, has become something of a classic. It has actually crossed over and is sourced in books outside strictly the JFK assassination or JFK presidency fields. I wrote a very approving essay about Jim's book. (Click here)
Douglass did an exceedingly good job in elucidating Kennedy's Vietnam and Cuba policies between the covers of one book. But with the new scholarship by Rakove and Muehlenbeck, the Douglass book seems rather narrowly focused today. And with the even newer book by Greg Poulgrain, The Incubus of Intervention (see my recent review), we can now add Indonesia to Africa and the Middle East as objects of Kennedy's reformist foreign policy. In fact, Douglass is on to this. He actually pointed out that I should read and review the Poulgrain book.
But the Kennedy Enlightment really began with Mahoney. And although his book dealt with three African trouble spots, the majority of the book was focused on the colossal Congo crisis. Which, like other problems, Kennedy inherited from President Eisenhower. As we learn more about the Congo conflagration, we begin to see how large and complex that struggle was. Large in the sense that, in addition to the UN, several nations were directly involved. Complex in the sense that there were subterranean agendas at work. For instance, although England and France ostensibly and officially supported the United Nations effort there, they were actually subverting it on the ground through third party agents. In fact, when one studies the seething cauldron that was the Congo crisis, there are quite a few villains involved. There are only three heroes I can name: Patrice Lumumba, Dag Hammarskjöld and John F. Kennedy. All three were murdered while the struggle was in process. Their deaths allowed the democratic experiment in Congo to fail spectacularly. Ultimately, it allowed one form of blatant exploitation, colonialism, to be replaced by another, imperialism.
To sketch in the background: In 1960, Belgium was going to leave Congo after brutally colonising the country for generations. But their plan was to leave so abruptly that the nation would collapse inwardly for lack of leadership. Belgium would then return in order to protect the Belgian assets still there. As we shall see, the CIA was in agreement on this. Especially when Patrice Lumumba was democratically elected as Prime Minister. As Jonathan Kwitny noted, Lumumba was the first democratically elected leader of an African nation emerging from the long era of European colonialism. Ideally, Lumumba could have set a precedent. That did not happen. And the reason it did not happen was largely because of outside interference.
Within days of June 30th, Congo independence, the Belgian plan began to work. Rioting took place and Belgian soldiers began to fire into crowds. On July 11th, the regional governor of the immensely wealthy Katanga province, Moise Tshombe, declared his state was seceding from Congo. Tshombe was egged on by the Belgians and British who wanted mineral rights. In exchange, they promised him military aid and mercenaries if Lumumba attacked Katanga. (Kwitny, p. 55)
As Kwitny notes in Endless Enemies, the CIA and the National Security Council did not like Lumumba. After all, he had the gumption to ask for aid in kicking out the Belgians, who were now parachuting troops back in. Lumumba asked for aid from the USA, the USSR and the United Nations. The first declined, the second seemed amenable to sending arms, and Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold decided to send in a UN expeditionary force. The fact that Lumumba went to the USSR was enough for CIA station chief Larry Devlin to portray him as a communist. On August 18th he wired DCI Allen Dulles that Congo was experiencing a classic communist takeover. He then added that anti-West forces were rapidly gaining power and Congo was on the verge of becoming another Cuba. (ibid, p. 59)
This was preposterous. There was no “anti-West force” build-up in Congo. In fact, the UK and Belgium were sending in troops and mercenaries. These were later joined by the French, who also wanted a stake in Katanga. But Devlin concluded by saying that Lumumba should be “replaced” by a pro-Western group. (ibid) This is just days after Lumumba visited the USA asking for help to expel the Belgians. Ambassador Clare Timberlake contributed the same kind of utter distortion. He told Washington that Lumumba wanted troops in order to expel the Belgians and then nationalise all industry and property. Lumumba would then invite communist bloc experts in to run the economy. (ibid, pp. 59-60)
The Devlin/Timberlake cables had their intended impact. Within 48 hours DCI Allen Dulles and President Eisenhower agreed that Lumumba had to be neutralised. (ibid, p. 62) The CIA took two tracks to achieve this aim. First, Timberlake and his deputy Frank Carlucci tried to get President Kasavubu to stage a coup. He said no. So Devlin went to military colonel Josef Mobutu and asked him to eliminate Lumumba. In September, Kasavubu finally relented and dismissed Lumumba. Lumumba then said he was dismissing Kasavubu. With a Mexican standoff holding, Devlin then went to Mobutu and asked him to arrest Lumumba. But the UN emissary there, Rajeshwar Dayal, prevented the action. And Lumumba now became somewhat of a prisoner in his own home. Kasavubu then dissolved parliament, which had backed Lumumba. (p. 66) The second track of the CIA's program now kicked in: assassination plots to kill Lumumba. (ibid, p. 67)
As the reader can see, in the space of two months, the Americans and Europeans had pretty much destroyed whatever hope there was for the first democratic nation to emerge and survive in post-colonial Africa. In fact, one could fairly say that they strangled African democracy in the cradle. From here, it got worse. Devlin now wanted Mobutu to eliminate not just Lumumba, but his deputy Antoine Gizenga. (ibid) But Dayal and Hammarskjold kept him protected also.
When Mobutu's troops began to battle with the UN mission, Lumumba made an impulsive, perhaps reckless, decision. He escaped from Dayal's protection and tried to flee to Stanleyville, his political base. With Devlin's help, Mobutu captured him. And after severely beating him, returned him to the capital of Leopoldville.
Three things then happened that sealed Lumumba's fate. First, Russian planes carrying supplies and arms started arriving in Stanleyville. Second, two CIA assassins also arrived on the scene. And third, John F. Kennedy was about to be inaugurated. Because of these factors, instead of having Lumumba killed by the CIA agents, or risk a more sympathetic policy under Kennedy, on January 13, 1961, Mobutu had Lumumba shipped to Moise Tshombe in Katanga. As Devlin must have known, this meant he would be killed soon. Four days later, he was. (ibid, p. 69)
The information about his death was kept from President Kennedy for almost a month. He did not learn about Lumumba's murder until February 13th. He learned of it on a phone call with UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson. White House photographer Jacques Lowe captured the moment in a crystalline photograph.
In the wake of Lumumba's murder, Dag Hammarskjold was not about to give up. Secretary-General Hammarskjold was from Sweden and his family had a long history in public service. His father had been a regional governor and then Sweden's prime minister. Two of his older brothers had also spent time in government service, one as a governor and the other working with the League of Nations. As an economist, Dag worked for the Finance Ministry and coined the term “planned economy”. He and his brother Bo helped launch the Swedish welfare state.
Hammarskjold first worked with the Swedish delegation at the United Nations. He then, rather unexpectedly, was voted its second Secretary-General in 1953. As writer Susan Williams notes, his ascendancy coincided with the beginning of the de-colonisation process in Africa and Asia. By 1960, 47 of the 100 UN members came from this Afro/Asia bloc. (Williams, Who Killed Hammarskjold? p. 23) In 1960 alone, 16 African nations had joined the UN. Hammarskjold decided to tour the continent in late 1959. He had harsh words for the apartheid regime of the Union of South Africa. Therefore, he became an enemy of white supremacists on that continent. And with those nations who still held colonies there, or were trying to unduly influence their former colonies e.g. France, England, Portugal and Belgium. (ibid, p. 24)
Because of his Swedish background and his work in civil service and planned economies, Hammarskjold had a special sensitivity to these new and awakening nations. He understood that, individually, these states felt weak and isolated. But as members of the UN, they felt part of a world community that could elevate their stature. Or, as he put it, the function of the UN was to protect the weak against the strong. (ibid)
Hammarskjold suspected what the Belgian secret agenda was before they pulled out of Congo. Therefore he sent Ralph Bunche, part of the American delegation, there as independence was enacted. King Baudouin of Belgium was there for the official proceeding. He actually praised what Belgium had done for Congo and specifically singled out Leopold II for praise. Which would be like giving credit to John Calhoun in the struggle for civil rights for Black Americans. Lumumba felt he had to respond. He said, words to the effect, “we are your monkeys no more”. (Williams, p. 31)
There can be little doubt that tensions began to build because of this exchange. Also because, in the ranks of the army, Belgians still remained in command centers. When violence broke out, Lumumba blamed it on the Belgians in the military and accused the former mother country of trying to recolonise Congo—which was accurate. As civilian Belgians tried to leave the country, Baudouin sent in troops to protect them. A week later, Tshombe announced the Katanga secession. Katanga contained about 60% of Congo's mineral wealth. Tshombe was clearly in alliance with the giant mining conglomerate Union Miniere, a Belgian/British transnational. For immediately after this announcement, the company said it would not pay its corporate taxes to the Congo capital of Leopoldville anymore. It would now pay them to Elisabethville, the capital of Katanga. (ibid, p. 33) The company also extended Tshombe a large loan. Further, Belgian advisors began to flock to Katanga as well as British mercenaries from nearby Rhodesia. Congo was going to be stillborn.
Lumumba now turned to Hammarskjold for help. The Secretary-General immediately passed UN Resolution 143. This demanded that the Belgians leave Congo and promised assistance to Lumumba until the nation was able to defend itself. Within 48 hours, there were 3,500 UN troops on the ground in Congo. Although he was now being accused of acting too late by the USSR, Hammarskjold proclaimed he would not recognise either Mobutu or Kasavubu as the leader of Congo. (Williams, p. 39) But when Lumumba was murdered, the Russians again criticised the Secretary-General for doing too little, too late.
Hammarskjold replied by passing resolution 161. There were now 15,000 UN troops in Congo, they were now allowed to use military force. The mission was to expel all foreign troops, and Parliament would be reconvened under UN protection. The Secretary-General clearly saw Congo as a defining moment for both the UN and his leadership. (ibid, p. 41)
The UN commander on the ground, Conor Cruise O'Brien, demanded Tshombe step down and Katanga rejoin Congo. To strengthen himself, Tshombe now recruited French veterans of the OAS, the terrorist group of army veterans who had split off from French president Charles de Gaulle over Algerian independence.
In the face of this, O'Brien launched two offensives into Katanga. The first was called Operation Rumpunch, and the second was named Operation Morthor. The first operation was quite successful, the second was not. About half of Elisabethville was still under Tshombe's control. (ibid, p. 49) By this time, the British premier of the African Federation—Roy Welensky— was clearly favouring Katanga, as was the Union of South Africa. Welensky, working with his colleague on African Affairs, Baron Cuthbert Alport, was also secretly supplying mercenaries from Rhodesia to Tshombe. (ibid, p. 51)
As a result of this secret policy, Welensky now shifted troops into Ndola, the main airport for Rhodesia, which was just a few miles from the border with Congo. Welensky shipped in food, supplies and arms from as far away as Australia. (ibid, p. 53) Rhetorically, Welensky went as far as to compare the UN troops in Congo to the Nazis.
This information is important. Since we are about to discuss the second high profile murder over the Congo Crisis: that of Dag Hammarskjold. Today I, and many others, call it a murder, not a suspicious death. The state of the evidence seems to me to clearly denote that this was a planned assassination. After considering some of the work of Susan Williams and others, the reader will likely agree.
Hammarskjold flew into Congo on September 13, 1961. He was surprised to hear about Operation Morthor, since he maintained he had not authorised it. While there, the Battle of Jadotville began. This was fought between a company of Irish UN troops and mercenaries employed by Tshombe. During the battle, Tshombe requested a meeting with Hammarskjold.
This was to occur on September 17th, in Ndola, a city in British controlled Rhodesia. Tshombe requested no reporters be alerted. But, Baron Alport was there. He stationed himself in the airport manager's office, right below the control tower. As previously stated, also on hand was a temporary arm of the Rhodesian Ministry of Defence set up by Welensky. Hammarskjold was to arrive aboard a DC6 piloted by a Swede. Below him, on the runway, were 18 Rhodesian planes and two American DC3's. (ibid, p. 68) In referring to the last, a Rhodesian air squadron leader told the UN Commission that there were “underhand things going on” at the airport, “with strange aircraft coming in, planes without flight plans and so on. There were American planes sitting on the airfield with engines running, likely transmitting messages.” (Lisa Pease, “Midnight in the Congo”, Probe, Vol. 6 No. 3 p. 20) Further, another witness said the American planes were full of sophisticated communications equipment. (Williams, p. 188)
Hammarskjold's flight never landed at Ndola. And there is no tape recording of the approach of the plane. But there were notes kept. According to the written record, the last message from the plane was that the pilot was descending from 16,000 to 6,000 feet. (Williams, p. 70) At this point, Ndola lost contact with the plane. Because it was around midnight, no search party was sent out. Alport made a comment that the plane must have landed elsewhere. He then suggested the control room staff retire at around 3:00 AM. Yet, there were reports being filed around this time that several witnesses had independently seen a large ball of fire go off in the sky in the nearby vicinity. (ibid, p. 72) At 7 AM, a UN plane flew into Ndola to begin a search for Hammarskjold and the 15 other lost passengers of the Albertina. The pilot was arrested upon touching down. (ibid, p. 73)
The airport manager did not return until 9 AM, three hours after dawn. The search did not start until an hour later. The wreckage of the plane was found at about 3 PM, eight miles from the airport. There was one survivor, Harold Julien. He would pass away six days later. But not before he said the plane was in flames before it hit the ground. Further, the plane was determined to be under power, and the landing gear was lowered. Although all the passengers were severely burned, Hammarskjold was not—at all. Further, in something that simply cannot be explained, there was a playing card stuffed into his ruffled tie. Although it is not possible to determine what the card is from the photos, a witness at the scene said it was the ace of spades. (Williams, p. 7) Another oddity, Alport ended up with Hammarskjold's briefcase. (ibid, p. 85) These anomalies suggest someone was at the crash scene before the official first responders arrived. As we shall see, the evidence for this is more than circumstantial.
Two of the security guards on the plane had bullets in their bodies. This was officially explained by saying that the heat of the crash had caused ammunition to explode. But a Swedish expert who had done experiments on this topic said that, even if this were so, the projectiles would not have enough force to penetrate the bodies. (See Pease, and Williams, p. 6) What makes this even more fascinating is the testimony of Major General Bjorn Egge. Egge had been the head of the UN military information mission in Congo. He had flown to the Ndola hospital, where the victims had been transported. When he saw Hammarskjold's body he noticed what appeared to be a bullet hole in his forehead. (Williams, p. 5) That hole is not apparent in the autopsy photos Williams saw. But when the photos were shown to forensic experts, two of them said it appeared the photo had been retouched at the forehead. (ibid, p. 9)
Let us now consider sole survivor Julien's crucial testimony: that the plane was in flames before it hit the ground. (Williams, p. 94) There is much evidence to corroborate this key point. Charles Southall was a Navy intelligence analyst in 1961. At the time, he was attached to the NSA base on the island of Cyprus. On the night of the crash, he was at home. His commanding officer called him and said he should come out and listen to a recorded communication intercept he had captured. This was the only time such a thing happened while he was in Cyprus, so Southall did so. He said that, on the recording, he heard a pilot say he was descending on the DC6. He then heard what he thought was the sound of a cannon firing. Then, the pilot said, “I've hit it…It's going down.” (Williams, p. 143) Someone in the office recognised the pilot's voice, and the NSA had a dossier on him. When the Swedish government reopened the case in 1992, Southall tried to communicate with them through the US State Department. But the Swedes found out about him through an independent source and he was interviewed more than once. (ibid, p. 147)
Southall's testimony is echoed by the words of Swedish flying instructor Tore Meijer. He was stationed as a flight teacher to the Ethiopian Air Force in 1961. On the night of the crash, he was listening to a short wave radio he had just bought. Therefore, he was testing various frequencies. (ibid, p. 152) He picked up a conversation that included mention of the Ndola airport. In his own words, he then described the following:
- “The voice says, he's approaching the airport, he's turning—he's levelling—where the pilot is approaching the actual landing strip. Then I hear the same voice saying, “another plane is approaching from behind, what is that?” The voice then said, “He breaks off the plan…he continues.”
Meijer said he lost the contact at this point.
The idea that another plane intercepted Hammarskjold's is corroborated by at least seven witnesses on the ground. (Pease, p. 20) For example, Dickson Buleni said he saw a smaller plane above the larger plane dropping something that looked like fire on it. (Williams, p. 117) This testimony is similar to that of Timothy Kankasa and his wife. (ibid, pp. 93, 122) But the Kankasas revealed something that may be even more interesting. They said that the crash was not initially discovered at around 3 PM on the 18th. Timothy and a few other residents of Twapia Township discovered it about six hours earlier. Further, the couple stated that this information was reported to local officials. Timothy also said he had reported it to the first investigating body from Rhodesia, but it had been edited out of his testimony. (ibid)
Again, there is independent corroboration for this earlier successful search, which punctures the 15-hour official lag time between the crash and the discovery of the plane wreckage. Colonel Charles Gaylor had been instructed by the USAF to fly to Ndola to help escort Hammarskjold to any other destination he wished to fly to as a result of his work there. Therefore, he was awaiting the landing of the Albertina that night. When Hammarskjold's plane did not land, Gaylor retired so he could wake up and begin searching for the lost plane. He found it the next morning and relayed the information to the Ndola airport. Gaylor said that the Rhodesian planes did not show up until four hours later. (ibid, p. 188)
Another witness, who also saw a second plane in the sky, built on this disturbing indication of a deliberate and immediately enacted cover up as to the discovery of the wreckage. He saw two Land Rover type vehicles rushing at high speed toward the scene within an hour of the crash. (See Pease, “Midnight in the Congo”, p. 20) He and another witness then saw the vehicles return after they saw and heard a large fireball explosion. (Williams, p. 105)
One should note in regards to this testimony: when studying the photos of the wreckage of the Albertina, it certainly does not look like the plane simply crashed. Because the damage is just too extensive. It does appear that there was at least one explosion. But further, there do not seem to be any photos taken of Hammarskjold in situ. (Williams, pp. 13, 111) Because of this lack, because of the delay in the “discovery”, because of the testimony of Bjorn Egge about a bullet hole in Dag's forehead, because of the experts who detected signs of tampering with the photos, because of the lack of any burns, because of all this, some have suggested that Hammarskjold may have survived the crash. And I should add one more point on this issue. Williams could not find any official autopsy reports. There are only summaries and conclusions. (p. 8)
From just this brief précis of the evidence, the reader can see that the original story, which said the crash was due to pilot error, is simply not credible today. The evidence indicates that Hammarskjold's plane was sabotaged. A cover up, which seems pre-planned, then ensued. The motive — as with Lumumba's murder — was to make sure that Congo would not be an independent country. One in which the citizenry would be able to enjoy the fruits of its own prodigal resources. Which is what Lumumba had promised his followers during his campaign. With both Lumumba and Hammarskjold done away with, that aim now seemed unattainable.
As Susan Williams writes in her book, John Kennedy was an unflinching admirer of Hammarskjold. After his death, Kennedy summoned one of his assistants into the oval office. The president told Sture Linner that, compared to Hammarskjold, he was a small man. Because, in his view, Dag Hammarskjold was the greatest statesman of the 20th century. (p. 239)
When Kennedy came into office, one of the reversals he made of President Eisenhower's foreign policy was in Congo. He had tried to make the issue of the rising tide of African nationalism part of the 1960 campaign. For he attempted to differentiate himself from his opponent Richard Nixon on the point. (See Philip Muehlenbeck, Betting on the Africans, pp. 37-41) This was a legitimate point of difference. At a National Security Council meeting, the vice-president once claimed that “some of the people of Africa have been out of the trees for only about fifty years.” Budget Director Maurice Stans replied that he “had the impression that many Africans still belonged in trees.” (ibid, p. 6) Kennedy did not at all share in this view. From at least 1957, with his powerful Senate speech on the French/Algerian crisis, Kennedy had become a staunch advocate of favouring African nationalism and liberation over the concerns of our European colonialist allies. (ibid, p. 36) For in that speech he actually stated that a true ally of France would not have done what Eisenhower and Nixon had with Algeria. Which was to either remain silent on the conflict, or even supply France with weapons. A true friend would have pointed out the folly of the colonial struggle. And then escorted France to the bargaining table to foster her exit from a hopeless and expensive civil war. (The full text of this visionary speech is in the book The Strategy of Peace, edited by Allan Nevins, pp. 66-80)
When Kennedy was inaugurated, he immediately enacted policies to carry out these differing views on Africa. As Muehlenbeck demonstrates, he did so on a number of different fronts. But the policy reversal that was done fastest was in Congo. Which he requested his first week in office. And which he approved on February 2nd. (See “Dodd and Dulles vs. Kennedy in Africa,” by James DiEugenio, Probe, Vol. 6 No. 2, p. 21) Upon hearing of this, Ambassador Timberlake sent word to Allen Dulles that Kennedy was breaking with Eisenhower, and his new program was more or less a sell-out to the Russians. When Hammarskjold got wind of the reversal, he told Dayal that they could soon expect an organised backlash to Kennedy's reformist policy. Which, in large part, backed Lumumba—not realising he was dead—and was open to negotiations with Russia over a militarily neutralised Congo. Kennedy also opposed the secession of Katanga and was willing to cooperate with the UN in an attempt to keep Congo free and independent.
In other words, for all intents and purposes, Kennedy agreed with the outlines of what Hammarskjold was doing. To make the distinction clear, he recalled Timberlake. (ibid, p. 22) Then, in September, Hammarskjold was killed.
At this point two remarkable things occurred in the immense Congo struggle. First, former President Harry Truman made a stunning comment. He said, “Dag Hammarskjold was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said, 'When they killed him'.” (Williams, p. 232) Author Greg Poulgrain later shed some light on the origins of this surprising comment. He interviewed Hammarskjold's close friend and colleague at the UN, George Ivan Smith. It turns out that Hammarskjold and Kennedy were cooperating, not just on Congo, but on the problem of the Dutch occupation of West Irian, which Indonesian leader Ahmed Sukarno felt should be part of Indonesia. (Poulgrain, The Incubus of Intervention, pp. 77-78) Smith also added that Kennedy had let Harry Truman know about these discussions. Which seems logical, since Truman was the only previous Democratic president still alive.
The second remarkable development was that Kennedy decided to soldier on with what Hammarskjold had begun in the Congo. In other words, by himself, he was going to oppose the imperialist forces of England, France, and Belgium. Which all desired to split Katanga away from Congo. And then make both states pawns for European multinational corporations. There can be very little doubt that this was Kennedy's aim. Why? Because, after Hammarskjold's demise, he went to the UN to pay tribute to his legacy. He then appointed Edmund Gullion as his ambassador to Congo.
Anyone who knows anything about Kennedy will realise, it was Gullion who first altered JFK's consciousness on the subject of the appeal of communism in the Third World. This occurred on Senator Kennedy's visit to Saigon in 1951. JFK never forgot the prediction that Gullion made at that time. Namely that France would not win the war in Indochina. When Kennedy gained the White House, he brought Gullion in as an advisor on colonial matters. And now he sent him to Leopoldville to attempt to compensate for the loss of Hammarskjold. As Richard Mahoney wrote, this indicated just how important Kennedy thought the Congo was. Because no ambassador in the entire administration had more secure access to the oval office than Gullion. (Mahoney, JFK: Ordeal in Africa, p. 108) Kennedy then went further. He made George Ball his special advisor on Congo inside the White House. Ball later became famous as the one man willing to argue against President Johnson during his disastrous escalation of the Vietnam War. But even in 1961 Ball had a reputation as something of a maverick on foreign policy.
Addressing the UN General Assembly at the memorial for Hammarskjold, Kennedy said, “Let us here resolve that Dag Hammarskjold did not live or die in vain.” He backed this up by having his UN delegation vote for a use of force resolution to deport the mercenaries and advisory personnel out of Katanga. (DiEugenio, p. 23) In doing so, Kennedy was militarily moving against his formal allies, the British, French and Belgians. For those nations were all paying lip service to the UN forces. But not so clandestinely, they were undermining the mission. Therefore, Kennedy was not just honouring Hammarskjold rhetorically. He was continuing his policies—and pushing the UN into following him. In fact, when hostilities broke out in Katanga with Tshombe trying to block highways used by UN troops, Kennedy told the new UN leader U Thant, who was wavering on the commitment, not to worry at all about European reaction. He would take care of that. He then said in public, these leaders should spend less time criticising the UN and more time convincing Tshombe to negotiate a truce with the new leader of Congo, Cyrille Adoula. (Mahoney, p. 117)
Kennedy also had to deal with the big guns of the mainstream media who seemed to favour Tshombe. That is: Time magazine, who put him on their cover; William F. Buckley, who (incredibly) compared Katanga's secession to the Hungarian uprising of 1956; and Sen. Thomas Dodd, who actually visited Tshombe in Katanga to show his support. In the face of this, Kennedy decided to use economic warfare. He told the representatives of the giant Union Miniere mining corporation that unless they significantly cut their monthly stipend to Tshombe, he would unleash a terrific attack on Katanga, and then turn over the company's assets to Adoula. This achieved its aim. The stipend was significantly reduced. (DiEugenio, p. 24)
Kennedy then brought Adoula to New York. In his address to the United Nations, the African leader criticised Belgium and praised Congo's national hero, Patrice Lumumba. (Mahoney, p. 134) In reaction, Tshombe's supporters then wanted to bring him to the USA to counter this appearance. Gullion argued against it. He suggested denying Tshombe a visa on the basis that he was not a real representative of Congo. Kennedy listened to arguments for and against the denial. He then sided with Gullion and denied the visa. (DiEugenio, p. 24)
On the day before Christmas of 1962, Katangese troops fired on a UN helicopter and outpost. Kennedy had previously forced the issue on his White House staff by demanding a unanimous vote to back the military invasion of Katanga. George Ball, who was holding out for more negotiations, came over to the Kennedy/Gullion side. So now the USA fully backed Operation Grand Slam, the UN attempt to finally take Elisabethville, capital of Katanga. By January 22, 1963 Grand Slam had succeeded on all fronts. Tshombe, predictably, fled to Rhodesia. As Adlai Stevenson, Kennedy's representative to the United Nations wrote, it was that body's finest hour.
The UN had never before done what Hammarskjold had committed it to in Congo. That is, send a large military force into an independent nation to put down an internal civil war. But Hammarskjold had done so at Lumumba's request. Both men had been murdered over that struggle. With Hammarskjold gone, the United Nations did not want to stay after Grand Slam was completed. In fact, it's an open question if Grand Slam would have been launched without Kennedy's visit to the UN the year before. But because of the expense, controversy, and length of the expedition, the UN leadership wanted to leave Congo in 1963. Even with Adoula's position precarious and the Congolese army a rather unreliable force. Again, Kennedy took it upon himself to go to New York. On September 20, 1963 Kennedy addressed the UN General Assembly on this very subject. He said he understood how a project like this would lose its attraction after its initial goals were met. Because then the bills would come due. But he urged the UN to do what it could to preserve the gains they had made. He also asked that they do all in their power to maintain Congo as an independent nation in its fragile state. He concluded the UN should complete what Hammarskjold had begun.
Kennedy's speech turned around the consensus opinion to depart. The UN voted to keep the peacekeeping mission there. But later in 1963, things began to unravel. Kasavubu decided to disband Parliament. This ignited a leftist rebellion from Stanleyville. There was an assassination attempt on Mobutu. With this, Mobutu, already a darling of the CIA, now became the Pentagon's poster boy at Fort Benning.
After Kennedy's murder, President Johnson sided with the CIA and the Fort Benning crowd. As the Stanleyville rebellion picked up steam, the CIA now descended on the American embassy and took it over. It became the base for an air operation run by Cuban exile pilots. Incredibly, Belgium now became an ally of the USA. Tshombe was asked back to Congo by Mobutu. Tshombe immediately found a treasure trove of Chinese documents and a defector who now said China was behind the leftist rebellion. (Kwitny, p. 79) Needless to say, within 18 months, Johnson and the CIA had reversed the Kennedy/Hammarskjold program. Adoula and Kasavubu were dismissed or forced out; Gullion left. In 1966 Mobutu installed himself as military dictator. The riches of the Congo were now mined by the European forces Lumumba asked Hammarskjold to remove. Like Suharto in Indonesia, Mobutu became one of the richest men in the world. His holdings in Belgian real estate alone topped 100 million dollars. (Kwitny, p. 87) Like Suharto, he reigned for three decades. And like the Indonesia dictator, when he fell, he left his country in a destabilised, anarchic state with poverty predominating. In other words, where they were at the beginning.
One of the most fascinating revelations in Greg Poulgrain's The Incubus of Intervention was this: In addition to JFK working with the Secretary-General Hammarskjold on Congo, the two were also working on a design for Indonesia. (Poulgrain, p.77) They were planning on a solution to the West Irian problem. Which was part of the former Dutch Empire that the Netherlands did not want to let go. Probably because of the great mineral wealth there, which likely even surpassed that of Katanga. Further, the two men were also working on a plan to aid countries coming out of colonialism. This was called OPEX. This was a UN group that would send professionals of all kinds into these areas to aid their development. Not as advisors, but as servants of the new country. This is the plan Hammarskjold had in mind for West Irian. In their original concept, Hammarskjold would play the lead role in both Congo and Indonesia, with Kennedy supporting him. With the Secretary-General's 1961 murder, Kennedy had to soldier through both situations himself. He was doing a fairly good job, until he too was assassinated. In fact, he had planned on a state visit to Jakarta in 1964, a first for an American president.
As one can see from this discussion, and also Poulgrain's book, Kennedy's policies were reversed in both countries shortly after his murder. (See again the above-cited review; also, this interview with the author) The results were horrendous for the citizens of both countries. For when Mobutu and Suharto took over, any idea of having the prodigal natural resources of both states aid in fostering its citizenry was lost. Because of the two overthrows, Lumumba and Sukarno did not funnel the money into improvements for the daily lives of their citizens, through building infrastructure, energy sources, hospitals, primary and secondary schools etc. Instead it went to the shareholders of the exploiting companies and into the pockets of Mobutu and Suharto.
As Jonathan Kwitny has noted, Congo could have been a sterling example of a nation crippled by colonialism, now being set free. And aided by the USA, allowed to grow and nurture, and thereby be a model—for not just Africa—but the rest of the world. That is what Hammarskjold and Kennedy had hoped for. Just as they had imagined for Sukarno and Indonesia. Instead, something contrary to that occurred. Or as Kwitny wrote:
- "The democratic experiment had no example in Africa, and badly needed one. So perhaps the sorriest, and the most unnecessary, blight on the record of this new era, is that the precedent for it all, the very first coup in post-colonial African history, the very first political assassination, and the very first junking of a legally constituted democratic system, all took place in a major country, and were all instigated by the United States of America." (Kwitny, p. 75)
Kennedy and Hammarskjold understood this moral and practical quandary. It was not until recently that the importance of the Hammarskjold/Kennedy relationship has been highlighted. I and others have also tried to show that Kennedy's foreign policy should be seen not just as a series of individual instances, but in the gestalt. That is, as part of an overall pattern. Largely because of his sensitivity to these Third World issues — which was not at all the case with Eisenhower, Johnson and Nixon. But this gestalt concept has been very late in arriving. Because the cover up about the facts of Kennedy's real foreign policy has been more stringent and assiduous than the cover up about the facts of his assassination.
Too often we think of that foreign policy in terms of just Cuba and Vietnam. As seen above, that view foreshortens history. It's the way the other side wants us to see Kennedy — a view without Hammarskjold. Constricted by this deliberate obstruction, we fail to see who Kennedy really was. Not only does that foreshortened view cheat history, it cheats Kennedy — and helps conceal the secrets of his assassination.
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