I just finished watching the 2000 film, Lumumba. Devastated is the word I want to use to describe how I feel about the events depicted in it. I’ll easily concede that Lumumba made a wide range of political mistakes when he became PM of the Democratic Republic of Congo back in 1960… but there were forces trying to strangle Congo in its crib, and they were the ones that took down Lumumba.
They took down a whole host of other people, including UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. I don’t care that nobody can prove it. It’s obvious that it happened, and it needs to be said: the people behind the Katanga secession were the ones that killed Dag Hammarskjöld just as surely as they killed Patrice Lumumba.
The problem with this situation is that it involves words like Hammarskjöld, Lumumba, and Katanga. It’s a shame, but in this age of Twitter, we’ve lost our ability to concentrate for more than three syllables. This situation won’t be helped by my mentioning Carlucci, Mobutu Sese Seko, or Union Minière du Haut Katanga. So let me start somewhere that’ll grab your attention and won’t let go:
As in, that mining company I mentioned in the part of Congo that broke away was the company that sold the uranium to the USA that made the first atomic bombs. And now you know why the CIA was so very interested in the Congo back in 1960. The head of the CIA operation in Congo was one Frank Carlucci, as in the same Frank Carlucci that later served as Secretary of Defense under Reagan and also as chairman of the Carlyle Group and is the former head of Wackenhut. Carlucci swears he had nothing to do with the murder of Patrice Lumumba, by the way.
Investigations into Lumumba’s murder, however, link it to that mining company, the rebel government of Katanga, and the Belgian-British interests behind the mining company. The investigations also point squarely at the CIA as having aided and abetted the murder of Lumumba. Carlucci was running the CIA show in Congo, but he swears he had nothing to do with Lumumba’s murder.
So why do I mention his name? It’s because when I was watching the film, there’s a scene where the Congo government, with foreign observers sitting in, votes to have Lumumba killed. At the end of the vote, one of the ministers turns to a white guy that speaks with an American accent and asks, “Mr. BLEEEEP, do you want to cast your vote?” In the credits, there’s one actor credited with a role, but the name of the individual he portrayed is blacked out.
What Carlucci can’t bleep out is that when the PM after Lumumba met with JFK, the first thing he asked was, “Ou est Carlucci?” Kennedy had no clue who Carlucci was and why the recently-installed Prime Minister of the DRC would want to see him. Technically, I can’t accuse Carlucci of having been the agent of the US government that enabled powerful mining interests to subvert democracy in a brand-new African state and murder its elected officials. It would be improper for me to suggest that Carlucci’s actions led to bloodstains on America’s honor. I could be sued if I were to state that Carlucci did something so horrible all in the interests of securing the US uranium supply and not letting it fall into the hands of the Russkies, in spite of the fact that Lumumba had first turned to the US to help his country out.
Congo is a terrible mess, by all accounts. Yes, yes, there are good people there doing good things, et cetera, but it’s still a hellhole, thanks to the subversion of its democracy back in the 60’s, the US-sponsored dictatorship of Mobutu, and the lack of assistance to that nation when it went into freefall in the 90’s.
The film itself is outstanding. It’s not rated by the MPAA, so I’ll give a breakdown on it: very light profanity, just one bad word, really… but it’s got a big ol’ body count. The biggest likely objection to it will come from people that think it portrays the US unfairly. I’ve been a student of the history there for some time, though, and I’m sad to report that it is quite fair in its depiction of US involvement. Just because the USA is a free nation does not mean it is immune from wicked people abusing power and having it vault their successful careers.
The illegal actions of the Belgians, British, and USA all served to keep Congo’s mineral wealth from being nationalized and that meant the profits continued to flow into Belgian, British, and US hands. Dag Hammarskjöld was en route to Katanga to try and get it to settle peacefully with the rest of Congo: Harry Truman was quick to point out that Hammarskjöld had been murdered, and that his plane going down was no accident. The UN Secretary-General was getting too close to the truth, and the money men involved obviously had to have him killed.
And so the money kept flowing… when Mobutu took over in 1965, thanks to more CIA involvement, he found a way to reward his friends and punish his enemies, all the while stealing foreign aid for his own benefit. The US helped him to keep crushing his rivals at home, making our nation in no small part responsible for the political vacuum that sucked half of Africa into its maelstrom when the Cold War ended and we quit propping up Mobutu.
Of course, Mr. Carlucci insists he’s innocent of the murder of Patrice Lumumba. He’s got the censored film to back up his point. All I have to ask is this: if he was running the CIA mission in the Congo at the time, and the CIA was involved in the events surrounding the murder of Lumumba, what was Carlucci doing? Is this another case of being stupid if he didn’t know, and dishonest if he did? That’s all too common in US foreign policy. In the case of the Mossadegh coup in Iran, the CIA chief there was intimately involved and later couped Arbenz in Honduras. So why wasn’t the CIA guy behind Lumumba’s death? Who dropped the ball on that one?
Or maybe, just maybe, Mr. Carlucci might be involved in a doubleplusungood untruth.
See ya at the Memory Hole, Frank!