CIA schemes, Washington intrigue explored in riveting new US-Congo histories
Zagorin's article is very interesting. As he points out, what Devlin did in the Congo by getting rid of a potential Communist threat to penetrate the "Third World" was typical of American foreign policy back then. We were willing to tolerate right wing dictators if the tradeoff was holding off the Communists.
In 1954, Eisenhower put General Doolittle in charge of the Commission on the Covert Activities of the CIA. He concluded, in reference to the Communist threat: "It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and at whatever
cost. There are no rules in such a game. If the US is to survive, long standing concepts of "fair play" must be reconsidered."
As opposed to risking direct confrontation with the Soviet Union, Eisenhower was content to allow foreign policy to be run by the Dulles brothers: John Foster as Secretary of State, and Allen as Director of Central Intelligence. Interfering in the affairs of countries like the Congo, Iran, and Guatemala met with the President's approval. JFK also turned out to be a committed advocate of a similar policy.
And Congress didn't really want to know the details of CIA operations. As pointed out in James Risen's recent book, "The Last Honest Man", Senator Church's investigation of the Intelligence Community was the first serious look ever taken behind the curtain of secrecy. It took Vietnam and a somewhat different view of anti-Communist intervention to pull the curtain aside.
I met Devlin when he was Chief/Africa Division. I think most of my contemporaries at the CIA were convinced that Devlin wanted us to think that he was responsible for getting rid of Lumumba. Containing Communism was the way we looked at the world. Devlin pushed those of us who worked for him as case officers in AF Division to work the streets and recruit agents who would advise us of potential Communist threats in that part of the world. And to help the United States neutralize those threats, as Mobutu did in the Congo. Any dirty details weren't really important.
Some of those threats had direct impact on the CIA and our personnel in the Congo. In 1964, Simba rebels occupied the city then known as Stanleyville, eventually holding those who worked at the US Consulate hostage. One of them was David Grinwis. A few years later, he was my boss as deputy chief of the branch in AF Division to which I was assigned. He narrowly escaped death when the Simbas opened fire on hostages being held in a compound when they learned that Belgian paratroopers were approaching to rescue the hostages. Grinwis went over a wall successfully. A missionary trying the same thing was shot and killed. David Reed's book, "111 Days in Stanleyville", tells that story in some detail.
Crises involving hostages seemed to be one of many problems from which the Congo suffered. Many years later, when another rebel group took hostages in the city of Kolwezi, it looked as if American paratroopers might get involved in a similar mission. The 82d Airborne was placed on alert. But French Foreign Legion paratroopers ended up being the rescuers in that case.
Devlin was a key player for a long time, and right from the start of Congolese independence.
ex-CIA Colonel (retired), Military Intelligence, US Army Reserve
More than half a century ago, a friend of mine, who was in the Congo with our government, but not the CIA, at the time of Lumumba's death, told me much the same story about the death itself. This doesn't alter the CIA's complicity in the affair or the wide-spread belief that the CIA pulled the trigger. The Soviets were quick to exploit the situation in their propaganda, of course.
A good read, and an important reminder that much continues to happen in Africa and the Global South while most of us are focused on Gaza, Ukraine, and China. Learned a lot.