1975, Angola:  Mercenaries, Murder and Corruption

By John Stockwell, former chief, CIA task force in Angola; author, In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story (1997).  Stockwell was posted in Ivory Coast (1966-1967), Zaire (1967-1969), Burundi (1969-1972), Vietnam (1973-1975) and Angola (1975-1976).


In 1974, when the Portuguese army rebelled in a coup, the former colony of Angola, was granted its freedom.  The superpowers quickly chose sides between factions.  The U.S. maintained its support for Holden Roberto and the Front for the National Liberation of Angola (FNLA).  Roberto was close to Zairian President Mobutu, whom the CIA had installed in 1960.  The Soviet Union sided with the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).  The National Union for the Independence of Angola (UNITA) initially received aid from China, North Korea and South Africa.

      In early 1975, leaders of these movements signed an accord and agreed to hold elections.  Within a week, the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) allocated $300,000 to the FNLA's political campaign.  The CIA station chief in Kinshasa urged the FNLA to move into Angola.  They went in and killed a team of MPLA organizers thus sabotaging the accord.

      The factions scrambled to organize, obtain arms and establish control over territory.  The MPLA soon controlled 13 of 15 provinces.  The NSC, dominated by Henry Kissinger, demanded an outline of possible CIA options.  This was three months after the decisive end of the Vietnam War.

      The option of staying out of the conflict and letting Angola make its own way toward independence, was not discussed.  The U.S. Consul General in Angola, Tom Killoran - the only senior American diplomat who had worked with all three movements - believed the MPLA was the best organized, the most likely to prevail and the friendliest to U.S. interests.  Kissinger authorized $14 million to support the FNLA militarily and the CIA quickly mobilized to fight the MPLA.

      Just returned from the evacuation of Saigon, I put together the CIA's task force and manage the secret war under the supervision of the CIA's Africa Division chief and the NSC's Interagency Working Group on Angola.  The FNLA forces numbered a hundredth of what Roberto had claimed.  We decided to co-opt Savimbi and UNITA into our program.

      Throughout the fall of 1975, arms were jammed into Angola, mercenaries were hired, battles were fought and thousands were killed and wounded.  The U.S. actively discouraged UN and other formal efforts to mediate.  Our budget eventually totalled $31.7 million, much of which was siphoned off into corruption. 

      By winter, the program was thoroughly exposed and Congress ordered an end to it.  Our forces were routed and the MPLA controlled all the provinces.  We had given Savimbi the wherewithal to keep the Benguela Railroad closed, which was our client-state Zaire's only economically viable egress to the sea for its copper.

      Our lies to Congress, covering up what we had done, amounted to perjury and we could have been prosecuted.  We allied the U.S. with South Africa in military activities, which was illegal and impolitic.  We delivered white mercenaries to Angola to kill blacks as a way of imposing our policies.  We poisoned missionary efforts to run schools and hospitals.  We, not the "communists," interfered with U.S. commercial interests.  We withdrew Boeing Aircraft's licenses to sell jetliners to Angola and we blackmailed Gulf Oil into putting $100 million in escrow instead of the Bank of Angola. 

      Gulf Oil and Boeing were inconvenienced by the CIA's secret war.  Boeing's president protested but we turned him around.  He sent a letter, that we drafted, to Angola's new government, warning them that crossing the U.S. (secret) government meant losing access to U.S. technology.

      In sum, we severely damaged U.S. national security interests and nailed our own country with another defeat on the heels of Vietnam.

      In one of the classic, ironic follies of intelligence charades, Gulf Oil returned immediately to resume pumping Angolan oil - protected by Cuban soldiers - from CIA mercenaries who were still marauding and destabilizing the countryside. 

      The Angola tragedy did not end with the CIA's defeat in 1976.  Under President Reagan, congressional restraints were lifted and the CIA resumed support for UNITA.  The continued destabilization has taken a horrendous toll.  The Red Cross counts over 20,000 walking-maimed in Angola.  Central Angola, once its bread basket, is now a famine zone.


Source: From The Praetorian Guard: The U.S. Role in the New World Order, May 1991.  South End Press



Jonas Savimbi  (1934 - )


 Source: From Chris Simpson, BBC News, Feb. 1, 1999 newsvote.bbc.co.uk