Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 / Edition 1

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Overview

This is a compelling and dramatic account of Cuban policy in Africa from 1959 to 1976 and of its escalating clash with U.S. policy toward the continent. Piero Gleijeses's fast-paced narrative takes the reader from Cuba's first steps to assist Algerian rebels fighting France in 1961, to the secret war between Havana and Washington in Zaire in 1964-65--where 100 Cubans led by Che Guevara clashed with 1,000 mercenaries controlled by the CIA--and, finally, to the dramatic dispatch of 30,000 Cubans to Angola in 1975-76, which stopped the South African advance on Luanda and doomed Henry Kissinger's major covert operation there.

Based on unprecedented archival research and firsthand interviews in virtually all of the countries involved--Gleijeses was even able to gain extensive access to closed Cuban archives--this comprehensive and balanced work sheds new light on U.S. foreign policy and CIA covert operations. It revolutionizes our view of Cuba's international role, challenges conventional U.S. beliefs about the influence of the Soviet Union in directing Cuba's actions in Africa, and provides, for the first time ever, a look from the inside at Cuba's foreign policy during the Cold War.

copy for pb reprint --
"Fascinating . . . and often downright entertaining. . . . Gleijeses recounts the Cuban story with considerable flair, taking good advantage of rich material."--Washington Post Book World

"Gleijeses's research . . . bluntly contradicts the Congressional testimony of the era and the memoirs of Henry A. Kissinger. . . . After reviewing Dr. Gleijeses's work, several former senior United States diplomats who were involved in making policy toward Angola broadly endorsed its conclusions."--New York Times

"With the publication of Conflicting Missions, Piero Gleijeses establishes his reputation as the most impressive historian of the Cold War in the Third World. Drawing on previously unavailable Cuban and African as well as American sources, he tells a story that's full of fresh and surprising information. And best of all, he does this with a remarkable sensitivity to the perspectives of the protagonists. This book will become an instant classic."--John Lewis Gaddis, author of We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History

Based on unprecedented research in Cuban, American, and European archives, this is the compelling story of Cuban policy in Africa from 1959 to 1976 and of its escalating clash with U.S. policy toward the continent. Piero Gleijeses sheds new light on U.S. foreign policy and CIA covert operations, revolutionizes our view of Cuba's international role, and provides the first look from the inside at Cuba's foreign policy during the Cold War.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Probably the most comprehensive, well researched work on the role of Cubans in the liberation wars in South Africa."--Dissident Voice
John Lewis Gaddis
Drawing on previously unavailable Cuban and African as well as American sources, the author tells a story that's full of fresh and surprising information.
Michael H. Hunt
This breakthrough work confirms Piero Gleijeses's reputation as a master practitioner of international history.
Melvyn P. Leffler
This book is indispensable for understanding international relations in the 1960s and 1970s.
Los Angeles Times
Gleijeses brilliantly describes those deceits and disguises, with all their accompanying blood and guts and glory. Over the 10 years it took him to research this book, Gleijeses seemingly tracked down every lead, every participant, every document on all sides of the conflicts. His book is a necessary corrective to past misinterpretations of how and why the Cubans intervened in Africa. . . . A fascinating account of Cuban involvement in Africa.
New York Times
Gleijeses's research . . . bluntly contradicts the Congressional testimony of the era and the memoirs of Henry A. Kissinger. . . . [This] book strongly challenges common perceptions of Cuban behavior in Africa. . . . After reviewing Dr. Gleijeses's work, several former senior United States diplomats who were involved in making policy toward Angola broadly endorsed its conclusions.
Washington Post Book World
Conflicting Missions . . . is fascinating . . . and often downright entertaining. . . . Gleijeses recounts the Cuban story with considerable flair, taking good advantage of rich material. The cast of characters all by itself would ignite lively conversations among Africa hands and students of U.S. policy in the developing world. . . . Rich and provocative.
Economist
Admirable . . . A racy tale of revolutionary romance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807854648
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 2/24/2003
  • Series: Envisioning Cuba Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 987,696
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Piero Gleijeses is professor of American foreign policy at the School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. He is author of Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944-1954.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Castro's Cuba, 1959-1964

The United States did not hesitate to recognize the government established by Fidel Castro. On January 7, 1959, just six days after Fulgencio Batista had fled Cuba, the Eisenhower administration extended the hand of friendship to the victorious guerrillas. To signal its goodwill, the State Department replaced the ambassador to Cuba, Earl Smith, a wealthy political appointee who had been close to Batista, with Philip Bonsal, a career diplomat known to work well with left-of-center governments. Within a year, however, Eisenhower had decided that Castro had to go.

It was not Castro's record on human rights and political democracy that bothered Eisenhower. As historian Stephen Rabe has noted, "During much of the decade [1950s], U.S. officials were busy hugging and bestowing medals on sordid, often ruthless [Latin American] tyrants." U.S. presidents—even Woodrow Wilson, his rhetoric notwithstanding—had consistently maintained good relations with the worst dictators of the hemisphere, so long as they accepted U.S. hegemony.[1]

Castro, however, was not willing to bow to the United States. "He is clearly a strong personality and a born leader of great personal courage and conviction," U.S. officials noted in April 1959. "He is inspired by a messianic sense of mission to aid his people," a National Intelligence Estimate reported two months later. Even though he did not have a clear blueprint of the Cuba he wanted to create, Castro dreamed of a sweeping revolution that would uproot his country's oppressive socioeconomic structure. He dreamed of a Cuba that would be free of the United States.[2]

The Burden of the Past

It was President Thomas Jefferson who first cast his gaze toward Cuba, strategically situated and rich in sugar and slaves. In 1809 he counseled his successor, James Madison, to propose a deal to Napoleon, who had occupied Spain: the United States would give France a free hand in Spanish America, if France would give Cuba to the United States. "That would be a price," he wrote, "and I would immediately erect a column on the southernmost limit of Cuba, and inscribe on it a ne plus ultra as to us in that direction."[3]

England, however, had made it clear that it would not tolerate Cuba's annexation to the United States, and the Royal Navy dominated the waves. The United States would have to wait until the fruit was ripe, but time was in America's favor. In John Quincy Adams's words, "there are laws of political as well as of physical gravitation; and if an apple severed by the tempest from its native tree cannot choose but fall to the ground, Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain and incapable of self-support, can gravitate only towards the North American Union, which by the same law of nature cannot cast her off from its bosom."[4]

Through the administrations of Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Adams, U.S. officials opposed the liberation of Cuba because they feared it would create an opportunity for other powers, particularly England, or lead to a successful slave revolt on the island, or, at a minimum, establish a republic that abolished slavery and promoted equal rights for blacks and whites. The fruit would never have ripened, because such a Cuba would have bitterly resisted annexation to Jeffersonian America, where the blacks were slaves or outcasts.

Cuba became the "ever faithful island"—a rich Spanish colony dotted with great landed estates worked by a mass of black slaves. A ten-year war of independence, which erupted in 1868, failed to dislodge the Spanish. But in 1895 Jose Marti raised again the standard of revolt. He wanted independence and reform, and he was deeply suspicious of the United States. "What I have done, and shall continue to do," he wrote in May 1895, "is to . . . block with our blood . . . the annexation of the peoples of our America to the turbulent and brutal North that despises them. . . . I lived in the monster [the United States], and know its entrails—and my sling is that of David's."[5]

In 1898, as the Cuban revolt entered its fourth year, the United States joined the war, ostensibly to free Cuba. After Spain surrendered, Washington forced the Platt amendment on the Cubans. The amendment granted the United States the right to intervene and to have naval bases on Cuban soil. (Even today, the Platt amendment lives, with the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo.) Cuba became, more than any other Latin American country, in Tad Szulc's words, "an American fiefdom."[6] And when a group of men who were determined to bring about social reform and national independence finally seized power in Cuba in September 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt refused to recognize their new government and urged the Cuban army to seize power. And so it did, and the era of Batista began.

When Fidel Castro began fighting against Batista in 1956, the United States supplied arms to the dictator. Castro took note. In a letter of June 5, 1958, he wrote: "The Americans are going to pay dearly for what they're doing. When this war is over, I'll start a much longer and bigger war of my own: the war I'm going to fight against them. That will be my true destiny."[7]

Many of the opponents of Batista's regime wanted to accommodate the United States, either because they admired its culture or had a fatalistic respect for its power. Castro, on the other hand, represented the views of those anti-Batista youths who were repulsed by Washington's domination and paternalism. This, however, baffled Eisenhower and most Americans, who believed that America had always been the Cubans' truest friend, fighting Spain in 1898 to give them their independence. "Here is a country that you would believe, on the basis of our history, would be one of our real friends," Eisenhower marveled. As American historian Nancy Mitchell has pointed out, "Our selective recall not only serves a purpose; it also has repercussions. It creates a chasm between us and the Cubans: we share a past, but we have no shared memories."[8]

Read the complete chapter.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Note on Citations
Abbreviations
Prologue
Chapter 1. Castro's Cuba, 1959-1964
Chapter 2. Cuba's First Venture in Africa: Algeria
Chapter 3. Flee! The White Giants Are Coming!
Chapter 4. Castro Turns to Central Africa
Chapter 5. Che in Zaire
Chapter 6. A Successful Covert Operation
Chapter 7. American Victory
Chapter 8. Cubans in the Congo
Chapter 9. Guerrillas in Guinea-Bissau
Chapter 10. Castro's Cuba, 1965-1975
Chapter 11. The Collapse of the Portuguese Empire
Chapter 12. The Gathering Storm: Angola, January-October 1975
Chapter 13. South Africa's Friends
Chapter 14. Pretoria Meets Havana
Chapter 15. Cuban Victory
Chapter 16. Repercussions
Chapter 17. Looking Back
Appendix
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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First Chapter

Chapter 1
Castro's Cuba, 1959-1964

The United States did not hesitate to recognize the government established by Fidel Castro. On January 7, 1959, just six days after Fulgencio Batista had fled Cuba, the Eisenhower administration extended the hand of friendship to the victorious guerrillas. To signal its goodwill, the State Department replaced the ambassador to Cuba, Earl Smith, a wealthy political appointee who had been close to Batista, with Philip Bonsal, a career diplomat known to work well with left-of-center governments. Within a year, however, Eisenhower had decided that Castro had to go.

It was not Castro's record on human rights and political democracy that bothered Eisenhower. As historian Stephen Rabe has noted, "During much of the decade [1950s], U.S. officials were busy hugging and bestowing medals on sordid, often ruthless [Latin American] tyrants." U.S. presidents--even Woodrow Wilson, his rhetoric notwithstanding--had consistently maintained good relations with the worst dictators of the hemisphere, so long as they accepted U.S. hegemony.[1]

Castro, however, was not willing to bow to the United States. "He is clearly a strong personality and a born leader of great personal courage and conviction," U.S. officials noted in April 1959. "He is inspired by a messianic sense of mission to aid his people," a National Intelligence Estimate reported two months later. Even though he did not have a clear blueprint of the Cuba he wanted to create, Castro dreamed of a sweeping revolution that would uproot his country's oppressive socioeconomic structure. He dreamed of a Cuba that would be free of the United States.[2]

The Burden of the Past

It was President Thomas Jefferson who first cast his gaze toward Cuba, strategically situated and rich in sugar and slaves. In 1809 he counseled his successor, James Madison, to propose a deal to Napoleon, who had occupied Spain: the United States would give France a free hand in Spanish America, if France would give Cuba to the United States. "That would be a price," he wrote, "and I would immediately erect a column on the southernmost limit of Cuba, and inscribe on it a ne plus ultra as to us in that direction."[3]

England, however, had made it clear that it would not tolerate Cuba's annexation to the United States, and the Royal Navy dominated the waves. The United States would have to wait until the fruit was ripe, but time was in America's favor. In John Quincy Adams's words, "there are laws of political as well as of physical gravitation; and if an apple severed by the tempest from its native tree cannot choose but fall to the ground, Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain and incapable of self-support, can gravitate only towards the North American Union, which by the same law of nature cannot cast her off from its bosom."[4]

Through the administrations of Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Adams, U.S. officials opposed the liberation of Cuba because they feared it would create an opportunity for other powers, particularly England, or lead to a successful slave revolt on the island, or, at a minimum, establish a republic that abolished slavery and promoted equal rights for blacks and whites. The fruit would never have ripened, because such a Cuba would have bitterly resisted annexation to Jeffersonian America, where the blacks were slaves or outcasts.

Cuba became the "ever faithful island"--a rich Spanish colony dotted with great landed estates worked by a mass of black slaves. A ten-year war of independence, which erupted in 1868, failed to dislodge the Spanish. But in 1895 Jose Marti raised again the standard of revolt. He wanted independence and reform, and he was deeply suspicious of the United States. "What I have done, and shall continue to do," he wrote in May 1895, "is to . . . block with our blood . . . the annexation of the peoples of our America to the turbulent and brutal North that despises them. . . . I lived in the monster [the United States], and know its entrails--and my sling is that of David's."[5]

In 1898, as the Cuban revolt entered its fourth year, the United States joined the war, ostensibly to free Cuba. After Spain surrendered, Washington forced the Platt amendment on the Cubans. The amendment granted the United States the right to intervene and to have naval bases on Cuban soil. (Even today, the Platt amendment lives, with the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo.) Cuba became, more than any other Latin American country, in Tad Szulc's words, "an American fiefdom."[6] And when a group of men who were determined to bring about social reform and national independence finally seized power in Cuba in September 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt refused to recognize their new government and urged the Cuban army to seize power. And so it did, and the era of Batista began.

When Fidel Castro began fighting against Batista in 1956, the United States supplied arms to the dictator. Castro took note. In a letter of June 5, 1958, he wrote: "The Americans are going to pay dearly for what they're doing. When this war is over, I'll start a much longer and bigger war of my own: the war I'm going to fight against them. That will be my true destiny."[7]

Many of the opponents of Batista's regime wanted to accommodate the United States, either because they admired its culture or had a fatalistic respect for its power. Castro, on the other hand, represented the views of those anti-Batista youths who were repulsed by Washington's domination and paternalism. This, however, baffled Eisenhower and most Americans, who believed that America had always been the Cubans' truest friend, fighting Spain in 1898 to give them their independence. "Here is a country that you would believe, on the basis of our history, would be one of our real friends," Eisenhower marveled. As American historian Nancy Mitchell has pointed out, "Our selective recall not only serves a purpose; it also has repercussions. It creates a chasm between us and the Cubans: we share a past, but we have no shared memories."[8]

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2004

    Superb study of Cuba's 'selfless aid' to Africa

    This superb book is based on research in Cuban, American, Belgian, German and British archives. Piero Gleijeses is an expert on the USA¿s role in Latin America. He has written The Dominican crisis, the best account of the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, and Shattered hope, the classic account of the US overthrow of the elected Guatemalan government in 1954. Gleijeses stresses Cuba¿s internationalist role in Africa, from sending teams of doctors to Algeria in 1963, to the 2000 doctors in 21 African countries today. It is a unique example of a country¿s selfless aid. By contrast, US and British foreign policy in Africa has been squalid and self-interested. In 1964, in a secret CIA operation, assisted by MI6, the US state armed, organised and transported 1000 mercenaries (mostly South African and Rhodesian) into the Congo. The mercenaries raped, pillaged, tortured and killed the Congolese people. Cuba provided valuable aid to the national resistance. Belgium, Britain, France and the USA all backed Mobutu¿s coup there. Henri Spaak, the Belgian Prime Minister, one of the key figures in the founding of the EEC, at US orders allowed Zaire¿s government to recruit mercenaries in Belgium, breaking Belgian law. The USA and South Africa cooperated in arming and training terrorist UNITA forces in Angola in 1975. In October 1975, South African armed forces invaded Angola. The US, British and French governments all pressed the South African government to keep going, to capture Luanda, Angola¿s capital. Cuban forces entered Angola in November, and played the decisive role in turning back the invaders ¿ a historic defeat for apartheid, which should never be forgotten. In 1976, Britain¿s Labour government aided the recruitment of mercenaries to support UNITA¿s efforts to destroy Angola and its newly elected government, allowing 200 of them to leave Britain, many without passports. In 1991, Nelson Mandela visited Cuba and rightly said, ¿We come here with a sense of the great debt that is owed the people of Cuba. What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations with Africa?¿

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