By JEFF MACKLER
After 27 years in the service of one or another imperialist power, Jonas Savimbi fought his last “rebel” battle in February when he met his end at the hands of Angolan government military forces.
Savimbi headed the National Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA), a military/political force armed over the course of the past three decades by a combination of imperial powers-including Portugal, Angola’s former colonial overseer, the United States and its surrogates in apartheid South Africa, as well as Stalinist China.
Savimbi, who became rich exploiting the diamond and mineral resources in the part of Angola under his control, played a key role in destabilizing Angola to foster its economic and political exploitation by his various colonial and neo-colonial sponsors.
A March 31 New York Times article entitled, “From Old Files, A New Story of U.S. Role in Angolan War,” observes, “Coinciding with the death last month of Washington’s longtime rebel ally in Angola, Jonas Savimbi, a trove of recently declassified documents seem to overturn conventional explanations of the war’s origins.”
The Times states that “the documents show conclusively that the United States intervened in Angola weeks before the arrival of Cuban troops, not afterward as Washington claimed.”
And further, “A connection between Washington and South Africa, which was then ruled by a white government under an apartheid policy, was strongly denied at the time. The documents appear to demonstrate their broad collaboration.”
The CIA, National Security Council, and related secret U.S. documents were uncovered by Johns Hopkins University Professor Piero Gleijeses, who filed for their release under the Freedom of Information Act.
Dr. Gleijeses states, “When the U.S. decided to launch the covert intervention, in June and July , not only were there no Cubans in Angola, but the U.S. government and the CIA were not even thinking about any Cuban presence.” He continues, “But in reports presented to the Senate in December 1975 what you find is nothing less than the rewriting of history.”
CIA intervened even before independence
The New York Times, complicit in the U.S. coverup of its secret war, still presents a sanitized and garbled version of Angola’s history before and after independence. The covert sending of CIA-trained troops through Zaire, now the Congo, was coordinated with South Africa, which organized a simultaneous military assault on the capital city of Luanda.
The CIA leaked reports to the media at the time promoting the story that the invaders were really foreign “mercenaries,” perhaps funded by disgruntled elements in the former Portugese colony.
The documents reveal that the U.S. actually intervened in July and August, five months before the Nov. 10, 1975, independence date negotiated by the Portugese with Angola’s three guerrilla organizations.
The three groups included the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the current governing party; the Angolan National Liberation Front (FNLA), which at various times was supported by the Chinese Stalinists as well as the U.S. and South Africa; and Savimbi’s UNITA, a split-off from the FNLA.
Through a series of complex maneuvers with the Portuguese government, then led by the Armed Forces Movement (MFA), most of the weapons of the former Portugese colonial army were handed over to the MPLA.
The socialist-sounding MFA, facing internal pressure from the mass radicalizing workers’ movement that emerged in Portugal after the 1974 fall of the Salazar dictatorship, was compelled to leave Angola and abandon its original intentions of dominating a coalition capitalist government that was to include the three rebel groups.
Under this agreement the guerrilla organizations were to contribute 8000 soldiers each for a total of 24,000. These were to be “eventually” integrated into the Portugese standing army of occupation of 24,000.
But a massive strike wave in Luanda based on the powerful dock workers union, which lasted for almost a year in 1975, combined with the deepening mobilization of the Portugese working class, compelled the Portugese to withdraw and rely on the MPLA to best protect their interests.
The January 1975 independence agreement signed by all three guerrilla groups was based on the protection of imperialist property, including the oil rich Cabinda province, where Gulf Oil retained its interests.
As with virtually all of Africa’s liberation movements in the post World War II era, Angola’s nationalist guerrillas proclaimed adherence to a variety of forms of socialism. Socialist rhetoric was helpful in winning broad support among the African masses, whose life experience led them to properly identify Western colonialism with capitalist exploitation and plunder.
In fact, however, virtually all defended capitalist private property, including the maintenance of the wealth of the previous colonial overseers, as a matter of principle.
Socialist rhetoric became the norm for the MPLA, especially as it received material support from the Soviet Union, which in those years was engaged in a process of “detente” with imperialism. The Stalinists were expert at using national liberation struggles as bargaining chips to secure imperialist concessions.
The struggles of the oppressed across the globe were undermined, as Soviet rulers, in the name of “socialism,” promoted pro-capitalist nationalist leaders who received Russian support contingent on their willingness to abide by secret agreements that subordinated the interests of their people to imperialism.
Cuban troops defeated S. Africans
By the time of formal independence, the MPLA, which also received hundreds of millions of dollars from the Gulf Oil Corporation, held the strategic capital of Luanda and the major portion of the country. But Angola was in state of all out civil war, promoted and financed by competing imperialist interests, especially the United States.
The civil war was also fueled by historic ethnic and tribal groups who provided the social base of the contending factions. As opposed to the organization of a united anti-imperialist struggle based on advancing the collective interests of the Angolan masses, the pro-capitalist guerrilla and government leaders acted to advance their own interests in alliance with one or another wing of world imperialism.
Only following the U.S. and South African invasions did the MPLA, according to the newly-released files, call on the Cubans for military support. The Cubans, estranged from the Russians on several foreign policy issues at the time, agreed and eventually sent some 50,000 soldiers to counter the South African and U.S. intervention.
Several years later, at the battle of Cuito Carnevale in Southern Angola, Cuban forces inflicted a major defeat on South African troops, then the strongest army on the continent. This major defeat led to a negotiated settlement that compelled the weakened apartheid regime to agree to the formal independence of its own colonial possession, Namibia.
Dr. Gleijeses reports, according to The New York Times, that Cuba accepted the invitation to intervene from the Angolan government, “without seeking Soviet permission,” thus destroying another imperialist myth.
The decision to covertly send U.S. troops to terrorize the Angolan masses led to a shake-up in the Republican Party administration of Gerald Ford. Nathaniel Davis, who was then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s assistant for African affairs, resigned from his post in protest, believing that intervention might embroil the U.S. in another Vietnam-type war.
At that moment, the United States was in the process of its final humiliating withdrawal from Vietnam.
Today, Davis has been more than eager to comment on the veracity of the newly-released documents. He told The Times that he “could find no fault with Dr. Gleijeses’s scholarship.”
Asked why the U.S. government’s “story,” a polite word The Times used for “lies,” had persisted for so long, Davis replied, “Life is funny. What catches on in terms of public debate is hard to predict.” A better translation might be, “If you throw enough shit on the wall, some is bound to stick!”
The ever loyal imperialist diplomat expressed no regrets for the U.S. covert support to Savimbi, whose troops murdered countless thousands of Angolans and thwarted the nation’s potential for peaceful development for a quarter century.
Savimbi rained his U.S.-sponsored terror on the Angolan people while the capitalist media repeated the lie that U.S. was faultless and the Cubans were to blame.