Newly declassified American documents show that Washington intervened in Angola weeks before the arrival of any Cubans, not afterward as America has claimed since 1975. This article by Howard H. French debunking the US claims was originally published by The New York Times on I April 2002. For Africa, it is something to keep.
In the summer of 1975, with the Cold War raging and the memory of Saigon's fall terribly fresh, the US sponsored a covert operation to prevent another communist takeover in Angola. The effort failed to keep a Marxist government from taking power but ushered in a long and chaotic civil war, involving American, Chinese and Russian interests, and Cuban and South African soldiers. Now, coinciding with the death in February of Washington's longtime rebel ally in Angola, Jonas Savimbi, a trove of recently declassified American documents seem to overturn conventional explanations of the war's origins.
Historians and former diplomats who have studied the documents say they show conclusively that America intervened in Angola weeks before the arrival of any Cubans, not afterward as Washington has claimed since 1975. Moreover, though a connection between Washington and Apartheid South Africa was strongly denied at the time, the documents appear to demonstrate their broad collaboration.
"When the US decided to launch the covert intervention, in June and July 1975, not only were there no Cubans in Angola, but the US government and the CIA were not even thinking about any Cuban presence in Angola," said Piero Gleijeses, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University, who used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the documents.
Similarly, cables of the time have now been published by the National Security Archive, a private research group.
"If you look at the CIA reports which were done at the time, the Cubans were totally out of the picture," Dr Gleijeses said. But in the reports presented to the Senate in December 1975, "what you find is really nothing less than the rewriting of history."
Cuban eventually poured 50,000 troops into Angola in support of the MPLA which had control of the capital, Luanda, in the months just before independence from Portugal, declared in August 1975.
But Dr Gleijeses' research shows that the Cuban intervention came in response to a CIA-financed covert invasion via neighbouring Congo, and Apartheid South Africa's simultaneous drive on Luanda, using troops who posed as Western mercenaries.