April 1, 2002

U.S. Lied About Cuban Role in Angola - Historian

              By REUTERS

              WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and South Africa intervened
              in Angola months before Cuban troops arrived in 1975, and not afterward as
              Washington claimed, according to a historian who recently wrote a book on
              the subject.

              Piero Gleijeses, a professor at Johns Hopkins' School of International
              Studies, said that President Gerald Ford's administration lied about Cuban
              military presence to justify its covert operations against Marxist guerrillas.
              Angola was a Portuguese colony until 1975.

              Secretary of State Henry Kissinger denied then and in his memoirs later that
              the U.S. government knew that South African troops invaded Angola posing
              as mercenaries in 1975, he said.

              He also required the Central Intelligence Agency to rewrite a document on
              Angola to show an earlier Cuban presence than was accurate, Gleijeses said
              in an interview.

              ``Kissinger had the CIA rewrite its report to serve the political aim of the
              administration, and so the poor CIA ended up lying,'' he said, speaking

              Declassified CIA papers for August through October of 1975 talk of the
              presence of only a few Cubans in Angola trying to pass themselves off as
              tourists, the historian said.

              The first academic to gain access to archives in Havana, Gleijeses has put
              together a almost day-to-day account of the arrival of Cuban troops in

              With the departure of the Portuguese in 1975, Angola had a power vacuum
              that the Marxist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA,
              and conservative UNITA sought to take advantage of. The fighting that
              marked the struggle for independence became a civil war.

              A CIA-funded covert operation was launched from Zaire in July, at the same
              time as a South African operation from the south backed the UNITA rebel
              group, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, led by led
              by Jonas Savimbi, who died this year.

              But by October 1975, the groups with U.S. and South African support were
              losing the war and white-ruled South Africa sent in regular troops.

              Cuban President Fidel Castro decided on Nov. 4, 1975, to send soldiers to
              Angola but did so without informing Moscow, which two months later
              halfheartedly provided Aeroflot IL-62 planes for an airlift.

              The arrival of 30,000 Cubans tilted the civil war in favor of the MPLA which
              had controlled the capital of Luanda, Gleijeses said, and the South Africans
              withdrew in March 1976. The war stretched on for another 25 years, with
              the latest cease-fire deal signed just last weekend.


              ``The key element of the covert operation was cooperation with South
              Africa, and that was totally denied,'' Gleijeses said. ``Kissinger went to the
              extreme of saying he only learned a couple of weeks later that South Africa
              had invaded.''

              In his book ``Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington and Africa
              1959-1976,'' based on U.S. documents and archival research in Cuba and
              Angola, Gleijeses maintains that Cuba dispatched troops as a result of the
              South African invasion.

              He argues that Kissinger's account of the U.S. role in Angola was
              misleading, both in testimony to Congress in 1976 and more recently in the
              third volume of his memoirs ``Years of Renewal.''

              The historian interviewed the then CIA station chief in Luanda, Robert
              Hultslander who, speaking on the record for the first time, criticized U.S.
              policy in Angola as ``shortsighted and flawed.''

              The former CIA agent told Gleijeses that he was unaware at the time that
              ``the U.S. would eventually beg South Africa to directly intervene to pull its
              chestnuts out of the fire.''

              CHINA'S DENG HELD OFF

              Gleijeses also argues that Kissinger misled Americans by saying that an
              attempt to gain China's help in Angola was thwarted by the refusal of the
              U.S. Congress to approve funding for the covert operation.

              In his memoirs, Kissinger recounts a meeting he and Ford had on Dec. 2,
              1975, in Beijing with Chairman Mao Tse-tung in which Angola was
              discussed and Mao suggested China was willing to cooperate.

              Gleijeses said Kissinger failed to mention a meeting held the following day
              with Deng Xiaoping in which, according to a White House memorandum, the
              Chinese president refused to help in Angola while South Africa was involved.

              ``The reason why China held back was not Congress' refusal to vote
              additional aid. It was because the South Africans were there,'' he said,
              adding that Mao was very ill by then and Deng was in charge of decisions of

              ``Kissinger ignores the other document which contradicts what he wants to
              say, and that is very dishonest,'' Gleijeses said.

              The documents can be found at