Friday, March 16, 2007

I Don't Want to Leave the Congo

#9 -- "Chief of Station, Congo" by Larry Devlin

I was asked to read this one for one of our programs at work, which I'm happy about -- I'd planned to get it anyway, and this way it was free.

I'm probably not the first person to compare "Chief of Station, Congo" to Graham Greene, and I won't be the last. Devlin was, uh, Chief of Station, Congo for the CIA in the '60s, when the country became independent, Patrice Lumumba was killed, shit got hairy.

As you might imagine, he had a hell of a lot of adventures, and he tells them with a nice breezy style -- dramatic but with wit. Looking back 40 years later, he's able to chuckle about a lot of it.

Entertaining and insightful as it was, there's a few problems. There's a general lack of questioning of whether the U.S. motives were right; it's taken for granted that the U.S. was doing the right thing, that it was just reacting to events, never setting them in motion. And there's a lot of praise for Joseph Mobutu -- the fact that ol' Joe turned out to be an absolute disaster for the country down the line is largely glossed over. Devlin was apparently in country for much of the '70s, in other capacities, but that doesn't change his opinion of Mobutu -- I'd like to have read a bit more about why.

So, some problems and disagreements, but overall interesting, and an educational first-hand look at the behind-the-scenes workings during a tumultuous time in Africa.

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