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David Talbot post on Facebook today about JFK and Lumumba


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David Talbot wrote on Facebook today:

The New York Times's coverage of the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela -- which is hugely exacerbated by aggressive U.S. interference in that country's internal affairs -- contains all-too- familiar echoes of the newspaper's coverage of past U.S.-orchestrated coups. As I wrote in my book "The Devil's Chessboard" -- about notorious CIA spymaster Allen Dulles-- the Times functioned as a propaganda arm for the CIA during the infamous, Cold War-era U.S. coups that toppled democratically elected governments in Iran, Guatemala and the Congo. This photo of President Kennedy captures the moment in 1961 when he was told that Congolese President Patrice Lumumba -- the great young hope of a rising, post-colonial Africa -- had been brutally assassinated by CIA-paid thugs.

The hugely popular Lumumba -- who was leading his country out of the misery and depravity of Belgian rule -- antagonized the huge Western mining interests that he was threatening to nationalize, as well as these mining corporations' protectors, such as CIA director Dulles and his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Before taking over foreign policy in the Eisenhower administration, this deadly fraternal duo's Wall Street law firm represented these mining giants. So when Lumumba tried to reclaim his nation's resources for his impoverished people, the Dulles brothers quickly began framing him as a dangerous Communist. Lumumba wasn't -- he was in reality a dedicated Congolese patriot who was trying to lead his country on an independent path between the two Cold War super powers.

But the Dulles brothers would not allow such Third World independence. And their smear campaign of Lumumba was greatly aided by the CIA's friends and assets in the U.S. press -- especially the New York Times. During a critical moment in the Congo crisis -- when Lumumba's rule was under strong pressure from U.S.-backed military plotters -- the New York Times dispatched a foreign correspondent named Paul Hofmann to report on the dramatic events. It turned out that the Austrian-born Hofmann had a strange background: a former aide to a Nazi war criminal, he had been recruited into the U.S. spy service, and later was placed in the Times's Rome bureau by CIA counterintelligence wizard James Jesus Angleton.

Hofmann's barrage of negative reporting about Lumumba for the NY Times was filled with disinformation, hysteria, and overt racism -- it was clearly designed to set the stage for the eventual overthrow, and assassination, of Lumumba. The CIA carried out its brutal plan with the Times's assistance (Allen Dulles was very chummy with the newspaper's top editors). But the spy agency kept President Kennedy in the dark -- because Allen Dulles knew that JFK supported African nationalism, and in particular, Lumumba. Kennedy took the news of his violent death very hard -- as captured here by White House photographer Jacques Lowe.

Of course the Times's coverage of the current crisis in Venezuela is not as inflammatory as it was during past coups like the one in the Congo. But the newspaper's reporting is still heavily slanted against the Maduro government. Articles in the Times consistently report about Venezuela's "economic shambles," without emphasizing the major role that U.S.-imposed sanctions have played in wreaking this economic havoc. Maudro and his widely popular socialist predecessor Hugo Chavez are consistently referred to in the most pejorative terms. (Today, the Times calls the late Chavez, who rode to office on a landslide of votes from the poor and desperate, as a "notoriously charismatic leader." Why "notoriously?")

Much of the Times's reporting about Venezuela is based on vague "intelligence sources" -- either U.S. agencies, disaffected Venezuela spooks aligned with the U.S., or Israeli security alarmed by the alleged alliance between Maduro's government and Hamas. The newspaper does not deeply report why Chavez and Maduro were democratically elected -- and why their social reform programs were greeted with joyous relief by the poor and disenfranchised.

The Maduro regime clearly has an authoritarian bent. But so does our own current presidency. And Trump is cuddling up with world leaders much more dictatorial and pathological than Maduro. The main crimes of the Venezuela government, in strongman Trump's eyes, are that it declares itself socialist, maintains closer ties to Havana than Washington -- and, most important, it controls the world's greatest oil reserves.

But by focusing relentlessly on Maduro's human rights violations, the NY Times gives cover to the Trump administration's naked efforts to illegally overthrow the Venezuelan government. The newspaper's anti-Maduro editorial barrage paves the way for his demise -- and if and when the coup occurs, the Times will no doubt cheer his overthrow as a a blow for freedom, instead of the cynical, Trump-produced power grab that it will be. As the Times well knows, Trump doesn't give a flying xxxx about human rights. And neither do the wealthy Venezuela elites who are poised to sweep back into power.

Here's some more about the NY Times's shameful collusion with the CIA in the 1961 overthrow and assassination of President Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, from my book, "The Devil's Chessboard." To this day, the Times has not acknowledged its role in these tragic events, much less apologized for its actions. Nor has the Times revealed the Nazi background of its foreign correspondent Paul Hofmann or his ties to U.S. intelligence. The Times didn't even have the courage to review my book.

"The raging battle over Lumumba's future broke into the U.S. press, with the CIA's media assets predicting drastic consequences if the Congolese leader returned to power. As the Congo crisis reached its climax, a new correspondent for the New York Times showed up in (the nation's capital) Leopoldville with a distinctly anti-Lumumba bias. Paul Hofmann was a diminutive, sophisticated Austrian with a colorful past. During World War II, he served in Rome as a top aide to the notorious Nazi general Kurt Malzer, who was later convicted of the mass murder of Italian partisans. At some point, Hofmann became an informer for the Allies, and after the war he became closely associated with (U.S. counterintelligence chief) Jim Angleton. The Angleton familty helped place Hofmann in the Rome bureau of the New York Times, where he continued to be of use to his friends in U.S. intelligence...Hofmann became one of the Times's leading foreign correspondents, eventually taking over the newspaper'sRome bureau and parachuting from time to time into international hot spots like the Congo.

"The New York Times's coverage of the Congo crisis had always been slanted against Lumumba, with columns and commentaries labeling him "inexperienced and irresponsible" and a "virtual dictator." But Hofmann's Congo coverage was so virulent in its bias that it seemed as if he were acting as a "psywar" conduit for the CIA. In article after article during the critical Congo end game, Hofmann portrayed Lumumba as a dangerous bogeyman, a "wily" conspirator in some pieces and a mentally unbalanced buffoon in others ("the weirdest character in a sort of 'Alice in Tropical Wonderland,' as the Times man wrote). Even behind bars, Lumumba continued to work his dark magic, Hofmann told his readers, plotting the murders of whites and bringing a flow of Soviet arms into the country, all while living the life of luxury in military prison "with three houseboys at his service." The message behind Hofmann's relentless barrage was clear: despite the "crocodile tears" cried by the Soviet Union over Lumumba's plight, no man as treacherous as this deserved mercy."

Shortly thereafter, Lumumba, while in custody, was savagely tortured and beaten to death by thugs on the CIA payroll.

-- From "The Devil's Chessboard," p. 383-4

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This is all good by David Talbot.  

But I would like to add something to it.  After Lumumba was killed, David Halberstam covered Congo for the NY Times.

If one looks at his coverage and also what he said privately about the conflict, it is really kind of belittling of what was going on there. Bottom line, Halberstam did not think it was really worth the struggle.  Which kind of puts him against what Hammarskjold and Kennedy were trying to do.  Which was keep Congo free from imperialism, even after Lumumba was assassinated by the Belgians and CIA. (Which, by the way, is a story that Halberstam missed with a completeness that is astonishing.)

What makes this even odder is that when Halberstam was then rotated  to Saigon, he took the opposite view.  He really thought Vietnam was worth going to the mat for.  He and Neil Sheehan were in cahoots with Colonel John Paul Vann in that they wanted direct American involvement  to save the day. Which Kennedy was trying to avoid, which is why JFK wanted Halberstam transferred. Halberstam was pretty frank about his hawkishness in his book, 1965's The Making of a Quagmire.

After Kennedy was killed, those three--Sheehan, Halberstam, and Vann--got their wish.  Direct American involvement in Vietnam beyond their wildest dreams.  And it was a disaster.  In other words, they were wrong.  Halberstam spent the rest of his life trying to conceal his former hawkishness.  It is hard to find it in The Best and the Brightest. But not only did he do that, he then tried to conceal what Kennedy was trying to do. Which was to withdraw.

In both instances, I think JFK was correct and Halberstam was wrong: Congo and Vietnam. Its a distinction worth noting because of what it tells us about the MSM. 

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