Cultural Watch

How the U.S. Issued Its First Ever Order To Assassinate a Foreign Leader

POLITICO, Stuart A. Reid, October 22, 2023

A snub from the White House, a controversial stay at Blair House, an encounter with Dave Chappelle’s mother and a CIA-arranged tryst — what happened when Congo’s beleaguered leader visited D.C. in 1960.

Adapted from The Lumumba Plot: The Secret History of the CIA and a Cold War Assassination by Stuart A. Reid. Published October 17, 2023, by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2023 by Stuart A. Reid.

July 1960 was an inopportune time for Patrice Lumumba, the barely 35-year-old prime minister of the Congo, to visit Washington, D.C. His country had become independent from Belgium only on June 30. Within days, the army had mutinied, Belgian forces had intervened without permission, a province had seceded, and the U.N. had sent in a massive peacekeeping operation. And amid the chaos, Lumumba had made a troubling appeal to the Soviet Union, suggesting that his fledgling nation might require its help. At a National Security Council meeting just days before the Congolese leader would arrive in Washington, Allen Dulles, the pipe-smoking director of the CIA, told the room that Lumumba had been “bought by the Communists” and was “a Castro or worse.”

But as a politician who had risen by virtue of his powers of persuasion, Lumumba must have thought that in talking to President Dwight Eisenhower, he might well win the trust of the world’s most powerful leader — despite any misconceptions the president or his administration might have about him. Lumumba brought with him to America a carved ivory lamp and a wooden statue, gifts he planned to present to Eisenhower at the White House. He had announced that he wished to “thank him for the American people’s continued efforts to bring about progress in Africa.”

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