Drone Murder-US Policy
June 1, 2022 § Leave a comment
Our drone delusion.
by Steve Coll
MAY 6, 2013
The attitudes behind Obama’s drone policy
have their roots in the Eisenhower era.
Illustration by Noma Bar.
In the summer of 1960, Sidney Gottlieb, a C.I.A.
chemist, flew to Congo with a carryon
containing vials of poison and a hypodermic
syringe. It was an era of relative subtlety among
C.I.A. assassins. The toxins were intended for the
food, drink, or toothpaste of Patrice Lumumba,
Congo’s Prime Minister, who, in the judgment of
the Eisenhower Administration, had gone soft on
Communism. Upon his arrival, as Tim Weiner
recounts in his history of the C.I.A., Gottlieb
handed his kit to Larry Devlin, the senior C.I.A.
officer in Léopoldville. Devlin asked who had
ordered the hit. “The President,” Gottlieb assured
him. In later testimony, Devlin said that he felt
ashamed of the command. He buried the poisons
in a riverbank, but helped find an indirect way to
eliminate Lumumba, by bankrolling and arming political enemies. The following January,
Lumumba was executed by the Belgian military.
For Eisenhower, who had witnessed the carnage of the Normandy landings and the Battle
of the Bulge, and later claimed to “hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can,” political
assassinations represented an alluring alternative to conventional military action. Through
the execution or overthrow of undesirable foreign leaders, the thinking went, it might be
possible to orchestrate the global struggle against Communism from a distance, and avoid
the misery—and the risks of nuclear war—that outandout
combat would bring.
Assassination was seen not only as precise and efficient but also as ultimately humane.
Putting such theory into practice was the role of the C.I.A., and the agency’s tally of toppled
leftists, nationalists, or otherwise unreliable leaders is well known, from Mohammad
Mosadegh, of Iran, in 1953, and Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, of Guatemala, in 1954, to Ngo
Dinh Diem, of South Vietnam, in 1963, and Salvador Allende, of Chile, in 1973. Not all the
schemes went according to plan; a few seemed inspired by Wile E. Coyote. The C.I.A. once
planned to bump off Fidel Castro by passing him an exploding cigar.