From the Archives

Working on a new project, first time I’ve been in a Presidential library archive (LBJ’s in this case). Always fun.

Really fell in love with the summaries from weekly intelligence briefings on the Congo during the 1960s. Around 1964, they’re just long narratives, but in 1965 they start having these insanely great summaries that I really think were being deliberately written in a novelistic or even soap-operatic style. It’s just too exaggerated to be an accident. Take a gander:

LBJ Library

National Security File
Country File
Box 87
Situation Reports
Folder 1

CIA Directorate of Intelligence
Office of Current Intelligence
The Situation in the Congo
Weekly Report

April 21 1965

“The rebellion in the northeast still flickers. The main issue seems decided there, but rebel bands, some hardier than others, continue to ambush small mercentary detachments. In Albertville, by Lake Tanganyika, rumors abound of imminent attacks and of invasion from Tanzania, but few insurgents are to be seen. The rebels’ foreign sympathizers, increasingly aware of the schisms and weaknesses in ther rebel ranks, are following separate courses. Uganda and the Sudan are now aloof. Ghana, apparently unable to find a convenient arms route to the rebels, is sending a mission to consult with the Chinese. Egypt–seemingly torn between supporting a near-bankrupt cause or obtaining American wheat–may decide to make a virtue of necessity”.

April 28 1965

“The civil war drags on, with no Appomattox in sight. Egypt now claims it has stopped providing material aid to the rebels. The Congo Government is engulfed in personality and jurisdictional disputes. General Mobutu and the Belgians are suspicious of Colonel Hoare, who is peevish and threatening to quit. Kasavubu is concerned that Tshombe is after the presidency and probably he is right”.

May 5 1965

“The insurrection sputters on. Weary of harassment from Congolese rebels based in the Sudan, South African mercenaries sallied across the frontier from the Congo last week, and destroyed a rebel sanctuary. Khartoum has protested and increased its border guard. Egypt apparently is still helping the rebels, but the form of its aid is unclear. Having made peace with General Mobutu, Colonel Hoare is staying on. Tshombe and Kasavubu are increasingly at odds. Union Miniere, confident of the Congo’s future, is buying new locomotives to haul away the copper”.

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2 Responses to From the Archives

  1. NickS says:

    That’s great. Funny, but also just curious.

    It certainly invited speculation about the state of mind of the person writing them — a frustrated novelist spinning fancies, or somebody who realized that adding color was the only way to get the president to pay attention.

  2. Ken Ashe says:

    That’s really interesting. The author must have enjoyed writing those. I’m sure that it made a mundane job much more interesting. I wonder if they would start each meeting by reading the summary of the prior one.

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