CHAPTER FIVE: IN THE LAST RESORT
While the world mourned the death of Lumumba, the United Nations expressed its own anger and concern by passing a resolution on February 21, 1961, which said:
This was obviously aimed at Katanga since that was the only province in the whole Congo with appreciable numbers of European military officers.
There are several interesting and revealing aspects to that resolution. First, there was the honorable mention of Lumumba, whose demise was the occasion of "deep regret" for the Security Council. Secondly, there was the outright intrusion of the UN into internal affairs of Katanga on the bold-faced assertion that it had a right to tell Katanga what it could or could not do. Nothing in the United Nations Charter gives the UN authority to dictate to a country who may or may not be employed by that country in its own army. This is clearly an internal affair of the Congo. Yet paradoxically the same resolution reaffirmed that "the United Nations force in the Congo will not be a party to or in any way intervene in or be used to influence the outcome of any internal conflict, constitutional or otherwise." It went even further and acknowledged that "the solution of the problem of the Congo lies in the hands of the Congolese people themselves without any interference from outside . . ."
In the light of subsequent United Nations intervention in the Congo, one can only be astounded at the extent of hypocrisy displayed by UN officials. But hidden away in the language of bureaucratese is an indication of the UN's true, and not-so-honorable, intentions toward the Congo. In the very same resolution, the UN authorized itself to employ "the use of force, if necessary, in the last resort." There it was--the first glimpse--the clear and unmistakable outline of the mailed fist beneath the velvet glove.
Promising not to interfere in Katanga and at the very same time authorizing the use of force to interfere is the kind of double-talk that politicians through the ages have used to make their grab for unlimited power appear to be legal and proper. These pronouncements do not happen accidentally, nor are they the result of ignorance and incompetence. They are the mark of corrupt political skill, the product of unlimited cynicism tempered by years of experience. The men who have mastered this skill are proud of their accomplishment and are quick to admire it in others. Conor O'Brien was such a man. Expressing his unqualified approval of the United Nations resolution, he wrote:
At four o'clock in the morning on August 28 while Elisabethville slept in peace, the United Nations, exercising its philosophical jurisprudence, launched a surprise attack on the city. In the early hours of morning darkness it took over all communications centers, put a blockade around the foreign minister's residence, surrounded the barracks of the Katangese army, and arrested over four hundred European officers and noncoms. Simultaneously it began arresting and expelling from the country hundreds of other European residents who were suspected of being technicians or advisors. There was practically no resistance, since, as it was learned later, the Belgian officers who were on loan to Tshombe's army were under orders from their government not to fire on United Nations troops.2 In one fell swoop, Katanga's army was decapitated of its professional leadership. Soldiers and civilians alike were taken from their families at bayonet point, rounded up in detention centers, and expelled from the country, often with nothing but the clothes on their backs. There were no charges brought against them, no hearings, no habeas corpus, no right of appeal, no opportunity to put their personal affairs in order. It was a police-state operation.3
Time magazine described it this way:
The forty-six civilian doctors of Elisabethville shed further light on the action when they reported:
Houses searched without any result? Alas, not always. Failing, to find mercenaries, which was perhaps dangerous, one fell back upon a nice little compensating looting, which is not so dangerous when one is . . . armed; and if the house which was being visited was empty, a little ransacking was included.5
Operation Rumpunch (the UN code name for the August attack) was a success. Only a handful of European officers remained in the Katangese army. The mercenaries, as the UN called them, had been expelled.
As we have seen, the UN--in the beginning, at least--justified its action against Katanga on the claim that it had to remove Tshombe's mercenaries. Aside from the fact that the composition of the Katangese army is not the concern of the UN, United Nations troops themselves were mercenaries of the first order. Irish, Swedish, Italian, Ethiopian and Gurkha troops were fighting as hired agents of the UN. If the mercenary issue was a real one, why did not the United Nations insist that the Indonesian Communist Kwame Nkrumah get rid of the British officers in his army? What would one call the American officers serving in Laos? The truth of the matter is that the whole mercenary issue was nothing but an excuse for the United Nations to initiate military action against Katanga with the ultimate objective of bringing it under the control of the Communist-dominated central government. By removing the professional leadership from Katanga's army, the UN not only reduced the chances of effective military opposition to its own future plans, but also greatly enhanced the return of civil disorder and chaos to Katanga province--the very thing that it professed to be there to prevent.
At any rate, Tshombe did not throw in the towel as the UN apparently expected. Katanga did not fall apart. Tshombe had been expecting something like this and had initiated a crash program to train African officers and noncoms for effective leadership. The program was far from complete, but sufficient progress had been made to enable Katanga to stand firm in its determination to remain independent. Tshombe appointed a Colonel Muké as commander of the army, and Katanga now had not only an African president and an African government but an African commander as well. It soon became obvious that if Katanga were to topple, even stronger measures would have to be taken.
On the morning of September 11, Conor O'Brien met with Moise Tshombe and once again gave his personal assurances that the United Nations had no intentions of intervening in the internal affairs of Katanga or of using force in the settlement of any issue.6 That very same day, however, he met in secret with other UN officials and helped lay detailed plans for another surprise military attack on Elisabethville. The following is O'Brien's own description of those plans:
Operation Morthor, as it was called, went off according to schedule. Once again moving under cover of early morning darkness the United Nations "peace-keepers" stormed the communication and transportation nerve centers of Elisabethville. Within hours the UN-controlled radio station announced, "The secession is over! Arrest the whites! The secession is over! Arrest the whites!"8
Egide Bochely-Davidson, the Communist who had been appointed by the central government to administer Katanga province, was flown by UN plane to Elisabethville's airport to take control just as soon as the fighting stopped in the center of the city. (Dag Hammarskjold had said previously: "United Nations facilities cannot be used, for example, to transport civilian or military representatives, under the authority of the central government, to Katanga against the decision of the Katanga provincial government."9)
At this point, however, Operation Morthor began to fall apart. Katangese troops launched a counterattack on all fronts as full scale fighting spread to practically every sector of the city. Control of the radio station moved back and forth between forces as one of the obviously important military objectives. Bochely-Davidson impatiently paced up and down at the airport as the distant sound of machine-gun chatter and mortar explosions grew louder by the minute. This time Katanga was fighting back.
American newspapers carried the following account:
Michel Tombelaine was identified as a member of the French Communist party by a subcommittee of the United States Senate on August 6, 1962.11
In an effort to capture and control the post office, the United Nations set up strategic military positions under the protection of a large hospital which they had conveniently established across the street. To their credit, the United Nations doctors there finally resigned en masse, stating "the building was being turned into a support fortress."12
The forty-six civilian doctors of Elisabethville reported:
UPI correspondent Ray Moloney drove a hundred miles to Bancroft in Northern Rhodesia to file the following eyewitness account:
Frustrated in its anticipation of an easy victory, the United Nations began to turn Operation Morthor into Operation Terror. Blue-helmeted soldiers displaying the UN emblem of peace fired wantonly at civilians, ambulances, automobiles--anything that moved. A Roman Catholic priest was murdered on his way to collect the Holy Sacrament from St. Paul's Convent; the charred remains of his body were later found in the burned shell of his automobile which had been hit by a bazooka shot from a United Nations armored car. An ambulance man, dressed in white and wearing a Red Cross armband was machine-gunned while stepping out of his ambulance to help the wounded; his leg had to be amputated to save his life. A housewife was murdered while riding with her husband down a peaceful street to buy groceries. These and literally hundreds of similar cases have been carefully documented. There are always unfortunate killings of innocent civilians as the accidental by-product of any war. But the consistent pattern of such atrocities in Katanga clearly reveals that they could only have been the result of deliberate design.
Beginning on September 18 and continuing several times daily, UN convoys traveling along the Boulevard Rhine Elisabeth and Avenue Stanley fired machine guns at virtually every home they passed. The one dwelling that received the most punishment of all was the home of a Dr. and Mrs. Szeles, Hungarian refugees who fled from similar treatment at the hands of the Communists in 1948. His home was clearly identified by an enormous Red Cross flag. Several ambulances were usually parked in front. For days on end UN troops machine-gunned this house twice a day--as convoys were deployed in the morning and when they returned in the late afternoon. On one occasion hand grenades were thrown in the windows. Mrs. Szeles, who had sought shelter in the corridor, was badly wounded by the explosions. Dr. Szeles counted 355 bullet holes in the walls of his home. All the windows were broken, the furniture smashed to pieces, the whole house reduced to shambles. Fleeing from Communist terror in Hungary at the age of fifty, Dr. Szeles came to Katanga to start a new life. Ten years later, at the age of sixty, be is once again deprived of his home--thanks to the organization that was supposedly created "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."15
At the height of the UN attack on Elisabethville, Mr. Georges Olivet, the Swiss international Red Cross representative there, cabled an appeal to his Geneva office to persuade the United Nations to stop firing on Red Cross vehicles. A few days later he disappeared while on a mercy mission to UN headquarters. It was not until eleven days afterward that his wrecked ambulance was found. It had been bit with bazooka rockets and machine-gunned by United Nations troops. In an attempt to conceal the crime, the UN soldiers had hurriedly buried Mr. Olivet and his two companions in a shallow grave next to the road. The United Nations issued two contradictory explanations of what happened. The first one charged that European mercenaries of the Katangese army had kidnapped Olivet. Later, when the evidence was disclosed, it admitted that the vehicle had been struck by UN fire but claimed that it was an accident caused by Olivet’s driving "into cross fire."16 When the Red Cross asked for an official investigation into this matter, the United Nations--which had launched an extensive investigation of Lumumba's death--denied the request on the basis that it did not have "adequate legal or technical resources."17
The Roman Catholic bishop of Elisabethville accused the United Nations of "sacrilegious profanities" and revealed that their troops had deliberately destroyed and looted churches and had wantonly murdered innocent civilians.18
More than ninety percent of the buildings bombed by UN aircraft were strictly civilian structures with no possible military value. As briefly described in the opening passages of this book, the operation rapidly assumed the aspect of full-scale war. With all utilities cut and no refrigeration, civilians rushed about frantically trying to find something to eat and drink. A light rain brought thankful Katangans to every rain spout to collect the life-saving drinking water. The stench of rotting food hung over the city and mingled with the smell of death.
The Communist press around the world was jubilant. Even in Rome the Social Democratic La Guistizia said that the UN had succeeded "in bringing back peace," and the Communist newspaper L'Unitŕ called Operation Morthor "a hard defeat for the colonialists and their agents."19
Miraculously, Katanga held the UN at bay. News correspondent Peter Younghusband gave the following eyewitness report in an article datelined Elisabethville, September 15, 1961:
Tshombe, speaking to his people over a hidden transmitter that identified itself as "Radio Free Katanga," called for total resistance--"a fight to the last round of ammunition." Five thousand Baluba warriors responded by joining the Katangese soldiers. Several hundred Bayeke warriors also came into the fight. White residents took up arms and fought side-by-side with their African neighbors. They were not mercenaries. Nobody paid them. They volunteered to fight for the simple reason that the United Nations was destroying their homes and killing their loved ones.
Finally, the tide began to turn. The UN had prematurely announced to the world that the secession was over. It was now in serious danger of having its forces completely annihilated because of the unexpected determination of the Katangese people to maintain their independence. As supplies and morale began to run low, it became obvious that the UN had made the fatal mistake of believing its own propaganda. It had asserted that Tshombe was a mere puppet of the Belgians and that he was supported in power only by a few mercenaries against the true will of his people. It maintained that his government would collapse at the first blow. It was now paving the price of self-deception. Things were going so badly for the United Nations that by September 17 its whole company A was cut off, badly beaten, and forced to surrender. With Operation Morthor on the verge of total collapse, the UN finally agreed to a face-saving cease-fire. On September 20, just one week after the United Nations had launched its unprovoked attack, peace once again returned to Katanga; its green and white flag still fluttered proudly to proclaim that Katanga remained free.
The only thing more incredible than the United Nations military action in Katanga is the way in which it tried to justify that action. If things had gone according to schedule there would have been little trouble. Press releases would have simply stated that Tshombe had been replaced by "moderate" Bochely-Davidson and that after a light exchange of gunfire "secessionist" Katanga had been brought back under the central government. The United States President would have sent his congratulations to Dag Hammarskjold and State Department officials would have expressed great satisfaction with this victory over Communism. But as it turned out, the situation had "escalated," and there were just too many newspaper reporters willing to make that hundred-mile trek to Northern Rhodesia to get the true story out to the world.21
At one point, the UN explained that it had initiated military action at the request of the central government. An official spokesman elaborated: "The UN motive in complying with the request was to avoid the alternative--invasion of northern Katanga by central government troops and a prolonged civil war."22 In other words, the central Government was preparing to attack Katanga; but that would have been civil war. Therefore, the UN attacked Katanga to save the central Government the trouble!
As the fighting spread, it became apparent that the United Nations needed another story. As a result, it was decided to announce that the UN had nothing to do with starting the action at all--that it was merely defending itself against Katangese aggression. And so, on September 16, three days after the United Nations had stated it had initiated the action "at the request of the central government," Dag Hammarskjold, at a press conference, told this fantastic story:
In the words of Conor O'Brien, the man who helped plan the attack:
Just for the record, Operation Morthor comes from a Hindi word. Morthor does not mean "Sound the alarm; there is arson in the garage" or "Let us now assist the authorities to prevent civil war." It means smash!
1. O'Brien, p. 61.
2. Ibid., p. 221.
3. 46 Angry Men, pp. 44-45.
4. Article entered in the Congressional Record by Senator Thomas Dodd (September 8, 1961).
5. 46 Angry Men, p. 47.
6. Senator Thomas Dodd, Congressional Record (September 16, 1961). Also, Sturdza, p. 39.
7. O'Brien, pp. 249-251.
8. Ibid., p. 282. When this was called to their attention at a later date, UN officials in Katanga apologized and said that they had made a mistake and meant to say "white officers."
9. UN document S/4417/ADD 6 (August 12, 1960), pp. 3-4. Also, UN document A/4711/ADD 2 (March 20, 1961), pp. 62, 68, 73. Also, van den Haag, p. 22.
10.Newspaper article entered in the Congressional Record by Senator Thomas Dodd (September 16, 1961).
11. Visa Procedures of Department of State, report to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (August 6, 1962), p. 28.
12. Newspaper article entered in the Congressional Record by Senator Thomas Dodd (September 16, 1961).
13. 46 Angry Men, pp. 68-69.
14. Newspaper article entered in the Congressional Record by Senator Thomas Dodd (September 16, 1961).
15. 46 Angry Men, pp. 48-51.
16. Ibid., pp. 20-24. Also, Hempstone, p. 195.
17. Hempstone, p. 224.
18. The Tidings (Los Angeles, January 11, 1963), p. 1.
19. "UN Action in Katanga Stirs Dismay in Europe," London newspaper article entered in the Congressional Record by Senator Thomas Dodd (September 16, 1961).
20. "All Out War in Katanga," newspaper article entered in the Congressional Record by Senator Thomas Dodd (September 16, 1961).
21. In addition to news reporters, of course, there were many prominent individuals who independently came to Katanga to conduct their own personal investigations. One such observer was Lord Bertrand Russell, a strong, supporter of the United Nations. Not only did he confirm the stories of UN atrocities, but the following excerpt from his report presents an interesting sidelight on the way in which UN officials were becoming overwhelmed by the dilemma of so many impartial observers: "Next day by appointment I saw General Yakub . . . I told the general that I had been collecting evidence regarding the alleged reports of murder of innocent civilians in Elisabethville by United Nations troops, and that I wanted to ask him some questions. He said that 'No offense has been committed; there are only rumors.' I told him that I had not come to argue whether such offenses had been committed, but merely to ask whether any inquiry had been set on foot to find out whether there was any foundation to such an allegation. . . . The general would say nothing; he just sat and stared at me." As quoted by Sturdza, p. 26.
22. "UN Troops Seize Katanga in an Eight Hour Street Battle," New York Times (September 14, 1961). Also, Senator Thomas Dodd, Congressional Record (September 16, 1961). Also, Visa Procedures of Department of State, report to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (August 6, 1962), p. 16.
23. UN document S/4940. Also, O'Brien, p. 264.
24. O'Brien, pp. 265-266.