The early period of the Cold War in Africa includes some of the most shocking episodes of foreign intervention by the US Central Intelligence Agency, to the point that many of these histories would seem a bit too farfetched for Hollywood.
Such was the chaos in 1960-1961, right around the time that Congo achieved its independence from Belgium. American and Soviet paranoia was an all-time high. Sidney Gottlieb, a CIA scientist who would later become famous for his LSD mind control experiments, found himself meeting with the station chief in Léopoldville carrying vials of poison, with a promising young head of state named Patrice Lumumba viewed as a potential threat.
This is the incredible tale explored in rapturous detail in the new book by Foreign Affairs editor Stuart A. Reid, “The Lumumba Plot: The Secret History of the CIA and a Cold War Assassination.” Reid’s book presents one of the most compelling narratives from this period of time, tracing the involvement of the CIA before, during and after the chaos surrounding the assassination of Congo’s first Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, an event which would send Congo on a sharply different path of authoritarianism and squandered opportunity for less than clear benefits.
In his conversation with Amsterdam, Reid discusses his process of writing the book and some of the most surprising revelations, from Soviet incompetence to American miscalculation, and the catastrophic outcomes which followed.