Part 7 of the Things Fall Apart series... Perhaps I've read far too much James Ellroy and enjoyed his paranoid style, or is it that I admired that dark series, Millennium, spawn of the conspiratorial X-Files, at the end of the last century? In any case, consider yourselves Marlow travelling down the river Congo. You may not like the encounter with Kurtz... But here goes, you were warned. This one is for my good friend Sozi...
A package was slipped under my door late one night, a year ago today. Enough time has passed for me to share its contents. I think you'll understand the delay as you read. It was marked Angola, and had a note scribbled on it in crimson red that read, "You like strange bedfellows, don't you?"
From: Anne Aliste, Research Dept.
To: [Redacted] - Director, Toli inc.
Date: April 12, 2005
What an extraordinary dossier. I've never had to do a workup on such curious material, and apparently this is just the tip of the iceberg. Anyway this preliminary analysis is based on the first stack of pages, We're working on decoding the rest. We've managed to discern (at least) 4 source documents
- Marburg and Ebola Musings
Briefing material on recent outbreaks of those hemorrhagic fevers caused by those newfangled viruses.
- Ronald Reagan: Forward For Freedom
The text of Ronald Reagan's celebrated speech from 1986. Verbatim.
- Lizards and Bullets
Extracts from a report recounting the proceedings of a rogues' gallery operating alternatively in the US and Africa. Lots of clippings to digest. Details of the operation are murky; your basic black ops but the connection seems to be Angola. Some of the names are very interesting, Savimbi seems to be a key figure (he's safely dead). The reference to lizards is an ancient Ghanaian proverb scribbled on the reverse of one of the clippings: "Just because a lizard nods its head doesn't mean it's happy". Similarly, the reference to bullets is a Gambian proverb: "Words are like bullets. When you release them, you can't call them back". More research is needed on these connections.
- American Tabloid
The preface to James Ellroy's novel on the Kennedy years, he writes your garden variety pulp fiction, think L.A. Confidential. Mostly anodyne stuff.
We're revisiting our files in light of this material but it will take a few weeks to do a thorough workup. You might want to do a blind release to one of those non-traditional outlets, an African blog or something, see if it shakes anything out. This stuff is going to come out eventually, we should prepare our response and scrub things thoroughly.
A.A., Research Dept.
Attached: dossier and annotated clippings.
Ronald Reagan - Forward For Freedom
"But I do want to make a comment here on some recent history and let you draw your own conclusions."
"I don't know anything about Angola, but I know they're in trouble."Africa was never innocent. All that cradle of mankind jazz... Whatever. There were always those willing to play The Great Game of power and expediency. Safaris for the kids? [redacted] Feed the children? Yeah right.
Europe was never innocent. All that White Man's Burden crap. God, Gold and Glory? Spanish Inquisition more like.
GTFOOHWTB. [Note: this might be some kind of codename, we're checking.]
James Ellroy - American Tabloid:
"America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets."Item: Marburg hemorrhagic fever is a rare, severe type of hemorrhagic fever which affects both humans and non-human primates.
Item: Ronald Reagan was the fortieth President of the United States.
Dig: Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days.
Item: The Marburg virus was first recognized in 1967, when outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever occurred simultaneously in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany and in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia).
Dig: They called it Operation Quarantine. [Note: We know of no operation of that name. Might be a referral to obscure author Jim Crace who wrote an alternate history of that biblical fable. He's already on our subversive file but we'll refer him to the Homeland guys]
Item: The exact origin, locations, and natural reservoir of the Ebola virus remain unknown. Current suspicions are founded on cynomolgous monkeys, civets or bats.
Item: There was an outbreak of the Marburg virus in Angola in April 2005.
Clipping A [source appears to be Victoria Brittain's obituary of Jonas Savimbi. Note: we've used her in the past: Museveni, Rawlings etc.]
"It was a long fall from his heyday in the 1980s, when Chester Crocker, the longest serving US Assistant Secretary of State, and the Reagan administration's top official for Africa described him as "one of the most talented and charismatic of leaders in modern African history"."American Tabloid
"You can't ascribe our fall from grace to any single event or set of circumstances. You can't lose what you lacked at conception."Item: Jonas Savimbi, was nicknamed "The Black Cockerel" by his supporters.
Dig: Jesse Helms, the US Senator from North Carolina, was Jonas Savimbi's biggest promoter.
Item: The armies of 13 countries have been in the Congo as Mobutu's regime crumbled and the Rwandan genocide and its aftershocks played out.
Item: An outbreak of Ebola occurred in 1995 in Kikwit, Congo and surrounding areas.
Dig: Dr. Matthew's Passion [NYT]
"Biomedical researchers admit profound ignorance about Ebola, a viral bleeding fever that first appeared in Africa in the late 1970's. There is no cure, and researchers do not know where the virus hides between human outbreaks. They do know, though, that the blood of an acutely ill Ebola patient is one of the most infectious and deadly substances on earth.Ronald Reagan
"Last September, at the Lomba River in southern Angola, when a force of UNITA rebels met an overwhelmingly superior force of government troops directly supported by the Soviet bloc, the UNITA forces defeated the government troops and drove them and their Communist allies from the field"."Item: Jesse Helms became Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1995. His later nickname was "Senator No".
Dig: The pressure of marauding warlords roaming the bush has forced many to start eating animals that had previously been left alone in the bush.
Clipping B [source appears to be BBC article Angola's town of fear and lonely death - known foreign liberal outlet]
"They looked like spacemen, utterly out of place in this poor neighbourhood on the edge of Uige. It is no wonder that some local people fear the health workers, believing they are wizards or sorcerers.
They entered the hut, but not before spraying the door with chlorinated water. Then they picked up the tiny body, and wrapped it in white plastic."
Item: In 1980, George H.W. Bush became Ronald Reagan's presidential running mate despite earlier criticism of Reagan's "voodoo economics". He had previously been Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Item: The South African regime combined with UNITA to invade Angola in August 1975, six months after that country's independence was gained from Portugal to kick its civil war into high gear. War would rage on and off for the next two decades.
"Savimbi was the toast of the Reagan White House, feted by the rightwing establishment in many countries and a friend to African tyrants. He was a willing tool of the cold war, the key figure in America's and apartheid South Africa's destruction of independent Angola's nationalist ambitions, and responsible for suffering and death on a scale barely comprehensible outside his ruined country."American Tabloid
"Mass-market hagiography gets you hopped up for a past that never existed. Hagiography sanctifies shuck-and-jive politicians and reinvents their expedient gestures as moments of great moral weight."Item: The Rwandan genocide took place in 100 days starting in April 1994. The Red Cross stopped counting bodies at 800,000. Remnants of the génocidaires fled across the border into Congo taking millions of Hutu with them.
Item: In 1998, an outbreak of Marburg fever occurred in Durba, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Item: It is said that along with eating tainted meats, traditional funeral practices in Angola and Congo exacerbate the spread of the Marburg and Ebola viruses. Hear it from the Gray Lady:
But Angolans have resisted the public health messages, because they do not want loved ones taken away and put into isolation wards where family cannot visit and because they resent interference with funeral traditions of washing the body and kissing it goodbye. Funerals must be conducted properly to show respect and affection for the deceased and to avoid neglecting spirits who might turn vengeful.Dig: Joseph Mobutu (a.k.a. Mobutu Sese Seko amongst other honorifics) was the most prized CIA asset in Africa from the 1960s until his death in 1997. He was a friend to every CIA director in his lifetime.
Clipping C [source appears to be subversive article, The terrible legacy of the Reagan years, The Guardian, known liberal UK newspaper]
"Over the Atlantic and down a bit, and we have Reagan welcoming Jonas Savimbi of the Unita organisation to the White House and speaking of his murderous outfit in Angola."Ronald Reagan - Forward For Freedom
"In the history of revolutionary struggles or movements for true national liberation, there is often a victory like this that electrifies the world and brings great sympathy and assistance from other nations to those struggling for freedom. Past American Presidents, past American Congresses, and always, of course, the American people have offered help to others fighting in the freedom cause that we began. So, tonight, each of us joins in saluting the heroes of the Lomba River and their leader, the hope of Angola, Jonas Savimbi."Item: Angola has oil, diamonds and more. Congo has reserves of gold, copper, tin, tantalite, coltan and almost every valuable mineral that exists.
Item: The Angolan army were in Congo chasing UNITA. The Rwandans and Ugandans were there too chasing the génocidaires and the Lords Resistance Army respectively. Mugabe sent a crew from Zimbabwe too, as did Sudan (both sides), Chad (all sides) and others. Various soldiers of fortune from Ukraine, Serbia and elsewhere came to ply their trade.
Dig: They say at least 3 million people have died, mostly of starvation, during Africa's World War centered on Congo.
Dig: The mines have continued operating throughout the conflict.
Dig the scene: Stalking a Deadly Virus, Battling a Town's Fears [NYT]
"For the people of Uíge, rampant death is now joined by the near equivalent of a space invasion: health workers encased in masks, goggles, zip-up jump suits, rubberized aprons and rubber boots as they collect corpses in the stifling heat. The garb is all white, a symbol of witchcraft here."
Chew on this one: [Zaire's Mobutu Visits America - Heritage Foundation Research. Our people!]
"In Angola, Mobutu has been a catalyst, in supporting the U.S. objective of reconciliation between Angola's warring parties and, though he denies playing such a role, reportedly in assisting the U.S. in supplying Jonas Savimbi's UNITA Freedom Fighters."Item: The Bush and Mobutu families spent vacations together.
Actually what Savimbi was doing was prolonging a civil war in which the UN estimates that 300,000 children died directly or indirectly during the Reagan years, and Angola was covered in landmines. Human Rights Watch reports that UNITA's indiscriminate use of landmines, caused there to be more than 15,000 amputees in the country by 1988, ranking the country alongside Afghanistan and Cambodia in the league of blown-off limbs.American Tabloid
"Our continuing narrative line is blurred past truth and hindsight. Only a reckless verisimilitude can set that line straight."Ronald Reagan - Forward For Freedom
"So, you see, like the Panama Canal in 1976, foreign policy issues like defense spending and aid to the freedom fighters may prove the sleeper issues of the year."Dig the locals:
"When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers." - Angolan proverb.
Dig: The symbol of the Republican Party (a.k.a. the Grand Old Party, GOP) in the United States is the elephant.
Item: The Soviet Union, and later Russia, was a key financial and logistical backer of the MPLA movement in Angola. Cuba also provided significant military aid up until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Clipping D [source appears be report on Operation Babushka - ref. [redacted] Bantustan. TPMCafe, known subversive outlet.]
"The [International Freedom Foundation] IFF was ostensibly founded as a conservative think-tank, but was in reality part of an elaborate South African military intelligence operation, code-named Operation Babushka. Established to combat sanctions and undermine the African National Congress, it also supported Jonas Savimbi and his rebel Angolan movement, Unita."Item: Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, mostly doing hard labour on Robben Island, South Africa.
"They were rogue cops and shakedown artists. They were wiretappers and soldiers of fortune and [redacted] lounge entertainers. Had one second of their lives deviated off course, American History would not exist as we know it."Clipping D
"From '85-'88, Grover Norquist, who worked with [Jack] Abramoff at the College Republicans, served as Savimbi's Economic Advisor and was registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent of Angola. [PK]" [Note: we're investigating the PK initials, spin it: Paul Krugman?]
Clipping E [A blast from the past - Mail & Guardian, South Africa]
"For several years after its launch in 1985, [Jack] Abramoff (47) was the Washington face of Pacman, code name for the International Freedom Foundation (IFF). In 1995, the New Nation reported former security policeman Paul Erasmus as describing the IFF as a stratcom-military intelligence (MI) project designed to sway world opinion against the anti-apartheid movement."Clipping D
"In 1995, [Williamson] described the IFF to Newsday as an instrument for "political warfare" whose job was "undercutting ANC credibility". The operation was constructed to prevent people knowing "they were involved with a foreign [South African] government. They ran their own organisation, but we steered them"."Item: Claude Allen was Jesse Helms' campaign spokesman in 1984.
Dig: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher argued vociferously against sanctions imposed on the South African apartheid regime by the United Nations.
Dig the locals:
"A woman who wants a child doesn't sleep in her clothes" - Angolan proverb.
"So, let me urge you all to return to your organizations and communities and to tell your volunteers and your contributors that the President said that they're needed now as never before, that the crucial hour is approaching, that the choice before the American people this year is of overwhelming importance: whether to hand the government back to the liberals or move forward with the conservative agenda into the 1990s."Clipping E [Jonas Savimbi, Unita's local boy - BBC]
"Some of the harshest criticism has come from those who once knew and admired Savimbi, but have since admitted they were duped by his charisma into overlooking serious character flaws. [Note: suggest we follow this talking point]Clipping F [Jonas Savimbi profile Final Call, 2002 - Detroit)
A former backer in Washington once conceded ruefully: "Savimbi is probably the most brilliant man I've ever met, but he's also dangerous, even psychotic"."
Depending upon when and where he was interviewed, Savimbi appealed to tribalism, nationalism, anti-communism, or revolution, whichever suited his needs at the time. When speaking to Black American audiences, he would claim friendship with Malcolm X, and with international revolutionaries, he would invoke the spirit of the Argentine, Che Guevara, who became a leader of the Cuban Revolution. In European capitals and in Washington, D.C., Savimbi became the darling of the most racist right wing elements, and they handsomely financed his terrorist struggle against the peoples throughout southern Africa for nearly 30 years.Item: Jesse Helms was chairman of Senate Agriculture Committee in the 1980s.
Dig: Claude Allen was appointed as Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy in January 2005
"After quitting the IFF in 1989, [Jack] Abramoff released Red Scorpion, an action movie that portrayed a Savimbi-like anti-communist guerrilla commander supported by Washington and Pretoria. Crystal said the IFF was not involved in the film's production. According to Williamson, however, it was "funded by our guys", who also provided military trucks, equipment and soldiers as extras."
Dig: Swedish actor Dolph Lungdren tends to play Russian roles. He is best known as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. In Red Scorpion, he plays a KGB agent Nikolai. [Undetermined significance.]
Item: The Tale of Red Scorpion: "The manager of one of the major cast members, who did not want to be named, said that, according to her client, many of the actors and crew were never paid at all"
Dig: There was a Red Scorpion 2. "It went straight to video in 1994 and did not star Lundgren."
Ronald Reagan - Forward For Freedom
"My fellow conservatives, let's get the message out loud and clear. The Washington liberals and the San Francisco Democrats aren't extinct; they're just in hiding, waiting for another try. Well, let's make it clear to the American people that they must choose this year between those who are enemies of big government and the friends of the freedom fighters and, on the other hand, those who are advocates of Federal power and a foreign policy of illusion. So, let the choice be clear. Will it be "blame America first," or will it be "On to Democracy" and "Forward for Freedom"?"Clipping G [Africa's Gems: Warfare's Best Friend - New York Times, 2000]
"Diamond money paid for Unita offensives that in the 1990's elevated Angola's civil war to a new plateau of savagery. Highland cities like Cuito and Huambo were all but flattened by artillery shells. More than half a million Angolans were killed. Land mines maimed about 90,000. Fighting displaced 4 million Angolans, and about 1 million continue to depend on foreign food aid. The United Nations Children's Fund now ranks Angola as the worst place on earth to be a child."Item: "Just because a lizard nods its head doesn't mean it's happy." - Ghanaian proverb.
"And freedom is the issue. The stakes are that high. You know, recently Nancy and I saw together a moving new film, the story of Eleni. It's a true story. A woman at the end of World War II, caught in the Greek civil war, a mother who, because she smuggled her children out to safety, eventually to America, was tried, tortured, and shot by the Greek Communists."American Tabloid
"The real Trinity of Camelot was Look Good, Kick Ass, Get Laid. [Jack Kennedy] was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He talked a slick line and wore a world-class haircut."Ronald Reagan
"It is also the story of her son, Nicholas Gage, who grew up to become an investigative reporter with the New York Times and who, when he returned to Greece, secretly vowed to take vengeance on the man who had sent his mother to her death."Dig: Claude Allen oversaw the White House Task Force that coordinated the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Item: Bird flu found in stone marten in Germany [Associated Press]
"A weasel-like animal called a stone marten was infected with the deadly bird flu virus, marking the disease's spread to another mammal species... Cats are believed to have caught the virus by eating infected birds. Given the species' similar eating habits, Ulrich Arnold, a scientist at the University of Marburg's Institute for Medical Microbiology, said the discovery was "no new situation for Germany"."
Dig: Laurent Desiré Kabila, installed as President of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda in 1997, was murdered by his bodyguard 3 days after the inauguration of the 43rd American president in 2001. His "adopted son", Joseph Kabila, assumed power after his death.
"But at the dramatic end of the story, Nick Gage finds he cannot extract the vengeance he has promised himself. To do so, Mr. Gage writes, would have relieved the pain that had filled him for so many years, but it would also have broken the one bridge still connecting him to his mother and the part of him most like her. As he tells it: ".. her final cry, before the bullets of the firing squad tore into her, was not a curse on her killers but an invocation of what she died for, a declaration" how that cry was echoed across the centuries, her cry was a cry of love "My children!" A cry for all the children of the world, a hope that all of them may someday live in peace and freedom."Dig: The B-Movie Theory [known African-American subversive poet/singer Gil Scott-Heron, we've got a workup ready on him]
The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia.Ronald Reagan
And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne.
But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan
And it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at like a "B" movie
"And how many times have I heard it in the Oval Office while tryng to comfort those who have lost a son in the service of our nation and the cause of freedom. "He didn't want to die," the wife of Major Nicholson said at Fort Belvoir last year about her husband, "and we didn't want to lose him, but he would gladly lay down his life again for America"."Clipping H [source appears to be Africa's Gems: Warfare's Best Friend - New York Times, April 2000]
"At Andulo, Unita's headquarters in the central highlands of Angola, Mr. Savimbi personally haggled with arms merchants and diamond traders who flew in from Europe. The rebel boss bargained using small bags of diamonds, each of which contained several million dollars worth of gems."American Tabloid
"Lies continue to swirl around his eternal flame. It's time to dislodge his urn and cast light on a few men who attended his ascent and facillitated his fall."Ronald Reagan
"So, we owe something to them, you and I. To those who've gone before - Major Nicholson, Eleni, the heroes at the Lomba River - and to the living as well - Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa, Adolfo Calero, Jonas Savimbi - their hopes reside in us as ours do in them."
Item: The battle of Cuito Cuanavale (1987-1988) in Angola was critical in the Angolan civil war, one in which the marxist MPLA, helped by the Cuban army, faced off against UNITA and the South African army. Each side played the indecisive military outcome off as a propaganda victory. The costs to Cuba and South Africa were primarily political and economic.
Dig: In 1990, Nelson Mandela was freed from captivity after 27 years. He had been having secret negotiations with the South African government. The first formal meeting was in May 1988.
Ronald Reagan - Forward For Freedom
"Some 20 years ago I told my fellow conservatives that "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny." And tonight that rendezvous is upon us. Our destiny is now. Our cause is still, as it was then, the cause of human freedom. Let us be proud that we serve together, and brave in our resolve to push on now toward that final victory so long sought by the heroes of our past and present and now so near at hand."Item: "Words are like bullets. When you release them, you can't call them back" - Gambian proverb.
Item: Angola is the seventh most important source of oil for the United States which imports 433,000 barrels per day from it.
Dig the profile for Angola:
"The top foreign oil companies operating in Angola are US-based ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil, France's Total, UK's BP, UK/Dutch Shell, and Italian Agip/Eni Oil Company."Dig the headline: China expands ties with oil-rich Angola [CNN]
Clipping I [Columbia University press release]
"Researchers at the Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, led by Thomas Briese, associate professor of epidemiology, have developed a rapid, comprehensive diagnostic test for viral hemorrhagic fevers caused by the Ebola and Marburg viruses, as well as others."Clipping J [Jonas Savimbi profile - London Review of Books, March 2002]
Jonas Savimbi stole just about everything and he should not be pitied. His greatest wish was to take possession of Angola, not as a common felon but as a feudal grandee, a Naipaulian Big Man, who would stride out of the bush, fully empowered by elections or force majeure - it didn't much matter - and preside over the capital Luanda, the decadent enemy heartland of half-castes, Marxists, philanderers and oil-profiteers. This was not possible. In the attempt, which lasted roughly thirty years, he robbed Angolan peasants of just about everything and several well-known politicians of their plausibility. Jeane Kirkpatrick, the Reagan Administration's henchperson at the UN, described him as 'one of the authentic heroes of our time', and Reagan himself is reported to have likened him to Abraham Lincoln.Dig: The civil war in Angola lasted for 26 years.
Even as he ceased to serve the purposes of Washington and Pretoria at the end of the Cold War, he continued to persuade Western right-wing lobbyists and anti-Communist crusaders to part with their money: 'hearts, minds and purses' was the Savimbi strategy on this front and it paid off handsomely. He also pilfered and cannibalised greater reputations to advance or tweak his own: he proclaimed himself a Maoist before Maoism became an anathema and a devotee of Che when fashion features in the Face were still decking out pretty boys from Epping or Harrogate to look like jungle revolutionaries. Ingenuity, coupled with immense reserves of courage, cruelty and amour propre, was the ingredient that allowed him to continue his 'armed struggle' in Angola for so long, and to turn the country into one of the unhappiest on earth. At the same time, he was a consequence of Angola's place in the Cold War jigsaw, and the speed at which the Angolan anti-colonial struggle became an internationalised civil war fought by large numbers of non-nationals.
Item: George H.W. Bush served one term as president of the US. His eldest son is currently in his 5th year as president of the US, Jeb Bush is currently governor of Florida and Neil Bush leads a relatively charmed life.
Dig: Jesse Helms retired from the US Senate in 2003, in his latter years he was pursued in a charm offensive by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The two were said to have become quite good friends and made a curious couple around Washington.
Dig: Jack Abramoff pled guilty on January 3, 2006 to three criminal felony counts in federal court related to the defrauding of Native American tribes. "Jack Abramoff and a former business partner were sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison for fraud related to their 2000 purchase of the SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet. The sentences were the minimum under their plea agreement in the case." 266 eminent persons including congressmen submitted character references for his sentencing. In his plea bargain biography, he claimed to be "appalled at the violence in Red Scorpion". There is no word on his feelings on the sequel that he produced, nor indeed any reference to Jonas Savimbi, Angola, Nelson Mandela or South Africa.
Item: Claude Allen, who resigned in February 2006 as President Bush's top domestic policy adviser, was arrested March 2006 in Montgomery County for allegedly swindling Target and Hecht's stores out of more than $5,000 in a refund scheme, police said.
Dig: Grover Norquist is president of the anti-tax lobbying group Americans for Tax Reform with close connections to the White House. He is most famous as the architect of the political strategy known as Starve the Beast.
"It's time to demythologize an era and build a new myth from the gutter to the stars. It's time to embrace bad men and the price they paid to secretly define their time.Dig: Jonas Savimbi was shot to death, his body riddled with bullets in February 2002 after being chased down by Angolan troops. Within weeks, UNITA sued for peace and the decades-long civil war was nominally over.
Here's to them."
"Thank you. God bless you."Dig: There are stories that the remnants of UNITA are still roaming around the forests in Congo and Angola, serving as soldiers of fortune in that ongoing Great Scramble. They have company in the Rwandan Hutu génocidaires and the Ugandan Lords Resistance Army among other miscreants.
Item: Ronald Reagan passed away in June 2004 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was "the most fascinating person of the last quarter-century", according to a Top 25 list compiled by CNN and editors at Time magazine in 2005.
Dig: George W. Bush was fourth in that survey.
Angola is a state of mind.
In the United States, it refers to Angola, Louisiana, the prison state of hard knocks and cruel disappointment that Gil Scott-Heron sang about or that gritty late night documentary you might have watched on cable television - Gary Tyler and all that. Angola used to be a slave plantation but it is now a maximum security prison.
There is more to the story of Angola however. There's that other story, of that other Angola, over there on that "Dark Continent", that other place called Africa. That story is of the civil war that raged for decades, fomented by opportunistic gremlins and parasites. Oh they had themselves a field day of collateral damage. Russia, Cuba, South Africa, the United States and their willing local companions.
Yet somehow, Angola has prevailed even as things fell apart. You can hear it in the music, see it in their eyes. The Angola that I know has resilience that illuminates that moral abyss and ineffable loss. The landmines that dot its territory are intermixed with diamonds, oil and, at its heart, a spirited people. The marauders will always be fighting for the loot but they will never extinguish the soul of Angola
There is much pain still, and we have returning war heroes contemplating the landscape; a generation striving to regain their footing. Like their Mozambiquan neighbours, it's a case of getting back to the farms and manning the factories. In short, a time to rebuild. Missing limbs are a matter of course but ingenuity abounds, and perhaps with kind words, good will, and a decade of quiet, the potential will be fulfilled.
Now there is investment galore, millions to be made, they say. Angola is a US ally, there's Big Oil, Texan bankers and that War against Terror. Hell, the Chinese have joined in the fun. Hell indeed. We can no longer tolerate those inconvenient remnants of the UNITA movement roving around as soldiers of fortune. We're buying them off one at a time, they too need a piece of the proverbial pie. Reconciliation they call it. If properly directed, petrodollars should go some way to assuaging any latent guilt and restoring lost limbs.
Well let's just say that's the prevailing script: all is well, let us forget. Still, no one comes out of a civil war untainted, let alone the vicious, dirty proxy war waged for so long in that land.
I read the dossier.I take comfort in the Angola that I know, the one that is full of visions of hope. I treasure it in my sleepless nights. And even if those dreams founder, I know we'll always have Carnaval in Angola, glorious, exuberant and joyous.
I buried it for a year.
It's the Heart Of Darkness.
I saw a man raise his eyes to the sky.
I remembered another man's face.
I heard a rousing speech.
I want to believe.
I want to believe.
To cap things off, last year Angola qualified for the first time for the 2006 World Cup to be held in Germany. I so look forward to this summer.
Dig this last one: the town of Marburg is at the center of the triangle of towns in which Angola is due to play its first round matches.
Next in Part 8: Huhudious (or Silly Season)
File under: Angola, Africa, Marburg, Ebola, Congo, Savimbi, Reagan, politics, war, history, rogues, neocons, waste, loss, Mobutu, USA, America, James Ellroy, literature, perception, observation, image, Great Game, hardboiled, paranoia, documentary, storytelling, essay, Abramoff, B-movie, writing, noir, Heart Of Darkness, Things Fall Apart, toli