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EP PODCASTSXML

May 4, 2007

Congo Lives, Part I

Chief of Station, Congo coverOne of the things I admire about Larry Devlin, who's got a new book out, Chief of Station, Congo, is his knack for getting things done. Call it implementation genius — not so many people have it... And I believe his motivations were honorable. Moreover, if you look, for example, at his judgment as applied to contemporary problems, like Iraq, you'll see how he makes a lot of sense. Some may complain that Larry was single-handedly responsible for wrecking most of post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa for a generation, or more. But that's not true: the Africans, and particularly the Congolese, were perfectly capable of wrecking things for themselves. To my mind it's more or less a wash what the CIA did in sub-Saharan Africa during the Cold War; if one wants to be critical perhaps the sensible perspective is that of a Greek tragedy, the principal actors moving according to a script outside their control. And as far as Laos goes, where later Larry served as Chief of Station at a time when it was the largest CIA station in the world, he was more than half right: the U.S. should not have been fighting a conventional war in southeast Asia. It's not often I get to talk with as colorful a character, so since Larry was willing I've turned this very long conversation into two parts (the second part to be posted tomorrow). For those interested in additional personal accounts of the 1960s Congo from principals, the UN has made available a number of fascinating oral history transcripts, here. It was very gracious of Larry to talk with me, which I particularly appreciate because I was a kid in the Congo during part of the time he was the CIA's Chief of Station there. As I say, I like the guy, and I think he tells his own story fairly. Total runtime in Part I of an hour and thirty two minutes. Enjoy!

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