Book review: Conflicting Missions
Written by Leon Engelbrecht, Thursday, 03 September 2009
A Colossus who bestrode the
But what drove him to step onto that stage? Some years ago US academic Piero Gleijeses sought to answer that question and Conflicting Missions was the result. Gleijeses was the first Western scholar given access to the archives of the Cuban armed forces and he had access to some top Cuban officials – although not Fidel or his brother Raul.
Access to the archives reportedly after several years of pestering the Cuban authorities through the 1990s and was in part a Cuban reaction to their former African allies airbrushing them out of history. "The Africans are not rushing to tell
South Africans generally know Cuba for its role in the Namibian-Angolan "Border War", which culminated at Cuito Cuanavale in early 2008 – exactly 20 years ago, a fact mentioned in the ruling ANC`s annual "January 8" statement this year: Among the events the party plans to celebrate this year is "the 20th anniversary of the defeat of the SADF at the battle of Cuito Cuanavale", which the ANC says "marked a turning point in the apartheid war of aggression against the people of Angola, contributing to the achievement of Namibian independence, and providing impetus to the process that led to the negotiated end of apartheid."
The statement then adds: "We use this occasion to salute the sons and daughters of the Cuban people who laid down their lives in the fight for our freedom." Of interest is the absence of mention of the Angolan Armed Forces. Angolan troops made up the bulk of the forces at Cuito Cuanavale and the fighting preceding it. Whether the ANC`s silence is a reflection of its warm ties with
This vibrant amnesia means
Gleijeses writes that Castro was a main driver of these interventions, which nearly always had three legs: military assistance, scholarships and civil aid, mostly in the form of medical doctors. The US CIA, Gleijeses says, correctly summed him up, saying he was driven by "his sense of revolutionary mission" as well as the need for self-preservation. Henry Kissinger later acknowledged Castro as the "most authentic" revolutionary of his time. As a result Cuban aid came free to the recipients – a shrill contrast to Soviet and East Bloc aid that often came with a price tag even higher than that attached to Western aid.
Gleijeses reveals a Castro concerned about a fickle
Conflicting Missions cover the period 1962 to 1976, ending just after the withdrawal of South African troops from
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