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The Final Days of Paraguaya’s Alfredo Stroessner

On February 3rd, 1989 tanks rolled into Paraguay’s capital Asuncion, led by General Andres Rodriguez. Briefly bullets and bombs rattled the city, and — after 33 years in power — President Alfredo Stroessner was quickly overthrown. Stroessner fled to Brazil, where he stayed until his death in August 16, 2006. In these excerpts,  James F. Mack, who served as the Deputy Chief of Mission in the period right before the coup, explains the real progress made under Stroessner, which accounted for his initial popularity, but  that “he did not know when to leave.” He tells of the not-so subtle hint the police sent during a reception for dissidents and his surprise that General Rodriguez, who had such close family ties to Stroessner, would be the one to lead the coup. Read more

Ariel Sharon Launches an Attack — Against the U.S. Ambassador

Ariel Sharon, who died January 2014 after eight years in a coma, was not known for his calm and easygoing demeanor. After being forcibly removed from his position as Defense Minister, Sharon fought to get back into the political spotlight. In late 1983, he accused U.S. Ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis and Israeli politician Smicha Erlich of conspiring against him to get him demoted. With a stream of false accusations, Sharon launched an all-out media attack, even though he was unable to produce a single form of corroborating evidence. In these excerpts, Lewis tells how the situation unfolded when he was back in Washington. He regrets that he listened to those who advised not to issue a denial immediately after the story broke, which only allowed the rumors to circulate. Read more

“Our government has evidenced moral bankruptcy”: The Blood Telegram and the 1971 Bengali Genocide

Pakistan after independence was a strange creation:  the capital, Islamabad, and most of the power were located in the west while the rest of the country was located far out east, separated by another – and often hostile – country.  The Bengalis were poorly treated and scorned by the Pakistanis; in March 1971, the nationalist Awami League won election but the results were ignored by the ruling West Pakistani establishment.  Days later, the Pakistani military launched an offensive against Bengalis, which later led to widespread atrocities. The war lasted over nine months, forced 10 million to flee the country and caused the displacement of another 30 million people. India entered the war in December, which quickly led to Pakistan’s capitulation and the creation of Bangladesh.

The U.S. Consulate in Dacca (now U.S Embassy Dhaka, Bangladesh) had been sending cables to Washington, detailing the horrors committed by Pakistani forces. Fed up with the lack of response from President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, Consul General Archer Blood and 29 of his colleagues on April 6, 1971 sent a dissent telegram to Washington describing the killings of Hindus in East Pakistan as “genocide.”

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Evacuating Somalia

Codename: Operation Eastern Exit.  In January 1991, violence due to the Somali Civil War had escalated so much that Ambassador James K. Bishop requested military assistance in an evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu. This evacuation had more than its share of unexpected challenges, in no small part because the Pentagon was totally focused on Desert Shield in Iraq. In addition to the violence and looters, Bishop was faced with breakdowns with the rescue helicopters, a missing golf course, a wandering Russian diplomat, and a rescue mission that was nearly sent to the wrong location. He was interviewed beginning in November 1991 by Charles Stuart Kennedy. Read more

Stranded in the Cold War Siberian Winter

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) marked a turning point in relations between the U.S. and the USSR. Signed in December 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty came into force on June 1, 1988 and was the first treaty to ever destroy nuclear missiles, rather than just cap the number each side could possess. It eliminated  intermediate range missiles (between 300-3,400 miles), including the Soviets’ accurate SS-20s. At the time of its signature, the treaty’s verification regime was the most detailed and stringent in the history of nuclear arms control. It established various types of on-site inspections, including short-notice inspections of declared and formerly declared facilities and elimination inspections to confirm elimination of INF systems in accordance with agreed procedures.

In practice, this meant that teams of Americans would fly in to conduct inspections throughout the USSR. Eileen Malloy was posted to Moscow in 1988 right after the treaty was signed and worked directly with the government to facilitate the visits of U.S. inspection teams. Read more