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The Famine in Biafra — USAID’s Response to the Nigerian Civil War

Known as the ‘Giant of Africa,’ Nigeria stretches across the continent like a patchwork quilt, sewn together from dozens of historically independent religious, ethnic and linguistic subgroups, all vying for political representation and control. After achieving independence in 1960, the infant nation struggled to maintain a fragile peace as members of the Muslim Hausa-Fulani ethnic group dominated the North and Christian-Animist Igbo and Yarubo divided the resource-rich South.

Then in 1966, a series of military coups resulted in the execution of Nigeria’s political leaders and the rise of a new government ruled by the northern military leader, Supreme Commander Yakubu Gowon. Read more

“The Six-Day Miracle”: The 1967 War and How It Changed Israel

“This is a fight for the homeland – it is either us or the Israelis…. Any of the old Palestine Jewish population who survive may stay, but it is my impression that none of them will survive.”   —   Ahmad Shukeiri, June 1, 1967

Four days after Shukeiri, the first Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, predicted the imminent annihilation of the State of Israel, the Israeli army launched a preemptive strike against the hostile nations of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Their attack followed several weeks of undisguised aggression, during which time Egypt closed off the Straits of Tiran, amassed troops on the Israeli border and signed a defense pact with Jordan. These actions, along with the belligerent rhetoric of Arab leaders, indicated a three-pronged invasion with the intention of erasing the state of Israel from existence.

Then, on the morning of June 5th, 1967, Israeli planes attacked and decimated the Egyptian Air Force, initiating a conflict which would end six days later in a resounding Israeli victory.  Read more

Managing a Massacre: The Ramifications of Tiananmen Square

The Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 1989, and the subsequent months of intimidation, deception and violence, shattered the façade of Chinese political solidarity and severely damaged Sino-American relations. The crackdown followed weeks of protests after the death of reformist leader Hu Yaobang, when tens of thousands of peaceful protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square to demand greater political freedom. On June 3rd – 4th, tanks rolled through the Tiananmen protesters, dashing popular hopes for political reform and crushing a burgeoning Sino-American relationship which had taken two decades to build. Shocked by the bloodshed and the blatant violation of democratic principles, U.S  officials struggled to balance personal agendas, humanitarian concerns and diplomatic necessities in a whirlwind of sanctions, threats, appeals, and misgivings. Read more

The Strange Case of Ngo Dinh Can

It sounds like a scene out of a movie:  a corrupt dictator attempts to flee the country with the help of the American  Consul, but is stopped by a CIA agent who arrests him. However, this is a very real event that took place in Vietnam in the fall of 1963. While his brother, Ngô Đình Diệm, served as the President of South Vietnam, Ngô Đình Cẩn ruled the central region of Vietnam with an iron fist, lauded by the U.S. and others for his effectiveness against the Viet Cong communist insurgency. When another brother was appointed the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hue, Cẩn aggressively promoted Catholicism and cracked down on Buddhists. That led to massive demonstrations, to which Cẩn’s regime responded with even greater brutality, sparking the toppling of the Diệm regime in a November 1963 coup. Cẩn had been offered asylum by the Department of State, but Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. had CIA agent Lucien Conein arrest him in Saigon. Cẩn was turned over to the military junta, which tried and executed him in 1964. John Helble was the Consul in Hue who discusses his opposition to granting Cẩn asylum and the instructions from the Department to do so anyway. Read more

Caught in a Honeypot – Marine Clayton Lonetree Betrays His Country

Marine Security Guard Clayton Lonetree was seduced by a Russian woman, “Violetta Seina,” at the annual Marine Corps Ball in November 1985. She worked as a telephone operator and translator for Embassy Moscow but lived a double life as a KGB agent. Lonetree was so highly regarded that he was chosen to be part of the Marine unit assigned to provide security for the 1985 summit between Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan. However, despite the strict non-fraternization (“no frat”) policy imposed on all MSGs in such parts of the world, Lonetree and Seina began a relationship soon after they met. She introduced him to her “Uncle Sasha,” KGB operative Aleksey Yefimov, who asked Lonetree to become a “friend of the Soviet Union.”

Lonetree was soon convinced to turn over confidential information, including embassy floor plans. After he was transferred to Embassy Vienna in 1986, he passed on blueprints of that embassy and burn bags with top secret cables, including on U.S. arms reduction. On December 14, 1986,  Lonetree came forward to the CIA station chief in Vienna and confessed. He was immediately turned over to the Navy Intelligence Service (NIS) and placed under arrest, charged with espionage. Read more