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An Espionage Caper in Ghana; Helping Americans Escape Rwanda — Scenes From a Diplomatic Life

Arlene Render’s career took her from a segregated neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, to three ambassadorships and a lifetime of diplomatic accomplishment, particularly in Africa.  Her experiences included cleaning up after a messy espionage affaire in Ghana and helping ensure that safe evacuation of American citizens from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.  Ambassador Render attended West Virginia State College on a full  scholarship from 1960-1964 and received her M.A. in Public Health from the University of Michigan in 1967. In 1970, Render joined the Foreign Service Reserve Officers Program, one of a small handful of “minority” officers in her A-100 entering class.  She went on to serve as as the Ambassador to The Gambia, Zambia, and the Ivory Coast, Director of Central African Affairs and Director of Southern African Affairs. In 2004, Ambassador Render became a Diplomat in Residence in the State of Georgia working with schools, universities, and organizations to discuss U.S. foreign policy issues and answering questions about careers in the Foreign Service. She served in posts promoting public health, development, and peacekeeping in Iran, Jamaica, and throughout Central/Southern Africa.

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The Impact of China’s Tiananmen Square Massacre in Taiwan and on the Mainland

Hong Kong-born U.S. Foreign Service Officer Edward Loo migrated to the United States as an infant, and went on to serve in Taiwan at the time of the infamous 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre — and in mainland China during the period of martial law that followed.  Loo’s career as a Foreign Service Officer spanned nearly three decades and took him around the globe, from Asia to Europe and beyond.  Loo grew up in San Francisco, California, earned an MA at Columbia University, and joined the Foreign Service in 1987.  In Taiwan, Loo witnessed first hand the reactions of shock and dismay that followed the events in Tiananmen Square.  Shortly thereafter Loo was transferred to Beijing, where the martial law and other repressive measures instituted by the Chinese government brought tension throughout the country — and in the U.S. Embassy.  Loo was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy in September, 2017.

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Cold War Cover Stories: The U-2 Incident

On May 1, 1960, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union brought down an American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers.  The U.S. government’s first reaction was to construct a believable cover story to conceal its program of high-altitude surveillance missions over the Soviet Union.

Powers began his flight from an airfield in Pakistan, but both he and his aircraft were stationed at Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey, the main U-2 base in the region. Powers was there as an (ostensibly) civilian pilot assigned to the Second Weather Observational Squadron. The closest U.S. diplomatic facility was our consulate in Iskenderun, Turkey, where Foreign Service Officer Beauveau “Beau” Nalle was serving his first overseas tour. (In 1961, the consulate would be moved to Adana, only a few miles from the air base.)

In a 1994 interview with Thomas Dunnigan, Nalle relates an encounter with Powers and recalls the various cover stories the U.S. government provided to explain the presence of the U-2 aircraft in the region — before the Soviets put Powers on television and the United States government went public with more accurate the details surrounding the crisis. Nalle’s story provides a glimpse into an age of espionage, revealing the amount of secrecy that existed even within governmental organizations.

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The Suez Canal Company: Catalyst for an Egyptian Crisis

The Suez Crisis of 1956 had far-reaching implications not only for Egypt and the Middle East, but throughout the world. President Gamal Abdel Nasser had risen to power determined to rid Egypt of colonial influence and avoid Cold War alignment. When the U.S. and U.K. suddenly withdrew their offer to help finance construction of the Aswan Dam, Nasser accelerated his plan to nationalize the Suez Canal. Nasser’s actions infuriated the British and French who were seeing a steady decline of their influence in the region with the rise of anti-colonial nationalism. The subsequent military incursion into Egypt by the British and the French was rooted in outrage at what these countries perceived to be an attack on their imperial interests. In a tripartite agreement, Israel agreed to launch an invasion force across the Sinai, at which point the British and French could intercede as peacekeepers. While this plan was later exposed, the British and other Western countries found it convenient, especially in the Cold War context, to paint Nasser as the aggressor. Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal Company and the canal remains in Egypt’s hands to this day.  Ambassador Raymond Hare comments on the crisis and shares his experience working with President Nasser. Ambassador Hare was interviewed by Dayton Mak on July 22, 1987.

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USAID: Working With State and DOD on Counter Terrorism – and with Oliver North in Honduras

Elizabeth Kvitashvili’s USAID career took her from Afghanistan to Honduras to Russia. She led efforts to provide humanitarian assistance amidst crisis and vast human suffering. Along the way she encountered Oliver North in Central America and President Clinton at a chocolate factory in Russia. She also helped USAID determine its role in countering the spread of terrorism, drawing on USAID’s own experience and the insights of Department of Defense “thought leaders” including then-Lt. General David Petraeus, Major General James Mattis and Colonel H.H. McMaster.
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