180. Memorandum of Discussion at the 456th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda item 1. For discussion of agenda item 1, see Document 33.]

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2. U.S. Policy Toward the Congo (NSC 6001; NSC Actions Nos. 2262, 2270, 2276 and 22842)

Mr. Gray called on Secretary Dillon to introduce the discussion. Secretary Dillon said that the disagreement between Lumumba and Hammarskjold could create a grave situation. The Security Council meeting had been delayed to permit the Congolese delegation to get to New York. The delegation would be headed by Vice President Gizenga who is as bad or worse than Lumumba. The U.S. had suggested a further delay in the Security Council meeting and Hammarskjold had agreed. All the Africans in New York are opposed to Lumumba and we wanted the Congolese delegation to have time to learn this. It might calm them down somewhat.

We believe, Secretary Dillon indicated, that the Soviet Union is behind the Congolese move. Pravda had made a strong attack on the UN and the Soviet representative had told Hammarskjold on Wednesday that he disagreed with Hammarskjold’s interpretation and agreed with Lumumba’s interpretation of the Security Council resolutions. It was clear that Lumumba’s letters to Hammarskjold had not been written by Lumumba. The interchange took place too rapidly and there was too much evidence of knowledge of UN procedures for this to have been possible. Hammarskjold believes that they were written by a Belgian Communist who is Lumumba’s chief of cabinet. Others, however, think that a Soviet attaché in the Congo, who has had extensive UN experience, may have been the author.3

It was Hammarskjold’s idea, Secretary Dillon continued, to present his interpretation of the Security Council’s resolutions and to say that he would follow out this interpretation unless he was otherwise requested by the Security Council. This would put the ball in the Soviets’ court. If the Soviets moved a resolution against Hammarskjold, we would speak in support of him. The Soviets would then get two votes for their resolution and nine abstentions. This would mean that the original resolution and Hammarskjold’s interpretation of it would stand. Nothing positive saying that Hammarskjold was right would be offered because such a resolution could be vetoed by the Soviet Union. This seemed to be an intelligent way to handle the matter and Hammarskjold was confident of success. Hammarskjold considers Lumumba an impossible person and has suggested that an explanation of his up and down behavior may be that he takes dope. Hammarskjold is worried about Nkrumah, who continues, in Hammarskjold’s view, to have ambitions for leading a large African state. Hammarskjold believes that he may be working with Lumumba in the hope of taking him over.

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There was no immediate danger to Hammarskjold’s position in the current situation but there was real danger if Lumumba carried out his threats. If the Security Council backed Hammarskjold and Lumumba carried out his threat to force the UN out, he might then offer to accept help from anyone. It was Hammarskjold’s view that it would be difficult for the UN to remain in the Congo if the Congolese Government actively opposed it. Also, the countries that have contributed troops to the UN force would probably not want their troops to remain if the Congo actively opposed their presence. The elimination of the UN would be a disaster which, Secretary Dillon stated, we should do everything we could to prevent. If the UN were forced out, we might be faced by a situation where the Soviets intervened by invitation of the Congo after the UN had been forced out. This would be a different situation from the one foreseen earlier and would be a very difficult one.

It was Mr. Hammarskjold’s view, Secretary Dillon indicated, that the only way that the Congo can be kept going is for the UN to run it as a UN trusteeship, although it would not be called that. The only reason that Katanga continues to operate is that Belgian civilians there are still running the government and business. U.S. Ambassador Timberlake is concerned that the UN has not been forceful enough in dealing with the Force Publique. The Force Publique is armed and Lumumba could use it to terrorize the whites. He might force all the whites out except for the Soviet technicians. Summing up, Secretary Dillon stated that how to deal with the problem in the UN Security Council was fairly clear but what came after the Security Council debate was not so clear.

Mr. Stans said that it was the consensus of people who know the Congo that it was the objective of Lumumba to drive the whites out and to take over their property; that Lumumba had no concept of the implications of such action for his country. Secretary Dillon said that he was working to serve the purposes of the Soviets and Mr. Dulles pointed out that Lumumba was in Soviet pay. Mr. Stans asked whether the situation in the Congo did not call for quiet recognition of Tshombe’s efforts to pick up other areas of the Congo. Secretary Dillon agreed that this might be appropriate. He pointed out that if the Congo was to be a viable state, it would need the resources of Katanga. He said that there was a lot of interest in the idea of a loose confederation of the sort favored by Tshombe. We could not support Tshombe while Belgian troops were in Katanga because then Tshombe had been simply a Belgian puppet. But now that the Belgians were largely out and were beginning the evacuation of their bases, something may be possible.

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The President said that the possibility that the UN would be forced out was simply inconceivable. We should keep the UN in the Congo even if we had to ask for European troops to do it. We should do so even if such action was used by the Soviets as the basis for starting a fight. Mr. Dillon indicated that this was State’s feeling but that the Secretary General and Mr. Lodge doubted whether, if the Congo put up really determined opposition to the UN, the UN could stay in. In response, the President stated that Mr. Lodge was wrong to this extent—we were talking of one man forcing us out of the Congo; of Lumumba supported by the Soviets. There was no indication, the President stated, that the Congolese did not want UN support and the maintenance of order. Secretary Dillon reiterated that this was State’s feeling about the matter. The situation that would be created by a UN withdrawal was altogether too ghastly to contemplate.

Mr. Dulles suggested that if the assets of Katanga could be retained, the economy of the Congo could be throttled. The Soviets would have to throw a lot of money into the rest of the Congo to keep it viable in such a case. It was important to preserve Katanga as a separate viable asset. The President suggested that the UN might recognize Katanga. Mr. Stans suggested that we might base ourselves on Tshombe and Kasavubu and throw out Lumumba by peaceful means. Secretary Dillon stated that Kasavubu was like spaghetti and that he was strong only when Lumumba was away.

The National Security Council:4

Discussed recent developments with regard to the situation in the Congo, on the basis of comments by the Acting Secretary of State.
Noted the President’s view that a United Nations presence should be maintained in the Congo in the interests both of the Free World and the United Nations, despite Lumumba’s efforts, supported by the Soviet Bloc, to expel UN forces.

Note: The action in b above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of State for appropriate action.

[Here follows agenda item 3.]

Robert H. Johnson
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Johnson on August 25.
  2. This is apparently the NSC meeting concerning which Johnson testified on June 18, 1975, before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He stated his recollection that at an NSC meeting during the summer of 1960, “President Eisenhower said something—I can no longer remember his words—that came across to me as an order for the assassination of Lumumba who was then at the center of political conflict and controversy in the Congo.” Johnson stated that this was his impression at the time but that, in retrospect, he was uncertain whether it was an accurate reading of the President’s meaning; both Dillon and Boggs testified before the Committee that they did not recall such a statement by the President. See Senate Select Committee, Interim Report, pp. 55–60. Neither this nor any other memorandum of NSC discussion in the Whitman File records such a statement by the President. The only other NSC meeting during the summer of 1960 at which the Congo was discussed and at which both Eisenhower and Johnson were present was on September 7, but Johnson’s memorandum of that meeting records no comment by the President concerning the Congo; see Document 199.
  3. Regarding NSC Action No. 2284, see footnote 4, Document 171.
  4. Reference is presumably to Soviet Chargé Andrei A. Fomin.
  5. Paragraphs a–b and the Note that follows constitute NSC Action No. 2287, approved by the President on August 24. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)