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Turnaround on Angola

The House Intelligence Committee has adopted legislation requiring congressional consent for American support of military or paramilitary operations in Angola. The bill invites quick action by the full Congress before the Reagan Administration does anything more to worsen the situation in that beleaguered African nation.

In effect, the new legislation would restore the so-called Clark Amendment that Congress repealed last year. The reason for the quick turn-around is clear. The Administration said then that it wanted the limit on arms for Angola removed as a “matter of principle"--not because it had plans to send arms to Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA guerrillas, engaged with the forces of the South African army in a campaign against the government of Angola. Now the Administration, under pressure from the radical right, has decided that Savimbi is a “freedom fighter"--never mind his checkered past and contradictory credentials--and wants to join Pretoria in feeding arms to him to do battle with the Marxists in power--never mind that the Marxists seem to be the capitalists’ best friends, feeding their petroleum to the free world in collaboration with Western oil companies.

President Reagan tends to focus sharply where Marxists are concerned, and in this case his attention seems to have been riveted by the fact that the Angola government is supported and defended by a substantial force of Cubans. He seems to have overlooked word from the Angola leaders that they are ready and willing to do without the costly burden of the Cubans when their security can be assured, as it most certainly cannot be as long as the South Africans, and now also the Central Intelligence Agency, make war through the for-hire guerrillas of Savimbi.

The ideological considerations that drive the Administration’s Angola intervention not only make worse the tragic situation in that country but also ally the United States with South Africa’s strategy to postpone independence for Namibia.

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