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A 12,000-word article from Foreign Policy which details about United States government’s involvement in supporting a bloodthirsty authoritarian regime in Chad, and how, in the eventual face of international scrutiny, supported the trial of the ex-leader, Hissene Habre, for the war crimes US government had actually indirectly assisted.
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The first step was to put Habré in the presidential palace.
The CIA’s station chief in Khartoum, a French speaker, made the initial approach, meeting Habré and his advisors in Sudan. Soon, weapons and cash were wending their way to Habré’s rebel camp on the Chad-Sudan border. The CIA would send supplies through regional allies to Khartoum; then Sudanese intelligence, which was closely allied with the CIA, would move them by train to Nyala, the former British Administration Headquarters in Darfur, where Habré would pick them up and drive them across the border.
The possibility that the assistance would help Habré terrorize his own people was hardly considered. “Little to no attention was paid to the human rights issues at the time for three reasons,” a former U.S. intelligence official who worked with Habré explained in an email. “(1) We wanted the Libyans out and Habré was the only reliable instrument at our disposal, (2) Habré’s record suffered only from the kidnapping (the Claustre Affair), which we were content to overlook, and (3) Habré was a good fighter, needed no training, and all we had to do was supply him with matériel.”
On June 7, 1982, Habré and 2,000 of his fighters fought their way into N’Djamena and declared the founding of Chad’s “Third Republic.” He consolidated power with brute force from the beginning: POWs from rival militant groups were executed, political opponents were captured and shot, and civilians thought to be sympathetic toward his opponents were targeted in reprisal operations. Oueddei fled to Libya, where Qaddafi would retrain and rearm his forces. And soon the United States was ferrying C-141 StarLifters loaded with weapons to Chad to arm Habré for the next step in its proxy war with Libya.