A disastrous coup
July 22, 2015 1:47 AM   Subscribe

After a failed attempt to overthrow the president of Gambia in December 2014, the US authorities charged two middle-class Americans from Texas and Minnesota. But why did they think they could succeed?
posted by Stark (31 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
FYI, OP, it's "The Gambia", not "Gambia". Looking forward to reading the links, thanks.
posted by smoke at 2:35 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Some conspirators knew each other only by code names like “X” and “Fox”. Documents were kept in a manila folder marked “Top Secret”.

Is it too late to join this conspiracy?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:49 AM on July 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


God what a depressing lesson in realpolitik for those silly naive bastards.

The operation was supposed to be swift and bloodless. It was supposed to be such a cakewalk, in fact, that Faal brought his wife and young child along with him to the Gambia.

Madness.
posted by smoke at 4:02 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I shall forthwith answer only to "His Excellency Dr. Professor Mr. Highness Joseph Gurl Conqueror of Minor Plumbing Emergencies and Ruler of the Sofa."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:16 AM on July 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Their manifesto has a very similar tone to "when in the course of human events...". It's reminiscent of the old saw about treason never prospering.
posted by Octaviuz at 4:16 AM on July 22, 2015


They thought they would be greeted as liberators. Where have I heard that one before?
posted by Talez at 5:13 AM on July 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


We can laugh now, but just wait until larger Internet groups start knocking off nations. 4chan has eyes on turning Burundi into the Republic of Lulz.
posted by delfin at 5:17 AM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Reminds me when a bunch of white supremacists tried to overthrow Dominica.
posted by PenDevil at 5:28 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Apple currently has around 250 times Gambian GNP. in cash. A better way to take over the country would be to become a mid-level marketing manager at Cupertino and buy it out of the poster budget.
posted by Devonian at 5:32 AM on July 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


Or that time Margaret Thatcher's son tried to take over Equatorial Guinea.
posted by dng at 5:32 AM on July 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


My boss was in the Gambia when this went down - he's originally from there but has lived in the US for many years. His sister was arrested when she showed up in the text message logs of one of the conspirators. A misunderstanding, apparently.

None of us at the office are big international news buffs, and the first we heard of it was when we innocently asked, "So how was your vacation?"
posted by Jeanne at 6:27 AM on July 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


The conspirators are pretty ridiculous, but it's hard to find humor here because their idiocy lead to people dying.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:13 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Then there’s the sheer hypocrisy of the charges. The Neutrality Act applies anyone who “knowingly begins” or “provides” for any military operation against a foreign territory with whom the US is at peace. The breadth of this wording could in theory include the likes of Dick Cheney in the run-up to the Iraq war; US black ops units on missions in dozens of countries; and drone operations against alleged terrorists as far afield as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Not in theory.
posted by three blind mice at 7:32 AM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


A maximum penalty of three years sounds kinda light for an attempted bloody coup -- you can get that for a parole violation. I guess it implies that we're not that concerned about citizens trying to overthrow foreign governments.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:43 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not in theory.

?

Unless I slept through that particular war crimes tribunal, it's sure not true in practice.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:52 AM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Or that time Margaret Thatcher's son tried to take over Equatorial Guinea.

Wow! That's a bit of late stage colonial history that I never registered or heard about! Jesus Christ!
posted by latkes at 7:57 AM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


it's "The Gambia", not "Gambia"

Who makes up these dumb rules?

Do they really use an article for the country name in non-English Gambian languages, or is this a British colonial whim?
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:07 AM on July 22, 2015


The Gambia's official language is English.
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:12 AM on July 22, 2015


Yes, that's why I asked about non-English Gambian languages.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:15 AM on July 22, 2015


I'm sure Netherlands agrees that putting a 'the' in front of a name is silly. I'd suggest going to Hague to complain.
posted by YAMWAK at 8:26 AM on July 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Joke's on you; that country's official name in nederlands is "Nederland." Den Haag, meanwhile, still has the article, but it's in an archaic form that rarely appears outside of placenames.
posted by fifthrider at 8:32 AM on July 22, 2015


[Generalized arguments about the use or not of definite articles in country names seems like not so much the focus of the linked article, maybe let that be for now.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:41 AM on July 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Or that time Margaret Thatcher's son tried to take over Equatorial Guinea.

In researching whether Sir Mark had been stripped of his hereditary title over his adventures in colonialism, I learned the verb "attaint". And he definitely seems like one.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 8:46 AM on July 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Okay, so this is apparently a trend: The Accidental Terrorist about Chhun Yasith, a Cambodian-American accountant who planned and almost carried out a coup in 2000 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:46 AM on July 22, 2015


Not that this story isn't interesting as it is, but when I first read the post and saw Texas and Minnesota, I was imagining a couple of white Midwesterners trying to take over the country William Walker style, because hey, they're Americans, how hard could taking over a small African country be?
posted by tau_ceti at 8:52 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


After a failed attempt to overthrow the president of Gambia in December 2014, the US authorities...

I don't mean to lecture the OP on grammar, but the construction of this sentence could probably stand to be made a bit less ambiguous considering the history of US authorities plotting similar activities in the region.

But then, considering such past cases as Vang Pao (linked in the article), I wouldn't put it past the CIA to have indeed been behind this plot from the get-go, only charging the actors as a last-ditch cover.

The conspirators are pretty ridiculous, but it's hard to find humor here because their idiocy lead to people dying.

A CIA mission statement if ever there was one.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:00 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


God, that Guardian piece is just such a mess. The author knows perfectly well why the US is prosecuting these guys and, ultimately, he confesses that prosecuting them is the right thing to do (which is pretty bleeding obvious). But he's writing for the Grauniad and it's about America, so he has to work his way through obligatory huffing and puffing about how shocking and hypocritical it all is before he finally gets to that point.

Even for the Grauniad audience, the suggestion that it's either morally or legally impossible to distinguish between private citizens staging a coup against a foreign power and members of the government making preparations for war prior to the actual outbreak of hostilities is pretty laughable.
posted by yoink at 9:13 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the time a bunch of Americans in 1973 tried to overthrow the Chilean gov...

Oh, wait. Oh.
posted by ipsative at 9:26 AM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Plus ça change...
posted by Sys Rq at 10:49 AM on July 22, 2015


As to "why did they think they could succeed" --

First, coups in Africa have regularly succeeded on a remarkably small manpower / resource budget. That's why African coup-leaders-turned-presidents have been colonels, captains and (!) sergeants as often as they've been admirals and generals.

Second, these guys strongly believed that the regime was very unpopular and they would have a surge of popular and diplomatic support to cement the initial takeover. In other words, take the Presidential palace, radio station and television station with a handful of men, and then call out the people onto the streets to celebrate their liberation, and then the police and military units would switch sides. Neighboring states would extend recognition, maintain trade and other vital ties, and keep any counter-revolutionary movement from setting up bases in their territory.
posted by MattD at 10:50 AM on July 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


A less charitable reason: The smaller the group of plotters, the fewer rivals for the throne.
posted by ardgedee at 12:57 PM on July 22, 2015


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