Fifty-six years ago this month, President John F. Kennedy and Cuban Premier Fidel Castro were each targeted by the American national security state. The young Premier with overthrow and death. The young President with blackmail and betrayal, leading to his death 31 months later.
From 1952 to 1959, Fulgencio Batista was the face of Cuba's comprador class, fronting for what truly controlled the Cuban state and its destiny: U.S. corporations and the U.S. mob. Even as late as the autumn of '58, these American forces showed no concerns regarding a loss (or slippage) of control.
It was not to be, even though Vice President Richard M. Nixon took significantly more mob money in 1960 than did his opponent, arriving to Nixon via the Teamsters and the Howard Hughes/CIA crime combine.
How silly of Francis Coppola to present "the mob" as the real power within the American deep state. "Bigger than U.S. Steel"? Yeah, that's why mob flunkies (among others) were hired to kill the man who defied U.S. Steel in April of '62.
On New Year's Day 1959, Fidel Castro's revolutionary army at last took Cuba back for Cubans. (In an unfortunate accident, Batista was allowed to flee the island -- with tens of millions of dollars -- and live in exile until 1973.)
In May 1959, the new people's government enacted the Agrarian Reform Law -- limiting the size of farms to 3,000 acres and real estate to 1,000 acres. Any holdings over these limits were expropriated by the government and redistributed to peasants in 70-acre parcels, or held as state-run communes. The law also stipulated that sugar plantations could not be owned by foreigners.
February 1960: the Soviet Union provides Cuba with $100,000,000 in credit and signs an agreement to purchase sugar in exchange for oil.
July 1960: Eisenhower bans all imports of Cuban sugar.
August 1960: Castro nationalizes all U.S. oil refineries, sugar mills, electricity and telephone utilities.
January 3, 1961: lame-duck Ike ends diplomatic relations with Cuba and closes the American embassy in Havana. Two weeks later, he gives his renowned "military-industrial complex" warning speech -- coming from the man who allowed that complex to be formed in the first place, whose foreign policy was hijacked by the Dulles brothers, leading to the overthrow (or attempted overthrow) of democratically-elected governments in Albania, Iran, Laos, Guatemala, Burma, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Indonesia, British Guyana, while refusing to allow free elections in Vietnam. And sometime back in '60 -- not long after JFK accepted the Democratic nomination for President -- Eisenhower, Nixon, Allen Dulles, Henry Luce, John J. McCloy and other American capitalists decided to murder Fidel, his brother Raul, Che, and the revolution itself. Along with hopes for regime decapitation, CIA in that summer of '60 invented the Trinidad Plan: 2,000 anti-Castro "exiles" to land at daybreak on some Cuban shore, backed by American amphibious and air support.
What is now known as the Bay of Pigs invasion (and the Battle of Playa Girón in Cuba) would become new president John F. Kennedy's second Station of the Cross (Laos the previous month was his first), in Kennedy's road toward the Golgotha of Dallas. The same month he made clear his refusal to send American troops to Laos and his support for a neutralist Laotian government including the communist Pathet Lao, Kennedy cancelled CIA's Trinidad, while going along with the criminal invasion itself. The revised plan presented by CIA director Dulles and covert action chief Richard Bissell would land 1,200 "exiles" at night with no American military support, Bissell assuring Kennedy that no American air strikes would be necessary and that disaffected Cubans would join the brigade in a revolt against Castro and the revolution. Kennedy agreed, reserving the right to cancel the invasion at the last minute -- while repeatedly stressing to his intelligence and military commanders that no follow-up support by American troops or American hardware in case things went wrong would occur. He told CIA deputy director Charles Cabell (whose brother Earle would be Mayor of Dallas on 11/22/63) that the Cuban Expeditionary Force (using painted-over CIA airplanes) should be allowed to only launch airstrikes from a strip within the beachhead, an opportunity which never came because the "exiles" were not able to establish one.
The first betrayal by Kennedy's commanders was to insure that no cancellation by him would be possible. CIA's chief military adviser told the anti-Castro Cubans what to do in case of a last minute stoppage of the invasion: "If this happens you come here and make some kind of show, as if you were putting us, the U.S. advisers, in prison, then you go ahead with the program as we have talked about it, and we will give you the whole plan, even if we are your prisoners. Place an armed Brigade solider at each American's door, cut all communications with the outside, until we give the go ahead for when and how to leave for Trampoline base [the invasion's launching point in Nicaragua]." When Attorney General Robert Kennedy later learned of this contingency, he called it by its correct name: "treason."
John F. Kennedy did not stop the invasion. On April 15, 1961, Cuban airfields were bombed by "mystery planes" in order to destroy the revolution’s air force. Eight B-26 bombers attacked airfields at Ciudad Libertad, San Antonio de los Baños and Santiago de Cuba, destroying only a quarter of Cuba's fighter planes. The next day, 1,200 "exiles" landed at Playa Girón, where things began to fall apart immediately.
Kennedy realized he had been drawn into a trap. Daniel Schorr of CBS News attended a Havana conference on the 40th anniversary of the invasion:
"The CIA overlords of the invasion -- director Dulles and his deputy Bissell -- had their own plan of how to bring the United States into the conflict. It appears they never really expected an uprising against Castro, when the liberators landed. What they did expect was that the invaders would establish and secure a beachhead, announce the creation of a counterrevolutionary government, and appeal for aid from the United States and the Organization of American States. The presumption was that President Kennedy, who had emphatically banned direct U.S. involvement, would be forced by public opinion to come to the aid of the returning patriots. American forces, probably Marines, would come in to expand the beachhead. In effect, Kennedy was the target of a CIA covert operation that collapsed when the invasion collapsed."Kennedy was shocked by the trap: send in American combat troops to rescue the brave "exiles" or suffer a humiliating defeat before the whole world, the first by an American president since Pearl Harbor. CIA was shocked by his refusal to invade. After three days of fighting, the invading force was defeated by the Cuban army. In Havana, ten counterrevolutionaries were executed for treason. Two CIA agents captured a few days before the invasion were executed. All 1,200 "exiles" were captured or killed. The Battle of Playa Girón was a total victory for the Castro revolution, and for anti-American nationalist forces around the globe.
Kennedy was furious. He told aides Kenneth O'Donnell and Dave Powers, after it was over: "They were sure I'd give in to them and send the go-ahead order to the Essex [the Navy carrier waiting to launch airstrikes]. They couldn't believe that a new President like me wouldn't panic and try to save his own face. Well, they had me figured all wrong."
And he took steps. He created National Security Action Memorandum 55, stripping all military operations from CIA and handing them to the Pentagon. He cut CIA's budgets (in ever-increasing amounts) for years 1962, '63, and '64. He told his aides he wanted to "splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds." "I have learned one thing from this business [the Bay of Pigs] -- that is, we will have to deal with CIA. . . no one has dealt with CIA."
He fired the four principal planners of the invasion: Director Allen Dulles, Deputy Director Richard Bissell, Deputy Director General Charles Cabell, and "executive action" commander William Harvey.
Dulles would later return to run the Warren Commission. And toward the end of his life, in an interview with Harper's Magazine writer Willie Morris, Dulles said something unprompted (and with vehemence): "That little Kennedy. . . He really thought he was President. He thought he was a God."
Far from thinking he was a God, John F. Kennedy lived with a raven on his shoulder. From an early age, death was his companion: lying in bed with scarlet fever as a boy, a chronic blood condition in boarding school, ulcers and colitis at Harvard, crippling back problems intensified by war injuries which plagued him until the end of his life, the early deaths of his older siblings Joe and Kathleen. Death was always a step away. He did not fear it.
What Kennedy came to fear, especially after the Bay of Pigs and the new knowledge of what he was up against, was not his own death, but the death of humanity -- by a nuclear war regularly pushed or willingly risked by most of his own national security state. Not long after the humiliations of the failed Cuban invasion, his secretary Evelyn Lincoln found a piece of paper fallen from his desk, with two lines in Kennedy's handwriting:
"I know there is a God and I see a storm coming.
If He has a place for me, I believe that I am ready."
If He has a place for me, I believe that I am ready."
The Cuban invasion forced upon him a terrible knowledge: that he was imprisoned by the demands of his own government. John F. Kennedy rebelled against the economic, political, and even spiritual powers which made up the walls of that prison. In the short span of his presidency, he compromised with those powers in many ways. (Allowing the Cuban invasion to go ahead was perhaps the worst compromise.) But in the end, especially though all of '63, he stood his ground -- and took the bullets.
Two days after his total defeat at Playa Girón, John Kennedy held a press conference:
The same day as the conference, in the first public appearance since the invasion, Fidel Castro formally declared the Cuban revolution as "socialist."
Fifty-six years later, it still is.