Front Door to Cuba

"Events are the ephemera of history."
Fernand Braudel


INVASION at Bay of Pigs

"In view of the fact that God limited the intelligence of man,
it seems unfair that he did not also limit his stupidity." - Dean Acheson to Arthur Schlesinger

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From the end of WWII in 1945 and up until the mid 1980s, most Americans could agree on one thing; communism was the enemy. Communists wanted to destroy us. To change our way of life. To subvert the values of the "free-est" country in the world. Even after Senator Joseph McCarthy went out of fashion, the concept that we were engaged in mortal combat against communism lived on.

To most Americans the idea seemed perfectly normal and very urgent. It was also understood that they didn't play by the rules. They lied, cheated, bribed, manipulated, murdered and did whatever else they had to do to win, which meant that if we wanted to win, we'd have to beat them at their game.

Senator John F. Kennedy, the young, liberal catholic making a bid for the big chair in the oval office knew that the only way to get that chair was to ride the popular wave of anti-communism. In the process, Kennedy and his brother Robert became obsessed with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

One reason for this obsession may be the widely believed concept that all communisms emerged from the same source and had a unified goal: to subvert imperialism and take over the world. The source, of course, was the Soviet Union. The plight of indigenous people enslaved, wiped out or completely ruled by faceless empires for centuries was no excuse. The line was "clearly" drawn: you're either on their side or ours.

For a while we laughed at the thought of a U.S. president entertaining such uninformed and unenlightened ideas, and we'd shiver at the mere thought that a U.S. President would base foreign policy on such childish generalities. But Kennedy went on to become both an avid anticommunist and a U.S. president.

In this global climate of ignorance, fear, disinformation and presidential machismo, the Cuban revolution emerged in 1959. Within a year, President Eisenhower was sad to learn that Cuba's revolution was, indeed, a social revolution and not just the exchange of one friendly regime for another, and soon relations between the 2 countries began to deteriorate.

In July of 1960, Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev spoke of "figurative" rockets that would protect Cuba from the U.S., and President Eisenhower announced that the U.S. would not "tolerate the establishment of a regime dominated by international communism in the western hemisphere."

The unofficial Cold War against Castro began in January of 1960, CIA planes from Florida, some with American pilots, raided Cuban fields with napalm-type bombs to burn sugar cane fields, and, as stated by Herbert L. Matthews in his book, Revolution In Cuba, the CIA "did everything that it could to bring about the overthrow of the Castro government."

As relations between the U.S. and Cuba continued to deteriorate, U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, Philip Bonsal, was permanently recalled to Washington on October 28, and the political chess game went to the next level. On January 3 1961, seventeen days before Kennedy took office, the Eisenhower administration broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Assassination attempts by the CIA against Castro failed, and Americans were confused about Cuba's political situation. The feeling in some circles of influence was that Cuba was a threat to the U.S., and "something" had to be done.

In his first State of the Union address on January 30 1961, President Kennedy declared that Communist domination in this hemisphere "can never be negotiated." Before the revolution celebrated its first year, the Cubans knew that the U.S. would attack.

The expected attack would likely resemble the CIA operation against Guatemala's Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, now remembered as PBSUCCESS (May 17 1954). About a thousand men gathered inside the Honduran border, where the U.S. military supplied them with planes, weapons and money. The end result was a new U.S.-friendly government, with little change for the mass peasant poverty or tiny wealthy minority of that country.

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