Front Door to Cuba


INVASION at Bay of Pigs

"Events are the ephemera of history."
Fernand Braudel

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Mass trials were held for the 1,189 men captured, and each was sentenced to 30 years in prison. After twenty months of negotiation, most were released in exchange for $53 million in food and medicine. (Two men were held for 25 years; Ramon Conte and Ricardo Montenero Duque.)

As a result of the U.S. failure at Bay of Pigs and the diplomatic embarrassment that ensued, President Kennedy fired long-time CIA Director Allen W. Dulles, Deputy Director Charles P. Cabell, and the one principally responsible for the operation, Deputy Director Richard Bissell. Publicly, Kennedy assumed full responsibility for the failure, but he secretly blamed the CIA and ordered a full investigation of the operation. The resulting report, written by CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick, upset the new CIA director John McCone (who replaced Allen W. Dulles) so much that all but one of the 20 copies produced were destroyed, and the report stayed classified until February of 1998.

The controversial Inspector General's report concluded that ignorance, incompetence, and arrogance on the part of the CIA were responsible for the fiasco. It criticized nearly every aspect of the CIA's handling of the invasion: misinforming Kennedy administration officials, planning poorly, using faulty intelligence and conducting an overt military operation beyond "agency responsibility as well as agency capability." The report also said that, "The agency reduced the exile leaders to the status of puppets."

Aside from being at once a major victory for the Cuban Revolution and a major embarrassment for Kennedy and the CIA, the attack at the Bay of Pigs set the stage for the major confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union: the missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

In the meantime, perhaps as a result of the Bay of Pigs embarrassment, Kennedy's obsession with eliminating Castro grew. A plan code-named "Operation Mongoose" spurred by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, attempted to eliminate Castro by any means necessary.

Bissell writes, "To understand the Kennedy administration's obsession with Cuba, it is important to understand the Kennedys, especially Robert. From their perspective, Castro won the first round at the Bay of Pigs. He had defeated the Kennedy team; they were bitter and they could not tolerate his getting away with it. The president and his brother were ready to avenge their personal embarrassment by overthrowing their enemy at any cost. I don't believe there was any significant policy debate in the executive branch on the desirability of getting rid of Castro. Robert Kennedy's involvement in organizing and directing Mongoose became so intense that he might as well have been deputy director for plans for the operation."

An Army memorandum from March 1, 1962 titled, "Possible Actions to Provoke, Harass or Disrupt Cuba," outlines a number of ideas, including Operation Bingo, a plan to fake an attack on the U.S. base atGuantánamo Bay in Cuba that would provide cover for a devastating military assault on Havana. Operation Dirty Trick, in which Castro would be blamed if the 1962 Mercury manned space flight carrying John Glenn crashed, and Operation Good Times, involving faked photos of "an obese Castro" with two voluptuous women in a lavishly furnished room "and a table brimming over with the most delectable Cuban food." The caption would read, "My ration is different."

President Kennedy approved what became Operation Mongoose on November 3, 1961. "Scrambling for ways to keep the pressure on Castro after the Bay of Pigs invasion," wrote Mark J. White in The Kennedys and Cuba: The Declassified Documentary History; "John and Robert Kennedy came to pin their hopes on Operation Mongoose, the centerpiece of American policy toward Cuba from late 1961 until the onset of the 1962 missile crisis. Despite the fact that the Bay of Pigs turned out to be a catastrophe, the similarities between that operation and Mongoose were striking. Both were meant to be clandestine. (Mongoose actually was; U.S. involvement in the Bay of Pigs had become public knowledge at the time of the event.) Both were based on the belief that a potentially large opposition to Castro's leadership existed in Cuba and could be exploited to America's advantage. And the ultimate objective of both operations was the overthrow of Castro. What mongoose came to be, in practice, was an attempt to harass the Cuban government, through such means as economic sabotage, and to plan for the use of direct American military force in the event an anti-Castro uprising in Cuba could be triggered."

According to U.S. News & World Report (10/26/98) an estimated 10,000 pages of previously secret documents have been quietly declassified, revealing other CIA plots such as hiring Mafia hit men and devising a poisoned scuba suit as a gift for Castro. There is talk in many of the newly released CIA documents of a "Remember the Maine incident" that would facilitate military intervention.


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