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JFK's Back Channel Efforts to Castro (during the missile crisis)


David Lifton
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From a grad student with whom I keep in touch, and who informs me earlier today:

“Apparently, some new files have been declassified yesterday and released today re: the Kennedys and Fidel. I haven't had a chance to look at this material yet, but I thought it might be of interest to you.”

His email to me is titled: CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS REVELATIONS: KENNEDY'S SECRET APPROACH TO CASTRO

To see the original material, as posted at the National Security Archive website on 10/12/12, click on this link:

http://www.gwu.edu/~...AEBB/NSAEBB395/

FWIW: My own comment, on a quick reading; this is really loaded with interesting information and developments. If I were an “insider” and seeking to promote the view (false, imho) that JFK were an appeaser (“just like his father”. Etc etc ad nauseum), some of this material certainly contains grist for that mill--i.e., information that would nourish that view.

DSL

10/14/12; 6:40 PM PDT

Los Angeles, California

From: National Security Archive <archive@GWU.EDU

Date: October 12, 2012, 4:33:20 PM CDT

CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS REVELATIONS: KENNEDY'S SECRET APPROACH TO CASTRO

DECLASSIFIED RFK DOCUMENTS YIELD NEW INFORMATION ON BACK-CHANNEL TO FIDEL CASTRO TO AVOID NUCLEAR WAR

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 395

Posted - October 12, 2012

Edited by Peter Kornbluh

For more information contact:

(DSL Note: all red font has been added by me, on a first reading. . .)

http://www.nsarchive.org

Washington, D.C., October 12, 2012 -- On the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, new documents from the Robert Kennedy papers declassified yesterday and posted today by the National Security Archive reveal previously unknown details of the Kennedy administration's secret effort to find an accord with Cuba that would remove the Soviet missiles in return for a modus vivendi between Washington and Havana.

The 2700 pages of RFK papers opened yesterday include the first proposed letter to "Mr. F.C.," evaluated by the Executive Committee of advisors to Kennedy on October 17th--just one day after the president learned of the existence of the Soviet missiles in Cuba. The draft letter, available to historians for the first time, initiated a chain of events that led to a complicated back-channel diplomacy between Washington and Havana at the height of what Kennedy aide Arthur Schlesinger called "the most dangerous moment in human history."

The Archive's Cuba analyst, Peter Kornbluh, who was the first person to review the RFK papers at the Kennedy Library, noted that the documents "reinforce the key historical lesson of the missile crisis: the need and role for creative diplomacy to avoid the threat of nuclear Armageddon." Kornbluh noted that the State Department's own official historians, referring to the initial letter to Castro, had admitted that "none of these drafts have been found." The fact that the Robert Kennedy papers have yielded new information previously undiscovered by the government's own researchers, Kornbluh said, "underscores the historical importance of this declassification on the 50th anniversary of the crisis."

The Archive also posted two diagrams Robert Kennedy drew on his notepad during the crisis deliberations, including his initial tally of the "hawks" and the "doves" as Kennedy's advisors took positions on diplomacy vs. the use of force against Cuba.

The draft letter warned Castro that by deploying the ballistic missiles the Soviets had "raised grave issues for Cuba. To serve their interests they have justified the Western Hemisphere countries in making an attack on Cuba which would lead to the immediate overthrow of your regime." Moreover, according to this proposed communication, Nikita Khrushchev was quietly hinting that he would betray Cuba by trading concessions on Berlin for "Soviet abandonment of Cuba." Warning that failure to remove the missiles would lead to U.S. "measures of vital significance for the future of Cuba," the message offered an oblique carrot of negotiations for better relations once the Soviets and their weapons of mass destruction were gone.

DSL NOTE: According to this "draft letter," it was being proposed that President Kennedy should privately tell Castro that "Nikita Khrushchev was quietly hinting that he would betray Cuba by trading concessions on Berlin for "Soviet abandonment of Cuba." Certainly, this is new information; what I'm wondering about is whether some people at State simply dreamed up this "white lie" (my quotes) to be used for strategic purposes, or whether there was any speck of truth in this. Continuing now with the text of the Kornblu report. . .

During the early deliberations of how to respond to the missiles in Cuba Kennedy's top advisors pressed him to reject this message to Cuba because it would undermine the option of a surprise U.S. air attack on the island. After Kennedy decided on an interim option of a naval quarantine of Cuba to buy time for diplomacy to convince the Soviets to withdraw the missiles, he ordered the State Department to come up with diplomatic alternatives to attacking Cuba.

In an October 25 memorandum, titled "Political Path," the State Department submitted a series of creative options for resolving the crisis peacefully, including allowing the United Nations to take control of both the Soviet missile bases in Cuba and the U.S. missile bases in Turkey.

(DSL Note: This, of course, would have infuriated the political right wing.)

The document also provided an outline for an "approach to Castro" through Brazil, with a message to Castro underscoring his options: "the overthrow of his regime, if not its physical destruction," or "assurances, regardless of whether we intended to carry them out, that we would not ourselves undertake to overthrow the regime" if he expelled both the missiles and the Russians.

DSL Note: Please note these words: ". . regardless of whether we intended to carry them out. . . " Hmmm. . . this would appear to mean that the State Department was proposing to President Kennedy that one possible course of action would be to lie to Castro, to get him to expel the Soviets and their missiles, and then --contrary to assurances--overthrow him and his regime anyway. Continuing now with the Kornblu text. . . :

During an Excomm meeting on October 26, Kennedy actually approved a version of this message to be sent to Castro, albeit disguised as a Brazilian peace initiative sent by the government of populist president Joao Goulart, rather than one from Washington. The draft cable, published here for the first time, instructed the Brazilians to secretly carry the message to Castro that his regime and the "well-being of the Cuban people" were in "great jeopardy" if he didn't expel the Russians and their weapons. If he did, however, "many changes in the relations between Cuba and the OAS countries, including the U.S., could flow."

By the time the Brazilian emissary arrived in Havana on October 29th, however, the urgency and relevance of Kennedy's Brazilian back-channel message had been eclipsed by events. On October 28, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the missiles--in return for a Kennedy's public pledge not to invade Cuba, and the President's secret promise to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey sometime in the near future.

For more than 40 years, the details of Kennedy's approach to Castro remained Top Secret. In 2004, based on declassified documents found in the archives of the Brazilian foreign ministry and the Excomm tapes, George Washington University historian James Hershberg published the first comprehensive account of the furtive diplomatic initiative in the Journal of Cold War Studies.

DSL NOTE: Does anyone have the Hershberg paper, or a link to it??

An abbreviated account of the Castro approach, written by Peter Kornbluh, appears in the November 2012 issue of Cigar Aficionado. The story is also recounted in Kornbluh's forthcoming book (with William LeoGrande), Talking with Castro: The Untold History of Dialogue between the United States and Cuba.

Read today's posting at the National Security Archive website - http://www.gwu.edu/~...AEBB/NSAEBB395/

Find us on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/NSArchive

Unredacted, the Archive blog - http://nsarchive.wordpress.com/

________________________________________________________

THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.

Edited by David Lifton
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"Several days too late?"

Excuse me?

Is that all an Education forum can do? Is the purpose of this forum merely to facilitate a race to see who can copy and paste a link to a news story the fastest?

These RFK papers deserve better than that.

It's a shame they were kept hidden and away from the public, and it's even worse that they are released on a Thursday when the JFK Library was planning a conference on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis for the following Sunday. This gives the public 3 days to look at them before this conference. Mr. Kornbluh and Mr. Tye may have had early access to them. And the media may be bored with the Cuban Missile Crisis or these papers, or RFK, or the Kennedys in general. But, I'm not.

I was disappointed that it was a one day conference. And no one from the audience got to ask anyone on any panel any question. There really was no way to properly incorporate these new documents into our understanding of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was hoping they would all be on a CD or DVD scanned in .pdf and given away with a proper program. But, they are scanned and online. And they scanned them in color too!

Now, the thing to do is fight the redactions and pink Withdrawal Sheets and get them really and truly declassified.

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"Several days too late?"

Excuse me?

Is that all an Education forum can do? Is the purpose of this forum merely to facilitate a race to see who can copy and paste a link to a news story the fastest?

Get off your high horse, Joe - at least long enough to take your foot out of your mouth.

The forum owners insist that new threads not be started when the topic already has a thread. You need to take that up with them if you disagree with it.

As for a race to be the "first" - you need to take that particular peccadillo up with Mr Lifton whose breathless announcement here bespeaks of a need to be the person to "break" such news. A simple search could have saved him 4 paragraphs of needless background on how he came to know about it.

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"Several days too late?"

Excuse me?

Is that all an Education forum can do? Is the purpose of this forum merely to facilitate a race to see who can copy and paste a link to a news story the fastest?

These RFK papers deserve better than that.

It's a shame they were kept hidden and away from the public, and it's even worse that they are released on a Thursday when the JFK Library was planning a conference on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis for the following Sunday. This gives the public 3 days to look at them before this conference. Mr. Kornbluh and Mr. Tye may have had early access to them. And the media may be bored with the Cuban Missile Crisis or these papers, or RFK, or the Kennedys in general. But, I'm not.

I was disappointed that it was a one day conference. And no one from the audience got to ask anyone on any panel any question. There really was no way to properly incorporate these new documents into our understanding of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was hoping they would all be on a CD or DVD scanned in .pdf and given away with a proper program. But, they are scanned and online. And they scanned them in color too!

Now, the thing to do is fight the redactions and pink Withdrawal Sheets and get them really and truly declassified.

Joe,

Agreed.

Also, and fyi: contrary to Parker's assertion, I posted nothing that duplicated what was "already posted" on any other thread on this forum (and specifically, on the thread cited by him). That thread had links that went to the 10/11/12 announcement of what was going to be released.

The text I reproduced--and about which I offered my own commentary --was from what was posted at the National Security Website the next day (October 12), after Kornblu had examined the materials.

Here's that link, should anyone wish to go to the source, i.e., to the National Security Archive website - http://www.gwu.edu/~...AEBB/NSAEBB395/

Its obvious that there's a lot of new information in those boxes of documents. I'm looking forward to Kornblu's article in the November Cigar Afficianodo, and any other intelligent commentary.

DSL

10/15/12; 1:20 AM PDT

Los Angeles, California

P.S. In the post which follows (# 6, immediately following this post), Parker proves that he (apparently) cannot comprehend what I wrote (above).

To repeat: there is a clear difference between an announcement (on October 11th) that seven boxes of material were going to be released, and the very detailed text which I quoted (and linked to) at the National Security Archive website, material which was posted the following day, and which has extensive quotations from documents prepared by the State Department which suggest a "diplomatic" (or "political") way out of the missile crisis.

To anyone truly interested in this subject, just read the what I posted --or what is posted at the National Security Archive website--and ignore Parker's superficial and trivial gripes.

For my commentary, see Post #1 on this thread. For the source material at the National Security Archive website, just click on this link: http://www.nsarchive.org

DSL

Edited by David Lifton
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Also, and fyi: contrary to Parker's assertion, I posted nothing that duplicated

"Duplication" was not my assertion, David. My assertion was that what you posted was already the topic of a very recent thread - which actually turned out to be two recent threads. Trying to say your information was different is just splitting hairs. You thought you had a scoop when you didn't. Do you really think anyone cares what your grad student called his email? But you - you have to make it sound like a Royal Pronouncement to the peasantry. I'm sure I heard a fanfare just before I read it.

The threads need to be amalgamated. Joe got one thing right. The release is of great historical importance. So why are you guys happy to spread the discussion all over this board? Doesn't it make more sense to get it all one thread?

Edited by Greg Parker
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Greg, if I may. I happen to agree with you. I don't want an argument. All the time I've been on this forum various people do repeat posts, John does it often but I can see a method in his er... style. It links things and also a kind of survival principle is always at play that sorts threads out. When things get too mad like when Fetzer and Co decide to camp for a while the attrition of time does the job. So it's a principle of perhaps not flooding being enforced versus making it personal. I don't really see the forum anymore I see patterns and they teach me a lot. Things come in waves. There's always a reason and sooner or later it reveals itself. No need to get one's knickers in a knot. (I'm gonna regret this one)

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John,

thanks for the (qualified) support. This isn't a survivalist or Fetzer type situation. Simply put, neither David nor Joe bothered to click back a page or two to see if anyone else had already started a thread on this breaking news. And David clearly had a need to be the one to break it to his clamoring hordes of clueless serfs.

Other threads have been amalgamated without any one suggesting they should be, but despite the logic of doing it here, it has not happened. Why?

Another suggestion I made recently was ignored until it was "seconded". We'll see if your support makes a difference.

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Greg, if I may. I happen to agree with you. I don't want an argument. All the time I've been on this forum various people do repeat posts, John does it often but I can see a method in his er... style. It links things and also a kind of survival principle is always at play that sorts threads out. When things get too mad like when Fetzer and Co decide to camp for a while the attrition of time does the job. So it's a principle of perhaps not flooding being enforced versus making it personal. I don't really see the forum anymore I see patterns and they teach me a lot. Things come in waves. There's always a reason and sooner or later it reveals itself. No need to get one's knickers in a knot. (I'm gonna regret this one)

John (and Joe Backes, too):

As anyone with a serious interest in President Kennedy's foreign policy can see, the primary issue here is whether these documents provided grist for the mill (on the political right) that he was an appeaser.

What Peter Kornblu politiely called the "creative diplomacy to avoid the threat of nuclear Armageddon" led to the State Department bureaucrats generating "political" options, which included the following:

--that the United Nations would take over control of Soviet missile bases in Cuba and U.S. missile bases in Turkey

--that "Nikita Khrushchev as quietly hinting that he wold betray Cuba by trading concessions on Berlin for 'Soviet abandonment of Cuba.'"

I can easily imagine the Joint Chiefs getting seriously ticked off as they watched Kennedy in effect "playing chess" with some of their precious pawns.

FYI: Graham Allison, a Harvard professor and geopolitical expert, later wrote of the JCS reaction to Kennedy's use of a naval quarantine, and his unwillingness to mount a military invasion of Cuba--he said that, and he quoted one of them, that the Commander in Chief had "cracked and folded."

I'm curious to know how others react to Kornblu's report on these documents.

DSL

Edited by David Lifton
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So David do you really think JFK thinking of, but not, sending Castro a letter threatening him with an invasion in which he would be overthrown unless he withdrew the missiles can be spun as a sign of appeasement?

No, of course not. Nor do I think the talk of UN control of U.S. missile bases (or of "concessions" on Berlin, etc.) represented anything that Kennedy actually would do. But I do think it plausible that the mere discussion of such things, even as "possible options" etc., would be enough to roil the psyche of some of those who were hawks, and who were considerably to Kennedy's political right.

DSL

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From The New York Times

by Scott Shane

October 15, 2012

Excerpt:

WASHINGTON — In a previously undisclosed memo to President John F Kennedy, in the closing days of the Cuban missile crisis, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs

of staff said his forces were prepared to use nuclear weapons in an American invasion of the island if the Cubans used nuclear arms to resist.

The top secret memo from the chairman, General Maxwell D. Taylor, dated Nov. 2, 1962, underscored the continuing danger of a nuclear conflict between the

superpowers even after the Soviet Union removed nuclear missiles from the island on Nov. 1.

Full story: http://www.nytimes.c...-cuba.html?_r=0

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From The New York Times

by Scott Shane

October 15, 2012

Excerpt:

WASHINGTON — In a previously undisclosed memo to President John F Kennedy, in the closing days of the Cuban missile crisis, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs

of staff said his forces were prepared to use nuclear weapons in an American invasion of the island if the Cubans used nuclear arms to resist.

The top secret memo from the chairman, General Maxwell D. Taylor, dated Nov. 2, 1962, underscored the continuing danger of a nuclear conflict between the

superpowers even after the Soviet Union removed nuclear missiles from the island on Nov. 1.

Full story: http://www.nytimes.c...-cuba.html?_r=0

Michael,

I was pleased to see your post. As a seven day/week subscriber to the New York Times (but one who was very busy today) I just opened the NY Times delivered to my door at about 5 AM here in Los Angeles, only to find there was no mention whatsoever of the story.

I suppose it will be in tomorrow's edition (Tuesday, 10/16/12) and am most curious to see whether it will be on page one --which is where I think it belongs.

As to the content of the story, it is really bone-chilling to see what Kennedy was dealing with. Not only were some in his military itching for a nuclear showdown, but Castro was (also) behaving like a self-righteous Marxist nut-case, who was willing to supply the match.

And people wonder why Kennedy wanted the overthrow of the Castro regime? I'm not surprised.

I'm curious to see what "letters to the editor" are published, once the article actually hits the printed page.

DSL

10/15/12, 8 PM PDT

Los Angeles, California

P.S. 10/16/2012: The New York Times carried not a worried about the memos described in the Kornblu post at the National Security Archive. What they did carry was the Dobbs piece on the Op-Ed page. Nothing else.

Edited by David Lifton
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More on the Maxwell Taylor memo from The National Security Archive:

http://www.gwu.edu/~...AEBB/NSAEBB397/

Edited to add:

There are a lot of other fascinating documents in today's release, including quite a few memos from DIA Director Joseph Carroll.

Check out this memo from Curtis LeMay to Taylor. LeMay was ready to rock 'n roll.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB397/docs/doc%206%2010-22-62%20LeMay%20memo%20on%20SAC%20readiness.pdf

Edited by Michael Hogan
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The new movie "Argo" highlights Canada's contribution to spiriting US diplomatic staff out of Iran.

There's plenty of historical precedent for such action. Here, from Canada's equivalent to the New York Times:

In a little-known chapter of the Cold War, Canadian diplomats spied for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in Cuba in the aftermath of the 1962 missile crisis – and for years afterward.

A major part of that story is told in a forthcoming memoir by retired Canadian envoy John Graham. Mr. Graham was one of a series of Canadian diplomats recruited to spy for the CIA in Havana. The missions went on for at least seven years, during the 1960s.

“We didn’t have a military attaché in the Canadian embassy,” explained Mr. Graham, who worked under the cover of Political Officer. “And to send one at the time might have raised questions. So it was decided to make our purpose less visible.”

Mr. Graham said he worked as a spy for two years, between 1962 and 1964. His mandate was to visit Soviet bases, identify weapons and electronic equipment and monitor troop movements.

The espionage missions began after President John Kennedy asked Prime Minister Lester Pearson – at their May, 1963, summit in Hyannis Port, Mass. – whether Canada would abet American intelligence-gathering efforts in Cuba.

For more, see:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/canadian-diplomats-spied-on-cuba-for-cia-in-aftermath-of-missile-crisis-envoy/article4614595/

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