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IB Essay: JFK's Foreign Policy & the Assassination


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Hi Simone-

You’ve selected a very interesting topic for your paper. My analysis, in a macro sense, is outlined below. Good luck!

Prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy administration had supported a policy of eradication vis-à-vis Castro and his communist regime in Cuba. This policy was implemented by providing support, through the CIA, to groups like Alpha 66. In November of 1961, the covert actions against Cuba were placed under the direction of Attorney General Robert Kennedy. The program was labeled Operation Mongoose and RFK placed General Ed Lansdale in charge of operations. Alpha 66 and related groups of loose-knit Cuban exiles and mercenaries worked closely with members of the U.S. Intelligence apparatus, primarily based out of the CIA’s JM/WAVE facility in Miami, FL. These groups attempted to assassinate Castro, conducted industrial sabotage against Cuba, and were attempting to pave the way for a second invasion attempt. However, Mongoose struggled, and had little impact. However, as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. points out in his excellent piece in Cigar Aficionado (link below), there is no evidence that President Kennedy know of the assassination attempts against Castro and that "CIA officials testified that they had not even informed John McCone, the man Kennedy brought in to clean up the Agency after the Bay of Pigs. If they informed Kennedy, they would have had to stipulate, 'But you can't mention this to McCone.' - a bureaucratic improbability." A good place to start researching the material in this paragraph is John Simkin’s and James Richards’ info here on Spartacus:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKoperation40.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKinterpen.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKmongoose.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKalpha.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKjmwave.htm

http://www.cigaraficionado.com/Cigar/CA_Pr...2540,17,00.html

When in October of 1962, it was discovered that the Soviets were placing offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba, Kennedy had a monumental decision to make: How to remove that threat without provoking a nuclear exchange with the U.S.S.R. To that end, Kennedy’s White House and the Kremlin carried out intensive back-channel communications and negotiations during the entire crisis. And while Kennedy publicly took a firm, no-negotiations stance toward the Soviet Union, he privately pursued ways to bring the crisis to a peaceful end. President Kennedy ultimately decided, despite strenuous efforts by his Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and other advisors to convince the President that air strikes and/or an invasion must be implemented, to opt for a naval blockade of Cuba. JFK’s decision led to a gradual reduction in tensions, negotiation, and ultimately achieved the goal of effecting the removal of the threat (the offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba) without starting a war with the Soviets. The primary concession Kennedy offered in exchange for the removal of the missiles was his pledge not to invade Cuba. This, of course, incensed the Cuban exile community, particularly the exile groups who were working with the U.S. government toward Castro’s removal. If you listen to some of the Kennedy White House tapes during this period (link below), and as I will offer later in this piece, it’s clear that JFK’s JCS felt that he had made a mistake in the way he handled the CMC. Good sources for researching the material in this paragraph are Robert Kennedy’s Thirteen Days and some of the Kennedy White House audio tapes found on the Internet at:

http://www.hpol.org/jfk/cuban/

This is where the “dual track” begins. The “dual track” refers to the inconsistent actions emanating from the Kennedy White House with regard to Cuba.

The case made by those who maintain that Kennedy was still intent upon eradicating Castro and invading (or lending support to an invasion force) Cuba cite Rolando Cubela’s 1963 meetings with Desmond Fitzgerald (CIA) in Paris, Castro’s alleged “threat” of retaliation for the assassination attempts against him, and the Kennedy administration’s funding of the Second Naval Guerilla.

In September of 1963, Cubela had a meeting with the CIA in Sao Paulo, Brazil where it was suggested that Cubela should assassinate Fidel Castro. According to a CIA report Cubela asked for a meeting with Robert Kennedy: "for assurances of U.S. moral support for any activity Cubela under took in Cuba." While this was not possible, the Chief of the Cuban Task Force agreed to meet Cubela. Fitzgerald and Nestor Sanchez met Cubela met in Paris on 29th October 1963. Cubela requested a "high-powered, silenced rifle with an effective range of hundreds of thousands of yards" in order to kill Fidel Castro. The CIA refused and instead insisted on Cubela used poison. On 22nd November 1963, Fitzgerald handed over a pen/syringe. He was told to use Black Leaf 40 (a deadly poison) to kill Castro. As Cubela was leaving the meeting, he was informed that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. I believe that Cubela was assured that this assassination attempt had the blessing of Robert Kennedy, although I am not aware of any evidence supporting this. Perhaps another Forum member could add some additional insight here. Additionally, President Kennedy was providing funds to the Second Naval Guerilla force, a Cuban exile group based outside of the U.S. that was continuing preparations for another invasion attempt. Kennedy met with Manuel Artime on November 17, 1963, presumably to reassure him of U.S. support. With regard to Kennedy’s funding of this exile group, call it leverage to be used in the dialogue Kennedy was seeking, call it temporary (attempted) placation of the livid, explosive, and militant exile community and the hawks in his administration, call it a “carrot and stick” approach, or call it a combination of all of the above. But common sense and the employment of sound methodology in interpreting the facts clearly prevent one from calling it Kennedy’s true policy toward Cuba. The fact that Kennedy supplied funds to the Second Naval Guerilla tells us zero about the motivation behind such support. Finally, there is evidence to suggest that Castro’s verbal “threat” was not a threat at all. On 8 September 1963, an American journalist by the name of Daniel Harker had a brief Q & A with Fidel in which Castro stated in response to a question about CIA attempts to assassinate him, “The American leaders should be careful. This is something the government could control.” However, in his report, Harker suggested that Castro was making a threat against Kennedy. I suppose that one could potentially interpret it that way. Another interpretation would be that Castro knew the CIA (or at least the faction that was running the Cuban exiles out of JM/WAVE and causing him so many problems) was ultra right-wing and out of control and he was appealing to Kennedy to call off the dogs. Sources used in this paragraph include:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKcubela.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKfitzgeraldD.htm

http://www.cuban-exile.com/doc_026-050/doc0027.html

Evidence suggesting that Kennedy was in fact supporting a new policy regarding Cuba, one of peaceful co-existence and the normalizing of relations, is supported by Kennedy’s sending French journalist Jean Daniel to meet with Castro (in fact, they were meeting at the very moment of JFK’s murder) in order to discuss the possibility of normalizing relations, the fact that Kennedy simply had too much to lose by violating his pledge not to invade (see the below excerpt from Khrushchev’s 12/11/62 letter to Kennedy). Further, the reaction of the Cuban exile community (they were furious with Kennedy and felt that they had been betrayed) proves that that they believed JFK’s olive branch to Castro was genuine, regardless of whatever Kennedy was telling Manuel Artime.

At the request of President Kennedy, Jean Daniel met Fidel Castro on 19 November 1963. Daniel later described Castro as listening with "devouring and passionate interest". Castro told Daniel that Kennedy could become "the greatest president of the United States, the leader who may at last understand that there can be coexistence between capitalists and socialists, even in the Americas.” Daniel was with Castro when news arrived that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated Castro turned to Daniel and said: "This is an end to your mission of peace. Everything is changed" (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKdanielJ.htm). There are many sources that can provide good information regarding the reaction of the Cuban exile community to JFK’s olive branch. Two that come to mind are Gaeton Fonzi’s The Last Investigation and the transcript of the Nassau Conference: http://www.cuban-exile.com/doc_026-050/doc0027.html

The weight of an argument should stand on the facts, as truth and inquiry are a process related to fact, logic, and argument. However, as I’m sure you’ve surmised by now, the facts in this case are often contradictory and ultimately inconclusive. This is largely, but not entirely, due to disinformation and governmental secrecy, the result of which renders deductive logic (the process of reaching a conclusion that is guaranteed to follow, e.g. mathematics) unavailable. Or as the Talking Heads so eloquently put it:

Facts are simple and facts are straight

Facts are lazy and facts are late

Facts all come with points of view

Facts don't do what I want them to

When the nature of the evidence renders deductive reasoning impossible, we are left with abductive reasoning (reasoning based on the principle of inference to the best explanation). The key to understanding abductive reasoning lies in the “inference to the best explanation” part. It’s similar to statistical modeling using multiple regression analysis. Essentially, one uses historical information to forecast future performance. In business, such an analysis would utilize historical data on sales, cost of goods sold, expenses, and capital investment to the subject company’s future financial performance. In this case, since such hard, mathematical data does not apply to an analysis of this nature, and since the facts here are conflicting and ultimately inconclusive, we employ abductive reasoning, or abductive logic.

While there are different ways to interpret evidence, I would suggest that some methodologies of interpreting evidence are inherently more reliable, and I would argue more correct, than others. For example, with regard to NSAM 263 one may ask, “…what does that necessarily have to do with whether or not Kennedy intended an invasion of Cuba? JFK could certainly have decided that America had an interest in getting rid of Communists closer to home (Cuba).” To support my premise that Kennedy’s true agenda regarding Cuba, the one that began in October 1962, was one seeking coexistence with Castro’s Cuba rather than eradication, I utilized abductive reasoning. That is, I used several other facts, matters of historical record, to establish context: NSAM 263, Kennedy’s signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, Kennedy’s decision to opt for blockade during the missile crisis, Kennedy’s intensive back-channel communications with Khrushchev while publicly taking a firm, no-negotiations stance toward the Soviet Union, Jean Daniel’s meeting with Castro, the deal Kennedy made to resolve the missile crisis, and Khrushchev’s 12/11/62 letter to Kennedy. These are matters of fact, that when viewed in relation to one another, form a very clear, logical basis for understanding Kennedy’s foreign policy. This is where understanding abductive reasoning and inference to the best explanation is valuable. The “dual track” appearance Kennedy’s Cuba policy had on the surface (going forward from 11/1962) forces historians to decide which “track” Kennedy was truly supporting, and would have supported had he lived. In my view, since the nature of the evidence precludes the use of deductive reasoning (deductive logic), abductive reasoning (abductive logic) is the correct method to employ. Given the established framework I cited, which clearly establishes Kennedy’s tendencies and over-arching philosophy with regard to conflict and foreign policy, abductive reasoning tells us that Kennedy’s ultimate “track” with regard to Cuba was one of dialogue and peaceful co-existence. This is true because it is the “track” that is most congruent with the many Kennedy foreign policy decisions which frame this issue in historical context.

As opposed to abductive reasoning, the methodology some employ to interpret the evidence in this instance is interpolation. Interpolation is a message (spoken or written) that is introduced or inserted. For example, one may argue that Khrushchev’s response to the Cuban missile crisis might have convinced Kennedy that the Soviet Union would never go to war over Cuba. While certainly a possibility that one might consider, the facts as they exist today simply do not provide any contextual framework or support to that idea. In fact, Khrushchev’s 12/11/62 letter to Kennedy candidly and forcefully stated just the opposite (see an excerpt of the text of this letter later in this piece). Additionally, in another letter between the two of them during the same period (I can’t seem to locate it at the moment, but perhaps another Forum member can recall the date of this communication), there is a passage that expresses a truth that they both understood to the effect that there are forces in their respective governments that they themselves may become powerless to control should tensions escalate. So, while the idea that Kennedy might have concluded that the Soviets would not go to war over Cuba based on the outcome of the missile crisis sounds plausible on an elementary level, closer examination using sound logical reasoning methodology renders such a suggestion devoid of merit. Such are the pitfalls associated with interpolation.

While it is true that in a sense Kennedy was pursuing a “dual track” with regard to Cuba, when viewed in the context of his entire foreign policy 11/62 and beyond, Kennedy's intent was clear.

Consider:

*NSAM 263

*Kennedy’s signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963

*Kennedy’s decision to opt for blockade during the missile crisis, despite pressure from within his administration to invade or conduct air strikes (Thirteen Days)

*Kennedy’s White House and the Kremlin carried out intensive back-channel communications and negotiations during the entire crisis. And while Kennedy publicly took a firm, no-negotiations stance toward the Soviet Union, he privately pursued ways to bring the crisis to a peaceful end.

*The Jean Daniel meeting, which clearly signaled his intent to open a dialogue with Castro

*The deal he cut to resolve the missile crisis. Specifically, his promise not to invade Cuba along the removal of the Jupiter missiles from Turkey. With this, one must also consider the content and tone of Khrushchev’s 12/11/62 letter to Kennedy:

“I will tell you frankly that we have removed our means from Cuba relying on your assurance that the United States and its allies will not invade Cuba. Those means really had the purpose of defending the sovereignty of Cuba and therefore after your assurance they lost their purpose. We hope and we would like to believe--I spoke of that publicly too, as you know--that you will adhere to the commitments which you have taken, as strictly as we do with regard to our commitments. We, Mr. President, have already fulfilled our commitments concerning the removal of our missiles and IL-28 planes from Cuba and we did it even ahead of time. It is obvious that fulfillment by you of your commitments cannot be as clearly demonstrated as it was done by us since your commitments are of a long-term nature…. Within a short period of time we and you have lived through a rather acute crisis. The acuteness of it was that we and you were already prepared to fight and this would lead to a thermonuclear war. Yes, to a thermonuclear world war with all its dreadful consequences…. We agreed to a compromise because our main purpose was to extend a helping hand to the Cuban people in order to exclude the possibility of invasion of Cuba so that Cuba could exist and develop as a free sovereign state. This is our main purpose today, it remains to be our main purpose for tomorrow and we did not and do not pursue any other purposes…. Therefore, Mr. President, everything--the stability in this area and not only in this area but in the entire world--depends on how you will now fulfill the commitments taken by you. Furthermore, it will be now a sort of litmus paper, an indicator whether it is possible to trust if similar difficulties arise in other geographical areas. I think you will agree that if our arrangement for settling the Cuban crisis fails it will undermine a possibility for maneuver which you and we would resort to for elimination of danger, a possibility for compromise in the future if similar difficulties arise in other areas of the world, and they really can arise. We attach great significance to all this, and subsequent development will depend on you as President and on the U.S. Government.”

When Kennedy flatly refused Ex-Com’s invade and air strike options and ultimately settled on the naval blockade, he did it primarily because of his concerns over what the first two options could lead to- nuclear war with the USSR. He determined that that risk was simply too great. In Khrushchev’s letter to Kennedy, he clearly indicates that, in his view, the burden is now squarely on JFK’s shoulders to avoid going right back to square one, with the increased likelihood of confrontation with the Soviets. Kennedy had just spent two of the most difficult weeks of his life deftly avoiding this confrontation. It defies logic to think that he would then wish to seek such a confrontation, while the Soviets still had thousands of nuclear weapons aimed and ready to fly. Further, Khrushchev cleverly points out that U.S. credibility is at stake. With two diametrically opposed and heavily armed super-powers vying for supremacy, the possibility of future conflict elsewhere in the world seemed likely. And should the U.S. fail to honor its commitment re: Cuba, the possibility of such conflicts being peacefully resolved through negotiation would be slim. Again, given Kennedy’s clearly demonstrated preference to avoid military confrontation with the Soviets, it defies logic to think that JFK was hell bent on invading Cuba, particularly post 11/1962.

So again, as clearly demonstrated throughout the missile crisis, we see Kennedy’s understanding of the political environment in the U.S. leads to this “dual track” scenario. Just as he was publicly professing a tough stance against the Soviets during the missile crisis while privately negotiating for peace, so was that same strategy being employed post missile crisis in addressing Cuba. He could not simply “flip a switch” and shut down the exiles and the hardliners in his own government. But he was clearly and carefully moving away from that agenda and toward one of peaceful co-existence. Additionally, while Kennedy was clearly attempting to open a dialogue with Castro, it would also have helped the U.S. to gain the upper hand in such a dialogue if Fidel perceived that JFK was still willing to support his demise should such dialogue prove fruitless.

Also consider the recently discovered documents regarding Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Vietnam detailed in the following piece by Bryan Bender (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2005/06/06/papers_reveal_jfk_efforts_on_vietnam/?page=1):

Papers reveal JFK efforts on Vietnam

By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff | June 6, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Newly uncovered documents from both American and Polish archives show that President John F. Kennedy and the Soviet Union secretly sought ways to find a diplomatic settlement to the war in Vietnam, starting three years before the United States sent combat troops.

Kennedy, relying on his ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith, planned to reach out to the North Vietnamese in April 1962 through a senior Indian diplomat, according to a secret State Department cable that was never dispatched.

Back-channel discussions also were attempted in January 1963, this time through the Polish government, which relayed the overture to Soviet leaders. New Polish records indicate Moscow was much more open than previously thought to using its influence with North Vietnam to cool a Cold War flash point.

The attempts to use India and Poland as go-betweens ultimately fizzled, partly because of North Vietnamese resistance and partly because Kennedy faced pressure from advisers to expand American military involvement, according to the documents and interviews with scholars. Both India and Poland were members of the International Control Commission that monitored the 1954 agreement that divided North and South Vietnam.

The documents are seen by former Kennedy aides as new evidence of his true intentions in Vietnam. The question of whether Kennedy would have escalated the war or sought some diplomatic exit has been heatedly debated by historians and officials who served under both Kennedy and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson.

When Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, there were 16,000 US military advisers in Vietnam. The number of troops grew to more than 500,000, and the war raged for another decade.

''I think the issue of how JFK would have acted differently than LBJ is something that will never be settled, but intrigues biographers," said Robert Dallek, author of noted biographies of Kennedy and Johnson.

''Historians partial to Kennedy see matters differently from those partial to LBJ," Dallek added. ''Vietnam has become a point of contention in defending and criticizing JFK."

But some Kennedy loyalists say the documents show he would have negotiated a settlement or withdrawn from Vietnam despite the objections of many top advisers, such as Kennedy and Johnson's defense secretary, Robert S. McNamara, who opposed Galbraith's diplomatic efforts at the time.

''The drafts are perfectly authentic," said Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who was a White House aide to Kennedy. ''They show Kennedy felt we were over-committed in Vietnam and he was very uneasy. I think he would have withdrawn by 1965 before he took steps to Americanize the war."

McNamara said in an interview Wednesday that he had ''no recollection" of the Galbraith discussions, but ''I have no doubt that Kennedy would have been interested in it. He reached out to divergent views."

Others, however, are highly skeptical the new information signals what action Kennedy would have ultimately taken.

''It's unknowable what he would have done," said Carl Kaysen, who was Kennedy's deputy special assistant for national security.

Kaysen, who also judged the documents to be authentic, believes Kennedy was just as likely as his successors to misjudge the situation. ''The basic mistake the US made was to underestimate the determination of North Vietnam and the communist party in South Vietnam, the Viet Minh, and to overstate its own position," he said Thursday.

He also doubted that North Vietnam would have been willing to negotiate a deal acceptable to the United States. ''In hindsight, it would have been another futile effort," Kaysen said, because the North Vietnamese were determined to control the fate of South Vietnam.

But the documents, which came from the archives of then-Assistant Secretary of State W. Averell Harriman and the communist government in Warsaw, demonstrate that Kennedy and the Soviets were looking for common ground.

They also shed new light on Galbraith's role. The Harvard economist was on friendly terms with India's prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and a close confidant of Kennedy's. Galbraith sent numerous telegrams to the president warning about the risks of greater military intervention.

Galbraith told the Globe last week that he and Kennedy discussed the war in Vietnam at a farm in rural Virginia in early April 1962, where Galbraith handed the president a two-page plan to use India as an emissary for peace negotiations.

Records show that McNamara and the military brass quickly criticized the proposal. An April 14 Pentagon memo to Kennedy said that ''a reversal of US policy could have disastrous effects, not only upon our relationship with South Vietnam, but with the rest of our Asian and other allies as well."

Nevertheless, Kennedy later told Harriman to instruct Galbraith to pursue the channel through M. J. Desai, then India's foreign secretary. At the time, the United States had only 1,500 military advisers in South Vietnam.

''The president wants to have instructions sent to Ambassador Galbraith to talk to Desai telling him that if Hanoi takes steps to reduce guerrilla activity [in South Vietnam], we would correspond accordingly," Harriman states in an April 17, 1962, memo to his staff. ''If they stop the guerrilla activity entirely, we would withdraw to a normal basis."

A draft cable dated the same day instructed Galbraith to use Desai as a ''channel discreetly communicating to responsible leaders [in the] North Vietnamese regime . . . the president's position as he indicated it."

But a week later, Harriman met with Kennedy and apparently persuaded him to delay, according to other documents, and the overture was never revived.

Galbraith, 97, never received the official instructions but said last week that the documents are ''wholly in line" with his discussions with Kennedy and that he had expected Kennedy to pursue the Indian channel.

The draft of the unsent cable was discovered in Harriman's papers by scholar Gareth Porter and are outlined in a forthcoming book, ''Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam."

Meanwhile, the Polish archives from a year later revealed another back-channel attempt to find a possible settlement.

At the urging of Nehru, Galbraith met with the Polish foreign minister, Adam Rapacki, in New Delhi on Jan. 21, 1963, where Galbraith expressed Kennedy's likely interest in a Polish proposal for a cease-fire and new elections in South Vietnam. There is no evidence of further discussions between the two diplomats. Rapacki returned to Warsaw a day later. Galbraith wrote in his memoirs that it was not followed up.

But the newly released Polish documents, obtained by George Washington University researcher Malgorzata Gnoinska, show that Galbraith's message was sent to Moscow, where it was taken seriously.

A lengthy February memo from the Soviet politburo reported on the Galbraith-Rapacki discussions. It concluded that Kennedy and ''part of the administration . . . did not want Vietnam to turn into a second Korea" and appeared interested in a diplomatic settlement akin to one reached in 1962 about Laos, Vietnam's neighbor.

''It is apparent that Kennedy is not opposed to finding a compromise regarding South Vietnam," the memo said, according to Gnoinska's translation. ''It seems that the Americans have arrived at the conclusion that the continued intervention in Vietnam does not promise victory and have decided to somehow untangle themselves from the difficult situation they find themselves in over there."

It went on to say that ''neutralizing" the crises ''could untangle the dangerous knot of international tensions in Southeast Asia."

Definitive reasons both the Indian and Polish attempts were not pursued further are not known. In October 1963, the South Vietnamese government was overthrown, igniting political chaos. North Vietnam may have become more certain it would prevail. Neither the Indian or Vietnamese archives are available. The would-be Indian emissary, Desai, whom records indicate still lives in Bombay, could not be reached.

Kennedy had few options. Many believe North Vietnam would have swiftly prevailed over the South if the United States pulled out; that is what happened more than a decade later. It would have been extremely difficult to risk such an outcome at the height of the Cold War, fearing communism would spread to other countries under the so-called domino theory.

''There was no open debate in the Kennedy or Johnson administration about whether the domino theory was correct," McNamara said. It was simply gospel, he said.

Nonetheless, the new information sheds light on Kennedy's misgivings about getting further embroiled in the Vietnam War; up to his death he refused to do as most of his advisers urged and allow US ground troops to participate in the fighting, as Johnson did beginning in 1965. Galbraith said Kennedy ''harbored doubts, extending to measured resistance, on the Vietnam War." But it was ''countered by the fact that he had such articulate and committed warriors to contend with" in his administration, he said.

''It's another clear indication that my brother was very reluctant to accept the strong recommendations he was getting to send troops to Vietnam," Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, told the Globe on Friday after reviewing the cable to Galbraith. ''It's hard to believe that Jack would ever have allowed the tentative steps he took in those days to escalate into the huge military crisis that Vietnam became."

Of the cable, Theodore Sorensen, who was a special assistant to Kennedy, said: ''It is clearly consistent with what I have always thought and said about JFK's attitude toward Vietnam."

Daniel Ellsberg, a former Pentagon official and coauthor of the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of US policy toward Vietnam, added that the documents ''show a willingness to negotiate [a pullout] that LBJ didn't have in 1964-66." But, Ellsberg added, ''he might not have been able to do it."

These new documents and the supporting statements made by Schlesinger, McNamara, Galbraith, Edward Kennedy, Sorenson, and Ellsberg, add yet another significant structural element to that framework which shows us, regardless of any political maneuvering in which he may have been engaged, JFK’s true beliefs with regard to confrontation, war, and communism (eradication by force vs. diplomatic/political solutions).

As Dallek and Kaysen correctly point out, these latest revelations don’t prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what track Kennedy would have ultimately pursued, or been compelled to pursue, with regard to Vietnam. Some have suggested the same about Kennedy’s Cuba policy- "No proof!", they exclaim. Now perhaps these events, when viewed in isolation, can be interpreted somewhat loosely. But when these matters of fact are viewed in relation to one another, we have no less than seven matters of historical record, all of which occurred almost immediately prior to Kennedy’s bloody removal from office, that force us to draw certain conclusions about Kennedy’s true beliefs and his ultimate foreign policy track, beginning at least as early as April 1962, but most especially during and after October 1962.

Even though (as clearly demonstrated over and over and over again) Kennedy was simply not willing to use the hammer, it benefited him politically, and in his appeal to Castro for dialogue, to give the appearance that he was.

While some may argue that Kennedy’s post 11/62 policy re: Cuba was to support yet another attempt at an exile coup or invasion, such an argument would be short-sighted, and completely out of context.

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Simone, Greg's piece is excellently written but unfortunately not factually accurate with respect to several salient points.

Greg wrote:

On 8 September 1963, an American journalist by the name of Daniel Harker had a brief Q & A with Fidel in which Castro stated in response to a question about CIA attempts to assassinate him, “The American leaders should be careful. This is something the government could control.”

That is NOT what Harker wrote (in an AP story that was published in papers throughout the US immediately after the event). What Castro said was a clear threat. I will tomorrow get you the exact language. In the very same speech that Harker reported Castro called Kennedy "a cretin" and "the Batista of our times".

The quote Greg cites is what the Cubans claim Castro told Harker. But they only said that AFTER the assassination. Obviously Castro had agents in the US who read Harker's story. Neither he nor the Cuban government corrected the statements contemporaneously. The statements Castro made were so clearly a threat that a US inter-agency group even met to decide how seriously Castro was in his threats.

Curious Greg did not tell you the truth re the September 7, 1963 Castro speech. Do I detect an agenda here?

Greg also wrote:

He could not simply “flip a switch” and shut down the exiles and the hardliners in his own government. But he was clearly and carefully moving away from that agenda and toward one of peaceful co-existence.

The peaceful existence Kennedy was practicing included sabotage against Cuba property, clearly acts of war. Kennedy's administration was engaging in ongoing actual WAR against Cuba while he was feigning piece.

There was a group of high government officials that met (mid November as I recall) that approved continued sabotage against Cuban facilities for the ffollowing week. The group included McGeorge Bundy, John McCone, Director of the CIA, and Desmond Fitzgerald, the head of the CIA's Cuban task force, who had recently returned from his meeting with Cubela in Paris. I will get you the actual language about the different targets of the sabotage, etc. tomorrow. Greg can claim that JFK and RFK did not know about the Cubela operation, but there is NO WAY he can claim JFK was ignorant of the acts of war his government was committing against Cuba in late November. You see, RFK sat in on the meeting and Kennedy as President could have clearly vetoed the sabotage actions had he so wanted.

Again it is curious that Greg did not bother to mention to you that the Kennedys continued secret acts of war against Castro in the week immediately before the assassination.

Did JFK and RFK know about the Cubela assassination plot? There is some evidence they did. The same day it was communicated to the CIA that Cubela wanted to meet with RFK, RFK's phone logs reveal that he had a phone conversation with Desmond Fitzgerald (the man who communicated to Cubela that RFK approved his plan to kill Castro). RFK's phone logs were released only a few years ago. What makes the timing of the call of potential significance is that it is the only call recorded between the two in the previous six months.

Curious Greg did not bother to mention this to you.

Nor did Greg bother to mention the continuing AMTRUNK operation in which the US was trying to forment an internal coup against Castro by his military--very similar to the coup the Kennedys had orchestrated in Vietnam less than a month earlier (a coup that resulted in the murder of the two top Vietnamese leaders). (You see the Kennedy administration practiced "equality opportunity" in coup formentation: it organized coups against our allies as well as against our enemies!). The AMTRUNK operation was ongoing and was indeed discussed in the same meeting at which the continued sabotage was approved--the meeting that RFK attended as representative of his brother.

Again, Greg did not bother to tell you about THIS. Why should he? It diffgers from the interpretation he is trying to sell you, and he clearly does not want you to have the facts to make up your own mind about what was really going on.

I will try to demonstrate in a subsequent post more of Greg's omissions and distortions but one final thing he did not bother to tell you: when reporter Lisa Howard, who had started the peace overtures, found out what the Kennedy Administration was really doing to Cuba while talking peace, she was so furious that when RFK ran for the US Senate against republican Kenneth Keating in 1964, she jeopardized her job to form "Democrats for Keating" to try to defeat RFK. In fact, she did lose her job over her opposition to RFK. Supposedly she became so despondent over it that she committed suicide on July 4, 1965 (forty years ago this coming Monday).

Ms. Howard knew the facts and reached the correct conclusion about the sincerity of the "peace initiatives". You would not have been aware of the facts of the US continued warfare against Cuba, and efforts to organize a coup against Castro, both actions approved by the Kennedys, since Greg conveniently left them out of his very eloquent statement.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Somewhere out there, Pavlov’s dog is feeling inadequate and jealous. Tim’s conditioned responses are all too predictable. Although wrong, he does raise some interesting points.

I would also direct those interested in this discussion to read Peter Dale Scott’s analysis at History Matters:

http://www.history-matters.com/pds/DP3_Chapter5.htm

What one must consider when evaluating Tim’s statements is that his pet theory is at risk here. You see, if Castro understood that Kennedy was reaching out in an effort to normalize relations, there is no basis for the argument that Castro murdered Kennedy to save his own life. As a result, Tim will make numerous futile attempts to divert your attention from the fact that no reasonable person, evaluating Kennedy’s foreign policy decisions of late 1962 and 1963, can realistically conclude that Kennedy was still intent on assassinating Castro or invading Cuba post 10/1962. The only agenda here is Tim’s tired old propaganda telling us that Fidel did it. Funny, that’s the same story the CIA tried to peddle in 1963. And it makes even less sense today than it did then.

Tim wrote:

That is NOT what Harker wrote (in an AP story that was published in papers throughout the US immediately after the event). What Castro said was a clear threat. I will tomorrow get you the exact language. In the very same speech that Harker reported Castro called Kennedy "a cretin" and "the Batista of our times". The quote Greg cites is what the Cubans claim Castro told Harker. But they only said that AFTER the assassination. Obviously Castro had agents in the US who read Harker's story. Neither he nor the Cuban government corrected the statements contemporaneously. The statements Castro made were so clearly a threat that a US inter-agency group even met to decide how seriously Castro was in his threats. Curious Greg did not tell you the truth re the September 7, 1963 Castro speech. Do I detect an agenda here?

Nice try Tim, but you sidestep the point (as usual). Here is the quotation to which you refer: "U.S. leaders" that "if they are aiding U.S. terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe." This is what Harker published. The point is that, according to Fabian Escalante and Carlos Lechuga, what Harker published was NOT what Castro said. Given that there is ample evidence to support the fact that there existed an active campaign to lay the blame for JFK’s assassination at Castro’s feet (the Oswald in Mexico City fabrication will do for starters), and given the degree of control that the CIA has exercised over he media with regard to the assassination (in fact, using it outright to spread disinformation), the more credible source is Escalante/Lechuga.

http://cuban-exile.com/doc_026-050/doc0027-2.html

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKmockingbird.htm

Tim wrote:

The peaceful existence Kennedy was practicing included sabotage against Cuba property, clearly acts of war. Kennedy's administration was engaging in ongoing actual WAR against Cuba while he was feigning piece. There was a group of high government officials that met (mid November as I recall) that approved continued sabotage against Cuban facilities for the ffollowing week. The group included McGeorge Bundy, John McCone, Director of the CIA, and Desmond Fitzgerald, the head of the CIA's Cuban task force, who had recently returned from his meeting with Cubela in Paris. I will get you the actual language about the different targets of the sabotage, etc. tomorrow. Greg can claim that JFK and RFK did not know about the Cubela operation, but there is NO WAY he can claim JFK was ignorant of the acts of war his government was committing against Cuba in late November. You see, RFK sat in on the meeting and Kennedy as President could have clearly vetoed the sabotage actions had he so wanted. Again it is curious that Greg did not bother to mention to you that the Kennedys continued secret acts of war against Castro in the week immediately before the assassination.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, there it is. The issue has now been put to rest by J. Timothy. After spending the better part of his presidency avoiding conflict with the Soviets by attempting to negotiate the U.S. out of Vietnam and negotiate the removal of the missiles from Cuba, President Kennedy decided to instigate war with the U.S.S.R. so that he might achieve “sabotage against Cuba property.” Well, I’m glad you’ve cleared that up. Except for the fact that that makes no sense, I think you’re right on.

Tim wrote:

Did JFK and RFK know about the Cubela assassination plot? There is some evidence they did. The same day it was communicated to the CIA that Cubela wanted to meet with RFK, RFK's phone logs reveal that he had a phone conversation with Desmond Fitzgerald (the man who communicated to Cubela that RFK approved his plan to kill Castro). RFK's phone logs were released only a few years ago. What makes the timing of the call of potential significance is that it is the only call recorded between the two in the previous six months. Curious Greg did not bother to mention this to you. Nor did Greg bother to mention the continuing AMTRUNK operation in which the US was trying to forment an internal coup against Castro by his military--very similar to the coup the Kennedys had orchestrated in Vietnam less than a month earlier (a coup that resulted in the murder of the two top Vietnamese leaders). (You see the Kennedy administration practiced "equality opportunity" in coup formentation: it organized coups against our allies as well as against our enemies!). The AMTRUNK operation was ongoing and was indeed discussed in the same meeting at which the continued sabotage was approved--the meeting that RFK attended as representative of his brother. Again, Greg did not bother to tell you about THIS. Why should he? It diffgers from the interpretation he is trying to sell you, and he clearly does not want you to have the facts to make up your own mind about what was really going on.

Well, the fact that RFK spoke with Fitzgerald that day certainly proves that the Kennedys authorized the assassination plot. That’s sarcasm, in case you failed to pick it up. Peter Dale Scott does a nice job of explaining AMTRUNK:

Senior officials within the CIA, notably Richard Helms and Desmond Fitzgerald, knew of the Kennedy brothers' secret moves to initiate direct communications with Castro, disapproved of them, and took steps to poison them. Their most flagrant action was to initiate a new series of secret meetings with a known assassin and suspected double agent, Rolando Cubela Secades (code-named AMLASH), at which a major topic of discussion was the assassination of Fidel Castro. Helms, without consulting the Attorney General, authorized a contact plan whereby in October 1963 (and possibly again on November 22) Fitzgerald met with Cubela, and promised him material assistance in assassinating Castro, while posing (falsely) as a "personal representative of Robert F. Kennedy."

This meeting seems to have been designed to poison the informal Kennedy-Castro contacts already under way. For there was already anxiety within the Agency that Cubela, who had refused to be polygraphed in 1962, was reporting the substance of these contacts to Castro. We shall see that Fitzgerald's own Counterintelligence Chief, Harold Swenson (“Joseph Langosch”), recommended with another CIA officer that Fitzgerald not meet with Cubela.

It is indeed clear that the CIA had authorization to proceed with the political initiative. But that it had authorization to involve Robert Kennedy's name and authority in an assassination plot, at a time when the Kennedys were attempting to open discussions with Castro, is virtually unimaginable. Both Fitzgerald and Helms later denied that the AMLASH operation contemplated assassination. In this case Kennedy's authorization for AMLASH would have been limited to what they described it as, an attempt to find a group to replace Castro.

From this point on the AMLASH initiative had the looks of an anti-Kennedy provocation. This was Attwood's retrospective evaluation of the Fitzgerald/AMLASH meetings: "One thing was clear: Stevenson was right when he told me back in September that `the CIA is in charge of Cuba'; or anyway, acted as if it thought it was, and to hell with the president it was pledged to serve."

What is even more significant is that under Fitzgerald a Kennedy-sanctioned political operation had become, by October 29 at the latest, an operation discussing a rifle with a telescopic sight. The importance of this deviation is underlined by a curious affidavit which in effect denies it. The affidavit submitted by a CIA officer, “Kent L. Pollock” (CIA pseudonym), the Executive Officer for Fitzgerald at SAS. It was transmitted to the HSCA by CIA Officer S.D. Breckinridge, in support of his claim that “The overwhelming evidence is that the relationship with AMLASH did not include any agreement to undertake an assassination during the life of President Kennedy.”

In the affidavit, “Pollock” testified under oath that, “To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Fitzgerald considered the AMLASH operation to be a political action activity with the objective of organizing a group within Cuba to overthrow Castro.” “Pollock,” who almost certainly is Halpern, conceded that “The AMLASH operation could have been characterized as an assassination operation” when the lethal pen was offered to AMLASH on November 22, 1963, and rejected by him. But “Pollock” does not mention the meeting of October 29 (not authorized by RFK), when Fitzgerald, Cubela, and Halpern have all agreed that assassination was discussed (In the I.G. Report, Sam Halpern confirmed Fitzgerald’s recollection that at the October 29 meeting with Cubela, there was discussion of “a high-powered rifle with telescopic sights.”). Thus, if “Pollock” is Halpern, his affidavit is highly misleading if not perjurious.

Tim wrote:

I will try to demonstrate in a subsequent post more of Greg's omissions and distortions…

Tim, the only thing you’ve managed to demonstrate so far is your inability to grasp the basic tenets of logic and reason.

Tim wrote:

…but one final thing he did not bother to tell you: when reporter Lisa Howard, who had started the peace overtures, found out what the Kennedy Administration was really doing to Cuba while talking peace, she was so furious that when RFK ran for the US Senate against republican Kenneth Keating in 1964, she jeopardized her job to form "Democrats for Keating" to try to defeat RFK. In fact, she did lose her job over her opposition to RFK. Supposedly she became so despondent over it that she committed suicide on July 4, 1965 (forty years ago this coming Monday). Ms. Howard knew the facts and reached the correct conclusion about the sincerity of the "peace initiatives". You would not have been aware of the facts of the US continued warfare against Cuba, and efforts to organize a coup against Castro, both actions approved by the Kennedys, since Greg conveniently left them out of his very eloquent statement.

I have no idea why Lisa Howard committed suicide. But if she did in fact kill herself, it’s hard to image she would have done so because she thought Kennedy’s peace initiatives were insincere. Nevertheless, she was clearly bothered by this “dual track” approach to Cuba. And perhaps she became despondent when she realized that she had thrown her career away. I’m afraid I can’t tell you what went on in that poor woman’s mind, but rest assured that whatever dark thoughts led her to take her own life, it is both tasteless and ridiculous to submit them as evidence of John Kennedy's ultimate foreign policy agenda.

Edited by Greg Wagner
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May I just say that this thread is to help someone with coursework, and I don't think this is the place for arguments.

This is not a judgement on any of you.

I just don't think that its helpful. You all mean well.

John

Edited by John Geraghty
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May I just say that this thread is to help someone with coursework, and I don't think this is the place for arguments.

This is not a judgement on any of you.

I just don't think that its helpful. You all mean well.

John

Hi John-

Good observation.

The problem is that it's difficult to respond to Tim's combative approach in a civil manner, and I would feel like I was letting this student down if I allowed Tim's egregious inaccuracies and flawed cognitive processes to go unchallenged.

Having said that, I'll try and keep out of the mud going forward. :)

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Greg, I find it amusing, to say the least, that a reporter, whose reputation for accuracy you have no reason to doubt, files a report with the Associated Press which is published in newspapers across the country in 1963, and his story is NEVER corrected by its subject (Castro) or his government (Cuba) until THIRTY THREE YEARS later, and you think the reporter either a) was so stupid he got the story wrong; or :) was, for some unknown reason, deliberately falsifying the story. Moreover, Castro's remarks also included his calling Kennedy a "cretin", which of course is consistent with his making a threat to Kennedy than it is with him giving Kennedy a friendly warning to watch out for the anti-Castro exiles.

Moreover, Castro's statements were specifically tied into his accurate remarks about U.S. efforts to murder him.

And you have the AUDACITY to question my "cognitive processes"? Just incredible!

Clearly the contemporaneous, unchallenged report by Harker was correct--not the attempt, over thirty years later, by Escalante, to put a different spin on it.

I am not even sure if Castro himself ever challenged the Harker report even thirty years later. I do not believe Escalante was even present at the meetinat which Castro made the statements.

It is clear that you have to fight this so hard because it is inconsistent with your theory of what was going on. But it is your theory that does not fit the facts, Greg.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Greg wrote:

I have no idea why Lisa Howard committed suicide. But if she did in fact kill herself, it’s hard to image she would have done so because she thought Kennedy’s peace initiatives were insincere. Nevertheless, she was clearly bothered by this “dual track” approach to Cuba. And perhaps she became despondent when she realized that she had thrown her career away. I’m afraid I can’t tell you what went on in that poor woman’s mind, but rest assured that whatever dark thoughts led her to take her own life, it is both tasteless and ridiculous to submit them as evidence of John Kennedy's ultimate foreign policy agenda.

Greg, once more you simply display your ignorance of the facts (I do not mean to sound perjorative). Lisa Howard herself stated that RFK had been blindsiding her to what was happening in Cuba. And that is why she felt strongly enough about it to abandon her party and form Democrats for Keating to oppose Robert Kennedy's Senate candidacy. This is no surmise on my part. It is exactly what she said.

It is interesting that you mention the "dual track" approach to Cuba. What you mean, of course, is that the Kennedys were waging a secret war against Castro while putting out some interest in talking to his agents about a possible settlement. What bothered Howard was the duplicity.

So what did the Kennedys want? The war they were waging, or the peace? Well, Howard, who was there, and clearly concluded they really wanted the war and the peace talks were a farce. I assume Howard knew even more about what was going on (through her contacts with the Cubans) than has been revealed in the written record.

Most people think Howard did commit suicide because she lost her job. Obviously her job meant a lot to her. My point, simply, was that she felt so strongly about how RFK had conned her that she was willing to violate her company policy to oppose the furtherance of RFK's career.

And you do not, apparently, even know the difference between AMTRUNK and AMLASH. AMLASH was the Cubela assassination project. We can debate whether one or either of the Kennedys were aware of the AMLASH operation. AMTRUNK was the project to inspire an internal coup against Castro. There is NO question at all that the Kennedys were fully aware of AMTRUNK.

I believe assassinations are immoral and illegal. I do not believe it is immoral for the US to encourage and assist dissidents to revolt against a dictator such as Castro, particularly when US national interest is clearly involved. Indeed, I applaud the Kennedys' interest in the AMTRUNK operation and it is unfortunate that it did not succeed. So while I think the "peace initiative" was insincere on the part of the Kennedys, I do not fault them for the insincerity. To the contrary, I applaud them for their interest in deposing the bearded one. What I do condemn is the effort to eliminate Castro by murder. And it was the ongoing murder plots against Castro that may have, tragically, led to the assassination.

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Here is Castro's statement as reported by the AP:

We are taking into account . . . the Caribbean situation, which has been deteriorating in the last few days due to political attacks by the United States against the Cuban people. . . Kennedy is a cretin. . .the Batista of our times . . .If US leaders are aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe. Let Kennedy and his brother Robert take care of themselves since they too can be the victims of an attempt which will cause their death.

Greg, I assume you believe then that it was simply co-incidence that Rolando Cubela approached the CIA in Brazil on the very same day that Castro made this statement--in the Brazilian Embassy.

If the statement was not a warning from Castro, why then would he use words calling Kennedy a "cretin" and "the Batista of our times"?

My gosh, those are even harsher terms that have been used against me by some members of this Forum!

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Less than a month after he made the speech refered to in the previous post, Castro made one of his marathon speeches in Havana. In it, he chastised Kennedy for his "undeclared war" of sabotage against Cuba, and said: "They [Kennedy and his administation] are our enemies, and we know how to be their enemies."

Sabotage? By Kennedy? Surely not!

On November 12, 1963, less than two weeks before the assassination, Robert Kennedy attended a meeting with Sec of State Rusk, Sec of Defense McNamara, CIA Director John McCone, Richard Helms, CIA officer Desmond Fitzgerald (recently returned, of course, from his meeting in Paris with Rolando Cubela), Ted Shackley, the head of JM/Wave, Mr. Gilpatric and Mr Vance.

Mr. Fitzgerald discussed "sabotage and harrassment". Here is a quote from the official State Dept minutes of that meeting:

Mr. Fitzgerald mentioned four successful sabotage operations against a power plant, oil storage facilities, a sawmill, and an underwater demolition operation against a floating crane in one of Cuba's harbors. It is believed that the publication of these successful sabotage activities in the Cuban press has tended to appreciably raise the morale of the [Cuban anti-Castro] people. Also, such sabotage continues to keep pressure on the Castro regime and adds to the growing economic problems facing the country.

. . .

A question was asked what decisions remain to be made. Mr. FitzGerald replied that we were looking for a reaffirmation of the program as presented, including sabotage and harrassment. When asked what was planned for sabotage in the immediate future, he said that the destruction operations should be carried out against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships. The question was raised as to whether an air strike would be effective on some of these principal targets. The consensus was the CIA should proceed with its planning for this type of activity looking toward January.

. . .

The consensus was that since the CIA's sabotage operation is in the main low cost and since it does worry the Castro regime, denies him some essential commodities, stimulates [more] sabotage inside Cuba and tends to improve the morale of the Cubans who would like to see Castro removed, the CIA should proceed with those operations planned for the coming weekend (November 15 through 17).

Note that the week-end sabotage started on the Friday one week before Kennedy's assassination.

* * * * * * *

The very next day after the above meeting, on November 13, 1963, Desmond Fitzgerald placed a bet with Michael Forrestal, a staff member of the National Security Council, that the downfall of the Castro regime would occur within a two month period between August 1 and October 1, 1964: i.e., that Castro would be removed from office no later than a month before the U.S. election.

Less than two weeks after Fitzgerald made that bet, Castro ensured Fitzgerald lost his bet by an event on the streets of Dallas. While Kennedy was being shot, Castro was meeting with French journalist Jean Daniel who was assuring him how much the Kennedys wanted to make peace with him. (The weekend before, of course, was the continued CIA sabotage attacks against Cuba approved by the meeting in which Robert Kennedy participated.)

Say what one will against Castro, but never call him a fool!

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Now, Simone, Greg did not tell you those things in the above posts for one of either two reasons:

(1) He knows them but he is peddling an agenda so he only tells you the facts that fits his preconceived version of what was going on.

OR

(2) He dis not know them because all he reads is material that supports his preconceived version of events.

Either way, you deserve to know what was really going on, bearing in mind the old axiom that actions (e.g. sabotage and planned assassinations) speak far louder than words (insincere talk of peace).

Kennedy did not fool Castro. Don't let Greg fool you!

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Here is an article by Glenn Garvin that appeared in the "Miami Herald" on November 25, 2003:

Kennedy & Castro: The Secret History. 8 to 9 tonight. Discovery Times Channel.

Worried about your job security in a troubled economy? Get a job as a JFK historical touch-up artist, softening Kennedy's hard Cold Warrior edges. As the shoddy Kennedy & Castro: The Secret History shows, that remains a growth industry no matter how perilous the rest of the economy. This exercise in Kennedy spinmastering, airing on the new joint-venture cable network owned in part by The New York Times, ought to be a serious embarrassment, if the post-Jayson Blair Times is still capable of that.

Kennedy & Castro is neither secret nor very good history. Using an odd historical footnote that's been known for decades -- a fleeting back-channel contact between the two men, managed by a troubled network newswoman -- it argues preposterously that these two hateful adversaries were on the verge of kissing and making up when Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

FANTASY LAND

It's a nice Thanksgiving fantasy, as long as you overlook the parts where Kennedy invades Cuba, blockades it, and sends the CIA and the Mafia to murder Castro; or where Castro aims nuclear missiles at Washington and threatens to kill the president and his brother. The truth is that nothing in the whole history of the Cold War was more viciously personal than the feud between Kennedy and Castro.

But Kennedy & Castro ignores the broad outlines in favor of the peculiar tale of the shuttle diplomacy of Lisa Howard, a pretty blond soap opera star-turned-news anchor who hosted ABC's afternoon News with the Woman's Touch in the early 1960s.

Howard, a Castro groupie (My dearest Fidel, she wrote in one letter, men like you lift us up out of our apathy, our despair, our resignation), in early 1963 launched a one-woman crusade for rapprochement between the two men, carrying conciliatory messages back and forth as she pursued assignments in Havana and Washington.

Though Kennedy & Castro makes much of Howard's efforts, the most she ever accomplished was to arrange a face-to-face meeting between members of the U.S. and Cuban delegations to the United Nations. Though it's true that Kennedy administration officials encouraged Howard's amateur diplomacy, they also continued trying to kill Castro with exploding seashells, tuberculosis-contaminated diving suits and poisoned milkshakes. At the very moment Kennedy was being shot in Dallas, a CIA official was delivering the agency's latest lethal gizmo -- a poison syringe disguised as a fountain pen -- to a would-be Castro assassin.

That goes unmentioned in Kennedy & Castro, as does Castro's brutal public threat to the president just two months earlier. ''Kennedy is a cretin,'' he told an American reporter. ''If U.S. leaders are aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe. Let Kennedy and his brother Robert take care of themselves since they, too, can be the victims of an attempt which will cause their death.'' Go ahead, spin that.

HOWARD'S STORY

Kennedy & Castro would have been a much better program if it had skipped the Kennedy revisionism and stuck to the story of Howard, a fascinating woman who wrote policy analysis pieces for leftist academic journals as she starred on As The World Turns, then somehow broke into the cloistered men's club of network news.

Believe it or not, the Castro-Kennedy shuttle may not even have been the oddest chapter in her life. LSD guru Timothy Leary, years later, would write that Howard and the wife of a top CIA official spearheaded a small group of Washington wives who were trying to alter American politics by dosing their husbands with LSD.

Whatever the truth of that allegation, which has never been corroborated, by the time of the assassination, Howard's life was clearly spinning out of control. I've often wondered if she somehow discovered that the Kennedys were plotting Castro's murder while jollying her along with empty talk of peace and reconciliation.

She turned vehemently against the Kennedy family -- she called Bobby ''ruthless, reactionary and dangerously authoritarian'' -- and lost her job at ABC when she formed a group to oppose his campaign for the U.S. Senate. In 1965, she killed herself with an overdose of sleeping pills, one more unknown soldier of Camelot.

Related:

The saga of Rolando Cubela / keysnews.com

After President Lyndon B. Johnson reviewed the report, he told a reporter, in confidence at the time: "Kennedy was trying to kill Castro. Castro got him first."

Edited by Tim Gratz
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I hate to be a wet blanket here, but I'm not completely sure that this is a good choice for an IB essay. I fear it's just too controversial. The IB will require a very balanced approach to the available material, taking into account historiographical issues. As some people have mentioned, a lot of this is based on "secret" material whose validity is not universally accepted. If you got a strict examiner, he could take issue with you acceptance of such material...

Simone is a very intelligent student who is aware of the need to use documents carefully. The real problem is that IB examiners and teachers might not be aware of the documents that are available. As Larry Hancock (a world expert on these matters) has pointed out, "there is a wealth of material on this in documents released through the JFK Records Act as well as in U.S. State Department documents".

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Greg, I find it amusing, to say the least, that a reporter, whose reputation for accuracy you have no reason to doubt, files a report with the Associated Press which is published in newspapers across the country in 1963, and his story is NEVER corrected by its subject (Castro) or his government (Cuba) until THIRTY THREE YEARS later, and you think the reporter either a) was so stupid he got the story wrong; or :) was, for some unknown reason, deliberately falsifying the story.  Moreover, Castro's remarks also included his calling Kennedy a "cretin", which of course is consistent with his making a threat to Kennedy than it is with him giving Kennedy a friendly warning to watch out for the anti-Castro exiles.

As always you are completely wrong about this. Castro gave evidence to the Congress’ Assassination Committee when they visited Havana in 1978. Castro told the committee what really went on in the interview with Daniel Harker. Afterwards the HCAC said Castro’s testimony was convincing. As they pointed out, Castro had been consistently against the use of political assassinations. They quoted him as saying: “our Marxist policy leaves no room for liquidation of leaders of any social system through terrorist acts… we were fighting against reactionary ideas, not against men.”

The HCAC pointed out that Castro and his guerrillas did not try to kill the much hated Batista. Anyway, they argue, the idea of Castro ordering the assassination of JFK is “nonsensical”. To quote Anthony Summers (The Kennedy Conspiracy): "If he planned to kill Kennedy, Castro would hardly have been negotiating seriously for normalization of relations on the very eve of the assassination; had this merely been duplicity, the likelihood of American retaliation could never have justified the huge risk. In any case, Castro said, he believed that any successor to President Kennedy was likely to be even tougher toward Cuba.”

Maybe Tim can explain why Castro announced to the world’s press that he intended to “harm” JFK two months in advance of it happening. These communists are not very bright are they? Or maybe it is these fanatical anti-communists who are intellectually deficient?

The HCAC chose not to believe Harker’s account of the Castro interview. This decision was no doubt influenced by the Frank Church Committee in 1977 discovery that the CIA had used journalists like Daniel Harker to spread disinformation about Castro and other left-wing leaders (Operation Mockingbird).

It is noticeable that the only evidence quoted by Tim to support his strange opinions is an article published by Glenn Garvin in the "Miami Herald" on November 25, 2003. I am afraid that IB students cannot accept this as evidence for anything other than the desire by right-wing Republicans to spread anti-JFK propaganda.

Tim, I know that you take every opportunity to stress your made ideas about Castro and the assassination, however, could you restrain from doing it on this thread as it is reserved for helping Simone with her IB essay.

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Simone, you might find this recently released document significant.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB158/index.htm

Washington D.C. June 29, 2005 - Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sought to lift the ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba in December 1963, according to declassified records posted today by the National Security Archive. In a December 12, 1963, memorandum to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Kennedy urged a quick decision "to withdraw the existing regulation prohibiting such trips."

Kennedy's memo, written less than a month after his brother's assassination in Dallas, communicated his position that the travel ban imposed by the Kennedy administration was a violation of American freedoms and impractical in terms of law enforcement. Among his "principal arguments" for removing the restrictions on travel to Cuba was that freedom to travel "is more consistent with our views as a free society and would contrast with such things as the Berlin Wall and Communist controls on such travel."

I suspect this is a practical illustration of what JFK was negotiating with Castro in the final months of his life.

RFK actions are not those of someone who thought Castro had organized the assassination of JFK.

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