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The Education Forum

JFK and Cuba in 1963

John Simkin

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At the conference in Dallas I have just attended, three historians: Lamar Waldron, David Kaiser (Professor in the Strategy and Policy Department of the Naval War College) and Larry Hancock, argued, as a result of their own individual research of recently released declassified documents, that JFK was following two strategies for dealing with Fidel Castro. Both were highly secret and were known to only a small number of people. If either of these "policies" were exposed, JFK faced the possibility of impeachment. It was an amazingly dangerous strategy and was full of risks.

The two strategies were:

(1) Secret negotiations with Castro via Lisa Howard, William Attwood, Jean Daniel, etc.

(2) A secret plot to overthrow Castro on 1st December, 1963.

JFK prefered the first option but Castro was playing hard to get. For example, in November, Castro was keeping Jean Daniel waiting for a meeting. In fact, he only agreed to see him on the day of the assassination. They were together when news came through that JFK had been killed. Who knows what would have come out of this meeting? The main sticking point involved United Nations inspections of Cuba. Documents have just been released that show that JFK's pledge not to invade Cuba was linked to UN inspections.

Given these documents the issue is: "would JFK have chosen option 1 or 2". If he went for 1 he would have betrayed the anti-Castro Cubans again. The leaders of this group were already angry with JFK for insisting on a broad coalition after the overthrow of Castro. Some of these proposed leaders like Ray and Artime were considered by people the right as dangerous left-wingers.

JFK was of course right that only a broad coalition had any chance of success in a post Castro Cuba. The far right Cubans realised that even if JFK went for plan 2, they would not gain power themselves. Both plans were therefore unacceptable to them. Therefore it was members of this group that betrayed JFK's operation to the Mafia. Oswald and the Cubans were therefore set up to appear to be responsible for killing JFK. It was thought that this would have triggered an invasion that would have resulted in another right-wing military dictatorship that would allow the Mafia back into Cuba.

Lamar Waldron and Larry Hancock argue that JFK was assassinated by gunmen involved in plot against Castro. This hit was financed by Carlos Marcello.

Lamar Waldron explains his theory in his new book, Ultimate Sacrifice. My disagreement with Lamar concerns LBJ. I think it is true that RFK would have been forced to go along with the cover-up. However, it was difficult to predict how LBJ would have reacted. For example, once president, he had enough information to realize that Marcello, etc., was involved in the plot. He could have used this information to destroy the Mafia. How did Marcello know he would not do this? I believe that LBJ was part of this Marcello plot. The timing of JFK's death is vitally important. Don't forget Don Reynolds' secret testimony to the Senate Rules Committee on the day of the assassination. If JFK did not die in November, LBJ would have been impeached. That is why the conspirators did not wait until 1st December to see if the coup took place.

My view is that JFK would have done a deal with Castro. The coup idea was too risky. Even if JFK could have put together a coalition that was acceptable to most Cubans, a significant number would have continued to resist. It is possible that JFK could have found himself in another Vietnam or Iraq. This was the very reason why JFK was unwilling to send troops to Vietnam. JFK was no George Bush.

Lamar has not released details of who the coup leader was going to be. Reading between the lines, David Kaiser and myself have come to the same conclusion. Will be interested to know what other readers think the man's name is.

Both Lamar Waldron and David Kaiser have agreed to join the Forum. The debate should be very interesting.

I would be interested in what other historians make of these new declassified documents. It is interesting that Robert Blakey at another conference in Washington, has revealed that the House Select Committee on Assassinations was lied to by the CIA.

This is an account taken from the Washington Post:

The committee's chief counsel, G. Robert Blakey, whose main suspect remains the late New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello, explained his loss of confidence in the CIA in a talk Saturday night. The committee had relied on the late George Joannides, a CIA officer called out of retirement, to help it find and review CIA documents during its investigation. But the agency never told the committee that Joannides had been the case officer for a CIA-funded anti-Castro exile group that had contacts with Oswald and an ostensible confrontation with him in New Orleans before the assassination.

"The agency set me up," Blakey said. Joannides, he recalled, frequently blocked the efforts of the House panel's young researchers to obtain relevant CIA records, but when they complained to him, Blakey said he accepted the CIA's assurances that his aides were being too pushy and suspicious. Looking back on it, he said, "I have no confidence in anything the agency told me."

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Dyck said the agency had no immediate comment.

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Lamar has not released details of who the coup leader was going to be. Reading between the lines, David Kaiser and myself have come to the same conclusion. Will be interested to know what other readers think the man's name is.

David and myself both believe that the authors are suggesting that Che Guevara was the proposed coup leader. This is not impossible. Che was unable with the way Castro was being dominated by the Soviets. Che was also placed under house arrest in December, 1963. Castro's agents had infiltrated the anti-Castro exile community working for the CIA.

In 1994 Congress passed the JFK Act. This put pressure on the intelligence agencies to release classified documents relating to the presidency of JFK. This has been a slow process and the CIA still have over a million documents to declassify.

Historians working in this field do not only rely on the documents being declassified. Much of their work involves interviewing people who know what is in these documents. For example, I am currently interviewing by email, Manolo Ray, the head of JURE (an anti-Castro exile group based in Miami during the 1960s).

According to recently released documents, Ray was invited by JFK to be a member of the new Cuban government that was to take office after the planned overthrow of Fidel Castro on 1st December, 1963. The JFK/CIA plot to overthrow Castro (AMWORLD) is one of the US governments best kept secrets. According to these documents, Enrique Ruiz-Williams, Manuel Artime, Manolo Ray, Eloy Menoya and Tony Varona had agreed to form a coalition government along with an unnamed senior figure in Castro’s government.

In an email to me yesterday, Ray claimed he rejected JFK’s offer to join the planned coalition government (he did not trust the CIA or two of his coalition partners). He also argues that Che Guevara was not the leader of the proposed coup. I now have to persuade him to tell me who it was as he is not named in the CIA documents released so far.

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