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How Reckless Was Castro?


Tim Gratz
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Several people have posted, in response to my theory of possible Cuban involvement in the assassination, that Castro would never have been involved for if it was determined that he was there would surely be a US invasion of Cuba. Of course now we know from "The Ultimate Sacrifice" that there was an imminent invasion in the works in any event.

Last night I started to watch for the first time "The Fog of War" with Robert McNamara. In one section he discusses a meeting he had had with Castro. In the meeting, Castro told McNamara that during the height of the CMC, he (Castro) had advised Khruschev to shoot the missiles in Cuba at the US, even though he knew that such action would invite US retaliation against Cuba and the destrucion of the entire island.

McNamara was aghast.

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Certainly we can dismiss the argument that Castro would not have done it for fear of the consequences.

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Let me amend this. Perhaps Castro was not so reckless after all. He certainly had every reason during the height of the CMC to believe that a US invasion of Cuba was imminent. So if he thought the US was about to invade (and probably kill the leadership of the July 26th movement), he may have very well reasoned that it would be only fiiting to first deliver a blow to the U.S. Fortnuately, however, Kennedy and Khruschev avoided a war.

Re his possible role in the assassination of JFK, whether or not he participated, it now seems from "The Ultimate Sacrifice" that there was an imminent invasion of Cuba that was apparentlly averted by the death of JFK. So either through Castro's participation in the assassination or through his luck, the death of JFK apparently prevented "C" Day.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Last night I started to watch for the first time "The Fog of War" with Robert McNamara. In one section he discusses a meeting he had had with Castro. In the meeting, Castro told McNamara that during the height of the CMC, he (Castro) had advised Khruschev to shoot the missiles in Cuba at the US, even though he knew that such action would invite US retaliation against Cuba and the destrucion of the entire island. McNamara was aghast. Certainly we can dismiss the argument that Castro would not have done it for fear of the consequences. Let me amend this. Perhaps Castro was not so reckless after all. He certainly had every reason during the height of the CMC to believe that a US invasion of Cuba was imminent. So if he thought the US was about to invade (and probably kill the leadership of the July 26th movement), he may have very well reasoned that it would be only fitting to first deliver a blow to the U.S. Fortunately, however, Kennedy and Khruschev avoided a war.

Like so many things, the assertion that Castro urged Khrushchev to launch nuclear warfare is subject to interpretation. But given Castro's current status as the longest reigning world leader, evaluating his supposed recklessness is appropriate. The following is from Beschloss' The Crisis Years, pp 538-539:

"On Friday in Havana, Fidel Castro had warned Alexeyev that the United States was about to attack Cuba. By Alexeyev's account, the 'fearful' Cuban leader asked to be taken into the Soviet Embassy bomb shelter. With Alexeyev's help, Castro wrote a secret letter to Khrushchev predicting an American air strike or invasion within the next twenty-four hours. The morale of the Cuban people was 'extremely high, and they will face the aggressor heroically.' But should the United States succeed in occupying Cuba, the danger of allowing such aggression to go unchecked would be 'devastating to humankind.' Castro implored Khrushchev to prevent the 'imperialists' from gaining 'the opportunity to launch the first attack in a nuclear war.' This would be 'an act of self-defense' because there would be 'no other solution, however harsh it might seem.' Alexeyev and Aragones years later defended Castro by saying that he was simply urging firmness against the United States. That was not Khrushchev's reading of the message; he assumed that Castro was urging him 'to preempt the invasion and inflict a nuclear strike on the US.' For him, it was one more sign that control of the crisis was in danger of being snatched away from him and Kennedy."

Re his possible role in the assassination of JFK, whether or not he participated, it now seems from "The Ultimate Sacrifice" that there was an imminent invasion of Cuba that was apparently averted by the death of JFK. So either through Castro's participation in the assassination or through his luck, the death of JFK apparently prevented "C" Day.

The following statement made by Desmond FitzGerald four months after the assassination does support the notion that a pending invasion of Cuba was averted in Dallas: "If Jack Kennedy had lived, I can assure you we would have gotten rid of Castro by last Christmas." But as we know, the Kennedys played their cards close to the chest, and FitzGerald's perspective reflected what the Kennedys wanted him to believe.

Last night I started to watch for the first time "The Fog of War" with Robert McNamara.

The whole point of Von Clausewitz's concept of the Fog of War is that perceptions are narrowed, clouded and sometimes just wrong in the midst of crisis and conflict. This applies to Khrushchev's interpretation of Castro's supposed request that he launch a preemptive nuclear strike, it applies to FitzGerald's subjective perspective of the Kennedys' plan for a December coup, and it should be applied by contemporary researchers to many of the seemingly ironclad assertions in which perception and interpretation are repeated as fact.

An example of an asserted fact in the midst of the Fog of War that was appropriately treated skeptically, was the signal received by a high-ranking Western spy in the Kremlin, Oleg Penkovsky. Just before being arrested in Moscow at the height of the Missile Crisis, it is reported that Colonel Penkovsky "sent the telephonic signal prearranged with his Western handlers to warn them against imminent Soviet attack." Raymond Garthoff revealed: "So when he was about to go down, he evidently decided to play Samson and bring the temple down on everyone else as well.... Fortunately, his Western intelligence handlers, at the operational level, after weighing a dilemma of great responsibility, decided not to credit Penkovsky's final signal and suppressed it."

T.C.

Edited by Tim Carroll
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