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John, what is the reason you brought up Lisa Howard again? I’m only asking because it’s the same thread that you posted on May 12, 2004. Do you have some new information or is it just a kind of repetition? I’m not criticising you but if you have some new information would it not be better to start with these first?

In case I’ve missed something or didn’t get it right I’m ready to take the beating :tomatoes

George

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John, what is the reason you brought up Lisa Howard again? I’m only asking because it’s the same thread that you posted on May 12, 2004. Do you have some new information or is it just a kind of repetition? I’m not criticising you but if you have some new information would it not be better to start with these first?

I am guilty of not checking to see if a thread existed on Lisa Howard. I have now merged the two threads. Sorry.

You might be interested in this article by Peter Kornbluh , JFK & Castro: The Secret Quest For Accommodation (October 1999)

In February 1996, Robert Kennedy Jr. and his brother, Michael, traveled to Havana to meet with Fidel Castro. As a gesture of goodwill, they brought a file of formerly top secret US documents on the Kennedy administration's covert exploration of an accommodation with Cuba - a record of what might have been had not Lee Harvey Oswald, seemingly believing the president to be an implacable foe of Castro's Cuba, fired his fateful shots in Dallas. Castro thanked them for the file and shared his "impression that it was (President Kennedy's) intention after the missile crisis to change the framework" of relations between the United States and Cuba. "It's unfortunate," said Castro, that "things happened as they did, and he could not do what he wanted to do."

Would John F. Kennedy, had he lived, have been able to establish a modus vivendi with Fidel Castro? The question haunts almost 40 years of acrimonious U.S.-Cuba relations. In a Top Secret - Eyes Only memorandum written three days after the president's death, one of his White House aides, Gordon Chase, noted that "President Kennedy could have accommodated with Castro and gotten away with it with a minimum of domestic heat"--because of his track record "of being successfully nasty to Castro and the Communists" during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Castro and his advisers believed the same. A CIA intelligence report, based on a high-level Cuban source and written for National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy in 1964, noted that "Fidel Castro felt that it was possible that President Kennedy would have gone on ultimately to negotiate with Cuba... (as an) acceptance of a fait accompli for practical reasons."

The file on the Kennedy administration's "Cuban contacts" that Robert Jr. and Michael took to Cuba (declassified at the request of the author) sheds significant light on a story that has never been fully told - John Kennedy's secret pursuit of a rapprochement with Fidel Castro. Along with papers recently released pursuant to the Kennedy Assassination Records Act of 1992, the documents reveal the escalating efforts toward negotiations in 1963 that, if successful, might have changed the ensuing decades of perpetual hostility between Washington and Havana. Given the continuing state of tension with Castro's regime, this history carries an immediate relevance for present policy makers. Indeed, with the Clinton administration buffeted between increasingly vocal critics of U.S. policy toward Cuba and powerful proponents of the status quo, reconstructing the hitherto secret record of Kennedy's efforts in the fall of 1963 to advance "the rapprochement track" with Castro is more relevant than ever.

John F. Kennedy would seem the most unlikely of presidents to seek an accommodation with Fidel Castro. His tragically abbreviated administration bore responsibility for some of the most infamous U.S. efforts to roll back the Cuban revolution: the Bay of Pigs invasion, the trade embargo, Operation Mongoose (a U.S. plan to destabilize the Castro government) and a series of CIA-Mafia assassination attempts against the Cuban leader. Castro's demise, Seymour M. Hersh argues in his book, The Dark Side of Camelot, "became a presidential obsession" until the end. "The top priority in the United States government - all else is secondary - no time, money, effort, or manpower is to be spared" is to find a "solution" to the Cuba problem, Attorney General Robert Kennedy told a high-level group of CIA and Pentagon officials in early 1962. The president's opinion, according to CIA minutes of the meeting, was that "the final chapter (on Cuba) has not been written."

Unbeknownst to all but his brother and a handful of advisers, however, in 1963 John Kennedy began pursuing an alternative script on Cuba: a secret dialogue toward an actual rapprochement with Castro. To a policy built upon "overt and covert nastiness," as Top Secret White House memoranda characterized U.S. operations against Cuba, was added "the sweet approach," meaning the possibility of "quietly enticing Castro over to us." National Security Council officials referred to this multitrack policy as "simil-opting"--the use of disparate methods toward the goal of moving Cuba out of the Soviet orbit...

Which country initiated the secret dialogue in the fall of 1963 remains a subject of historical dispute. The feelers toward a rapprochement "originally came, one might say, from their side," testified William Attwood, the key U.S. official involved in the subsequent talks, in a top secret deposition in 1975. In an interview, Cuba's former ambassador to the United Nations, Carlos Lechuga, insisted that "this was a Kennedy initiative, not Cuba's."

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You might be interested in this article by Peter Kornbluh , JFK & Castro: The Secret Quest For Accommodation (October 1999)

[...]

Unbeknownst to all but his brother and a handful of advisers, however, in 1963 John Kennedy began pursuing an alternative script on Cuba: a secret dialogue toward an actual rapprochement with Castro. To a policy built upon "overt and covert nastiness," as Top Secret White House memoranda characterized U.S. operations against Cuba, was added "the sweet approach," meaning the possibility of "quietly enticing Castro over to us." National Security Council officials referred to this multitrack policy as "simil-opting"--the use of disparate methods toward the goal of moving Cuba out of the Soviet orbit... [...]

_______________________________________

Sounds like the good old "carrot and stick" approach to me.

_______________________________________

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John,

Lisa Howard's murder had nothing to do with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. There is no question that that J. Edgar Hoover was and the same creepy crowd that covered up the truth about the Kennedy assassination was involved, but there is no direct link, other than anti-Castro fanatisism -you know, that all-important Cuban Operation.

That's my opinion.

That article by Peter Konnbluh sounds very reasonable to me. If Kennedy had lived, Cuba would have been America's favorite tourist destination today.

Edited by Lynne Foster
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John,

Lisa Howard's murder had nothing to do with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. There is no question that that J. Edgar Hoover was and the same creepy crowd that covered up the truth about the Kennedy assassination was involved, but there is no direct link, other than anti-Castro fanatisism -you know, that all-important Cuban Operation.

That's my opinion.

That article by Peter Konnbluh sounds very reasonable to me. If Kennedy had lived, Cuba would have been America's favorite tourist destination today.

Lynne, just curious, could it be that you meanwhile solved the "Laci case" and now you concentrate on the JFK assassination?? :)

George

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There's a lot more to Lisa Howard than we've seen here so far.

She really was an independent freelance journalist, who went to the 1960 Democratic Convention in LA on her own, paying her own way, and finagling interviews with important people and impressing the head of one major news network executive who used to be Eisenhower's press secretary.

When Kruschev came to NYC, Howard hid out in a telephone booth at a hotel where she knew he was staying, and ambushed him when he arrived, thus obtaining an exclusive first person interview. She did the same with JFK and Castro, and before long, she was the hottest go getter in the news business.

Her NYC apartment became the meeting place [Can anybody get the address of Lisa's NYC apt.?] for William Attwood, JFK's prep school roomy who introduced him to Mary Meyer, and Carlos Lechuga, the Cuban ambassador and point man in the backchannel negotiations between JFK and Castro.

Lechuga, it is alledged, had an affair with Sylvia Duran at the Cuban embassy in Mexico City, while JFK is alledged had an affair with Mary Meyer. While the Duran-Lechuga affair is mentioned in CIA docs, Lechuga denied this allegation at the COPA-CUBAN meetings.

Now we learn that Lisa Howard also played host to the tea party in NYC when Che met with Eugene McCarthy, Tad Sz., et al.

As Tim G. points out, after the JFK assassination, Howard and her crowd became fanatic anti-RFK and supported Keating in his Senate campaign against RFK.

Lisa Howard died of an overdose of perscription barbituates, a death very similar to MM and Dorothy Kilgal.

Lisa Howard was a key player in the back channell negotiations between JFK and Castro and played a significant, if unintentional role in his murder.

BK

bkjfk3@yahoo.com

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  • 2 months later...
  • 6 months later...

BK Note: On November 1, 1963, the New York Times published a photo of the Rex on the front page, with a story that blew the CIA cover of Collins Radio. On November 4, The Dallas Morning News announced JFK’s visit to Dallas.}

20. Memorandum from U.S. Delegate at the UN William Attwood to Gordon Chase of the National Security Council Staff

By the autumn of 1963 the Kennedy administration was pursuing a two-track policy towards Castro. While sabotage activities against Cuba continued, an effort was underway to develop a secret dialog with Castro, with a view to achieving some sort of an accommodation between Havana and Washington. UN official William Attwood, formally an editor at Look magazine, was a key figure in this diplomatic endeavor. Here he recounts his role in the period from August through early November 1963.

New York, November 8, 1963.

Following is a chronology of events leading up to Castro’s invitation on October 31, to receive a U.S. official for talks in Cuba:

Soon after joining the U.S. Mission to the U.N. on August 26, I met Seydou Diallo, the Guinea Ambassador to Havana, whom I had known well in Conakray. [Attwood had been U.S. Ambassador to Guinea from March 1961 to May 1963].

He went out of his way to tell me that Castro was isolated from contact with neutralist diplomats by his “Communist entourage”….He, Diallo, had finally been able to see Castro alone once and was convinced he was personally receptive to changing courses and getting Cuba on the road to non-alignment….

In the first week of September, I also read ABC correspondent, Lisa Howard’s article, “Castro’s Overture,” [in War/Peace Report, September, 1963] based on her conversation with Castro last April. This article stressed Castro’s expressed desire for reaching an accommodation with the United States and a willingness to make substantial concessions to this end. On September 12, I talked with Miss Howard, whom I have known for some years, and she echoed Ambassador Diallo’s opinion that there was a rift between Castro and the Guevara-Hart-Alveida group on the question of Cuba’s future course.

On September 12, I discussed this with Under Secretary Harriman in Washington. He suggested I prepare a memo and we arranged to meet in New York the following week.

On September 18, I wrote a memorandum based on these talks and on corroborating information I had heard in Conakry…..

On September 23, I met Dr. Lechuga at Miss Howard’s apartment. She has been on good terms with Lechuga since her visit with Castro and invited him for a drink to met [sic] some friends who had also been to Cuba. I was just one of those friends. In the course of our conversation, which started with recollections of my own talks with Castro in 1959, I mentioned having read Miss Howard’s article. Lechuga hinted that Castro was indeed in a mood to talk. I told him that in my present position, I would need official authorization to make such a trip, and did not know if it would be forthcoming. However, I said an exchange of views might well be useful and that I would find out and let him know.

On September 24, I saw the Attorney-General in Washington, and gave him my September 18 memo, and reported my meeting with Lechuga. He said he would pass the memo on to Mr. McGeorge Bundy;…..

On September 27, I ran into Lechuga at the United Nations, where he was doing a television interview in the lobby with Miss Howard. I told him that I had discussed our talk in Washingon,….Meanwhile, he forewarned me that he would be making a ‘hard’ anti-U.S. speech in the United Nations on October 7….{BK – According to Issac Don Levine in his book “Eyewitness to History” notes that LHO listened to Lechuga’s UN speech and Stevenson’s response to it on a shortwave radio in Dallas }.

On October 18, at dinner at the home of Mrs. Eugene Meyer, {BK Note: Publisher of the Washington Post} I talked with Mr. C.A. Doxiades, a noted Greek architect and town-planner, who had just returned from an architects congress in Havana, where he had talked alone to both Castro and Guevara, among others. He sought me out, as a government official, to say he was convinced Castro would welcome normalization of relations with the United States if he could do so without losing too much face….

On October 20, Miss Howard asked me if she might call Major Rene Vallejo, a Cuban surgeon who is also Castro’s current right-hand man and confidant. She said Vallejo helped her see Castro and made it plain to her he opposed the Guevara group. They became friends and talked on the phone several times since the interview….

On October 21, Gordon Chase called me from the White House in connection with my September 18 memo. I brought him up to date and said the ball was in his court.

{BK Note: (According to GR in LBTS, p. 163,) “13 major operations approved”}

On October 28, I ran into Lechuga in the U.N. Delegates Lounge….I said it was up to him and he could call me if he felt like it. He wrote down my extension.

On October 29, Vallejo again called Miss Howard at home…

On October 31, Vallejo called Miss Howard, apologizing for the delay and saying he had been out of town with Castro and “could not get to a phone from which I could call you.” He said Castro would very much like to talk to the U.S. official anytime and appreciated the importance of discretion to all concerned….

In October, at a Dallas John Birch Society meeting, Bay of Pigs veteran Nestor Castellanos was recorded as saying: “Get him out! Get him out! The quicker, the sooner, the better. He’s doing all kinds of deals [Tony Summers’ emphasis] …Mr. Kennedy is kissing Mr. Khrushchev. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had kissed Castro too…We are waiting for Kennedy the twenty-second [November], buddy. We are going to see him, in one way or the other. We’re going to give him the works when he gets to Dallas.”

Also take note: Rex mission exposed by New York Times (p.1) on Nov. 1, revealing that Collins Radio served as cover for mission}

On November 1, Miss Howard reported the Vallejo call to me and I repeated it to Chase on November 4.

On November 5, I met with Bundy and Chase at the White House and informed them of the foregoing. The next day, Chase called and asked me to put it in writing.

21. MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD

CIA Director McCone presents an update on the situation in Cuba, and JFK and his advisors evaluate their sabotage program.

Washington, November 12, 1963, 10:30 a.m.

SUBJECT

Meeting on Policy relating to Cuba – 10:30 a.m. – 12 Nov 63

IN ATTENDANCE

The President, Secty. McNamara, Secty. Rusk, Secty. Gilpatrick, Attorney General [Robert Kennedy], Sect. Vance, General Taylor, Mr. Bundy, Secty. Johnson, Mr. McCone, Mr. Helms, Mr. FitzGerald, Mr Shackley.

McCone opened the meeting with a brief resume of conditions in Cuba along these lines:

1. Cuba still belongs to Castro though his grip is weakening.

2. The military remain essentially loyal to Castro…

3. The internal security forces and apparatus are effective…

4. The economy is bad and deteriorating,…..

5. The Soviets are continuing a gradual withdraw…

6. Training of Cubans continues…

7. The only equipment which has been withdraw has been the advanced C-band radar for SAMs and certain communications equipment….

McCone then stated that the program which had been followed for the last several months, having been approved about the first of June, [Note: This was the sabotage program approved by JFK on June 19, 1963. See Documents 15 and 16], was integrated and interdependent one part on the other and therefore should be considered as a comprehensive program and not a number of independent actions.

FitzGerald then made a presentation.[Note: FitzGerald’s presentation was a progress report on the six-point covert program proposed by the CIA on June 8 and endorsed by JFK eleven days later. See Socs. 15 and 16]

With respect to sabotage, McCone stated that no one event will particularly affect the economy. However a continuous program will have its effects…Rusk had no problem with infiltration of black teams;…However he opposed the hit-and-run sabotage tactics as being unproductive, complicating our relationships with the Soviets and also with our friends and indicated a connection between our sabotage activities and the autobahn problem [Note: …Berlin].

The President asked questions concerning the immediate operations, and the next one on the schedule was approved…..[McCone produced this memo]

22. MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD Prepared by the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs McGorge Bundy

A memorandum by his national security advisor indicates that JFK was interested in generating a dialog with Castro via intermediaries, though he did not want the talks to commence in Cuba.

Washington, November 12, 1963

23. MEMORANDUM from Gordon Chase of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs McGeorge Bundy.

On the day of John Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, William Attwood records the developments that had taken place during the final days of the Kennedy presidency regarding the attempt to hold private discussions with Cuban officials. What might be called the Attwood initiative raises the question of whether relations between Washington and Havana would have improved had JFK not been assassinated.

Washington, November 25, 1963.

SUBJECT

Cuba- Bill Attwood.

1. Attached is an unsolicited chronology from Bill Atwood which describes the activities of the Cuba-Attwood tie-line from November 11 to the present. Apparently, the memo was dispatched on November 22, but because of the recent events [Note: Namely, the assassination of JFK in Dallas on November 22], did not reach us until today.

Attachment

MEMORANDUM From William Attwood to Gordon Chase of the National Security Council Staff

New York, November 22, 1963

Following is an addition to my memorandum to you dated November 8, 1963 [see Document 20]

On November 11, Vallejo called Miss Howard again to reiterate their appreciation of the need for secrecy and to say that Castro would go along with any arrangements we might want to make. He specifically suggested that a Cuban plane could come to Key West and pick up the emissary; alternatively they would agree to have him come to a U.S. plane which could land at one of several “secret airfields” near Havana. He emphasized that only Castro and himself would be present at the talks and that no one else – he specifically mentioned Guevara – would be involved. Valejo also reiterated Castro’s desire for this talk and hoped to hear our answer soon.

On November 12, Bundy called me and I reported Vallejo’s message. He said this did not affect the White House decision that a preliminary talk with Vallejo at the United Nations should be held in order to find out what Castro wanted to talk bout – particularly if he was seriously interested in discussing the points cited in Stevenson’s October 7 speech. [Note: If Castro wanted peaceful relations with his neighbors, Stevenson had asserted, he needed to cut ties with Moscow, end his subversive activities in Latin America, and provide basic constitutional rights for his people] {BK Note: According to IDL, LHO listened to these speeches on a short wave radio in Dallas}. Bundy suggested I transmit our decision to Vallejo, stressed the fact that, since we are responding to their invitation and are not soliciting a meeting, we would like to know more about what is on Castro’s mind before committing ourselves to further talks in Cuba.

On November 13, I went to Miss Howard’s apartment and called Vallejo at home. There was no answer. She then sent a telegram asking that he call her at his convenience.

On November 14, Vallejo called her. She gave him my message – that we would want to talk to him here at the United Nations before accepting an invitation to go to Cuba. She said that, if he wished to confirm or discuss this further with the U.S. official, he could call him (Vallejo) at him on the evening of November 18. Vallejo said he would be there to receive the call. Meanwhile, he did not exclude the possibility of his coming to the UN and said he would discuss it with Castro.

On November 18, Miss Howard reached Vallejo at home and passed the phone to me. I told him Miss Howard had kept me informed of her talks with him and that I assumed he know of our interests in hearing what Castro had in mind. Vallejo said he did, and reiterated the invitation to Cuba, stressing the fact that security could be guaranteed. I replied that we felt a preliminary meeting was essential to make sure there was something useful to talk about, and asked if he was able to come to New York, Vallejo said he could not come “at this time.” However, if that’s how we felt, he said that “we” would send instructions to Lechuga to propose and discuss with me “an agenda” for a later meeting with Castro. I said I would await Lechuga’s call. Vallejo’s manner was extremely cordial and he called me “Sir” throughout the conversation.

On November 19, I called {Gordon} Chase {of NSC}, and reported our conversation.

END OF OFFICIAL RECORD

On November 22, 1963, as soon as word was announced that President Kennedy was assassinated, William Attwood recognized the importance of his secret talks with Carlos Lechuga, and put his report in writing. At the CIA, their records reflected a curious scenario – that the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, had met Cuban embassy employee Sylvia Duran, and reportedly attended a private party with her where he had sex with Duran, who also had acknowledge having a sexual affair with Carlos Lechuga, the Cuban ambassador to the UN involved in the backchannel talks. Whether these CIA records are accurate or not, they immediately established a direct connection between the accused assassin and the secret talks, which weren’t so secret after all.

William Attwood: “If the CIA did find out what we were doing, this would have trickled down to the lower echelon of activists, and Cuban exiles, and the more gung-ho CIA people who had been involved since the Bay of Pigs. If word of a possible normalization of relations with Cuba leaked to these people, I can understand why they would have reacted so violently. This was the end of their dreams of returning to Cuba, and they might have been impelled to take violent action. Such as assassinating the President.”

Arthur Schlesinger (To Anthony Summes) said, “I think the CIA must have known about this initiative. They must certainly have realized that Bill Attwood and the Cuban representative to the U.N. were doing more than exchanging daiquiri recipes…They had all the wires tapped at the Cuban delegation to the United Nations….Undoubtedly if word leaked of President Kennedy’s efforts, that might have been exactly the kind of thing to trigger some explosion of fanatical violence. It seems to me a possibility not to be excluded.”

In an unpublished novel, David Attle Phillips, the CIA officer who ran the DRE and monitored the Cuban embassy in Mexico City when Oswald was there, wrote: “I was one of those officers who handled Lee Harvey Oswald. We gave him the mission of killing Castro in Cuba….I don’t know WHY he killed Kennedy. But I do know he used precisely the plan we had devised against Castro. Thus the CIA did not anticipate the president’s assassination, but it was responsible for it. I share the guilt.”

In private talks with former HSCA investigator Kevin Walsh, who befriended Phillips in Washington before he died, Phillips told Walsh, “My private opinion is that JFK was done in by a conspiracy, likely including rogue American intelligence people.”

Hevve Lemarr of French Intelligence: “President Kennedy’s assassination was the work of magicians. It was a stage trick complete with actor’s accessories and props. And when the curtain fell the actors and even the scenery, disappeared. But the magicians were not illusionists, but professionals, artists in their own way.”

Just as Hitler himself approved the emergency military powers used by the Nazi generals in the July 20, 1944 assassination attempt and failed coup, President Kennedy himself approved the CIA covert operations against Cuba that were used to kill him at Dealey Plaza. It’s like he signed his own death warrant when he approved certain covert naval sabotage of Cuban shipping and infiltration of covert agents into Cuba.

“The arm that cuts the King’s throat is often his own.” – Annonymous.

xxxx

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Great information Bill. Is the following part of William Attwood's memorandum to Gordon Chase?

In October, at a Dallas John Birch Society meeting, Bay of Pigs veteran Nestor Castellanos was recorded as saying: “Get him out! Get him out! The quicker, the sooner, the better. He’s doing all kinds of deals [Tony Summers’ emphasis] …Mr. Kennedy is kissing Mr. Khrushchev. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had kissed Castro too…We are waiting for Kennedy the twenty-second [November], buddy. We are going to see him, in one way or the other. We’re going to give him the works when he gets to Dallas.”

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Great information Bill. Is the following part of William Attwood's memorandum to Gordon Chase?

In October, at a Dallas John Birch Society meeting, Bay of Pigs veteran Nestor Castellanos was recorded as saying: “Get him out! Get him out! The quicker, the sooner, the better. He’s doing all kinds of deals [Tony Summers’ emphasis] …Mr. Kennedy is kissing Mr. Khrushchev. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had kissed Castro too…We are waiting for Kennedy the twenty-second [November], buddy. We are going to see him, in one way or the other. We’re going to give him the works when he gets to Dallas.”

No John, That quote is from Tony Summers. I think its from the Vanity Fair article. It is originally from the HSCA. It's clear that these anti-Castro Cubans were aware of the JFK-Attwood-Howard-Lechuga communications, and provided extra motivation for providing any technicalmechanical assistance to assassination operations.

Originally these memos were an extension of the collection of Memos re: Cuban ops I posted earlier under Coup Administrative Details, documenting the two track Stratigic policy approvals of covert ops and the back channel negotiations.

I too, failed to connect Lisa Howard and Mary Meyer. That's very interesting as well.

What's even more significant however, are the CIA reports that indicate Lechuga had a sexual liason in Mexico City with Sylvia Duran, who the accused assassin is also reported to have had dallied with in bed. Duran told Summers that she indeed slept with Lechuga, but Lechuga, at the COPA-CUBAN conference, denied any affair with Duran. The point is however, that the CIA reports indicate there were affairs and thus associaitons between Duran and Lechuga and Duran and Oswald.

BK

Edited by William Kelly
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Have you seen this passage from William Attwood's The Twilight Struggle: Tales of the Cold War (the last two paragraphs are very interesting):

On September 17, I ran into Seydou Diallo, Guinea's ambassador to Cuba, in the Delegates' Lounge, and he volunteered the information that Cuba's economy was in a slump and Castro would soon be amenable to some sort of agreement with us. "He is salvageable," he said. "Give him another three months." Other Africans I talked to expressed generally the same view.

That day I wrote a "Memorandum on Cuba," based on the premise that the policy of isolating Cuba not only intensified Castro's desire to cause trouble but froze the United States before the world "in the unattractive posture of a big country trying to bully a small country."

The next day, I showed the memorandum to Stevenson, who liked it. "Unfortunately," he said, "the CIA is still in charge of Cuba." But he offered to take it up with the president. Harriman was in New York on the nineteenth, so I gave him a copy too. He said he was "adventuresome enough" to be interested but urged me to see Bob Kennedy, whose approval would be essential. I called Kennedy and got an appointment to see him on the twenty-fourth.

Meanwhile, Stevenson told me he had talked to the president about the Cuban initiative when he came to New York on the twentieth to address the General Assembly, and got his agreement to go ahead. For some reason, Stevenson was not keen on my seeing Robert Kennedy, but I trusted Harriman's instincts. Bob had been deeply involved in our Cuban relations and would expect to be consulted about this gambit; also, he had his brother's ear as did no one else.

I did tell Lisa to organize her cocktail party, and on the twenty-third Lechuga and I found ourselves talking about Fidel and the revolution in a corner of her apartment. He said Castro had hoped to establish some sort of contact with Kennedy after he became president in 1961, but the Bay of Pigs ended any chance of that, at least for the time being. But Castro had read Kennedy's American University speech in June and had liked its tone. I mentioned my Havana visit in 1959 and Fidel's "Let us be friends" remark in our conversation. Lechuga said another such conversation in Havana could be useful and might be arranged. He expressed irritation at the continuing exile raids and our freezing $33 million in Cuban assets in U.S. banks in July. We agreed the present situation was abnormal and we should keep in touch.

On the twenty-fourth I flew to Washington, gave Bob Kennedy my memo, which he read, and told him of my talk with Lechuga the night before. He said my going to Cuba, as Lechuga had mentioned, was too risky-it was bound to leak-and if nothing came of it the Republicans would call it appeasement and demand a congressional investigation. But he thought the matter was worth pursuing at the U.N. and perhaps even with Castro some place outside Cuba. He said he'd consult with Harriman and McGeorge Bundy.

On the twenty-seventh I met Lechuga in the U.N. Delegates' Lounge-always a good place for discreet encounters because of its noise and confusion-and said it would be difficult for me, in my present capacity as a government official, to accept an invitation to Cuba; however, I was authorized to talk to anyone who came here from Havana. He said he'd pass my message along. Meanwhile, he warned me he'd be making a tough anti-American speech on October 7, but not to take it too seriously.

On October 2, Bundy called to say that Gordon Chase, one of his deputies, would be my White House contact and to keep him informed.

The next day, I lunched with an old friend, Jean Daniel, the editor of the French socialist newsweekly L'Observateur, who said he was going to Washington and then Havana to see Castro, who he had reason to believe would now be receptive to some bold diplomacy from our side. I called Ben Bradlee, then Newsweek's Washington bureau chief, who knew Daniel, and suggested he try to get him an appointment with the president.

On the seventh, Lechuga made his speech, denouncing our trade embargo and the exile raids as warlike acts. It got a lot of applause, even from the moderates, who instinctively sympathized with a small country standing up to a superpower. Stevenson had asked me for a draft of a reply, in which he said that Castro could have peace with all his neighbors if he stopped trying to subvert other nations and taking orders from Moscow and instead started honoring the original democratic pledges of his revolution.

On October 19, a Greek town planner named Doxiades, just back from Havana, dropped in to tell me Castro was sincerely interested in normalizing relations with us.

Two days later Chase called and I told him the ball was still in Lechuga's court.

On the twenty-fourth, the president saw Daniel after Bradlee told him of his forthcoming trip to Cuba. Kennedy blamed our pro-Batista policy in the fifties for "economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation" and added, "We'll have to pay for those sins." But he said the Cuban problem now had a Soviet dimension in that Castro was doing the Kremlin's bidding and acting as its agent in Latin America: "The continuation of our economic blockade depends on his continuation of subversive activities." But as Daniel wrote later, "I could see plainly that John Kennedy had doubts and was seeking a way out."

On the twenty-eighth, Lechuga told me Havana didn't see how formal talks could be useful just now but he'd be glad to continue chatting with me anyway. Lisa Howard had meanwhile been in touch by phone with Castro's personal aide, Major Rene Vallejo. He told her Castro did want to talk personally and privately to us about improving relations and was glad we were ready to listen. She told him about our proposal for a meeting at the U.N., but Vallejo said Castro couldn't leave Cuba just now.

On the thirty-first, Vallejo called her back and said Castro would like a U.S. official to come and see him alone. He appreciated the importance of discretion and therefore offered to send a plane to fly the official to a private airport near Varadero, where no one else would see him. She told him I was the official concerned and would get in touch.

I kept Stevenson informed and also called Chase, who told me on November 4 to come to the White House the next day. There, I briefed him and Bundy on Vallejo's message to Lisa. Bundy said the president was more interested in this Cuban exercise than was the State Department. (I knew he could see the political advantage of possibly weaning Castro away from the Soviet fold.) He asked for a chronological memorandum describing all the exchanges that had taken place since my first talk with Lisa.

On the twelfth, she told me Vallejo had phoned again suggesting I come to Varadero from Key West on an American plane, which was bound to attract less attention than a Cuban plane in Florida. Bundy then called, reiterating that the president favored a preliminary discussion about an agenda, perhaps with Vallejo, at the U.N.-and to call Cuba and tell him so.

During the next four days I tried to reach Vallejo but either the circuit was out or he was. Finally, on the eighteenth, I spoke to him at 2 A.M. and told him the White House position. He said Castro would send instructions to Lechuga to discuss an agenda with me. He spoke fluent English and called me "sir." (Many years later, Castro told me he was listening in on our conversation.)

I reported to Bundy in the morning. He said once an agenda had been agreed upon, the president would want to see me and decide what to say to Castro. He said the president would be making a brief trip to Dallas but otherwise planned to be in Washington.

Meanwhile, in a speech the day before, the president said of Cuba that it had become "a weapon in an effort dictated by external powers to subvert the other American republics. This and this alone divides us. As long as this is true, nothing is possible. Without it, everything is possible." Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who helped in the preparation of this speech, said it was intended to help me by signaling to Castro that normalization was possible if Cuba simply stopped doing the Kremlin's work in Latin America (such as trying to sabotage-vainly, as it turned out-the upcoming Venezuelan elections).

Daniel saw Castro on November 20 and told him of his meeting with Kennedy. He found the Cuban leader thoughtful and attentive; he had Daniel repeat what Kennedy had said about Batista. "He has come to understand many things over the past few months," Castro concluded, adding, "As a revolutionary, the present situation does not displease me. But as a man and a statesman, it is my duty to indicate what the bases for understanding could be."

They met again on the twenty-second, just as the news of Kennedy's assassination was broadcast. Castro seemed stunned. "Es una mala noticia, " he murmured. "This is bad news. This is a serious matter, an extremely serious matter. There is the end of your mission of peace." And later: "At least Kennedy was an enemy to whom we had become accustomed."

He also predicted to Daniel that the Cubans would be blamed for it, as they were for several days after the murder. What Fidel did not know was that Desmond FitzGerald, a senior CIA official, was on that very day, in Paris, giving Rolando Cubela, whose code name was AM/ LASH, a poison pen with which to kill Castro. There is no evidence that Kennedy knew this either. And indeed, what motive would either of them have in plotting the death of someone they were planning to communicate with?

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.

After November 22, the Cuban exercise was gradually laid to rest by our side. On the twenty-ninth, I told Lisa, who was seeing Lechuga, that I had no instructions yet to call it off. On December 2, Lechuga confirmed getting a message from Vallejo authorizing him to talk to me "in general terms"-and had I heard anything from Washington? I called Chase and said the next move was up to us.

Two days later, Lechuga approached me in the Delegates' Lounge to say he now had a letter from Fidel himself, instructing him to talk with me about a specific agenda. I called Chase, who replied all policies were now under review and to be patient.

Jean Daniel returned from Cuba that week, convinced that Fidel wanted to reach a modus vivendi with us. I phoned Schlesinger and Chase at the White House and arranged an appointment for Daniel with Bundy.

On the twelfth, I told Lechuga to be patient and that so far as I knew, we weren't closing the door. (Neither of us knew then that it would be six years before we would meet again-in Havana.)

The General Assembly was coming to an end, and the next day I finally had the satisfaction of casting a vote in the Fourth Committee against South Africa on the question of self-determination for Namibia, which was (and still is) illegally occupied by the South Africans.

President Johnson came to New York and lunched with our delegation after reassuring the General Assembly that he'd be carrying on Kennedy's policies. At lunch, he told me he'd read my chronological account of our Cuban initiative "with interest."

And that was it. I was named ambassador to Kenya in January, and during my Washington briefings I saw Chase, who told me there was apparently no desire among the Johnson people to do anything about Cuba in an election year.

On April 7, Johnson did decide to discontinue the CIA-controlled sabotage raids against Cuba, which John McCone, the CIA director, interpreted as giving up our long-standing objective of overthrowing the regime. Later, Johnson was quoted in an interview as saying that when he took office he had discovered that "we had been operating a damned Murder, Inc., in the Caribbean."

What part, if any, our Cuban gambit played in Kennedy's assassination is the kind of question that now seems pointless to raise. While we kept the exercise under wraps (apparently not even the secretary of state was fully apprised), the CIA must have had an inkling of what was happening from phone taps and surveillance of Lechuga. The news could then have trickled down to the frustrated Bay of Pigs veterans still huddled around their CIA case officers, still hoping for another invasion attempt. An accommodation would have dashed these hopes. Many Cuban adventurers like Frank Fiorini, alias Frank Sturgis, who would wind up working the catacombs of Watergate, could easily have been aroused by what Schlesinger has referred to as "a broadside of unknown origin that told Cuban exiles in Miami that 'only one development' would return them to their homeland - 'if an inspired Act of God should place in the White House within weeks a Texan known to be a friend of all Latin Americans."'

Aroused enough to help perform the "act"? I don't know and don't care to speculate about it.

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Attwood: "On the seventh, Lechuga made his speech, denouncing our trade embargo and the exile raids as warlike acts. It got a lot of applause, even from the moderates, who instinctively sympathized with a small country standing up to a superpower."

From what I understand, Ruth and Michael Paine had a short wave radio in their Irving home and Oswald used it to listen to Lechuga make this speech. He had also previously cut out newsclips about the Cuban exile raids. Oswald was at least, tuned in to these machinations.

BK

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