The Bay of Pigs Debacle
Watching “Thirteen Days” (a film about the Cuban missile crisis starring Kevin Costner and Bruce Greenwood) made me want to look into the events that preceded it, namely, the Bay of Pigs invasion. For those who wish to know what led to the Cuban missile crisis, the story begins with a cold war between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, and the close relationship the former held with President Fulgencio Batista - who applied his controversial brand of “disciplined democracy” in Cuba.
Perceiving Batista’s regime as a dictatorship, a revolutionary Fidel Castro and his cohorts managed to overthrow it. Batista’s tenure forcibly came to an end, Castro proceeded to sever all ties the former government had with the United States, and an affiliation with the Soviet Union was developed. American president Dwight D. Eisenhower became concerned about the Cuban-Soviet affiliation as it reinforced the perceived threat of international communism. Eisenhower’s solution: $13 million to the CIA (an agency founded to mainly counter espionage by the Soviet Union’s KGB during the cold war) to plan Castro’s overthrow.
However, the Americans had underestimated the Cuban leader, who also had effective sources of information and got word of a possible CIA plan to invade Cuba beforehand. The foiled invasion, supported by Cuban counter-revolutionaries, took place two years after the end of the Cuban revolution, and a year after the election of John F. Kennedy - who couldn’t cancel the invasion for political reasons. (The Cuban exiles wouldn’t have been pleased with a cancellation for sure.)
Who’s to be blamed for the epic failure at the Bay of Pigs? I feel that both the CIA and the White House are to blame. And a president who doesn’t back his people all the way, a ditherer who popped painkillers on a daily basis, can’t possibly be a good head of state. In Kennedy’s defence, there is evidence that the CIA had lied to him about the details of the invasion, plus the fact that he had already been deprived of military information on Richard Nixon’s orders when the two of them were running for the Oval Office. How can a president make informed decisions based on insufficient and unreliable feedback?
The initial plan involved the invasion of the heavily populated, and mostly anti-Castro, Trinidad. It would have been the most promising spot for a successful mission. This could have caused a favourable uprising, and the guerrillas would be able to hide in the Escambray Mountains where they’d be able to join forces with other anti-Castro groups already settled there. The CIA official Richard Bissle pressured Kennedy to give the green light, but this one feared making too much “noise” that could implicate the US government’s involvement, and suggested that they come up with a new site to invade. (Kennedy wanted to be able to maintain plausible deniability.)
So Bissle came up with the worst possible new site: the Bay of Pigs - something that worried Esterline (a CIA member) besides the fact that a rumour about a cutback in air support was already circulating. The bay was Castro’s favourite fishing spot, so he knew it like the back of his hand. The Cuban leader had also helped many peasants there and support for his government was rife in that part of the country.
Bissle had also misled Kennedy by saying that the bay was defensible because it was surrounded by swamps, but failed to mention that those very same swamps made it impossible for locals to join up with Brigade 2506, the CIA-sponsored guerrilla of Cuban exiles trained in Mexico which was to carry out the operation. Complacent after his WWII experience, and his success with the coup d’etat in Guatemala, Bissle was confident that the brigade would successfully back the Democratic Revolutionary Front (DRF) against Fidel Castro and achieve victory. The reality, however, was that the brigade was defeated within three days. Castro’s army outnumbered them by 200/1 and there had been no American aviation support either.
Bissle planned to assassinate Castro and failed on that front, too. Initial plans to undermine Castro’s reputation with his people, such as spiking him with LSD, had been rejected in favour of having him killed by the Mafia - which would have given the US government a great cover story! Indeed, part of the funds for the Bay of Pigs mission was used to pay mobsters such as Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana. Bissell, and CIA director Allen W. Dulles (later forced to resign) met with them and offered $150,000 to get the job done.
The failure of the invasion (an embarrassment for the US foreign policy) strengthened Castro’s administration, and the leader announced his intention to adopt socialism and to strengthen ties with the Soviet Union. (Leading up to the Cuban missile crisis.) Castro decided to purchase oil from the Soviets and boycotted American corporations. And so it was that the cold war dangerously extended that far (close enough to the start of humankind’s extinction via nuclear annihilation). The USA retaliated by cancelling the import of Cuban sugar, and, to further the boycott, prohibited exports to Cuba - apart from certain food products and medicine which were traded in for the safe return of captured guerrilla members.
The USA condemned the Cuban government for breaching human rights with its communism. Castro riposted by stating that destitute Americans were victims of their government’s monstrous imperialism which also continued to denigrate and maltreat black people - a good point that wouldn’t hold today, but, to be fair, Americans should have listened to Thomas Paine when he said the following prior to their Constitution in 1787 (and I paraphrase whilst still conveying the pamphleteer’s brilliant centenarian hypocrisy point): “How can we condemn the despotic British, and speak of freedom from their monarch’s tyranny, whilst supporting slavery in our land?”
President John F. Kennedy never saw the end of the communist threat and was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald (yes, conspiracy theorists, it was him) shortly after the Cuban missile crisis. If you think it took a while for the CIA to spill the beans on significant details and concede its partial blame for the Bay of Pigs debacle consider this: the Holy See only absolved Galileo from his charge of heresy in 1992! Fidel Castro, by the bye, is still alive today (6th April 2014).
And here's is the Thirteen Days trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSA7Evcy7iE