By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. For this article of ugly disclosures I have selected a famous Cuban song of sultry, seductive beauty… It’s the famous habanera “Tu” written by composer Eduardo Sanchez de Fuentes (born 1874) when he was just 16. I like the version by Fernando Albuerne.
In it he serenades Cuba the beautiful island of ardiente sol, the queen of all the Caribbean flowers. You’ll find this song in any search engine. Go now, find it and let this canto lindo, insinuating and beckoning caress you. If you do, you will understand why so many love her, want her, and will do any act, any act at all, to get her and keep her… And it’s been going on like this since Christopher Columbus discovered Cuba for Spain on 27 October 1492.
Too much promised, too little delivered.
On 22 April 1961 Immediately following the humiliating failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy asked General Maxwell D. Taylor, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Admiral Arleigh Burke and Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles to form the Cuba Study Group, to learn what lessons could be derived from the failed operation. On 13 June, General Taylor submitted the report of the Board of Inquiry to President Kennedy.
The defeat was attributed to lack of early realization of the impossibility of success by covert means, inadequate aircraft, limitations of armaments, pilots and air attacks to attempt plausible deniability, and, ultimately, loss of important ships and lack of ammunition.
At the time this group did its work and reported it, hundreds of the men who both made up the invasion force and native Cubans who favored it were being tortured and killed in the most barbaric of ways as a victorious Fidel Castro, relieved to be alive and still in power, showed what a man will do to prove he remains El Jefe Maximo. Blood was called for and blood he got… for the isla hermosa, sorceress, was worth it.
The CIA’s report.
Doing now what it should have done before the invasion, the CIA released its report in November 1961. It was authored by CIA inspector general Lyman B. Kirkpatrick and entitled “Survey of the Cuban Operation” and remained classified top secret until 1996. Its conclusions were:
1) The CIA exceeded its capabilities in developing the project from guerrilla support to overt armed action without any plausible deniability. (It other words, the CIA was well and truly over its head.)
2) Failure to realistically assess risks and to adequately communicate information and decisions internally and with other government principals.
3) Insufficient involvement of leaders of the exiles.
4) Failure to sufficiently organize internal resistance in Cuba.
5) Failure to competently collect and analyze intelligence about Cuban forces.
6) Poor internal management of communications and staff.
7) Insufficient employment of high quality staff.
8) Insufficient Spanish-speakers, training facilities and material resources.
9) Lack of stable policies and contingency plans.
In short, in plain-spoken language, they just plain didn’t know what they were doing and hadn’t begun to do the necessary and essential planning that would increase the odds for success. Nothing that should have been done had even been considered, much less accomplished.
And now, with the release of the latest batch of newly de-classified documents more of this regime of muddle, inefficiency and glaring incompetence at the highest levels of our government is revealed… whilst we, fascinated, wince at so much ineptitude by the officials who should have known better but quite clearly did not.
The newest revelations.
Before telling you the latest information, just de-classified, a setting of the stage is important. Try to remember what President Kennedy and his Cuba team wanted. They wanted to snuff Fidel Castro, do it so no one at any time (especially Russkies) could point the (accurate) accusing finger at us… whilst we, busy at our work, went about the happy task of installing (always with plausible deniability) a government well disposed to Uncle Sam.
This was all fatuous, foolish and impossible to achieve… but no one told the Emperor in the White House that his plan had no clothes. But who could tell such truths to such a president, so young, so tender, so inexperienced. His feelings would be hurt… and no one wanted to be responsible for that. Better to proceed, to ignominy, to the deaths, maiming and torture of hundreds than that.
What the newly de-classified documents show.
This time the documents offer rare details about the close links between the CIA and the presidents at the time of Guatemala and Nicaragua, Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes and Luis Somoza, respectively.
First, we owe thanks to an April 2011 lawsuit filed by the independent Washington-based National Security Archive. The nonprofit group has sought for years to de-classify all five volumes on the invasion. With the release of these 2 volumes 4 of the 5 are now available. The group remains active in de-classifying the fifth and last.
The newly released volumes describe how Guatemalan leader Ydigoras helped secure the training space for the exiles in Guatemala and even wanted his own troops to participate. He was rebuffed but let Washington know that he hoped they would back a multi-national force to fight communism not merely in Cuba, but throughout Latin America, the better to make safe the plethora of dictators supported by the United States and threatened by Castro and his Cuban revolution.
But gifts from dictators never come without the inevitable strings and conditions. In this case Ydigoras wanted U.S. assistance in combating his own insurgents, very much under Castro’s spell. He wanted Napalm bombs, for instance, mounted on GAOG B’26’s. The request was declined for technical reasons; privately the CIA probably just wanted what they wanted, no strings attached. They politely thanked Ydigoras and kept the door open…
There is also new correspondence between the CIA and the two Somoza brothers running Nicaragua, Luis and Anastasio. It was previously known that they provided the base from which the Bay of Pigs air attacks were launched. Unfortunately, they were mishandled. While the first strike virtually wiped out Cuba’s military aircraft… they did not destroy private aircraft… and these managed to launch air strikes against the invasion force’s supply ships, which were destroyed. Castro’s forces then had the invasion troops trapped… and so they were killed and captured (to be killed) accordingly. And so Castro survived… right up to and including the present moment. You see he know the words from “Tu”, “Fuego sagrado guarda tu corazon”. He is the keeper of this sacred flame and, for whatever time he should have, he means to remain so, whatever the Yankees might say or do, for he fears nothing but the loss of the isla hermosa who has possessed him and possesses him still.