William Attwood: ‘If the CIA did find out what we were doing…’

“If the CIA did find out what we were doing [talks toward normalizing relations with Cuba], 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….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.”

— Former Ambassador to the UN William Attwood, quoted in Anthony Summers’ Not in Your Lifetime. Attwood was selected by President Kennedy to explore a rapprochement with Castro in the fall of 1963.


  1. Quick question – what year did William Atwood make those comments to Anthony Summers? I know of 3 editions of the book “Conspiracy” by Anthony Summers (1980, 1981, 1989) by Paragon. The quote is located on pp. 401-402 of the edition that I have.

    Summers later titled his book “Not in Your Lifetime.” By the way, I think that Atwoods’ analysis is spot on. The anti-Cuban hardliners in CIA/military found out about JFK’s backdoor attempts at rapprochement with Fidel Castro (the Osama bin Laden of his time with nukes) and they decided to put a bullet in JFK’s head as they deemed him a national security threat. LBJ was completely coordinating with these folks for his own personal reasons as were Dallas, TX oil executives.

    The JFK assassination was much more about Cuba than it was Vietnam.

    • JSA says:

      I think calling Fidel Castro the “Osama bin Laden with nukes” is historically not a good analogy. bin Laden operated from a stateless capacity to send religious fundamentalists to attack and kill over 3,000 American citizens. Castro threatened but killed only invaders at the Bay of Pigs and during the Cuban Missile Crisis, only one American (U-2 pilot). Kennedy recognized that Castro was not a serious threat if we could talk him down from accepting tactical nukes, which we allegedly did after October of 1962. bin Laden was in no position to make a deal or offer peace talks to; he was just a terrorist.

      My thinking is that JFK’s assassination probably was spurred largely by Cuba and the far right’s hatred of Kennedy regarding that country, but if you look at what happened after the assassination, the US did not invade Cuba ever nor did we step up our sabotage activities. I think Lyndon Johnson, one of the key planners of the coup, decided to lay off Cuba and focus elsewhere. The Cuban Missile Crisis probably seared into his mind how dangerous it was to confront Cuba directly. Helms seems to have not focused on Cuba either, at least directly. Instead, we did a lot of other stupid things, such as set up a fake “Tonkin Incident’ to go to war in Viet-Nam, and we oversaw a coup in the Dominican Republic, in 1965. So the military probably had to eat some things that they didn’t want in order to get rid of Kennedy—-namely, get Lyndon into the office, but as a trade off they would have to let Lyndon do some things HIS way. That’s my theory anyway.

      • “So the military probably had to eat some things that they didn’t want in order to get rid of Kennedy—-namely, get Lyndon into the office, but as a trade off they would have to let Lyndon do some things HIS way.”

        Yes. After the murder of Oswald on 11/24/63, public mood was one of grief over JFK’s death and conspiracy fears were (rightfully) inflamed as if gasoline were thrown on a fire.

        LBJ – the Queen on the chessboard – cared about his agenda (not hanging from a tall tree in Dallas or Wash DC) not the war hawks agenda. But he later gave CIA/military hawks Vietnam, which I consider a pressure release valve for rage and anger over Cuba policy.


    • Jean Davison says:

      Attwood’s Sept. 1963 memo proposing an approach to Cuba doesn’t sound like something the CIA would object to. Attwood wrote:

      This memorandum proposes a course of action which, if successful, could remove the Cuban issue from the 1964 campaign.

      It does not propose offering Castro a “deal”—which could be more dangerous politically than doing nothing. It does propose a discreet inquiry into the possibility of neutralizing Cuba on our terms.

      It is based on the assumption that, short of a change of regime, our principal political objectives in Cuba are:

      a. The evacuation of all Soviet bloc military personnel.

      b. An end to subversive activities by Cuba in Latin America.

      c. Adoption by Cuba of a policy of non-alignment. [....]

      These conditions were echoed by RFK in November:

      The Attorney General emphasized that as a prelude to all this the U.S. must require some fundamental steps such as the end of subversion in Latin America and removing the Soviet troops in Cuba before any serious discussion can take place about a detente. [....]


      These conditions were repeated by JFK in his final speech on Cuba.


  2. Kennedy63 says:

    The virulent anti-Castro Cubans and their war monger supporters raised a palpable din over Cuba. When you look at the confluence of forces aligned around “freeing” Cuba of Castro, it is wise to look at the groups having the most invested; namely, the mafia and CIA sponsored anti-Castro Cuban exiles (which also included members of previous Cuban ‘puppet regimes’ supported by the US businesses and government). This CIA/MAFIA/ANTI-CASTRO CUBAN EXILE NEXUS, violent and mercurial, was tied directly into our national intelligence and security apparatus, vis a vis CIA officials working with anti-Castro groups as heads of station, case officers, and military trainers (e.g., Bill Harvey with Johnny Rosselli; Howard Hunt with Bay of Pigs cadres (later the White House Plumbers of Watergate infamy); David Morales (a trained assassin) with Cuban exiles at CIA station JM/WAVE in Miami, and David Atlee Phillips with Antonio Veciana (Who identified Phillips as “Maurice Bishop” in a letter to Gaeton Fonzi’s widow in 2013). Ultra conservative rich people, such as William Pawley, Lamar Hunt, and Howard Hughes, financially contributed to the exiles cause, as did the Catholic Church; and powerful and exceedingly corrupt characters (such as Jimmy Hoffa (Teamsters), Carlos Marcello (New Orleans), Santo Trafficante (Tampa), Tony Arccado (Chicago), Sam Giancana (Chicago), and Johnny Roselli (California) supported (by drugs, money, and gun exchanges) the exiles. Jack Ruby, as much as it was downplayed by those closest to him, was mob connected through the Chicago Outfit and business relationships, with representatives of Carlos Marcello, in Dallas, TX. Oswald, I think, was lured into this swirling viperous milieu, once his limited understanding of real world battles was discovered by DRE agents, and designated as a patsy. The visit to Silvia Odio indicates “Leon Oswaldo” was already selected as the patsy. His New Orleans “assignment” was primarily to build a “communist Castro sympathizer” legend for patsy Oswald, to be released after the JFK assassination as a provocation to invade Cuba.If both JFK and RFK thought it in America’s best interest to establish a rapprochement with Cuba, other’s thought it anathema to the CIA/MAFIA/ANTI-CASTRO CUBAN EXILE NEXUS, violent and mercurial, and tied directly into our national intelligence and national security apparatus, vis a vis CIA/military officials working with anti-Castro groups as heads of station, case officers, and military trainers.

  3. Larry Schnapf says:

    JFK’s presidency began and ended with Cuba,,,

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