The Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 marked a turning point for President John F. Kennedy. His bold but deft diplomacy spared the world a war that might have gone nuclear. Peace proved popular and JFK’s approval ratings soared. Here’s how it started.
Tag Archive for Cuba
As the United States and Cuba seek to negotiate a new relationship, ancient history is intruding.
“What if the answers to the many, persistent questions surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy lie not in Dallas or Washington, D.C., but in the streets of a foreign capital that most Americans have never associated with the president’s murder? Mexico City.”
So begins Phil Shenon’s new piece in Politico, What Was Lee Harvey Oswald Doing in Mexico? Shenon is surely correct that the U.S. government’s response to Lee Oswald’s visit to Mexico City in October 1963 is key to understanding the JFK assassination story.
And before Washington and Havana can reach any real rapprochement, renewed allegations that the Cuban government aided JFK’s accused assassin demand clarification.
In an important article published by the Inter Press Service news agency Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the nephew of President John F. Kennedy, highlights an important point about U.S.-Cuba relations that President Obama normalized last week: The CIA opposed President Kennedy’s efforts to do the same 51 years ago.
“JFK was involved in secret negotiations with Fidel Castro designed to outflank Foggy Bottom [Washington] and the agents at Langley [CIA], but the CIA knew of JFK’s back-channel contacts with Castro and endeavored to sabotage the peace efforts with cloak and dagger mischief,” Kennedy writes.
RFK Jr., an environmental attorney, is right that the CIA knew about JFK’s interest in normalizing relations, and opposed it.
In a new piece JFK and the Cuban Embargo, Jacob Hornberger connects Obama’s Cuba diplomacy to JFK’s Cuba diplomacy of 50 years ago:
“Already, we’re hearing that President Obama is a traitor, that he is surrendering America to Fidel Castro and the communists, and betraying the Cuban people and the cause of freedom and democracy for wanting to lift the 54-year-old Cold War-era U.S. embargo against Cuba.”
“That is precisely the way that the national-security establishment felt about Kennedy and actually much worse.”
Fifty one years before President Obama normalized diplomatic relations with Cuba, President John F. Kennedy was thinking of doing the same. To start the negotiations, Obama sent one of his aides, Ben Rhodes, to talk to the Cuban government. Likewise in the fall of 1963, JFK authorized a U.S.diplomat, Bill Attwood, to make contact with Cuban representatives to discuss the outlines of an agreement between the two countries.
In a new document collection, Cuba – United States Secret Diplomacy Documents (1961-1977), published by Paperless Archives, you can follow how JFK’s pursuit of peace with Cuba, right up to the moment he was assassinated. After JFK was dead, LBJ had no interest and the initiative died. It would take a half century before JFK’s goal was achieved. Read more
“The president had asked his speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen, for language that would open a door to the Cuban leader, although, as Sorensen later observed, the audience was a very tough anti-Castro group.'”
“Todos somos Americanos.” We are all Americans.
With those words, President Obama made an epic and overdue announcement today: the United States and Cuba will normalize relations that were broken off in January 1961 as President John F. Kennedy took office. “These 50 years have showed that isolation has not worked,” the president said.
Not only will the United States open an embassy in Havana, it will release three Cubans imprisoned for decades on trumped-up spying charges. The Cubans will release U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, held for five years on trumped-up charges, and a previously unknown U.S. intelligence agent imprisoned for many years in Cuba.
“Everything is changed. Everything is going to change. The United States occupies such a position in world affairs that the death of a President of that country affects millions of people in every corner of the globe. The cold war, relations with Russia, Latin America, Cuba, the Negro question… all will have to be rethought. I’ll tell you one thing: at least Kennedy was an enemy to whom we had become accustomed. This is a serious matter, an extremely serious matter.”
“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…. Read more
At a conference on the 50th anniversary of the Warren Commission report in Washington in September, Cuba scholar Peter Kornbluh gave a fascinating talk on how President Kennedy pursued the idea of normalizing relations with Cuba 1963. In the bureaucracy this was known as “the sweet approach,” Kornbluh says. The idea was to lure Fidel Castro out of his alliance with the Soviet Union instead of overthrowing him.
“Kennedy had a change of heart after the missile crisis,” Kornbluh says, and he makes the case in his new book Back Channel to Cuba Kennedy pursued “the sweet approach” right up through the last 72 hours of his life, Kornbluh says.
The Warren Commission didn’t get scared if Fidel Castro because of Lyndon B. Johnson’s chilling warning to Chief Justice Earl Warren about rumors that “if not quenched, could conceivably lead the country into a war which could cost 40 million lives.” Read more
Cuba celebrates the 60th anniversary of the beginning of its revolution on July 26, 1953. Later this year America will commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963,
The events are ancient but linked. The connection between Cuba’s revolution and the death of the 35th American president remains a live issue in the political culture of both countries.
The assassination of JFK is one reason why this conflict between the United States and Cuba endures to this day.
On January 17, 1964, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote to J. Lee Rankin, the general counsel of the Warren Commission, on the evidence compiled as Commission Document 295: four letters postmarked in Havana that suggested or alleged that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a contract killing undertaken by Lee Harvey Oswald under the direction of an agent for Fidel Castro named Pedro Charles.
Hoover concluded it was “some type of hoax, possibly on the part of some anti-Castro group,” since the FBI Crime Lab found that the same Remington No. 10 typewriter had been used to prepare all four letters:
A faithful reader offers a correction to a comment by former Warren Commission staffer Howard Willens in his recent interview with JFK Facts. Willens mentioned the oft-heard story that Lee Oswald threatened to kill President Kennedy while visiting the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City in Septembert 1963 two months before the assassination of President Kennedy.
Willens’ mistake, this reader writes, “is worth correcting for the record.”