Monday, July 20, 2015

JFK Would Have Welcomed Re-Opening of Cuban Embassy Today

John Fitzgerald Kennedy would be jubilant today about the Cuban Embassy reopening in Washington. His rapprochement efforts with Castro would have culminated in this earlier - had he lived.

This morning, in a ceremony marking the end of 54 years of hostility, Cuba will raise its flag over a limestone  mansion to officially reopen its U.S. Embassy.  There will be hundreds present, including U.S. congressmen, diplomats and others who are expected to join visiting Cuba Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and 30 official from Havana.

Make no mistake JFK would be overjoyed to see this milestone.

Very few Americans seem to be aware of recent history especially to do with the last days of the Kennedy administration. In multiple blog posts I have tried my best to fill in what may have been earlier blanks and another opportunity presents itself today as we celebrate this historic restoration of Cuban-U.S. relations (which 58 percent of Americans support).

While some hysterical right wing Cubans such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, FLA) and posturing American Reepos (e.g. John Boehner)-  are beside themselves with  rage,   even planning a news conference to denounce the event -  there is no doubt President John F. Kennedy would have welcomed it.

Why would he not given he had, in fact, initiated a rapprochement with Fidel Castro from late 1962. Let me try to unpack this for those whose history books totally avoided the issue, which is understandable, given it would have provided yet another clear motive for the CIA and security state to snuff out JFK's life.

Even as the Cuban Missile Crisis had wound down, we know that by the late fall of 1962 – unknown to all but Robert Kennedy and a handful of advisors – a mission had gotten under way toward secret dialogue and rapprochement with Fidel Castro[1]. To get some remote idea of how this might be perceived today (by the entrenched national security state) it would be somewhat similar to President Obama trying to engage in a secret dialogue or rapprochement with the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani. Imagine how well that would be received!
 This is not to say that the latter is on the same geopolitical plane as rapprochement with Castro, only that the emotional baggage and extent of reaction would be relatively equal,  taking into account both eras and circumstances. The shadow government and intelligence collective that would be enraged at Obama for such an effort as they were at JFK then.

But Kennedy was vastly more at risk given the rapprochement would have been seen in concert with his other momentous moves including:

-         Signing Executive Order 11,110,  issued on June 4, 1963 - to challenge Federal Reserve control of the money supply, by printing and circulating U.S. Notes

-         Signing the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with Nikita Khrushchev in August, 1963 – which also severely limited all anti-missile defense systems

-         Federalized National Guard troops in Alabama to assist in school integration

-           Signing NSAM 263 to remove all U.S. personnel from Vietnam by 1965
Any one of these would have been ample reason for most of the hate mongers or power elites to want him dead. But these in concert with the rapprochement to Castro would have sealed the deal.

As National Security Archivist Peter Kornbluh shows (by reference to documents he has accessed), it was William Attwood, a Washington lawyer, who had negotiated the release of the Bay of Pigs prisoners who was to be instrumental. Attwood was then charged by JFK with becoming the first American emissary to secure Castro’s ear and trust. In particular, to show good will and good faith, Attwood arranged for $62 million in medicines and food aid as part of the prisoner deal.

 Attwood was also continually active in the spring of 1963, securing the release of other prisoners, including three CIA operatives held in Cuban jails[2] .  Following each trip Attwood was debriefed by U.S. Intelligence officials, and he always described each meeting as “most cordial and intimate”.
At this stage, one is led to ask: To what extent did those debriefings remain in closed, confined circles or were they bruited about beyond JFK's  immediate circles?

The question is germane and relevant because in the spring of 1963 we know that the Chief of Psychological Warfare branch of the CIA's JM/WAVE station in Miami (George Johannides,),  was busy “guiding and financing” members of the Revolutionary Cuban Student Directorate or DRE, one of the largest anti-Castro groups in the United States[3].  This attention included providing the DRE with up to $25,000 a month, so long as they submitted to CIA discipline[4].   (Not surprisingly many of the Cubans screaming loudest today probably have affiliations to those in the DRE then.)

 At the same time it was known that Operation ZR-Rifle, an Agency project to assassinate Castro, was well underway and quite plausibly without JFK’s knowledge or approval. (Since it’s incomprehensible that Kennedy would’ve approved any Castro assassination plan while also pursuing rapprochement. He’d have to be schizoid- and hence dysfunctional. Further it would flout all the arguments to do with his “moral compass” shown by James Douglass in his book, JFK and the Unspeakable).

Thus, given Johannides’ band of DRE reprobates, it’s plausible that any debriefings done by the CIA (of Attwood- in the course of his talks in Cuba) would find their way back to those running the Johannides’ and ZR-Rifle operations. It doesn’t take a whole lot here to conjecture that – if such a leak transpired (say from the de-briefers to Johannides, or ZR-Rifle) -  the plan to assassinate Fidel Castro might be altered to target Kennedy instead. Surely, the rage would be there, make no mistake. The DRE members especially would feel betrayed, as well as the 2506 Brigade imprisoned after their capture. 

Further probability of cross-Agency leakage would’ve occurred when ABC News reporter Lisa Howard offered herself as an intermediary, and her apartment in New York as the venue, for the first bilateral talks between U.S. and Cuban officials[5].  Certainly, the Agency’s eyes and ears would’ve been turned (tuned?) toward Howard after she did a fairly sympathetic TV special on Castro in April, 1963.   Might they have bugged her apartment and listened in? Possible, but they may not have had to – since a “high society” crowd attended and these may well have provided all the extra source leaks the Agency needed to plan ahead for what it wanted to do.

By September 24, 1963, Robert Kennedy had informed Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. William Atwood, that Jack might be able to meet Castro, but not in Cuba. Mexico may have been suggested as an alternative. By then many of us suspected that the conspirators had a plan afoot to possibly take out Kennedy in September. That plan was scrapped after an incident involving double agent Richard Case Nagell.

Sadly, Nagell's actions merely postponed Kennedy's assassination and he never lived to see the fruits born out by his rapprochement. Today, he'd be looking on and smiling that his efforts ultimately resulted in re-establishing relations.

Meanwhile, the U.S. will wait to raise an American flag at its own Embassy in Havana until Secretary of State John Kerry travels there to do the honors later this summer. But Kerry will meet Mr. Rodriguez at the State Dept. today.
Let the right wing Cubans scream and shout. All they can deliver is sound and fury signifying nothing. JFK's vision finally won out!

[1] 'Kennedy and Castro: What Might Have Been', by Peter Kornbluh, in The Baltimore Sun, Aug. 22, 1999, p. 1C. Kornbluh is the head of The National Security Archives and he compiled the attendant documents that support the Kennedy-Castro rapprochement efforts.
[2] Kornbluh, ibid.
[3] Jefferson Morley, ‘The George Johannides Cover-up’, in JFK LANCER, May 19, 2005.
[4] Morley, ibid.
[5] Kornbluh, ibid.

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