Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

USSR: Winners, Losers in Cuba? Financing Castro Has Cost the Soviets Greatly - with Little Long-Term Strategic Gain

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

USSR: Winners, Losers in Cuba? Financing Castro Has Cost the Soviets Greatly - with Little Long-Term Strategic Gain

Article excerpt

THIRTY years ago this month, a group of anti- Castro Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs in an ill-fated attempt to drive Castro from power.

They had been secretly recruited, organized, trained, supplied, and transported by the United States. They expected the Cuban populace to rise up and join them in overthrowing Castro. Instead, the populace joined Castro's forces in resisting them. By the third day, all of the invaders had been killed or captured.

When the dismal end came on April 19, 1961, John F. Kennedy, who had given the go-ahead for it, had been president of the US one day short of three months. He had won a squeaker of an election to begin with. Now his first major undertaking, in which the role of the US was supposed to be disguised, was an abysmal failure, the American part in it exposed, the American government painfully embarrassed. In a parliamentary government, Kennedy would certainly have been forced to resign.

Instead, he survived attacks from the left, which berated him for yet another Yankee intervention in Latin America; from the right, which upbraided him for not ensuring success by openly providing US naval and air support; and from the center, where people wondered why anybody thought the plan would work. After some closed hearings by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Homer Capehart, a solid conservative Midwestern Republican, growled privately that he had known Boy Scout troops back in Indiana that could have organized it better. Now, three decades removed from that traumatic time, it seems that much of the argument over whether to undertake the invasion was simply misdirected.

One argument against the Bay of Pigs was that it would irredeemably tarnish the US image in Latin America. Not so. In December, after the Bay of Pigs in April, Kennedy was greeted with wild enthusiasm by crowds in Bogota. Along with Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, his picture was displayed in countless peasant huts in the Andes - and at a time when Castro and Che Guevara were threatening to turn the Andes into "another Vietnam."

An argument in favor of the Bay of Pigs was that if Castro was left unmolested, he would entrench himself in power and - worse - construct a communist state "90 miles from our shores. …

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