In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 5, 2017 at 12:10 am

During the 1960 Presidential campaign, then-Senator John F. Kennedy promised to build a Peace Corps to train people in underdeveloped nations to help themselves.

John F. Kennedy

In March, 1961, the program went into effect, with the President’s brother-in-law, Sergent Shriver, as director.

Starvation, illiteracy and disease were the enemies of the Corps. Any nation wanting aid could request it. The first group of volunteers went to the Philippines, the second to Ecuador and the third to Tanganyika.

The problems of the underdeveloped world were too great for any single organization to solve. But the Corps lifted the spirits of many living in those countries. And it captured the imagination of millions of Americans—especially those of thousands of idealistic youths who entered its ranks.

To combat the growing Communist threat to Latin America, Kennedy established the Alliance for Progress. He defined the Alliance’s goal as providing “revolutionary progress through powerful, democratic means.”

Within two years he could report:

“Some 140,000 housing units have been constructed. Slum clearance projects have begun, and 3,000 classrooms have been built. More than 4,000,000 school books have been distributed.

“The Alliance has fired the imagination and kindled the hopes of millions of our good neighbors. Their drive toward modernization is gaining momentum as it unleashes the energies of these millions.

“The United States is becoming increasingly identified in the minds of the people with the goal they move toward: a better life with freedom,” said Kennedy.

Critics of the program, however, charged that the President was trying to “dress up the old policies” of Franklin D. Roosevelt in new rhetoric. Since FDR’s time, the United States has believed in giving economic aid to Latin America.

Much—if not most—of these billions of dollars has wound up in the pockets of various right-wing dictators, such as Anastasio Somoza and Rafael Trujillo.

Meanwhile, Kennedy was urging action on another front—that of outer space.

“This generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space,” declared the President.  He committed the United States to putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

As indeed it happened less than six years after his death—on July 20, 1969.

Kennedy’s idealistic rhetoric masked his real reason for going to the moon: To score a propaganda victory over the Soviet Union.

Another of his anti-Communist goals: To remove Fidel Castro from power in Cuba at almost any cost.

Fidel Castro

Immediately after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Kennedy appointed his brother, Robert–who was then the Attorney General—to oversee a CIA program to overthrow Castro.

The CIA and the Mafia entered into an unholy alliance to assassinate Castro—each for its own benefit:

  • The CIA wanted to please Kennedy by overthrowing the Communist leader who had nationalized American corporate holdings.
  • The Mafia wanted to regain its lucrative casino and brothel holdings that had made Cuba the playground of the rich in pre-Castro times.

The mobsters were authorized to offer $150,000 to anyone who would kill Castro and were promised any support the Agency could yield.

“We were hysterical about Castro at about the time of the Bay of Pigs and thereafter,” then-former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara testified before Congress about these efforts. “And there was pressure from JFK and RFK to do something about Castro.”

Nor was everyone in the CIA enthusiastic about the “get Castro” effort.

“Everyone at CIA was surprised at Kennedy’s obsession with Fidel,” recalled Sam Halpern, who was assigned to the Cuba Project. “They thought it was a waste of time. We all knew [Fidel] couldn’t hurt us. Most of us at CIA initially liked Kennedy, but why go after this little guy?

“One thing is for sure: Kennedy wasn’t doing it out of national security concerns. It was a personal thing. The Kennedy family felt personally burnt by the Bay of Pigs and sought revenge.”

It was all-out war. Among the tactics used:

  • Hiring Cuban gangsters to murder Cuban police officials and Soviet technicians.
  • Sabotaging mines.
  • Paying up to $100,000 per “hit” for the murder or kidnapping of Cuban officials.
  • Using biological and chemical warfare against the Cuban sugar industry.
  • Planting colorful seashells rigged to explode at a site where Castro liked to go skindiving.
  • Trying to arrange for his being presented with a wetsuit impregnated with noxious bacteria and mold spores, or with lethal chemical agents.
  • Attempting to infect Castro’s scuba regulator with tuberculous bacilli.
  • Trying to douse his handkerchiefs, cigars, tea and coffee with other lethal bacteria.

But all of these efforts failed to assassinate Castro–or overthrow the Cuban Revolution he was heading.

“Bobby (Kennedy) wanted boom and bang all over the island,” recalled Halpern. “It was stupid. The pressure from the White House was very great.”

Americans would rightly label such methods as ”terrorist” if another power used them against the United States today. And the Cuban government saw the situation exactly the same way.

So Castro appealed to Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, for assistance.

Khrushchev was quick to comply: “We must not allow the Communist infant to be strangled in its crib,” he told members of his inner circle.

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