July 21, 2007

Schlesinger to Kennedy: Chill Out, Dude! Part 1 (of 4)

On any day of the week, you can walk up to the Government Information Center on the 5th floor of the San Francisco Public Library (the Main) and look through memos and notes written by government officials during the beginning of the 1960s… the time of the Cold War, the Kennedy brothers and the Bay of Pigs, Operation Mongoose, the Missile Crisis… and independent news media (before the corporate takeover)…

Even though some information has been blacked out (for our own protection), you can still get a feeling of where the heart and soul of the country’s leadership was at that time.

Many of the documents from the Kennedy administration’s foreign policy blunders at Bay of Pigs, and immediately following, are available for our review and amusement in the “US, Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume X, Cuba, 1961-1963.” Other similar documents, previously classified, are available at the National Security Archives web site.

We know that Kennedy eventually wised-up to the proposed Cowboy-style of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and saved the world from nu-cu-lear devastation. But before the gargantuan failure at Bay of Pigs, he “ate up” their servings with gusto, although, to be fair, not quite as heartily as the Bush presidents might have.

Special Assistant to the President, Arthur Schlesinger, was never fooled by the John-Wayne-make-believers buzzing about the political sphere at the time. He kept quiet during the many meetings prior to the invasion, but he recognized that you could not just invade a country without a good reason (or excuse). On his memo of February 11, 1961 (about a month and a week before the BOP invasion) he offered Kennedy a good excuse in the idea “to induce Castro to take an offensive action first…” It would be possible, he wrote, to “lure Castro into sending a few boatloads of men” to Haiti, which “could be portrayed as an effort to overthrow the Haitian regime. If only Castro could be induced to commit an offensive act, then the moral issue would be clouded…” [This memo can be found at the National Security Archives: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/bayofpigs/19610211.pdf]

In the same memo, Schlesinger asks “could we not bring down Castro and Trujillo at the same time?” A two-for-one sort of thing would “show that we have a principled concern for human freedom and do not object only to left-wing dictators.” (A presidential advisor concerned with principles? How very Star-Trek!)

Next: Just before the invasion, Schlesinger wrote another memo in which he outright opposed the operation, but not without first supporting the concept of covert violence.