July 31, 2007

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

Arthur Schlesinger was a noted historian and a scholar. His book on the Kennedy years, “A Thousand Days,” was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1966. That was his second Pulitzer, having received the first one 20 years earlier for “The Age of Jackson.”

No doubt he taught his children to “tell the truth” and “treat your neighbors well” and “do onto others” and all that other stuff that he had to set aside when he went to work for the Kennedy Administration.

There’s no indication that I’m aware of to suggest that Schlesinger participated in the post-Bay of Pigs plans of murder and sabotage known as Operation Mongoose, but much of this information is still classified, and perhaps “too grown up” for us “children” to consume with any level of sympathetic appreciation.

“Kennedy would hardly have initiated the project himself,” Schlesinger wrote of Bay of Pigs in the Boston Globe on April 17, 2001, 40 years after the invasion (although Kennedy did initiate Operation Mongoose). “Allen W. Dulles, the head of the CIA, detecting limited enthusiasm on Kennedy’s part, told the new president not to worry. He assured Kennedy that the invasion would set off uprisings behind the line and defections from Castro’s militia, and that if things went badly, the invaders could easily join anti-Castro guerrilla bands in the Escambray Mountains.”

I appreciate his loyalty to JFK, but it seems a bit “old world” to blame the CIA for what was, essentially, a presidential decision. Kennedy was a sophisticated and intelligent man (this was no G.W. Jr. playing war with his father’s empire) and should have known better.

“The Bay of Pigs was indeed a perfect failure,” wrote Schlesinger. “But for Kennedy it was also an effective, if expensive, education.” (Isn’t it nice when Presidents can learn from their mistakes?) But then Schlesinger returns to blaming the CIA. “Like intelligence agencies the world over, the CIA believed it knew the requirements of national security better than transient elected officials like presidents, and it invoked the excuse of ‘plausible deniability’ to act as it deemed best without informing those to whom the agency was nominally accountable.”

Saddest of all is that we seem to agree that this is how our government will work. There’s just nothing we can do about it, in spite of telling ourselves and others that we’re “citizens,” not “subjects…” and that we tell the government what we want, not the other way around.

Peace.

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