The Unseen Hand - Ralph Epperson

The Cuban Revolution

Other countries have shared Russia's "emergence from the dark ages" by changing their governmental configuration to Communism as well. Cuba is one of these "fortunate" countries.

The typical explanation of the reasons for Cuba's Communist experiment is that Cuba was a poverty-stricken country beset with internal problems so intense that the people were forced to seek a change in their government. "There was a general misconception that the events in Cuba were brought about by low standards of living and social inequalities. The facts belie this."

In fact, Cuba of all of the countries in Latin America, had a rising standard of living, and the people were moderately prosperous. Cuba was, amongst the Latin American countries:

  • third in percentage of literacy;
  • first in percentage of education;
  • lowest in mortality-rate;
  • second in number of doctors per 1 ,000 people;
  • third in the number of dentists per 1,000 people;
  • first in the number of cars per person;
  • first in the number of TV sets;
  • third in the number of telephones;
  • fourth in wages per employee; and
  • second in per capita income.

Cuba in 1958, prior to the government of the Communist Fidel Castro, paid its employees an average of $3.00 per hour, which was higher that year than Belgium ($2.70); Denmark ($2.86); France ($1.74); West Germany ($2.73); and comparable to the United States ($4.06).

After the Cuban revolution, the standard of living dropped, as evidenced by these comments gleaned from four recent American magazine articles on Cuba:

"Anyone can observe the streets recalling that once they were filled with autos and now there are few.

"Although food items are limited, they are available. Other products are simply not to be had. Such a system of shortages makes a ripe condition for black marketing.

"No matter how much money a family has, it finds itself equal before the Cuban rationing system, which includes practically all food and consumer goods."

"Every Cuban has a packet of ration books, one for each category."

"The work hours are long, shortages are real, and the many activities, freedoms, and possessions that Americans consider necessary to happiness are either limited or unavailable."

"Since the Revolution, organized religion has markedly lost power. The greatest change was the takeover of the schools, always a large part of the Catholic Church's activities."

An article in the US. News and World Report, June 26, 1978, further confirmed the scarcities and shortages in the Cuban "paradise:"

"Food shortages are a way of life in Castro's Cuba. Havana's best restaurants consistently run short of meat and other staples.

"Because almost everything is owned by the state, Cubans are enmeshed in endless red tape

"Most workers lack motivation because of low pay. Often, four or five persons work on a job that requires only one. Nobody does a good job. Here in Cuba, you do only what you have to do, and care little about the quality of your work."

The author of the book Inside Cuba Today, Fred Ward, was concerned about the dismal record of Cuba, especially after Cuba had once been one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America. He interviewed many Cubans and they had difficulty with his simple question:

"No one asked by the author in Cuba could answer the basic concern of any student of Communism: If the system is so successful and desirable, why won't it work without the massive restrictions on individual liberty?"

The life is so undesirable in Cuba that many have voted against it with their feet: "About 800,000 Cubans have emigrated to America since Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba in 1959."

If the Cuban people knew what they know about the dismal record of Communism in Cuba, they certainly would not have allowed their country to go Communist. But the Cubans had the information necessary to determine if Communism had worked anywhere in the world prior to 1959, but the country went Communist anyway. The question should be asked, then, just why the country is Communist.

The American Ambassador to Cuba during the Communist Revolution, Earl E.T. Smith, has this to say about the answer to that question:

"To the contrary, Castro could not have seized power in Cuba without the aid of the United States. American government agencies and the United States press played a major role in bringing Castro to power. As the U.S. Ambassador to Cuba during the Castro-Communist revolution of 1957-59, 1 had first-hand knowledge of the facts which brought about the rise of Fidel Castro. The State Department consistently intervened—positively, negatively, and by innuendo—to bring about the downfall of President Fulgencio Batista, thereby making it possible for Fidel Castro to take over the government of Cuba. On January 1, 1959, the government of Cuba fell. The United States continued to aid the Castro regime by maintaining the long-standing subsidy for Cuban sugar exports."

The question that has long plagued those who supported the guerilla activities of Fidel Castro has been whether or not Castro was a Communist prior to his becoming the leader of the Cuban Communist government.

The evidence was that Castro was indeed a long-term Communist prior to the commencement of his guerilla activities against the Batista government and this fact was known to those in the American government who supported his revolution. This conclusion is now a matter of fact, as the evidence of history confirms the fact that Castro had been a Communist since his early college days. In 1948 there was an attempted Communist takeover in Colombia, South America. Fidel Castro led a student group into a radio station where he grabbed a microphone to announce:

"This is Fidel Castro from Cuba. This is a Communist revolution. The president has been killed. All of the military establishments are now in our hands. The Navy has capitulated to us, the revolution has been a success."

This statement was heard by William D. Pawley, former American Ambassador to Brazil and Peru, who heard Castro on his car radio while he was in Bogota, Columbia, during the attempted revolution.

Castro fled Colombia and went to the Cuban mountains, where he started his revolution against the Batista government. This was in December, 1956, and Castro had a total of eighty-two followers. This number soon dwindled to eleven, and by June of 1957 Castro had only thirty guerillas. The claim is constantly made that Castro's revolution was a popular one, and that the workers of Cuba flocked to assist him. The numbers just aren't there to support this conclusion.

One of the early supporters of Fidel Castro was Herbert Matthews, a reporter for the New York Times, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. 12 On February 25, 1957, Mr. Matthews reported to his readers: "There is no communism to speak of in Fidel Castro's movement." It was about this time, however, that the U.S. government learned that Mr. Matthews was incorrect:

"A complete dossier on Castro. . . and the Communists surrounding Castro, prepared by the G-2 (Intelligence) of the Cuban Army, was hand carried to Washington in 1957 and delivered to Allen Dulles, head of the C.I.A."

Unfortunately for the Cuban people and ultimately for the world as well, Allen Dulles, also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, did nothing with this information.

Once again, in 1958, official reports of Castro's Communist connections were delivered to William Wieland, Latin American Specialist in the State Department. As a response to these reports, Mr. Wieland requested that the U.S. government cancel all arms shipments to the Cuban government of Fulgencio Batista.

About this time, Castro gave a written interview to Jules DuBois in which he declared: "I have never been nor am I a Communist."

Further support for the "non-Communist" Castro came from the American Ambassador to Cuba who declared that Batista no longer had the support of the U.S. government and that he should leave Cuba.

To show that this statement was true, and that the U.S. government was supporting Castro, Roy Rubottom, the Assistant Secretary for Latin American Affairs, declared in December, 1958:

"There was no evidence of any organized Communist elements within the Castro movement or that Senor Castro himself was under Communist influence."

One who disagreed was Major Pedro Diaz Lanz, head of Fidel Castro's Air Force. He visited the United States in July of 1959 to proclaim that he had first-hand knowledge that Castro was a Communist. He went on a nationwide speaking tour proclaiming this fact, but few who could do anything about it were listening.

Ambassador Smith gave credibility to the charges of Major Lanz when he reported:

"From the time Castro landed in the province of Oriente in December, 1956, the State Department received reports of probable Communist infiltration. . . of the 26th of July movement (the name of Castro's guerilla army.)"

Smith placed the blame for Castro's assumption of power in Cuba where he felt it should be placed: "The U.S. government agencies and the U.S. press played a major role in bringing Castro to power." 25

The debate as to whether or not Castro was a Communist ended when Castro himself proclaimed the following on December 2, 1961: "I have been a Communist since my teens."

Those who had been stating that Castro was not a Communist had been wrong, but the damage had already been done. Castro assumed power in Cuba, and the United States government quickly granted diplomatic recognition to his government. The State Department added its assurance of its "good will" towards the new government.

Castro now had the opportunity to put his Communist ideas to work in Cuba. One of the first steps he took was in May, 1959, when he passed the Agrarian Reform Law. This Communist program instructed the farmers in what products they could grow and what price they could charge for them. In addition, Castro passed the Urban Reform Law which cancelled all leases and mortgages, thereby dealing a staggering blow to the middle and upper classes in Cuba.

But the position of the United States government was changing, at least in the secret confines of the various departments in charge of such things. President Eisenhower gave the C.I.A. permission to organize a group of Cuban exiles in the United States into an armed force trained to return to Cuba and attempt to overthrow the Castro government. Eisenhower placed the head of the C.I.A., Allen Dulles, in charge of the program. Both Dulles and Eisenhower were members of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The C.I.A. developed the plans for the armed invasion of Cuba, and selected two preliminary invasion sites in 1961: the Bay of Pigs, and the town of Trinidad, Cuba. The latter had several distinct advantages over the Bay of Pigs: it was 100 miles farther from Havana, the seat of Castro's power; it had a basically anti-Castro population; it had an airfield located nearby, suitable as a site for unloading the troops, ammunition and supplies so vital to the success of the invasion; and the town had one ingredient necessary should the invasion fail: there was a range of mountains nearby into which the anti-Castro Cubans could flee. These mountains could hide the force, enabling them to rally support of other anti-Castro soldiers in a guerilla war against the Castro government.

The plans for the invasion were discussed and approved by a committee of various officials in the Kennedy administration, even though Mr. Dulles was the official designee as the chief of the operation. The members of this committee were:

  • Secretary of State Dean Rusk, member of the C.F.R.;
  • Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, member of the C.F.R.;
  • General Lyman Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, member of the C.F.R.;
  • Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations;
  • Adolf A. Berle, Jr., Head of the Latin American Task Force, member of the C.F.R.; and
  • McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, member of the C.F.R.

It is revealing that five of the six members of this committee were members of the Council on Foreign Relations, described by one author as "The Invisible Government" of the United States.

In addition, President Kennedy, now the President after replacing Eisenhower, called a meeting on April 4, 1961, of the National Security Council in order to have a full-dress debate on the plan. Those attending included:

  • Allen Dulles, member of the C.F.R.;
  • Richard Bissell, member of the C.F.R.;
  • General Lemnitzer, member of the C.F.R.;
  • Mr. Rusk, member of the C.F.R.;
  • Mr. McNamara, member of the C.F.R.;
  • Adolf Berle, member of the C.F.R.;
  • Arthur Schlesinger, member of the C.F.R.;
  • McGeorge Bundy, member of the C.F.R.;
  • Thomas Mann;
  • Paul Nitze, member of the C.F.R.;
  • Douglas Dillon, member of the C.F.R.; and
  • Senator William Fulbright.

The invasion force entered Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, the second choice of the two locations, and even though there were some early successes, the invasion failed. In the first few moments, the invaders held control of approximately 800 square miles, but when Castro's air force suddenly appeared to control the skies over the invasion site, the invasion was doomed.

There has been much written on both sides about the question of whether the invading Cubans were promised American air cover.

The anti-Castro Cubans were aware of how essential air cover was to the success of the mission and they have taken the position since the invasion that the American government had indeed promised this protection. The American government's position has basically been that no such air cover was promised.

In any event, there was no American air cover and the invasion failed.

One of the early signs that the invasion was planned to fail was the appearance of an article in the New York Times on January 10, 1961, that carried this headline about three months prior to the invasion: "U.S. Helps Train Anti-Castro Force at Secret Guatemalan Air-Ground Base"

The article included a map showing the location of the training base on Guatemalan soil. It went on to report that the Guatemalan government was training a force to protect Guatemala against a Cuban invasion, but indicated that other Guatemalans were not accepting that explanation:

"Opponents of the Ydigoran Administration (the current Guatemalan president) have insisted that the preparations are for an offensive against the Cuban regime of Premier Fidel Castro and that they are being planned and directed and to a great extent being paid for, by the United States."

So all Castro had to do to know about the invasion that was yet to come was to read the New York Times.

So the invasion was held on April 16, 1961, and Castro's armed forces and air force were victorious. There are several things about the invasion that are extremely revealing about how poorly it had been planned:

  • The Cuban invasion force was told that there were no reefs in the landing area, yet the bottoms of three landing craft were ripped open by the reefs, hidden by the tide.
  • Without any air support, Castro's air force was able to sink two supply ships. Without the needed supplies being brought ashore, many of the soldiers on the beaches ran out of ammunition within the first twenty-four hours.
  • The C.I.A. armed the 1,443 man invasion force with weapons requiring over thirty different types of ammunition. The guns were purchased in second-hand stores to "avoid identifying the invading force with the U.S. (government)."
  • Planned coordination of an underground uprising of anti-Castro Cubans on Cuba were mismanaged and word to over one hundred underground organizations was never given. They were not told when the invasion was planned.
  • Radio SWAN, the C.I.A.'s short wave broadcast station gave one conflicting and false report after another about uprisings all over Cuba, none of which were true.

After the Bay of Pigs invasion failed, the Castro government could claim that tiny Communist Cuba had defeated the mighty United States, and U.S. prestige as a result of this failure sunk to a new low in Latin America. The lesson was clear. The powerful United States could not train a force capable of putting an end to Communism in Cuba but, by inference, anywhere else in Latin America. And any country needing American assistance in solving their internal battles with Communism had best not ask the United States government to assist.

One of the American journalists who reported on this turn in popular support was Dr. Steuart McBimie, who toured the area shortly after the Bay of Pigs. He reported that many leaders of the Latin American countries he visited reported that they felt that they couldn't trust the American government any longer as a protector of their government against Communism. Dr. McBimie reported these attitudes in America through his extensive radio broadcasts and writings, but nothing changed.

Cuba returned to the international spotlight once again a year later during what has been called "The Cuban Missile Crisis."

On October 16, 1962, President John Kennedy called a meeting at the White House because his intelligence sources were advising him that the Russian government was placing missiles and atomic weapons in Cuba. Present at that meeting were nineteen others, all key members of the Kennedy administration, including his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

The Central Intelligence Agency made a formal presentation to those in attendance by showing them photographs taken at various missile sites in Cuba. Robert Kennedy later wrote a book entitled Thirteen Days, in which he commented on those pictures. He wrote:

"I, for one, had to take their word for it. I examined the pictures carefully, and what I saw appeared to be no more than the clearing of a field for a farm or the basement of a house. I was relieved to hear later that this was the same reaction of virtually everyone at the meeting including President Kennedy."

Of the twenty people at the meeting, fifteen were members of the Council on Foreign Relations.

President Kennedy, apparently after being convinced that he should see missiles in pictures where there were no missiles, decided to take stern measures against the Russian government. He went on television and told the American people that several of the Cuban bases included "ballistic missiles" capable of reaching a portion of the United States. He then called on Premier Khrushchev of Russia to withdraw the "missiles" from Cuba.

When The New York Times carried the story of Kennedy's speech the next day, their article carried no pictures of either a missile or a missile base. However, the next day, October 24, 1962, they published a picture of a supposed "missile site" with what they identified as "missiles on launchers." The supposed "missiles" in the picture were no larger than an actual pencil dot, but the Times was certain that those dots were "missiles."

Whatever the objects were that the Russians had in Cuba, they agreed to remove them on October 28, subject to "United Nations verification." The American Navy was actually prepared to board the departing Russian ships to verify that actual missiles were being removed. But no one actually boarded any Russian ship supposedly carrying missiles. American photographers took pictures of the Russian ships as they flew over them while the ships were in the ocean, but all these photos showed were tarpaulin covered objects of unknown contents. The media quickly labelled these objects as "Soviet missiles."

The myth that Russia was actually removing missiles has been perpetuated for many years. As recently as March 29, 1982, U.S. News and World Report carried a picture of the stem end of a ship moving through the water with a tarpaulin covered object on the deck. The caption under the picture read "Soviet ship removes nuclear missiles from Cuba in 1962 showdown."

It is not known, because it has never been revealed, just how the American government or the American press knew that there were actual missiles under those tarpaulins, especially since the government had stated that one of the conditions of their removal was that someone other than the Cubans was to actually inspect the Russian ships for verification purposes.

So only the Russians and the Cubans know for certain. And they have made no known statement to the effect that the objects under the tarpaulins and the little dots on large photographs were actually missiles. What they were saying, in essence, was that if the American government wanted to believe that those objects were missiles, they had every right to do so. (It would certainly be foolish for the Cubans and the Russian to admit that they had actually lied to the people of the world and had shipped out wooden crates containing nothing but humid air.)

It was later revealed that President Kennedy, as part of the agreement for the Russians to remove the alleged missiles, agreed to remove actual missiles from American bases in Turkey and Italy.

In addition to the removal of American missiles. President Kennedy agreed to another condition. The American government would give assurances to the Russian and Cubans governments that they would intercede in any invasion of Cuba by anti-Castro forces.

Anti-Castro Cubans, unaware of this agreement between the Russians and the Americans, were purchasing weapons and ships in the United States at the time and were making preparations for a counter-revolution in Cuba. As they moved towards the Cuban shore, they were stopped by the U.S. Coast Guard and their ships and weapons were taken away. The Castro regime was now being protected from an anti-Castro invasion by the U.S. Coast Guard.

There are many who believe that this was indeed the purpose of the "Cuban missile crisis;" wooden crates were removed in exchange for an agreement on the part of the American government to do two things: 1) Remove actual strategic missiles from the borders of Russia, and 2) guarantee that Castro's government would not be subject to an anti-Castro invasion.

One of the Americans who felt that the American government had actually created the Castro movement and later imposed the Castro government down on the Cuban people was President John Kennedy. According to the New York Times of December 11, 1963, President Kennedy gave an interview in which he was quoted as saying:

"I think we have spawned, constructed, entirely fabricated without knowing it, the Castro movement."

For his part in assisting Castro's rise to power, Herbert Matthews of the New York Times was elevated to the Editorial Board of that newspaper. And for his efforts, William Wieland was given the important post as Consul General for Australia.

Castro was now guaranteed the opportunity to literally destroy the Cuban economy with his mistaken ideas of the efficiency of Cuban Communism, and to have the U.S. Coast Guard protect his government from offshore invasion.

And President Kennedy, who apparently figured it all out, was dead about three weeks before the Times carried the interview.