In his latest reflection, Cuba’s Fidel Castro writes with an air of nostalgia about the presidency of John F. Kennedy and the travails of the Kennedy family:
He [JFK] saw himself as the representative of a new generation of Americans confronting the old and dirty politics of men in the mold of Nixon and had defeated him with a feast of political talent.
As for the Bay of Pigs, Castro applauds JFK for recognizing defeat.
He [JFK] did not do what Nixon would have done: deploy hunter bombers and send in the Marines. Rivers of blood would have run in our homeland, where hundreds of thousands of combatants were prepared to die.
This gentleness toward the Kennedy clan makes one think the aging tyrant has gone a little spongy in the head.
The reason for Fidel’s sudden enthusiasm for the Kennedy clan was a recent Washington Post editorial by Ms. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter. Ms. Kennedy Townsend cites a December 1963 Justice Department memo in which RFK argued against a travel ban on U.S. citizens to Cuba. She urges passage of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act and a presidential initiative to restore the constitutional rights of all U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba:
The goal is not only the advancement of democracy in Cuba, but, as Robert Kennedy believed, a policy consistent with the sanctity of traditional liberties and the values of a free society — our own.
Evoking the memory of RFK in the Cuba context is to start down a very slippery slope. As Attorney General RFK oversaw a shadowy, dangerous game of intrigue, covert warfare, and attempted assassination, generally known as Operation Mongoose. Anyone interested in these still relevant events, and a story of Liberal hubris and arrogance can turn to a work like Dan Bohning’s 2005 Cuba Obsession: U.S. Covert Operations in Cuba, 1959-1965.
In a review of Bohning’s book, former CIA analyst and Cuba expert Brian Latell wrote, “Bohning’s sources were unanimous in their disparagement of Robert Kennedy, and the author clearly sympathizes with them. The attorney general was “obsessed” with Cuba after the Bay of Pigs, a view that White House aide Arthur Schlesinger and other biographers have disputed even while admitting that the anti-Castro Operation MONGOOSE was Bobby Kennedy at his inexplicable worst. It was “his most conspicuous folly,” Schlesinger has written. Tom Parrott, the CIA officer detailed to the White House, is quoted scorning the younger Kennedy as “arrogant and overbearing.” Bohning adds that Bobby, as the unofficial overseer of Cuba clandestine operations, was “constantly on the phone with anyone and everyone involved, both US officials and Cuban exiles.”
Some historians believe the Kennedy brothers’ Castro Obsession made have been the catalyst that caused Soviet Premier Khrushchev to risk placing nuclear missiles on the island and taking the world to the brink of nuclear war.
Invoking the memory of RFK, ardent Cold Warrior and sworn-enemy of the Castro regime as a historical beacon for a new Cuba travel policy pushes at the limits of historical credibility.