As I begin working on the promised monograph about the JFK conspiracy I once again find that virtually all the names in play relating to the attack in Dallas that I find most viable can be traced to Cuban affairs. Not just Cuba in 1963, but all the way back to 1959 where names like Ruby, McWillie, Ferrie, Sturgis and McKewon first appear in conjunction with the overthrow of Batista and the rise to power of Fidel Castro. Of course those names that would be relatively unknown until after the attack in Dallas year’s later.
Then in 1960, a series of other names appear – names of CIA officers, contract employees and Cuban exile volunteers. Some familiar names from assassination research and other names new to virtually everyone. The following year, in 1961, as a result of the failed Cuba project and the disaster at the Bay of Pigs other names emerge – Bissell, Barnes, Esterline, Morales, Robertson, Harvey and even Angleton. The degree of hatred for JFK which resulted from that project, and the manner in which he hatred was intentionally orchestrated (not only with the media but to a very focused group of individuals) from Bissell down via Easterline through Robertson and Jenkins to a select group of highly skilled and trained Cuban exiles can only now be fully appreciated. David Boylan and I have explored that subject in our Wheaton Names research and that research became a critical part of several chapters in my new book – In Denial.
And in 1963 a handful of those individuals can be shown to have become privy to JFK’s decision to conduct back channel contacts and a potential settlement with Fidel Castro, pursuing what could be gained for the United States in moving Castro’s Cuba into a position of international neutrality. That initiative was highly secret and highly dangerous, RFK himself warned his brother it could lead to his impeachment. Yet it was compromised and communicated not only at the highest levels of the CIA but downwards to the CIA station in Miami and on to a series of Cuban exiles and fellow travelers – reaching as far as John Martino. There is little doubt that knowledge placed JFK at risk, and no doubt at all that he and his brother realized it – resulting in RFK’s immediate suspicion of CIA officer and Cuban exile involvement on the afternoon of the attack in Dallas.
However, at the highest level, while Cuba may have proved to be the trigger, it’s critical to remember that people at the highest levels of the Special Group, as well as in the CIA, were coming to understand – and fear – that Kennedy was far more dangerous to the established Cold War paradigms than simply in regard to Castro and Cuba. By 1963 JFK was in the process of breaking from the Truman/Eisenhower Cold War practices around the globe. Those practices had been based in the view that that nations had to choose sides; they were either with the Western Bloc or the Eastern Bloc.
That world view was even codified in the SIOP nuclear war plan that if the nation went to war, atomic strikes would be launched against not just Russia but against every nation considered part of the Eastern Bloc, including China. Kennedy came face to face with that reality during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, only then realizing how limited his strategic options were.
Kennedy was the first American president with the background to appreciate that the forces of nationalism and anti-colonialism were as much of a factor in the contemporary geopolitics as the ideology of communism. And he demonstrated that he was willing to at least attempt to advance American interest though neutrality; successfully in India and Indonesia but under extreme challenge in Laos. And his approach to both Laos and Vietnam was demonstrating that Kennedy was turning from away conventional military solutions to covert action. With “switchback” and a new NSAM he had already done so in Viet Nam and making preparations to shift covert action against Cuba to the Department of Defense.
Beyond that, in both Cuba and Vietnam, JFK was at least exploring the options for diplomatic outreach that might have led to compromise and some form of neutrality for both Cuba and North Vietnam, leaving regimes in place but ousting the growing Russian influence over each nation. Politically Kennedy had to find a solution for Cuba and for Vietnam; he had rejected a conventional military approach – coming to realize that even his Joint Chiefs could not come up with plans that met the basic sanity test for overt action. He was going to have to come up with a new approach – based on negotiation and neutrality. Both concepts which were nothing less than anathema to hard line CIA cold warriors who had been covertly fighting communism since 1947.