This is a follow up to a recent post called Gimlet-Eyed Rune Reading, at the end of which I tacked what should be a revelatory riff about the absurdly transparent implausibility of the “Bay of Pigs” pseudo-invasion of ’63. You are forgiven for not already knowing all the details of that “historical” (dramaturgical) event, but once you know them, I think, you may feel a bit dizzy. The most importantly dizzy-making detail being Fidel Castro himself.
I don’t know a single Lefty-type who has not at some point revered Fidel Castro, but, like lots of public figures we have only been exposed to through the benevolence of Mass Media (aka the Imperial Brainwasher), what can we really claim to know about him, and why do we claim to know it? Did we first hear about Fidel Castro through forbidden back-channels of a furtive Resistance, or was Castro’s myth actually sold to us as aggressively as any mid-20th century commercial for laundry detergent? The answer to that question is both obvious and not a little disturbing, if you really think about it.
There’s no shame in having ever believed in the patently absurd if that absurd belief was the result of life-long brainwashing. Just think of those hundreds of millions of people who still believe, with all their hearts, the preposterous story that a bronze-age virgin gave birth to a super human who was both the son of god and god (the inseminator) himself. Can you think of a sillier story (or a more banal template for a creation myth)?
Our National Fictions are not quite as insane as the Christian Creation Myth, to be honest, but just as easy to pick apart.
Like a lot of vintage nonsense, Fidel was actually sold to our parents and grandparents and it was their belief in the Castro avatar upon which we based our belief. Secondhand brainwashing, like secondhand smoking, is even stronger than firsthand experience. Our parents and grandparents were not quite as media savvy as we are and whatever they believed in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, Pops and Granny fell for the kind of clunky TV bullshit that we, if we’d first been confronted with this stuff post-9/11, would have laughed our asses off at. How many of us have actually watched the early “news” footage regarding Fidel’s story?
But first, let’s think a little about the “Bay of Pigs” legend.
One of the largest US Naval bases in the world (“by the mid-nineteen-forties, it was the second-busiest port in the Western Hemisphere”) was on the island of Cuba when the supposed Bay of Pigs invasion (a scraggly bunch of Cuban right-wingers with pitchforks and flare guns) “failed”. Cuba, the Communist “thorn” in Uncle Sam’s side… rents the Southern tip of the island to Uncle Sam for the special price of a few thousand bucks a year, which is less than the cost of any permanent, single-car parking space in a mid-sized city. We’re talking about the Guantanamo Bay Naval base. You’d think it would have featured importantly in any sincere US attempts to invade Cuba.
Later, the rag-tag comedy invasion-force of deranged Cuban exiles re-entered the iffy narrative as the infamous spy Marita (see below) subtly implied that disgruntled Cuban exiles were behind JFK’s assassination, an act Marita helpfully spun as a hot-blooded act of macho revenge. Re: Marita (and the two sexy “journalists” referenced below): serious study should be done regarding the over-reliance of US covert foreign policy on Sexy Babes… not to seduce/deceive/ liquidate Enemy Targets but to help sell ridiculous stories to Duh Masses. Those repressed post-McCarthyite denizens of the Flyova were getting an awful lot of implicit Sex in their nightly dose of Huntley & Brinkley, weren’t they?
Yankee Mass Media has made sure (strangely enough) that we’ve all heard about Fidel’s macho magnetism, of course. When half-German Marita Lorenz was supposedly hired by the CIA to assassinate Fidel in 1960, with poisoned face cream or whatever it was and wise Fidel discovered the plot, he purportedly handed Marita his own pistol and said, “Go on, Baby, shoot!” Marita just couldn’t pull the trigger. She ended up fucking him instead… just like a movie. And then Fidel, being clinically insane or on E, let her go.* What a cuddly revolutionary. What a stud. How stunningly, amateurishly improbable.
Easy to believe all that if you’ve never watched Fidel giving those interviews in the ’60s but actually watching a cloyingly boyish, insecure and eerily Cassius-Clay-like Fidel on tape from that era , one is struck by the powerful sense that Fidel is far from revolutionary-hard. Is this really the kind of guy who shoots a pistol and gives life-and-death orders to mountain-dwelling freedom fighters?
Pretend you’ve never heard of Fidel or Cuba or Communism and watch these “interviews”. Do you buy them?
Let’s go back to near the beginning.
Here’s Fidel on prime time American TV (below) being rather joshingly interviewed while wearing the outfit he got from the costume department (I like the “revolutionary” with the bushy hair in the background; subtle this little stage play ain’t). Fidel isn’t very good at reading/ remembering his lines, is he? Not exactly Daniel Day Lewis. Imagine how naive you’d have to be to buy this routine back in 1959, eh? Cute touch how Sullivan feeds Fidel the question about how will Fidel make sure the revolution doesn’t devolve into the same old post-revolution oppression? The scriptwriter is using what we call “foreshadowing” there.
My first thought, had I been an adult, watching this on my dinner-plate-sized screen, in 1959, would have been: is this a stunt to introduce a new prime time CBS comedy series called DEAR FIDEL? Ferfuxxsake it’s not even Walter Cronkite interviewing Castro… it’s Ed Sullivan. Sullivan actually refers to Castro and his supposed squad as “Revolutionary youngsters”. The sheer hilarious camp of it.
Oh, and, next (notice how the “armed rebel fighter” crosses the screen, awkwardly, on cue @0:30): watch the puppyish, cuddly actor Fidel read his script and watch as his Yankee interlocutors prompt him to help sell this king sized bullshit to Duh Masses watching in TV Land: people need to get hooked on the character before he pulls the scripted switcheroo to “Communism”…
Four years later, after Fidel has taken on the role of Arch Villain, Chief Commie Boogieman, Public Enemy #1 of Capitalism, we’re given a rather cute and stagy interview with El Jefe (doing his best Jose Jimenez imitation) four days after the Bay of Pigs “invasion”. The (cheesy) narrative detail to take note of in the “interview” below is that Lisa Howard (“who initially began her career as a soap opera actress“) was another one of Fidel’s supposed conquests:
“‘[H]e pulled me over and asked me to sit on his lap, and then spoke to me very gently, and said, “Lisa, you are very dangerous for me. I could love a girl like you very deeply. You’re very sweet, very pretty, very intelligent, very sensitive”.’
The Cuban leader envisioned what it would be like to have a serious relationship with Howard.
Castro told her: ‘We would have many fights, a hundred fights, two hundred fights, but in the end it would be all right.
‘You can teach me very much.'”
Howard wrote that the Cuban leader was at first hesitant to jump into bed with her.
‘What do you want, Lisa? Do you want my body?’ Castro told Howard.
‘He said he wanted me very much but the conditions had to be right and we had to be away somewhere where we could forget everything,’ Howard wrote.
But ‘we did get to bed and he made love to me quite expertly and it was, of course, thrilling and ecstatic – as much as anything I have ever experienced.’
Yep, if I were a badass anti-Imperialist Revolutionary Head of State, I would say the above-cited stuff to, and do that other stuff with, an aging American former soap opera actress, a few days after the Bay of Pigs “invasion attempt,” too! Highly plausible. I guess no loyal Commie Cuban beauty of any age could ever hope to compete, with a sassy Yankee temptress with Imperialist History on her side, for Fidel’s revolutionary attention. Listen how tough Howard sounds (with her phony then-de rigueur mid-Atlantic drawl); her balls seem bigger than Fidel’s. She’s condescending to him. Duh Yankee Masses loved it and, therefore, bought it.
(“Lisa Howard died at East Hampton, Long Island, on 4th July, 1965. It was officially reported that she had committed suicide.” Was Lisa talking a little too much in her sleep… ?)
Ah and here, below, is Castro years later, an actual Head of State, remember, arguing deferentially with another fucking airheaded American TV personality about “Freedom”… because that’s what a Head of State does, right? He goes right along with his Yankee-media-contextualization as someone who isn’t even on a par with a Yankee Congressman.
Fidel plays along and very helpfully supports the official narrative that his form of anti-Capitalism is a doomed and Quixotic gesture, a romantically-self destructive mistake certain to appeal to disaffected college boys while confirming their square parents’ view of the world, see? Win/win for Yankee Consumerism, which is set up to appear to be the “lesser evil” we’re all stuck with (cue: scary-sad-romantic film of poverty and repression in Havana).
Where is the world figure who represents a reformed, fair-minded, justly-regulated Capitalism, eh? Now that would be dangerous precisely because it’s plausible and precisely because obscene megaprofits, wealth-inventing pseudo-transactions, slave labor and billionaires would not be possible in such a fair-minded, rational version.
When you exclaim that “fair-minded Capitalism is an oxymoron,” you’re playing their game for them. I’ve known far too many Leftish Academics who spout exactly such incantations and not only espouse an “alternative” (Communism) that will never capture the collective imagination of Duh Masses but also foreclose on any possibility of discussions of reforming Capitalism… therefore solidifying the hold of the sicko Capitalism we’re currently trapped within: brilliant. When TFIC brainwash you into believing that only Sicko Capitalism is possible, they’re sure, at the same time, to make the “cures” look more horrible than the disease. That’s Fidel’s job in the clip below. You’re meant to watch it and thereafter go hug your rented furniture.
I love the part (@ 00:57) where Walters asks Fidel about “freedom of the press” and the sassy Yankee, when Fidel gives his scripted response, demands, with sassy-heroic passion: “WHY?”
How could anyone think that both sides of this “interview” weren’t scripted by Uncle Sam’s showrunners?**
Is the fact that Che Guevara was terminated early in the game indicative of Guevara’s authenticity? Possibly.***
Was everyone in “The Establishment” in on the ruse? No way. There are millions of conservatives who still consider Castro the embodiment of The Devil (just like the dimwitted conservatives who couldn’t quite grasp that Obama was not a “lefty”, just like The Clinton hydra).
Was JFK in on it? I still can’t tell.
While the CIA was pretending to orchestrate attempts to assassinate Castro, that very pretense would have provided the ideal cover for putting together a team to nail JFK. The Official version of the “Conspircy Thuriss” version has it that one minute the death squad was training to hit Castro and at the last minute the target was switched to JFK: sounds like a clever security precaution to me. They got the “leader of the Free World” on the first serious attempt but couldn’t get the head of a poverty-stricken, third world island after more than 600 attempts: yep. They got Trujillo, Lumumba, Diem, Allende (and, later, Hussein, Qaddaffi, Chavez and that pesky, anti-Vietnam-war Olof Palme in the middle Of Europe, among many other politicians and heads of state) but they just couldn’t get cuddly Fidel, with their comically “bumbling” plots, right?
You have to admire the Institutional Discipline it takes to deliberately develop and promote the legend of your own collective “incompetence” in order to control by appearing to fail. But it works, folks.
It really, really works.
FURTHER READING: some richly detailed possible food for thought by an interesting commenter called “Paul Rigby”:
Cuban Smoke and the French Connection: why the CIA installed Fidel Castro
By Paul Rigby, in JFK Assassination Debate
3 October –21 November 1963.
Between ‘Arrogant CIA’s’ publication on October 2 and the Agency coup in Saigon on November 1, Starnes twice more launched savage attacks on the organisation. America had been here before, insisted Starnes, and the lessons were plain. But the Castro precedent he instanced was a very different story from the fairy tale version propagated at the time by the New Left , and mainstream historians ever since. Starnes refused to forget an inconvenient fact: Castro was armed, financed, and propagandised for, and by, the CIA. And, not content with installing him in Havana, the Agency had then covered Castro’s back for sufficient time to permit the “revolution’s” turn to the left, the turn that sucked the Soviet Union in, and brought the Cold War to within ninety miles of America’s shores – the very object of the exercise for the CIA, and the nation’s military-industrial complex. It was the perfect rejoinder to Eisenhower’s “crusade” for détente.
Sections of the US elite had supported ostensibly “revolutionary” insurrections throughout the nineteenth century. Between 1840 and 1852, “American filibusterers, devoted to the slave system, aided Cuban risings against Spain. President Fillmore issued a proclamation forbidding the organization” of such “expeditions on American soil and ordered the civil, naval, and military authorities at the ports of New York and New Orleans to prevent” them from sailing. Kennedy was to face the same difficulty in 1962-63 with the support of Cuban exile raiders by, most notably, Henry Luce and his Time-Life empire.
The United States government later adopted the tactic officially, supporting or fomenting “revolutions” in Hawaii, Panama, and Nicaragua. On the eve of the First World War, the US, in a fight for Standard Oil to wrest control Mexican oil from Britain, the waning world hegemon, organised the Madero revolt against Diaz; and later backed Pancho Villa against Huerta. The propaganda campaign for Villa saw him lionised in Hollywood. The father of William F. Buckley, the CIA officer who founded the National Review, was involved in an attempt to overthrow the Mexican government – again, for reasons of petropolitik – in the late 1920s.
In the immediate post-war period, genuine Cuban leftists, mostly notably in the trade unions, were systematically murdered or driven into exile. The campaign was exposed at the time .In November 1946, Hoy, the then paper of the Cuban Confederation of Labour (CTC), ran a photostat of two letters, the second of which, from Francesco Aguire to the AFL’s man in Chile, Bernardo Ibanez, dealt with the splitting of Latin American trade unions and a planned campaign to assassinate “anti-Yankee” labour leaders. “Some of Cuba’s outstanding labour leaders were assassinated in that period and a plot to kill Lazaro Pena, the head of the CTC, was uncovered.” The result, in Cuba, as elsewhere, was to create opportunities for the production and insertion of simulacrums of genuine leftists. Into this breach stepped a Jesuit-educated Catholic rightist called Fidel Castro. In January 1948, a Communist leader of the sugar workers, Jesus Larrondo, was shot dead by an army captain in Manzanillo. Among the mourners at the ensuing funeral was, on cue, the enduringly unmolested Fidel.
A “hidden hand” recurs so frequently in Castro’s rise to power as to render mainstream accounts silly. In April 1948, Castro participated in a pseudo-Communist revolt in Colombia launched in ostensible response to the CIA-orchestrated assassination of the Liberal presidential candidate, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. According to a conservative Colombian paper, Castro and the rest of the Cuban delegation were quietly evacuated from the country by the Cuban embassy.
Among the US Embassy staff in Bogota at the time was Roy Rubottom , who subsequently reappeared in the Sierra Maestra bringing succour to Castro in 1957. Rubottom was instrumental in organising a briefing for a newly arrived US Ambassador at the hands of Herbert Matthews, the leading, though by no means sole , propagandist for Castro in the pages of the New York Times. One veteran of Central American politics – and at least one CIA coup attempt, in 1954, opposed by the then US Ambassador – went so far as to describe Castro as a “fabrication” of the US press, which had “sold him to Latin America.” The Agency’s effective control of both right and left-wing Castro publicists is neatly conveyed by two figures, Hal Hendrix, and Jules Dubois. The latter was an asset , while the former gives every evidence of being a career intelligence officer.
Captured in the aftermath of the militarily stupid, but profile-raising coup attempt of July 1953, Castro was not executed on the spot because he fell into the hands of “a humane officer who ignored orders to summarily execute prisoners.” The same Batista regime that ordered the summary execution of the other prisoners then acted in character by “unexpectedly” releasing Castro into exile a mere fifteen months later.
In 1956, in response to pressure from Batista, and as prelude to deportation back to Cuba, the Mexican government ordered the arrest of Castro and his 26 July Movement. Again the “hidden hand” – the CIA’s – intervened to safeguard Castro. “Details of the deal between Castro’s group and the Mexicans remain unclear,” wrote one British obituarist of a former Mexican secret police chief, Fernando Gutierrez Barrios, who reportedly brokered the deal, but what is clear is that the seemingly unlikely friendship between the interrogator from the fanatically anti-Communist DFS – which in the 1970s ran a murderous anti-leftist death squad, the Brigada Blanca – and Castro, endured: “Guttierez visited Havana on many occasions, and when Casto attended the 1988 inauguration of President Carlos Salinas, he was personally attended by his former jailer. The two men even travelled to Tuxpan, in Veracruz, for a memorial ceremony at the spot where the revolutionaries embarked for Cuba.” The same obituarist, writing this time of Arturo Durazo, the DFS member who oversaw the investigation of Castro and his group, wrote vaguely of “political pressure” for the group’s release. That Carlos Prio, the multimillionaire ex-President of Cuba and acknowledged financier of the 26th July Movement, wrote an open letter to the Mexican President in support of Castro is not at issue . What is is the sufficiency of this source in securing Castro’s release.
With Castro and his motley band safely restored to Cuban soil in December 1956, CIA money soon flooded in. Between “October or November 1957 and the middle of 1958, the CIA delivered no less than fifty thousand dollars to a half-dozen or more key members of the 26th July Movement in Santiago.” The funds were “handled by Robert D. Wiecha, a CIA case officer …who served in Santiago from September 1957 to June 1959.” In mid-October 1958, a senior figure within the 26th July Movement wrote to Castro detailing the extent of the CIA support in the US Embassy in Havana, and quality of the information that support gave: “I have been in contact with people close to the embassy. These contacts have told me that people who are on our side – but who do not appear to – have had conversations with the ambassador himself. I think this is the best possible, since we are kept up-to-date about everything happening there and of all the possible U.S. plans…” New York Times reporter Tad Szulc knew of this support in 1959, but disclosed it only in 1986. In the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs, the CIA undertook a limited hang-out, conceding to a few, favoured mouthpieces that, yes, there had been some limited supply of arms in this period, but from an “ex-“CIA man, Sam Cummings, whose Interarmco was a private venture. Cummings had reportedly supplied the arms used by the Agency’s Guatemalan proxies to overthrow the Arbenz government in 1954.
In his testimony before a Senate Sub-committee on 30 August 1960, Earl T. Smith, the US Ambassador to Cuba from June 1957 to January 1959, complained of precisely this overt, and unbending CIA support within the Embassy for Castro. He drew this conclusion from his bitter experience at the hands of the Agency: “There is no advantage to the United States in sending an Ambassador to a country if the CIA representatives there act on their own and take an opposite position.” Among Ambassador Smith’s guests at the Embassy’s December 1957 Christmas party was a Senator from Massachusetts, whom Smith introduced as the man “who may very well be our next President.”
Castro has long been fond of boasting of the number of coup and assassination attempts he has allegedly survived. Almost as fond, indeed, as the CIA has been in confessing its many failures. On the 46th anniversary of his coming to power, readers of one British broadsheet were solemnly informed that the “Cuban Ministry of the Interior has investigated 637 assassination attempts.” And yet the same leader has always been renowned as one of the most accessible rulers in the world, and thus “an easy target for assassination. Yet,” mystifyingly, “no public attempt was ever made against him anywhere.”
The CIA had a variety of purposes in mind for revolutionary Cuba. A key intention was to use Cuba as the launch pad and pretext for a series of “revolutionary” movements throughout Latin America that would in turn “compel” CIA intervention in the unfortunate countries concerned. The Caribbean, Central and Latin America would thus be remade in the desired US image, the region’s reformist and nationalist governments alike destroyed in favour of murderous militarised oligarchies and US finance. Castro’s government was to arrest previously supportive CIA men engaged in precisely such activity – in this early instance, against the government of Nicaragua – no later than April 1959. Sihanouk offered a typically shrewd Asian encapsulation: “All the efforts of the CIA were aimed at implanting an armed political opposition inside the country so that we would have to beg for American arms to keep order…”
The Bay of Pigs operation was at once a self-sabotaged trap and a smokescreen: the real CIA action in late April 1961 was against De Gaulle. Even elements of the wretchedly timid and censored British press were stirred to a muted observation or two.
CIA operations in Europe encountered opposition from Kennedy-appointed Ambassadors. In the summer of 1962, the left-wing Greek nationalist, Andreas Papandreou flew to Washington to protest at the Agency’s role in, among other dark adventures, fixing the October 1961 election. The President was in Florida, so Papandreou had to make do with Carl Kaysen. The protest, in conjunction with the findings of Henry Labouisse, appointed by Kennedy to the Athens ambassadorship earlier that year, resulted in the replacement of the CIA station chief, Laughlin Campbell, in August 1962. Somewhat ironically, Campbell was transferred to Paris.
*”In 1970 she married the manager of an apartment building in New York. The two worked for the FBI spying on Eastern Bloc UN diplomats living in the building,” and “She will be played by Jennifer Lawrence in the upcoming biographical film Marita, which is based on Marita Lorenz’s memoir, Marita: The Spy Who Loved Castro.”
**Plus, importantly: decades before Assange, Fidel/Cuba was the world’s biggest Intelligence Honeypot… important Commie types of every level accorded Fidel access, confided in him, inadvertently fed him the counter-intelligence that Uncle Sam needed regarding the troublesome Leftists in South/ Central America (not to mention Castro cleverly shaming the USSR into a series of disastrously self-destructive moves in Africa)… Fidel was quite the multi-function tool.
*** Although: “Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, while an Alberto Korda photograph of him, titled Guerrillero Heroico (shown), was cited by the Maryland Institute College of Art as “the most famous photograph in the world”. That’s quite a lot of support from The System Guevara supposedly lived to destroy. Or perhaps Che really was what he appeared to be and The Deep State was never remotely threatened by him and used him, and his image, as it chose to.