Book Review: The Perfect Failure: Kennedy, Eisenhower, and the CIA at the Bay of Pigs

reviewed by Apollonian

12 December 2004

The Perfect Failure (Trumbull Higgins, W.W. Norton and Co., N.Y., 1987, 224 pp.) is NOT "must" reading, for Higgins is mere typical "liberal," in the worst sense. But Failure is interesting and fairly instructive in its way, and it's a short work, only 176 pages of text. Higgins is, or was in 1987 anyway, a professor of history at City University of New York; his work brings up a neglected but signal episode of recent history well worth patriot consideration. The "liberal" style of the work is by now so cliche'd and predictable it isn't too obstructive to seeing what actually happened.

And what a muddled mess it was, the "attempted" invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in mid-April 1961, by the American CIA using Cuban refugees. The invasion was the first substantial military operation of the young Kennedy administration. It was, of course, a dismal failure and a great embarrassment for the new president. It is interesting to ponder the circumstances that led to it, given the great concern given for "world opinion," as liberals like Higgins like to talk about. The Kennedy administration was the very high-point of "liberal" respectability, soon to be destroyed by the upcoming Vietnam disaster.

Everything about the operation/invasion was half-baked -- hey, it was designed to fail -- guaranteed, the typical orphan brain-child of a previous traitor administration foisted upon the new president, who had made such an issue of Cuba during the recent campaign. Higgins contrasts Kennedy's botched 1961 operation with the successful CIA venture in Guatamala in 1954, under Eisenhower.

Where in the heck is the "Bay of Pigs," anyway? Well, considering Cuba is an island nearly 750 miles long from tip to tip, the bay in question is on the southern side, about a third of the way from the western-most tip, about a hundred miles away from the capital city, Havana, situated on the northern side of the island, further north and west. The Bay of Pigs was close enough to military bases that Russian tanks could be brought to bear within ten hours.

The truth about the "Bay of Pigs" is that it was a deliberately botched attempt by which the communists would be enhanced and the US discredited. The obvious hypothesis, to be disproven, must be that the "Bay of Pigs" was perpetrated as yet another instance in the effort to destroy America piecemeal by the masterminds of the oligarchal Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). For how otherwise could the US have failed?

The "Bay of Pigs" farce begins with the idea, quite prominent at the time, and well-supported by Higgins himself, that the US had to be solicitous of "world opinion," especially that of the United Nations (UN) and its little sub-affiliate, something called the Organization of American States (OAS). Thus instead of an outright and massive invasion by American military forces, the CIA were deemed necessary.

An understrength force of about 1400 men was landed, past tricky coral reef formations just offshore, in the early morning of 17 April 1961, in swampy terrain where the Cuban communists were essentially waiting in strength, about battalion-size. The invasion force was not supported by the available and nearby American naval military -- which is obviously idiotic and incompetent, but at the time, for the "liberal" idiots involved, seemed to make eminent sense. Americans had to worry about "world opinion," you understand, so they were persuaded by the Jew-TV, etc., for example.

Rather than a straightforward, overpowering invasion justified by the need to remove a communist threat 90 miles from our shore, the liberals guiding our policy attempt at a quick, discreet strike that never came close to achieving its objective.

The Cuban patriots who took part were betrayed and essentially handed over as captives, a great relief for their enemies. Americans looked like treacherous, bumbling fools, and the Cuban communists came out looking heroic, and became more secure for the mere endurance of it all. The blunder set the stage for the Cuban Missile Crisis eighteen months later. All in all, the Bay of Pigs fiasco couldn't have been more brilliantly conceived or carried out by the worst enemies of the US, and it goes down as a tremendous victory for the communists.

Higgins' first chapter, out of eight in all, gives a pathetically thin, but typically "liberal," historical background to the Cuban story. It mostly regards Guatamala in 1954 where a local politician decided to do things his own way in disregard of the nominally "American-owned" United Fruit Company, really the definitive oligarchal-internationalist corporation of Central America. With CIA instigation, Guatamalan army leaders revolted and replaced the recalcitrant politician. There are the usual and briefly-given details, like air support for the "pro-American" rebels based in neighboring Nicaragua, another "banana-republic" so reliable for American corporate interests. Guatamala now became trusty ally for the CIA, and it was where the Cuban invasion force was gathered and trained for the Bay of Pigs.

Second chapter has to do, again briefly and inadequately, with Castro himself and his activities in Cuba during the Eisenhower administration. There's practically no background info on Castro prior to his briefly mentioned guerrilla activity just before taking power in 1959. Of course Eisenhower and the corporate establishment helped Castro, pretending no one knew Castro was communist till well after he'd taken power at the beginning of 1959, after the abdication under extreme pressure by the previous ruler, President Fulgencio Batista. As Castro gradually and steadily confirmed his communist nature and intentions to the American oligarchs, so the liberal story goes, Eisenhower consulted his cohort, Alan Dulles, CFR mastermind and head of the CIA. For here in Cuba now was an excellent opportunity to betray and do serious long-term damage to US interests.

Trumbull details the ostensibly anti-Castro measures taken by Eisenhower. In February 1960 Eisenhower embargoed arms shipments to Cuba after Castro initiated seizures of "American properties." In March Eisenhower authorized planning of a paramilitary force to be organized by the CIA to be landed in Cuba -- though Eisenhower, a consummate liar, later denied it. In June the CIA set up an official anti-Castro political front, the Revolutionary Democratic Front (FRD). Meantime Castro continued to build up his military, receiving arms from the Soviet satellites such as Czechoslovakia. In August Eisenhower approved a budget of 13 million dollars for a CIA-sponsored guerrilla war against Castro. Eisenhower protested he shouldn't take too vigorous action against Castro as it would "drive Latin America towards communism," the CFR oligarchal party-line/excuse for treason.

Chapter three covers the entrance of Kennedy, starting now during the Presidential election campaign. Poor Kennedy had no idea he was to be so sabotaged, subverted, and betrayed, the fool, but he too fell for and endorsed the farcical pretense that things were to be done and staged for the sake of "world opinion." In 1959 Kennedy had indicated in his book, Strategy of Peace, that Castro had not yet committed to communism. But by campaign time Kennedy was determined upon the "containment" of Castro and even his removal. Meantime, the CIA "planning" and preparation for the disaster continued; in September 1960 the planned 400-man guerrilla force was upgraded for an outright amphibious landing as was subsequently attempted. Why not "upgrade"? -- as it would make for an even lovelier catastrophe.

Eisenhower all the while pretended to fret over appearances and "plausible deniability." Note this is the same man who was a general during WWII, who was commander of the D-day invasion of Europe in 1944; surely he would have known whether the forces involved would be enough to succeed. Castro had a well-armed 30,000-man regular force, with a militia of 200,000 and a secret police organization ready to intern civilian sympathizers. A mere fifteen-hundred-man force was supposed to defeat such a communist host? Additionally, the American commanders worried over defending the American base at Guantanamo. So was Eisenhower really serious about things? -- what were his real intentions?

The farce gets funnier: in October 1960, a local Guatamalan newspaper began reporting on the guerrilla training, which story circulated in the US. The Cuban communists promptly began complaining at the UN, guaranteed to receive the best liberal "press." On January 2 Castro expelled a number of Americans from the embassy in Havana, and the next day Eisenhower broke diplomatic relations. The upcoming American humiliation must get the most publicity possible. Still Eisenhower, just prior to leaving office in January 1961, denied he was "committed" to the invasion. But get this: Higgins records that on 19 January Eisenhower told Kennedy it was now his "responsibility to do whatever was necessary to overthrow Castro...." How's that for loyal support? -- coming from someone, Eisenhower, who was so careful always to preserve "plausible deniability" for any failures. What a lovely train-wreck for Kennedy to become entangled with -- well, he fell for it, sure enough. The real question remains why didn't Eisenhower do more than just let the Castro problem fester for two solid years?

Higgins merely mentions other things happening concurrently for American foreign policy. Vietnam, and moreso Laos, were looming concerns. Note both Vietnam and Laos bordered China which had been betrayed only a few years earlier by Eisenhower's masterminds, mentors, and predecessors from the CFR such as George C. Marshall and Dean Acheson, the henchmen for Truman. Meantime the Joint Chiefs of Staff military leaders were harassed by the political hacks into a grudging approval for the doomed Cuban CIA operation. Dulles, CFR/CIA mastermind, continued his own psychological operations regarding Kennedy, intimating that if the Cubans were prevented from landing and fighting they would spread damaging propaganda in the US about Kennedy.

Chapters four and five cover the Kennedy administration's pathetic soul-searching, bungling, and pratfalls regarding actual invasion rationale, planning, and execution. These two chapters give a respectable and fairly extensive background for the larger political circumstances, containing many facts not merely trivial. The Joint Chiefs, for example, did not "approve" or endorse the Bay of Pigs operation so much as they merely accepted the inevitable farcical political situation, not willing to believe the treasonous absurdity of it all. Dulles and the CIA have the greatest fun subverting the national interest in service to their CFR masters -- remember the great ostensible concern is "world opinion." In mid-March 1961 the administration decided to change the target landing site to the Bay of Pigs from the previously-selected Trinidad location near the town of that name, about a hundred miles further east from Bay of Pigs. The eventual April 17 invasion date wasn't set until April 4th.

Chapter six, "Day of Dupes," discusses the actual invasion operation and landing itself, especially the controversies over the air strikes preceding the landing by which the Cuban communists were to be neutralized -- but weren't due to the typical half-baked planning and preparation, subversion in the guise of incompetence. As it turned out, the Cuban communists were not struck sufficiently by the prop-driven B-26s, which had to fly from Nicaragua, allowing only about an hour's time over the target zone itself in Cuba. The Cuban force consisted of several jet T-33 fighters armed with formidable cannons which were able to take a heavy toll upon the invaders. The first air strike took place two days before the invasion; only about half the Cuban communist planes were destroyed or damaged, several jets remained. Kennedy then canceled further airstrikes as the Cuban communists were now complaining loudly in the press. Having canceled further airstrikes, Kennedy nonetheless allowed the invasion to continue. Moreover, Kennedy refused American Navy air cover of the invasion. Observe Kennedy is totally confused, and the invasion is absolutely doomed and subverted. The Americans were not truly worried about national defense -- just "world opinion" -- this is the essence of the farce in both large and more specific senses.

Chapter seven is entitled "Bumpy Road," which was the American Navy code name for the invasion -- which was detected upon approach to the landing site by the communist shore lookouts and immediately and intensively attacked by the considerable remaining communist air force. Four of the rebel invaders' B-26s were quickly shot down by the communist jet T-33s. Over half the rebel air force would be shot down, nine B-26s out of the beginning 16 total. Finally, the rebel pilots refused to fly against the communist jets.

By the next day, April 18, Higgins reports Kennedy began to acknowledge how he'd been so poorly served by the CFR and Alan Dulles, the head of the CIA -- in fact he'd been betrayed and utterly made to look the most pathetic fool, along with all Americans. The communists and Castro were made to look the most glorious heroes, an important point which Higgins doesn't fail to note. Such complete psychologic collapse is confirmed when one considers the Joint Chiefs of Staff tried to persuade Kennedy to salvage the operation with overt American military intervention -- Kennedy, totally demoralized, refused. Higgins, the liberal, on the other hand, comments regarding the Joint Chiefs: "[t]hey were certainly not the only people to underestimate the new President." By afternoon of 19 April it was all over as the rebels had run out of ammunition, and the communists had concentrated no less than 20,000 troops with tanks; the rebels began to surrender.

The concluding chapter 8, headed "The Perfect Failure," does not sufficiently inform about the immediate political effects of the invasion fiasco -- obviously the liberal press largely covered for its dupe President as he was useful for other things. There were the usual "commissions" of "inquiry" and re-organizations as there were other prospective disasters beckoning in Laos and Vietnam, not to mention the "civil rights" agenda to be treated. The '60s were truly the heydey of the great American degradation and self-destruction, a thoroughly degenerate mammonistic society in full decline, confusion, and demoralization.

CONCLUSION: When, towards the end of the operation's pathetic demise, Richard Nixon demanded Kennedy send in marines against Castro, Kennedy replied he couldn't as the Russians might decide to walk into Berlin. Thus the Bay of Pigs disaster was the perfectly prepared and executed self-fulfilling prophesy of defeat, and "liberalism" is exposed most clearly for what it is: treason, pure and simple, the excuse for addled idiots, fitting prelude for the upcoming Vietnam nightmare. Hence Higgins' book ends as fair to marginally creditable historical exercise -- again, it's only 176 pages of text -- it contains just enough facts to qualify as serious history at least minimally informing and poignant for description. The story itself is indeed sad and infuriating, but it does render an accurate description of mentality, and one learns more details in yet another episode of the larger epic of Oswald Spengler's "Decline of the West."


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