MR. WONDERFUL AND THE BAY OF PIGS
By Humberto Fontova
"The Republicans have allowed a communist dictatorship to flourish 8 jet minutes from our borders! We must support anti-Castro fighters. So far these freedom fighters have received no help from our government." Democratic presidential candidate, Oct. 1960
"George Bush and the Republicans in Washington have run the most inept foreign policy in the modern history of this country! It has been a failure!" Democratic presidential Candidate, April 2004.
No, friends, it didn't start with this campaign. Indeed, Kerry apes his idol (JFK) faithfully. Problem was, during the '60 presidential campaign Kennedy left out the sly smile, the shifty eyes and the, "Yeah...un-hun....that's it!" Unlike the John Lovitz character on Saturday's Night Live, JFK lied expertly, with a straight face. His charming demeanor gave nothing away. So millions of voters believed him.
Two weeks before that crucial debate in October of 1960, JFK had been briefed by the CIA (on Ike's orders) about Cuban invasion plans (what would later be known as the Bay of Pigs invasion). So he was lying through his teeth. He knew damn well the Republican administration was helping Cuban freedom-fighters. And since the plans were secret, he knew damn well Nixon couldn't rebut.
Which is to say, to blind-side his Republican opponent Kennedy relied on that opponent's patriotism. Let's face it, Republicans are at a woeful disadvantage here. Nixon bit his tongue. He could have easily stomped Kennedy on it. But to some candidates national security trumps debating points.
Four months later 1500 of those very Cuban freedom-fighters "that we must support" were slugging it out with 51,000 Castro troops, squadrons of Stalin tanks and his entire Air force at a beachhead now known as the Bay of Pigs.
JFK was no longer a candidate. He was now Commander in Chief. It was time to put up or shut up. He'd already done plenty putting up by forcing the CIA and military planners to change the landing site. Then by holding up his approval of an invasion a year in the making till 24 hours before the planned D-day. Then by cancelling 80 per cent of the pre-invasion air strikes. This last was a vital element of the invasion as planned under Eisenhower.
Many pundits pooh-poohed Ann Coulter's Treason claiming that JFK, though a Democrat, was aggressively anti-communist as evidenced by his Cuba policy. These people should get their noses out of People magazine and read some history. The Cuban invasion was born under a Republican administration with Vice President Nixon its main booster. The man who saw through Alger Hiss was also the first to see through Fidel Castro.
Anyway, after the cancellation of the air strikes the Brigadistas and their supply ships found themselves defenseless against Castro's air force. They were sitting ducks. Here was a final chance for President JFK to stand with them as promised by candidate JFK. The carrier Essex was stationed 30 miles off the Cuban coast, dozens of deadly Skyhawk jets on deck and primed for action. Their pilots were frantic, banging their fists, kicking bulkheads and screaming in tears of desperate rage against the sell-out of their freedom-fighter brothers on that heroic beachhead.
Simply give the nod, Mr Commander in Chief, and they'd roar off to a chorus of whoops and cheers. Upon looking up, the cheers from the hopelessly-outnumbered, deafened, thirst-crazed but furiously-fighting Brigadistas on the beachhead might have penetrated those pilots' very cockpits.
Now with air cover their ammo ships might survive a run on the beachhead. The Brigade could reload, refuel and keep blasting forward. Their planes could fly in from Nicaragua. Then, perhaps, Cuba's liberation: firing-squads silenced, families reunited, ten of thousands of emaciated prisoner staggering from dungeons and concentration camps.
We see it on the History Channel don't we, friends, after our boys took places like Manila and Munich. Well, in 1961 newsreels might have captured such scenes without crossing oceans. If men who voluntarily took up arms and put their lives on the line to smash Castro don't qualify as freedom-fighters then I surely learned the English language in vain.
And 43 years ago this month 1500 of them were hard at it on the Beaches of Playa Giron. "Where are the PLANES!" kept crackling over the invasion ships' radios. That was their commander, Pepe San Roman, roaring into his radio from the beachhead between artillery concussions. Soviet Howitzers (HUGE 122 mm ones) were pounding TWO THOUSAND rounds into the desperately embattled men (and boys). "Send planes or we CAN'T LAST!" San Roman yelled while watching the Russian tanks close in and his casualties pile up.
The pleas made it Navy Chief Admiral Arleigh Burke in Washington D.C. who conveyed them in person to his Commander in Chief.
Kennedy was in a white tux and tails that fateful night of April 18th 1961, having just emerged from an elegant Beltway ball. For the closing act of the glittering occasion Jackie and her charming beau had spun around the dance floor, to the claps, coos and titters of the delighted guests. In the new President's honor the band had struck up the Broadway smash, "Mr Wonderful"
WHY THIS TREMBLING WHEN YOU SPEAK?
WHY THIS JOY WHEN YOU TOUCH MY CHEEK?
I MUST TELL YOU WHAT MY HEART KNOWS IS TRUE,
MISTER WONDERFUL, THAT’S YOU!
Mr Wonderful's navy chief was trembling when hearing him speak alright--trembling with RAGE!! "Two planes, Mr President!" Burke sputtered into his Commander in Chief's face. The fighting admiral was livid, pleading for permission to allow two of his jets to blaze off the carrier deck and support the desperately embattled Brigade on that heroic beachhead.
"Burke, we can't get involved in this," replied Mr Wonderful.
"WE put those boys there, Mr President!" the fighting admiral exploded. "By God we ARE involved!"'
Interesting match here. In one corner, the man who blasted half the Imperial Japanese fleet to fiery rubble and sent it to the bottom of the Pacific at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. In the other, the man who managed to get his PT boat Karate-chopped in half by a Japanese destroyer, a feat of nautical ingenuity that still has naval men scratching their heads--and one that almost got him court-martialed. Only some heavy political pressure saved Mr Wonderful in 1944.
Alas, politics prevailed again that night in April '61. Mr Wonderful refused to help the freedom-fighters. The campaign was over, you see. "Can't continue," crackled the final message from San Roman a few hours later. For three days his force of mostly volunteer civilians had battled savagely against a Soviet trained and led force ten times their size, inflicting casualties of 20 to one. To this day their feat of arms amazes professional military men. Morale will do that to a fighting force. And there's no morale booster like watching Castroism ravage your homeland and families, believe me.
Ammo finally ran out. "Russian Tanks overrunning my position" San Roman on his radio again... "destroying my equipment." crackle..crackle...crackle : "How can you people do this to us?" Finally the radio went dead.
"Tears filled my eyes," writes CIA man Grayston Lynch who took that final message. "I broke down completely. Never in my 37 years have I been so ashamed of my country."
The Brigadistas "fought like Tigers," according to their U.S. trainer and compadre in arms Grayston Lynch but the odds were hopeless. For details please see (Operation Cuban Freedom-NOT! http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2003/4/16/205039.shtml)
A guilt-stricken JFK ransomed the Brigade back from Castro's dungeon. The negotiations took almost two years while the men suffered the mental and physical tortures that always accompany Communist incarceration. One source claims that Castro had agreed to terms 7 months earlier. But the Kennedy brothers (both President and Attorney General) feared the Bay of Pigs issue in the news for the Nov. 62 Congressional races. They feared the issue of how those men came to be prisoners in the first place might skew the races Republican. So the prisoners were conveniently released Christmas Eve of '62. A few died in prison during those 7 months.
The Brigadistas' ordeal was over. But when it came to JFK's lies I'll yield to Bachman Turner Overdrive: "You ain't seen nothing yet! B--ba-ba-ba-BY you just AIN'T seen nothing yet!"
"I will never abandon Cuba to Communism!" That was JFK addressing the recently-ransomed Brigade and their families in Miami's Orange Bowl Dec. 29, 1962. "I promise to deliver this Brigade banner to you in a free Havana!" I guess those people hadn't been subject to enough lies, to enough betrayal. They hadn't suffered enough. And the mothers, widows children-- they hadn't been through enough either. In Camelot's eyes, they deserved more shameless lies.
''Hands up! You're under arrest!" That was the U.S. Coast Guard (under orders of Kennedy Administration) to Cuban Freedom-Fighters assembling in Key Largo for a landing in Cuba the following month.
"Hands up! You're under arrest, blokes!" That was the British Navy (after tip-off by Kennedy Administration) to Cuban-Freedom fighters assembling in the Bahamas for a landing in Cuba shortly after that.
"You throw those Cuban-exiles OUT! And you close down their camps, or we cut off your foreign aid!" That was the Kennedy administration to the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica after Cuban freedom fighters sought bases in those countries for landings in Cuba.
"Deal! Sounds like a winna!" That was the Kennedy Administration to Nikita Kruschev in the nauseating swindle that ended the Cuban Missile Crisis. "Now let's go over it one more time: First, no invasion of Cuba by us. Second, we'll stop these crackpot exiles from any invasions by themselves. Third, as sincere liberals and non-interventionists, we'll prevent any nation in this hemisphere from lifting a finger against Fidel.....Let's shake on it!"
Nice, hunh? That "plucky underdog," that "valiant David against the Yankee Goliath", that "machista-Leninista"--in fact survived these 44 years by hiding behind the skirts of the three most powerful nations in human history: The United States (as pledged by Democrats,) The Soviet Union and The British Empire. So call him a shrewd diplomat if you insist, but PLEASE stifle the "macho" and "valiant underdog" buncombe. Okay, Fidel groupies?
And here's the most nauseating part: the pact with Khrushchev was made barely a month before JFK made his liberation promises in the Orange Bowl. Yet he addressed those men, their families and compatriots with a straight face. John Lovitz, he's not. As Grayston Lynch writes, "that was the first time it snowed in the Orange Bowl."
If nothing else, remember one thing friends: JFK serves as John Kerry's hero and role model.