A Missile is a Missile is a
A Semiological Analysis of Some
Aspects of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
by Servando Gonzalez
Copyright © 2000 by Servando Gonzalez.
All rights reserved.
"This is not a
Caption on The Treachery of Images,
a 1929 painting by René Magritte depicting a pipe.
The Cuban missile crisis is still a very elusive
historical event. For almost forty years it has captured the imagination
of the media, scholars, and the public alike, producing a veritable
mountain of articles, scholarly essays and books. Still, after so much
effort by so many privileged minds, some aspects of the Cuban missile
crisis continue to defy any logical explanation and are as puzzling
today as they were at the time of the event. In this essay, I will limit
myself to studying the alleged evidence of the presence of strategic
missiles and their associated nuclear warheads in Cuba in
Is "Photographic Evidence"
Evidence at All?
The official story, advanced by the
Kennedy administration, accepted at face value by most scholars of the
Crisis and later popularized by the media, tell us that, though rumors
about the presence of strategic missiles in Cuba were widespread among
Cuban exiles in Florida since mid-1962,  they never fooled the
American intelligence community. To American intelligence analysts,
"only direct evidence, such as aerial photographs, could be convincing."
[2 ] It was not until 14 October that a U-2, authorized at last to fly
over the Western part of Cuba,  brought the first high- altitude
photographs of what seemed to be Soviet strategic missile sites, in
different stages of completion, deployed on Cuban soil.
photographs were evaluated by experts at the National Photographic
Interpretation Center (NPIC), they were brought to President Kennedy
who, after a little prompting by a photo- interpreter who attended the
meeting (even with help and good intentions it is not easy to see the
missiles in the photographs), accepted as a fact the NPIC's conclusion
that Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev had taken a fateful, aggressive
step against the U.S. Most scholars consider this meeting the beginning
of the Cuban missile crisis.
Save for a few unbelievers at the United
Nations  (a little more than a year before, Adlai Stevenson had shown
the very same delegates "hard" photographic evidence of Cuban planes,
allegedly piloted by Castro's defectors, which had attacked positions on
the island previous to the Bay of Pigs landing), most people, including
the members of the American press, unquestionably accepted the U-2
photographs as evidence of Khrushchev's treachery.
photographic "evidence", however, was received abroad with mixed
feelings. Sherman Kent recorded in detail how the U-2 photographs were
brought to some American allies, and what their reactions were. British
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, for example, just spent a few seconds
examining the photographs, and accepted the proof on belief. The Prime
Minister's Private Secretary, however, "expressed serious concern about
the reception any strong Government statement in support of the U.S.
decision would have in the absence of incontrovertible proof of the
missile buildup." 
German Chancellor Adenauer accepted the
photographic evidence, and apparently was impressed with it. General de
Gaulle accepted President Kennedy's word initially on faith, though
later he inspected the photographs in great detail, and was impressed
with the quality of them. However, when the photographs were shown to
French journalists, one of them, André Fontaine, an important senior
writer of Le Monde, strongly expressed his doubts. Only
circumstantial evidence he received later, not the photographs
themselves, made him change his opinion. Canada's Prime Minister
Diefenbaker questioned the credibility of the evidence of Soviet
strategic missiles in Cuba. 
According to Kent,
notwithstanding some of the viewers' past experience in looking at
similar photographs, "All viewers, however, took on faith or on the
say-so of the purveyors that the pictures were what they claimed to be:
scenes from Cuba taken a few days past." 
beginning with Robert Kennedy's classic analysis of the Crisis, the
acceptance of the U-2's photographs as hard evidence of the presence of
Soviet strategic missiles deployed on Cuban soil has rarely been
contested. [8 ] CIA director John McCone reaffirmed the same position of
total belief in a Top Secret post-mortem memorandum of 28 February 1963
to the President. According to McCone, aerial photography was "our best
means to establish hard intelligence." 
But both Robert
Kennedy and John McCone were dead wrong. As Magritte's picture The
Treachery of Images masterly exemplifies, a picture of a missile is
not a missile. A photograph of a UFO is not a UFO. Clint Eastwood is not
Dirty Harry. Charlton Heston is not Moses. A picture,by itself alone,
can hardly be accepted as "hard" evidence of anything.  The fact is
so obvious that no time should be wasted discussing it. It seems,
however, that the very fact that it is so obvious --somebody said that
the best way to hide something is by placing it in plain view-- has
precluded scholars from studying it in detail. Therefore, let us analyze
A photograph is nothing more than an object we call a photograph. [11 ] It consists
of a thin film of gelatine spread on top of a paper support. The
gelatine has very small grains of a light-sensitive substance embedded
in it. Once exposed to light, the grains suffer a chemical alteration.
During the developing process with the right chemicals, some of the
grains, in the form of very small dots, turn black, others remain white,
and others take different gradations of grey. When observed by a trained
individual, the dots, due to the integrating, holistic ability of the
human mind, turn into a meaningful image. This is what we call a
photograph. Of course, what you see in the photograph is not the real
thing, just an image of the thing. As nobody can smoke Magritte's
pipe, no army can win a battle by firing photographs of missiles against
the enemy. Images appearing on photographs are not things, but
signs of things. The inability to distinguish between a sign and
the thing it signifies is one of the characteristics of primitive, magic
Until relatively recent times the word semiotics
appeared only in the field of medicine, in connection with the study of
the symptoms of a particular disease. It was not until the beginning of
the century, however, that the Swiss linguist Ferdinand the Saussure
first, and later the American philosopher Charles Sanders Pierce,
created the scientific foundations of the discipline we now know as
Saussure saw signs as twofold entities, showing a
signifier and a signified (or sign-vehicle and meaning).
To him , "the sign is implicitly regarded as a communication device
taking place between two human beings intentionally aiming to
communicate or to express something."  Pierce, however, saw signs as
threefold entities. In articulating the foundation of the science of
semiotics, he stated, "By semiosis I mean an action, an influence, which
is, or involves, a cooperation of three subjects, such as a sign, its
object and its interpretant."  To Pierce, the interpretant was the
mental image created in the mind of an interpreter.
Pierce, a sign is "something which stands to somebody for something in
some respect or capacity."  As Italian semiotician Umberto Eco
clearly puts it, "a sign can stand for something else to somebody
only because this "standing-for" relation is mediated by an
interpretant." [17 ] The "something" can be anything: a material thing,
a concept, an idea, a feeling; existing or non-existing, real or
Things are things. In some particular circumstances,
however, a person can see (or hear, or smell, or touch) something and
have similar impressions as if he were experiencing something different.
Pierce called this process semiosis. To him, the process of semiosis in
nothing but "a psychological event in the mind of a possible
interpreter." [18 ] From the point of view of semiotics, the work of the
technicians at the NPIC is basically a semiotic process. Surveillance
photographs, by themselves alone, have no meaning. They become signs
--pointers to other real-life things-- in the minds of skilled
photointerpreters, who carefully compare apparently meaningless forms
and shadows against their previous experiences, looking for meaningful
As Claude Lévi-Strauss put it, the science of
semiotics is concerned with the different procedures for transforming
Nature into Culture. This is roughly equivalent to the process of
transforming raw data into intelligence.
Missiles and Signs of Missiles
Beginning with the concept of sign,
Pierce created trichotomies of concepts, which sometimes extended almost
ad-infinitum. According to him every sign is either an index, an
icon, or a symbol. [19 ]
An index is a type of sign showing some
relationship, usually of cause and effect, or antecedent to consequent,
between a sign and a thing. Dark clouds are a sign indicating an
approaching storm; high fever is an indexical sign of disease; smog is
an indexical sign of air pollution. To Robinson Crusoe, footprints in
the sand were the first indication that somebody else beyond him
inhabited the island.
An icon is a type of sign which shows a
relationship of formal or topological similarity or likeness between the
sign and an object. Maps, diagrams, pictures,  and photographs are
typical iconic signs. Usually, iconic signs stand for particular,
A symbol, however, is a type of sign which shows
no physical, or visual, or any type of relationship between the sign and
the thing it signifies. The relationship is established in the mind of
the interpreter and it is totally conventional and arbitrary, as the
result of an agreement among those who use the sign. [21 ] Language is
the most extended system of symbols used by men to communicate ideas,
though there are other important systems of symbols, like the ones used
in mathematics, music, chemistry, etc.
Semiosis is just a mental
process, and there are no physical ties whatsoever between something and
its sign, therefore, signs can be decoded differently by different
people or by the same people under different circumstances. Moreover,
something can act as an icon while acting also as an index and a symbol.
A photograph of the particular American flag above my town's city hall
is an iconic sign. But the American flag also symbolizes all that
America stands for. As such, it is the ultimate symbol of the American
nation. The famous photograph showing the footprints of an American
astronaut on the moon's soil is an iconic sign depicting an indexical
sign. With the passage of time, however, the photograph became a symbol
of the advances of American space technology. Another important
characteristic of signs is that they are polysemic.
Most studies about the Cuban missile crisis repeat the extended opinion that
the U-2 photographs were the hard, irrefutable evidence provided by the
photointerpreters at the NPIC as proof that the Soviets had secretly
deployed strategic missile bases in Cuba. But, as we have seen above, in
order to become meaningful information, photographs need to be decoded
(interpreted) by an interpreter.
Being a subjective process,
however, semiosis is full of pitfalls. There is always the risk of
aberrant decoding, by which a sign is interpreted as something totally
different from what the creator of the sign originally intended to
communicate.  In the case of the U-2 photographs, the NPIC
photointerpreters correctly decoded the objects appearing in them as
images of strategic missiles. But accepting the images of
missiles as the ultimate proof of the presence of strategic missiles in
Cuba was a big jump of their imagination, as well as a gross semantic
mistake. A more truthful interpretation of the things whose images
appeared in the U-2's photographs would have been to call them "objects
whose photographic image highly resemble Soviet strategic missiles."
But, like the man who mistook his wife for a hat, the photointerpreters
at the NPIC confused the photographs of missiles with the actual
missiles.  Afterwards, like mesmerized children, the media and the
scholarly community blindly followed the Pied Piper of photographic
evidence. But, as in Magritte's painting, a picture of a missile in not
With the advent of the new surveillance technologies
pioneered with the U-2 plane and now extensively used by satellites,
there has been a growing trend in the U.S. intelligence community to
rely more and more on imaging intelligence (IMINT) and less and less on
agents in the field (HUMINT). [24 ] But, as any intelligence specialist
can testify, photography alone, though a very useful surveillance
component, should never be considered hard evidence.
Moreover, even disregarding the fact that photographs can be
faked and doctored,  nothing is so misleading as a photograph.
Surveillance photographs, like the ones provided by spy satellites and
planes, are just indicators pointing to a possibility which has to be
physically confirmed by other means, preferably by trained, qualified
agents working in the field. According to the information available up
to this moment, the photographic evidence of Soviet strategic missiles
on Cuban soil was never confirmed by American agents working in the
field. The missiles were never touched, smelled, weighed. Their metal,
electronic components, and fuel were never tested; the radiation from
their nuclear warheads was never recorded; their heat signature was
One of the golden rules of intelligence work is
to treat with caution all information not independently corroborated or
supported by reliable documentary or physical evidence. Yet, recently
declassified Soviet documents, and questionable oral reports from Soviet
officials who allegedly participated directly in the event, have lately
been accepted as sufficient evidence of the presence of strategic
missiles and their nuclear warheads in Cuba in 1962. But one can hardly
accept as hard evidence non-corroborated, non-evaluated information
coming from a former adversary who has yet to prove he has turned into a
friend.  Even is some day this becomes accepted practice in the
historian's profession, it will never be adopted in the intelligence
Photographs are just information, and information is not
true intelligence until it has been validated. As a rule, most
counterintelligence analysts believe that only information that has been
secretly taken from the enemy and turned over is bona fide
intelligence. But, if the enemy had intended it to be turned over, it is
automatically considered disinformation.
Another principle of
espionage work is that what is really important is not what you know,
but what your opponent doesn't know that you know. As Sherman Kent
pointed out, once the U-2 brought the photographs of (what seem to be)
strategic missiles in Cuba, the main thing was to keep it secret. "Until
the President was ready to act, the Russians must not know that we knew
their secret." 
The fact that the Soviets had been so clumsy,
failing to properly camouflage their missiles, surprised the American
intelligence community. As it happens most of the time, however,
American scholars found plausible explanations a posteriori for
the Soviets' behavior. The explanations ranged from flawed bureaucratic
standard operating procedures to political-military disagreements,
including pure and simple carelessness. Nevertheless, still today the
fact constitutes one of the most unexplainable Soviet mistakes during
Probably one of the most known explanations was the one
advanced by Graham T. Allison. According to him, the failure to
camouflage the missiles had a simple answer: bureaucratic procedures in
the Soviet Army. Before the crisis, reasoned Allison, missile sites had
never been camouflaged in the Soviet Union, so, the construction crews
at the sites in Cuba did what they were used to do, building missile
sites according to the installation manuals, because somebody forgot to
retrain them before they were sent to work in Cuba. 
But, knowing the operational procedures of the Soviet Army, Allison's
explanation seems a bit too simplistic. First of all, the personnel
assigned to do the job of building missile sites arw not common
soldiers, but specially trained personnel. Secondly, even without
disregarding the bureaucratic procedures common to all armies, it is a
naive assumption to suppose that the Soviets could have made this type
of gross mistake, particularly if they were trying to deploy the
missiles in Cuba using deception and stealth, as the U.S. official
version of the event claimed.
According to U.S. intelligence
sources, missile sites were not camouflaged in the Soviet Union.
However, after Gary Power's U-2 was shot down, the flow of information
about Soviet missiles almost stopped completely. It was not until the
successful launching of the Corona satellites that the U.S. began
obtaining new photographic information from the Soviet Union. One can
safely assume that, after the U-2 incident and the discovery of the high
quality of its surveillance cameras, the Soviet Missile Forces would
have changed their procedures and were camouflaging their missile sites.
Furthermore, Soviet military literature strongly emphasizes the
importance of surprise (udivlenie) and deception (loz'n) in modern
warfare. Among it, the literature on camouflage (maskirovka), is
particularly abundant.  The Russian tradition of using camouflage to
mislead goes back to the times of Prince Grigori Aleksandrovich
Potemkin. Consequently, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, if
the Soviet personnel in charge of installing the missiles failed to
camouflage them, it was because they were ordered to do so.
The lack of adequate camouflage to hide the missiles from American
observation is such a gross mistake that author Anatol Rappoport assumed
that it was part of a Soviet plan by which the missile sites were meant
to be discovered by American spy planes.  During the height of the
crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported that "the authorities
here almost all accepted one key assumption: that Mr. Khrushchev must
have assumed that his Cuban sites would soon be discovered." The report
also added that, according to one authority who had studied the
photographic evidence, "The Russians seem almost to have gone out of
their way to call attention to them." 
The Soviets knew that the Americans were closely watching the island using U-2 spy planes.
They had discovered the plane's extraordinary capabilities when Gary
Powers was shot down while overflying the Soviet Union. Therefore, the
unavoidable conclusion is that if they failed to camouflage the missiles
it was because they wanted the American intelligence to discover the
Similarly, the Cuban intelligence was aware of the
quality of American air surveillance technology. In 1961 Life
magazine published a report about the anti-Castro guerrillas fighting in
the Escambray mountains. Some of the photographs illustrating the
article had been taken by the U-2s. On several occasions Castro asked
the Soviets to give him SAMs (anti-aircraft, Surface-to-Air Missiles),
and let his people operate them, but the Russians were reluctant.
Although most of the Cubans assigned to the SAM bases were engineering
students from the University of Havana, the Soviets only allowed them to
operate the radars.
Contrary to the opinion of most U.S. analysts
during the crisis, it is now known that almost all SAM antiaircraft
sites in western Cuba had reached operational status by the beginning of
August, 1962. From that early date the Soviets could have fired on
American spy planes if they had wanted to. By mid-August the Russians
complained to the Cuban government about the lack of discipline and
seditious demonstrations of the university students at the SAM missile
bases. Apparently the Cubans were frustrated and angry by the Russians'
inaction in the face of overflying American planes, and were openly
expressing their doubts about the Russians' willingness to avoid the
discovery of the missiles. Things got so out of control that Fidel
himself had to make an inspection visit to the bases in order to calm
down the Cubans there. Apparently Fidel convinced everybody that the
Russians were doing the right thing, with one important exception: Ché
Guevara. Major Guevara said that he would only change his opinion if
somebody convinced him that American spy planes flying over Cuba were
not jeopardizing the operation. But he finally opted to accept Fidel's
On the morning of October 14, 1962, a U-2 entered
Cuban air space and flew over the province of Pinar del Río. The Cubans
watched the plane on their radar screens, appalled as the Russians did
nothing. Later Castro complained bitterly about the Russian inaction.
To the evidence offered above of the Soviets' willingness to
let the missiles be discovered, I would like to add some of my own. As a
Cuban Army officer during the crisis I was assigned to headquarters and
sent on inspection visits to several military units to assess their
combat morale and battle readiness. One of these visits was to the Isle
of Pines, where I visited a unit, deployed in an area close to the
Siguanea peninsula, not far from a Soviet missile base located on the
top of a nearby hill. The Cuban soldiers had aptly nicknamed the base
"el circo soviético," (the Soviet Circus), because of the
tarpaulins surrounding it. But the most interesting detail is that,
though the tarpaulins precluded observers from seeing the base from the
ground, the base itself remained uncovered on top and in plain view of
American spy planes. So, it seems that, though the Soviets apparently
were eager to allow long-distance detection, for some they didn't want
any short-range observation of the missiles.
inspection I visited a Cuban Air Force base at San Antonio de los Baños,
south of Havana. The visit occurred after president Kennedy had alerted
the American public about the presence of missile bases in Cuba, and
Castro had ordered the antiaircraft batteries under his command to fire
at American planes.
Once at the base, we drove our jeep to the
runway, where I saw in the distance several MiG fighter planes lying
like sitting ducks on the apron. On close inspection, however, we
discovered that the planes were dummies made out of wood, cardboard and
painted canvas. An officer at the base told us that the real planes were
well protected and camouflaged.
As we were talking to other
officers at the end of the runway, the antiaircraft batteries received a
phone call telling them that several American planes had entered the
Cuban airspace, and one of them was flying in our direction. A few
minutes later, what seemed to me like a RF-101 Voodoo reconnaissance
aircraft overflew us at treetop level, too fast for the inexperienced
boys [33 ] manning the four-barreled antiaircraft guns to open
Though the dummies on the runway were perhaps good enough
to fool the high-flying U- 2s, they were too clumsily made to fool
low-flying reconnaissance planes. The fact, however, that the Soviets
had used decoy planes (and probably other types of decoys) in Cuba
during the Crisis has never been mentioned in the U.S. declassified
documents pertaining to the Crisis. Also, it is difficult to believe, to
say the least, that Soviet maskirovka worked so well on other
secundary aspects of the Cuban operation, but failed on the most
important part of it: covering the strategic missile bases from prying
Camouflage in warfare can be used either
passively, to conceal from the enemy the true thing, or actively, to
mislead the enemy into accepting a false one. From the point of view of
semiotics, camouflage can be defined as intentional aberrant encoding
with the purpose of deceiving the decoder. Furthermore, in semiotic
terms, camouflage can be defined as the art of confusing the enemy to
make him believe that a sign of a thing is the thing itself, that is, to
induce the enemy into magical thinking. Knowing the importance the
Soviet military gives to camouflage, there is a strong possibility that,
like in Cervantes' Don Quixote, what the NPIC photointerpreters
thought were giants frantically moving their arms, actually were nothing
more inoffensive windmills.
Missiles as Symbols
The successful launching of the Sputnik in 1957, soon became a symbol of
Soviet technological success. After that, the Soviet Union passed
through a brief period of national pride and faith in a better future.
Khrushchev's poorly chosen phrase "We will bury you," most likely was
not intended as a threat to the West, but as an assertion of his
confidence that, sometime in the near future, socialism, under the
guidance of the Soviet Union, would replace decadent
Though the Soviet Union had expressed support for the
new revolutionary phenomenon developing 90 miles from American shores,
it had been mostly rhetorical. Then, on 9 July 1960, Premier Nikita
Khrushchev perhaps under the influence of too much Soviet vodka 
went a step further and firmly requested the United States to keep her
hands off Cuba, and backed his statement with the famous threat of the
Soviet nuclear missiles:
It should not be forgotten that the United States is not now at
such inaccessible distance from the Soviet Union as it used to be.
Figuratively speaking, in case of need, Soviet artillerymen can
support the Cuban people with their rocket fire if the aggressive
forces in the Pentagon dare to launch an intervention against Cuba.
(Stormy applause). And let them not forget in the Pentagon that, as
the tests have shown, we have rockets capable of landing directly on a
precalculated square at a distance of 13,000 kilometers (around 8,000
miles).  (Applause). This, if you wish, is a warning for those who
would like to settle international issues by force and not by reason.
The precise nature of the Soviet military commitment to Cuba on
Khruschev's 9 of July speech was later to be questioned, and the Soviets
themselves immediately moved to de-emphasize Khrushchev's promise of
"figurative" (symbolic) rocket support of Cuba.  Moreover, it is
important to remember that Khrushchev's statement about missile support
for Cuba was made in the tense period following the U-2 incident and the
fiasco of the Paris Summit Conference. But, soon after, apparently
Khrushchev made up his mind.
Just three days after the
"figurative" offer of rocket support to Cuba, Khrushchev said at a press
conference that, "We don't need bases in Cuba. We have bases in the
Soviet Union, and we can hit anything from here."  A week later, on
July 16, Tass published an authoritative statement entitled "The
Monroe Doctrine Ended Long Ago and Can No Longer Help the Imperialist
Colonizer." But, despite of the eloquent title, the Soviet commitment in
the event of an armed intervention against Cuba was limited to the
promise that, "Relying on its power, the Soviet Union will give Cuba the
necessary assistance." Even the symbolic missiles had suddenly
disappeared from the picture.
When in September, 1960, a
journalist in New York had asked Khrushchev point-blank: "Is it true
that you stated that in case of a United States intervention against
Cuba, the USSR would strike the United States?", he evasively replied:
"More or less true . . ." Then Khrushchev added: "You need not worry . .
. Since America is not going to attack Cuba, there can be no danger."
After Khrushchev's symbolic boutade about the
missiles, Castro made several efforts trying to compromise him further
into a more formal commitment, but the clever Nikita Sergeevitch went no
further with it. Then, in September 26, 1960, Castro gave a five-hour
tirade before the U.N. General Assembly in which he voiced almost every
charge against the United States which had ever been voiced by the
Soviets and added quite a few of his own crop. In his speech Castro
alluded to a threatening statement directed at Cuba by Admiral Arleigh
Burke, Commander of the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo, and pointed out
the danger of nuclear war if such a threat were to turn into direct
action. [40 ] It is believed, however, that in a meeting the two leaders
had in New York, Khrushchev refused Castro's request for further
references to missile support. 
rattling" about Cuba was not the first case of such bluffing. He had
before threatened with using missiles over Suez, Lebanon, Jordan, and
Berlin. In 1956, Khrushchev threatened Britain and France with
long-range missiles at the time of the Suez crisis, but not before he
was certain that the crisis was effectively over.
On August 23, 1958, the Chinese began a bombardment of Quemoy, one of
the smaller islands close to China, held by the Nationalists. The attack
halted after a month and a half. Though during the crisis the Chinese
propaganda spoke of an assault and landings on the island, the Soviet
press pointedly ignored such statements and de-emphasized the
possibility of war. It was only after the shelling had stopped and the
crisis had ended that serious Russian warnings were issued to the United
States, and even then the warnings were soon qualified.
September 7, Khrushchev declared in a letter to President Eisenhower
that an attack on the People's Republic of China was an attack on the
Soviet Union, apparently suggesting an automatic Soviet response to any
attack on China. But soon later comments appeared in the Soviet press
suggesting that aid would be "considered" and "offered as necessary",
observing that the Chinese had everything necessary to repeal the
aggression by themselves. It was only on September 19, when the danger
of a serious confrontation had clearly passed, that a nuclear threat was
invoked. [42 ] In his life as a Russian leader, Khrushchev was to show
that he was deeply addicted to the calculated risk, especially if it
implied no real risk at all. Though not a trained semiotician,
Khrushchev knew perfectly well the cardinal difference between a
symbolic missile and a real one, and the manipulation of symbols has
proved to be much less riskier than the manipulation of things,
particularly when the things in question are tipped with nuclear
The day after the Bay of Pigs invasion began,
Khrushchev sent President Kennedy a message appealing to him to call a
halt to the aggression. The tone of the message, however, was not in
accordance with the man who some months earlier had threatened
apocalyptic visions. "As for the USSR, there must be no mistake about
our position. We will extend to the Cuban people and its government all
the necessary aid for the repulse of the armed attack on Cuba." Finally,
Khrushchev added, "We are sincerely interested in the relaxation of
international tensions, but if others go in for its aggravation, then we
will answer them in full measure." [43 ] The fact is that when the
invasion began Castro wired Russia for help, or at least for open
solidarity, but Khrushchev ignored him until the Cuban militias had
definitely beaten the invaders. 
Khrushchev pounding his
shoe on his desk at the General Assembly was perhaps a symbolic, but
ambiguous statement of support for Fidel. But the Cuban leader wanted
more than symbols. That month Castro sent Carlos Franqui, editor of
Revolución, to Moscow on the pretext of interviewing Khrushchev,
to find out how the Soviet leader could pass from figurative, symbolic
language to direct statements. Franqui spent several hours in the
Kremlin going over the subject with Khrushchev, but the most he obtained
from the shrewd Soviet leader was a Solomonic statement, which was
interpreted in contradictory fashion by the press services of the United
States and the rest of the world. [45 ] Apparently Khrushchev had second
thoughts about the responsibilities he had assumed with regard to Cuba.
There are indications that he finally got tired of Castro's schemes and
diplomatically told the Cuban leader to quit rattling the Soviet
missiles against the United States.
relations with Washington, especially with the new administration of
President-elect Kennedy, counted more for Khrushchev than the Cuban
problem as such. It seems that, finally, Castro understood, because on
November 8 he told the Cuban people that they must defend themselves and
not go to sleep with the false idea that they were protected by Soviet
nuclear missiles. [46 ] Almost immediately Hoy, the newspaper of
the old pro-Soviet Cuban communist party, denied that Khrushchev had
told Cuba to quit rattling rockets. According to Hoy, Tass had
merely repeated what the Soviet official position was: if Cuba was
attacked by the United States, it might face Soviet missiles.  But
The New York Times informed on 19 November, that the Soviet
leaders were reported as trying to convince Premier Fidel Castro to
moderate his violent attacks upon the United States, and in particular
to stop rattling the Soviet nuclear missiles.
used to complain about the American nuclear missiles deployed by some
NATO countries around the Soviet borders. But the missiles the U.S. had
deployed in Europe were no less symbolic than the ones Khrushchev had
promised Castro. As Michael Mandelbaum rightly observed, "Tactical
nuclear weapons became symbols of the American resolve to carry out its
commitments to its NATO partners."  Another scholar has pointed out
that, though the use of nuclear weapons has military value, "its
symbolic political value can easily outweigh its military significance."
In a private conversation with his British friend David
Ormsby-Gore, Kennedy told him that the missiles in Turkey were "more or
less useless."  They had been left there, however, because of their
symbolic value. The phasing out of the American missiles in Turkey had
been under consideration long before the crisis.  In any case, the
Kennedy administration had decided the previous year to remove them.
Anyway, they were obsolescent, clumsy liquid-fuel rockets. The American
plan was to replace them with missile-bearing Polaris submarines
stationed in the Mediterranean.
Among the precautions which
Kennedy took during the crisis to avoid a costly mistake by subordinates
ignoring orders, was the bizarre fact that he reportedly ordered the
removal of the fuses and warheads from the Jupiter missiles in Turkey,
probably with the intention of making them fully symbolic. Strange
behavior indeed for a commander-in-chief of a nation supposedly at the
brink of nuclear war.
We may safely surmise that, fully aware of
the strong force of symbols, Khrushchev had realized that a dummy
missile has the same symbolic value as a real one. As a matter of fact,
symbolic missiles have the same deterrent power (and provocation power,
for that matter) as the real ones, but without all of their risks. [52
The Treachery of Intelligence
According to Umberto Eco,
Semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as
a sign. A sign is everything which can be taken as significantly
substituting for something else. This something else does not
necessarily have to exist or to actually be somewhere at the moment in
which a sign stands in for it. Thus semiotics is in principle the
discipline studying everything which can be used in order to lie.
Intelligence, and particularly counterintelligence, are semiotic
activities par excellence. As such, they deal mostly with all
types of deception, and deception has always been an important component
of the intelligence profession since its early days. I will use a
relatively recent example to illustrate the point.
War II, the British intelligence services carried out an enormous
disinformation exercise code-named Fortitude, as a part of a major
deception operation code-named Bodyguard. The main goal of operation
Fortitude was to fool the Germans about the place selected by the Allied
armies for their coming invasion. Fortitude was extremely successful in
creating a notional American invasion force, the First U.S. Army Group
(FUSAG), under the command of Lt. Gen. George Patton, which, according
to German intelligence reports, was ready to land at Pas de Calais. More
than 19 German divisions, including several armored ones, waited
patiently for an attack that never materialized, while the invading
forces secured their positions at Normandy, the true place of the
invasion. The main mistake of the German Abwer and other intelligence
services was that they apparently believed that aerial photographs were
German reconnaissance planes brought back to
Berlin load after load of photographs showing two large Allied armies,
one in Scotland, getting ready to invade Norway, and another getting
ready for the assault on Pas de Calais. The aerial photographs depicted
large concentrations of men, tanks, trucks, cannons, and all type of
materiel associated with an invasion force.  What the Germans didn't
know was that some of the tanks and trucks were inflatable rubber
replicas, and the rest of the materiel was made out of plywood,
cardboard and canvas. Some of the "cannons" hiding under camouflage nets
consisted of an oil drum turned on its side with a telegraph pole
resting on its top. Having in mind the quality of the photographic
technology available at the time, the British intelligence was careful
not to allow low flying planes to photograph the "armies," while high
altitude German reconnaissance flights were allowed to do their jobs
In the case of the German intelligence, however,
there are some alleviating circumstances which somehow explain their
failure: the photographic illusion was supported by corroborating
reports from their agents in the field. But the Germans ignored that the
British intelligence services had managed to capture most of the German
agents, "turning" some of them to feed controlled disinformation to the
German intelligence.  At the end of the war, most German
intelligence officers still believed that the invasion by the two large
Allied armies never materialized only because of a late change of
An interesting detail about the behavior of the
American side during the Cuban missile crisis is that the only members
of the U.S. government who initially expressed doubts about the true
existence of Soviet strategic missiles in Cuba, namely McGeorge Bundy,
 General Maxwell Taylor and Deputy Secretary of State George Ball,
 were none of them directly linked to the American intelligence
The fact that the American intelligence community
apparently accepted the U-2 photos as hard evidence of the presence of
missiles in Cuba could be interpreted as an indication not only of a
gross violation of elementary intelligence practices but also of a high
degree of incompetence. The problem I have with reaching this apparently
logical conclusion is, first, that I have a high opinion of the
professionalism of American intelligence officers, and, secondly, that
one of the axioms in the profession is that, in the field of
intelligence and espionage, things are never what they seem to be.
More over, it seems that not all members of the American
intelligence community accepted the U-2 photographs as hard evidence.
Ten years after the crisis, in an article appeared in Studies in
Intelligence, a classified publication whose circulation is
restricted to CIA officers, and made available to the public only a few
years ago, Sherman Kent affirms that, though he didn't know about any
ExComm members who had doubts about the credibility of the U-2
photographs, he knew about a few very important officers at the Agency
who did. 
Trying to prove their point a posteriori,
some authors claim that the CIA analysts were so sure about the presence
of missiles in Cuba because they had "triangulated" their analysis from
three different sources of information. In the first place, they had the
U-2s photos of missile bases on Cuban soil. Secondly, they had the
super-secret Corona satellite photos showing SS-4 and SS- 5 missile
sites in the USSR. Thirdly, they had copies of the manuals and
blueprints of SS-4 installations provided by Col. Penkovsky.
triangulation theory, however, has some flaws. In the first place, both
the Corona and the U-2s photos fall into the TECHINT  category. So,
two of the elements of the triangulation theory are actually different
aspects of the same element. More over, accepting the possibility that
the Corona photos were showing actual missile sites on Soviet territory
does not prove that the U-2 photos were showing real missile bases in
Cuba and not decoys. As a matter of fact, the only reason for creating
decoys is because you are sure the opponent knows about the existence of
the thing you are trying to pass as the real thing. Making a decoy of an
armament whose existence is ignored by the opponent is an exercise in
futility. But the Soviet intelligence was fully aware that the Americans
were spying from the sky. Therefore, far from being an element
confirming the presence of Soviet missile installation on Cuban soil,
the existence of the Corona photographs, added to the fact that the
Soviets knew about the U.S. surveillance capabilities, should have acted
as a red flag about the possibility of strategic deception. But the CIA
officers apparently ignored this possibility.
Secondly, the fact
that Penkovsky, whose bona fides was never proved beyond any
reasonable doubt, [60 ] had provided his CIA controllers with copies
(not photocopies, but the actual Soviet editions) of the operation
manuals of the same missiles they allegedly deployed in Cuba some months
after should have send all alert bells ringing at CIA. One of the most
elementary principles of tradecraft is that, in order not to leave trace
of their work, spies don't steal documents, but make copies of them.
Penkovsky, a GRU officer, should have known better than stealing the
actual manuals and passing them to his American controllers. It was an
extraordinary coincidence, and the CIA officers decided to believe in
coincidences and trust Penkovsky.
After more than twenty
years studying the Cuban missile crisis I have come to believe that, in
the particular case of the unproved, but blindly accepted belief that
the Soviets deployed strategic missiles and their nuclear warheads in
Cuba in 1962, there is less than meets the eye. I base my doubts not
only on a hunch, but on two facts. The first is that the U.S. didn't
force an in situ inspection of the Soviets ships leaving Cuba
probably the only way to verify beyond any reasonable doubt that the
missiles had actually been in Cuba and were now on their way back to the
Soviet Union.  The second one is that, though a high number of
American documents relating to the missile crisis has been declassified,
a great part of them dealing with anecdotal information about the
opinions of the participants, almost all signals intelligence
(SIGINT), including communications, electronic and radiation
intelligence, is still kept classified and under a tight lid.
Gen. William Y. Smith, who was a Major and an assistant to Gen.
Maxwell Taylor in the White House at the time, has reported a very
interesting detail. While reviewing message traffic from U.S.
intelligence sources on Soviet military activity, Gen. Smith discovered
a report about a U.S. Navy ship which apparently had picked up
suspicious levels of radioactivity emitted by a Soviet freighter, the
Poltava. He suggested to Gen. Taylor that he ask Admiral Anderson
if the emanations meant the ship was carrying nuclear warheads. At the
next Joint Chief's meeting, Taylor posed the question to Anderson, who
replied, somewhat embarrassed, that he had not seen the message. Later
that morning, Anderson's office informed Smith that the report had
little significance, that Smith had misread it. 
sense to believe, therefore, that at the time of the Cuban missile
crisis the U.S. had the technical means to detect radiation from nuclear
warheads leaving Cuba, without having to board the Soviet ships.
But, again, no mention has been made of this important fact in any of
the declassified documents on the Cuban missile crisis. Also, Admiral
Anderson's behavior, as described by Gen. Smith, is strange, to say the
least, because, contrary to Admiral Anderson's claims, that report was
There is a serious misconception which
has become the gospel of many American journalists: The CIA, like the
gang that couldn't shoot straight, is inept and incompetent.  But
you cannot take at face value everything you read or hear about how
inept and bungling the CIA is.  The problem is that everything one
ever hears about the CIA are its failures, but the very nature of
intelligence work precludes them from announcing their successes. (This,
added to the fact that one must take with caution any intelligence
services' claims about their successes or failures.) Thus, I don't think
that in the handling of the Cuban missile crisis the CIA was
incompetent. I rahter believe it was just deceitful, which in the case
of an intelligence service is not a criticism, but a
If this sounds too close to conspiracy theory for
somebody's comfort, I have to confess that I don't have a problem with
that. At any rate, what are essentially intelligence and
counterintelligence if not a conspiracy to fool, confuse and eventually
defeat the enemy? As Umberto Eco rightly points out, "Man is an animal
who tells lies."
What is simply amazing is that most of the
American academic community, which firmly dismisses as nonsense UFOs,
ESP, and astrology, accepted as models of scholarly research early
studies of the Cuban missile crisis based almost entirely on highly
questionable information provided by the Kennedy administration, which
felt pride in its "management" of the news. The second generation of
scholars is making a similar mistake, now based on questionable
information coming from the Cuban and Russian governments, which are
known for going way beyond mere news management in their total control
of information. Scholars of the Cuban missile crisis should have treated
the information coming from such unreliable sources at least with the
same skepticism they reserve for claims of UFO abductions.
late-sixties, Professor Neal D. Houghton said that recent American
foreign policy had been so poorly conceived and so dangerous that it was
unworthy of the dominant intellectual support it had received. Too much
of what has been passing for political science scholarship, he added,
has been little more than footnoted rationalizations and huckstering of
that policy. [65 ] Most of the recent American scholarly studies about
the Cuban missile crisis are evident proof that Houghton's observation
is still valid. In a field that prides itself for detached analysis and
intellectualism, dogma and extra-academic interests run rampant.
My assertion that the presence of Soviet strategic missiles and their
nuclear warheads in Cuba in 1962 is yet to be proved, is not an
speculative, unsubstantiated hypothesis, but an uncontrovertible fact.
Intelligence services could exist only by dealing in hard knowledge. Up
to this moment, however, the alleged evidence provided to substantiate
these claims is so flimsy as to make it irrelevant.  As scientists
like to say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. In this
case, the extraordinary proof has yet to appear.
Despite all the
U.S. photographic "hard" evidence (which constitutes no evidence at
all); the assertions made by alleged participants in the Crisis (whose
credibility is highly questionable); the "triangulation" theory (which
is not triangulation at all); and the Soviet documentary evidence
recently uncovered (which has not been corroborated by independent,
unfriendly sources), the presence of Soviet strategic missiles and their
nuclear warheads in Cuba in 1962 is, to this moment, just a figment of
some people's imagination; a cargo cult which, like a malignant
meme,  has become part of the American belief system. But, as
Blight, Allyn, and Welch rightly pointed out, "deeply rooted beliefs die
1 . The word that there were Soviet missile sites in
Cuba was so widespread that Time ran an article on September 21
showing a map of Cuba clustered with Soviet ground-to-air missiles,
mainly in the Western part of the island, west and south of
2 . The quote is from Raymond L.
Garthoff, "U.S. Intelligence in the Cuban Missile Crisis," in James G.
Blight and David A Welch, eds., Intelligence and the Cuban missile
crisis (London: Frank Cass, 1998), p. 23.
. Though most alleged sightings coming from Cuban exiles located the
missiles in the Western part of the island, U-2 planes concentrated
their efforts on spying in the Eastern part of Cuba. It was not
until October 9 that the interagency Committee on Overhead
Reconnaissance (COMOR) gave authorization to fly over the Western part
4 . When U.S. Ambassador Stevenson
displayed the photographs of what he claimed were Soviet strategic
missile sites in Cuba at the U.N. Security Council meeting in October
25, Soviet Ambassador Zorin countered that the photographs were a fake.
Evidence indicates that Zorin, like most Soviet diplomats, was left out
of the loop by his own government about the events developing in Cuba.
Therefore, his doubts about the credibility of the photographs most
likely were not faked.
5 . Ibid. (Emphasis
6 . Ibid.
8 . The only exceptions I know are Richard
Ned Lebow's "Was Khrushchev Bluffing in Cuba," Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists, April 1988, pp. 38-42; and my own "El Gran Engaño," a
series of 6 articles in Spanish published in New York's El Diario-La
Prensa, on October 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, and 27, 1982. I talked to
Professor Lebow over the phone in 1993 or 1994 (I don't remember exactly
the date), and I got the impression that he recanted what he originally
wrote in the Bulletin.
9 . McCone memo in
CIA Documents on the Cuban Missile Crisis (Washington, D.C.:
Central Intelligence Agency History Staff, 1992), note 6, p.
10 . In an interesting article
enigmatically titled "DC Power and Cooling Towers," Henry Rubenstein
shows how high tech aerial photography, though a valuable means of
detection of enemy activity, requires the support of other means of
collection and analysis to become true intelligence. See H. Bradford
Westerfield, ed., Inside CIA's Private World (New Haven: Yale
University Press,1995), p. 3-26. Rubenstein's article originally
appeared in CIA's internal publication Studies in Intelligence,
vol. 16, no. 3 (Fall 1972), and was classified "Secret." Rubenstein's
article appeared in 1972, ten years after the Cuban missile crisis, and
it is safe to assume that during these years the quality of aerial
surveillance advanced considerably. Still, the inability of photographs,
by themselves alone, to serve as a source of true intelligence,
11 . As members of technologically
advanced cultures (or so we believe), we are so used to decoding
photographic images that we fail to recognize that this is not an
inborn, or intuitive process, but a learned one. Some anthropologist
have recorded the impressions of members of primitive tribes after they
have been shown a photograph for the first time in their lives. Usually
they have taken the puzzling object from the hands of the person
conducting the experiment, smelled it, looked for something on its back,
and returned the photograph without being able to decode the meaning of
the small dots appearing on its surface.
In the early 1960s, the
Cuban Institute of Cinema (ICAIC) produced a documentary film, Por
primera vez (For the First Time), which records the impressions of
farmers in the Sierra Maestra mountains after they saw the projection of
a film for the very first time in their lives. The farmer's comments
about their impressions are quite revealing, not too different from the
anthropologists' experiments described above.
12 . In his monumental work The Golden Bough, Sir
James Frazer analyzed the main principle on which magic is based.
Basically magic operates on the principle that similar objects share the
same properties. According to this, there is no difference between an
object and its photograph. Science, on the contrary, operates on the
opposite principle, which is best expressed in Einstein's Principle of
13 . Ferdinand the Saussure,
Cours de linguistique générale (Paris: Payot, 1916). Charles
Sanders Pierce, Collected Papers (Cambridge: Harvard University
14 . Saussure's quote in
Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1979), p. 15.
15 . Charles
Sanders Pierce, Collected Papers (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1931-1958), Vol. V, p. 484.
16 . Ibid,
Vol. II, p. 228.
17 . A Theory of Semiotics
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979), p. 15.
18 . Ibid.
19 . Pierce's
theories were further advanced by his followers, particularly Charles
Morris in his "Foundations of the Theory of Signs" International
Encyclopaedia of Unified Science 1-2 (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1938); Signs, Language and Behavior (New York:
Prentice-Hall, 1946); and Writings on the General Theory of Signs
(The Hague: Mouton, 1971). Though Pierce's original trichotomy of
signs has been improved, modified, and contested (See works by Umberto
Eco, Thomas A. Sebeok, and others), it is still a good introduction for
the beginning semiotician.
20 . Not all
pictures, however, are iconic signs. Contrary to common belief, most of
the small pictures appearing on the Macintosh interface are actually
symbols, not icons.
21 . For example,
after the emergence of Nazism, the swastika became to many people a
symbol of war, hatred and evil. For many centuries, however, to many
people around the world, including some American indians, the swastika
has been, and still is, a symbol of peace, love, and good
22 . The concept of aberrant decoding was
introduced by Umberto Eco in "Lignes d'une recherche sémiologique sur le
message télévisuel," a paper written in 1968 and later published in his
Recherches sur les systèmes signifiants (The Hague: Mouton,
1973). For humorous examples of aberrant decoding see Daniel Meyerowitz,
"Symbol Game," Whole Earth Review, Spring 1994, pp.
23 . In an interview for the "Secrets of
War" a documentary series produced by The Documedia Group in Los
Angeles, CA, Dino A. Brugioni, of the NPIC, stated: "Okay, this is the
picture that started the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is when we found uh,
the missiles in Cuba, and if you look close[ly] you can see it's
annotated that we not only have the missiles, and uh, but we also have
the erectors [are] in place. And this is the photograph that was shown
to President Kennedy that began the Cuban Missile Crisis." See
Transcript of interview #S3181 conducted late in 1997 with Mr. Brugioni
for "Secret of War," http://www.secretsofwar.com/experts/brugioni4.html.
But, as I will show below in this essay, Brugioni and the
photointerpreters at the NPIC actually never found any missiles in Cuba.
24 . HUMINT, ELINT, IMINT, etc., are actually
misnomers, because all these activities actually deal with data
collection, and data is not true intelligence. The product of these
activities sometimes is called "raw intelligence," but this is also a
misnomer. Raw intelligence is a contradiction in terms. Intelligence is
the conclusions based on raw data after it has been processed and
evaluated by qualified intelligence analysts. Therefore, intelligence is
a very elaborate product of the human intellect. As such, it is a very
well cooked product, with nothing raw about it.
25 . See Servando Gonzalez, "De William Randolph Hearst a
Adobe Photoshop: ¿Adónde fue a parar la realidad fotográfica?,"
Lateral (Barcelona), Año V No. 47 (November 1998), p. 12; also
Kenneth Brower, "Photography in the Age of Falsification," The
Atlantic Monthly, May 1998, pp. 92-111.
. Moreover, intelligence officers believe that there is no such thing as
a friendly intelligence service. Israel is a traditional American
friend, yet, one of his agents, Jonathan Pollard, is in an American
prison convicted of espionage. In November, 1996, after the dissolution
of the "evil empire," Harold Nicholson, a former CIA chief of station,
was charged with treason when it was discovered that he had been
recruited by the Russian intelligence services to spy on the U.S. See,
"Update - Spy Catching," Jim Lehrer's Online Newshour (November
19, 1996), http://www.pbs.org/newshour/96/fed agencies/spy-11-19.html.
Also, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russians still
maintain their installations at Lourdes, near Havana, devoted to spy on
27 . "The Cuban Missile Crisis of
1962: Presenting the Photographic Evidence Abroad," Studies in
Intelligence, Spring 1972.
28 . Graham T.
Allison, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis
(Boston: Little, Brown, Co., 1971), pp. 110-111.
29 . See, i. e., M. I. Tolochkov, Maskirovka na Voine
(Moscow: Izdatelsvo DOSAAF, 1958); Col. Iu. "Maskirovka
-delovazhoe," Voennyl Vestnik 12 (1979); Gen. V. S. Popov,
Vnezapnost' i neozhidannost' v istorii voin (Moscow: Voenno
Izdatelsvo Ministersva Oborony SSSR, 1955); A. A. Bulator and V. G.
Prozorov, Takticheskaia vnezapnost' (Moscow: Voenno Izdatelsvo
Ministersva Oborony SSSR, 1965); M. M. Kirian, "Vnezapnost',"
Sovetskaya Voennaia Entsiklopedia, Vol. 2 (Moscow: Voenno
Izdatelsvo Ministersva Oborony SSSR, 1976); V. A. Efimov and S. G.
Chemashentsev, "Maskirovka," Sovetskaya Voennaia Entsiklopedia,
Vol. 5 (Moscow: Voenno Izdatelsvo Ministersva Oborony SSSR,
30 . The Big Two: Soviet-American
Perception of Foreign Policy (New York: Pegasus, 1971), p.
31 . The Wall Street Journal,
October 24, 1962.
32 . Juan Vivés, Los amos
de Cuba (Buenos Aires: Emecé, 1982), p. 122. Of late, however, Fidel
Castro seems to have reached the conclusion that the Soviets wanted the
missiles to be discovered.
33 . I vividly
remember that the soldiers manning the antiaircraft guns were very
34 . Though Khrushchev's alcoholic
consumption had been severely cut in the late fifties on the order of
his doctors and at the insistence of his wife, he was publicly drunk in
Belgrade on at least one occasion during his visit in 1955. References
of Khrushchev stumbling after too many toasts were not uncommon in the
Western press. See, N. H. Mager and Jakes Katel, eds., Conquest
Without War (New York: Cardinal, 1961), p. 16.
35 . In his speech at the Twenty-First Congress of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Defense Minister Rodion Y.
Malinovsky asserted that Soviet missiles were "very accurate" and could
carry their hydrogen warheads "precisely to any point of the globe" a
statement that sounded to President Eisenhower like pure propaganda.
See, The New York Times, February 4 and 5, 1959.
36 . Pravda, July 10, 1960. Translated in
Current Digest of the Soviet Press, August 10, 1960, p. 5
37 . See, Ronald R. Pope,
Soviet Foreign Affairs Specialists: An Evaluation of their Direct and
Indirect Impact on Soviet Foreign Policy Decision-Making Based on their
Analysis of Cuba, 1958-1961, and Chile, 1969-1973, Ph.D.
Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1975, pp. 64-65,
38 . Quoted in Alexander Werth,
Russia Under Khrushchev (New York: Fawcett, 1961), p. 319.
39 . Khrushchev's Foreign Speeches, 1960, Vol.
2, p. 382.
40 . Fidel Castro, "Speech to the
General Assembly of the United Nations," (September 26, 1960), in Robert
F. Smith, What Happened in Cuba (New York: Twayne Publishers,
1963), p. 294.
41 . Robert D. Crassweller,
Cuba and the U.S. (Headline Series) (New York: Foreign Policy
Association, October 1971), p. 23.
42 . John
Thomas, "The Limits of Alliance: The Quemoy Crisis of 1958," in Raymond
L. Garthoff, ed., Sino- Soviet Military Relations (New York:
Praeger, 1966), pp. 114-149. See also Adam Ulam, The Rivals (New
York: Viking, 1971), pp. 292-93.
43 . "Message
from Nikita S. Khrushchev, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, to President Kennedy, Concerning
Cuba," April 18, 1961, Department of State Bulletin, May 8, 1961,
44 . John Guerassi, The Great Fear
in Latin America (New York: Collier, 1965), p. 403.
45 . See Carlos Franqui, Family Portrait with Fidel
(New York: Random House, 1984), p. 185.
. The New York Times, November 19, 1960, p. 1.
47 . Ibid, November 23, 1960, p. 11.
48 . The Nuclear Question: The United States and
Nuclear Weapons, 1946-1976 (London: Cambridge University Press,
1979), p. 105.
49 . Paul Bracken, The
Command and Control of Nuclear Forces (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1983), p. 92.
50 . Sir David Ormsby-Gore
to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, October 23, 1962, Public Records
Office, Kew, England, quoted in Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali,
"One Hell of a Gamble": Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy 1958-1964
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1997), p. 236.
Secretary of State McNamara testified that the program to remove the
obsolete Thor and Jupiter missiles dated from early 1961. See Defense
Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense Appropriations for 1964,
Hearing Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House
of Representatives, 88 Congress, 1st Session (Washington D.C.,
1963), Part I, p. 57.
52 . Castro himself
discovered some years later that Ché Guevara's symbol was more useful
and less problematic than the real Ché.
A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1979), p. 7.
54 . See Seymour Reit,
Masquerade: The Amazing Camouflage Deceptions of World War II
(New York: Signet, 1978; also Martin Young and Robbie Stamp,
Trojan Horses: Deception Operations in the Second World War
(London: Mandarin, 1991).
55 . The whole
story is told in detail in Sefton Delmer, The Counterfeit Spy
(New York: Harper & Row, 1971).
56 . On
October 16, Bundy briefly raised the issue of whether the Soviet leaders
were bluffing about the nuclear warheads. See Marc Trachtenberg, ed.
"White House Tapes and Minutes of the Cuban Missile Crisis: ExComm
Meetings, October 1962," International Security, 10/1 (Summer
1985), note 13, p. 178.
57 . At a morning
ExComm meeting on 17 October, Gen. Taylor and George Ball expressed some
doubts about the missiles and wondered if they might be a Soviet
deception to provoke the U.S. into some sort of action. Their
speculation was quickly rejected by the majority of the Excomm members.
See Mac Cone's notes on the morning ExComm meeting of 17 October in Mary
S. McAuliffe, ed., CIA Documents on the Cuban Missile Crisis
(Washington, D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency History Staff, 1992),
note 6, p. 159.
58 . "The Cuban Missile Crisis
of 1962: Presenting the Photographic Evidence Abroad," Studies in
Intelligence, Spring 1972.
59 . Technical
intelligence, as opposed to HUMINT or human intelligence. Technical
intelligence is usually so dependent upon technology that its users
assume they need little or no confirmation from agents in the
60 . Many members of the American and
British intelligence services still believe that Penkovsky was a Soviet
plant. On the other hand, proving the bona fides of an agent is very
difficult. See, i.e., Richard J. Heuer, Jr, "Nosenko: Five Paths to
Judgment," in H. Bradford Westerfield, ed., Inside CIA's Secret
World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995). Heuer's article,
originally appeared in the CIA's secretive publication Studies in
Intelligence (vol. 31, no. 3 [Fall 1987]), and classified "Secret,"
reads like Kutagawa's Rashomon. The article deals with the pros and cons
about the possibility that Nosenko, a Soviet defector, was actually a
plant. The ones who initially believed that Nosenko was a Soviet plant
proved it beyond any doubt, while the ones who initially believed he was
legit, did otherwise. After reading the article you end up more confused
than before. The same criteria applies to Penkovsky. I, for one, am
convinced that Penkovsky was a plant. My main reason, among many others,
is that he was too good to be true.
Amazingly, the American military who had boarded and inspected the
Marucla, a cargo ship bound to Cuba which they positively knew
was carrying no military materiel, abstained themselves to board and
inspect the Soviet ships who allegedly were bringing the missiles and
their warheads back to the Soviet Union. Another mystery to add to the
long list of mysteries surrounding the Cuban missile crisis.
the other hand, one can only imagine the scenario of an American search
team boarding a Soviet ship only to find out that the missiles and their
warheads were actually decoys. The U.S. would had instantly become the
laughing stock of the whole world.
62 . See
Anatoli Gribkov and William Smith, Operation Anadyr (Chicago:
Edition q, 1994), pp. 139-40.
63 . See, i. e.,
Edward G. Shirley, "Can't anybody Here Play This Game?," The Atlantic
Monthly, February 1998, pp. 45-61.
Recently declassified articles from CIA's secretive publication
Studies in Intelligence show an extremely high level of scholarly
work and competence. Even more surprising, they show an unexpected
freedom of opinion and criticism of the Agency's own operation. For a
collection of recently declassified articles originally appeared in
Studies in Intelligence, see, H. Bradford Westerfield, Inside
CIA's Private World (New Haven: Yale University Press,1995). Other
declassified articles are available on-line at the Center for the Study
65 . Neal D. Houghton, ed., Struggle Against
History (New York: Clarion, 1968).
66 . I
am not referring here to the claims that Soviet officers in Cuba in 1962
had been authorized to use tactical nuclear weapons at their discretion,
without direct orders from the Kremlin. Even after a pile of
declassified Soviet documents would have been provided as proof of this
assertion (not a single one, to this moment), one has to be very
gullible not to laugh in the face of anybody making such a farfetched
67 . "Meme" (pronounced to rhyme with
"gene") is a neologism, coined by analogy to "gene," by the writer-
zoologist Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1976). Dawkins defines a meme as a replicating
information pattern that uses minds to get itself copies into other
minds, in a virus- like fashion.
The meme is the basic unit of
replication and selection in the ideosphere. According to Dawkins,
memes, like viruses of the mind, float about in the soup of human
culture where they grow, replicate, mutate, compete, or become extinct.
As Nazism and Marxism have shown, however, a meme doesn't need to be
true to be powerful.
68 . James G. Blight,
Bruce J. Allyn, and David A. Welch, "Kramer VS. Kramer: Or, How Can You
Have Revisionism in the Absence of Orthodoxy?" Cold War International
History Bulletin No. 3 (Fall 1993), p. 41.