A Missile is a Missile is a Missile:
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 pipe."

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 1962.

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, [1] 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, [3] brought the first high- altitude photographs of what seemed to be Soviet strategic missile sites, in different stages of completion, deployed on Cuban soil.

Once the 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 [4] (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.

The 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." [5]

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. [6]

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." [7]

Nevertheless, 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." [9]

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. [10] 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 the obvious.

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 thinking. [12]

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 semiotics. [13]

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." [14] 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." [15] To Pierce, the interpretant was the mental image created in the mind of an interpreter.
According to Pierce, a sign is "something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity." [16] 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 unreal.

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 relationships.

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, [20] and photographs are typical iconic signs. Usually, iconic signs stand for particular, specific things.

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. [22] 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. [23] 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 a missile.

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, [25] 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 never verified.

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. [26] Even is some day this becomes accepted practice in the historian's profession, it will never be adopted in the intelligence field.

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." [27]

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 the crisis.
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. [28]

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. [29] 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. [30] 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." [31]

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 missiles.

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 orders. [32]

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.

In another 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 fire.

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 American eyes.

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.

Strategic 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 capitalism.

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 [34] 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). [35] (Applause). This, if you wish, is a warning for those who would like to settle international issues by force and not by reason. (Ovation). [36]

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. [37] 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." [38] 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." [39 ]

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. [41]

Khrushchev's "missile 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.

On 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 warheads.

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. [44]

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.

Obviously, Moscow's 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. [47] 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.

Premier Khrushchev 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." [48] 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." [49]

In a private conversation with his British friend David Ormsby-Gore, Kennedy told him that the missiles in Turkey were "more or less useless." [50] 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. [51] 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 Images

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. [53]

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.

During World 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 hard evidence.

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. [54] 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 unmolested.

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. [55] 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 plans.

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, [56] General Maxwell Taylor and Deputy Secretary of State George Ball, [57] were none of them directly linked to the American intelligence services.

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. [58]

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.

The triangulation theory, however, has some flaws. In the first place, both the Corona and the U-2s photos fall into the TECHINT [59] 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. [61] 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. [62]

It makes 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 extremely significant.

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. [63] But you cannot take at face value everything you read or hear about how inept and bungling the CIA is. [64] 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 compliment.

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.

In the 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. [66] 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, [67] has become part of the American belief system. But, as Blight, Allyn, and Welch rightly pointed out, "deeply rooted beliefs die hard." [68]



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 Havana.

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.

3 . 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 of Cuba.

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 added.)

6 . Ibid.

7 . 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. 374.

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, persists.

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 Locality.

13 . Ferdinand the Saussure, Cours de linguistique générale (Paris: Payot, 1916). Charles Sanders Pierce, Collected Papers (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1931-1958).

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 luck.

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. 48-49.

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.

26 . 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 the U.s.

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, 1976).

30 . The Big Two: Soviet-American Perception of Foreign Policy (New York: Pegasus, 1971), p. 183.

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 young.

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 (emphasis added).

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, 111-112.

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, p. 662.

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.

46 . 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.

51 . 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.

53 . 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 field.

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.

61 . 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.

On 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.

64 . 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 of Intelligence.

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 claim.

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.

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