How a Failed American Policy Toward Cuba Killed JFK
The deadly events in Tucson remind one of the killing 47 years ago of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy by a mentally disturbed Lee Harvey Oswald. The Tucson shooter appears to have disturbing personality traits similar to those of Oswald.
Kennedy might still be alive today but for America’s Cold War Cuba policy, which so enraged Oswald. It’s also possible that 56,000 Americans lost in Vietnam might be still with us if Oswald had not shot Kennedy.
Some historians believe JFK would have rejected Cold War hawks’ advice and withdrawn from Vietnam after the 1964 elections. Secretary of State Dean Rusk claimed Kennedy never discussed leaving Vietnam. But Ted Sorenson, JFK’s counsel and speechwriter, disagreed.
When JFK arrived in Texas, a full-page Dallas Morning News advertisement asked why Kennedy had “scrapped the Monroe Doctrine in favor of the Spirit of Moscow.” It claimed he was pro-Communist, if not a traitor.
A month earlier, on United Nations Day, Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker, a racist John Birch Society activist, denounced the U.N. in Dallas. His supporters distributed handouts with photographs of Kennedy and the headline “Wanted for Treason.” U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson was spit upon by anti-Castro extremists there. Kennedy was warned to avoid Texas because of its hate-filled climate. He stoically remarked that the Secret Service could “never protect any president from a determined killer.”
The CIA had initiated several attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro and ironically, the very day Kennedy was shot, Rolando Cubela Secades, a traitorous Cuban official, met with the CIA in Paris, where he received a ballpoint pen rigged with a poisonous hypodermic needle intended to produce Castro’s instant death.
The world’s initial reaction was that Kennedy had been shot by a right-wing extremist. Warren Commission and other investigations proved Oswald was the antithesis. Indeed, he’d attempted to murder the ultra-right Gen. Walker on April 10, 1963.
Oswald was a professed Marxist, lifelong loser, a former Marine sharpshooter suspected of killing a fellow Marine while overseas. A defector to Russia, he’d worked three years in a Minsk radio factory, marrying Marina, a Russian citizen. Although American media painted Oswald as uneducated, he had above average intelligence, was well-read and fluent in English and Russian.
A dyslexic, he had an abysmal school attendance record, as he preferred reading or watching TV at home. Totally self-centered, he abused his wife. His domineering mother, Marguerite, neglected him and his older brother. He was investigated by the Soviet KGB, CIA and FBI, all of which found him disturbed and potentially dangerous.
Returning from Russia, Oswald distributed literature while in New Orleans for the Fair Play For Cuba Organization. Interviewed on TV, he claimed it “favored restoration of diplomatic, trade and tourist relations with Cuba, and was not Communist-controlled.” Unable to earn a decent living for his growing young family, he unsuccessfully sought a visa to return to Russia via Cuba. Unfortunately, neither government embassy he contacted in Mexico City would grant him permission to enter their countries. Had he returned to Russia, JFK would have lived.
Paradoxically, Oswald and his wife personally admired Kennedy. Contrary to popular belief, he did not seek employment at the Texas Book Depository in order to kill Kennedy. Marina’s friend Ruth Paine had helped him find employment there on Oct. 15, weeks before Kennedy’s visit. Paid $1.25 an hour, he was a reliable worker. Fate placed this disturbed and armed individual where he had access to Kennedy’s motorcade. The FBI knew he was a volatile defector, but neglected to inform the Secret Service of his potential for trouble.
When Barack Obama was born, Fidel Castro had been in power two years. When the durable Fidel dies, Cuban-American ideologues and jingoists like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee, will urge overthrowing his brother, Raúl Castro, “to restore democracy to Cuba.” Unlike his quick-on-the-trigger predecessor, the more prudent Obama believes ending two costly wars sounder policy than launching a new one.
The punitive Cuban embargo remains in place, but new administration rules will expand purposeful travel to Cuba and provide economic assistance to Cuba. The U.S. now offers general licenses to religious and credit-earning academic travel and authorizes U.S. airports to host licensed flights there.
America’s long blind obsession with isolating Communist Cuba cost America a great president and perhaps thousands of military lives and casualties in Vietnam. Let’s hope Obama’s new initiatives bring the peoples of the two nations closer together.
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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