Back in April 1961, following John F. Kennedy's inauguration, the incident known as the "Bay of Pigs" occurred. When Fidel Castro became Cuba's new dictator in 1959, he expelled American corporations and the Central Intelligence Agency. To remove the Communist threat from the Caribbean, the U.S. government secretly enlisted an army of Cuban exiles and American mercenaries determined to overthrow Castro's Cuba with CIA backing. Richard Nixon, vice president at the time, approved and helped plan this invasion. The CIA promised the White House that an internal revolt would occur in Cuba and Castro would be overthrown.
The uprising didn't materialize. On April 17, 1961, a force of anti-Castro Cuban refugees attempted to establish a beachhead in Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Overpowered by Castro's troops -- and by the failure of American airpower to support the landing forces -- the insurgency failed. It became the greatest disaster in the history of the CIA. President John F. Kennedy could have been impeached for this failure if he didn't handle it the way he did. He surprised everyone by taking full blame for the failure. Still, he was hiding a deadly secret from the American people -- a secret that would haunt him to the day of his death in Dallas, only to be revealed 15 years later.
Following the Bay of Pigs, three men resigned from Kennedy's administration, men who were involved in the preparation and who went forward with the invasion of Cuba without Kennedy's approval. At the time of the men's departure, Kennedy made a deal with them -- a deal not revealed until the Rockefeller Commission was convened and the facts made public.
The press suspected there was more to the story, and on April 21, Kennedy was hounded by reporters. "I think that facts of the matter involving Cuba will come out in due time," he told them. "I'm sure an effort will be made to determine the facts accurately. As for me, I'm confining myself to my statement for good reason."
The secret was that these three CIA men who resigned under Kennedy were, we discovered 15 years later, actually fired. I believe this early episode in Kennedy's presidency led to his decision to either overhaul or eliminate the CIA, since it had too much power. He was murdered before he got the chance. The CIA lived on, and the three men he fired kept their careers intact. One of them, Allen Dulles, was later hired by Lyndon B. Johnson to be one of seven commissioners on the Warren Commission to investigate the JFK assassination. The others were Gen. Charles Cabell and Richard Bissell Jr.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & oday, there's a well-known feud between the CIA and the White House. Former CIA Director George Tenet seemed to support the Bush administration when he told the world that proving the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a "slam-dunk." Nevertheless, the rank and file of the CIA has been rebelling against the White House's "cowboy diplomacy," which has included ignoring the Geneva Conventions and torturing terror suspects. A great deal of leaked information has proved this to be the case.
Still, as reported by the Washington Post and others, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld simply worked around the problem by creating the Strategic Support Branch, a small group inside the Pentagon that does what the CIA is supposed to do, except with no oversight from anyone outside the executive branch.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he Bush administration should listen to the current CIA, which has developed a more pragmatic view of the world. Instead, the administration finds itself facing sharp criticism from around the world and even at home from six retired generals who have complained that Rumsfeld is doing a lousy job of running the Iraq war.
But Bush is an expert at avoiding answering any questions put to him. This administration expects us to accept its preposterous explanation for the entire Iraq fiasco without further questioning or demands for accountability.
Why are there no prominent elected officials calling for Bush's impeachment? Nixon was brought down for less during the Watergate years, as was Andrew Johnson following Lincoln's assassination -- and recently with former President Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Had Kennedy publicly fired the three men responsible for the Bay of Pigs, history may have taken a different course. It's similar to when Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gerald Ford and George Bush Sr. first came to power during the Nixon Administration; little did the American people know they would still be influencing the country more than 30 years later. This is why I'm writing about the Kennedy administration. With all its faults, it was still an open and honest administration, not like the one running this country today.
A week after the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy said: "This administration intends to be candid about its errors, for a wise man once said, an error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it."
An out-of-control CIA was an error that has been corrected, via Congressional oversight, over time. Now there's the Strategic Support Branch -- Rumsfeld and Cheney's new CIA. Of course Bush won't correct this error; we can only hope our next president will. Otherwise a shadow agency, without the permission or knowledge of the American people, will guide our foreign policy into even more disasters.
John A. Gaetano is the author of America the Beautiful, a JFK assassination-inspired novel. Gaetano can be reached at 499-1295.