Michael Gaynor
Libya looks like Obama's Bay of Pigs
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By Michael Gaynor
March 18, 2011

The Castro brothers are still ruling Cuba. Likewise, the Gadhafi family isn't going to relinquish control over Libya, it will have to be taken away.

Remember JFK's Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961?

President Obama would be well advised to study it instead of play golf or basketball.

We don't know how involved the United States was in the revolt against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, but there's no dispute that President Obama publicly declared that Gadhafi had to go and froze Gadhafi assets, encouraging the rebellion.

The rebellion is failing after an impressive start. Obama's rhetoric and economic measures are not enough. The rebels don't have an air force, and Obama hasn't provided vitally important air cover. Gadhafi has an air force AND ground forces that are methodically suppressing the rebellion.

The Obama Administration condemnations of Gadhafi for killing his own people sound great, but they are not saving the rebels from a terrible fate.

Libya isn't Vietnam.

Libya's a desert where control of the skies is huge.

Special Assistant to President Kennedy Arthur Schlesinger, in explaining JFK's Bay of Pigs fiasco, stated: "One further factor no doubt influenced [JFK], the enormous confidence in his own luck. Everything had broken right for him since 1956. He had won the nomination and the election against all the odds in the book. Everyone around him thought he had the Midas touch and could not lose. Despite himself, even this dispassionate and skeptical man may have been affected by the soaring euphoria of the new day."

BHO (and all Americans), beware of your overconfidence AND ignorance.

JFK withheld United States air cover and that guaranteed that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro would retain power.

Special Counsel to President Kennedy Theodore Sorenson, in his biography Kennedy at p. 301:

"With hindsight it is clear that what in fact [President Kennedy] had approved was diplomatically unwise and militarily doomed from the outset. What he thought he was approving appeared at the time to have diplomatic acceptability and little chance of outright failure. That so great a gap between concept and actuality should exist at so high a level on so dangerous a matter reflected a shocking number of errors in the whole decision-making process-errors which permitted bureaucratic momentum to govern instead of policy leadership.

"1. The president thought he was approving a quiet, even though large-scale, reinfiltration of fourteen hundred Cuban exiles back into their homeland. He had been assured that the plan as revised to meet his criteria was an unspectacular and quiet landing of patriots plausibly Cuban in its essentials, of which the air strike was the only really noisy enterprise that remained. Their landing was, in fact, highly publicized in advance and deliberately trumpeted as an 'invasion,' and their numbers deliberately and grossly overstated-in part by exile groups and officials hoping to arouse the Cuban people to join them, in part by Castro to inflate first his danger and then his victory, and in part by headline writers to whom 'invasion' sounded more exciting than a landing of fourteen hundred men. The CIA even dictated battle communiqués to a Madison Avenue public relations firm representing the exiles' political front. After all the military limitations accepted in order to keep this nation's role covert, that role was not only obvious but exaggerated.

"2. The President thought he was approving a plan whereby the exiles, should they fail to hold and expand a beachhead, could take up guerilla warfare with other rebels in the mountains. They were, in fact, given contrary instructions to fall back on the beaches in case of failure; the immediate area was not suitable for guerrilla warfare, as the President had been assured; the vast majority of brigade members had not been given guerrilla training, as he had been assured; and the eighty-mile route to the Escambray Mountains, to which he had been assured they could escape, was so long, so swampy and so covered by Castro's troops that this was never a realistic alternative. It was never even planned by the CIA officers in charge of the operation, and they neither told the President they thought this option was out nor told the exiles that this was the President's plan.

"3. The President thought he was permitting the Cuban exiles, as represented by their Revolutionary Council and brigade leaders, to decide whether they wished to risk their own lives and liberty for the liberty of their country without any overt American support. Most members of the brigade were in fact under the mistaken impression, apparently from their CIA contacts, that American armed forces would openly and directly assist them, if necessary, to neutralize the air (presumably with jets), make certain of their ammunition and prevent their defeat. They also mistakenly assumed that a larger exile force would land with them, that the Cuban underground or guerillas would join them and that another landing elsewhere on the island would divert Castro's forces. (A small diversionary landing was, in fact, scheduled but called off after two tries.) Their assumptions were not made known to the President, just as his were not made known to them; and the Revolutionary Council was similarly kept largely uninformed on the landing and largely out of touch with the brigade. Its President, Dr. José Miró Cardona, who believed that only American armed might could overturn Castro, did not pass on the message he received from Kennedy's emissaries that no American military help would be forthcoming.

"4. President Kennedy thought he was approving a plan calculated to succeed with the help of the Cuban underground, military desertions and in time an uprising of a rebellious population. In fact, both Castro's popularity and his police state measures, aided by the mass arrests which promptly followed the bombings and landing, proved far stronger than the operation's planners had claimed. The planners, moreover, had no way to alert the underground without alerting Castro's forces. Cooperation was further impaired by the fact that some of the exiles' left-wing leaders were mistrusted by the CIA, just as some of their right-wing leaders and brigade members were mistrusted by the Cuban underground. As a result, although the brigade was aided after its landing by some defectors and villagers, no coordinated uprising or underground effort was really planned or possible, particularly in the brief time the brigade was carrying the fight. In short, the President had given his approval with the understanding that there were only two possible outcomes-a national revolt or a flight to the hills-and in fact neither was remotely possible.

"5. The President thought he was approving a plan rushed into execution on the grounds that Castro would later acquire the military capability to defeat it. Castro, in fact, already possessed that capability. Kennedy was told that Castro had only an obsolete, ineffective air force not in combat condition, no communications in the Bay of Pigs-Zapata Swamp area and no forces nearby. All these reports were wrong: expected mass defections did not materialize; Castro's T-33 jet trainers were much more effective than predicted; and Castro's forces moved to the beachhead and crushed the exile force with far greater strength, equipment and speed than all the estimates had anticipated. Indeed, the jet trainers-which were largely responsible for the ammunition losses and other failures-had been largely overlooked by the planners.

"The President, having approved the plan with assurances that it would be both clandestine and successful, thus found in fact that it was too large to be clandestine and too small to be successful. Ten thousand exiles might have done it-or twenty thousand-but not fourteen hundred, as bravely and brilliantly as they fought. General Taylor's subsequent review found the whole plan to have been militarily marginal: there were too few men in the brigade, too few pilots in the air arm, too few seconds-in-command to relieve fatigued leaders, too few reserves to replace battle losses and too many unforeseen obstacles. The brigade relied, for example, on a nighttime landing through uncharted reefs in boats with outboard motors. Even with ample ammunition and control of the air, even with two more air strikes twice as large, the brigade could not have broken out of its beachhead or survived much longer without substantial help from either American forces or the Cuban people. Neither was in the cards, and thus a brigade victory at the Bay of Pigs was never in the cards either."

To be sure, Sorenson was a Kennedy loyalist and protectively portrayed JFK as a victim, but he did acknowledge failure.

On April 20, 1961, President Kennedy discussed Cuba before the American Society of Newspaper Editors and denied United States involvement.

"...This was a struggle of Cuban patriots against a Cuban dictator. While we could not be expected to hide our sympathies, we made it repeatedly clear that the armed forces of this country would not intervene in any way.

"But let the record show that our restraint is not inexhaustible... if the nations of this hemisphere should fail to meet their commitments against outside communist penetration-then I want it clearly understood that this government will not hesitate in meeting its primary obligations which are to the security of our nation."

The truth is that the Kennedy Administration lied about the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

"These are the undeniable facts:

1. The invasion was planned by the U.S.

2. The exile army was recruited, trained, paid, and supplied by the U.S.

3. Planes, boats, tanks and all military equipment was supplied by the U.S.

4. The provisional government was assembled and funded by the U.S.

5. The first on the beach were American frogmen.

6. Four American pilots were killed in battle."

J.A. Sierra, "Invasion at Bay of Pigs" (/www.historyofcuba.com/history/baypigs/pigs5.htm)

Sierra: "At a meeting on January 28 the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke strongly against invasion on the grounds that Castro's forces were already too strong. At the same meeting, the Secretary of Defense estimated that all the covert measures planned against Castro, including propaganda, sabotage, political action and the planned invasion, would not produce 'the agreed national goal of overthrowing Castro.'"

Without air cover from the United States, the attempted liberation of Cuba surely was doomed.

Wikipedia(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_of_Pigs_Invasion):

"Following the air strikes on airfields on April 15, 1961, the FAR [Castro's air force) managed to prepare for armed action at least four T-33s, four Sea Furies and five or six B-26s. All three types were armed with machine guns for air-to-air combat and for strafing of ships and ground targets. CIA planners had failed to discover that the US-supplied T-33 jets had long been armed with M-3 machine guns. The three types could also carry bombs, for attacks against ships and tanks.

"No additional air strikes against Cuban airfields and aircraft were specifically planned before 17 April, because B-26 pilots' exaggerated claims gave the CIA false confidence in the success of the 15 April attacks, until U-2 reconnaissance photos on 16 April showed otherwise. Late on 16 April, President Kennedy ordered cancellation of further airfield strikes planned for dawn on 17 April, to attempt plausible deniability of US direct involvement."

To be sure, JFK wanted Castro overthrown, but he failed miserably in trying.

As Sierra noted: "By the time Kennedy took office in January 1961, he had already made serious commitments to the Cuban exiles, promising to oppose communism at every opportunity, and supporting the overthrow of Castro. During the campaign, Kennedy had repeatedly accused Eisenhower of not doing enough about Castro."

The February 18, 1961 issue of the Kiplinger Washington Letter stated: "Castro in Cuba will be overthrown within months."

Less than two months later, the Kennedy Administration began the effort to overthrow Castro...and then abandoned Brigade 2506 at the Bay of Pigs.

Sierra:

"The counterrevolutionary forces, known as Brigade 2506, were assembled at Retalhuleu, on the west coast of Guatemala, where U.S. engineers refurbished the airport especially for the mission. Six ships sailed from Nicaragua's Puerto Cabezas on April 14, cheered by Nicaraguan president and U.S.-friendly dictator Luis Somoza, who jokingly urged the soldiers to bring him some hairs from Castro's beard.

"The Cuban government knew an invasion was coming, but could not guess exactly when or where the attack would take place. When teams of U.S. B-26 bombers began attacking four Cuban airfields simultaneously on Saturday, April 15, the Cubans were prepared. Castro later testified that the few planes belonging to the Cuban Air Force had been dispersed and camouflaged, with some obsolete, unusable planes left out to fool the attackers and draw the bombs.

"As part of the CIA cover story, the attacking B-26 planes were disguised to look as if they were Cuban planes flown by defecting Cubans. An exile Cuban pilot named Mario Zúñiga was presented to the media as a defector, and photographed next to his plane. The photo was published in most of the major papers, but the surprising omission of several serious details, and the overwhelming amount of information already gathered by reporters, helped bring out the truth much sooner than anyone expected.

"Before the operation began, CIA operatives were sent to Cuba to aid the invading forces. Their task was to blow up key bridges and perform other acts of terrorism that would make it appear as if the people of Cuba were joining the invasion. José Basulto was one of those operatives. He flew straight into Havana airport posing as a student from Boston College coming home on vacation.

"Shortly after the attack started, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, flatly rejected Cuba's report of the attack, telling the General Assembly that the attacking planes were from the Cuban Air Force and presenting a copy of the photograph published in the newspapers. In the photo, the plane shown has an opaque nose, whereas the model of the B-26 planes used by the Cubans had a Plexiglas nose. Within a few hours the truth was revealed, and Stevenson was extremely embarrassed to learn that Kennedy had referred to him as 'my official liar.'

"The landing began shortly before midnight on Sunday, April 16, after a team of frogmen went ashore and set up landing lights to guide the operation. The invading force consisted of 1,500 men divided into six battalions, with Manuel Artime as the political chief.

"Two battalions came ashore at Playa Girón and one at Playa Larga, but the operation didn't go as smoothly as expected. The razor-sharp coral reefs, identified as seaweed by U2 spy photos, delayed the landing enough to expose it to air attacks the following morning. Two ships sank about 80 yards from shore, and some heavy equipment was lost.

"Cuban militia commander José Ramón González Suco was one of five men stationed in Playa Larga when the invasion began, and the first to report the invasion.

"On Monday, April 17, as the invasion was well under way, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk gave a press conference. 'The American people are entitled to know whether we are intervening in Cuba or intend to do so in the future,' he said. 'The answer to that question is no. What happens in Cuba is for the Cuban people to decide.'

"Basulto was never told when the invasion would begin. He was surprised to hear the attack had started and didn't have time to get around to completing his assignment. Instead he drove out to Guantánamo and jumped the fence into the U.S. Naval Base.

"By 3 a.m. Monday morning Castro knew about the landing, and the Cuban government responded almost immediately, taking a superior position in the air during the early morning hours. Cuban pilot Captain Enrique Carreras Rojas was able to quickly sink the command vessel 'Maropa' and the supply ship 'Houston.'

"After Ambassador Stevenson became aware of the true facts, he was so outraged that he publicly urged Washington to stop the attack and avoid further embarrassment. Soviet Ambassador Zorin said, 'Cuba is not alone today. Among her most sincere friends the Soviet Union is to be found.'

"At 12:15 Kennedy received a letter from Khrushchev in which the Soviet leader stated: 'It is a secret to no one that the armed bands invading this country were trained, equipped and armed in the United States of America. The planes which are bombing Cuban cities belong to the United States of America; the bombs they are dropping are being supplied by the American Government...."

"The expected supporting air cover by the U.S. Air Force never came. In a political environment full of posturing, threats and confusion, [Secretary of State] Rusk advised Kennedy to back off, concluding that additional strikes would tilt international opinion too far against the U.S.

"'At about 9:30 p.m. on April 16,' describes L. Fletcher Prouty in Bay of Pigs: The Pivotal Operation of the JFK Era, ... 'Mr. McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President, telephoned the CIA's General C.P. Cabell to inform him that the air strikes the following dawn should not be launched until they could be conducted from a strip within the beachhead.'"

"In a desperate last-ditch effort to support the invasion, a limited air strike was approved on April 19, but it would not be enough, and four American pilots lost their lives that day. At 2:30 p.m., brigade commander 'Pepe' Perez San Roman ordered radio operator Julio Monzon Santos to transmit a final message from brigade 2506. 'We have nothing left to fight with,' San Roman said, his voice breaking, 'how can you people do this to us, our people, our country? Over and out.'

"Without supplies or air cover, the invading forces fell. To them, the lack of air cover was a direct betrayal. In the end, 200 rebel soldiers were killed, and 1,197 others were captured."

Arthur Schesinger complimented Fidel Castro: "The reality was that Fidel Castro turned out to be a far more formidable foe and in command of a far better organized regime than anyone had supposed. His patrols spotted the invasion at almost the first possible moment. His planes reacted with speed and vigor. His police eliminated any chance of sabotage or rebellion behind the lines. His soldiers stayed loyal and fought hard. He himself never panicked; and, if faults were chargeable to him, they were his overestimate of the strength of the invasion and undue caution in pressing the ground attack against the beachhead. His performance was impressive."

The Castro brothers are still ruling Cuba. Likewise, the Gadhafi family isn't going to relinquish control over Libya, it will have to be taken away.

© Michael Gaynor

 

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)

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