Memo: U.S. Mulled Fake Cuba Pretext

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Steve Wagner

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Apr 25, 2001, 7:36:41 PM4/25/01
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This is hot off the Associated Press wire, Wed., 4-25-01:

http://wire.ap.org/APnews/center_story.html?FRONTID=NATIONAL&STORYID=APIS7BJJO000

April 25, 17:05 EST

Memo: U.S. Mulled Fake Cuba Pretext

By RON KAMPEAS
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Seeking a pretext to invade Cuba, senior Kennedy
administration officials contemplated blowing up a U.S. navy ship in
Guantanamo Bay, faking casualties, and blaming it on Fidel Castro,
according to declassified papers.

In a March 1962 memo, an anonymous Pentagon official outlined "a
series of well coordinated incidents ... to take place in and around
Guantanamo to give genuine appearance of being done by hostile Cuban
forces."

Possibilities included "Sabotage ship in harbor; large fires --
napthalene," a misspelling of naphthalene, a combustible chemical
compound, and "Sink ship near harbor entrance. Conduct funeral for mock
victims."

A March 13, 1962, letter from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Lyman
Lemnitzer to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara says the chiefs have
studied the document and "recommend that the proposed memorandum be
forwarded as a preliminary submission suitable for planning purposes."

The Lemnitzer letter and the memo were uncovered by author James
Bamford, whose book, "Body of Secrets," includes a chapter on covert
anti-Castro activities. The George Washington University-affiliated
National Security Archives also revealed the memo and related
documents.

The memo was written at the behest of senior Joint Chiefs official
Brig. Gen. William Craig, who was involved in planning "Operation
Mongoose," the ill-fated attempt to topple the Castro regime through
sabotage and disruption.

A month earlier, Craig had written Attorney General Robert Kennedy --
who supervised Mongoose -- urging him to consider such pretexts, but
only as a last resort.

The author of the anonymous memo describes his proposals as "Remember
the Maine incidents." The USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor in 1898,
killing 266 sailors, and quickly became the pretext for U.S.
intervention in the Cuban revolution, sparking the Spanish-American
war. It is not known whether the explosion was accidental or sabotage.

Among the proposed "incidents":

-- Blowing up a pilotless drone near Cuban waters, and pretending the
wreckage was of a military plane shot down by Castro's forces.
"Casualty lists in U.S. papers would cause a helpful wave of national
indignation," it suggests.

-- Launching a pretend terror campaign in the Miami area and in
Washington, even faking some woundings.

-- Recruiting friendly Cubans to stage an attack on the U.S. naval
base, riots near the base, and sabotage inside the base.

In his letter to Attorney General Kennedy, Craig says faking pretexts
for invasion is a "dangerous game" and prefers sabotage and backing of
dissidents that characterized Mongoose.

Still, he urges Kennedy to consider feinting an invasion into Cuba to
provoke the Cubans into attacking the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base --
which would provide a real pretext to invade Cuba.

"The military believe that the continued existence of the Castro
Communist regime is incompatible with the minimum security requirements
of the United States and the entire Western Hemisphere," Craig writes.

The memos were written nine months after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, when
Castro's forces crushed a CIA-trained Cuban exile army. Smarting from
the humiliation, U.S. military leaders were eager to bring Castro to
heel.

In his book, Bamford says Lemnitzer's personal writings suggest he
fully endorsed faking pretexts to invade Cuba, and urged the proposals
to McNamera, who rejected them.

The former defense secretary denied ever hearing of such plans, and
said he didn't believe Lemnitzer or Attorney General Kennedy seriously
considered them.

"I cannot conceive of (the Mongoose) committee thinking about a
'Remember the Maine' operation, it makes no sense," McNamera told the
AP. "There were contingency war plans, yes, but there are contingency
plans to invade the moon."

However, others said such proposals were par for the course at the
time. Wayne Smith, at the time a Cuba desk officer at the State
Department, noted that a plan to fake a Cuban attack on Guantanamo
simultaneous with the Bay of Pigs landing failed because the boat
carrying the faux-Cuban soldiers developed engine trouble.

"After the Bay of Pigs, nothing could raise our eyebrows," he said.

---

On the Net:

National Security Archive: http://www.nsarchive.org

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