[News] Cuba: Notes on a History of Best Intentions

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Sep 28 11:14:20 EDT 2015


*September 28, 2015

  Cuba: Notes on a History of Best Intentions

by Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés 

    The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through
    disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction
    and hardship….every possible means should be undertaken promptly to
    weaken the economic life of Cuba. If such a policy is adopted, it
    should be the result of a positive decision which would call forth a
    line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible,
    makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to
    decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation
    and overthrow of government.

    -Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Lester D.

In his Dec. 17, 2014 statement calling for normalization of diplomatic 
relations with Cuba, President Barak Obama paused to speak 
directly to the Cuban people. “We believe that you should be empowered 
to live with dignity and self-determination,” he said. No mention was 
made of Lester D. Mallory. [1]

Even while strenuously working to destroy the Cuban revolution, US 
presidents like to say that Cubans should decide their own future. But 
what if the Cuban people decided to choose communism?

Alluding to the sordid history of US efforts to dissuade Cubans from 
choosing communism, Obama said that it was all “rooted in the best of 
intentions.” Here is an example of one of those best intentions.

*The Cuban project*

 From the early 1960s, sabotage and terrorist attacks against Cuba were 
carried out as direct action by the US government such as the guerrilla 
offensive in the Escambray Mountains in 1960 organized by the CIA. When 
it failed, the Eisenhower administration decided to arm and train an 
exile invasion force to land at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961.

After that failed, a more ambitious program of sabotage and political 
propaganda continued under the Cuban Project (Operation Mongoose), begun 
by order of President John F. Kennedy in November 1961. The operation 
was led by Air Force General Edward Lansdale and directed by Attorney 
General Bobby Kennedy. The objective was “to help the Cubans overthrow 
the Communist regime from within Cuba and institute a new government 
with which the United States can live in peace.” [2]

Although the schedule of actions required precision planning and 
execution with little room for error, Lansdale acknowledged that “We 
still know too little about the real situation inside Cuba,” but the 
Project went forward anyway into official uncertainty.

The Project’s central strategy was the promotion of civil discontent and 
social upheaval that would lead to a coup, a provisional government and 
US intervention. The United States would be justified in intervening 
militarily because of having suffered “justifiable grievances” from the 
false-flag operations it would have set in motion.

Lansdale’s counterrevolutionary plan – intentionally or not – mimicked 
the revolutionary strategy of Fidel Castro’s July 26 Movement. Both are 
based on winning popular support through “a strongly motivated political 
action movement”; a military arm (“an action arm for sabotage and armed 
resistance”) and communication with the population (“its own voice for 
psychological operations”).

Success depended on “the sympathetic support of the majority of the 
Cuban people” to set in motion the events leading to a revolt and 
foreign (US) intervention. Nevertheless, the plan recognized that such a 
popular movement did not exist and would have to be created by outside 
pressures to weaken the economy and enrage the population. Thus, “the 
political actions will be assisted by economic warfare to include an 
embargo and sabotage of Cuba’s sugar crop starting in 1961, to induce 
failure of the Communist regime’s ability to supply Cuba’s economic 
needs.” This was the Lester D. Mallory prescription.

To soften up Cuba for the Mongoose attack, the Joint Chiefs of Staff 
planned Operation Northwoods, which was an anthology of bizarre and 
odious false-flag operations 
<http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/news/20010430/northwoods.pdf.> designed 
to create real or faked terrorist incidents that would justify armed 
invasion. Northwoods was never implemented, but just think how the 
United States would suffer Lansdale’s planned “justifiable grievances” 
if one of these cunning plans had been carried out:

    We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami
    area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington.

    We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba.

    We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or

Of course, any real Cuban killed in any of these operations would not be 
“empowered to live with dignity.”

Because of the intelligence failures in planning for the Bay of Pigs 
invasion, the new project called for the CIA to find hard information 
from Cuban exiles arriving in Miami. The CIA will recruit assets from 
among these Cubans at the Opa-locka Interrogation Center in Miami. The 
lack of available “political action agents” – saboteurs, assassins and 
other operatives – necessary for operations inside Cuba, led the CIA to 
recruit 30 candidates from among Cuban exiles. These were necessary to 
set up 20 bases inside Cuba to foment the required “popular movement.”

“The climactic moment of revolt,” in Lansdale’s fabricated popular 
movement of Cubans deciding their own destiny, was to be the point at 
which they would react in anger to some government action or process 
brought about by the Project – open revolt would follow. The “popular 
rebellion” would then take and hold areas of the country giving “the 
free nations of the Western Hemisphere” the opportunity to offer assistance.

Cubans and populations of other Latin American nations were to be 
enlisted in the Project by closely identifying the Soviet Union with the 
Cuban government. The CIA was to generate public demonstrations in Latin 
America against a Sovietized Cuba with the help of psychological 
operations funded by the United States Agency for International 
Development (USAID). The world outside of Cuba would be encouraged to 
view actions of the Cuban government as “foreign tyranny” imposed by the 
Soviet Union on a puppet government. In this way, the Project would 
redefine the Cuban revolution as an issue of the Cold War and accuse the 
Soviet Union with doing exactly what the United States was planning to 
do to Cuba.

Lansdale issued a follow-up report 
on February 20, 1962, proposing a more elaborate and meticulous 
timetable culminating in the overthrow of the Cuban government in 
October 1962. In ran from “Phase I, Action, March 1962. Start moving 
in,” to “Phase VI, Final, during month of October 1962. Establishment of 
new government.”

There you have it — just eight months to empower Cubans into a new 

In the process, the plan lays out schedules for sabotage, radio 
propaganda, development of an underground, insertion of freedom fighters 
from abroad (Hungary, Poland, Latin America) and assassination of top 
Cuban leaders.

The United States would quickly grant recognition to a provisional 
government, “To give legality to the moral right of the Cuban revolt.” 
There would be an interregnum of indefinite length, presumably under US 

The detailed schedule was of course never followed because of the 
ensuing missile crisis in October, but the general outlines of the 
Project will show up in a more political form in the 1996 Helms-Burton 
Act and reworked again in the proposals for Assistant to a Free Cuba 
during the George W. Bush administration.

Manuel Hevia, director of the history section of the Cuban State 
Security Archives, said in a 2002 radio interview 
<http://cuba.cu/gobierno/documentos/2002/esp/m260502e.html> that 
Mongoose was not suspended after the Missile Crisis but was “liquidated 
as a subversive operation by our people, even without knowing the name 
with which our enemies had baptized it.”

Lansdale’s expectation that a popular rebellion in Cuba could be 
manufactured lived on after the Project was dropped in the form of 
“democracy promotion” through funding of civil society organizations and 
the creation of a paid dissident movement. The George W. Bush 
administration reworked the theme that the United States did not intend 
to overthrow the Cuban government, but that the Cuban people would one 
day do it in the name of freedom and democracy.

*Death by illusion *

Had the Lansdale plan been fully successful and had Fidel Castro been 
ousted and assassinated, it would have been regime change by 
manipulation of illusions. Cubans and friendly countries would have had 
to believe that the Cuban revolution was a fiction disguising the 
expansion of international communism.

There is nothing in the thinking of Lansdale and the Joint Chiefs about 
what Cuba actually is — its history, culture and aspirations. Even what 
Cubans thought about their country was to be invented in Washington and 
pasted on the cardboard Cubans of Washington’s imagination.

In a sense, the US government and mass media have refused to acknowledge 
that there is a real country named Cuba. They deny the existence of the 
real country while forging elaborate plans to “free” the imagined one, 
where imagined Cubans are to be manipulated like pieces on a board game.

And what about the future for the Cubans Obama wants to empower? In 
1988, Fidel Castro addressed 
<http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/discursos/1988/esp/f051288e.html> the 
question of how some future renewed diplomatic relations might play out:

    Even if one day, relations between socialist Cuba and the empire
    improve, that will not cause that empire to give up its idea of
    crushing the Cuban Revolution, and they do not hide it. Their
    theoreticians will explain it; the defenders of the imperial
    philosophy will explain it. There are some who say it is better to
    make certain changes in policy toward Cuba in order to penetrate it,
    to weaken it, to destroy it, if possible even peacefully.


1 Use of the word “empowerment” should probably be avoided. 
Anne-Emanuèle Calvès surveyed the term’s erosion: “It has come to equate 
power with individual and economic decision-making; it has 
de-politicized collective power into something seemingly harmonious; and 
has been employed to legitimize existing top-down policies and 
programs.” Anne-Emanuèle Calvès, “Empowerment: The History of a Key 
Concept in Contemporary Development Discourse,” /Revue Tiers Monde 
/4/2009 (No 200), p. 735-749,

2 Program Review by the Chief of Operations, Operation Mongoose 
(Lansdale), U.S., Department of State, /Foreign Relations of the United 
States 1961-1963/, Volume X Cuba, 1961-1962, Washington, DC, 18 January 

/*Robert Sandels* writes on Cuba and Mexico./ /*Nelson P. Valdés* is 
Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of New Mexico./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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