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Is the US government very stupid or am I missing something - the Bay of Pigs

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    I know this would probably be more at home in the history section, but given how often the questions on the US pop up here I thought I might get a better response...

    Looking at the Bay of Pigs... The US tried to be as discrete as possible not to be seen as orchestrating the invasion hence no extensive use of air power ect.

    But what really baffles me is this:

    On the 14th of April (3 days before the invasion) the US trained Cuban refugees bombed a few of Cuba's airports, attempting to take out its air power. The source I read this on said the raid was limited, with a set of additional airstrikes cancelled to prevent association with the USA.

    It really baffles me how could the US even consider denying its involvement; some natural questions occur:
    1. How and where would the Cuban refugees get a hold of B-52 bombers?
    2. I get that they were camouflaged to look like they weren't part of the US airforce but still, they do need an airstrip to take off from;

    did the US REALLY expect anyone to believe that those refugees did not use the US airports and US planes, if they didnt, where else would they fly to attack Cuba from?

    Thanks, any feedback is much appreciated
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    1. How and where would the Cuban refugees get a hold of B-52 bombers?
    They didn't have B-52s. I believe they had World War 2-era propeller driven B-26 bombers (medium bombers). Even if the exiles had not been CIA connected, there were a very large number of surplus military aircraft on the market after world war 2. They could be picked up for a bargain.

    2. I get that they were camouflaged to look like they weren't part of the US airforce but still, they do need an airstrip to take off from;
    Of course, the United States was wilfully ignorant of paramilitary and subversive activity by Cuban exile groups in the United States. In terms of an airstrip, I don't know where they took off from but I would imagine they did so from one of the armed encampments they had set up in Florida (like the one at Lake Ponchartrain).

    The Bay of Pigs operation had a rather dubious authority, was the target of a lot of skepticism in US government circles, and it had only been approved in early 1960. To attempt to have at least a degree of deniability (though I wouldn't call it plausible), both in government circles and at the UN, the CIA did what they often do in intelligence operations and used corporate cut-outs and existing institutions to shield their operations from scrutiny.

    The military was quite happy to assist wherever necessary as both the CIA and military believed that the mission didn't have a chance in hell of succeeding, but vitally that no American President would fail to back up the Cubans with air support and (they hoped) a ground invasion.

    In this case, the CIA operated their JM/WAVE station (the CIA station in charge of Cuba) from the University of Miami. They used Cuban exiles for almost all the work that risked exposure; rather than use government facilities, they allowed the Cuban exiles to become a state within a state, an alternative centre of power in Florida (with its own air force, its own military bases, its own independent foreign policy, its own intelligence apparatus and capacity for independent action).

    Of course it *was* a disaster, but Kennedy manfully took responsibility, though fired a lot of people including the Director of Central Intelligence. Privately, he swore to "smash [the CIA] into a thousand pieces", and took measures to close down the Cuban exile bases.

    In the end, the Cubans, CIA and military shared a lot of information and resources, the Bay of Pigs was funded by the US government, it was conducted of US soil with US surplus equipment. The divisions that existed in theory (to separate official government work from the general programme of the Cuban exiles) did not exist in reality; the senior CIA officers in Miami were very close friends with the Cuban exile leaders, and worked with them on a daily basis.

    They shared a worldview and opinion about Kennedy that derived from these events and a profound sense of betrayal. Nixon always referred to the Kennedy assassination as "that whole Bay of Pigs thing" (when in private company), Howard Hunt, who was involved in the Bay of Pigs as a CIA officer, was also intimately involved in Nixon's Plumbers unit and the Watergate scandal. Indeed, when the FBI was investigating Watergate Nixon said that this would lead to the whole bay of pigs thing (via Hunt's involvement) and that in the interests of the nation they should turn off the inquiry.

    It really is fascinating stuff, and it's absolutely crucial to understand the Bay of Pigs if you want to understand the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations, Watergate and Iran-Contra, and American post-war history generally. The same people and the same issues keep popping up. You have the Bay of Pigs, Watergate, and Iran-Contra as the main scandals of American politics in the second half of the 20th century, and all of them were what resulted when a group of individuals within the government decide to pursue a secret, privatised intelligence and/or foreign policy.

    Hope that helps
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    And to answer the questions you actually asked ;-)

    did the US REALLY expect anyone to believe that those refugees did not use the US airports and US planes, if they didnt, where else would they fly to attack Cuba from?
    The "plausible deniability" didn't have to be credible in any sense, simply unfalsifiable. It's the same now; the government will lie through their teeth, blatantly, until and unless someone can absolutely prove their point beyond all reasonable doubt, even where common-sense would indicate that they are being untruthful or manipulative.

    Many in the government had a degree of distaste for this type of operation, it was certainly a violation of international law, and if it were identified as an American operation it would tie American military credibility to its success.

    That is exactly what the military and CIA wanted, but cooler heads prevailed and the notional separation, in law if not in fact, was retained between the CIA and the Cuban exile state. Divergent foreign policy objectives in the CIA, Defense Department, Congress and the White House.

    Kennedy believed that meaningful peace with the Soviet Union was possible. The Defense Department believed that nuclear war was inevitable, and indeed that the United States should strike while it had nuclear superiority. The entire Bay of Pigs operation, its confused and half-baked nature, was the result of the clearly divergent intentions and views of various parts of the executive branch.

    So to go back to your original question

    did the US REALLY expect anyone to believe that those refugees did not use the US airports and US planes, if they didnt, where else would they fly to attack Cuba from?
    The answer is no; the military not only didn't expect it to work, they were actively relying on the operation being perceived as an American attack on Cuba, and the President would feel obliged to defend American military credibility by following up with full air support and a ground invasion. The reason even for the degree of minimal subterfuge was to ensure that despite suspicions there would be no hard evidence to link the US to the operation in the United Nations, and many in other branches of government believed that it would be quick and painless as promised by the CIA.

    Bombing Cuban airstrips, with no follow-up, served nil practical purpose (unless the CIA's purpose was to alert the Cubans of an impending attack). On the other hand, the CIA had experienced success with symbolic bombings in Guatamala. I think they dropped a few hand-held bombs on the radio station and Presidential Palace and the government fell to CIA forces.

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Updated: May 23, 2012
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