Monday, September 13, 2010

The Bay of Pigs Aftermath and Operation Mongoose

Among the covert operations that the CIA arranged during the 20th century, Operation Mongoose must take the prize for peculiarity. Begun by an administration in the grip of cold war paranoia, the aim of the operation was to disrupt, defame and to ultimately depose Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba.
Castro came to power in 1959 with the promise that he would reform the 1940 constitution and undertake moderate reforms. But he had grander plans. He nationalized Cuba’s private commerce and industry institute massive land reforms and take over American agricultural estates. American officials were deeply disturbed. Enlivened by Cold war rhetoric and ideology, they had come to see the insidious spread of Communism as their main postwar concern. Castro’s Cuba was the first communist regime in the Western Hemisphere, and it was feared that he might wield influence over other Latin American Countries. In 1960, Castro signed a trade agreement with the Soviet Union, confirming all the worst American fears. In January 1961, the United States broke diplomatic ties with Cuba.
 The controversy that ensued after the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion convinced the Kennedy administration that covert acts were a far more manageable means of eroding Castro’s power than invasions, and Operation Mongoose was inaugurated. The operation was headed up by Brigadier General Edward G. Lansdale, who was famous for his propaganda warfare tactics in the Philippines. A firm believer in psychological operations (what the CIA term is PSYOP), his initial contributions to the cause were inspired. The propose operations included such as schemes as convincing the Cuban people that Castro was the anti Christ, and equally bizarre activities.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 Operation Mongoose was dismantled, but it put no end to the group’s shenanigans. The CIA continued their PSYOP planning, and in 1963, Lt. Colonel James Patchell conceived of a new plan to topple Castro – the invention of a mythical anti Castro rebel, whoem Patchell decided to call ‘The Fighting Friend’. Patchell believed that as the imaginary friend’s fame grew, other anti Castro rebels would be drawn to his cause, and eventually, when victory was certain, one of them would claim his identity.
None of the ideas were enacted. Anti Castro radio was the main form of covert action practiced by the United States.  But these broadcasts failed to foment anything close to an uprising, perhaps because of their cryptic messages. During the Bay of Pigs invasion, the American based Radio free Cuba repeatedly issued this rousing call to arms: “The fish will rise very soon.”

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