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Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Bay of Pigs II

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion that was the first major setback of the Kennedy administration. The actual bombing of the airfields and diversionary sorties had actually started on April 15th but the ground invasion itself began on April 17th.

At least in the popular mind, the Bay of Pigs was the brainchild of a brash and immature President Kennedy, who had just been installed in office less than three months prior. What escapes perhaps all but astute historians is that the Bay of Pigs invasion was actually hatched by the outgoing Eisenhower administration with the help of the likes of E. Howard Hunt, CIA Chief John Foster Dulles and, after Eisenhower suffered medical setbacks, even Vice President Richard Nixon. The understanding is that Nixon would ride Eisenhower's coattails into the White House and the invasion would go off as planned.

But Kennedy won the presidency by the narrowest of margins. However, under pressure from warhawk Republicans and the still-powerful anti-Communist sentiment in America, Kennedy was forced to go with an invasion of Cuba that served as a prescient example that sometimes invading a country and engaging in conventional warfare against Communist forces was not a good idea. After all, the Domino Theory regarding Southeast Asia had fallen apart the minute we withdrew our forces from Saigon in late April 1975. Communism did not sweep across SE Asia any more than it metastasized across the water from Cuba to Miami in the wake of the failure of the CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion. Not only that, it perhaps served as a reminder to President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year of the folly of hurling the country headlong into an even more dangerous gambit with Communist forces.

You don't have to be a geopolitical savant to know that we now live in a much different world but as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Dirty tricks and politics will always go hand in grubby hand, false flag operations are always on the table. The major difference is that neither Kennedy nor the press had to be overly concerned about domestic issues more pressing than the bait and switch scumbaggery pulled off by the steel industry.

Obviously, that much is different. Kennedy had inherited an economically stable United States thanks to the steady and pragmatic stewardship of his predecessor. There was no talk, none that has survived posterity, anyway, of defunding then privatizing Social Security. Unemployment hit an uncomfortable 6.6% the month before Kennedy's inauguration. But that's still a far cry from the 9.5-10% rates we're seeing today.

OsborneInk summed it up with elegant simplicity when s/he said Republicans "would spend the 21st Century undoing the 20th Century." Indeed, on top of supporting reckless military adventurism (except when waged by a black guy), Republicans have also embraced birther conspiracy theories (while denouncing 9/11 conspiracy theories), smashing public and private unions, repealing child labor laws, waged an all-out assault on any government regulation on corporations, have shown as much contempt for the planet earth as the non-millionaires living on it and have more than hinted they'd love nothing more than to repeal "ObamaCare" as well as the 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights Acts.

In short, any regressive measure, whether it be one that strips rights from workers and even working children, anything that pollutes and destroys the earth, anything that widens the gulf between rich and poor, you can be sure the Republican Party will champion to their last raspy breath.

It's hard to believe any of this would've happened or taken a toehold if JFK was running the country today. Kennedy knew when to work and compromise with Republicans but he also knew how to pick his battles, unlike the current steward. Obama has rarely stood his ground with Republicans, war-crazed generals in the Pentagon and certainly against corporations. Kennedy would've been smarter than to go out of his way to alienate his base by snapping at them for exercising their first amendment rights while giving one free pass after another to Bircher Tea Baggers openly calling for his assassination.

The Bay of Pigs we're seeing today is a domestic one. Indeed, the pigs have taken over Animal Farm and Obama and the American public at large is just as powerless to stop the occupation as Farmer Jones and friends. We're at war and while our egotistical Chief Executive is posing next to busts of Lincoln and jogging to his memorial to show the government is still open, he ought to be taking cues from a more contemporary example, a more courageous president, one who wasn't cowed by and didn't capitulate to Republicans and corporations.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Minor notes:

"Saint John" Kennedy did ramp up to war in Vietnam.

The incompetence of the CIA is revealed by the simple fact that Fidel Castro is still in power in a country 90 miles from Key West, Florida.

Anonymous joel hanes said...
I believe that the 6.6 % unemployment during JFK was measured the old way, and counted discouraged workers.

By this same measure, the current national unemployment is somewhere well over 15 %