The New Republic recently reprinted a riveting article written by journalist Jean Daniel describing his conversations with Fidel Castro the very week of JFK’s assassination. Daniel had been sent to Cuba on a secret mission at the behest of President Kennedy. What follows are excerpts from the article. Notice how prescient and shrewd Castro’s remarks are. He had an insight into American political and intelligence communities that was spot-on.
“During this nocturnal discussion, Castro [said that] Washington had had ample opportunity to normalize its relations with Cuba, but that instead it had tolerated a CIA program of training, equipping and organizing a counter-revolution…He was speaking, he said, from the viewpoint of the interests of peace in both the American continents. To achieve this goal, a leader would have to arise in the United States capable of understanding the explosive realities of Latin America and of meeting them halfway. Then, suddenly, he took a less hostile tack: ‘Kennedy could still be this man. He has the possibility of becoming, in the eyes of history, the greatest President of the United States, the leader who may at last understand that there can be coexistence between capitalists and socialists…he would then be an even greater President than Lincoln. I know, for example, that for Kruschev, Kennedy is a man you can talk with. I have gotten this impression from all my conversations with Kruschev. Other leaders have assured me that to attain this goal, we must first await his re-election…[Kennedy] has come to understand many things over the past few months…I’m convinced that anyone else would be worse.’ Then he added with a broad, boyish grin, ‘If you see him again tell him I’m willing to declare Goldwater my friend if that will guarantee Kennedy’s re-election.’”
The above conversation between Daniel and Castro took place just hours before JFK was assassinated. They two were together when news of Kennedy’s wounding came over the radio in Cuba. Daniel wrote, “[Castro] remarked while we waited, ‘Es una mala noticia (this is bad news). There is an alarmingly sizable lunatic fringe in America…but you wait, I know them they will try to put the blame on us for this thing.’ Then the word came through, in effect, that the accused assassin was a young man who was a member of the Fair Play For Cuba Committee, that he was an admirer of Fidel Castro. ‘There, didn’t I tell you?’ exclaimed Castro. ..Fidel declared, ‘If they had had proof they would have said he was agent, an accomplice, a hired killer. In saying simply that he is an admirer, this is just to try and make an association in people’s minds between the name of Castro and the emotion wakened by the assassination. This is a publicity method, a propaganda device. It’s terrible.’”
The plotters wanted to have it both ways: remove the man who was moving towards détente (peace and nuclear disarmament) with the communist world and blame it on those very communists. The Joint Chiefs and the CIA hoped that attaching Oswald to Castro would incite Americans to war and the demise of Castro. But Lyndon Johnson used this threat of war to bully and coerce Warren Commission members into whitewashing the truth of the assassination. He told more than one congressman he recruited that 50 million dead from a nuclear holocaust are the stakes if they didn’t name Oswald as the lone killer. LBJ got his cover-up, and the CIA and Joint Chiefs got their war—southeast Asia.
Jean Daniel’s conversations with Castro are illuminate the motives JFK’s killers had. Thus, in the 50 years since, they have downplayed the significance of Kennedy sending his own back-channel emissary to Cuba in the first steps towards normalizing relations with Cuba, an act that no doubt would have infuriated the CIA, the right-wing fringe in America, and American business interests (including the Mafia) who wanted Castro dead.