For decades, conventional wisdom has held that the United States and Cuba were never closer to all-out war than during the 13 days in October 1962 that we now call the Cuban Missile Crisis. But new records show that more than a decade after that crisis, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger drew up detailed plans for bombing the island and urged President Ford to "smash Castro."
The impetus, of all things, was Castro's decision to send troops to Angola to support the newly independent African nation -- a move that enraged Kissinger, the New York Times reports.
"I think sooner or later we are going to have to crack the Cubans," Kissinger told Ford at a 1976 White House meeting to discuss the plans.
The just-declassified documents are part of a new book about Cuban-U.S. relations by William M. LeoGrande, an American University professor, and Peter Kornbluh, who directs the National Security Archive's Cuba Documentation Project, called Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana.
The records show that Kissinger was enraged at Castro for swooping into Africa -- a move that upset the secretary of state's intricate global power plays.
In response, he commissioned a detailed plan of retaliation that would have included airstrikes and mines in Cuban harbors. Marines, meanwhile, could have flooded into the island through the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay.
"Kissinger, the global chessboard player, was insulted that a small country would ruin his plans for Africa and was essentially prepared to bring the imperial force of the United States on Fidel Castro's head," Kornbluh tells Frances Robles at the New York Times.
Another juicy tidbit: Among the attendees at the meetings where Kissinger was railing against Castro and demanding war were none other than a young Donald Rumsfeld -- the trigger-happy architect of the most recent invasion of Iraq.
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So what stopped the all-out assault of Havana by American boots on the ground? Jimmy Carter's election. Kissinger had been prepared to recommend the invasion to Ford after the 1976 elections, the Times reports, but had to drop the scheme when Carter beat him out.
Check out the newly released documents for yourself over at Kornbluh and LeoGrande's site.