by Nick Wright
I was in a history lesson, studying for a GCE in Economic and Public Affairs, the day US president Kennedy took the world to the edge of war. As the clock ticked towards the moment when the US navy was due to intercept the Soviet ships coming to Cuba’s aid a girl in my class fainted. Meanwhile our history teacher led us through an analysis of political power. (I gained a good grade if only because the subject had come alive).
Like all US president’s in this period he was in hock to J Edgar Hoover’s FBI whose snoops had as much blackmail material on his various dealings with gangsters and call girls as they needed and thus had as much latitude as it needed to spy on and repress the nascent civil rights movement and any labour movement unrest.
Following the Soviet Union’s economic successes, the Chinese communist victory and Soviet space conquests the Cuban Revolution frightened the wits out of a US ruing class used to having its own way in a part of the world they regarded as their backyard.
Kennedy first tried to strangle the Cuban revolution in its infancy attempting to overthrow Castro with the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion in the hope that the island could be made safe again for gambling, prostitution and sugar profits.
He miscalculated and the invasion was defeated. He miscalculated again in trying to prevent Cuba arming itself with Soviet missiles and was forced into a compromise that saw US missiles in Turkey withdrawn.
He was keen on the US sponsored South Vietnamese regime, notorious for its torture, ‘concentration camps, endemic corruption; pivotal in backing a constellation of military dictators and reactionary regimes in Latin America whose police forces and military were trained in various torture techniques in the US.
In an early US intervention in Iraq he backed the overthrow of Quasim which led to Saddam Hussein’s eventual accession to power.
Speculation about who had him killed is fruitless. Reactionary though he was in terms of his global projection of US imperial power he was a political realist and this may have been enough for sections of US capital to have hime bumped off.
It was not in the interest of either the Soviet Union or Cuba to see him off the scene, he was a quantifiable political factor with whom they had a reached some kind of agreement and any alternative would be have been an unnecessary risk.
He was a more attractive figure, or more precisely he was able to project himself as more attractive, than most US political leaders but, like Obama, he was comfortable with the ruthless exercise of military and economic power, assassination, missile strike and murder as any other reliable defender of US capital.