Beyond the Bay of Pigs
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The 50th anniversary of the attempt to land a liberation force at Communist Cuba is being marked this week mainly in Havana, where the regime is holding its 6th party congress and recalling its victory over the band of would-be liberators of the island. The invasion came a cropper on a part of the southern coast known as the Bay of Pigs, which is now widely regarded as a black mark on the administration of President Kennedy. But here at the Sun we find ourselves thinking of the courage of the exiled Cuban patriots who set out to try to help their fellow countrymen against whom Fidel Castro and his co-conspirators were consolidating their dictatorship. It is a moment to reflect on the days when great patriots risked their lives and reputations to appear in arms against the outposts of the Soviet empire. They fell, those that did fall, in the cause of liberty.
So effective have the historical revisionists been at distancing the Kennedy administration from our defeat at the Bay of Pigs that people tend to forget that the Kennedys at the time represented a hardline, anti-communist wing of the Democratic Party. One can gain a glimpse of it in, say, in President Kennedy’s letter of April 18, 1961, to the Soviet party boss, Nikita Khrushchev, in which Kennedy spoke of how “the people of the United States do not conceal their admiration for Cuban patriots who wish to see a democratic system in an independent Cuba” and warned that “[t]he United States government can take no action to stifle the spirit of liberty.” No doubt JFK came to feel he was poorly advised on the prospects for success at the Bay of Pigs, but the thing to remember is the spirit, the idealism, and the courage with which the invasion was undertaken and to reflect on how much better things might have been for the Cuban people had it succeeded.
Particularly when so many throughout the world today are appearing in arms against new tyrannies. The lesson of the Bay of Pigs is to stick with the fight and to comprehend that the loss of one engagement need not mean a defeat forever. Today in Cuba a communist dictatorship is coming face to face with the bankruptcy of its own revolution, the lack of freedom, the lack of prosperity, the lack of a democratic mandate, the void that has left by those who fled. Rarely has any tyranny been so bereft of legitimacy. There are those in the Congress who want to rush in now and let down our guard and our boycott, so that the party congress that is meeting today can salvage the faltering regime. The feckless Europeans are already in there. America is fortunate that the House Committee on foreign affairs is in the hands of a chairman, in Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who comprehends the meaning of Castro’s regime in Cuba and the ghastly toll that the patriots who handed at the Bay of Pigs risked, and in many cases gave, their lives to prevent.