Kissinger planned to ‘smash’ & ‘humiliate’ Fidel Castro after Cuba’s Angola op
"I think we are going to have to smash [Cuban President Fidel] Castro," Kissinger told President Gerald Ford at a February 25, 1976 meeting. "We probably can't do it before the [1976 presidential] elections."
"I agree," the president responded.
The exchange was the first in a series of meetings over the Cuban intervention in Angola, which led to the secretary of state laying out various contingency plans on how the US could “clobber” its southern neighbor.
“I think sooner or later we have [to] crack the Cubans... even the Iranians are worried about the Cubans getting into the Middle East countries. I think we have to humiliate them,” Kissinger told Ford in a meeting on March 15, 1976. “But I think we might have to demand they get out of Africa.”
At a meeting of national security officials nine days later, Kissinger told Gen. George Brown, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "If we decide to use military power it must succeed. There should be no halfway measures.”
The recently declassified documents are beingposted online by George Washington (GW) University, as well as in ‘Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana’ – a new book co-authored by longtime Cuba experts William M. LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University, and Peter Kornbluh, the director of GW’s National Security Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project.
In January 1965 Cuba formed an alliance with the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), a political party that fought the Portuguese for the independence of the African country. The MPLA declared the People’s Republic of Angola in November 1975, which was not recognized by all governments, but was supported by Cuba and the Soviet Union.
The Cuban-MPLA alliance “evolved into the flagship of [Cuba’s] global 'internationalist' mission, spawning the military intervention of November 1975 culminating in Cuba's spurious 'victory' at Cuito Cuanavale and Cuba's fifteen-year occupation of Angola,” according to the summary of Edward George’s book on the Cuban intervention into Angola.
The documents in ‘Back Channel to Cuba’ show that Kissinger was infuriated by Castro’s decision to send 36,000 troops to help the newly independent nation fend off attacks from South Africa and right-wing guerrillas. The man who served as secretary of state from 1973 to 1977 had previously worked to normalize relations between the US and its southern neighbor, which were nearly non-existent after the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion and the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis.
“You can see in the conversation with Gerald Ford that he is extremely apoplectic,” Kornbluh told the New York Times, adding that the country’s top diplomat at the time used “language about doing harm to Cuba that is pretty quintessentially aggressive.”
The plans to attack Cuba were shelved after Jimmy Carter defeated Ford in the 1976 presidential elections. The contingency called for the military to send aircraft to mine Cuban ports, included proposals for a second military blockade of Cuban shores, and warned of losing the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.
"The circumstances that could lead the United States to select a military option against Cuba should be serious enough to warrant further action in preparation for general war," one document said.
The book was released Wednesday at a press conference at the Pierre Hotel in New York City – the site of the first official secret meeting to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba in July 1975.
LeoGrande and Kornbluh believe the release of the declassified documents remains relevant today, according to the National Security Archive. The authors note that current US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro have publicly stated the need to move beyond the legacy of perpetual hostility in US-Cuban relations.