I applaud President-elect Trump’s statement on Cuba. He said, “Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”
There’s a lot more, and it’s important that young Americans, with no memory of the Cold War, be informed of some other highlights of Fidel Castro’s rule.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
Castro played an instrumental role in this crisis. In 1962, the world never came closer to nuclear war. At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. had 5,000 nuclear weapons that could reach the Soviet Union. The Soviets had about 300 nuclear weapons that could reach the United States.
About 270 of these nuclear weapons came from 100 Tu-95 “Bear” bombers and 60 3M “Bison B” bombers. Because the United States had formidable anti-aircraft defenses, it’s not entirely clear that they could get through. Even if they did, the Bison B bomber would not have enough fuel to return to the Soviet Union. If the Bison B bomber could land in Cuba and refuel, it would serve Soviet interests.
By the late 1970s, as the Soviets built a significant number of long-range strategic bombers, ballistic missile submarines, and land-based ICBMs, Cuba lost most of its strategic value to the Soviet Union. In 1962, the situation was very different.
The only guaranteed shot at deterrence was the 42 ICBMs that the Soviets deployed during the crisis. The “missile gap” was fiction, although the CIA did not know the full extent of American strategic superiority until 1961.
Soviet leader Khrushchev needed Cuba as a base for intermediate-range missiles. It would not alter the balance in the Moscow’s favor, but it would narrow the gap.
It was a bold move by Khrushchev. Castro supported this plan because these weapons could deter the United States from invading the island. Keep in mind, this was only a year after the Bay of Pigs invasion and the CIA, for good reasons, was trying to kill Castro.
The original plan called for 80 missiles (42 SS-4 and 36 SS-5) and 40 launchers. By the time the blockade began, there were 42 missiles on 24 launchers. All of them were medium-range SS-4 missiles (range 2,000 miles). Some of the warheads for the SS-5 missiles (range 2,800 miles) had arrived but not the missiles or the launchers needed to fire them.
They also had six operational Il-28 “Beagle” bombers with one warhead each. The Cubans received Soviet shipments for 42 planes in total, but only six were fully assembled during the crisis.
Although our U-2 spy plane discovered the SS-4 missiles in Cuba, the CIA did not know at the time that there were additional tactical nuclear weapons on the island. Also, our intelligence underestimated the number of Soviet troops. We thought there were 10,000 Soviet troops and there were actually over 40,000 troops deployed along with 158 nuclear weapons.
Castro Was a Menace Throughout the World
The Soviets used Castro’s military the way Iran uses Hezbollah now. In guerrilla wars, Castro troops fought for communist and anti-American insurgencies. From 1975 to 1991, Castro sent troops to Angola to fight for communism. By 1988, the deployment in Angola peaked at 60,000 Cuban troops. Along with their Angola mission, Castro sent 24,000 troops to Ethiopia and sent much smaller contingents to a total of 17 African countries from the 1960s to 1980s.
In the Middle East, Cuban troops helped train the Marxist government in South Yemen. Fifteen-hundred Cuban troops fought alongside Syria in the Yom Kippur War against Israel. Cuba intelligence agents helped train Palestinian terrorists operating in Lebanon.
Cuba has served as a refuge and training ground for several terrorist groups including the FARC rebels in Colombia, the Basque separatists (ETA), the Irish Republican Army, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Black Panther Party, and many others.
Almost 100 Americans have fled to Cuba. Some of them were idealists, but many were criminals. The most infamous is Asata Shakur (born Joanne Chesimard). She killed a New Jersey state trooper in 1973. In 1979, she escaped from prison and managed to get to Cuba in 1984. She has lived there ever since.
In Latin America, Che Guevara was killed trying to overthrow the government of Bolivia. Castro has not only aided several terrorist movements but helped establish a Marxist dictatorship in Nicaragua. The Cuban General Intelligence Directorate (DGI) established ties with the Sandinistas years before they overthrew the Somoza family in 1979. The DGI had 2,500 agents in Nicaragua during the 1980s.
Cuba and Nicaragua played an active role helping Marxist rebels in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Castro would have established another communist government in Grenada had Ronald Reagan not invaded the island in 1983. At least 25 Cubans were killed and over 600 captured. Eventually, they were allowed to return to Cuba.
During the Vietnam War, at least 19 Americans were tortured by Cubans in North Vietnamese prisons.
Socialism Doesn’t Work
In 2010, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg asked Fidel Castro if the Cuban model was worth exporting. Castro replied, “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.” There is a reason why over a million Cubans have fled to America since 1959. Keep in mind, this country only has 11 million people.
As Ronald Reagan once said, “When given the freedom to choose, people choose freedom.” Millions have fled Cuba and other communist countries because they appreciate America.
With Castro’s passing, we should remind young people who supported Socialist Bernie Sanders that socialism is evil and that it doesn’t work. We should all be grateful that we live in America, and that Fidel Castro is finally dead.