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Declassified Docs: Kissinger Devised Plans to Launch Airstrikes Against Cuba in 1976

Declassified Docs: Kissinger Devised Plans to Launch Airstrikes Against Cuba in 1976

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, approximately 40 years ago, devised secret contingency plans to attack Cuba with strategic airstrikes and “smash” Fidel Castro, declassified documents show.  

Kissinger was infuriated by Castro’s decision to send troops to Angola in late 1975 and talked about “clobbering” Cuba if it deployed more forces to other areas in Africa.  

The documents detailing the contingency plans were obtained by the National Security Archive through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.  

“If we decide to use military power it must succeed. There should be no halfway measures,” Kissinger told Gen. George Brown of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a March 24, 1976 national security meeting involving high-ranking officials.  

Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld attended that meeting.  

“I think we are going to have to smash Castro,” Kissinger told then-U.S. President Gerald Ford. “We probably can’t do it before the [1976 presidential] elections.”  

“I agree,” Ford replied. 

Kissinger counseled Ford that the U.S. would be have to “crack the Cubans” out of concern that Castro was planning to expand his military campaign beyond Angola.  

“If they move into Namibia or Rhodesia, I would be in favor of clobbering them,” Kissinger told Ford, according to an Oval Office memo dated March 15, 1976.  

Details of Kissinger’s plans were published in a new book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana, co-authored by American University professor William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh who directs the National Security Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project. 

The contingency plans were drafted in secret by an elite national security team known Washington Special Actions Group in April 1976. 

Besides open hostilities such as strategic airstrikes “to destroy selected Cuban military and military-related targets,” the plans included economic and political sanctions.  

Some national security advisers warned Kissinger that acts of war against Cuba could spark a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union.  

“A Cuban/Soviet response could escalate in areas that would maximize US casualties and thus provoke stronger response,” warned Kissinger’s national security advisers. “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.” 

According to the book, Kissinger considered open hostilities against Cuba after diplomatic efforts failed. 


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