Bay of Pigs Invasion ‘Dumb,’ Says Ex-Kennedy Aide

Reuters, Friday 23 March 2001, 10:54 AM ET

HAVANA (Reuters)—The ill-fated U.S-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 was a dumb plan that should never have gone ahead, former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara told an academic conference in Havana.

Although McNamara could not attend the three-day session in Cuba on the 40th anniversary of one of the Cold War's most emblematic battles, he sent a message that was read out at a closed-door session, a participant said late on Thursday.

He basically said that this was a really dumb operation. The Bay of Pigs invasion was wrong and never should have occurred, Thomas Blanton, head of the National Security Archive, which co-sponsored the conference, told reporters.

President Fidel Castro (news—web sites)'s troops decimated within 72 hours the 1,500-man Cuban exile landing force, which had been expecting more direct military backup from then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy's administration.

McNamara's note also criticized later CIA (news—web sites) plots to assassinate Castro, Blanton said.

It had been hoped that McNamara, an aide to Kennedy during the invasion and Defense Secretary at the time of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, would attend the conference.

But there was no shortage of other key characters from the era, ranging from Castro himself on the Cuban side, to members of the doomed 2506 Brigade of exile invaders, ex-CIA agents, and aides and relatives of Kennedy on the U.S. side.

We are having a rich, respectful, scholarly dialogue, Blanton added after the first day of the conference during which Castro, and other senior communist leaders and ex- soldiers, sat opposite their former foes.

A key architect of the Vietnam War, McNamara has also said in the past that conflict was terribly wrong.