Killing Kennedy

Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly Read Free Book Online

Book: Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bill O’Reilly
toppled Batista. (The general died of a heart attack in exile in Portugal, just two days before Castro’s team of assassins could complete its mission.) The United States responded to Batista’s overthrow by officially recognizing the new government.
    *   *   *
    Castro is a man of many secrets. In perhaps his most egregious episode, eleven days after overthrowing Batista’s government in 1959, seventy-five political prisoners were marched in the dead of night toward an open field outside the city of Santiago, hands tied behind their backs. There was no path, and those who slowed down or stumbled felt the sharp jab of a soldier’s bayonet in their ribs. Suddenly, a row of army trucks turned on their headlights, revealing a trench six feet deep and fifty yards long. Bulldozers were parked alongside the trench, blades lowered and ready to plow the fresh mounds of dirt back into the massive hole.
    The executions were supposed to be a secret, but the prisoners’ wives and girlfriends found out and kept vigil, following the procession from a distance and gasping with horror as those headlights illuminated what would soon be a mass grave. As the women’s sobs and wails punctured the still night air, Castro’s soldiers lined their husbands and sons and boyfriends shoulder to shoulder along the edge of the ditch, all the while taunting the women with jeers and catcalls. The women wept and prayed right up until that inevitable moment when the machine guns opened fire and their loved ones toppled into the abyss.
    Thus marked the beginning of Fidel Castro’s reign of terror. Soon after, a Cuban judge was shot through the head for pardoning military pilots who had flown against Castro’s forces during his guerrilla campaign. Castro then ordered the pilots convicted of genocide. When the new judge sentenced them to hard labor instead of death, he, too, was shot dead. The Cuban leader, in his own words, is “violent, given to tantrums, devious, manipulative, and defiant of all authority.”
    The Cuban people soon realized that they were paying a high price for supporting the rise of Castro. But overseas, Castro’s popular facade as a revolutionary hero took hold. One British newspaper wrote that “Mr. Castro’s bearded, youthful figure has become a symbol of Latin America’s rejection of brutality and lying. Every sign is that he will reject personal rule and violence.” In April 1959, Castro spoke at the Harvard University Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Even though he had used his knowledge of the law to suspend Cuba’s writ of habeas corpus, and even though the January 12 massacre was reported in the New York Times , Castro’s Harvard speech was interrupted time after time by enthusiastic cheering and applause.
    On that same trip to America, the Cuban leader met with Vice President Richard Nixon, who was immediately impressed by Castro. In fact, Nixon wrote in a four-page secret memo to Eisenhower that “the one fact we can be sure of, is that he has those indefinable qualities which makes him a leader of men.”
    John F. Kennedy, then a U.S. senator still months away from beginning his campaign for the presidency, knew that Batista was a ruthless despot who had murdered more than twenty thousand of his own people. Kennedy saw nothing wrong with Castro’s rise to power. And, like Hemingway, he was also fond of a daiquiri from time to time.
    In 1959, Kennedy and Castro were on the verge of becoming two of the twentieth century’s greatest rivals. Both were charismatic, idealistic young men beloved by their fanatical followers. Both enjoyed a good cigar and had had long political winning streaks that resulted in each man ruling his nation. But each had a setback during his rise to power—Castro was imprisoned in the early years of his revolution; Kennedy’s painful back condition and a potentially deadly adrenal gland condition known as Addison’s disease each nearly killed him. Perhaps the most striking

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