Fidel Castro: I Was Wrong to Tell Khrushchev to Obliterate the U.S.

By Jeffrey Goldberg

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Cuban Missile Crisis, during which humankind almost murdered itself, and I will be posting more on this subject later, in particular on lessons that might be derived from the crisis that would help us understand a way out of the current nuclear crisis, between the West and Iran. I interviewed Fidel Castro on this subject in Havana a couple of years ago, and I thought I would re-post his answer to the most important question I could think to ask:

We returned repeatedly in this first conversation to Castro's fear that a confrontation between the West and Iran could escalate into a nuclear conflict. "The Iranian capacity to inflict damage is not appreciated," he said. "Men think they can control themselves but Obama could overreact and a gradual escalation could become a nuclear war." I asked him if this fear was informed by his own experiences during the 1962 missile crisis, when the Soviet Union and the U.S. nearly went to war other over the presence of nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba (missiles installed at the invitation, of course, of Fidel Castro). I mentioned to Castro the letter he wrote to Khruschev, the Soviet premier, at the height of the crisis, in which he recommended that the Soviets consider launching a nuclear strike against the U.S. if the Americans attack Cuba. "That would be the time to think about liquidating such a danger forever through a legal right of self-defense," Castro wrote at the time.

I asked him, "At a certain point it seemed logical for you to recommend that the Soviets bomb the U.S. Does what you recommended still seem logical now?" He answered: "After I've seen what I've seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it all."

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