Judging from the experiences of the last three administrations, Latin America might well be designated a disaster area for U.S. policy. During the Eisenhower administration, Fidel Castro came to power. The Bay of Pigs was John F. Kennedy's most humiliating moment. And now President Lyndon Johnson has had his Dominican crisis.
Of the three, the last is in some ways the worst because it was the most gratuitous, the least predetermined. Castro's struggle for power was a protracted, complex, uncertain process. President Kennedy's adventure was somewhat halfhearted; American troops were at least not engaged; and the President knew how to end the misery, without deception or whimpering, in a way that made him seem to grow in defeat. But the present administration's Dominican policy was, if ever there was one, a self-inflicted wound, and a wound that is still open.
In the end, the Dominican aspect of this crisis may appear to be far less depressing than the American aspect. In fact, the Dominican people will probably look back at the past few months with pride and even exaltation. They have not had much to boast about in over a hundred years. For perhaps the second time in their entire history, they have fought for something worth believing in. Lawyers and peasants have been stirred by the same common aspirations and ideals. This is so unprecedented that the price paid for it may in the end seem relatively modest.
But the reverse may be true of the United States. Whatever may be thought of U.S. policy, the way in which it was carried out has made the entire operation disproportionately and excessively expensive. The more I have studied and thought about these recent Dominican events, the more I have come to feel that what was done cannot be separated from how it was done, how it was conceived and executed, how it was justified to the American people and the world at large. For this reason, I will be concerned as much with the how as with the what—not only with the nature of the policy but the way it was managed and rationalized. If, as I believe, the Dominican events were symptomatic of an American crisis, or more exactly, a crisis in the conduct of foreign affairs in this area, the crisis is primarily one of Presidential power and policy, inasmuch as the President and the men around him are almost wholly responsible for the conduct of our foreign affairs.
This does not mean that we know all we need to know to reach anything like a full understanding of the Dominican events. We know far more than our policy-makers seem to have wanted us to know. We owe a great deal of this knowledge to a small group of perceptive and courageous journalists who were faithful to the highest standards of their craft. Two of them, Tad Szulc of the New York Times and Dan Kurzman of the Washington Post, have written books that are indispensable for anyone who wishes to learn what happened in the Dominican Republic before and after April 24 of this year.1 In addition to relating their personal experiences, Szulc and to a lesser extent Kurzman, were able to make use of confidential messages exchanged between Santo Domingo and Washington during the decisive days. Official records had previously been made available to Philip Geyelin, the Washington correspondent of the Wall Street Journal. Other references to hitherto still unpublished official documents and testimony were made by Senator J. William Fulbright in his admirable speech of September 15, 1965, based on the hearings before the Foreign Relations Committee of which he is chairman, and by Senator Joseph Clark of the same committee two days later. When all this material is put together with all other sources, a fairly clear impression of U.S. policy emerges. At times, however, the available material merely enables us to ask the right questions, rather than to give the right answers. Some of the innermost secrets of this affair have not yet been disclosed, and we may get them more quickly only by looking for them in the right place.
We cannot put off asking these questions, because elementary political hygiene in a democracy demands it. But there is more to our interest than an obsession with raking up the past, even the recent past. Nothing of importance has yet been settled in the Dominican Republic. The same forces that made the revolt possible are still locked in combat. The breathing spell may be broken at any moment, and the United States will be confronted with essentially the same problems and pressures. More than that: any one of at least a half dozen Latin American countries could produce a similar crisis at any time. If we are satisfied with our Dominican policy, we are likely to do the same thing all over again. And if we are not satisfied, we must know what was wrong with it.
Most of those who are not satisfied believe that the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo was chiefly or wholly to blame. “The principal reason for the failure of American policy in Santo Domingo,” said Senator Fulbright, “was faulty advice given to the President by his representatives at the time of acute crisis.” Szulc says that the embassy reports “became a key factor in creating a state of mind” in Washington that led to military intervention. Kurzman thinks that Washington acted with the best of intentions but was “stampeded into unfortunate decisions by a panicky, ill-informed embassy.”
How ill-informed—if that is the right word—the embassy was we may leave for later, but the image of a pure, innocent Washington and an incompetent, frightened embassy seems somewhat fanciful. The embassy was staffed with career officers who had been carrying out Washington's instructions before the April 24 revolt and tried to carry on in the same spirit afterward. A Washington that had pursued a different policy before April 24 would have discouraged the kind of advice that came from Santo Domingo.
The crisis of U.S. policy in the Dominican Republic was germinated in the first weeks of the Johnson administration. The late President Kennedy had left a Dominican legacy that might have decisively changed the course of what had been, on the whole, unsavory U.S.-Dominican relations. The Kennedy policy, to be sure, had not always favored the political and social leadership of Juan Bosch. It had previously supported Bosch's opponents, who were obviously expected to stay in power. But when Bosch proved in a free and fair election that his people were overwhelmingly behind him, Mr. Kennedy decided to support him loyally, not merely because they had ideals in common but because it was the only way to demonstrate that the United States really intended to back constitutional democracy and social reform in Latin America. Conversely, Kennedy did not conceal his dismay and disgust with Bosch's overthrow in September 1963, and refused to do business with the coup's strong men and front men. Whatever may have been wrong with U.S.-Dominican relations for over a hundred years, the Kennedy policy was sufficiently different to blot out the past temporarily and to lay the basis for a more hopeful future.
Yet, as Kurzman suggests, even Kennedy's policy was double-edged. It supported Bosch, but it sought to take out reinsurance by simultaneously supporting the old military establishment. In effect the State Department gave aid and comfort to Bosch, and the Pentagon took care of the Dominican armed forces. When the latter decided to stage the coup, this double bookkeeping proved to be the undoing both of Bosch's regime and Kennedy's Dominican policy.
Kurzman notes that Bosch's overthrow dejected the embassy's civilian officials and delighted the military attachés. A U.S. military attachés told him that the then Colonel Elías Wessin y Wessin, one of the coup's ringleaders, was properly “upset” because Bosch was “leading the country to Communism,” the alibi for the coup. The former head of Time magazine's Caribbean Bureau, Sam Halper, who was close to the Dominican situation, has gone even further. The Dominican military decided to oust Bosch, he wrote in the New Leader of May 10, 1965, “as soon as they got a wink from the U.S. Pentagon,” which, he believes, successfully “undercut the State Department.” Other correspondents also heard U.S. military personnel claim credit for the coup. The least that can be said is that the Pentagon, on which the Dominican military establishment depended, was curiously incapable of controlling its protégés.
Bosch heard these rumors but, for lack of proof, did not complain. Far more publicity was given to the gesture made by Ambassador John Bartlow Martin offering to call for the U.S. carrier Boxer to deter the military conspirators. The net result of the Kennedy policy was undoubtedly encouraging to all those who had sympathized with Bosch's cause.
President Johnson waited less than a month after Kennedy's death to embark on his own Dominican policy. The United States recognized Bosch's successors on December 14, 1963. This action coincided with the choice of Thomas C. Mann as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. The President presented Mr. Mann in a way that indicated the new Assistant Secretary was going to have, in his sphere of influence, some unusual assistants: the President and the Secretary of State. “We expect to speak with one voice on all matters affecting the hemisphere,” Mr. Johnson said on December 18. “Mr. Mann, with the support of the Secretary of State and the President, will be that voice.” These words suggest that Mr. Johnson was keenly conscious of his own limitations in Latin American affairs, and had also made a modest appraisal of his Secretary of State's ability to act as his surrogate. Thus came about the extraordinary decision to give the new Assistant Secretary precedence over both of them in this field. To find the Johnson policy, then, we must seek the Mann policy.
For our purposes, Mr. Mann's views on the military overthrow of democratically elected governments hold the greatest interest. The traditional U.S. position went little further than paying lip service to the desirability of constitutional government. On February 5, 1964, for example, Secretary of State Rusk opened the Third Pan American Interparliamentary Conference with a conventional speech extolling “parliamentary government,” which he intimately related to the Alliance for Progress. But four months later, on June 7, in a commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, Mr. Mann chose to emphasize an exception to the rule. After paying his respects to the orthodox U.S. policy of discouraging “any who conspire to overthrow constitutionally elected governments” and encouraging “a return to constitutional procedures,” he went on to strike a distinctly different and disturbing note. He pointed out that the United States could not “put [itself] in a doctrinaire straightjacket of automatic application of sanctions to every unconstitutional regime in the hemisphere” and engage in “unilateral intervention” to restore constitutional government. Then he gave this curious example of what he had in mind:
To illustrate, not long ago, a majority of the Guatemalan people voted in free elections for Arbenz, a candidate for president. Later the Guatemalan people discovered that Arbenz was a Marxist-Leninist. Colonel Castillo led a successful revolt and was widely acclaimed by his people as he marched into Guatemala City. Had we been unconditionally committed to the support of all constitutional governments under all circumstances, we would have been obliged to do everything within our power to bring about the overthrow of Castillo and to restore a Marxist-Leninist power against the will of the Guatemalan people.
The Guatemalan coup of June 1954 had been an important step in Mr. Mann's career; he had had a hand in it and, after it was over, had been appointed deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Guatemala City. I do not wish to re-fight the Guatemalan coup in detail here, but some observations must be made about it because of Mr. Mann's strategic reference to it in 1964 and because it has become the locus classicus of one extreme of U.S. policy. It provided the successful precedent for the Bay of Pigs adventure and was undoubtedly in the minds of those U.S. operatives who inspired or approved of Bosch's overthrow.
The beauty and charm of the 1954 Guatemalan operation was that it had been so cheap and easy. An almost ridiculously small group of soldiers of fortune under Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, aided and abetted by the U.S. Embassy and the C.I.A., had virtually bluffed President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán out of power. The U.S. involvement was later publicized because the proud and pleased Washington authorities decided to make the late John Emil Peurifoy, then U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, a hero of the affair. It had turned out so successfully because Arbenz had not controlled the Guatemalan army, and the army had decided not to fight for him. The notion that the Guatemalan people had discovered Arbenz to be a “Marxist-Leninist,” that most of them had known what a “Marxist-Leninist” was, and that the will of the people had anything to do with Arbenz's overthrow or possible restoration, recalls the Duke of Wellington's legendary reply to the man who had addressed him as Mr. Smith: “Sir, if you can believe that, you can believe anything.”2
The real question raised by the Guatemalan coup was not whether the United States should have restored Arbenz to power but whether it should have conspired to overthrow him. In order to get rid of a minor nuisance who was consorting with the Communists, the United States sacrificed a major principle for which it might have to pay dearly in other situations.3 In effect, Mr. Mann could get around the contradiction only by pretending that Castillo's coup was somehow equivalent to free elections as registering “the will of the Guatemalan people.” Moreover, the Guatemalan operation was the kind of trick that may only work once. It later provided Fidel Castro with his most persuasive argument for totally liquidating the former Cuban army. In retrospect, there was a serious flaw in the great Guatemalan victory: it was too quick and easy. Arbenz was such a pushover that he made thinly camouflaged C.I.A.-managed coups seem to be the answer to “Communist” or “Communist-infiltrated” governments in Latin America. If Arbenz had been able to fight a little harder, it is hardly likely that the C.I.A. would have considered about 1,500 men enough to topple Fidel Castro in 1961. That Mr. Mann should have given such prominence to the Guatemalan coup in his Notre Dame address suggests that it was still central in his thinking ten years later.
But whatever the merits of Mr. Mann's reflections on the Guatemalan coup, the more pressing question is what bearing they may have had on the existing Dominican situation. Was Juan Bosch to be equated with Jacobo Arbenz and did it therefore follow that the United States was not “obliged to do everything within our power” to bring about Bosch's restoration? Mann himself did not explain what deductions might be drawn from his remarks about an event in 1954 for the problems of 1964, but his actions spoke for him.
The 1964 Mann, or Mann-Johnson, policy in the Dominican Republic implicitly sought to prevent the restoration of the constitutional Bosch government. After recognizing the post-Bosch regime, the Johnson administration in February 1964 appointed a new ambassador, W. Tapley Bennett, Jr., who proceeded to establish the closest personal and political ties with the new rulers. The United States poured more money into the country after Bosch's overthrow—about $100,000,000 in direct and guaranteed loans—than had ever been made available to any Dominican regime before. And as the original post-Bosch “triumvirate” more and more developed or degenerated into a one-man operation by a former automobile dealer, Donald Reid Cabral, the Johnson administration did more for him than the Kennedy administration had ever done for Bosch.
The other side of the coin was equally striking. From November 22, 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, to May 1, 1965, a week after the recent revolt broke out, the only U.S. official personnel who talked to Juan Bosch were F.B.I. agents who wanted him to inform them about Communists in the Dominican Republic4 Otherwise, the Mann-Johnson policy refused to recognize his existence.
In the light of this post-Bosch policy, what was the relevance of Mr. Mann's mid-1964 dictum that the United States should not be expected to bring about the overthrow of military juntas and restore constitutional governments to power? If this had any meaning in Dominican terms, it would conjure up visions of U.S. marines and paratroopers jumping off landing craft and helicopters to oust Reid Cabral and replace him with Juan Bosch. It might have been worth knocking down this proposition if anyone had seriously proposed it. Mr. Mann at best gave the right answer to the wrong question. It would have been more profitable if he had tried to tackle two other questions: Should the United States show a special affinity for a regime that owed its existence to a military coup? And should the United States treat with such conspicuous and callous disregard the constitutional victims of the coup?
In effect, Mr. Mann had set up the straw man of a U.S. policy which punished military coups and rewarded constitutional governments in order to justify a real policy, at least as practiced in the Dominican Republic, of rewarding a military coup and punishing a constitutional government. One wonders to what real situation Mr. Mann thought he was addressing himself in his Notre Dame address.
The only thing that could have made the Mann reasoning relevant to the Dominican Republic was the implicit assumption that the overthrow of Bosch's government was somehow similar to the overthrow of Arbenz's regime. Mr. Mann never did commit himself publicly as to the degree of consanguinity between them. But the alleged Communist character of Bosch's regime was the very raison d'être of the 1964 Dominican regime, the theme which its supporters and apologists repeated endlessly. What Mr. Mann left unsaid, others said for him.
Nevertheless, life would be much simpler for both the United States's friends and foes if they could count on any U.S. policy to run its course smoothly. Just as the Kennedy policy of maintaining the Dominican armed forces in statu quo contained a time bomb for Bosch, so the Johnson policy contained a time bomb for Reid Cabral. As it became increasingly clear that the money lavished on bolstering his regime was being largely wasted, that the Dominican foreign debt was reaching alarming proportions, that the balance of trade was becoming more and more unfavorable, that a contraband operation run mainly by the military was milking the entire economy, and that even the Dominican press was growing restive, U.S. agencies began to press for “reforms.” Some of these reforms struck at the privileges of the very social and political groups, particularly the armed forces' top leadership, on which the Reid Cabral regime rested. As soon as Reid Cabral threatened to cut down the incredible 38 per cent of the national budget allotted to the armed forces in 1965, his days were numbered. In January of this year, a U.S. mission headed by General Andrew P. O'Meara, head of the U.S. Caribbean Command, arrived in Santo Domingo, and soon thereafter, the Dominican command was shaken up. By exhausting his usefulness to the vested interests created by Trujillo, primarily, but not wholly, military, Reid opened up a political void around himself. If the United States had left well enough alone, Reid Cabral might have lasted a bit longer. Early this year, Ambassador Bennett evidently recognized that Reid was slipping because he wrote to the now Under Secretary of State Mann: “We are almost on the ropes in the Dominican Republic.” From his behavior, one gathers that he considered the Dominican situation desperate but not serious. Despite his apprehensions, the revolt of April 24 caught him by surprise.
One little social note on the eve of the revolt may provide the perfect symbol of U.S. policy. On April 23, the U.S. naval attaché was off dove-shooting with Brigadier General Antonio Imbert Barreras, a mastermind of the anti-Bosch coup.
In order to follow the official U.S. reaction to the April 24 revolt, it is necessary to move on two levels: what U.S. officials publicly said, and what U.S. officials privately did.
On the public level, we have the following statements:
President Johnson: The revolt of Saturday, April 24 “began as a popular democratic revolution, committed to democracy and social justice.” From Saturday afternoon onward, U.S. officials in Washington and Santo Domingo urged and worked for a cease-fire. (This was President Johnson's version on May 2. He added one more important piece of information on June 17, which we will discuss later.)
Under Secretary of State Mann: Available information suggested that the uprising “began as a democratic revolution.” U.S. intelligence from the very beginning reported that “the revolutionary movement was probably led by elements in the Dominican Revolutionary [pro-Bosch] party” (interview with Max Frankel in the New York Times, May 9, 1965).
Ambassador Adlai Stevenson: The PRD, Bosch's party, “planned and during its first hours led the revolutionary movement against the Government of Reid Cabral” (at the UN, May 3, 1965).
These statements would suggest that the highest U.S. officials reacted to the news of the outbreak with the sympathy owing to a virtuous, democratic revolution.
Now let us try to reconstruct what actually happened in the first days in Washington and Santo Domingo.
Reid Cabral has claimed that he knew a rebellion was coming fifteen days before the actual outbreak.5 It was to have been launched, I have been informed by Juan Bosch, on Monday, April 26, It started two days prematurely because Reid tried to head it off by ordering the arrest of some of the officers implicated in it. In the early morning hours of Saturday, April 24, these officers were arrested by General Marcos Rivera Cuesta, who had been promoted to the post of Chief of Staff the previous February in the shake-up that had followed the arrival of the O'Meara mission. Alarmed at the apparent miscarriage of the plan, one of its leading spirits, Captain Mario Peña Taberas, and a group of sergeants and corporals burst in on General Rivera Cuesta, took him and other officers into custody, and liberated the arrested pro-Bosch officers. Then Captain Peña Taberas telephoned a Bosch civilian leader, José Francisco Peña Gómez, the PRD's cultural and propaganda secretary, who immediately announced the news of the revolt over a radio station for which he frequently spoke. Another group also succeeded in making the announcement over the official Radio Santo Domingo, with the result that other members of the conspiracy immediately sprang into action to carry out the plans made for the later date. The revolution was on.6
Thus the first and subsequent stages of the revolt were largely determined by the character of the officers who took part in the plot. The ringleaders were younger officers whose fathers had almost all been leading military henchmen of the former dictator Trujillo. Among the former were Col. Rafael Fernández Domínguez, the chief military organizer, Col. Miguel Angel Hernando Ramírez, who had been appointed to lead the revolt, Col. Francisco Caamaño Deñó, who took over the leadership after Col. Hernando Ramírez sought asylum in a foreign embassy on April 27, and Lt. Col. Manuel Ramón Monte Araches, whose naval “frogmen” gave the revolution a highly trained assault force. These key figures, backed by numerous lesser commissioned and noncommissioned officers, had worked with PRD civilian political leaders, such as Peña Gómez, to undo the anti-Bosch coup of September 1963 and restore the former constitutional government to power. Szulc notes that Ambassador Bennett, in one of the latter's more lucid moments, commented that “many of the Dominican problems stemmed from a cleavage between the older and the younger generation, with the latter trying to atone for the guilt of their parents who had sold out to Trujillo.” If the ambassador and his Washington superiors had only held on to this thought, they might have had a guiding thread to lead them through the maze of Dominican politics. This revolt took place because the Dominican people had never really settled accounts with the Trujillo era, and the personalities were much less important than what they symbolized politically. In any event, the premature detonation of the revolt was not fatal. By mid-afternoon of the first day, April 24, two military camps near the capital were in “constitutionalist” hands. But they had not been able to make much headway in the single most important military center at San Isidro, originally an air force base about a dozen miles to the west of Santo Domingo, to which the elder Trujillo's son, Ramfis, had added tank and infantry forces to turn it into a fully self-contained citadel of the former regime. At San Isidro, the main question was what the strong-man of the 1963 anti-Bosch coup, General Elías Wessin y Wessin, would do. In addition, an army regiment commanded by General Montás Guerrero was waiting to make up its mind at San Cristóbal, about a dozen miles to the east of the capital. The air force and navy commanders were also temporarily benumbed, watching for a signal of where, when, and how to jump.
Thus, for about thirty-six hours, the military initiative was wholly with the “rebels.” The difficulty faced by the old guard, which the press soon dubbed “loyalist,” was that it did not know whom to be loyal to. Wessin and his breed did not want Reid Cabral to stay in power, and they wanted even less for Bosch to get back in power. In effect, Reid was too good for them, and he was not good enough for the younger Boschists. To the unreconstructed Trujillo holdovers, who had never seen anything wrong with the vicious old dictator until he was safely dead (as one of them, General Miguel Atila Luna, the air force chief who had assisted at Bosch's overthrow in 1963, once put it to Kurzman), the ideal solution was a “military junta,” dominated, of course, by themselves, and followed, of course, by “free elections,” held under their benevolent auspices. A military conference on Sunday morning broke up into two main groups—those who wanted Bosch back, and those who wanted a military junta. No one, apparently, wanted Reid.
In these approximately thirty-six hours, no one raised the question of a Communist threat or Communist domination. If we may trust the statements of the highest U.S. officials, they were fully aware of the revolution's popular and democratic character. U.S. intelligence, according to Mr. Mann, correctly estimated that the revolutionary movement was probably led by Bosch's party.
But those who have studied the messages exchanged between Washington and Santo Domingo in this period tell another story. It is not at all what one would expect to hear about a popular, democratic revolution, probably led by Bosch's partisans.
In Santo Domingo, the U.S. Embassy was hardly prepared for a crisis. Ambassador Bennett, en route to Washington, had stopped off in Georgia to visit his sick mother. Of the thirteen members of the Military Assistance Advisory Group, eleven had gone off to Panama for a routine conference. The director of the U.S. Economic Mission to the Dominican Republic was attending another conference in Washington. And in Washington, the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Jack Hood Vaughn, was listening in on a conference of Western Hemisphere intellectuals in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The point is certainly not that these men were particularly remiss in their duties; it is simply that they cannot have any particular claim on our confidence so far as their knowledge or judgment of the immediate, local situation goes. Many of their later assessments were obviously based on informers, who, however, seem to have been singularly uninformative in the pre-revolt period.
On Saturday, April 24, the head man in the embassy was Chargé d'Affaires William B. Connett, Jr., who had been in Santo Domingo for only five-and-a-half months. The other key figures on the scene at this time were the C.I.A.'s chief agent, Edwin N. Terrell, the air attaché, Lt. Col. Thomas B. Fishburn, the naval attaché, Lt. Col. Ralph A. Heywood, and the army attaché, Lt. Col. Joseph W. Weyrick. The first messages from Connett to Washington on Saturday were not alarming; Connett reported that the unrest did not seem to amount to much. “We thought this would be another revolution,” Under Secretary Mann later told Leonard Gross of Look (June 15, 1965), “that we'd just wait it out like you do all revolutions.”
But by Saturday night, the embassy knew that Reid was in serious trouble. When Reid's ultimatum of surrender was not heeded at 5 P.M., he called on the armed forces to attack—and soon discovered that they had no intention of fighting for him. In desperation, we learn from Senator Fulbright, Reid asked for U.S. intervention on Sunday morning, April 25. The negative response was his coup de grâce.
What did Washington want? As we have seen, President Johnson has said that from Saturday afternoon onward, U.S. officials in Washington and Santo Domingo wanted to get a cease-fire. What he left unsaid, and what we now know from Senator Fulbright, is that in the next four days instructions from Washington called on the embassy to work for the formation of a military junta as well as a cease-fire.
There was one more thing of importance that happened on Saturday. As President Johnson revealed on June 17, he and his advisers began to consider the advisability of U.S. intervention on the very first day of the revolt. By intervention, he meant the massive landing of marines and paratroopers that later took place. But if intervention is interpreted more broadly, the United States did not wait that long.
Sunday, April 25, was a day of decision. The fatal U.S. moves were probably made on that day—not, as the official story would like to have it, three days later. When the United States permitted Reid Cabral to resign without a struggle on Sunday morning, it was left in practice with the option of supporting the Wessin-type generals or the Bosch-converted colonels. Since the political vacuum created by Reid's resignation was at least nominally filled on April 25 by the installation as Provisional President of José Rafael Molina Ureña, the President of the Chamber of Deputies during the Bosch regime, and the old-line generals had not yet countered this move with one of their own, the United States was given the opportunity to support the “popular democratic revolution” before the Communist issue was raised. In this confused situation, the induction of Molina Ureña was the nearest thing to a legitimate succession that Dominican institutions made possible. Oddly, U.S. authorities made light of his accession on Sunday but saw fit to attribute undue importance to his diplomatic asylum two days later.
There is every reason to believe that U.S. backing of Molina Ureña on Sunday would have given the Bosch forces a quick, easy, almost bloodless victory. Wessin and the other generals were still holding their fire, many of them undecided whether to join the rebellion or to crush it. The balance of forces seemed so favorable to the pro-Bosch side on Sunday afternoon that a signal from the United States would in all probability have proved determining.
Instead, at about 4.30 P.M. that Sunday, the Dominican air force and navy opened fire on the Presidential Palace which Molina Ureña and his aides had taken over. This fratricidal strafing and shelling signified that the Wessins had at last made up their minds—to drown the rebellion in blood.
What had led them to make up their minds? The answer to this question may haunt U.S. policy for years to come. If it is not yet possible to be sure of the answer, enough has come out to make possible the question that must be answered.
The question was raised by Philip Geyelin of the Wall Sreet Journal (June 25, 1965), who based himself on official records and conversations with key figures in Washington and Santo Domingo:
What the record reveals, in fact, is that from the very outset of the upheaval there was a concerted U.S. Government effort, if not actually a formal decision, to checkmate the rebel movement by whatever means and whatever cost. Consider these facts:
Item: by Sunday, April 25, just one day after the uprising got under way, while Washington remained openly confused and noncommittal, the Santo Domingo embassy had clearly cast its lot with the “loyalist” military cabal and against the rebellion's original aim: The return of Juan Bosch, who had been deposed by the generals in 1963 after winning the first free election in the republic in 40 years. Restoration of the Bosch regime would be “against U.S. interests,” the embassy counseled. Blocking Bosch could mean further bloodshed, the embassy conceded. Nonetheless, Washington was advised, the embassy military attachés had given “loyalist” leaders a go-ahead to do “everything possible” to prevent what was described as the danger of a “Communist takeover” (my italics, T. D.).
Tad Szulc, on the basis of the same kind of evidence, came to similar conclusions:
Meanwhile the events of the last 24 hours seemed to have convinced the United States embassy in Santo Domingo of two things. One was that a return of Dr. Bosch would mean “Communism in the Dominican Republic in six months.” The second was that U.S. forces would have to be used in support of General Wessins troops if the pro-Bosch rebellion was to be defeated.
These two basic judgments, which the embassy arrived at even before the rebellion could be identified politically in any way, went far to shape subsequent United States attitudes and policies. It was Ambassador Bennett who had long felt that the Bosch influence would be pernicious for the Dominican Republic, and in his absence his staff members apparently shared this view (my italics, T.D.).
Szulc also provides evidence that the embassy began to raise the Communist issue that Sunday. In the absence of Assistant Secretary Vaughn, Thomas Mann, who had been appointed Under Secretary of Economic Affairs earlier in the year, had taken over the State Department's operations center for the Dominican crisis. Late that Sunday, a cablegram from the State Department to the embassy stated: “We are very concerned with your reports of pro-Communist and anti-United States statements.” It seems that Chargé d'Affaires Connett, according to Szulc, was beginning to hint by late Sunday that “the pro-Bosch uprising was a Communist danger.”
Senator Fulbright summed up the change in U.S. attitude that took place from Saturday to Sunday and after as “characterized initially by overtimidity and subsequently by overreaction.” With far more testimony at his disposal, he, too, was struck by the early appearance and tenuous manifestations of the Communist factor in U.S. calculations:
The essential point, however, is that the United States, on the basis of ambiguous evidence, assumed almost from the beginning that the revolution was Communist dominated, or would certainly become so (my italics, T.D.).
So far, we have been mainly concerned with diplomatic messages between Santo Domingo and Washington. We must now turn our attention to another aspect of U.S. policy which is traditionally shrouded in almost impenetrable mystery and secrecy. In some countries, especially where the military dominate politics, diplomats may no longer be the most influential or decisive executors of U.S. policy. In almost every embassy, besides the traditional diplomatic staff, we now have a C.I.A. station, military attachés and missions responsible to the Pentagon, economic delegations, and all the rest. When something goes wrong, we hear about the diplomats but not about the C.I.A. agents or the military attachés. Yet the latter may have a far more interesting and important story to tell. The military masters of some countries in Latin America and elsewhere have learned that what the C.I.A. and Pentagon do may be more important than what the diplomats say. U.S. ambassadors have been known to complain that they did not know what the nominally subordinate C.I.A. agents and military attachés were up to.
In the incalculable mass of words written about the Dominican crisis, very few have been devoted to the military attachés and none to the activities of the C.I.A. agents. Yet the activity of the U.S. military attachés in Santo Domingo in the first two days may get us closer to the real U.S. policy than all the diplomatic messages between Washington and Santo Domingo. While the diplomats may have been trying to make up their minds, the military attachés apparently acted.
It is now impossible to ignore what, according to Juan Bosch, the attachés did in Santo Domingo. Though he was still in Puerto Rico at the time, Bosch was in constant telephonic communication with his supporters in Santo Domingo. The Boschists in the Dominican Republic were easily able to provide him with inside information because they were strategically placed in top Dominican military echelons and because the attachés' messages were apparently sent through the regular air force and naval communications network, as a result of which many air force and naval personnel listened in on them. In fact, there is supposed to be in existence a tape recording of conversations between two U.S. attachés and General Juan de los Santos Céspedes, head of the Dominican air force, and General Wessin y Wessin. By chance, there is also a record of unintentional eavesdropping a few days later. On April 29, U.S. correspondents aboard the Boxer accidentally tuned in a transistor radio on shortwave communications between the U.S. Embassy and the San Isidro base, and then heard conversations between Ambassador Bennett and military junta leaders coming through in the clear from the ships radio. In addition, Szulc reports, U.S. military attachés were stationed at the San Isidro base with the Wessin command and relayed requests for assistance to the embassy as early as Monday, April 26. The only question, then, is what the attachés were doing a day or two earlier.
Bosch's information was made known in part by Homer Bigart in the New York Times of May 7, 1965. On the evening of Saturday, April 24, the first day of the revolt, when the military leaders were still immobilized, Bosch said, the U.S. air attaché had called the San Isidro Air Force Base to talk to General de los Santos Céspedes. The attaché “ordered the Dominican general to have two air squadrons ready to bomb the city early Sunday morning.” But de los Santos Céspedes then refused. In a private letter to me, Bosch has added that both the U.S. air and naval attachés began on Saturday evening to “order” the Dominican air force, navy, and General Wessin to attack the Boschist forces, and that another demand for an air attack on the National Palace was made on Sunday afternoon.
Bosch also told Bigart that the U.S. air attaché had again called General de los Santos Céspedes on Sunday night and had informed him that the U.S. embassy “had intercepted three telephone calls made by [Provisional] President Jose Rafael Molina Ureña to Fidel Castro asking for military aid.” The attaché authorized General de los Santos Céspedes to print handbills to this effect and have planes ready to distribute them from the air throughout the country. In his letter to me, Bosch adds that the air attaché assured de los Santos Céspedes that the intercepted telephone conversation revealed that Castro had agreed to Molina Ureña's request for aid and that the Cubans were going to send some that very night. The leaflet containing this utterly unfounded story, according to Bosch, was dropped by Dominican air force planes the next day, Monday, April 26, especially on military posts. One of these planes landed and was interned in Puerto Rico the following day, with the result that the story leaked out again.
As far as I know, two other sources have referred to this activity of the U.S. military attachés. The first reference appears in the last sentence of the passage already quoted from the article by Philip Geyelin in the Wall Street Journal of June 25, 1965. This sentence, dealing explicitly with the events of Sunday, April 25, is important enough to cite again:
Nonetheless, Washington was advised [by the embassy], the embassy military attachés had given “loyalist” leaders a go-ahead to do “everything possible” to prevent what was described as the danger of a “Communist take-over.”
It appears from the context that Geyelin was able to put forward this assertion, with direct quotations, from the official records made available to him. Whether or not all the details provided by Bosch prove to be accurate, Geyelin's version confirms the essence of the charge. It would go far to explain why the Dominican air force finally attacked the National Palace at about 4:30 P.M. on April 25.
The second reference occurs in Szulc's book, where, however, it is limited to the naval attachés:
Messages between the embassy in Santo Domingo and the State Department in Washington Sunday and Monday had disclosed growing concern over the navy's role and one of the principal functions of the embassy's naval attachés had become to persuade Captain Rivero Caminera [Dominican naval commander] to cast his lot with the loyalist troops or at least remain neutral. To judge from the lobbing of shells into the Presidential Palace area Tuesday morning [April 27], the attachés' effort had proved successful.
It is unclear from this account whether the attachés' persuasion as well as the embassy's concern should be dated Sunday and Monday. But Szulc also seems to be basing himself on material in the State Department's files.
If the intervention of the U.S. military attachés should prove to have been the determining, or even a major, factor in the Dominican air force and navy decision to launch attacks on Sunday and the following days, the verdict of history will be that U.S. pressure contributed to the prevention of an early Boschist victory and helped to plunge the country into a bloody civil war.
The question arises whether the military attachés might have acted on their own or had consulted in advance with their Washington superiors. It is hard to believe that they could have acted on their own because communications between Washington and Santo Domingo were never interrupted. But if they did, they must have done so on the premise that the pre-April 24 policy required it, that Wessin's tanks and de los Santos's planes had to do the job that Reid Cabral had done previously. Either way, there is reason to stress the continuity of the policy before and after April 24.
President Johnson and other U.S. spokesmen have sought to concentrate public attention on the events of April 27 and 28, when U.S. lives were allegedly in immediate danger, the Boschist movement had allegedly collapsed, and the Communists had allegedly taken over, to justify U.S. military intervention. They have been notably reticent about the actual policy in the first two to four days, except to imply that they were initially sympathetic to a popular democratic revolution that went out of control. This claim of initial sympathy has never been very persuasive because it was not matched by any actions that might have been expected to flow from it. The least that might have been expected was some slight effort to make contact with Juan Bosch, the avowed and acknowledged leader of the “popular democratic revolution,” who was, after all, in Río Piedras, a suburb of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a telephone call away. The failure to show the slightest interest in Bosch was, however, only a negative reason for suspecting that official U.S. sympathy with the Boschist revolution might have been a literary afterthought to make the actual intervention somewhat more palatable. But now we have more positive reasons for this suspicion—the repeated Washington instructions in favor of a military junta, the increasingly anti-Bosch tenor of the embassy's messages, and above all, the evidence pointing to the military attachés' pressures before April 27 and possibly as early as April 24 for Dominican air and naval attacks on the pro-Bosch forces. The difference between what President Johnson said about the “popular democratic revolution that was committed to democracy and social justice” and what was done about it has become almost incredibly grotesque.
When one comes to consider the direct U.S. military intervention on April 28, one is again struck by two different levels on which the policy operated—the public and the private.
On the public level, President Johnson's statements must be considered the most authoritative. His first statement, on April 28, justified the landing of marines wholly in terms of the protection of American lives. On April 30, he suggested for the first time that there might be something more—“there are signs that people trained outside the Dominican Republic are seeking to gain control.” But “signs” of people “seeking” control seemed to refer to a future danger; this cautious allusion to the still-unnamed Communists did not appear to apply to his decision two days earlier to send the marines. Not until May 2 did President Johnson clear up this point in a speech which will long be debated for what it said and left unsaid.
It said, for example, that the United States had worked for a cease-fire, but it did not say that the United States had four times urged a military junta. It said that “we have also maintained communications with President Bosch, who has chosen to remain in Puerto Rico,” but it did not say that there were no communications with Bosch until he took the initiative and called one of President Johnson's confidants, Abe Fortas, and it did not say that Bosch had vainly asked for U.S. transportation to the Dominican Republic. It told of the two telegrams from Ambassador Bennett on April 28 that had triggered the actual decision to intervene, but, as we shall see, in a highly garbled and tendentious form. And it gave the now familiar official version of the so-called Communist takeover before the marines moved in.
According to this account, U.S. servicemen had “rescued” the Dominican Republic from an “international conspiracy” on April 28. A “tragic turn” had taken place in the revolution whereby the original leadership had been “superseded” by “other evil forces.” The exact transformation was spelled out twice: “And what began as a popular democratic revolution, committed to democracy and social justice, very shortly moved and was taken over and really seized and placed into the hands of a band of Communist conspirators.” A few minutes later, the President repeated: “What began as a popular democratic revolution that was committed to democracy and social justice moved into the hands of a band of Communist conspirators.”
Whatever truth there may have been in this intelligence, it invites two questions. First, why was President Johnson far more cautious and tentative about the Communist takeover on April 30 than on May 2? The apparent answer, which we will explore later, is that something happened between those days which had made him more certain and unqualified in his approach to the problem. But the delay also suggests that his conviction on this point came too late to explain an action which had already taken place on April 28. Second, how “tragic” could the revolution's turn have really been to an administration which had never made the slightest effort to support it in the first place? If words have any meaning, if it was “tragic” that the revolution took a Communist turn, was it not equally “tragic” that the United States did not support—if nothing worse—the revolution before it took that turn?
Nevertheless, one thing emerges from the public Johnsonian interpretation: the good Boschist stage was followed by the bad Communist stage. They were so different that the one had to be “taken over and really seized and placed into the hands of” the other, tragically.
Privately, however, officials of the same administration titillated journalists with quite a different story. Here is a sampling of version No. 2 that came out of Washington and Santo Domingo:
“We can't afford to let Wessin lose,” said one U.S. official. “We're not going to allow Bosch to come back and let the country drift into chaos so that the Communists and pro-Castro elements can take over” (Life, May 7, 1965) .
U.S. intelligence flatly reported that ousted President Bosch had been in contact with several Communist leaders from the Dominican Republic shortly before the rebellion (Time, May 14, 1965).
American officials here are convinced beyond any possible doubt that the man who rose to the top of the Dominican rebellion—Col. Francisco Caamaño Deñó—is only a front for the real conspirators, the Communists behind his movement (U.S. News & World Report, May 17, 1965).
Ambassador Bennett had reports “that Juan Bosch, from his exile in Puerto Rico, was working closely with them [the Communists] in an attempt to regain power” (The National Observer, May 17, 1965).
Certainly, the State Department's middle echelon was aware that Bosch's PRD had entered into a working arrangement with the Moscow-Communist Popular Socialist Party (PSP), the Peiping dominated Dominican Popular Movement (MPD), the Castroite June 14 Party. . . . In the days before the revolt, intelligence sources were aware that a Communist junta had been organized to rule the united front (Ralph de Toledano, King Features Syndicate, May 9, 1965).
Dr. Bosch, in violation of Federal law, directs the activities of the Communist Castroite rebellion by long distance phone from American soil (ibid., May 10, 1965).
Captured documents and highly secret reports in the hands of the Central Intelligence Agency show very clearly that the crisis in the Dominican Republic was merely the first on a long Communist timetable for the takeover of Latin America (ibid., May 19, 1965).
Ambassador W. Tapley Bennett told a group of us on April 29 that the PRD and the Communists had been collaborating. He said: “The Communists worked with Bosch's PRD for months. They were prepared well in advance of Reid's overthrow” (Paul D. Bethel, Washington Daily News, June 21, 1965).
A U.S. government official in Santo Domingo told a news briefing that “the U.S. government has evidence that Caamaño met Tuesday [May 4J with members of three Communist organizations. These Communists, the official said, ‘obtained from Caamaño a solemn promise that if he wins [the Presidency in elections] their Communist parties will have a solid voice in running the government'” (Associated Press, May 5, 1965).
Thus, other official U.S. sources, usually anonymous, were sponsoring a different kind of interpretation of Bosch's relations with the Communists—that they were virtually indistinguishable because they had entered into a pact before the revolt and had sealed it afterward. The U.S. officials and intelligence agencies that fed these stories to the press inferentially cut the ground from under President Johnson's position, which at least recognized a basic difference between the democratic Boschists and the totalitarian Communists, and predicated the Communist takeover on a regrettable Boschist setback. To make matters even more peculiar, one of the primary sources for version No. 2, Ambassador Bennett, was also one of the chief authorities for version No. 1. One hopes to live long enough to read in someone's memoirs the explanation for this strange discrepancy in so notoriously single-minded an administration.
Whatever the reason may prove to be, these different versions of the Bosch-Communist relationship before and after the revolt, both emanating from official sources and neither of them necessarily true, raise a particularly disturbing and insistent question: what and whose was U.S. policy in this crisis? Was it solely embodied in a formal speech by the President? Or was it the product of all the words and actions of all the executive departments and agencies concerned with the problem? Insiders often feel that U.S. policy is made like a stew: many people put various things into the pot, and what comes out may not altogether please any of them. The execution of that policy may also be stew-like.
Government officials and the press play a game of politics and propaganda which has become as stylized as an 18th-century dance. First the officials hand out privileged information to favored journalists (“U.S. intelligence flatly reported that . . .”). Then the journalists pass on the same information, with or without attribution, to their readers. Finally, pro-administration Congressmen fill pages of the Congressional Record with the same articles to prove that the officials were right.
The correspondents whom public officials used as transmission belts for these juicy tidbits about Bosch's tie-up with the Communists were, of course, in no position to check their sources. The deals had allegedly taken place weeks or months before, outside the Dominican Republic. But one of the most sensational stories about Colonel Caamaño's dalliance with the Communists was not so far away in place or time. I refer to the tale told by the usual “U.S. official” at a briefing in the embassy on May 5, which I have cited previously as reported by the Associated Press. Since the Caamaño-Communist meeting had allegedly taken place in Santo Domingo the day before, some correspondents decided to track it down.
This is how Kurzman describes the denouement:
Meanwhile, Caamaño, [Héctor] Aristy, and Peña Gómez, all of whom were listed as being present at the meeting, flatly denied to me that such a meeting had taken place. “American diplomats must be nuts,” Caamaño said, twirling his finger next to his head. “They have Communists on the brain.”
About two weeks later, after Washington decided that the Communist threat had greatly diminished, embassy officials said privately that the information about the meeting had apparently proved to be inaccurate.7
I have looked in the press for a retraction of the story, in vain.
The classic case of contaminated news is undoubtedly Ambassador Bennett's briefing on April 29. It was Bennett's first meeting with the newly arrived correspondents, none of whom could yet circulate freely in the city. The ambassador devoted most of the meeting to the “Communist takeover” and rebel atrocities. The first list of 53 Dominican Communists was passed out. The ambassador horrified the assembled correspondents with some of the reports that he had received: the rebels were shooting people against walls to the accompaniment of the Castroite cry, “Paredón!” (To the wall!); they had severed heads and paraded them on spikes; Colonel Caamaño had machine-gunned Colonel Calderón, the aide-de-camp of Reid Cabral. Szulc tells us that a telegram from Bennett to the State Department that same day reported that Caamaño had “personally killed” Colonel Juan Calderón. The message said that “Caamaño had gone berserk” and had committed numerous atrocities.
This is how Ambassador Bennett's briefing was worked into the story in Time magazine of May 7:
No one had an accurate count of the casualties as frenzied knots of soldiers and civilians roamed the streets, shooting, looting and herding people to their execution with cries of “Paredón! Paredón!” (To the wall! To the Wall!) . . . The rebels executed at least 110 opponents, hacked the head off a police officer and carried it about as a trophy.
Here is the version in the U.S. News & World Report of May 10:
Victims were dragged from their homes and shot down while angry mobs shouted, “To the wall!”—the same cry that marked the mass executions in Cuba in the early days of Fidel Castro. The assassinated Dominicans were dumped into crude graves right at the execution spots.
Other reports from the embassy found their way into President Johnson's speeches: there were “1,000 to 1,500 bodies that are dead in the street” and “six or eight of the embassies have been torn up” (May 4); “some 1,500 innocent people were murdered and shot, and their heads cut off,” and “six Latin American embassies were violated” (June 17). Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker went the President one better and told the O.A.S. he understood that the El Salvador embassy had been sacked and burned.
None of these atrocity stories turned out to be true. When the correspondents were able to see for themselves and talk to Dominicans in the street, they quickly learned that the mass executions and cries of “Paredón!” had never taken place. No one had ever seen heads on spikes. Colonel Calderon was found in a hospital suffering from a slight neck injury and was soon released. Since President Johnson told of 1,0001,500 dead bodies in the street on May 4, the correspondents could go right out to look for them; they found, as Barnard L. Collier later put it, “no more than 6 to 10 bodies in the streets at one time.” There had been no looting in the rebel zone.8 No embassy was torn up, and the El Salvador embassy had not been sacked or burned.
Ambassador Bennett never expressed regret for his horror stories of April 29. Instead, embassy officers have blamed the press for having reported these admittedly unverified “rumors” or “reports received” as if they were “known facts.”9 Whatever sins the press may have committed, this is surely the grossest injustice to a group of hard-pressed correspondents who had just arrived on the scene, were getting their first briefing from the ambassador, and were still totally dependent on him for their information. They were certainly entitled to assume that no responsible and experienced diplomat in these circumstances would stand before them and feed them not one but a succession of atrocity reports implicating by name the main military leaders of the revolt.10 It is also hard to believe that Mr. Bennett was not aware of the dubious journalistic practice of leaving out the source and passing off information as if the correspondent had first-hand knowledge of it himself. As the versions in Time and U.S. News & World Report show, the worst offenders were precisely the “news” organs that most crudely took their lead from the ambassador: not only did they themselves assume responsibility for some of his stories but they never did inform their readers that the stories had started out as unverified rumors and had ended up as verified myths. There must be thousands of readers who depend on Time or U.S. News ir World Report for their news, and still think that “Paredón! Paredón!” was the theme song of the Dominican revolution. After all, President Johnson still brought up the 1,500 people who had been “murdered and shot, and their heads cut off” at a news conference on June 17, over six weeks after he should have known better.
I do not mean to suggest that the correspondents did not find enough death, destruction, and suffering to be appalled. What they found, however, was the result of the civil war, not of a lust for blood peculiar to Colonel Caamaño and his supporters. If there were any true atrocities in the entire struggle, they were committed by the Dominican air force and navy which repeatedly bombed, shelled, and strafed the city. The most reprehensible air attacks came on June 15 and 16 in flagrant violation of the ceasefire. If shooting “innocent people” was so disturbing to President Johnson, it is hard to understand how he was able to resist speaking out against this crime, especially since he chose to recall the 1,500 “innocent people” who had allegedly been murdered and shot and had their heads cut off between April 24 and April 28, on June 17, the day after the utterly indefensible Dominican air force attacks on “its own” defenseless city.
It is difficult, if not impossible, in a country like the United States to separate what anyone, even the President, says U.S. policy is and how that policy is transmitted to and through the press. The way our Dominican policy was transmitted to and through the press in the last week of April 1965 indicates that what this country needs at least as much as anything else is a pure news law.
We may get closer to a fuller understanding of the strange contortions of U.S. policy in the Dominican crisis by observing a peculiar phenomenon—the almost obsessive insistence on the part of the highest U.S. officials that they did not do what they did and that they did what they did not do.
“Let me also make clear tonight that we support no single man or any single group of men in the Dominican Republic,” said President Johnson on May 2. The United States, Thomas Mann told Max Frankel in the New York Times of May 9, did not respond to a request from the military junta formed April 28 to send in U.S. armed forces “because this would have amounted to taking sides in the internal struggle.” Five months later, on October 12 at San Diego, Mr. Mann again insisted that “in the case of the Dominican Republic we refrained, during the first days of violence, from ‘supporting’ the outgoing government or ‘supporting’ either of the factions contending for power.” Throughout, “neutrality,” “non-intervention,” self-imposed abstention from “supporting” anyone or any cause has been an article of faith.
One asks not merely whether this was true, but whether it was fitting. Whatever a great power like the United States did or did not do in the Dominican Republic, it could not help influencing the course of events. Ever since Secretary of State William H. Seward tried to annex the Dominican Republic to the United States a hundred years ago, the United States has partly or wholly determined the Dominicans' fate. A U.S. “receivership” of Dominican finances was imposed in 1905; a U.S. military occupation lasted from 1916 to 1924; Trujillo's tyranny was favored for almost two decades; when the old despot decided to bite the hand that had fed him, the C.I.A. provided the weapons for his assassination; and U.S. official representatives have taken a hand in every succeeding change of government. After all this, it is really too much to promise and pretend and protest that we support no one in the very act of supporting the wrong ones.
We may hold in abeyance the question of whether the military attachés incited the Dominican armed forces to fight the Boschist revolt in the first days. But there can be no doubt that Ambassador Bennett himself soon arranged for matériel support in behalf of the military junta.
The story can be pieced together from several sources. On Monday, April 26, according to Szulc, U.S. military attachés at the San Isidro base, General Wessin's command post, relayed to the embassy requests for communications equipment, particularly for walkie-talkies to coordinate the action of Wessin's tanks. Szulc then refers to a long cablegram from Chargé d'Affaires Connett to the State Department that afternoon, and paraphrases its contents as follows:
that while direct United States intervention in the Dominican civil war might be inadvisable because of Dr. Bosch's popularity, the pro-Bosch movement had to be stopped by other means—or there would be “extremism in six months” in the Dominican Republic. The cablegram implied in effect that at least logistical support should be given the Wessin forces.
And logistical support was given the Wessin forces. Ambassador Bennett returned to Santo Domingo at about noon on Tuesday, April 27. Szulc goes on:
One of the ambassador's first acts after he got behind his desk was to send a cablegram to Washington recommending that walkie-talkies and other communications equipment be flown in for the Wessin forces. He indicated that the availability of such equipment could spell the difference between victory or defeat for Wessin.
Philip Geyelin of the Wall Street Journal (June 25, 1965) had previously derived similar information from the official records:
While Washington continued to proclaim impartiality and to decry continued bloodshed, the Santo Domingo embassy, by Wednesday [April 28], was even more actively laboring in the “loyalist” cause. Communications gear was urgently requested, to help the isolated anti-rebel units maintain closer contact.
Though regretting the necessity for a “military solution for a political crisis,” the embassy went on to warn, in the afternoon of the day marines finally landed [April 28], that denial of communications help could so dishearten the junta forces that U.S. military intervention might well be recommended “in the near future” to protect citizens and possibly for other purposes. Pointedly, Washington was asked to make a choice.
Geyelin, it is clear, had known whereof he had written. Szulc's book gives the exact time and language of Ambassador Bennett's message. As the newly formed three-man military junta headed by Colonel Pedro Bartolomé Benoit of the Dominican air force began to see victory slip from its grasp on the morning of April 28, its desperation became infectious. At 1:48 P.M., Ambassador Bennett cabled the State Department that Wessin's communications problem was “critical.” He reminded the department that “these people are facing leftist forces” and asked the department to realize “what would be the effect on the morale of the air force and others” if their requests were rejected.
Shortly afterward, Ambassador Bennett sent this message to Washington:
I regret that we may have to impose a military solution to a political problem. . . . While leftist propaganda will fuzz this up as a fight between the military and the people, the issue is really between those who want a Castro-type solution and those who oppose it.
I don't want to overdramatize, but if we deny the communications equipment, and if the opposition to the leftists lose heart, we may be asking in the near future for a landing of marines to protect U.S. interests and for other purposes. What does Washington prefer?
It should be remembered that the ambassador had barely been back in Santo Domingo for twenty-four hours. His concern was entirely political, not “humanitarian.” His language was so vague that it seemed designed to take in far more than genuine Communists. “Those who want a Castro-type solution” was a peculiar circumlocution if he meant bona-fide Castroites, and “leftists” might easily have embraced anyone to the left of Reid Cabral or General Wessin. We have here a diplomat who was not necessarily unbalanced by panic or misinformation but rather had been conditioned to take a certain course of action by his general background and previous U.S. policy.
So far in this incident I have cited correspondents who had’ some access to official records. The rest of the story can be told in the words of two leading members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who undoubtedly know what is in the diplomatic files. On September 15, Senator Fulbright declared:
Ambassador Bennett thereupon [the morning of April 28] urgently recommended that the anti-rebels under Air Force General de los Santos be furnished 50 walkie-talkies from U.S. Defense Department stocks in Puerto Rico. Repeating this recommendation later in the day, Bennett said that the issue was one between Castroism and its opponents.
Another member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joseph Clark of Pennsylvania, assured the Senate two days later: “I can testify from my own personal knowledge that the comments of the Senator from Arkansas [Fulbright] are fully and accurately documented by the classified record in the files of the Committee on Foreign Relations.” On the incident in question, Senator Clark went on to say: “Ambassador Bennett requested walkie-talkies for the military junta, and he got them.”
As for the origin of the three-man junta, Senator Clark also lifted the veil a little higher:
At the instance of the C.I.A.—I believe it can be documented—a new junta headed by a certain Colonel Benoit had been formed, although it was pretty well confined to the San Isidro air base.
Thus Ambassador Bennett was under pressure from two directions—from the military attachés stationed with Wessin's forces and from a Dominican military junta behind which was the C.I.A.
One thing, however, may be said in behalf of this episode of the walkie-talkies—it has never been mentioned by President Johnson, Secretary Rusk, Under Secretary Mann, or anyone else in an official position, and so they cannot be accused of having misrepresented it. Unfortunately, the President could not similarly ignore the actual request from Colonel Benoit for U.S. military intervention or tell the whole story. As I have previously mentioned, it appears that he told it in a garbled and tendentious form.
As Mr. Johnson reminisced on May 2 and May 4, he was sitting in his office on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 28, with Secretary of State Rusk, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and Presidential Adviser McGeorge Bundy, and with “no desire to interfere” in the Dominican Republic. Suddenly, shortly after 3 P.M., he received a cable from Ambassador Bennett that the police chief of Santo Domingo and “governmental authorities” had informed him that they “could no longer protect us” (May 2). The same cable also stated that the ambassador was “not prepared at this moment to recommend that you take this action” and merely wished to alert Washington to the necessity of contingency planning (May 4). About two hours later, at 5:14 P.M., another cable from Ambassador Bennett repeated that the Dominican “police and the government” could no longer guarantee American or foreign lives, but this time the ambassador went on to say that “only an immediate landing of American forces could safeguard and protect” them (May 2); or in the later version, a cable at 5:16 P.M. said “there is firing in the streets, there is great danger to all personnel in this area, land the troops immediately to protect our people” (May 4). The same two cables were described in more or less the same way by Secretary Rusk on May 26.
I would recommend the sequence of events on April 28 to a graduate seminar in history as a classical case study of three stages of historical events: what actually happened, what is at first said to have happened, and what later comes out as having really happened.
Our seminar might well start with the events of the previous day, Tuesday, April 27. That morning an incident took place at the Hotel Embajador which later became, in a distorted form, the main exhibit to support the contention that a landing of marines had been necessary to save American lives. Over 1,000 Americans were assembled at the hotel waiting for evacuation. A group of armed “rebels” burst into the lobby obviously looking for someone, lined up the naturally frightened American civilians against the walls, and fired some shots in the air. When they did not find what they were looking for, the intruders left, the evacuation of 1,172 Americans went off on schedule, and except for some frayed nerves, no one was any the worse for the experience.
The class will please note how easy it is, in the heat of defending a policy, to get even the date of a key event wrong. On May 26, a month later, Secretary of State Rusk referred to the Hotel Embajador incident in order to impress his audience with the grave peril to “hundreds” of Americans at the moment the President received the second telegram from Ambassador Bennett at 5:15 P.M. on Wednesday, April 28.11 The Secretary said: “That is, that telegram indicated that there was a most immediate problem on the scene. Hundreds were gathered at the Embajador Hotel, and there were people running around the hotel, shooting it up with tommyguns, and so forth.” This incident had actually happened over twenty-four hours before the telegram was received, but it apparently meant so much to the Secretary that he unwittingly juxtaposed it with the famous “critic” telegram.
If the incident signified anything, however, it was that the rebels had not been bent on harming Americans. With over a thousand Americans at their mercy in the hotel, they could easily have done more than at worst to have given them a good scare. It later transpired that the rebel band had been looking for Rafael Bonilla Aybar, publisher of the newspaper, Prensa Libre, as close to a fascist sheet as has existed in Latin America. In short, the incident was not anti-American in origin; it was a typical, short-lived contretemps in the midst of a civil war; and it had a happy ending.
It is noteworthy that Ambassador Bennett's cable to Washington three or four hours later that same day intimating that the marines might have to be called soon, did not owe its inspiration to the Hotel Embajador incident, as one might have expected if saving U.S. lives had been uppermost in his mind. His entire argument, as we have seen, took off from the urgent need of the Wessin forces for “communications equipment,” the denial of which might so make them “lose heart” that the marines instead of the Dominican armed forces might have to “protect U.S. interests and for other purposes” [my italics, T.D.]. Indeed, from the moment he stepped back into the embassy at about noon on April 27, Ambassador Bennett followed a coldly consistent, ruthlessly rational line. From the first, the ambassador told Washington what it had to do to make possible a military junta victory or, failing that, to frustrate a revolutionary victory. It was not his fault that, for political reasons, Washington decided to “fuzz” the real issue as he saw it and which he stated with tough-minded clarity in his cable of April 27, before there was any reason for him to become panic-stricken.
In fact, soon after Mr. Bennett had sent the plea for walkie-talkies on April 27, he had every reason to believe that Wessin's forces had turned the tables on the revolutionaries and had victory in their grasp. The reason for this shift in favor of the Dominican armed forces on April 27 now seems somewhat clearer. One of the initial advantages of the revolt had been the hesitations and dissensions within the armed forces' command.12 By April 27, however, the vacillators had made up their minds. The Dominican navy as a whole cast in with the old regime. General Montás Guerrero decided to jump off the fence and sent his regiment from San Cristobal into the western sector of the capital, not far from the Hotel Embajador. Wessin's tanks staged a major push to get into the city from the east across the Duarte bridge. In any event, the outlook seemed so unfavorable to the rebel leaders by the late afternoon that a group of them, including Provisional President Molina Ureña and Colonel Caamaño, came to the U.S. Embassy to ask the ambassador to mediate and negotiate a settlement.
This meeting has given rise to such conflicting accounts that there is no way to recapture it to the satisfaction of both sides. In brief, Mr. Bennett says that he refused the request for mediation and negotiation because they would have amounted to “intervention,” for which he lacked authorization. Colonel Caamaño claims that Mr. Bennett told them not to try to negotiate but to surrender outright. The only thing both seem to agree on is that the ambassador refused the request to mediate and negotiate, which is enough for our purposes. Sick at heart, Sr. Molina Ureña and Colonel Hernando Ramírez were persuaded to take asylum in a Latin American embassy.
There was nothing panicky or ill-informed about Mr. Bennett's refusal to mediate. With virtually the whole rebel command in his office asking, in effect, for a face-saving end to the revolt, he had every right to consider it all but over. The only question was whether he would make it easier for them. The reason he has given for telling them to do it the hard way is so unconvincing that one is forced to seek another explanation. He was so little loath to “intervene” that he had spent a good part of that afternoon trying to persuade Washington to save Wessin's forces from possible defeat by giving them what seemed to be desperately needed communications equipment. Instead of similarly seeking authorization from Washington to accede to the request for mediation, he merely rejected it on the ground that he lacked authorization. Given the documentary evidence of the lengths to which the ambassador was willing to go to bring about a rebel defeat, it is hard to believe that fastidiousness in his interpretation of intervention was his real motive. More probably, he did not wish to drag out the apparent rebel defeat by interposing a period of negotiation, and preferred to leave the rebel leaders to the tender mercies of the old trujillista generals without accepting any responsibility for them.
This was the second time in three days that a U.S. action may have served to prolong the conflict. On April 24 and 25, the U.S. military attachés may have kept the war going by egging on the Dominican military leaders. On April 27, Ambassador Bennett almost certainly kept the war going by refusing to arrange what at that moment could only have been an armed forces' victory. On the basis of hindsight, it is easy to accuse the ambassador of misjudgment. It would be nearer the truth to consider him a victim of bad luck. No one could have foreseen that the conflict would take another sharp turn in the next twenty-four hours and transmute his refusal to mediate into the surpassing irony of the entire crisis.
A fully satisfactory account of what happened on the evening of April 27 and morning of April 28 to change the perspective from a collapse of the rebels to a collapse of the armed forces does not yet seem possible. The official U.S. interpretation, as expressed by the President on May 2, is that the collapse of Colonel Caamaño's forces on April 27 enabled the Communists to move in and take over and really seize and place into their hands the originally popular democratic revolution. The implication is that the Communists defeated the armed forces and revived the revolt under their own leadership. On the other hand, it is known that Colonel Caamaño, Colonel Monte Araches, and others of their group, infuriated by what they considered Ambassador Bennett's insulting behavior in rejecting their request for mediation, went back to the Duarte bridge and renewed their resistance to the incursion of General Wessin's tank force. It should be kept in mind that over 1,000 officers and enlisted men fought with Colonel Caamaño to the bitter end.
Other U.S. sources suggest that Colonel Caamaño, now in charge of the revolt as a result of Colonel Hernando Ramírez's having taken asylum. again benefited from cross purposes within the Dominican armed forces. The testimony before Senator Fulbright's committee led him to comment: “Owing to a degree of disorganization and timidity on the part of the anti-rebel forces which no one, including the U.S. Embassy and the rebels themselves, anticipated, the rebels were still fighting on the morning of Wednesday, April 28.”13 And Representative Armistead I. Selden, Jr. of Alabama, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs, and as such also privy to all the documentation, attributed the rebel recovery on April 28 at least in part to the fact that “the armed forces under command of Gen. Wessin y Wessin did not move” and “the Dominican Army was sitting out at San Isidro base doing nothing.”14 Whenever the armed forces met much resistance, it appears, many of the soldiers lost their taste for fighting and deserted en masse. The problem may well be why the overwhelmingly superior Dominican army did not fight harder rather than why their opponents were able to fight so well.
Thus a number of factors other than the alleged Communist push and takeover may explain the armed forces' reversal on April 28. It is certainly reasonable to suppose that Colonel Caamaño did not administer any political tests to anyone who was willing to go out and fight in the darkest hours of April 27-28. But the theory of the Communist “miracle” was never very convincing. If the Communists, with nothing more than Molotov cocktails, some machine-guns and small arms at their disposal, could have overwhelmed at minimum an infantry regiment and tanks from San Isidro, another infantry regiment from San Cristóbal, plus the Dominican air force and navy, all in a matter of hours, they would certainly have been strong and headstrong enough to attack the first few hundred marines who landed on April 28-29. The Communists would have been delighted to exchange them for the Dominican military as their real enemy. One little understands Fidel Castro or the Castroite mentality if one can believe that the Dominican Castroites, flushed with a lightning victory over the entire Dominican military establishment, would have missed a golden opportunity to wage a holy war of national liberation against direct U.S. military intervention.
In any event, Ambassador Bennett woke up on Wednesday, April 28, to an altogether different situation. Instead of the Boschists begging him to intercede, the C.I.A.'s brain child, Colonel Benoit's military junta, was crying for help. This unexpected upset again gave the United States an opportunity to demonstrate how it was not “taking sides in the internal struggle” and not “‘supporting’ either of the factions contending for power.”
We may now take a closer look at the two cables from Ambassador Bennett on the afternoon of April 28, which had supposedly convinced President Johnson that he had to send in the marines for no other purpose than to save American lives. We have been solemnly told by the President and the Secretary of State that the first cable at about 3 P.M. had broken the news to them that the Dominican “governmental authorities” could no longer protect Americans—but that it contained no request from the ambassador for U.S. armed intervention. Then at about 5:15 P.M. came the other cable with more or less the same message from the Dominican “law enforcement and military officials” but now accompanied by the ambassador's urgent appeal for immediate troop landings.
The only deduction that can be drawn from this account is that something had happened in the two-and-a-quarter hours between 3 P.M. and 5:15 P.M. to change the ambassador's mind about the necessity for U.S. armed intervention. In subsequent statements, the President tried to give the impression that what had happened was greater personal danger for American citizens, and even for the ambassador himself. “As we talked to Ambassador Bennett,” the President related somewhat melodramatically six days later, “he said to apparently one of the girls who brought him a cable, he said, please get away from the window, that glass is going to cut your head, because the glass had been shattered, and we heard the bullets coming through the office where he was sitting while talking to us.”15 As time passed, the President's saga of the ambassador's ordeal on April 28 became more and more imaginative, until seven weeks later, he had Mr. Bennett “talking to us from under a desk while bullets were going through his windows.”16
One of those who has read Mr. Bennett's second message, Philip Geyelin, was surprised to find that it was not at all as anguished about the safety of Americans as Mr. Johnson had led him to believe. Geyelin wrote:
Though Mr. Johnson, with the poetic license to which a politician may be entitled, was later to report that he received at 5:16 P.M. on Wednesday [April 28] a cable from Ambassador Bennett, warning that “you must land troops immediately or blood will run in the streets, American blood will run in the streets,” the actual message was considerably more low-key.
It did recommend the landing of marines and did state, in one short sentence, that the lives of U.S. citizens were endangered. But it dwelt at far greater length on the rapid collapse of the anti-rebel drive and on the pathos of the weary, weeping generals in the “loyalist” headquarters at San Isidro air base. And it contained a revealing passage which for security reasons must be paraphrased. If the policy-makers preferred, the embassy said in effect, the troops could be sent in with a mission of covering the evacuation; the clear implication was that the embassy had some other real mission in mind, such as a show of force to hearten the anti-rebel junta.17
There is also some question about the verisimilitude of the details with which the President embellished his telephone conversation with the ambassador (which apparently took place after the arrival of the second cable).18 Tad Szulc looked into the circumstances and found:
There was intermittent sniper fire, apparently by irregulars or plain hoodlums, around the embassy when Mr. Bennett spoke to the President. Somehow the idea was conveyed to the President that the embassy was at that moment under direct and heavy machine-gun fire. As Mr. Johnson later related the episode, Mr. Bennett and his secretary were under their desks as the ambassador spoke to the White House.
But embassy officials said later that at no time had the embassy building been fired upon by machine guns. For that matter, despite many subsequent sniper firings, there were never any bullet marks on the embassy's walls.
If danger to Americans was the controlling factor, there was no good reason why Ambassador Bennett should have made up his mind between about 3 P.M. and about 5:15 P.M. NO less dangerous fighting in the streets and around the embassy had raged intermittently for at least three days, and the single most explosive incident had occurred the day before at the Hotel Embajador without having caused him to lose his aplomb. By conjuring up such a vivid scene of an ambassador who advised him to send in the marines while crouched under a desk ducking bullets flying through his office, the President inadvertently encouraged the impression that Mr. Bennett may have temporarily surrendered to a panicky concern for his own and other Americans' safety. On the contrary, the ambassador had something else on his mind, and he never made any attempt to disguise it.
The plot thickens if we turn our attention to what the Dominican “governmental authorities” had told Mr. Bennett that had impelled him to send these two cables. Fortunately, we have the text of what is supposed to be the key message from Colonel Benoit to Ambassador Bennett. It reads:
Regarding my earlier request I wish to add that American lives are in danger and conditions of public disorder make it impossible to provide adequate protection. I therefore ask you for temporary intervention and assistance in restoring order in this country.19
The reader will note a telltale phrase at the beginning of this message—“Regarding my earlier request.” In effect, Colonel Benoit had sent two messages, but only one has been made public. The missing message is also the missing link in the chain of events that we have been trying to unravel.
We still do not have the text of Colonel Benoit's first message but we have two very authoritative versions of what it conveyed from members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Fulbright tells us:
In mid-afternoon of April 28, Col. Pedro Bartolomé Benoit, head of a junta which had been hastily assembled, asked again, this time in writing, for U.S. troops on the ground that this was the only way to prevent a Communist takeover; no mention was made of the junta's inability to protect American lives.20
Senator Clark read the same meaning into Colonel Benoit's first message:
That junta sent word to Ambassador Bennett, “You had better send American troops in because a Communist takeover threatens.”21
The forthrightness of this request was not what the ambassador had bargained for. At this juncture on April 28, the evidence in Washington of a Communist takeover was virtually nonexistent. So Colonel Benoit was instructed what to say in order to get the U.S. troops that he wanted.
Here, according to Senator Fulbright, is what happened next:
This request was denied in Washington, and Benoit was thereupon told that the United States would not intervene unless he said he could not protect American citizens present in the Dominican Republic. Benoit was thus told in effect that if he said American lives were in danger, the United States would intervene. And that is precisely what happened.
Senator Clark, as usual, gives us a more colloquial account of what took place:
Ambassador Bennett sent word back, “I can't get away with bringing Americans in on that ground because the evidence is not clear. If you will change your request and make it in writing, and ask American forces to intervene in order to protect American lives, then I believe that we can persuade Washington to do it.”
So Benoit changed his position and put it on the basis of protecting American lives. Bennett forwarded that post haste to the State Department and to the White House, and troops were sent in.
In effect, Ambassador Bennett first put words into Colonel Benoit's mouth or pen, and then used those words to justify sending in U.S. troops. The rest of the operation in Washington was mainly an effort to cover up the tracks of this rather extraordinary transaction. In a totalitarian country, it would probably have taken years, if not decades, to uncover these tracks. In a free country, it took only a few weeks or months. Senator Fulbright told nothing but the unwanted and unvarnished truth in his speech of September 15, which was informed with a grandeur and integrity that can hardly be matched in recent congressional history:
The United States intervened in the Dominican Republic for the purpose of preventing the victory of a revolutionary force which was judged to be Communist dominated. On the basis of Ambassador Bennett's messages to Washington, there is no doubt that the threat of Communism rather than danger to American lives was his primary reason for recommending military intervention.
One may settle, then, for a minimal interpretation of the Johnson-Mann-Bennett policy. If it was not aimed at obtaining victory for the reactionary military forces, it certainly did not wish to see them lose. Conversely, if it did not do anything to defeat the revolt, it was willing to do almost anything to prevent its success.
This policy also managed to prolong the civil war for the second time certainly and the third time possibly in four days. The fighting might never have flared up but for the putative pressure of the military attachés on April 24 and 25; the revolt would have lost its outstanding military and civilian leaders if Ambassador Bennett had agreed to help them give up on April 27; and only twenty-four hours later, the complete collapse of the other side was admittedly averted by sending in U.S. troops. Fate and a word have rarely played such tricks on a diplomat as befell Mr. Bennett on April 27 and 28; in the name of “non-intervention,” he missed an opportunity to end the conflict successfully for “his” side, and then he non-intervened U.S. marines and paratroops right into a shooting civil war.
The Walkie-Talkies and the non-intervention of the U.S. marines on April 28 do not constitute the only evidence of how the United States “refrained,” during the first violent days, from supporting either of the “factions” struggling for power.
I have previously mentioned the unintentional eavesdropping of U.S. correspondents aboard the Boxer as they approached Santo Domingo on Thursday morning, April 29. To their astonishment, they were able to hear official U.S. communications through both a transistor radio and the ship's radio, evidently because the embassy's messages were being relayed to the San Isidro base via the aircraft carrier. Even more disconcerting was the discovery that the ambassador of their nation which, as far as they still knew, was fiercely protesting its neutrality, was manifestly encouraging and assisting the San Isidro generals. They heard lengthy exchanges about the delivery of U.S. equipment and food to the San Isidro forces. Kurzman and Szuk cite almost the same words in one message from Ambassador Bennett to Colonel Benoit: “. . . Do you need more aid? . . . Believe that with determination your plans will succeed.” Szulc adds that a correspondent asked the ambassador later that day about the radio conversations which had provided the newsmen with their first inkling that something untoward was going on.
“The ambassador looked embarrassed and changed the subject,” Szulc notes.
On this same day, April 29, two other leading characters in the Dominican drama, General Antonio Imbert Barreras and former U.S. Ambassador John Bartlow Martin, moved to the center of the stage. As the Boxer's helicopters landed the first group of correspondents in Santo Domingo, they spotted Imbert, accompanied by a U.S. colonel and a Dominican bishop, getting into another helicopter, obviously on their way to the Boxer. Late that night, Mr. Martin received a telephone call from President Johnson's special assistant, Bill D. Moyers, to come to Washington to consult on the Dominican crisis.
Martin returned to Santo Domingo the next evening, April 30, and one of the first persons he went to see was Antonio Imbert Barreras. Imbert reminds one of the former Cuban strongman, Fulgencio Batista. The two built up their political careers on their association with the military but were not themselves military men; Batista had been an army stenographer and Imbert was given the honorary rank of Brigadier General at the end of 1962. What a U.S. official told Philip Geyelin about Imbert might well have been said about Batista: “Tony Imbert is a hood—but with all the advantages of a hood” (the Wall Street Journal, June 3, 1965). Like Batista, too, Imbert was perfectly capable of working with anyone who happened to serve his interests. Trujillo had once appointed Imbert a provincial governor, and he was one of the two surviving assassins of Trujillo; the Communists had also made themselves useful to Imbert in return for his favors, and now he was making his bid for power to save the country from Communism.22
As Mr. Martin told the story in Life of May 28, he visited Imbert again at the latter's invitation on May 3. “Various people” had asked him to “reconstitute” the three-man military junta headed by Colonel Benoit, Imbert said. He was, they had told him, the only man in the Dominican Republic “strong enough” to force the “old generals” to leave the country. Then ensued this dialogue:
I [Martin] asked, “Do you want to do it?”
He said, “I do it. For my country. Not for myself. Whatta hell I want to get into this mess for? I can sit here quiet.”
I said, “We are not going to support any military dictatorship.”
And I don't think any better of the old generals than you do. Can you get rid of them?
What about the junta?
We leave one of them in, Colonel Benoit. The others resign.
“Su-u-re,” drawing it out, a way he has.
What kind of a government is this going to be? Who'll be in it?
No politicians, you can be sure of that Mr. Martin.
And, as far as the readers of Life could know, this is how Antonio Imbert applied for the job of forming and heading another junta.23 The man who had gotten into the mess of assassinating Trujillo, who had gotten into the mess of the post-Trujillo Council of State as one of its seven members, who had been one of the chief impresarios of the mess that had resulted in the anti-Bosch coup, who had made the mess of the Dominican police his private preserve, had been reluctantly talked into the mess of taking power in May 1965—for his country, not for himself. The old fixer knew in advance who in the existing three-man junta had to stay and who could be counted on to go. He accepted three civilian figureheads who were never heard from again. He was so incorrigibly venal that he did not scruple to betray his former comrades-in-arms. For part of the deal to make Imbert the top man required the expulsion from the country of a number of leading military commanders to give Imbert's junta a new look. Ambassador Bennett candidly informed visitors, according to Szulc, that U.S. officials had made up the list to get rid of those generals whose previous association with Trujillo was considered to have made them politically objectionable. Thus, General Belisario Peguero, whom Imbert had put in charge of the police and whom Reid Cabral had fired in one of the reforms that had brought about his downfall, General Montás Guerrero, who had belatedly brought his San Cristóbal regiment into the capital, General Atila Luna Pérez of the air force, who had worked with Imbert on the anti-Bosch coup, and three or four others were unceremoniously hustled out of the country. To his credit, it must be said that General Wessin refused to play this game, and a resignation, already announced, was repudiated by him.
Mr. martin writes as if he had so much authority that he could tell Imbert to go ahead. Whether or not he should have given a little more credit to Ambassador Bennett and the C.I.A., there is no doubt that General Imbert succeeded Colonel Benoit as the chosen instrument of U.S. policy. On May 26, Secretary of State Rusk blandly told a news conference: “As far as the civilian-military group under General Imbert's leadership is concerned, we did encourage them to form a group that could try to assure the normal processes of the countryside which was not involved in downtown Santo Domingo.” He reiterated: “And so we did encourage these gentlemen to associate themselves and to try to help deal with the problems of those areas of the country that were not directly involved in the violence in Santo Domingo itself.” From these words, one might gather that Imbert was “encouraged” merely to form a “group” to “help” (whom?) to deal with (what?) problems outside the capital. In fact, Imbert set up what he called a “Government of National Reconstruction,” which Mr. Martin says “began to behave surprisingly like a government.” Since by the time Mr. Rusk spoke, it had already appointed a foreign minister and representatives to the United Nations and the O.A.S., and demanded all the rights and privileges accorded to legitimate governments, it is difficult to understand the Secretary's language. One can hardly recall a Secretary of State afflicted with such squeamishness.
Mr. Rusk also cast some doubt on Mr. Martin's credentials. When he was asked to comment on the “ethical question” of Mr. Martin's kiss-and-tell article, the Secretary of State delivered himself as follows: “Mr. Martin was not down there on an official appointment. He was not down there as a salaried employee of the Government.” What was he down there for? Only “to establish contact” with people he had known as ambassador during Bosch's administration. His status had only been that of a “private citizen” to assist Ambassador Bennett. We are asked to believe, then, that two “private citizens,” John Bartlow Martin and Antonio Imbert Barreras, had a private little conversation out of which came a “group” which surprisingly behaved like a government.
No one, of course, was deceived, least of all the forces behind the new junta. Only a week later, when the Bundy mission seemed to be pulling the rug from under it, Imbert's chief of staff, General Jacinto Martínez Araña, protested: “We cannot stop because the present government was selected, you know, by a group of American people, United States people. One of them is the ambassador and some more, you know.”24 And Hal Hendrix, from Imbert's corner, reported heartlessly: “Exactly a week earlier American representatives here had stage-managed the creation of a five-member military-civilian junta government of national reconstruction” (New York World-Telegram and Sun, May 18, 1965). Indeed, if Mr. Bundy had had his way at this time, American representatives would have been able to take credit for having stage-managed the creation of Dominican juntas at the rate of one every ten days.
It would have required some of the greatest flimflam artists of all time to get away with this kind of political legerdemain. Somehow one does not quite see Mr. Rusk or Mr. Mann or Mr. Bennett or Mr. Martin in the role.25
Of all the controversial issues that have arisen in the course of the Dominican crisis, the least necessary to dispute is President Johnson's pronouncement that there was a Communist takeover of the revolt. Seldom has a chief executive been led to take such an extreme position by subordinates who could not hold on to it for more than a week.
The trouble starts as soon as one asks when the Communist takeover took place. One school of U.S. officials, as we have seen, inspired stories to the effect that Bosch had sold out to the Communists before the revolt. One of the State Department's advocates, Adolf A. Berle, assured readers of The Reporter of May 20 that the pro-Bosch forces were “infiltrated and then dominated by the trained Communist elements” within 48 hours, that is, by April 26. Mr. Berle evidently knew better than the President, who had dated the takeover from the temporary Boschist setback on April 27.
Privately, of course, Bennett was indoctrinating Washington to the effect that the conflict was one between Castroism and anti-Castroism by, at latest, the afternoon of April 28. After the marines had landed at about 7 P.M. that evening, Mr. Bennett was evidently afraid that their mission might indeed be limited to protecting Americans, and he went all-out to prevent that unpleasant eventuality. At 8 P.M., he sent what Szulc thinks may have been the most crucial single recommendation from the embassy in the entire crisis: “I recommend that serious thought be given to armed intervention to restore order beyond a mere protection of lives. If the present loyalist efforts fail, the power will go to groups whose aims are identical with those of the Communist Party. We might have to intervene to prevent another Cuba.” And in the famous or notorious briefing of April 29, Mr. Bennett handed out the first list of 53 Communist names, though there seems to be a difference of opinion as to how far he went in characterizing the rebel side as Communist.26
In any event, Ambassador Bennett did not commit himself publicly to the Communist takeover. Mr. Bennett permitted “private citizen” John Bartlow Martin to make the first U.S. announcement that the revolution was Communist-controlled at a joint press conference in the embassy on May 2. Martin is quoted as having said: “This was originally a PRD attempt to restore Bosch's constitutional government, but I am now convinced after having talked to many people on the rebel side that this is Communist-dominated, and moderate elements of the PRD are themselves aware of this fact.”27 He had already sent this advice to the President who that same day went on record in support of the extreme Communist-takeover line.
Previously I raised the question of why the President was far more cautious and tentative about the Communist takeover on April 30 than on May 2. The answer very likely lies in Mr. Martin's role those three days. An open enemy of Juan Bosch could not do what a self-professed friend did. This Brutus-like stab inflicted more harm on Bosch's cause than all Wessin's soldiers were able to do.
For about a week after John Bartlow Martin and President Johnson made the first U.S. statements committing this country to the idea of a Communist takeover of the revolt, it became the U.S. party line, though different and somewhat more equivocal expressions were also used. On May 3, Adlai Stevenson was instructed to say at the U.N. that “Communist leaders, many of them trained in Cuba, have taken increasing control of what was initially a democratic movement.” On May 4, the President declared that “some 58 Communists began to rise on that crock of milk, they carne to the surface and took increased leadership in the movement and the leaders and friends of ex-President Bosch were more or less shoved in the background and stepped aside.” On May 8, Secretary of State Rusk told John Hightower of the Associated Press that the U.S. government had acted on mounting evidence that “the Communists had captured the revolution according to plan.” And on May 9, in the New York Times interview with Max Frankel, Under Secretary Mann said that the democratic revolution had “moved into the hands of a band of Communist agents.”
But then a strange thing happened. U.S. spokesmen began to back away from this extreme position and to cast doubt that the Communists had really succeeded in taking over the revolt. For example, at his news conference on May 26, Secretary Rusk merely talked of a “possibility” and “a very serious threat” that Communists would seize control of armed mobs. On June 9, Leonard C. Meeker, the State Department's Legal Adviser, delivered an address before the Foreign Law Association in which he would go no further than to allege that there had been “a grave risk” and a very real “threat” and an appearance that the Communists had been “in a fair way” to take over. Most curiously of all, in a speech in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 17, Ambassador Bennett himself praised U.S. policy in the Dominican Republic in the following terms: “The Communists were prevented from taking over in a chaotic situation and pushing aside the democratic elements involved in the revolt.”
And thus we have come full circle. First the United States sent in the marines because the Communists had taken over the revolt and now the United States claims credit for having prevented the Communists from taking over the revolt. In fact, the congressional defenders of the administration's policy have argued that the intervention was justified on the basis of the “risk” and “threat” and “possibility” of a Communist takeover, not the accomplished fact.
If we accept something that Under Secretary Mann told Max Frankel, then, there is no longer any need to argue about the original U.S. justification for its military intervention. This is what Mr. Mann said: “But there really is no problem, as far as our policy is concerned, unless and until the Communists succeed in actually capturing and controlling a movement.”
By this criterion, a “risk,” “threat,” or “possibility” is not good enough. That is possibly why President Johnson went as far as he did on May 2, but U.S. spokesmen since then have moved further and further away from that dangerously exposed position to one more easily defensible.
This strategic retreat may also be observed in the strange fate of the various “lists” of Dominican Communists and Castroites.
By chance, the new director of the C.I.A., Admiral William F. Raborn, Jr., was sworn in on April 24, a few hours after the revolt had broken out. At least as late as April 28, according to Senator Clark, he was able to produce the names of only three Communists allegedly implicated in the revolt.28 From 3 P.M. to 7 P.M. on April 28, President Johnson disclosed on May 4, U.S. intelligence indicated that no more than two of the “prime leaders in the rebel forces” were men “with a long history of Communist association and insurrections,” one of whom had allegedly fought in the Spanish civil war. Later reports, the President also said, brought the figure up to eight. Then special “alerts” were sent out for more names. On April 29, as we have seen, Ambassador Bennett upped the ante to 53. This jump was apparently made possible by ransacking old, pre-revolt lists for Dominicans who had been previously reported active in Communist movements. For this reason, the first lists were curiously dated, with much of the data no more recent than 1963. On May 1, a list of 54 was leaked to the press in Washington. By May 3, according to the President, he had “the names and addresses and experience and numbers and background” of 58. When four of these proved to be duplications, only 54 were published in the New York Times of May 6.29 And in mid-June a final list of 77 was released sub rosa in Washington.30
One thing is immediately apparent about these lists. They were all ex post facto jobs, hastily put together to justify an already adopted policy rather than to provide raw material for a policy in gestation. Whatever may have been right or wrong about the lists, they were not available to President Johnson and his small circle of advisers when they had to make up their minds to send the marines to frustrate a reported Communist takeover. In fact, if we may judge from the list published in the New York Times on May 6, the President still did not have much to go by. Only one person on it was allegedly “involved in the direction of the insurrection,” and only one other was classified as a “probable military leader.” Of the 54, only 20 were positively identified as having taken part in the April 1965 revolt. One entry simply reads: “Pro-Castro student leader.” Even the list of 77 a month later contains only six imputed to be in the “top leadership group of the rebel government.”
In fact, we have at least one authoritative testimonial that, on April 28, the President was able to give assurances not that there was a preponderant Communist influence but only a “definite” one. On that day, before taking action, Mr. Johnson telephoned his long-time mentor, Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia, who was then at home. Mr. Russell later told the Senate:
The President was kind enough to ask me what I thought of the situation. I asked him if there were any indications of a definite Communist influence in the so-called rebel forces. He stated that there was little doubt that there was a definite Communist influence there, and I told him that, in my opinion, he had no alternative other than to proceed to send the Armed Forces to San Domingo to avoid another Cuba.31
It is possible to argue that the President was later proven right by the information which the intelligence agencies subsequently gathered. But if we are also interested in what the President had before him at the moment of decision, we can hardly fail to be impressed by the paucity of the data. When it is carefully examined, it is clear that he was largely forced to depend on the judgment of two men, Ambassador Bennett and former Ambassador Martin. Since the list of 77 was put together too late to influence the President's decision, we are here mainly concerned with the lists of 53, 54, and 58.
The trouble with these lists was that they tended to prove what did not need to be proved—that Communists act like Communists. With the two exceptions already noted, the list of 54 merely ascribed such activities to those on it as “armed for action,” “making Molotov cocktails,” and “distributing leaflets.” It was notably weak at the crucial point—whether the Communists had gained control of the rebel leadership. The correspondents to whom Ambassador Bennett gave his list of 53 spotted this weakness immediately, even before they discovered other reasons to find fault with it. The only substantial tie-up between the Communists and Colonel Caamaño at this time was made in a charge that he had appointed “three men of well-established Communist sympathies and associations” to posts in his “provisional government.” On investigation, the correspondents soon learned (a) that they were almost certainly not Communists, and (b) that Caamaño had not appointed them to any cabinet posts. When Kurzman pointed out these blemishes to an embassy official, the latter agreed that a mistake had been made.32As we have seen, the charge that Colonel Caamaño had made a deal with Communist leaders on May 4 similarly boomeranged.
By this time, the correspondents in Santo Domingo were so suspicious that they were primed to pounce on every defect in the ambassador's list. James Nelson Goodsell of the Christian Science Monitor gave it the most thorough going-over. “A good degree of sloppy intelligence work went into the preparation of the lists,” was his verdict on May 19, “for they contain the names of persons in prison at the time of the April 24 revolt, others out of the country at that time, and still others who are not Communists but rather are widely known as Nationalists who agree with Communists on the anti-American issue.” Goodsell found two in prison; six not in the country; four jailed within two days of the outbreak and, therefore, hors de combat when the Communist takeover supposedly took place; at least three others released from jail before the list was promulgated; four and possibly six not in Santo Domingo at the time. If Goodsell was right, from 19 to 21, or almost 40 per cent of the list, could not have played active roles at the time it was issued. This percentage of error may have been too great, but the list-makers themselves admitted to a margin of error of almost 20 per cent. When the list of 77 was given out, 10 of those on the original list of 54 had been removed from it. Goodsell, of course, was not the only enterprising correspondent who refused to take the lists on faith. Mauro Calamandrei of L'Espresso (Rome) and Luis Suárez of Siempre (Mexico City) went looking for the redoubtable Manuel González y Gonzalez, whom President Johnson himself had mentioned as a veteran of the Spanish civil war. Calamandrei had no trouble locating him several times at home, and Suarez talked to him in the street, a pistol in his belt as he fixed a jammed gun for a young rebel fighter. But he hardly impressed them as “the probable military leader in the current insurrection”; the revolt had caught him by surprise as much as anyone else, as he'was seeing off an aunt on a trip; he had never met Colonel Caamaño; and it was his father who had fought in the Spanish civil war when he was still in his teens.
The skepticism of the Christian Science Monitor was bad enough. But who would have expected to find these blasphemous words in the Wall Street Journal of June 25: “What the record also suggests is a sometimes-carefree, sometimes-clumsy tendency toward inconsistency, contradiction and even outright misrepresentation for the sake of expediency”?33
It is not often that journalists can be said to have saved the honor of their country. This was, I believe, one of those very rare occasions. Tad Szulc, Barnard L. Collier, Dan Kurzman, James Nelson Goodsell, Philip Geyelin, Bert Quint of CBS, and others, made one feel proud of and grateful for a free press without which the moral and political disaster would have been infinitely greater. When they were struggling against the greatest odds to get the truth and make it known, no public figure was able or willing to speak out against the inconsistencies, contradictions, and outright misrepresentations. In this Dominican crisis, the best and worst of American journalism was manifested—but the worst is far less a stranger than the best.
It should be remembered that Ambassador Bennett's list of 53 was issued at the same press conference on April 29 at which he regaled the correspondents with a collection of anti-Caamaño atrocity stories. There was no reason why the sources for his list should have been much better than the sources for his stories. Both were quite clearly the products of hastily enlisted informers and material obtained from the Dominican police and military “intelligence” factories. I do not mean to question the practice of using informers by all intelligence agencies, but anyone who has had any experience with this type of information, especially in the heat of an unexpected civil war, knows how treacherous it can be. The informers did very badly tipping off the embassy about the imminence of the revolt; they did very badly with the horror tales; they did very badly with the three alleged Communists in Colonel Caamaño's provisional government; and they lived up to their record in the matter of the first lists. Ambassador Bennett later told Al Burt, Latin American editor of the Miami Herald (August’ 22), that “we had to operate by antenna and by guess.” We can sympathize with Mr. Bennett's plight and respect his candor, but that is not how the matter was originally presented to the American people or the world at large, and too much hinged on his antenna and guesswork.
As for John Bartlow Martin's judgment, it is perhaps the most depressing aspect of this whole calamitous affair. As the ambassador to Bosch's government, of whom Bosch had written that he and the Alliance for Progress director, Newell F. Williams, “did not appear to be agents of the U.S. government but rather two Dominicans as anxious as the best of Dominicans to accomplish the impossible for us,”34 Mr. Martin was the living symbol of U.S. faith in democracy and social justice, whatever his abilities may have been. If there came a time when the U.S. would need to change its policy from what W. Tapley Bennett, Jr. symbolized, Martin would have been an invaluable asset in making it. Instead, he was yanked from home in Connecticut, ulcers and all, to “assist” Mr. Bennett, “open up contact” with the hitherto despised and ignored rebels, and advise the President. He says that he was at first skeptical of reports that the revolt was Communist-led. Only two days later, he was so sure of it that he gave the President the final shove to go overboard on the Communist issue.
In his Life article, Mr. Martin set out to vindicate this judgment. Presumably he tried to make his case as strong as possible. Yet in the entire article, there are exactly two passages in which the author gives any clue to the basis for his conclusion. In the first, he relates a rather boring interview with Colonel Caamaño and his political adviser, Héctor Aristy, on May 1. As Mr. Martin and his aide, Harry Shlaudeman, departed and got into a car, a crowd gathered and cried, “We trust you, Mr. Martin,” and, “We want democracy.” But though Mr. Martin tells us compassionately that the crowd was made up of “the Dominican people, the real sufferers—hungry, penniless, disease-ridden, defenseless,” he immediately changes his tone and calls it a demonstration that had been “well organized to reinforce our sympathies.” Then comes the shocker:
And Shlaudeman noticed something else: a black-shirted young man, whom he recognized as a member of the Castro-Communist terrorist party, had yelled beside the car, “Yankees go home.” Immediately a powerful hand had gripped his shoulder from behind and jerked him away out of sight. He had used the wrong script.
I have cited this scene in Mr. Martin's own words because it is literally the only personal experience that he offers to account for his momentous decision. The entire incident turns on a familiar anti-American slogan uttered by a single young man. It might have been the “wrong script” for more than one reason. The young man might have been jerked away because he had been indiscreet or because the owner of the powerful hand did not agree with him—Mr. Martin had no way of knowing. Even if we accept the worst interpretation and consider this shattering little incident a “Communist demonstration,” as Mr. Martin seems to do, it still constitutes very slight grounds for determining who controlled the entire revolt.
After this, Mr. Martin immediately moves on to May 2 and tells us that he and Shlaudeman “studied the massive evidence assembled by our intelligence agencies” and talked quietly to Dominicans on both sides. From these talks he quotes snatches that are hardly worth repeating. His pièce de résistance is really a selection of eleven “dedicated Communists” from Ambassador Bennett's longer list of those who “almost immediately joined the revolt.” The most that Mr. Martin says of them is that “our intelligence agents saw many of these men at rebel headquarters and rebel strongholds.” What they were seen doing, or what bearing it had on the crucial question of control, deponent doth not say. In any case, Mr. Martin was in no position to evaluate the “massive evidence” put before him, some of which we have already examined. One of his eleven, for example, is Dato Pagán Perdono, no doubt a Communist, but hardly capable of almost immediately joining the revolt because he had been safely tucked away in prison at the time. On one other point, which was open to checking, Mr. Martin committed a more serious indiscretion. During a later meeting with Colonel Caamaño, Mr. Martin conveyed the impression that three of the most respected Latin American leaders, who had been called to Washington to advise the President, had inferentially given up the rebel cause for the same reasons as Mr. Martin and, therefore, had decided against coming to Santo Domingo.35 This revelation was supposed to break down Colonel Caamaño's resistance to Mr. Martin's viewpoint, and the latter intimates that it hit home: “Caamaño looked shocked” and “Caamaño realized instantly the significance of their decision.”
Colonel caamano should have been shocked that Mr. Martin would tell him a cock-and-bull story and then publish it in a national magazine. In Life of June 18, the three Latin American statesmen in question—Rómolo Betancourt, former President of Venezuela, José Figueres, former President of Costa Rica, and Luis Muñoz Marín, former Governor of Puerto Rico—were forced to protest against Mr. Martin's “variance with the truth.” They made known that the O.A.S. was responsible for their failure to go to Santo Domingo and that they had at all times been “ready to serve.” I do not mean to suggest that Mr. Martin deliberately misled Colonel Caamaño. I do think that this misunderstanding on his part, and the uses to which he put it, suggest how poorly prepared he was for his difficult assignment.
I am not sure, however, whether Mr. Martin can be absolved of more serious misrepresentation in his treatment of Juan Bosch. When he saw the Dominican leader in Puerto Rico on May 2 and 3, he had already committed himself publicly to the notion of a Communist takeover of Bosch's movement. After an interval of nineteen months, it was not an auspicious introduction. Instead of making their reunion an effort to reach a new understanding, Mr. Martin was merely bent on persuading Sr. Bosch to accept the U.S. thesis and to support it. To imagine that Sr. Bosch, who had already publicly rejected the thesis and who had been in constant touch with his adherents in Santo Domingo long before Mr. Martin had come on the scene, would be likely to accede to such an appeal was at best naive. Once Mr. Martin had committed himself openly to the U.S. thesis, he was no longer capable of carrying out that portion of his mission which had envisaged him as the friendly untarnished go-between who might pave the way for better Bosch-U.S. relations. There was no point in sending Mr. Martin to Puerto Rico if he were not going to play a somewhat different role from Mr. Bennett; two Bennetts were hardly an improvement over one.
Even if Mr. Martin's mission to Puerto Rico was doomed, however, his subsequent betrayal of confidence in Life was indefensible. He had, after all, been entrusted with an exceedingly delicate diplomatic mission. When his article appeared, things were more confused than ever. Even according to U.S. sources, the Communist tide had receded or was about to, and the Boschists were again a force to be reckoned with. Yet Mr. Martin describes their leader and his former friend as if he were a blood-crazed psychopath, so incapable of discussing the issues rationally that Mr. Martin “seldom felt more helpless.” I cannot recall a diplomatic envoy, whether or not he was technically a “private citizen,” who rushed into print with such an indecent breach of good faith. One can only conjecture whether the administration was so anxious to discredit Sr. Bosch that it put him up to it or whether Martin, the journalist, got the better of Martin, the diplomat.
But this is not all. There is reason to believe that the Life article committed a far more serious transgression. On this point, we have not only Sr. Bosch's recollection but the word of a man of unquestionable integrity at whose home Mr. Martin and Sr. Bosch met—Chancellor Jaime Benítez of the University of Puerto Rico. Here is Mr. Martin's version of the discussion about Sr. Bosch's possible return to Santo Domingo:
I asked if he himself did not intend to return.
“No,” putting up one hand, “I cannot. I am—how do you say it?—burned.”
Would you return to advise and assist in rebuilding the country?
No. I cannot. If I return, I am the President.
This seems reasonably clear: Mr. Martin gave Sr. Bosch an opportunity to say that he wanted to return home and the latter categorically refused.
According to Sr. Bosch, however, the subject came up twice. The first time, on the night of May 2, Bosch wrote in the New Leader (June 21), he had asked Martin for a plane to take him to Santo Domingo.
“No, impossible. They'll kill you,” he answered.
“But if so many Dominicans are dying, it matters little whether I die,” I said.
Mr. President, you don't understand the situation. Your men, Wessin y Wessin's men, even the Marines have fired at me. The place is in chaos. If you go they will kill you, and you are the leader; you must not die.
Bosch says that the subject came up again the following day. After he had suggested that the constitutional issue might be solved by getting Sr. Molina Ureña out of the Colombian embassy and reinstalling him as provisional president, Mr. Martin telephoned Washington. When he returned, he again asked whether Bosch would return “to advise and assist.” This time, Bosch understood that the question of his return was bound up with his own proposal to restore Sr. Molina Ureña to the provisional Presidency. He therefore replied: “No, I cannot. If I return, I would be the President.”
In an interview with Homer Bigart in The New York Times of May 6, 1965, Chancellor Benítez recalled: “Twice, Bosch said he'd be willing to go if that would avoid a frontal clash, but Martin said that he would only get himself killed.”
According to Bosch and Benitez, who were the only other ones present, then, Martin's account was the kind of half-truth that results in a total falsehood. Also, Bosch emphasizes, he had already, forty-eight hours earlier, asked Abe Fortas to arrange for a plane to transport him to Santo Domingo without having received a reply. In his mind, the United States clearly did not wish him to go back, and an anti-Bosch compaign in the United States was attributing to him all sorts of unworthy reasons for not wishing to go back. A difficult political decision was transformed into a simple failure of nerve.36
After the second exchange about Bosch's possible return, the Dominican leader says that Mr. Martin received a telephone call from Washington. When he came back, according to Bosch, he attempted to get Bosch to issue a message to the Dominican people which would acknowledge that the revolution had fallen into Communist hands and accept this as justification for the landing of U.S. troops. Bosch says he was so astonished that he did not hear the other points Martin went on to dictate to him. Bosch heatedly told the U.S. emissary that he was “not an American functionary and Washington cannot dictate what I must do.” Bosch states that Chancellor Benítez intervened and succeeded in convincing the former ambassador that Bosch was right.
Nothing of this found its way into Mr. Martin's article. Eventually, no doubt, the three participants will give their versions of the full story. Whatever Mr. Martin may add in his forthcoming book, his article must be judged on its own merits, and its political effect viewed in its contemporaneous setting. For my part, I find it hard to decide whether it was worse as journalism or as diplomacy.
The odd thing is that one might very well criticize U.S. policy makers both for exaggerating the Dominican Communist influence and for minimizing it. A devout believer in the theory that every U.S. weakness and mistake must be attributed to a Communist conspiracy might well be suspicious on both counts.
In the Saturday Review of August 7, 1965, Juan Bosch estimated that there were 700 to 800 Communists and 3,000 to 3,500 Communist sympathizers in the Dominican Republic two years ago. Our devout believer might easily demand an investigation of the C.I.A. on the ground that any intelligence agency which could do no better than 10 per cent of the card-carrying Communists or only 2 per cent of Communists-cum-sympathizers is clearly a matter of the gravest national concern.
The best minds of the Johnson administration went through three stages in their efforts to make the idea of a Communist takeover of the pro-Bosch revolt convincing. At first, the numerical tendency was upward—from 3 to 8 to 53 to 58, back to 54, and finally to an altitude of 77. We have it from the President that, when only eight Communists were reported to him, apparently on April 28, “alerts were set up, and our men continued to ferret out and study the organization” for more names, addresses, experience, numbers, and backgrounds. Presumably the authorities would not have gone to all this trouble if they had not believed that numbers were important. But only about a month later, the holes punctured in the lists by the newsmen and the gradual realization that the numbers game was defeating its own end set the numerical machinery in reverse.
In the second stage, the numbers began to move downward. Instead of trying to prove how dangerous a large number of Communists could be, the best minds labored to demonstrate how dangerous a very few Communists could be.
On May 26, Secretary of State Rusk hit back at critics of the administration's policy as follows:
I am not impressed by the remark that there were several dozen known Communist leaders and that therefore this was not a very serious matter. There was a time when Hitler sat in a beer hall in Munich with seven people. And I just don't believe that one underestimates what can be done in chaos, in a situation of violence and chaos, by a few highly organized, highly trained people who know what they are about and know what they want to bring about.
Analogies soon became contagious. On the CBS program of April 31, Ambassador Bennett brought up Castro:
I don't think it's so important the actual number when one recalls that Fidel Castro first took to the hills with only twelve men. I think it's a question of training, of determined objectives and of being able to influence others who, for very legitimate motives, may be in the fight.
The Castro analogy was so appealing that Under Secretary Mann used it on Leonard Gross in Look of June 15: “Look at Cuba. There were only twelve people in the beginning, and yet they took it over.”37
When the administration's friends in the press began to work on this argument, the numbers proceeded to diminish almost to the vanishing point.
Raymond Moley in Newsweek of June 7 took the line that numbers did not count at all: “Another gripe is that there were only a ‘few’ Communists involved in the fighting. It was irrelevant whether there were 60 or 600 Communists involved.”
In The Reporter of July 15, Selden Rodman got down to as low as two. In Santo Domingo, he relates, he flung this crushing question at Héctor Aristy. “Did it take more than Raúl Castro and Che Guevara to guide the Cuban revolution into the Soviet fold?”
But if I were awarding a grand prize, it would undoubtedly go to Eric Sevareid. In his column of May 30, he promulgated what may henceforth be known as “Sevareid's Law,” which might be summed up as follows: the fewer Communists there are in a country, the more dangerous they are. Lest the reader think that I am being unfair to Mr. Sevareid, I hasten to quote his exact words:
I fail to understand the editorialist who points out with disdain that after all, there were only a few handsful of Communists present. In a very real sense their lack of numbers is their strength. It was because they were few that President Bosch had not bothered to deal severely with them. It was because they were few that they could do much of their work undetected. It was because they were few that they could act with rapidity when the explosion came. It was because they were few that foreign opinion makers could make the Americans seem ridiculous and give us a propaganda defeat.
And so Mr. Sevareid has discovered a new and most dangerous form of the Communist conspiracy—to keep the number of Communists as low as possible. Conversely, the more there are, the more likely they are to be dealt with severely, to be detected in their work, to act less rapidly, and to make it more difficult for foreign opinion-makers to make the Americans seem ridiculous. This line of reasoning clearly establishes Mr. Sevareid as the winner over Mr. Rodman by at least one point, downward.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the crisis, then, is not merely what the policy was, but how it was defended intellectually. When a Secretary of State thinks that he is justifying something as serious as U.S. military intervention in Latin America by reference to Hitler's “seven” and both the under secretary and the ambassador try to make the same point by evoking Castro's “twelve,” it is necessary to ask: Is this the proper way to educate the American people to the real danger of Communism?
I suppose that Secretary Rusk was alluding to the fact that Adolf Hitler became member No. 7 of a committee of the German Workers' party in September 1919, usually considered the birth of the National Socialist movement.38 It was an obscure little group at the time, that is true, but it was only one manifestation of a postwar German disease that was neither obscure nor little. Except for the somewhat ludicrous “beer hall Putsch” of 1923, Hitlerism did not become a serious menace until the world economic crisis of 1929, the increasing support given to Hitler's party by leading industrialists, and the sensational upsurge of the Nazi party in the election of September 1930.
As for Castro, the legend of his “twelve” is equally dubious historically. There were 82 with Castro aboard the yacht, Granma, when it completed its voyage to Cuba from Mexico in December 1956. After the disastrous landing, only a handful came together again in the Sierra Maestra. Castroite propaganda used to cite the number twelve, possibly to evoke the memory of twelve earlier disciples, but Castro himself a few months ago reduced it to seven. In any event, almost half of the original contingent gradually reassembled in the Sierra Maestra and were joined by others. The anti-Batista struggle had already been going on for over four years, and many different groups had taken part in it. To think of the seven or the twelve as having represented “the beginning” merely perpetuates the myth of Castro's monopoly of the struggle.
I do not think that this is sheer pedantry. Hitler's and Castro's rise to power should be well enough known to leading officials of the State Department to make them wary of such vulgarized and misleading popularizations.
But of course, the deeper issue is what the numbers mean, not how large they are. If Mr. Rusk, Mr. Mann, and Mr. Bennett had sought to get across the idea that great and dangerous movements may begin with a few people and that they bear careful watching from the outset, there could be no objection. Yet many movements start with a handful and never change the course of history. Why do some succeed and others fail? The answer obviously does not lie in the prepotency of the few but in the social conditions which enable the few to become the many. If Hitler's “seven” or Castro's “twelve,” to use the examples that have been given to us, remained seven and twelve, there would have been nothing more to worry about. But Hitler gained almost six-and-a-half million votes in 1930, and Castro capitalized on what became a truly national revulsion against the Batista regime.
Unfortunately, the purpose of these analogies with Hitler in 1919 and Castro in 1956 was not to warn against the future potentialities of such charismatic, demagogic figures. In the present context, the analogies were rather intended to convey the idea that Hitler with seven men and Castro with twelve men were able to take over Germany and Cuba, even as a few Communists were allegedly able to take over the Dominican Republic. Something on the order of the U.S. landings in the Dominican Republic, it was suggested, should have taken place against Hitler's “seven” and Castro's “twelve.” If we must trust Selden Rodman, moreover, not even Fidel was necessary; Raúl and Che had done it all by themselves.
At this late date, it really should not be necessary to restate the A.B.C. of Castro's victory: Batista was overthrown because the people turned against him and his own henchmen deserted him, not because he was “defeated” by Castro's 12 men or 1200 men.
The reductio ad absurdum of these intellectual monstrosities is that the administration's defenders were forced to flaunt the specter of Communist supermen. If a few Communists could take over a revolt that had failed and in a few hours vanquish the entire Dominican military establishment, they were obviously a superior breed. In fact, in all Communist history, there had never been so few who had done so much so quickly against so many. At his press conference on May 26, Secretary Rusk emphasized that it was not the numbers of the Dominican Communists that had counted but their organization and training. On the CBS program of May 31, Under Secretary Mann reiterated that the actual number of Communists was not important—“it's a question of training, of determined objectives, and of being able to influence.” Senator Lausche put it this way on September 17: “By skilled manipulation, propaganda, by assertion of leadership in proper points, in street fighting, by aggressive activity, these Communists take hold. That is what they did in the Dominican Republic. A few skilled people can do this in the proper circumstances.”
For a while, as I read these words, I wondered where I had seen them in somewhat different form before. Suddenly I realized that some of our foremost U.S. spokesmen had on this point become the faithful disciples of Ernesto Che Guevara. For more than any other Communist ideologist, Guevera has popularized the idea that a few revolutionists can take power, though even he has never gone so far as his epigoni in the State Department and U.S. Senate. Guevara has taught that a few revolutionists could begin the armed struggle for power, not that they could in a few hours or days successfully end it. The fact is that U.S. officials had and may still have a very vague notion of what happened in Santo Domingo on April 27 and 28 to cause the collapse of the Dominican armed forces, and they seized on this vulgarized form of “Guevara-ism” to give some credibility to the story that a few Communists had been responsible for both the collapse and the subsequent takeover of the revolt. The same U.S. sources, however, did not even make an effort to explain how victory-flushed Communist leaders could have decided to “withdraw from the scene” a week later without making a single effort to embroil the marines in a real battle.39
On at least two occasions, moreover, Under Secretary Mann has suggested that the combined forces of the Soviet Union and Communist China were behind the Dominican Communists. In his interview with Max Frankel, Mr. Mann pointed out that “members of the Communist apparatus” are really an “instrument of Sino-Soviet military power.” And on the CBS program, he again argued that U.S. passivity would have resulted in “a takeover of another island by the Sino-Soviet military bloc.”
Can it be that no one has told the Under Secretary about the little discourtesies that have made the “Sino-Soviet military bloc,” if it ever existed, a thing of the past?
Finally, there came the third and last stage in the rationalization of U.S. policy. Instead of inflating the numbers of Dominican Communist supermen or insisting how strong a few could be, the new line sought to emphasize the weakness of the opposition. This stage was neatly put in one sentence by Professor John N. Plank, a former State Department official, in Foreign Affairs (October 1965):
It should be noted, however, that President Johnson's intervention course was decided upon, not because of a judgment that the Communists in the Dominican Republic were strong, but rather because of a conclusion that non-Communist elements were too weak, too lacking in political sophistication, and too little skilled in the arts of governance, to withstand Communist infiltration and subsequent control.
On the face of it, this is a far more sensible and moderate position. It seems to avoid making the Dominican Communists too big or too small and introduces a seemingly more thoughtful element of relativity into the discussion. Nevertheless, it is, I think, only a variation on the original theme and it also brings out in bolder relief some of the most disagreeable aspects of U.S. policy.
I do not wish to go over already familiar ground—how weak the non-Communist elements really were, how much of their weakness was caused by U.S. policy, how much and for how long the Communists actually exercised “control.” But have we earned the pretension of a superior “political sophistication”? It is assumed with disarming candor that President Johnson's intervention was justified because he and his advisers on Latin American affairs are endowed with a “political sophistication” denied to Juan Bosch and his supporters. I doubt whether anyone would care to dispute Mr. Johnson's “sophistication” in U.S. domestic politics, but I also doubt whether this sophistication has carried over to his conduct of foreign affairs in general and Latin American affairs in particular. Indeed, the U.S. handling of this Dominican crisis has been marked by such bungling and blundering that only the strongest power in the world could afford them. Political sophistication, like the strength of the Dominican Communists, is relative, but I question whether one student in a hundred of Latin American affairs believes that the United States has the political sophistication to carry off such tricky enterprises. I know that Professor Plank referred only to the Dominicans' lack of political sophistication; but he implied that we must be able to give them what they lack.
In the “arts of governance,” for example, have we given them what they lack?
On the “Meet the Press” program of May 30, Secretary of State Rusk was asked about the re-establishment of the last Dominican constitution. The Secretary answered in part: “As you know, there is a very high controversy at the moment as between the constitution of 1963 and the constitution of 1962. In those circumstances, why not ask the Dominicans?”
From this, one might have gathered that there was a 1962 Dominican constitution comparable to the 1963 constitution and that both somehow enjoyed the same status. Any Dominican could have given the Secretary a lesson in Dominican constitutional history.
It was in December 1960 that Trujillo promulgated his last constitution. It remained in force for the next two years, except for modifications by decree. These changes were mainly designed, after Trujillo's death the following year, to remove articles dealing with the former dictator's special privileges and to enable the 1962 “Council of State” to rule and hold elections. The Council at first promised to convene a Constituent Assembly in August 1962 and to call general elections in December 1962. But it later changed its mind and decided to hold the elections first. As a result, the pro-Bosch landslide enabled an overwhelmingly pro-Bosch Congress to draw up the new constitution, something which the Council had not planned on.
Thus, in Dominican terms, the “constitution of 1962” was basically a relic of the Trujillo era. The “constitution of 1963” was the first democratically enacted document in almost forty years. This is what the “very high controversy” was essentially about.
But Max Frankel of the New York Times would not let the matter rest. He asked, “Why don't we now simply go back, since we are shooting for elections, to the only government that has been elected in that country within the past three years, actually?”
Mr. Rusk then gave the Dominicans more free tutelage in the “arts of governance”: “That government lasted seven months, Mr. Frankel. What is important about a constitution in the government is that it have the consent of the people at the time, of the day.”
According to this principle, whenever a democratically elected government and a democratically enacted constitution are overthrown by force, the slate is wiped clean and the golpistas have the right to demand “consent” to a new constitution. Every coup, in effect, automatically voids the “consent” given to the previous constitution, however democratically enacted.
Nothing, to my mind, reveals the abyss that separates the U.S. official mind from the national aspirations of the Dominican people as much as this insensitivity to the meaning of the 1963 constitution.
For most of its history, the Dominican Republic has been a nation in name only. No sooner was it liberated from Spain in 1844 than it became the plaything of one caudillo after another, one junta after another. Insurrection after insurrection, assassination after assassination, frustrated hope after frustrated hope—these were its lot. I know of no nation in Latin America, with the possible exception of its neighbor, Haiti, which has had such a disastrous past. From 1930, for thirty-one endless, remorseless, monstrous years, it was one man's chattel—a private fief, not a nation. In all this time, sophisticated American politicians paid homage to and demeaned themselves before the aging tyrant. His paid Washington lobbyist, Joseph E. Davies, was appointed U.S. ambassador to another tyrant in Moscow.
Trujillo's assassination in 1961 was, then, a unique moment in the decades-long agony of this people. For whatever reason, the door had opened on a new and better future. Were they to go through it to escape from the accursed cycle of coups, insurrections, juntas, despots, and “benefactors”? Or were they to fall back into the old pattern of self-appointed saviors who invariably became their exploiters and executioners?
This explains why the finest minds of Latin America have been filled with such a deep yearning for a constitutional solution to the still tormenting problem of political power and succession. Constitutional democracy is not merely the only way out of periodic bloodletting and dictatorship in all its forms; it is also the end of chatteldom, a reawakening of national consciousness, a rediscovery by a people of itself, and in the case of the Dominican Republic, the very beginning of a process of political self-realization that should have started over a hundred years ago.
For such a country and such a people, the free democratic elections of December 1962 and the democratically enacted constitution of April 1963 were promises, above all, of a new national destiny. It did not matter so much that the constitution was not perfect (which is?) or that the President had his share of human defects (which one has not?). The constitution provided for its own amendment, and the President could be changed every four years. That is why the reaffirmation of the 1963 constitution was the banner and symbol of this revolt, why it was not a step backward but a step forward.
And now to tell the Dominican people that a tyrant's constitution enjoys the same status as a democratically-enacted constitution, that the first democratic constitution they have had in almost forty years is simply voided by a coup, that there must be an infernal rhythm of coup and “consent,” coup and “consent,” that the provisions of a constitution are not binding if they are “highly controversial”—is this the way to teach the “arts of governance” to the poor natives too little skilled in them?
I have, in these pages, tried to find out how we got into the Dominican morass. It is too early to tell how we are going to get out of it. But one thing is already clear: we have successfully disappointed everyone.
The United States thought well enough of Donald Reid Cabral to invest a great deal of treasure and prestige in him. When he asked for U.S. intervention on the morning of April 25, he was permitted to fade away without a word of condolence. Nor did the new Provisional President, José Rafael Molina Ureña, get any U.S. sympathy on April 25 and 26; he was snubbed as a usurper or brushed off as a Communist front. Instead, our first hero was General Wessin y Wessin. Time magazine, which huckstered every twist and turn of the U.S. line most shamelessly, gave him its de luxe build-up (May 7). No secret was made of the fact that General Wessin was the strong man behind the three-man junta headed by Colonel Benoit, which the C.I.A. accredited on April 28.
But in Washington, a different solution of the Dominican crisis was soon in the making. On April 29, three Latin American advisers, former Costa Rican President José Figueres, former Venezuelan President Rómulo Betancourt, and former Puerto Rican Governor Luis Muñoz Marín, were brought to the White House. They were encouraged to act as an “informal committee” to consult with the Organization of American States (O.A.S.), the U.S. government, and Juan Bosch. Sr. Figueres seems to have been particularly close to the Dominican situation because he relates that he had received a letter from Bosch in February 1965, three months before the outbreak, in which the latter had forewarned: “The Dominican situation is frightening. While the United States is economically at its best, my poor country, which is in its orbit, is going through a crisis that is nearing the stage of a revolution with jet-like speed. We are at the brink of the explosion.”
Now Sr. Figueres got in touch with Bosch in Puerto Rico and in conversations lasting two days they began to work out a new understanding. After two more weeks of these telephone negotiations, they arrived, in Figueres's words, at the following formula: “constitutional government, without Communism and without Trujilloism.” The White House, Figueres says, “agreed with the objectives.”40
After April 29, therefore, a struggle went on in Washington for the conscience and comprehension of President Johnson and those closest to him. If they had not been deeply disturbed by the events and their own part in them, they would not have gone to the trouble of bringing three of the most respected and most progressive Latin American elder statesmen to advise them. In effect, one arm of U.S. policy was working against Bosch and one arm was working with him. On the night of May 2, as we have already seen, special Presidential emissary John Bartlow Martin told Juan Bosch that “his party had fallen under the domination of adventurers and Castro-Communists,” and Martin went off the following day to concoct a new junta with Antonio Imbert at the head of it. It was inducted on May 7, and the benediction was given by Time (May 14)—”a Dominican national hero, Antonio Imbert Barreras.”
But from various quarters—the news corresdents in the Dominican Republic, the three Latin American consultants, and probably its own intelligence sources—Washington began to hear that perhaps Tony Imbert was not quite the right man for the job. He was not such a national hero, despite his part in the assassination of Trujillo, after all; politically he was trusted by no one; socially his base was just as narrow as Wessin's or Benoit's. Thus the Figueres-Bosch telephone negotiations were not discouraged, and within days after Imbert had been set up in business, the last thing that one would have expected to happen, considering the foregoing, happened—a decision was made in Washington to dump Imbert and to go back to an understanding with Bosch.
The President's homme de confiance, Abe Fortas, according to Tad Szulc, arrived incognito in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on May 13. He met with Chancellor Jaime Benítez, after which they went to see Juan Bosch. Former Governor Muñoz Marín, who had returned home, was also active in these secret discussions. The basic formula had already been worked out in the Figueres-Bosch telephone negotations: a “constitutional government, without Communism and without Trujilloism.” Bosch himself was eliminated from consideration as the head of such a government, but the problem arose whether it should not, in some sense, derive from Bosch's 1963 government. According to Szulc, Bosch proposed as head of the new government his former Minister of Agriculture and a successful Dominican businessman, Silvestre Antonio Guzmán. Mr. Fortas, soon to be appointed a Supreme Court Justice by President Johnson, allegedly made no commitments and flew back to Washington to report to the President.
Within about twenty-four hours, the President acted on Mr. Fortas's report. He appointed a team of four—a team that could hardly have been more impressive—to go to San Juan and Santo Domingo. They were Special Assistant on National Security Affairs McGeorge Bundy (who had to cancel his announced appearance at a Vietnam “teach-in”), Under Secretary of State Thomas Mann, Assistant Secretary of State Jack Hood Vaughn, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus R. Vance. Mann and Vaughn apparently did no more than stop in Puerto Rico en route to the Dominican Republic. Vance remained at the air force base in Puerto Rico. The negotiations with Sr. Bosch were conducted entirely by Mr. Bundy. I have been assured by a person who was present at all the discussions between them that Sr. Guzmán had been agreed upon in advance. Colonel Fernández Domínguez, who was Bosch's chief military adviser in Puerto Rico and who was slated to become the Minister of Public Works and Police in the proposed Guzmán cabinet, had previously been sent to Santo Domingo to confer with Colonel Caamaño and, with his agreement, to arrange for Sr. Guzmán's presence in Puerto Rico. Sr. Guzmán had been flown to San Juan in a U.S. military plane earlier in the day, and he as well as Bosch and Benítez were present at the discussions with Bundy. (Colonel Fernández returned to Santo Domingo on May 19 and was shot to death by U.S. soldiers in a tragic, still controversial incident.)
Sr. Guzmán, I have been informed, was a “compromise” as far as Washington and Bosch were concerned. Bosch and Bundy, it appears, quickly learned to respect each other's qualities and good faith. Guzmán was also flown to Washington for consultations. Bundy and Vance left for Santo Domingo on May 16, expressing confidence in the Guzmán plan's success. If ever the United States seemed committed to a course of action, this was it.
The Guzmán plan was presented to the top Dominican air force, navy, and army commanders on May 18. As might have been expected, they were not happy with it and saw no reason to replace Imbert's set-up. Under Secretary Mann flew back to Washington that day. Bundy, Vaughn, and Vance carried on in Santo Domingo. By May 19, the Dominican military were virtually accusing the Bundy mission of a sellout to the Communists. Hal Hendrix quoted them as saying that the United States wanted “to turn this country over to Communism” and was putting pressure on them to accept “persons of Communist affiliation or sympathizers.”41 At the same time, Imbert saw fit to push a military offensive against Caamaño's forces in the northern sector of the capital. In telephone calls to Washington, Szulc states, Bundy referred to Imbert first as “Napoleon” and then as “Frankenstein.” This incredible imbroglio was slightly mad, inasmuch as the Imbert junta's employees and military forces were utterly dependent on U.S. funds, the bill for May and June alone coming to about $21,000,000.
This struggle over the Bundy mission in Santo Domingo was both a factor in, and a reflection of, a similar struggle that was going on in Washington. On Sunday, May 23, Mr. Bundy received a message from Washington which torpedoed his entire mission, 42 This message was the result of influences brought to bear on President Johnson, who was finally swayed by another of Secretary of State Rusk's incongruous historical analogies. Mr. Rusk apparently succeeded in talking Mr. Johnson out of the Guzmán plan by dredging up the unfortunate consequences of Sumner Welles's efforts to make and unmake governments in Cuba back in 1933. A lengthy memorandum, according to Tad Szulc, was drawn up in the State Department on these Cuban events of thirty-two years ago; it must be the first repudiation of Sumner Welles's activities in an official document. After the C.I.A.'s role in giving birth to the Benoit junta and John Bartlow Martin's vaunted midwifery of the Imbert junta, the persuasiveness of this argument against Antonio Guzmán is surely of psychological as well as of historical interest. In any event, the only one on the U.S. side who seems to have come out of this particular affair with dignity and honor is McGeorge Bundy.
At the time, the exact sequence of these events was confused by what was probably the most outrageous journalistic scandal of them all. On May 24, the Washington Daily News and New York World-Telegram and Sun appeared with an article by the former's editor, John O'Rourke, accusing Antonio Guzmán of financial malfeasance as director of a government bank and, therefore, obviously unfit to be the head of a new Dominican government. When reporters asked the State Department for comment on the story, the spokesman cryptically replied that “it is up to Mr. Guzmán to explain his role in the bank.” The least that can be said of this answer is that it did not suggest any undue confidence on the part of the State Department in the probity of the man whom it had approached to become the next Dominican President. Since Guzmán's candidacy was obviously cooling off in Washington at this very time, the charge of financial “irregularities” seemed to be linked with it. Within forty-eight hours, the bank's auditors and everyone concerned with the alleged misconduct had denied that there was any truth in it. The story had been planted by a paid agent of the Dominican Embassy in Washington during Reid Cabral's regime. It had been knocking around the State Department for some time, as had the audit of the bank's books. At his press conference on May 26, Secretary of State Rusk came forth with one of his masterly understatements: “We have no information ourselves indicating irregularities on Mr. Guzmán's part.” It is hard to believe that the editor of a Washington newspaper would not have consulted someone in the State Department's top echelon before signing his name to a story which, if without foundation, was bound to blow up in his face. The story behind the story will indeed be worth waiting for.
At the same news conference, Mr. Rusk also led the press to believe that the State Department had been talking with Sr. Guzmán “about the possibilities of a coalition government.” Such a coalition, the Secretary explained, had to be based “upon a broad agreement among different political elements.” Thereafter, the newspapers attributed the failure of the Guzmán plan to the fact that the Imbert group had refused to accept it.
The trouble with this explanation was that it assumed the Washington policy-makers to be just as naive and gullible as newspaper readers. If Tony Imbert and his crowd were supposed to have had a veto power on the Guzmán plan, the Bundy mission was doomed from the outset, and the only problem is how anyone in the White House or the State Department could have thought otherwise. In fact, the Guzmán government was never intended to include the neo-trujillista elements tied up with Imbert, and the “broadly-based coalition” was not the policy Guzmán was supposed to represent but a totally new policy predicated on the failure of the Guzmán plan.
The “broadly-based coalition,” which the State Department began to promote toward the end of May, was another in an already long list of political and diplomatic abortions. In effect, it envisaged the bringing together of both the Caamaño and the Imbert forces, or of the “moderate” elements in both camps, together with others not directly implicated in the struggle, into a working harmony of interests. The idea was launched at the worst possible time, in the wake of what the Boschists considered to be an odious betrayal of the Guzmán plan and in the midst of the Imbert forces' successful offensive against Caamaño's northern sector. While Secretary Rusk was talking about the “broadly-based coalition,” Colonel Caamaño's territory was cut in half with either the connivance or toleration of U.S. troops, and the clean-up in the northern sector of the city made Imbert more determined than ever to finish off the now besieged Caamaño garrison with another violent blow.
Politically, however, the “coalition” concept was most revealing. It might have made sense in the United States, with a solemn, centuries-tested constitution providing both first principles and rules for organic change. In such a system, deals and combinations by nominal political rivals may serve a useful purpose or at least may avoid any fatal disaster in times of stress, however they may ruffle political purists. But in the Dominican Republic, the constitutional first principles and rules for organic change were lacking. These were precisely what the revolt was about. In such circumstances, the “broadly-based coalition” was a purely mechanical device, bereft of moral principle and the rule of law. It demonstrated once again how much greater the political distance between the United States and the Dominican Republic is than the geographical distance.
The struggle between contending forces and views in Washington and the mixed ideas and feelings of individual officials, prevented anything like a clear-cut decision. If there had been a consistent, unanimous pro-Bosch line in Washington, the Benoit and Imbert juntas would never have been set up; and if there had been a consistent, unanimous anti-Bosch line, the Guzmán formula would never have been entertained. Imbert's offensive against the northern sector of Caamaño's front was, to say the least, tolerated, but his planned follow-up against the southern sector was not. The “coalition” plan at first implied some kind of accommodation between Imbert and Caamaño and then turned into a search for someone outside either camp who could presumably draw some strength from both.
Thus, by June, a new Dominican politician was given the Washington buildup. He was Dr. Joaquín Balaguer, whose political career tells all one needs to know about him. A well-known jurist, educator and historian, Balaguer had served the Trujillo dictatorship for almost thirty years as its most respectable intellectual front and had in return been rewarded with just about every honor it was in the power of the regime to bestow. He became Trujillo's vice-president in 1957, and was promoted to the Presidency in August 1960 to take some of the sting out of the O.A.S.'s investigation of the Trujillo regime. When Trujillo was assassinated in May 1961, Balaguer continued as President, but he realized much sooner than the other trujillistas that an epoch had come to an end. In the next year, Balaguer tried to ride out the post-Trujillo storm by making concessions to leftist demands and preparing the way for constitutional reform. Juan Bosch relates that Balaguer offered to turn over the presidency to him in December 1961.43 This was not Bosch's idea of a democratic solution, and Balaguer instead formed a “Council of State,” with himself as President and Antonio Imbert as one of its seven members. But penances and payoffs could not save Balaguer; the then dominant opposition, organized as the Unión Cívica Nacional, and backed by the United States, saw power in its grasp if it could destroy him politically. The UCN therefore waged a demagogically bitter campaign against him as the very incarnation of trujillismo and as Trujillo's political heir. Balaguer's military chieftain, General Pedro Rodriguez Echavarria, tried to save him by staging a military coup in January 1962, but the U.S. Chargé d'Affaires, John Calvin Hill, helped to break it up in 48 hours by threatening economic and possibly military sanctions. The “Council of State” was reorganized with the former Trujillo cabinet member and now UCN leader, Rafael F. Bonnelly, as the new President, and Donald Reid Cabral as Balaguer's replacement. Balaguer was literally driven into exile in March 1962 as an unreconstructed trujillista, and he was not able to return until July of this year. The man who could not live down his past in 1962 had become the United States' man of the future in 1965.44
After all this, after the support of Wessin, the instigation of Benoit, the backing of Imbert, the doublecross of Guzmán, and the promotion of Balaguer, it should have been easy to predict whom the United States would in the end settle for—a reactionary puppet of a reactionary power, of course.
Ah, but those who think that U.S. policy is as easy as all that do not know their United States. Lyndon Johnson may not be able to admit a mistake but it is not impossible that he is quite capable of correcting one.
In any event, the man who is today Provisional President of the Dominican Republic is Héctor García Godoy, the former Foreign Minister of the government of Juan Bosch, no puppet and no reactionary. He was able to take office for nine months on September 3 only because the United States decided to withdraw its financial support from Imbert's junta and effectively make known its will to the Dominican military. No doubt the full story of García Godoy's provisional regime will be as full of contradictions and inconsistencies as all the rest, but at least a man of good will and democratic purposes was chosen for the job.
Who would have predicted that Wessin y Wessin would tell a story of having been visited at midnight a week later—“an improper hour to call on a humble Dominican home”—by two U.S. officials, David Phillips of the C.I.A. and the army attaché Lt. Col. Joseph W. Weyrick, who allegedly offered him $50,000 for his modest home and a military attaché post in Paris or Madrid to get him out of the country? That President García Godoy would also offer to make him—the former master of his country's fate—a mere Dominican consul in Miami? That General Hugo Panasco Alvim of Brazil, commander-in-chief of the so-called Inter-American Peace Force, and Lt. Gen. Bruce Palmer, Jr., U.S. commander, would tell him that “he had to go”? That they would then escort him to a waiting U.S. plane without, he says, permitting him to go home for his clothes and passport? That General Wessin would later write a letter indignantly rejecting the Miami post, and crying out: “Never would I have imagined that an army officer of my rank would have been taken to the airport in full uniform and tossed out of the country with a bayonet at his back.”45
Who would have imagined that Under Secretary Mann would bring himself to say: “It has been suggested that non-intervention is thought by some to be an obsolete doctrine”? Now who in the world could have thought that? Could it possibly have been Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Thomas Mann who, in two interviews, had criticized both the O.A.S. and the U.N. charters for having been drawn up in “19th-century terms”?46 Could it have been that elder statesman Averell Harriman who was sent to Latin America to explain U.S. policy in the Dominican Republic and who told an audience in Montevideo that the principle of non-intervention was becoming “obsolete”?47 Might President Johnson have had that thought in mind when he observed on May 28: “The first reality is that old concepts and old labels are largely obsolete”? Or could it perchance have occurred to Representative Armistead I. Selden, Jr., the administration's most ardent defender in the House, whose resolution justifying the unilateral use of force by any nation which considers itself threatened by “international Communism, directly or indirectly” in another nation was passed on September 20 by the overwhelming majority of 312-52? The State Department did not object to the Selden Resolution before it was passed, but on October 12, in San Diego, Under Secretary Mann tried to reassure the Latin American states that had protested against it. He knew of no Washington official who thought that the doctrine of non-intervention was obsolete, he said. In fact, he himself believed that it was the “keystone” of the inter-American system. That is why, he went on, the United States had refrained, in the first days of the revolt, from supporting either side in the Dominican Republic. If I were of a more skeptical mind, and Mr. Mann's reputation for gravity were not so well established, I would almost be tempted to suspect that this allusion to the way we refrained from taking sides was some sort of private joke for those who have read all the messages among the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, the State Department, and the White House from, say, April 24 to May 1, 1965.48
We have now come close to the present phase of the still unfinished Dominican crisis. I do not wish to pursue it any further because we know far more about the earlier phases than about the later ones. But enough has been disclosed, I think, to see the past six months or so of U.S. policy in the Dominican Republic as a kind of political phantasmagoria that would make anyone dizzy, actors as well as onlookers.
Non-Americans are always likely to interpret this kind of extravaganza as a manifestation of diabolical malevolence; Americans are more likely to regard it as an exhibition of monumental incompetence. Every move was cancelled out by another move; every rationale was inferentially disavowed by a later one. The Guzmán formula was not acceptable in May, but the essentially similar García Godoy formula was put through in September. General Wessin y Wessin was a hero in April and a villain in September, though his Dominican version of the John Birch Society mentality had not changed at all and he was just as apt to accuse Donald Reid Cabral and U.S. officials of serving the Communist cause as Juan Bosch and Héctor García Godoy. It may be argued that this overabundance of disappointed suitors proves that the United States never played anyone's game and strictly maintained the neutrality which it pretended to observe; I rather think it merely proves that at different times the United States played everyone's game and was always unneutral to someone. A succession of inconsistencies does not add up to consistency any more than a collection of falsehoods is equivalent to the truth. U.S. policy has been so contradictory and erratic that no one trusts it, or even on occasion understands it, and an Imbert may follow a García Godoy just as a García Godoy followed an Imbert.
It has mattered little, indeed, who has represented the democratic alternative to the Imberts and the Wessins. The particular personality or political style of Juan Bosch was never the real issue. When Antonio Guzmán was proposed for the Presidency, he immediately received the same treatment Bosch had received, and now it is the turn of García Godoy—all very different personalities with different backgrounds and different styles. If one can imagine García Godoy followed by a Dominican counterpart of Lyndon Johnson, and the Johsonian achievement in domestic legislation translated into Dominican terms, there is no doubt the air would again ring with the same charges of “Communist influences.” After all, the August 1965 issue of the organ of the John Birch Society has mathematically determined that the Communists now influence or control 60 to 80 per cent of economic and political affairs in the United States and that the landing of the U.S. marines in Santo Domingo was directed by “what often seems to be Communist headquarters in Washington—officially called the State Department.” If this is lunacy, it is not, unfortunately, restricted to the United States.
In a deeper sense, then, the Dominican crisis is an expression of a crisis in the use and abuse of anti-Communism. Only some aspects of this larger problem can be touched on here.
It is no longer quite as clear as it used to be what Communism is. Nevertheless, in all its exist forms, it is still a system of political, intellectual, and social repression, based on a single dogma, sometimes arbitrary, sometimes ambiguous, and a single source of power, at best a party dictatorship, at worst a personal dictatorship. It has proven its ability to debauch the noblest ideals and to commit the most monstrous crimes. Yet, whatever form it still takes, Communism has its sacred books, its recognized national and international chiefs, and its tradition of faith and discipline.
Anti-Communism is not like that. It is merely a negation of Communism. The Communist world, however transitional it may be, is still a relatively restricted, prescribed order. The anti-Communist world is, by comparison, unlimited and non-uniform. It has no sacred dogmas or too many, no leaders or too many, no causes or too many. It takes in the best and worst of humanity. The anti-Communism of a Hitler or a Trujillo is just as evil and repulsive as the Communism of a Stalin or an Ulbricht. As a result, anti-Communism by itself tells us nothing about whether a cause is worth fighting for. The Stalins always tell us that we need to fight with them against the Hitlers, and the Hitlers always tell us that we need to fight with them against the Stalins. Thus arises the ordeal and the grandeur of humane anti-Communism—that it must usually fight on more than one front. What we must always ask is: What kind of anti-Communism do you stand for?
The problem of anti-Communism is bedevilled by an even more disturbing factor. There is no Chinese Wall between Communism and anti-Communism; almost every form of anti-Communism believes that other forms wittingly or unwittingly play into the Communists' hands. Hitlerism, to cite an extreme example, was not merely an evil in itself; it was the form of anti-Communism on which Stalinism fed the most: once the choice could be reduced to Hitler or Stalin, thousands who might have chosen neither felt that they had to choose Stalin. Conservatives think that liberal anti-Communism is really the anteroom to Communism; liberals think that conservatives seek to perpetuate the injustices and inequalities on which Communism thrives. There are those who thought that the late Senator Joseph McCarthy was the scourge of Communism; and those who were almost convinced that only a secret agent of Moscow could have sought to destroy trust in the U.S. Army's top leadership. The National Review thinks that the John Birch Society is causing grave damage to the anti-Communist cause; and the John Birch Society accuses everyone outside its orbit of selling out to the Communists.
Thus, many anti-Communists think that other anti-Communists are not serving the anti-Communist cause effectively enough: they may also believe that this ineffectiveness positively helps the Communist cause or is even an integral part of an all-embracing “Communist conspiracy.”
It is necessary to make these distinctions, in a consideration of the Dominican crisis, because many who were willing to admit that Juan Bosch was no Communist were also unwilling to see the pro-Bosch revolt succeed on the ground that Bosch's anti-Communism was too “soft.” An editorial in Life (May 14) expressed this idea in a relatively genteel fashion: “The moment the rebel leadership was infiltrated by Castroite Communists, the return of former President Juan Bosch to the office he lost in a military coup two years ago ceased to be an acceptable solution to the crisis. Under fidelista auspices, Bosch's brand of liberalism and ineffectual, if well-meant, anti-Communism, would have lasted about as long as an icicle on the Avenida Independencia.” Of course, this implied that the return of Bosch would have been an acceptable solution before the alleged infiltration of the Castroite Communists. And what “infiltration” meant, the editorial never made clear. But the general idea was clear enough and was repeated, in far more vulgar and offensive terms, in hundreds of other editorials.49
And so actual Communism and “softness on Communism” imperceptibly tend to melt into each other or, in practice, are virtually reduced to the same thing. The only question, then, is: who is to decide who else is “soft on Communism”? A recent book by the late deLesseps S. Morrison devotes pages to the proposition that the “democratic Left” in Latin America is vulnerable to “Communist infiltration,” becomes an “easy target” for the Communists, or “opens the door” to the Communists. Mr. Morrison gives Bosch's 1963 regime as the horrible example of this “democratic Left” infirmity. He cites former Costa Rican President José Figueres as the organizer of the tendency and includes in it, besides Bosch, such diverse figures as former Guatemalan President Juan José Arevalo, former Puerto Rican Governor Luis Muñoz Marín, former Venezuelan President Rómulo Betancourt, Peru's Victór Haya de la Torre, Costa Rican President Francisco J. Orlich, former Bolivian President Victór Paz Estenssoro, former Honduran President Ramón Villeda Morales, and the earlier Fidel Castro. Obviously, the problem extends far beyond Bosch personally, and any one of these figures, lumped together so indiscriminately, might have found himself in the same position and have been subjected to the same kind of treatment. Mr. Morrison was not, to be sure, one of the brightest stars in the U.S. diplomatic firmament—but he was U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States from 1961 to 1964. The views that he and his “editor,” Gerold Frank, put into his book were, and are, common currency in U.S. diplomatic and political circles.50 Another former and far more distinguished U.S. diplomat, Ellis Briggs, used the same technique to justify the ouster of Premier George Papandreou in the recent Greek crisis. Papandreou is no Communist, he wrote, but he is “incompetent, does not answer his doorbell,” and “has never learned not to play with Communists, “51 Mr. Briggs was U.S. Ambassador to Greece from 1959 to 1962. Indeed, there were startling similarities between the Greek crisis and the Dominican crisis.
I do not wish to oversimplify the problem. I believe that there is a sense in which it is right and natural that some anti-Communists may question the effectiveness of other anti-Communists and even conscientiously believe that some anti-Communism does more harm than good. Nor do I think that it is necessary to equate our Dominican policy with our Vietnam policy or pass judgment on the entire Johnson administration as if it had accomplished nothing else.
But I am convinced that the anti-Communism which has made a paranoid cliché or a political racket of the terms “infiltration” and “softness” has led us onto the path of disgrace and disaster. The concept of “infiltration” is obviously far from simple. Communists do not bother to “infiltrate” their own organizations or governments; it must mean that they seek to gain influence in, or take over, non-Communist or anti-Communist movements. It also makes a difference whether they come in anonymously or openly, in the rank and file or in the top leadership. How much “infiltration” is unavoidable, how much dangerous, how much intolerable? To what extent can a democratic organization inhibit or prohibit such tactics? Are the Communists the only political group that uses them? Questions such as these might well occupy some of the time and energy of political scientists.
But when the term “Communist-infiltrated” is flung about wantonly, irresponsibly, indiscriminately, it is nothing but a swindle, blackmail, or an incantation. I have seen hundreds, perhaps thousands, of references to Juan Bosch's “Communist-infiltrated government,” and I have yet to see a single member of that government identified as a Communist. The line between “Communist,” “Communist-controlled,” “Communist-infiltrated,” and “Communist-influenced,” has been all but obliterated in what has become very common usage, and repetition has given these terms a social sanction which is not only undeserved but which may wreak social havoc if improperly employed. Anyone can play this game of “hardness” and “softness” on Communism until everyone is outbid by the John Birch Society and madness emerges the only winner.
If an anti-Communist policy is shortsighted or stupid, it matters little whether it is “hard” or “soft.” A great deal would be gained if the problem were attacked in different terms. Conservatives and liberals might well ponder the words of Professor Russell Kirk in a letter to Robert Welch, the founder and master of the John Birch Society:
“Cry wolf often enough and everyone takes you for an imbecile or a knave, when after all there are wolves in this world.”52
1 Tad Szulc, Dominican Diary (Delacorte Press, 306 pp., $6.00), and Dan Kurzman, Santo Domingo: Revolt of the Damned (Putnam's, 310 pp., $5.95). A third book, by Barnard Law Collier, to be published shortly, was not available to me at the time of writing.
2 In an interview on October 14, 1965, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower reminisced about the Guatemalan coup in a way that seemed to reflect adversely on former President Kennedy's handling of the Bay of Pigs operation. Eisenhower took credit for ordering the replacement of some planes, provided by the C.I.A. and flown by U.S. pilots, which had been lost in action. Since Castillo Armas and his “army” of all of about 150 did not fight and merely waited at the Guatemalan-Honduran frontier for the planes to frighten Arbenz out of office, the replacement of the planes and more strafing of Guatemala City were crucial to the success of the plan. This depressingly hilarious story—an essential detail of which the former President has now helpfully corroborated—has been told in The Invisible Government by David Wise and Thomas B. Ross. It would have been more to the point if (a) Castillo Armas's men had actually fought and been defeated in battle as was the Cuban Brigade at the Playa Girón, (b) Eisenhower had been called on to send in an overwhelmingly superior U.S. air and ground force, and (c) a victorious U.S. invasion had almost inevitably resulted in a long-term U.S. occupation of the country. The magnitude of President Eisenhower's decision was so derisory that it hardly bears comparison with President Kennedy's. Indeed, one now wonders why President Eisenhower did not carry out the invasion of Cuba, with U.S. troops if necessary, in 1960, instead of preferring to hand on the unpleasant task to his successor. The crucial importance of a handful of planes, operated by the C.I.A., in the Guatemalan coup, suggests how much “the will of the Guatemalan people” was in-involved in Arbenz's overthrow or restoration.
3 Mr. Mann and Secretary of State Rusk have evidently never synchronized their views on this point. On the “Meet the Press” program of May 30, 1965, Mr. Rusk was asked about the danger of Communists coming to power through the proposed “broadly based government” in the Dominican Republic. Mr. Rusk replied: “I don't know of any case in history where Communists have come to power through free elections.” Yet it was precisely Mr. Mann's point that a “Marxist-Leninist” had come to power in Guatemala through free elections.
4 Not that official U.S. personnel made contact with Bosch on May 1 or afterward. On May 1, Bosch spoke with Abe Fortas, an unofficial intermediary, and on May 2 and 3 he spoke with John Bartlow Martin, a “private citizen,” as Secretary Rusk later described him.
5 El Tiempo (New York), July 23, 1965. In an interview with Jules Dubois, General Wessin said that he “had reported the conspiracy to President Reid for 15 or 20 consecutive days but he did not pay any attention to me” (Chicago Tribune, April 30, 1965).
6 This sequence of events is based on a letter to me from Juan Bosch. Kurzman has a somewhat different but essentially similar version.
7 In his book, Szulc mentions the embassy briefing on the Caamaño-Communist deal but does not report the follow-up. On the “Open End” television program, however, Szulc told the whole story, including the ending: “Several days later we went back to Ambassador Bennett, I think quite a few of us did, and said, could we have a few more details because we cannot check it out. And we were told at the embassy rather sheepishly, well, it seems that we were misinformed about the alleged meeting between Colonel Caamaño and the five top Communists. This was never mentioned again.”
8 “The widespread looting that U.S. officials have described in the past simply did not occur there, and a broken display window in the rebel area is a striking exception ratrer than the routine” (Lee Winfrey, Miami Herald, May 11, 1965). I cite Mr. Winfrey because he can hardly be accused of having had a pro-Bosch bias.
9 This belated admission that the ambassador's information was made up of nothing better than unverified “rumors” and “reports,” and the criticism of the press for presenting them as “known facts,” were made through Selden Rodman in The Reporter July 15, 1965. Mr. Rodman communicated the embassy's complaint as if it were so self-evident or well-founded that nothing more needed to be said about it.
10 There is reason to believe that Mr. Bennett did not present his atrocity stories as merely unverified “rumors” or “reports received’ but that he related them as if he gave them full credence and based his attitude toward Colonel Caamaño on them. Lee Winfrey writes: “My own notes from U.S. Ambassador W. Tapley Bennett's April 30  press conference in Santo Domingo show him telling of 12 people executed by rebel firing squads in one incident eye-witnessed by one of our own employees,’ of a Dominican woman gang-raped by 12 rebels, of an anti-rebel man beheaded and his head carried around on a pole. Other than Bennett's assertions, no evidence of any of these incidents has ever been found” (Miami Herald, July 25, 1965) . The contemporaneous report by Barnard L. Collier quoted the ambassador directly: “Mr. Bennett said Col. Francisco Caamaño, the apparent military leader of the rebels, personally was going blood berserk. He is busy working off his grudges with a pistol,’ the ambassador said. The rebel colonel was responsible for at least 12 shootings yesterday as he lined up opposing troops against a wall in a downtown square and ordered them all machine-gunned. The dead included. . . Col. Juan Calderón . . . ‘This is collective madness,” the ambassador said. ‘I don't know where we go from here.’” (New York Herald Tribune, April 30, 1965). In a later article, Collier cited Bennett's words about Caamaño: “He has gone berserk, blood-crazy” (ibid., May 18, 1965) . Szulc and Kurzman tell essentially the same stories, though minor details vary.
11 This is, of course, the same telegram that the President said was received at 5:14 P.M. on May 2 and 5:16 P.M. on May 4. Since the Department of State Bulletin of May 17, May 24 and June 14, 1965, contains the official texts with the three slightly different times of arrival, I have thought it best to cite them in the same way.
12 In an interview with the U.S. journalist closest to him, Jules Dubois of the Chicago Tribune (April 30, 1965), General Wessin complained rancorously about the other Dominican commanders. He had “bitter words about” General Marco Rivera Cuesta, whom he accused of having been “lax about the conspiracy.” When asked by Dubois why he had not attacked on Sunday morning as ordered to do by Reid Cabral, Wessin replied: “The navy started in this with us and then decided to be neutral. The same happened with the air force. Then a group of officers of the air force were ready to surrender and accept the conditions of the rebels.” General Wessin asserted that “had he failed to convince the reluctant air force and army chiefs to attack the Communists at 6 A.M. Monday, the Reds would have been in power that night.” These complaints suggest that a great deal of pressure must have been necessary to get the air force, navy, and army chiefs to fight.
13 Congressional Record, Senate, September 15, 1965, pp. 23000-01.
14 Ibid., House of Representatives, September 23, 1965, p. 24075.
15 Department of State Bulletin, May 24, 1965, p. 821.
16 Ibid., July 5, 1965, p. 20.
17 The Wall Street Journal, June 25, 1965.
18 Senator Smathers said that it occurred during the President's consultation with congressional leaders after the decision to send in the marines had been made (Congressional Record, Senate, September 15, 1965, p. 23007) . Thus the decision had had nothing to do with these sound effects. Senator Stephen M. Young of Ohio later tried to explain away the under-the-desk story as a “theatrical touch” for which the President should not be blamed inasmuch as he was relying on the ambassador's statements (ibid., September 22, 1965, p. 23846) .
19 This note was first made public on May 7, 1965, in the report of the first O.A.S. investigating committee.
20 Congressional Record, Senate, September 15, 1965, p. 23001.
21 Ibid., September 17, 1965, p. 23366.
22 For Imbert's dealings with the Communists in 1962, see Virginia Prewett, the Washington Daily News, June 16, 1965, and Norman Gall, the Washington Post, June 17, 1965. Both articles are based on depositions by Imbert's go betweens, the originals of which I have seen. The stories seem entirely in character with the man.
23 On another occasion, Mr. Martin explicitly stated that he was personally responsible for giving Imbert the green light. Here is some of the dialogue on the CBS program, “Santo Domingo—Why Are We There?” of May 31, 1965:
Marvin Kalb: Mr. Martin, the question comes up, why General Imbert? Did we find him, or did he find us?
John Bartlow Martin: He found us, specifically me.
Kalb: What happened?
Martin: Well, he called me and asked me to come and see him. And he told me that he had been approached by a number of Dominicans. He told them that they could not support either the rebel government or the San Isidro junta, which represented the military elements that the rebellion had begun against. These people, the Dominicans, had asked Imbert to form a third force, a new government. And I told him, “Go ahead.”
24 General Martínez Araña on the CBS program, “Santo Domingo—Why Are We There?”, May 31, 1965.
25 have chosen here to ignore the deleterious effects on the revolt of the strictly military action by the U.S. force. It cut the rebel zone in two and later permitted the regrouped pro-Imbert troops to wipe out the northern rebel-held sector. Inasmuch as I am not trying to deal with every phase of the revolt, and the military actions raise a whole set of different problems, I have limited myself to behind-the-scenes political actions and decisions which go directly to the heart of U.S. policy.
26 According to Kurzman, the ambassador said that “the Communists had completely taken over the revolution.” Szulc reports him as merely saying that “he personally was concerned about the Communist inroads in the rebel movement.”
27 This is Szulc's version. Kurzman quotes Martin as having said that the revolution had “fallen under the domination of Castro Communists” and “they are now in control.” In his Life article, Mr. Martin alludes to the fact that “I had said publicly that in my judgment his [Bosch's] party had fallen under the domination of adventurers and Castro-Communists.”
28 Congressional Record, Senate, September 17, 1965, p. 23366. Senator Clark did not give the exact date for the three but said that they had been produced 72 hours before the 58.
29 An early edition carried 55 names but, owing to a duplication, the number was reduced to 54 in the later edition.
30 This list may be found in the Congressional Record, House, September 23, 1965, pp. 24079-81.
31 Congressional Record, Senate, September 21, 1965, p., 23667.
32 The best treatment of this mix-up is in Kurzman's book, pp. 197-98. The original charges against the three appeared in the New York Times story on May 6, 1965. Unfortunately, no one told Senator Frank J. Lausche of Ohio that he no longer had to worry about them. More than four months later, Mr. Lausche rose in the Senate and indignantly proclaimed that “the most ardent Communist of the whole group” had been put in charge of the “investigative forces” of a “temporary government” formed in April (Congressional Record, Senate, September 17, 1965, p. 23345). The Senator was referring to Luis Hómero Lajara Burgos, who had been appointed Director General of Security in the two day Molina Ureña provisional government but had not been reappointed by Colonel Caamaño Sr. Lajara Burgos had also been a Rear Admiral (ret.) and Chief of Staff of the Dominican Navy, Chief of the Dominican National Police, member of the General Staff of the Inter-American Defense Board, and Naval Attaché, Dominican Embassy, Washington, D.C. Norman Thomas included a contribution by Luis Hómero Lajara Burgos in the recent pamphlet, Dominican Republic: A Study in the New Imperialism. Kurzman writes of Lajara Burgos: “A naval officer, he was, I found, regarded even by conservative Dominicans as anti-Communist.”
33 Later, Szulc, Collier, and Kurzman became the favorite whipping boys of pro-administration congressmen. For some reason, Goodsell and Geyelin did not receive the same treatment, possibly because the very names of their papers might have caused some wonderment, though there is very little of importance in the first three that cannot be found in the last two.
34 Juan Bosch, Crisis de la Democracia de America en la Republica Dominicana (Mexico: Centro de Estudios y Documentación, 1964) p. 155. This book has just been issued in. an English translation by Praeger (The Unfinished Experiment, 239 pp., §5.95).
35 This is the only interpretation that I can draw from Mr. Martin's own account. He tells how he was pressing Colonel Caamaño to admit that there were Communists in the rebel leadership. Colonel Caamaño allegedly acknowledged that there were individual Communists around but not in the leadership. Then Mr. Martin comments: “I was far from sure. And I think he was, too.” This is the prelude to his reference to the three Latin American leaders: “I said, ‘I have something to tell you. Time is running out. We have been trying to get Betancourt, Figueres and Muñoz Marín to come here under the O.A.S., but they are not coming'.” This is what reputedly shocked Colonel Caamaño and made him instantly realize the significance of their decision.
36 The best explanation that I have seen for Bosch's decision at this time appeared in a letter to the San Juan Star of July 21, 1965, by Chancellor Benítez: “The issue is not one of courage as has been invidiously suggested elsewhere. In many ways Mr. Bosch is much more courageous than any one of us. His personal life fully supports this. It is rather a matter of intimate outlook, of emotional and intellectual reactions to dead-end situations which our tragic times force upon many of us. In Mr. Bosch's estimation he could only return during his unexpired term to the Dominican Republic as President or not at all. In 1963 he had chosen exile rather than precipitate a blood bath in Santo Domingo. He could not discard the possibility that his presence in themidst of conflict might intensify one now. Furthermore, Bosch resents bitterly American occupation, broods over his anticipation that it may last several years, and often says it is not within himself to deal personally and constructively with such an occupation. At the same time he cannot seal himself off from what is happening, for it is happening to his country, his people and himself.” It should be noted that Dr. Benítez did not by any means see eye to eye with Bosch on everything. Of all the attacks on Bosch, however, the dregs were reached by William F. Buckley, Jr. In his column of June 1, he wrote that Bosch's “enormous personal weaknesses” suggested “even the possibility of dysphasia, or senility.”
37 As usual, these historical references get mangled even more by the time they get to the Senate. Senator George Smathers improved on Mr. Mann as follows: “It has been admitted that there were only about 12 known Communist leaders in Cuba with Castro when he started his revolution” (Congressional Record Senate, September 15, 1965, p. 23006) . And to think that I have written two books that attempt to demonstrate (a) that Castro was a Castroite and not a Communist in 1956, (b) that the “twelve” were also Castroites and not “known Communists,” and (c) that the official Communists disapproved of Castro's tactics before 1958!
38 As No. 7, Hitler must have sat in the Munich beer hall with only six people. Alan Bullock says that Hitler attended his first party meeting in a Munich beer-cellar with twenty or twenty-five people present (Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, p. 64) .
39 As put together later, an official U.S. day-by-day account of events in the Dominican Republic from April 24 to May 5 now alleges that two of the Communist groups discussed the advisability of withdrawing their top leaders from open activity on May 4 and that the leaders of all three groups decided to withdraw on May 5 (Congressional Record, Senate, September 16, 1965, pp. 23311-14) .
40 An English translation of Sr. Figueres's account may be found in the pamphlet, Dominican Republic: A Study in the New Imperialism,” pp. 43-56. It is a particularly thoughtful and penetrating analysis of the Dominican problem. On May 2, President Johnson said: “We are in contact with such distinguished Latin American statesmen as Rómulo Betancourt and José Figueres. We are seeking their wisdom and their counsel and their advice.”
41 It should be noted that Chancellor Jaime Benítez went along with the Bundy mission to Santo Domingo. On this point, he later wrote: “This tragedy is much different from the previous one in Cuba with which—because of thoughtlessness, or obsession, or faulty information—it was at first confused” (Saturday Review, July 17, 1965). It is hard to think of anyone who is less of an innocent in these matters.
42 This message apparently contained three demands which Washington knew in advance were unacceptable. Sr. Guzmán had agreed to base his government on anti-Communism and anti-Trujilloism, and to make both clear in his first address. But one of the points demanded that he should also agree to the expulsion from the country of a number of Communists in express violation of the 1968 constitution which forbade the Trujillo practice of exiling opponents for political reasons. Article 66 of the 1963 constitution stated: “No Dominican can be expelled from the country. The deportation or expulsion of any foreigner from Dominican territory can only take place as a result of a sentence handed down by a competent tribunal with the observance of legal formalities and procedures.” The Dominicans were dumbfounded, of course, to be confronted by U.S. “conditions,” which, if meant in good faith, should have been presented to them at a much earlier stage of the negotiations. In addition, the proposed Guzmán government was expected to do the United States' bidding even before it was formed, while the United States was still protesting publicly that it did not, could not, and would not interfere in Dominican affairs. The circumstances leading up to the May 23 message make clear that it was intended to torpedo the Bundy mission, and it was so interpreted by Dr. Benítez, who was with Mr. Bundy during this period.
43 Juan Bosch, Crisis de la Democracia de América en la Republica Dominicana, p. 52.
44 Before going home, Balaguer gave an interview to the pro-Batista Cuban organ in Miami, Patria, of June 25, 1965, in which he said that only future generations could pass judgment on Trujillo. “What can be said now,” Balaguer declared, “is that, whatever his errors, a portion of his work will not perish and will rather become greater in the course of years.” What would one say of a German politician who today spoke this way of Adolf Hitler? As for the Cuban exile organ in which Balaguer chose to express these sentiments, it is the only one that has managed to survive for the past six years. It is the only Cuban exile weekly regularly available to the Florida community. For Patria, President Eduardo Frei of Chile is as much of a Communist agent as Juan Bosch. Anti-Batista and anti-Castro Cuban exiles have never been able to obtain sufficient financial support to put out a remotely comparable publication, and even relatively modest efforts have been forced to suspend operations for lack of funds.
45 The full text of this extraordinary letter, translated by Jules Dubois, may be found in the Congressional Record, Appendix, September 20, 1965, p. 5314 (reprinted from the Chicago Tribune). Evidently General Wessin meant that he was accompanied by troops with guns and fixed bayonets. Generals Alvim and Palmer were taking no chances.
46 New York Times, May 9, 1965, and Look, June 15, 1965.
47 New York Times, May 7, 1965.
48 It is not possible for me here to go into the role of the O.A.S., and the effect on it of the Dominican crisis. But my favorite editorial comment on the O.A.S. appeared in Life of June 11: “We needed the O.A.S. to validate and internationalize our intervention. In so doing it has demonstrated its own new willingness and ability to face realities.” The whole thing must be extremely confusing to the poor Latins. On the one hand, we keep telling them that we did not “intervene” but merely “landed troops.” On the other hand, they are assured that we need them as yes-men to our intervention. If the O.A.S. faces any more such realities, the only reality about it will be its own unreality.
49 The readers of Time must have been surprised to find the following explanation of the Latin American Communists' “new” tactics in the issue of August 6: “They are best exemplified by the Dominican Republic, where the Communists resorted to the old ‘popular front’ strategy, muscling into a legitimate non-Communist rebel movement with hopes of duping its idealistic leader, Juan Bosch.” But Time's readers had previously been led to believe that the Communists had not merely “hoped” to muscle in but had actually taken over, and that U.S. intelligence had “flatly reported” Bosch's pre-revolt collusion with the Communists. Still, we must be grateful for small favors. By August, at any rate, Time had discovered that the rebel movement had been legitimately non-Communist and that Juan Bosch was an “idealistic leader.”
50 deLesseps S. Morrison (and Gerold Frank), Latin American Mission, Simon & Schuster, especially Ch. 18.
51 New York Times, August 6, 1965.
52 National Review, October 19, 1965.