The 1962 CIA-backed ""invasion"" of Cuba by anti-Castro exiles--the so-called Bay of Pigs--has endured as America's greatest overt covert flop. The planning and mis-execution of the project has been covered until now mainly as a sub-theme in memoirs and general books about the Kennedy years. Wyden, a former Newsweek correspondent, has gathered information from the Cuban exiles and from within Cuba itself--as well as from Washington sources--to uncover ""the untold story""; but the essentials, it turns out, remain unchanged. Wyden's access to Cuban sources has been squandered on ""eyewitness"" accounts of the battle, so that we learn more about the minute-by-minute proceedings than anyone could want to know, but little about the impact of the invasion on Cuba or Cuban attitudes toward the U.S. He has dealt with CIA reports that accurately gauged the level of Castro's popular support in Cuba, but were by-passed by CIA planners in favor of less accurate ones foreseeing potential success; these, however, are ignored while he gets into the old squabble over the operation's chances had Kennedy not canceled a second air strike aimed at destroying the Cuban air force. Wyden's obsession with trivial details--like each person's garb at any given moment--overwhelms any analytic potential. Because William Fulbright was the only one in the know who strenuously opposed the operation, Wyden concludes that ""groupthink"" and ""assumed consensus"" prevented all these brilliant people--by Wyden's reckoning, almost anyone with a Yale background and a position of power qualifies--from realizing that the plan was a mess. Therefore, ""it could happen again!!"" Of course, if all those bureaucrats, lawyers, and academics weren't so brilliant, the answer may lie elsewhere; not in why the Bay of Pigs was not stopped, but in why it was started. On that, Wyden is not much help.
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