Saturday, October 27, 2012

Castro's Nuclear Epiphany—and What It Reveals About the Minds of Dictators

Did the Cuban leader's change of heart on nuking the United States come from a realization about his own death?

Exactly 50 years ago today, on "Black Saturday," the climax of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Fidel Castro sent a cable to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev calling on him to fire nuclear missiles on Washington, D.C., New York, and other American cities with a warhead 60 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. But half a century later, he has changed his view. "After I've seen what I've seen," he told a journalist, "and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it all." 

Why this change of heart? What has Castro, the last major revolutionary of the twentieth century, "seen" these past decades that altered his stance? In October 1962, Castro was engaged in his own mythic battle to save and continue his revolution, which he extolled as a heroic struggle against injustice, poverty and imperialist exploitation. But now says it was not worth obliterating U.S. cities, letting his island country be annihilated, and triggering a full-scale war killing over 150 million people. 

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