On that unhappy island, as in so many other arenas of the contest
for freedom, the news has grown worse instead of better. I have
emphasized before that this was a struggle of Cuban patriots against
a Cuban dictator. While we could not be expected to hide our
sympathies, we made it repeatedly clear that the armed forces of
this country would not intervene in any way.
Any unilateral American intervention, in the absence of an external
attack upon ourselves or an ally, would have been contrary to our
traditions and to our international obligations. But let the record
show that our restraint is not inexhaustible. Should it ever appear
that the inter-American doctrine of non-interference merely conceals
or excuses a policy of non-action if the nations of this Hemisphere
should fail to meet their commitments against outside Communist
penetration-then I want it clearly understood that this Government
will not hesitate in meeting its primary obligations which are to
the security of our Nation!
Should that time ever come, we do not intend to be lectured on
"intervention" by those whose character was stamped for all time on
the bloody streets of Budapest! Nor would we expect or accept the
same outcome which this small band of gallant Cuban refugees must
have known that they were chancing, determined as they were against
heavy odds to pursue their courageous attempts to regain their
But Cuba is not an island unto itself; and our concern is not ended
by mere expressions of non-intervention or regret. This is not the
first time in either ancient or recent history that a small band of
freedom fighters has engaged the armour of totalitarianism.
It is not the first time that Communist tanks have rolled over
gallant men and women fighting to redeem the independence of their
homeland. Nor is it by any means the final episode in the eternal
struggle of liberty against tyranny, anywhere on the face of the
globe, including Cuba itself.
Mr. Castro has said that these were mercenaries. According to press
reports, the final message to be relayed from the refugee forces on
the beach came from the rebel commander when asked if he wished to
be evacuated. His answer was: "I will never leave this country."
That is not the reply of a mercenary. He has gone now to join in the
mountains countless other guerrilla fighters, who are equally
determined that the dedication of those who gave their lives shall
not be forgotten, and that Cuba must not be abandoned to the
Communists. And we do not intend to abandon it either!
The Cuban people have not yet spoken their final piece. And I have
no doubt that they and their Revolutionary Council, led by Dr.
Cardona-and members of the families of the Revolutionary Council, I
am informed by the Doctor yesterday, are involved themselves in the
Islands-will continue to speak up for a free and independent Cuba.
Meanwhile we will not accept Mr. Castro's attempts to blame this
nation for the hatred which his onetime supporters now regard his
repression. But there are from this sobering episode useful lessons
for us all to learn. Some may be still obscure, and await further
information. Some are clear today.
First, it is clear that the forces of communism are not to be
underestimated, in Cuba or anywhere else in the world. The
advantages of a police state-its use of mass terror and arrests to
prevent the spread of free dissent--cannot be overlooked by those
who expect the fall of every fanatic tyrant. If the self-discipline
of the free cannot match the iron discipline of the mailed fist-in
economic, political, scientific and all the other kinds of struggles
as well as the military-then the peril to freedom will continue to
Secondly, it is clear that this Nation, in concert with all the free
nations of this hemisphere, must take an ever closer and more
realistic look at the menace of external Communist intervention and
domination in Cuba. The American people are not complacent about
Iron Curtain tanks and planes less than go miles from their shore.
But a nation of Cuba's size is less a threat to our survival than it
is a base for subverting the survival of other free nations
throughout the hemisphere. It is not primarily our interest or our
security but theirs which is now, today, in the greater peril. It is
for their sake as well as our own that we must show our will.
The evidence is clear-and the hour is late. We and our Latin friends
will have to face the fact that we cannot postpone any longer the
real issue of survival of freedom in this hemisphere itself. On that
issue, unlike perhaps some others, there can be no middle ground.
Together we must build a hemisphere where freedom can flourish; and
where any free nation under outside attack of any kind can be
assured that all of our resources stand ready to respond to any
request for assistance.
Third, and finally, it is clearer than ever that we face a
relentless struggle in every corner of the globe that goes far
beyond the clash of armies or even nuclear armaments. The armies are
there, and in large number. The nuclear armaments are there. But
they serve primarily as the shield behind which subversion,
infiltration, and a host of other tactics steadily advance, picking
off vulnerable areas one by one in situations which do not permit
our own armed intervention.
Power is the hallmark of this offensive power and discipline and
deceit. The legitimate discontent of yearning people is exploited.
The legitimate trappings of self-determination are employed. But
once in power, all talk of discontent is repressed; all
self-determination disappears, and the promise of a revolution of
hope is betrayed, as in Cuba, into-a reign of terror. Those who on
instruction staged automatic "riots" in the streets of free nations
over the efforts of a small group of young Cubans to regain their
freedom should recall the long roll call of refugees who cannot now
go back-to Hungary, to North Korea, to North Viet-Nam, to East
Germany, or to Poland, or to any of the other lands from which a
steady stream of refugees pours forth, in eloquent testimony to the
cruel oppression now holding sway in their homeland.
We dare not fail to see the insidious nature of this new and deeper
struggle. We dare not fail to grasp the new concepts, the new tools,
the new sense of urgency we will need to combat it-whether in Cuba
or South Viet-Nam. And we dare not fail to realize that this
struggle is taking place every day, without fanfare, in thousands of
villages and markets-day and night-and in classrooms all over the
The message of Cuba, of Laos, of the rising din of Communist voices
in Asia and Latin America-these messages are all the same. The
complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be
swept away with the debris of history. Only the strong, only the
industrious, only the determined, only the courageous, only the
visionary who determine the real nature of our struggle can possibly
No greater task faces this country or this administration. No other
challenge is more deserving of our every effort and energy. Too long
we have fixed our eyes on traditional military needs, on armies
prepared to cross borders, on missiles poised for flight. Now it
should be clear that this is no longer enough-that our security may
be lost piece by piece, country by country, without the bring of a
single missile or the crossing of a single border.
We intend to profit from this lesson. We intend to re-examine and
reorient our forces of all kinds-cur tactics and our institutions
here in this community. We intend to intensify our efforts for a
struggle in many ways more difficult than war, where disappointment
will often accompany us.
For I am convinced that we in this country and in the free world
possess the necessary resource, and the skill, and the added
strength that comes from a belief in the freedom of man. And I am
equally convinced that history will record the fact that this bitter
struggle reached its climax in the late 1950's and the early 1960's
Let me then make dear as the President of the United States that I
am determined upon our system's survival and success, regardless of
the cost and regardless of the peril!