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Politics of Illusion: The Bay of Pigs Invasion Reexamined

James G. Blight and Peter Kornbluh, editors
ISBN: 978-155587-783-5
ISBN: 978-1-55587-822-1
1997/284 pages/LC: 97-23213
Studies in Cuban History

"Provide[s] fascinating and at times poignant insight into the events of 1960–1961 as recalled and reinterpreted by participants."—Helen Delpar, Latin American Research Review

"The students loved it.... A good and useful book that is perfect for teaching."—Peter Schwab

"[This] highly informative book on the background of the Bay of Pigs, using newly released documents via the Freedom on Informationa Act, nad more importantly, using the recollections of former CIA officers, Cuban exiles and former Cuban officials, adds important information to that tragic event."—Back Channels Magazine

"Politics of Illusion reveals a story of high intrigue.... Not only do the authors offer insightful analyses of the Bay of Pigs disaster, based on discussion of newly declassified documents. They also allow us to do our own analysis by reprinting formerly secret material.... Highly recommended."—Phillip Brenner

"A fascinating tale of living history, well told by men who made and carried out the fateful decisions of April 1961."—Abraham F. Lowenthal

"This story of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation as it has never been told before, a story vastly more complex and interesting than we had ever imagined. Politics of Illusion is critical oral history at its best."—David A. Welch

"Politics of Illusion reads like a novel—and I devoured it as quickly as I might  Le Carre.... It must have been an amazing experience for the participants." —Frances FitzGerald

"The multidimensional testimony shows, among other things, how profoundly out of touch the CIA architects were with the Cuban realities. This is a splendid contribution to recent history." —Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.


The defeat of the attempted April 1961 invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron) was one of the worst foreign–policy disasters in U.S. history. Since then, explanations of the event have emphasized betrayal by one U.S. agency or another, seeking to assign blame for the "loss" of Cuba. With the benefit of new documentation, however—from U.S. government and Cuban exile sources—as well as the first-hand accounts of key participants, Politics of Illusion shows the current mythology to be just that.

Based on an innovative series of meetings that brought together former CIA officials, former anti-Castro Cuban operatives, a former high-ranking Soviet official, and others who were directly involved in the events—nearly all speaking on the record for the first time—this critical oral history demonstrates that all of the anti-Castro parties were guilty of illusions, to one degree or another. Blight and Kornbluh provide a thorough and perceptive context for the discussions held at the meetings, transcripts of the actual sessions, a selection of the main documents discussed by the participants, and a discussion of the implications of the participants' conclusions for current U.S.-Cuban relations.


James G. Blight is professor of international relations at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. His extensive work on Cuba includes Cuba on the Brink: Castro, the Missile Crisis, and the Soviet Collapse; he has also written extensively on the recent history of U.S. foreign policy. Peter Kornbluh is senior analyst at the National Security Archive, a nongovernmental research facility located at George Washington University. His publications include The Cuban Missile Crisis and The Iran Contra Scandal: A Declassified History.


  • The Anti-Castro Resistance Meets the CIA.
  • The CIA Calls the Shots. Kennedy’s Attempts to Topple Castro.
  • Assassination and the Use of U.S. Military Force at the Bay of Pigs.
  • Operation MONGOOSE and the Fate of the Resistance.
  • Aftermath of the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
  • Epilogue: John Wayne’s Illusions.
  • Appendixes: Chronology of Events.
  • Declassified Documents.