204. Notes of the 483d Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow 2 paragraphs unrelated to Cuba.]

The President asked Mr. Nitze for a report on the Cuban situation. Nitze replied that the Navy could blockade the island but results would not be immediate but rather long-range, and in the course thereof unfavorable world reaction would probably accrue. Admiral Burke pointed out that only complete interception of all ships approaching Cuba would achieve eventual success, and the job could be done with 24 ships. Mr. Rusk interrupted Admiral Burke to point out that such action would be an act of war and was wholly impracticable.

The President asked about a reported letter from Senator Goldwater1 in which the statement is made that the Air Force could resolve the Cuban situation. Admiral Burke replied that there had in fact been an Air Force proposal with which other services had disagreed, especially the Marines. In any case, the Air Force had made the suggestion that the [Page 480] Cuban problem be resolved through rather heavy and perhaps indiscriminate bombardment. The President immediately rejected such an idea, and added further that there would be no Navy blockade. He emphasized the importance of more effective watch committee action on Cuba. He also asked Mr. Dulles what new information was available on foreign equipment going into Cuba. Mr. Dulles replied that we know practically everything about the equipment, but offered no specifics. The President directed that close surveillance be continued including overflight with an American pilot. The President approved flights of a frequency of every two or three days, but suggested extreme caution.

The President suggested that all Americans be urged to leave Cuba and asked Secretary Johnson to study ways and means of exit and transit visas.

Mr. Murrow assessed world-wide reactions to the U.S. position with regard to Cuba. He felt that the departure of the clergy, the reign of terror, and such incidents as the imprisonment in the theater will result in favorable reactions toward the U.S. and tend to considerably offset the unfavorable ones. He felt that world-wide impressions of the United States were improving generally. The President suggested that the Iranian issue might be interpreted abroad as a possible result of the failure of the U.S. to act in Laos. He suggested action by USIA to discount this possible impression. Secretary Rusk suggested the over-riding theme of U.S. rejection of Castro and went on to say that the U.S. must take all measures to precipitate his downfall or face the possibility that all South America will come under Communist influence.

The President asked what specific courses of action we should take to prevent the crippling influence of the Cuban fiasco, assuming that no military action by the U.S. will be taken. At the same time the President asked what circumstances would have to exist before the United States could move unilaterally against Cuba. Rusk stated that action could be taken under Article 51 of the Rio Treaty.2 In this connection the President asked if the U.S. could recognize the Cuban Government in Exile and what might be expected of this group. Rusk replied that such recognition was not possible because of the absence of certain essential elements of a governmental organization, identity and territory. The question then arose as to the status of the Cubans in the United States and Robert Kennedy replied that they should be designated refugees and stated that legislation exists to handle them under this designation. The Department of HEW will begin registering the refugees with the assistance of CIA. The President stated that the United States will invoke the Trading With the [Page 481] Enemy Act across the board as far as Cuba is concerned at such time as some overt act or incident occurs in Cuba. The President gave as an example the shooting of a United States citizen. The President would exempt from the restrictions of the Act some $30 million for food and drugs. At the suggestion of Mr. Fowler, Under Secretary of the Treasury, the drugs should be donated to the Cuban people through the Red Cross. The President suggested the acceptance of the policy to encourage all Latin American states to sever relations with Cuba and to establish a complete economic boycott. The United States however should draw the line on becoming involved in the affairs of another country, such as active participation in the overthrow of Trujillo. Instead, the United States should determine appropriate courses of action in case Trujillo falls. The common danger in Haiti should be included in these considerations.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Vice Presidential Security File, National Security Council (III). Top Secret. Although there is no drafting information on the source text, these notes were prepared by Howard L. Burris, Vice President Johnsonʼs military aide.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Rusk is apparently referring to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter; for text, see A Decade of American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents, 1941-1949, p. 102. He could also be referring to Article 6 of the Rio Treaty; see ibid., p. 228.