Intrepid terrorists could get maximum bang for their buck on “Black Friday.” A few well-placed bombs and the carnage would easily shame 9/11's.
Macy's, for instance, serves tens of thousands of shoppers that one day. If nothing else, the theme would make for a hair-raising Hollywood drama or disaster blockbuster. Credibility might be a problem, however. After all, even the most bloodthirsty and psychopathic of terrorists seek government or semi-military targets: The Pentagon, The U.S.S. Cole, Marine barracks in Lebanon, embassies in Kenya, Saudi Arabia, etc. Typecasting one who craved massive civilian carnage for the malicious sake of massive civilian carnage might edge the movie over into a James Bondor Austin Powers comedy genre.
Yet the movie could be based on a terrorist living today who planned this very type of civilian carnage 49 years ago. On Nov. 17, 1962, J Edgar Hoover’s FBI cracked a terrorist plot by Castro-Cuban agents that targeted Macy's, Gimbel's, Bloomindales and Manhattan's Grand Central Station with a dozen incendiary devices and 500 kilos of TNT. The holocaust was set to go off the following week, the day after Thanksgiving.
A little perspective: the March 2004 Madrid subway blasts, all 10 of the explosions that killed and maimed almost 2000 people, used a grand total of 100 kilos of TNT. Castro and Che’s agents planned to set off five times that explosive power in the three biggest department stores on earth — and on the year’s biggest shopping day, for good measure.
Thousands of New Yorkers-- probably mostly women and children given the date-- were to be incinerated and entombed. Castro and Che planned their Manhattan holocaust just weeks after Nikita Khrushchevfoiled their plans for an even bigger massacre during the Cuban Missile Crisis. “If the missiles had remained,” Che Guevara confided to The London Daily Worker the following month, “we would have used them against the very heart of the U.S., including New York City.”
Cuba’s agents for this Manhattan Thanksgiving bomb plot were members of the Cuban mission to the United Nations, and were working in concert with members of the Fair Play For Cuba Committee, an outfit that became much better known a year later this very week.
Had those detonators gone off the day after Thanksgiving in 1962, 9/11 might be remembered as the second deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Castro planned his Manhattan holocaust short weeks after Nikita Khrushchevfoiled his plans for an even bigger one. "Say hello to my little friends!" Castro dreamt of yelling at the hated Yankees in October 1962, right before the mushroom clouds. But for the prudence of the Butcher of Budapest, Castro might have pulled it off. "If the missiles had remained," Fidel's sidekick Che Guevara confided to the London Daily Worker in November 1962 regarding the Cuban missile crisis, "We would have fired them against the very heart of the U.S., including New York."
Castro's Manhattan bomb plot was far from "irrational." He's no suicide bomber -- not by a long shot. Some Cuba-watchers speculate that Castro wanted to blast Manhattan to heat things up again, to rekindle all those thrills he’d experienced the previous weeks during the missile crisis. Given the temper of the times, he knew his Soviet sugar daddies would be implicated too. Then the U.S. might retaliate. Then Castro might get what he'd dreamed about and tried to provoke a few weeks earlier: an intercontinental nuclear exchange.
Millions dead in the United States. Millions dead in the Soviet Union. And almost certainly, millions dead in his own Cuba. But Castro himself would be nowhere near harms way. Soviet ambassador to Cuba during the missile crisis, Alexander Alexeyev, reports a fascinating -- if unsurprising -- datum about those days. While Castro was begging, threatening, even trying to trick Khrushchev into launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the U.S. -- while he was ranting and yelling and waving his arms about grabbing his Czech machine gun and "fighting the Yankee invaders to the last man!" -- while frantically involved in all this, a "fearful" (Alexeyev's term) Castro was also making reservations with Alexeyev for a first-class seat in the Soviet Embassy's bomb shelter. Thus he'd emerge into the smoldering rubble and millions of incinerated bodies and realize his lifelong dream: his name stamped in history as the gallant David against the Yankee Goliath.
Castro's agents for his Manhattan Thanksgiving bomb plot were members of the Cuban mission to the United Nations working in concert with members of the Fair Play For Cuba Committee, an outfit that became much better known a year later when member Lee Harvey Oswaldreally racked up some headlines.
Incidentally, at the time of the Manhattan terror plot, the Fair Play For Cuba Committee also included among its members, CBS correspondent Robert Taber (an early version of Dan Rather, who conducted Castro's first network television soft-soaping on Aug. 30, 1957), along with The Nation magazine co-owner Alan Sagner. In 1996 President Clinton appointed the Alan Sagner head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.