Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Operation Northwoods, Cuba, and American Politics

 

Operation Northwoods, Cuba, and American Politics

Peter Schultz

 

            One of the keys to understanding the assassination of JFK and its aftermath is Operation Northwoods. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in October, 1992. All of Kennedy’s military advisers wanted him to authorize an invasion of Cuba to take the missiles out and to take Castro out. Kennedy refused to do that and the crisis was resolved without an invasion taking place.

 

            In November, 1992, in fact, on November 5, election day in the US, a group of anti-Castro Cuban “students,” the Washington Times published an article entitled “Exiles Tell of Missiles in Cuban Caves.” The article was written by Jerry O’Leary, “a CIA asset who happened to be a good friend to Dave Phillips, [who was] a senior Cuba operations officer” with the CIA. The article quoted a spokesman for the Directorio Revolutionario Estudiantil, the DRE, a CIA-funded group. A week later the secretary general of DRE went on “The Today Show” and repeated these allegations. President Kennedy was irritated and contacted the head of the CIA, John McCone, who in turn contacted Dick Helms, the deputy director of plans. Helms called the secretary general into his office at the CIA and indicated that while he thought the DRE should chill, he indicated obliquely that he was supportive of the DRE’s motives and desires. The secretary general of DRE was “a paid CIA agent with ‘provisional operational approval’ to participate in covert activites. In CIA files he was identified by the cryptonym AMHINT-53.” [Scorpions’ Dance, Jefferson Morley, pp. 36-37]

 

            Sometime in 1963, the Joints Chief of Staff created what they dubbed “Operation Northwoods,” which was “a daring alternative to JFK’s passive policy.” The operation would undertake a “contrived” or “engineered provocation” that would make it look like an invasion of Cuba was justified and even necessary. Some of the possibilities considered by the Chiefs were a terror campaign in Miami; another was faking the downing of a US airplane by the Cubans; another was faking the hijacking of a civilian airliner; and a fourth was sinking a boatload of Cuban refugees, “real or imagined,” and implicating Castro in the atrocity. The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved Operation Northwoods unanimously, thereby indicating that “the idea of staging a spectacular crime and blaming it on Cuba as a way of overthrowing Castro appealed to the highest echelons of the Pentagon and CIA….”

 

            Within hours of the Kennedy assassination, the CIA station in Miami had heard from Luis Rocha, the secretary general of DRE, saying that they, the DRE, knew who Lee Harvey Oswald was and that he was the assassin. And “The DRE was remarkably well-informed about the suspected assassin, who had been in custody for barely two hours.” As Morley puts it: “A CIA propaganda operation was unfolding.” [p. 56] Jose Lanusa, spokesman for DRE, waited fifty minutes, as he was counseled to do by the head of the Miami CIA station, and then “started to call my list” of reporters and publications. One of those reporters was Hal Hendrix, who was described by Carl Bernstein who later investigated the CIA’s ties to news organizations as having “one of the Agency’s ‘most valuable personal relationships.’” He also alerted Mary Wilkinson at the Miami News, whose husband, Robert, was a CIA officer.

 

Another group, the Information Council of America, “which specialized in publishing ‘truth tapes’ about the spread of Castroite communism,” made a tape of Oswald’s WDSU radio debate that it had just happened to have, sending it to NBC which played it on air on November 22. So “Thanks to the DRE and INCA, Oswald’s association with the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee became headline news all over the country and the world within twenty-four hours. No one outside of Langley knew both groups were CIA propaganda assets.” [p. 56] As Morley sums it up: “For the very few people in Washington who knew about Operation Northwoods, the plan approved by the joint chiefs back in May, the scenario had familiar contours: a spectacular crime against a US target had taken place, and CIA assets were seeking to lay the blame on Cuba.” [59]

 

Whether or not we assume that LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover were two people who knew about Operation Northwoods – although I think it is safe to assume both of them knew of it - their actions in the aftermath of the assassination appear to be actions taken to avoid, to nullify the attempts being made to pin the assassination of Castro and Cuba. Hence, their rather quick decision that Oswald had acted alone, that he was a lone assassin. And, hence, Johnson’s push for what became known as the Warren Commission and his strong arming of both Senator Russell – LBJ’s mentor from Georgia – and Chief Justice Earl Warren, the latter to head the commission. Of course, neither Hoover nor Johnson would ever be able to give voice to their suspicions that Kennedy’s assassination was the result of Operation Northwoods, but at least with regard to Senator Russell, it is a safe bet that he understood what LBJ was about, and what LBJ’s suspicions were and why he, LBJ, wouldn’t take no for an answer from Russell. And Johnson knew he needed someone as respected as Chief Justice Warren to head the investigation, insofar as he had to know the investigation would necessarily be controversial. His decision to invite Allan Dulles to be on the commission may be seen as a shrewd move insofar as Dulles was “retired” from the CIA and had hated John Kennedy passionately. Better Dulles be “in the tent pissing out, then outside the tent pissing in.”

 

The stronger were LBJ’s suspicions about the assassination and the CIA’s role in it, the more his suspicions would influence his actions. As some have noticed, LBJ changed JFK’s policy regarding Vietnam within days of the assassination, leading them to suspect that LBJ used the assassination to implement the kind of Vietnam policy he wanted implemented, that is, “I am not going to be the president who loses Vietnam.” But what if Johnson’s changes in Kennedy’s Vietnam policies were a way of shifting attention away from Cuba and the assassination, a way of giving the military a war, as well as distracting the nation’s attention away from JFK’s assassination? As Morley reminds us: between 1964 and 1968, “Cuba faded as an issue, and Vietnam exploded.” [71] Perhaps this is what LBJ intended to happen. Afterall, a war in Vietnam, especially a limited war, was safer than a war with Cuba insofar as the USSR did not have the kind of relationship with Vietnam that it had with Cuba. No one thought that US “involvement” in Vietnam would lead to a nuclear war with the USSR or even with China.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Oliver Stone's Irony

 

Oliver Stone’s Irony

Peter Schultz

 

            Here’s an interesting sentence from Oliver Stone’s and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold History of the United States: “The election of Barack Hussein Obama, the child of a black Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, who was raised in Indonesia as well as Hawai’i and went on to graduate from Columbia and become president of the Harvard Law Review, felt like a kind of expiation for the sins of a nation whose reputation had been sullied, as we have shown throughout this book, by racism, imperialism, militarism, nuclearism, environmental degradation, and unbridled avarice.” [549-550]

 

            This sentence is almost comical: the election of a biracial person, who attended Ivy League schools, and wasn’t raised in the continental United States, would expiate “the sins” that “sullied” the reputation of the United States. This one sentence reveals several of the myths that Americans cling to in order to remain believers in “American exceptionalism.” There’s the myth of exoticism, as if a biracial person would somehow have qualities that simply white or black people don’t’ have. There’s the myth that the United States committed “sins” that need “expiation” because they “sullied” the US’s “reputation; and not that these “sins” reveal that the United States is a deeply flawed, even sadistic nation, a nation so deeply flawed that the election of one man to fill one office could never redeem it. There’s the myth that our highest educational institutions, like Ivy League schools, impart a superior education and not an education geared to indoctrinating the future elites who will be committed to maintaining their own status and, thereby, the status quo, because for them “the American dream” isn’t the nightmare it is for a lot of other people. But as George Carlin use to say: “It’s called ‘the American dream’ because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

 

            “The suffering caused by misguided US policies had been immense. For many, Obama’s election offered redemption.” [550] Wow! So, US policies were “misguided,” the product of well-intentioned but definitely not sadistic or savage elites. And Obama would provide “redemption” for we Americans, thereby proving just how “exceptional” we Americans are. As Stone and Kuznick put it: “It attested to the other side of America;” that is, to the side that allows us Americans to go on thinking we are “the indispensable nation,” an “exceptional nation,” unlike any other. “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you!” There were those who believed that the election of Obama expiated, or erased centuries of slavery, genocide, savagery, imperialism, militarism, and unbridled greed. And, so, they also believed those “sins” weren’t revelatory of the kind of nation America was and is. It wasn’t only Trump who wanted “to make America great again.”

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Regime Poltiics, Modern Politics

 

Regime Politics, Modern Politics

Peter Schultz

 

            Let me begin with the assertion that modernity began as an attempt to replace regimes with governments. Regime politics, as Machiavelli makes crystal clear, require or facilitate what Machiavelli called “inhuman cruelty.” Regimes, which are dedicated to seeking domination, depend upon such cruelty. But while Machiavelli called attention to this phenomenon, he rejected such politics, seeking to replace regimes with “states,” or “nation-states” that would be “governed,” that is, managed by administrators or officials rather than ruled by leaders or groups who sought domination. The virtues or commitments required to create such regimes would be replaced by bourgeois virtues, by “law and order,” by “limited government,” “a government of laws, not of men,” and generally virtue would come to be understood as “civility,” as in asserting one’s “civil rights,” preferably in courts of law.

 

            “For forms of government, let fools contest; that which is best administered is best.” So claimed Alexander Pope, as quoted in the Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton. Regime politics, that is, democratic politics, oligarchic politics, aristocratic politics, and monarchical politics all seek to politicize psyches or souls, to penetrate psyches or souls; whereas governments seek to merely administer or manage human beings, primarily by way of institutional arrangements that deflect or channel the passions, especially the passion to dominate, that characterize politicized human beings.

 

            The Third Reich wasn’t a modern phenomenon; it was an attempt at politicizing Germany, Europe, and even the world. It was illustrative of regime politics, being fed by the desire to dominate, a domination fueled by racial supremacy. To the extent that the United States is controlled by what may be called “a triumphant nationalism,” it too seeks to dominate the world by penetrating psyches or souls, by “winning hearts and minds,” as the current jargon puts it. “American exceptionalism” is merely a justification for US domination, for making America great. And like the Third Reich, the desire to dominate has led to a holocaust, to mass murder at least since the end of World War II and since 9/11. The US holocaust isn’t fueled by a desire for racial purity as was the Third Reich. But it is fueled by a desire for supremacy which, whether “white” or “multi-colored,” has led to the current American sponsored holocaust.

 

            What to do? I don’t know. But what I do know is that we cannot go back to the Machiavellian option, or to the Enlightenment or “early modern” option. Government as administration has been overwhelmed by politicization, which insofar as Aristotle was correct in characterizing human beings as political animals shouldn’t be surprising. Insofar as “the fundamental things apply” – still – we need to accept that there is “no way out” of a political, a politicized world. In such a situation, the goal should not be greatness but rather goodness, a goal fueled not by the desire to dominate but rather by the desire not to do harm. As Socrates recommended and practiced, avoid being unjust, of doing injustice, insofar as possible. Be good; do no harm. For “the road to hell is paved with great intentions.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

My Fear

 

My Fear

Peter Schultz

 

            My fear: We won WW II, obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, won the Cold War, took out terrorism, and yet we have sacrificed our humanity.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Blaise Pascal: Again

 

Blaise Pascal: Again

Peter Schultz

 

 

 

            It seems to me necessary to dwell on Pascal’s take on the political writings of Plato and Aristotle in order to remind ourselves that the political life may be characterized as madness. While reading a book by Douglas Valentine entitled The Phoenix Program, I have been reminded just how insane political life is. But the madness, the insanity is almost invisible insofar as those who were engaged in waging war in Vietnam appear to be thoughtful, rational, and anything but mad. They have plans, apparently well-thought-out plans, like what came to know as the Phoenix Program. And often they are well educated people, graduates of Ivy League universities like Yale University or Harvard University. And these people think of themselves as well-intentioned, not as people who are doing insane things, things that are savage and inhuman. So, just as Plato and Aristotle were “talking [to people] who believed themselves to kings and emperors,” we too should realize that while kings and emperors are no longer the main actors in our political dramas these days, our politicians and bureaucrats do believe themselves to be rational, humane, and sane human beings seeking the good for humanity. And, so, we too should seek “to calm down their madness” so that they produce as little harm as possible. But this is a view of politics that we Americans will find not only na├»ve but even insane. Think about it though: Wouldn’t we better off trying to reduce the harm caused by our leaders rather than trying to empower and embolden them to, say, “Make America Great Again?” Might be worth a try.