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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Operation Northwoods

     We all know the conspiracy theories...we never landed on the moon and the photos were all shot in Arizona, the government was behind the 9/11 terrorist attack, there was a second gunman who shot JFK, etc., etc. In spite of all the books and television programs, these ideas usually can't be proved with any degree of certainty. That’s not to say the government wasn’t involved in it’s share of skulduggery and outright criminal behavior. 
     When I was a kid in elementary school in the 1950s our teachers told us that unlike the Russian government, the United States government never lies to its people. You know what? I think our teachers really believed that themselves. 
     I remember the shock many people felt when President Eisenhower went on record saying we were not making spy flights over Russia and shortly afterwards the Russians shot down a U.S. spy plane and put the pilot on public trial. The shock people felt was that the president lied. 
     In recent years many government documents have become declassified and some of the things they reveal aren’t pretty. They evidence government dirt, some of which involved actual crimes committed against its own citizens. 
     One plot, thankfully, never happened...Operation Northwoods. Military leaders reportedly planned terrorist attacks in the U.S. to drum up support for a war against Cuba. 
     For many years Cuba was a sore point with the U.S.  In 1964, on the fifth anniversary of Castro's takeover, I was with the Marines aboard a Navy aircraft carrier in the Caribbean and the government was afraid Castro was planning an attack on the Naval base at Guantanamo.  We were issued ammunition for our weapons and spent all one day and one night sitting in helicopters on the flight deck.  We were allowed to go to chow only one platoon at a time.  We were prepared to go in if the Cubans attacked the base.
     In 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved Operation Northwoods, a covert plan to create support for a war in Cuba that would oust communist leader Fidel Castro. Declassified government documents show plans were included such as:
* funerals for "mock-victims" 
* start rumors (many) 
* blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba 
* a suggestion was made that should astronaut John Glenn's rocket explode during his space trip, sabotage could be blamed on communists in Cuba. 
     President Kennedy's Secretary of Defense, that dirtbag Robert S. McNamara, was presented with the plan. His response is unknown, but fortunately a few days later President Kennedy told Army Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, the nut job who originated the plan and which was approved by the other nutters on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the U.S. would not use overt force to take Cuba. A few months later Lemnitzer left his job as Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff to become Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO.
     Operation Northwoods showed that the U.S. military was willing to deceive and attack its own citizens for political reasons. 
     In the 1950s and 60s, the U.S. was in the grip of the Cold War and terrified by the threat of Communism. And, there was a growing panic over the possibility that the Russians would launch an atomic attack. 
     If you were in elementary school in the U.S. in the 1950s you will remember the “duck and cover” drills. Schools across the United States were training students to dive under their desks and cover their heads. These drills were to teach kids what should be done in case of an atomic attack. They were part of President Harry Truman’s Federal Civil Defense Administration program aimed to educate the public about what ordinary people could do to protect themselves. Seriously though, how was ducking under your desk and covering your head really going to protect you from a nuclear bomb detonating nearby? 
     But, back to this Operation Northwoods. Cuba, a Communist nation right on our doorstep, was deemed such a threat that a huge amount of intelligence and military activity was devoted to finding ways to depose of or even assassinate Fidel Castro. 
     After the Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco these activities were collected under a CIA program known as Operation Mongoose, also called the Cuban Project. It was lead by General Edward Lansdale of the U.S. Air Force. Lansdale was at various times an officer in the Army and the Air Force, but those jobs were usually covers. For much of his career, he worked for the C.I.A.

     It wasn’t until 1997 when the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board released a pile of records from the Kennedy era. Among them was a 1962 document titled Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba. 
     The memorandum concerned Operation Northwoods, an egregious plan to create fake attacks on friendly defected Cubans, U.S. military bases and U.S. citizens that were designed to appear as though they were conducted by Cuba. 
    This action, known as a "false flag" operation, would be used to garner the public and political support necessary for direct military intervention against Cuba. 
     An aircraft at Eglin AFB in western Florida would be painted and numbered as an exact duplicate for a civil aircraft belonging to a CIA proprietary organization in the Miami area. At a rendezvous point with a drone, the aircraft would descend to minimum altitude and secretly land at an auxiliary field at Eglin AFB. The drone would continue on the filed flight plan and when when it got over Cuba, it would transmit a Mayday signal stating it was under attack by a Cuban MIG. Then it would be blown up by transmission of a radio signal. 
     The document also outlined an elaborate plan for a fake attack on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base that included a suggestion to sink ship near the harbor entrance and conduct funerals for the mock victims. The idea was that the casualty list would cause a helpful wave of national indignation. 
     Also included were plans to refit an American jet to resemble a Cuban MIG then use it to harass commercial aircraft, attack ships and attack and shoot down U.S. military drone aircraft. These fake attacks on U.S. military jets involved cloak and dagger stuff like quickly repainting tail numbers in a hangar while a submarine jettisoned burned jet parts and a parachute. 
     This was not a plan where there would be no casualties! The plan also included a fake Communist Cuban terror campaign in which it was suggested that a boat load of Cubans escaping to Florida be sunk. Or, it was possible to foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the Unites States even to the extent of wounding some. It was also suggested that bombs could be exploded in carefully chosen places where they probably wouldn’t injure or kill anyone.
     Ultimately, Operation Northwoods never went beyond the planning stage, but the idea that the military and government even considered such a thing is creepy. That's why the concept of civilian control of the military was written by the Founding Fathers into the Constitution.  It's also the reason for the requirement in the National Security Act of 1947 that the head of the Defense Department must be a civilian and any nominee with prior military experience must have been retired from active duty for seven years. Unfortunately, there is nobody to watch the politicians who are watching the military.

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