Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #363 Operation Northwoods

MP3 One Segment

This program focuses on a chilling set of provocations that were tentatively planned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the early 1960s. Although they were not formally instituted (as far as anyone can tell), the scenarios discussed below may have been employed later on during the Cold War. The thinking that characterized elements of the national security establishment at this time is very important to understand in the light of 9/11 attacks. It should be noted that Mr. Emory does not believe that 9/11 was a provocation, in and of, itself. Rather, there are extremists in control of the Bush administration who appear to be utilizing the attacks in an altogether opportunistic, cynical and fascistic fashion. The milieu involved in Northwoods is the milieu that spawned the Bush administration. What they will continue to do, if not turned out of power, is not pleasant to contemplate.

1. The discussion begins with Operation Northwoods’ genesis. The plan grew out of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s dissatisfaction with President Kennedy’s reticence to invade Cuba. (The chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time was General Lyman Lemnitzer, who was involved in the Operation Sunrise negotiations for the surrender of the SS forces in Italy. The “Sunrise” milieu involved Bush family investment adviser Allen Dulles, SS General Karl Wolff, Himmler’s personal adjutant, and Nazi operative Francois Genoud whose name has cropped up in connection with 9/11 in several contexts.

2. “Although no one in Congress could have known it at the time, Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs had quietly slipped over the edge. According to secret and long-hidden documents obtained for Body of Secrets, the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.s. government. In the name of anticommunism, they proposed launching a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting an ill-conceived war they intended to launch against Cuba.” (Body of Secrets; by James Bamford; Copyright 2002 [SC]; Anchor Books [Random House]; ISBN 0-385-49907-8; p. 82.)

3. “Codenamed Operation Northwoods, the plan, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war.” (Idem.)

4. “The idea may have actually originated with President Eisenhower in the last days of his administration. With the Cold War hotter than ever and the recent U-2 scandal fresh in the public’s memory, the old general wanted to go out with a win. He wanted desperately to invade Cuba in the weeks leading up to Kennedy’s inauguration; indeed, on January 3 he told Lemnitzer and other aides in his Cabinet Room that he would move against Castro before the inauguration if only the Cubans gave him a really good excuse. Then, with time growing short, Eisenhower floated an idea. If Castro failed to provide that excuse, perhaps, he said, the United States ‘could think of manufacturing something that would be generally acceptable.’ What he was suggesting was a pretext-a bombing, an attack, an act of sabotage-carried out secretly against the United States by the United States. Its purpose would be to justify the launching of a war. It was a dangerous suggestion by a desperate president. Although no such war took place, the idea was not lost on General Lemnitzer. But he and his colleagues were frustrated by Kennedy’s failure to authorize their plan, and angry that Castro had not provided an excuse to invade.” (Ibid.; pp. 82-83.)

5. “Operation Northwoods called for a war in which many patriotic Americans and innocent Cubans would die senseless deaths-all to satisfy the egos of twisted generals back in Washington, safe in their tax-payer-financed homes and limousines. One idea seriously considered involved the launch of John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth. On February 20, 1962, Glenn was to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on his historic journey. The flight was to carry the banner of America’s virtues of truth, freedom, and democracy into orbit high over the planet. But Lemnitzer and his Chiefs had a different idea. They proposed to [General Edward] Lansdale that, should the rocket explode and kill Glenn, ‘the objective is to provide irrevocable proof that . . . the fault lies with the Communists et al Cuba. [sic]’ This would be accomplished, Lemnitzer continued, ‘by manufacturing various pieces of evidence which would prove electronic interference on the part of the Cubans.’ Thus, as NASA prepared to send the first American into space, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were preparing to use John Glenn’s possible death as a pretext to launch a war.” (Ibid.; pp. 83-84.)

6. “Glenn lifted into history without mishap, leaving Lemnitzer and the Chiefs to begin devising new plots which they suggested be carried out ‘within the time frame of the next few months.’ Among the actions recommended was a ‘a series of well coordinated incidents to take place in and around’ the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This included dressing ‘friendly’ Cubans in Cuban military uniforms and then have them ‘start riots near the main gate of the base. Others would pretend to be saboteurs inside the base. Ammunition would be blown up, fires started, aircraft sabotaged, mortars fired at the base with damage to installations.'” (Ibid.; p. 84.)

7. “The suggested operations grew progressively more outrageous. Another called for an action similar to the infamous incident in February 1898 when an explosion aboard the battleship Maine in Havana harbor killed 266 U.S. sailors. Although the exact cause of the explosion remained undetermined, it sparked the Spanish-American War with Cuba. Incited by the deadly blast, more than one million men volunteered for duty. Lemnitzer and his generals came up with a similar plan. ‘We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba,’ they proposed; ‘casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.'” (Idem.)

8. “There seemed no limit to their fanaticism.: ‘We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington,’ they wrote. ‘The terror campaign could be pointed at Cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States . . . We could sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated) . . . We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized.'” (Ibid.; pp. 84-85.)

9. “Bombings were proposed, false arrests, hijackings: ‘Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.'” (Ibid.; p. 85.)

10. “‘Advantage can be taken of the sensitivity of the Dominican [Republic] Air Force to intrusions within their national air space. ‘Cuban’ B-26 or C-46 type aircraft could make cane-burning raids at night. Soviet bloc incendiaries could be found. This could be coupled with ‘Cuban’ messages to the Communist underground in the Dominican Republic and ‘Cuban’ shipments of arms which would be found, or intercepted, on the beach. Use of MIG type aircraft by U.S. pilots could provide additional provocation.'” (Idem.)

11. ‘Hijacking attempts against civil air and surface craft could appear to continue as harassing measures condoned by the Government of Cuba.’ Among the most elaborate schemes was to ‘create an incident which will demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and shot down a chartered civil airliner en route from the United States to Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama or Venezuela. The destination would be chosen only to cause the flight plan route to cross Cuba. The passengers could be a group of college students off on a holiday or any grouping of persons with a common interest to support chartering a non-scheduled flight.'” (Idem.)

12. The broadcast details other plans to arrange a pretext for invasion. (Ibid.; pp. 85-86.)

13. Nonetheless, President Kennedy’s administration rejected the plans. “What happened during those meetings is unknown. But three days later, President Kennedy told Lemnitzer that there was virtually no possibility that the U.S. would ever use overt military force in Cuba. Undeterred, Lemnitzer and the Chiefs persisted, virtually to the point of demanding that they be given authority to invade and take over Cuba.” (Ibid.; p. 87.)

14. “Within months, Lemnitzer was denied a second term as JCS chairman and transferred to Europe as a chief of NATO. Years later, President Gerald Ford appointed Lemnitzer, a darling of the Republican right to the President’s foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Lemnitzer’s Cuba chief, Brigadier General Craig, was also transferred. Promoted to major general, he spent three years as chief of the Army Security Agency, NSA’s military arm.” (Ibid.; p. 88.)

15. Lemnitzer ordered his subordinate (General Craig) to destroy the relevant communications, because he feared an investigation. “Because of the secrecy and illegality of Operation Northwoods, all details remained hidden for forty years . . . With the evidence destroyed, Lemnitzer felt free to lie to Congress. When asked, during secret hearings before a Senate committee, if he knew of any Pentagon plans for a direct invasion of Cuba he said he did not. Yet detailed JCS invasion plans had been drawn up even before Kennedy was inaugurated. And additional plans had been developed since . . . Because so many documents were destroyed, it is difficult to determine how many senior officials were aware of Operation Northwoods. As has been described, the document was signed and fully approved by Lemnitzer and the rest of the Joint Chiefs and addressed to the Secretary of Defense for his signature.” (Ibid.; pp. 88-89.)

16. Lemnitzer’s removal as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had no effect on the continued planning. “Even after Lemnitzer lost his job, the Joint Chiefs kept planning ‘pretext’ operations at least into 1963. Among their proposals was a plan to deliberately create a war between Cuba and any of a number of its Latin American neighbors. This would give the United States military an excuse to come in on the side of Cuba’s adversary and get rid of Castro . . . Among the nations they suggested that the United States secretly attack were Jamaica and Trinidad-Tobago. Both were members of the British Commonwealth; thus, by secretly attacking them and then falsely blaming Cuba, the United States could lure England into the war against Castro.” (Ibid.; p. 89.)

17. Paul H. Nitze (later part of George H.W. Bush’s “team B” at the CIA) continued to propose operations in the Northwoods vein. “In May, 1963, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul H. Nitze sent a plan to the White House proposing ‘a possible scenario whereby an attack on a United States reconnaissance aircraft could be exploited toward the end of effecting the removal of the Castro regime.'” (Ibid.; p. 89.)

18. Some of Bamford’s concluding thoughts on Northwoods are worth baring in mind. “Lemnitzer was a dangerous-perhaps even unbalanced-right-wing extremist in an extraordinarily sensitive position during a critical period. But Operation Northwoods also had the support of every single member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and even senior Pentagon official Paul Nitze argued in favor of provoking a phony war with Cuba. The fact that the most senior members of all the services and the Pentagon could be so out of touch with reality and the meaning of democracy would be hidden for four decades.” (Ibid.; p. 90.) It is worth bearing this type of mentality in mind when contemplating the apocalyptic possibilities of the contemporary political landscape and the extremists in positions of power in the Bush administration and the Republican Party.


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