JFK Saved Us from a Nuclear Holocaust
By Jacob G. Hornberger
At the end of last night’s segment of Future of Freedom, the new Internet show that I am doing with Scott Horton over at Liberty.me, Scott asked me about the Cuban Missile Crisis. His question was inspired by an article by Justin Raimondo at Antiwar.com entitled “Lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” in which he reminds his readers that October 22 was the 53rd anniversary of President Kennedy’s speech in which he announced the discovery of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.
Since we were about out of time, I quickly answered Scott’s question but we are going to delve into it more deeply in next week’s show. I believe that it is one of the most fascinating — and clearly the most dangerous — events in U.S. history. (The show is live and airs on Thursday nights at 8 pm ET.
The critical question was: Why did the Soviets do that? Why did they risk nuclear war with the United States by installing those nuclear missiles in Cuba? Was it simply because they were communists who were hell-bent on taking over the world?
Those were questions that President Kennedy kept asking himself during the crisis, much to the anger and frustration of his military advisers. In the eyes of the generals, those was entirely ridiculous questions. For them, all that mattered was that the missiles were there and that it was time for the president to order a full-scale bombing attack on Cuba, followed by a full-scale U.S. military invasion of the island.
For the military, any settlement would smack of appeasement in the face of what they believed was communist aggression against the United States. In fact, when Kennedy ordered a blockade on Soviet ships headed to Cuba as a first-step measure, U.S. Air Force General Curtis Le May, who absolutely hated Kennedy, compared the blockade to Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler at Munich, a particularly pointed insult given that his commander-in-chief’s father had supporter Chamberlain.
Ever since the Cuban Missile Crisis, American schoolchildren have been inculcated with the belief that it was Cuba, headed by communist ruler Fidel Castro, and the Soviet Union who were the aggressors in the crisis and that the U.S. government was simply responding to that aggression. It is a belief that most of those schoolchildren ended up taking with them into their adult years.
But nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, it was the U.S. government, and specifically the national-security branch of the federal government, that was the aggressor and which was directly responsible for bringing the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust.
Why did the Soviets place those nuclear missiles in Cuba? They did it purely for defensive purposes — that is, to deter another U.S. invasion of Cuba, one whose goal would be to bring about a regime change that would oust Fidel Castro from power and install another pro-U.S. dictator, such as Fulgencio Batista, the brutal pro-U.S. dictator who Castro succeeded in ousting from power.
Recall the first U.S. invasion of Cuba — at the Bay of Pigs soon after JFK became president. U.S. officials referred to the invaders as “Cuban exiles” but in fact it was a U.S. government operation from the get go. The invasion was planned and orchestrated by the CIA, one of the principal components of the national-security branch of the government, and the invading troops were trained, mobilized, and funded by the U.S. government. In fact, they were the classic example of unlawful enemy combatants — that is, U.S. paramilitary troops who were invading another country but not wearing uniforms.
There was never a U.S. declaration of war against Cuba, as the Constitution requires before the president can wage war against another nation state. That’s because ever since the CIA came into existence in 1947, it has taken the position that it isn’t bound by the Constitution when “national security” is at stake.
What was the justification for attacking Cuba? That Castro believed in communism, which U.S. national-security state officials believed was an infection that was threatening the world, and that Castro, pursuant to that infection, had nationalized properties and businesses owned by U.S. corporations. That was it. Cuba had never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. It had never initiated terrorist attacks within the United States. Cuba had never assassinated any U.S. official.
It was always the other way around. The U.S. government attacked Cuba. The U.S. government initiated terrorist attacks within Cuba. The U.S. government tried to assassinate Castro.
As everyone knows, those U.S. forces at the Bay of Pigs went down to an ignominious defeat at the hands of Castro’s forces. The CIA blamed Kennedy for the defeat, saying that he should have provided air support for the invaders. But Kennedy had told the CIA in advance that there would be no air support. The CIA assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that he would change his mind once he was faced with the prospect of a humiliating defeat.
After the defeat of the CIA’s forces at the Bay of Pigs, the Pentagon and the CIA did not simply abandon their obsession with regime change in Cuba and walk away. In fact, neither did Kennedy. Recall Operation Mongoose, whose purpose was to bring about regime change in Cuba with steps short of a military invasion. Recall the CIA’s partnership with the Mafia to assassinate Castro. Recall Operation Northwoods, the plan that the Joint Chiefs of Staff presented to Kennedy that called for bogus terrorist attacks on American citizens, with the aim of blaming them on the Cuban communists, thereby providing an excuse to invade Cuba again, albeit this time with the full force of the U.S. military.
Castro was not unaware of these things. And he knew that although his forces had defeated the CIA’s paramiltary army at the Bay of Pigs, there was no way that Cuba could successfully defend against a full-scale U.S. military invasion.
That’s why Castro asked the Soviet Union to install those nuclear weapons on the island — purely as a defensive measure intended, first, to deter another U.S. invasion and, second, to provide the means of defense in the event that another invasion took place.
The notion that the Soviets were installing missiles in Cuba to serve as a first-strike attack on the United States is ludicrous. After all, if that’s what their purpose was, the Soviets would have fired them. But they didn’t.
In asking himself why the Soviets had done this, Kennedy figured out the solution to the problem. By assuring Castro and Khrushchev that the United States would not invade Cuba again, the Soviets proceeded to withdraw their missiles, confirming that the purpose of the missiles had always been defensive — i.e., to protect Cuba from another attack by the U.S. national-security establishment.
To get a deal with the Soviets, Kennedy sweetened the pot even more by agreeing to withdraw U.S. nuclear missiles aimed at the Soviet Union that were based in Turkey. The way Kennedy figured it was that if Americans didn’t like Soviet nuclear missiles aimed at America just a short distance away, the Soviet people might well feel the same way about those U.S. missiles aimed at them from Turkey.
That was how the Cuban Missile Crisis got resolved, much to the deep-seated anger of the national-security establishment. The military and the CIA, along with lots of Cuban exiles, could never forgive Kennedy for what they considered was his treasonous betrayal. Oh sure, the embargo would still be maintained but most everyone knew that Castro could survive that. Only a U.S. invasion could succeed in ousting Castro from power and Kennedy had committed the United States to not pursuing that option.
That’s why LeMay and his fellow national-security officials considered the Cuban Missile Crisis to be another humiliating defeat for the United States and why they could never forgive Kennedy for what he had done.
In fact, however, Kennedy’s actions saved America and the world. As we later found out, and what the CIA didn’t know, was that Soviet commanders on the ground in Cuba had been given battlefield authority to use their nuclear weapons, which were fully armed, in the event of an actual invasion. If Kennedy had complied with the demands of his national-security establishment to invade Cuba, I wouldn’t be writing this article and you wouldn’t be reading it.
For deeper insights into Kennedy’s acrimonious relationship with his national-security establishment and its consequences, see the following three ebooks published by FFF: Regime Change: The JFK Assassination by Jacob G. Hornberger, JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas P. Horne, and The Kennedy Autopsy by Jacob G. Hornberger. And tune in to next Thursday’s (8 pm ET) segment of Future of Freedom.