Ten more days until our conference “The National Security State and JFK.” June 3 at the Washington Dulles Marriott Hotel, which is located in northern Virginia (not D.C.). The hotel is about 3 minutes from the airport. Saturday, June 3. One-day conference. This is one of the best programs we have ever put together here at FFF. If you miss this one, I am certain that you are going to later say, “Darn, Jacob, I heard so many good things about your conference I wish I had gone.” Check out our schedule here: https://www.fff.org/event/national-security-state-jfk/
One might ask: What relevance does the Kennedy presidency have to events happening today?
My answer: Look around you. The anti-Russia crusade is no different in principle from the anti-communist and anti-Soviet crusade that was taking place during the Kennedy administration and, for that matter, throughout the Cold War.
During the Cold War, the worst crime that any president anywhere could commit, in the eyes of the national-security establishment, was to befriend Moscow. That immediately converted that president into a threat to U.S. national security.
Consider Jacobo Arbenz. He was the democratically elected president of Guatemala. He was a self-avowed socialist, much as Bernie Sanders is. He also believed that socialists and communists had the right to participate in the political process and even to become government officials.
That’s not the way that the Pentagon and the CIA saw it. They believed that Arbenz posed a grave threat to national security precisely because he was a socialist or communist. The national-security establishment believed that no populace anywhere had the legitimate authority to have socialists or communists within their government. That’s why they went after socialists and communists here in the United States. They were convinced that there was a worldwide communist conspiracy to take over the world that was based in Moscow.
When Arbenz seized land belonging to the giant U.S. corporation United Fruit in order to give it to the poor, U.S officials were outraged, not only because many of them owned stock in United Fruit but also because that constituted socialism. (Never mind that the U.S. income tax and welfare state did the same thing.)
But Arbenz’s fate was really sealed when he reached out to Moscow in a spirit of peace and friendship. That was considered a grave threat to U.S. national security, just as it today during the Trump administration.
Consequently, the CIA targeted Arbenz for a regime-charge operation, one that involved a top-secret list of people to be assassinated by the CIA or CIA operatives. At the same time, the CIA developed a top-secret assassination manual, one that involved a study of how to commit a government assassination without having people suspect or be able to prove the government’s role in the assassination.
Arbenz was lucky. He got out of the country before the assassinations could be carried out. But the CIA’s regime-change operation was successful. The democratically elected president who reached out to Moscow in peace and friendship, Jacobo Arbenz, was gone, replaced by a succession of brutal, right-wing, pro-U.S. military dictators.
There was Cuba, a country that never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. It was bad enough, for the U.S. national security establishment, when Fidel Castro began nationalizing properties and businesses owned by big U.S. corporations, including United Fruit. Castro’s socialist and communist beliefs immediately made him a threat to national security. (Never mind that his most important programs were Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and public schooling, all three of which are core elements of America’s welfare state.)
But it was when Castro reached out to Moscow in a spirit of peace and friendship that his fate was sealed. The CIA, in partnership with the Mafia, targeted him for assassination and both the Pentagon and the CIA targeted Cuba for an invasion. No foreign official, especially in the Western Hemisphere, was supposed to befriend Moscow. Doing so made him grave threat to national security, just as it does today during the Trump administration.
In 1970, another self-proclaimed socialist-communist, Salvador Allende, was democratically elected president of Chile. Following the standard socialist playbook, Allende began nationalizing properties, raising the minimum wage, reinforcing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, subsidizing education, and establishing other socialist programs to help the poor.
But it was when Allende reached out to Moscow in a spirit of peace and friendship that his fate was sealed. Any government official in the Western Hemisphere who did that was considered a grave threat to national security. Allende was targeted for a regime-change operation, one that ultimately resulted in his death and his replacement by a brutal, pro-U.S. dictatorship that proceeded to round up, kidnap, incarcerate, torture, rape, execute, assassinate, or disappear tens of thousands of innocent people — i.e., people whose only “crime” was believing in socialism or communism.
In June of 1963, President Kennedy delivered his famous “Peace Speech” at American University. He told the audience that he had had enough of the Cold War and the obsessive anti-Soviet mentality. No more, he said. Under his presidency, he said, America was now going to shift directions, toward peace and friendship toward Moscow. The speech, which was prepared and delivered without any advance notice to the Pentagon or the CIA, was one giant “get stuffed” to the national-security establishment. Kennedy had decided to no longer play the anti-Soviet, anti-Russia, anti-communist Cold War game.
But then he did more than that. Once again thumbing his nose at the old Cold War establishment, he entered into the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with Moscow.
But then he did more than that. He ordered a partial withdrawal of troops from Vietnam and told aides that he would order a complete withdrawal after winning the 1964 presidential election.
And then he did the unthinkable. He actually began secret personal negotiations with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban leader Fidel Castro to end the Cold War and establish mutual relationships of peace and friendship. That is, he thought they were secret. Since it was a virtual certainty that the CIA (or the NSA) was wiretapping the telephone lines of Cuban officials at the United Nations (just as they do today), it is a virtual certainty that they knew what he was doing behind their backs.
Kennedy’s change of direction for American came to a screeching halt on November 22, 1963. And we have lived with the anti-Soviet, anti-communist, anti-Moscow, anti-Cuba obsession ever since, along with lots of other things — Vietnam, the war on terrorism, the forever wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the power to assassinate and torture people, including American citizens, and, of course, ever-increasing budgets, power, and influence for the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.