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Could a U.S. Domestic Coup Ever Be Justified?

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Even though he undoubtedly doesn’t realize it, a man named Jose Cardenas, a former acting assistant administrator for Latin America at the U.S. Agency for International Development in the George W. Bush administration, has indirectly weighed in on the John Kennedy assassination. That’s because foreignpolicy.com has just published an article by him endorsing a military coup against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

What is Cardenas’s justification for a military coup against Venezuela’s president? He says that Maduro is taking the nation down with his authoritarianism and socialism. He says that the Venezuelan military bears “a unique responsibility to rescue their country from the abyss, uphold constitutional order, fulfill their oaths to defend the lives of every Venezuelan, and open a path to their country’s political, economic, and social reconstruction.

Here is the $64,000 question: If the United States were to find itself with a president whose policies were taking the country down, would the Pentagon and the CIA also “bear a unique responsibility to rescue their country from the abyss, uphold constitutional order, fulfill their oaths to defend the lives of every American, and open a path to the their country’s political, economic, and social reconstruction”?

Now, before anyone cries, “Conspiracy theory,” which is the term the CIA came up with to dissuade people from accusing the Pentagon and the CIA of doing to President Kennedy what Cardenas suggests the Venezuelan military should do Maduro, consider the fact in July 2016 a prominent mainstream reporter and columnist named James Kirchick raised the distinct possibility of a U.S. military coup against President Trump. In an article in the Los Angeles Times entitled “If Trump Wins, a Coup Isn’t Impossible Here in the United States,” Kirchick suggested that the military might have to take control if Trump began issuing unlawful orders to the military.

Here is something else to consider: The Pentagon and the CIA themselves believe that they have the solemn duty to oust a U.S. president from power whose policies are threatening “national security” to such a grave extent that the country is in severe danger of being destroyed.

How do we know this? We know it from the Chilean military coup that took place 10 years after the Kennedy assassination. In 1970, the Chilean people democratically elected a socialist physician named Salvador Allende. U.S. officials immediately deemed him to be a threat to U.S. national security, not only because he was a socialist-communist but also because he quickly established friendly relations with communist Cuba and the Soviet Union, including Russia, which were official enemies of the U.S. national-security establishment.

The Pentagon and the CIA could have initiated an invasion of Chile to oust Allende from power and install a pro-U.S. dictator in his stead, like they had successfully done in Guatemala some 20 years before or like that had unsuccessfully tried to do with Cuba some ten years before.

Instead, what they did was induce their counterparts in the Chilean national-security establishment to do remove Allende from power via a coup, one that ultimately left Allende dead. How did U.S. officials do that? By making arguments similar to those presented by Cardenas and Kirchick. They said that the Chilean military and intelligence establishment had a solemn duty to save the country from a president whose socialist and communist policies were taking the country down.

In fact, even today, there are American and Chilean conservatives who are still ecstatic over the Chilean coup because, they say, without it Chile would have turned out to be another Cuba (or another Venezuela).

There was one big problem, however. The Chilean constitution provided only two ways to remove a president, and a coup wasn’t one of them. Those two methods were impeachment, which had already failed against Allende, and the next election.

The commanding general of the Chilean military, a man named Gen. Rene Schneider, unequivocally stated that there would be no military coup in Chile. He pointed out that every military man in Cuba had taken an oath to support and defend the constitution and, therefore, the only remedy was for people to vote out Allende in the next election.

U.S. officials were livid. In their minds, Chile’s constitution was not a suicide pact. Indeed, if a president destroyed the country, what good would a constitution be then? The mission of the national-security establishment is to protect national security from all threats, both foreign and domestic. And it’s the military and intelligence agencies who are the ultimate arbiters of what constitutes a threat to national security.

Since Schneider was standing in the way of saving Chile (and the United States) from Allende, the CIA entered into a conspiracy to kidnap and murder him, which ultimately left Schneider shot dead on the streets of Santiago. With Schneider removed from office, the Chilean coup went forward on September 11, 1973.

Meanwhile, many of the same people who believe that it would be appropriate for the military and intelligence establishment in Chile or Venezuela (or Cuba, North Korea,  Iran, and other countries) to remove a ruler from office whose policies are a threat to “national security” react with shock and dismay over any suggestion that that is precisely what the Pentagon and the CIA did to President Kennedy. They react in that way because they just don’t want to permit themselves to believe their very own principles were put into action on November 22, 1963.

Why would the U.S. national-security establishment have carried out a coup against Kennedy in November 1963, one that elevated Lyndon Johnson to the presidency? Because Kennedy’s policies and actions were viewed as a grave threat to national security. Kennedy was seen to be taking the United States down to defeat at the hands of the communist enemy. In fact, from the standpoint of the national-security establishment, what Kennedy had done and was doing were far worse than anything any other target of a U.S. regime-change operation had done or would do, including Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, Lumumba in the Congo, and Allende in Chile.

After his resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which the national-security establishment believed constituted a devastating communist defeat of the United States, Kennedy publicly announced in his Peace Speech at American University that he was declaring an end to the Cold War and establishing friendly and peaceful relations with the Soviet Union (including Russia), Cuba, and the rest of the communist world. Pursuant to that aim, Kennedy entered into the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviets, began withdrawing U.S. troops from Vietnam, proposed a joint U.S-Soviet project to land on the moon (which would have entailed sharing U.S. rocket technology with the communists), and entered into secret personal negotiations with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

To the national-security establishment, which had been firmly committed to the Cold War since World War II, Kennedy’s change in direction was the equivalent to surrender to the communists. In their minds — indeed, in the minds of most conservatives — peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union (including Russia), Cuba, Red China, North Korea, and North Vietnam was an absolute impossibility. This was a war to the finish, most likely one that would ultimately go nuclear.

Kennedy himself knew that by embarking on this dramatically different direction, his life was in danger. Previously he had persuaded friends in Hollywood to turn the novel Seven Days in May, which posited a military coup against a U.S. president, turned into a movie, to serve as a warning to the American people of the dangers of a domestic coup against him.

Kennedy wasn’t the only president who was concerned about a national-security state coup. In his Farewell Address, Kennedy’s predecessor, President Dwight Eisenhower, who had served as commander of allied forces in World War II, warned the American people that their military-industrial complex, which had been no part of the federal government for the first 150 years of U.S. history, posed a grave threat to the democratic processes of the American people. Ike was obviously referring to the danger of a U.S. domestic coup.

For more information, see:

The Kennedy Autopsy by Jacob Hornberger
JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne
Regime Change: The JFK Assassination by Jacob Hornberger
The CIA, Terrorism, and the Cold War: The Evil of the National Security State by Jacob Hornberger
CIA & JFK: The Secret Assassination Files by Jefferson Morley
The National Security State and JFK,” a FFF conference featuring Oliver Stone and ten other speakers
Altered History: Exposing Deceit and Deception in the JFK Assassination Medical Evidence,” a five-part video by Douglas P. Horne

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.