Like many of his counterparts in the mainstream press, Los Angeles Times senior editorial writer Michael McGough is aglow over the apology issued by Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for having participated in President Trump’s photo-op in which military troops used tear gas on peaceful protestors in the nation’s capital in order to clear the way for Trump to arrive at the event. Milley indicated that in the future, he would refuse to obey unconstitutional orders issued by the president. In a recent op-ed in the Times, McGough heaped praise on Milley for acknowledging his mistake.
Clearly concerned about the public-relation consequences of his action, Milley is being disingenuous, and McGough is being naive. If President Trump or any other president issues an order to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to deploy armed troops to quell protests on grounds of “national security,” make no mistake about it: The troops will deploy. Oh sure, it’s possible that Milley would, this time, refuse to obey the president’s order, but in that case he would simply be fired and replaced with another general (or colonel) who believes in faithfully following the orders of his commander-in-chief. The same holds true for soldiers down the ranks.
After all, don’t forget President George W. Bush’s order to the U.S. military to invade Iraq. Every U.S. soldier, from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff down, knew that there was no congressional declaration of war against Iraq, as the Constitution requires. Nonetheless, they all did their “duty” by faithfully following the orders of the president to invade the country and kill and maim people who had never attacked or invaded the United States. They would do the same if the president ordered them to suppress protests or riots on grounds of “national security.” Soldiers faithfully follow orders, which is one of the biggest reasons why our American ancestors so ardently opposed standing armies.
A fascinating and profound aspect of McGough’s article is his reference to the 1964 movie Seven Days in May, which was about a conspiracy within the military to oust a president from office and take power in a coup in order to protect national security. While McGough raises the movie in the context of the military’s potential refusal to obey an order of the president, that’s not what the movie was all about. What the movie was all about was the decision of the military to protect the nation from a president who was perceived to be placing the nation in jeopardy with his policies. That protection was in the form of a regime-change operation.
That, of course, raises President Kennedy’s assassination, which took place in the year before the movie was released. In fact, McGough might not know this, but it was actually Kennedy who was partially responsible for the production of Seven Days in May. He had read the novel on which the movie was ultimately based and had contacted friends in Hollywood about making it into a movie.
Why would Kennedy do such a thing? To serve as a warning to the American people of the extreme danger that the national-security establishment posed to him and the American democratic process. It was the same warning that President Dwight Eisenhower had delivered to the American people during his Farewell Address in 1961, when he told the American people that the “military-industrial complex” posed a grave danger to the liberties of the American people and to their democratic processes.
After World War II, the U.S. government was converted from a limited-government republic into a national-security state, a type of governmental structure that is inherent to totalitarian regimes. The justification given for this conversion was the need to protect America from a vast communist conspiracy based in Moscow, Russia, whose aim was to conquer the United States and the rest of the world. To save the U.S. from a communist takeover, the national-security establishment, which consisted primarily of the Pentagon, the vast military-industrial complex, the CIA, the NSA, and, to a certain extent, the FBI, was charged with the responsibility and given the omnipotent power to protect “national security” from all threats, both foreign and domestic. The biggest threat to national security, they steadfastly maintained, emanated from the communist conspiracy, which extended outward from Russia to China, North Korea, North Vietnam, Cuba, and other nations around the world.
To save America from this supposed existential threat, the national-security establishment was given the omnipotent power to effect regime change in countries whose president, prime minister, or dictator constituted a threat to U.S. “national security.” To accomplish this, the CIA soon began specializing in the art of assassination. In fact, one can find online a copy of a manual on assassination that was being developed by the CIA as far back as 1952, which not only detailed methods of assassination but also sophisticated ways to cover up CIA involvement in the assassinations.
That’s how the national-security state could justify its regime-change operations both before and after the Kennedy assassination in November 1963. There was Iran in 1953, where the CIA removed from office the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, and replaced him with a brutal dictator. There was the coup in Guatemala in 1954, where the democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, was ousted by the CIA and replaced by a brutal military tyrant. There were the repeated unsuccessful assassination attempts against Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the early 1960s. There was the CIA’s unsuccessful invasion of Cuba in 1961. There was the CIA’s successful assassination plot against Congo leader Patrice Lumumba in 1963. There was the CIA’s 1970 successful kidnapping and murder of Gen. Rene Schneider, the overall commander of Chile’s armed forces. There was the CIA’s 1973 ouster of Chile’s democratically elected president Salvador Allende and his replacement with a brutal military dictator.
None of these regime-change operations or assassinations were, needless to say, authorized by the Constitution. Nonetheless, they were all justified by the need to protect “national security” and to “save” the nation.
On June 10, 1963, Kennedy delivered his famous Peace Speech at American University, a speech he crafted without having advised or consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the CIA. In the speech, Kennedy threw the gauntlet down by essentially declaring that the Cold War was nothing more than a racket and crock that he was now declaring to be at an end. From that point on, Kennedy said, the United States and the communist world were going to live in peaceful co-existence. He even proposed that the Russians and Americans work together on a trip to the moon, which, of course, would have meant sharing U.S. rocket technology with the the Russians. He also ordered a partial pull-out of troops from Vietnam, and he told close aides that once he won the 1964 election, he would pull them all out. He also entered into secret personal negotiations with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to accomplish all this. In fact, on the day he was assassinated, a secret emissary he had sent to Cuba was having lunch with Castro.
Kennedy was not a dumb man. He knew what he was up against and the dangers he faced, not from the communists but rather from his very own national-security establishment. That’s why he had Seven Days in May made into a movie — to serve as a warning to the American people of the dangers that a national-security state poses to a nation. In fact, the movie was set to be released at the time Kennedy was assassinated but was delayed until 1964 owing to the theme of the movie and the sensitivities of the timing surrounding its release.
In December 1963 — one month after the Kennedy assassination — former President Harry Truman had an op-ed published in the Washington Post in which he suggested that the CIA had become a sinister force in American life. The timing of the op-ed could not have been a coincidence.
As we all know, the mainstream press has always been loathe to look too deeply into the abyss of the Kennedy assassination, as perhaps best reflected by their quick embrace of the term “conspiracy theory,” which the CIA began advising its assets to begin employing against people who questioned the official narrative in the Kennedy assassination.
What McGough and other mainstream journalists don’t get is that the problem is not whether the military is going to obey an unconstitutional order of the president. The problem is that the national-security establishment wields the omnipotent power to effect a regime change operation against the president.
For more, read FFF’s ebook JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne, who served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s.