On October 25, 1970, a team of well-armed Chilean thugs attacked an automobile in which Chilean General Rene Schneider was traveling in downtown Santiago. Their aim was to kidnap and kill Schneider. Given that he was the overall commander of the Chilean armed forces, Schneider pulled out his pistol and fought back, but he was no match for the thugs. They shot him repeatedly, and a few days later, Schneider died from his wounds.
What was unknown at the time was that it was the CIA that had hired the thugs to kidnap and assassinate Schneider. The CIA smuggled high-powered weapons into the country to enable them to kidnap and assassinate him. The CIA also paid them a large sum of money to commit the kidnapping and assassination. After Schneider’s death, the CIA secretly paid hush money to the killers in the hopes of keeping them from revealing the CIA’s role in the crime.
Rene Schneider was an entirely innocent man when he was killed. He had committed no crime, especially not against the United States. In fact, every indication is that he was a man of the utmost integrity and honor. He was married and had two sons. He was 56 years old when they killed him.
No criminal charges were ever brought against anyone in the U.S. government, including the CIA, for the murder of Rene Schneider. Moreover, when Schneider’s two sons filed a civil suit many years later for his wrongful death, the federal courts dismissed it, holding that the U.S. federal judiciary would never second-guess any assassination carried out by the U.S. national-security establishment.
Why would the CIA conspire to kill an innocent man in Chile? The answer is a deeply profound one. It provides insight into some of the dark consequences of having converted the federal government into a national-security state after World War II. It also provides understanding of why the United States is now, once again, perilously close to nuclear war in Ukraine, just as it was back in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In 1970, a physician named Salvador Allende received a plurality of votes for president of Chile. Since no candidate had received a majority of the votes, under the Chilean constitution, the election was thrown into the hands of the Chilean congress.
The election took place during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States was convinced that there was an international communist conspiracy whose aim was to take over the world, including the United States.
Allende was a self-avowed socialist. He wanted no part of America’s Cold War against Russia, China, Cuba, and the rest of the communist world. On the contrary, he wished to establish peaceful and friendly relations with the communist world.
U.S. officials deemed Allende to be a grave threat to U.S. “national security.” They were convinced that his election confirmed that the communists were getting ever closer to the United States, which meant that the prospect of a communist takeover of the United States was becoming ever more likely.
That mindset was obviously ludicrous and bordering on extreme paranoia. After all, Chile is more than 5,000 miles away from the United States, and it lacked the manpower, money, military, armaments, supply lines, and even the interest to invade, conquer, and occupy us.
When it came to the Cold War, however, rationality was in short supply. With Allende’s election, some feared that the communists would now have another base of operations in the Western Hemisphere, along with the communist regime in Cuba, from which to launch their takeover of the United States.
We should keep in mind that the reason for converting the federal government from its founding system of a limited-government republic to a national-security state in the first place was to prevent a communist takeover of the United States.
Jacobo Arbenz and Guatemala
In 1954, the people of Guatemala democratically elected a man named Jacobo Arbenz as their president. Arbenz was a self-avowed socialist. Like Allende almost 20 years later, he had no interest in siding with the United States in its Cold War against Russia, China, North Korea, North Vietnam, the Warsaw Pact, and the rest of the communist world. Like Allende later on, he wanted to establish peaceful and friendly relations with the communist world.
That did not sit well with the U.S. national-security establishment, which had come into existence in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Arbenz’s election illustrated the danger that the Reds were getting closer to the United States. After all, Guatemala is only around 1,800 miles from the United States.
The U.S. mindset toward Arbenz and Guatemala bordered on Cold War paranoia. Guatemala was one of the poorest countries in the world. There was never any possibility that the Reds were going to use Guatemala as a springboard for invading, conquering, and occupying the United States.
Nonetheless, U.S. officials sprang into action and deemed Arbenz to be a grave threat to U.S. “national security.” The CIA ended up devising an ingenious revolutionary plot that succeeded in causing Arbenz to flee the country. He was lucky because the CIA had a kill list of Guatemalan officials who were to be assassinated during the coup. Arbenz was replaced by a series of brutal pro-U.S. military tyrants, and the regime-change operation in Guatemala incited a civil war that lasted around 30 years and resulted in the deaths of more than a million innocent people, not to mention the destruction of civil liberties across the land.
Fidel Castro and Cuba
In 1959, the pro-U.S. dictator of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, was ousted from power by revolutionary forces headed by Fidel Castro, who later declared Cuba to be a socialist regime, one that was aligning itself with the Soviet Union and the rest of the communist world.
Not surprisingly, the U.S. national-security establishment immediately deemed Castro and Cuba to be grave threats to U.S. “national security.” After all, Cuba was only 90 miles away from American shores, much closer than Guatemala and Chile. Cuba was deemed to be a Red dagger pointed at America’s neck.
Nonetheless, Cuba never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. It also was one of the poorest nations in the world. It lacked the money, military capability, and even the interest in invading, conquering, and occupying the United States.
None of that mattered to the paranoid minds pervading the U.S. national-security establishment. They were convinced that U.S. “national security” required that Castro be removed from power and replaced with another pro-U.S. dictator.
In 1961, the CIA’s army of Cuban exiles attacked Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, where Castro’s army was waiting for them. Castro easily defeated the invaders, killing or capturing all of them.
Prior to the invasion, the CIA had assured newly elected President John F. Kennedy that no U.S. air support would be needed for the operation. It was a lie. The CIA figured that once the operation was in danger of going down to defeat at the hands of the communists, Kennedy would have to relent and provide the needed air support, in order to save face.
In other words, the CIA was manipulating what they considered was a naive, innocent, neophyte president. Much to their surprise, Kennedy stuck by his guns and refused to provide the needed air support and let the invasion go down to defeat.
That was the beginning of the war between Kennedy and the U.S. national-security establishment. The new president fired the director of the CIA and vowed to destroy the agency. For its part, the CIA was convinced that America had elected a coward, a traitor, and an incompetent president.
The CIA then engaged in a series of assassination attempts against Castro. We call them “assassination” attempts, but in actuality, they were nothing more than attempts to murder the political leader of another country — a flagrantly illegal act. But it was becoming increasingly clear that the federal judiciary was never going to interfere with the assassination powers of the U.S. national-security establishment. The CIA had carte blanche to murder whomever it deemed to be a threat to “national security.”
After the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs, the Pentagon began pressuring Kennedy to initiate a full-scale military invasion of Cuba. This included Operation Northwoods, a top-secret false-flag operation that was designed to give Kennedy a justification for invading Cuba. To his everlasting credit, Kennedy rejected the plan, which made him more suspect in the eyes of the national-security establishment.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
The Soviets and the Cubans knew that the Pentagon and the CIA were pressuring Kennedy to invade Cuba. In October 1962, the Soviets installed nuclear missiles in Cuba. The missiles were intended to deter Kennedy from ordering an invasion of Cuba. Alternatively, they were intended to help defend Cuba if such deterrence failed.
Kennedy figured why the Soviets had installed the missiles and ended up striking a deal with them that resolved the crisis. He promised that he would not permit the Pentagon and the CIA to invade Cuba. He also secretly promised to remove nuclear missiles that the Pentagon had installed in Turkey that were pointed at the Soviet Union. In return, the Soviets removed their missiles from Cuba and took them home.
The Cuban Missile Crisis brought the United States and Russia to the brink of all-out nuclear war. There is something important to note about it: It was the U.S. national-security establishment’s paranoia about the supposed communist threat to America that brought on the crisis. After all, if the Pentagon and the CIA had not been pressuring Kennedy to invade Cuba, the Soviets would not have had any reason to install their nuclear missiles in Cuba.
The American people breathed a sigh of relief over Kennedy’s resolution of the crisis. Not so the Pentagon and the CIA. They were livid. They called it the biggest defeat in U.S. history and compared Kennedy’s handling of the crisis to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler at Nuremberg. As I point out in my book An Encounter with Evil: The Abraham Zapruder Story, it is a virtual certainty that this was the time that the U.S. national-security establishment decided that Kennedy needed to be violently removed from power, especially given that his deal with the Soviets left Cuba permanently in communist hands.
It was after the Cuban Missile Crisis that Kennedy achieved a “breakthrough,” which enabled him to see that the U.S. Cold War, including its mindset of perpetual hostility toward Russia, was a great big Pentagon-CIA racket that was endangering the American people. In his Peace Speech at American University in June 1963, he declared that he was bringing the extreme anti-Russia, anticommunist policy to an end. He announced that America would henceforth move in a new direction — one toward peaceful and harmonious relations with the communist world.
JFK’s Peace Speech, along with his resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, sealed his fate. After all, as the duly elected president of the United States, he was doing precisely what Arbenz and Castro had done and what Allende would do several years later — that is, make peace with the Reds.
This brings us back to Chile. After Allende received a plurally of the votes in the presidential election in 1970, the U.S. national-security establishment decided that he needed to be prevented from becoming president.
One part of the U.S. plan involved using U.S. taxpayer money to bribe the members of the Chilean congress into voting against Allende.
Another part of the plan involved a military coup that would prevent Allende from assuming the presidency. There was one big obstacle with this part of the plan, however: General Rene Schneider, the overall commander of Chile’s armed forces.
That was why the CIA conspired to kidnap and assassinate Schneider. They needed to have him removed from power because he was an obstacle to a coup. I should point out that while the CIA has confessed to the kidnapping part of the plot, it has long claimed that it never conspired to murder Schneider. However, that clearly is a lie. Once Schneider was violently removed as an obstacle to the coup by his kidnapping, there was no way they could ever permit him to return alive. Killing him was necessary part and parcel of the conspiracy.
Now, let’s reflect on violent removal part of the plan, because it reveals the mindset of the U.S. national-security establishment with respect to Kennedy’s removal from power several years before. The Pentagon and the CIA convinced their counterparts in Chile that they had a moral duty to remove their duly elected president from office. Their argument was based on the notion that even though a nation’s constitution doesn’t provide for the violent removal of a president from power, the constitution is not a “suicide pact.” If a leader is taking a country down with his policies, he becomes a threat to national security, making it incumbent on the national-security establishment to protect “national security” by violently removing him from power.
In 1973, the Chilean national-security establishment accepted the arguments of the U.S. national-security establishment and, with the full support of the Pentagon and the CIA, violently removed Allende from power. At the end of the operation, Allende lay dead. Some 50,000 innocent people were rounded up and tortured. Around 3,000 of them were executed or disappeared, including two young Americans, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, both of whom favored Allende and both of whom opposed the U.S. war in Vietnam.
The crisis in Ukraine
In addition to providing a deeper understanding of the mindset that went into the violent removal of Kennedy from power, there are two other lessons that can be garnered from all this Cold War mayhem.
One lesson is that if Kennedy had not been assassinated, it is a virtual certainty that there would be no crisis in Ukraine today. That’s because Kennedy had come to the realization that the Cold War was just one great big deadly and destructive racket that was leading America to doom. He would almost certainly have ended up withdrawing the United States from NATO, which would have meant the demise of that Cold War dinosaur. Therefore, there wouldn’t have been a NATO in existence to provoke the crisis in Ukraine.
Another lesson comes with understanding the Russian mindset regarding NATO’s absorption of former members of the Warsaw Pact and its threat to absorb Ukraine, which would enable the United States to install bases, missiles, and nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
What’s wrong with all that? Well, legally nothing. But when it comes to foreign powers like Germany and the United States, both of which are members of NATO, getting closer and closer to Russia, that presents big problems for Russia.
After all, don’t forget the paranoid mindset that U.S. officials had toward the Reds getting ever closer to the United States in Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, and, later, Nicaragua (which motivated President Reagan’s Contra war). Given the extreme U.S. paranoia about the Reds getting ever closer to the United States, why should it surprise anyone that Russia would be just as paranoid about having Germany and the United States getting ever closer to Russia?
Don’t forget, after all, that it was Germany that invaded and almost conquered Russia in the Second World War, killing 27 million Russians in the process and destroying the industrial capability of the entire country.
Don’t forget also the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who federal officials have honored with a national holiday. He declared that the United States was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. And that was before the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq! Sure, there are plenty of Americans who don’t believe that King was right, but there is no doubt that there are lots of people in the world, including the Russians, who believe he was right.
President Kennedy had a unique ability to step into the shoes of his adversary in an attempt to understand what was motivating his adversary to act in a certain way. That’s what enabled him to reach a resolution in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Kennedy also had the courage to oppose the U.S. national-security establishment’s mindset of perpetual hostility to Russia and begin moving America in the direction of establishing peaceful and harmonious relations with Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and the rest of the communist world.
If the American people living today could just capture Kennedy’s unique ability and his courage, they could lead our nation out of the deep morass into which it has been plunged and, in the process, lead the world to freedom, peace, prosperity, and harmony.
This article was originally published in the May 2023 edition of Future of Freedom.