Explore Freedom

Explore Freedom » Why Kennedy Had to Be Removed

FFF Articles

Why Kennedy Had to Be Removed


The current, ongoing brouhaha over Russia helps to show explain why the U.S. national-security establishment removed President John F. Kennedy from office in the regime-change operation that took place on November 22, 1963.

Yes, I know the official version that we are all expected to adhere to: that it is just inconceivable that the U.S. national-security establishment would initiate one of its storied regime-change operations within the United States. It just had to be a lone-nut operation because national-security regime-change operations are supposed to be carried out only against foreign leaders, not domestic ones.

Of course, there has always been at least one big problem with the lone-nut theory: Motive. Oswald had no reason to kill Kennedy. In fact, it’s the exact opposite — Oswald, if he really was a communist rather than a U.S. intelligence agent posing as a communist, had every motive for wanting Kennedy to remain president.

Why is that?

The answer is the same reason that the Pentagon and the CIA, the two principal components of the U.S. national-security state, had to remove Kennedy from office: Kennedy had decided to bring an end to the anti-Soviet, pro–Cold War system that the United States had embraced ever since the end of World War II and to establish a normal and friendly relationship with the Soviet Union and the rest of the communist world.

In the minds of the Pentagon and the CIA, that radical change in direction not only threatened the national security of the United States by subjecting it to a communist takeover, it also threatened the very need for a U.S. national-security state and its ever-increasing federal taxpayer-funded largess.

Kennedy had come into office as pretty much a standard Cold Warrior. I say “pretty much” because his perspective was different from that of the national-security establishment when it came to nationalist movements in Third World countries — that is, movements that were devoted to ridding themselves of foreign rule by the British, French, Belgian, or other empires. The establishment view was that anti-colonialist movements were communist movements. Kennedy’s belief was that they were simply nationalist, anti-imperialist movements, which made him suspect in the eyes of the U.S. national-security establishment.

But except for nationalist movements, Kennedy’s mindset in 1961 was the one that the Pentagon and CIA had inculcated into the American people ever since the end of World War II — that America was in grave danger of being taken over by the communists — that communist Cuba posed a grave threat to U.S. national security — that countries in Southeast Asia were in danger of falling like dominoes to the communists — that the communist Soviet Union (including communist Russia) and communist China were hell-bent on conquering the United States — and that the U.S. government, including the army, was being infiltrated by communist agents.

In fact, the supposed communist threat was the reason the U.S. government, after World War II, was converted into a national-security state, a type of governmental structure inherent in totalitarian regimes, including China and the Soviet Union. The only way to prevent the United States from falling to the communists, U.S. officials believed, was to become like them by adopting their type of governmental structure — that is, by adopting a massive, permanent military establishment and secretive agencies with the power to kidnap, torture, spy on, and kill people and to bring regime change against foreign leaders who, in the opinion of the national-security establishment, posed a threat to U.S. national security.


Most Americans today, it is safe to say, have no idea of the extreme change in U.S. governmental structure that the conversion to a national-security state entailed. Most people today genuinely believe that America has the same governmental structure it had once the Constitution was enacted.

Kennedy undoubtedly was taken aback as he listened to outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower’s Farewell Address. Eisenhower pointed out that America’s new governmental structure — which he labeled “the military-industrial complex,” including the massive arms industry this new structure had brought into existence — was entirely new to the American way of life.

No one was supposed to say that, much less a president of the United States. Everyone was expected to hew to the official line — that everything was still the same — that nothing had changed in any fundamental sense after World War II.

Ike went even further. He said that while he believed this new governmental structure was necessary to fight the Cold War, it also constituted a grave threat to the liberties and democratic processes of the American people. What he obviously meant by that was the possibility of a military takeover of America, either by controlling those in power or, more drastically, through a domestic regime-change operation consisting of a coup, assassination, or some other means by which America’s democratically elected leader would be ousted from power and replaced by someone acceptable to the national-security establishment.

Ike had seen what the national-security state had done in Iran in 1953, where it ousted the democratically appointed prime minister and replaced him with a brutal tyrant, the shah of Iran. He had also seen what it had done in Guatemala in 1954 (under his authorization), where it ousted the democratically elected president and replaced him with a brutal military dictator.

The justification for both of those regime-change operations? “National security.” The leaders in both of those countries were deemed to be adopting policies that placed the U.S. in a position of falling to the communists and becoming a communist nation.

What many Americans fail to realize, however, is that by the time he died, Kennedy had come to reject, fully and completely, the entire Cold War paradigm, which, of course, had placed him in severe opposition, not against the Russians or other communists, but rather against the U.S. national-security establishment. By November 1963, Kennedy had decided that the entire anti-Soviet (and anti-Russia) mindset and the Cold War against the communist world were nonsensical and contrary to the interests of the American people. He had decided to put an end to it, which not only made him a threat to national security but also a threat to the entire national-security-state way of life that had come to envelop America.

Don’t forget that the reason the federal government was converted from a limited-government republic to a national-security state was to fight the Cold War against the USSR and the rest of the communist world, with the aim of preventing the United States from going Red. Once Kennedy achieved a breakthrough that enabled him to see that as dangerous nonsense, one side or the other had to prevail in that vicious political/bureaucratic war. There was no way to reconcile the conflicting visions held by Kennedy and the national-security establishment.

The Cuba obsession

The war started with the Bay of Pigs invasion. Believing that America could not survive with a communist regime 90 miles away, the CIA convinced Kennedy that it was necessary to invade Cuba, oust the communist regime, and re-install a pro-U.S. dictator, similar to the dictator that Fidel Castro had ousted from power in the Cuban Revolution, Fulgencio Batista. To ensure that no one would find out that it was the CIA that was behind the invasion, the CIA’s plan called for using Cuban exiles to do the invading.

The CIA told Kennedy that the invasion could succeed without U.S. air support. It was a lie. The CIA figured that once the invasion came close to failing, Kennedy could be pressured into providing the needed air support in order to “save face” and to avoid having the communists win.

But Kennedy stuck with his position, refused to provide the air support, and let the Cuban communists win. The CIA and its army of Cuban exiles were livid. To them, the president was cowardly, weak, and incompetent in the face of communist “aggression.” Some of them even considered him to be a traitor. In their minds, former Vice President Richard Nixon, whom Kennedy had defeated in 1960, would never have permitted the communists to win at the Bay of Pigs.

For his part, Kennedy was livid at the CIA for fraudulently setting him up and trying to manipulate him into providing the needed air support. He fired Allan Dulles, the highly revered director of the CIA. He is reputed to have vowed to tear the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter them to the winds. He made his brother Bobby overseer of the CIA, infuriating the Agency.

The CIA and the Pentagon continued to be convinced that America was going to fall to the communists if Cuba remained a communist nation (notwithstanding the fact that Cuba never attacked the United States or had any interest in attacking the United States). After the defeat at the Bay of Pigs, the Pentagon and the CIA pressured Kennedy into conducting a full-scale invasion of Cuba, this time by U.S. troops. They presented him with Operation Northwoods, a plan unanimously approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which called for terrorist attacks and airplane hijackings carried out by U.S. agents posing as Cuban communists, which would provide a pretext for invading Cuba. To the angry chagrin of the military but to his everlasting credit, Kennedy rejected Operation Northwoods.

To deter another U.S. invasion of Cuba, Castro invited the Soviet Union to install missiles on the island. The CIA and the Pentagon were more livid than ever. If Kennedy had adopted Operation Northwoods, they felt, this would never have happened. Once the Soviet missiles were discovered, the Pentagon and the CIA insisted that Kennedy order a bombing attack and invasion of the island.

Kennedy steadfastly refused, hoping instead to reach a negotiated settlement with the Soviet Union. Kennedy ended up striking a deal with the Soviets in which he vowed that the United States would not invade Cuba again. Once the Soviets were assured that the United States no longer intended to invade Cuba for the purpose of regime change, they removed their nuclear missiles and took them back to the Soviet Union. (North Korea undoubtedly learned a valuable lesson from this episode.)

The CIA and the Pentagon were more livid than ever. U.S. Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called it the worst defeat in U.S. history. Kennedy had left the communist regime in Cuba — the dagger pointed at America’s heart from only 90 miles away — in place permanently. In the minds of the Pentagon and the CIA, there was no way that America was now going to survive as a free country. The communists were going to win. America was going to end up under communist rule.

A flier entitled “Wanted for Treason” was being distributed in Dallas on the day Kennedy was assassinated. It accused Kennedy, among other things, of engaging in “treasonous activities against the United States.” The flier said that he had betrayed the Constitution, betrayed Cuba, endorsed a Test Ban Treaty, displayed laxity in enforcing communist-registration laws, supported communist (i.e., civil rights) race riots, and permitted known communists to serve in the federal government.

On the same morning, the Dallas Morning News published a one-page advertisement entitled “Welcome Mr. Kennedy to Dallas,” which asserted that under Kennedy, Latin America was turning anti-American and communist, that Kennedy’s policies were why Cubans were living under communist enslavement, that Kennedy was selling wheat to our communist enemies, that communists were killing U.S. forces in Vietnam, that he had hosted the communist leader of Yugoslavia, that he was giving aid and comfort to communist regimes, that the head of the U.S. Communist Party had praised Kennedy, that Kennedy had banned an anti-communist movie on U.S. military bases, that he had ordered or permitted his brother Bobby to go soft on communism, and that the president had rejected the Monroe Doctrine in favor of “the Spirit of Moscow.”

That flier and that advertisement reflected perfectly the mindset of the U.S. national-security establishment by November 22, 1963.

Kennedy’s reaction? Upon seeing the Dallas Morning News advertisement shortly before he was assassinated, Kennedy sarcastically remarked to his wife, Jackie, “We are heading into nut country today.” That’s correct: he considered anyone who held those views to be “nuts.”

While Kennedy’s war with the national-security establishment began with the Bay of Pigs fiasco and continued through Operation Northwoods and Pentagon-CIA recommendations to initiate a surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, his breakthrough occurred after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Realizing how close the United States and the Soviet Union had come to nuclear war over Cuba, Kennedy came to the realization that the entire Cold War was bunk. There was no reason, he concluded, that the United States and the communist world couldn’t live in mutual peace despite their fundamental philosophical differences. He came to reject the anti-Soviet, pro–Cold War mindset that the Pentagon and the CIA had inculcated into the American people since World War II.

The last straw

In an act that undoubtedly shocked the military-intelligence establishment, Kennedy threw down the gauntlet in his now-famous Peace Speech at American University, which he delivered on June 10, 1963, where he declared an end to America’s Cold War against the Soviet Union and the communist world. Pointing out that the United States and the Soviet Union had worked together to win World War II, he said that there was no reason why the two nations couldn’t co-exist in friendship and peace. Later, he even proposed that the United States and the Soviet Union work together on a joint project to go to the Moon, which meant sharing U.S. rocket technology with the Reds.

Imagine the reaction of the Pentagon and the CIA upon hearing the following during Kennedy’s speech at American University, which, by the way, was later broadcast all across the Soviet Union:

What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war….

No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements — in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage.

That was heresy. That was treason. It was considered much worse than Donald Trump’s supposed collusion with Russia. Indeed, Kennedy’s spirit of friendship and peaceful coexistence toward the Soviet Union was quite similar to that of Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, and Castro in Cuba and, later, Allende in Chile, which led to U.S. regime-change operations against those foreign leaders.

But there was no independent prosecutor to send after Kennedy. And many in the national-security apparatus believed that he would win the 1964 presidential election. They knew that there was only one way that this war could be won. They knew that there was only one way they could defeat him and “save” America from the Soviet Union and communism.

Kennedy didn’t stop with his Peace Speech. He entered into a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviets, which barred above-ground testing of nuclear weapons. Again, the CIA and Pentagon were livid because they believed that above-ground testing of nukes was essential to national security (an ironic position, given their vehement objections to North Korea’s doing the same today).

He began pulling troops out of Vietnam and advised close aides that he would complete the pullout after defeating Barry Goldwater, the likely GOP presidential nominee, in the upcoming 1964 presidential election.

That wasn’t the worst of it. Kennedy began engaging in secret personal negotiations with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to end the Cold War. While he intended to conduct these negotiations without informing the CIA, it is a virtual certainty that the agency became aware of them through secret surveillance of Cuban communications at the United Nations.

If Oswald really was a communist (rather than a U.S. intelligence agent posing as a communist infiltrator and agitator), why would he want to get rid of a president who was committed to peaceful coexistence with the communist world, especially since the vice president, Lyndon Johnson, held the same
anti-communist, pro–Cold War mindset held by the CIA and the Pentagon?

It is not difficult to imagine what would have happened if Kennedy had not been removed from office. Peaceful and friendly co-existence with the Soviet Union, Cuba, and the rest of the communist world. No more need for U.S. troops in Europe, Japan, South Korea, or South Vietnam. No more embargo against the Cuban people. No need for sanctions against the North Korean people. No more ever-increasing budgets for the Pentagon, the CIA, and the army of contractors serving them. No more need for a national-security state.

Why wouldn’t the CIA and the Pentagon effect a domestic regime-change operation on November 22, 1963? Isn’t it their job to protect “national security”? What other way did they have to save America from a president whose mindset and policies, from the perspective of “national security,” posed a much graver threat to national security than any of the foreign leaders whom the Pentagon and the CIA have ever targeted for regime change?


  • Categories
  • 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.