The Untold History of Terrorism against Cuba

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In the decades following the July 1959 revolution, Cuba faced a murderous terrorist campaign waged from Miami and South Florida by its exiled elite. Granted a free hand by successive U.S. administrations, it was responsible for the death and injury of almost 5,600 innocent civilians1. In a familiar case of blowback, the groups responsible were largely drawn from veterans of the CIA-trained Bay of Pigs fiasco.

From the very beginning in 1959, most of the exile operations were being waged under CIA and White House auspices via southern Florida and other bases in the Caribbean1. CIA agent David Atlee Philips aka Maurice Bishop, who co-ran the 1953 Guatemala coup, arranged the founding of Alpha 66 and guided its activities, which included the shoot-up of fourteen wood-homes in Boca de Sama village in 1971 (killing 2 and injuring 8, while damaging the local kids’ school)2 and . By 1973 the organisation had become a liability and was dropped by the CIA2, but its attacks against Cuba continued as Washington let them operate freely from bases in Miami and Florida.

Similar groups such as Omega 7, perhaps the most lethal of all in terms of bombings and assassinations both in Cuba and the U.S., were also given a free hand. This included the introduction of various biological agents into Cuba during the early 80s, including a Dengue-2 epidemic between June and November 1981 that afflicted 300,000+ victims across the island and killed over a hundred children2.

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Orlando Bosch (left) and Luis Carriles Posada (right)

The most notorious Cuban terrorists, Luis Carriles Posada and Orlando Bosch, arranged the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner, murdering all 73 people onboard. Files declassified in 1978 showed how the CIA directed Posada’s activities between the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. According to far more sensitive records, the Agency directed Posada to “establish a training camp for guerrilla ops against Castro”4. “The CIA taught us everything”, Posada said. “…explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in acts of sabotage”4.

By 1976, Posada had become a liability and the CIA dropped him3. But despite being informed of his involvement in the 1997 hotel/restaurant bombings, U.S. law enforcement took no action against the notorious mass murderer5. He was done briefly for lying to immigration agents, while the Bush II Administration refused to extradite him to Cuba and Venezuela for fear that they would be tortured. He died peacefully on May 23 2018.

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Robert Kennedy: “No time, no money, effort or manpower is to be spared”

Kennedy’s botched invasion of Cuba (‘the Bay of Pigs’) was an international embarrassment for the US. As an internal source recounts, Kennedy had indicated to his brother Robert that “the final chapter had not been written – it’s got to be done and will be done”6. To quote Noam Chomsky:

At the first cabinet meeting after the failed invasion, the atmosphere was “almost savage,” Chester Bowles noted privately: “there was an almost frantic reaction for an action program.” At an NSC meeting two days later, Bowles found the atmosphere “almost as emotional” and was struck by “the great lack of moral integrity” that prevailed. The mood was reflected in Kennedy’s public pronouncements: “The complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history. Only the strong . . . can possibly survive,” he told the country…Kennedy was aware that allies “think that we’re slightly demented” on the subject of Cuba, a perception that persists to the present.

To lubricate the island for a second invasion (ultimately aborted by the presence of Soviet nukes on the otherwise defenceless island), he approved Operation Mongoose, an RFK-run and U.S. Army-trained1 sabotage campaign against Cuban ships, fishing boats, sugar mills, power plants, petrochemical facilities, oil refineries, warehouses, urban transportation and department stores: in a nutshell, “sabotage and more sabotage, place bombs, create fear, and carry out terrorist plans, so that agitation will engulf the country and the government will have to carry out a violent repression with much bloodshed which they can then use in their propaganda throughout Latin America”6.

Theoretically the world’s biggest terror operation (at least until Reagan’s terror policy in Central America), this elaborate campaign proved deadly: on March 13 1961, a CIA gunboat attacked an oil refinery in Santiago de Cuba, killing 27-year-old Rene Rodriguez Hernandez and seriously injuring 19-year-old Roberto Ramon Castro. A further 50+ people died when the CIA bombed the Citorro chemical plant on April 27 1962. Four months later, US planes escorted a group of armed vessels in their deadly assault on the Chaplin Theatre and a selection of homes in the Miramar neighbourhood of Havana4.

The 1963 proposals included the “placing of incendiary devices and/or explosives with suitable time delay within the hull or cargo to disable or to sink Cuban vessels and/or damage their cargos while at sea” and “introducing abrasive or other damaging materials into the propulsion, communication and other systems of the ship to inactivate the ship”7.

In September of that year, the U.S. Army Department confirmed a successful demolition beneath La Isabela harbour. Mongoose agent Bradley Ayers recounts the operation:

The single-track line [of the railway bridge] carried large amounts of freight and produce between the inland city of Sagua la Grande and the port of Isabela. It was one of the key supply lines in the central part of the Communist island. The commando force was to blow up the bridge and destroy telephone and telegraph lines running adjacent to the tracks6.

[I trained commando units] to infiltrate Cuba, reach human targets, and assassinate them. Anyone in a senior position in government was fair game, and it reached down to the provincial heads, police chiefs and so on…[Robert] Kennedy was aware of what we were doing down there. It wasn’t a case of the Agency mounting these assassination operations without the knowledge of the Special Group…RFK had a hands-on kind of control of the operations7.

Two months after the La Isabela attack, the CIA confirmed the bombing of a power plant, sawmill and multiple oil storage facilities, while announcing further scheduled attacks “against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships*”.

“Remember the Maine”

The sheer number of CIA plots to assassinate Castro are alone extraordinary: 638 by a former Cuban intelligence officer’s account3. They even plotted to bomb/poison him on American soil, namely his New York visit in 1961. To quote Fabian Escalante6:

The head of the so-called Cuban Revolutionary Council, Jose milo Cardona, met with President Kennedy in the White House [in April 1962]. After the meeting Miro Cardona declared that Castro’s days were numbered. At the same time William Harvey, head of the CIA’s “executive action” group, was reactivating the plans with the Mafia and Tony Varona to assassinate Fidel Castro.

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1961: Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro delivers historic speech at the United Nations

Inside jobs hardly stopped there: the latest files released in 2016 reveal a CIA scheme to stage a false-flag terror campaign in Miami in order to legitimate the full-scale invasion of Cuba, echoing the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s notorious Operation Northwoods plan to blow up an American ship in Guantanamo Bay so as to provide “a ‘Remember the Maine’ incident”, or to stage “a Communist Cuban terror campaign [in Florida] and even in Washington”.

The Threat of Castroism

While rejected by a flabbergasted White House, such plans reflected Washington’s obsession with Cuba for defying the Monroe Doctrine. To quote Noam Chomsky:

From the timing alone, it is clear that concern over a Russian threat could not have been a major factor. The plans for forceful regime change were drawn up and implemented before there was any significant Russian connection, and punishment was intensified after the Russians disappeared from the scene. True, a Russian threat did develop, but that was more a consequence than a cause of US terrorism and economic warfare.

In July 1961 the CIA warned that “the extensive influence of ‘Castroism’ is not a function of Cuban power. . . . Castro’s shadow looms large because social and economic conditions throughout Latin America invite opposition to ruling authority and encourage agitation for radical change,” for which Castro’s Cuba provided a model. Earlier, Arthur Schlesinger had transmitted to the incoming President Kennedy his Latin American Mission report, which warned of the susceptibility of Latin Americans to “the Castro idea of taking matters into one’s own hands.” The report did identify a Kremlin connection: the Soviet Union “hovers in the wings, flourishing large development loans and presenting itself as the model for achieving modernization in a single generation.” The dangers of the “Castro idea” are particularly grave, Schlesinger later elaborated, when “the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes” and “the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living.” Kennedy feared that Russian aid might make Cuba a “showcase” for development, giving the Soviets the upper hand throughout Latin America.

In early 1964, the State Department Policy Planning Council expanded on these concerns: “The primary danger we face in Castro is . . . in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries. . . . The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the US, a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half.” To put it simply, Thomas Paterson writes, “Cuba, as symbol and reality, challenged U.S. hegemony in Latin America.”

*On December 23 1963, CIA commandos sank the Revolutionary Navy’s LT-385 torpedo boat in Siguanea dock on the Isle of Pines, killing four crewmen.

Notes

1. Bradley Earl Ayers, The War That Never Was (Major Books: Canoga Park, California), pages 30 and 39
2. Keith Bolender, Stories From Th
e Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba (Pluto Press 2010); this is the most comprehensive account to date of this unknown history; to hear a presentation by Bolender and Noam Chomsky, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_AaFN5FHc8.
3. See http://www.jfk-online.com/daphscavec.html
4. https://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/13/world/bomber-s-tale-decades-intrigue-life-shadows-trying-bring-down-castro.html; according to his Cuban criminal record published in Granma (the official Cuban Communist Party newspaper), he enlisted in Bay of Pigs and, in July 1963 at Fort Benning, received training in demolition, propaganda and intelligence.
5. Bardach and Rohter, “Authorities Knew of Bombing Campaign, Says Cuban Exile”, New York Times 12/07/98
6. https://archive.org/details/FabianEscalanteSecretWarCubaCIA/page/n1
; ibid. Bolender
7. ibid. Ayers as quoted in https://nacla.org/news/2016/12/16/cost-covert-operations-cuba

Militarism Faces Resistance in Asia

The political opposition in Seychelles has blocked the ratification of the 2015 Seychelles-India base deal amidst intense rivalry between China and India for dominance over the Indian Ocean, a key international trade route through which millions of barrels of oil pass each day.

A similar movement has been building for years in the Japanese island of Okinawa. Home to 32 US bases, systemic rape by American GIs has catalyzed popular anti-base sentiment that has been brewing for years. Washington’s attempts to relocate one of the bases near to a reserve for endangered dolphins have met huge local resistance. Last February’s election saw the defeat of the anti-base mayor first elected in 2016, a blow to the movement.

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Anti-base protesters on Okinawa, Japan

Like Japan, India is seeking to project its power by enlisting in America’s ‘Pivot to Asia’: a broad diplomatic, economic and military offensive against China. Like India,Japan’s imperialist resurgence is being lead by the country’s most right-wing government since the 1940s. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his cabinet hail from the most reactionary bourgeois layer which, with its allies in revisionist academia, has long sought to whitewash the horrific history of the Imperial Order for which they are so nostalgic.

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2015: Japanese demonstrators protest Japan’s imperialist resurgence

India’s Prime Minister Narendi Modi, meanwhile, has accelerated tensions with neighbouring Pakistan, a fellow nuclear-armed power whose long-time sponsorship of terrorism against India almost sparked war following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, while encouraging a racist frenzy endangering India’s Muslims. Complicit in the 2002 Babri Mosque massacre, Modi is an adherent of the Hindutvati ideology. One of its pamphlets praises Hitler and the Holocaust*.

Asians remember the horrors of WWII and the Korean War. During the former, millions were slaughtered by Japanese invaders. During the latter, the American air force wiped out “almost every city north and south” (Gen. Curtis LeMay), killing 2 million people.

As the spectre of conflict increases, anti-militarist fervour is bound to increase. This provides a glimmer of hope for humanity, whose very survival is endangered by the prospect of a US-China nuclear war. If these localised movements link together in a common struggle against militarism, they may have a voice with which to reach out to their fellow ordinary people in the West. A global fight to unseat the Pentagon’s war plans is essential.

*Arundhati Roy on Modi, YouTube

Seven Myths You’ve Been Told About Russia

A summary of New Cold War propaganda

1. Poisoned Alexander Litvivenko
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The UK Inquiry was a farce: the evidence was classified and witnesses all anonymous. The conclusion was clearly a politically predetermined one. It was, however, the same poison by which Israel assassinated Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

2. Started the 2008 Georgia-South Ossetia conflict
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An European Council investigation found that, despite excessive force by Russia during the course of the war, Georgia – led by a NATO-aspiring puppet of the Bush administration – had started it by attacking South Ossetia in an attempted Western-backed annexation. This contradicts the mass media narrative in the West and demonstrates the hypocrisy of the next lie.

3. Started the Ukraine crisis
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For 200 years, the Crimean port of Sebastopol has been home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which bears historical, cultural and strategic significance for Russia.

By treaty, Russia could keep a maximum of 25,000 troops at the naval base. The viciously anti-Russian regime in Kiev, brought to power by an illegal US-engineered coup the previous February, may well have canceled this lease and evicted the Russian fleet from Crimea, replacing it with a NATO base right on Russia’s doorstep. This prompted Putin’s “invasion”.

In a subsequent referendum overseen by international observers, the majority-Russian population of Crimea overwhelmingly voted for reunification with their Russian motherland, having previously sought to through earlier referendums without success.

4. Shot down MH17

The claim that Russia had supplied the eastern Ukraine rebels with the BUK missile system that ended up downing MH17 was never proven. It has not even been proven that the rebels did it: the Dutch Safety Board’s identification of the weapon as a Buk was flawed and witnesses interviewed by BBC Russia saw MH17 tailored by Ukrainian fighter jets (the real culprit according to analysis by a retired German commercial pilot) just minutes before it was downed. The Russian MoD corroborated this by disclosing radar data.

The Americans have never disclosed their alleged radar data proving separatist responsibility, while Kiev ATC’s decision to divert the low-flying jetliner over a war zone has never been adequately explained. Live Twitter feeds by ATCer “Carlos” say that Ukraine shot it down and subsequently took over the ATC tower.

There are many websites, blogs and Youtube videos forwarding both sides of the MH17 responsibility debate.

5. State-sponsored doping of Russian athletes
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The ban was based solely on the McLaren report, whose flaws are outlined by Consortium News’ Rick Sterling:

-It relied primarily on the testimony of one person, the former Director of Moscow Laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov, who was implicated in extorting Russian athletes for money and was the chief culprit with strong interest in casting blame somewhere else.

-It accused Russian authorities without considering their defense and contrary information.

-It excluded a written submission and documents provided by a Russian authority.

-It failed to identify individual athletes who bemefited but instead cast suspicion on the entire team.

-It ignored the statistical data compiled by WADA which show Russian violations to be NOT exceptional.

-It failed to provide the source for quantitative measurements.

-It claimed to have evidence but failed to reveal it.

Sterling further observes that the “whistleblowing” Stepanovs were themselves involved in doping and therefore had bias in pushing blame higher up the ladder to the Russian state. They now live in the US, suggesting possible political bias too.

6. Interfered in the US presidential election
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Perhaps the most outrageous allegation yet and the bogus pretext behind the so-called RussiaGate scandal, referred to by some as the New McCarthyism and whose realreal agenda is to solidify US elite and public opinion against Russia.

When it comes to hard evidence, the ludicrous claim that Putin put Trump in the White House is predictably lacking:
having reviewed one “bombshell” report after another, the House on US Intelligence finally concluded that there was no proof of Russian interference.

During the 2016 election campaign, Trump’s Democratic opponent Hilary Clinton claimed that all seventeen US intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia hacked into the DNC computer system. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper later clarified that this was only the conclusion of agents he had handpicked from the three umbrella agencies, not all seventeen. Clapper probably handpicked fellow Russiophobes: Russians, he believes, are “almost genetically” anti-Western!

For broader analysis debunking the RussiaGate story, go to consortiumnews.com

7. Poisoned the Skripals
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The UK High Court ruled that “the [blood] samples tested positive for the presence of Novichok class nerve agent, or a closely related agent“. The latter phrase could refer to literally any nerve agent, of which most were developed in Germany and the UK, not Russia.

The formula for Novichok has been in the public domain since 2008 and the nerve agent has been successfully developed by Cuba and Iran. Since 1992, the Americans have been assisting Uzbekistan shut down the old Soviet plant that allegedly produced it. London’s claim that only the Russians had access to Novichok is therefore a demonstrable lie.

Why Russia would poison this man eight years since his pardoning, much less on the eve of its presidential election and three months before hosting the World Cup, is anyone’s guess. Why the West would want to poison this man in order to convince the UN to authorise a US invasion of Syria, where its regime change operation is collapsing rapidly, is every thinking person’s strong suspicion. Russia and Damascus had just uncovered a chemical weapons factory in East Ghouta, the last stronghold of a fledging Western-backed terrorist insurgency.

For more critical analysis of the Skripal case, go to off-guardian.org

Donald Trump and the Crisis of Imperial Decline

Above all, the Trump presidency expresses an entire US political and economic system in decline.

Mainstream commentary on Donald Trump invariably reduces him to an individual phenomenon. Be it a twitter comment or a public outburst, everything is about him.

The truth, of course, is that Trump is not some other-worldly demon that crossed into this dimension out of nowhere. Above all, his presidency expresses an entire US political and economic system in crisis.

In the early 20th century, the major economic centres of the world were Germany, the US and Japan. Europe as a whole was secondary; Britain had been in decline since the Victorian era.

Except for the US, these economies were left in tatters by the Second World War. This transformed America from a traditional hemispheric power (e.g. Monroe Doctrine) into the global dominant superpower virtually overnight: after 1945, the US alone accounted for some 50% of world economic output.

By the early 1940s, US policy planners had seen this coming, as Hitler’s defeat on the Eastern Front – where, the West forgets, the Soviets inflicted 75% of all German WWII casualties – seemed only a matter of time. Accordingly, these planners developed what they called a ‘Grand Area’ in which US corporations could plunder the planet’s markets and resources to satisfy an unfettered drive for profits.

Everything seemed great for the American empire, until the late 60s. The economies smashed in WWII – esp. West Germany, Japan and the new Asian ‘tiger’ economies – had rebuilt themselves and became viable competitors in the international market.

This meant that world power became multipolar, notwithstanding the considerable clout US imperialism managed to retain. But to reverse this trend entirely, the Reagan Administration initiated its neoliberal offensive of financial deregulation, union busting and austerity: all designed to sustain the massive postwar profit rates of Corporate America.

The Empire Strikes Back
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The Bush I Administration saw the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 as an historic opportunity to reassert America’s political and strategic dominance in world affairs by brute military force, initiating a devastating air war against Iraq in order to tame a former ally, Saddam Hussein, after he disobeyed Washington’s diktats in the crucial oil-rich region.

Maintained by the Clinton and Bush II Administrations, the simultaneous economic embargo strengthened Saddam’s grip on the country rather than induce his overthrow. This strategic blunder was eventually recognised by the latter administration, whose solution became a war in 2003 with manufactured pretexts that proved even more futile: 1 million dead, 4 million displaced, and a Shia government friendly with Iran.

Then came the 2008 crash, sending the world capitalist economy into its biggest crisis since the Great Depression.

Since then, US decline has entered a heightened phase. China has now eclipsed America as the world’s biggest economy, prompting Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ military buildup. On the other side of the Atlantic, he subjected America’s other chief rival in Eurasia and the Middle East (Syria), Russia, with the biggest military buildup on its borders since the Nazi invasion.

“Make America Great Again”

Donald Trump expresses a psychology of denialism within the US elite. Unlike Reagan and Bush, he has come to power within the context of a much more existential phase of American decline. He personifies a ruling class with no solution for reversing the new reality: the US is no longer top dog.

Those who want rid of Trump need to go beyond the individual. Trump would never have emerged in the 1950s. He expresses the crises of American capitalism. The struggle against Trump is invariably bound up with the struggle for socialism.

“We Were This Close to Nuclear War”

Excerpt from “Eurasian Tinderbox: The U.S. Buildup Against Russia and China”, Jimmy Colwill. To purchase the entire eBook for just $3.01, visit https://www.amazon.com/Eurasian-Tinderbox-Buildup-Against-Russia-ebook/dp/B076VVH3CR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1509133426&sr=8-1&keywords=eurasian+tinderbox

Kennedy’s strategy to ‘reverse’ the gap – in reality, aggressively expand America’s strategic advantage over the Soviets even further than it had already been – included what became, according to the preeminent international relations theorist Kenneth Waltz, “the largest strategic and conventional peacetime build-up the world has yet seen…even as Khrushchev was trying at once to carry through a major reduction in the conventional forces and to follow a strategy of minimum deterrence, and…even though the balance of strategic weapons greatly favored the United States”[4].

This included the stationing of more than a hundred Jupiter missiles in Italy and Turkey, the latter within striking range of the Russian capital of Moscow. In May 1962, faced with CIA terrorist campaign Operation Mongoose and the threat of imminent US invasion (following an initial US invasion attempt the previous year i.e. the infamous Bay of Pigs fiasco), Cuba’s Fidel Castro requested the stationing of Soviet missiles on the island – just 90 miles away from Florida – as a nuclear deterrent against American aggression.

Recognising this opportunity to strike a deal with Kennedy, who had earlier spurned his offer of a mutual weapons reduction treaty, and get the US missiles out of neighbouring Turkey[5], Khrushchev granted Cuba’s request the following July.

The following month, while on holiday, Kennedy read Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, a classic account of the build-up to World War One. Tuchman had argued that none of the key political figures welcomed war and that, given the chance, they would not have repeated their mistakes that led to conflict.

After the resumption of U2 reconnaissance flights over Cuba in October, pilot Major Richard Heyser took 928 photographs recording the recently station Soviet missiles on the island. The CIA identified the missiles thanks to intelligence provided by double agent Oleg Penkovsky[6], notifying the State Department on October 15 at 8:30pm.

Following an initial briefing he received from Bundy the following morning[7], President Kennedy convened his national security council and other key advisors at 6:30pm. Kennedy secretly tape recorded the meetings (the ‘Excomm meetings’), some of which have been subsequently transcribed by the Kennedy Library’s Sheldon Stern. The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously recommended a military strike on Cuba to take out the missiles. An invasion was already scheduled, hence (partially) the stationing of the missiles on the island to begin with. But McNamara countered that, seeing as the US already had 5000 strategic warheads compared with the Russians’ 300, the balance of military power was still overwhelmingly in Washington’s favour[8].

In any event, the JSC’s apocalyptic recommendation held consensus, despite the fact that a diplomatic solution was the elephant in the room during the first Excomm meeting: answering Kennedy’s query about Khrushchev’s possible motive for stationing the missiles in Cuba, Dean Rusk pointed out that it may have something to do with the US Jupiter missiles in neighbouring Turkey, within striking range of Moscow.

On October 18, Kennedy met with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in the Oval Office, the latter explaining the defensive nature of the missiles. Kennedy risked nuclear extinction by failing to offer US withdrawal of its Turkey missiles in exchange for a Soviet withdrawal of its Cuba missiles. The next day, Excomm agreed to a naval blockade of Cuba, to prevent any further Soviet missile shipments thereto.

In a televised address on the 22nd, Kennedy branded Soviet actions “a reckless and provocative threat to world peace”, stripping the crisis of its entire context: his missiles in Turkey, his brother Robert’s CIA terrorist campaign to raise “the terrors of the earth”[9] against the Castro regime, and (as it turns out, justified[10]) Soviet-Cuban fears of imminent US invasion of Cuba.

As Kennedy spoke, US forces were put on DEFCON 3. A quarter of a million US troops were on standby to invade Cuba. Nearly two hundred B47s, all armed with hydrogen bombs, dispersed to civilian airports across the United States. B52s on airborne alert increased more than fivefold, some 65 of them, each armed with thermonuclear warheads and 2-4 Hydrogen bombs, within striking range of the USSR[11]. On October 24, as the naval blockade began, Strategic Air Command was switched to DEFCON 2, the first time in its history.

On October 26, Kennedy received a letter from Khrushchev offering to withdraw the Soviet missiles from Cuba in exchange for US assurances that neither America nor its proxies would attack Cuba. Excomm agreed to the deal, but would respond the next morning after some shuteye. By radio, a frantic Khrushchev offered to publicly withdraw the missiles if the US publicly withdrew its Turkey missiles.

Naturally, the granting of both proposals would have guaranteed a definitive resolution to the most dangerous crisis in world history, pulling humanity back from the brink of nuclear annihilation. Within Excomm, the confusion caused by the second letter only intensified calls for an airstrike, which intensified even further after an American U2 was shot down (without Khrushchev’s authorisation) later that day.

Nonetheless, Kennedy only accepted the first offer (US pledge not to attack Cuba, quickly broken as Operation Mongoose resumed, lasting well into the 1970s at the cost of thousands of Cuban lives), insisting instead that the US secretly withdraw the missiles from Turkey, while Russia publicly withdraw its missiles.

Kennedy made this move despite his own guess that nuclear war was 33-50% probable, and having already ordered the withdrawal of the obsolete Jupiter missiles from Turkey for replacement by far more lethal Polaris submarines[12]. In other words, he risked nuclear extinction of humanity for sheer imperial prestige.

“It is hard to think”, says Noam Chomsky, “of a more horrendous decision in history – and for this, he is still highly praised for his cool courage and statesmanship”[12]. As it happens, Khrushchev had already ordered the missiles’ withdrawal while awaiting a reply from Kennedy, delighted by the latter concession[13].

Graham Allison’s judgement is even more damning[14]:

Although he appreciated the dangers of his predicament, Kennedy repeatedly made choices he knew actually increased the risk of war, including nuclear war. He chose to confront Khrushchev publicly (rather than try to resolve the issue privately through diplomatic channels); to draw an unambiguous red line requiring the removal of Soviet missiles (rather than leave himself more wiggle room); to threaten air strikes to destroy the missiles (knowing this could trigger Soviet retaliation against Berlin); and finally, on the penultimate day of the crisis, to give Khrushchev a time-limited ultimatum (that, if rejected, would have required the US to fire the first shot). In each of these choices, Kennedy understood that he was raising the risk that further events and choices by others beyond his control could lead to nuclear bombs destroying American cities, including Washington DC (where his family stayed throughout the ordeal.

By far the most dangerous moment in the entire crisis (and, arguably, human history) was when, on the day of Kennedy’s gamble, one of the Soviet Foxtrot submarines approaching Cuba received US warning depth charges, which one of the submarines misinterpreted as an attack. Six hours later, the three commanders, authorised by Soviet protocol to launch a torpedo, made the decision to do so, except one: Visal Arkhipov, “the man who saved the world”.

Thus, Kennedy’s gamble was more like an unwitting 99%. Indeed, without his knowledge, and on the same day as the U2 shoot-down, an Atlas long-range missile test was carried out from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Soviets could have easily misinterpreted this as the first firing shot. Meanwhile, another U2 was tailed by Soviet pilots after straying into Siberian airspace before being safely escorted back to Alaska by atomic-armed US warplanes which, under DEFCON 3, were authorised to shoot down Soviet aircraft[13]. Even this barely scratches the surface of the additional dangers involved.

Investigative journalist Eric Schlosser observes[13]:

Although Khrushchev never planned to move against Berlin during the crisis, the Joint Chiefs had greatly underestimated the strength of the Soviet military force based in Cuba. In addition to strategic weapons, the Soviet Union had almost one hundred tactical nuclear weapons on the island that would have been used by local commanders to repel an American attack. Some were as powerful as the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Had the likely targets of those weapons – the American fleet offshore the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo – been destroyed, an all-out nuclear war would have been hard to avoid.

At a Senate hearing following the merciful resolution of the crisis, McNamara adamantly denied that the Soviet missile withdrawal from Cuba was traded for the US missile withdrawal from Turkey: “Absolutely not…The Soviet government did raise the issue…[but the] President absolutely refused even to discuss it”. Off the record, officials even concocted that Kennedy had spurned a proposal by his UN ambassador to trade the Soviet missiles in Cuba for NATO missiles in Turkey, Italy and Britain[13].

Following the resolution of the crisis, a Moscow-Washington hotline was established, as well as the landmark Limited Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited nuclear detonations in the atmosphere, ocean and outer space. Nonetheless, over the next five years, US nukes would grow by more than 50% (as would tactical nukes deployed to Europe) from Eisenhower’s 19,000 to a total of 31,255[15]. And the progress in US-Soviet relations would be severely damaged by the reckless brinksmanship of the 1980s Reagan Administration, bringing us once again to the brink of catastrophe.

Nuclear Apocalypse: A True Possibility

How the US buildup against Russia and China threatens to unleash nuclear catastrophe

On August 6 1945, the United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Japan. The subsequent Cold War between the West and Soviet Russia witnessed the most dangerous flashpoints in human history.

Today, as NATO carries out the biggest military buildup on Russia’s borders since Hitler’s invasion of the USSR in 1941, the spectre of an accidental nuclear war has returned with a vengeance.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the U.S. conducts a parallel encirclement strategy against China, whose economic and military rise marks the end of American dominance in the Asia Pacific.

Author Jimmy Colwill journeys through the genesis of the nuclear age and the string of dangerous historical flashpoints ever since 1945, culminating in today’s Eurasian tinderbox.

Order the book for just $3.01 at visit https://www.amazon.com/Eurasian-Tinderbox-Buildup-Against-Russia-ebook/dp/B076VVH3CR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1509133426&sr=8-1&keywords=eurasian+tinderbox. See Colwill’s explosive NATO/Russia Documentary ‘Flashpoints’ for free at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1vEqhVf618