That time U.S. politicians almost blew up the world for no reason…
By Perry Willis
Once upon a time, politicians in Superpower A installed nuclear missiles on the border of Superpower B. The politicians in Superpower B then risked nuclear war to get those missiles removed. You may assume I’m talking about the nukes the Soviets placed in Cuba in 1962, which led to the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis. But you would be wrong.
I’m really talking about the missiles U.S. politicians placed in Turkey in 1961
The Soviet missiles placed in Cuba in 1962 were partially a reaction to that. Now, please think about this carefully…
If the Soviet missiles in Cuba were so dangerous that they warranted the risk of nuclear war to remove them, then the same was true of the U.S. missiles in Turkey. This suggests something important…
The “experts” you trust to defend you don’t know what they’re doing!
For a small taste of how bad this incompetence can be, consider this taped conversation between JFK and his National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy (Source: One Minute to Midnight by Michael Dobbs, page 15)…
Kennedy: “Why does he (Khrushchev) put these (missiles) in there (Cuba)? What is the advantage of that? It’s just as if we began to put a major number of MRBMs (medium-range ballistic missiles) in Turkey.”
Bundy: “Well, we did it, Mr. President (placed missiles on the Soviet border in Turkey).”
And in fact, Kennedy already knew that. He had asked for the missiles to be removed from Turkey several times (Source: One Minute to Midnight by Michael Dobbs, page 270). He knew we had missiles in Turkey and he knew they were a problem. This should have led him to propose a trade with Khrushchev, “We’ll withdraw our missiles if you remove yours.” No missiles, no crisis. But instead…
All the so-called experts, including JFK, wanted to invade Cuba!
Bobby Kennedy even proposed a false-flag, another battleship Maine, to justify the invasion (Source: One Minute to Midnight by Michael Dobbs, page 16). And the military “experts” continued to favor an invasion even when it became clear that nuclear war would result. I want you to focus on that for a moment…
The Generals and Admirals opposed the missiles in Cuba because they supposedly increased the risk of nuclear war. But they were willing to actually wage nuclear war to protect against nuclear war. The insanity is truly breathtaking. It was an early version of “destroying the village to save the village.” But it gets worse…
The Pentagon had already studied what the strategic impact would be if nuclear missiles were installed in Cuba. The answer was no impact whatsoever. The Cuban missiles would not increase the risk of a first strike. The U.S. would still have a huge nuclear advantage. (Source: One Minute to Midnight by Michael Dobbs, page 98) In other words…
There was nothing at stake in Cuba!
This was a made-up crisis, embraced for political reasons.
Kennedy had used a non-existent missile gap to campaign against Nixon. Then, after JFK was in office, Nixon retaliated by accusing Kennedy of being soft on Cuba. JFK tried to counter those charges by saber-rattling at Khrushchev. One month before the “crisis,” Kennedy warned the Soviets that there would be dire consequences if they installed offensive capability in Cuba (Source: One Minute to Midnight by Michael Dobbs, page 16). But those comments were really aimed at JFK’s Republican critics, more than at Khruschev. JFK admits his true motivations in taped comments addressed to his advisors as they debated what to do about the Cuban missiles…
Kennedy: “Last month I should have said we didn’t care (about missiles in Cuba). But when we said we were not going to (stand for Soviet forces there), and then they go ahead and do it, and then we do nothing…” (Source: One Minute to Midnight by Michael Dobbs, page 16)
You see, the so-called missile crisis wasn’t about national security. It was about political face-saving. And the lives of every person on Earth were held hostage to that low purpose.
Given the small stakes, you would think our national security “experts” would have taken precautions to reduce the risk of accidental war. Not true. They did the exact opposite. They took the military to DEFCON 3 (Source: One Minute to Midnight by Michael Dobbs, page 51). This meant that nuclear weapons were added to U.S. planes all over the world. In some cases, this meant that tactical nukes were the only weapons some planes could use to defend themselves. This greatly increased the chance that a small event could start a global nuclear war. Worse…
Many of these weapons could be fired without presidential approval. They weren’t supposed to be used that way, but they could’ve been. And the same was true on the Soviet side. A nuclear conflagration could have begun at any moment, without an order from either Kennedy or Khrushchev. Even worse…
The Air Force continued to run U2 flights close to the Soviet Union. These flights were unrelated to the crisis. They were routine missions to check for fallout from Soviet nuclear testing. They were completely unnecessary and unwise given the tensions. One of those flights went off course and crossed deep into Soviet airspace. It could have been mistaken for the start of a bombing attack. When JFK heard about it, he blew his top, remarking, “There’s always some son-of-a-bitch who doesn’t get the word.”
The CIA also continued to run sabotage operations against Cuba during the crisis. These missions were strategically useless. They were more likely to increase rather than reduce support for Castro. And they could have lit the fuse for world war.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy was dropping “practice” depth charges on Soviet subs in the Sargasso Sea, trying to force them to the surface. One Soviet commander got so frazzled that he wanted to fire a nuclear torpedo. Fortunately, he couldn’t get the political officer, Vasili Arkhipov, to agree. The whole world owes Arkhipov a huge debt. He prevented a nuclear holocaust. Now…
Consider how this self-inflicted crisis ended
It was painted as a U.S. victory, but it was really a defeat for the foreign policy establishment. Kennedy had to give up the missiles in Turkey and agree to never invade Cuba. The goal of deposing Fidel had to be abandoned. But the actual losses were yet to come.
Our so-called “military experts” ignored the fact that the “crisis” was resolved through a trade. They thought the U.S. show of strength was the key factor. They applied this misunderstanding to Vietnam. They thought military violence could force North Vietnam to negotiate a settlement. But “strength and resolve” wasn’t what worked in the missile crisis, and it didn’t work in Vietnam either.
In short, there was no Cuban Missile Crisis
There was a face-saving crisis. It was the response to the Cuban missiles that created the real danger, NOT the missiles themselves.
Ironically, we still ended up with Soviet missiles just a few miles off our coast, inside Soviet subs. So, if you push aside the Hollywood mythology, the Cuban Missile Crisis amounts to this…
U.S. politicians nearly blew up the world for no reason.
The Cuban Missile Crisis is consistent with the rest of U.S. military history. The actions taken during October 1962 did not defend freedom, they did not defend U.S. security, and they did not make the world a better place.
Perry Willis is a co-founder of Downsize DC and the co-creator of the Zero Aggression Project. He has twice served as National Director of the Libertarian Party. He was the Campaign Manager for Harry Browne’s Libertarian Party presidential campaign in 2000.
I’m a Cuban refugee. Since 1961 I’ve been learning, slowly and painfully, how Cuba and Cubans have been pawns of US politics. The Castro regime is evil and stupid. Yet, US policies have managed to generate international support for a horrible government to this day. Think ,EMBARGO
Another great article. If only I were rich and could help y’all financially. Maybe some day.
Thanks for the fine analysis of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Good on ya mate. Politics is violence and manmade political governments are the bane and pain of mankind; they are not Christian; they are Satan’s wickedness. Politicians provoke and cause wars of mass slaughter, destruction and waste of “money.” Lincoln provoked the Southern States, Wilson provoked Germany prior to US entry to WW I and FDR provoked both Germany and Japan prior to US entry to WW II. We don’t need manmade, anti-Christian, commie/socialist political governments. Yes, the US politicians have imposed all 10 Planks of the Commie Manifesto. Revelation teaches us that the troika of evil, that wicked consort of politics, commerce, and “false religion,” will be destroyed when Christ returns.
Great article, Perry, one of your best!
You could have specifically mentioned Curtis (Firebomber) LeMay in the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ as one of the most lunatic advisors of them all, who was eager to launch a nuclear strike against Cuba. A short inventory of the nuclear “near misses” shows that the Americans were typically more infantile in judgment than the Soviets:
I was indeed tempted to mention LeMay. He was indeed a lunatic. There is some possibility that I will expand my military history articles into a book. If that happens then I will have a good deal to say about Mr. LeMay.
Did JFK refuse to follow the Joint Chiefs of Staff advice to order a first strike on Russia? If so, this context makes his decision a last minute correction for a problem he created.
Given this close call, this near apocalypse, and the so-called nuke disarmament, how is it we still have nukes? A thousand plus foreign bases? Many (8?) undeclared mini-wars going on permanently?
Could it be MSM won’t expose these facts? Could this result in mass ignorance and subsequent false sense of security? What if the public found out about all the US Empire’s false flags? Would they still support a murderous political paradigm?
This type of blindness by our political class is playing out now with China. We are in a game of chicken with the Chinese that won’t end well for us. So frightening.
Yup. Evidently true enough. Our leaders are always such idiots.
When the truth comes out about governments being generally destructive of society/economy the majority response is to blame individuals, not the political paradigm of force, threats, fraud. That is especially true of the socialist form of authoritarianism. It doesn’t matter how many times the politics fails, it is defended and the politicians/bureaucrats/officials are blamed.
I conclude it is the politics of force & fraud that need to be challenged, not specific policies. Doing this would be striking at the root of the problem which is a fundamentally flawed faith in force first, the use of coercion to govern, not choice, not reason, not respect for individual sovereignty, but its opposite, a sovereign state (a ruling elite/ruled majority). Such faith cannot be rationally defended by history or theory, and when any such attempt to do so fails, the default is to evoke fear by threats so emotion overwhelms reason. This creates an unstable, self destructive society. It’s social suicide.