Category Archives: Military Doctrine

The North Korean Mess


Man goes to North Korea and interviews his North Korean tour guides about what is happening there. They are surprisingly intelligent and well informed.

First of all, I would like to say that I support North Korea 100% in their confrontation with the US. However, they are not going to shoot a nuke at us. What is bothering them is the yearly, in this case highly aggressive, war games that the US is playing South Korea right now. This always sets the north off. We really ought to stop these belligerent war games and quit antagonizing them.

North Korea is not going to start any kind of war with anyone and they are not going to shoot any missiles, nuclear or otherwise, at anyone. So we might as well calm down. But the response of Obama, to send B-1 bombers loaded with nuclear weapons to fly up and down the South Korean peninsula, was an extreme provocation. There was no need for this.

Why did the North Koreans build nuclear weapons? Because the lesson they learned after Serbia, Iraq and Afghanistan is that countries without nuclear weapons tend to get attacked by the United Snakes. This lesson was absolutely correct.

The US has been threatening to attack North Korea ever since the end of the Korean War in 1953. The US presently has an incredible 1,000 nuclear weapons in South Korea now, including nuclear artillery, nuclear missiles, nuclear bombers and nuclear mines. The US has had these nuclear weapons in South Korea for decades, and they have been threatening to attack the North with them all this time. Under nuclear control treaties, all nations being threatened with nuclear weapons have a right to develop nuclear weapons to defend themselves. Therefore, the North has a right to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent against constant nuclear threats by the US. This is right and proper.

How many nukes does the North have? At the moment, they may have around 3 working nuclear weapons, however, they have enough material for more. And thankfully, they have just started up some of their nuclear reactors so they can make more fissile material and hopefully more bombs. The bombs seem to be small, and the general theory is that they are around 1/3 the size of a Hiroshima bomb. They are apparently plutonium bombs and not uranium bombs. Keep in mind that the North also wishes to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes and they have that right under nuclear treaties.

The north also has missiles, but they don’t work very well. They often fall apart in mid-air. Their longest range missile can hit the eastern part of Alaska. The north has no missiles that can reach the US mainland. Missile technology is however rapidly improving.

The most important thing that we do not know is whether the north has mastered the technique of putting a nuclear warhead on a missile in such a way such that it can be detonated. You need a detonation device to do this and it must be accurate down to the thousands of a second. If you don’t get it right, you will shoot your nuke, and it won’t even blow up. Getting this detonation device correct is maddeningly difficult for any nation. However, with this latest underground test, observers feel that the north may have an operational warhead.

The US embargoes the North, and now the whole world has leveled sanctions on the North via the UN, which is just a tool of US imperialism anymore (I strongly supported the Iraqi resistance car bomb attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad in the early days of the Resistance.). These sanctions have been strengthened three times now.

These are “dual use sanctions” of the sort that completely devastated Iraq, murdering 500,000 Iraqis, mostly children, via the US and the UK sanctions. Remember how utterly devastated the Iraqi economy was due to dual use sanctions, especially Iraqi medical care? Iraq didn’t have a Communist government, and the sanctions ruined them. These sanctions will destroy the economy of any state.

Under the dual use rubric, most medical supplies and drugs coming into the North are banned under sanctions rules. This is the same mess that devastated Iraqi medicine and the water supply. North Korean medicine has been completely devastated by these dual use sanctions.

In addition, the sanctions mean that most countries have to decide if they are going to trade with North Korea or they are going to trade with the rest of the world. That is because the sanctions also apply to any nation trading with North Korea. The US threatens and punishes any nation who tries to trade with North Korea. Most of the world has decided to trade with the rest of the world instead of trading with North Korea alone, so the North is completely isolated. Almost all of their trade is with China alone.

It is true that agriculture has collapsed, but North Korea fed themselves just fine for 40 years under the same collective agriculture. Soviets ate very well under collective ag until 1991. Cubans eat just fine under a system of collective agriculture. So it’s dubious that collective agriculture can be blamed for North Korea’s food problems.

The US has repeatedly withheld food aid to North Korea, and then they scream that people are harmed or killed by malnutrition. So the US is basically deliberately starving North Koreans to death. In addition, the US bullies and threatens any other country or group who tries to provide food aid to the North. The US’ reason for withholding food aid to the North is that most of it is diverted to the military, but this is not true, and at any rate, the military has to eat too, and obviously they get first priority.

The US under Democratic and Republican Presidents has torn up every agreement that they ever signed with the North. Clinton demanded that the North stop developing nukes in return for providing them with a light water reactor. The reactor was never forthcoming because Clinton was trying to make the regime collapse. Along the same lines, sanctions and suspension of food aid are all intended to cause the collapse of the North Korean regime. It hasn’t happened.

The North’s position is completely reasonable, and I support them 100% in their resolve to stand up to US aggression.


Filed under Agricutlure, Asia, Democrats, Iraq, Iraq War, Middle East, Military Doctrine, NE Asia, North Korea, Nuclear Weapons, Obama, Politics, Regional, South Korea, US Politics, War

Greg Palast on Hugo Chavez

This article shows exactly how US imperialism works in the world today. It also shows just how evil US foreign policy really is. Now whether the behavior portrayed below is evil or good is a value judgment. I say it’s evil. Someone else may feel it’s the right thing to do.

But one thing for sure, the true story, as Greg Palast lays out below, is one you will never hear on US TV or radio or read in any US newspaper or magazine. The US media won’t even bring up charges like this even to deny them. Can you imagine if every day in the US you could turn on your TV to a debate on whether or not the US is an imperialist country? That’s a debate they don’t want you to have, even to deny it.

Problem is that no matter how hard they deny it, they don’t want you to hear the other side at all. There is too much risk that no matter how hard they ridicule the other side, a few people might decide to side with the opposition. A few Americans here and there might decide that, yes, the US is an imperialist country.

That the US is an imperialist country and that US capitalism is based on imperialism is beyond a doubt. There’s nothing to debate. It’s obviously true. Even the scores of US military bases and the huge US military are the armed faction of that imperial system. When you go enlist in the US military, you are joining as a foot soldier for imperialism, in general. You are carrying a weapon for Heinz, the Koch Brothers and Chevron more than you are defending US soil from shadowy enemies.

Almost all supporters of US capitalism (and we have many here on this blog) refuse to acknowledge that US capitalism is based on imperialism. Imperialism is its bread and butter.

It’s fine and dandy to support capitalism (I am not completely against the market myself), but I think if you support US capitalism, you ought to at least agree that it’s based on imperialism. That would be the brave and principled thing to do. And now do you support this system, this particular US capitalism buttressed by imperialism as laid out below. To me, that is a much harder thing to do, but supporters or US capitalism need to do that. They need to take a stand on imperialism. You either support US imperialism or you oppose it. Which will it be? No more dodging the question and pretending that imperialism doesn’t exist.

It is also interesting that we have Blacks on this board who hated Hugo Chavez. Yet Chavez was the great champions of the Blacks and Browns of Venezuela, as laid out below. Venezuelan capitalism, as is the case with capitalism in many parts of the world, was racially based. The Whites took all the money and left the Blacks and Browns with crumbs – starving, sickened, squatting in hovels with sewage running down the steep gutters. Why US Blacks would support such a racial spoils system is beyond me.

There is much talk that Chavez and other Latin American Leftists were all given cancer by the US. It’s an interesting theory, but there is no evidence for it at the moment.

I had an Argentine girlfriend once. We talked about the Dirty War in Argentina, supported to the hilt by the US (Henry Kissinger notoriously backed them to the hilt), in which 30,000 mostly unarmed and peaceful Leftists were murdered by a rightwing military dictatorship.

“Well,” she said thoughtfully. “The Latin American Left dreamed of a better world. And in Latin America, that is a dangerous thing.”

So it is with Hugo Chavez, so it is with the Americas, of which we in the north are increasingly a part.

“But why the GW Bush regime’s hate, hate, HATE of the President of Venezuela? Reverend Pat wasn’t coy about the answer: Its the oil. This is a dangerous enemy to our South controlling a huge pool of oil.”

Vaya con Dios, Hugo Chàvez, mi Amigo

By Greg Palast

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Venezuelan President Chavez once asked me why the US elite wanted to kill him. My dear Hugo: Its the oil. And its the Koch Brothers and its the ketchup.

Reverend Pat Robertson said, Hugo Chavez thinks were trying to assassinate him. I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.

It was 2005 and Robertson was channeling the frustration of George Bush’s State Department. Despite Bush’s providing intelligence, funds and even a note of congratulations to the crew who kidnapped Chavez (we’ll get there), Hugo remained in office, reelected and wildly popular.

But why the Bush regime’s hate, hate, HATE of the President of Venezuela? Reverend Pat wasn’t coy about the answer: It’s the oil. This is a dangerous enemy to our South controlling a huge pool of oil.

A really BIG pool of oil. Indeed, according to Guy Caruso, former chief of oil intelligence for the CIA, Venezuela hold a recoverable reserve of 1.36 trillion barrels, that is, a whole lot more than Saudi Arabia.

If we didn’t kill Chavez, we’d have to do an Iraq on his nation. So the Reverend suggests, We don’t need another $200 billion war…. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.

Chavez himself told me he was stunned by Bush’s attacks: Chavez had been quite chummy with Bush Senior and with Bill Clinton.

So what made Chavez suddenly “a dangerous enemy”? Here’s the answer you wont find in The New York Times:

Just after Bush’s inauguration in 2001, Chavez congress voted in a new Law of Hydrocarbons. Henceforth, Exxon, British Petroleum, Shell Oil and Chevron would get to keep 70% of the sales revenues from the crude they sucked out of Venezuela. Not bad, considering the price of oil was rising toward $100 a barrel.

But to the oil companies, which had bitch-slapped Venezuela’s prior government into giving them 84% of the sales price, a cut to 70% was no bueno. Worse, Venezuela had been charging a joke of a royalty just one percent on heavy crude from the Orinoco Basin. Chavez told Exxon and friends they’d now have to pay 16.6%.

Clearly, Chavez had to be taught a lesson about the etiquette of dealings with Big Oil.

On April 11, 2002, President Chavez was kidnapped at gunpoint and flown to an island prison in the Caribbean Sea. On April 12, Pedro Carmona, a business partner of the US oil companies and president of the nations Chamber of Commerce, declared himself President of Venezuela giving a whole new meaning to the term, corporate takeover.

U.S. Ambassador Charles Shapiro immediately rushed down from his hilltop embassy to have his picture taken grinning with the self-proclaimed President and the leaders of the coup détat.

Bush’s White House spokesman admitted that Chavez was, democratically elected, but, he added, Legitimacy is something that is conferred not by just the majority of voters. I see.

With an armed and angry citizenry marching on the Presidential Palace in Caracas ready to string up the coup plotters, Carmona, the Pretend President from Exxon returned his captive Chavez back to his desk within 48 hours.

Chavez had provoked the coup not just by clawing back some of the bloated royalties of the oil companies. Its what he did with that oil money that drove Venezuela’s One Percent to violence.

In Caracas, I ran into the reporter for a TV station whose owner is generally credited with plotting the coup against the president. While doing a publicity photo shoot, leaning back against a tree, showing her wide-open legs nearly up to where they met, the reporter pointed down the hill to the ranchos, the slums above Caracas, where shacks, once made of cardboard and tin, where quickly transforming into homes of cinder blocks and cement.

He [Chavez] gives them bread and bricks, so they vote for him, of course. She was disgusted by them, the 80% of Venezuelans who are negro e indio (Black and Indian)and poor. Chavez, himself negro e indio, had, for the first time in Venezuela’s history, shifted the oil wealth from the privileged class that called themselves Spanish, to the dark-skinned masses.

While trolling around the poor housing blocks of Caracas, I ran into a local, Arturo Quiran, a merchant seaman and no big fan of Chavez. But over a beer at his kitchen table, he told me,

Fifteen years ago under [then-President] Carlos Andrés Pérez, there was a lot of oil money in Venezuela. The oil boom we called it. Here in Venezuela there was a lot of money, but we didn’t see it.

But then came Hugo Chavez, and now the poor in his neighborhood, he said, get medical attention, free operations, x-rays, medicines; education also. People who never knew how to write now know how to sign their own papers.”

Chavez Robin Hood thing, shifting oil money from the rich to the poor, would have been grudgingly tolerated by the US. But Chavez, who told me, We are no longer an oil colony, went further…too much further, in the eyes of the American corporate elite.

Venezuela had landless citizens by the millions and unused land by the millions of acres tied up, untilled, on which a tiny elite of plantation owners squatted. Chavez congress passed in a law in 2001 requiring untilled land to be sold to the landless. It was a program long promised by Venezuela’s politicians at the urging of John F. Kennedy as part of his Alliance for Progress.

Plantation owner Heinz Corporation didn’t like that one bit. In retaliation, Heinz closed its ketchup plant in the state of Maturin and fired all the workers. Chavez seized Heinz plant and put the workers back on the job. Chavez didn’t realize that he’d just squeezed the tomatoes of Americas powerful Heinz family and Mrs. Heinz husband, Senator John Kerry, now U.S. Secretary of State.

Or, knowing Chavez as I do, he didn’t give a damn.

Chavez could survive the ketchup coup, the Exxon presidency, even his taking back a piece of the windfall of oil company profits, but he dangerously tried the patience of Americas least forgiving billionaires: The Koch Brothers.

How? Well, that’s another story for another day.

Elected presidents who annoy Big Oil have ended up in exile or coffins: Mossadegh of Iran after he nationalized BP’s fields (1953), Elchibey, President of Azerbaijan, after he refused demands of BP for his Caspian fields (1993), President Alfredo Palacio of Ecuador after he terminated Occidentals drilling concession (2005).

Its a chess game, Mr. Palast, Chavez told me. He was showing me a very long, and very sharp sword once owned by Simon Bolivar, the Great Liberator. And I am, Chavez said, a very good chess player.

In the film The Seventh Seal, a medieval knight bets his life on a game of chess with the Grim Reaper. Death cheats, of course, and takes the knight. No mortal can indefinitely outplay Death who, this week, Chavez must know, will checkmate the new Bolivar of Venezuela.

But in one last move, the Bolivarian grandmaster played a brilliant endgame, naming Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, as good and decent a man as they come, as heir to the fight for those in the ranchos. The One Percent of Venezuela, planning on Chavez’s death to return them the power and riches they couldn’t win in an election, are livid with the choice of Maduro.

Chavez sent Maduro to meet me in my downtown New York office back in 2004. In our run-down detective digs on Second Avenue, Maduro and I traded information on assassination plots and oil policy.

Even then, Chavez was carefully preparing for the day when Venezuela’s negros e indios would lose their king but still stay in the game. Class war on a chessboard. Even in death, I wouldn’t bet against Hugo Chavez.

“War’ s never a winning thing, Charlie. You just lose all the time, and the one who loses last asks for terms. All I remember is a lot of losing and sadness and nothing good at the end of it. The end of it, Charles, that was a winning all to itself, having nothing to do with guns.”
–Ray Bradbury, from the short story, The Time Machine, 1957


Filed under Americas, Argentina, Capitalism, Cold War, Economics, Fascism, Geopolitics, History, Imperialism, Journalism, Latin America, Latin American Right, Left, Military Doctrine, Political Science, Politics, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, Republicans, South America, US Politics, Venezuela

Guest Author: Stephen Soldz “The Psychodynamics of Occupation and the Abuse at Abu Ghraib: An Interpretation After One Year of Occupation”

Repost from the old site.

This blog is very honored to post a fine piece by a guest author, Stephen Soldz, The Psychodynamics of Occupation and the Abuse at Abu Ghraib: An Interpretation After One Year of Occupation.

Stephen, a Leftist psychoanalyst from Boston, is the founder of several antiwar and anti-imperialist organizations. He is a principled Leftist who doesn’t mince words, keeps a very consistent and honorable line, doesn’t compromise his ideals much, and usually has some measured, thoughtful and wise insight and advice to offer.

Stephen has given me valuable advice on my writing which I continue to employ. He seems to have also done some very interesting psychological research, though I haven’t looked into it much yet.

In an era when the Left is beset with sell-outs, compromise at any cost types, defeatism, muddled thinking, contradictory positions, confusion and hypocrisy, Stephen lights the way for an ideological position that lights a path between ridiculous ultra-pacifism and the mindless flailing rage of some anti-imperialist resistance movements. On to the piece!

There are various explanations for what went on at Abu Ghraib. The official US position is that a “few bad apples” among the reservist military police (MPs) there went out of control, violating orders to treat the prisoners humanely — “Animal House on the night shift,” as former defense secretary James Schlesinger described it.(1)

The MP defendants claim that they were following orders to soften up the prisoners as a prelude to interrogation. Investigative journalists have documented in detail the chain of memos, orders, and “advice” that led from the top reaches of the US administration to the actions of those MPs. To write about the psychological aspects of the Abu Ghraib horrors, one must have a theory of what actually happened.

So let me make explicit my view of what happened, derived from reading hundreds of newspaper and other accounts of abuse throughout the developing network of US detention centers in Iraq and elsewhere. After 9/11, decisions were made at the upper reaches of the US administration that detainees in America’s “War on Terror” did not deserve traditional protections.(2, 3)

Justified by the needs of developing intelligence, brutal methods of treatment of detainees — “tantamount to torture” as the International Committee of the Red Cross calls it(2, 4) — became routine.(1, 2, 5-18) The decision was made to adopt brutal techniques in order to “break” the detainees.

As one e-mail in August 2003 from a Military Intelligence officer put it: “The gloves are coming off gentlemen regarding these detainees, Col Boltz has made it clear that we want these individuals broken. Casualties are mounting and we need to start gathering info to help protect our fellow soldiers from any further attacks. I thank you for your hard work and your dedication.”(19)

The prison was put under the control of military intelligence.(2, 20) As recommended by Guantánamo commander Major General Geoffrey Miller, techniques of total control and torture in use at Guantánamo (4, 12, 19, 21, 22) were imported as Abu Ghraib was “Gitmoized.”(1)

As a former Army intelligence officer described Miller’s recommendation: “It means treat the detainees like shit until they will sell their mother for a blanket, some food without bugs in it and some sleep.”(23)

Waterboarding was imported and dogs were frequently used to instill fear in the detainees.(17) Pressure was put on the MPs guarding prisoners to “set the conditions” for interrogations, and to “manipulate an internee’s emotions and weaknesses.”(20) Typical of large bureaucratic organizations, the MPs were given no clear instructions, allowing for “plausible deniability.”

Thus, the official story of a “few bad apples” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny as abuse was typical of the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and at the myriad (over 20) other detention facilities in Iraq, as well as those in Cuba and Afghanistan.

Further, it is not plausible to believe that these MPs, unschooled in interrogation techniques, rediscovered so many of the CIA’s standard torture techniques, designed to humiliate and “break” detainees, as well as special forms of sexual humiliation that would be especially humiliating and degrading to Arab males.(2)

However, the official story isn’t totally false, either. While it is hard to be certain, testimony at the trials of the Abu Ghraib MPs designated as the “fall guys” suggests that they did their share of freelancing.

A number of these MPs were having quite a good time abusing the prisoners. As Pvt. Jeremy Sivits testified at the court martial of Spc. Charles Graner, “The soldiers were laughing, seeming to be having a good time” and Pvt. Ivan Frederick II testified, “everybody was smiling and carrying on.”(24)

While I have no doubt that torture was policy, we still are faced with the questions of why MPs not trained in interrogation and torture proved so willing to adopt these techniques, and enjoyed themselves along the way, and why soldiers throughout Iraq and Afghanistan engaged in repeated acts of torture and abuse.

What I want to focus on here are a few relatively underemphasized aspects of the war and occupation that contributed to the pervasiveness of abuse.

Like all wars, the 2003 Iraq invasion was preceded by a propaganda barrage. Fantasies of weapons of mass destruction were propagated repeatedly by the Administration, politicians of both parties, and the corporate media, despite serious doubts having been raised as to the existence of these weapons by numerous knowledgeable critics.(25-27)

Unstated, but understood by all, was that this war was to be revenge for 9/11; revenge for the death, but even more, revenge for the humiliation.(28, 29) When Saddam’s statue was toppled in Firdos Square in April 2003, the US troops draped it with an American flag. The desire for revenge, while unstated, suggested that anything visited upon the Iraqis was acceptable, as revenge creates its own logic.

Stated, rather, was the avowed aim to “liberate” Iraqis from an oppressive regime. Iraqis would greet the invading troops with flowers and open arms, it was claimed. Despite cute propaganda exercises like the stage-managed toppling of Saddam’s statue, the flowers and open arms never materialized. Iraqis were decidedly ambivalent about being invaded and occupied by a foreign power.

Within weeks American troops were firing into crowds of Iraqis, killing a number,(30, 31) and lying about the events. Deaths of civilians at roadblocks were a constant.(32-35) And the insurgency grew and grew, its supporters coming to number perhaps 200,000, as estimated by the head of the Iraqi Interim government’s intelligence service.(36)

So what do occupation soldiers do when the stated reason for their occupation of another country is to liberate the populace, but many of that populace regard them as invaders and either respond sullenly to their presence, or actively resist occupation? One coping strategy is to try and distinguish between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”

As Staff Sgt. Riley Flaherty expressed it: “What’s really hard is the fine line between the bad guys and the good guys…. Because if you piss off the wrong good guys, you’re really in trouble. So you’ve really got to watch what you do and how you treat the people.”(37)

That is, the occupied population is split into its good and bad elements, with evil projected onto the bad, and the good construed as largely childlike and in need of protection, but also prone to turn bad at a moment’s notice.

However, the task of an occupation army is one of control of the populace. As Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Aldrich, from the same unit as Sgt. Flaherty, put it: “I’ve got 200,000 Iraqis I’ve got to control with 18 people… so I’ve got to command respect. And unfortunately, all that hearts and minds stuff, I can’t even think about that.”

He goes on to explain, “There are things I have to do out here that I can’t explain to my chain of command, and that the American people would never understand.”(37)

Given this requirement, the definition of a good Iraqi becomes one who aids the occupiers in their lonesome task, and there are precious few of them. As Sgt. Aldrich explains: “Because you aren’t helping me catch the bad guys, and if you’re not helping me, you are the bad guy.”(37) Given this definition, the distinction between good and bad easily breaks down and nearly the entire occupied populace can become bad.

Another characteristic of occupation is the difficulty the occupation troops have in viewing the occupied as adults, as individuals with wishes, dreams, and intentions of their own. Rather, they are essentially childlike, deserving protection when good, and a spanking when bad. The same Sgt. Flaherty, on a frustrating day, explained: “These people don’t understand nice… You’ve got to be a hard-ass.”(37)

The entire populace becomes the enemy, as expressed by Sgt. Aldrich: “The one thing you learn over here is that there are no innocent civilians, except the kids. And even them — the ones that are all, ‘Hey mister, mister, chocolate?’ — I’ll be killing them someday.”(37) Note, the absence of any pretense that the occupation is intended to help the occupied. Such illusions are left for the media and PR flacks.

War, including war of occupation, of course involves fear, a pervasive fear and an awareness that death is possible at any moment.

That fear, and that awareness, we are reminded by Terror Management Theory,(38) leads to a defense of one’s worldview, which in most cases means an increased attachment to the cultural norms of one’s society, and a rejection and punitive attitude towards those that threaten that worldview.

For the occupier, it is the natives, the occupied and their culture, which are rejected. Another aspect of war is its overwhelmingly masculine quality; war is an assertion of dominance over the other, perceived as weak, as cowardly, as a wimp.(39) Thus, the repeated description of the 9/11 attackers as “cowardly,” probably the characteristic least accurately descriptive of them.

As President Bush said that day: “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward,”(40) attempting to remove the shame by describing the attackers with the most denigrating description.

By this means the attacker is made both morally depraved and weak, not really masculine. Yet, the rhetoric simultaneously betrays the fear that underlies it. For today’s women in combat, proving that they are “one of the guys” can be the key to survival.(41)

As the occupied are rejected and become the repository of all that which is rejected by the occupiers, it is but a step to portraying the enemy, those unwilling to meekly submit to occupation, as absolute evil, as was expressed by Lieutenant Colonel Gareth Brandl on the eve of the November, 2004 assault on Falluja: “The enemy has got a face. He’s called Satan. He lives in Falluja. And we’re going to destroy him.”(42)

Is it any wonder that Falluja was almost totally destroyed, with virtually no buildings left undamaged? Or that Fallujans who return to their city are treated as if they are concentration camp inmates?(43, 44)

Or that this new concentration camp was described as the “safest city in Iraq” by Marine Cpl. Daniel Ferrari,(45) while an anonymous soldier left a memento on a random household’s mirror: “Fuck Iraq and every Iraqi in it!”(44)

Now return to Abu Ghraib. A small contingent of ill-trained reservist MPs was in charge of guarding thousands of unruly prisoners who were enraged at being imprisoned, largely unjustly, and enraged at the squalid conditions in which they were kept, perhaps best symbolized by the bugs infesting their rancid food.(46)

The MPs didn’t speak the language of the prisoners, and had few translators; communication difficulties were so great that the guards evidently did not know that a prison riot was a response to the food situation. These guards were of low status in the military, being reservists, and were assigned to the undesirable task of guarding prisoners.

They lived in constant fear, as nightly attacks on the prison were complemented by riots and attacks from the prisoners. Their military comrades-in-arms were dying in large numbers from the growing insurgency.

The effort to generate intelligence out of the prisoners was especially difficult as, according to military intelligence sources, perhaps 70%-90% of them were innocent of any involvement with the insurgents,(19, 53) and just happened to be present at a checkpoint, or in their home, when one of the brutal “cordon and capture” raids occurred.(19)

Nonetheless, the response of top military leaders to their innocence was callous at best.

Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski is quoted as telling Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski, the officer in charge of Iraqi prisons: “I don’t care if we’re holding 15,000 innocent civilians! We’re winning the war!”

The officer in charge of US forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, retorted: “Why are we detaining these people – we should be killing them.”(54) The nature of prisons is such that prisoners are usually presumed guilty by the guards.

If they didn’t commit the offense for which they were arrested, they must have done something wrong; why else would they be in prison? Under interrogation, those prisoners who refuse to divulge important information must be withholding, providing further evidence of their perfidy.

These dynamics must have been even stronger in the Abu Ghraib situation, where the MP guards felt in constant danger and under pressure to demonstrate their worth through breaking the prisoners.

To accept that many of the prisoners being kept in such abominable conditions were innocent could only be rationalized by dehumanizing them, by making them the embodiment of all that was unacceptable to the guards. If they weren’t guilty of serious offenses, they were, after all, only “hajis”(29) who, outside the prison, were kept in line with metal “haji-be-good sticks.”(37)

The very fact that these inferior hajis objected to their unfair imprisonment demonstrated that they were dangerous, and cried out for control. How could such dangerous inferior beings expect to be treated better once they were found guilty by reason of imprisonment? Surely the lowly MPs could demonstrate their worth by providing the punishment these unruly natives, the ungrateful occupied, deserved.

To do less was not to do one’s duty. As these guards did their work keeping the evil recalcitrant hajis in line, which, after all is a rather dirty task, it was not surprising that they tried to make the job interesting, even fun. How many of us can carry out an unpleasant job for months on end without finding ways to enjoy the work? Why should we expect that these poor prison guards in an alien land would do less?

The pressure built to generate actionable intelligence from the prisoners, so that the anti-occupation insurgency could be broken. General Miller visited and recommended that the prison be dedicated to the gathering of intelligence, and that the brutal torture techniques developed at Guantánamo(4, 12, 21, 47-51) be utilized. MPs were to “set the conditions” for interrogation(20) by abusing and terrorizing prisoners.

Military intelligence was placed in control of the prison by the head of US forces in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.(20) Many arcane torture techniques, such as waterboarding and forced homosexual sex, developed by the CIA over decades, were put into general use.(3, 19, 52)

The message was communicated that senior officials, including Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, were very interested in the intelligence being generated at Abu Ghraib, that the work of these lowly reservists was truly important.(19)

Thus we see that the logic of war, the logic of occupation, the logic of imprisonment, and the post 9/11 logic of revenge all came together in an Iraqi torture center in 2003. The fact that similar actions have been reported in numerous other Iraqi prisons, as well as those in Afghanistan demonstrates that the horrors of Abu Ghraib were emblematic of the new American empire, indeed of empire itself.

Also emblematic of empire, is the denial with which this torture was met. The officials responsible ignored and denied numerous reports of prisoner abuse in newspapers and from non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross.(55-59)

Within days of the release of the Abu Ghraib photos, I, a single concerned citizen with no special resources, had no difficulty detailing this long record of abuse claims.(14) The publication of the Abu Ghraib photographs and all subsequent revelations about the widespread nature of detainee abuse and torture were met with official denials that anything more than a “few bad apples” were to blame.(60)

Furthermore, denial, in the psychological sense of unconsciously ignoring the importance of a fact or event, has characterized the American public reaction. While the majority of Americans told pollsters that the torture was wrong and that the US government was lying about it, and also that those who wrote the legal opinions justifying torture bore some blame,(61, 62) there was no major public outcry over the issue.

It was hardly mentioned during the American elections by either major party candidate, or at either party’s convention. Those in charge when the torture happened were reelected, and many of those who developed and justified the policy of torture were promoted,(63-65) with little public outcry.

Torture is now out of the closet, it has become an accepted, however distasteful, aspect of American life. As Mark Danner puts it: “We are all torturers now.”(66) I’d like to close with words from Chris Hedges’ haunting meditation on war:

“Each generation responds to war as innocents. Each generation discovers its own disillusionment — often after a terrible price. The myth of war and the drug of war wait to be tasted…. Those who can tell us the truth are silenced or prefer to forget. The state needs the myth, as much as it needs its soldiers and its machines of war to survive.” (67, p. 173)

And we might add, it needs its torturers.


1. Carter, P. (2004) The Road to Abu Ghraib (Washington Monthly).

2. Barry, J., Hirsh, & Isikoff, M. (2004) The Roots of Torture: The road to Abu Ghraib began after 9/11, when Washington wrote new rules to fight a new kind of war (Newsweek).

3. Hersh, S. M. (2004) Chain of command: The road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (New York, Harper Collins).

4. Lewis, N. A. (2004) Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo (New York Times).

5. (2004) US Navy Seals Torturing Iraqis(

6. American Civil Liberties Union (2004) Federal Government Turns Over Thousands of Torture Documents to ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).

7. American Civil Liberties Union (2004) Records Released in Response to Torture FOIA Request (American Civil Liberties Union).

8. Croke, L. A. (2004) Abuse, Torture and Rape Reported at Unlisted U.S.-run Prisons in Iraq (New Standard).

9. Croke, L. A. (2004) Iraq Torture Investigators Reveal Scores of New Cases (New Standard).

10. Croke, L. A. (2004) FBI Glossed Over Abu Ghraib Abuses (The New Standard).

11. Gat, Y. (2005) The Year in Torture (CounterPunch).

12. Lewis, N. A. (2005) Fresh Details Emerge on Harsh Methods at Guantánamo (New York Times).

13. Smith, R. J. & Eggen, D. (2004) New Papers Suggest Detainee Abuse Was Widespread (Washington Post).

14. Soldz, S. (2004) Abuse at Abu Ghraib, the psychodynamics of occupation, and the responsibility of us all (ZNet).

15. American Civil Liberties Union (2004) Torture FOIA (American Civil Liberties Union).

16. White, J. (2004) U.S. Generals in Iraq Were Told of Abuse Early, Inquiry Finds (Washington Post).

17. White, J. & Higham, S. (2004) Use of Dogs to Scare Prisoners Was Authorized: Military Intelligence Personnel Were Involved, Handlers Say (Washington Post).

18. Zernike, K. & Rohde, D. (2004) Forced Nudity of Iraqi Prisoners Is Seen as a Pervasive Pattern, Not Isolated Incidents (New York Times).

19. Danner, M. (2004) Abu Ghraib: The Hidden Story (New York Review of Books).

20. Borger, J. (2004) US general linked to Abu Ghraib abuse: Leaked memo reveals control of prison passed to military intelligence to ‘manipulate detainees’ (Guardian).

21. Cawthorne, A. (2004) Guantanamo men allege abuse (Reuters).

22. Lewis, N. A. (2004) Broad Use Cited of Harsh Tactics at Base in Cuba (New York Times).

23. Davidson, O. G. (2004) The Secret File of Abu Ghraib (Rolling Stone).

24. Serrano, R. A. (2005) Guard Enjoyed Beating Iraqis, Three Testify (Los Angeles Times).

25. Rangwala, G. (2003) Claims and evaluations of Iraq’s proscribed weapons (

26. Rangwala, G. (2003) Review of Hussein Kamel’s interview with UNSCOM of 22 August 1995 (

27. Ritter, S. (2003) Scott Ritter in His Own Words (Time Online).

28. Wood, P. (2005) Iraq war: two years on (BBC).

29. Rockwell, P. (2005) Army reservist witnesses war crimes: New revelations about racism in the military (Online Journal).

30. Reeves, P. (2003) At least 10 dead as US soldiers fire on school protest (Independent).

31. Wilson, S. (2003) U.S. Forces Kill Two During Iraqi Demonstration (Washington Post).

32. Burns, J. F. (2005) Checkpoint dangers too familiar for Iraqis (International Herald Tribune).

33. Faramarzi, S. (2003) Jittery U.S. Soldiers Kill 6 Iraqis (Associated Press).

34. Huggler, J. (2003) Family shot dead by panicking US troops (Independent).

35. Ciezadlo, A. (2005) What Iraq’s checkpoints are like (Christian Science Monitor).

36. Reynolds, P. (2005) Blistering attacks threaten Iraq election (BBC).

37. Dilanian, K. (2005) Soldiers sometimes rough despite risk of antagonizing friendly Iraqis (Kansas City Star).

38. Pyszczynski, T. A., Greenberg, J. & Solomon, S. (2003) In the wake of 9/11: the psychology of terror (Washington, DC, American Psychological Association).

39. Ducat, S. (2004) The wimp factor: Gender gaps, holy wars, and the politics of anxious masculinity (Boston, Beacon Press).

40. Bush, G. W. (2001) Remarks by President Bush from Barksdale Air Force Base , (American Rhetoric).

41. Grasso, G. (2000) Review of Hornet’s Nest: The Experiences of One of the Navy’s First Female Fighter Pilots by Missy Cummings (Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military).

42. Harkavy, W. (2004) Running Out of Patients: In our glorious crusade for democracy, we level a Falluja hospital (Village Voice).

43. Barnard, A. (2004) Returning Fallujans will face clampdown (Boston Globe).

44. Fadhil, A. (2005) City of ghosts (Guardian).

45. Niedringhaus, A. (2005) Tanks, Officers Impose Order in Fallujah (Associated Press).

46. Phinney, D. (2004) “Contract Meals Disaster” for Iraqi Prisoners (CorpWatch).

47. Al Jazeera (2005) New Guantanamo abuse cases surface (Al Jazeera).

48. Azulay, J. (2005) Guantanamo Abuses Caught on Tape, Report Details (New Standard).

49. Leonnig, C. D. & Priest, D. (2005) Detainees Accuse Female Interrogators: Pentagon Inquiry Is Said to Confirm Muslims’ Accounts of Sexual Tactics at Guantanamo (Washington Post).

50. Mickum IV, G. B. (2005) Tortured, humiliated and crying out for some justice: Four Guantánamo Britons are coming home. Don’t forget those left behind (Guardian).

51. Reuters (2005) Lawyer: Guantanamo detainees sodomised (Aljazeera).

52. McCoy, A. W. (2004) The Hidden History of CIA Torture: America’s Road to Abu Ghraib (

53. Associated Press (2004) Red Cross: Iraq abuse “tantamount to torture” (MSNBC).

54. American Civil Liberties Union (2005) Newly Released Army Documents Point to Agreement Between Defense Department and CIA on “Ghost” Detainees, ACLU Says (American Civil Liberties Union).

55. International Committee of the Red Cross (2004) Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the treatment by the coalition forces of prisoners of war and other protected persons by the Geneva Conventions in Iraq during arrest, internment and interrogation (International Committee of the Red Cross).

56. Hanley, C. J. (2004) Early Iraq Abuse Accounts Met With Silence (Associated Press).

57. Beaumont, P. & Burke, J. (2004) Catastrophe (Guardian).

58. Miller, R. (2003) “Disappearing” Iraqis: Why Are So Many Citizens Arrested and Detained by the American Occupying Force? (River Cities’ Reader).

59. Riverbend (2004) Tales from Abu Ghraib. (Baghdad Burning).

60. USA Today (2004) How innocent Iraqis came to be abused as terrorists (USA Today).

61. Kull, S. (2004) Americans on Detention, Torture, and the War on Terrorism, (Program on International Policy Attitudes/Knowledge Networks).

62. Morris, D. & Langer, G. (2004) Terror Suspect Treatment: Most Americans Oppose Torture Techniques (ABC News).

63. Smith, R. J. & Eggen, D. (2005) Gonzales Helped Set the Course for Detainees (Washington Post).

64. Scheer, R. (2004) Tout Torture, Get Promoted (Los Angeles Times).

65. Anderson, J. R. (2005) Maj. Gen. Fast, former aide to Sanchez at Abu Ghraib, takes intelligence post (Stars and Stripes).

66. Danner, M. (2005) We Are All Torturers Now (New York Times).

67. Hedges, C. (2002) War is a force that gives us meaning (New York, Public Affairs).

Stephen Soldz is psychoanalyst and a faculty member at the Institute for the Study of Violence of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He is a member of Roslindale Neighbors for Peace and Justice and founder of Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice. He maintains the Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report web page.

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Filed under Geopolitics, Government, Guest Posts, Iraq War, Left, Military Doctrine, Politics, Psychology, Reposts From The Old Site, War

US Soldiers Executed for Crimes Against Civilians in WW2 France

From here.

There’s a semi-hidden cemetery in France filled with executed US WWII solders who raped and murdered the locals. The military has such disrespect for them that they are only marked with numbers, not names. We don’t execute quite so much anymore, but we still do proper military criminal investigations into such allegations.

There are two sides to this. On one, we talk as you do about making sure justice is done for crimes committed, and the damage inherent in not fully investigating. On the other hand, there’s the concern about railroading troops who were doing the best they could in a bad situation. A soldier fighting for his life in a firefight shouldn’t have to ask to for a time-out so he can consult an attorney to avoid potential Monday-morning legal quarterbacking. This is all the harder with an enemy who doesn’t wear a uniform and blends in with the locals.

And, yes, every friendly fire incident gets a full investigation. Criminal charges are unlikely since most of these are truly accidents with multiple contributing factors. However, we once railroaded a colonel out of the Army over a friendly fire incident, using the fact that he’d violated some local command policy by going up that day when they couldn’t find an actual violation of law in the friendly fire incident itself. Because of feelings just like yours, there is a LOT of political pressure from the very top to convict for friendly fire incidents, and in those cases we have to be extra sure that justice, not mob justice, is done.

That’s very interesting if it’s true. Does that statement imply that the US military executed various US troops for crimes such as murder and rape committed against French locals. I suppose they had trials or court-martials and were quickly sentenced to death? Amazing if it’s actually true, because I’ve never heard of it.


Filed under Crime, Europe, France, History, Law, Military Doctrine, Regional, War, World War 2

How Castro Held the World Hostage

This is a good article. It shows just how insane Castro was during the crisis. He was ready to go to war, even nuclear war, to stop a US invasion of Cuba. Kennedy was also absolutely reckless.

The hero of the whole crisis was Khrushchev. Khrushchev got Castro to back down and he stopped listening to him. He gave in to Kennedy’s outrageous and belligerent demands that nearly set off a nuclear war. Khrushchev was the only one out of the three who wanted to avoid war or nuclear war at all costs. Kennedy and Castro seemed to have that as a secondary goal.

How Castro Held the World Hostage

The New York Times
October 25, 2012

By James G. Blight And Janet M. Lang

Waterloo, Ontario. On Oct. 26-27, 1962, human civilization came close to being destroyed. Schoolchildren were ordered into shelters; supermarket shelves were emptied of soup cans and bottled water. It was the most perilous moment of the Cuban missile crisis, and of the cold war. But the danger of Armageddon did not begin, as legend has it, when the United States learned that Soviet missiles had reached Cuba’s shores earlier that month.

Rather, it was driven by Fidel Castro’s fears and insecurities after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion and by the failures of President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev to take him seriously.

With Soviet missiles stationed on the island and America poised to attack, Cuba 50 years ago was far more dangerous than Iran or North Korea is today. But the 1962 crisis shows that a small, determined revolutionary state, backed into a corner and convinced of its inevitable demise, can bring the world to the brink of catastrophe.

Twenty years ago, we spent four days in Havana discussing the missile crisis with Mr. Castro, former Soviet officials and American decision makers from the Kennedy administration, including the former defense secretary Robert S. McNamara.

Mr. Castro’s interest had been piqued by the declassification and release of Soviet and American documents in 1991 and 1992, which both surprised and angered him. These included long-suppressed passages from memoirs, released 20 years after Khrushchev’s death, in which he wrote that Mr. Castro had become irrational and possibly suicidal and that the crisis had to end before Cuba ignited a nuclear war.

In addition, declassified letters between Khrushchev and Kennedy revealed the extent to which Washington and Moscow cut Cuba out of negotiations, refused to consider Cuban demands and eventually resolved the crisis in spite of Mr. Castro’s objections. So to truly understand how the world came close to Armageddon, one must look not to Washington and Moscow but to Havana.

After the American-sponsored Bay of Pigs debacle, Fidel Castro, then just 35 but already Cuba’s unquestioned ruler, drew an astonishing conclusion. “The result of aggression against Cuba will be the start of a conflagration of incalculable consequences, and they will be affected too,” he told the Cuban people. “It will no longer be a matter of them feasting on us. They will get as good as they give.”

For the next 18 months, Mr. Castro prepared for nuclear Armageddon, while Kennedy and Khrushchev sleepwalked toward the abyss. Focused on their global competition, the United States and the Soviet Union were clueless about the mind-set of the smaller, weaker, poorer party. Kennedy wanted Cuba off his agenda and he resolved never again to cave in to his hawkish advisers and critics, who had continued clamoring for an invasion of the island, even after the Bay of Pigs disaster.

Khrushchev, for his part, was worried about “losing Cuba” and decided in early 1962 to offer nuclear missiles to Mr. Castro to deter the invasion they both believed was being planned but that Kennedy was privately resolved to avoid. But as Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs, the Soviet Union never intended to actually use the missiles; they were merely pawns in a game of superpower competition.

However, Mr. Castro believed the fundamental purpose of Soviet nuclear weapons was to destroy the United States in the event of an invasion. After centuries of humiliation and irrelevance, he concluded, Cuba would matter fundamentally to the fate of humanity. Cuba couldn’t prevent the onslaught, nor could it expect to survive it. He insisted that the Cubans and Russians on the island would resist “to the last day and the last man, woman or child capable of holding a weapon.”

Around noon on Oct. 26, Mr. Castro summoned the Soviet ambassador, Aleksandr Alekseev, to his command post. Mr. Castro couldn’t understand why Soviet troops in Cuba were sitting on their hands while American planes were flying over the island with impunity.

He urged them to start shooting at U-2 spy planes with surface-to-air missiles and suggested that Cuban troops should begin firing on low-flying planes with antiaircraft guns, contrary to Soviet wishes.

Alekseev promised to relay Mr. Castro’s complaints to the Kremlin. Alekseev later told us he felt “almost schizophrenic” when he sent the cables to Moscow, because it was his duty to represent the cautious Soviet position, yet he himself, like Mr. Castro, expected an American onslaught. At that moment, “I was almost 100 percent Cuban,” he recalled.

While Cuba was preparing for nuclear war, Khrushchev and Kennedy were, unbeknown to Mr. Castro, moving toward a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Terrified that a catastrophic war might break out, Khrushchev took the initiative even as Kennedy was preparing an offer of his own. He wrote to Kennedy on Oct. 26: “Let us then display statesmenlike wisdom. I propose: we, for our part, will declare that our ships bound for Cuba are not carrying any armaments.

You will declare that the United States will not invade Cuba with its troops and will not support any other forces which might intend to invade Cuba. Then the necessity for the presence of our military specialists in Cuba will be obviated.” It would take another three agonizing weeks to work out the details, but Kennedy and Khrushchev had finally locked onto a common wavelength.

All these letters (except those delivered over the radio at the peak of the crisis) were methodically dictated, translated, encrypted and then transmitted. Such slow communication in a time of crisis seems inconceivable today, but at the heart of the cold war absolute secrecy was the objective, not speed. (It was only after the missile crisis that the “red phone” hot line between the White House and the Kremlin was installed.)

Unaware of Kennedy’s and Khrushchev’s progress toward a deal, at 2 a.m. on Oct. 27, Mr. Castro decided to write to Khrushchev, encouraging him to use his nuclear weapons to destroy the United States in the event of an invasion. At 3 a.m., he arrived at the Soviet Embassy and told Alekseev that they should go into the bunker beneath the embassy because an attack was imminent.

According to declassified Soviet cables, a groggy but sympathetic Alekseev agreed, and soon they were set up underground with Castro dictating and aides transcribing and translating a letter.

Mr. Castro became frustrated, uncertain about what to say. After nine drafts, with the sun rising, Alekseev finally confronted Mr. Castro: are you asking Comrade Khrushchev to deliver a nuclear strike on the United States? Mr. Castro told him, “If they attack Cuba, we should wipe them off the face of the earth!” Alekseev was shocked, but he dutifully assisted Mr. Castro in fine-tuning the 10th and final draft of the letter.

From his bunker, Mr. Castro wrote that, in the event of an American invasion, “the danger that that aggressive policy poses for humanity is so great that following that event the Soviet Union must never allow the circumstances in which the imperialists could launch the first nuclear strike against it.”

An invasion, he added, “would be the moment to eliminate such danger forever through an act of clear, legitimate defense however harsh and terrible the solution would be, for there is no other.” Mr. Castro was calm as he composed this last will and testament for the 6.5 million citizens of Cuba, and the 43,000 Russians on the island who would be incinerated alongside them.

According to his son and biographer, Sergei Khrushchev, the Soviet premier received that letter in the midst of a tense leadership meeting and shouted, “This is insane; Fidel wants to drag us into the grave with him!” Khrushchev hadn’t understood that Mr. Castro believed that Cuba was doomed, that war was inevitable, and that the Soviets should transform Cuba from a mere victim into a martyr.

By ignoring Mr. Castro’s messianic martyrdom, both Kennedy and Khrushchev inadvertently pushed the world close to Armageddon.

The parallels between the Cuban missile crisis and today’s nuclear standoff with Iran are inexact, but eerie. Cuba then and Iran now share a revolutionary mind-set, a belief that Washington’s goal is regime change, and a conviction that nuclear weapons might guarantee their survival in the face of unrelenting American hostility.

The third player in today’s crisis is not a superpower but Israel, which views a nuclear Iran as an unacceptable threat to its existence. Israel shares with Iran (and 1960s Cuba) a national narrative that is steeped in the glorification of military heroism in the face of potential defeat.

Whoever wins the presidential election must persuade the Israelis to restrain themselves. Iran’s leaders are rational, and Israel’s overwhelming nuclear superiority means that Israel need not fear Iran. America must convince Iran that it doesn’t need nuclear weapons, because it has nothing to fear from Israel or the United States. The American president must do what even Kennedy and Khrushchev could not: treat a lesser power as an equal and pay attention to its fears.

Ignoring Cuba’s insecurities 50 years ago pushed the world to the brink of catastrophe. Today we must be wary of backing the Iranians into a corner so that they feel they must choose between capitulation and martyrdom. In 1962, the Soviets just barely stopped the Cubans; this time, there is no Khrushchev.

James G. Blight and Janet M. Lang are professors at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and the authors of The Armageddon Letters: Kennedy/Khrushchev/Castro in the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Filed under Americas, Asia, Caribbean, Cold War, Cuba, History, Iran, Israel, Latin America, Middle East, Military Doctrine, Nuclear Weapons, Politics, Regional, South Asia, The Americas, US Politics, USSR

“How the U.S. Played Russian Roulette with Nuclear War,” by Noam Chomsky

Great article by Chomsky shows just how sickening US imperialism really is. The Cuban Missile Crisis was caused by the US, which was threatening to invade Cuba since the Bay of Pigs operation was defeated. The purpose of Operation Mongoose, a series of often-terrorist attacks and sabotage, was to prepare for a US invasion of Cuba.

In order to ward off the invasion, the Cubans asked for the missiles to be installed there. The only reason it was resolved was because Khrushchev backed down agreed to Kennedy’s outrageously one-sided terms. However, the US did agree to remove missiles from Turkey and to not attack Cuba. The Pentagon wanted to attack Cuba several times during the crisis, but Kennedy turned them down. He is to be commended for this.

The Soviets pointed out that the US reserved the right to place nuclear missiles anywhere on Earth targeting the USSR, China and anyone else, including right up on their borders (the US put missiles on the USSR’s borders in Turkey), but the USSR and its allies had no right to reciprocate by placing defensive missiles in Cuba.

As usual, the hypocrisy of US imperialism won out. The US has a right to target anyone on Earth with whatever weapons it has, and place those weapons anywhere, even right on country’s borders, but not one nation on Earth has the right to fight back against US imperialism by responding in kind.

US imperialism is one sick, depraved monster!

One thing that Kennedy was worried about was not that the Cuban missiles would attack the US (the lie that was portrayed to gullible American fools) but instead that the missiles would serve to deter the murderous meddlings of US imperialism elsewhere in the Hemisphere. Kennedy worried that the missiles might deter a US invasion of Venezuela that Kennedy was then planning.

We see the same thing with Iran. The US and Israel are presently targeting Iran with nukes. If Iran got a bomb, they might be able to even the score and defend themselves against US and Israeli hegemony. This cannot be tolerated.

Prior to that, Kennedy had run for President on a platform involving a “missile gap” with the US and the USSR. The Soviets supposedly had many more missiles than we did, and it was all Eisenhower’s fault. However, this was a complete lie, and Kennedy knew it at the time. It was disgusting of Kennedy to lie his way into office like that.

During the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the US threatened nuclear war again against the USSR while authorizing Israel to break a cease-fire that had been imposed on both sides.

Again in 1983, Reagan threatened the USSR again by placing Pershing missiles on 5 minute launch and instituting massive US air and naval probe attacks on the USSR. This led to a major war scare.

India and Pakistan have also had a few nuclear war near misses and scares.

Chomsky concludes the article by noting that nuclear war probably cannot be held off forever, and some day, someone won’t back down, or a scare will turn into a launch. He finishes by saying that nuclear missiles are incompatible with the survival of mankind.

How the U.S. Played Russian Roulette with Nuclear War

by Noam Chomsky

The American attacks are often dismissed in U.S. commentary as silly pranks, CIA shenanigans that got out of hand. That is far from the truth. The best and the brightest had reacted to the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion with near hysteria, including the president, who solemnly informed the country that:

“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.”

And they can only survive, he evidently believed, by massive terror though that addendum was kept secret, and is still not known to loyalists who perceive the ideological enemy as having “gone on the attack” the near-universal perception, as Kern observes.

After the Bay of Pigs defeat, historian Piero Gleijeses writes that JFK launched a crushing embargo to punish the Cubans for defeating a U.S.-run invasion, and “asked his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to lead the top-level interagency group that oversaw Operation Mongoose, a program of paramilitary operations, economic warfare and sabotage he launched in late 1961 to visit the ‘terrors of the earth’ on Fidel Castro and, more prosaically, to topple him.”

The phrase “terrors of the earth” is Arthur Schlesinger’ s, in his quasi-official biography of Robert Kennedy, who was assigned responsibility to conduct the terrorist war, and informed the CIA that the Cuban problem carries “the top priority in the United States Government all else is secondary no time, no effort, or manpower is to be spared” in the effort to overthrow the Castro regime.

The Mongoose operations were run by Edward Lansdale, who had ample experience in “counterinsurgency” a standard term for terrorism that we direct. He provided a timetable leading to “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime” in October 1962.

The “final definition” of the program recognized that “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention, ” after terrorism and subversion had laid the basis. The implication is that US military intervention would take place in October 1962 when the missile crisis erupted. The events just reviewed help explain why Cuba and Russia had good reason to take such threats seriously.

Years later, Robert McNamara recognized that Cuba was justified in fearing an attack. “If I were in Cuban or Soviet shoes, I would have thought so, too,” he observed at a major conference on the missile crisis on the 40th anniversary.

As for Russia’s “desperate effort to give the USSR the appearance of equality”, to which Stern refers, recall that Kennedy’s very narrow victory in the 1960 election relied heavily on a fabricated “missile gap” concocted to terrify the country and to condemn the Eisenhower administration as soft on national security. There was indeed a “missile gap”, but strongly in favor of the US.

The first “public, unequivocal administration statement” on the true facts, in his authoritative study of the Kennedy missile program, was in October 1961, when Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric informed the Business Council that “the U.S. would have a larger nuclear delivery system left after a surprise attack than the nuclear force which the Soviet Union could employ in its first strike.”

The Russians, of course, were well aware of their relative weakness and vulnerability. They were also aware of Kennedy’s reaction when Khrushchev offered to sharply reduce offensive military capacity and proceeded to do so unilaterally when Kennedy failed to respond: namely, Kennedy undertook a huge armaments program.

In Retrospect

The two most crucial questions about the missile crisis are how it began, and how it ended. It began with Kennedy’s terrorist attack against Cuba, with a threat of invasion in October 1962.

It ended with the president’s rejection of Russian offers that would seem fair to a rational person, but were unthinkable because they would undermine the fundamental principle that the US has the unilateral right to deploy nuclear missiles anywhere, aimed at China or Russia or anyone else, and right on their borders; and the accompanying principle that Cuba had no right to have missiles for defense against what appeared to be an imminent US invasion.

To establish these principles firmly, it was entirely proper to face a high risk of war of unimaginable destruction, and to reject simple, and admittedly fair, ways to end the threat.

Garthoff observes that “in the United States, there was almost universal approbation for President Kennedy’s handling of the crisis.” Dobbs writes that “the relentlessly upbeat tone was established by the court historian, Arthur M Schlesinger Jr, who wrote that Kennedy had ‘dazzled the world’ through a ‘combination of toughness and restraint, of will, nerve and wisdom, so brilliantly controlled, so matchlessly calibrated’.”

Rather more soberly, Stern partially agrees, noting that Kennedy repeatedly rejected the militant advice of his advisers and associates who called for military force and dismissal of peaceful options.

The events of October 1962 are widely hailed as Kennedy’s finest hour. Graham Allison joins many others in presenting them as “a guide for how to defuse conflicts, manage great-power relationships, and make sound decisions about foreign policy in general”. In a very narrow sense, that judgment seems reasonable. The ExComm tapes reveal that the president stood apart from others, sometimes almost all others, in rejecting premature violence.

There is, however, a further question: how should JFK’s relative moderation in management of the crisis be evaluated against the background of the broader considerations just reviewed?

But that question does not arise in a disciplined intellectual and moral culture, which accepts without question the basic principle that the U.S. effectively owns the world by right, and is, by definition, a force for good despite occasional errors and misunderstandings, so that it is plainly entirely proper for the U.S. to deploy massive offensive force all over the world, while it is an outrage for others (allies and clients apart) to make even the slightest gesture in that direction, or even to think of deterring the threatened use of violence by the benign global hegemon.

That doctrine is the primary official charge against Iran today: it might pose a deterrent to US and Israeli force. It was a consideration during the missile crisis as well. In internal discussion, the Kennedy brothers expressed their fears that Cuban missiles might deter a US invasion of Venezuela then under consideration. So “the Bay of Pigs was really right,” JFK concluded.

The principles still contribute to the constant risk of nuclear war. There has been no shortage of severe dangers since the missile crisis. Ten years later, during the 1973 Israel-Arab war, Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert (Defcon 3) to warn the Russians to keep hands off while he was secretly authorizing Israel to violate the ceasefire imposed by the US and Russia.

When Reagan came into office a few years later, the US launched operations probing Russian defenses and simulating air and naval attacks, while placing Pershing missiles in Germany with a five-minute flight time to Russian targets, providing what the CIA called a “super-sudden first strike” capability.

Naturally, this caused great alarm in Russia, which, unlike the U.S., has repeatedly been invaded and virtually destroyed. That led to a major war scare in 1983. There have been hundreds of cases when human intervention aborted a first strike minutes before launch, after automated systems gave false alarms. We don’t have Russian records, but there’s no doubt that their systems are far more accident-prone.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war several times, and the sources of the conflict remain.

Both have refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty, along with Israel, and have received U.S. support for development of their nuclear weapons programs until today, in the case of India, now a U.S. ally. War threats in the Middle East, which might become reality very soon, once again escalate the dangers.

In 1962, war was avoided by Khrushchev’s willingness to accept Kennedy’s hegemonic demands. But we can hardly count on such sanity forever. It’s a near miracle that nuclear war has so far been avoided. There is more reason than ever to attend to the warning of Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein , almost 60 years ago, that we must face a choice that is “stark and dreadful and inescapable”:

Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?


Filed under Americas, Asia, Caribbean, Cold War, Cuba, History, Imperialism, India, Iran, Israel, Israel-Palestine Conflict, Latin America, Middle East, Military Doctrine, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Political Science, Politics, Regional, South America, South Asia, US Politics, USSR, Venezuela, War

“Washington and the Cuban Revolution Today: Ballad of a Never-Ending Policy. Part III: The Legacy of the Missile Crisis, 50 Years After,” by Ike Nahem

In Part 3, Nahem deals with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Absolutely fascinating! The stuff you never heard before in the lying US media. 50 years on, and they still have not told us the truth. Amazing! Warning: Long, runs to 71 pages on the web.

Washington and the Cuban Revolution Today:
Ballad of a Never-Ending Policy

Part III: The Legacy of the Missile Crisis, 50 Years After

By Ike Nahem

October 1962 marks the 50th Anniversary of the so-called “Cuban Missile Crisis.” The last two weeks of that October was the closest the world has come so far to a widespread nuclear exchange.

In August 1945, the United States government, having a then-monopoly on the “atom bomb,” unilaterally dropped nuclear bombs, successively, on the civilian inhabitants of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At the time of this clear war crime, Japanese imperialism’s conquests and vast expansion that began in the 1930s had shrunk sharply. The Japanese rulers were retreating under intense attack from rival imperialists and indigenous independence forces in their remaining occupied lands, including parts of Manchuria in China, as well as Korea, Vietnam, and the “Dutch East Indies,” now Indonesia.

The Japanese navy was incapable of operations, and the Japanese merchant fleet was destroyed. The Japanese government had begun to send out “peace feelers,” fully aware of its hopeless situation. Washington’s utterly ruthless action finalized the defeat of the Japanese Empire in the Asian-Pacific “theater” of World War II…and sent an unmistakable shock and signal to the world.

The young leaders of the Cuban Revolution, now holding governmental power, were in the very eye of the storm during those two October weeks.

The diffusing and resolution of the Missile Crisis – in the sense of reversing and ending the momentum toward imminent nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union – came when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave way to US President John Kennedy demands and agreed to halt further naval shipments of nuclear missiles to Cuba and withdraw those already in Cuban territory.

Khrushchev further agreed to the removal of Soviet medium-range conventional bombers, very useful to the Cubans for defending their coastlines, and a near-complete withdrawal of Soviet combat brigades.

For his part, Kennedy made a semi-public conditional formulation that the US government would not invade Cuba (this was not legally binding or attached to any signed legal or written document) and also agreed, in a secret protocol to withdraw US nuclear missiles from Turkey that bordered the Soviet Union.

The Cuban government, which had, at great political risk, acceded to the Soviet proposal to deploy Soviet nuclear missiles on the island, was not consulted, or even informed, by the Soviet government, at any stage of the unfolding crisis, of the unfolding US-Soviet negotiations.

Furthermore, Cuban representatives were completely excluded, and the five points Cuba wanted to see addressed coming out of the crisis and included in any overall agreement, ignored altogether under US insistence and Soviet acquiescence. The entire experience was both politically shocking and eye opening for the Cuban revolutionaries.

They came out of it acutely conscious of their vulnerability and angered over their exclusion.

In a public statement on October 28, presenting the five points, Fidel Castro said:

With relation to the pronouncement made by the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, in a letter sent to the premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, to the effect that the United States would agree, after the establishment of adequate arrangements through the United Nations, to eliminate the measures of blockade in existence and give guarantees against any invasion of Cuba, and in relation to the decision announced by Premier Khrushchev of withdrawing the installation of arms of strategic defense from Cuba territory, the revolutionary government of Cuba declares that the guarantees of which President Kennedy speaks–that there will be no aggression against Cuba–will not exist unless, in addition to the elimination of the naval blockade he promises, the following measures among others are to be adopted:

1) Cessation of the economic blockade and all the measures of commercial and economic pressure which the United States exercises in all parts of the world against our country;

2) Cessation of all subversive activities, launching and landing of arms and explosives by air and sea, the organization of mercenary invasions, infiltration of spies and saboteurs, all of which actions are carried out from the territory of the United States and some other accomplice countries;

3) Cessation of the pirate attacks which are being carried out from bases existing in the United States and Puerto Rico;

4) Cessation of all the violations of our air and naval space by North American war planes and ships; and

5) Withdrawal of naval base of Guantanamo and the return of the Cuban territory by the United States.”

Washington Plans Direct Invasion

By April 20, 1961, the revolutionary Cuban armed forces, led by Fidel Castro, was victoriously mopping up, on the coastal battlefields and detaining survivors from the routed counterrevolutionary Cuban exile “army” organized by the US government and its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron to the Cubans).

The scheme to destroy the Cuban Revolution had been devised by the Dwight Eisenhower White House and carried out by the new Kennedy Administration in its third month after taking office.

Playa Giron was as humiliating and unacceptable for Washington as it had built confidence and was invigorating for the Cuban revolutionaries. It was certainly no secret to anyone paying the slightest attention that not even a nanosecond passed between Washington’s debacle at the Bay of Pigs and the planning for a new invasion, this time directly by US forces without the proxy agency of the mercenary “troops” of the former ruling classes of Cuba, who were by then ensconced in southern Florida.

Since October 1961 the Pentagon officers assigned to prepare for the US invasion of Cuba had been revising, updating, and “polishing” the concrete details. These “operational plans” were continually reviewed with President Kennedy.

Cuba faced an imminent, violent one-two punch: intensive aerial bombardment followed by large-scale invasion on multiple fronts.

It was less than ten years from the last major US war in Korea. The impact of US bombing on the northern Korean capital of Pyongyang in that country, artificially divided in the aftermath of World War II, could not have been encouraging to the Cuban leadership. Virtually the entire city was flattened by carpet bombings: 697 tons of bombs were dropped on Pyongyang along with nearly 3000 gallons of napalm; 62,000 rounds were used for “strafing at low level.”

According to Australian journalist and eyewitness to the carnage Wilfred Burchett, “There were only two buildings left standing in Pyongyang.” While the numbers of civilian deaths from the US assaults are inexact, well over 1 million Koreans in the north died, some 12-15% of the total population.

The “operational plans” for the US invasion of Cuba were to involve the initial dispatching of 90,000 troops and was projected to reach up to 250,000. This for a country of six million people.

For comparison, the population of Vietnam was around 40 million during the years of the US war in the 1960s and early 1970s. US troop levels reached 500,000. Massive US military operations, in the air and on the ground, killed millions of Vietnamese, perhaps 10% of the Vietnamese population.

There is no question that once “the dogs of war” were unleashed, with the accompanying propaganda onslaught, Washington would wage a war of annihilation under the rote cover of “democratic” and even “humanitarian” verbiage. Cuban resistance would be fierce. Mounting US casualties would, in the initial period, feed war fever and US aggression. In short: Cuba faced unheard of death and destruction. ..and the clock was ticking.

By this time President Kennedy’s “Operation Mongoose” was in effect. “Mongoose” was essentially a large-scale terrorist campaign employing sabotage, bombings, murder, and so-called “psychological warfare” inside Cuba.

Kennedy’s cynical purpose was to undertake any means deemed necessary to disrupt and demoralize Cuban society through constant, incessant violent attacks and economic sabotage to the point where the social and political conditions would be created for a full-scale US invasion.

But Kennedy and his civilian and military “advisers” continued to underestimate both the caliber of the revolutionary leadership and the capacities of the Cuban working people and youth they were terrorizing, as well as the Revolution’s determination and competence to organize their defenses.

Above all, the US rulers were not used to facing such a politically savvy enemy. The young Cuban revolutionary government, with the indefatigable Fidel Castro as its main spokesperson, was adept and quick on its feet in effectively exposing to world public opinion Washington’s anti-Cuba campaign through a vigorous, factually accurate and public counter-offensive based on what the Revolution was actually doing.

The logic behind “Operation Mongoose” was bluntly laid out in an internal memorandum of April 6, 1960 by L.D. Mallory, a US State Department senior official:

The majority of Cubans support Castro … the only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. … every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba.

Mallory proposed “a line of action that makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government.”

On July 26, 1961 – the national holiday declared by the revolutionary government commemorating the July 26, 1953 attack led by Fidel Castro and Abel Santamaria on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba – the CIA attempted to assassinate Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, and Che Guevara during the celebrations.

The CIA plan was, if the murders were “successful, ” to stage a provocation against the US base at Guantanamo and make it appear to be Cuban revenge for the murder of their top leaders. This would then be the pretext for a full-scale US invasion.

Here on full display is the cynical mendacity operating at the top of the US government in the drive to bring back the power of the landowners, rich playboys, segregationists, gangsters, and pimps – the full flower of “democracy” to the benighted Cuban masses suffering under literacy drives, free medical care, desegregated public facilities, and the crushing of the US Mafia.

During the next month of August 1961, the CIA organized one of its most pernicious campaigns against the revolutionary government. Its agents spread lies through a built-up rumor bill that there was a Cuban government policy to take all children away from their parents by force and raise them in “state institutions.”

Some 15,000 Cuban families, overwhelmingly from middle- and upper classes full of prejudice and hostility to the Revolution, panicked and sent their children mostly to the US in response to a Big Lie, under the CIA’s infamous “Operation Peter Pan.”

So, while all this criminal activity is going on, the Cuban Revolution advanced its program of social justice and human liberation for the oppressed and exploited majority as the most effective counterforce to the Yanqui aggression. On February 26, 1962 Cuba’s rejuvenated labor unions provided the people power for the campaign of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Health to carry out a nationwide campaign of vaccination against polio.

By the end of the year the disease is completely wiped out on the island. It took the United Nation’s World Health Organization, then far more subject to pressure from Washington than now, 43 years to finally recognize that Cuba was the first nation in the Americas to accomplish this.

Things like this, and the full array of revolutionary advances taking place in the face of Washington’s mounting terrorist campaign, convinced General Maxwell Taylor, who oversaw Operation Mongoose with Attorney General Robert Kennedy at the White House, that the terrorist operation “mak[ing] maximum use of indigenous resources,” could not and would not do the job of overthrowing the revolutionary government.

“Final success,” Taylor explained in a March 1962 report to President Kennedy, “will require decisive US military intervention. ” US spies inside Cuba, at most, could help “prepare and justify this intervention and thereafter facilitate and support it.”

With the Bay of Pigs debacle still fresh in his mind, and without some of the blinkers of more gung-ho invasion advocates, Kennedy hesitated to give a green light to the invasion plans he has ordered up. It remained yellow-lighted however, and Kennedy directed that Mongoose terrorism continue and step up.

The terrorist anti-Cuba campaign was not limited to Cuban territory. On April 28, 1962 the New York offices of the Cuban Press Agency Prensa Latina was attacked in New York, injuring three staff members. More seriously, from May 8-18, a “practice run” for the US invasion of Cuba takes place. The full-scale “military exercise” is code named “Operation Whip Lash and sent an unmistakable signal of intimidation from the US military colossus to the six million people of Cuba.

All this mounting imperialist intervention had only one possible ending point – short of a Cuban surrender, which would never come. Events were coming to a head in Washington, Moscow, and Havana, events that ineluctably posed and placed the nuclear question in the equation.

In a major speech to a closed meeting of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) on January 25-26, 1968 reviewing the entire Missile Crisis, Fidel Castro’s stated that Cuba’s revolutionary leadership looked to the Soviet Union for, “…measures that would guarantee the country’s safety. In that period we had tremendous faith in the Soviet Union. I think perhaps too much.”

While the Cuban government and overwhelming popular majority were mobilized, armed to the teeth, and prepared to fight to the death, they wanted to live in peace and to enjoy the fruits of building a new society after a hard-fought revolutionary triumph. The Cuban leadership fully understood that a US invasion would kill many hundreds of thousands and destroy the Cuban infrastructure and economy. How to stop the coming US invasion was the burning question.

Khrushchev Rolls the Dice

Meanwhile in the Soviet Union, the Soviet leadership was facing a decidedly negative nuclear relationship of forces vis-à-vis Washington. This position of inequality (in the framework of the aptly acronymed Mutually Assured Destruction – aka MAD – nuclear doctrine) was perceived in Moscow as an impediment to carrying out political negotiations and maneuvering with Washington and the NATO powers, and defending Soviet interests in the “geopolitical” Cold War arena.

By April 1962 fifteen US Jupiter nuclear missiles had been installed and were “operational” in Turkey on the border of the Soviet Union. “Operational” meant ready to launch at any moment. Each missile was armed with a 1.45 megaton warhead, with ninety-seven times the firepower of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The official estimate of the “fatality projection” for each missile was one million Soviet civilians.

The Jupiter deployment in Turkey added to the overwhelming US superiority in quantity and quality in the “nuclear arms race” between Washington and Moscow.

According to Anatoly Gribkov of the Red Army General Staff (cited in the television program DEFCON-2 shown on the US Military Channel), “The United States had about 5000 [nuclear] warheads, the Soviet Union 300. And of those [300] only two or three dozen that could hit the United States.”

Khrushchev decided to alleviate this “imbalance” by placing missiles on the Cuban island if he succeeded in selling the idea to the Cuban leadership.

In the 1960 Presidential election, the liberal Democrat Kennedy shamelessly promoted as an important campaign issue a supposed “missile gap” – in the Soviet Union’s favor – between Washington and Moscow, a conscious fabrication. Kennedy also postured to the right of his Republican opponent, Eisenhower’s Vice-President Richard Nixon, on “getting tough with Castro.”

On this, Nixon had the disadvantage, as Kennedy was no doubt aware, of being unable to publicly tout the Eisenhower White House’s already advanced plans for the mercenary invasion at the Bay of Pigs, which Kennedy carried out three months after his Inauguration. )

Sometime in the spring (April-May) of 1962 the Khrushchev government of the Soviet Union proposed to the Cuban government that Cuba receive nuclear-tipped missiles on Cuban territory. In no other country (including none of its “Warsaw Pact” allies, who were all politically subordinate to the Soviet government) had the Soviet government located nuclear missiles outside of Soviet territory.

Washington, by contrast, had openly placed nuclear missiles in numerous western European countries as well as Turkey and secretly in Okinawa, Japan, aimed at China. (Both the United Kingdom and France, both US allies, also had nuclear arsenals by that time. China detonated its first nuclear bomb in an October 1964 “test.”)

Additionally US “strategic” nuclear armed aircraft were in the air ready for attack orders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. US nuclear submarines were in similar mode, and even more difficult to detect. While Soviet capabilities undoubtedly lagged behind the US, it was not so much as to preclude inevitable reciprocal attack in response to any US “first strike.”

Soviet missiles in Cuba would theoretically be a further deterrent to any US “first strike” threat. Placing the missiles in Cuba was clearly seen by the Soviet government as a bargaining piece to advance Soviet strategic interests in the nuclear chessboard that animated US-Soviet “diplomatic” maneuvers and intrigue.

Khrushchev evidently presumed that, faced with a fait accompli, Washington would redress the imbalance to the benefit of the Soviet Union. The Soviet missiles, upon being fully operational, would be able to strike major population centers and whole geographic regions of the US, roughly equivalent to the potential death-dealing capacity Washington had through its missiles in Europe surrounding and targeted on the Soviet Union.

Of course, the big “if” in all of this reasoning was getting to the accompli. Given US technical proficiency this was a fantasy.

At the end of May 1962 the first direct presentation of the Soviet proposal was delivered to Fidel Castro and Raul Castro in Cuba by a Soviet delegation led by an alternate member of the Soviet Presidium (an executive decision-making body). The Soviet officials revealed to the Cuban leaders that their “intelligence” told them conclusively that a US invasion was being seriously prepared, to be implemented at any time over the next months.

Of course the Soviets were not telling the Cubans anything they did not already know in general, but there were new specific facts and details. But the proposal that measures to fortify Cuban defenses could include the deployment of Soviet nuclear missiles on the island leads to intense consultations within the top Cuban leadership (the chief ministers involved are Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, Che Guevara, Osvaldo Dorticos, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, and Blas Roca).

The day after the proposal is received the Cuban leadership tells the Soviet delegation that the nuclear deployment is acceptable in principle.

In an interview with European journalist Ignacio Ramonet (from the book Fidel Castro My Life: A Spoken Autobiography, published in 2006 by Scribner and based on extensive interviews with Castro by Ramonet) Castro referred to the discussions within the Cuban central leadership saying that besides Khrushchev and the Soviet leadership’s

sincere desire to prevent an attack against Cuba…they were hoping to improve the balance of strategic forces…I added that it would be inconsistent of us to expect the maximum support from the USSR and the rest of the Socialist camp should we be attacked by the United States and yet refuse to face the political risks and the possible damage to our reputation when they needed us. That ethical and revolutionary point of view was accepted unanimously.

In a speech many years later in 1992 Fidel Castro said,

We really didn’t like the missiles. If it had been a matter only of our own defense , we would not have accepted the deployment of the missiles. But not because we were afraid of the dangers that might follow the deployment of the missiles here; rather, it was because this would damage the image of the revolution, and we were very zealous in protecting the image of the revolution in the rest of Latin America.

The presence of the missiles would in fact turn us into a Soviet military base, and that entailed a high political cost for the image of our country, an image we so highly valued.” (cited in October 1962 The ‘Missile’ Crisis As Seen From Cuba by Tomas Diez Acosta, Pathfinder Press)

Legality, Secrecy, and Lies: Losing the High Moral Ground

Having agreed in principle, Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, and Che Guevara, repeatedly argued with the Soviet leadership that the deployment should be open and public. The fact was that there was nothing in the Soviet-Cuban agreement to deploy the missiles that contravened any existing international law.

In any case, the Cuban leaders were certain that it would be virtually impossible for the shipment, site construction, and land deployment to remain concealed from the highly sophisticated US surveillance technology. Furthermore, that, on the face of it, given the US missiles in Turkey and Italy surrounding the Soviet Union, and with practically open US plans to invade Cuba, open and transparent was the way to go politically and morally.

All of this was rejected out of hand by the Khrushchev leadership, and the Cuban leaders chose not to push the point and deferred. In his January 25-26 speech, Castro goes into scathing detail on how shocking, given the Soviet insistence on secrecy, the lack of discretion on the Soviet side was, crossing into outright recklessness, in the actual deployment of the missiles.

The Soviet operation was the largest sea-borne operation in Soviet history. By the time of the missile detection and Khrushchev’s decision to remove them under US pressure, there were already 134 nuclear warheads in place and on the ground in Cuba. All three of the SS-4missile regiments were operational even as Soviet ships stopped moving towards Cuba.

In the book with Ramonet, Castro speaks of the” strange, Byzantine discussion” over the whether Soviet arms shipments to Cuba were offensive or defensive.

Khrushchev, in fact, insisted they were defensive, not on any technical grounds, but rather because of the defensive purposes for which they’d been installed in Cuba…[We felt there was] no need to go into those explanations. What Cuba and the USSR were doing was perfectly legal and in strict conformity with international law. From the first moment, Cuba’s possession of armaments required for its defense should have been declared.

We didn’t like the course the public debate was taking. I sent Che…to explain my view of the situation to Khrushchev, including the need to immediately publish the military agreement [on deploying the nuclear missiles in Cuba] the USSR and Cuba had signed. But I couldn’t manage to persuade him…

For us, for the Cuban leaders, the USSR was a powerful, experienced government. We had no other arguments to use to persuade them that their strategy for managing the situation should be changed, so we had no alternative but to trust them.

In the January 25-26, 1968 speech Castro bluntly expressed his viewpoint:

[Around July] we saw that the United States was creating an atmosphere of hysteria and aggression, and it was a campaign that was being carried out with all impunity. In the light of this we thought the correct thing to do was to adopt a different position, not to get into that policy of lies: ‘we are sending Cuba defensive weapons.’

And in response to the imperialist’ s position, the second weakness (or the first weakness) was not to stand up and respond that Cuba had every right to own whatever weapons it saw fit…but rather to adopt a policy of concessions, claiming that the weapons were defensive. In other words, to lie, to resort to lies which in effect meant to wave a basic right and principle.

Some 35 years later, in the Ramonet book, Castro returned to this crucial political approach, which is much more powerful than the usual technical cast of events when things had reached the stage of an actual nuclear standoff:

There was nothing illegal about our agreement with the Soviets, given that the Americans had missiles in Turkey and in Italy, too, and no one ever threatened to bomb or invade those countries.

The problem wasn’t the legality of the agreement – everything was absolutely legal – but rather Khrushchev’s mistaken political handling of the situation, when even though both Cuba and the USSR had the legitimate right, he started spinning theories about offensive and non-offensive weapons. In a political battle, you can’t afford to lose the high moral ground by employing ruses and lies and half-truths.

The revolutionary consciousness and organization of the popular masses, and their will and determination to resist aggression, was, and continues to be, the decisive factor in the defense of the Cuban Revolution. This objective political fact kept intruding into the subjective actions of both the US and Soviet governments during the October Crisis.

For the Cuban revolutionaries, the economic, military, and political ties forged with the Soviet Union had been an irreplaceable factor in their survival from the period after the January 1959 triumph of the Revolution through the Playa Giron defeat of the US-organized mercenary invasion.

Nevertheless, the unfolding of the Missile Crisis, and its ultimate resolution, left the Cuban leadership feeling vulnerable, insulted, and bypassed by the perceived highhanded behavior of the Soviet government led by Nikita Khrushchev.

In his January 25-26, 1968 speech, focused almost exclusively on the Missile Crisis and its lessons, Fidel Castro said, “I am sincerely convinced that the Soviet Party bears great responsibility in what happened and acted in a totally disloyal manner in its relations with us.”

Referring to the continuing terrorist attacks against Cuba that never stopped after Soviet missiles, planes, and combat troops were removed from Cuba at the “end” of the October Crisis, Castro stated,

Together with the pirate attacks and the U-2 flights, incidents began to flare up at the Guantanamo base [The military base on Guantanamo was ceded to the US government in the notorious neocolonial Platt Amendment of 1901 passed by the US Congress and has been maintained to this day against the demands for its return to Cuban sovereignty.]

The same Guantanamo base which, we are certain, would have been dismantled had there been a modicum of serenity and firmness during the October crisis. Had they had the presence of mind to have posed and demand correctly from a principled standpoint, had they said that they would withdraw the missiles if satisfactory guarantees were given to Cuba, had they let Cuba negotiate, the crisis might even have turned into a political victory…

All the rest are euphemisms of different kinds: Cuba was saved, Cuba lives. But Cuba had been alive and Cuba had been living, and Cuba did not want to live at the expense of humiliation or surrender; for that you do not have to be a revolutionary. Revolutionaries are not just concerned with living, but how one lives, living most of all with dignity, living with a cause, living for a cause…

Cuba did not agree with the way the issue was handled; it stated the need to approach the problem from different, more drastic, more revolutionary and even more legal positions; and it totally disagreed with the way in which the situation was terminated.”

“Uncontrolled Forces”

At the height of the crisis, the central Cuban leadership was certain that a full-scale invasion of the island was imminent. As shown above, preparations – “contingency plans” – for such an invasion had, for many months prior to the secret installation of the Soviet missiles, been in place.

This was the only conceivable basis for Khrushchev to make the missile proposal to the Cuban leaders. In fact, a US invasion of Cuba was on the hair-trigger of being ordered on several concrete conjunctures in the course of the Crisis.

The issue of carrying out a direct US assault was being furiously debated within the Kennedy Administration and the narrow circle of bipartisan Congressional leadership that was privy to the deliberations at the top.

As President and Commander-in- Chief, Kennedy had to choose whether to give the order to invade – again, everything was already in place for the execution of an invasion – the island where many nuclear warheads were already in place, targeting US territory and where Cuban armed resistance was certain to be massive, highly motivated, well-led, and creative.

The Cuban masses, having just experienced a profound social revolution, drawing millions into revolutionary struggle and consciousness, the immense majority of the Cuban population, would be fighting from their own territory against a foreign invasion force and massive bombing assaults. Thousands of Cuban civilians would have been instantly killed in these air strikes.

The political consequences of this carnage – against a sovereign people with the gall to make a Revolution, throw out a venal dictator, institute land reform, literacy campaigns, rent reduction, abolishing Jim Crow-segregation, etc. etc. – would certainly have been devastating for Washington even if nuclear warheads were never launched on either side, a dubious prospect at best.

Washington would lose the “moral high ground,” so crucial to concrete questions of world politics. Cuba would regain what had been eroded by the secretive, clumsy adventurism of Khrushchev’s “initiative” and its incompetent implementation.

The question of the nuclear weapons that were already on the island and the more that were en route would likely have been rendered secondary and the question of Cuba’s right to self-determination would have again risen to the fore. Kennedy was politically savvy enough to realize all of this and finally rebuffed the advocates of launching an invasion.

Uppermost in Kennedy’s considerations were the physical presence of thousands of Soviet combat troops and military personnel (there were some 40,000 Soviet mechanized combat divisions in Cuba, although the Kennedy Administration seems to have counted less than half the actual number).

This fact posed the question that Soviet casualties would be inevitable, further sharply posing the question of questions… would the US invasion inexorably lead to nuclear exchanges? Who would fire first becomes almost a moot, secondary question in the framework of such a political confrontation.

US “intelligence” estimates were that 18,500 US casualties would take place in the first period after a US invasion, according to declassified material obtained by the National Security Archive.

The presence of Soviet nuclear warheads and large numbers of Soviet military personnel, fighter jets, anti-aircraft gun emplacements, and so on, was another major factor leading Kennedy to repeatedly postpone the invasion plans and opt for a naval blockade (labeled a “quarantine” for legalistic purposes) surrounding Cuba, and the drama of a relatively slow showdown unfolding over days in the Atlantic while negotiations between Washington and Moscow intensified, negotiations that excluded the Cuban government.. .as if Cuba had nothing to do with what was happening.

It is always the case when war and combat is actually joined, that the “law of unintended consequences” would come into dynamic play. Or, as the historic revolutionary leader of the working-class movement, Frederick Engels, put it, “Those who unleash controlled forces, also unleash uncontrolled forces.”

The Letters

On October 26, 1962 Fidel Castro – at the most intense, dangerous point of the entire crisis – wrote a letter to Nikita Khrushchev, which stated:

Given the analysis of the situation and the reports which have reached us, [I] consider an attack to be almost imminent–within the next 24 to 72 hours.

There are two possible variants: the first and most probable one is an air attack against certain objectives with the limited aim of destroying them; the second, and though less probable, still possible, is a full invasion. This would require a large force and is the most repugnant form of aggression, which might restrain them.

You can be sure that we will resist with determination, whatever the case. The Cuban people’s morale is extremely high and the people will confront aggression heroically.

I would like to briefly express my own personal opinion.

If the second variant takes place and the imperialists invade Cuba with the aim of occupying it, the dangers of their aggressive policy are so great that after such an invasion the Soviet Union must never allow circumstances in which the imperialists could carry out a nuclear first strike against it.

I tell you this because I believe that the imperialists’ aggressiveness makes them extremely dangerous, and that if they manage to carry out an invasion of Cuba–a brutal act in violation of universal and moral law–then that would be the moment to eliminate this danger forever, in an act of the most legitimate self-defense. However harsh and terrible the solution, there would be no other.

Khrushchev responded, in a second round of letters with Castro that:

In your cable of October 27 you proposed that we be the first to carry out a nuclear strike against the enemy’s territory. Naturally you understand where that would lead us. It would not be a simple strike, but the start of a thermonuclear world war.

Dear Comrade Fidel Castro, I find your proposal to be wrong, even though I understand your reasons.

… As far as Cuba is concerned, it would be difficult to say even in general terms what this would have meant for them. In the first place, Cuba would have been burned in the fire of war….

Now, as a result of the measures taken, we reached the goal sought when we agreed with you to send the missiles to Cuba. We have wrested from the United States the commitment not to invade Cuba and not to permit their Latin American allies to do so. We have we wrested all this from them without a nuclear strike.

We consider that we must take advantage of all the possibilities to defend Cuba, strengthen its independence and sovereignty, defeat military aggression and prevent a nuclear world war in our time.

And we have accomplished that.

Of course, we made concessions, accepted a commitment, action according to the principle that a concession on one side is answered by a concession on the other side. The United States also made a concession. It made the commitment before all the world not to attack Cuba.

That’s why when we compare aggression on the part of the United States and thermonuclear war with the commitment of a concession in exchange for concession, the upholding of the inviolability of the Republic of Cuba and the prevention of a world war, I think that the total outcome of this reckoning, of this comparison, is perfectly clear.

Castro then responded:

I realized when I wrote them that the words contained in my letter could be misinterpreted by you and that was what happened, perhaps because you didn’t read them carefully, perhaps because of the translation, perhaps because I meant to say so much in too few lines. However, I didn’t hesitate to do it…

We knew, and do not presume that we ignored it, that we would have been annihilated, as you insinuate in your letter, in the event of nuclear war. However, that didn’t prompt us to ask you to withdraw the missiles, that didn’t prompt us to ask you to yield.

Do you believe that we wanted that war? But how could we prevent it if the invasion finally took place? The fact is that this event was possible, that imperialism was obstructing every solution and that its demands were, from our point of view, impossible for the USSR and Cuba to accept.

And if war had broken out, what could we do with the insane people who unleashed the war? You yourself have said that under current conditions such a war would inevitably have escalated quickly into a nuclear war.

I understand that once aggression is unleashed, one shouldn’t concede to the aggressor the privilege of deciding, moreover, when to use nuclear weapons.

The destructive power of this weaponry is so great and the speed of its delivery so great that the aggressor would have a considerable initial advantage.

And I did not suggest to you, Comrade Khrushchev, that the USSR should be the aggressor, because that would be more than incorrect, it would be immoral and contemptible on my part.

But from the instant the imperialists attack Cuba and while there are Soviet armed forces stationed in Cuba to help in our defense in case of an attack from abroad, the imperialists would by this act become aggressors against Cuba and against the USSR, and we would respond with a strike that would annihilate them.

Everyone has his own opinions and I maintain mine about the dangerousness of the aggressive circles in the Pentagon and their preference for a preventive strike.

I did not suggest, Comrade Khrushchev, that in the midst of this crisis the Soviet Union should attack, which is what your letter seems to say; rather, that following an imperialist attack, the USSR should act without vacillation and should never make the mistake of allowing circumstances to develop in which the enemy makes the first nuclear strike against the USSR.

And in this sense, Comrade Khrushchev, I maintain my point of view, because I understand it to be a true and just evaluation of a specific situation. You may be able to convince me that I am wrong, but you can’t tell me that I am wrong without convincing me.”

In the January 25-26 speech Castro explains his thinking as he drafted his first letter to Khrushchev “with the utmost care and scruples because what I was about to say was so audacious and daring that I had to present it well.”

He continues:

And there I was thinking, well, what could be done? …Of course we could never present our country as the aggressor or anything like that, but my opinion was that if they invaded we would have to open fire on them with a complete and total round of nuclear rockets. With the total conviction that in a situation such as that, whoever struck first would have a 99 percent advantage.

It would not have been a surprise attack, but only in the case of a concrete invasion, which would have involved the Soviet troops stationed here, and, since they would not have just stood by and watched them die here, what would they have waited for to settle the problem.

In fact, any advantage from such a strike would be quickly overwhelmed by the devastation from the inexorable waves of second, third, many strikes that would be unleashed. Would Kennedy, unable to resist launching the invasion, have resisted a massive and devastating retaliation on Soviet targets, after nuclear weapons had been dropped on invading US troops? By then all Hell, literally, would have broken loose.

Castro’s exchange of letters with Khrushchev assumes that given the forces in play and in motion – 300,000 Cuban combatants, 40,000 Soviet military personnel, the bulk in mechanized combat brigades, on the ground, confronting a US invasion force projected to quickly reach hundreds of thousands, all coming head-to-head while massive US air strikes and countering Cuban-Soviet anti-aircraft fire unleashed, and with the enormous naval forces, many armed with nuclear weapons, including torpedoes – that the US invasion, which he considered inevitable and imminent, would inexorably go nuclear.

Following this undoubtedly correct assumption, Castro’s logic and formulations in his initial letters becomes necessarily more abstract and algebraic. He presents, in the rush and incredible heat and speed of events, a post-invasion scenario where Soviet forces could strike, in a limited “tactical” use (although those terms are not specifically used), the US forces before the US could strike the Soviet forces.

The same technical, military logic of “pre-emption” would, of course, dominate the US side which had a clear superiority in both quantity and quality of nuclear weapons deliverance at that point, the full extent of which the Cuban leadership was not likely aware of the extent of.

Castro continued, “Keep in mind that back then there was not the unlimited supply of rockets that there is today. The Americans did not have too many rockets then, and we knew the speed of their planes and those things.” (In reality, the US supply of rockets was quite sufficient to destroy not only Cuba, but virtually all human life on the earth.)

The MAD doctrine was based on each side’s nuclear arsenal countermanding the others.

The seemingly absurd stockpiling of nuclear warheads and delivery system locations had the “rational” kernel of logic that after a “first strike” or pre-emptive launch of warheads the “other side” would still have enough of an atomic arsenal left to deliver a crushing response.

The idea, developed by “Dr. Strangelove” US theorists like Herman Kahn, and accepted by their Soviet equivalents, was to build up and protect a “second strike” capacity in order to obviate a “first strike.” Of course, Washington continued – and continues to this day – to develop a “decisive” first-strike capability, largely through anti-ballistic and “Star Wars” systems to intercept and eliminate the other sides “second strike” (or first, or any strike) giving the US a credible “first strike.”

The fact of a US invasion – that is, its actual occurrence – of Cuba would have set in motion a dynamic that would have rendered moot, useless, and ridiculous the question of who would “fire” the “first” nuclear weapon, if that could even be determined after the event (if indeed the word after would have any content).

Dozens and dozens of ships, planes, and launch sites on the ground, under the control of dozens and dozens of military officers subject to “orders” in what would have been an unimaginable chaos and breakdown inevitable in what would have been the first nuclear exchange in world history. Would anyone have even known who struck first? The key point – the only determinant fact – in whether nuclear holocaust would be unleashed was whether the US would invade Cuba.

New Facts

What is now known about the Missile Crisis is that a situation existed where, at the height of the confrontation, from October 25-28, literally dozens and dozens of military officers well below the executive political “decision makers” in a theoretical chain of command, on both the Soviet and US side, had the capacity and even the authority to push the nuclear button and pull the nuclear trigger.

We certainly know this to be true in the first-hand accounts by Soviet and US military officers and personnel on the ground, on the oceans, and in the air that have become public and from “classified” government documents on both sides. (see (Noam Chomsky’s Cuban Missile Crisis: How the US Played Russian Roulette with Nuclear War in the October 15 Guardian newspaper, which cites several harrowing moments of near disaster.)

The author Michael Dobbs in an October 18, 2012 New York Times op-ed piece (The Price of a 50-Year Old Myth) wrote,

While the risk of war in October 1962 was very high (Kennedy estimated it variously at between 1 in 5 and 1 in 2), it was not caused by a clash of wills. The real dangers arose from “the fog of war.” As the two superpowers geared up for a nuclear war, the chances of something going terribly wrong increased exponentially…

By Saturday, Oct. 27, the two leaders were no longer in full control of their gigantic military machines, which were moving forward under their own momentum. Soviet troops on Cuba targeted Guantánamo with tactical nuclear weapons and shot down an American U-2 spy plane.

Another U-2, on a “routine” air sampling mission to the North Pole, got lost over the Soviet Union. The Soviets sent MiG fighters into the air to try to shoot down the American intruder, and in response, Alaska Air Defense Command scrambled F-102 interceptors armed with tactical nuclear missiles.

In the Caribbean, a frazzled Soviet submarine commander was dissuaded by his subordinates from using his nuclear torpedo against American destroyers that were trying to force him to the surface.”

In his Guardian piece cited above Chomsky, referring to the famous (to some detractors, infamous) October 26 letter of Fidel Castro, states:

As this was happening and Washington was debating and Kennedy poised to decide on a US invasion, Fidel Castro wrote a letter to Nikita Khrushchev which has been interpreted, over Castro’s sharp objection, as advocating a Soviet nuclear attack – a so-called “first strike” against US territory if the US invasion were to actually occur.

Khrushchev himself took the necessarily and purposely algebraic and highly cautious words of Castro as such a call, and used Castro’s wording as practically a cover to carry out the retreat and concessions to Kennedy that diffused the crisis and reverse the momentum towards purposeful or accidental nuclear exchanges.

Extraordinary Gathering

Details on the Cuban leadership’s viewpoint on the origins, development, and “end-game” of the October Crisis, and their attitude to the actions and behavior of the Soviet leadership, were presented on January 25-26, 1968 cited above, when Fidel Castro gave an exhaustive 12-hour speech to the gathered Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).

In a remarkable oration spread over two days, Castro painstakingly – combining great emotion with razor-sharp, cool logic – detailed how the “Missile Crisis” unfolded and how Cuba’s relations with the Soviet Union emerged out of the crisis different from what they had been before. The January 24-26, 1968 Central Committee meeting was perhaps the nadir of the downward spiral of Cuban-Soviet relations set in motion by the October Crisis of 1962.

The entire speech, previously unpublished in any public medium, was printed in 2002, for the first time, in the official Cuban Council of State English translation, in the book Sad and Luminous Days: Cuba’s Struggle with the Superpowers after the Missile Crisis by James Blight and Philip Brenner published by Bowman and Littlefield Publishers.

The timing of the special, extraordinary meeting of the PCC Central Committee was not fortuitous. It was held just 107 days after the death of Che Guevara and the defeat of his guerrilla forces based in Bolivia, which was a real blow to the Cuban revolutionaries and would raise many challenges in the development of Cuba’s revolutionary foreign policy in a new objective reality. (This question will be returned to in detail in Part IV of this series.)

Fidel Castro and the Cuban leadership placed an important part of the responsibility for the defeat of Che’s guerrilla on the top leadership of the Bolivian Communist Party which supported the program and perspective of the Soviet Union in Latin America and opposed Che Guevara’s armed struggle and leadership in Bolivia (which was seen as the initial base for a continental revolutionary movement) reneging on previously given commitments.

Opposition to the Cuban revolutionary line in Latin America was opposed – with varying degrees of vehemence – by virtually all of the Latin American Communist Parties. This betrayal disrupted and undermined the formation and development of urban resistance forces crucial to supplement Che’s struggle, leaving the guerrillas exposed and vulnerable.

At the time of their April 1961 victory at the Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron to the Cubans) over US-organized Cuban counterrevolutionaries, Fidel Castro declared that the Cuban Revolution was a socialist revolution and that he was a “Marxist-Leninist.” Castro’s words wholly corresponded to the social and economic deeds of his revolutionary government and to the profound internationalism of the Cuban leadership team. (see Part II of this series)

The Cuban revolutionaries shared this terminology with the government of the Soviet Union (and the Chinese government as well, which was then engaged in a war of words with the Soviet leadership), but the Castro leadership team’s domestic policies and revolutionary internationalist foreign policy perspective stood in unspoken contrast to the outlook and program of the Soviet government and Communist Party, particularly in regard to the “road to socialism” in Latin America and other semi-colonial countries and the promotion of “détente” and “peaceful coexistence” with the advanced capitalist-imperialist powers.

Prior to the October Crisis these differences were subsumed in the alliance that was forged between the revolutionary government of Cuba and the Soviet Union and its allied Eastern European governments.

Prior to Fidel Castro’s speech, the Central Committee gathering had heard an extensive report by Raul Castro, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (Cuba’s President today in 2012). The report was a damning indictment of a secret faction of the PCC led by Anibal Escalante. Escalante’s faction, which was composed of former leaders, like himself, and cadres of the Popular Socialist Party (PSP).

Before the Revolution the PSP, which had a base in the industrial working class and trade unions, was connected to the dominant currents in the “world Communist movement” and Latin American Communist Parties that looked to the Soviet Union for political direction and program. The PSP initially opposed the July 26 Movement led by Fidel Castro, coming out in support and joint activity in the last period before the revolutionary triumph.

Over the next few years the majority of PSP cadres were successfully integrated into what became the PCC. In 1962 Escalante, who had been the top functionary of the Integrated Revolutionary Organization, an initial formation bringing together the currents supporting the Revolution, had come under fierce public criticism by Fidel Castro for “sectarianism” and “bureaucratism” in March 1962. See here.

Some thirty-five members of the so-called “microfaction” were expelled from the PCC and received prison sentences from two to fifteen years.

The most serious of the charges involved secret activity aimed at forging ties between the “microfaction” and officials and Communist Party leaders in the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), and Czechoslovakia in their common opposition to the revolutionary line of the PCC in Latin America and the position of the large majority of the PCC in domestic and foreign policies in general, going so far as to urge Soviet economic pressure on Cuba, for which they were charged with treason.

Escalante’s grouping never argued for their political positions openly within the structures and procedures of the PCC, which was their right.

In their secret functioning inside Cuba and intrigues with Soviet and Eastern European officials and diplomats, they portrayed Che Guevara as “Trotskyite adventurer” and the Castro leadership as “petty bourgeois” elements that seized control of the Revolution, holding the working class in contempt. Moreover, the Cuban revolutionary leadership was “anti-Soviet” and did not support Soviet “hegemony.”

The political lessons drawn by the revolutionary leadership in Cuba from the perceived Soviet “capitulation” to Washington were sharp and clear: they felt they were now and always would be in the final analysis “on their own.”

Or, more precisely, that the survival and security of the Cuban Revolution would ultimately be dependent not on powerful benefactors – who would no longer be prettied up in their minds to be more revolutionary than they actually were – but, rather, through the extension of the Revolution, especially across the Americas.

In fact, following the resolution of the Missile Crisis – which was hugely traumatic in world public opinion – led to increased propaganda for “peace” and “reconciliation” in both Moscow and Washington, with accompanying diplomatic maneuvering.

This culminated in the actual signing by the governments of the United States, United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (formally the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water, which was strongly welcomed in world public opinion when it went into effect in October 1963, one year to the month from the political drama and trauma of the Missile Crisis.

The treaty did not ban “underground” nuclear tests which could also lead to radioactive releases into the atmosphere as well ground water. The treaty put no limits on the production of nuclear warheads and their fitting onto missiles.

The aftermath of the Missile Crisis was that Soviet-Cuban relations over the next six years, politically deteriorated to nearly a bitter, breaking point. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963 and Khrushchev’s leadership in the Soviet Communist Party and Soviet state came to an ignominious end as he was pensioned off and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev and Alexi Kosygin In October 1964.

The new Lyndon Johnson White House abided by Kennedy’s verbal “pledge” and invasion plans were put in mothballs, although covert action, terrorism, and containment continued. Primary focus and attention shifted to Indochina where Johnson maintained continuity with Kennedy’s intervention and deepened it.

The immediate threat of US-Soviet nuclear exchange and war receded on October 28 with the announcement that Soviet ships had stopped advancing and that Soviet missiles would be withdrawn. But for Cuba the crisis and the pressure intensified.

Not even two weeks after the supposed resolution of the crisis the world’s “sigh of relief, 400 Cuban workers were killed when a Cuban counterrevolutionary sabotage team dispatched from the US blew up a Cuban industrial facility.

Right up until his assassination Kennedy was approving terrorist attacks against Cuba. US intervention by proxy never stopped and became systematic. US-backed counterrevolutionaries were defeated in the Escambray mountains in central Cuba in a campaign from 1963-65.

The six years that followed the end of the Missile Crisis saw Cuban-Soviet relations decline – in public as well as “private” state-to-state and party-to-party behind-the-scenes relations – almost to a breaking point, before formal and definite improvements after 1968 through the 1970s and 1980s until the Soviet government collapsed in 1991, setting off a huge economic depression and crisis in Cuba.

In this period of improved relations, fundamental contradictions remained and sharp policy differences emerged over questions like Soviet policies in Africa, military tactics in Angola, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which Cuba opposed. These questions will be returned to in future Parts of this series.

As this article gets ready to be launched into cyberspace, I came across an October 22 article written for the Cuban press by Fidel Castro. The article is entitled Fidel Castro is Dying and is written tongue-in-cheek is response to the later ridiculous and repulsive rumor-mongering – yes, this time he really is dying even dead, we’ve got a Venezuelan doctor who knows for sure this time – periodically engaged in by professional Castro-haters. It is a veritable cottage industry.

Fidel, with pictures, once again, combats the liars and the fools:

While many persons in the world are deceived by information agencies which publish this nonsense – almost all in the hands of the privileged and rich – people believe less and less in them. Nobody likes to be deceived; even the most incorrigible liar expects to be told the truth.

In April of 1961, everyone believed the information published in the news agencies that the mercenary invaders of Girón or Bay of Pigs, whatever one wants to call it, were approaching Havana, when in fact some of them were fruitlessly trying by boat to reach the yanqui warships escorting them.

The peoples are learning and resistance is growing, faced with the crisis of capitalism which is recurring with greater frequency; no lies, repression or new weapons will be able to prevent the collapse of a production system which is increasingly unequal and unjust.

A few days ago, very close to the 50th anniversary of the October Crisis, news agencies pointed to three guilty parties: Kennedy, having recently become the leader of the empire, Khrushchev and Castro.

Cuba did not have anything to do with nuclear weapons, nor with the unnecessary slaughter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki perpetrated by the president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, thus establishing the tyranny of nuclear weapons. Cuba was defending its right to independence and social justice.

When we accepted Soviet aid in weapons, oil, foodstuffs and other resources, it was to defend ourselves from yanqui plans to invade our homeland, subjected to a dirty and bloody war which that capitalist country imposed on us from the very first months, which left thousands of Cubans dead and maimed.

When Khrushchev proposed the installation here of medium range missiles similar to those the United States had in Turkey – far closer to the USSR than Cuba to the United States – as a solidarity necessity, Cuba did not hesitate to agree to such a risk. Our conduct was ethically irreproachable.

We will never apologize to anyone for what we did. The fact is that half a century has gone by, and here we still are with our heads held high.

October 22, 2012

Ike Nahem is a longtime anti-war, labor, and socialist activist. He is the coordinator of Cuba Solidarity New York (cubasolidarityny@ and a founder of the New York-New Jersey July 26 Coalition. Nahem is an Amtrak Locomotive Engineer and member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a division of the Teamsters Union. These are his personal political opinions. Comments and criticisms can be sent to


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Four Left Latin American Governments Quit OAS Defense Treaty

Four leftwing Latin American nations quit the OAS defense treaty, asking for changes in the document. The OAS has always been the whore of the US, a sickening and reactionary organization. They threw Cuba out for no good reason long ago. These heroic Latin American nations are doing what should have been done long ago. The OAS is just shit, a Cold War creation of the Yankee dogs. Get rid of it already.

Yankee go home!

The nations are Nicaragua, led by the Sandinista hero Daniel Ortega, Venezuela, led by Hugo Chavez, Ecuador, led by Rafael Correa and Bolivia, led by Evo Morales.

I am reminded of the words of the former Sandinista national anthem:

America, enemy of mankind!


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Is There Anything Good About North Korea?

Steve wants to know if there is anything good about North Korea.

If there are good things in north Korea, I would like to hear about them. I just heard about scarce food, electricity and petrol, a crippled economy and a brainwashed, repressed population. Sounds like a God awful place to live. Give me South Korea any day- highly developed and free.

As a general rule, if the state has any extra money at all, it goes to the workers and the ordinary people to better their lives. People only work 6 hours a day in Pyongyang, and there are no food shortages in Pyongyang. Workers are treated with respect, kindness and dignity, unlike almost everywhere in the capitalist world, where workers are treated with extreme contempt and society is organized around a “Fuck the workers!” capitalist mindset. Everyone has a place to live and nice clothes to wear.

The suicide rate is almost zero, lower than just about any other state on Earth. This is probably the most amazing statistic of all, the very low suicide rate. There is so much insecurity in a capitalist system, and in neoliberal capitalism, the insecurity is extreme.

A friend of mine recently lost her house. She had not prepared for it beforehand, and she left at a moment’s notice as they were getting ready to sell her house. She left almost all of her possessions that she had worked a whole life to obtain behind in the house. All that stuff is now someone else’s property.

She was extremely depressed for a long time due to not being able to find a job. No one would take her in even after months of looking. She finally found someone at the very last minute who would take her in, but she had to drive 1,500 miles to get there.

A lot of other folks are not so lucky. Some of my friends are homeless as we speak and others have been homeless in the past. A friend of mine who had their house foreclosed on recently attempted suicide but failed.

In a socialist society, no one is ever going to throw you out of your house and make you homeless. You’re never going to lose every possession you ever owned because you can’t pay to move it form one place to the next. You’re never not going to be able to find a job, and even if so, the state will give you enough money to get by anyway.

It’s probably the freedom from having these life-shattering worries that explains North Korea’s shockingly low suicide rate.

Housing in the rural areas is excellent, in comparison with most 3rd world rural areas, where housing is terrible. Education is free through the graduate level. Many ordinary party cadres that you meet if you take a real tour of the country are absolutely dedicated to serving the people. How many other political party officials anywhere on Earth have as their dominant ethos, “Serve the people?” Virtually none.

The state just build a very nice Disney-style amusement park in Pyongyang that is cheap enough that any ordinary worker can easily go visit there.

There is actually quite a bit of capitalism creeping in, such the farmer’s markets and swap meet style markets all over the country. You can buy DVD’s from South Korea and the West in an underground market right underneath one of the most official buildings in Pyongyang.

In the north, there is a Gold Rush boom, and the people taking advantage of it are generally capitalist-minded. Small “firms” are springing up to mine the gold. The state knows about them and you have to cut the state in X amount of gold, then you get to keep the rest. There are also a lot of freelancers up there just mining gold on their own.

The crime rate is about zero, and a woman can walk around the streets of Pyongyang at 3 AM without having to worry about a thing.

Day care is free and taken care of by the state. It’s open 24 hours a day. Workers just drop their kids off and go to work. That’s totally cool!

Society is not based on fuck the workers as hard as you can and workers are the enemy and give as much of society’s income to the rich and the corporations, and take as much as you can from the workers, which is the way most of the rest of the world is set up.

On the downside, there is a lot of poverty in the rural areas, the roads are falling apart, even in Pyongyang, medical services have been crippled, the prison camp system is horrific and the brainwashing is nutty.

To tell the truth though, most of problems are due to sanctions. There are “dual use sanctions” in place against North Korea due to the nuclear program. These sanctions were put in place by the US. These sanctions are the same sanctions that utterly ruined the economy of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (remember that)? The economic situation in North Korea is very similar to that of Saddam’s Iraq under sanctions.

They are also locked out of the world banking system and many states either refuse to trade with them or are banned from trading with them under sanctions rules. The US has been embargoing them since 1945, 66 years. Juche sprang up for a reason, you know.

North Korea’s economy was as good or better than the South’s until 1980. Since then, they have been falling behind.


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Iran Versus Israel: Who’s Threatening to Nuke Whom?

Iran has never, ever, ever threatened to nuke Israel, nor have they ever, ever threatened to wipe Israel off the map. These are just the fevered dreams, delusions and hallucinations of the Jews and their Islamophobic and Zionist Gentile supporters. It’s all nonsense.

Iran isn’t suicidal. Even if they got a bomb, and of course I support Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon 100%, they would never use it in a first strike against Israel. The notions about a “suicidal Shia regime” are from the panting breaths of super-Jews like Bernard Lewis.

No Arab nation has ever threatened to nuke Israel, nor have they ever threatened to kill all the Israelis. The worst they have advocated is an invasion and conquest of Israel, followed by making the Jews leave. That was Saddam’s position and that is the position of some hardline Palestinians. It’s not even the position of Iran! Even Ahmadinejad says he wants to get rid of the Zionist regime in Israel followed by a single state for everyone in Israel/Palestine. Not one Jew has to leave.

Even Al Qaeda doesn’t advocate killing all the Jews in Israel. Sure, they want to conquer the place, and after that, they say that all the Jews have to take off. But that’s not the same as extermination. This “they are going to do a Holocaust 2 on us” is all coming from the paranoia of the Jews and their Gentile Zionist supporters. There’s no basis for it in reality.

But as we can see in this video, there is one party that is threatening to nuke another party. Israel is threatening to nuke Iran! Sure, they say they will use “tactical nukes,” but they are threatening to use nukes nonetheless. The only nation in the region threatening to nuke another country is Israel.


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