Archive for August, 2004

Cuba: Menace or Victim?

August 14, 2004 Leave a comment

“If that torpedo had been fired, nuclear war could have started right there,” said former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at the 40th anniversary conference in Havana.

“One of the lessons of this conflict is, for God sakes, think about how your enemy reacts to your actions,” McNamara said, “We didn’t plan to invade Cuba, but he (Castro) thought we did.”

I thought I followed the news pretty well. But, apparently I missed that U.S. actions during the “Cuban Missile Crisis” literally had the world on the verge of being blown up. Luckily, a Russian sub commander refused to launch their nuclear missile. “A guy named Arkhipov saved the world,” said Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive. What is so interesting about this event, which gets brought up in detail in Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, is that the conflict that almost started nuclear war was viewed in a completely jingoistic manner; something that becomes a consistent pattern when viewing how us Americans have responded to the crimes of others and of ourselves.

Some historical context may be in order.

During the 1930’s the U.S government had nothing but praise for Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. We praised their fascism. In Italy we said “the wops are unwopping themselves.” As Noam Chomsky notes in Hegemony or Survival, “and – rather like Saddam Hussein half a century later – retained substantial Anglo-American support until Hitler launched direct aggression that infringed too seriously on US and UK interests.”

When Hitler was attacking the East, mostly “communists” (the most anti-communist regime outside of the U.S. was Nazi Germany), the West “appeased” him but when he attacked the West’s interests he went too far and the British Empire fought back. FDR wanted in on this war and on 10/07/40 Lt. Gen. Arthur McCollum wrote a five page memorandum on the need for the U.S. to enter World War 2 to protect the British (which also protects our interests). He also called for the US to provoke Japan into “an overt act of war” by keeping a strong military presence in the Pacific, notably the Hawaiian islands.

What is important to understand here is that Japan was “expanding” during that time. They were at war with China and had publicly announced that they were seeking the “Whole East.” This is something which caused FDR to respond in a racist and imperialist manner, “GOD, that’s the first time that any damn Jap has told us to get out of Hawaii.”

With the “overt act of war” committed and the US in the war, Washington moved to end the war once Germany was defeated in a “finale.” After Japan had already tried to **surrender the US dropped two atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This put the US in a global position to dictate the post-war reconstruction. And this went into immediate effect. Military efforts, covert and overt, were immediately begun all over the world. Coups came left and right and brutal dictators were imposed in the Americas (countless Generals of Guatemala, Honduras and el Salvador like the Duvalier’s, Somoza’s, Batista, Pinochet and more), Africa (the assassination of the Congo’s first democratically elected president, Patrice Lumumba which brought on the brutal dictatorship of Sieko Mobutu), Asia (Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, *Philippines and more) and the Middle East. The US had nuclear weapons aimed at Russia and China before they even had nuclear weapons.

The US had nuclear equipped Jupiter missiles in Turkey aimed at Moscow. There was no “Turkey Missile Crisis.” Russia did not respond by bombing US naval submarines which were definitely in similar vicinity as those of the USSR in Cuba. Here is the contradiction and what was revealed on 10/13/02. The Cuban Missile Crisis, a real danger, was acknowledged but American history has apparently purged our role in what brought about the danger and what escalated it to the point that an order was given to shoot.

What would be behind such a purge? Walter Lippmann, a famous political commentator who advocated corporate and government thought control, put it this way in his book, published in 1922, Public Opinion:

That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinion arises is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough. The creation of consent is not a new art. It is a very old one which was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy. But it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technic, because it is now based on analysis rather than on rule of thumb. And so, as a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner. A revolution is taking place,

infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power.

Within the life of the generation now in control of affairs, persuasion has become a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government…

We could also look at a certain RAND publication, U.S. Nuclear Strategy for the Post-Cold War Era, published in 1994:

The dependence of the West and Japan on Persian Gulf oil and the power and wealth that comes from controlling that oil guarantee the U.S. interest in that part of the world for as far into the future as anyone can see.

This blatant admission explains a lot in regards to modern American history and especially what is going on in Iraq right now. For the past 60 years the U.S. government has used its monopoly on nuclear weapons and military dominance to control the world. In regards to Cuba it is the height of hypocrisy to hold them under such a brutal embargo when it was our previous actions that brought on the threat. Russia would have had no reason to supply Cuba with such weapons if A) we were not a threat to them (Operation ROLLBACK, NATO, the positioning of nuclear weapons in Turkey and elsewhere aimed at Russia, etc) and B) if we were not a threat to Cuba (our meddling started in the 1820’s, carried on with the Platt Amendment, the Batista dictatorship, Bay of Pigs, Operation Mongoose, etc).

What a truly valuable lesson to learn. And, what truly horrific consequences the world was about to suffer for the criminal-lunatic actions of American policy makers. True, Khrushchev was too a criminal-lunatic for placing nuclear missiles in Cuba, but this was in response to a much larger and more dangerous nuclear and US military presence in Turkey. Jim Hershberg noted:

Hopes that a satisfactory resolution to the crisis could be reached between Washington and Moscow had dimmed, moreover, when a letter from Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev arrived Saturday morning demanding that the United States agree to remove its Jupiter missiles from Turkey in exchange for a Soviet removal of missiles from Cuba.

And, again there was no “Turkey Missile Crisis.” There is no anniversary to celebrate Khrushchev for saving Russia from a nuclear war. There was no movie (like 13 Days) idolizing Khrushchev as a saviour.

There is very little, if any, recognition of the broader facts or criticism that matches McNamara’s “lesson.” Above I gave a quote from Walter Lippmann on public thought control, which is still very pertinent today (with Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Venezuela, Colombia, Israel/Palestine etc and the way the publics perception is shaped on these issues).

What about McNamara’s comment that “[w]e didn’t plan to invade Cuba”? Is this true? No. There was already the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion the year before where the US used, trained and armed a small group of exiles to overthrow Castro. Castro’s strong public support quickly squashed this illegal terrorist act. Then there was Operation Mongoose, a terrorist operation headed by Ed Lansdale (who was behind a perverted operation in the Philippines shortly after WW2 – see below for Asuang quote from Lansdales book – and Operation Phoenix in Vietnam that killed tens of thousands of people and more) which continued all the way through the “Cuban Missile Crisis”. On October 4, 1962 there was already planning for “six new…sabotage operations.” Also, Operation Swift Strike II where a dictator named ORTSAC (Castro spelled backwards) was to be overthrown, which training was being conducted in neighboring Puerto Rico. Richard Reeves notes in President Kennedy: Profile of Power:

In the Caribbean, and along the southern Atlantic coast, the United States was openly escalating military planning and actions obviously targeting Cuba, including amphibious invasion exercises around Puerto Rico through the summer and early fall [1962]. The last exercise involving 7,500 Marines was aimed at the overthrow of a dictator names ‘Ortsac’ – Castro spelled backwards. The Air Force transferred combat aircraft to Key West and other southern Florida bases from other parts of the country and, on September 18, the Air Force had begun

training exercises simulating attacks on Cuba. More than 70,000 men participated in the largest exercise – ‘Operation Swift Strike II’ – and both Castro and Khrushchev stepped up charges that a U.S. invasion was in the works.

So, how should we proceed with our understanding of this conflict? What lesson should we learn? What morals do we elaborate on? Clearly the creation of such destructive weapons is not in the best interests of human survival, and the current Bush administrations plan to create new “mini-nukes” to be used in the battlefield even with countries that do not have nuclear weapons plus the weaponization of space is also an un-debated and un-precedented danger. One can argue on the necessity of them but, in my opinion they would be arguing for irrational one-sided idiocy.

Also, placing economic interests over the survival of our species is another no-no that we should have internalized to the point that it should not be worth pointing out. When I see an elderly lady walking down the street I do not even think about shoving her into a ditch and stealing her purse. Such actions would be barbaric and intolerable. Then why would threaten the World with the most destructive weapons to ensure access to global markets and global dominance be seen as a necessity? Why does the average American view this conflict as deterring Russian aggression? Clearly it was the US who was deterred. Cuba had no intentions on invading the U.S.; it was the other way around. America did not place Jupiter missiles in Turkey aimed at Moscow in response to Russian missiles aimed at Washington; it was the other way around.

So instead of worshiping John F. Kennedy maybe we should be praising Vasili Arkhipov for keeping a cool head. Without any aggressive provocation USSR Submarine B-59 came under attack by the US. In a document found published online at George Washington Universities National Security Archive sites a memoir that stated:

The accumulators of B-59 were discharged to the state of water, only emergency light was functioning. The temperature in the compartments was 45-50 C, up to 60 C in the engine compartment. It was unbearably stuffy. The level of CO2 in the air reached a critical practically deadly for people mark. One the duty officers fainted and fell down. The another one followed, then the third one… They were falling like dominoes. But we were still holding on, trying to escape. We were suffering like this for about four hours. The Americans hit us with something stronger than the grenades [depth charges] – apparently with a practical depth bomb. We thought – that’s it – the end. After this attack, the totally exhausted Savitsky, who in addition to everything, was not able to establish connection with the General Staff, became furious. He summoned the officer assigned to the nuclear torpedo, and ordered him to assemble it to battle readiness. ‘Maybe the war has already started up there, while we are doing summersaults here’ – screamed emotional Valentin Grigorievich, trying to justify his order. ‘We’re going to blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all – we will not disgrace our Navy!’ But we did not fire the nuclear torpedo – Savitsky was able to rein in his wrath. After consulting with Second Captain Vasili Alexandrovich Arkipov [deceased] and Deputy political officer Ivan Semenovich Maslennikov, he made the decision to come to the surface. We gave an echo locator signal, which an international navigation rules means that ‘the submarine is coming to the surface.’ Our pursurers slowed down.

American actions provoked a nuclear war. We owe it to a communist Russian for saving our lives. The systemic tumor that underlies American policies, as still showing in our actions at home and around the world, apparently have not learned from McNamara’s “lesson.”

*Lansdale on Asuang in the Philippines:

“The psy-war squad set up an ambush along a trail used by the Huks,” Lansdale wrote. “When a Huk patrol came along the trail, the ambushers silently snatched the last man on the patrol, their move unseen in the dark night. They punctured his neck with two holes, vampire-fashion, held the body up by the heels, drained it of blood, and put the corpse back on the trail. When the Huks returned to look for the missing man and found their bloodless comrade, every member of the patrol believed the asuang had got him.” [See Lansdale’s In the Midst of Wars.]

‘Phoenix’ arises in Iraq

Will the counter-insurgency plan in Iraq repeat the mistakes of Vietnam?

by Seymour Hersh

40 Years After Missile Crisis, Players Swap Stories in Cuba

The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: The 40th Anniversary

**Needless slaughter, useful terror

by William Blum

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