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The National Security State Is to Blame for the Cuban Missile Crisis

Fidel CastroTo understand the statist mindset when it comes to the U.S. national-security state, all one has to do is read an article published last week in the New York Times entitled “How Castro Held the World Hostage” by James G. Blight and Janet M. Lang.

The article focuses on the Cuban Missile Crisis and blames Cuban President Fidel Castro for bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. While President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev were working diligently to arrive at a mutually satisfactory resolution of the crisis, the authors say that Castro was behaving like a madman by insisting that the Soviet Union fire its nuclear weapons at the United States in the event of a U.S. invasion of the island.

Unfortunately, in their haste to put the blame on Castro, the authors fail to recognize the real cause of the Cuban Missile Crisis: the U.S. national-security state, specifically the vast and permanent U.S. military establishment and the CIA, which had been grafted on our constitutional order in 1947, ostensibly in order to protect America from “communism” and from America’s World War II partner and ally, the Soviet Union.

After all, what was the reason for Castro’s desire to have the Soviet Union place nuclear weapons in Cuba? Did he intend to attack the United States with them? Did he plan to invade Florida with the Cuban army? Did he intend to invade and conquer the United States?

The answer is “No” to all those questions. Castro never had any desire or intent to attack, invade, or occupy the United States.

It has always been the other way around. It is the United States, specifically the U.S. national-security state, thathas always been the aggressor power in the conflict between Cuba and the United States. It is the national-security state that invaded Cuba, repeatedly attempted to assassinate Fidel Castro, enforced the economic embargo on Cuba, and committed acts of terrorism against Cuba.

What has been the reason for the U.S. aggression against Cuba?

Regime change.The aim has always been to oust Fidel Castro from power and install a loyal and subservient pro-U.S. dictator in his stead.

After his assumption of power, Castro proved early on that he did not intend to be a lackey of the U.S. government, as his predecessor Fulgencio Batista had been. Castro declared that for the first time since the Spanish American War in 1898, Cuba would be an independent nation rather than a colony of the United States.

That didn’t sit well with the national-security state. The Pentagon and the CIA went to work, doing whatever was necessary to oust Castro from power and install in his stead a pro-U.S. dictator.

The national-security state justified its regime-change aggression by pointing out that Castro was a communist who was turning Cuba into a totally socialist nation.

But so what? What business was that of the U.S. national-security state? That was the business of the Cuban people, not the U.S. government.

Anyway, what was Castro’s socialism if not just a logical extension of the socialism that American statists (i.e., conservatives and liberals) were foisting upon America with their beloved welfare state? How was Castro’s nationalization of businesses different in principle from FDR’s nationalization of gold? In principle, how was Castro’s fierce commitment to such socialist programs as old-age retirement pensions, free health care, free education, and coercive redistribution of wealthdifferent in principle from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, and income taxation that American statists were foisting on our land?

Blight and Lang intimate that Castro was being paranoid over the possibility that the United States would invade and conquer Cuba.


Let’s see. There was the actual invasion of the island at the Bay of Pigs, an operation secretly orchestrated by the CIA. Why was it secret? So that the American people wouldn’t find out that their government was attacking countries that hadn’t attacked the United States.

There was the brutal embargo, which continues to be enforced even today, notwithstanding trade relations with the communist regimes in Vietnam and China.

There were the numerous assassination attempts by the CIA against Castro.

There were the CIA’s acts of terrorism within Cuba.

And there was the infamous Operation Northwoods, a plan that was unanimously approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and presented to Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs invasion and before the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was an operation that, not surprisingly, Blight and Lang don’t even mention. That was the plan by which the U.S. military and the CIA would initiate fake and false terrorist attacks, which involved the taking of innocent life, on American soil and proclaim, falsely, that Cuba was behind them, thereby providing a fake and false justification for the invasion of the island.

In fact, while Blight and Lang observe that Kennedy’s “hawkish advisers and critics ... continued clamoring for an invasion of the island,” they fail to mention that the leading proponents for attacking and invading Cuba were the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA, who remained fully committed to regime change in Cuba and were eager to risk nuclear war to achieve it.

Don’t forget, after all, that the pressure by the military and the CIA for invading Cuba were so immense that Kennedy, echoing President Eisenhower’s warning of the dangers posed to our democracy by the military-industrial complex, actually feared a military coup right here in the United States. Maybe Blight and Lang considered Kennedy and Eisenhower to be paranoid too.

In fact, what Blight and Lang also fail to mention is that some members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff actually desired a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, arguing that since it was bound to happen anyway, better that it happen then rather than later, when the Soviet Union would have more nuclear weapons at its disposal. They were furious with Kennedy for negotiating with the communists. They wanted him to attack Cuba and achieve the regime change that the invasion at the Bay of Pigs had failed to achieve. If the United States ended up in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, so be it. Their position was that the United States would win such war because it would lose “only” 40 million people while the Soviets would lose everyone.

In focusing their blame on Castro for the Cuban Missile Crisis, Blight and Lang ignore the critically important point: Castro’s actions were entirely defensive in nature. The crisis was caused by the U.S. national-security state’s insistence on regime change in Cuba. If the U.S. government had not been committed to regime change, the crisis would never have occurred.

Castro’s strategy worked. By having the Soviet Union come to Cuba’s defense with nuclear missiles to defend the island, Kennedy was deterred from attacking Cuba, much to the anger and chagrin of the U.S. military establishment and the CIA, both of which believed that Kennedy, who had previously refused to provide air support at the Bay of Pigs, had once again betrayed his country,the Cuban people, and the cause of freedom.

In fact, while Kennedy believed that the United States had prevailed in the crisis, the Pentagon and the CIA were of the opposite opinion. Their conclusion was that Kennedy had capitulated to the Soviets, given his pledge to never invade Cuba and also to remove U.S. nuclear missiles from Turkey. By providing the communists with a permanent outpost only 90 miles from American shores, the Pentagon and the CIA were convinced that that it was just a matter of time before the communists conquered America.

This is what American statists simply cannot confront — that notwithstanding the violations of liberty within Cuba at the hands of Castro’s dictatorship, their very own U.S. government has been in the wrong when it comes to American relations with Cuba. Having been inculcated from the first grade with deep love, respect, and reverence for the U.S. national-security state, the statist mindsets will not permit statists to question or challenge the existence of the vast military establishment or the CIA or their policies and programs. Their minds will only permit them to look upon the national-security state as an exceptional establishment — a peace-loving institution — a force for good in the world — one keeps us safe.

Under what moral or legal authority does the United States attack and invade another country simply because that country is going communist or socialist? Under what moral or legal authority does the United States assassinate foreign leaders (and enter in assassination partnerships with the Mafia) owing to the particular political or economic philosophy of such leaders? Under what moral or legal authority does the United States inflict a cruel and brutal economic embargo on the Cuban people, in the hopes of squeezing them to death until they oust Castro from power and install a pro-U.S. dictator in his stead? Under what moral and legal authority does the United States engage in acts of terrorism against the people of a foreign country, in the hopes of achieving regime change through chaos, crisis, and fear?

In a weird twist, Blight and Lang conclude their article by comparing the situation in Cuba to Iran, intimating that the Iranians are a bit paranoid themselves over the possibility of a U.S. attack on their country.

Not surprisingly, the authors fail to point out that it was the U.S. national-security state, specifically the CIA, that in 1953 destroyed Iran’s experiment with democracy by ousting the democratically elected prime minister of the country from power with a coup and installing the brutal dictatorship of the shah into power.

The authors also fail to point out that today Iran is surrounded by U.S. troops, who will loyally and faithfully obey whatever orders the president gives them, including attacking and invading a country that has never attacked the United States — and without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war.

Finally, there are the brutal sanctions that the U.S. national security state has leveled against Iran, which are no different in principle that the brutal embargo that the national security state has inflicted against the Cuban people for some 60 years.

Santayana sure had it right. Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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