Recently declassified information shows the critical part JFK’s younger brother played in resolving the Cold War’s most dangerous moment
‘This is the result of the photography taken Sunday, sir. There’s a medium-range ballistic missile launch site and two new military encampments … in West Central Cuba. The launch site at one of the encampments contains a total of at least 14 canvas-covered missile trailers, measuring 67 feet long and more than nine feet in width.”
On a Tuesday morning in October 1962, these chilling words informed President Kennedy and his advisors that the Soviet Union was constructing nuclear missile sites in Cuba. Thanks to recording devices established and activated by JFK, we can actually hear CIA briefer Marshall Carter and deliver this precise analysis of U.S. spy plane photos. Their tone appears calm and measured, yet this briefing would light the touch paper for the Cold War’s most dramatic crisis. Nuclear missiles now lay in place merely 90 miles off the U.S. coast, contrary to the express assurances of Soviet Premier Khrushchev and in the face of repeated warnings from President Kennedy in preceding months.
These missiles presented a dramatic challenge to the precarious balance of Cold War power, and the next 13 days would see a dangerous stand-off between two nuclear superpowers with a combined arsenal of some 4,000 warheads. Before the crisis was resolved, one of these warheads would be ordered for launch.
Robert F. Kennedy, JFK’s younger brother, was 36 years old at the time. One of the youngest attorneys general ever appointed, RFK was also the president’s de facto chief of staff and most trusted advisor. Known as “that terrier of a man” by some in the Kennedy administration, RFK was profoundly committed to his brother’s success. On the campaign trail for his brother years earlier he had remarked, “I don’t care if anyone likes me, so long as they like Jack.” He carried this temperament through to the president’s administration, doggedly pursuing his brother’s objectives, ever ready to cut through departmental etiquette to ask forceful questions and to challenge the answers.
By October 1962, he had already proved himself indispensable to the president. It was to his younger brother that the president had turned after a botched invasion of Cuba in 1961 (the Bay of Pigs fiasco), appointing him head of a task force examining the causes of the disaster. A year later, it was no surprise that RFK was one of the first to be notified of the missiles, receiving an urgent phone call from the president a few hours ahead of the CIA briefing.
In the coming days and weeks RFK would make a unique and indispensable set of contributions to resolving the crisis. We are now able to follow these contributions in rich detail, thanks to the remarkable in-the-room access provided by the White House tape recordings, as well as new archival sources recently declassified.
First, RFK went after the raw data. His personal files on the crisis hold as many as 3,584 documents directly reviewed by him over the period. Immediately after hanging up the phone to his brother, he coordinated a private briefing with the CIA. Joining cabinet discussions later that morning, RFK was already extremely well-briefed on the missile sites, their disposition and readiness.
Such preparation was an RFK trademark, especially where it required out-of-the-box thinking. In his private notes on the Bay of Pigs disaster, RFK had judged “underestimation” of Castro’s forces as a key failing of the Kennedy administration. Determined not to repeat the mistake, RFK was one of only two presidential advisors to predict the installation of missile sites in Cuba, warning his brother of the possibility over a year before the crisis.
He then took active measures to prepare for the possibility, instructing the Departments of State and Defense to investigate possible responses, whilst also outlining his own proposals in interdepartmental security briefings. These proposals were remarkably prescient of those actually debated and subsequently chosen during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a direct result of RFK’s proactive, terrier-like energy, the key government departments tasked with handling the Cuban missile crisis had been remarkably well-prepared in contingency thinking and intelligence.
Perhaps even more importantly, so had the president’s closest advisor. As the crisis developed, RFK continued to seek new information and advice, acting as his brother’s eyes and ears—able to go where he could not, to source frank perspectives unhindered by presidential deference. At times this meant spotlighting another advisor’s counsel in a cabinet meeting; at others summarizing a loud mess of opinions into a coherent range of actionable options for the president.
In a few unique circumstances, it even meant playing up a blunter edge to his persona, asking the sort of direct questions the president could not. In one remarkable exchange during the crisis, apparent in the tapes, the president can actually be heard whispering instructions to RFK on a difficult question he wanted put to the head of the CIA. RFK also held a number of pivotal one-on-one conversations with fellow advisors during the crisis, privately relaying these back to the president in a number of off-the-record discussions.
Indeed, we know, from diary entries, references in official memoranda and the tapes themselves, that RFK met privately with the president throughout the crisis. These were frank one-on-ones that gave the president an opportunity to talk through options freely, and RFK the chance to bring new information and advice to the president outside of busy group meetings. As Kenneth O”Donnell, JFK’s special assistant at the time, would later remark, “Bobby could always reach him.” On one evening at the height of the crisis, the two brothers even discussed JFK’s possible impeachment.
In the first days of the crisis, whilst other presidential advisors were still processing the shocking news, RFK jumped far ahead, coldly calculating and interrogating the possible U.S. response. He insisted that an invasion remain on the table, and even pushed for a reduction in the lead time required to initiate one. Until recently this approach was held up as evidence for a belligerent, hawkish advisor, promoting the sort of military action that would have led to dangerous escalation.
Yet declassified private notes, and a closer understanding of the brother’s intimate relationship, now support a more holistic view of RFK. He saw his role as pressing for all alternatives, regardless of where they might lead. In the words of McGeorge Bundy, national security advisor at the time, RFK’s function was “to go and prod and poke people into doing their best, and staying with the problem, and not giving up until we got a better answer.” RFK would subsequently put his weight behind the famous blockade plan, a naval quarantine of Cuba designed to pressure the Soviets to remove the missiles.
The two men were friendly and influenced each other
It was December 1861, a Tuesday at noon, when President Abraham Lincoln sent his first annual message — what later became the State of the Union — to the House and Senate.
By the next day, all 7,000 words of the manuscript were published in newspapers across the country, including the Confederate South. This was Lincoln’s first chance to speak to the nation at length since his inaugural address.
He railed against the “disloyal citizens” rebelling against the Union, touted the strength of the Army and Navy, and updated Congress on the budget.
For his eloquent closer, he chose not a soliloquy on unity or freedom but an 800-word meditation on what the Chicago Tribune subtitled “Capital Versus Labor:”
“Labor is prior to and independent of capital,” the country’s 16th president said. “Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
If you think that sounds like something Karl Marx would write, well, that might be because Lincoln was regularly reading Karl Marx.
President Trump has added a new arrow in his quiver of attacks as of late, charging that a vote for “any Democrat” in the next election “is a vote for the rise of radical socialism” and that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and other congresswomen of color are “a bunch of communists.” Yet the first Republican president, for whom Trump has expressed admiration, was surrounded by socialists and looked to them for counsel.
Of course, Lincoln was not a socialist, nor communist nor Marxist, just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) aren’t. (Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) identify as “democratic socialists.”) But Lincoln and Marx — born only nine years apart — were contemporaries. They had many mutual friends, read each other’s work and, in 1865, exchanged letters.
When Lincoln served his sole term in Congress in the late 1840s, the young lawyer from Illinois became close friends with Horace Greeley, a fellow Whig who served briefly alongside him. Greeley was better known as the founder of the New York Tribune, the newspaper largely responsible for transmitting the ideals and ideas that formed the Republican Party in 1854.
And what were those ideals and ideas? They were anti-slavery, pro-worker and sometimes overtly socialist, according to John Nichols, author of the book “The ‘S’ Word: A Short History of an American Tradition … Socialism.” The New York Tribune championed the redistribution of land in the American West to the poor and the emancipation of slaves.
“Greeley welcomed the disapproval of those who championed free markets over the interests of the working class, a class he recognized as including both the oppressed slaves of the south and the degraded industrial laborers of the north,” Nichols writes.
Across the Atlantic, another man linked the fates of enslaved and wage workers: Marx. Upon publishing “The Communist Manifesto” with Friedrich Engels in 1848, the German philosopher sought refuge in London after a failed uprising in what was then the German Confederation. Hundreds of thousands of German radicals immigrated to the United States in this same period, filling industrial jobs in the North and joining anti-slavery groups. Marx had once considered “going West” himself, to Texas, according to historian Robin Blackburn in his book “An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln.”
Marx was intensely interested in the plight of American slaves. In January 1860, he told Engels that the two biggest things happening in the world were “on the one hand the movement of the slaves in America started by the death of John Brown, and on the other the movement of the serfs in Russia.”
He equated Southern slaveholders with European aristocrats, Blackburn writes, and thought ending chattel slavery “would not destroy capitalism, but it would create conditions far more favorable to organizing and elevating labor, whether white or black.”
Marx was also friends with Charles A. Dana, an American socialist fluent in German who was the managing editor of the New York Tribune. In 1852, Dana hired Marx to be the newspaper’s British correspondent.
Over the next decade, Marx wrote nearly 500 articles for the paper. Many of his contributions became unsigned columns appearing on the front page as the publication’s official position. Marx later “borrowed liberally” from his New York Tribune writings for his book “Capital,” according to Nichols.
Like a lot of nascent Republicans, Lincoln was an “avid reader” of the Tribune. It’s nearly guaranteed that, in the 1850s, Lincoln was regularly reading Marx.
In 1860, two major factors helped to propel Lincoln — a one-term congressman and country lawyer most known for losing a Senate campaign — to the Republican nomination for the presidency. First, the support of former German revolutionaries who had become key players in the Republican Party; and second, the support of the party’s newspaper, the Tribune.
Once Lincoln took office, his alliance with socialists didn’t stop. Dana left the Tribune to become Lincoln’s eyes and ears in the War Department, following along with troop movements and telling Lincoln what he thought of his generals. A soldier working in the telegraph office later wrote that “Lincoln waited eagerly” for “Dana’s long d[i]spatches.”
And Greeley continued to urge Lincoln to take a harder line against slavery, to make the Civil War not just about preserving the union but about abolition. Marx did the same in the pages of the Tribune.
In 1863, they got what they wanted when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
In January 1865, Marx wrote to Lincoln on behalf of the International Workingmen’s Association, a group for socialists, communists, anarchists and trade unions, to “congratulate the American people upon your reelection.”
He said “an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders” had defiled the republic and that “the workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working class.”
A few weeks later, a reply came via Charles Francis Adams — son of former president John Quincy Adams, grandson of former president John Adams and U.S. ambassador to Britain under Lincoln.
He told Marx that Lincoln had received his message, and it was “accepted by him with a sincere and anxious desire that he may be able to prove himself not unworthy of the confidence which has been recently extended to him by his fellow citizens and by so many of the friends of humanity and progress throughout the world.”
Notably, Adams indicated Lincoln considered Marx and company “friends.”
He went on to say that the Union “derive[s] new encouragement to persevere from the testimony of the workingmen of Europe.”
Both letters ran in newspapers across Britain and the United States. Marx was delighted, telling Engels it created “such a sensation” that the “bourgeoisie” in private clubs were “shaking their heads at it.”
Lincoln also met with the New York chapter of the Workingmen’s Association, telling its members in 1864: “The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds.” Which is perhaps a more eloquent rendering of Marx’s famous rallying cry: “Workers of the world unite!”
Lincoln never took up the mantle of socialism. He believed in the system of wage labor even as he proposed reforms to it; Marx rejected it as another form of slavery. But Lincoln certainly viewed socialists as allies, and Nichols writes, “It is indisputable that the Republican Party had at its founding a red streak.”
Though this fact may be little known now, it hasn’t been a secret to other figures in American history. When the socialist orator and frequent presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs made a campaign stop in Springfield, Ill., in 1908, he told the crowd, “The Republican Party was once red. Lincoln was a revolutionary.”
It was also noted by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In February 1968, at a celebration of the life of W.E.B. Du Bois at Carnegie Hall, King brought up that the co-founder of the NAACP became a communist in his later years.
“It is worth noting,” King said, “that Abraham Lincoln warmly welcomed the support of Karl Marx during the Civil War and corresponded with him freely. … Our irrational obsessive anti-communism has led us into too many quagmires to be retained as if it were a mode of scientific thinking.”
Anatomy Of Lee Harvey Oswald’s Interrogations Vol II
By Bart Kamp 25 July, 2019
Copyright © 2019
The two hour talk I did in April 2018 at Canterbury Christchurch University was a summarisation of what was going to be released a short while after. But then I decided to change the whole thing. Since its original release the paper had accumulated an extra 150 pages and it had become too cluttered with info that had no real bearing on the actual period while Oswald was incarcerated.
The other self critique I had was that it was nowhere close to the quality of the Anatomy Of The Second Floor Lunch Room Encounter paper. The info was there but it was just a huge swamp. So decided to try the idea of putting it in a rough time line setting instead.
This was easier said than done and it has taken me a year just to do this. Quite a few reports and interviews summarised that weekend and it was quite a job to peel the material layer by layer and get it in the right time period and setting. No doubt things will get more material added on at a later date, but for now this will have to do.
The only other person that made an attempt on timing the happenings around Oswald that weekend was Mae Brussell. She managed to kick things off with the limited material available at that time.
I hope you enjoy reading this pretty long read, which is filled with documents, pictures and videos. And quite a lot of external links to boot.
Going to end with especially thanking Malcolm Blunt, Ed Ledoux and Alan Dale for proof reading this paper.
To view Anatomy of Lee Oswald’s Interrogations Vol. II click HERE.
A “false flag operation” is a time-tested technique of intelligence services. It is the propagation of a vicious lie—the deceptive attribution of an outrageous deed to the enemy—so as to justify hostility and war.
From the explosion on the Maine battleship in Havana Harbor in 1898 to the supposed attack on U.S. Navy ships in Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 to the bogus story of Iraqi anthrax in 2002, American advocates of war have falsely attributed heinous crimes to target regimes for the purposes of justifying U.S. military action.
Once the jargon of military and intelligence professionals, the term “false flag operation” has entered the American vocabulary. Thanks to Alex Jones, James Fetzer and other hucksters, “false flag operation” now signifies treacherous machinations by unseen forces to dupe unwitting Americans into believing the media. To call the massacre of schoolchildren a “false flag operation,” as Jones and Fetzer have done, is itself a vicious lie that treats the victims and survivors as an enemy, the better to demonize mainstream news organizations. It is a demonstration of cruelty that is proven to drive traffic.
It was no surprise that when two Persian Gulf oil tankers were attacked last Thursday, “Gulf of Tonkin” immediately spiked on Google, while right-wing sites played up claims of a false flag attack.
Because false-flag thinking is both a right-wing media meme and a reality of geopolitical struggle, distinguishing between the two is more urgent than ever. It was no surprise that when two Persian Gulf oil tankers were attacked last Thursday, “Gulf of Tonkin” immediately spiked on Google, while right-wing sites played up claims of a false flag attack.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says a video of a ship, allegedly belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, alongside one of tankers, is “unmistakable” evidence of Iranian responsibility. The attacks, countered Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, were “suspicious.”
“Suspicious acts in the Sea of Oman against oil tankers… seem to be supplementary to the [U.S.] economic sanctions as the Americans went nowhere with the sanctions, [also,] especially, given America’s historical record in the area [of false flag ops],” Larijani said, according to Iran’s PressTV.
Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov recalled the U.S. government’s claims in 2003 that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled “vials of white powder,” namely anthrax. The claims, which helped justify the disastrous U.S. invasion, were found to be false by the CIA.
The Russians and the Iranians aren’t the only ones to suspect a ruse. Julian Lee, oil industry analyst writing in Bloomberg News, didn’t use the term “false flag,” but he noted the timing of the attacks was most helpful to advocates of confronting Iran.
The attacks occurring during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Tehran, a visit blessed by President Trump. Abe urged Tehran to avoid conflict at all costs and pledged to do his utmost for a diplomatic solution. Then came an attack on a Japanese ship, Kokuka Courageous, which undermined and overshadowed his message.
“This would seem very clumsy timing from a country seeing the first tangible signs of any easing of the crippling sanctions imposed by the Americans. But it is absolutely understandable if you’re someone whose ultimate goal is to derail any easing of tensions between the two nations, and to effect regime change in Tehran. Whoever is behind the attacks is no friend of Iran.”
Until the United States and Iran document their conflicting claims with verifiable evidence, the issue of who was responsible cannot be decided. The video, by itself, proves nothing.
As Defense One observed:
“The boat’s clear and distinct connection to Iran or the IRGC, however, is not evident in the video itself. Nor is it clear from the video (1) where the boat came from, (2) who the occupants were, (3) whether what was allegedly removed was in fact a limpet mine (as the OSINT folks at Bellingcat pointed out this morning), or (4) where the boat went to after its occupants concluded their activity from the side of the Courageous.”
Of course, the historical fact that false stories have proliferated as U.S. policymakers sought justification for war doesn’t prove anything specifically about the tanker attacks in 2019, except that it would be naïve to reflexively rule out a false flag operation.
The Northwoods Paradigm
What is indisputable is that the U.S. government has turned to false flag operations to achieve strategic goals. Case in point: Operation Northwoods, a top-secret plan to create a pretext for a U.S. invasion of Cuba in the early 1960s. At the behest of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon planners, assisted by CIA personnel, proposed a dozen different crimes that could falsely be blamed on communist Cuba.
Some of their schemes, as pitched by Pentagon planners, were:
- “A series of well-coordinated incidents will be planned to take place in and around Guantanamo to give genuine appearance of being done by hostile Cuban forces.”
- “A ‘Remember the Maine’ incident could be arranged in several forms: a. We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba…”
- “We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities, and even in Washington.”
- “The terror campaign could be pointed at refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated)…”
- “Harassment of civil air, attacks on surface shipping and destruction of US military drone aircraft by MIG type planes would be useful as complementary actions…” (After the reports of the tanker attacks last week, the Pentagon publicized the destruction of a U.S. military drone aircraft by Iranian-backed forces. )
The JCS unanimously approved the Northwoods plans in 1962 and 1963 and presented them to the White House. President Kennedy rejected the idea the first time, and ignored it the second. While never implemented, the Northwoods plans represented the Pentagon’s best thinking on how to carry out an “engineered provocation” at that time. The Northwoods documents are authentic, and the Defense Department has never disavowed the methods they espouse.
Made public for the first time in 1997, the 200-plus pages of Northwoods material illuminate seven key goals of what the JCS called “pretext operations.”
- Create indignation among Americans. Or as the JCS stated, “place the United States in the position of suffering justifiable grievances.”
- Depict the enemy as a violent rogue actor. To make the bogus charges of terrorism stick, the Northwoods planners said, “Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement would also be helpful to projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.”
- Contrive an “unprovoked” attack on the United States. The Northwoods planners said “It is possible to create an incident which will make it appear that Communist Cuban MIGs [Soviet-made fighter jets] have destroyed a USAF [U.S. Air Force] aircraft over international water in an unprovoked attack.”
- Mimic real enemy actions, if possible. “Justification for U.S. intervention probably would be more convincing to the American public and rest of the world if it could be related to real and valid provocations rather than based wholly on manufactured cases which entail risk of compromise.”
- Go to great lengths to generate false but incriminating detail. To stage a fake hijacking, the Northwoods planners suggested:
“An aircraft at Eglin AFB would be painted and numbered as an exact duplicate for a civil registered aircraft belonging to a CIA proprietary organization… At a designated time the duplicate would be substituted for the actual civil aircraft would be loaded with selected passengers, all board under carefully prepared aliases. The actual registered aircraft would be converted to a drone.
“Take off times of the drone aircraft and the actual aircraft will be scheduled to allow a rendezvous south of Florida. From the rendezvous point the passenger-carrying aircraft will descend to minimum altitude and go directly into an auxiliary field at Eglin AFB where arrangements will have been made to evacuate the passengers and return the aircraft to its original status. The drone aircraft meanwhile will continue to fly the filed flight plan. When over Cuba the drone will being [sic] transmitting on the international distress frequency a ‘MAY DAY’ message…”
- If necessary, sacrifice human life to make the operation credible. In the Northwoods proposal to “sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated),” the merciless parenthetical shows that even people fleeing the target regime were considered potentially expendable to achieve U.S. goals.
- Exploit the news cycle to promote false claims. In early 1962, the United States was preparing to launch astronaut John Glenn into space. Operation Dirty Trick would be mounted to “provide irrevocable proof that, should the MERCURY manned orbit flight fail, the fault lies with the Communists… This could be accomplished by manufacturing various pieces of evidence which would prove electronic interference…”
False flag operations, in other words, are not just a figment of the conspiratorial imagination. They have been seen as viable instruments of U.S. regime change policy. These tactics have never been repudiated by U.S. officials. That doesn’t mean last week’s tanker attacks were a false flag operation. It does mean false flag operations are a weapon in Washington’s arsenal.
Independent Media Institute
Jefferson Morley is a writing fellow and the editor and chief correspondent of the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has been a reporter and editor in Washington, D.C., since 1980. He spent 15 years as an editor and reporter at the Washington Post. He was a staff writer at Arms Control Today and Washington editor of Salon. He is the editor and co-founder of JFK Facts, a blog about the assassination of JFK. His latest book is The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster, James Jesus Angleton.
This article was produced by the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute.