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Shadowy world of the secret inner government of the U.S.
Lies, spies and dirty tricks

November 9, 2001 | Page 8

LEE SUSTAR exposes the spies that work behind the scenes in Washington.

THE TOP U.S. military brass, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wanted a war--but they didn't have popular support for military action.

Their solution? Stage an attack on an American military base, followed by a series of bombings and shootings that could be blamed on terrorist opponents of the U.S.

If this was submitted as a Hollywood movie script, it would be rejected as too far-fetched. But it's the truth.

In his new book on the National Security Agency, Body of Secrets, author James Bamford reports how, following the election of 1960, outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed a desire for a U.S. military invasion of Cuba. If Cuban leader Fidel Castro failed to provide a pretext for war, the United States "could think of manufacturing something that would be generally acceptable"--an attack or act of sabotage.

A few months later, Eisenhower's successor, John F. Kennedy, presided over the disastrous CIA-backed invasion by right-wing Cubans in the Bay of Pigs. When Kennedy gave up on the idea of overthrowing Castro by force, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lyman Lemnitzer proposed Operation Northwoods.

"We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanámo Bay and blame Cuba," a Joint Chiefs' document proposed. "Casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation." It continued: "We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington."

Other proposals including blowing up the space capsule carrying astronaut John Glenn, setting off plastic bombs to kill innocent Americans and staging the hijacking of planes and boats. Lemnitzer's cronies even devised a plan for secret agents to charter a plane, substitute a drone, fly it over Cuba and declare that it was shot down by Cuban jet fighters.

The generals argued that the U.S. should not only invade Cuba, but occupy it militarily for the foreseeable future.

Today, the mainstream media dismiss Lemnitzer as a far-right nut carried away by the Cold War. "But Operation Northwoods also had the support of every single member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and even senior Pentagon official Paul Nitze [later a top Reagan administration official] argued in favor of provoking a phony war with Cuba," Bamford writes.

Of course lying, manipulation and provocation to start wars is nothing new. In the First World War, the French and British claimed to be defending freedom against the despotic German monarch, the Kaiser--so they made an alliance with Russia's Tsar, a monarch that was even more repressive.

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WASHINGTON CLAIMED to be different. The U.S. entered the war in 1917, it said, to "make the world safe for democracy."

In the Second World War, the U.S. claimed to be fighting Hitler to safeguard what President Franklin Roosevelt called the "four freedoms"--freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

But the reality was that the U.S. fought the war in order to emerge as the dominant world power--challenged only by Russia, by then controlled by Stalin's dictatorship.

The Cold War of the 1950s and early 1960s saw the U.S. fight a hot war in Korea, while organizing a series of CIA covert actions and coups in countries such as Guatemala, Iran and Congo, to name only a few.

Unlike the European powers of the past, the U.S. didn't establish colonies--Puerto Rico aside. Instead, it justified military interventions on the need to stop "communism" and defend "democracy"--and used this excuse for the troop buildup in Vietnam in the mid-1960s.

A U.S. spy ship in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 even provoked an attack by North Vietnamese patrol boats under a covert action program known as 34A. This was used for a congressional resolution granting war-making authority to President Lyndon Johnson.

Six years later, a secret Defense Department history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, known as the Pentagon Papers, was leaked to New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan. The papers documented U.S. support for France's attempt to maintain colonial rule in Vietnam, followed by U.S. sponsorship of a military coup and a series of covert operations that preceded open U.S. involvement in the war.

The Pentagon Papers, Sheehan wrote, revealed a secret inner U.S. government--"a centralized state, far more powerful than anything else, for whom the enemy is not simply the Communists but everything else, its own press, its own judiciary, its own Congress, foreign and friendly governments--all these are potentially antagonistic… It has survived and perpetuated itself often using the issue of anti-Communism as a weapon against the other branches of government and the press, and finally, it does not function necessarily for the benefit of the Republic, but rather for its own ends, its own perpetuation; it has its own codes which are quite different from public codes. Secrecy was a way of protecting itself, not so much from threats by foreign governments, but from detection from its own population on charges of its own competence and wisdom."

In an internal memo, Pentagon official John McNaughton explained the real U.S. war aims in Vietnam: "70 percent--to avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat. 20 percent--to keep SVN (South Vietnam) territory from Chinese hands. 10 percent--to permit the people of SVN to enjoy a better, freer way of life. Also--to emerge from crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used."

Those "methods used" left 3 million Southeast Asians and 58,000 Americans dead. Ever since, the U.S. has tried to overcome the "unacceptable taint" of Vietnam--the widespread reluctance to send American ground troops into war.

In the meantime, the U.S. organized covert military operations in the 1980s, from Central America to the Middle East to Afghanistan.

The end of the Cold War and the threat of "communism" didn't end the systematic lies and deceptions by the U.S. government. To build support for the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. concocted a story that Iraqi troops removed babies from incubators after invading Kuwait--and then exaggerated Iraqi military strength to justify the establishment of permanent military bases in oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

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NOW THE new "war against terrorism" is being used to excuse everything from a crackdown on civil liberties to media blackouts on U.S. military action and new alliances with police states like Uzbekistan.

We aren't told that Washington has been preparing for military action in Afghanistan for years--or that U.S. oil companies have substantial interests in the region.

This can't simply be chalked up to the policies of conservative politicians like George W. Bush. What Sheehan called the "centralized state" is at the core of every advanced capitalist country--a permanent body of unelected military chiefs, bureaucrats, judges and law enforcement personnel who preserve "order" as governments come and go.

And the U.S., the world's only superpower, provides a state machine that serves as the ultimate protector of the property and power of the giant corporations and their interests around the globe.

Even President Eisenhower--a former general--warned that the "military-industrial complex" was a threat to democracy.

Forty years later, huge defense contractors like Boeing and Lockheed-Martin regularly recruit retired military chiefs and CIA agents who turn into corporate lobbyists and drive policies like the expansion of NATO.

The September 11 attacks have given Washington's military chiefs and "national security" bureaucrats an opportunity to repackage their propaganda and lies as "self-defense." But most Americans would be horrified if they knew the ugly truth about U.S. foreign policy.

That's why we have to expose the lies used to justify the aims of the war on Afghanistan--and to build opposition to the system that produced it.

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