Operation Northwoods

Operation Northwoods memo

On 18th November 1997, a previously top secret document entitled “Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba (TS)” was declassified, revealing a plot by top Pentagon officials to commit self-inflicted acts of terrorism. The idea was to trick the American public into supporting an ill-conceived war against Cuba. It may well be the most evil and corrupt plan ever devised by the U.S. (or any) national government.

In the early 1960s, America was still riding a wave of fervent anti-communist sentiment. Powerful hardliners in the military were intent on proactively stoking up tensions with communist regimes around the globe. President Eisenhower had been desperately keen to invade Cuba. In the last days of his administration, he told senior aides in his Cabinet Room that he would move against Fidel Castro if only the Cubans would provide him with a suitable excuse. In 1961, at the start of John F. Kennedy’s administration, the humiliating failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion prompted even more antipathy towards Castro. The Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans to provide a pretext for war.

Northwoods was provoked by Brigadier General Ed Lansdale, a CIA officer who was in command of Operation Mongoose, the codename for U.S. plans to topple Castro and take control of Cuba. Among the extraordinary proposals were: the shooting of innocent people on American streets, the sinking of boats carrying Cuban refugees, the hijacking of planes and the bombing of cities such as Washington and Miami. Evidence would be rigged, pinning the blame on Castro. If successful, it would provide Lansdale and General Lyman Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with more than enough justification for launching their war.

One of the ideas under serious consideration involved the American space programme. On 20th February 1962, John Glenn was to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in a historic bid to become the first American to orbit the earth. Lemnitzer and his Chiefs proposed that, in the event of something going wrong with the launch, they would fabricate evidence to insinuate sabotage by supporters of Castro. According to Lemnitzer, this would be achieved “by manufacturing various pieces of evidence which would prove electronic interference on the part of the Cubans.”

The Northwoods proposals were approved by every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They were presented to the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, in March 1962 and were apparently rejected.

President Kennedy summoned Lemnitzer to the Oval Office on 16th March 1962 to discuss Northwoods. The general was told emphatically that the use of military force would not be contemplated. Some months later, Lemnitzer was removed as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Conspiracy theorists consider that Ed Lansdale was a key figure in Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Did the President pay the ultimate price for defying the CIA and the U.S. military?

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