A newly declassified Pentagon study, published today by the non-profit National Security Archive, sheds new light on the thinking of U.S. military leaders at the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962.
As President Kennedy searched for a solution that did not involve a war that might have gone nuclear, the Pentagon was itching to escalate.
Prepared just as the crisis was ending, but before the agreement between President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreement ending the crisis had been announced, the report shows that the Joint Chiefs of Staff wanted the White House to be ready for action in the event that negotiations failed and “Soviet offensive weapons are not eliminated.”
(You can read the report, entitled “Alternative Actions if Build-up in Cuba Continues Despite Russian Acceptance of the Quarantine,” by clicking here.)
The Pentagon’s case for ‘provocation’
The National Security Archives’ website also offers this commentary from analyst William Burr:
“[JCS] Chairman Maxwell Taylor suggested to Secretary of Defense [Robert] McNamara a series of ‘direct and indirect’ and ‘provocative’ actions against Cuba (with their pros and cons). The Chiefs had been itching for an air attack and an invasion and may have believed a diplomatic failure would give the Pentagon a chance to take action. Therefore, they proposed indirect measures, such as pressures from the Organization of American States, and direct actions, ranging from an air blockade to covert operations to an all-out invasion.
“The proposed covert operations included the assassination of ‘leading Russians and Cuban communists,’ Burr notes. (See page 19 of the JCS report.)
According to Barr, the JCS also:
“suggested a series of ‘provocative’ actions to induce Fidel Castro ‘to make a mistake’ and give the United States an excuse to launch an attack. Among the provocations were harassments such as destroyer patrols around Cuba and inciting riots on the ‘Cuban side of the Guantanamo fence’ by using base workers as ‘agents’ and providing military aid to them.
The legacy of excessive secrecy
The document sheds news light the profound differences between JFK and the Pentagon as Kennedy’s presidency entered its final year. JFK Facts reported last year on a Pentagon history.
The plans were found and declassified by archivists at the Air Force. The exact same report, held in the Office of the Secretary of State, remains heavily redacted.
Barr says the disparate treatment of the same document
“raises questions about the extent to which Pentagon guidance influences declassification review practices at the National Archives’ National Declassification Center (NDC). According to a recent NDC report, nearly 40 percent of the millions of pages of documents reviewed, most of which are over 40 years old, have been withheld on national security grounds. That astoundingly high percentage of exempted pages may include items that the Pentagon regards as ‘national security information’ but which are no more sensitive than the Cuba ‘secrets’ of 1962.”
In August 2011, the leaders of the NDC said they would not make a priority of declassifying 1,100 CIA records related to JFK’a assassination. Those documents will not be made ublic until October 2017, at the earliest.