In 1962, the United States Government wanted to go to war with Cuba for a myriad of reasons. The Central Intelligence Agency knew that the public would never support the aggression, having spent the prior three decades at war with Germany, Japan, and, later, what we now call North Korea. To overcome this reluctance, the CIA drafted a proposal called Operation Northwoods. The documents are now available because of the Freedom of Information Act, and you can download them here.
The plan was simple:
- Set off a series of bombs in major American cities
- Make attempts on the lives of Cuban refugees so that media coverage would show the graphic nature of their injuries
- Stage the murder of innocent civilians
- Stage the hijacking of civilian airplanes
- Fill a jet with secret operatives posing as college students and then blow up a replica of the jet over the Atlantic ocean while the real plane landed at an airbase
- Shoot down and murder astronaut John Glenn while in orbit and blame it on Cuba
All of these acts were to be committed by CIA operatives and blamed on Cuban terrorists to make the public willing to turn over more money, more freedom, and more control to the military-industrial complex. Assuming the drafters of the proposal were acting in good faith, the theory was that a few hundred American murders would save millions in the event of a nuclear exchange with Cuba, which then seemed possible giving its close relationship with the Soviet Union. (Most people are not monsters; they truly want to do the right thing. This is what leads me to believe that it was a cost-benefit analysis that involved extra-Constitutional acts that were illegal, immoral, and grounds for execution were they to come to light at the time.)
The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved the plan.
President John F. Kennedy, using his executive power, killed Operation Northwoods, forbidding the military from going through with the staged bombings, murders, and hijackings.
Some believe that this pattern of Kennedy acting as a constant check on the so-called “black ops” of the United States were among the reasons he was gunned down in the middle of Dallas.
Why does any of this matter? History. I imagine that the attacks in Boston were almost certainly the act of either a domestic or international terrorist or terrorist group, protesting some policy of the United States Government, either real or imagined. However, the moment you hear someone accuse a journalist or news anchor of being a “crackpot” for suggesting that a faction within the government itself may have been involved – something I’ve seen at least a dozen times this morning by people with no knowledge of history – appreciate how truly and utterly naive they are and the depth of their ignorance of past events.
Is it unlikely? Yes. Extremely unlikely. Is it possible? Most certainly.
Operation Northwoods was not an isolated incident. This is the same government that had a rogue faction purposely murder poor black men by pretending to treat their syphilis infections in a program called The Tuskegee Experiment so the effects of the disease could be studied. It went as high as the Surgeon General of the United States, who took part in actively encouraging the participants to remain in the experiment, even though they didn’t realize they were slowly being killed!
This is the same government that had a rogue faction that conducted illegal and non-consenting tests on countless American citizens, including dosing them with drugs in their food and water supply, hypnosis, sexual abuse, isolation, and torture, to study the response under varying conditions as part of something known as Project MKUltra. They specifically targeted “people who could not fight back” including mental patients, prisoners, prostitutes, and drug addicts. That way, no one would believe them when they told their stories.
It has been done before and it will be done again. If you think this is something a small group within a larger government or corporation isn’t capable of doing, or that it wouldn’t even consider, you are living in a fantasy world of lollipops and gumdrops, deluded into a false sense of security as unicorns prance around you in meadows of cotton candy. You vastly underestimate the corrupting influence of unchecked power, secrecy, unlimited funding, and lack of accountability. As Justice Brandeis said, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Bad things grow, and terrible things happen, in the darkness. That is why a free press, and a non-negotiable constitutional right to privacy, must be as fiercely defended as the freedom of speech. That’s why checks and balances are so important. That is why an educated citizenry is vital.
Whether you think it is the case or not, don’t just sit back and let someone denigrate a fellow citizen for even considering the possibility that a small group within government itself was behind the Boston attacks even though I sincerely, personally doubt that to be the case. The odds are fairly overwhelming in the age of digital cell phone recordings and always-on Internet that it probably wasn’t. (As I said, it was almost certainly the act of an ideological zealot who is trying to force some sort of change.) But if you can’t even discuss the possibility in public, we’ve forgotten all of the lessons of the Cold War era, Watergate, and the Iran Contra Scandal. Namely: Everything should be up for discussion; everything should be considered.
I’m growing tired of this anti-intellectual, “zero tolerance”, do-as-your-told culture that has been trying to take hold these past few decades. Guess what? The Church is not beyond reproach – it was harboring the biggest pedophile ring in the world. The Government is not beyond reproach – it was willing to slaughter its own citizens to justify a war, blaming it on terrorist. Your doctor is not beyond reproach – he was willing to let you die to provide data on a sexually transmitted disease, lying to your face about curing you. There are no sacred cows. There is nothing that is “poor taste” when talking about finding those responsible for such horrors. You need to be rational, intellectually disciplined, and brutally logical. It’s part of overcoming your bias and “authority respecting tendency” in mental model speak. You need to trust your reason and judgment, not institutions or men. Facts don’t lie but people do.
As Voltaire taught us centuries ago, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” There is no official, nor office, that should be beyond scrutiny. To consider the remote possibility that the United States Government was somehow involved, or at least aware, of the attacks given that they were straight out of the military playbook of the 1960’s is neither insensitive nor foolish. It’s basics Civics 101. If someone were to posit such involvement, a rational person never responds, “You are a crackpot”. Instead, he or she says, “Based upon what evidence do you draw this conclusion?” and then examine it for himself or herself.
This particular area – government involvement in immoral activities – is nothing new. President Eisenhower point blank warned the American people in his farewell speech less than a year before Operation Northwoods that the rise of corporations specifically built to profit from weapons was going to result in a conspiracy to constantly drive the American people to war and to grab more of their liberties and money.
Eisenhower implored the American people: “… we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the wake of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic process. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.” He also warns against “mortgaging” the assets of future generations as it will inevitably result in a loss of their heritage and power. This is one of the greatest speeches by any world leader in history.
I’m trying to teach you to become rationalists. Rationalists weigh the evidence and look at the information. No question is ever beyond asking, no matter how minute nor theoretical. After all, if history has taught us anything, it is that the ideas which are heretical today are established dogma tomorrow. Think about how radical it was to believe that the world was not, in fact, flat, and that the Earth was not, in fact, the center of the universe.
This post isn’t even about the attacks in Boston. It is about a culture of complacency and intellectual laziness. This is the end result of educational policies such as the one that is trying to be forced through in Texas right now. It’s only possible if social studies and history are neglected in the education system. You cannot outsource your thinking to your parents, your friends, your Church, your government, or your professional peers. Think independently, and do not allow anything to be beyond scrutiny. It’s this pitfall that causes the mothers of serial killers to sit in courtrooms, ignoring evidence, and wailing about how “good” their child is.
All possibilities must be considered; all evidence must be weighed. Do not believe a conspiracy if the evidence is against it. Do not discount a conspiracy if the evidence is for it.