George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Let’s remember the Cuban Missile Crisis in order to better understand the situation in Ukraine. 

In 1898, the U.S. went to war against Spain in an ostensible attempt to help Cuba and other Spanish colonies achieve their independence. It turned out to be a lie. Once Spain was defeated, U.S. officials announced that there would be no independence. Instead, Spain’s colonies would now be America’s colonies. The idea was that for America to be great, it needed to be an empire with colonies. 

From 1898 to 1959, Cuba was controlled by a succession of dictatorial regimes that did the bidding of the U.S. Empire. That is how the U.S. acquired its imperial base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The last of these U.S. dictatorial puppets was a brutal and corrupt pro-U.S. rightwing dictator named Fulgencio Batista. 

In the early 1950s, a group of Cuban people revolted against Batista’s pro-U.S. corrupt and tyrannical regime. On December 31, 1958, Batista fled the island, leaving Cuba in the hands of the revolutionaries. That was when Fidel Castro became the new Cuban leader. 

Castro announced that Cuba would henceforth be independent of the United States. Not surprisingly, that didn’t sit well with U.S. officials, given that the U.S. had controlled Cuba for half-a-century and had no intentions of letting go of that control. 

After a series of measures and counter-measures, Castro declared himself a communist and decreed that Cuba would now have a totally socialist economic system. He began nationalizing homes and businesses, including those owned by American citizens. 

Sealing his fate, Castro announced that Cuba would have a friendly relationship with Russia and the rest of the Soviet Union as well as with other communist countries. In the minds of U.S. officials, establishing a friendly relationship with Russia and the rest of the Soviet Union was a grave threat to U.S. “national security” and, therefore, prohibited.

President Eisenhower, the Pentagon, and the CIA decided on a policy of regime change for Cuba. The CIA came up with a plan to attack and invade Cuba, oust the Castro regime from power, and replace it with another pro-U.S. rightwing dictatorship.

The CIA’s plan called for using a proxy army of Cuban exiles to invade Cuba. It would consist of more than a thousand Cuban exiles, who the CIA was secretly training in Guatemala. Recall that in 1954, the CIA had orchestrated a coup in Guatemala that succeeded in removing the country’s democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, from power and replacing him with a brutal rightwing military dictator who was willing to do the bidding of U.S. officials. That’s why the CIA was using Guatemala as a training ground for its proxy army that was to invade Cuba and accomplish the same thing that the CIA had accomplished in Guatemala.

The CIA was unable to carry out its invasion before President Kennedy took office. As soon as Kennedy did take office, the CIA presented him with its invasion plan. Having come into office as pretty much a standard Cold Warrior, Kennedy approved the plan. 

The invasion took place at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs. It went down to ignominious defeat, with all the CIA’s proxy invaders being either captured or killed by Castro’s communist army.

After the communist defeat of the CIA, the Pentagon and the CIA began exhorting Kennedy to carry out a full-scale military invasion of Cuba to remove what the Pentagon and the CIA considered was a grave threat to “national security.” 

In other words, with its proxy army at the Bay of Pigs, the CIA had attempted to do what Russia is attempting to do in Ukraine — oust an unfriendly regime and replace it with a friendly regime. After that, the Pentagon began pressuring Kennedy to do precisely what Russia is doing in Ukraine — implement a full-scale military invasion of Cuba for the purpose of regime change. 

Thus, notice the irony: Today, the Pentagon and the CIA are pontificating on Russia’s evil in Ukraine while forgetting about their own evil with respect to Cuba, which included, by the way, numerous state-sponsored assassination attempts against Castro as well as a brutal economic embargo that they continue to enforce even today, one that is intended to impoverish and even kill the Cuban people as way to achieve regime change in Cuba.

As I point out in my new book An Encounter with Evil: The Abraham Zapruder Story, by this time, Kennedy was fed up with both the CIA and the military establishment. Prior to the Bay of Pigs invasion, the CIA had told Kennedy that the Cuban people would rise up against Castro and support the U.S. invasion. Therefore, there would be no need for U.S. air support or an actual U.S. invasion.

It was a knowing, intentional, deliberate lie. The CIA was playing what they considered was a neophyte president. The CIA figured that once the invasion started going down to defeat, JFK would have to provide the needed air support and maybe a full-scale invasion. 

But the CIA misread the neophyte president. Once the invasion started going down in defeat, Kennedy stuck by his position. No direct U.S. intervention, much to the anger and rage of the CIA. 

Knowing that the CIA had played him and manipulated him with its lie, Kennedy angrily fired CIA Director Allen Dulles, who, interestingly enough, would later be appointed by Lyndon Johnson to serve on the Warren Commission, the entity whose ostensible purpose was to investigate the Kennedy assassination. 

After the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs, the Pentagon presented Kennedy with a plan for a surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, much like Japan’s surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. Kennedy left that meeting in disgust, exclaiming to an aide, “And we call ourselves the human race.”

The Pentagon also presented Kennedy with Operation Northwoods, one of the most infamous plans in U.S. history. It called for real terrorist attacks in which innocent Americans would be killed. The attacks would be carried out by Pentagon agents fraudulently posing as Cuban communists. To his everlasting credit, Kennedy rejected the plan.

The Cubans and the Soviets knew that the Pentagon and the CIA were hellbent on invading Cuba for the purpose of regime change. That’s why Soviet nuclear missiles were placed in Cuba — not to start a nuclear war with the U.S. but simply to deter an attack by the Pentagon and the CIA or defend against such an attack.

Thus, while the Pentagon and the CIA have long indoctrinated Americans into believing that it was the Soviet Union and the Cubans who brought the U.S. and the Soviet Union to within an inch of all-out nuclear war, that’s a lie. The truth is that it was the Pentagon and the CIA that brought the U.S. and the Soviet Union to within an inch of all-out nuclear war, given their obsession with invading Cuba and effecting regime change there.

In fact, throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Pentagon and the CIA were pressuring Kennedy to attack and invade Cuba. If Kennedy had succumbed to that pressure, there is virtually no doubt that the result would have been all-out nuclear war. That’s because, unbeknownst to the Pentagon and the CIA, Soviet commanders on the ground had fully armed tactical nuclear weapons. 

We’ve all been taught that it was the Soviets who blinked during the crisis. The truth is that it was Kennedy who blinked, and it is a good thing that he did. If he had not rejected what the Pentagon and the CIA wanted him to do, most Americans wouldn’t be standing here today. 

Kennedy struck a deal in which he promised that he would not permit the Pentagon and the CIA to invade Cuba. In return, the Soviets removed their missiles from Cuba and took them home. It’s also worth mentioning that JFK acceded to the Soviet request to remove the Pentagon’s nuclear missiles from Turkey that were pointed at the Soviet Union.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff angrily considered Kennedy’s resolution of the crisis to be the biggest defeat in U.S. history. They compared his actions during the crisis to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler at Munich. The Pentagon’s and the CIA’s angry mindset toward Kennedy is reflected in the wording contained in this November 22, 1963, Dallas newspaper advertisement and in this flier that was being circulated in Dallas on that day. 

Once Kennedy appeared at American University and effectively declared an end to the Pentagon’s and the CIA’s Cold War racket, the war was on between JFK and the national-security establishment over the future direction of America.

As I point out in my new book An Encounter with Evil: The Abraham Zapruder Story, it is a war that Kennedy would end up losing, which would end up putting our country on a permanent, never-ending war trajectory that would return the United States to the very real possibility of all-out nuclear war with Russia today.

To repeat Santayana’s famous aphorism, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

This article was originally published at the Future of Freedom Foundation and is republished here with permission.

Jacob Hornberger
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