Thursday, November 30, 2006



January 1933 – Berlin. The Great Depression grips the world, Germany more tightly than most places. Having lost the bitter Word War and been forced to sign the Versailles peace treaty. Under the terms of the Versailles peace treaty that closed World War I, Germany had to disarm and dismantle its military machinery. The nation was forced to render substantial reparations payments to France, Russia, the U.K and the U.S., and the political process was controlled largely by the victorious nations in a sort of indirect joint occupation. The Depression, on top of a war-damaged economy and reparations, caused hyper-inflation had German workers literally taking wheelbarrows to the bank to cash their paychecks. People were starving and freezing to death in significant numbers. A sense of resentment and humiliation permeated post-war German society. This in turn threatened to spill over into revolution.

The USSR, recently disconnected from the recently-crippled capitalist economy, was largely unaffected by Great Depression. Under Stalin’s harsh rule, the Soviet Union in fact grew, something that did not go unnoticed in the long bread lines of the U.S., Great Britain, or Germany. Just before the United States instituted its own brand of moderate socialism (in the form of the New Deal) the lesson had already been learned and absorbed elsewhere. Many in the West turned to Socialism or Communism as the answer to the obvious shortfalls of Capitalism. The USSR did not fail to capitalize on this growing sentiment, and actively worked to foment revolution among the disaffected masses across Europe and in the U.S. In Europe, Capitalism lashed back – with Fascism, which had already made a distinct showing with the ascendancy of Mussolini in Italy.

In the frustrating environment of 1930’s Germany, nationalism and xenophobia surged, and Adolf Hitler rose on that surge, promising to re-claim the “honor” and martial glory of a humiliated nation. Inspired by Musolini’s example, Hitler and his allies manipulated the truth and pushed lies, using thug tactics whenever necessary and political maneuvers when possible, bringing forth their bold and uncompromising vision of a renewed German Empire. National Socialism drew members from the growing left wing with the language of Socialism, but steered their new recruits in a nationalistic direction. Proponents of Naziism, as it came to be shortened, promised to shake off the "foreign-controlled" Weimar regime and the oppressive terms of Versailles. Eventually, this would be broadened into a renewal of the old German-centered “Holy Roman Empire” – the Third Reich.

Paul Von Hindenburg, Reichpresident 1925-1934.

Hitler ran for President of Germany on the Nazi platform, in a bitter contest with incumbent President Paul Von Hindenburg. Hitler gained points by accusing Hindenburg of bowing to foreign pressure and selling out the fatherland and in the end, neither candidate won a clear majority. In a March 11 run-off election, Hitler lost solidly to Hindenburg, and Prussian police in fact seized documents that showed the Nazis had placed SA troops all over Berlin, in preparation for an all-out coup in the event of a Hitler victory. (1)

hello down there
Chancellor Hitler and Herman Goerring "waving" to supporters, January 30, 1933.

The resourceful and well-connected Hitler, while briefly tarnished by the conspirator image, quickly remade himself. Over the next year he and his supporters grew their power base and wriggled higher into the levels of power. With deft political maneuvering, Hitler was appointed as Chancellor, reluctantly, by President Hindenburg on January 30, 1933. (2) He teamed up with fellow Nazi and president of the Reichstag (something like Senate Majority Leader) Hermann Goering. Playing coalition politics and outflaniking everyone, they went to work within days on the early phase of their “synchronization”, a euphemism for the transformation of the political system to incorporate an all-powerful central government under Nazi control. (3)

One party that suffered a major defeat at Versailles was the German armaments industry. Weapons makers like Krupp and I.G. Farben, put out of business by the ban on all weapons of war, were reassured that the Nazi way was their way. In a private meeting Goering’s Reichstag President’s Palace, February 20, these leading industrialists were assured that “National Socialism” did not mean Communism. Indeed, if given the chance, they would break the back of Communism and organized labor in Germany (and democracy to boot), and re-assert Germany’s age-old military values and Imperial ambitions. Hitler and Goerring collected an immediate $3 million Deutsche Marks in cash donations, with promises of more to come. Hitler said “now we stand before the last election.” (4) But before that last election, to be precise, before March 5th, two eventful weeks would unfold and utterly transform Germany’s power structure.

[1]Shirer, William. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. New York. Crest Books. 7th Printing. July 1965. Page 224.
[2] See[1]. Page 262.
[3] Wikipedia. Herman Goering.
[4] See[1]. Page 265-266

Thursday, November 23, 2006



1961: The Cold War was nearing its zenith of insanity, people were getting at each other’s throats over how to deal with the USSR and its two new and troubling satellites: Sputnik and Cuba. By the end of 1960, the Soviets had taken the lead in the emerging space race and opened a new storefront just eighty miles from Florida, and the first worries over the apparently fictitious “misile gap,” a widening margin by which the Soviets were thought to have us out-armed, had been aired. Concerns were growing on the political right about communist infiltration at home, with some insisting that this was a more immediate menace even than the Soviet Union itself. And then to top this off there was the big political re-shuffling that accompanied the tumultuous 1960 presidential election.

General Lemnitzer, Eisenhower's window on the Kennedy White House and ours on the schemes of empire
General Lyman L. Lemnitzer (US Army) was a troubled man. Maybe it was the excess of Ls in his name, maybe it was just the tense times. He had been a military protégé of General Eisenhower in World War II, helping plan the early invasions of North Africa and Sicily. At war’s end he was involved in securing the surrender of the Axis leadership, working closely with Allen Dulles, who would later head the CIA; Lemnitzer has been accused of helping some former Nazis move to South America, and he helped others to stay behind in Europe, under the auspices of NATO, as spies against the USSR. [1]

By 1960, Lemnitzer was chief of staff for the Army, and Eisenhower was finishing his second term as President of the U.S. In November it became clear that Democrat John F. Kennedy, not Eisenhower’s vice president Richard Nixon, would be the next president; at this point, Eisenhower turned to his old aide Lemnitzer, appointing him Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military post in the country, in regular contact with the president. According to James Bamford in Body of Secrets (2001) Lemnitzer’s view of Eisenhower at this time of this promotion reportedly “bordered on reverence.” By leaving Lemnitzer behind, Bamford wrote, “Eisenhower would have a window onto the next administration,” and as would become clear in due time, Lemnitzer would also “become a landmine in the Kennedy administration.” [2]

Lyman was a hard line anti-Communist, an immaculate planner and control freak. According to Bamford, upon becoming chairman, “he sent out elaborate instructions outlining exactly how his fellow chiefs were to autograph group pictures – they were to sign their names directly under his, and they must follow his slant.” [3] He was reportedly not pleased to be working under Kennedy, and he wasn’t the only one. Fears were widespread, especially in the military, that Kennedy, his brother, and the rest of their team were inexperienced, liberal, and/or soft on communism. These concerns were very serious, and would come to a head very quickly over response to the revolution in Cuba.

Planning for the elimination of Fidel Castro's new regime had already begun under Eisenhower; as Kennedy came to office, two primary models prevailed, one backed by the military, one backed by the still-new CIA. Kennedy wanted no proof of American involvement, fearing that would antagonize the Soviet Union and world opinion. Thus he preferred the sneakier CIA model, based on the earlier and successful CIA-led operations that overthrew the Presidents of Iran and Guatemala. This was the basic model that came to be - injecting a force of nominally independent Cuban exiles back into their homeland, and hoping that they unite the oppressed peasantry behind themselves and march on Havana. No American forces or aid was to be seen, but secret training and arming was done in the southern U.S. and - surprise - the recently-re-subdued Guatemala. [4]

Lemnitzer and those of like mind felt that Kennedy underestimated the Castro regime, which was starting to receive military supplies and pilot training from the communist government of Czechoslovakia. “Time is working against us,” Lemnitzer told Kennedy at their first meeting on January 25. [5] He felt that America had to risk direct military involvement if they wanted success, and predicted that if the CIA’s sloppy plan were used, it would end in disaster. [6] It was used, and it failed spectacularly in mid-April, just three months after Kennedy was sworn in. The failed invasion, even though it was not planned by Kennedy himself, displayed to some exactly the inexperience they feared, and the invasion, while very hard on the anti-Castro forces who were mowed down, was very soft on Castro himself.

While the military mistrusted the Kennedies, much of the public and their Congress at the time were worried about the military. Eisenhower himself had warned in his farewell address, January 17 1961, of the dangers of the “military industrial complex.” He emphasized the need for “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” to “never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.” Such fears were widespread in the following years, as evidenced by the later success of the 1964 film Seven Days in May. Starring Kirk Douglas and written by Rod Serling, the film was about a military coup against a president perceived as soft on communism, led by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Congress stepped in with a 1961 Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigation of right-wing activity in the military, and Lemnitzer himself came under their microscope. Among the most critical of the JCS chairman in the hearings was Sen. Al Gore sr. (D-TN) Citing recent right-wing military revolts and coups in France and elsewhere, the committee published a report on their findings of a “considerable danger” in the “education and propaganda activities of military personnel.” [7]

The committee also called for an investigation of possible ties between Lemnitzer himself and right-wing groups like the John Birch Society (JBS) and his awareness of the activities of former Major General Edwin Walker. Walker was a right-winger accused of pushing racist ideas and JBS propaganda on his subordinates. He had resigned when singled out by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in April 1961, becoming more vocal in his charges that Communists had infiltrated the administration. [8] Walker made a failed bid for Governor of Texas in 1962, losing badly to Tom Connally. In 1963 he began “Operation Midnight Ride,” an evangelical anti-communist crusade. [9] At this time Walker and his aides say he was being trailed and spied on by mysterious men, one of whom allegedly shot at him on April 10 but by pure luck missed Walker's head. The crime went unsolved for over eight months before the FBI, Dallas PD, and Walker himself identified the gunman as none other than Lee Harvey Oswald, the master marksman who had just blown off the President's head. [10] Hmmm…

As Kennedy came to power amid the Bay of Pigs fiasco, in late April 1961 he met with General Douglas MacArthur. According to Kennedy aide Theodore Sorenson, MacArthur told Kennedy “the chickens are coming home to roost, and you happen to have just moved into the chicken house.” [11] And of course the evolving Cuba situation would soon lead to the Missile Crisis of 1962, followed by the 1963 murder of president Kennedy before the nation’s eyes, allegedly by Walker’s stalker, providing the most vivid national trauma for nearly four decades.

But I'm no expert in this field and this is all a bit of an aside from the story of Lyman L. Lemnitzer and Operation Northwoods, to which we turn in the next post.

[1] Petit, Andres. “Operation Northwoods: Joint Chiefs of Staff USA.” AfroCubaWeb. Last Modified August 20, 2004. Accessed November 13 2005 at:
[2] Bamford, James. Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Super-Secret National Security Agency. New York. Anchor Books. First Anchor Books edition. 2002. Pages 67, 68
[3] See [2]. Page 73.
[4] "Bay of Pigs Invasion." Wikipedia.
[5] See [2]. Page 72.
[6] See [2]. Page 73.
[7] See [2]. Page 80.
[8] See [2]. Page 79.
[9] “Edwin Walker.” Wikipedia. Accessed November 1, 2005 at:
[10] North, Mark. Act of Treason: The Role of J. Edgar Hoover in the Assassination of President Kennedy. New York. Carroll and Graf Publishers, Inc. First Carroll and Graf edition. 1991. Page 255
[11] Tarpley, Webster G. and Anton Chaitkin. George Bush, the Unauthorized Biography. Ch VIII-b: The Bay of Pigs and the Kennedy Assassination. Accessed November 8, 2005 at: