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Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Terrorism proposed back in 1961

last updated: April 14, 2008 03:52:29 AM

We are living in complex and disturbing times. Amazingly, as the poor get poorer and the middle class dissolves, corporations -- especially military industrial and energy -- are posting record profits. Companies that Bush handed no-bid contracts to in Iraq are making out like bandits. None of this would have been possible without the Sept. 11 attacks. How could these attacks even happen to us?

Let's look at history: In 1961, the Joint Chiefs of Staff put a proposal on President Kennedy's desk called Operation Northwoods that called for CIA- perpetrated terrorism, including bombs and crashing hijacked planes, to be used as a pretext to invade Cuba. Kennedy struck down the plan and fired a bunch of people in the CIA.

Would Bush do the same if a similar plan crossed his desk?



The Nukes of October: Richard Nixon's Secret Plan to Bring Peace to Vietnam
By Jeremi Suri 25.Feb 2008

Top Secret

The following documents offer additional proof of the plan hatched by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger to end the conflict in Vietnam by pretending to launch a nuclear strike on the USSR.

top secret classified memorandum
nuclear war kissinger nixon haig

· Memorandum for the President

madman mutual assured destruction ussr

· Memorandum for Colonel Haig

soviet unioin usa aggressor atomic war attack
cold war provocation madness eyes only top secret

· Notes on Increased Readiness Posture of October 1969

On the morning of October 27, 1969, a squadron of 18 B-52s — massive bombers with eight turbo engines and 185-foot wingspans — began racing from the western US toward the eastern border of the Soviet Union. The pilots flew for 18 hours without rest, hurtling toward their targets at more than 500 miles per hour. Each plane was loaded with nuclear weapons hundreds of times more powerful than the ones that had obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The B-52s, known as Stratofortresses, slowed only once, along the coast of Canada near the polar ice cap. Here, KC-135 planes — essentially 707s filled with jet fuel — carefully approached the bombers. They inched into place for a delicate in-flight connection, transferring thousands of gallons from aircraft to aircraft through a long, thin tube. One unfortunate shift in the wind, or twitch of the controls, and a plane filled with up to 150 tons of fuel could crash into a plane filled with nuclear ordnance.

The aircraft were pointed toward Moscow, but the real goal was to change the war in Vietnam. During his campaign for the presidency the year before, Richard Nixon had vowed to end that conflict. But more than 4,500 Americans had died there in the first six months of 1969, including 84 soldiers at the debacle of Hamburger Hill. Meanwhile, the peace negotiations in Paris, which many people hoped would end the conflict, had broken down. The Vietnamese had declared that they would just sit there, conceding nothing, "until the chairs rot." Frustrated, Nixon decided to try something new: threaten the Soviet Union with a massive nuclear strike and make its leaders think he was crazy enough to go through with it. His hope was that the Soviets would be so frightened of events spinning out of control that they would strong-arm Hanoi, telling the North Vietnamese to start making concessions at the negotiating table or risk losing Soviet military support.

Codenamed Giant Lance, Nixon's plan was the culmination of a strategy of premeditated madness he had developed with national security adviser Henry Kissinger. The details of this episode remained secret for 35 years and have never been fully told. Now, thanks to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, it's clear that Giant Lance was the leading example of what historians came to call the "madman theory": Nixon's notion that faked, finger-on-the-button rage could bring the Soviets to heel.

Nixon and Kissinger put the plan in motion on October 10, sending the US military's Strategic Air Command an urgent order to prepare for a possible confrontation: They wanted the most powerful thermonuclear weapons in the US arsenal readied for immediate use against the Soviet Union. The mission was so secretive that even senior military officers following the orders — including the SAC commander himself — were not informed of its true purpose.
Boeing B-52E-85-BO (S/N 56-0635) is refueled by Boeing KC-135A (S/N 57-1467). Photo: US Air Force

Two weeks later, the plans were set and teams of workers at Air Force bases in Washington state and Southern California began to prepare for battle — loading the heavy and cumbersome weapons in a frenetic fashion. The workers were pushed beyond their training, and there could have been an accidental explosion. There had been near-disasters before. Just a year earlier, a Stratofortress had crashed in Greenland and released radioactive material.

After their launch, the B-52s pressed against Soviet airspace for three days. They skirted enemy territory, challenging defenses and taunting Soviet aircraft. The pilots remained on alert, prepared to drop their bombs if ordered. The Soviets likely knew about the threat as it was unfolding: Their radar picked up the planes early in their flight paths, and their spies monitored American bases. They knew the bombers were armed with nuclear weapons, because they could determine their weight from takeoff patterns and fuel use. In past years, the US had kept nuclear-armed planes in the air as a possible deterrent (if the Soviets blew up all of our air bases in a surprise attack, we'd still be able to respond). But in 1968, the Pentagon publicly banned that practice — so the Soviets wouldn't have thought the 18 planes were part of a patrol. Secretary of defense Melvin Laird, who opposed the operation, worried that the Soviets would either interpret Giant Lance as an attack, causing catastrophe, or as a bluff,
making Washington look weak.

Front view of Boeing B-52D in flight. Photo: US Air Force
B61 thermonuclear bomb at Hill Air Force Base. Photo: US Air Force
Members of a Strategic Air Command B-52 combat crew race for their always ready-and-waiting B-52 heavy bomber. Fifty percent of the SAC bomber and tanker force is on continuous ground alert, ready to be enroute to target within the warning time provided by the ballistic missile early warning system. One of the bomber's two hound dog missiles is shown in the foreground. Photo: US Air Force

The US had come perilously close to nuclear war before: During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the nation's nuclear forces were poised for imminent use in response to Soviet actions. And on several occasions, aircraft carrying nuclear weapons had crashed; other times, radar operators had misinterpreted flocks of migrating birds as a Soviet first strike. October 1969, however, was different. This was the only moment we know of when a president decided that it made strategic sense to pretend to launch World War III.

Nixon's madman pose and Giant Lance were based on game theory, a branch of mathematics that uses simple calculations and rigorous logic to help understand how people make choices — like whether to surge ahead in traffic or whether to respond to a military provocation with a strike of one's own. The most famous example in the field is the Prisoner's Dilemma: If two criminal suspects are held in separate cells, should they keep mum or rat each other out? (Answer: They should keep quiet, but as self-interested actors, what they will do is betray each other and both go to jail.) In the Cold War, the "games" were much more complicated simulations of war and bargaining: Would the Soviets be more likely to attack Western Europe if we kept missiles there or if we didn't?

Kissinger had studied game theory as a young academic and strategic theorist at Harvard. In the early '60s, he was part of a group of World War II veterans who became the oracles or "whiz kids" of the nuclear age. Working at newly formed institutes and think tanks, like the RAND Corporation, they preached that the proper way to deal with the existence of nuclear weapons wasn't to act as if the situation was so grave that one couldn't even discuss using them; it was to figure out how to use them most effectively. This was the attitude mocked by Stanley Kubrik in Dr. Strangelove, in which RAND appears thinly disguised as the Bland Corporation.

One of the starting points for Cold War game theory was President Eisenhower's proposed doctrine of "massive retaliation": Washington would respond viciously to any attack on the US or its allies. This, the thinking went, would create enough fear to deter enemy aggression. But Kissinger believed this policy could actually encourage our enemies and limit our power. Would the US really nuke Moscow if the Soviets funded some communist insurgents in Angola or took over a corner of Iran? Of course not. As a result, enemies would engage in "salami tactics," slicing away at American interests, confident that the US would not respond.

VIDEO: Cluster bombs, designed with "submunition" ordnance to set off a chain-reaction of explosions, became an important part of the US conventional military arsenal in the 1960s. In Southeast Asia, cluster bombs allowed the US military to inflict widespread damage on the enemy from the air, without resorting to nuclear weapons.

The White House needed a wider range of military options. More choices, the thinking went, would allow us to prevent some conflicts from starting, gain bargaining leverage in others, and stop still others from escalating. This game-theory logic was the foundation for what became in the '60s and '70s the doctrine of "flexible response": Washington would respond to small threats in small ways and big threats in big ways.

The madman theory was an extension of that doctrine. If you're going to rely on the leverage you gain from being able to respond in flexible ways — from quiet nighttime assassinations to nuclear reprisals — you need to convince your opponents that even the most extreme option is really on the table. And one way to do that is to make them think you are crazy.

Consider a game that theorist Thomas Schelling described to his students at Harvard in the '60s: You're standing at the edge of a cliff, chained by the ankle to another person. As soon as one of you cries uncle, you'll both be released, and whoever remained silent will get a large prize. What do you do? You can't push the other person off the cliff, because then you'll die, too. But you can dance and walk closer and closer to the edge. If you're willing to show that you'll brave a certain amount of risk, your partner may concede — and you might win the prize. But if you convince your adversary that you're crazy and liable to hop off in any direction at any moment, he'll probably cry uncle immediately. If the US appeared reckless, impatient, even insane, rivals might accept bargains they would have rejected under normal conditions. In terms of game theory, a new equilibrium would emerge as leaders in Moscow, Hanoi, and Havana contemplated how terrible things could become if they provoked an out-of-control president to experiment with the awful weapons at his disposal.

The nuclear-armed B-52 flights near Soviet territory appeared to be a direct application of this kind of game theory. H. R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, wrote in his diary that Kissinger believed evidence of US irrationality would "jar the Soviets and North Vietnam." Nixon encouraged Kissinger to expand this approach. "If the Vietnam thing is raised" in conversations with Moscow, Nixon advised, Kissinger should "shake his head and say, 'I am sorry, Mr. Ambassador, but [the president] is out of control." Nixon told Haldeman: "I want the North Vietnamese to believe that I've reached the point that I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can't restrain him when he is angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button' — and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace."

As Giant Lance unfolded, Soviet general secretary Leonid Brezhnev had no way of knowing whether this was an exercise, a bluff, or the attack that would end it all (and to which he needed to respond in kind immediately). Brezhnev's ambassador to the US, Anatoly Dobrynin, urgently set up a meeting with Nixon and Kissinger.

Dobrynin began the conversation by expressing alarm about White House actions. The president then lashed out at the Soviet ambassador, demanding that Moscow help the US in Vietnam. Nixon declared that if help wasn't given, "the United States reserves the right to go its own way and to use its own methods to end the war."

Dobrynin explained that the Soviet leadership understood Nixon and Kissinger's threat that "the United States may resort to some 'other measures' to resolve the Vietnam issue." But in that case, Dobrynin continued, "Moscow would like to tell the president bluntly that the policy of settling the Vietnam issue through military force is not only futile but extremely dangerous."

Dobrynin recounted Nixon's threatening words in his report to the Kremlin: The president said "he will never (Nixon twice emphasized that word) accept a humiliating defeat or humiliating terms. The US, like the Soviet Union, is a great nation, and he is its president. The Soviet leaders are determined persons, but he, the president, is the same."

PHOTO: Cockpit of Boeing B-52D (S/N 56-0665), which is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Photo: US Air Force

Dobrynin warned Soviet leaders that "Nixon is unable to control himself even in a conversation with a foreign ambassador." He also commented on the president's "growing emotionalism" and "lack of balance."

This was exactly the impression that Nixon and Kissinger had sought to cultivate. After the meeting, Kissinger reveled in their success. He wrote the president: "I suspect Dobrynin's basic mission was to test the seriousness of the threat." Nixon had, according to Kissinger, "played it very cold with Dobrynin, giving him one back for each he dished out." Kissinger counseled the White House to "continue backing up our verbal warnings with our present military moves."

On October 30, Nixon and Kissinger ordered an end to Giant Lance, and the B-52s turned and headed back home. The sudden conclusion reinforced the madman pose. Nixon and Kissinger may have been trying to show the Soviets that they could initiate threatening actions without warning and then restore "normal" operations in similarly unpredictable ways. This would keep the Kremlin guessing about what was coming next, wondering whether the US would soon send both countries off the cliff.

VIDEO: A short video history of the B-52, the Strategic Air Command, and their role in the Cold War.

On the most obvious level, the mission failed. It may have scared the Soviets, but it did not compel them to end their support for Hanoi, and the North Vietnamese certainly didn't dash to Paris to beg for peace. Nixon and Kissinger believed, though, that their threats opened the door to the arms-control deals of the early '70s. According to this argument, leaders in Moscow recognized after October 1969 that they had better negotiate with Washington, on terms amenable to American interests.

More than 35 years after Giant Lance, I asked Kissinger about it during a long lunch at the Four Seasons Grill in New York. Why, I asked, did they risk nuclear war back in October 1969? He paused over his salad, surprised that I knew so much about this episode, and measured his words carefully. "Something had to be done," he explained, to back up threats the US had made and to push the Soviets for help in Vietnam. Kissinger had suggested the nuclear maneuvers to give the president more leverage in negotiations. It was an articulation of the game theory he had studied before coming to power. "What were [the Soviets] going to do?" Kissinger said dismissively.

PHOTO: Boeing B-52F-65-BW (S/N 57-0139) at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Photo: US Air Force

But what if things had gone terribly wrong — if the Soviets had overreacted, if a B-52 had crashed, if one of the hastily loaded warheads had exploded?

(MADMAN MASS MURDER GAMBLER Kissinger refuses to answer! OF COURSE nuclear war was possible and USA had provoked it)

Kissinger demurred. Denying that there was ever a madman theory in operation, he emphasized that Giant Lance was designed to be a warning, not a provocation to war. The operation was designed to be safe. And in any case, he said, firm resolve is essential to policymaking.

AUTHOR: Jeremi Suri (, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin, is the author of Henry Kissinger and the American Century.

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