While the Cold War was at its peak, most Americans were unaware of the internal war taking place at the highest levels of the U.S. government. It began in the summer of 1961 when JFK’s own military hierarchy and intelligence advisors pressured him to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. According to author David Talbott, at a July 1961 National Security Council meeting Kennedy was presented with a plan for “…a surprise nuclear attack by the Joint Chiefs Chairman, Lyman Lemnitzer, and by Allen Dulles, CIA Director. Kennedy, disgusted, got up and left in the middle of the meeting, and then remarked to his Secretary of State Dean Rusk, ‘…and we call ourselves the human race.'”
For his part, Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay publicly escalated the war with his Commander-in-Chief by declaring to a news reporter that “…nuclear war is inevitable. I expect to exchange nuclear blows with the Russians by the end of the year.”
Kennedy resisted. Amidst all the dangerous warmongering of his military and national security advisors, he bravely stood alone. He knew that a nuclear first strike would not knock out Russia’s nuclear capabilities, and Russian leader Nikita Kruschev would be forced by Kremlin hawks to retaliate. From there, nuclear escalation and global annihilation would have ensued. JFK realized that the only way to avoid all-out nuclear war was to not start a nuclear war. To this end, he fulfilled what he considered the primary responsibility of any American president: keep the country out of war if at all possible. He considered the nuclear hawks in his own cabinet madmen. The Joint Chiefs and the CIA knew Russian nuclear retaliation could wipe out half the U.S., yet they kept pressuring JFK for war.
Kennedy finally fired CIA sacred cows–Allen Dulles, Dick Bissell and Charles Cabell–in late 1961. This only made Lemay and Lemnitzer scream louder for war, even though as Lemay readily admitted, “…nuclear attacks would probably incinerate New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington and Detroit.” The generals targeted Cuba during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, but JFK thwarted them again. He dodged a nuclear catastrophe by choosing the “safe” resolution of a quarantine against Soviet ships carrying warheads to Cuba. It worked, but the right-wing hawks in the U.S. government were not happy with the popular, peace-loving president. The Pentagon and the CIA began calling JFK a traitor and Communist-appeaser behind his back. There was only one option left for them.
Journalist Richard Starnes hinted at this option in an incredible article published in October 1963. Starnes quoted a high-ranking U.S. official as saying, “The CIA is a malignancy, guilty of insubordination, and the White House cannot control it any longer. If the U.S. ever experiences a coup d’état it will come from the CIA.”
A month later JFK was dead. It is a historical fact that his own military and intelligence advisors had the motive, means and opportunity to overthrow him.
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