Practically from the start of his administration, President Trump was suspected of serving as an agent of the Russian government. The U.S. national-security branch of the federal government — specifically the Pentagon, the CIA, and the FBI — were convinced that Trump had been compromised.
An enormous investigation was launched into Trump’s relationship with the Russians. For the first two years of his term in office, the liberal establishment, the mainstream press, and the deep state had no doubts that Special Counsel Robert Mueller would end up finding a mountain of irrefutable evidence showing the Trump had become an agent of the Russian government.
At that point, the plan was to impeach Trump for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” convict him, and remove him from office.
When Mueller’s efforts failed to find that Trump had become a Russian agent, there were only two viable ways to remove him from office. One way was through impeachment on some other charge. The other way was by defeating him in the next election. The impeachment effort, which involved Ukraine, failed. The 2020 election succeeded in ousting Trump from the presidency.
In the summer of 1963, the U.S. national-security establishment was facing a similar problem but actually one that was much graver. The problem wasn’t that President Kennedy had become an agent of the Soviet Union but rather that his policies, the Pentagon and the CIA believed, were leading to a communist takeover of the United States.
This was the height of the Cold War. Since World War II, most every American had been indoctrinated with the notion that there was an international communist conspiracy to take over the world, a conspiracy that was based in Moscow, Russia. In fact, that was the reason for the conversion of the federal government from a limited-government republic, which had been America’s governmental system for some 150 years, to a national-security state, one that wielded omnipotent powers, such as assassination of political leaders.
Kennedy came into the presidency as pretty much a standard cold warrior. What set him apart was his belief that Third World independence movements concerned the quest to become independent of colonial powers. The position of the Pentagon and the CIA was that such movements were communistic.
For example, the U.S. national-security establishment had no reservations about conspiring to kill Congo leader Patrice Lumumba because of his “obvious” communist proclivities in seeking independence for Congo from Belgium rule, which made him suspect in the eyes of the national-security establishment. Kennedy was shocked and dismayed over Lumumba’s assassination.
Even though Kennedy was pretty much a standard cold warrior when he entered office, he almost immediately he got into a war with the Pentagon and the CIA, a war that grew in intensity throughout his administration and lasted until Kennedy was killed in November 1963.
Soon after he was elected, the CIA presented him with a plan for CIA-trained Cuban exiles to invade Cuba, which was viewed as a communist dagger pointed at America’s neck. The CIA told Kennedy that U.S. air support would not be needed. It was lie. The CIA figured that once the invasion started to falter, Kennedy would have no choice but to provide the support in order to save face.
They didn’t know John Kennedy. When the invasion faltered and the CIA requested the air support, Kennedy said no and let the invasion go down to defeat.
Kennedy knew that he had been set up. Although he took public responsibility for the debacle, he fired the revered director of the CIA, Allen Dulles, as well as two other high CIA officials, Richard Bissell Jr. and Charles Cabell. He supposedly vowed to splinter the CIA “into a thousand pieces and scatter them to the winds.”
For their part, CIA officials considered Kennedy to a traitor to the cause of freedom and a coward in the face of communism.
Soon after that, the Pentagon began urging Kennedy to invade Cuba. Their Operation Northwoods proposal, which didn’t come to light until the 1990s, involved deadly terrorist attacks on American soil and plane hijackings that would be falsely blamed on Cuban agents, thereby providing a pretext for invading the island. Kennedy rejected the proposal, much to the anger and dismay of the Pentagon.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Pentagon was urging Kennedy to bomb Cuba to smithereens. Kennedy refused to do so, instead deciding to strike a deal with the Soviets that entailed the removal of Soviet troops and a promise by Kennedy not to invade Cuba.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff were livid. One called it the greatest defeat in U.S. history. After all, the deal left Cuba in communist hands, which meant that the U.S. was now facing permanently a grave threat to national security from only 90 miles away.
After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy experienced a breakthrough. He came to the realization that the Cold War was just a great big racket. In his famous Peace Speech in June 1963, he declared an end to the Cold War, without even advising the Pentagon or the CIA in advance of his speech. Kennedy began negotiating with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, who had experienced the same breakthrough.
Kennedy was threatening the entire military-industrial complex. Imagine: No Vietnam War. No arms race. No enormous military profits. No ever-increasing military and intelligence budgets. No state-sponsored assassinations. Indeed, no need for a national-security state.
Compounding the problem was Kennedy’s support of the civil-rights movement, which was considered by the FBI and the national-security establishment to be a communist front. That’s why the FBI was spying on Martin Luther King and blackmailing him into committing suicide. They were convinced that King had become a Russian agent.
What could the national-security establishment do? Here was, in their eyes, a naive, cowardly, treasonous, incompetent playboy of a president whose policies were, in their eyes, certain to cause the downfall of America and a communist takeover.
They couldn’t go the impeachment route because Kennedy had not committed an impeachable offense. They couldn’t wait until the next election because it was a virtual certainty that Kennedy would defeat Barry Goldwater, who was believed would be the Republican presidential nominee.
In the eyes of those charged with protecting “national security,” that left but one option to save the United States and the American people — regime change, the same option that the military and the CIA had used in Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, and Congo in 1961 and would use again in Chile in 1973, all to protect “national security.” In the eyes, the only other alternative would have been to continue letting Kennedy take America down the road to a communist takeover.
This post was written by: Jacob G. Hornberger
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.