General Lyman Lemnitzer, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Operation Northwoods was developed in early 1962.
All the buzz over possible war with Iraq brings us a deja'vu feeling, given that U.S. officials prepared Americans with similar pre-war hype in the run up to their war on Iraq. WMDs. Mushroom clouds over American cities. An insane dictator. Threats to national security. Etcetera.
Keep in mind that Iran, like Iraq, has never attacked the United States. If President Obama gives his military and his CIA orders to attack Iran, the United States will once again be the aggressor nation, as it was in its war on Iraq.
That's one reason, of course, aggressors like to maneuver targeted nations into firing the first shot. In that way, the aggressor nation can tell its citizens, "We've been attacked! We're innocent! We have been forced to go to war to defend ourselves."
That's what President Franklin Roosevelt tried to do with the Germans prior to U.S. entry into World War II. He knew that the American people were steadfastly opposed to entering into another European war, given the large number of American soldiers who had died for nothing in World War I.
But the Germans refused to take the bait. So, FDR went into the Pacific in search of a "back door to war." By imposing sanctions and an oil embargo on Japan in the middle of its war on China, FDR figured that he stood a good chance of maneuvering the Japanese into retaliating with a military strike on U.S. forces in the Pacific.
FDR proved to be right. While the debate continues over whether FDR had actual knowledge of the upcoming attack on Hawaii, there is little doubt that he was anticipating an attack somewhere in the Pacific. When the attack came at Pearl Harbor, FDR had achieved his goal -- U.S. entry into World War II.
The brutal sanctions that the U.S. government imposed against Iraq during the 1990s had much the same goal. The idea was that Saddam Hussein would not sit idly by and watch tens of thousands of Iraqi children die yearly and would instead retaliate with a military strike against U.S. forces in the region. Or the idea was that public agony in Iraq over the continuing deaths of Iraqi children would cause Saddam to be taken out by an internal military coup that would install a pro-U.S. regime into power.
But it was not to be. The children continued to die as each year went by, and Saddam remained in power. It was 9/11 and the fake WMD alerts on Iraq that enabled President George W. Bush to invade Iraq and achieve the regime change that the sanctions hadn't achieved.
As the sanctions against Iran produce ever-growing suffering among the Iranian people, will the Iranian regime sit back and simply watch it or will it retaliate with a military strike on U.S. forces in the region? It's impossible to predict, but what's easy to predict is the U.S. response to an Iranian military strike: "We've been attacked! We're innocent! We were just minding our own business! We have been forced to defend ourselves by bombing Iran."
Another option for avoiding the appearance of being the aggressor power is the Operation Northwoods option. During the Kennedy administration, the Pentagon and the CIA wanted to invade Cuba to effect regime change there. But they didn't want to appear as the aggressor power.
So, the Joint Chiefs of Staff came up with a proposal that it unanimously approved and presented to JFK. The plan called for U.S. personnel to disguise themselves as agents of the Cuban government and to engage in terrorist attacks on the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay. It also called for terrorist attacks within the United States that would be conducted by pro-U.S. forces disguising themselves as Cuban agents.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Operation Northwoods involved the proposed hijacking of an American passenger plane. The JCS proposed that a real plane containing American passengers would be hijacked by friendly forces disguised as Cuban agents. The plane would drop down off the radar screen and be replaced by a pilotless aircraft, which would crash, purportedly killing all the passengers. Under the plan, the real passenger plane would be secretly flown back to the United States.
Do you see the problem though? How could the real passengers be released back to their families without revealing that they hadn't really crashed?
Once all this had taken place, the Pentagon expected President Kennedy to look into the national television cameras and simply lie to the American people and to the world by falsely claiming that the Cuban government had attacked the United States.
Of course, the Pentagon and the CIA would be expected to lie as well. No doubt all documents relating to all this terrorist activity would have been classified and remained secret for the next century or at least as long as they could all be destroyed.