The US Government's Secret Plan To Terrorize American Citizens Explained

In the mid-20th century, the threat of Communism was such a looming existential threat that the U.S. government felt forced to take drastic measures to combat its spread across the globe. After Fidel Castro secured his position as the military and political leader of Cuba — less than 90 miles from U.S. soil — in 1959, Communism was knocking on America's door. Or was it?

Classified documents released in the early 1990s reveal that the danger Cuba presented to the United States was nowhere near as clear and present as the prevailing attitudes feared in the early 1960s. In fact, according to ABC News, U.S. military leaders actually drafted up plans to create events that would justify the country going to war with Cuba. The architects of Operation Northwood considered several "pretext" plots that would make it look like Cuba had attacked the United States. Possible tactics included false flag attacks on U.S. ships, plane hijackings, assassinations of Cuban refugees and émigrés, and even flagrant acts of terrorism on U.S. citizens in American cities. "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," wrote one member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who added that "casualty lists in the U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation." And that was merely one of several treasonous ideas in this dangerously absurd brainstorm by the highest-ranking generals in the U.S. military.

Operation Northwood was the US government's attempt to become the very evil it feared

The Operation Northwood documents prove that the threat of Cuban Communism to the United States was one of those Cold War fears that were grossly overstated. Like a bunch of satirical caricatures right out of Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove," the Joint Chiefs also pondered drumming up a war between Cuba and another Latin American country to serve as grounds for U.S. military intervention. They suggested paying off someone in the Cuban government to attack the American forces stationed at Guantanamo Bay. They even considered staging terrorist-style attacks on U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, thereby becoming an existential threat to the very people they claimed to be protecting.

If that sounds like outright treason to you, writer James Bamford agrees. He cites the documents in his 2002 book "Body of Secrets" and notes how this proposed treason would have led to the United States becoming the very thing it claimed the Castro government was: an oppressive regime in which the people lack basic freedoms. The Joint Chiefs stated that "continued police action would be required" after the U.S toppled the Castro regime. The generals' solution to Communism so close to American soil actually turned out to be worse than the alleged problem. Luckily for both U.S. and Cuban citizens, their harebrained scheme to fabricate a war didn't pan out. Cooler heads in the military's civilian leadership prevailed, and the embarrassing blot on the military's reputation was swept under the rug for four decades.