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Northwoods: U.S. Plan for Terror to Justify War


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Northwoods: A Plan for Terror to Justify War

Comments by Jared Israel
Key Excerpts from the Previously Classified Northwoods Document and Links to the Full Text

[Posted 10 December 2001]


The Northwoods plan for staging phony attacks on the U.S. to justify invading Cuba was developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962. It was never implemented, perhaps due to fear of Soviet retaliation.

The Northwoods document was obtained by the National Security Archive:

"an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals."

The Emperor's Clothes summary of evidence, "Guilty for 9-11," charges that the Bush Administration staged the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The purpose: to justify a U.S. military crusade, an eternal War Against Terror, starting with the invasion of Afghanistan. (1)

But the attack on Afghanistan is not intended to fight terrorism. Rather than crushing terrorism, the U.S. Establishment hopes to create a new, more subservient terrorist apparatus in Afghanistan, including elements of both the Northern Alliance and 'moderate' Taliban.

The goal of the current protracted war against a weak foe - indeed, against a foe largely created by the U.S. and its client states, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - is to position the U.S. military-intelligence apparatus firmly in Central Asia.

From that strategic position, Washington hopes to complete the dismemberment of the states of the former Soviet Union.

U.S. military and intelligence operatives will cultivate quislings like Mr. Putin, penetrate military defense structures and political groups in the former Soviet States, instigate terrorist attacks to destabilize the area, and build or take control of powerful military bases. These will be used to stage direct military assaults when, as is sure to happen, some of the former Soviet Republics resist. Thus this strategy risks nuclear war.

Some people who oppose the Afghan war disagree with this explanation. They claim that Mr. Bush's motive is to establish control of oil deposits in the Caspian basin and/or to construct oil pipelines.

This theory has been put forward by everyone from the U.S. Communist Party to some conservative Websites.

The other day I received an email with an article by the reporter John Pilger, who says:

"Bush's concealed agenda is to exploit the oil and gas reserves in the Caspian basin, the greatest source of untapped fossil fuel on earth and enough, according to one estimate, to meet America's voracious energy needs for a generation."

Mr. Pilger is dead wrong. The U.S. does not need to destabilize highly volatile Central and Southern Asia, which includes several nuclear powers, just to get oil.

Consider Fidel Castro's statement on this subject. Castro has survived four decades of attempts by the world's biggest superpower to destroy the revolution in his tiny country. (Indeed, Cuba was the proposed target of Operation Northwoods!) So perhaps Mr. Castro understands a thing or three about U.S. strategy.

In a speech on 2 November, Castro said:

"I do not share the view that the United States' main pursuit in Afghanistan was oil. I rather see it as part of a geo-strategic concept. No one would make such a mistake simply to go after oil, least of all a country with access to any oil in the world, including all the Russian oil and gas it wishes. It would be sufficient for the U.S. to invest, to buy and to pay." (full text at: )

The Emperor's Clothes editors (and, by the way, virtually everyone in the former Soviet Union) agree.

Indeed the immediate effect of 9-11 and the current military campaign has been to destabilize the oil business. For example Enron, one of the main U.S. energy companies and Mr. Bush's biggest contributor, (3) has been driven into bankruptcy.


Why is this economic disruption justified in the minds of the fraction of a percent who control the U.S.? Because they have a 'grand' strategy. That strategy is to seize the center of the Central Asian chessboard and from there to reduce the states of the former Soviet Union to the status of impoverished protectorates, just as the U.S. Establishment is now doing to the NATO puppet state (!) of Macedonia. (4)

Indeed, Macedonia is an object lesson. Macedonia has done everything Washington asked, and as a reward, Washington has unleashed the fascist-terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army against Macedonia.(4)

Russian President Putin's subservience to Washington will not protect Russia from getting the Macedonian treatment. Rather, Mr. Putin's haste to do everything Washington wants, including, apparently, to rid his country of heavy missiles, will only encourage the most aggressive behavior by Washington. Mr. Putin's slave-like devotion to Bush does not prove our analysis of Washington's intentions is wrong. Rather, his openly quisling behavior, so shocking to millions of Russians, indicates that the attack on Russia is proceeding, bull steam ahead.

By reducing the former Soviet Union to a series of bite-sized protectorates, the U.S. Establishment would gain control of 1/6 of the earth's land surface - not only oil deposits, but vast forests, gold, diamonds, natural gas, iron and other minerals, not to mention millions of impoverished but highly skilled workers, and on and on.

At the same time, Washington could eliminate or control the former Soviet Union's still immense military power, which even now restrains U.S. adventures. Of course this does not mean the U.S. Establishment will not use the excuse of the phony war on terror to attack other countries, such as Iraq. But the strategic target is the former Soviet Union.

This analysis is dealt with more thoroughly in 'Why Does Washington Want Afghanistan' and in 'Why is NATO Decimating the Balkans and Trying to Force Milosevic to Surrender?' (2)


Many people believe that the Bush administration took advantage of 9-11 in order to launch the war and impose repressive measures at home.

In reality Washington did not just take advantage of 9-11. Rather, it instigated 9-11, just as the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed instigating fake attacks on Americans in 1962 - to create a climate where military action seems justified.

As for the campaign of repression at home - with its nightmarish Homeland Security, its assault on legal guarantees, and its star chamber Military Tribunals - this campaign is in part intended to silence the millions of people who suspect that Bush and other top leaders were involved in some way in making 9-11 happen.

Some people ask us: how can you believe that our leaders are capable of such cynicism, murderous cruelty, ruthlessness and dishonesty?

That is why Operation Northwoods is so important. For we now know that in 1962 the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed staging phony attacks to destroy U.S. property, killing Cuban refugees and U.S. citizens, in order to create a wave of indignation and rage, to justify an invasion of Cuba that could have killed hundreds of thousands of people and possibly led to nuclear war.

Below are excerpts from and comments on the Joint Chiefs' Operation Northwoods document. It was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. At the end of this article, we have provided links to the document, which we set up in standard WebPage format (easy to read). You can also read it in Adobe Acrobat PDF format, via a link to the National Security Archive, at George Washington University.

Northwoods is reality.


The Northwoods proposal was authorized and tentatively approved by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff. It had a very clear purpose:

"1. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the attached Memorandum for the Chief of Operations, Cuba Project, which responds to a request* of that office for brief but precise description of pretexts which could provide justification for U.S. military intervention in Cuba.

"2. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the proposed memorandum be forwarded as a preliminary submission suitable for planning purposes." See Operation Northwoods, page i,

The aim was disinformation, to create the false impression that Cuba had viciously attacked Americans:

"5. The suggested courses of action appended to Enclosure A are based on the premise that US military intervention will result from a period of heightened US-Cuban tensions which place the United States in the position of suffering justifiable grievances. World opinion, and the United Nations forum should be favorably affected by developing the international image of the Cuban government as rash and irresponsible, and as an alarming and unpredictable threat to the peace of the Western Hemisphere." See Operations Northwoods, page 2,

The document argued that Cuba should be attacked within a few months, before it could join the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. Thus the plan was not only deceitful and murderous, including, as we shall see, towards Americans, it was also cowardly:

"6. While the forging premise can be utilized at the present time it will continue to hold good only as long as there can be reasonable certainty that US military intervention in Cuba would not directly involve the Soviet Union." See Operations Northwoods, page 2,

The Northwoods document was to be forwarded to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. McNamara claims he never saw it; but then, he also claims that during the 1960s he was opposed to the Vietnam War. Tell that to the families of the dead GIs whom he exhorted to kill the dead Vietnamese. I wouldn't believe Robert McNamara if he said it was Monday:

"8. It is recommended that:

"A. Enclosure A together with its attachments should be forwarded to the Secretary of Defense for approval and transmittal to the Chief of Operations, Cuba Project." See Operations Northwoods, page 3,

Northwoods recognized that the best justification for attacking Cuba was to trick Cuba into attacking U.S. forces first:

"1. Since it would seem desirable to use legitimate [sic!] provocation as the basis for US military intervention in Cuba, a cover and deception plan, to include requisite preliminary actions such as has been developed in response to Task 33 o [this may be a 'c'] could be executed as an initial effort to provoke Cuban reactions. Harassment plus deceptive actions to convince the Cubans of imminent invasion would be emphasized. Our military posture throughout execution of the plan will allow a rapid change from exercise to intervention if Cuban response justifies." See Operations Northwoods page 7,

But the document also called for staging phony Cuban attacks on U.S. installations:

"(5) Blow up ammunition inside the [Guantanamo] base; start fires. (6) Burn aircraft on air base (sabotage). (7) Lob mortar shells from outside of base onto base. Some damage to installations." See Operations Northwoods page 8,

Some of the proposed attacks could be used to portray the Cubans as heartless monsters:

"It is possible to create an incident which will demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and shot down a chartered civil airliner enroute from the United States to Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama or Venezuela. The destination would be chosen only to cause the flight plan route to cross Cuba. The passengers could be a group of college students off on a holiday or any grouping of persons with a common interest to support chartering a non-scheduled flight.' See Operations Northwoods page 10,

While the plan does not actually call for killing the college students mentioned above - only seeming to kill them - the Joint Chiefs did suggest the possibility of killing some Cuban refugees, or at least wounding them, as long as there was plenty of publicity to make it all worthwhile:

"The terror campaign could be pointed at Cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized." See Operations Northwoods page 9,

Or perhaps some U.S. servicemen could be blown up:

"3. A "Remember the Maine" incident could be arranged in several forms: a. We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba." See Operations Northwoods page 8,

Nothing personal, you know. All part of the game.

Note that in #3, above, the Joint Chiefs seem to take it for granted that the sinking of the Maine, which was used to justify the Spanish-American war, was a staged incident. Keep in mind that to this day - over a hundred years after the incident - the U.S. military refuses to publicly acknowledge that the Maine was destroyed in a Northwoods-style provocation, though they privately know this was the case.

Northwoods called for elaborate schemes to create the proper illusions:

"6. Use of MIG type aircraft by US pilots could provide addition provocation. Harassment of civil air, attacks on surface shipping and destruction of US military drone aircraft by MIG type planes would be useful as complementary actions. An F-86 properly painted would convince air passengers that they saw a Cuban MIG, especially if the pilot of the transport were to announce such fact. The primary drawback to this suggestion appears to be the security risk inherent in obtaining or modifying an aircraft. However, reasonable copies of the MIG could be produced from US resources in about three months." See Operations Northwoods page 9,

There is a phrase in the text above that could be used to sum up to the morality of Northwoods as a whole: "The only drawback to this scheme appears to be security." Thus the Joint Chiefs recommended that:

"b. This paper NOT be forwarded to commanders of unified or specified commands. c. This paper NOT be forwarded to US officers assigned to NATO activities. d. This paper NOT be forwarded to the Chairman, US Delegation, United Nations Military Staff Committee." See Operations Northwoods page 3,

We have prepared the text of Northwoods in WebPage format. Some people find this easier to navigate than the format in which the National Security Archive posted it, which is Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF) file.

You may read the document in either format. If you are in doubt, use the WebPage format. It's easier to navigate.

For WebPage format click here or go to

For George Washington University's National Security Archive page for the Operation Northwoods Adobe Acrobat PDF file go to: Note: For some reason, this Adobe file is only accessible if you cut and paste the url into your browser...




(1) Two Sections of "GUILTY FOR 9-11" are now posted. A third should be posted by 12 December. Section 1 is at Section 2 is at Section 3 will be posted at

For a map and timeline for American Airlines Flight 77 go to

(2) Concerning Washington's motives for attacking Afghanistan, see 'Why Does Washington Want Afghanistan?' and 'Why is NATO Decimating the Balkans and Trying to Force Milosevic to Surrender?'

(3) On Enron's financial assistance to Mr. Bush's presidential campaign, see, for example, 'Meet Enron, Bush's Biggest Contributor,' by Pratap Chatterjee,' at

(4) On the U.S.-directed assault on pro-U.S. (!) Macedonia, see 'Articles Documenting U.S. and European Involvement in Terrorism Against Macedonia' at

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