With architect of mass-destruction Robert McNamara serving as the head of the Pentagon when SIOP-64 was developed, its consideration of hundreds of millions of human lives as a “yardstick” for military effectiveness is unsurprising. It is, however, no less chilling for being in character.
WASHINGTON — Recently declassified documents shed light on a U.S. nuclear war plan developed in 1964 by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff to bomb Russia – then the Soviet Union – and China with nuclear weapons so extensively that it would destroy them “as viable societies.” The war plan itself, known as Single Integrated Operational Plan 64 (SIOP-64), has not been declassified, as no SIOP has ever been released to the public by the United States government.
However, newly declassified documents that record the Pentagon Joint Staff’s review of SIOP-64 were recently made available through George Washington University’s National Security Archive project. The documents reveal numerous details about the still-classified plan that shine light on the Pentagon’s willingness to wage nothing short of total war against its adversaries at the time.
In particular, the documents show that the plan sought to accomplish the destruction of Russian and Chinese society by targeting and eliminating their industrial potential while also wiping out the majority of their urban populations. Still more troubling, urban civilians were proposed to be the main target and measure of the U.S. nuclear war plan as the Joint Staff sought to use “population loss as the primary yardstick for effectiveness in destroying the enemy society, with only collateral attention to industrial damage.”
This gambit to use population loss as a “primary yardstick” was notably developed prior to the 1964 meeting detailed in the newly released document. The meeting considered studies that had been jointly conducted by the Joint Staff and the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff in order to determine how many Soviet and Chinese cities and industrial areas needed to be wiped out in order to destroy both countries as “viable societies.”
In the case of the Soviet Union, it was determined that destroying 70 percent of the country’s industrial floor space, mostly urban areas that can be used for industrial activity, would likely result in “the destruction of the USSR as a viable society.” The plan notes that targeting such a significant amount of the Soviet Union’s industrial floor space would put nearby urban populations “at risk.” Though no estimates for civilian casualties in the Soviet Union are given in the declassified documents, a 1962 estimate projected 70 million Soviet fatalities would result from a no-warning U.S. strike on military and urban-industrial targets.
China – characterized then by its largely agrarian economy – posed a challenge, given that an estimated 84 percent of the Chinese population lived in rural areas away from urban centers, complicating the plan to target civilian urban populations in order to destroy China as “a viable nation.” In the case of China, the Joint Staff ultimately settled on a plan that would destroy 30 of China’s largest cities, with a goal of 30 percent urban fatalities, or 212 million people, and the destruction of 50 percent of industrial floor space.
Furthermore, the plan featured options that included both preemptive and retaliatory bombings. The university researchers who obtained and published the documents noted that “preemptive” bombings do not necessarily indicate plans for a first strike but instead indicated that the U.S. would enact the plan if U.S. intelligence was able to “produce warning of an impending Soviet attack that a U.S. strike could avert or at least blunt.”
A mad plan, but very much in character
According to these same researchers, the influence of then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on the SIOP-64 is clear, given that McNamara “made the concept of ‘assured destruction’ basic to the way that top Pentagon officials sized U.S. strategic forces.”
Furthermore, the consideration of civilian fatalities as the “primary yardstick” of the plan’s effectiveness also bears McNamara’s “fingerprints.” Indeed, McNamara was an “architect” of the U.S.’ War in Vietnam, including the Gulf of Tonkin “false flag” that initiated it, leading some in the press to call the conflict “McNamara’s War.” In 1964, McNamara stated that he was “pleased to be identified with” the war, which killed at least 3 million Vietnamese, a million Cambodians and Laotians and 58,000 Americans, and laid waste to Southern Vietnam through the chemical warfare campaign that McNamara helped develop and oversee.
Aside from Vietnam, McNamara was also intimately involved in the firebombing of 67 Japanese cities shortly before the end of World War II, which destroyed 50 to 90 percent of all Japanese urban areas. In a 2003 documentary, McNamara calmly recounted how, in a single night, “we burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo — men, women, and children.”
With architect of mass-destruction McNamara serving as the head of the Pentagon when SIOP-64 was developed, its consideration of hundreds of millions of human lives as a “yardstick” for military effectiveness is unsurprising. It is, however, no less chilling for being in character, given that the some 300 million civilians that were estimated to be killed if SIOP-64 had been enacted, dwarfs even the vast numbers who died as a result of McNamara’s other, enacted policies.
Unfortunately, McNamara-esque military policies are hardly a thing of the past. Indeed, the recent changes to the Nuclear Posture Review under the Trump administration ended the once clear rejection of a nuclear first strike launched by the U.S. as it states that the U.S. can use atomic bombs in response to “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks”, which include alleged cyberattacks. Furthermore, this year’s National Defense Strategy replaced the U.S. military’s decades-long focus on the “War on Terror” with a focus on preparing for a “great power war” against both Russia and China, countries that are now considered by the Pentagon to present the “central challenges” to global U.S. hegemony.
Though there may be a temptation to dismiss the SOIP-64 as a relic of the Cold War past, present circumstances should caution us to think otherwise.
Top Photo | An unidentified man stands next to a tiled fireplace where a house once stood in Hiroshima, Japan, on Sept. 7, 1945. The vast ruin is a result of “Little Boy,” the uranium atomic bomb detonated on Aug. 6 by the U.S. Photo | AP
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.