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Jail to the Chief

 

 

Richard Nixon meant it when he said I've never quit before in my life .. You don't quit!

 

In 1974 the Watergate Crisis entered its final dramatic phase with the transmission of a top secret, 'eyes only', limited distribution order to move the 82nd Airborne Division from its base at Fort Bragg, North Caroline to surround the White House. The order came in as topmost priority, Flash Override, signed by General Robert Cushman, commandant of the US Marine Corps.

The provisions of the National Security Act required that the President transmit all military orders through the defense secretary, James Schlesinger. In fact the Secretary was deeply concerned about the President's mental condition - during the last six months alone Schlesinger had been forced to countermand orders to bomb Damascus and Jordan and nuke Vietnam and Korea (orders that were ignored until Nixon sobered up in the morning). Secretary of the Treasury George Schultz also believed that Nixon was stoned out of his mind on Seconal, single-malt Scotch, Dilantin, speed, and clinical paranoia, beating his wife, Pat on a regular basis.

By this time the pressure to resign was incredible, and Nixon was clearly losing his mind. Both Schlesinger and Schultz feared a military coup, having agreed with the Joint Chiefs of Staff that all military orders must be signed by two Senior Cabinet Officers (them).

Yet Nixon had his own ace in the hole enabling the President to abrogate the chain of command despite these failsafes being put in place.

Early in the Presidency, 82nd Airborne had been brought in to protect the Presidency against anti-war demonstrations. The division was commanded by General Cushman, unusually a political appointee who had served Nixon as National Security Advisor during his Vice Presidency, and later Deputy CIA Director.

Schlesinger himself identified the US Marine Corps Commandant as a risk to democracy, commenting that General Cushman was a pleasant but weak man. He might have acquiesed to a request from the White House for action. The last thing I wanted was to have the marines ordered to the White House and then have to bring in the army to confront the marines. It would be a bloody mess.

With demonstrators chanting Jail to the Chief outside the White House, Cushman saw in his disciplined military mind a precedent for abrogating the chain of command. The General determed that the same disorder existed as with the anti-war protests in 1969. Marine Units from the outskirts of Washington at Eighth and I streets SE and Quantico, Virginia were duly dispatched, to be joined five hours later by 82nd Airborne.

In order to avoid the bloody disaster he had feared, Schlesinger tried to organize a contingency plan. In fact Rorschach (pictured, ; Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, The Watchmen, 1987) had given fair warning to the other Watchmen with his prediction All the politicians and whores will look up and shout save us...and I'll look down and whisper-'no'.   Watch the Youtube Clip

Author's Notes

Sources - The Arrogance of Power, The Secret World of Richard Nixon by Anthony Summers (2000) and Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, The Watchmen (1987). Please note that extensive use of original content has been repurposed in this variant, crossover post in order to retain the underlying sense of the authors meaning.

In the Watchmen novel, it is suggested that Nixon orders the hit on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Washington Post reporters who had investigated the June 12 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee Party Headquarters. In this crossover post, we move events in a different direction by blending the story with an apocalyptic scenario envisaged by Anthony Summers. We have also reverted to the original use by Rorschach of "politicians and whores" in the novel instead of "the world" as adapted for the movie.

Steve Payne

Editor of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


 

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