The 50th Anniversary Of The Assassination Of President John F. Kennedy (Half Three): Legacies
During this 50th anniversary season, there has been a flourish of commentary within the mainstream information and leisure media about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Publishers and producers know a great story once they see one. The brand new York Instances editor, Jill Abramson, laments Kennedy’s blurry persona however finds “consensus” on the lone gunman theory; a Time magazine cowl article notes “conspiracy theories rise and fall to the passions of each new era.” Some commentators see Dealey Plaza as being too small for such a giant event. Others argue that the American individuals couldn’t settle for that a “nobody” changed the course of history. While still others suggest “we” let our feelings get the higher of us as a result of JFK was such a compelling determine.
Not often is there an trustworthy appraisal of the Warren Commission’s extra outlandish distortions. Those who query the accuracy of the Fee are still referred to as “buffs”; whereas fanatics for the federal government’s official line are “debunkers.” The fallback position focuses on People’ alleged inability to face the truth that random acts happen. The subtext to those lines of thought factors to every thing however a political assassination.
As many as seventy million Americans, along with tv viewers in twenty-three different countries, were watching when the CBS News anchorman, Walter Cronkite, reported President Kennedy’s death. The nation’s shock and disbelief that JFK could possibly be assassinated that means, minimize down at the age of forty-six no less, melded with expressions of mourning. Again in Washington, dwell tv added a new dimension to the four-day presidential requiem that followed with its formal navy pageantry and Catholic ritual. The scholar of comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell, recalled his personal feelings, saying it was “the primary and solely factor of its form in peacetime that has ever given me the sense of being a member of this entire national neighborhood engaged as a unit within the observance of a deeply significant rite.” (Campbell/Moyers interview, 1988, xiii-xiv)
My earliest acutely aware memory as a child was seeing my mom cry whereas watching the funeral on a black-and-white television in our suburban San Jose, California residing room. I get the cultural significance. I get the importance of Tv and movie and imagery in recording the events in Dallas. I understand JFK was a compelling and attractive particular person.
However I don’t should then make a large leap to just accept the conclusions of the Warren Fee just because the occasion was emotionally significant. After his homicide, much more people claimed to have voted for Kennedy in 1960 than was numerically doable. Few contemporary reporters place the assassination in its historical context. They’re more comfy discussing the semiotics of the Zapruder movie than explaining why most individuals do not accept the official line. Put simply, the dominant interpretation of the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination has been ahistorical, superficial, and condescending. “How could sixty one p.c of Individuals consider in a conspiracy ” they ask.
Truman on the CIA
Rarely does a former President take a public stand calling for reining in a federal company he had a hand in creating. But a month after President Kennedy was assassinated, former President Harry S. Truman revealed a thoughtfully phrased article in the Washington Post warning the American folks in regards to the dangers of the Central Intelligence Company. On December 22, 1963 Truman wrote:
“I think it has turn out to be necessary to take another take a look at the aim and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency – CIA . . .
“For some time I’ve been disturbed by the best way the CIA has been diverted from its original task. It has change into an operational and at occasions policy-making arm of the government. This has led to hassle and will have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.
“We’ve got grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our capability to maintain a free and open society. There’s one thing about the way the CIA has been functioning that’s casting a shadow over our historic position and that i feel we have to right it.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 332)
It is perhaps a coincidence that President Truman selected that moment to name for reeling in the CIA, however it’s also potential he sensed one thing in regards to the operational features of the assassination that disturbed him. “The CIA was arrange by me for the only real purpose of getting all of the obtainable information to the president,” Truman wrote in a subsequent correspondence with the managing editor of Look magazine. “It was not supposed to operate as a world company engaged in strange actions.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 333)
In November 1963, the American individuals hadn’t a clue about the facility the CIA amassed in the decade after Truman signed the National Safety Act in March 1947. Rigging elections, overthrowing governments, arming mercenaries, engaging in propaganda, cash laundering, blackmail, assassination, and so forth. In the 1970s, occasions relating to the Watergate scandal pressured the CIA to take a “modified limited grasp-out” and admit to some wrongdoing in order to ensure that its “household jewels” remained concealed. (Victor Marchetti The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, 1974) CIA Director Richard Helms had no selection however to admit that in the early 1960s there existed CIA collusion with Mafia hit males to assassinate Fidel Castro. Once it was revealed that the CIA possessed an elaborate assassination functionality the general public outcry was loud sufficient to compel Congress to look into the Kennedy assassination.
The Home Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), even with its severe flaws and mismanagement, nonetheless unearthed new facts relating to Jack Ruby’s organized crime connections (that the Warren Commission had assiduously overlooked). The committee sought the testimony of the mobsters Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana, and the Russian oil geologist, George DeMohrenshildt, who had been Lee Oswald’s buddy in Dallas. It’s type of a bummer that every one three men were murdered earlier than they might share their views in regards to the assassination with Congress. (Belzer 2013, 213-225; 229-238)
George Joannides, the CIA agent who was brought out of retirement to serve as the Company’s liaison with the HSCA, led the committee on wild goose chases and didn’t reveal his background as an agent concerned in the JM/WAVE anti-Castro mercenary effort run out of Miami within the early-1960s. The CIA has since sealed away its recordsdata coping with Joannides’s Miami operations. These files, not less than 1,one hundred documents, the CIA has not released. There has by no means been an satisfactory rationalization placing to rest the concept that the operational planning for the Kennedy assassination might have originated inside the cauldron of anti-Castro paramilitary exercise in Miami below CIA aegis. These documents might shed mild on this connection.
Goin’ to Texas
“To watch Lyndon Johnson throughout the transition,” Robert Caro writes, “is to see political genius in motion.” (Robert Caro The Passage of Energy 2012, xvi) Too bad Johnson didn’t deploy any of that “political genius” in working to resolve the rift between the business and labor factions within the Democratic Occasion in his residence state. Robert Kennedy recalled a conversation he had together with his brother not long earlier than the Dallas trip: “Simply before the president went to Texas, just that week, he spoke to me about the fact that Johnson wouldn’t assist in the dispute in Texas.” President Kennedy didn’t perceive it, RFK added.
He “at all times thought these things might be labored out. . . . He stated how irritated he was with Lyndon Johnson who wouldn’t assist in any respect in making an attempt to iron out any of the problems in Texas, and that he was an s.o.b. . . . as a result of this was his state and he simply wasn’t obtainable to help out or just would not lift a finger to strive to assist.” (Quoted in Jeff Shesol Mutual Contempt 1997, 138)
Caro gushes: “[T]o see Lyndon Johnson take hold of presidential power, and so quickly begin to make use of it for ends so monumental is to see, with unusual readability, the immensity of the potential an American President possesses to effect transformative change in the nation he leads.” (Caro 2012, xviii) Right here it’s unclear whether or not Caro contains turning unfastened America’s right-wing Generals and its army industrial complex on Vietnam as being a part of that “transformative change.”
Yet even Caro is pressured to concede that the Kennedy assassination put to rest all of Lyndon Johnson’s brewing troubles associated with the Bobby (“Little Lyndon”) Baker prostitution scandal as well as these swirling round his shut associates, Billy Sol Estes and Malcolm Wallace. (Roger Stone The Man Who Killed Kennedy 2013, 198-201) However Caro, one of many historians held in the very best esteem, drops analyzing the ramifications for LBJ of the criminal investigation as fast as the Senate did again on November 23, 1963. (Caro 2012, 318)
The swearing in ceremony on Air Pressure One which the brand new President Johnson orchestrated before leaving Dallas was an train in what we would name right this moment “optics” and “atmospherics.” The gesture had no official significance. It was a photograph-op designed, based on Johnson in addition to his biographer Caro, to reassure the nation (and the world) that there was a new president at the helm. The famous photograph is best recognized for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s anguished appearance still carrying the dress she had on during the assassination. “Mrs. Kennedy’s gown was stained with blood,” Lady Chook Johnson later mentioned.
“One leg was nearly entirely lined with it and her proper glove was caked – that immaculate lady – it was caked with blood, her husband’s blood. She always wore gloves like she was used to them; I by no means might. By some means that was one of the vital poignant sights . . . [Mrs. Kennedy] exquisitely dressed, and caked in blood.” (Quoted in Caro 2012, 330)
Lady Hen famous the change in Jackie Kennedy’s tone from soft-spoken sorrow to “an element of fierceness” when she urged to her that she change out of her bloodstained clothes. “No.” Mrs. Kennedy said. “I want them to see what they have executed to Jack.” (Quoted in Caro 2012, 330 [unique italics])
Toward the tip of the two-hour flight from Dallas to Andrews Air Discipline the White House physician, Dr. George Burkley, also steered to Jackie that she change out of her bloody dress. “No. Allow them to see what they’ve completed,” she stated. At 4:30 within the morning, at the time when the substandard autopsy of her husband was being accomplished at Bethesda Naval Hospital, the former First Lady was still sporting her blood-spattered pink go well with. (Caro 2012, 358; 373)
Seventy-seven eye witnesses out of the 107 who gave formal statements on November 22, 1963 said they heard a loud explosion, “usually accompanied by a flash and puff of smoke,” from the fenced-in space to the best of the motorcade close to the train yard. (Hersh Bobby and J. Edgar 2007, 424) Texas Governor John Connally and his spouse Nellie, who were sitting within the leap seat directly in front of President and Mrs. Kennedy, would for the remainder of their lives insist that the bullet that ripped into the governor’s again was a distinct shot from people who hit the president. (Talbot 2007, 249) Dave Powers and Kenneth O’Donnell, two of John Kennedy’s greatest associates from Boston, have been riding in the automobile behind the presidential limousine. Powers later stated it felt like they have been “riding into an ambush”; O’Donnell advised Robert Kennedy “they have been caught in a crossfire.” (Talbot 2007, three)
Moments after the capturing, Dallas Police Officer, Joseph Marshall Smith, ran up, together with two-dozen different people, toward the stockade fence the place it appeared a shot had been fired. He mentioned he smelled gunpowder as he approached. Officer Smith informed the Warren Commission that a man stopped him in the parking lot behind the fence and flashed his “Secret Service” identification. “He saw me coming with my pistol and right away he showed me who he was,” Smith stated. “The man, this character, produces credentials from his hip pocket which confirmed him to be Secret Service. I have seen those credentials earlier than, and they satisfied me and the deputy sheriff.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 260)
The key Service assured the Commission that it had no agents that day stationed in the realm the place Officer Smith stated he encountered one. This revelation led Smith to assume extra concerning the man’s appearance: “He looked like an auto mechanic. He had on a sports shirt and sports activities pants. However he had soiled fingernails . . . and arms that appeared like an auto mechanic’s hands. And afterwards it did not ring true for the key Service.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 261) The Warren Fee never bothered to look into who was this man impersonating a “Secret Service” officer, or how one may need procured the phony credentials.
“Surprisingly, the safety measure used within the prior motorcades during the same Texas go to present that the deployment of motorcycles in Dallas by the secret Service might have been uniquely insecure . . . it could well be that by altering Dallas Police Division Captain Lawrence’s original motorbike plan, the key Service deprived Kennedy of safety in Dallas that it had provided a mere day before in Houston.” (Secret Service Remaining Survey Report for the November 21, 1963, go to by President Kennedy to Houston, cited in Appendixes to Hearings before the HSCA, vol. 11, p. 529.)
On March 13, 1962, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Workers, Common Lyman Lemnitzer, laid out in a memo to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara his plans for creating a pretext for going to warfare in Cuba. Codenamed “Operation Northwoods,” the nation’s highest army commanders had signed on to Lemnitzer’s top-secret memo, which urged the Kennedy Administration to stage a diverse vary of clashes to justify invading Cuba.
“Three. A ‘Remember the Maine’ incident may very well be arranged in several buy stone island on credit types: We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba. We might blow up a drone (unmanned) vessel anyplace in the Cuban waters. We could arrange to trigger such incident within the vicinity of Havana or Santiago as a spectacular results of Cuban assault from the air or sea, or both. The presence of Cuban planes or ships merely investigating the intent of the vessel may very well be fairly compelling proof that the ship was taken beneath attack. The nearness to Havana or Santiago would add credibility particularly to these folks that might need heard the blast or have seen the fireplace. The US may follow up with an air/sea rescue operation coated by US fighters to ‘evacuate’ remaining members of the non-existent crew. Casualty lists in US newspapers would trigger a helpful wave of national indignation.'” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 97)
The objective right here was to govern the American individuals and the press by creating a viable pretext for war, which is remarkably just like the state of affairs that the Pentagon Papers later uncovered concerning the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Lemnitzer’s outline additionally pre-sages President Johnson’s top-secret Nationwide Safety Motion Memorandum, NSAM-273, he signed the day after Kennedy was buried. NSAM-273 approved an elaborate array of covert operations against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV North Vietnam), together with OPLAN-34A and the Desoto missions that did consequence in the kind of “national indignation” that Basic Lemnitzer advocated with “Operation Northwoods.”
Johnson’s NSAM-273 also nullified President Kennedy’s earlier memorandum, NSAM-263, that he signed on October eleven, 1963, approving a withdrawal of 1,000 U.S. navy personnel from Vietnam by the top of December 1963, with “the bulk” of the troops withdrawn by the end of 1965. (John Newman JFK and Vietnam 1992, 407-442) Kennedy, not wanting to open himself as much as assaults from the conflict hawks going into the 1964 election campaign, directed that there can be no formal announcement of the withdrawal order till he gave the go forward. (Douglass 2009, 188) Kennedy’s NSAM-263 contained the proviso that “no formal announcement be manufactured from the implementation of plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. navy personnel by the top of 1963.” (Dallek 2003, 680) Even so, the historian Robert Dallek notes that throughout a news convention on October 31, 1963, Kennedy himself instructed the press he deliberate to take away a thousand troops from Vietnam before the end of the year. “If we’re able to do that,” he stated, “that could be our schedule.” (Quoted in Dallek 2003, 680)
“4. We could develop a Communist Cuban terror marketing campaign within the Miami area, in different Florida cities and even in Washington. The terror campaign could be pointed at Cuban refugees looking for haven within the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (actual or simulated). We might foster attempts on the lives of Cuban refugees within the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized. Exploding a couple of plastic bombs in rigorously chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of ready documents substantiating Cuban involvement, also could be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible authorities.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, ninety seven)
This kind of operation using patsies and cast paperwork to hoodwink the general public appears loads just like the modus operandi of the Kennedy assassination. Basic Lemnitzer and Air Pressure General Curtis LeMay were amongst the most extreme right-wingers in the navy institution that President Kennedy inherited from the Eisenhower Administration. Different kindred souls ran the Central Intelligence Agency, together with Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell, George Cabell, and Richard Helms.
Initially, these battle hawks viewed Kennedy as a lightweight and believed he would go together with their aggressive aims in Cuba and Vietnam. However they soon found that Kennedy possessed an unanticipated steel in his use of executive power. He didn’t hesitate to fireplace highly effective national safety personnel if he concluded they had been both undermining his leadership or double-crossing him. He sacked Dulles, Bissell, and Cabell after they misled him about the possibilities for success of the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. And when it became apparent to Kennedy that Lemnitzer’s prejudices have been affecting his judgment, Kennedy sent the father of “Northwoods” to the equivalent of Siberia when he dumped him as Joint Chiefs Chair and named him Supreme Commander of NATO the place he can be far from Washington coverage circles.
Kennedy was surrounded by a Joint Chiefs of Employees that were ideologically far to his proper. They have been a workers of Generals who learned most of the improper lessons from World Struggle Two and had been obsessed with the growing Soviet menace and apparently believed the United States could “win” a nuclear war. They resembled the army officers in Stanley Kubrick’s sensible 1964 satire, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Lemnitzer and LeMay regarded like real life “Common Jack Rippers.” In one other Hollywood anecdote, Kennedy pushed for (but didn’t live to see) the discharge of the film, Seven Days in May (1964), which portrayed anti-communist navy chiefs pulling a coup d’etat in opposition to civilian authority.
JFK and Cuba
President Kennedy did not solely need to deal with the hardliners in his military and intelligence establishment, but with an American population that had been whipped up right into a frenzy about the Soviet threat since the days of the McCarthy witch hunts. In Maximum Danger: Kennedy, the Missiles, and the Disaster of American Confidence (2001), the historian Robert Weisbrot argues that the Congress and the press have been already primed for a U.S. army strike in opposition to the Western Hemisphere’s preeminent “threat” of communism. Kennedy’s effort at some sort of action directed against Castro, even a failed one, was broadly seen as superior to doing nothing at all.
In April 1961, in a White House press assertion, Kennedy bore “sole duty” for the failure of the CIA’s ill-fated adventure. But his approval score jumped ten points within the months following the Bay of Pigs to 83 percent. (Dallek 2003, 370) After the invasion, a Gallup poll showed that 71 percent of respondents believed Castro couldn’t win “a free and fair election” in Cuba, and a majority wished to continue the circulation of U.S. money and material to anti-Castro fighters. (Weisbrot 2001, forty nine)
Weisbrot locations the Bay of Pigs in its Chilly War context and points to Kennedy’s political necessity of not being perceived as an “appeaser.” “In distinction to the ethical criticisms students have since expressed,” he writes, “Kennedy’s countrymen typically expected extra ruthless actions with concrete outcomes, not passive musings on Castro’s rights as a professional head of state.” (Weisbrot 2001, forty nine)
Congress later made its opinion official in a resolution calling for a more durable U.S. coverage towards Cuba that sailed through the Senate by a vote of 86 to 1, and handed in the House by 384 to 7. (Weisbrot 2001, 91) Weisbrot observes that even the favored tradition amplified the notion that Castro was a murderous tyrant. An October 1961 episode of Rod Serling’s CBS television drama, The Twilight Zone, featured a thinly veiled caricature of Castro as a megalomaniac whose paranoia in the end leads him to commit suicide. (Weisbrot 2001, 50)
But by the summer season of 1963, by means of two completely different backchannels to Castro, Kennedy, on the time of his death, was seeking a rapprochement with Cuba. Having already promised Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in resolving the missile disaster that the United States would not invade the island, he was intent on normalizing relations with Cuba. He instructed a buddy if the U.S. acknowledged Cuba “they will purchase our refrigerators and toasters and they will find yourself kicking Castro out.” (Talbot 2007, 227)
A Treaty and a Speech
In early 1963, when President Kennedy opened up severe negotiations with the Soviet Union on atmospheric nuclear testing he confronted considerable opposition from the hardliners. The nuclear physicist, Edward Teller, for instance, lambasted Kennedy for serving to the Russians shield their tests from scrutiny; he and his ideological soul mates have been less thinking about maintaining Strontium-90 and different radioactive poisons out of the bones and teeth of the world’s youngsters than they have been involved about monitoring Soviet checks. Kennedy came under withering assault when he decided unilaterally to suspend U.S. atmospheric nuclear exams to reinforce his need for what would be the first nuclear arms control treaty ever signed by the superpowers. (Douglass 2009, 35) Kennedy put his presidency (and his re-election) on the road in successful in style assist for the Atmospheric Check Ban Treaty.
Although historians have extensively praised Lyndon Johnson’s abilities at passing legislation, John Kennedy expended appreciable political capital and pushed and prodded his former colleagues in the U.S. Senate to help the settlement. On September 24, 1963, the Senate ratified the Limited Take a look at Ban Treaty by a vote of 80 to 19. Theodore Sorensen “famous that no different single accomplishment within the White Home gave the president greater satisfaction.” (Douglass 2009, 54)
President Kennedy’s June 10, 1963 commencement deal with at American College deservedly has been broadly acclaimed to be among the greatest speeches ever delivered by an American president. In it, Kennedy presents a imaginative and prescient of world peace the place the superpowers can discover frequent ground and move past the hostilities of the Chilly Conflict. He known as for a “real peace, the type of peace that makes life on earth price living, the sort that allows males and nations to develop and to hope and to construct a greater life for their kids – not merely peace for Individuals but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time however peace for all time.” (Quoted in Douglas 2009, 36)
Chastened by the close call of the Cuban missile disaster, Kennedy had emerged from that crucible determined to discover a method ahead that lessened the potential for nuclear annihilation. He believed the Restricted Check Ban Treaty was the first step in what could be an extended journey. Speaking directly to the people dwelling within the Soviet Union, Kennedy famous: “Among the various traits the peoples of our two international locations have in frequent, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of conflict.”
“Nearly distinctive, amongst the most important world powers, we have never been at battle with one another. And no nation within the historical past of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World Battle. Not less than 20 million lost their lives. Countless thousands and thousands of houses and farms have been burned or sacked. A 3rd of the nation’s territory, including almost two-thirds of its industrial base, was turned right into a wasteland – a loss equal to the devastation of this nation east of Chicago.”
“Right this moment, ought to complete battle ever break out once more – irrespective of how – our two international locations would become the primary targets. It is an ironic however correct incontrovertible fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation. All we now have built, all now we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours.”
“Briefly, each the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this finish are in the pursuits of the Soviet Union as well as ours – and even probably the most hostile nations could be relied upon to simply accept and keep these treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, that are of their interests.”
“So, allow us to not be blind to our variations – however allow us to additionally direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those variations could be resolved. And if we can’t end now our differences, at the least we may also help make the world protected for range. For, in the final analysis, our most primary widespread link is that all of us inhabit this small planet. All of us breathe the identical air. We all cherish our kids’s future. And we’re all mortal.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 348-349)
One of many explanation why the Kennedy assassination continues to affect hundreds of thousands of people the way in which it does, even fifty years later, is the sense that we’re nonetheless combating the same battle in the present day. On one facet, is a navy-industrial-intelligence complex with its global reach and surveillance state, its CIA and its NSA; on the opposite facet, is a imaginative and prescient of an American future that values peace and refuses to measure the country’s “greatness” by its capacity to wreak loss of life and destruction. Our present president’s legacy contains being the first to assassinate an American citizen with a flying robot. The identical companies that made a killing on the Vietnam Warfare, equivalent to Brown and Root (later KBR), continue to profit from the warfare state. It seems that the battle during which Kennedy found himself embroiled on the time when he was killed stays unresolved. It’s a home battle between whether or not the United States goes to be a republic or an empire, a democracy or a police state; a selection of “visions” between Basic Lemnitzer’s “Operation Northwoods” or JFK’s American College speech.