The 50th Anniversary Of The Assassination Of President John F. Kennedy (Part Three): Legacies
During this 50th anniversary season, there has been a flourish of commentary in the mainstream news and leisure media about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Publishers and producers know a great story when they see one. The new York Times editor, Jill Abramson, laments Kennedy’s blurry persona but finds “consensus” on the lone gunman concept; a Time magazine cowl article notes “conspiracy theories rise and fall to the passions of every new period.” Some commentators see Dealey Plaza as being too small for such an enormous occasion. Others argue that the American folks could not settle for that a “no person” modified the course of historical past. While nonetheless others recommend “we” let our emotions get the better of us as a result of JFK was such a compelling determine.
Not often is there an sincere appraisal of the Warren Fee’s extra outlandish distortions. Those that question the accuracy of the Commission are nonetheless known as “buffs”; while enthusiasts for the government’s official line are “debunkers.” The fallback position focuses on Americans’ alleged inability to face the truth that random acts happen. The subtext to these traces of thought factors to every little thing however a political assassination.
As many as seventy million People, together with tv viewers in twenty-three different nations, have been watching when the CBS News anchorman, Walter Cronkite, reported President Kennedy’s loss of life. The nation’s shock and disbelief that JFK could be assassinated that manner, lower down on the age of forty-six no much less, melded with expressions of mourning. Again in Washington, live television added a brand new dimension to the four-day presidential requiem that followed with its formal army pageantry and Catholic ritual. The scholar of comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell, recalled his own emotions, saying it was “the first and only thing of its variety in peacetime that has ever given me the sense of being a member of this complete nationwide group engaged as a unit in the observance of a deeply significant rite.” (Campbell/Moyers interview, 1988, xiii-xiv)
My earliest conscious memory as a toddler was seeing my mother cry while watching the funeral on a black-and-white tv in our suburban San Jose, California dwelling room. I get the cultural significance. I get the significance of Television and film and imagery in recording the events in Dallas. I understand JFK was a compelling and enticing particular person.
However I don’t must then make a large leap to accept the conclusions of the Warren Fee just because the event was emotionally meaningful. After his murder, much more folks claimed to have voted for Kennedy in 1960 than was numerically potential. Few contemporary reporters place the assassination in its historic context. They’re more comfy discussing the semiotics of the Zapruder movie than explaining why most individuals don’t settle for the official line. Put simply, the dominant interpretation of the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination has been ahistorical, superficial, and condescending. “How may sixty one % of Individuals consider in a conspiracy ” they ask.
Truman on the CIA
Hardly ever does a former President take a public stand calling for reining in a federal company he had a hand in creating. Yet a month after President Kennedy was assassinated, former President Harry S. Truman printed a thoughtfully phrased article in the Washington Put up warning the American folks about the dangers of the Central Intelligence Company. On December 22, 1963 Truman wrote:
“I believe it has turn out to be essential to take another take a look at the aim and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency – CIA . . .
“For a while I’ve been disturbed by the best way the CIA has been diverted from its authentic task. It has develop into an operational and at occasions coverage-making arm of the federal government. This has led to hassle and should have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.
“We’ve got grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our capacity to maintain a free and open society. There may be something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and that i really feel we have to appropriate it.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 332)
It may be a coincidence that President Truman chose that moment to name for reeling within the CIA, however it is also possible he sensed one thing concerning the operational features of the assassination that disturbed him. “The CIA was set up by me for the only real objective of getting all of the available information to the president,” Truman wrote in a subsequent correspondence with the managing editor of Look magazine. “It was not meant to operate as an international company engaged in unusual actions.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 333)
In November 1963, the American individuals hadn’t a clue about the ability the CIA amassed in the decade after Truman signed the Nationwide Safety Act in March 1947. Rigging elections, overthrowing governments, arming mercenaries, participating in propaganda, cash laundering, blackmail, assassination, and so forth. In the 1970s, occasions regarding the Watergate scandal compelled the CIA to take a “modified restricted dangle-out” and admit to some wrongdoing in order to make sure that its “household jewels” remained concealed. (Victor Marchetti The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, 1974) CIA Director Richard Helms had no alternative but to admit that within 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 capability the public outcry was loud sufficient to compel Congress to look into the Kennedy assassination.
The Home Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), even with its critical flaws and mismanagement, still unearthed new information regarding Jack Ruby’s organized crime connections (that the Warren Fee had assiduously neglected). 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 is form of a bummer that each one three men were murdered earlier than they may share their views concerning the assassination with Congress. (Belzer 2013, 213-225; 229-238)
George Joannides, the CIA agent who was brought out of retirement to serve because the Company’s liaison with the HSCA, led the committee on wild goose chases and did not disclose his background as an agent involved within the JM/WAVE anti-Castro mercenary effort run out of Miami within the early-1960s. The CIA has since sealed away its information dealing with Joannides’s Miami operations. Those files, at the very least 1,a hundred paperwork, the CIA has not launched. There has never been an enough clarification placing to rest the concept the operational planning for the Kennedy assassination might have originated inside the cauldron of anti-Castro paramilitary exercise in Miami under CIA aegis. These paperwork would possibly shed gentle on this connection.
Goin’ to Texas
“To observe Lyndon Johnson through the transition,” Robert Caro writes, “is to see political genius in action.” (Robert Caro The Passage of Power 2012, xvi) Too unhealthy Johnson did not deploy any of that “political genius” in working to resolve the rift between the enterprise and labor factions in the Democratic Get together in his house state. Robert Kennedy recalled a conversation he had along with his brother not lengthy before the Dallas trip: “Just before the president went to Texas, simply that week, he spoke to me about the fact that Johnson wouldn’t help within the dispute in Texas.” President Kennedy didn’t understand it, RFK added.
He “all the time thought these things may very well be worked out. . . . He mentioned how irritated he was with Lyndon Johnson who wouldn’t assist in any respect in attempting to iron out any of the problems in Texas, and that he was an s.o.b. . . . because this was his state and he just wasn’t available to assist out or simply wouldn’t elevate a finger to attempt to help.” (Quoted in Jeff Shesol Mutual Contempt 1997, 138)
Caro gushes: “[T]o see Lyndon Johnson take hold of presidential energy, and so rapidly start to use it for ends so monumental is to see, with unusual clarity, the immensity of the potential an American President possesses to impact transformative change within the nation he leads.” (Caro 2012, xviii) Here it is unclear whether Caro consists of turning loose America’s proper-wing Generals and its navy industrial advanced on Vietnam as being part of that “transformative change.”
But even Caro is forced 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 in addition to those swirling round his close associates, Billy Sol Estes and Malcolm Wallace. (Roger Stone The Man Who Killed Kennedy 2013, 198-201) But Caro, one of the historians held in the best esteem, drops inspecting the ramifications for LBJ of the criminal investigation as quick as the Senate did back on November 23, 1963. (Caro 2012, 318)
The swearing in ceremony on Air Drive One that the brand new President Johnson orchestrated before leaving Dallas was an exercise in what we might call at the moment “optics” and “atmospherics.” The gesture had no official significance. It was a photo-op designed, in line with Johnson as well as his biographer Caro, to reassure the nation (and the world) that there was a new president at the helm. The well-known photograph is greatest identified for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s anguished look still sporting the costume she had on in the course of the assassination. “Mrs. Kennedy’s dress was stained with blood,” Lady Hen Johnson later stated.
“One leg was almost fully coated with it and her right glove was caked – that immaculate woman – it was caked with blood, her husband’s blood. She all the time wore gloves like she was used to them; I never may. One way or the other that was some of the poignant sights . . . [Mrs. Kennedy] exquisitely dressed, and caked in blood.” (Quoted in Caro 2012, 330)
Lady Chicken famous the change in Jackie Kennedy’s tone from gentle-spoken sorrow to “an element of fierceness” when she instructed to her that she change out of her bloodstained clothes. “No.” Mrs. Kennedy mentioned. “I need them to see what they have done to Jack.” (Quoted in Caro 2012, 330 [original italics])
Toward the top of the two-hour flight from Dallas to Andrews Air Field the White Home physician, Dr. George Burkley, additionally instructed to Jackie that she change out of her bloody dress. “No. Let them see what they’ve achieved,” she said. At four:30 in the morning, on the time when the substandard autopsy of her husband was being completed at Bethesda Naval Hospital, the previous First Lady was nonetheless wearing her blood-spattered pink swimsuit. (Caro 2012, 358; 373)
Seventy-seven eye witnesses out of the 107 who gave formal statements on November 22, 1963 mentioned they heard a loud explosion, “often accompanied by a flash and puff of smoke,” from the fenced-in area to the right of the motorcade near the prepare yard. (Hersh Bobby and J. Edgar 2007, 424) Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nellie, who were sitting in the bounce seat instantly in entrance of President and Mrs. Kennedy, would for the rest of their lives insist that the bullet that ripped into the governor’s back was a distinct shot from people who hit the president. (Talbot 2007, 249) Dave Powers and Kenneth O’Donnell, two of John Kennedy’s finest buddies from Boston, had been riding within the automobile behind the presidential limousine. Powers later said it felt like they had been “riding into an ambush”; O’Donnell told Robert Kennedy “they have been caught in a crossfire.” (Talbot 2007, 3)
Moments after the shooting, Dallas Police Officer, Joseph Marshall Smith, ran up, along with two-dozen other people, toward the stockade fence where it appeared a shot had been fired. He stated he smelled gunpowder as he approached. Officer Smith advised the Warren Commission that a man stopped him in the parking lot behind the fence and flashed his “Secret Service” identification. “He noticed me coming with my pistol and straight away he showed me who he was,” Smith stated. “The man, this character, produces credentials from his hip pocket which showed him to be Secret Service. I have seen these credentials before, and they satisfied me and the deputy sheriff.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 260)
The key Service assured the Fee that it had no agents that day stationed in the realm where Officer Smith stated he encountered one. This revelation led Smith to think more about the man’s look: “He appeared like an auto mechanic. He had on a sports shirt and sports activities pants. But he had soiled fingernails . . . and palms 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 Commission by no means bothered to look into who was this man impersonating a “Secret Service” officer, or how one may need procured the phony credentials.
“Surprisingly, the security measure used in the prior motorcades throughout the identical Texas visit show that the deployment of motorcycles in Dallas by the secret Service could have been uniquely insecure . . . it may properly be that by altering Dallas Police Department Captain Lawrence’s authentic motorcycle plan, the secret Service deprived Kennedy of security 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 Employees, Normal Lyman Lemnitzer, specified by a memo to Protection Secretary Robert McNamara his plans for creating a pretext for going to battle in Cuba. Codenamed “Operation Northwoods,” the nation’s highest navy commanders had signed on to Lemnitzer’s high-secret memo, which urged the Kennedy Administration to stage a various range of clashes to justify invading Cuba.
“3. A ‘Remember the Maine’ incident might be arranged in several forms: We might blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba. We could blow up a drone (unmanned) vessel wherever in the Cuban waters. We may arrange to cause such incident in the neighborhood of Havana or Santiago as a spectacular result of Cuban attack from the air or sea, or both. The presence of Cuban planes or ships merely investigating the intent of the vessel could be pretty compelling evidence that the ship was taken underneath attack. The nearness to Havana or Santiago would add credibility especially to those those that might have heard the blast or have seen the hearth. The US might comply with up with an air/sea rescue operation covered by US fighters to ‘evacuate’ remaining members of the non-existent crew. Casualty lists in US newspapers would trigger a useful wave of nationwide indignation.'” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 97)
The goal here was to control the American people and the press by creating a viable pretext for conflict, which is remarkably similar to the situation that the Pentagon Papers later uncovered relating to the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Lemnitzer’s outline also pre-sages President Johnson’s prime-secret National Security Action Memorandum, NSAM-273, he signed the day after Kennedy was buried. NSAM-273 accredited an elaborate array of covert operations towards the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV North Vietnam), together with OPLAN-34A and the Desoto missions that did outcome in the form of “nationwide indignation” that Common Lemnitzer advocated with “Operation Northwoods.”
Johnson’s NSAM-273 also nullified President Kennedy’s earlier memorandum, NSAM-263, that he signed on October 11, 1963, approving a withdrawal of 1,000 U.S. army personnel from Vietnam by the end of December 1963, with “the bulk” of the troops withdrawn by the tip of 1965. (John Newman JFK and Vietnam 1992, 407-442) Kennedy, not eager to open himself as much as attacks from the warfare hawks going into the 1964 election campaign, directed that there would be no formal announcement of the withdrawal order until he gave the go ahead. (Douglass 2009, 188) Kennedy’s NSAM-263 contained the proviso that “no formal announcement be made of the implementation of plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963.” (Dallek 2003, 680) Even so, the historian Robert Dallek notes that during a news conference on October 31, 1963, Kennedy himself advised the press he planned to take away a thousand troops from Vietnam before the tip of the 12 months. “If we’re ready to try this,” he said, “that would be our schedule.” (Quoted in Dallek 2003, 680)
“4. We may develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami space, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. The terror marketing campaign could possibly be pointed at Cuban refugees seeking 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 carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of ready documents substantiating Cuban involvement, also could be helpful in projecting the concept of an irresponsible government.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 97)
This sort of operation utilizing patsies and solid documents to hoodwink the public seems rather a lot like the modus operandi of the Kennedy assassination. Common Lemnitzer and Air Drive Common Curtis LeMay had been among essentially the most excessive proper-wingers within the army establishment that President Kennedy inherited from the Eisenhower Administration. Other kindred souls ran the Central Intelligence Company, including Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell, George Cabell, and Richard Helms.
Initially, these struggle hawks considered Kennedy as a lightweight and believed he would go along with their aggressive goals in Cuba and Vietnam. But they quickly discovered that Kennedy possessed an unanticipated steel in his use of government energy. He did not hesitate to hearth powerful nationwide security personnel if he concluded they were either undermining his management or double-crossing him. He sacked Dulles, Bissell, and Cabell after they misled him about the probabilities for fulfillment of the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. And when it grew to become obvious to Kennedy that Lemnitzer’s prejudices were affecting his judgment, Kennedy despatched the father of “Northwoods” to the equal of Siberia when he dumped him stone island thin coat as Joint Chiefs Chair and named him Supreme Commander of NATO where he could be removed from Washington policy circles.
Kennedy was surrounded by a Joint Chiefs of Staff that had been ideologically far to his right. They were a staff of Generals who realized most of the incorrect lessons from World Conflict Two and have been obsessive about the growing Soviet menace and apparently believed the United States may “win” a nuclear battle. They resembled the navy 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 “Normal Jack Rippers.” In one other Hollywood anecdote, Kennedy pushed for (but did not 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 have to take care of the hardliners in his army and intelligence establishment, however with an American inhabitants that had been whipped up right into a frenzy about the Soviet risk since the days of the McCarthy witch hunts. In Maximum Hazard: 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 type of motion directed in opposition to 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 journey. But his approval ranking jumped ten points within the months following the Bay of Pigs to 83 %. (Dallek 2003, 370) After the invasion, a Gallup poll confirmed that 71 % 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 materials to anti-Castro fighters. (Weisbrot 2001, 49)
Weisbrot locations the Bay of Pigs in its Chilly Struggle context and points to Kennedy’s political necessity of not being perceived as an “appeaser.” “In contrast to the moral criticisms scholars have since expressed,” he writes, “Kennedy’s countrymen typically anticipated extra ruthless actions with concrete results, not passive musings on Castro’s rights as a reliable head of state.” (Weisbrot 2001, forty nine)
Congress later made its opinion official in a resolution calling for a harder U.S. coverage against Cuba that sailed by the Senate by a vote of 86 to 1, and passed within the Home by 384 to 7. (Weisbrot 2001, 91) Weisbrot observes that even the popular tradition amplified the notion that Castro was a murderous tyrant. An October 1961 episode of Rod Serling’s CBS tv drama, The Twilight Zone, featured a thinly veiled caricature of Castro as a megalomaniac whose paranoia ultimately leads him to commit suicide. (Weisbrot 2001, 50)
But by the summer time of 1963, via two totally different backchannels to Castro, Kennedy, on the time of his dying, was looking for a rapprochement with Cuba. Having already promised Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in resolving the missile disaster that the United States wouldn’t invade the island, he was intent on normalizing relations with Cuba. He told a good friend if the U.S. recognized Cuba “they’re going to purchase our refrigerators and toasters and they’re going to end up kicking Castro out.” (Talbot 2007, 227)
A Treaty and a Speech
In early 1963, when President Kennedy opened up serious negotiations with the Soviet Union on atmospheric nuclear testing he confronted appreciable opposition from the hardliners. The nuclear physicist, Edward Teller, for example, lambasted Kennedy for helping the Russians shield their checks from scrutiny; he and his ideological soul mates were much less enthusiastic about retaining Strontium-ninety and other radioactive poisons out of the bones and teeth of the world’s kids than they had been involved about monitoring Soviet exams. Kennedy got here beneath withering attack when he determined unilaterally to suspend U.S. atmospheric nuclear assessments to reinforce his want for what could be the primary nuclear arms control treaty ever signed by the superpowers. (Douglass 2009, 35) Kennedy put his presidency (and his re-election) on the road in winning widespread support for the Atmospheric Take a look at Ban Treaty.
Though historians have widely praised Lyndon Johnson’s expertise at passing laws, John Kennedy expended considerable political capital and pushed and prodded his former colleagues within the U.S. Senate to support the agreement. On September 24, 1963, the Senate ratified the Restricted Test Ban Treaty by a vote of eighty to 19. Theodore Sorensen “noted that no other single accomplishment within the White Home gave the president higher satisfaction.” (Douglass 2009, fifty four)
President Kennedy’s June 10, 1963 graduation handle at American College deservedly has been extensively acclaimed to be amongst the best speeches ever delivered by an American president. In it, Kennedy presents a vision of world peace where the superpowers can discover widespread floor and transfer beyond the hostilities of the Cold Warfare. He referred to as for a “genuine peace, the form of peace that makes life on earth value dwelling, the type that permits men and nations to grow and to hope and to construct a better life for his or her kids – not merely peace for People however peace for all women and men – not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.” (Quoted in Douglas 2009, 36)
Chastened by the shut name of the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy had emerged from that crucible decided to find a approach ahead that lessened the potential of nuclear annihilation. He believed the Limited Take a look at Ban Treaty was step one in what would be a long journey. Talking on to the folks residing in the Soviet Union, Kennedy noted: “Amongst the numerous traits the peoples of our two nations have in widespread, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of warfare.”
“Virtually unique, amongst the foremost world powers, we now have by no means been at struggle with each other. And no nation in the historical past of battle ever suffered greater than the Soviet Union suffered within the course of the Second World Struggle. At the least 20 million misplaced their lives. Numerous millions of properties and farms had been burned or sacked. A 3rd of the nation’s territory, together with practically two-thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland – a loss equivalent to the devastation of this country east of Chicago.”
“At present, should whole struggle ever break out again – regardless of how – our two nations would grow to be the first targets. It’s an ironic but accurate undeniable fact that the two strongest powers are the two in probably the most hazard of devastation. All now we have constructed, all we’ve got worked for, could be destroyed in the primary 24 hours.”
“In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep curiosity in a simply and real peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this finish are in the pursuits of the Soviet Union in addition to ours – and even the most hostile nations might be relied upon to accept and keep these treaty obligations, and solely these treaty obligations, which are in their pursuits.”
“So, let us not be blind to our differences – however let us additionally direct consideration to our frequent pursuits and to the means by which these differences might be resolved. And if we cannot finish now our variations, not less than we might help make the world secure for variety. For, in the ultimate evaluation, our most basic common hyperlink is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. All of us cherish our youngsters’s future. And we are all mortal.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 348-349)
One of the the explanation why the Kennedy assassination continues to have an effect on thousands and thousands of individuals the best way it does, even fifty years later, is the sense that we are nonetheless preventing the identical battle as we speak. On one side, is a military-industrial-intelligence advanced with its international attain and surveillance state, its CIA and its NSA; on the other aspect, is a vision of an American future that values peace and refuses to measure the nation’s “greatness” by its potential to wreak demise and destruction. Our current president’s legacy includes being the primary to assassinate an American citizen with a flying robotic. The same firms that made a killing on the Vietnam Battle, similar to Brown and Root (later KBR), proceed to revenue from the warfare state. It appears that the conflict wherein Kennedy discovered himself embroiled at the time when he was killed remains unresolved. It is a domestic wrestle between whether the United States goes to be a republic or an empire, a democracy or a police state; a choice of “visions” between Normal Lemnitzer’s “Operation Northwoods” or JFK’s American University speech.
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