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The 50th Anniversary Of The Assassination Of President John F. Kennedy (Part Three): Legacies

Throughout this 50th anniversary season, there has been a flourish of commentary in the mainstream information and leisure media about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Publishers and producers know a very good story when they see one. The brand new York Instances editor, Jill Abramson, laments Kennedy’s blurry persona but finds “consensus” on the lone gunman theory; a Time magazine cover article notes “conspiracy theories rise and fall to the passions of every new era.” Some commentators see Dealey Plaza as being too small for such a giant event. Others argue that the American people couldn’t accept that a “nobody” changed the course of history. Whereas nonetheless others suggest “we” let our emotions get the better of us as a result of JFK was such a compelling determine.

Not often is there an trustworthy appraisal of the Warren Commission’s more outlandish distortions. Those who query the accuracy of the Fee are still called “buffs”; while lovers for the government’s official line are “debunkers.” The fallback position focuses on People’ alleged inability to face the fact that random acts happen. The subtext to those traces of thought points to every part but a political assassination.

As many as seventy million People, together with television viewers in twenty-three different international locations, have been watching when the CBS Information anchorman, Walter Cronkite, reported President Kennedy’s loss of life. The nation’s shock and disbelief that JFK may very well be assassinated that means, minimize down on the age of forty-six no less, melded with expressions of mourning. Again in Washington, live television added a new dimension to the four-day presidential requiem that adopted with its formal military pageantry and Catholic ritual. The scholar of comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell, recalled his personal emotions, saying it was “the first and only factor of its type in peacetime that has ever given me the sense of being a member of this entire nationwide group engaged as a unit in the observance of a deeply vital rite.” (Campbell/Moyers interview, 1988, xiii-xiv)

My earliest aware reminiscence as a toddler was seeing my mother cry whereas watching the funeral on a black-and-white television in our suburban San Jose, California dwelling room. I get the cultural significance. I get the significance of Tv and movie and imagery in recording the occasions in Dallas. I understand JFK was a compelling and engaging individual.

However I do not should then make an enormous leap to accept the conclusions of the Warren Fee just because the event was emotionally significant. After his homicide, way more folks claimed to have voted for Kennedy in 1960 than was numerically attainable. Few contemporary reporters place the assassination in its historic context. They’re more snug discussing the semiotics of the Zapruder film 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 61 p.c of People believe in a conspiracy ” they ask.

Truman on the CIA
Not often 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 published a thoughtfully phrased article within the Washington Submit warning the American individuals concerning the dangers of the Central Intelligence Agency. On December 22, 1963 Truman wrote:

“I believe it has turn into necessary to take one other have a look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency – CIA . . .

“For some time I’ve been disturbed by the way in which the CIA has been diverted from its authentic project. It has become an operational and at occasions policy-making arm of the government. This has led to bother and may have compounded our difficulties in a number of explosive areas.

“We have grown up as a nation, revered for our free institutions and for our skill to keep up a free and open society. There’s one thing about the best way the CIA has been functioning that’s casting a shadow over our historic position and that i really feel we have to right it.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 332)

It is likely to be a coincidence that President Truman selected that second to call for reeling in the CIA, but it is also attainable he sensed something concerning the operational facets of the assassination that disturbed him. “The CIA was set up by me for the only function of getting all of the out there info to the president,” Truman wrote in a subsequent correspondence with the managing editor of Look journal. “It was not meant to function as a global agency engaged in strange activities.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 333)

In November 1963, the American folks hadn’t a clue about the power the CIA amassed within the decade after Truman signed the Nationwide Security Act in March 1947. Rigging elections, overthrowing governments, arming mercenaries, partaking in propaganda, money laundering, blackmail, assassination, and so on. In the 1970s, events relating to the Watergate scandal compelled the CIA to take a “modified restricted dangle-out” and admit to some wrongdoing so as to make sure that its “household jewels” remained hid. (Victor Marchetti The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, 1974) CIA Director Richard Helms had no alternative however to admit that within the early 1960s there existed CIA collusion with Mafia hit men to assassinate Fidel Castro. As soon as it was revealed that the CIA possessed an elaborate assassination capability the public outcry was loud enough to compel Congress to look into the Kennedy assassination.

The House Choose Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), even with its critical flaws and mismanagement, nonetheless unearthed new facts referring to Jack Ruby’s organized crime connections (that the Warren Commission 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’s type of a bummer that all three males had been murdered earlier than they could 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 as the Agency’s liaison with the HSCA, led the committee on wild goose chases and didn’t disclose his background as an agent concerned in the JM/WAVE anti-Castro mercenary effort run out of Miami in the early-1960s. The CIA has since sealed away its information dealing with Joannides’s Miami operations. These information, at the very least 1,one hundred paperwork, the CIA has not launched. There has by no means been an sufficient explanation putting to rest the concept the operational planning for the Kennedy assassination may need originated inside the cauldron of anti-Castro paramilitary activity in Miami under CIA aegis. These paperwork may shed gentle on this connection.

Goin’ to Texas
“To look at Lyndon Johnson during the transition,” Robert Caro writes, “is to see political genius in motion.” (Robert Caro The Passage of Power 2012, xvi) Too bad Johnson did not deploy any of that “political genius” in working to resolve the rift between the business and labor factions in the Democratic Get together in his home state. Robert Kennedy recalled a dialog he had along with his brother not lengthy before the Dallas journey: “Simply earlier than the president went to Texas, just that week, he spoke to me about the fact that Johnson would not assist within the dispute in Texas.” President Kennedy did not perceive it, RFK added.

He “always thought those issues may very well be labored out. . . . He mentioned how irritated he was with Lyndon Johnson who wouldn’t assist at all in making an attempt to iron out any of the issues in Texas, and that he was an s.o.b. . . . because this was his state and he simply wasn’t obtainable to assist out or just would not carry 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 begin to use it for ends so monumental is to see, with unusual readability, the immensity of the potential an American President possesses to impact transformative change in the nation he leads.” (Caro 2012, xviii) Here it is unclear whether or not Caro includes turning free America’s right-wing Generals and its army industrial advanced on Vietnam as being part of that “transformative change.”

But 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 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 many historians held in the very best esteem, drops examining the ramifications for LBJ of the criminal investigation as quick because the Senate did back on November 23, 1963. (Caro 2012, 318)

Eye Witnesses
The swearing in ceremony on Air Force One that the brand new President Johnson orchestrated before leaving Dallas was an exercise in what we might call right now “optics” and “atmospherics.” The gesture had no official significance. It was a photograph-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 on the helm. The well-known photograph is best recognized for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s anguished appearance still wearing the costume she had on through the assassination. “Mrs. Kennedy’s gown was stained with blood,” Lady Hen Johnson later mentioned.

“One leg was nearly fully coated with it and her proper glove was caked – that immaculate woman – it was caked with blood, her husband’s blood. She at all times wore gloves like she was used to them; I by no means may. One way or the other that was probably the most 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 smooth-spoken sorrow to “an element of fierceness” when she recommended to her that she change out of her bloodstained clothes. “No.” Mrs. Kennedy stated. “I want them to see what they have completed to Jack.” (Quoted in Caro 2012, 330 [unique italics])

Towards 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 costume. “No. Let them see what they’ve executed,” she stated. At 4:30 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 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 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 train yard. (Hersh Bobby and J. Edgar 2007, 424) Texas Governor John Connally and his spouse Nellie, who were sitting in the jump seat instantly in front of President and Mrs. Kennedy, would for the rest of their lives insist that the bullet that ripped into the governor’s again was a distinct shot from those who hit the president. (Talbot 2007, 249) Dave Powers and Kenneth O’Donnell, two of John Kennedy’s finest associates from Boston, were riding in the automotive behind the presidential limousine. Powers later stated it felt like they were “riding into an ambush”; O’Donnell told Robert Kennedy “they had been caught in a crossfire.” (Talbot 2007, 3)

Moments after the shooting, Dallas Police Officer, Joseph Marshall Smith, ran up, along with two-dozen different people, toward the stockade fence the place 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 within 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 confirmed him to be Secret Service. I have seen those credentials before, and so they satisfied me and the deputy sheriff.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 260)

The secret Service assured the Commission that it had no brokers that day stationed in the realm where Officer Smith said he encountered one. This revelation led Smith to think more about the man’s look: “He seemed like an auto mechanic. He had on a sports shirt and sports 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 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 security measure used in the prior motorcades throughout the same Texas go to present that the deployment of bikes in Dallas by the key Service may have been uniquely insecure . . . it could properly be that by altering Dallas Police Division Captain Lawrence’s authentic motorbike plan, the key Service deprived Kennedy of safety in Dallas that it had offered a mere day before in Houston.” (Secret Service Last Survey Report for the November 21, 1963, go to by President Kennedy to Houston, cited in Appendixes to Hearings earlier than the HSCA, vol. Eleven, p. 529.)

Doctor Strangelove
On March thirteen, 1962, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Workers, General Lyman Lemnitzer, specified by a memo to Protection Secretary Robert McNamara his plans for creating a pretext for going to conflict in Cuba. Codenamed “Operation Northwoods,” the nation’s highest military commanders had signed on to Lemnitzer’s top-secret memo, which urged the Kennedy Administration to stage a various vary of clashes to justify invading Cuba.

“3. A ‘Remember the Maine’ incident may very well be arranged in a number of varieties: We might blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba. We may blow up a drone (unmanned) vessel anyplace within the Cuban waters. We could arrange to trigger such incident within the neighborhood 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 pretty compelling evidence that the ship was taken under assault. The nearness to Havana or Santiago would add credibility especially to these those who might need heard the blast or have seen the fireplace. The US could observe 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 useful wave of national indignation.'” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, ninety seven)

The purpose right here was to control the American folks and the press by creating a viable pretext for battle, which is remarkably just like the state of affairs that the Pentagon Papers later uncovered concerning the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Lemnitzer’s define additionally pre-sages President Johnson’s high-secret Nationwide Safety Motion Memorandum, NSAM-273, he signed the day after Kennedy was buried. NSAM-273 authorised an elaborate array of covert operations in opposition to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV North Vietnam), together with OPLAN-34A and the Desoto missions that did result within the form of “nationwide indignation” that General 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 top of December 1963, with “the majority” of the troops withdrawn by the tip of 1965. (John Newman JFK and Vietnam 1992, 407-442) Kennedy, not desirous to open himself as much as assaults from the warfare 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 fabricated from the implementation of plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. army 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 informed the press he deliberate to take away a thousand troops from Vietnam earlier than the end of the yr. “If we’re in a position to do this,” he mentioned, “that could be our schedule.” (Quoted in Dallek 2003, 680)

“four. We may develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami space, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. The terror marketing campaign may very well be pointed at Cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated). We might foster makes an attempt on the lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding in situations to be extensively publicized. Exploding a few plastic bombs in rigorously chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban brokers and the release of ready paperwork substantiating Cuban involvement, additionally would be useful in projecting the thought of an irresponsible authorities.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 97)

This sort of operation using patsies and forged paperwork to hoodwink the public looks quite a bit just like the modus operandi of the Kennedy assassination. Common Lemnitzer and Air Drive Common Curtis LeMay have been amongst the most extreme proper-wingers within the navy establishment that President Kennedy inherited from the Eisenhower Administration. Other kindred souls ran the Central Intelligence Agency, including Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell, George Cabell, and Richard Helms.

Initially, these conflict hawks seen Kennedy as a lightweight and believed he would go together with their aggressive aims in Cuba and Vietnam. But they soon found that Kennedy possessed an unanticipated steel in his use of govt energy. He didn’t hesitate to fire highly effective national security personnel if he concluded they had been either undermining his leadership or double-crossing him. He sacked Dulles, Bissell, and Cabell after they misled him about the chances for achievement of the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. And when it turned apparent to Kennedy that Lemnitzer’s prejudices have been affecting his judgment, Kennedy sent the father of “Northwoods” to the equal of Siberia when he dumped him as Joint Chiefs Chair and named him Supreme Commander of NATO the place he would be far from Washington coverage circles.

Kennedy was surrounded by a Joint Chiefs of Workers that were ideologically far to his right. They have been a employees of Generals who learned lots of the flawed lessons from World Conflict Two and have been obsessive about the growing Soviet risk and apparently believed the United States might “win” a nuclear warfare. They resembled the military officers in Stanley Kubrick’s good 1964 satire, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Lemnitzer and LeMay appeared like actual life “Basic Jack Rippers.” In another Hollywood anecdote, Kennedy pushed for (however didn’t stay to see) the release of the movie, Seven Days in Could (1964), which portrayed anti-communist army 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 institution, however with an American population that had been whipped up right into a frenzy about the Soviet risk since the days of the McCarthy witch hunts. In Most Danger: Kennedy, the Missiles, and the Disaster of American Confidence (2001), the historian Robert Weisbrot argues that the Congress and the press had been already primed for a U.S. army strike in opposition to the Western Hemisphere’s preeminent “risk” of communism. Kennedy’s effort at some kind of motion 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 statement, Kennedy bore “sole accountability” for the failure of the CIA’s unwell-fated adventure. 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 p.c of respondents believed Castro could not win “a free and truthful election” in Cuba, and a majority wished to continue the circulation of U.S. cash and materials to anti-Castro fighters. (Weisbrot 2001, 49)

Weisbrot locations the Bay of Pigs in its Cold 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 more ruthless actions with concrete results, not passive musings on Castro’s rights as a reputable head of state.” (Weisbrot 2001, 49)

Congress later made its opinion official in a resolution calling for a more durable U.S. policy against Cuba that sailed via the Senate by a vote of 86 to 1, and handed within 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 tv drama, The Twilight Zone, featured a thinly veiled caricature of Castro as a megalomaniac whose paranoia finally leads him to commit suicide. (Weisbrot 2001, 50)

Yet by the summer of 1963, by means of two totally different backchannels to Castro, Kennedy, at the time of his demise, was searching for a rapprochement with Cuba. Having already promised Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in resolving the missile crisis that the United States would not invade the island, he was intent on normalizing relations with Cuba. He instructed a pal if the U.S. recognized Cuba “they will buy our refrigerators and toasters and they’ll 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 faced considerable opposition from the hardliners. The nuclear physicist, Edward Teller, for instance, lambasted Kennedy for serving to the Russians shield their exams from scrutiny; he and his ideological soul mates have been less desirous about keeping Strontium-ninety and other radioactive poisons out of the bones and teeth of the world’s children than they had been concerned about monitoring Soviet tests. Kennedy came beneath withering assault when he determined unilaterally to suspend U.S. atmospheric nuclear checks to reinforce his need for what can be the first nuclear arms management treaty ever signed by the superpowers. (Douglass 2009, 35) Kennedy put his presidency (and his re-election) on the road in successful widespread help for the Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty.

Although historians have widely praised Lyndon Johnson’s abilities at passing laws, John Kennedy expended considerable 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 Restricted Take a look at Ban Treaty by a vote of eighty to 19. Theodore Sorensen “noted that no different single accomplishment in the White House gave the president better satisfaction.” (Douglass 2009, fifty four)

President Kennedy’s June 10, 1963 graduation tackle 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 imaginative and prescient of world peace the place the superpowers can find widespread ground and transfer beyond the hostilities of the Chilly Struggle. He referred to as for a “genuine peace, the form of peace that makes life on earth price living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to construct a better life for his or her kids – not merely peace for Americans 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 name of the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy had emerged from that crucible determined to find a way ahead that lessened the opportunity of nuclear annihilation. He believed the Restricted Test Ban Treaty was the first step in what could be a long journey. Talking on to the folks living in the Soviet Union, Kennedy noted: “Among the many traits the peoples of our two nations have in common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of struggle.”

“Almost distinctive, among the most important world stone island double pocket zip through shirt jacket powers, we now have never been at war with one another. And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered greater than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World Struggle. No less than 20 million misplaced their lives. Countless millions of houses and farms were 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 equal to the devastation of this nation east of Chicago.”

“At present, should total battle ever break out once more – no matter how – our two nations would turn into the primary targets. It’s an ironic however correct incontrovertible fact that the two strongest powers are the 2 in the most hazard of devastation. All we’ve built, all we have now labored for, can be destroyed in the first 24 hours.”

“In short, each the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a simply and real peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this finish are within the interests of the Soviet Union in addition to ours – and even the most hostile nations could be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only these treaty obligations, which are in their pursuits.”

“So, allow us to not be blind to our differences – but allow us to additionally direct consideration to our frequent interests and to the means by which these differences might be resolved. And if we can’t finish now our variations, not less than we may help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final evaluation, our most basic frequent hyperlink is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. All of us cherish our children’s future. And we’re all mortal.” (Quoted in Douglass 2009, 348-349)

One of the reasons why the Kennedy assassination continues to have an effect on hundreds of thousands of individuals the way in which it does, even fifty years later, is the sense that we’re still preventing the identical battle as we speak. On one facet, is a military-industrial-intelligence complicated with its international attain and surveillance state, its CIA and its NSA; on the opposite side, is a vision of an American future that values peace and refuses to measure the country’s “greatness” by its potential to wreak loss of life and destruction. Our current president’s legacy includes being the primary to assassinate an American citizen with a flying robot. The same companies that made a killing on the Vietnam War, resembling Brown and Root (later KBR), proceed to revenue from the warfare state. It appears that the conflict through which Kennedy discovered himself embroiled on the time when he was killed remains unresolved. It’s a domestic battle between whether the United States is going 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 College speech.