The JFK Assassination Parts I
excerpted from the book
by Michael Parenti
City Lights Books, 1996, paper
THE JFK ASSASSINATION
Much of history is a chronicle of immense atrocities. 'Whenever
surplus wealth accumulates in any society, whenever people emerge
from a cooperative subsistence economy, some portion of the population
will do everything it can to exploit the labor of the rest of
the people in as pitiless a manner as possible. This is true whether
it be the slaveholders of ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the
antebellum American South; or the feudal aristocracy of medieval
Europe; or the financial moguls of modern capitalist society.
Today, throughout much of the capitalist Third World and increasingly
in the United States and other industrialized nations, people
are being driven into desperation and want, made to work harder
for less, when able to find work.
The Gangster State
The state is the instrument used in all
these societies by the wealthy few to impoverish and maintain
control over the many. Aside from performing collective functions
necessary for all societies, the state has the particular task
of protecting the process of accumulating wealth for the few.
Throughout our country's history, people have fought back and
sometimes gained a limited degree of self-protective rights: universal
suffrage, civil liberties, the right to collective bargaining,
the eight-hour day, public education, social security, and some
human services. While these democratic gains are frequently violated
and prove insufficient as a restraint against state power, their
importance should not be denied.
Today in the much-vaunted western democracies
there exists a great deal of unaccountable state power whose primary
function is to maintain the existing politico-economic structure,
using surveillance, infiltration, sabotage, judicial harassment,
disinformation, trumped-up charges and false arrests, tax harassment,
blackmail, and even violence and assassination to make the world
safe for those who own it.
There exists a state within the state,
known as the national security state, a component of misgovernment
centering around top officers in the various intelligence agencies,
the Pentagon, and policy makers in the Executive Office of the
White House. These elements have proven themselves capable of
perpetrating terrible crimes against dissidents at home and abroad.
National security state agencies like the CIA, in the service
of dominant economic interests, have enlisted the efforts of mobsters,
drug traffickers, assassins, and torturers, systematically targeting
peasant leaders, intellectuals, journalists, student leaders,
clergy, labor union leaders, workers, and community activists
in numerous countries. Hundreds of thousands of people have been
murdered ) to prevent social change, to destroy any government
or social movement that manifests an unwillingness to reduce its
people to economic fodder for the giant corporations that rule
the world's economy.'
JFK, the Media Mugging
Occasionally an incident occurs that reveals
in an unusually vivid manner the gangster nature of the state.
The assassination of President John Kennedy in November 1963 is
such an occasion. The dirty truth is that Kennedy was heartily
hated by right-wing forces in this country, including many powerful
people in the intelligence organizations. He had betrayed the
national interest as they defined it, by refusing to go all out
against Cuba, making overtures of rapproachment with Castro, and
refusing to escalate the ground war in Vietnam. They also saw
him as an anti-business liberal who was taking the country down
the wrong path. Whether Kennedy really was all that liberal is
another matter. What the national security rightists saw him to
be was what counted.
To know the truth about the assassination
of John Kennedy is to call into question the state security system
and the entire politico-economic order it protects. This is why
for over thirty years the corporate-owned press and numerous political
leaders have suppressed or attacked the many revelations about
the murder unearthed by independent investigators like Mark Lane,
Peter Dale Scott, Carl Oglesby, Harold Weisberg, Anthony Summers,
Philip Melanson, Jim Garrison, Cyril Wecht, Jim Marrs, Gaeton
Fonzi, Sylvia Meagher, Michael Canfield, James DiEugenio, and
These investigators have been described
as "assassination buffs." The term "buff"
is a diminishing characterization, describing someone who pursues
odd hobbies. For the same reason that we would not refer to "Holocaust
buffs:' so should we not refer to these serious investigators
as "assassination buffs." Their efforts reveal a conspiracy
to assassinate the president and an even more extensive conspiracy
to hide the crime.
While ignoring their revelations, the
media have given fulsome publicity to the likes of Gerald Posner,
author of a grotesque whitewash of the assassination. Posner's
book was not a sloppy, confused work but a deliberate contrivance
that used outright untruths to conclude that Lee Harvey Oswald
was a disgruntled lone leftist who killed Kennedy. Posner could
get away with his misrepresentations because those who have written
systematic exposures of his book were either ignored by the corporate-owned
media or roughed up by unsympathetic reviewers and editors.'
An end run around the media blackout was
achieved by Oliver Stone's movie JFK, a film that directly reached
millions of viewers with an accurate account of the specifics
of the assassination. The movie could not be ignored because it
was reaching a mass audience. So the press savaged it. far as
I know, JFK is the only movie in film history that was attacked,
six months before it was released, in just about every major broadcast
and print outlet. The Washington Post, for instance, gave George
Lardner Jr. the whole front page of its Sunday "Outlook"
section (5/19/91) to slam Stone for "chasing fiction."
Lardner was an interesting choice to review this particular movie,
being the Post reporter who covered the CIA and who never wrote
a harsh word about that agency.
The media's ideological gatekeepers threw
restraint to the wind when dealing with Stone's film. Conservative
news columnist George Will, not known for writing movie reviews,
penned a rant against JFK, calling it "a cartoon history"
and "a three-hour lie?' Will describes Stone as "an
intellectual sociopath, combining moral arrogance with historical
ignorance ... a specimen of the sixties' arrested development
.... Intellectually, Stone is on all fours ... part of a long
fringe tradition... banally venal, reckless, cruel" (Washington
Post, 12/27/91). By relying on invective, Will avoided the more
difficult task of rebutting the points made in Stone's film.
Shoulder to shoulder with conservatives
like Will stood liberal centrists like Daniel Schorr, the NPR
radio commentator who attacked Stone three times on the air, always
in sarcastic and general terms, without ever coming to grips with
the information proffered by the movie.
Then there was Tom Wicker, a syndicated
columnist who also had never done a movie review, but when JFK
came out, he wrote one that covered a whole page, complete with
photos (New York Times, 12/15/91). In it, Wicker said something
If the wild assertions in Oliver Stone's
movie are taken at face value, Americans will have to accept the
idea that most of the nation's major institutions conspired together
and carried out Kennedy's murder. In an era when mistrust of government
and loss of confidence in institutions-the press not the least
-are widespread and virulent, such a suggestion seems a dubious
In so many words Wicker was disclosing
the basic reason why such a merciless attack had been launched
against Stone's movie. A full exposure of the assassination conspiracy
would invite serious discredit upon the legitimacy of the dominant
institutions of state and class. Playing before mass audiences,
JFK did not accuse a cabal of malevolent perpetrators, but pointed
to the national security state itself, inviting millions of viewers
to question the kind of state system under which they lived.
JFK is the only movie I know that continues
to be attacked four years after its run. Reviewers and commentators
persist in making gratuitous references, describing Oliver Stone
as "the man who reinvented history with movies such as JFK"
(Oakland Tribune, 10/13/95), referring to "Oliver Stone's
near-pathological monkeying with history" (East Bay Express,
12/14/95), and describing him as "a man who makes his living
being a ranting maniac" and a "dangerous fellow"
(San Francisco Examiner 1/9/96). If anyone is ranting, it's the
Sociologist David Simone compiled a study
of the books published on the Kennedy assassination, some 600
titles, and found that 20 percent of them blamed either a lone
assassin or the mafia or the Cubans or Russians. The other 80
percent ascribed the assassination to a conspiracy linked to U.S.
intelligence agencies; some of these also said that mobsters were
involved at the operational level. Ignoring this 80 percent of
the literature, publications like the New York Times and Washington
Post have listed the various theories about the JFK assassination
as follows: (a) lone assassin, (b) mafia, (c) Cubans/Soviets,
and (d) the "Oliver Stone movie theory." In other words,
they ignore the existence of a vast literature from which the
movie is derived and ascribe the critical theme presented within
the film solely to the imagination of a film maker. The press
would have us believe that the notion of a state-sponsored assassination
conspiracy and cover-up came out of a movie-when actually the
movie was based on a rich and revealing investigative literature.
Like the Warren Commission, the press
assumed a priori that Oswald was the killer. The only question
it asked was: Did Oswald act alone? The answer was a loudly orchestrated
yes. Meanwhile, almost every in-depth investigator had a different
conclusion: Oswald did not act at all. He was not one of the people
who shot Kennedy, although he was involved in another way, as
a fall guy, in his own words "just a patsy."
The media have been tireless in their
efforts to suppress the truth about the gangster state. In 1978,
when a House Select Committee concluded that there was more than
one assassin involved in the Kennedy shooting, the Washington
Post (1/6/79) editorialized:
Could it have been some other malcontent
who Mr. Oswald met casually? Could not as much as three or four
societal outcasts with no ties to any one organization have developed
in some spontaneous way a common determination to express their
alienation in the killing of President Kennedy? It is possible
that two persons acting independently attempted to shoot the President
at the very same time?
It is "possible' but also most unlikely
and barely imaginable. Instead of a conspiracy theory the Post
creates a one-in-a-billion "coincidence theory" that
is the most fanciful of all explanations.
Ignored Evidence, Unanswered Questions
David Garrow, author of a biography of
Martin Luther King, condescendingly says: "A large majority
of the American people do believe in assassination conspiracies.
That allows events to have large mysterious causes instead of
small idiosyncratic ones." Contrary to Garrow, the question
of whether a conspiracy exists in any particular situation has
to be decided by an investigation of evidence, not by patronizing
presumptions about the public mind. Investigators who concluded
there were conspiracies in the Kennedy and King murders did not
fashion "large mysterious causes" but came to their
conclusions through painstaking probes of troubling discrepancies,
obvious lies, and blatant cover-ups. They have been impelled not
by the need to fashion elaborate theories but by the search for
particular explanations about some simple and compelling truths.
Many people talk about finding the "smoking
gun" behind this or that mystery, the one evidentiary item
that dramatically resolves the case and puts to rest all further
questions. Unlike fictional mysteries, in real life there usually
is no smoking gun. Historians work by a process of accretion,
putting piece by piece together until a picture emerges. In the
Kennedy murder, the pieces make an imposing picture indeed, leaving
one with the feeling that while there may not be a smoking gun
there is a whole fusillade of impossibilities regarding the flight
of bullets, the nature of the wounds, the ignored testimony of
eye witnesses, the sudden and mysterious deaths of witnesses,
the disappearance and deliberate destruction of evidence, and
the repeated acts of official cover-up that continue to this day
regarding the release of documents.
Let us focus on just a small part of the
immense brief that has been assembled by investigators. Consider
the background of Lee Harvey Oswald. During the week of the thirtieth
anniversary of the JFK assassination, one repeatedly heard on
television that Oswald was an incompetent "loner" and
not very bright. Gerald Posner, transforming himself into an instant
psychiatric expert, announced that Oswald "had a very disturbed
childhood, and he was a passive-aggressive?' A passive-aggressive
assassin? He was also repeatedly labeled a "loner" and
a "leftist?' The truth is something else.
Lee Harvey Oswald spent most of his adult
life not as a lone drifter but directly linked to the U.S. intelligence
community. All of his IQ tests show that he was above average
in intelligence and a quick learner. At the age of eighteen in
the U.S. Marines he had secret security clearance and was working
at Marine Air Control in Atsugi Air Force base in Japan, a top-secret
location from which the CIA launched U2 flights and performed
other kinds of covert operations in China. The next year he was
assigned to El Toro air station in California with security clearance
to work radar.
Strange things began to happen. While
at El Toro, Oswald emerged as a babbling Russophile and a "communist."
He started playing Russian-language records at blast level in
his barracks and addressing his fellow Marines in Russian, calling
them "comrade." He read Russian books and hailed Soviet
Communism as "the best system in the world." If Oswald
was a Soviet or a Cuban spy, as some people now claim, he certainly
had a novel way of building a cover.
Philip Melanson, author of Spy Saga, a
book about Oswald's links to intelligence, reminds us that the
U.S. Marine Corps in 1958 was not exactly a bastion of liberal
tolerance and freethinking. But in this instance, for some strange
reason, Oswald's Marine commanders did not seem to mind having
a ranting commie sympathizer in their midst. He kept his security
clearance and retained access to a wealth of sensitive radar information
and classified data from secret facilities.
Other odd things happened. In February
1959, he failed the Marine Corps proficiency test in Russian.
Six months later he had developed some fluency in that language.
In 1974, a document classified by the Warren Commission-and dislodged
mostly by Harold Weisberg's legal efforts-revealed that Oswald
had attended the U.S. Army's School of Languages at Monterey.
Monterey is not open to just anyone who happens to have a language
hobby. One is sent by the government, for training in a specific
language pertaining to a specific assignment. Oswald learned Russian
Another curious thing: Oswald applied
for an early dependency discharge from the Marines because his
mother had injured her foot-the accident had occurred a year earlier.
He was released one week after putting in his request, a decision
so swift as to astonish his fellow Marines.
Oswald then "defected" to the
USSR, but how? Melanson notes that such a trip would have cost
at least $1,500 in those days, but Oswald's bank account showed
a balance of $203. And how did he get from London to Helsinki
on October 11, 1959, when no available commercial flight could
have made it in one day? He must have had some kind of private
transportation to Helsinki.
Once in Russia, he went to the U.S. embassy
and openly renounced his U.S. citizenship, declaring that he was
going to give military secrets to the Soviets. Embassy officials
made no effort to detain him. As the KGB files opened in 1991
show, the Soviets kept him under constant surveillance. KGB defector
Yuri Nosenko, who had been responsible for investigating every
contact Oswald made in the USSR, reported that the young American
had never been associated with Soviet intelligence and that the
KGB suspected he was connected with U.S. intelligence.
While in Russia Oswald belonged to a gun
club at the factory in which he worked, though he showed no interest
in guns. He reportedly used to join in rabbit shoots but could
never score a hit. Someone would have to stand behind him and
shoot the rabbit while he was firing. His performance became something
of a joke among his co-workers. His marksmanship in the U.S. Marines
had been no better.
U.S. intelligence mysteriously departed
from normal procedure and made no damage assessment of Oswald's
"defection' or so they claimed. Another odd thing: after
two-and-a-half years, Oswald's sudden request to return to the
United States was immediately granted by U.S. officials-all this
after he had threatened to give away state secrets to the Soviets.
Instead of being arrested for treason, Oswald was accepted with
open arms by U.S. authorities.
The CIA claimed it had no record of debriefing
him and was never near him. Their explanation before the Warren
Commission was that there were so many tourists coming in and
out and there was nothing particularly unusual about Oswald that
would have caught their attention. One might wonder what was needed
to catch the CIA's attention.
Yet, CIA officials claimed they had suspected
all along that he was a Soviet spy-which makes it even more curious
that they did not debrief him. In fact, they did debrief him in
Holland. But being so eager to cover up any association with Oswald,
they could not recognize how in this instance the truth would
have been a less suspicious cover than the improbable lie they
told about not noticing his return.
State Department officials also behaved
strangely. They paid all travel and moving expenses back to the
United States for Oswald and his wife. Without a moment's delay
they gave him back his passport with full rights to travel anywhere
in the world. Another curious thing: his wife was exempted from
the usual immigration quotas and granted immediate entry. Years
earlier she had belonged to the Soviet Komsomol, the Communist
youth organization, which automatically would have barred her
from the United States. Yet in violation of U.S. immigration laws,
she was allowed into the country.
In Dallas, Lee Harvey Oswald settled under
the wing of White Russian émigré and former cavalry
officer George de Mohrenschildt, an associate of oil millionaires
H. L. Hunt and Clint Murchinson and other Dallas economic elites.
In de Mohrenschildt's telephone book was found the name of George
"Pappy" Bush. A correspondence existed between Bush
and de Mohrenschildt indicating that they were personal acquaintances.
De Mohrenschildt and his wife Jeanne were
identified by the Warren Commission as the people closest to Oswald
just before the assassination. An investigator for the House Select
Committee, Gaeton Fonzi, noted, "Given his background, it
seemed strange that de Mohrenschildt would have spontaneously
befriended someone with the look of a working-class drifter like
Lee Harvey Oswald." That was not the only strange thing about
de Mohrenschildt. He also was part of a network of ex-Nazis contracted
by the CIA.
A CIA memorandum written not long after
Oswald returned from Russia advised de Mohrenschildt on how to
handle the young "defector." De Mohrenschildt also had
a close friendship with J. Walter Moore, who was an agent of the
CIA's Domestic Contacts Division. As de Mohrenschildt told one
investigator just before his sudden death, it was Moore who encouraged
him to see Oswald. Investigator Jim Marrs observes in his book
"The CIA memos, Moore's closeness,
and de Mohrenschildt's own testimony all confirm that a certain
relationship existed between the CIA and the man closest to Oswald
in early 1963. While this does not necessarily involve the Agency
in a plot to kill Kennedy, it raises questions about what Agency
officials might have known regarding such a plot."
Oswald embarked on a series of short-lived
public forays as a "leftist?' He started a one-person Fair
Play for Cuba chapter in New Orleans, without ever bothering to
recruit another member. He never met with a single member of the
Communist Party or any other left organization, although he wrote
friendly letters to the Communist Party and to the Socialist Workers
Party-two groups that were not even talking to each other-supposedly
asking for instructions. Again, all this was a novel way for a
Soviet agent and would-be assassin to act.
He blazed a highly visible trail as a
"leftist" agitator: managing to get exposure on local
TV in New Orleans after getting involved in some fistfights while
leafleting. One of the leaflets he distributed showed that his
organization was on Camp Street in the very same building that
a former FBI bureau chief, Guy Banister, had his office. Banister
retained close working relations with émigré Cuban
right-wing groups and with Lee Harvey Oswald.
When he wasn't playing the communist agitator,
Oswald spent most of his time with rabid anticommunists, including
émigré Cubans and CIA operatives. Besides Banister
and de Mohrenschildt, there was David Ferrie. (In his book First
Hand Knowledge, Robert Morrow, a conservative businessman and
CIA operative, tells how he served as a pilot on CIA missions
with Ferrie.) Oswald also knew businessman Clay Shaw who was CIA,
as later confirmed by the agency's director Richard Helms. These
were hardly the sort of friends we would expect for a loud-mouthed
"Marxist revolutionary" just returned from giving away
classified secrets in the USSR.
The attorney general of Texas, Waggoner
Carr, told the Warren Commission that Oswald was an FBI informant
or contract agent, with assigned number S-172 or S-179. For his
services, Oswald was paid two hundred dollars a month by the FBI.'
Orest Pena, a Cuban émigré and FBI informant, told
Mark Lane that Oswald worked for the FBI and met with FBI personnel
from time to time.
If not paid by security agencies, how
did Oswald support himself during his forays into New Orleans
and Dallas? He was employed for a brief time in 1962 by a printing
company in Dallas that specialized in highly classified government
work, including the making of secret maps of the Soviet Union
for U.S. Army Intelligence-again hardly the sort of job to assign
an openly Russophilic communist agitator. Oswald's overall employment
record and income sources remain something of a mystery. To this
day, the government refuses to release his tax returns, with no
explanation as to what issue of national security is at stake.
We are asked to believe that Oswald just
happened to get a job at the Texas School Book Depository five
weeks before the assassination, when it had not yet been publicized
that Kennedy's limousine was going to pass in front of that building.
In fact, George de Morenschildt got him the job.
We are asked to believe that Oswald, who
could not hit the side of a barn, chose a Mannlicher-Carcano to
kill the president, a cheap, poor-performance Italian rifle that
the Italians said never killed anyone on purpose and caused them
to lose World War II. Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade initially
announced that the murder weapon was a German Mauser. Later informed
that Oswald owned a Manlincher-Carcano, Wade declared that the
murder weapon was an "Italian carbine."
We are asked to believe that Oswald would
forgo shooting President Kennedy when he had a perfect target
of him as he rode right down Houston Street directly toward the
Texas School Book Depository. Instead he supposedly waited until
the car had turned down Elm Street and was a half-block away.
With the President's head and shoulders barely visible through
a tree, Oswald supposedly fired rapidly, getting off three shots
in record time, one missing the limousine by twenty-five feet
and the other two hitting their target with devastating accuracy
and record rapid succession, a feat the best marksmen in the country
found impossible to emulate even after much practice and after
the sights on the Mannlicher-Carcano were properly reset in a
We are asked to believe that Oswald then
left his rifle at the window, complete with a perfect palm print
and, they now say, his fingerprints (but no fingerprints on the
clip or handloaded cartridges), along with three spent shells
placed on the floor neatly in a row, in a manner no spent shells
We are asked to believe that a bullet
would go through John Kennedy, pause in mid-air, change direction,
and wound Governor Connally in several places-something Connally
never believed-and reappear perfectly intact wedged into the flap
of a stretcher in Parkland Hospital, supposedly having fallen
out of Connally's body but obviously pushed into the flap by hand.
We are asked to believe that only three
shots were fired when in fact six bullets were noted: one that
entered the president's throat and remained in his body; the second
extracted from Governor Connally's thigh; a third discovered on
the stretcher; a fourth found in fragments in the limousine; a
fifth that missed the president's car by a wide margin, hitting
the curb according to several witnesses, and wounding onlooker
James Thomas Tague on his face; a sixth found in the grass by
Dallas police directly across from where the president's vehicle
The Secret Service took possession of
the presidential limousine, ignored reports in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
(12/1/63) that there was a bullet hole in the windshield, and
rejected all requests to inspect the vehicle. We are asked to
believe that the inside of limousine, a trove of physical evidence,
was then quickly torn out and rebuilt, with no thought of covering
We are asked to believe that Kennedy's
autopsy was innocently botched and his brain just accidentally
disappeared. The X-ray purporting to be Kennedy's head now shows
a rear entry wound, different from the rear exit wound all the
pathologists saw. Someone cropped the jaw out of the picture,
so there is no opportunity to determine by dental identification
if the X-ray really is the president's.
We are asked by people like Max Holland,
writing in the Nation, to believe that the "infamous picture
of Oswald posing with rifle in hand" is not a forgery. Actually
there are two pictures, both proven composites, with bodies of
different sizes but with the identical head that matches neither
body, and with shadows going in incongruous directions. Who fabricated
"The lone leftist assassin"
Oswald was a friend of Jack Ruby, a gangster with links to Cuban
exiles and the FBI. Ruby once worked for Congressman Richard Nixon
and the House Un-American Activities Committee in Chicago when
his name was still Jack Rubenstein. He also worked for the FBI
in Dallas during the years before the JFK assassination. Ruby
claimed he was just an ordinary private citizen, moved to kill
Oswald in order to avenge the suffering Oswald had inflicted upon
the Kennedy family.'
While in prison Ruby pleaded with the
Warren Commission to be taken to Washington where he could tell
the whole story. He feared for his life and claimed "they
are killing me here?' Indeed, he died in jail, supposedly of natural
We are asked to believe that when twenty-four
persons who had information related to the case met violent deaths,
this was a colossal coincidence. In 1978, after the House Select
Committee investigation got underway, Anthony Summers records
that another sixteen connected to the case died violently. This,
too, supposedly was just a coincidence. This latter group included
George de Mohrenschildt, killed by a gun blast to the head three
hours after a House Assassinations Committee Investigator had
tried to contact him. De Mohrenschildt had been worried that he
would be murdered. His daughter Kressy Keardon believes it "impossible"
that he shot himself. The sheriff's office in Palm County, Florida,
found the shooting "very strange." But it was ruled
a suicide. Generally, people who voice fears that they might be
killed do not then kill themselves.
William Sullivan, number-three man in
the FBI, was secretly on the CIA payroll, according to CIA operative
Robert Morrow. He was scheduled to appear before the House Select
Committee but before he could do so, he was shot outside his home
by a man who claimed to have mistaken him for a deer. The killer
was charged with a misdemeanor and released in custody of his
father, a state policeman.
While under government protection, mobster
Sam Giancana was shot dead one day before he was to testify before
the House Select Committee about mob and CIA connections. One
of the things that emerges from this whole story is the widespread
linkages between the CIA and organized crime, between the gangster
state and the gangsters.
When the House committee was putting its
staff together, it was heavily pressured to employ only persons
acceptable to the CIA, the very agency it was supposed to investigate.
In his book Plausible Denial, Mark Lane reports that when Bernard
Fensterwald, an independent-minded Washington lawyer, was offered
the job of general counsel, a CIA representative called on him
and said that the Agency would hand him "his head on a platter"
if he took the assignment. Fensterwald turned it down.
Is the Kennedy assassination conspiracy
just a lot of hoopla kicked up by "conspiracy buffs?"
Most of the independent investigators I have met seem to be serious
politically literate people. Their struggle to arrive at the truth
is not impelled by a love of conspiracies but by a concern for
the political and historic importance of the case. They seek the
truth no matter how dirty it might be. That process of confronting
the machinations of the national security state is not a conspiracy
hobby. It is an essential part of the struggle for democracy.
Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: "Do
you actually think there's a group of people sitting around in
a room plotting things?" For some reason that image is assumed
to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers. But where
else would people of power get together-on park benches or carousels?
Indeed, they meet in rooms: corporate boardrooms, Pentagon command
rooms, at the Bohemian Grove, in the choice dining rooms at the
best restaurants, resorts, hotels, and estates, in the many conference
rooms at the White House, the NSA, the CIA, or wherever. And,
yes, they consciously plot-though they call it "planning"
and "strategizing" -and they do so in great secrecy,
often resisting all efforts at public disclosure. No one confabulates
and plans more than political and corporate elites and their hired
specialists. To make the world safe for those who own it, politically
active elements of the owning class have created a national security
state that expends billions of dollars and enlists the efforts
of vast numbers of people.
Yet there are individuals who ask with
patronizing, incredulous smiles, do you really think that the
people at the top have secret agendas, are aware of their larger
interests, and talk to each other about them? To which I respond,
why would they not? This is not to say that every corporate and
political elite is actively dedicated to working for the higher
circles of power and property. Nor are they infallible or always
correct in their assessments and tactics or always immediately
aware of how their interests are being affected by new situations.
But they are more attuned and more capable of advancing their
vast interests than most other social groups.
The alternative is to believe that the
powerful and the privileged are somnambulists, who move about
oblivious to questions of power and privilege; that they always
tell us the truth and have nothing to hide even when they hide
so much; that although most of us ordinary people might consciously
try to pursue our own interests, wealthy elites do not; that when
those at the top employ force and violence around the world it
is only for the laudable reasons they profess; that when they
arm, train, and finance covert actions in numerous countries,
and then fail to acknowledge their role in such deeds, it is because
of oversight or forgetfulness or perhaps modesty; and that it
is merely a coincidence how the policies of the national security
state so consistently serve the interests of the transnational
corporations and the capital-accumulation system throughout the
One of Kennedy's closest aides, Kenneth O'Donnell, wrote that
the president planned to withdraw from Vietnam after the 1964
elections. According to Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, who headed
military support for the clandestine operations of the CIA, Kennedy
dictated "the rich parts" of NSAM 263, calling for the
withdrawal not only of all U.S. troops but all Americans, meaning
CIA officers and agents too. Prouty reflects that the president
thereby signed "his own death warrant." The Army newspaper
Stars and Stripes ran a headline: "President Says-All Americans
Out by 1965' According to Prouty: "The Pentagon was outraged.
... President Kennedy was not someone the CIA could tolerate,
and the feeling was mutual. JFK told one of his top officials
that he wanted "to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces
and scatter it to the winds" (New York Times, 4/25/66). He
closed the armed CIA camps that were readying for a second Bay
of Pigs invasion and took a number of other steps designed to
bring the Agency under control. He fired its most powerful and
insubordinate leaders, Director Allen Dulles, Deputy Director
Charles Cabell, and Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell.
He tried to reduce its powers and jurisdiction and set strict
limits as to its future actions, and he appointed a high-level
committee to investigate the CIA's past misdeeds.
In 1963, CIA officials, Pentagon brass,
anti-Castro Cuban émigrés, and assorted other right-wingers,
including FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, hated JFK and did not believe
he could be trusted with the nation's future. They referred to
him as "that delinquent in the White House." Roger Craig
records the comments of numerous Dallas police officers who wanted
to see Kennedy done away with. Several years ago, on a San Francisco
talk show on station KGO, I heard a listener call in as follows:
"This is the first time I'm saying this. I worked for Army
intelligence. In 1963 I was in Japan, and the accepted word around
then was that Kennedy would be killed because he was messing with
the intelligence community. When word came of his death, all I
could hear was delighted comments like 'We got the bastard.'"
In his book First Hand Knowledge, CIA
operative Robert Morrow noted the hatred felt by CIA officers
regarding Kennedy's "betrayal" in not sending the U.S.
military into the Bay of Pigs fiasco. One high-level CIA Cuban
émigré, Eladio del Valle, told Morrow less than
two weeks before the assassination: "I found out about it
last night. Kennedy's going to get it in Dallas."' Morrow
also notes that CIA director Richard Helms, "knew that someone
in the Agency was involved" in the Kennedy assassination,
"either directly or indirectly, in the act itself-someone
who would be in a high and sensitive position .... Helms did cover
up any CIA involvement in the presidential assassination?'
Several years after JFK's murder, President
Johnson told White House aide Marvin Watson that he "was
convinced that there was a plot in connection with the assassination"
and that the CIA had something to do with it (Washington Post,
12/13/77). And Robert Kennedy repeatedly made known his suspicions
that the CIA had a hand in the murder of his brother.
JFK's enemies in the CIA, the Pentagon,
and elsewhere fixed on his refusal to provide air coverage for
the Bay of Pigs, his unwillingness to go into Indochina with massive
ground forces, his noinvasion guarantee to Khrushchev on Cuba,
his overtures for a rapproachment with Castro and professed willingness
to tolerate countries with different economic systems in the Western
hemisphere, his atmospheric-test-ban treaty with Moscow, his American
University speech calling for reexamination of U.S. cold war attitudes
toward the Soviet Union, his antitrust suit against General Electric,
his curtailing of the oil-depletion allowance, his fight with
U.S. Steel over price increases, his challenge to the Federal
Reserve Board's multibillion-dollar monopoly control of the nation's
currency, his warm reception at labor conventions, and his call
for racial equality. These things may not have been enough for
some on the Left but they were far too much for many on the Right.
Michael Parenti page