‘I was a little surprised to be asked by my friends at Off Topic Scotland to give my thoughts on the 60th anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy but I agreed because I feel the awful event is as important now as in those seemingly very different days of the early 1960s.
Of course, this was a lifetime ago and most people in the UK were not even alive when the assassination took place in that distant city of Dallas, Texas. What relevance, many Scots might ask, can it possibly have for us today in our own small country “yearning to breathe free” in very difficult times? Why bother?
Quite simply this: we are supposed to live in that greatest creation of Western political development, a representative democracy, and yet what happened to President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, was its antithesis, the removal of an elected president, the most powerful Leader of The Free World as the saying goes, by elements which thought themselves above any democratic process and who resented interference in their machinations.
It's been said that John F. Kennedy was the last president to think that he was the most powerful person in America. Since then, those forces which deposed him have become even stronger and their malign influence can be seen at play right now in global events which may be bringing us closer to nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis.
A Very American Coup
‘Tis Sixty Years Since
A Personal View by James Loudoun
A generation ago, it was still possible to pose the question, “Where were you when you heard President Kennedy had died?” and get a swift and simple answer. The presumption then was that almost everybody, apart perhaps from some remote peoples in the Amazon jungle (and George H.W. Bush, apparently), could remember their own exact whereabouts the instant they became aware of the sad news.
Nowadays, with the passage of the years, this is not the case for anyone under sixty-five or so and even my memories as a nine-year-old of the events of November 22, 1963 are rather faint. That day had begun for me with great anticipation because my father had promised to take my mother and me into George Square after school to see the new Christmas lights.
I remember my first sight of them as we drove down what I later discovered was North Hanover Street and experiencing the wonderful feeling that Santa and Christmas weren’t far away. This sensation didn’t last long, however. As soon as we got home my big brother told us that President Kennedy had been shot and added, “If he dies and it’s the Russians, the missiles will be flying tonight”, a remark which annoyed my mother a lot because I couldn’t help but hear it.
After that it is all very vague: some black and white TV images in my mind of the funeral, the President’s widow in an elegant black veil and his wee son saluting as the cortège passed by. But the world didn’t come to an end, I went back to attending my first season of Scottish First Division football matches and watching the girls in my class play the bewildering and mysterious game of peever on their chalked-out “beds” in the playground, and the sad incident faded from my mind, now oblivious to what was gradually unfolding in the complex adult world across the Atlantic.
To many around the globe, the handsome young president with new ideas had seemed to embody a break from the rather dull presidency of Dwight D Eisenhower, a war hero of a different time. With his attractive and elegant wife, it seemed a new Camelot was being built on a hill in Washington D.C.
Who could possibly have wanted to kill such a dynamic man who was making friends around the world with his charm and progressive attitudes?
Within a few hours of John F. Kennedy’s brutal assassination, the authorities had arrested the man who was to prove to be their only suspect, one Lee Harvey Oswald, who had been quickly cornered in the Texas Theater cinema and brought to Dallas Police HQ for interrogation. He was closely questioned for hours and later publicly paraded before the cameras as the chief suspect, along with the alleged murder weapon, a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle with a telescopic sight. Later moved around the building with little security, he was shot and killed by one Jack Ruby, a Dallas night-club owner, live on national television on Sunday November 24. Ruby later claimed his motive had been to spare the grieving widow the further pain of Oswald’s trial.
And so, with the only suspect dead and his assailant in jail awaiting trial, that seemed to be that. When stories emerged from the authorities that Oswald had lived in Russia for a time, was fluent in the language and had been a member of a pro-Fidel Castro activist group in New Orleans, it seemed an open-and-shut case. In due course the Warren Committee, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnston to investigate the assassination and comprising reliable elder statesmen, produced its exhaustive findings, handsomely bound in twenty-six volumes.
Its conclusion? Lee Harvey Oswald, acting entirely alone, had killed President Kennedy with three shots fired from his “sniper’s nest” on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building in apparent retaliation for attempts on Fidel Castro’s life instigated by the Kennedy administration. Thus the nation could be assured that a lone madman had killed John Kennedy in a twisted act of political revenge. There had been no conspiracy behind his death and, with Oswald’s own demise, the whole tragic matter had finally been settled.
However, there was a persistent problem: before the Warren Report was published, indeed, before it had even begun its deliberations, in fact, from the very minute of JFK’s assassination, there was clear evidence that several shots had been heard and gunpowder smoke both seen and smelt from the area of the Grassy Knoll and its picket fence by many witnesses in the immediate vicinity and by others standing on the triple overpass nearby. If true, these statements could not be reconciled with the lone gunman theory, showing clearly that some kind of conspiracy must have taken place in this bloody execution (I have provided links to various witness statements given to lawyer Mark Lane at the end notes to this article).
Strangely, both the civilians and Dallas policemen who had run up to the fence to investigate these shots had encountered at least one man who had produced a Secret Service badge and waved these people away from the area. Other “agents” began confiscating cameras and cine cameras from anyone still on the slopes of the knoll. Even Abraham Zapruder, who took the most famous film of the grim event with his 8mm cine camera, was reportedly accosted by a man with a shotgun who tried but failed to intimidate him into handing it over. Statements were taken from these same civilians by official-looking men but those who insisted they had heard shots from behind the fence were often told they were simply mistaken. We now know that no Secret Service men were stationed behind the Grassy Knoll, since they had been assigned en masse to travel behind the president’s limousine (note behind, not alongside, as would be normal for a bodyguard).
But worse was to follow for important witnesses in the Dallas winter of 1963-4. Some, like Lee Bowers, perished in convenient accidents. Others, like Warren Reynolds, were seriously assaulted after giving witness statements to the security services about the killing of the President or (as in his case) of Officer Tippit in Oak Ridge, Dallas, just like Acquila Clemons or Clemmons, who disappeared completely after an interview with Mark Lane and an earlier threatening visit from an unidentified officer when she obviously gave the “wrong” account about the same murder. (The Officer Tippit murder, subsidiary to the president’s assassination and taking place later that day but clearly linked to it through a persistent attempt to incriminate Lee Harvey Oswald further, has long puzzled researchers. The eminent author Joseph McBride expended 662 pages in his book Into The Nightmare to get to the bottom of the whole affair but failed to come to a clear and decisive conclusion about the mysterious incident.
After all, what could be worse than the killing of the Leader of The Free World? That of an obscure beat policeman? And yet someone had clearly hoped to implicate Oswald for some reason by placing his wallet at the scene of the policeman’s murder. When he cleverly avoided being killed resisting arrest in the Texas Theater and had to be taken into custody instead with his wallet on his person, the wallet “discovered” in Oak Ridge had had to be quietly “disappeared”.)
It is no exaggeration to say that the cumulative effect of such unexpected deaths in Dallas that winter was to intimidate people and to close mouths which otherwise might have kept talking. However, if the authors of the Warren Commission Report (published in September 1964) had hoped to calm nerves and soothe apprehensions, two books which appeared after a thorough process of its analysis had the opposite effect. These were Rush to Judgment by Mark Lane in 1966 and Accessories After The Fact by Sylvia Meagher (1967).
It would be impossible for me within the scope of this short essay to summarise adequately the various problems and inconsistencies identified by these two writers when they looked closely at the Commission’s findings. However, the report’s insistence that only three shots were fired by Oswald and by him alone from the Texas School Book Depository was particularly problematic for it and led to contortions such as the “magic bullet” theory whereby all the non-fatal wounds to the President and those suffered by Governor Connally were supposedly caused by the same bullet which was fortunately found in a pristine condition on a hospital trolley in Parkland Hospital, where the two men were taken after the attack. How could a bullet which had done so much damage to these two bodies be in such a condition?
Another problem was the commission’s contention that, given the timings deduced from an examination of the Zapruder film, Lee Harvey Oswald (a poor shot according to his Marine Corps records) had managed to fire three times in less than six seconds using a poor-quality Mannlicher-Carcano rifle with a defective sight, a feat which could not be reproduced later by military snipers with the same weapon. In any case, the rifle originally found in the sniper’s nest had been a German 7.65 Mauser, with the maker’s name clearly visible on it, as Dallas police officer Roger Craig confirmed in an interview. Even early TV reports of the discovery of the supposed sniper’s nest mentioned this weapon, a glaring inconsistency in the official version of events.
A further troubling aspect was that many witnesses present on or near the Grassy Knoll with important information were simply not called to give evidence, like Charles Brehm, or had their statements downplayed or given little weight by the commission, like railway worker Sam Holland (see links below).
Such inconsistencies (particularly the requirement for a magic bullet to explain the various wounds caused by only three shots) eventually had the effect of causing dissenting voices to the commission’s findings from some of its own members, such as Hale Boggs, Richard Russell Jr. and John Sherman Cooper. These concerns were simply not given due weight in the final official judgement of the Warren Commission.
However, the most obvious example of manipulation, distortion and even suppression of evidence to maintain the imperative narrative that a lone gunman was responsible for the three shots fired was to be found in what went on in the trauma room of Parkland Hospital in Dallas after the president was brought there, and afterwards at the autopsy in Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.
In frantic scenes in Parkland, doctors and nurses were doing what they could to save the president. The doctors found an entrance wound near the president’s right temple and a massive exit wound which had removed a section of his right rear skull. While a Dr McClelland was examining this area, a piece of the cerebellum actually slipped out of this cavity. There was also an entrance wound at the front of the neck (they had not noticed another quite shallow entrance wound in his back at this stage). Clearly at least two of the president’s wounds were not made by shots from the back, which made the claim that Oswald had acted alone in firing from the book depository quite untenable.
When it was clear that nothing could be done for John Kennedy, he was given the last rites and a death certificate prepared. It was at this point that an infamous and unseemly squabble began over who should have custody of the body before a proper autopsy could be performed. By law it should have remained in Dallas, as the chief of forensic pathology, Dr Rose, pointed out but Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman insisted he and his men were taking the body to the presidential aircraft immediately so an autopsy could be performed in the Washington area. When Rose and local Dallas Police officers attempted to retain the body, guns were drawn on both sides before the Secret Servicemen, in astonishing scenes, simply pushed their way out with the casket containing it and sped away from the hospital.
What was so vital that called for such illegal and aggressive behaviour by Kellerman and his men? The answer can probably be found in the findings of the official autopsy, conducted by two physicians who were inexperienced in such a procedure, Commander James Humes and Commander J. Thornton Boswell. Their somewhat surprising conclusion given what had been discovered at Parkland, was that Kennedy had been hit by two bullets, one which had struck him in the back and had come out at his neck and another which had hit him in the back of the head and exited via the front of his skull, leaving a large exit wound, thus preserving the necessary “lone gunmen shooting from the rear” scenario. Clearly a lot of cosmetic work must have needed to be done to the body (and far away from Parkland Hospital) to make it accord with the doctors’ findings.
Apparently photographs and X-rays were taken of the body, but these were not examined by the Warren Commission but deposited instead in the National Archives in 1966, though unavailable to independent experts or researchers. Dr Humes also testified to the commission that he had in fact burned the first draft of his autopsy report, surely a rather strange thing to have done, especially when he had previously stated he had merely burned preliminary draft notes.
Later Dr Charles A. Crenshaw, a junior doctor at the time who had witnessed the original wounds, said in his 1992 book JFK: Conspiracy of Silence that the medical staff at Parkland had kept quiet after the findings of the official autopsy were known out of a mixture of “fraternal doctrine, naiveté, fear and career-mindedness”. Unsurprisingly, he had not been called to appear before the Warren Commission, like so many with unwanted testimony. The wounds discovered there to the head (a wound to his right temple with the exit wound to the rear) and the front one close to the neck clearly makes the lone assassin theory impossible.
But if there was at least one back wound, couldn’t Oswald still have been responsible? It’s worth repeating that, given his documented poor marksmanship while in the Marines and the authorities’ insistence that he had used a rifle which turned out to be inaccurate (and not the much superior Mauser which had originally been found in the TSBD but which strangely disappeared from consideration), it is very unlikely. He would have been shooting at a receding target as the president’s limo turned left off Houston Street to move away down Elm Street towards the Grassy Knoll, with a pole and foliage impeding his view from his supposed nest at the sixth-floor window. In any case, if Oswald had been the culprit, he would have had a much better chance of killing the president from that same window as his car approached up Houston Street and slowed to an almost-halt to turn left down to Elm. How much easier to shoot a target who was getting bigger and slower all the time?
Furthermore, a far better position from which to effect a shot to Kennedy’s back would have been the Dal-Tex building, adjacent to the TSBD, which had a clear view down Elm Street. Some suspicious behaviour at a window on the second floor of that building seems to have caught people’s attention as the firing started and three men were brought to the Dallas Police’s attention because they seemed to have no business being there. One of the men gave the police a false name, “Jim Braden”, but this was only realised after he had been released, when it was also discovered he had a criminal past and was out on parole. The other two men were sent to the sheriff’s office but after that nothing more is known about them (Hancock, pp. 336-7).
It should also be noted that a perfect spot from which to shoot the president from the front would have been from the far end of the Triple Overpass (the opposite side from where the railway workers had heard a shot or shots from the Grassy Knoll from where the fatal head-shot was fired) where there is a flight of steps close by to a car park, whence a quick getaway could be made. This position would have offered an almost front-on unrestricted field of fire as the presidential Lincoln drove slowly down Elm Street.
We now know that, far from being an unbalanced killer and traitor to his country, from September 1962, the FBI had been paying Oswald $200 a month as an undercover agent, something only revealed during a closed (i.e. secret) session of the Warren Committee by counsel J. Lee Rankin. And although it was unsurprisingly denied by the sphinx-like former CIA Chief Allen Dulles, (now an illustrious committee member, please note) Oswald was almost certainly working for the agency also, as an agent provocateur to damage the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and the pro-Castro cause generally.
The danger which Oswald does not seem to have foreseen until it was too late was that he was gradually being drawn into a web whereby his very public play-acting in his various roles as a pro-Castro activist in New Orleans could easily be used as evidence that he was the genuine article with a grudge against Kennedy because of the president’s perceived betrayal of the anti-Castro forces during the Bay of Pigs fiasco. He only seems to have finally realised he had been set up as a patsy when he discovers in front of the cameras in Dallas Police HQ that he has been charged with the president’s murder (see link below).
So, the shots from the front and side clearly show other marksmen were involved, despite the Commission’s conclusions. Why then was it so determined from the start to disregard any evidence to the contrary.? A simple explanation would be that there had indeed been a conspiracy against the president, something which had to be covered up at all costs, but who would want to kill such a charismatic and seemingly popular man?
Getting Big Ideas?
Unfortunately, this new Leader of The Free World had developed progressive ideas as a congressman which would quickly bring him into conflict with the powerful groups he was to encounter as president. As a young man he had travelled to French Indochina and had not been impressed with what Western colonialism had brought to its impoverished people. His mind was developing in different directions, away from imposing a Pax Americana around the world by force of arms but by fostering more cooperative and constructive approaches to the world’s problems. In particular, he wanted to encourage nationalist movements in Africa and remove the scourge of colonisation from its benighted peoples.
In retrospect, two events occurred just before Jack Kennedy entered the White House which could be considered as very bad omens. In his Farewell Address, President Eisenhower had warned about the developing power of “the military-industrial complex” and “the conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry (which) is new in the American experience. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.” In fact, the original phrase seems to have been “military-industrial-congressional complex” but Eisenhower had joked that the third word was removed because he had hoped to get a last few bills passed in the senate before he left office.
This vision of an aggressive military always keen to engage in foreign wars and a burgeoning arms industry generating immense power and wealth from the resulting conflicts, wealth which could then be used to influence the country’s politicians, policy and law-makers in a never-ending loop, was indeed a worrying one.
Almost simultaneously with this speech came news from the Democratic Republic of the Congo that its leader, Patrice Lumumba, had been deposed and killed in a CIA-organised coup in conjunction with the Belgian government, an event which shook Kennedy badly, even though he was not yet in office and could have done little to help. Of course, such coups were nothing new: the democratically elected leaders of Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954 had been deposed by CIA action but it came as a blow to the man who had also eloquently championed Algerian independence in a famous anti-imperialist speech in 1957.
Nevertheless, almost from the start of his presidency, Kennedy had begun to go his own way in speeches, development of policies and decision- making. Even in his Inaugural Address, which generally held the Cold War line of his predecessor against the Soviet Union, there was the expression of a hope that “both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity.” No doubt the hardliners in the Joint Chiefs of Staff like General Curtis “Bombs Away” LeMay, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force and notorious cigar-chomping hardliner, would have pricked up their ears at such dangerously conciliatory sentiments.
For the Joint Chiefs and the CIA, worse was soon to follow. Two months later, in March 1961, perhaps with his knowledge of France’s disastrous entanglements in Indochina in mind, Kennedy ignored their objections and stopped American support for the anti-communist ruler General Nosavan, who had been installed in Laos following a CIA/Pentagon joint operation.
To make matters worse for the establishment, in a later press statement JFK stated that the United States supported “the goal of a neutral and independent Laos.” For them, this worrying anti-colonial behaviour must have seemed a world away from that of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who gave the impression of fitting in the duties of his generally amiable and compliant presidency between rounds of golf.
Undoubtedly Kennedy’s first major crisis was the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961 by anti-Castro guerrillas, funded and organised by the CIA. The attack was a complete failure: over 160 were killed and over 1200 taken prisoner. The president refused to commit the US air force to air strikes to salvage the situation, since he wanted to avoid an all-out war with Cuba. The debacle was a huge embarrassment for him and deepened his distrust of the CIA, which, in a famous remark, he vowed to splinter in a thousand pieces and scatter to the winds (Douglass, p. 15).
The first steps in this process in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs was his sensational removal of CIA Director Allen Dulles and his Deputy Directors, Richard Bissell and Charles Cabell and to make a large cut in the agency’s budget. The abrupt sacking of Dulles in particular, a seemingly imperious and hugely powerful figure, was indeed a bold but also potentially dangerous move.
While the president may have thought he had begun to solve one problem, another arose with his bellicose Joint Chiefs of Staff, who in July 1961 presented him, to his horror, with a plan for a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. He was so shocked by this proposal that he simply walked out of the meeting, saying, “And we call ourselves the human race” (Douglass, p. xxii).
These tensions only increased with the Berlin Wall confrontation and the situation in Laos and Vietnam, prompted by the demand by Generals Lemnitzer and LeMay that they be given permission to use nuclear weapons both in Germany and South-east Asia. The president’s response once again was to walk out in disbelief, saying, “These people are crazy” (Douglass, p.109).
President Kennedy seemed now to be lurching from one crisis to another as he encountered another powerful group, the American steel industry, in April 1962. Preoccupied with keeping inflation down, he had arranged a deal between the United States Steel Company and the United Steelworkers’ Union whereby, for a modest raise in their wages, the company would not raise steel prices. The USSC promptly reneged on this agreement by increasing their prices by 3.5%, a measure which enraged Kennedy, and five more steel companies followed its lead, prompting an infamous, “My father always told me that all businessmen were sons of bitches” remark from him which was promptly published in the New York Times and alienated not just the steel producers but the business world in general.
Yet, the president did not back down. Given the size of the Cold War defence spending, he had been told the price rise in steel could cost the government a billion dollars, so he gave instructions to purchase steel from those steel companies which hadn’t yet raised their prices or even to purchase it from abroad, an alarming prospect for Big Steel which had enjoyed such easy access to the huge Department of Defense spending required for the armed services and the profits which it gave them. At the same time the Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, added to the pressure by starting to investigate possible price-fixing by Big Steel, violations of antitrust laws and tax evasion.
By April 13, the six steel companies finally backed down and cancelled their price rise, alarmed at the threatened loss of their lucrative defence contracts but in retrospect it surely came at a great cost to the president in the longer term. Big business had turned against him and his rocking of the boat against the military-industrial complex had made him many enemies.
Nevertheless, Kennedy, despite the bruising confrontation with the steel industry, later began to put himself on a collision course with the Texas oilmen in January of 1963 by threatening to stop the Oil Depletion Fund Allowance, a cosy arrangement whereby oil companies had been compensated for the supposed gradual dwindling of this resource by tax breaks which were estimated to net them about $300 million per annum.
Perhaps the richest oil magnate of them all was Clinton Murchison, espouser of extreme right-wing causes and a man with many powerful friends and acquaintances, such as Lyndon B. Johnson, important figures in the Mafia like Meyer Lansky, Sam Giancana, Santos Trafficante, John “The Fixer” Roselli, and Carlos Marcello, and Edgar Hoover of the FBI (who strangely had once claimed there was no organised crime in America), all of whom were regularly entertained at Murchison’s resort hotel in South California called Del Charro (Nelson, p.231).
The president’s brother also found himself on a collision course around this time, but one which he had deliberately chosen: with the Mafia. In his relatively short tenure as Attorney General, Robert Kennedy had pursued such a relentless crack-down on organised crime that by 1962 he had achieved 350 indictments of such criminals, a seven-fold increase over the total for 1960. This obviously could not have endeared him to “The Mob” and may ironically have been one of many motives for his brother’s murder: if anything happened to the president, his automatic successor, Lyndon B Johnson, would not allow a man he disliked so intensely to remain at the head of the Department of Justice, and the Mafia’s problems would disappear.
But now I must return to the timeline and quickly consider the gravest crisis of Kennedy’s presidency...
The Cuban missile crisis
As soon as the presence of Soviet nuclear missiles became known in the middle of October 1962, he came under great pressure from his Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were predictable in wanting to bomb and then invade Cuba, whatever the threat of nuclear war. Instead, what the president did was to order Khrushchev to remove the missiles and enforce a blockade which would prevent more Soviet ships reaching the island. General LeMay bluntly told his president that the blockade decision was “almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich. I just don’t see any other solution except direct military intervention right now”, action which would surely have precipitated a nuclear war.
At the very last minute, of course, the Soviet fleet turned back as the world stood on the brink of annihilation. In standing alone against the wishes of his outraged generals and secretly negotiating with Khrushchev to avoid Armageddon he had saved the world but at what cost to himself? From the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s point of view, worse was to follow. In Kennedy’s speech at American University in Washington in June 1963 he announced his unilateral suspension of atmospheric nuclear tests to promote his long-term goal of eventual “general and complete disarmament”, a test ban which was eventually approved by the Senate in September.
In that same month he also secretly authorised US diplomat William Attwood and Cuba’s UN ambassador, Dr. Carlos Lechuga to explore the possibility of a rapprochement between the USA and Cuba to normalise relations between the two countries. Finally, in October, he made his third momentous decision, issuing National Security Memorandum 263, making it policy to withdraw from Vietnam 1000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963 and most of the rest by 1965. As far as the president was concerned, there would be no disastrous slide into an unwinnable war in South-east Asia.
It would be hard to think of three decisions more likely to provoke the ire of the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex (always keen to profit from war), the large number of anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the U.S.A who could never return to their homeland if the two countries made peace, and Kennedy’s political enemies in general.
Then on November 1, a strange event takes place in Chicago: two members of a four-man hit squad are arrested, suspected of planning the assassination of President Kennedy on his visit to Chicago the next day from a tall building near a slow bend in the road. The other two men evade capture and the president’s visit is cancelled.
And exactly a month after the assassination, Harry S. Truman, under whose very presidency the CIA was created, writes the following in The Washington Post: “For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.
I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment that I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign entanglements and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda.”
What prompts the sudden breaking of his silence on the Central Intelligence Agency at such a significant time?
Before I conclude this essay, it would be remiss of me not to consider briefly President Kennedy’s vice-president, Lyndon B Johnson.
The conventional view of him is of a loyal deputy thrust into a political maelstrom and reassuring the American people with his calm and collected actions in the aftermath of the awful events of November 22, 1963.
This assessment was utterly shattered by Robert F. Nelson’s explosive LBJ:The Mastermind of JFK’s Assassination which, as the title suggests, presents a very different picture of the Texas politician. He depicts a man who had coveted the presidency from a young age, was devious, manipulative and avaricious, and by turns bullying, cowardly and ingratiating, depending on his adversary and situation. He accumulated great wealth through kickbacks, insider trading, dodgy investments and all manner of corruption, which far outstripped anything possible in his role as Senator.
Even worse, Nelson argues persuasively that LBJ commissioned the murders of up to eight people (including his own loquacious sister) who had become a danger to him, using his henchman Mac Wallace, whose fingerprint, incidentally, was discovered on a cardboard box in the Texas School Book Depository.
But why should Johnson wish the death of Jack Kennedy? Nelson contends that Johnson felt he would be too old to wait for Kennedy to complete a second term (if re-elected in 1964) to try for the presidency and in any case would not be popular enough as a Texan Southern Democrat to win on a national ballot. His only hope therefore was to become president by default, through the death of the incumbent. Also, he was aware that Kennedy was planning to remove him from the ticket for the approaching presidential election, to be probably replaced by Governor Terry Sandford of North Carolina, a devastating blow to his ambitions.
Furthermore, all LBJ’s past corrupt practices seemed to be finally catching up with him: Life magazine was about to publish a sensational article which would link him directly to the Bobby Baker corruption scandal (Baker had been his loyal gopher and fixer), a revelation so grave that it would end his political career. In other words, Johnson was approaching a now or never moment.
Nelson went on to assert that LBJ assigned the detailed planning of Kennedy’s assassination to Bill Harvey of the CIA (the same Harvey who was a close friend of Mafia fixer John Roselli with whom he had collaborated on a plan to kill Castro) and David Morales (an experienced anti-Castro guerrilla fighter and Kennedy-hater, like so many since the Bay of Pigs disaster) who would operate at “street level”.
Highly contentious these allegations might be, but they could make sense of some of Johnson’s subsequent actions, suggesting he was more than just a fortunate beneficiary of a horrible event. It could explain the authorisation of the illegal “capture” of Kennedy’s body at Parkland by the Secret Service so it could be taken back to Bethesda Naval Hospital for cosmetic surgery to hide the real wounds to his body. It could also explain his swift composition of the Warren Commission, with ex-CIA chief Allen Dulles in an influential position to secure a cover-up and his immediate cancellation of Kennedy’s National Security Memorandum 263, which was going to stop any further USA military involvement in Vietnam (a decision immensely popular with the Pentagon) to bolster his position with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The dropping of JFK’s s plans for the abolition of the Oil Depletion Allowance, sure to please the wealthy right-wing Texas oilmen, quickly followed. Mere coincidence or payback for some services rendered?
And what are we to make of the claim by Johnson’s mistress, Madeleine Brown, that on the evening of November 21 at a party at Clinton Murchison’s Dallas mansion, Johnson had emerged from a tense late night meeting in the oilman’s private office to growl in her ear, “After tomorrow those goddam Kennedys will never embarrass me again—that’s no threat—that’s a promise” (Nelson, p. 376).
In the chaos of the assassination and its aftermath, of course, the Life corruption story simply disappeared.
Irrespective of the extent to which Lyndon Johnston was involved in his predecessor’s murder, whether as prime mover or just “someone in the know”, it is clear that JFK had antagonised too many powerful institutions and interest groups in his short tenure in the White House, and very dangerous ones at that. The CIA in particular, with its links to well-trained and deeply motivated anti-Castro militants and to the Mafia, which it had employed to carry out domestic assassinations in the past to provide plausible denial for the agency (see, for example, Douglas, pp. 318 and 359), was in an ideal position to make use of such resources to effect an answer to the Kennedy problem. Of course, it had lacked no motivation itself since the removal of Allen Dulles and the president’s vow to splinter it. The Warren Commission was designed to put the lid on what really happened on November 22, 1963, a lid which the mainstream media have tried to keep closed even to this day, when the tiresome cliché “conspiracy theory” is perennially employed to stifle any proper debate.
And so the Big Lie of what happened in Dallas on that dreadful day was born and then perpetuated, a lie much more acceptable to the ordinary man and woman in the street than the surely unspeakable alternative, that a wicked coup had been enacted by the Deep State to silence a brave man who merely sought to bring peace to a divided world.
As Adolf Hitler himself once explained in Mein Kampf, this is made possible, “Because the […] masses […] are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.
Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”
Perhaps, in view of this, more sceptical people today might wonder what truths might have been obscured by the official narratives regarding, for example, 9/11, The War on Terror, the sudden appearance of Covid 19 and its vaccine programme, the Ukraine War and the other perplexing events which seem to occur more and more in our turbulent and very dangerous world.
Sam Holland, testimony disregarded:
Mr J. L. Simmons, eyewitness ignored:
Lee Bowers, a witness removed:
Charles Brehm, another witness ignored:
Acquila Clemmons, The Lady Who Disappeared:
Warren Reynolds, the man who saw too much:
Orville Nix, disappearing evidence and cognitive dissonance (or clever self-preservation?):
Roger Craig sees the Mauser rifle:
(8) Roger Craig and the 7.65 Mauser - YouTube
The penny drops for The Patsy:
Bonus track: a random episode of America’s Untold Stories, a website concerned with all aspects of the Kennedy assassination, in the form of a leisurely talking archive:
(8) The Mystery of Jim Braden: A Man of Many Names - how was he tied to JFK? - YouTube
Douglass, James W.: JFK and The Unspeakable. Touchstone 2010
Hancock, Larry: Someone Would Have Talked. Lancer 2011
Lane, Mark: Rush to Judgment. The Lane Group 2013
Lane, Mark: Plausible Denial. Plexus 1992
McBride, Joseph: Into The Nightmare. Hightower Press 2013
Meagher, Sylvia: Accessories after The Fact. MJF Books 1967
Nelson, Phillip F: LBJ: The Mastermind of JFK’s Assassination. Xlibris 2013