Some Words About JFK
November 22, 2017, is the fifty-fourth anniversary of the assassination of US president John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
At 12:30 PM Central Standard Time on the 22nd of November 1963, three shots rang out in rapid succession over President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s motorcade gliding along Elm Street through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. The first bullet pierced the right side of the back of John Kennedy’s neck with a downward slant, emerging at his throat and then boring diagonally downward through the right side of the torso of John Connally, the Governor of Texas, who was seated in front of Kennedy. The second bullet struck Kennedy in the back of the skull, exploding the right side of his head. The third shot followed closely on the second, shattering against the curb of Elm Street and sending chips of lead and concrete flying so that one scratched the right cheek of James Tague, a spectator, sufficiently to draw flecks of blood. The president’s limousine began accelerating immediately after the first shot, and it raced full speed to Parkland Hospital, arriving at about 12:38 PM. Despite the frantic efforts of the trauma room doctors and surgeons to save John Kennedy’s life, within twenty minutes that life had gone, and John Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 PM. Lyndon Johnson, now constitutionally the president, delayed a public announcement of the death until 1:33 PM, so he could first leave the hospital and order an immediate defensive operation to protect government leaders including himself should the Kennedy assassination be part of a larger conspiracy that was still unfolding. At 3:01 PM CST, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote a memo to his assistant directors in which he stated: “I called the attorney general [Robert Kennedy] at his home and told him I thought we had the man who killed the President down in Dallas, at the present time.” That man was Lee Harvey Oswald. Why did he do it? I’ll offer an explanation by the end of this article.
This article/posting presents a few items about JFK and his time as President. They are taken – as excerpts and mixed here – from several of my published/posted articles.
The America of November 1963 was a country that had seen the collapse of European colonialism in Asia and Africa during the post World War II period of 1945-1960. America’s own imperialistic Monroe Doctrine presumptuousness was sorely tried by the Cuban Revolution of 1959, which openly declared itself communist in 1961. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 had brought the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Russia) dangerously close to nuclear war, but was fortunately defused, and subsequent diplomacy led to a treaty limiting nuclear weapons testing.
There had been about 100 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, primarily by the U.S. and the USSR, during the period 1951-1956 (there had been about 9 between 1945 and 1950). The annual number of nuclear tests jumped to over 40 in 1957, and over 100 in 1958. There was a voluntary halt to testing during 1959-1960 (except for a few tests by France) in response to public fears about the radioactive fallout contamination of the milk supply. The peace symbol, which is now an icon of our culture, was designed by Gerald Holtom in 1958, and first popularized as a badge by Eric Austen, both nuclear disarmament advocates in Britain. In 1961 — John Kennedy’s first year as US president — the USSR launched a major series of over 30 nuclear tests, and the U.S. mounted about half that number. This weapons race accelerated wildly to a frenzied peak in 1962, with 140 tests performed (over 90 for the U.S. and nearly 40 for the USSR). Except for 1958 and 1962, there have never been more than about 90 nuclear tests in any year (and from 1971 usually under 60), and only very few since 1992, the last year of US testing (post 1992 testing has been by France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea). The numbers I quote for nuclear tests in a given year are read off a chart [wikipedia] and rounded.
It is important to know that the overwhelming fraction of the Allied war effort against Nazi Germany [1939-1945] was provided by the Soviet Union (Russia and its union of socialist republics), and they suffered the greatest losses as a result. The Soviet Union lost nearly 14 percent of its population (every 7th person) in the war, and this mortality amounted to almost one third of the entire WW2 dead. The United States’ WW2 dead amounted to a fifty-fifth (1/55) of the Soviet total, and the 1939 national populations were comparable, the Soviet population being 29 percent higher.
It would be very beneficial to the world if Americans, commemorating their Memorial and Veterans’ Days, would try imagining their feelings if they had suffered war as deeply as the Soviet people (every 7th person instead of every 172nd person lost). The impact of a WW2 experience like that of the Soviets will imprint a dread of war far more deeply into the national consciousness than a WW2 experience like that of the United States.
We now know that “a guy named Arkhipov saved the world” during the Cuban Missile Crisis [October 1962]. “During a naval skirmish between an American destroyer and a Soviet B-59 submarine off Cuba on Oct 27, 1962,” where “the destroyer dropped depth charges near the submarine to try to force it to surface, not knowing it had a nuclear-tipped torpedo…that the submarine was authorised to fire it if three officers agreed. The officers began a fierce, shouting debate over whether to sink the ship. Two of them said yes and the other said no.”
This was no failure of Russian military training (which like that in the arts and sciences is of unparalleled rigor), but instead the operation of vivid historical consciousness. I fear that the culture of the United States is so shallow and immature that thorough military training can transform any callow youth into a robot soldier attuned to his or her assigned functions, and unlikely to have the psychological depth and historical consciousness to question orders and training under conditions of extreme danger, urgency and confusion, or to recognize moments of pivotal importance.
The negotiations initiated in October 1962 to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis blossomed into the crafting of, signing (August 5, 1963), US ratification (September 24, 1963), and implementation (October 10, 1963) of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which banned nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.
The Civil Rights (anti-apartheid or anti-segregation) movement for black Americans had been very vigorous in the southern U.S. from the beginning of John Kennedy’s presidency in 1961. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream speech” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.
From 1961, John Kennedy had sent US military advisors to aid the anti-communist Ngô Ðình Diêm regime of South Vietnam in its fight against a communist insurgency (the will of the peasantry) allied with communist North Vietnam. By late 1962, there were 12,000 US soldiers in South Vietnam. Disappointed with Diem as an anti-communist unifier for North and South Vietnam, Kennedy approved a CIA program to aid Diem’s generals in a coup to produce new leadership, which occurred on November 2, 1963, with the deposed Diem summarily executed.
Lee Harvey Oswald, a disaffected American seeking glorious recognition as a leftist hero, acted as a freelancing James Bond (the world’s favorite fictional Tory) to impress the Dirección General de Inteligencia de Cuba (DGI, the Cuban intelligence service) by assassinating President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The DGI had been locked in a battle with the CIA to keep Fidel Castro from being assassinated, a project pushed hard by the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert. Lyndon Baines Johnson, John Kennedy’s successor, stopped the CIA’s Fidel assassination program shortly after taking office. The Soviet Russian intelligence service (KGB) had found Oswald too unstable to rely on as an agent, and happily let him return to America from his self-imposed exile in Russia (October 1959 to June 1962). The DGI had the difficulty of being a much less powerful organization situated far closer to its small nation’s overwhelmingly superior enemy. Thus, the DGI unlike the KGB might be willing to exploit the improvisations of a volunteer useful idiot. Oswald spent the last week of September 1963 in Mexico City, visiting the Cuban and Russian consulates seeking a visa to travel to Cuba, and as a consequence met DGI agents. The DGI was too professional to compromise itself by inducting a delusional American outcast into its ranks, but the DGI seems to have been either gutsy enough or desperate enough to allow Oswald to imagine he would be welcomed in Cuba should he accomplish something of significant value for the Cuban Revolution. Oswald returned to Dallas on October 14, 1963.
Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate
The Castros and the Kennedys were the kings on this chessboard; the CIA and the DGI were the knights, bishops, and queens; and the Miami Cubans, Lee Harvey Oswald and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, were the pawns. Fidel Castro’s wayward pawn checkmated the Miami Cubans’ king before John Kennedy’s knights and bishops could secure the field and kill his opponent; then the Kennedy brothers’ discredited knights eliminated Fidel’s gaudiest pawn, an early strike in an unending and pointless revenge. The petulance of an imperial state that has lost its game can last a long time.
In their article on April 10, 2012, “The CIA and Castro: an Undying Obsession,” Saul Landau and Nelson P. Valdes review a recent book by Brian Latell (Castro’s Secrets: The CIA And Cuba’s Intelligence Machine) about Latell’s involvement in the CIA project to overthrow Fidel Castro. It is clear from this review that Latell has delusions of grandeur, believing that Fidel Castro viewed him personally as a great adversary because of the CIA attempts to assassinate the Cuban leader. Landau and Valdes easily show that Latell’s fantasies can be dismissed.
However, when it comes to suggesting a motive for the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Landau and Valdes repeat an old piece of “perception management” originally introduced into public discourse by Soviet Russian and Cuban intelligence services (“agit-prop”) to shield the two communist nations from culpability in the mind of the US public:
Finally, for possible smoking guns in the Kennedy assassination, Latell should look at his Cuban exile friends and former CIA colleagues. They believe Kennedy betrayed them at the Bay of Pigs, during the Missile Crisis, and by paying ransom for Brigade 2506. When Kennedy died, more than a few right-wing Cuban exiles celebrated.
It is certainly true President Kennedy abandoned the Bay of Pigs invasion, and ransomed the survivors back; and it is true that some of the embittered Miami Cubans celebrated John Kennedy’s demise. This despite the Kennedy brothers (John and Robert) being the best friends the Miami Cubans ever had. But, it is not really reasonable to assume that the CIA would then assassinate the American president, or that it would allow Miami Cubans (whom it obviously had under close observation) to do so.
A much better explanation is that the Cuban diplomats and intelligence officers in Mexico during the summer of 1963 allowed Lee Harvey Oswald to imagine he was a freelance secret agent of the Cuban Revolution, on the off chance he might actually do something useful for them. Oswald had gone to Mexico specifically to push himself onto the Cubans as a volunteer secret warrior. A failure and a misfit in the U.S., Oswald wanted to be a hero of the Cuban Revolution because he could imagine success there bringing him the companionship and adulation he craved. To sell himself to the Cuban intelligence service, he offered a vague plan as grandiose as his ambition, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The case for this scenario explaining the motivation behind the assassination of John Kennedy has been presented in great detail in a 2008 book.
A great deal of insight about Cuban-American relations in the years 1959 to 1968, and the personal and visceral US motives behind the killing of Che Guevara on 9 October 1967 (see Paul Buhle’s “Who Killed Che?” in Swans, April 9, 2012), can be gained from the book Brothers in Arms: The Kennedys, the Castros, and the Politics of Murder, by Gus Russo and Stephen Molton, on the Kennedy Administration’s secret campaign to assassinate Fidel Castro and topple the Cuban Revolution. See:
After reading the Russo and Molton account, one realizes why the U.S. maintains such a furious animus toward Cuba, when it has long since forgotten other deadly enemies of the same period, like Vietnam. The unrelenting campaign by the Kennedy brothers to kill Castro (to have the specific person of Fidel Castro assassinated) and to topple the Cuban Revolution (the traditional anti-communist project stretching back to the Wilson Administration) made it logical and necessary that the Cuban communist government counterattack as a means of personal protection for Fidel Castro, and defense of the communist revolution in Cuba.
Lee Harvey Oswald was too unstable for the cautious intelligence services of a now settled and secure nation like the USSR to have any reliance on, but the young and much more vulnerable Cuban Revolution was willing to calculate its risks with smaller margins. It was natural for them to let Oswald act on his inclinations independently, with only a bit of careful encouragement. That Oswald succeeded was a surprise and immediate relief to the Cuban intelligence service, and was almost instantly followed by terror should the U.S. find evidentiary links from Dealey Plaza to the Cuban DGI (Dirección General de Inteligencia).
Lyndon Johnson came to realize (after he was told many of the facts in 1964, and recalling the 1963 assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, with US fingerprints) that the only way to stop this Godfather-type tit-for-tat presidential assassination madness was to shut down the CIA’s Castro project. Also, Johnson realized he had to suppress public knowledge of the US efforts to assassinate Castro because exposure of the Cuban link to the Kennedy assassination might cause a national uproar leading to war with Russia (the Cuban and Russian intelligence services had many intimate links, and while the Russians had passed up on using Oswald they had mentioned him to the Cubans, and followed developments).
So, the logical and amorally justifiable reason for John F. Kennedy’s assassination was kept from the public and out of the Warren Commission Report by the combined efforts of the Johnson Administration to avoid war with Russia (inevitable after a US invasion of Cuba), Robert Kennedy to keep the family name untarnished, and the Cuban and Russian governments to keep from being attacked.
However, the great wisdom Johnson acted on to end the presidential assassination spiral did not extend far enough to reverse official US hostility toward the Cuban Revolution. Since then, there has always been a seething desire for revenge against the Cubans for the “Kennedy hit.” This animus would find expression in the continuing allowance for Miami Cuban operations against Cuba and its people both on the island and elsewhere in Latin America, as well as in CIA sponsorship of terror and counterinsurgency schemes like the Bolivian operation that resulted in the killing of Che Guevara. Che died because of John and Robert Kennedy’s assassination sins, and for the Cuban DGI’s successful effort to shield Fidel Castro from them.
Cubans continue to suffer the US embargo (and many other forms of harassment) because the US governing elite is still unable to publicly admit its role in setting the conditions that rebounded as the “blowback” of the Kennedy assassination. So long as the U.S. maintains this sense of wounded pride, the Cuban people will be forced to suffer a revenge covering for a shameful denial.