It was 55 years ago today that America took a wrong turn in Dallas from which it has never found its way back. November 22, 1963, marked the beginning of the end of a genuine American democracy. What died that day was more than a U.S. presidency; it was the hope we would truly fulfill our destiny as a beacon of peace and morality in the world. Today our government is as corrupt and venal as a third-world dictatorship, full of greedy liars and unscrupulous conmen. But it wasn’t always this way. Those of you who are old enough to remember the brief era of Kennedy know of what I speak. If you’re not, please read on and learn how we lost our way. What follows is an excerpt from my book JFK and the End of America:
Despite public perception and media insistence to the contrary, the Kennedy family DID believe that JFK was the victim of a deadly conspiracy.
From pp. 342-347: [Those who propagate the lie that Oswald acted alone] still attempt to deny a conspiracy in JFK’s murder by citing Robert Kennedy’s inaction after the assassination. The common cry among the sightless is, “He was Attorney General at the time. If there really was a conspiracy, he could have uncovered it. This is proof that the Kennedy family knew there was no conspiracy.” The appropriate reply to this nonsense is, the Kennedys knew almost immediately that JFK had been killed by a domestic right-wing plot concocted by his many enemies in American intelligence, government and business. But Bobby knew that, with his brother gone, he no longer had the power that goes with being the top law enforcement officer in the country. After 11/22/63 Hoover and Johnson held all the cards. Any public proclamation by Bobby concerning the truth of how his brother died could have easily been dismissed as the deranged ramblings of a man overcome by grief and bitterness; besides, as Bobby privately acknowledged many times, the truth was not going to bring his brother back, and the only thing left to do was to protect his brother’s legacy. JFK’s enemies could have countered any move by Bobby with public revelations of JFK’s sexual affairs.
With no public avenue of justice to pursue domestically, the Kennedys reached out to Russian officials with their private suspicions about who was really behind the assassination. Bobby and Jackie wanted to assure Moscow that they did not blame the Soviets for Jack’s murder, and that Kruschev should continue to advance the peace initiatives he and President Kennedy had undertaken in the year after the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is a cruel irony that the family of the martyred President could only turn to America’s Cold War enemy to convey a terrible truth. A little background is necessary to understand why the Kennedys divulged to the Soviets what they could not speak aloud in America after 11/22/63.
During the 1960 presidential campaign, candidate Kennedy’s tough-on-communism rhetoric was almost a prerequisite to be elected to the highest office in the world. But his stance towards the Soviets softened even before he was sworn in. As early as December 1960 Kennedy made back-channel overtures to Moscow concerning nuclear disarmament and test-ban negotiations.29 Once he took office, he was forced, by political pressure and the hawkish generals and intelligence advisors, to maintain a public anti-Soviet posture, but his fear of global nuclear war always informed his deep desire for détente with the Russians. However, his mistake of assenting to the disastrous Bay of Pigs mission undercut any early attempts of dialing back Cold War tensions. Moscow became suspicious of Kennedy’s real intentions, and an era of renewed superpower aggression began. Kruschev used the Cuban fiasco to bully Kennedy at their Vienna summit in 1961. Kennedy was stunned by Kruschev’s willingness to exacerbate animosities and risk armed confrontation. Tensions culminated in the Missile Crisis of 1962. Two weeks of staring into the nuclear abyss changed the two leaders. Kennedy and Kruschev decided to back away from it all.
For the next year, they forged a tentative but very real alliance in the pursuit of peace and disarmament. It was a sometimes rocky road, what with both men forced by internal war-eager factions to avoid the appearance of weakness, but both Kennedy and Kruschev made great strides in moving towards a peaceful resolution to the Cold War. Kennedy went public with his revolutionary vision on June 10, 1963. His speech at American University that day still reverberates across the decades as the most visionary and courageous of the entire Cold War. In it he praised the Russian people and commiserated with the suffering they endured as our allies in World War II. He proposed that America consider the possibility of peaceful coexistence with our avowed enemies. He lyrically reminded us that, in the end, we shared the same fragile planet with them, they breathed the same air we did, and we both cherished our children’s future. Details of that speech were published in Soviet newspapers, and the reaction from the Kremlin was positive. The dawn of a new era in Soviet-American relations had been set in motion. A nuclear test ban treaty was signed by the superpowers two months later. As part of this process, Jack and Bobby Kennedy nurtured friendly back-channel contacts with Russian officials.
But JFK’s murder, and the news that his accused assassin had indisputable Soviet ties, threatened to undo all of the progress that Kennedy and Kruschev had made in forging a new superpower paradigm. Indeed, this was a critical aspiration of the plotters. Kennedy’s enemies killed him, in large part, because they were angered and terrified by peaceful coexistence with the Soviets. Massive military weapons stockpiles and the domestic contractors who made enormous profits from the manufacture of these weapons were threatened with obsolescence. The CIA feared its usefulness, maybe its very existence, would be extraneous in a world without a Cold War. The right-wing fringe would be deprived of its hot war with the communists. Dallas was their remedy. The framing of Oswald as a Soviet stooge was their attempt to undo all that Kennedy and Kruschev had done.
In early December 1963 the Kennedy family sent a personal emissary, William Walton, to speak with Georgi Bolshakov, a Russian diplomat. Bolshakov had met with Bobby Kennedy countless times before, and during the Cuban Missile Crisis the men had come to trust one another as useful conduits for Soviet-American peacekeeping negotiations. Bolshakov was assured by Walton that the Kennedy family was convinced that Oswald did not act alone. Walton’s explicit message contradicted the Kennedys’ subsequent public support of the Warren Commission findings. Walton told the Soviets that pro-fascist reactionaries who despised the President and his policies, and who were “…dissatisfied with…improving relations with the Soviet Union…” had organized the plot; these included, among others, oilmen H.L. Hunt and Clint Murchison.30
Notably absent from the Kennedys’ identification of the plotters were Lyndon Johnson and the CIA. Bobby Kennedy initially suspected both, but he was likely dissuaded by intelligence sources who may have been trying to divert blame away from themselves. John McCone, CIA Director at the time, denied intelligence involvement and swore to the Attorney General that he would have known if the CIA had been involved. But it was Richard Helms, the Allen Dulles protégé, who was really running the CIA, and he would have kept McCone in the dark.31 And McCone would not have been privy to the machinations of Allen Dulles’s CIA-in-exile. In later years Bobby reportedly directly confronted Johnson with his knowledge of Johnson’s involvement.
But never did the Kennedys, in any public forum, accuse Johnson and Dulles of engineering the assassination. And Bobby’s reticence to come forward with what he really knew was used by the plotters as a means by which they could exonerate themselves. The reasoning was that if JFK’s own brother believed Oswald acted alone, there was no reason to believe in a conspiracy. LBJ’s surrogates gave their boss cover this way. One of Johnson’ aides, a college professor named John P. Roche, wrote a letter to a newspaper denouncing assassination researchers as “paranoids,” and cited the Kennedy family’s support of the Warren Commission as proof that there was no conspiracy.32
The CIA used the same tactic. In a memo distributed to agency assets at major media outlets, it listed several arguments that CIA-friendly journalists could use to counter Warren Commission critics. Included in the list was the reminder that “Bobby Kennedy…would be the last man to overlook or conceal any conspiracy.”33
In private, however, Bobby quietly sought out the truth of Dallas. He knew quite well who his brothers’ dire enemies were, and he directed his close associates to find out what they could. Behind closed doors he engaged in conversations with trusted advisers about assassination scenarios that implicated the CIA, the Mafia, the Joint Chiefs and Texas oilmen. He listened to what they had to say, but remained largely silent. He knew he would not have the power to bring the killers to justice until he himself ascended to the presidency.34
Shortly before his death, Bobby momentarily let his guard down on a campaign trip and revealed to a stunned audience that he knew the Warren Commission was a fraud. On March 25, 1968, at a rally in southern California, he was asked by someone in the audience if he planned to reopen the investigation into his brother’s death if he were elected president. Bobby paused and measured his words. “I haven’t answered this question before, but there would be nobody that would be more interested in all of these matters as to who was responsible for the…death of President Kennedy than I would.”35