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The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.


After the Eulogy

One of the most remarkable accomplishments of the Roman Emperor Augustus has been said to be that he maintained the form of the republic for the people to see while actually transferring ever more power to the armed forces. This well may be history’s judgment of Lyndon Johnson, who repeatedly recited his craving for peace while hundreds of thousands of combat troops were flown to Vietnam.

On Sunday afternoon, two days after John Kennedy’s assassination, the new President met with the ambassador to South Vietnam in the Executive Office Building. Lyndon Johnson had just come from the Rotunda of the Capitol where a moving eulogy had just been rendered for John Kennedy. The body of the late President still rested on the black-draped catafalque at the Rotunda of the Capitol.

The new President informed the ambassador that he was not going to lose Vietnam, that he was not going to see Southeast Asia to go the way China went.[1] This was nothing less than a complete reversal of the policy of withdrawal which had been announced and put into action by the late President whose body still lay in state at the Capitol. It contemplated nothing less than the inevitable involvement of major U.S. forces in Asia, inasmuch as it had long been apparent that the South Vietnamese forces could not hold their own against the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese.

Even before John Kennedy had been buried, then, the decision had been made for our major involvement in Asia. Had the United States government been an innocent party with regard to President Kennedy’s murder—which the available evidence, as well as its own conduct, its effort to conceal evidence and obstruct outside inquiry, indicate was not the case—such a decision would have required an infinitely longer period of evaluation and analysis. The decision to reverse John Kennedy’s plan for withdrawal from Vietnam would not have been reversed with such immodest speed.

The final evidence of reversal of the American withdrawal from Vietnam, which had been planned by President Kennedy, came in the new President’s New Year’s message to General Duong Van Minh on January 2, 1964: “The United States will continue to furnish you and your people with the fullest measure of support in the bitter fight.... We shall maintain in Vietnam American personnel and material as needed to assist you in achieving victory.”

It would not be long before American troops would be flown into Vietnam in great volume. John Kennedy’s contemplated withdrawal from Vietnam was to be reversed 180 degrees. The military, it would develop, readily adjusted to the President’s assassination.

Meanwhile, at the outset of the Warren Commission’s inquiry, two occurrences threatened to upset the commission’s equanimity.

First, it was learned that the Attorney General of Texas was getting ready to start an independent investigation in behalf of the state of Texas. This was hardly part of the federal government’s game plan, and it was forestalled by a statement from Chief Justice Warren to the Attorney General of Texas stating that such an inquiry would interfere with the federal investigation, a remarkable legal observation inasmuch as Texas had legal jurisdiction with regard to the President’s murder, whereas the federal government had none whatsoever.[2] From the beginning, from snatching the President’s body from Dallas before the Texas coroner could see it to the dreamlike investigation of the assassination, the federal government was maintaining a rigid control over every aspect of the situation.

The information was transmitted to the commission that Waggoner Carr, the Texas Attorney General, and Henry Wade, the Dallas District Attorney, had evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald had been an intelligence employee of the United States government. This resulted in the emergency meeting of the commission late on the afternoon of January 22, 1964, to hear out the two Texas officials on their evidence of Oswald’s government connections.

However, nothing more was forthcoming about this from the government. Its answer to any questions would come in the form of a change in foreign policy. In August, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution was obtained from Congress, authorizing the President to take whatever military action he desired to protect American troops. As a practical matter, the authority to make this decision ended up in the hands of the military itself, making it quite predictable that it would be found necessary to take action to protect the troops. This has a very decent sound about it, because no one likes to think of unprotected troops, but if Kennedy’s policy had not been reversed and if the American expeditionary forces had not been flown into Vietnam, it would not be necessary to protect them from anyone.

In retrospect, it is apparent that what was under way was the classic buildup of the warfare state. Ultimately, the provocative incident occurs or is caused to occur and paternal concern forces the larger country to defend its troops.

In this instance, the incident concerned the possible firing of torpedos at two American destroyers, the Maddox and the Turner Joy. According to later accounts there was no observation of any torpedos, but only an evanescent indication on sonar screens that torpedos might have been fired. The entire affair bore the distinct aroma of a military and intelligence tableau. Nevertheless, it was sufficient for the President to appear before Congress and request the power to prevent further aggression against American armed forces.

There would be no action yet, however, because in November President Johnson would run for reelection and a major plank in his platform would be to seek peace. In the meantime, the military had obtained the carte blanche it wanted. Congressional authority now had given the President the right to enter combat with North Vietnam, a right he would transfer to the Pentagon in the form of a right to “repel armed attack” and to “prevent further aggression.”

The Open Road to War

The warfare state operates at two different levels. This is necessary because the interests of the power elite frequently are unrelated to the interests of the people at large. There is what might be called the practical level, which is usually hidden from the view of the populace, and the lovable level, arranged for all to see.

The napalm bombing of a Vietnam village is an operation conducted on the practical level. A 30 second television advertisement for peace, paid for by the same government that is using the napalm, is an operation conducted at the lovable level.

The execution of President Kennedy was an operation conducted at the practical level. He was blocking the thrust of the Pax Americana. He was bringing to an end the cold war, the existence of which was the source of power for the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The magnificent military funeral held for him three days later was an operation conducted on the lovable level. The government was demonstrating to the people that they lived in the best of all possible superstates.

Soon the United States government would be engaged in two major projects. At the lovable level for all the world to see were the Warren Commission hearings, presided over by the silver-haired Chief Justice. At this level the government was playing the role of an anxious parent, seeking to find an answer to the mystifying murder of its late President. Meanwhile, at the practical level the government would undertake a massive buildup of an American expeditionary army in Vietnam. The buildup would continue until more than half a million troops had been sent there.

If a modern Rip Van Winkle who had been asleep for a quarter of a century were to observe the huge American expedition that soon was to pour into Asia, he very likely would conclude that this did not necessarily mean a commitment to war in Asia. He would conclude that only Congress can declare war. And he would be wrong.

The power of Congress to initiate war had been transferred, in advance of any apparent need, into the hands of the President. The early request, the presence of a condition and the absence of imminent likelihood of commitment had caused many members of Congress to go along with the modest request. Furthermore, there had been a patriotic factor. The President had asked merely that American troops be allowed to defend themselves if attacked.

Actually, however, Congress was being manipulated. This is how the war machine operates. Behind the seeming concern for national security are the busy men with bulging briefcases hurrying from the Pentagon over to Capitol Hill, the tight-mouthed men hurrying from CIA headquarters over to the Pentagon; it is eventually a game. It is an operation designed to produce for the warfare sector and its military hardware supporters billions of dollars annually and unlimited power in the affairs of the nation.

Since the end of World War II the United States has spent a thousand billion dollars—one trillion dollars—furnished by the American people, who have been colonized by these men and their hunger for power. Could the CIA kill a President to keep such an operation going? Kings have been beheaded for infinitely less.

Approximately a month after President Kennedy’s assassination, former President Harry Truman made the observation that the CIA appeared to be engaged in activities far beyond the scope initially intended for it. This was something of an understatement.

Each time the American government has tried to explain what it is doing in Vietnam it produces a different explanation. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution seemed to say that we were in Vietnam in order for our troops to defend themselves if attacked while there. Former Secretary of State Dean Rusk stated that we were in Vietnam because China now had nuclear weapons and we did not know what she would be doing ten years from now. However, when we went into Vietnam, China did not have a nuclear capability. Furthermore, if this kind of thinking has any validity, we may soon have to maintain expeditionary armies all over the world. President Nixon, somewhat more elusive, has explained that we are in Vietnam in order to see that a just peace is brought about in that corner of the world. Our interest in a just peace may be evaluated by the fact that we have killed so many people from that corner of Asia and have dropped more bombs there than we dropped during all of World War II. Since when has our warfare machine started worrying about a just peace for them?

It really would be better if we could just admit bluntly that there is tungsten in that part of the world and tungsten is needed to make military weapons. That would be correct factually, which would make it an improvement over the imaginative reasons conceived by our leaders, but even that is not the primary reason for our entry into Vietnam.

For the CIA, its primary objective is to enhance its power. In combination with the military, to maintain and extend its power, it has sought to keep the cold war going. To a warfare state a war is a market—a market for the services of its military and for the hardware manufacturers. We became a warfare state years earlier at the close of World War II when we had developed the ability to kill other men in great quantity. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization served as our war market for many years, until our nuclear stalemate with Russia became so apparent that even our military leaders could see it. The need for a new war market, preferably with an undeveloped country, caused us to turn our attention to Asia and to Vietnam.

Then suddenly there was John Kennedy—too wealthy, too idealistic and too hardheaded to manipulate—talking about peace for all time for all men. Other Presidents had been easier to manipulate into keeping the cold war going. After Eisenhower’s meeting with Khrushchev at Camp David, for example, the end of the cold war appeared to have come within reach. Then a U-2, operated by the CIA, came down in Russia and the Paris peace talks were canceled.

But Kennedy was different: he was a President preparing for peace, not war, and he was moving too fast. There had been his refusal to approve American air support at the Bay of Pigs and his refusal to respond to the Cuban missile crisis by bombing Cuba. There had been the signing of the nuclear test ban treaty on September 1, ordered by him over the objection of the majority of the Joint Chiefs. Then there had been his initiation of détentes with Cuba and Russia. Now he was blocking the new war market in Vietnam.

The Central Intelligence Agency handled all of the details.

The Coup d'État

For years we in America have heard much of the Communist conspiracy to dominate the world. Periodically, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation would give somber warning of the conspiracy. Our military, intelligence agencies, anti-Communist politicians and media would not have hesitated to raise the possibility of Communist involvement had there been the slightest chance of communist intrigue present in Dealey Plaza. Why, then, was there such immobilization of our government after the assassination? Action was called for, but the government would not act except when there was opportunity to implicate Lee Oswald and here, invariably, the government overreacted.

Whereas before the assassination Oswald was given extremely preferential treatment by federal officialdom, after the assassination his treatment at the hands of federal authorities was invariably unfavorable. This official prejudicial post-assassination action against Oswald was not justified by the data which the authorities were presenting as evidence. This pattern is indicative of a frame-up of Oswald. Inasmuch as this frame-up precluded our receiving information concerning the relationship between Oswald and the government, it supports the proposition that it was engineered in the highest level of our government.

The killing of a President by a high level of government is a coup d’état. The coup d’état is nearly unheard of in America, although European history is replete with the elimination of national leaders by immediate subordinates. This is why Europeans quickly sensed what was happening, while Americans showed virtually no comprehension whatsoever. Even the untimely reversal of President Kennedy’s policy with regard to Vietnam, while he still lay in state at the Capitol, failed to generate the slightest spark of curiosity in the United States.

A successful coup d’état affects not merely the history of a nation but may change its power structure. With the killing of John Kennedy, the very position of the Presidency was drastically reduced in status. Henceforth, the President would be a broker for the war machine. He would be an advocate and spokesman for the Pentagon. All Presidents who followed Kennedy would have to know their impotence, no matter what their public role.

Until the work of the Kennedy assassins is undone, Presidents will come and go but the warfare machine and its extensive intelligence tentacles, domestic as well as foreign, will remain in control. The assassination reduced the President of the United States to a transient official, a servant of the warfare conglomerate. His assignment is to speak as often as possible about the nation’s desire for peace, while he serves as a business agent in Congress for the military and their hardware manufacturers.

The assassination resulted in insulating the people from making decisions over foreign policy and war. Prior to the assassination, in accordance with the Constitution, the President made the decisions with regard to foreign policy, the Senate approved or disapproved treaties, and Congress decided whether or not we went to war.

There were good reasons for this system. In each instance the decision was made by men elected by the people.

The rifle shots in Dealey Plaza removed these vital powers from the elected officials and made them readily available to the warfare apparatus. As a result, after Kennedy, although most Americans were opposed to our war in Asia, it went on and on. Foreign policy was being made by the Pentagon and the CIA. For example, a secret treaty had been consummated with Laos providing for military commitments to Laos, yet the Senate was not informed of the nature of these commitments. As for the power to declare war, that had been lifted from Congress by the Tonkin Gulf Resolution as neatly as a pickpocket lifts a wallet. Ostensibly having learned that blips had been sighted on the radar of two of our destroyers, President Johnson appeared before Congress in his capacity as the business representative of the Pentagon and asked for a resolution authorizing American troops to retaliate if they were attacked. In due course, this power was then transferred by him to the military, and when the military was ready to move we were at war. Later, against the wishes of the majority of the people, members of the Congress and the business community, the military burst into Cambodia, leaving the President to rationalize the push to those who had voted him into office on his promise that he would end the war in that unhappy part of the world.

The High Price of Glory

If the government were to take its gold bullion from Fort Knox, fly it to the Pacific in daily flights and drop it in the ocean, this would not be far removed from what has been accomplished by our adventure in Vietnam since the removal of President Kennedy. Even as the dollar approached the value of a postage stamp, the westward flights of troops and weapons into Asia were continued without abatement.

It was not possible to have price controls because the government could not admit it was engaged in war. Consequently, as the Vietnam War continued, the buying power of the dollar steadily descended. What the average American was able to retain at the end of the year was swept up by the heavy taxation, to pay for the Vietnam War and for the CIA’s adventures throughout the world.

Seven years after the assassination and the subsequent Vietnam escalation, our economy was showing the strain of too much war production and too much investment in warfare adventures. War production fails to add to the well being of the people and distorts the national economy by adding to its waste and reducing its efficiency. Real income falls as uncontrolled prices continue to rise. Insufficient money is available for the cities, and the standard of living of workers suffers. The quality of public education deteriorates. Billions of dollars that might have been available for our new schools and other social needs have in effect been dumped into the Pacific Ocean. The CIA and the Pentagon are not interested in new schools and social needs. These are death-oriented operations.

The idea that defense contracts bring prosperity and jobs is illusory. In the present structure of our warfare economy, most of the billion-dollar war contracts go only to a few businesses. The only contact most businesses have with the war is in the increased taxes they pay. In fact, some enterprises, such as construction, almost went out of business because of the steadily increasing interest rates. Among the potential disasters which the CIA and the Pentagon may have bequeathed us by removing John Kennedy and opening up the Vietnam War is economic disaster.

A Model of Explanation

What happened to President Kennedy becomes increasingly apparent as it is viewed in the full context of 1963, against the backdrop of the cold war. Nevertheless, let us consider it for a moment as a theory, as if one applied various models of what might have occurred. The model of explanation I have presented here endeavors to interpret sensibly the mass of data which has surfaced regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A case has been offered to enable the people to examine the reasons for his murder.

It is seven years now since John Kennedy’s death, and the model officially presented by the government has sagged and finally collapsed under the weight of its cumbersome lies. Nor is there any sign of hope that the succeeding administrations have any more interest in seeing that the truth is made available. The fact that the same men continue to control the Pentagon, the CIA and the FBI, which helped to conceal the CIA’s handiwork after the assassination, indicates that the war-oriented interests are still in firm control and that nothing can be expected from the government except more untruths and more war. This course will be reversed only when the American public unites in understanding the truth about the assassination of John Kennedy and in undertaking dignified action that will restore the republic.

If a better case than the lone assassin fiction could have been made—a case that might have persuaded the public of the government’s innocence—even an innocent, and certainly a guilty, government by now would have provided such an explanation. With the passing of the years since the assassination, after the Oswald legend has been shown to have been rejected by a majority of the American people in every public opinion sampling, we should no longer be holding our breath in anticipation of some alternative explanation which might be offered by the government to exonerate it from guilt.

It is inconceivable that men high in our government today are not fully aware of what really happened to John Kennedy and why it happened. If it can be understood outside Washington, it can be understood in Washington. Yet their sophisticated silence remains unbroken as they continue to play the game that all is well in America.

Their continued silence is eloquent testimony that the military and intelligence power elite, which sponsored the assassination and which then initiated the Vietnam escalation, continues to retain covert control of the nation. It is all too apparent that this force in our government believes that violence is the ultimate solution to any problem. This is why the present period is a most dangerous one for America and for the world.

The model of explanation of the assassination which has been presented here can also be put to use in explaining the current operations in which the CIA may be involved domestically as a natural follow-up to its foremost domestic success—on Dealey Plaza. As our military adventures become more absurd in terms of cost and failure to achieve worthwhile results, it will be increasingly necessary for the CIA to engage in domestic activity in order to continue to provide reasons for the power elite to maintain its control.

Just as the cold war provides reasons for the existence of autocratic power, so does chaos within the nation operate as a source of power. As chaos continues, the populace will tend to be less concerned about abridgment of individual rights and will more willingly grant to a strong centralized government such power it claims it needs. Thus the warfare state may continue to appear to be relevant even after it has had to reduce its international adventures to some degree because the people are sick of war.

Such seeming relevance depends, however, upon the existence of chaos. The government’s domestic intelligence can supply chaos in good measure by stirring the embers wherever there is social discontent, and in a society depleted by years of war there will be much of that.

Dealey Plaza Revisited

Dealey Plaza should be recognized as a highly effective assault on civilian control over the military.

Correspondingly, the Warren Commission can be seen as a delegation of the civilian leaders of our country accepting the terms laid down to them by the military. The military conceded one condition which clearly was in the initial planning: they dropped their requirement for an invasion of Cuba. Beyond that concession, the assassination and the inquiry are best recognized for what they were: a military takeover of the United States. It was nothing less.

If we are to understand and bring under control the forces which are shaping today’s America and are endeavoring to shape our future, we cannot rest with the official version of the killing of John Kennedy. The model of explanation offered here explains the available data. We must employ this tool of analysis until or unless another one is offered which better explains the evidence.

If we cannot have the truth once and for all about the government’s murder of John Kennedy, if the warfare interests in our government are so powerful that they cannot be questioned about such things, then let us have an end to the pretense that this is a government of the people.

If the American people choose to do nothing about what was done to John Kennedy and about the subtle conversion of their country from a democracy into a thinly disguised version of the warfare state, then the republic is lost and we shall never see it again in our time.

In any event, we need no longer pretend that there is any mystery left about the assassination of John Kennedy. The cold war was the biggest business in America, worth eighty billion dollars a year as well as tremendous power to men in Washington. The President was murdered because he was genuinely seeking peace in a corrupt world. As tired as we are of the horror of the subject, all of us must address ourselves honestly to the meaning and implications of the assassination of John Kennedy, or all of us will pay the price of living in tyranny.

  1. [] Tom Wicker, LBJ and JFK (New York, William Morrow and Company, 1968), p. 205.
  2. [] Lifton, op. cit., pp. 4-9.
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