( PDF | ASCII text formats )
This is an annotated transcript that started with the copy at
All hyperlinks, and footnotes by
David Ratcliffe with
the permission and encouragement of E. Martin Schotz.
The Waters of Knowledge versus the Waters of Uncertainty:
Mass Denial in the Assassination of President Kennedy
By E. Martin Schotz
Coalition on Political Assassinations Conference
20 November 1998
My task this afternoon is to explore with you the reasons the American people do not know who killed President Kennedy and why. In order to do this we will have to deal with three interdependent conspiracies which developed in the course of the assassination and its aftermath. These are:
The major focus of my talk today is this third conspiracy on the part of the public, which includes our so-called “critical community.” I want to show you that our failure to know is not based on any lack of data or because the data is ambiguous. It is all extremely simple and obvious. Rather we don’t know because we are deeply emotionally resistant to what such knowledge tells us about ourselves and our society. Furthermore the powers-that-be do not reward people for such knowledge. Indeed if a person is willing to acknowledge the truth, is in a position to share such knowledge with the public, and wishes to do so, then the organized institutions of our society will turn sharply against such a person.
Now this is not a new problem in the history of society. In fact, I want to read to you a Sufi tale from the Ninth Century which can help to orient us to the problem. The tale is entitled “When the Waters Were Changed.” It goes as follows:
The struggle for truth in the assassination of President Kennedy confronts us with the problem of the “waters of knowledge” versus “the waters of uncertainty.” Let me give you an example involving two important individuals who attempted to bring the truth before the American people. I am speaking of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison and filmmaker Oliver Stone.
Both Garrison and Stone knew that the President was the victim of a conspiracy by high level US military intelligence officials. Each in his own way tried to bring such knowledge to the attention of the American people. In the case of Oliver Stone, even before his film JFK had received its final cut there developed an unprecedented campaign of slander against Stone, that he was a madman, that he was a drunk. In the face of this attack Stone was advised to compromise and did so. He backed off from telling the American people that his film was the truth, and instead claimed that his film, JFK, was “my myth.” In other words Stone said “I have my myth and you are entitled to yours. I’m not saying I know what happened here. There is uncertainty.” The instant Stone did that, the campaign of slander ended. He was again acceptable. He was invited to address Congress and was permitted to ask the government to release more information so as to help us clear up the supposed mystery.
Jim Garrison’s story is different. In the face of his effort to reveal the true nature of the assassination there was a campaign to discredit him. It was claimed that he was a drug addict, that he had ties to the Mafia, that he was grandstanding and self seeking. But Garrison never backed down. And because of that, even today a noted biographer cannot get a major publisher to enter into a contract to do an honest biography of the man. He is still an outcast, a madman as far as the society is concerned. Stone agreed to drink the waters of uncertainty and society recognized him as having miraculously recovered his sanity. Garrison refused, insisting on continuing to drink the waters of knowledge, and for this he suffered accordingly.
Not too long ago I received a letter from a lawyer and leading human rights activist in Bangladesh. Her name is Sultana Kamal, and in commenting on my book, History Will Not Absolve Us, she wrote the following: “There are so many ways human beings invent to humiliate their basic sense of dignity – the sense of dignity which comes from the courage to acknowledge the truth. Instead we choose to live in falsehood to make ourselves instrumental in remaking conditions which bring us indignity, loss of self esteem and again bind us to the task of reconditioning the evil cycles of denial of truth and justice to ourselves.”
What The Waters Of Knowledge Tell Us
Over and over again we hear people asking for more and more information from the government. I suggest to you that the problem is not that we have insufficient data. The problem is that we dare not analyze the data we have had all along. In fact we need very little data. Honestly, as far as I’m concerned you can throw almost the whole 26 volumes of the Warren Commission in the trash can. All you need to do is look at this.
Here [on the left] is the Warren Commission drawing of the path of the “magic” bullet. And here [on the right] is a photograph of the hole in the President’s jacket.
Now what does this tell us? It tells us without a shadow of a doubt that the President’s throat wound was an entry wound, and that there was a conspiracy without any question. But it tells us much more. It tells us that the Warren Commission knew that the conspiracy was obvious and that the Commission was engaged in a criminal conspiracy after the fact to obstruct justice. The Chief Justice of the United States was a criminal accessory to the murder of the President. Senator Arlen Specter is a criminal accessory to murder. The Warren Report was not a mistake; it was and is an obvious act of criminal fraud.
Think of this for a moment. The Warren Report is an obvious criminal act of fraud and no history department in any college or university is willing to say so. What does such silence mean?
It means that we are dealing with something that has affected every history department of every college and university in our society, every major newspaper and magazine, and all means of mass communication. It has affected virtually every “loyal American.” This phenomenon is what George Orwell in his novel 1984 called “crimestop” or “protective stupidity.”
According to Orwell, “crimestop” is really a form of self mind control in which we find the affected individual “stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought ... not grasping analogies ... failing to perceive logical errors ... misunderstanding the simplest arguments ... and ... being bored or repelled by any train of thought” if such is inimical to the powers that be.
As a clinician, I look at “crimestop” as a mass psychological illness, an involuntary intellectual emotional and spiritual illness, part of the psychology of war which has pervaded our society.
So let us go on and ask who was Lee Harvey Oswald. I suggest to you that it is equally obvious that Oswald was a CIA agent from the data the Warren Commission provided to us. Look at the relevant chapter in Sylvia Meagher’s Accessories After the Fact, which was published in 1967. Indeed, what Meagher did was to confirm what Harold Feldman, with the help of Vincent Salandria, had already suggested in The Nation magazine even before the release of The Warren Report. If you look at History Will Not Absolve Us, you will find that Castro could see this immediately by knowing how to read our press. And Castro was not the only one who saw this.
The following is the text of an internal memorandum from the Assistant Attorney General of the United States to President Johnson’s press secretary Bill Moyers, written just three days after the assassination:
There are two aspects of this memorandum to which I want to draw your attention. First we see written proof that Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s aide was engaged in a criminal conspiracy to cover up the crime three days after the fact. But there is another aspect. Look what Katzenbach says about the frame-up of Oswald. “Unfortunately the facts on Oswald seem about too pat – too obvious ...” What does this mean? It means Katzenbach can see that this guy has been set up.
So we have to ask ourselves, “Who can murder the President, frame a CIA agent, and command this kind of cover?” I am not going to reiterate what Vince Salandria has presented to you. As we knew at the time, Kennedy had begun a process of rapprochement with the USSR and had been making clear moves away from the Cold War. The very simple and obvious question is, Who had the means and motive to organize a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy, frame in advance a CIA agent for the murder, use immediately all media channels to spill the frame-up of Oswald to the world, have the White House radioing Air Force One on the way back from Dallas that Oswald was it before the Dallas police had anything on him? Who can do all this and command a complete cover-up by all our society’s institutions? Only one institution had the means and motive to accomplish all this, an element of the United States government that is so necessary to the “defense” of the nation that to expose it would be unthinkable – the answer is obvious – high US military intelligence.
But I want to take us a step further, because today the truth is not just that our military intelligence assassinated our President. Today, thirty-five years later, such an assertion is a half-truth. The full truth today must include an acknowledgment that the source of the assassination conspiracy was knowable and known at the time, and continues to be. The full truth requires that we acknowledge that every leading institution of this society has cooperated in covering up the President’s murder.
Why The Cover-Up Was Necessary
At the time of the assassination what would have happened if it had been acknowledged that the assassination had been a high level conspiracy of the US military intelligence apparatus? I suggest to you that if this truth had been acknowledged early on, our own CIA and military would have emerged as leading threats to freedom, democracy and peace here at home as well as throughout the world. Such an awareness on the part of a significant portion of our public would have led to the fragmentation of our society, and to a level of domestic turmoil which would have disrupted America’s international empire. Think of the potential function of such truth in the context of the political movements of the 60’s. In no way could the United States have prosecuted the Vietnam War under those circumstances. An enormous anti-militarist opposition would have thwarted much of what our military intelligence has perpetrated over the years in Latin America, and around the world.
What does all this tell us about ourselves? Well, one of the implications is that we have a very strange sort of democracy. It is a democracy in which the press is so free that the President can’t have sex with a White House intern without being hauled before the court of public opinion, but the military intelligence establishment can openly assassinate the President and escape without any serious effort by that press to call it to account. The President lying in a civil deposition, and supposedly obstructing justice over something that is totally meaningless, gets infinite attention from our media. This, while clear obstruction of justice in the murder of a President passes in silence.
To see such a thing is to realize when we call ourselves “free” and “democratic”, we are wrapping ourselves in the window dressing of a modern militarist empire – an empire of which we are but subjects. Granted, ladies and gentlemen, some of us in this country may be privileged subjects, maybe even the majority of us are privileged subjects, but when the day is done, that is what we are – subjects. We are not citizens of a free democratic society, but subjects of a modern version of the Roman Empire. I suggest to you that this is a truth about ourselves which most Americans would rather not hear, because we Americans love to bask in the illusion that we are a beacon to the world, that we are freer and more democratic than the poor of the world whom our tax dollars have so effectively helped to murder and suppress.
This is the truth which the powers that be have no interest in the American people knowing and which the American people are more than happy to be protected from. Under such conditions it isn’t hard to motivate people to avoid the truth. It is only necessary to supply them with a workable lie. But just what lie would serve this purpose? What lie could bind the society together and allow people to preserve their illusory identity as “citizens of a free democratic state”? Here we come to the “waters of uncertainty.”
The Waters of Uncertainty – The Essence of the Cover-Up
The lie that was destined to cover the truth of the assassination was the lie that the assassination is a mystery, that we are not sure what happened, but being free citizens of a great democracy we can discuss and debate what has occurred. We can petition our government and join with it in seeking the solution to this mystery. This is the essence of the cover-up.
The lie is that there is a mystery to debate. And so we have pseudo-debates. Debates about meaningless disputes, based on assumptions which are obviously false. This is the form that Orwell’s crimestop has taken in the matter of the President’s murder. I am talking about the pseudo-debate over whether the Warren Report is true when it is obviously and undebatably false. The pseudo-debate over whether the Russians, or the Cubans, or the Mafia, or Lyndon Johnson, or some spinoff from the CIA killed the President. These are all part of the process of crimestop which is designed to cover up the obvious nature of this assassination. And let us not forget the pseudo-debate over whether JFK would or would not have escalated in Vietnam. As if a President who was obviously turning against the cold war and was secretly negotiating normalization of relations with Cuba, would have allowed the military to trap him into pursuing our war in Vietnam.
Since the publication of History Will Not Absolve Us, what I have found most striking is the profound resistance people have to the concept of pseudo-debate, a resistance in people which is manifest as an inability or unwillingness to grasp the concept and to use it to analyze their own actions and the information that comes before them. Even amongst “critics” who are very favorably disposed to my book, I note a consistent avoidance of this concept. And I see this as part of the illness, a very dangerous manifestation of the illness, which I want to discuss further.
The Malignant Nature of Pseudo-Debate
Perhaps many people think that engaging in pseudo-debate is a benign activity. That it simply means that people are debating something that is irrelevant. This is not the case. I say this because every debate rests on a premise to which the debaters must agree, or there is no debate. In the case of pseudo-debate the premise is a lie. So in the pseudo-debate we have the parties to the debate agreeing to purvey a lie to the public. And it is all the more malignant because it is subtle. The unsuspecting person who is witness to the pseudo-debate does not understand that he is being passed a lie. He is not even aware that he is being passed a premise. It is so subtle that the premise just passes into the person as if it were reality. This premise – that there is uncertainly to be resolved – seems so benign. It is as easy as drinking a glass of treated water.
But the fact remains that there is no mystery except in the minds of those who are willing to drink this premise. The premise is a lie, and a society which agrees to drink such a lie ceases to perceive reality. This is what we mean by mass denial.
That the entire establishment has been willing to join in this process of cover-up by confusion creates an extreme form of problem for anyone who would seek to utter the truth. For these civilian institutions – the media, the universities and the government – once they begin engaging in denial of knowledge of the identity of the assassins, once they are drawn into the cover-up, a secondary motivation develops for them. Now they are not only protecting the state, they are now protecting themselves, because to expose the obviousness of the assassination and the false debate would be to reveal the corrupt role of all these institutions. And there is no question that these institutions are masters in self protection. Thus anyone who would attempt to confront the true cover-up must be prepared to confront virtually the entire society. And in doing this, one is inevitably going to be marginalized.
The Role of Robert F. Kennedy
It is at this point that we can begin to look at the role of the “critical community” in this process, but before I do this I want to examine the role of Robert F. Kennedy.
When I have tried to point out to people that Robert F. Kennedy, in cooperating with the cover-up, became in every sense of the word an accessory after the fact in his own brother’s murder, there has generally been an instant recoil. But I want to tell you that this is not an opinion; this is just a fact. There is no way we can deny this, if we think about it. I’m not talking about why he became an accessory, but the fact that he did is absolutely undeniable. Robert F. Kennedy had a legal sworn obligation to seek out the assassins, and in failing to do so he joined the criminal act of conspiracy with the criminal act of cover-up and sealed the deal. And don’t let anyone tell you that it was because he couldn’t put two words together after his brother was murdered. I have seen his correspondence with Ray Marcus. And if it were some kind of personal emotional reaction, how is it that none of the people surrounding Robert Kennedy could utter the obvious truth of the assassination? No, Robert Kennedy’s cooperation, agonizing and humiliating as it must have been for him, was dictated by political considerations, which led him away from his legal and moral obligation to tell the American people what he knew.
When I start talking to people about this, I hear Robert Kennedy’s actions defended with the idea that if he had spoken out he would have been marginalized. And this is important, because maybe that was part of Robert Kennedy’s motivation. But I think the person who responds to me in this way is telling me something about his or her own motivation. The person is telling me that in their opinion, the desire not to be marginalized can somehow justify lying to the public about what you do and don’t know about the assassination of the President. I want to say in no uncertain terms this lying is not only profoundly lacking in morality but is in addition profoundly foolish and is totally indefensible. It was indefensible for Robert Kennedy and it is indefensible for any one of us.
There is no justification whatsoever for lying to anyone about what you do and don’t know about this murder. Quite to the contrary, if telling the truth marginalizes you, then that is the place to be. After all, if enough people are willing to be marginalized, then before you know it, society has developed a different center. This is the politics of truth. But Robert Kennedy wasn’t really used to the politics of truth. Instead, he was captivated by the illusory politics of power, influence and access. And I am afraid that many of us are also caught up with such ideas.
So now we have come to a problem. Our society confronts the individual with a choice: “If you want to avoid marginalization, you compromise the truth.” And the problem is that the moment you compromise with the truth, the moment you contribute false uncertainty, at that moment you have joined the cover-up. This is the critical point. Another way of saying this is, that society is prepared to confer a reward to anyone who is willing to drink the waters uncertainty. The reward is legitimacy; the reward is credibility; the reward is access; the reward is rescue from being marginalized.
I understand that the pressure to compromise the truth is enormous, because our society finds the truth and it implications so repugnant. Any normal person wants to be able to communicate. A normal person doesn’t want to be isolated, doesn’t want to turn people off. But in being concerned that the truth as we know it will turn off our neighbor, in compromising and pretending we do not know, for the sake of having “credibility,” we are destined to become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. We are destined to become agents of the public’s confusion and denial.
So there can be no doubt about what I am saying, I need to examine specific examples of how the so-called “critical community” has been operating.
The Assassination Records Review Board
Given what I have set before you – the whole effort by the “critical community” to petition the United States Government to establish a Board which would assist it in resolving the “mystery” of the assassination –, such an effort represents precisely the process described by Sultana Kamal in which people “choose to live in falsehood, to make ourselves instrumental in remaking conditions which bring us indignity, loss of self esteem and again bind us to the task of reconditioning the evil cycles of denial of truth and justice to ourselves.”
The President was assassinated, the government covered for the assassins, the media covered for them, all the established institutions of society fell in line with this, and the public was not prepared to take matters into its own hands. This is the sorry truth of American democracy, and there is nothing to be done about it, other than to witness the full horror and shame of it all, to feel the helplessness that is our reality before this state which is in the grip of militarism and the economic interests which this militarism serves.
Our problem is not that our government lacks credibility in the eyes of many of its subjects. That’s our government’s problem. Anyone who takes the government’s problem as his own problem in so doing becomes an agent of the government, if not a government agent. And it should be clear that the government is more than happy to have you do this.
No, our problem, the problem for people who want the truth to be known, is that despite the lack of government credibility, the public does not have the ability to think its way through the lies and discern the truth. The great shame of the “critical community” is that rather than seizing on this as its mission, the critical community has chosen to ally itself with the government and has only fostered further public confusion.
So we have a Board set up on the false premise that the problem is that the government wasn’t open enough with the public when it came to the assassination. Not one member of the Board is capable of coming before you and stating the most simple and axiomatic truths of this case. There was a conspiracy without a doubt. The Warren Report was an obvious act of criminal fraud. Senator Arlen Specter should be indicted for criminal obstruction of justice. Can any member of that Board come before you and say that? Of course not. Because respected members of the legal and academic establishment who can get the appropriate security clearances to serve on that Board are incapable of speaking simple truths like this. And if you try to get them to admit this kind of thing they look at you as if you are some kind of weirdo, or nut. And I remind you, they do not feel that way about Oliver Stone today, because he isn’t saying these are facts. These are only theories, “myths,” and he is not claiming that he knows what happened. So he is not a problem.
In fact they can use the film JFK now, and claim they are responding to the film through this Review Board. And COPA and JFK Lancer and all the “respected” members of this critical community go and praise this Board and testify before it, and they and the Board embrace each other. What is there to say? This is our independent research community. With this as our independent research community there is no mystery about why the public doesn’t know who killed President Kennedy and why.
I was going to read to you how the press is using the statements of various respected researchers who are here. I was going to read to you the COPA mission statement and dissect it – but what is the point? For the sake of completeness and for illustration, when and if this speech is ever published, I’ll include this as an appendix. You know I like appendices?
But I would rather, at this point, leave it up to any person individually, if they wish, to take what I’ve said here, think about it and try to apply it to anything that comes before him. If anyone is interested in doing this, I’ll be happy to communicate further on an individual basis, but really I’ve said enough about the “critical community.”
In conclusion I want to share with you something a close friend, Professor Rudi Cardona, pointed out after reading an earlier draft of this speech. Although Rudi has lived in this country for many years, he was born and raised in Costa Rica and has a real international perspective. He mentioned that throughout our history, we Americans seem always to prefer domestic tranquility over justice and the principles which supposedly underlie our democracy. He remarked on how a recent TV series on slavery had shown that Washington and Jefferson knew slavery was wrong but could not bring themselves to oppose it openly because of the turmoil this would have caused. Of course, the turmoil they were concerned about was the turmoil that whites would feel. The slaves were not being spared any turmoil.
And I think the analogy is very apt, because to those who would attempt to defend the cover-up, by suggesting that the truth would have been too painful for our country to endure, I want to remind us that the people of Vietnam were not spared the turmoil of our military rule. The people of Latin America and South America have not been spared. By cooperating in holding this society together through lies, we have made it that much more possible for our military intelligence apparatus to impose enormous suffering on people throughout the world. And this turmoil and mayhem has by no means been ended.
On April 25th of this year , Guatemalan Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi Conedera was assassinated one day after he stood before an audience in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala City and gave a speech in which he presented the findings of an in-depth probe into thousands and thousands of murdered and disappeared persons, casualties of a campaign of terror against the people of Guatemala waged by their own government, a right wing militarist government which over the years has enjoyed the consistent training and support of our US military intelligence establishment, the well protected home of the assassins of President Kennedy.
I want to read to you some of the thoughts Bishop Conedera expressed in his April 24th speech. Amongst other things he said,
“The root of humanity’s downfall and disgrace comes from the deliberate opposition to truth ... this reality that has been intentionally deformed in our country throughout thirty-six years of war against the people.
Thank you very much.