THE IDES OF NOVEMBER
SOOTHSAYER: Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: What man is that?
BRUTUS: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: Set him before me; let me see his face.
CASSIUS: Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
CAESAR: What say’st thou to me now? Speak once again.
SOOTHSAYER: Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: He is a dreamer. Let us leave him. Pass.
—JULIUS CAESAR, Act I, Scene 2
The Restlessness of the Nobles
Even as Shakespeare’s Caesar dismissed the soothsayer, the nobles at his elbow were becoming restless. Caesar’s steadily increasing popularity with the people meant that Cassius, Brutus and the other powerful men of the empire would continue to suffer a loss of influence. To the nobles of Rome the growing freedom of Caesar to determine the course of the empire without reference to them was intolerable because it meant they would be reduced in power. Empires always produce vested interests which will not lightly relinquish the gains which their power gives them. The nobles at his elbow killed Caesar in order to keep their power.
The American empire which was born out of World War II and the cold war years was obscured by many euphemisms and was invisible to many Americans. Nevertheless, it was an empire, one of the most powerful the world has known. In 1963, however, fate hung in the balance. A new President was in office, a President who was not merely indifferent to empire but who was making move after move which would have meant the end of the empire and the end of the power of the nobles who suckled on it.
The United States had acquired its status as a superstate back in World War II. Even before the war’s end, the new power we had acquired had begun to brutalize us. We used the atom bomb on Hiroshima, after it was no longer a military necessity. We did it again at Nagasaki without feeling a need to provide a rationalization to shield and attempt to dignify this wanton and horrible cruelty.
Once, we had been shocked by the atrocity of the German bombing of the civilian population of Rotterdam. At the war’s end, however, we had become the warfare state, adopting as our own the militarism we had sought to end. At the war’s end in Asia our objective had evolved from winning the war with Japan to gaining influence over governments by our display of the new atomic war technology.
Even as we defeated the totalitarians, we had begun to emulate them and had begun building an empire of our own. There are always reasons for keeping power once it is obtained.
In the twenty years following the war our warfare state would spend a thousand billion dollars—a trillion dollars—on armament and on the maintenance of its far-flung empire. Again and again we were told by the war interests that more and more billions had to be spent. When, after nearly two decades of increasing militarism, a new national leader appeared who saw that the foundations of our democracy were being undermined and that warfare interests had gained excessive power in our government, a rift developed between the new young leader and the powerful nobles of the American empire, the barons and the lords and the dukes at the Pentagon and the shadowy counterparts in the Central Intelligence Agency.
The affluence of these men was built upon the continuation of the empire. What kind of words were these they were now hearing? “Not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women ...” The nobles began to grow restless.
From his vantage point, Kennedy was aware of dark possibilities that did not remotely occur to most of us. One weekend in the summer of 1962, while on the Honey Fitz, the Kennedy yacht, he was asked what he thought about the chance of a military take-over in America. Kennedy replied that it was possible if certain conditions developed.
A military take-over would occur, Kennedy said, if the country were being led by a young President at the time, if a Bay of Pigs occurred, if military criticism of the young President followed and then if another Bay of Pigs occurred.
By the time of this discussion, Kennedy had already overruled the use of warplanes in the invasion of Cuba and the CIA’s long-planned expedition had foundered in disaster on the beach. Only a few months after the discussion, he would overrule the advice of the military to bomb Cuba. Instead, he later would set the stage for peace talks with Fidel Castro. In another year, he would override the strongly felt wishes of the majority of the chiefs of staff and cause the United States to sign the nuclear test ban treaty in Moscow.
Such a compass bearing was not a course concurred in by the men of empire. These were the actions of a man engaged in ending the cold war, the source of endless benefits and bounties, power and prestige, for the military and for its silent partner in the profession of extermination, the CIA.
Yet these changes that Kennedy was making did not have the strategic significance they might have had some years earlier. The nuclear equality which had developed between the United States and Russia had made so remote the possibility of a war between the two that it had become more and more difficult to conceive of reasons to persuade the American taxpayers to continue to provide billions each year for the war machine.
But now World War II was fading farther and farther away, and the much vaunted Russian military menace to America had begun fading away, too, because of the increasingly obvious ability of each to destroy the other. The capabilities of eliminating cities with a single nuclear bomb and the increasingly varied capabilities of delivery of the bombs meant that the country which was attacked could launch, even in its own death throes, immense destruction against the attacker. As if this nuclear parity, with its threat of the end of military adventure, were not disastrous enough for the men of empire, the President was not merely informing Americans of these realities but was establishing a new relationship with Russia. This new relationship rested on mutual understanding which would replace the endless mutual acceleration of unusable military power. But if these changes meant less strategically than they once might have meant, one thing was becoming clear, inevitably they meant the end of the American military empire. The nobles of the empire muttered and spoke to each other in low tones behind closed doors.
Yet there remained Asia with its undeveloped nations and its millions of poorly fed and poorly clothed humans. Here there was enough grist for the mill of the military superstate to keep it busy for years. It is the first rule of imperialism that unrest anywhere is not merely a breach of the general peace but is in all probability secretly sponsored by the enemy. Like dinosaurs discovering new feeding grounds, the Pentagon and the CIA had gradually turned much of their attention from Europe to the new promise of Asia. The CIA, in particular, was already deeply involved in activities in South Vietnam and in Laos.
But soon President Kennedy himself would tum to Asia and begin to explore the feasibility of removing the contingent of military advisers from Vietnam.
It was one thing to speak of peace, but it was another to actually begin disarmament. It was one thing to speak of a military withdrawal from Asia, but it was another thing to actually begin it. If John Kennedy survived, the empire was threatened.
They gave him a great funeral, replete with the festoons of the military. His search for peace was buried with him. Nor was there, afterward, a Mark Antony to speak in his behalf.
The Leaves Begin to Fall
In the summer of 1963, curious things began to happen in New Orleans. Men at the Reily Coffee Company, where Lee Oswald had been hired, began to receive jobs in the defense plants on the fringe of the city. It is possible that the aerospace manufacturers encountered sudden requirements for men with experience in the coffee business. It would be more rational, however, to perceive that some force possessing great influence with the defense industry was obtaining positions, in a most systematic way, for men who had come into contact with Lee Oswald.
In medicine a condition hidden from view often can be located by injecting a special dye into the body of the patient and then tracing its subsequent route by fluoroscope. Similarly, in any set of facts where a major crime has occurred, deception on the part of a possible malefactor may be brought to light by tracing the paths of possible witnesses in order to see what has happened to them. As Holmes might have informed Watson, it is elementary that an individual who suddenly has been given a good position would be reluctant to testify against his benefactor. The position may even act as a control factor over what he may or may not say or do.
Now let us see what happened to men who were exposed to Lee Oswald while he was at the Reily Coffee Company. Oswald, it might be added, left the coffee company on July 19, a few weeks before he suddenly appeared on street corners and began handing out leaflets in behalf of Fidel Castro and Communist Cuba.
In July, Alfred Claude, the man who hired Oswald at Reily, went to work for the Chrysler Aerospace Division. Chrysler Aerospace was located at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration facility on the eastern edge of New Orleans.
Within a few days of Claude’s departure, Emmett Barbee, Oswald’s immediate superior at Reily, abandoned the coffee business and began a new career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration center in eastern New Orleans.
Within a few weeks of these departures, John D. Branyon, who had worked with Oswald at Reily, left the coffee business and also found a new position at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration!
A few weeks after Oswald’s departure, Dante Marachini left the Reily Coffee Company and launched a new career with the Chrysler Aerospace Division at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Marachini also was a friend of David Ferrie’s and had frequently left his Bourbon Street apartment to drive uptown to visit Ferrie. By an interesting coincidence of timing, Marachini had gone to work at the Reily Coffee Company on the same day as Lee Oswald, although his virtues were not discovered by the aerospace industry until some weeks after Oswald’s departure from the coffee company.
Either Reily Coffee Company, an old firm of good repute, was engaged in a diabolically mysterious penetration of our aerospace program or someone was giving special attention to men at Reily who had rubbed shoulders, however slightly, with Oswald. The human engineering represented by these movements implicates neither the men being moved nor the companies involved. Rather, this exodus makes it seem as if men were being moved like chess pawns by a hidden force, obviously powerful and possessing a unique influence over the government’s aerospace program, to accomplish a future gain in position.
In intelligence terminology, the Reily Coffee Company was being “sanitized” with regard to witnesses who had contact with Oswald. After such an exodus to the defense industry, one can imagine it would prove more difficult to obtain witnesses whose testimony might embarrass the government. On the other hand, the electric scenes of Oswald promenading with the pro-Castro signs were recorded on film, as it turned out, so that all the world could see that here indeed was a revolutionary, the kind of man who might well disturb the tranquility of a peace-loving superstate.
The resourcefulness of modern operational intelligence should not be underestimated. Facts are turned into cobwebs in the minds of witnesses while things which never happened are structured into occurrences which can be cemented into history.
In the course of tracing potential witnesses who had been at the coffee company, the name of that Jack-of-all-adventures, David Ferrie, turned up because of Marachini’s visits to his apartment. Inasmuch as Ferrie was an admitted CIA employee whom we have encountered before in connection with the assassination, it should be worthwhile to see if men who had contact with him were rewarded with defense jobs in the way that Oswald contacts were rewarded.
One of Ferrie’s friends was James Lewallen, who lived in the same apartment house as Marachini in the 1300 block of Dauphine Street. Lewallen’s relationship with Ferrie and his propinquity to Marachini are not inculpatory with regard to any of the parties but illustrate, at the very least, the high degree of coincidence which abounds in the case. Lewallen went to work for Boeing at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration facility.
Melvin Coffee had accompanied David Ferrie on his trip into Texas on the evening of the assassination. He had accompanied Ferrie to Houston, then down to Galveston, the town to which Jack Ruby had made his phone call the night before killing Ferrie’s protégé, Lee Oswald. Coffee was hired by the aerospace operation at Cape Kennedy.
It should not be thought that New Orleans is a small town and the aerospace operation a huge one, so that nearly everyone works for it. This indeed was the case with regard to some of the smaller German towns in World War II. Undoubtedly, for example, most of the adults in the Bavarian town of Schweinfurt worked for the great ball-bearing plants.
In 1963, however, New Orleans was a city of nearly 700,000, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration facility was not a particularly large operation at all. In short, the transfers into the areospace industry were disproportionately large and were necessarily the consequence not of capricious coincidence but of careful design.
What we had here was an unidentified government agency, unidentified only in the sense that its name was not spelled out in neon letters, shifting men into the government controlled defense industry in order to establish, for later purposes, a degree of control over them. The fact that the assassination was not to occur until autumn, at the earliest, gives some idea of the care taken in the planning. The fact that these transfers were being made not in direct support of the assassination but, looking far beyond that, in order to complicate possible investigations which might afterward occur, serves to give some idea of the scope and professional nature of the entire operation.
Here is an example of the investigative steps which the New Orleans District Attorney’s office had to take to develop the type of information just described. Remember that at every step of the way, stentorian pronouncements were issued from the highest authorities in Washington that everything had been looked into and the case was closed. This put the New Orleans’ investigation in the position of being an outlaw investigation, regarded by many as highly improper, even laughable. However, the members of the team in the New Orleans District Attorney’s office knew that they had stumbled across a hidden structure and continued to dig away at it.
The District Attorney’s office knew that Ferrie had been a pilot for a major airline and had been fired for questionable activities. It is customary for such a business to employ a private detective agency to develop such information. The name of the investigative agency was obtained and its old records were located in Shreveport, Louisiana. Going through the reports of the private investigators staked out near the Ferrie residence, it was discovered that he was visited quite frequently by a man named Dante Marachini.
Concentrating briefly on Marachini, the beginning of an odd pattern was revealed. He had gone to work for the Reily Coffee Company on May 10, the same day that Oswald was hired there. When it was learned that Marachini resigned shortly after Oswald’s departure, his path was traced and led to the Chrysler Aerospace Division at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration operation.
The point about the early exodus of so many men who knew Oswald or Ferrie into the government affiliated aerospace industry is that an honest investigation would scarcely disregard such a phenomenon. However, the commission never glanced in that direction. In the words of Senator Richard Russell, the one member of the commission who showed signs of discontent with the official conclusion, the majority of the seven man commission “wanted to find” that Oswald planned and acted alone.
Why was there such a disproportionate gravitation of possible witnesses into high paying jobs with government defense contractors? These men had an average of four years in the coffee business, yet their casual contact with Oswald started them on new careers in the defense industry. To look into the phenomenon would have been one of the first major objectives for any honest inquiry. Instead, the great investigation in history concerned itself with one of Lee Oswald’s schoolboy fights and other such trivia.
With more than five thousand federal investigators presumably digging into every nook and cranny, it is odd that a handful of men working for a county office should develop what the government could not. Of course, the New Orleans District Attorney’s office had a substantial advantage over the government. It was not involved in John Kennedy’s murder.
When a counterrevolution is occurring and a low level intelligence employee is being prepared for sacrifice so as to draw attention away from the power elite who are sponsoring a forthcoming assassination, it is perhaps old-fashioned to speak of the injustice being dealt to the scapegoat. Nevertheless, the observation must be made that the inhumanity demonstrated by the CIA, and the masked eminences for whom it performed was scarcely distinguishable from the inhumanity of the totalitarian governments which we had defeated in World War II. Actually we had taken the place of the totalitarian powers whom we had defeated. After our two decades as a superstate during the years of the cold war, we had become a different country.
To be sure, all of the revered symbols of Americana had been retained. The “Star Spangled Banner” was still played ceremoniously at all major sporting events. The President annually opened the baseball season by throwing the first pitch of the season. And in every school in every town across the land, children began their day by reciting together the Pledge of Allegiance.
But a change had occurred in America. It had happened as silently as the moon sliding behind the clouds. With the advent of our special brand of benevolent imperialism, we also had acquired the secret police, an integral part of the warfare state—secret police not merely around the globe but within our own country as well. It was all in the name of national security, to be sure, but it is in the name of national security that the warfare state commits its worst crimes against humanity. What was important above all was that the new power structure of our country was no longer the one originally contemplated in the Constitution. Lip service continued to be paid to the importance of the individual and his rights, to the greatness of our democracy and to our “leadership of the free world.”
However, the center of gravity of power in America long since had fallen into the control of the warfare interests and all of the signs of the free society which were still exhibited on every hand were garlands, tinseled ornaments to keep the populace content. The real test of whether the country still belonged to the people was what happened to national leaders who called for an end to the Vietnam War or for removal of our troops from Asia. They were shot to death by ostensibly lone assassins, men who in every case had remarkable records of international travel. Thus the voices of the opponents of empire were stilled. This was the America which had evolved by the 1960’s while we all stared at our television screens.
John Kennedy was going to be executed because he was the one man who stood in the way of the continued power of the superstate and the continued growth of empire. Lee Oswald would be executed promptly afterward because someone would have to be seized and killed to turn the eyes of the people away from the nobles, to halt at the very outset the beginning of thought. The singular value of an intelligence employee as the scapegoat was the fact that such an agent would go where he was told, do what he was told and be easily set up so as to appear to be a violent leftist assassin or whatever his superiors desired. Afterward, high government officials, knowingly, and the electronic media, unknowingly, would do the rest. A whole new chapter of history, which it was hoped would last through all time, would have been created by the purest legerdemain, a gossamer fabric spun out of the trust of the people and the duplicity of their leaders.
Thus, months before the assassination, a degree of control with regard to the history being created for the scapegoat had already been established. This control, as previously mentioned, could have been established by moving men who had contact with Oswald from the coffee business into government controlled, higher paying positions in the defense industry.
Interestingly enough, there were portents of what was to happen to Kennedy, just as in Shakespeare’s Caesar there were also portents of the impending disaster. The latter, however, were supernatural in character, for it was quite acceptable in Shakespeare’s time to regard the impending death of a prince or a head of state as reasonable cause for nature itself to give warnings. As a breathless Casca told Cicero, during the course of an unusual tempest of thunder and lightning he had observed strange happenings such as he had never before seen. “I believe,” said Casca, “they are portentous things.”
In the case of President Kennedy’s murder, the warnings were more mundane, although later the Warren Commission called upon the supernatural from time to time to explain the succession of impossibilities which it presented to the public. But there was, in Washington, a substantial base of support for the continuation of our policy of military conquest. That is why the “findings” of the Warren Commission were accepted so blandly in the nation’s capital. That is why the assassination of John F. Kennedy was accepted with such equanimity in the marble halls of government.
The reaction of those individuals who have encountered the hidden tyranny of the modern warfare state is an eloquent testimonial to its essential inhumanity. For the rest of the population there is nothing to see because, in the new warfare state, its tyranny at home is selective and its inhumanity abroad is far beyond the horizon.
The Domestic Chores of Empire
After the assassination of the President, the speed with which his alleged murderer was removed should have been a signal to all of us that we were witnessing a coup d’état. Furthermore, the intensity of the conflict of policy between the President, on the one hand, and the military and intelligence sectors of the government, on the other, should have told us where to begin in searching for the force accomplishing his murder.
However, it had been a long time since we had witnessed howitzers on flatcars, flights of military planes over our cities and hordes of men in uniform. We were not yet aware that we had reached a time when our military and intelligence combine could exercise great influence over the remainder of our government and yet remain practically invisible. There was nothing in our experience to alert us to the dangers of the acquisition of excessive power by this combine. Even afterward, after the escalation of our military involvement in Asia, we did not become greatly concerned until the volume of dead young Americans being flown back reached a point where Washington could no longer explain it away as a routine matter.
We had come to notice that the power of the federal government had grown to be excessive, but we were dissuaded from looking too deeply into that by the cornucopia of benefits being dispensed from Washington. The new imperialism which had come to characterize America did not show here at home. The rest of the world could see it, but we could not.
Least of all did we know that a part of our government had gone into the business of murder. The rest of the world could see this too, but we could not.
When we were shaken by the bursts of gunfire at Dealey Plaza, we were unable to comprehend what was happening to us then because we were unaware of what had been happening to us before. All of the advantages of electronic communication, with television sets in nearly every home, were useless to us because this magic machinery was not bringing us the truth. To the contrary, it was misleading us from the very beginning. False information was being fed to the press by the government, and the press, believing it to be true, was feeding this misinformation to the world.
Above all, we were totally unaware of the existence in our country of an invisible force, ready and willing to perform with the utmost casualness whatever crime served the empire’s purpose. We were also unaware that other parts of our government would protect this force and help to conceal from us its existence. Being unaware that we now lived in a military empire, we were all the more unaware that we, ourselves, were among the colonized.
We were not aware that the years of the cold war had left our country saturated with secret police, something entirely new in American government and entirely foreign to our way of life. In retrospect, since we were providing billions of dollars a year for the CIA’s operations abroad, the CIA also would have wished to expand by adding operations at home. Such expansion of jurisdiction is almost a law of bureaucracy. The agency’s domestic activity is nothing less than a secret police operation. The secret police of the CIA help keep the empire going by repression of individuals who oppose the projects of empire, such as our military expansion into Southeast Asia.
A nation which has the machinery for expression of divergent views presents a particular problem to the empire interests and to the military and intelligence forces which need the empire to keep their power. National leaders who have the charisma to be effective and who have a large following present an intolerable problem when they tell the people of the immorality and impracticality of our presence in Vietnam, of the countless billions our warfare state splurges on armaments, of the murders we commit in the name of national security.
Whenever possible the CIA will seek to silence these voices by a massive discreditation of the individual. When this is not practical, because of the prestige of the individual or because he is too well known for derogatory fictions to be believed by the public, then his voice may be silenced by killing him.
The dirty work of empire is done in our home country by the domestic operations division of the CIA. Because the targets of the operations division more often than not are other Americans, the men who engage in this work are generally lower in character than those who work for other intelligence agencies. They are the flotsam and jetsam, the bottom of the barrel of the intelligence business.
The government uses enough of these men that its way of dealing with them is well standardized. It insulates itself from these men, men like David Ferrie and Jack Ruby, by carefully omitting their names from any form of official roster. It also avoids dealing with them directly but deals with them through what is known in the intelligence community as a “cut-off.” If a particularly messy job of removing an individual has been accomplished and the press wants to know if the men who did it are connected with the government in any way, the “cut-off’ moves from the city and leaves no forwarding address. In Washington, a man with clean hands and white cuffs, and an expression which suggests that he reads the Constitution every night, will appear and announce that a review of government records indicates that the men in question were never employed by the government.
The broad-based saturation of the United States by the CIA’s domestic activities give it an operational capability in every city of not merely gathering information but also setting up a scapegoat for such operations as assassination. Thus the agency has a preexisting potential in any given locale for whatever type of operation it desires to accomplish. In the case of an assassination, however, the marksmen are specialists brought into the city by the agency. The supervisor of the operation also is likely to be brought into the city from the outside. Otherwise the men working to set up the operation are residents of the city where the action is scheduled to occur, resulting in a minimum influx of strangers.
Another technique used in an intelligence assassination to minimize the number of individuals who will acquire knowledge about an operation is called “triple-hatting.” This means that each of the individuals engaged in the operation will execute a variety of tasks, thus limiting the number of men who will be used and who will afterward be carrying the details around in their heads. For example, with regard to the entire operation surrounding the removal of President Kennedy, Jack Ruby was not suddenly converted from a sentimental nightclub owner to a highly effective gunman all in one Sunday morning. Even prior to that day, he was engaged in a number of activities apparently connected with the President’s assassination.
According to Seth Kantor and Wilma Tice, Ruby was at Parkland Hospital when the doctors were trying hopelessly to save the President. It will be remembered that at Parkland Hospital a bullet probably planted was found near one of the stretchers. The Warren Commission concluded that this bullet went through Governor Connally and the President.
According to the testimony of reporter Victor F. Robertson, Jr., on the evening of the President’s assassination Ruby sought to get into the homicide office where Oswald at that time was being questioned; however, he was stopped by the police at the door. His excuse, according to Detective Richard M. Sims, at that time was that he was bringing in sandwiches for the officers.
Just after midnight on the day of Oswald’s arrest, Dallas law enforcement authorities held a press conference to which, incredibly enough, Oswald was brought for the newsmen to see and question. Ruby was present with a press badge and explained himself as representing Jewish news interests. When District Attorney Wade incorrectly described the pro-Castro organization to which Oswald had pretended to belong, Ruby corrected him and pointed out that the correct name of the organization was Fair Play for Cuba.
The excessive volume of phone calls being made by Ruby during that weekend indicates the likelihood that he was also performing a communications or liaison function. This particularly would appear to be the case with regard to his call to Galveston the night before he killed Oswald, by which time Oswald’s former mentor, David Ferrie, was in Galveston.
In addition to all of Ruby’s other activities that weekend, there is evidence which indicates that he drove one of the riflemen to the grassy knoll area. This evidence was made available to the government a full day prior to Ruby’s killing of Oswald. But no action was taken against him until the following day, after he had killed the scapegoat. Consequently, by the time he glided past the Dallas police and shot Oswald, Jack Ruby was culminating an entire weekend of unusual activity. In the terminology of the CIA, Ruby was “triple-hatting.”
The Warren Commission sought to indicate that it found Jack Ruby not qualified to participate in the assassination of a President. What the commission was really doing was calling for higher standards for conspirators in Presidential assassinations. However, the commission could not have been more wrong about Jack Ruby. If it had looked into his background a little more closely, it would have found that he was no newcomer to the world of intrigue.
The Patriotic Nightclub Owner
Dallas was one of the most attractive cities in cold war America. Located in the gently rolling flatlands of eastern Texas, it had close at hand a number of natural features which any city in a powerful country might envy. Not far away was Carswell Air Force Base, with its own stockpile of nuclear bombs in the event a nuclear air strike had to be launched against some other country in order to maintain peace.
The name of Carswell Air Force Base came up in a small way during the course of the government’s investigation when a map was found in Jack Ruby’s car with the air base circled on it in pencil. Every red-blooded American likes to visit his friendly neighborhood Strategic Air Command base on occasion.
In the early 1960’s, Dallas also was an important city with regard to the CIA’s activities against Cuba, as were New Orleans and Miami, too. Viewed together, these cities can best be understood as bases in a corridor through which munitions, men, money and medicine went eastward for use in the raids on Cuba and for training of the anti-Castro guerrillas which was supervised by the CIA in the New Orleans and Miami areas.
In 1963, therefore, Dallas was something more than one of America’s loveliest cities. It was a bastion in the great American empire. Necessarily, the complex of strategic operations surrounding it would be protected by an intelligence apparatus not readily visible to the public. It is axiomatic that Strategic Air Command bases, nuclear stockpiles and high priority war production facilities would receive the benefits of operational and information-gathering intelligence.
Earlier we found in New Orleans, a city with less warfare facilities, the existence of a concealed intelligence apparatus at the office of Guy Banister, the former head of the Chicago office of the FBI. It was this address, it will be recalled, that Lee Oswald inadvertently put on the pamphlets which he was given to hand out. It was from this office that David Ferrie operated between his flying assignments for the CIA. It was in this aging building on Camp Street that strangers arrived and departed, some in green fatigues and others in civilian clothes, in an endless parade of undisclosed missions. Many of the visitors were Cuban exiles and men engaged in anti-Castro projects.
Dallas also had its anti-Castro activity, only parts of which projected above the surface in the 1960’s. We found in our earlier review of the New Orleans activity directed against Cuba that, while there were no large signs identifying the sponsor of the anti-Castro activity, the weight of the evidence consistently identified it as the CIA. It is only reasonable for us to recognize that the similar Cuba-oriented activity in Dallas was also sponsored by the CIA.
In Dallas, just as in the New Orleans operation, the men engaged in Cuban projects had occupations having no apparent connection with their work in these operational intelligence projects. One man whose activity in connection with Cuban projects existed not merely in the early 1960’s but went back into the 1950’s was a man ostensibly in the nightclub business. His name was Jack Ruby.
In August, 1959, Jack Ruby spent eight days in Havana. The following month he made a turn-around flight to Havana, staying only overnight, then flying back to New Orleans.
Earlier in the 1950’s, Ruby had consulted a surplus war supplies dealer and discussed the purchase of 100 jeeps. There were few things more valuable to the rebels in Cuba at that time than jeeps, yet the acquisition of these vehicles had to be indirect and through private sources, for a direct transfer from American military sources would be not only obvious but an action regarded as tantamount to active American military intervention in the conflict between the Cuban government and the insurgents.
American intelligence dramas are painted with a notably heavy hand. Among the activities assigned to Oswald—or his counterpart, as the case may be—were actions which would serve to create the impression that he had Cuban backing and assistance for the world-shaking event with which he soon would be credited. In the government’s investigation, a witness was found who gave details of his observation of Oswald receiving a large sum of money from a Cuban in the courtyard of the Cuban consulate in Mexico City. Of course, the fact that Oswald went through all the motions of seeking to obtain a visa to Cuba made stronger the inference that he had connections with the Cuban government. These incidents were developments built on the role he had played in New Orleans, in late summer, when he executed his brief drills with his Fair Play for Cuba signs.
Conceivably, the general indifference to Castro in America could have been fanned after the assassination to a white-hot heat had the pro-Castro lone assassin of the President been found to be in possession of Cuban entry papers issued to him by the Cuban government. The rallying cry, as thousands of U.S. Marines hit the Cuban beaches, well might have been: “Let’s remember John Kennedy.”
Thus, Ruby may have been right, insofar as the original plan was concerned, when he said after his arrest that the United States soon would invade Cuba. However, at some point after the initial plans for the assassination were formed, the decision appears to have been made to settle for the elimination of the President without extending the accomplishment into a Cuban expedition.
For one thing, by the autumn of 1963, much of the original gloss seems to have come off of Cuba as far as the CIA was concerned. The covert training of Cubans, which the agency had continued despite President Kennedy’s orders, had been ended on August 31, 1963, by raids conducted by other United States agencies on the training sites. Although the trainees and instructors were released afterward, this action seems to have spelled the death knell of the faint hopes for a Cuban adventure which had remained.
Furthermore, by the autumn of 1963, the CIA and its partners in empire had turned their attention to new green acres: the third world in Asia. Here was the new frontier where new and exotic weapons of destruction could be tested against undeveloped nations.
When the time came that the CIA finally took its eye off Cuba, its functionaries at the lower level would not be likely to know of the full shift of attention to Vietnam, Laos and the rest of Southeast Asia. In all likelihood, they would have continued to assume, as Ruby did and as Ferrie seems to have, that ultimately an American invasion of Cuba would occur.
Back when Cuba was still the jewel in the eye of the CIA, another incident helps to illuminate the complete Jack Ruby. Several years prior to the assassination, Nancy Perrin and her husband Robert, an adventurer who had participated in gun-running operations, attended at a Dallas apartment a meeting of Cuban exiles planning a raid on their home island. However, money was needed to back the enterprise, and the money had not yet shown up.
This meeting occurred during the period in which the anti-Cuban raids had been forbidden as a part of U.S. policy but the CIA still covertly approved them. During that period money and ammunition for anti-Cuban activities had to be obtained indirectly and could not be counted on to be readily available from Washington.
The general subject of conversation in the meeting was the prospect of regaining Cuba by a successful invasion. Then Jack Ruby arrived. He was greeted by the others as if they knew him well and had been waiting for him. Ruby had a noticeable bulge in his coat pocket and went immediately to the bathroom with a man wearing the uniform of a colonel in the United States armed forces (Mrs. Perrin could not recall whether it was an Army or an Air Force uniform). When they returned, the bulge was gone from his suit and there was no more talk of the need for money. It was apparent that Ruby was the money man for the operation. Even more interesting, it was apparent in this case that Ruby was no mere nightclub operator.
The above facts, of unusual relevance to the assassination, surfaced right in front of the Warren Commission and were adduced during the testimony of Nancy Perrin, who by that time was Nancy Perrin Rich. However, when she began to describe the ammunition which she and the others saw in the rear of the apartment, the commission attorneys stopped her testimony on the ground of its irrelevance.
Subsequently, an independent investigator located Mrs. Perrin and asked her what she was about to testify to when she was stopped by the Warren Commission’s attorney. She replied that they had been shown a cache of ammunition ranging from hand grenades to Browning automatic rifles.
One is inevitably reminded of the ammunition, the hand grenades most particularly, which were in the rear of Guy Banister’s office and which ultimately were sent to Miami for use on raids against Cuba.
The supply and training of the Cuban exiles, the varied involvements aimed at guerrilla raids of the island and a possible new invasion of Cuba, all came to an end with the raids of August 31, 1963, when other federal agencies raided the CIA-sponsored camps, seized the ammunition and arrested those present. This was merely implementation of the President’s announced policy after the Cuban missile crisis in the autumn of 1962, a policy which the CIA studiously had ignored. The flotsam and jetsam of the domestic operation of the CIA doubtlessly regarded this simply as more evidence of the danger to the nation which the President represented.
With the termination of the Cuban adventure late in the summer of 1963, the involvement in that enterprise of David Ferrie in New Orleans and Jack Ruby in Dallas also came to an end. However, it was not long until each of them once again was engaged in another affair of intrigue. This time there was even to be found a connection, however indirect, between the two.
Two nights before the assassination, a man named Meyers arrived in Dallas from Chicago with a woman, the same woman whose Chicago number, it will be remembered, was called from New Orleans by David Ferrie in September on the day Oswald left to return to Texas. Now, beginning with the night of Meyers’ arrival in Dallas, Thursday, November 20, Jack Ruby met with him.
On the night before the murder of Oswald, Ruby made a midnight call to Galveston, the same night that David Ferrie arrived there after his marathon ride from New Orleans.
Phone calls and meetings occur and the President of the United States is slaughtered. More phone calls and meetings occur and the man announced to be his assassin is eliminated. And in the middle of it all was Jack Ruby, the man whom the Warren Commission found to be merely a patriotic nightclub owner.
A Rifle for the Grassy Knoll
On the morning that the President of the United States was to be executed, the intermittent early rains had ended and the sun was shining brightly. Julia Ann Mercer was driving westward on Elm Street and had just passed the grassy knoll when a traffic jam occurred, briefly halting all movement. This happened about an hour before the President’s parade was to arrive. When stopped by the congestion, she was just beyond the underpass a short distance farther down the parade route from the knoll itself. The knoll, it will be recalled, was the high ground, concealed by a wooden fence and defiladed by trees, overlooking the street on which the President soon would be passing.
As she pulled to a stop, she noticed on her right a green, unmarked pickup truck parked next to the curbing. To her considerable surprise, she saw a young man dismount from the truck and remove a rifle. The rifle was wrapped in brown paper, but its outlines were quite unmistakable. The young man carried the rifle up the steep incline, which was a westward extension of the grassy knoll, just across the railroad tracks from the knoll.
Aware that the President soon was to be passing by this location, Julia Ann Mercer stared at the driver, who was still at the steering wheel of the truck. The driver, whose round face and thinning dark hair would become a familiar one to her, turned and glanced back at her. He stared at her for a long moment, and she saw his features distinctly. One more time, before the traffic jam cleared up, their eyes met, and she looked at him full in the face. Then she drove off and let the incident pass from her mind.
When the news of the assassination rocked the world, she recalled the incident of the truck and the unloading of the rifle. Here a comment must be made about Julia Mercer. She is a highly intelligent individual of obvious good character, the kind of witness whom any lawyer would feel fortunate to be able to call before a jury. Her conversion from the status of witness to nonwitness is a forceful commentary on the superstate’s serene disregard of truth, on its contempt for the mind of the individual.
On Saturday, the day after the assassination and before Oswald’s murder by Ruby, FBI agents showed Miss Mercer identification photographs. They lay in front of her perhaps two dozen pictures of men. Among them she recognized the driver of the truck from which the rifle was unloaded just past the knoll.
When the photograph was turned over by one of the agents she saw the man’s name: Jack Ruby. She remembered the name afterward.
She informed the agents that this was the driver of the truck from which the rifle was taken. When asked if the young man resembled Lee Oswald, whose face already was being hammered into history as the lone assassin, she replied that he did not resemble Oswald in any way. Apparently, the government, not satisfied with Oswald being merely the assassin at the rear, was seeking to have him firing from the front as well.
Two days after the assassination, Julia Mercer was watching television with her family when she saw the live telecast of Jack Ruby shooting Oswald in the stomach. She yelled to her family that this was the fellow who had been driving the pickup truck which had unloaded the young man with the rifle.
Even if the FBI had found her story unbelievable, which apparently was not the case since the agents produced his picture before he exploded into public view, certainly by noon Sunday Jack Ruby’s action at police headquarters should have aroused some interest. The government’s response, however, was not to take action on her statement, but instead, to alter her statement so as to make it meaningless.
First of all, her statement was changed to have it say that she was unable to recognize the driver of the truck. Had this alteration not been made, it would have been obvious to the world that the government had refrained from arresting Ruby until he had the opportunity to kill Lee Oswald. Had it been your picture and had you shot a duck out of season you would have been arrested in short order. Ruby, however, was not bothered. Like Ferrie, he possessed a special status in the eyes of the government agents.
Then her statement was altered further to have it say that the plain green truck was, instead, a green truck with AIR CONDITIONING printed in black on the sides. Of course, in the world of reality black print is not used on green trucks because it is then very nearly invisible, but in the world of illusion in which the federal government was conducting its investigation, one color was as good as another. The result was that many men wasted many hours trying to find a nonexistent “air-conditioning” truck.
Then the government’s agents wrote up a “supplementary investigative report” dated November 28 to make it appear that on that later date Julia Ann Mercer was shown a photograph of Jack Ruby and could not identify him as the driver. The FBI understandably was modest about its speedy guess, 24 hours before he killed Oswald, that Ruby might have been more than a mere nightclub owner. Consequently, it changed the date when it showed her this photograph to five days later, thus altering the fact of its extremely unusual inaction with regard to Ruby. It is obvious that the bureau, undeniably efficient in ordinary matters, was cooperating meticulously with some unseen force.
The only entity which can cause the bureau to depart from its religious devotion to efficiency is another government agency. By protocol government agencies are especially cooperative with each other. In a coup d’état where a government agency is involved, it can be expected that such routine protocol will be followed to an exaggerated extent. The surviving department heads will be move interested in pleasing the authorities above them than in serving a dead man in a box.
To shore up the careful construction seeking to undo what Julia Mercer saw, seeking to remove Ruby’s name from connection with the President’s assassination, an affidavit was drawn up ostensibly given by Julia Ann Mercer to the Sheriff’s office, and her name was signed to the affidavit. It was not, however, Julia Arm Mercer’s signature. It was not even close to being her signature. The affidavit, which purports to confirm the altered FBI statement, is a government forgery.
Had the FBI taken action on the Mercer identification of Ruby at Dealey Plaza, Ruby would have been arrested on Saturday, and he could not have killed Oswald on Sunday. However, in such case Lee Oswald’s tongue would not have been stilled forever, and one of the world’s greatest governments could not have exploited its tawdry pretense that a lonely little man killed the President of the United States and that in turn his own meaningless death brought justice to a full circle.
The government could not have allowed Oswald to survive because a live scapegoat sooner or later will scream the truth, and truth soon would become the government’s mortal enemy. The scapegoat’s death was preordained when the first shot rang out at Dealey Plaza. Even earlier, his death was preordained when he carried out in New Orleans his assignment of parading before the news cameras with pro-Castro signs.
There would be many deaths to come. Yet the greatest tragedy of all, surmounting any which might occur to any one individual, was what was happening to a government which once belonged to the people and to the people alone. No matter how great a nation’s past might have been, once it falls under the control of corrupting power there is no crime which it is above committing. It commits its worst crimes always in the name of justice, but they are crimes against humanity nonetheless. Once a government has set its course in this direction, its very inculpability will rob it of the freedom of turning back.