Sunday, June 29, 2008

New documentary on murder of JFK

A new documentary on the asssassination of John F. Kennedy has just been released. "Frame 313: The JFK Assassination Theories presents the various theories behind the murder and leaves the audience to make up their own minds.

“One thing we’re very proud of is that we don’t have an angle. We present evidence that supports multiple arguments and leave it up to the audience to decide who was behind the murder,” said Andersen, executive producer at Sundown Entertainment in Westmont. “It’s the first complete, objective overview of the most controversial, unresolved murder case in U.S. history.”

Saturday, June 7, 2008

One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy vs. Khrushchev; More Terrible than We Thought

It has become a truism in recent years for us to think that we know all the highpoints of the 1962 confrontation we refer to as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Many books have been written about it, and more than one movie has been made about it. But the history of recent times is still being written piecemeal as documents are slowly declassified by both the U.S. government and the Russian Republic. The latest author to take on the subject is Michael Dobbs, and he has benefited from recent disclosures. The most startling development is that it is now known that the Soviet Union had nuclear cruise missiles on Cuba that were aimed at Guantanomo Bay, the American naval base. These missiles each carried the destructive force of the nuclear bomb which destroyed Hiroshima. It was Khrushchev's intention to use them to wipe out Guantanamo Bay in the event of an American invasion. In a meeting at the Kremlin, Khrushchev had warned William Knox the head of Westinghouse that if the Americans attacked Cuba, Russians and Americans would "meet in hell." He made it quite clear that the American base in Cuba would "disappear" in the event of an invasion by the U.S. This was dismissed as "bluster" at the Kennedy White House, but in fact the Russians were deadly serious and the USA had no idea of what we were facing. The U.S. believed the cruise missiles were "unidentified artillery" and remained unaware they were in fact nuclear weapons. They were targeted on Guantanomo Bay on the very day the joint chiefs of staff urged an all out invasion of Cuba. Had Kennedy not shown restraint, the American base would have been wiped out, and a nuclear war would have been all but unavoidable. Rather than a superlative example of crisis management, the confrontation of 1962 now appears as an event in which the USA operated somewhat blindly, without vital information. However, John F. Kennedy's restraint now seems all the more important, without a doubt his refusal to invade Cuba saved mankind from a dreadful holocaust in which there would have been no victors, only the vanquished living in radioactive rubble. Those who survived a nuclear exchange would have envied the dead. The president himself had once said in a nuclear war "the fruits of victory will be ashes in our mouth." His words are more chilling and more true than he could have ever known. John Kennedy did not have the satisfaction of knowing how narrowly we avoided nuclear annihilation, it was even worse than he imagined. Those in the military such as Curtis LeMay who bitterly protested the peaceful outcome of the crisis should have been grateful that their Commander in Chief was JFK. Thanks to him, they would continue to see the sunrise, as would hundreds of millions of others. In 1961 the joint chiefs had pressed Kennedy for a nuclear first strike on the Soviet Union. The president resisted, and commented "if I give in to what they ask, none of us will be here to tell them they were wrong". At the United Nations Kennedy had warned "Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us." America has had many tomorrows since 1962, and it seems we can look forward to more. More than ever, we should be grateful that John F. Kennedy was at the helm in 1962, or there would have been no tomorrow for almost the entire world.

Friday, June 6, 2008

40 Years Ago...America Remembers Robert Francis Kennedy

From the New York Times, Friday June 6, 2008 :

"In his brief but extraordinary political career, the 42-year-old, Massachusetts-born Robert Francis Kennedy was Attorney General of the United States under two Presidents and Senator from New York. In those high offices he exerted an enormous influence on the nation's domestic and foreign affairs, first as the closest confidant of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, and then, after Mr. Kennedy's assassination in 1963, as the immediate heir to his New Frontier policies.
Despite the deep grief he felt after his brother's assassination, Mr. Kennedy set out to replan his political life. He ran for the Senate from New York in 1964 and defeated his Republican opponent by 800,000 votes in a campaign that demonstrated the visceral appeal he had for voters.
Mr. Kennedy, who entered the 1968 presidential race only after the New Hampshire primary demonstrated voter frustration with the Vietnam war, won primaries in Indiana, Nebraska and California.
It was in the early morning hours after his California win that Mr. Kennedy was shot in a kitchen corridor outside the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, where he had just made his victory speech. He died the next day, June 6, 1968."

Forty years after the murder of Robert F. Kennedy, America still remembers him. His presence and that of his brother seem to have hovered over the campaign of 2008. Early on, almost every candidate running in both parties tried to compare themselves favorably to John F. Kennedy. This only proved the high esteem the American public still have for John F. Kennedy. The politicians know it, and are quick to try and capitalize on it for themselves. Four times since March Hillary Clinton made public (and inadvisable) comments on the murder of Robert Kennedy and how it transformed the 1968 race for the presidency. While pundits argue endlessly over the meaning of Mrs. Clinton's remarks and her intentions, it merely underscored the fact that the abiding spirit of the Kennedy brothers endures and is on the minds of many .The brothers who called America to be better than itself, "to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield". The presence of the two Kennedy brothers, both now dead for over four decades seems to cling to America's soul much more tangibly than "Oswald's ghost", the subject of a recent documentary. America still yearns for what might have been, as if the intervening years have been little more than a dark night of the national soul. Almost two generations have come since John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, and yet many who never saw him, and never heard his speeches still hold him in high regard. Robert Kennedy is also held in a very positive light, and this transcends ideology and political party. The building which houses the U.S. Department of Justice is now named after Robert F. Kennedy, and it was a Republican president and his conservative attorney general John Ashcroft who renamed it in his honor. As Ethel Kennedy and his surviving children looked on a Republican president said this of Robert Kennedy in 2001:

"He was not our longest-serving Attorney General; yet none is more fondly remembered. And few have filled their time here with so much energy or seen events of such consequence. He was at his brother's side during the 13 days in October, 1962, where he was firm, and discerning, and calm.
In this building, he set to work on what would become The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Here, he gave the orders sending 500 U.S. Marshals to protect the Freedom Riders. He stood for racial desegregation. And to those on the other side of the issue, he said this: "My belief doesn't matter. It's the law. Some of you may believe the decision was wrong. That doesn't matter. It is the law"......With us today are some of the people who worked for our 64th Attorney General, each of whom counts it as an experience of a lifetime. They still look up to him. Time has done nothing to weaken their loyalty to the valiant and idealistic man they knew and followed. Robert Kennedy was a serious man, concerned with serious things. And he loved his friends. He was a strong man who understood weakness, a man who knew privilege, but also suffering. He fought to gain power, chose to use it in the defense of the powerless."
RFK remains a misunderstood man to this day. Some conservatives and others view him as a "limousine liberal" who believed in easy handouts and welfare. In fact, he campaigned against welfare in 1968, insisting that work must be substituted for welfare. He knew well that welfare could be a destructive force, but that work restored human dignity.
Barry Goldwater, the lion of American conservatism, was also charmed by RFK though not at first. At first Goldwater saw him as a spoiled rich kid who had not done much on his own. But then he watched Kennedy and his phenomenal work ethic as he pursued a battle against organized crime and its influence in labor unions. The two men became acquainted when RFK went to work for the McClellan committee. Goldwater was filled with admiration as Kennedy began working day and night in the struggle, driving himself as hard as he drove any of his staff. Pierre Salinger later recalled one night in particular as he and Bobby finally left the office at 1 a.m. and both were very weary. But as they passed the headquarters of the Teamsters Union, Bobby saw that the lights were still on in Jimmy Hoffa's office. "If he's still at work, then we ought to be" Bobby declared and so they returned and worked for two more hours. While some called him ruthless, an opportunist, and other names, one cannot deny his selfless dedication which showed forth brightly in 1968, his last campaign, and his last battle. Killed at the pinnacle of victory in the California primary, his funeral was held at St. Patrick's cathedral in New York City. And then began a long slow train ride as his body was carried across America to Washington D.C. Ordinary people of every kind and every color stood in silent tribute as the train rolled by. Paul Fusco, a photographer captured many of them from his perch on the train. Fusco recalled: " Three women are seated at the edge of a crowded platform, two of them holding small babies in their arms . Behind them two others reach out toward the train. A black woman kneels on the dirt, a white purse hanging from her arm, her hands locked in prayer.
A small boy holds his hands flat against the pockets of his shorts.
A woman in dark glasses bites her fingers.
A man on crutches waves one crutch high in the air.
An older woman holds a handkerchief over her mouth.
A mother holds the hands of two children; one of them holds the hand of a third.
Three teenagers salute.
A white-haired man waves his straw hat in farewell.
Some hands hold American flags; others hold wildflowers.
An old man clutches his throat, and some people fold their arms, hiding their hands as if for protection.
A man and a woman wave a big hand-lettered sign: SO-LONG BOBBY.
The train moves on, along the worn silver rails.
So long. So long. So long."

The one they called ruthless had campaigned for love in 1968, and had stated his goal "to make gentle the life of this world". His death was brutal, and provoked a controversy that rages to this day, not unlike the one that still burns over the murder of his brother. While we still seek solutions to these crimes, we also still remember two men from an extraordinary time of turmoil and tension in American politics. And a country that still remembers and longs for a piece of itself, still missing and still missed after so many years.
Youtube has many nice video tributes, here's one that I like:


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Caroline Kennedy to Assist Search for Obama's VP

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New Evidence of JFK's Vietnam Withdrawal Plans

Due to an appeal by researcher Michael Ravnitzky, the National Security Agency (in cooperation with other agencies) has declassified some previously redacted passages from a document originally released in December 2007. That document was called "Spartans in Darkness: American SIGINT and the Indochina War 1945-1975" and covered the results of signal intelligence gathered in Vietnam during the time period specified. "Sigint" is of course an abbreviation or acronym if you prefer for signal intelligence, which simply means intelligence gathered by intercepting radio transmissions between people or between machines. While much of the material released today seems of little importance one particular passage will catch the interest of those who study John F. Kennedy's Vietnam policy. The release of previous documents have outlined Kennedy's withdrawal plans, leaving little doubt he was seeking a way out. Today's release spells out in unmistakable terms that this was indeed the case and that his assassination effectively terminated those plans. The passage :
With the deaths of Kennedy and Diem, the struggle in the South entered a period of enormous flux and instability. A plan developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, under guidance from the Kennedy administration, to reduce American forces in Vietnam by the end of 1965 to one-quarter the 1963 level (25,000), was quietly scrapped.” (p. 171).
On November 24, 1963 new president Lyndon Johnson stated his intention to "win the war" in a meeting with his advisors. Johnson stated: " the battle against communism… must be joined… with strength and determination. We should stop playing cops and robbers [a reference to Diem's failed leadership] and get back to... winning the war... tell the generals in Saigon that Lyndon Johnson intends to stand by our word...[to] win the contest against the externally directed and supported Communist conspiracy." (p.339 Stanley Karnow's "Vietnam") Almost immediately upon assuming the presidency Johnson commits the USA to war in Vietnam.
As McGeorge Bundy would comment later in life "Johnson held stronger views on the war than Kennedy did". The figure of 25,000 is a little curious as in fact the USA had about 16,000 troops acting as military advisers in Vietnam in 1963 at Kennedy's death. I think it must include other Americans as well, such as CIA personnel and others, so that it was Kennedy's intention that there be no more than approximately 6000 Americans in Vietnam by the end of 1965.
One has to wonder just why this passage was redacted in the first place. What this means is that as recently as December 2007 the release of such a passage was considered a threat to the national security of the United States! Those of us who are reading it now have to be more than skeptical of such a claim. Congratulations are due to Mr. Ravnitzky in pursuing his appeal. Mr. Ravnitzky is one of the most indefatigible researchers in filing FOIA requests and has succeeded now in over 2000 of them. He has compiled an index of FBI documents which is unique. It gathers together thousands of FBI documents and provides researchers with a powerful tool to read and obtain significant documents. It is not a comprehensive index of FBI documents but rather collects ones that Mr. Ravnitzky considers the most significant. He also provides practical advice for any researcher pursuing FOIA requests. Interested readers will find more information here:
While "Spartans in Darkness" provides a useful historical perspective, it seems in error on some points. For example it describes Kennedy's withdrawal plan as an attempt to pressure President Diem into making reforms. In fact, JFK himself made it quite clear that his withdrawal plan was just that, a withdrawal plan. General Maxwell Taylor suggested using the threat of withdrawal as a device to pressure Diem, but it was made to clear to Taylor and all concerned that the president's intention to withdraw was serious. See "JFK and Vietnam" by John M. Newman, pp. 400-417.