JFK + 50: Why It Still Matters

11/13/20130 Comments

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by James Corbett
BoilingFrogsPost.com
November 12, 2013

50 years ago this month, the President of the United States had his head blown off in broad daylight.

As is to be expected, there are those who will passionately argue that this event is of little historical significance. What is somewhat surprising is that those who argue thusly include some of the most respected academics and researchers of our era.

To be fair, nothing from Kennedy’s background prior to his assuming office in 1961 would have given one any reason to believe that he would pose any serious threat to the establishment. After all, the famed Kennedy fortune had been accumulated entirely within the framework of that establishment. The dynasty’s progenitor, Joseph P. Kennedy, was a man of naked ambition, who used his wealth to buy power and influence and his power and influence to accumulate more wealth. His stock market manipulations of the 1920s, including pump-and-dump schemes and insider trading operations, were enough to get him appointed as head of the SEC under Roosevelt (“takes one to catch one,” FDR famously quipped), and rumors of a seedier side to the fortune, including bootlegging in the Prohibition era and mafia involvement in the rise of both the family’s political and economic fortunes have long persisted.

Kennedy himself had campaigned not on an era of peace and reconciliation with the Soviets, but on the worst Cold War propaganda. He had bought into a Rand Corporation-pushed lie about a “missile gap” between Soviet and American nuclear capabilities that had to be closed, when in reality the gap went the other way; at the time the Soviets had only four ICBMs in their arsenal, not the 500 touted by Rand. Kennedy signed off on the Bay of Pigs operation in April 1961. And in one of the major (if less remembered) crises of the Cold War, the Berlin crisis of 1961, the Kennedy White House drew up plans for a nuclear first strike on the Soviets if a confrontation unfolded.

But the image that might once have been painted of Kennedy as just another toady of the establishment has since been obliterated. In every respect, the documentary record shows that behind the scenes, Kennedy’s experiences were transforming him into a significant roadblock to that establishment which had placed him into power.

As documents, testimony and primary sources that continue to emerge from beneath the wall of classification demonstrate, Kennedy was engaged in a high-stakes struggle with the most powerful elements of a clique that had formed around the national security state, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon and the CIA itself. A struggle that demonstrably altered the course of history and ultimately cost him his life.

The struggle began with Kennedy’s dawning realization that his military advisors were not interested in avoiding armed conflict with the Soviets, but in provoking it. From the time of the Bay of Pigs fiasco onward, Kennedy’s relations with the Pentagon and the CIA became increasingly strained to the point where there was open hostility between many of the military’s top brass and the Agency’s vanguard and the President himself.

The series of events culminated in NSAM 263, the National Security Action Memorandum that had long been thought of as the Vietnam pullout orders. In the wake of the release of Oliver Stone’s JFK film, which popularized the notion that Kennedy was preparing to pull US forces out of Vietnam, Chomsky and others worked vociferously to deny this interpretation, insisting that Kennedy was going to stay the course in Vietnam just as LBJ ended up doing. In effect, Stone’s critics argued, Kennedy’s death changed nothing with regards to US foreign policy.

But Stone’s movie provoked such public outcry that in 1992 the US congress passed the JFK Records Act of 1992, which formed the Assassination Records Review Board to examine and release the still-classified documents relating to the JFK investigation. The documents released as a result of that investigation, which concluded in 1998, have only further vindicated the historical view that President Kennedy had in fact given the orders to begin the Vietnam pullout on October 11, 1963, just over one month before his death.

The picture that emerges from the historical record is one fundamentally opposed to that painted by the critics who argue that his death was of no significance. On the contrary, we find an escalating series of events that put JFK squarely at odds with the most powerful members of the National Security establishment that had been established with the National Security Act of 1947 and was still in its early phases.

What JFK’s death represents is not the otherwise unremarkable death of one more interchangeable component of the establishment political class, but a coup d’etat that removed a major roadblock to that establishment. A coup d’etat that occurred in broad daylight. A coup d’etat for which the real perpetrators have never been brought to justice.

The implications of this, far from the trivial happenstance that some make it out to be, are indeed profound. The type of organized, interlocking, subterranean power that is required to perform such an operation and to cover it up is difficult to comprehend. As the author of one of the most important books on the JFK assassination in recent years, James Douglass, notes, the implications of this event are so profound as to be unspeakable.

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