Saturday, February 18, 2012

Now, Finally -- Who Really Did Murder JFK? V


So.  Here we are again, circling reality a half century later and hoping enough dots will come up to connect.  The following might help set the focal distance.

Last week I tried to tip in enough detail about Lee Harvey Oswald to suggest that he was neither a solitary nut case taking potshots at the presidential motorcade through heavy foliage nor an innocent passerby, essentially unconnected to the events of the afternoon.  Oswald was a player -- a minor player, complicitous in the anti-Castro intelligence scrimmaging of the previous summer in New Orleans and apparently in touch with the cast of underworld technicians and mid-level Agency operatives that converged on Dallas that weekend in November to welcome the president.

CIA files remain largely embargoed, but FBI records tell quite a lot.  I have to conclude that the Bureau came fairly late to the party, and got dragged in mostly for the cover-up. What could be more embarrassing for Hoover, after all, than to have to admit that Oswald was on the Bureau's payroll for a year before the shooting?  Early Bureau warnings that Kennedy was at risk had headed off motorcades in Chicago and Miami -- the rabid segregationist Joseph Milteer had inadvertently alerted the Bureau.  Combing out Bureau records while researching Bobby and J. Edgar, I myself ran into extremely telling documents.  A regular CIA pilot, Robert "Tosh" Plumlee, who had since 1956 been flying the top "strategizer" for the Chicago Outfit, Johnny Rosselli, on Company errands, asserted in an affidavit that Rosselli was on "a mission, we were told, to abort a pending attempt on the President's life...."

Another heavy clue turns up in the transcription of a telephone call between LBJ and Hoover the day after the assassination.  The freshly sworn-in president wants more information about Oswald's purported visit to Mexico City in September.  "No, that's one angle that's very confusing for this reason," J. Edgar responds.  ""We have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet Empassy, using Oswald's name.  That picture and tape do not correspond" to Oswald.  It had started to dawn on individuals at the top of the government that the scenario they were depending on to hang this crime on Oswald was already falling apart.

What makes the most sense is the projection developed by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann in Ultimate Sacrifice.  Kennedy administration officials as high as ex-Secretary of State Dean Rusk have acknowledged U.S. military planning -- troops training -- throughout the Caribbean just then in anticipation of "C-Day."  This meant another attempt to invade Cuba late in 1963, to expunge Communism "ninety miles from America's shore," as JFK so often put it, and guarantee the president's reelection in 1964. What was obviously needed was a pretext, a "bloody shirt" with which to enrage the citizenry and assure widespread public backing.

An attempted assassination of the president ought to light the fuse.  The "legend" the disinformation specialists around the Agency had concocted for Oswald -- a fervent "Fair Play for Cuba" advocate, purported to conspire with a Soviet assassination expert in Mexico City -- left him the perfect fall guy.  But Johnny Rosselli's boss, Sam Giancana, Al Capone's successor -- after single-handedly raising enough money and stuffing enough ballot boxes in Illinois to get JFK elected as a personal favor to well-connected old Joe -- found himself hammered day and night by tough guys from Bob Kennedy's Justice Department.  Along with Johnny Rosselli, Giancana sent down James Files and Charlie Nicoretti, his two best button men, who took out the president.  Giancana reasoned that the government was far too implicated by then to blow the whistle, and he was right.  The planners still had Oswald, at least as long as he never got to trial.

All this is well documented in Bobby and J. Edgar.  Perhaps the most tragic survivor was Robert Kennedy. I knew Bob fairly well the final couple of years of his life.  He was profoundly troubled.  Often -- and correctly -- referred to as the "co-president" during his brother's days in power -- "I couldn't have done it without him," Bobby liked to gibe, Bob was a frustrated and defensive senator. Catholic that he was, guilt played a very large part.  In 1967, interviewed by Jack Anderson, Rosselli concluded that "Robert Kennedy may have approved an assassination plot which then possibly backfired against his late brother."  He added that the oil boys put up the money for this big-store operation.

Bobby wanted Castro's scalp, perhaps a little too badly, as he himself would remark sadly while running for president. During the Mongoose years Robert Kennedy had worked closely with Johnny Rosselli, who had been busting heads and arranging payoffs for Joseph P. Kennedy since the nineteen-twenties.  But whatever
either Robert Kennedy or the Agency had scripted that afternoon in Dallas, it was Sam Giancana who seems to have decided the outcome.

Once it had happened, everybody involved started shoveling.  Robert Kennedy recommended Allen Dulles -- whom his brother had canned for incompetence -- and John McCloy, the go-along voice of The Establishment.  When New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison began to investigate the New Orleans prelude to the assassination, Bob sent his investigative attack dog Walter Sheridan down in the role of producer of an NBC documentary to discredit Garrison's witnesses. Bob moved his brother's brain around -- an early examination might have determined the angle of the entry wound and the character of the bullet -- for years.  One day he himself would get at the truth behind the loss of his brother, Bobby assured the curious.  That was apparently enough.

One additional note. This President's Day would mark the eightieth birthday of Edward M. Kennedy, were he still with us.  I wish he were.  His compelling personality and unique knowledge of even the finest detail of pending legislation made the Congress workable for decades.  He had his susceptibilities, but he had so much to offer the country that his loss proved crippling, immediately.  I knew him from his undergraduate days in college, wrote about him for four decades, and ultimately put together Edward Kennedy:  An Intimate Biography.  Most critics have concluded that it is definitive, and I hope they are right.  I expect to point up his amazing record on these pages before long.  Let us commemorate here his life and career.

Burton Hersh

1 comment:

  1. What is the source that Bobby Kennedy recommended Dulles and McCloy for the Warren Commission?


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