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WHO WILL PRAY FOR JFK?
“Arma Virumque Cano” (Virgil’s Aeneid)
November 22nd 2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of American President John F. Kennedy. It would seem that there are two distinct versions of this man, since the mythology that has accrued ever since has been contradictory at best. How can one man be so different from what we thought we knew? Indeed, so much has been written that many people now switch-off: unable to separate the truth from the myth, they drown in the brown tsunami of disinformation perpetrated by his murderers who make our world so dysfunctional. Confusion becomes apathy.
George Orwell wrote of the rationale behind propaganda: “Who controls the present controls the past. Who controls the past controls the future”. It is the duty of every historian to challenge propaganda, no matter how politically dangerous that may be. American soldier (and whistle-blower) Bradley Manning is under trial now because he told the truth about the slaughter of unarmed civilians. Orwell again: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”. Hitler too knew that deceiving people was quite simply a matter of constant repetition until the lie becomes the fact. The historian JFK’s first book “Why England Slept” was published in 1940 when he was only 23 and became a best-seller: he donated the royalties to recently-bombed Plymouth. (Interestingly, the BBC insinuates that the book was only a success because his father bought so many copies, or that he himself did not write it etc. This is the same BBC that warned us about WMD in Iraq). JFK wrote: “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic’. Once again, his words ring resoundingly true.
The real JFK is to be found in his own words, his writing, speeches and his press conferences; there one finds the voice of wisdom, courage, candour, empathy and above all, great good humour. If ever in need of an inspiring quote, try him first. From the very start, one discerns the deepest compassion and abhorrence of violence: he remained true to those values throughout his life. Overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles (not least his health) he was elected President in November 1960. His Inaugural Speech of 20th January 1961 still inspires - but there is prescience there too: in his reference to the road to justice not being completed in 1,000 days – sadly the duration of his last days on Earth. (Ted Sorensen’s biography of 1965 is a most reliable primary source.)
James W. Douglass’ 2008 book “JFK & The Unspeakable” is the key to understanding who killed JFK and why. The story begins with his predecessor (Eisenhower) giving his Farewell Address on TV (watch it on YouTube). Eisenhower warned the American public of the unwarranted power of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) because it was in their interests that war (and the fear of war) must continue. The whole American economy is built upon the manufacture and sale of armaments. JFK came to power to change all that and to make the world a better place. Twice, the world came to the brink of major confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia: Berlin in 1961 but most dangerously in 1962 when Russia based nuclear missiles in Cuba. Most of his advisers - political, intelligence and all the military - were pushing him to attack Cuba but he knew that to do so would only throw petrol onto the flames and a nuclear holocaust would be the ultimate outcome. Using every available channel of communication, JFK and Khrushchev stepped back from the abyss – to the consternation of their own military. JFK knew that his own life was now in danger from his own side: on the conclusion of the Crisis, he remarked to his brother Bobby that “…tonight would be a good night to go the theater” (a reference to the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865). Bobby replied that if Jack was going, he was going with him. These were prescient remarks for both men. (See Bobby Kennedy’s “Thirteen Days”).
The major reason that Russia had based its nuclear missiles in Cuba was that Fidel Castro had every reason to fear an American invasion, after the CIA’s abortive covert invasion – the 1961 Bay of Pigs Fiasco. JFK had inherited this mess from the previous administration, but had been lied to by the CIA who were trying to trick him into ordering a full-scale military invasion. JFK would not be bullied into escalation then, but later publically accepted full responsibility for the disaster. When the subsequent inquiry by General Maxwell-Taylor revealed that the CIA had lied to the President, he sacked the CIA chief, Allen Dulles and swore to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces”.
Because the world had come so close to annihilation, both Kennedy and Khrushchev worked together to agree and implement a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. As part of his selling the idea, JFK gave yet another wonderful address, this time to the American University (June 10th 1963) which speech was barely mentioned in the US Media, though broadcast in full throughout Russia. Kennedy later mounted a campaign to persuade the public to write to Congress and Senate to achieve Ratification of the Treaty on 5th August.
Exactly one month after JFK’s assassination, former president Truman (the post-WWII founder of the CIA) wrote to the Washington Post that the CIA had strayed too far from its original remit [of collating intelligence] and into the sinister world of disinformation and assassination. Allen Dulles tried to force Truman to withdraw his remarks and when Truman refused, Dulles forged a retraction and published it. The final irony is that Allen Dulles was appointed by JFK’s successor Lyndon Johnston to manage the Warren Investigation into the assassination: their only brief was to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald was a ‘lone- nut’ assassin and that there was no conspiracy. Dulles concealed the fact that Oswald was a longtime CIA asset.
The quote at the beginning aptly translates: “It is of arms and the man I sing”. Virgil wrote his epic poem as propaganda to ‘deify’ Julius Caesar who likewise met his end at the hands of ‘honourable men’. Propaganda (like assassination) is almost a part of the Human Condition, hence the Commandment against bearing false witness. As Shakespeare’s Antony says of Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interr’d within their bones”. Is it not fitting that - as we approach the 50th anniversary of his death - we remember the best part of JFK: his courage, intellect and compassion? Do we not believe in Redemption? Who will say a prayer for JFK?
Hugh O’Neill, M.A.
1st March 2013