Monday, June 26, 2017


Conversations with my significant other re assassination of John F. Kenneday
B   So Jack, what do you think about the CIA?
J   I think it’s a needed part of our government.  You don’t think we should do away with it, do you?
B   Do you approve of assassination plots against leaders of other countries?  Do you think that’s acceptable?
J   No.  I don’t believe in assassination, but I believe in working to get them out of office.  Without a doubt.
B   Is it all right for other countries, then, to send people over here, like the Russians and the Chinese, to hire traitors and work to get our people out of office?  Is that acceptable? 
J   I don’t like other countries coming over here and upsetting things.  [But it’s all right for us to do that to other countries.]  Yes.  It’s all right, and I don’t imagine they like it.   But I don’t think it’s all right for them to do it.  I think if they didn’t do it, we wouldn’t either.  [Oh, really!]  What?  I wish I could see you better without my glasses.  I’ll get them on in a hurry.
B   What worries me about this sort of thing is that you can’t expect to get away with it
scot-free.  It’s like fooling around with nuclear weapons.  We’ll just drop a bomb here and there, and we’ll use force to get our way.  [Oh, no, no, no.]  Do we think that we’re going to escape forever? 
J   We’re not going to drop any nuclear bombs, Barbara.
B  We did once. 
J   Of course we did once, honey.  That was a different thing, you know that.
B   It was a terrible thing.  You ought to read that little book called Hiroshima. 
J   Oh, I know it, the people.  I feel very sorry for the people.  Anybody that was alive would feel sorry for the people. It’s too bad.  And I’m not convinced, honey, that it had to be. 
B   It was a terrible, terrible thing to do.  If Russia had done that or China had done that, you would regard them as monsters.
J   No.  If Russia were invaded—[We weren’t invaded!  America wasn’t invaded!]  Well, we were invaded, honey, as far as Pearl Harbor.
B   Well, why couldn’t we have a little Pearl Harbor back? They didn’t kill five hundred thousand people or whatever. 
J   Is it numbers?  Are we going to count numbers? 
B   Yes!  Of course!  [I don’t think so.]  I don’t think you should retaliate with overkill.  Then you escalate and you escalate—[Escalate?  Christ, that was the end of the war, honey.  There’d been hundreds of thousands killed by that time.]  So why did we have to drop the bomb?  It was over. 
J  I don’t know.  I really don’t know. 
B  We had a toy, and we had to try it out. 
J   Well, that’s one version of it, I suppose.  We weren’t invaded?  Christ, they were in Alaska, they were off the California coast.  Pearl Harbor belonged to us.
B   There are those who say they were driven to that by our, what was it, a blockade we had?  Something that we had done to them.  We drove them to take some kind of action, just as we would in their place, if we—
J   Yeah, but we wouldn’t have done what they had done up to that point, honey.
B   We did something so much worse.  Don’t say what we wouldn’t have done, we’ve done the worst thing that any country in the world has done by dropping that bomb. 
J   I’m going prior to the bomb. 
B   Oh, then it’s all right.  Once somebody does something to us, then we can do something worse.  And then they can do something worse than we did.  And then we can do something worse than the last thing they did.  But we can always go back to the fact that they started it, right?  Well, then why can’t we go back a step further to what made them—they didn’t just come over to Pearl Harbor on a lark.  They had been pressured and pushed, too.
J   So they can bomb and kill all those people at Pearl Harbor?  Had we killed one Japanese up to that point?  Of course we hadn’t.  We never killed a Japanese until they killed, I don’t know how many thousands.
B   Are you going to say there are people that we’ve never killed?  How about the Cambodians?
J   No, I’m saying this.  You know what I’m saying.  I just said what I said.  Don’t put something else in my mouth.
B   I’m saying that whatever the Japanese were driven to do, that if we had been in their place, being the militaristic country that we are, we’d have done the same thing.   [Have we ever done anything like that?]  Yes, we have.  In Jefferson’s time we didn’t because Jefferson wouldn’t allow it to happen.
J   When did we do that?  When did we fly planes in and bomb ships and kill people the way the Japs did at Pearl Harbor? 
B  At Hiroshima. 
J   Well, that was war, honey.  I’m talking about the instigation of war, when no war was declared.  When did we ever do anything like that?
B   I’m sure that we have.  I don’t think we’re so lily white.
J   That is your answer, and you’re going to stand by it.  “I’m sure that we have.” 
B   I can probably find out, the way I’ve found out other things. 
J   I don’t think you could. 
B  You didn’t think I could find out that Jefferson had illegitimate children by his slave, Sally Hemmings. 
J   You’re unbelievable. 
B   I think that going over and rescuing thirty-nine men—we’ve never heard a word about how many Cambodians were killed in that exercise.  Forty-one Americans were killed rescuing thirty-nine Americans.  Nobody had been killed in that incident.  We couldn’t wait a while to find out what was going to happen.  We had to play the big shot, show how powerful we were, when some pirates, without the authorization of the Cambodian government—okay, they didn’t do the right thing, but we didn’t give the government a chance to work it out peaceably.
       We went in and we killed people, including our own men.  There’s an example right there.  And how about the secret bombing of Cambodia?  The Cambodians didn’t do anything to us. 
J   We weren’t bombing the Cambodians.  We were bombing the North Vietnamese who were in Cambodia. 
B  Quite a few Cambodians got in the way.
J   I don’t know how many Cambodians were killed.  I don’t think it’s been established that we ever killed any Cambodians in the bombing. 
B   I think it’s established.  It wouldn’t have had to be such a big secret if it wasn’t a terrible thing to be doing.
J    If you had some authority and some responsibility, and these people are coming out of Cambodia and attacking Americans that are in South Vietnam and then going back to Cambodia as a sanctuary, you’re saying that you’d just have to put up with this forever?
B   I think we shouldn’t have been involved in the whole thing to begin with.  There wouldn’t have been any Americans to attack and capture if we hadn’t been over there, sticking our nose in their national movement.
J   You may be right that we should never have been there to begin with.  But there were a hell of a lot of people that decided we should be over there.  You think JFK was the greatest thing—he thought we should be there.
B   I’m getting a more realistic view of JFK with this book.  [Oh, now you are.]  As a practical matter I don’t think that he would have let it get as out of hand as Johnson did.
J   Why didn’t somebody come along in the two different parties to say we shouldn’t be there.
B   They did.  There were a few voices crying in the wilderness.
J   I’m talking about the commanders-in-chief. 
B   There was a David Shoup, General Shoup that you didn’t think too much of.
J   No, I said commanders-in-chief.  I never heard of David Shoup.  I don’t know who David Shoup is.
B   He’s a general, and he didn’t think we should get involved with Vietnam.  And when Khrushchev heard about our involvement, his first reaction was, the Americans are making a mistake.  They’re going to get into a bog that they’re not going to get out of for a long time.
J   That’s a fact.
B   And there were a few other people.  Think of Averill Harriman.  He was in his seventies back when Kennedy became president.  A reporter asked a Harriman aide what it was that made Averill Harriman different from other politicians, and he said, For one thing, I’ve never met a man seventy-nine years old who was still ambitious.   
     At that age he had seen that it was time to start talking to Khrushchev, and he'd had a meeting with him.  Khrushchev started bullying him and attacking the United States, and he was taken aback, but he stayed calm and continued to talk rationally, and pretty soon they were sitting there being reasonable together.
     Harriman went way out of his way to go to Paris.  He knew Kennedy was going to have a meeting in Vienna with Khrushchev, so he made it a point to be in Paris at the same time Kennedy was.  To speak to his sister, find out where he was going to be, get invited to—
J   Speak to whose sister? 
B   Kennedy’s.  Eunice Shriver.  Get invited to the state dinner that Kennedy was going to be at. He find himself two seats away from him, and hear Eunice say to Jack, “Averill has something he wants to say to you.”  Jack had been primed for this, so he listened.  Averill had always told his aides, when you have something to say, say it as briefly and clearly as you can.  The gist of it was, Don’t let him bully you.  Don’t be thrown off, have some fun, be kind of light-hearted about it, appeal to his sense of humor.
J   Yeah, don’t let him think that you’re taking him too seriously.
B   And don’t let him think that he’s getting the upper hand, but don’t start fighting back because that’s what he wants.  Meanwhile, other people were giving him other advice:  take a tough stance.  You’re young, and you’ve had this Bay of Pigs disaster, so don’t let him think that you’re weak and that the country’s weak.
      So it turned out to be, he said, the worst day of his life.  He met—who’s that reporter I like who lives on Martha’s Vineyard?  [Reston?]  Yes, James Reston.  He was the only reporter granted an interview, and he knew they would be furious and jealous.
     He went to meet Kennedy, sneaked into the darkened building in a darkened room, didn’t even turn on the lights and waited two hours.  Kennedy came in, and he started to get up, and Kennedy said, Never mind, sit down.  Don’t even turn on the light.
     The President went over and sat down and I don’t know whether he put his head in his hands or what he did, but he was obviously shattered, and Reston said, “Is it bad?’  He said, “It was the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
J   You mean his meeting with Kruschev?  He took him too seriously.
B   Yes, it had gone the way Harriman was afraid it would.  [He came back and said that.  I remember that.]  Kennedy said, “What I can’t understand is why he did it.” 
J   He acted like he did at the United Nations.
B   And he was cashing in on the Bay of Pigs incident and figuring that Kennedy—
J    Kruschev wasn’t as bad a man as the one he had to deal with prior to that.  Kruschev berated Stalin.  He downgraded him.  I don’t think Kruschev was anywhere near as bad as Stalin.
B   Somebody described the early beginnings of the anti-communists.  The Russians’ fear of us and our fear of them, each thinking their side was right and the other side wrong.  They were compared to two blind dinosaurs struggling in a small pit, each one sure that all that he was doing was defending himself, and the other one was being the aggressor.
J  You know, this South Vietnam thing—[There’s all kinds of Communism.]  There’s national and there’s international, and some people think that it’s a way of life for their country, but not international communism.
B   Big business here hates and fears Communism because it goes against everything that they stand for.  But a country can have these desires to be unified and to live a certain way without being affiliated with Moscow. 
J   Sure, sure.  Yugoslavia is a prime example.  So is Rumania.  And so I don’t know.  I don’t know whether Italy or those other countries, France—
B   That’s how we got drawn into Vietnam, because of France, our weak ally.  There were people that wanted to help them militarily in Vietnam.  Others felt, well at least we won’t interfere.  We’ll let them go back in there—[This is the Eisenhower era.]  And this is what Kennedy inherited.
       And I’d always heard how Eisenhower had warned Kennedy about the Military-Industrial complex, but I read something else that he said.  “We can’t let Laos fall to Communism 
because then they’ll all go.  The Domino Theory.   From Eisenhower.  From the horse’s mouth.  So he may have said both things.  Maybe he didn’t visualize the way it would escalate.
B   People try to tell something they know, like in some of these assassinations, and they get murdered or they die mysteriously. 
J    I know it, but a lot of those people who were caught had good reasons for keeping their mouths shut.
B   They sure did because a lot of them died.  [I’m talking about Watergate, you know that.]  And I’m talking about the assassinations. 
J    I know it.  The fact that—[Well, they got—sorry, go on.]  I forget my point.
B   I just think that a lot of the ones that finally began to talk—was it McCord who finally blew it?  They’d been promised they’d get off easily, and then they didn’t, and they saw other people getting off, and so that’s when it blew.
J    I think sooner or later it’s clear to them that what they thought they were doing and the reason for it was something less than the truth.   And they say, well hell, I got orders from—every time I say the Attorney General, I get sick—[laugh]—they say, this isn’t as bad evidently as what I would think it was because there may be a tremendous reason for it.
B   You mean back when they did those things at Watergate?. 
J    Then they find out that it was just as shoddy as it looked in the first place. I don’t know what the reason was. 
B   The whole thing started with that little, tiny cog in the wheel, the guy who found the tape on the door, right?  I wonder how many other things go undiscovered.
J   When you think of how these employees with the CIA and the FBI are sounding off about what they think is wrong and writing books and everything, I should think that if there was information, sooner or later it would come out.
B   Some of them, I think, could probably verify it, but they’re afraid to.  The CIA is pretty ruthless about getting rid of anybody that gets in their way. 
J  Well, I should think they would have got rid of a few of these guys that are doing so much talking  now. 
B  They may bring all kinds of pressures to bear on them to try to shut them up.  If they can’t do it by just saying it’s a bunch of lies, they’ll find other ways. 
J   You know what?  They all know it.  The whole treaty in South Vietnam was to get the American troops the hell out of there, and then after that it was all downhill.  They must have known that we couldn’t save Vietnam with the American troops out of there.
B   This latest business of Rockefeller and the CIA saying, There’s nothing in our investigation that is going to save the people involved in clandestine activities and assassinations.   And now it turns out that Rockefeller’s committee stopped short of looking into the assassination plots and has turned it over to Senator Church.
J   Christ, there’s nobody they could better turn it over to than Senator Church.  I don’t see why you’re still suspicious.
B   They must have been embarrassed by what they found out.  They start out with a picture of the President and his aides cheering  over our great victory.  It makes the country feel good.  And then little by little, Oh well, maybe there were a few casualties, until finally it turns out as many people were killed as were rescued.
J   And you think they knew that right along.
B   I don’t think they’re honest.  I don’t think Rockefeller was being honest.  What they’re doing is making the people numb or . . .. what’s the word?  Breaking it gently so you get used to the idea.  You get callous.  [Who’s callous?]  The American people.  If they read in headlines all at once, bang, the CIA hatched a number of plots to kill Castro and actually attempted to carry them out, they’d be shocked.
J   I never heard that they attempted to carry them out. 
B  Yes, Senator Church said that from what he’s seen so far, that is so.
J  Well, there were plots.  When you say “attempted to carry them out,” has it been described how and when the attempts were made?
B   I think Church will learn that through his investigation, but by that time we’ll be used to the idea.   And we’ll be reading all sorts of rationalizations. Somebody connected with the CIA said,  “I didn’t know about the plot, but I can understand it.  Castro was someone any person in their right mind would want to see assassinated.”
      I think this sort of thing is dangerous, and it makes me wonder about the assassinations of Kennedy and his brother.  Castro denies that his country had anything to do with them, but maybe that’s why everything is so hush-hush and covered up, and the Warren Commission's report is questionable but jammed down our throats.  
J    I don’t believe Castro ever sent anybody over here to kill Kennedy. 
B   No, neither does Ed.  And probably he didn’t.  The very fact that it’s possible that people connected with our government could plan an assassination makes me wonder if our two assassinations were all that haphazard.  As you know, I’ve always wondered, and now this just makes me wonder all the more.      
 J   I don’t know.  All I know is what I think, what I feel.
B   There are things that the public can’t take.  You’re John Q. Public, and you just couldn’t take the knowledge that maybe two of our good men were killed indirectly because this branch of our government was in the assassination business.
J   I don’t understand what you just said.
B   Suppose it were in retaliation.  There were wild-eyed, crazy fringe elements in the CIA, people that hated Kennedy enough to want him dead.  I still think it’s likely that it could have been a plot.  And yet you or the average American citizen couldn't bear to believe that.  Maybe years from now you’ll call me and say, Oh my God, it was true.  [You think that.]  I think that could happen.
J   What if it doesn’t?  Would you call me?
B   I’d say, I’ll guess we’ll never know, Jack, we’re ninety years old now. [I’m 90 years old as I reread these conversations in June of 2012,]
J   You won’t call me and say that. 
B   I promise I’ll call you if we get to be ninety and they still think it was Oswald.  [Who’s they?]  The public and the government, if they still claim that it was an assassination by a single assassin with a single bullet. 
J   I have to have something concrete to go by.
B    It’s funny, I’ve been propounding this theory to Ed.  He said, “We’re set up to plot assassinations.  We have this big, powerful country and powerful connections, and we’re set up to do it.  I don’t think Castro’s set up to do that.”  
     And yet, according to the Warren Commission it didn’t take some big powerful organization to achieve these assassinations, it took a couple of nuts.  [Right.]  So why couldn’t a couple of nuts that heard we’re trying to knock off Castro, why couldn’t they decide, If they’re going to do that to us, we’ll show them.  Maybe Oswald had friends in Cuba.  It did seem as if Cuba kept cropping up in the Warren /Commission's report.

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