looking back on the assassination of President Kennedy
On Friday, November 22, it will be 50 years since US President John Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas.
50 years later we still do not have a convincing and coherent explanation of what actually happened, and who really murdered the president. Kennedy had made enemies while in office. Anti-Castro Cubans never forgave him for failing to provide military support to the Bay of Pigs action in 1961, and for closing down the paramilitary training camps for ex-patriot Cubans in Florida and other southern states. Organized crime figures were angered by the actions of the president’s brother, Robert, as US Attorney General. Israel hated President Kennedy as he did not want Israel to acquire atomic weapons (which Israel was working to develop during the 1960s). Kennedy believed that such weapons would further destabilize the troubled region. Kennedy wanted the CIA reconstituted, and that made him implacable enemies among some of its operatives.
We may never get the truth as to who killed the president. The still “official” story that a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, shot Kennedy is no longer tenable. There are too many problems with that explanation. Recently, more attention has been focused on the then vice president, Lyndon Johnson. Johnson had a history of chicanery, corruption, and even violence, by proxy, against his enemies. The old Latin adage may be apropos here. “Who benefits?” With Kennedy dead, Johnson would become president.
There are 2 things that we believe are nearly certain. First, except for the death of Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson would never have become president of the US. In 1964, Kennedy either would have won re-election or his challenger from the other major political party would have won the election. Would Johnson have been able to win the Democratic Party nomination in 1968? Not likely. There was much talk by Kennedy administration insiders prior to the assassination of dropping Johnson from the campaign ticket in 1964. If that had happened, Johnson’s political ambitions would have been effectively over. As well, by that date, 1968, more of the crimes of Johnson would have become public knowledge. (The American people were not ready for a third president in a little more than a year, and thus Johnson, in a campaign of lies and smears against his opponent, was elected President in 1964.)
Secondly, the US would not have entered into a war in Vietnam. This may be surprising to some readers. Kennedy was souring on the idea of a US war in southeast Asia. Very quickly, upon becoming president, Lyndon Johnson expanded the US military presence in Vietnam and had his Defense Department begin awarding lucrative contracts to his political allies and major campaign contributors.
Why does this matter?
The assassination of President Kennedy did alter the course of US history by changing the succession of presidents who followed him in office. If Kennedy is not murdered, we would not have had Johnson as president. It is possible that later Richard Nixon would not have become president either. (What if Senator Barry Goldwater wins in 1964 against John Kennedy? Would Nixon have been able to make a political comeback later, say in 1972?) The policies of both these men (Johnson and Nixon) hurt the US both internationally and domestically. Both men were for expanding the size and reach and power of the federal government, and through their actions and policies did just that.
President Johnson was such a lightning rod for the anger, discontent, and disillusionment of the American youth in the mid and late 1960s. His war in Vietnam deeply divided and polarized the country. (By contrast, the inept Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s, although he did damage to the US economy and made serious foreign policy blunders, did not divide the country so deeply as Johnson had.)
I am not so young that I do not remember the year 1968. On the evening television news, each night, we saw the universities and colleges in upheaval as young people vented their rage and frustration over the war in Vietnam. A war that after repeated escalation was no nearer to successful conclusion. We saw 2 more assassinations in 1968. In early April, Martin Luther King was killed. 2 months later, in early June, Robert Kennedy, campaigning for president, was killed in Los Angeles. (His killer, Sirhan Sirhan, seems to have been a product of military mind control programs of the time. The relevant question is: A product of whose military mind control programs?) That summer, we saw thousands of people converge on the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. There was some violence there. Nixon won the election in November and then continued the very unpopular war he had inherited for another four years!
The 1960s would have been a turbulent time for US society even without Lyndon Johnson becoming president, even without a war in southeast Asia. Johnson (a vile character) made things worse, more turbulent. There were other cross currents in the 1960s. Civil rights, women’s rights/feminism, and “sex, drugs and rock n roll” were gaining traction and serving to change society in dramatic ways. (We are not saying that all young people were engaging in promiscuous sex, and/or doing dangerous drugs. But, a growing percentage of young people were engaging in risky or destructive behaviors, and this trend continued well into the 1970s and beyond.)
Who can say how events would have turned out in the 1960s if John Kennedy had not been murdered? We can say that things would have likely been different, perhaps significantly different, and perhaps not nearly as bad as regards the social fabric of our society.
I would like to offer this view about the perceived “need” for the US to fight the Vietnam War. The so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident was likely bogus and used as a justification by Johnson to make war in Indochina. That aside, the Domino Theory was touted at the time as the reason for fighting in Vietnam. After 1965, once Suharto had removed Sukarno in Indonesia, and purged the country of communists (estimates vary, but between 300,000 and 500,000 people were killed), this domino justification cannot be taken seriously.(Indonesia sits astride strategic shipping lanes, and is rich in oil, natural gas, and various metals.) Consider, also, that by 1965, the communist insurgency in Malaysia (formerly British Malaya) had mostly been neutralized. Thailand, being ethnically cohesive, with a history of independence, and a strong military, was not an easy target or prize for communists from within or without. (Thailand was the only country in the region that had been able to avoid colonization by Europeans.)
The only countries that would likely have fallen to communism if the US had not intervened militarily in Indochina were, ironically, the only ones that fell to communism after the decade long US intervention, namely, South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Thanks for reading.