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David Lifton

JFK, the Berlin Crisis, and the forces that took his life

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This thread concerns Kennedy's "Berlin policy," and the recently published book by Frederick Kempe, "Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth." The Kempe book revives a very important issue, one that author Richard Reeves analyzed in depth 18 years ago in his book, "President Kennedy: Profile of Power." I thought I'd start this thread, to put the matter in context.

In my opinion, understanding what happened in Berlin in the "summer of '61" (and in what is called "the Berlin Crisis") is critical to understanding what followed in the Kennedy administration in the area of JFK's foreign policy towards Cuba and--consequently--Berlin figures as another marker on the road to Dallas.

I have not read Kempe's book (just yet) but those interested in this subject should be aware that the basic situation JFK was facing in Berlin is narrated (and analyzed, in considerable detail), in author Richard Reeves' 1993 book "President Kennedy: Profile of Power." What is known as the Berlin crisis began on 6/4/61, when JFK met Khrushchev in Vienna (at what is sometimes referred to as the "Vienna Summit"), and Khrushchev delivered an ugly, fist-banging ultimatum: that he was going to sign a separate peace treaty with East Germany, that access to Berlin (located over 100 miles inside East Germany) would then be controlled by East Germany (and the Communist regime of Walter Ulbricht) and the west be damned.

Kennedy was faced with this ugly ultimatum and the problem of what to do about it. For a brief while, what actually happened in Vienna, and the full extent of Khrushchev's ultimatum was not made public.

What happened next: The hawks in JFK's administration clustered around former Secretary of State Dean Acheson who, on 6/28/61, wrote a critical memo that defined the parameters of the situation. Acheson decided that Berlin was the place to face down the Soviets,once and for all. Acheson's memo instructed Kennedy to "prepare for war. . .nuclear war." Siding with Acheson were the JCS AND Vice President Johnson--yes "and Vice President Johnson". Moreover, the JCS sought authority to use tactical nukes to defend West Berlin (can you believe that? Well, its true).

Kennedy sought to find a way to avoid war, and to maneuver around this dangerous situation, and convince Khrushchev that he meant business. His brain trust consisted of Sorenson, Schlesinger, Mansfield---and a young MIT whiz named Thomas Schelling, an expert in game theory. (You can buy his books on game theory on Amazon).

As events unfolded, Kennedy learned (to his distress) that Khrushchev did not care what Kennedy said--only what he did. So: Kennedy basically had to bluff Khrushchev--publicly--but the stakes were huge and the risks were terrible. A strategy had to be devised that projected the credible appearance that Kennedy would in fact go to war over Berlin, without actually going to war. For Kennedy, it was touchy, scarey, and just plain awful. He had to tread a very fine line.

JFK went on TV on July 25, 1961, calling for increased money, calling up reserves, increasing draft calls, etc. There were also very serious (and secret) back channel communications, involving Bobby Kennedy and the Russian spy Bolshakov.

The bottom line: Kennedy made the decision that what counted (i.e., what he ultimately wanted) was Western access to West Berlin--that he could not be responsible for what East German did in its zone (i.e., the Soviet Zone). In other words, JFK made the decision that the U.S. would not go to war to protect the "freedom" of East Berlin--just the freedom of West Berlin. That's where he drew the line.

Most important: JFK was able to "walk in the other guy's shoes." He understood that East Germany was hemorrhaging at the rate of 2,000 per day. So he understood that the East German government was going to have to do something about that.

Kennedy was (apparently) hoping that the East German government would simply seal off their own border, and solve their political problem that way. And in fact, Senator Fulbright, in a national TV appearance on "Issues and Answers," signaled that that would in fact be acceptable to the U.S.

The public response to JFK's 7/25/61 speech was very positive. Hugely positive, in fact.

Behind the scenes, much of JFK's strategy was dictated by his conferring with Thomas Schelling. (All this is spelled out in Reeves).

During this very dangerous period, after the July 25, 1961 nationwide TV address (but before the Wall went up [8/14/61] which marked "the end" of the Berlin Crisis ), Bobby Kennedy thought the chances of a major nuclear war were one in five. Yes, one in five. It was that serious.

The "resolution" of the crisis was the erection of the Berlin Wall on 8/14/61. As explained by Reeves, that avoided a nuclear war in Europe. No question about it.

Its all spelled out in Richard Reeves; and you've got to read BOTH the text, AND the footnotes.

The Berlin Crisis --starting on 6/4/61 and ending on 8/14/61--is every bit as hair raising as the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year. But Kennedy played it down, after it was over. No proclamations were made. Just two key news stories--one in the NY Times and the other in the Washington Post--explaining the "real-politik" of the situation, and that the Wall marked the end of what had been a dangerous situation.

From a memo in my files that I wrote three years ago. . .:

QUOTE: I've read through Reeves' chapters (and all the footnotes) very carefully, and now have a much greater understanding of what happened between June 4 and August 14 (1961) It seems clear to me that "the Berlin Crisis" is almost as dramatic as the Cuban Missile Crisis, but the details are not known because many of the most fundamental documents (including the official record of the JFK-Khr meeting of June 4, 1961) were not available until the 1990s, and both Schlesinger AND Sorenson hid the true nature of the frightening way Khrushchev behaved on June 4, in delivering his ultimatum. (So did Hugh Sidey, who also--apparently--had access to the official notes of the meeting.) Again, Reeves' book was not written until 1993, and the other key sources on which he relies. . .. UNQUOTE

Here's another passage:

QUOTE:

Anyway, nuclear war was avoided because of some very sophisticated maneuvering by JFK (and Sorenson, and Schlesinger, and probably RFK, too) that was on a par with-and completely equivalent to--the strategic maneuvering and tactical thinking that JFK again employed during the much more well known Cuban missile crisis, which commenced fourteen months later, and lasted for the famous period known as "13 days." UNQUOTE

And another:

QUOTE: "However, in the lead-up to the climax--which extended through must of June, and into July (and which ended with a major nationwide TV address by JFK on the address of 7/25)--former Secretary State Dean Acheson (who was called in as an adviser) weighed in with a critical memo (6/28/61)--a very hawkish document recommending that JFK prepare for nuclear war over Berlin. The JCS wanted to use nukes, too. In the key meetings, LBJ sided with Acheson and the JCS.

In this [memo], I cannot possibly adequately summarize the complex situation, but the story of how JFK maneuvered through this diplomatic and military minefield is all laid out in Reeves' 1993 book--IF you not only read the text, but also the footnotes.

What I learned from this is that its not possible to understand how JFK/RFK approached Cuba (with Mongoose, starting in October/Nov 1961) if one does not understand what happened in the 10-week period between June 4 and August 14, and which must have been a thoroughly terrifying experience (and a prelude, of course, to what happened in October 1962, when the Soviets put missiles in Cuba). UNQUOTE

Here's some more background. During the crisis (and apparently as part of the strategy), JFK authorized Joseph Alsop to air his personal views in a Saturday Review article. The headline of the Alsop Saturday Review article: "The Most Important Decision in U.S. History—And How the President is Facing It"

Now, focus this language (QUOTING ALSOP, reporting Kennedy's thinking):

* * * The decision, as Alsop phrased it, was “Whether the United States should risk something close to national suicide in order to avoid national surrender.” UNQUOTE

Kennedy knew he had to avoid appeasement, or even the appearance of it. "What he said to insiders: If he wants to rub my nose in it. . its over."

"It's over" meant just that--that if, after all JFK did, Khrushchev insisted on "taking" Berlin (via the use of its proxy, the East German government) there would indeed be war.

From my notes on JFK's 7/25/63 Berlin Speech:

JFK addresses the nation—and played his hand, to show how serious he was, designed to make Khrushchev "pay attention":

--tripled draft calls

--Personal sacrifice neccessary

--fallout shelters

--More $ for military (put in details)

I don't know how this data is treated in Kempe's book (my copy is on order from Amazon). What I'm laying out here is how author Richard Reeves dealt with this remarkable situation in his really excellent 1993 book--and remember, that was 18 years ago.

There's little question in my mind that the prospect of nuclear war was very serious--as I said above, Bobby Kennedy estimated the chances at 1 in 5.

There's also no question that JFK's key adversary, politically, was former Secretary State Dean Acheson (supported by the JCS AND Vice President Johnson). Acheson, in the aftermath, viewed Kennedy as an "uninformed" young man, who was "out of his depth," etc. When Kennedy navigated the dangerous Cuban Missile Crisis, 14 months later, he (Acheson) called the positive outcome "pure dumb luck."

(If you want to understand the nature of "political forces" that were allied against Kennedy, it wasn't just people like Lyman Lemnitzer and Curtis Lemay. One cannot ignore Acheson.)

So much for what you will find in Reeves book. . now, here are some of my own views.

DSL PERSONAL VIEWS ON RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BERLIN CRISIS AND SUBSEQUENT CUBA POLICY

FIRST: Kennedy's failure to "knock down the wall" (and other such crazy ideas) was viewed, by the top political/military leadership, as on a par with his failure to send in the Marines in connection with the Bay of Pigs. So to those people, by August, 1961, Kennedy was an out and out appeaser, and it looked this way:

--March 1961: Kennedy failed to go into Laos with troops, as advocated by Sec State Dean Rusk

--April 1961 Kennedy failed at the Bay of Pigs

--August 1961 Kennedy failed to knock down the Berlin Wall

To me, this kind of "analysis" is sheer lunacy, but. . and here's where I am heading. .

SECOND: when it came to Cuba, and the fall of 1961. . I don't believe that John Kennedy was going to risk another brush with thermonuclear war because of what he viewed as a revolutionary out-of-control Marxist in the Caribbean, whose associate, Che Guevara, was fomenting revolution in South America.

Consequently--and this is just my opinion--understanding what happened in Berlin (circa 6/4/61 - 8/14/61) is essential to understanding the "moral calculus" or "ethical calculus" that motivated Kennedy in deciding --if necessary--to treat Castro (personally) as a military target and overthrow his regime, rather than risk a rerun of the frightening experience he (and brother Robert) had just had in Berlin. (And can you blame them?)

So that, imho, explains his calling in Tad Szulc, and asking: "What would you say if I gave the order to assassinate Castro?" etc. He simply had no intention of losing his presidency by being "tolerant" of a Marxist regime 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

What's amazing to me, once you read Reeves, is how Sorenson played it down, in his book, and even in Counselor, his recently published memoir published just a year or so prior to his death. I think that he simply didn't want to let the world know that Kennedy had played nuclear poker. Again, that's my opinion.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading Kempe's book, but I don't think I will agree with his conclusions, at all.

There's little question in my mind that, as historian Robert Dallek correctly has said (and Dallek probably has pored over all the same documents that Reeves had, and to which Kempe had access) that this was THE single most dangerous crisis (other than the Cuban Missile Crisis).

I really do not believe that how JFK viewed the "world stage" and the rapidly evolving events, and the problem posed by his own recalcitrant military can be properly understood without appreciating the super-charged Berlin crisis (6/4-8/14/61), and how it ended without a war (on 8/14/61) BECAUSE OF "the wall."

As JFK said on 8/14/61: "Better a wall, than a war" (from memory).

I agree. We're here today, and the map of Europe looks the way it does, because of how that crisis was handled.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE

Kempe talks of his visit to East Berlin, and his traverse through Checkpoint Charlie. I had the same experience, but at a much earlier time. As I write this post, I have in front of me my passport from 1961, when I was briefly living in Paris, and in general, was touring Europe in a VW "bug" that I purchased when I first arrived. The Wall was big news--all over the world--and I and a companion, a Fulbright Scholar, set out from Paris and went to Berlin. We entered East Germany on August 30, 1961 (at Helmstedt) and were in Berlin in a few hours. As U.S. citizens, we had the right to go into the "eastern zone," and that's what we did. I have some vivid memories of that day--just two weeks after the Wall went up. Checkpoint Charlie--the crossing point on the Frederichstrasse, looked exactly as it did in the movie "The Spy That Came in from the Cold." Parked nearby were the U.S. tanks, that had been involved in the famous standoff. As we passed through Checkpoint Charlie, off to one side were men with microphones, taking down everyone's license number. We spent several hours in East Berlin (which was akin to a poor section of Brooklyn) with some buildings emblazoned with large posters of Soviet astronaut Yuri Gargarin, and then returned to the glass and steel beauty of West Berlin. It was a memorable experience.

Of course, at the time I had no idea of the behind the scenes policy debates that were going on. Or how close the world had come to the outbreak of a nuclear war in Europe.

DSL

6/21/11 5:45 PM PDT

Los Angeles, CA

Edited by David Lifton

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In another thread on this forum, a thread was started about the recently published Kempe book.

The Kempe book revives a very important issue, one that author Richard Reeves analyzed 18 years ago in his book, "JFK: Profile in Power," and so I thought I'd start this thread, to put the matter in context.

Understanding what happened in Berlin in what is called "the Berlin Crisis" is critical to understanding what followed in the Kennedy administration, in the area of foreign policy, and--very possibly--on the road to Dallas.

I have not read Kempe's book (just yet) but those interested in this subject should be aware that the basic situation JFK was facing in Berlin is narrated (and analyzed, in considerable detail), in author Richard Reeves' 1993 book "JFK: Profile in Power." What is known as the Berlin crisis began on 6/4/61, when JFK met Khrushchev in Vienna (at what is sometimes referred to as the "Vienna Summit"), and Khrushchev delivered an ugly, fist-banging ultimatum: that he was going to sign a separate peace treaty with East Germany, that access to the city would then be controlled by East Germany (and the Communist regime of Walter Ulbricht) and the west be damned.

Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth

By Frederick Kempe

http://books.google.com/books?id=2wMMHhWJnBwC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

Some documents from the National Security Archive: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB56/

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I think that the Berlin Crisis is indeed a very important event in the Kennedy years. I did not read the book "Berlin 1961" from Kempe so far, as I only bought that book yesterday.

For those wanting to read more on this crisis I can say that two books - which I both read in recent weeks - are very interesting and well documented:

Kennedy and the Berlin Wall - W.R. Smyser

This book has the complete story of what led to the crisis in 1961. Also the role of Lucius Clay is discussed in detail.

Kennedy in Berlin - Andreas Daum

This book zooms in to the visit to Berlin in June 1963. Very informative to read about the "ich bin ein Berliner" speech, and to see how politicians at that level behave.

In this book Daum talks about the discussions between Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and West-Berlin-mayor Willy Brandt on who was to be the first one to shake hands with Kennedy, and who was allowed to stand next to Kennedy during the motorcade through Berlin.

Another great book on the situation off Berlin is

Berlinkrise und Mauerbau 1958 bis 1963 - Rolf Steininger.

This book is written in German (I could not find any English translation, so I bought the German one. I just started to read it this week; as I am not that fluent in German it will take some time to finish that book).

What I like about this book is that it has a look at the situation from a German point of view.

What I learned from reading this books so far is that Kennedy did a lot of things "in his own way". He ignored some top - military advisers, and listened for a great deal to Lucius Clay and his own inner-circle advisers.

After reading the books I think it is very fortunate that Kennedy did solve it this way. A lot of military advisers had a much stronger solution in mind which would have started a new World War.

But also the books suggest that Kennedy made some people think he acted "weak" on this issue. So one might argue that some people on higher places in government were concerned about this.

This crisis emerged not too long after the Bay of Pigs.

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So that, imho, explains his calling in Tad Szulc, and asking: "What would you say if I gave the order to assassinate Castro?" etc. He simply had no intention of losing his presidency by being "tolerant" of a Marxist regime 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

I'd find it hard to believe you were just unaware of what else Szulc noted about that conversation, so why did you leave that out?

Oh, that's right. It doesn't accord with your theory.

What's amazing to me, once you read Reeves, is how Sorenson played it down, in his book, and even in Counselor, his recently published memoir published just a year or so prior to his death. I think that he simply didn't want to let the world know that Kennedy had played nuclear poker. Again, that's my opinion.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading Kempe's book, but I don't think I will agree with his conclusions, at all.

There's little question in my mind that, as historian Robert Dallek correctly has said (and Dallek probably has pored over all the same documents that Reeves had, and to which Kempe had access) that this was THE single most dangerous crisis (other than the Cuban Missile Crisis).

I really do not believe that how JFK viewed the "world stage" and the rapidly evolving events, and the problem posed by his own recalcitrant military can be properly understood without appreciating the super-charged Berlin crisis (6/4-8/14/61), and how it ended without a war (on 8/14/61) BECAUSE OF "the wall."

As JFK said on 8/14/61: "Better a wall, than a war" (from memory).

I agree. We're here today, and the map of Europe looks the way it does, because of how that crisis was handled.

Some might construe your efforts to give the appearance of supporting one thing, while subtly undermining the same thing in the detail, as somewhat insidious.

No me, David. I'm not that kind.

Here is all we need to know about Kempe and his book:

http://stupidschmucks.blogspot.com/2011/06/todays-new-idiot-frederick-kempe.html

DSL

6/21/11 5:45 PM PDT

Los Angeles, CA

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Here is all we need to know about Kempe and his book:

http://stupidschmucks.blogspot.com/2011/06/todays-new-idiot-frederick-kempe.html

I respect Joe Backes and his efforts researching the JFK assassination. He pulls no punches in his assessment of Kempe and his book:

Today's New Idiot - Frederick Kempe

Here we go again.

EVERY time a Right-wing nut has an allegedly scholarly article, essay, book, film, whatever, examination of President John F. Kennedy it ALWAYS boils down to "if only JFK wasn't such a ______ pussy about the Commies."

For the Right-wing nuts who know nothing of history, learn nothing from history, know nothing of context and what else was going on at the same time as whatever example of JFK being a ______ pussy about those g__ d___ Commies they want to talk about it's always easy, and simple. You just smash the Commies and you win. Game over. Nothing to worry about. No consequences. What's next? I'm surprised they haven't created The John Cleese "Commies, I hate 'em! " think tank.

And we got another goose stepping moron playing this game. His name is Frederick Kempe.

Backes is entitled to his opinion and his vitriol. He uses a pair of book reviews to make his points. Backes writes: "The book is so bad even The New York Times bothers to notice."

In that NYT review, Jacob Heilbrunn writes:

These are some of the questions that Frederick Kempe, the president and chief executive of the Atlantic Council, broaches in “Berlin 1961.” Kempe, who was for a time The Wall Street Journal’s bureau chief in Germany, has
performed prodigies of research
, consulting American, German and Soviet archives as well as interviewing numerous participants in the Berlin crisis.
His reconstruction of the diplomacy and events leading up to August 1961 is spellbinding.
But the revisionist conclusions he draws from them are not always as convincing. (bold added)

Backes continues: "But perhaps the best refutation of Kempe’s book comes from Richard J. Tofel who reviews the book at The Daily Beast." Backes winds up selectively quoting most of Tofel's review.

This serves to occupy most of Backes' blog entry.

But Backes does not bother to post this opening paragraph from the review by Tofel:

Frederick Kempe’s new book, Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth, is
deeply reported and researched, lucidly written, carefully considered—must reading for anyone interested in the subject
. But while I am personally quite fond of its author, a former Wall Street Journal colleague, it is also fundamentally wrong in the conclusions it draws about some of the mistakes made by President John Kennedy during his first year in office. (bold added)

Backes' assessment of those two reviews is far too one-sided and selective for my tastes.

If anyone is interested in the subject matter, Google books has made Kempe's book available for free, almost in its entirety. I've never seen the necessity of throwing a book out, based solely on the author's conclusion(s).

For example, Dale Myers' book, With Malice has been heavily criticized by JFK researchers and perhaps rightly so, but the fact remains that there is valuable information to be had from reading Myers' book.

In many cases, the very information Myers provides helps to refute his own conclusions.

Many researchers take John Armstrong to task for his conclusions, and even some of his findings. But there is no doubt that Armstrong provided valuable research and sometimes some startling evidence.

(And no Greg, this is not directed at you).

Like all epic historical events the Berlin Crisis was complex and controversial It provided many issues for students and historians to ponder. I spent about an hour reading excerpts from Kempe's book

and formed no opinions about him or his work. I did form the opinion that the book contains important, useful and interesting information on the subject. My interest was not enough to check his sources

or evaluate his conclusions.

But I am not about to rely on Joe Backes and his one-sided blog entry as "all we need to know."

Edited by Michael Hogan

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Jim,

I do agree with your analyses of the Berlin crises.

In recent years I read a lot about this crises, and as I mentioned above, I get the idea that Kennedy did a good job in handling the Berlin crises as he did.

Some people in the military suggested military action, even with nuclear force. Kennedy did not go with that.

Also he had to deal with France and Great Britain as well. Both countries were not willing to risk another war over Berlin.

(According to W.R. Smyser in Kennedy and the Berlin Wall)

Although it seemed to be a very tense situation, I think that both Kennedy and Khrushchev were perfectly aware of the situation.

During the stand-off with the tanks near Checkpoint Charly general Clay informed president Kennedy that the Russians were there for a matter of their defense.

Not for a moment did he think it would come to a real clash between America and the USSR. His reasoning was that the Russians brought in exactly the same amount of tanks as the Americans did.

If they had any ideas of attacking they would have brought more tanks in. They had much more tanks then the Americans had.

So basicly, when reading this books, it becomes clear in my mind that both Kennedy and Khrushchev were showing to the world that they are prepared to take a tough stand, while behind the scenes they both knew this was the best sollution of the problem.

The building of the wall was for Kennedy a sign that the Sovjets acknowledges the rights of the US, UK and France to West-Berlin.

And so Khrushchev's ultimatum of 1958 was not longer a hot political issue.

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Thanks Hugo.

There is one important point that Schlesinger does leave out. And you mention it: the tank standoff at the Brandenburg Gate. This is what I meant about Virtual JFK. The film does deal with this issue. And it shows that Kennedy relayed orders to Clay not to be provocative. ANd the film uses this as one of the (I think) five foreign policy incidents that show that Kennedy likely would not have escalated in Vietnam.

BTW, i think I was right about the new book being a RW hit job.

I looked up the Berlin episode on Wikipedia. They use this guy's book for half the footnotes.

The Tank confrontation at the Brandenburg Gate was one of several very Intense moments during the Cold War of the 1950's and early 60's.

Both sides were trying to show restraint and at the same time demonstrate their resolve.

One screwup by a Tank Crew on either side could have triggered an avalanche of events that everyone wanted to avoid.

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After what I read about the Berlin crisis this standoff was for sure a tense moment. Both sides were worried that the other side would attack. Luckily both sides remained calm.

The fact that the Russians put exactly the same amount of tanks in line as the US had makes it clear that they were there on a defensive mission.

It is important to mention something I read in the book The Berlin Wall (by Frederick Taylor). He analyses this chapter in history and made it very clear that it is a good thing that Khrushchev did not listen to GDR leader Walther Ulbricht. Ulbricht wanted a much tougher stand towards the Western powers in "his" Berlin. Also the American side was kind of happy with the Russian tanks at that moment, because the East German border troopers were much more of a risk.

Btw: the standoff did not actually took place at Brandenburger Gate but in its vicinity. The standoff happened at checkpoint Charlie which is at the Friedrichstrasse.

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Here is all we need to know about Kempe and his book:

http://stupidschmuck...rick-kempe.html

I respect Joe Backes and his efforts researching the JFK assassination. He pulls no punches in his assessment of Kempe and his book:

Today's New Idiot - Frederick Kempe

Here we go again.

EVERY time a Right-wing nut has an allegedly scholarly article, essay, book, film, whatever, examination of President John F. Kennedy it ALWAYS boils down to "if only JFK wasn't such a ______ pussy about the Commies."

For the Right-wing nuts who know nothing of history, learn nothing from history, know nothing of context and what else was going on at the same time as whatever example of JFK being a ______ pussy about those g__ d___ Commies they want to talk about it's always easy, and simple. You just smash the Commies and you win. Game over. Nothing to worry about. No consequences. What's next? I'm surprised they haven't created The John Cleese "Commies, I hate 'em! " think tank.

And we got another goose stepping moron playing this game. His name is Frederick Kempe.

Backes is entitled to his opinion and his vitriol. He uses a pair of book reviews to make his points. Backes writes: "The book is so bad even The New York Times bothers to notice."

In that NYT review, Jacob Heilbrunn writes:

These are some of the questions that Frederick Kempe, the president and chief executive of the Atlantic Council, broaches in "Berlin 1961." Kempe, who was for a time The Wall Street Journal's bureau chief in Germany, has
performed prodigies of research
, consulting American, German and Soviet archives as well as interviewing numerous participants in the Berlin crisis.
His reconstruction of the diplomacy and events leading up to August 1961 is spellbinding.
But the revisionist conclusions he draws from them are not always as convincing. (bold added)

Backes continues: "But perhaps the best refutation of Kempe's book comes from Richard J. Tofel who reviews the book at The Daily Beast." Backes winds up selectively quoting most of Tofel's review.

This serves to occupy most of Backes' blog entry.

But Backes does not bother to post this opening paragraph from the review by Tofel:

Frederick Kempe's new book, Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth, is
deeply reported and researched, lucidly written, carefully considered—must reading for anyone interested in the subject
. But while I am personally quite fond of its author, a former Wall Street Journal colleague, it is also fundamentally wrong in the conclusions it draws about some of the mistakes made by President John Kennedy during his first year in office. (bold added)

Backes' assessment of those two reviews is far too one-sided and selective for my tastes.

If anyone is interested in the subject matter, Google books has made Kempe's book available for free, almost in its entirety. I've never seen the necessity of throwing a book out, based solely on the author's conclusion(s).

For example, Dale Myers' book, With Malice has been heavily criticized by JFK researchers and perhaps rightly so, but the fact remains that there is valuable information to be had from reading Myers' book.

In many cases, the very information Myers provides helps to refute his own conclusions.

Many researchers take John Armstrong to task for his conclusions, and even some of his findings. But there is no doubt that Armstrong provided valuable research and sometimes some startling evidence.

(And no Greg, this is not directed at you).

Mike,

The difference between Armstrong and Kempe is that Armstrong refrained from titillating in the manner of some Kennedy "biographers", and nor did he, as far as I know, start out with an agenda, apart from trying to solve the case. I do think Kempe had an agenda. He was just a little more subtle about it than others on Camelot.

Like all epic historical events the Berlin Crisis was complex and controversial It provided many issues for students and historians to ponder. I spent about an hour reading excerpts from Kempe's book

and formed no opinions about him or his work. I did form the opinion that the book contains important, useful and interesting information on the subject. My interest was not enough to check his sources

or evaluate his conclusions.

But I am not about to rely on Joe Backes and his one-sided blog entry as "all we need to know."

Let me rephrase. It's all I need to know. Just my way of saying I won't be buying the book. I have actually read numerous reviews on various sites. The majority are positive. But then, there are others who picked up on the subtle bias, and still others who found not insignificant errors of fact above and beyond any pointed out by Joe.

Edited by Greg Parker

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Wait a minute.

THis guy was a WSJ employee? A bureau chief?

And the reviewer worked for the WSJ also?

Uh, nope. You don't do that.

Did he work there before or after Murdoch bought it?

Frederick Kempe had a distinguished thirty year career with WSJ and left shortly before Murdoch bought it. He's written several books, including one on Noriega.

It's worse than you think. Kempe is now president and CEO of The Atlantic Council United States: http://www.acus.org/users/frederick-kempe

He has appeared numerous times on CSpan, commenting on a wide variety of issues: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/frederickkempe

He's a moonlighter: http://www.gsenergy.com/AdvisoryGroup/Kempe.aspx

I'm not saying he is, but the guy has the bona fides of an intelligence asset for sure.

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Wait a minute.

THis guy was a WSJ employee? A bureau chief?

And the reviewer worked for the WSJ also?

Uh, nope. You don't do that.

Did he work there before or after Murdoch bought it?

Frederick Kempe had a distinguished thirty year career with WSJ and left shortly before Murdoch bought it. He's written several books, including one on Noriega.

It's worse than you think. Kempe is now president and CEO of The Atlantic Council United States: http://www.acus.org/users/frederick-kempe

He has appeared numerous times on CSpan, commenting on a wide variety of issues: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/frederickkempe

He's a moonlighter: http://www.gsenergy.com/AdvisoryGroup/Kempe.aspx

I'm not saying he is, but the guy has the bona fides of an intelligence asset for sure.

Frederick S. Kempe is member of the Council on Foreign Relations:

http://matrixgreatescape.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/70-years-chart-illustrates-the-dominance-by-the-cfr-trilaterals-bilderbergers.pdf

The CFR - more precisely, some CFR members - did more to murder John Kennedy and attempt to cover it up than any other organization. US intelligence MEMBERS not to mention cooperating CIA assets, are littered throughout the CFR and yes, they do practice media manipulation, often pushing the CIA or government line on various issues.

Frederick Kempe could very well be a US intelligence asset. One reviewer at Amazon thought Kempe's book on Noriega (himself a longtime CIA asset and drug dealer taken down by CIA and mega drug dealer himself George Herbert Walker Bush) was the "CIA's version" of the takedown of Noreiga.

I do think Joe Backes approach to these type of books is too simplistic. So what if Kempe's book is a "rightwing hit job?" And so what if Kempe is indeed US intelligence? We know Kempe is CFR and that in and of itself speaks VOLUMES (CFR - a self selecting organization that most definitely has a party line; pushing the lone nutter fantasy being just part of it.)

It does not mean that we can not learn from Kempe's book by reading with a critical mind.

I feel the same way about Seymour Hersh's the Dark Side of Camelot, which I consider to be an extremely useful, even a top 5 MUST READ book on the JFK assassination.

By the way, that is an excellent original post by David Lifton.

Edited by Robert Morrow

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Well that is interesting.

His Noriega book looks like a real cover up job for the CIA and Bush.

In John Perkins book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, he discusses the whole Panama thing going back to Torrijos. He has little doubt that Reagan and the CIA had Omar killed by a bomb in his airplane, a la Dag Hammarkskjold.

Torrijos is the guy who got Carter to sign over the canal. Further, he was an earlier version of Chavez. He wanted the natural resources of his country to go to the people, and he wanted to remake the Panama Canal. He wanted to get rid of the locks and make it a straight over type canal in order to increase traffic.

After he was murdered, Noriega was going to continue with that idea, except he was not going to do it with Bechtel, i.e. Schultz and Weinberger's company. He was going to sign a deal with a Japanese company.

Well, you could not have two plane crashes in a row, even the W Post would have a hard time selling that. So Bush did something unprecedented in US history. He invaded a country that had done nothing at all to the USA, or its neighbors. He bombed it, strafed it and killed thousands of innocent civilians in order to get one guy back into the USA.

There are two good books on this, one by David Harris called Shooting the Moon, and one by Peter Eisner called The Memoirs of Manuel Noriega.( Eisner's book is not what the title suggests. He did a lot of independent research.)

So now I know what to think of this guy Kempe. And its about what I think of RIchard Reeves, except worse.

Jim,

I'm sure some here could also find something of value in C David Heymann's bios, too.

You have to draw the line somewhere. Life's too short. I started reading a book at the start of the year and still haven't got half way through. And it's a book nearly everyone agrees is among the best - which is the way it shapes up in the first third.

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We are getting a little off topic here. But I think it is worthwhile. The original post was about the Berlin Crisis and Frederick Kempe's take on it. Then discussion shifted to was Kempe's book a "rightwing hit job" on John Kennedy.

Then folks started to talk about Frederick Kempe and whether he has some ulterior motive and/or whether he is a US intelligence asset.

Then we discussed Kempe's book on the Noriega Invasion (1990, I think) and whether it was some sort of CIA spin on the whole take down of longtime drug dealing CIA asset Noriega.

Now, if allowed, it is time to bring up one of my favorite topics: former CIA Pegasus counterintelligence agent Chip Tatum and his revelations. What Chip Tatum really was was an elite, and often used, assassin for high level political leaders. George Herbert Walker Bush is one of those leaders.

Chip Tatum talks a lot about Manuel Noriega and the CIA's dealings with him. Tatum has also mentioned that blowing up airplanes is a favorite tactic of intelligence assassinations. Tatum mentions that if you ever see an icebox with bold lettering "TRANSPLANT ORGANS" you might want to open it and see if a BOMB is inside it.

http://whatreallyhappened.com/RANCHO/POLITICS/MENA/TATUM/tatum.html

Check out Oliver North's reference to the Barry Seal assassination of Feb. 1986 below as well as the probable involvement of JEB BUSH in it:

30 March, 1985

We arranged to remain over night (RON) in Tela, Honduras. We settled into the hotel and I excused myself for the night. I walked to the airfield (it was approximately 1 mile away) and flew the helicopter to La Cieba. I picked up the following passengers:

Name

Representing

Mr. North

CIA & Vice President Bush

Felix Rodriguez

CIA - acted as co-pilot

General Alverez

Honduras

Ami Nir

CIA (Mossad)

We flew into several villages on the Nicaragua/Honduras border to recon for a later mission. I recorded actual village locations for cargo drops by CH-47's scheduled later in April. Three of the villages were Rus Rus, Waspam and Santa Anna.

Mr. North was pleased with the operations. He stated that Vice President Bush appreciated the extra effort I was giving. General Alverez told Mr. North of my ability to sneak into his airfield under their radar. He asked North if I could instruct some of his security team and pilots for future use. North declined stating that I was a national secret, laughing. We landed at Santa Anna and met with Enrique Bermudez and other Contra leaders. We were then taken to a processing area of some sort. As we approached, there was a strong smell of jet fuel and acetone. There were several tactical bladders, used for carrying fuels, sitting around the area. Six large fuel pods were on the ground but had the tops torched off. Inside there was fuel and ground-up coca leaves.

Mr. North stated the following to the other passengers, "One more year of this and we'll all retire." He then made a remark concerning Barry Seal and Governor Clinton. "If we can keep those Arkansas hicks in line, that is," referring to the loss of monies as determined the week prior during their meeting in Costa Rica. I stood silently by the vat of leaves, listening to the conversation. General Alverez had gone with the Contra leader to discuss logistics. The other three - North, Rodriguez, and Ami Nir - continued through the wooden building, inspecting the cocaine. North continued, "...but he (Vice President Bush) is very concerned about those missing monies. I think he's going to have Jeb (Bush) arrange something out of Columbia," he told his comrades, not thinking twice of my presence. What Mr. North was referring to ended up being the assassination of Barry Seal by members of the Medellin Cartel in early 1986.

"How about 'Pineapple'?" Rodriguez asked. (Speaking of General Noriega.)

"Naw," North answered, "something's up there." Bush later insured Noriega was indicted and imprisoned for drug trafficking.

I recalled the mysterious army officers remarks in Ojo de Agua, "Tell no one. There's no one big enough in your chain of command." I just heard North tell Rodriguez that the Vice President, the Governor of Arkansas and the three of them are manufacturing cocaine. I flew them back to La Cieba and I continued back to Tela in time for drinks downtown with my crew and friends. We returned the following day to Palmerola. I went to Ops an put a few notes on the back of the flight plan.

Edited by Robert Morrow

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Question to one of the moderators (I am new here, so I don't know where else to ask then here in this way):

Isn't it possible to make two different topics for this? I think - as Robert noted - this topic is running off-topic pretty fast.

In my opinion it would be great to have the Berlin related posts in this thread, and all the Noriega related comments in another one.

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