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David Talbot : Burke, Lemnitzer, LeMay


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Just into chapter 2 of Brothers and one thing I'm very impressed by is the job Talbot has done in illustrating just how much disdain, animosity, and outright contempt the the leaders of the military (Burke, Lemnitzer, LeMay, etc.) and intelligence (Dulles, Bissell, etc.) apparatus' had for president Kennedy and his entire administration. Like most of us here, I've accepted this fundamental reality for years and I've argued as much several times, especially where LeMay and Lemnitzer are concerned. But Talbot cites many compelling examples of just how much they hated, distrusted, and openly disobeyed Kennedy. The author does a brilliant job making the reader understand the degree to which these "leaders" viewed Kennedy as weak, naive and dangerous. While some will view this more as a backdrop, I think the nature of this relationship goes right to the heart of why Dallas occurred.

Shanet Clark, you still out there? This dovetails nicely with your views on the case.

Hi Greg,

I'm glad somebody contributing to this thread is actually reading the book. Talbot certainly does establish JFK was "at war with his own administration," especially his military and intelligence advisors.

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I know myself and Stephen Turner share a degree of suspicion when it comes to the Joint Chiefs, and indeed their distain for Kennedy can be easily proven by looking at transcripts from the missile crisis and their hugging up to Johnson. John Judge wrote an article for his book 'Judge for yourself' in which he interviewed the pilots who flew the bombers with nuclear weapons (SAF I think they were called). These bombers were on constant alert and were in the air at all times. John Judge discovered that on November 22nd the launch codes (or whatever the terminology is) had been taken away upon order of Curtis LeMay. I will try to find the article online if possible.

John

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Guest Stephen Turner
I know myself and Stephen Turner share a degree of suspicion when it comes to the Joint Chiefs,

John

For anyone interested in my thoughts (and several other Forum members) on the JCS see the threads.

"Northwoods, and JFK" (indexed) and "Dark clouds over Camelot, JFK and the Military."

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I know myself and Stephen Turner share a degree of suspicion when it comes to the Joint Chiefs,

John

For anyone interested in my thoughts (and several other Forum members) on the JCS see the threads.

"Northwoods, and JFK" (indexed) and "Dark clouds over Camelot, JFK and the Military."

have a close friend who was extremely close to Lemay-I got to meet him once-highly complex individual-people he commanded thought highly of him. Probably should have died at the end of WWII like Patton-neither prospered in a Cold War environment.

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I know myself and Stephen Turner share a degree of suspicion when it comes to the Joint Chiefs,

John

For anyone interested in my thoughts (and several other Forum members) on the JCS see the threads.

"Northwoods, and JFK" (indexed) and "Dark clouds over Camelot, JFK and the Military."

have a close friend who was extremely close to Lemay-I got to meet him once-highly complex individual-people he commanded thought highly of him. Probably should have died at the end of WWII like Patton-neither prospered in a Cold War environment.

The things in Brothers about Lemay were so frightening. God the world is crazy now under the Bush waccos but Lemay was truly beyond crazy. Imagine him around now with Bush and Cheney. We'd be in a nuclear war with someone. Iran probably, although that that may still happen. How on earth do people get so nuke happy? I have been a lifelong pacifist so this mindset is utterly beyond my comprehension.

"Imagine all the people living life in peace".

Dawn

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I'm glad to see you focus on this aspect of the book. As I got deeper into my research, the air of sinister menace that hung over the Kennedy presidency was palpable to me. I simply can't understand how other Kennedy biographers and historians have missed this. As I've been saying in my talks on the book tour circuit, it was Rome on the Potomac. Some of this comes across in Richard Reeves' book on Kennedy, as well as Beschloss's book on JFK and Khrushchev -- but they stop short of the obvious conclusion. It was indeed an administration at war with itself.

One of the most chilling things I heard in my interviews for the book was from Arthur Schlesinger, when I asked him if Kennedy was in full control of his own government. Well, he told me, we certainly were not in control of the Joint Chiefs.

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One of the most chilling things I heard in my interviews for the book was from Arthur Schlesinger, when I asked him if Kennedy was in full control of his own government. Well, he told me, we certainly were not in control of the Joint Chiefs.

Arthur Schlesinger's comments to Anthony Summers in 1978 are also very interesting: "The CIA was reviving the assassination plots at the very time President Kennedy was considering the possibility of normalization of relations with Cuba - an extraordinary action. If it was not total incompetence - which in the case of the CIA cannot be excluded - it was a studied attempt to subvert national policy.... I think the CIA must have known about this initiative. They must certainly have realized that Bill Attwood and the Cuban representative to the U.N. were doing more than exchanging daiquiri recipes…They had all the wires tapped at the Cuban delegation to the United Nations….Undoubtedly if word leaked of President Kennedy’s efforts, that might have been exactly the kind of thing to trigger some explosion of fanatical violence. It seems to me a possibility not to be excluded."

I also believe Schlesinger once said that in 1963 JFK and the CIA had different foreign policies.

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David,

I'm wondering if in your research of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you came across anything that might lead one to believe that the meeting held by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Maxwell Taylor and the other JCS with West German officers at the Pentagon on 11/22/63 was a cover story and did not take place. This would be in line with the hypothesis, which has been previously discussed on this forum, that Taylor was in Dallas. There are several pieces of evidence that point to this possibility:

1. General Curtis LeMay of the JCS was at no such Pentagon meeting with West German guests. He was on vacation in Michigan on 11/22/63. Why did Manchester, who describes this meeting in some detail in his book, not mention LeMay's conspicuous absence? He mentions no one by name except Taylor. Who else may not have actually been there?

2. Taylor was supposedly notified of the shooting during a lunchtime break in the meeting with the West Germans. According to one account, he then informed McNamara. According to another, McNamara learned about it from a news dispatch at the same time Taylor was being buzzed, and they then conferred. In any case, McNamara himself contradicts both accounts. He says that he was in a budget meeting and first learned of the shooting when RFK called him about 2 PM (1 PM Dallas time). He then continued with the meeting, not knowing what else to do. About 2:45 PM he got another call from RFK, telling him the President was dead. If Taylor was there in the Pentagon, why did he not communicate at all with the Defense Secretary during this time, leaving McNamara to learn of developments through outside phone calls? And why didn't McNamara even bother to confer with Taylor after learning the President had been shot? How could McNamara just sit there "not knowing what to do", as if there was no one around outside of his budget meeting to talk to?

3. Taylor and the other JCS reportedly decided to resume their meeting after lunch with the West German officers after conferring with McNamara (though according to McNamara this must have been after 2:45 PM, which was a long lunch break), in order to show the West Germans that they were calm and collected in a crisis. Shades of Bush and his pet goat story! (Had to show those kids he was calm and collected.)

4. McNamara says that RFK called him and asked that he and Taylor accompany him to Andrews AFB to meet JFK's body. Both Manchester and the biography RFK by C. David Heymann agree that RFK, McNamara, and Taylor went together to Andrews. McNamara is likely the original source of this information. (In Evan Thomas's biography Robert Kennedy: His Life, there is no mention of how or with whom RFK went to Andrews.) Yet at Andrews, Taylor seems to disappear. In all the sources I have, only Manchester mentions him being at Andrews, but only as something of a specter: "In Taylor’s words, he 'wandered about aimlessly, thinking gloomy thoughts'." Taylor is nowhere at the scene in the news coverage compiled in President Kennedy Has Been Shot, nor in Jim Bishop's account (indeed he is mentioned nowhere in Bishop's book). The sources tell us that LBJ at Andrews asked McNamara, Bundy, and undersecretary of state George Ball to go with him to the White House. We are told that various officials, including McNamara, Earl Warren, and Arthur Schlesinger, shook Johnson's hand at Andrews, and that Mike Mansfield, while comforting a weeping Mrs. Mansfield, gave LBJ a nod. But by all accounts, at Andrews the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Johnson did not even acknowledge each other. (It should be noted that if Taylor indeed was at Andrews, he still could have been in Dallas. There was military aircraft fast enough to get him to DC in time to accompany McNamara and Bobby from the Pentagon to Andrews, even if he remained in Dallas as long as two hours after the assassination.)

5. Taylor was at the Honolulu Conference held on November 20. Dallas was on the way back to DC, and "coincidentally" Yitzhak Rabin, who on January 1 would become Israel's chief of staff, was winding up a U.S. tour at Fort Bliss, Texas. According to his wife Leah in her book, Rabin was in Dallas only "hours" before the assassination. Stopping on his way home from Honolulu to visit with his Israeli counterpart would be a perfect excuse for Taylor to be in Texas on November 22 (should his presence there come to light, as in some DP photograph).

6. The so-called "Lansdale" figure photographed walking closely by the three tramps in Dealey Plaza looks more like Taylor than Lansdale. (Both men had a stooped left shoulder and large rings, but only Taylor had wavy hair like the man in the photo.)

7. Long after the assassination, Taylor broke down twice when the subject arose in conversation, like someone carrying a burden of guilt and remorse. Here are the two episodes as recounted by his son John M. Taylor, in the Taylor biography An American Soldier:

"In mid-1964, just prior to his departure for Saigon, Taylor has several conversations with Elspeth Rostow, who interviewed him at his quarters for the Kennedy Library's oral history series. All went smoothly until the subject of the assassination arose. According to Rostow, Taylor then broke down; for several minutes there was nothing on her tape but the sound of an occasional passing car. Once he had composed himself, the interview continued" (pp. 290-291).

"More than a decade later, at a family dinner, the subject turned to political dissent in the country under Nixon. Taylor had recently returned from a speaking engagement at a small New Jersey college, where hecklers had prevented him from speaking. He commented that Kennedy, had he lived, was the one person who might have preserved a degree of national cohesiveness. Then his voice broke; it was a moment before his normal self-control returned. Surrounded by his family, he had let his defenses down" (p. 291).

I'd appreciate knowing if anything from your research might mesh with or contradict this hypothesis, or what comments you may have on it.

If there was indeed no such meeting at the Pentagon and Taylor was somewhere else, it goes without saying that McNamara (who claims he conferred with Taylor and the other JCS at the Pentagon after learning JFK was dead) participated, for whatever reason, in a false cover story.

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David Ruppe's article in Global Research on Operation Northwoods might be relevant to this discussion (May 26, 2007):

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?con...;articleId=5782

In the early 1960s, America's top leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.

Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.

The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba's then new leader, communist Fidel Castro.

America's top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," and, "casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation."

Details of the plans are described in Body of Secrets (Doubleday), a new book by investigative reporter James Bamford about the history of America's largest spy agency, the National Security Agency. However, the plans were not connected to the agency, he notes.

The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy's defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.

"These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing," Bamford told ABCNEWS.com.

"The whole point of a democracy is to have leaders responding to the public will, and here this is the complete reverse, the military trying to trick the American people into a war that they want but that nobody else wants."

The documents show "the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government," writes Bamford.

The Joint Chiefs even proposed using the potential death of astronaut John Glenn during the first attempt to put an American into orbit as a false pretext for war with Cuba, the documents show.

Should the rocket explode and kill Glenn, they wrote, "the objective is to provide irrevocable proof & that the fault lies with the Communists et all Cuba [sic]."

The plans were motivated by an intense desire among senior military leaders to depose Castro, who seized power in 1959 to become the first communist leader in the Western Hemisphere, only 90 miles from U.S. shores.

The earlier CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles had been a disastrous failure, in which the military was not allowed to provide firepower.The military leaders now wanted a shot at it.

"The whole thing was so bizarre," says Bamford, noting public and international support would be needed for an invasion, but apparently neither the American public, nor the Cuban public, wanted to see U.S. troops deployed to drive out Castro.

Reflecting this, the U.S. plan called for establishing prolonged military - not democratic - control over the island nation after the invasion.

"That's what we're supposed to be freeing them from," Bamford says. "The only way we would have succeeded is by doing exactly what the Russians were doing all over the world, by imposing a government by tyranny, basically what we were accusing Castro himself of doing."

The Joint Chiefs at the time were headed by Eisenhower appointee Army Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, who, with the signed plans in hand made a pitch to McNamara on March 13, 1962, recommending Operation Northwoods be run by the military.

Whether the Joint Chiefs' plans were rejected by McNamara in the meeting is not clear. But three days later, President Kennedy told Lemnitzer directly there was virtually no possibility of ever using overt force to take Cuba, Bamford reports. Within months, Lemnitzer would be denied another term as chairman and transferred to another job.

The secret plans came at a time when there was distrust in the military leadership about their civilian leadership, with leaders in the Kennedy administration viewed as too liberal, insufficiently experienced and soft on communism. At the same time, however, there real were concerns in American society about their military overstepping its bounds.

There were reports U.S. military leaders had encouraged their subordinates to vote conservative during the election.

And at least two popular books were published focusing on a right-wing military leadership pushing the limits against government policy of the day.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee published its own report on right-wing extremism in the military, warning a "considerable danger" in the "education and propaganda activities of military personnel" had been uncovered. The committee even called for an examination of any ties between Lemnitzer and right-wing groups. But Congress didn't get wind of Northwoods, says Bamford.

"Although no one in Congress could have known at the time," he writes, "Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs had quietly slipped over the edge."

Even after Lemnitzer was gone, he writes, the Joint Chiefs continued to plan "pretext" operations at least through 1963.

One idea was to create a war between Cuba and another Latin American country so that the United States could intervene. Another was to pay someone in the Castro government to attack U.S. forces at the Guantanamo naval base - an act, which Bamford notes, would have amounted to treason. And another was to fly low level U-2 flights over Cuba, with the intention of having one shot down as a pretext for a war.

"There really was a worry at the time about the military going off crazy and they did, but they never succeeded, but it wasn't for lack of trying," he says.

Ironically, the documents came to light, says Bamford, in part because of the 1992 Oliver Stone film JFK, which examined the possibility of a conspiracy behind the assassination of President Kennedy.

As public interest in the assassination swelled after JFK's release, Congress passed a law designed to increase the public's access to government records related to the assassination.

The author says a friend on the board tipped him off to the documents.

Afraid of a congressional investigation, Lemnitzer had ordered all Joint Chiefs documents related to the Bay of Pigs destroyed, says Bamford. But somehow, these remained.

"The scary thing is none of this stuff comes out until 40 years after," says Bamford.

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David Ruppe's article in Global Research on Operation Northwoods might be relevant to this discussion (May 26, 2007):

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?con...;articleId=5782

In the early 1960s, America's top leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.

Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.

The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba's then new leader, communist Fidel Castro.

America's top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," and, "casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation."

Details of the plans are described in Body of Secrets (Doubleday), a new book by investigative reporter James Bamford about the history of America's largest spy agency, the National Security Agency. However, the plans were not connected to the agency, he notes.

The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy's defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.

"These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing," Bamford told ABCNEWS.com.

"The whole point of a democracy is to have leaders responding to the public will, and here this is the complete reverse, the military trying to trick the American people into a war that they want but that nobody else wants."

The documents show "the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government," writes Bamford.

The Joint Chiefs even proposed using the potential death of astronaut John Glenn during the first attempt to put an American into orbit as a false pretext for war with Cuba, the documents show.

Should the rocket explode and kill Glenn, they wrote, "the objective is to provide irrevocable proof & that the fault lies with the Communists et all Cuba [sic]."

The plans were motivated by an intense desire among senior military leaders to depose Castro, who seized power in 1959 to become the first communist leader in the Western Hemisphere, only 90 miles from U.S. shores.

The earlier CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles had been a disastrous failure, in which the military was not allowed to provide firepower.The military leaders now wanted a shot at it.

"The whole thing was so bizarre," says Bamford, noting public and international support would be needed for an invasion, but apparently neither the American public, nor the Cuban public, wanted to see U.S. troops deployed to drive out Castro.

Reflecting this, the U.S. plan called for establishing prolonged military - not democratic - control over the island nation after the invasion.

"That's what we're supposed to be freeing them from," Bamford says. "The only way we would have succeeded is by doing exactly what the Russians were doing all over the world, by imposing a government by tyranny, basically what we were accusing Castro himself of doing."

The Joint Chiefs at the time were headed by Eisenhower appointee Army Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, who, with the signed plans in hand made a pitch to McNamara on March 13, 1962, recommending Operation Northwoods be run by the military.

Whether the Joint Chiefs' plans were rejected by McNamara in the meeting is not clear. But three days later, President Kennedy told Lemnitzer directly there was virtually no possibility of ever using overt force to take Cuba, Bamford reports. Within months, Lemnitzer would be denied another term as chairman and transferred to another job.

The secret plans came at a time when there was distrust in the military leadership about their civilian leadership, with leaders in the Kennedy administration viewed as too liberal, insufficiently experienced and soft on communism. At the same time, however, there real were concerns in American society about their military overstepping its bounds.

There were reports U.S. military leaders had encouraged their subordinates to vote conservative during the election.

And at least two popular books were published focusing on a right-wing military leadership pushing the limits against government policy of the day.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee published its own report on right-wing extremism in the military, warning a "considerable danger" in the "education and propaganda activities of military personnel" had been uncovered. The committee even called for an examination of any ties between Lemnitzer and right-wing groups. But Congress didn't get wind of Northwoods, says Bamford.

"Although no one in Congress could have known at the time," he writes, "Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs had quietly slipped over the edge."

Even after Lemnitzer was gone, he writes, the Joint Chiefs continued to plan "pretext" operations at least through 1963.

One idea was to create a war between Cuba and another Latin American country so that the United States could intervene. Another was to pay someone in the Castro government to attack U.S. forces at the Guantanamo naval base - an act, which Bamford notes, would have amounted to treason. And another was to fly low level U-2 flights over Cuba, with the intention of having one shot down as a pretext for a war.

"There really was a worry at the time about the military going off crazy and they did, but they never succeeded, but it wasn't for lack of trying," he says.

Ironically, the documents came to light, says Bamford, in part because of the 1992 Oliver Stone film JFK, which examined the possibility of a conspiracy behind the assassination of President Kennedy.

As public interest in the assassination swelled after JFK's release, Congress passed a law designed to increase the public's access to government records related to the assassination.

The author says a friend on the board tipped him off to the documents.

Afraid of a congressional investigation, Lemnitzer had ordered all Joint Chiefs documents related to the Bay of Pigs destroyed, says Bamford. But somehow, these remained.

"The scary thing is none of this stuff comes out until 40 years after," says Bamford.

One can argue the merits of normalizing relations with Castro, but certainly as President he had the right to do so and those who disagreed should have left the govt and worked for his defat in the next election. Unfortunately, its starting to look like they chose a much more direct route.

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Just into chapter 2 of Brothers and one thing I'm very impressed by is the job Talbot has done in illustrating just how much disdain, animosity, and outright contempt the the leaders of the military (Burke, Lemnitzer, LeMay, etc.) and intelligence (Dulles, Bissell, etc.) apparatus' had for president Kennedy and his entire administration. Like most of us here, I've accepted this fundamental reality for years and I've argued as much several times, especially where LeMay and Lemnitzer are concerned. But Talbot cites many compelling examples of just how much they hated, distrusted, and openly disobeyed Kennedy. The author does a brilliant job making the reader understand the degree to which these "leaders" viewed Kennedy as weak, naive and dangerous. While some will view this more as a backdrop, I think the nature of this relationship goes right to the heart of why Dallas occurred.

Shanet Clark, you still out there? This dovetails nicely with your views on the case.

Hi Greg,

I'm glad somebody contributing to this thread is actually reading the book. Talbot certainly does establish JFK was "at war with his own administration," especially his military and intelligence advisors.

From what I've read elsewhere . . . the Joint Chiefs were generally overly zealous and required even a stronger hand that Eisenhower's.

Evidently, they engineered the U-2 shoot down [which wasn't] in order to stop the Paris Peace talks.

Eisenhower had instructed that the U-2 flights were to be stopped months before the meetings. He was ignored.

This wasn't unusual.

Both Eisenhower and Kennedy saw their words and instructions ignored.

On the other hand, Eisenhower's musings about toppling Castro evidently led to the Joint Chiefs designing and signing off on "Operation Northwoods." The American public was unaware of "Operation Northwoods" until recently, but had they been aware of it at the time it probably would have led the Joint Chiefs to be reassigned to psychiatric wards.

Eisenhower rejected the plan. Evidently, later, so did JFK.

Meanwhile, because of Ike's illness, Nixon had been involved with plans to attack Cuba/Operation 40 and seemingly more in tune with the Joint Chiefs devious plans. When Kennedy -- and not Nixon -- was elected, their plans were frustrated again and resentment grew and presumably Nixon, feeling his own resentments, would have been a sympathetic ear.

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