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God What an INCREDIBLY GREAT book is David Kaiser's American Tragedy!


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I am reading this book right now, while at the same time reading 3 others. Choosing War, JFK and Vietnam, and Death of A Generation. I had read most of the Newman book earlier. In part my decision to read all 4 was motivated by Jim D's excellent essay on Halberstam, critiquing his Best and The Brightest book, which came at such an important time, when the major mining of the blame-game harbor were being laid by the US Corporate media and ... friends.

Wow, is Kaiser's book deeply suggestive about the role of Halberstam. I have long been suspicious of him. Apparently, not enough.

The other reason I am reading all 4 is because I read Caro's book and it REALLY REALLY NEEDS TO BE addressed before a large audience. There is a huge forum just waiting for us. What I find intriguing is why Caro chooses to use only Choosing War of these big 4 books. I think it has a lot to do with where Logevall begins and ends his book: late 63 and early 65. The deeper, longer conflict between JFK and the permanent military and intel bureaucracy is thus edged out of the book. This corresponds with Caro's latest volume, which seems to take pains to avoid any policy contrasts between JFK and LBJ.

Edited by Nathaniel Heidenheimer
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Guest Robert Morrow

Robert Caro's book highlights the hatred between Johnson and the Kennedys. Which begs the question: if they hated each other so many how did Lyndon Johnson *really* get on the 1960 Democratic ticket? Read Anthony Summers, Evelyn Lincoln, Seymour Hersh and Hy Raskin for that.

Johnson and Sam Rayburn blackmailed, threatened intimidated John Kennedy to put LBJ on the ticket. Not that LBJ really wanted to be vice president ... that was not the goal. John Kennedy melted like a candy bar in the hot sun under the pressures of LBJ & Rayburn. Kennedy said they promised me trouble [if I did not put LBJ on the ticket] and I don't need trouble.

After that it was 3 1/2 years of sub rosa war between the Kennedys and LBJ, between the Kennedys and CIA, between the Kennedys and J. Edgar Hoover, between the Kennedys and Wall Street, CFR Rockefellers, between the Kennedys and Texas oil men... and it was open war fare between the Kennedys and the mafia.

Besides the LBJ factor, I think that Cuba policy was a much bigger reason for the JFK assassination than the Vietnam War. The passions of the day revolved around Cuba, not Vietnam (1960-63). The Vietnam War was an opportunistic infection resulting from the JFK assassination; it was not the primary cause. The war hawks and Kennedy haters of the time were much more enraged about Cuba policy.

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Jim, you are probably all over this already and it may be too late but I pulled the following from a blog post I did a few months ago on Johnson's patter of response to national security incidents; I post it hear because it mentions a couple of other sources....

I've been reading some additional material that gives us insight into Johnson's responses to crisis during his time as President. The crisis in the Dominican Republic provides one example and later his reaction to reported attacks in the Gulf of Tonkin another. In regard to the coup in the Dominican Republic, Johnson reacted quickly (on incorrect and insufficient information from the CIA) and jumped to his constant position that Communist advances must always be opposed - forcefully. Prados covers Johnson's response in his book on the NSC, "Keepers of the Keys." In the days following Johnson's initial orders, and as the US military response escalated, it became embarrassingly clear that both the CIA and Johnson had been wrong in seeing the coup as a Communist controlled event. Even the press began to call him out on his earliest statements. But Johnson bulled his way forward, escalating military action on one front and beginning his own personal effort to cover decision.

In fact, just as he had with the JFK investigation, he sent Abe Fortas (his personal lawyer) to the Caribbean to consult with ousted politicians and produce supportive information for Johnson's position - Fortas even operated under two different aliases on the trip. And in the end, certainly knowing that he had been wrong, Johnson stood by his stand but remained very sensitive about it, even ordering Jack Valenti to assemble material showing his strong leadership during the crisis.

Certainly all of that begins to sound pretty familiar. And when you dig into studies of the Tonkin Gulf incident, used by Johnson to seriously escalate American military action in Vietnam - you see much the same thing, and a whole bunch more cover up (in which Johnson was heavily assisted by McNamara). Anyone interested in the details and an analysis of the purported attacks on US destroyer patrols (one real and the second, non-existent) should refer to Eugene Windchy's 1971 book on the Tonkin Gulf incidents and of course Peter Dale Scotts "The War Conspiracy" from the following year.

But perhaps what is more interesting is that by 2012, Johnson's actions and the extent of the following cover up (of the fact that the US destroyers Maddux and Turner Joy did not come under massive attack on August 6) is now well documened, even in some US military history. My January 2012 issue of Air Force Magazine contains a fine article by John Correll on "The Encounters in the Tonkin Gulf".

In that article he relates that within hours a message had been sent to the White House that the early reports of attacks were now "doubtful" (for one thing support air craft had seen no evidence at all of attacking torpedo boats) but he notes within those same hours Johnson had reached his own conclusions and "It became clear that he was in no mood for discussion." He describes Johnson "chomping at the bit" to attack, based on political reasons and how the American response to Johnson's action was highly enthusiastic.

Correll goes into considerable detail, which I won't repeat here, of the Pentagon's own investigation of the incident - they were uneasy with the reports from the beginning. Much of the final solution did not occur until 1996, when released documents allowed historians to prove that no attack had actually occurred - see Edwin Moise's Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War.

And it was not until 2005 that certain radio intercepts were released which showed that an NSA field investigation had "deliberately skewed the notion that there had been an attack." The NSA group very selectively used 15 out of some 122 available intercepts, selecting only those that fit the official story. And as late as 2003 McNamara himself was forced to admit the attacks had not happened.

Perhaps the worse part of the whole story goes back to Johnson himself, who used the Gulf of Tonkin Congressional resolution to back his immense commitment of the American military to Vietnam. Johnson is quoted as later telling Undersecretary of State George Ball that "Hell, those dumb, stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish!"

Of course you don't find much of this in the history books but it all seems to indicate one thing, you can rely on the fact that as President, Johnson would always rush to the conclusions that would profit him, he would brook no objections and apparently he was always able to enforce the pressure needed to make it play for the public, even when he himself knew better.

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Look up "connected" in the dictionary and you find de Torres - at least it often feels that way.

The strangest thing to me was Johnson sending out Fortas as a secret representative - you just have to love

that, actually Fortas was lucky he didn't wind up somewhere in SE Asia. But fortunately Johnson was able

to turn to McNamara instead (well not fortunately for all those around my age of course).

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Larry and Jim:

Do you see parrallels to the Tonkin Gulf provocation, and the Northwoods Plan? Both seem manufactured as pretexts for military action... psyops stragtegies conceived by intelligence experts, to force foreign policy and manipulate the president, almost subvert his national policy. They are contemporaneous and apparently not originated from the White House. Who would sponsor the selective intelligence coming out of NSA? That seems a signpost to the "Big Planners" whom reserachers pursue today and speculate were behind Dealey Plaza.

Gene

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Gene, Jim may but I don't....what I see, and I've been studying early Vietnam covert ops for a couple of years now, is a massive disconnect (like so many that would continue) in military operations, command and control and inter-service coordination. No planning just typical SNAFU. And Johnson just flat jumped all over it for his own political agenda - look strong for the voters. You quickly see lots of people start to tell Johnson there may be a mistake going on, but once he stakes a position Johnson just doesn't want to hear it and everybody quickly realizes that.

As for the NSA intelligence, if you really dig into it that too is all too common - when senior command takes a position, junior command goes along to get along. Very much like the FBI investigations we are so familiar with. Based on the article I described its clear that some military historians are researching just that but NSA is a tougher nut to crack than any other agency, bar none.

If you would really like to dig into it I would dig into how such a mistake could happen militarily, I'd recommend Black Ops Vietnam by Robert Gillespie, it provides some great context - also The Secret War Against Hanoi by Richard Schultz Jr.

-- Larry

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Guest Robert Morrow

Watch all 5 YouTube videos relating to the USS Liberty. I think that Lyndon Johnson was responsible for that attack, too.

Phil Nelson has been researching this area for his new book. David Martin, also known as "DC Dave" is quite knowledgeable in this area.

As for Operation Northwoods, I see a great link between that and the JFK assassination itself. US intelligence - and often Lyndon Johnson - tried to pin it on Castro and Cuba, but the mood of the American public was grief and they were not having a US invasion of Cuba.

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Guest Robert Morrow

Nathaniel, those are three really good books which anyone who really wants to understand what happened in Vietnam should read.

Kaiser's book focuses a bit more on Laos so the lens is wider.

Logevall's book is a really good analysis which proves that LBJ was disguising his war plans around the election. While JFK was disguising his withdrawal plan around it.

There is no doubt today that Halberstam's book was a disinfo tome. And I think I proved it by showing he lied about the Pentagon Papers backing him up.

I am just about done with my book, so I think I will pick up Caro soon. And maybe take a wack at him. See, all his previous books were essentially done with little comparison points. But now he is in territory that has already been plowed. So we will see if the emperor has clothes or not.

Isn't it amazing how Newman's book has stood up so well? Its hard to believe its 20 years old now. But one way to label a book a classic is if it stands the test of time.

JFK and Vietnam has done it. In spades. No one who is serious, can ignore it.

David Halberstam was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. That is the CIA connected and CIA-influenced group that has produced tremendous amount of lies and disinformation about anything relating to the JFK assassination. Just google "David Halberstam CFR" and see what pops up.

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Thanks Peter.

There will be a chapter in the book called "Washington and Saigon".

I tried to enumerate several of the reversals Johnson made in JFK's foreign policy. To be frank, even I was surprised at how many there were, and how fast they came. If I had not been limited by a deadline, I would have placed even more in the text. But I put the ones I did not deal at length with in the footnotes.

Taking Hancock's advice, I read parts of The Eagle and the Lion, wow. The Kennedys were thinking of bringing back Mossadegh in Iran.

Concerning Vietnam, every time I read this stuff, the speed with which LBJ overturned Kennedy's NSAM 263 is almost mind boggling. Newman cannot really do it justice since he stops the book at the end of November 1963.

But if you read Goldstein, Blight, and Kaiser, you will see that its almost like LBJ was waiting for this moment to be a war president. He went about overturning Kennedy's withdrawal plan like some kind of salivating mad dog. And the thing is, he used to propogandize this issue as him being misled by his advisers and the Pentagon.

This turned out to be BS. The guy pushing the escalation button was Johnson. He couldn't wait to retaliate for the provocation in the Tonkin Gulf. When in fact, the second one didn't happen. And the total damage in the first one was a bullet through a hull. He then hurried his announcement of the air sorties onto prime time TV, which warned N. Vietnam and got two planes knocked down.

There has been a huge cover up about this that has blinded the American public about what really happened to create the greatest American foreign policy debacle since World War II. (Iraq is second.) And two parties in promulgating that lie were Halberstam and LBJ himself.

I will look for you in that chapter then Jim.

What I get now is that for political reasons JFK did not say that he was going to pull out of Vietnam. That is simple to understand but the back and forth spookspeak that when on behind Kennedy's back gets complicated because his enemies ( frenimies really because they were working for him ) could then turn his position back around on him.

I understood it when I read it a few days ago but am having a hard time explaining it now.

Let's just say that Kennedy was in an impossible situation on Vietnam and could not win the battle within.

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  • 4 weeks later...

LBJ 'S BACKCHANNEL INTEL REPORTS FROM VIETNAM, 1961: NO ONE KNEW WOODWORK AS GOOD. WAS THE CIA CONFUSED ABOUT WHO WAS PRESIDENT?

"Why, then, was the Vice President's information so different? Consider, for example, the Burris memo to Johnson in March 30. In it he delivered to LBJ an even more lurid account of the failing war effort than he had on the 16th. Intensification of Viet Cong activity "on an increasingly broader spectrum" was under way, Burris said, and had now crossed the threshold of direct attacks against units of South Vietnam's regular forces. What is particularly arresting about his March 30 Memo is the raw data that was explicitly and forcefully contradicted at the March [sECDEF, on which McNamara and JFK had based their understanding of how the war was going] conference. ... WHERE WAS THE VICE PRESIDENT'S INFORMATION COMING FROM [my emph] Burris [ Air Force Colonel Howard Burris, LBJ's personal military advisor] says he "got a lot of raw information." (7) When pressed for his exact sources he replied, "We got if from everywhere." In a more revealing explanation on another occasion he said: They'd hand you a copy of a memo. You'd get stuff from the boys in the woodwork. Later McCone [who JFK put in as nominal head of the CIA after he fired Allen Dulles, which is bad for your health] put a stop to what I was getting." -- p. 226-227 JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and The Struggle for Power by John Newman, History Dept., University of Maryland. NOT A HINT OF THIS IN CARO

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I find it interesting that, while the later Kaiser, Jones, and Logevall books add quite a lot of great different material, they do not really pick up on his Burris material. Perhaps that was simply out of bounds by 2000 for academics. I think it definitely was after 9/11

Edited by Nathaniel Heidenheimer
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Thanks Peter.

There will be a chapter in the book called "Washington and Saigon".

I tried to enumerate several of the reversals Johnson made in JFK's foreign policy. To be frank, even I was surprised at how many there were, and how fast they came. If I had not been limited by a deadline, I would have placed even more in the text. But I put the ones I did not deal at length with in the footnotes.

Taking Hancock's advice, I read parts of The Eagle and the Lion, wow. The Kennedys were thinking of bringing back Mossadegh in Iran.

Concerning Vietnam, every time I read this stuff, the speed with which LBJ overturned Kennedy's NSAM 263 is almost mind boggling. Newman cannot really do it justice since he stops the book at the end of November 1963.

But if you read Goldstein, Blight, and Kaiser, you will see that its almost like LBJ was waiting for this moment to be a war president. He went about overturning Kennedy's withdrawal plan like some kind of salivating mad dog. And the thing is, he used to propogandize this issue as him being misled by his advisers and the Pentagon.

This turned out to be BS. The guy pushing the escalation button was Johnson. He couldn't wait to retaliate for the provocation in the Tonkin Gulf. When in fact, the second one didn't happen. And the total damage in the first one was a bullet through a hull. He then hurried his announcement of the air sorties onto prime time TV, which warned N. Vietnam and got two planes knocked down.

There has been a huge cover up about this that has blinded the American public about what really happened to create the greatest American foreign policy debacle since World War II. (Iraq is second.) And two parties in promulgating that lie were Halberstam and LBJ himself.

I will look for you in that chapter then Jim.

What I get now is that for political reasons JFK did not say that he was going to pull out of Vietnam. That is simple to understand but the back and forth spookspeak that when on behind Kennedy's back gets complicated because his enemies ( frenimies really because they were working for him ) could then turn his position back around on him.

I understood it when I read it a few days ago but am having a hard time explaining it now.

Let's just say that Kennedy was in an impossible situation on Vietnam and could not win the battle within.

Has anyone compliled all the proof that JFK was NOT going to escalate in Vietnam in one place? I have a friend who does not believe this and I can't get him to read a book on the assassination,

even thought he adored JFK. And when I try to tell him abut VIetnam her refers to it as " your view" (meaning mine, like I am somehow just fantasizing this stuff) .

I should really give up since I have been trying to convince him of this stuff since we met in college in 1973.

Thanks,

Dawn,

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I have some good news Nathaniel.

I will be taking this up. Bob Parry today commissioned a review of Caro's book by me for his web site Consortium.

So now, finally, someone will take a close look at the "great biographer's" work.

Great news Jim. I hope it will not take you too long. There is so much that is terrible in this book, that one could really spend too long on it.

I hope you will also post this review on the Amazon site [if necessary, in slightly altered form] because this is where the newbie youthful citizens go, and they really really need to see criticisms that are not LBJ obsessed, and that put both JFK and LBJ perspective using their vastly different relations with the permanent military intel bureaucracies.

Because the Caro book has gotten so much exposure, all of us should use it as a fulcrum. I am amazed at how little the amazon reviews are used by the informed.

Everyone take a look. Hundreds of thousands of eyeballs are being hit by five star reviews of a book that is Seymour Hersh disguised with pancake syrup. What an American Tragedy if we allow this to be the unanswered One And Done book for a whole new generation of zombies.

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