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John Newman's "JFK and Vietnam"


Douglas Caddy
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John Newman posted the following on Facebook today (Nov. 25, 2016):

 

Twenty-five years ago, "JFK and Vietnam" was published. It was also my PhD Dissertation, and I defended it with Honors in History that same year at the George Washington University. It did what dissertations are supposed to do: It overturned an orthodoxy—that LBJ continued Kennedy’s Vietnam policy—and it broke new ground: It provided hard documentary evidence that, during the months before he was assassinated, Kennedy ordered that the American advisors that he had dispatche...d to Vietnam must be brought home.

Over the next twenty years, the release of new White House tapes and more documents has borne out the thesis of "JFK and Vietnam." I have reissued the book for release in 2017—it will be available on Amazon in January. It contains most of the original text with new insights where appropriate. It is also supplemented with the story of what happened to the book. An important new section (Appendix IV) details the long, sometime tempestuous, but, in the end, cooperative relationship that developed between Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and myself as the secretary worked on his Vietnam book, "In Retrospect."

When it was first published, the book received high praise from "Publisher’s Weekly" and was favorably reviewed by Kennedy Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (see Appendix II), in the "New York Times Book Review." Elsewhere, the book caused a media firestorm. On the far right, critics claimed that I had vilified Kennedy beyond the wildest dreams of his worst enemies (Harry Summers, Jr.) while, on the left wing, Noam Chomsky claimed that I had made a saint out of JFK. The book was the basis for the scenes about JFK’s Vietnam policy in Oliver Stone’s film "JFK."

Strange things began happening. The National Security Agency tried to block publication of JFK and Vietnam (Appendix I), even though the U.S. Army had, after its pre-publication review, given its authorization for the book’s publication. I stood my ground, and NSA finally backed off—the morning of the press junket (that I was a part of) for the film "JFK." Then, the original publisher, Warner Books, declined to give me a book tour, pulled the book from book stores and put them in storage, and refused to answer my phone calls.

The intercession of the Galbraith Family (described by James Galbraith in Appendix III) with Time Warner Inc. led the publisher to yield the copyrights to me and allow the books to be sold in stores. James Galbraith has written Appendix Three for the 2017 edition, and he concludes:

“Needless to say, it's a small measure of very belated justice that this important book is now back in print, although the damage to our national discourse—and to John Newman's career—cannot be repaired.”

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I am really glad John is doing this.   It is an excellent book in all respects.

In fact, even today, it just may be the best book on the subject, even though it was published 25 years ago.  Even though about 7 other books have been published in the field.

What John did here was simply revisionist history at its finest.  He took a thesis:  LBJ continued JFK's Vietnam policy.  He then examined the actual record for it.  He not only found it lacking, he found the evidence for the contrary to be compelling.  He then went to the primary sources, and the best secondary sources, and proved his contra thesis.  And made everyone else look silly e.g. Stanley Karnow, Noam Chomsky, even Dan Ellsberg.  He angered those on the left and the right because they accepted this false paradigm.

The highest compliment you can pay an historian is that his work was both exhilarating and liberating.  That is what his book is.  No wonder the establishment tried to sabotage it.

Edited by James DiEugenio
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Let me add:  to the newer and younger people on this site, Herrera, Sandy, Bauer etc. you should really read this book.  Because we often we tend to get bogged down in the details of a homicide.  

But we ignore the larger question of who Kennedy was.  I have devoted the larger part of the last 36 months, and my last five public presentations, trying to answer that question.

John's book is a good starting point for the newer enlistees.

Edited by James DiEugenio
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