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Thomas Buchanan: Did he solve the JFK case?

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I just don't understand how Castro, assuming Cubela was a double and told him of Futzgerald's lie, would think he'd be better off with LBJ. I also fail to understand how Castro could be sure that the actions of the CIA accurately reflected the wishes of the President. If the Cuban exiles were as infiltrated as most believe, he would certainly have known better. Castro hasn't survived as long as he has by being that reckless. Some madman like Trujillo or Duvalier, maybe, but Castro, no way, Jose.

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I just don't understand how Castro, assuming Cubela was a double and told him of Futzgerald's lie, would think he'd be better off with LBJ.  I also fail to understand how Castro could be sure that the actions of the CIA accurately reflected the wishes of the President.  If the Cuban exiles were as infiltrated as most believe, he would certainly have known better.  Castro hasn't survived as long as he has by being that reckless. Some madman  like Trujillo or Duvalier, maybe, but Castro, no way, Jose.

In his book Thomas G. Buchanan looks at the motives of the conspirators. Remember, this was published in May, 1964.

I believe the murder of the President was provoked, primarily, by fear of the domestic and international consequences of the Moscow Pact: The danger of disarmament which would disrupt the industries on which the plotters depended and of an international détente which would, in their view, have threatened the eventual nationalization of their oil investments overseas.

The Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, appointed by the President in 1962, attempted to combat such fears, declaring, "Disarmament affords an unmatched opportunity for satisfying our most pressing needs," but emphasized that this was just the long-term goal; the short-range impact might well prove disastrous. Newsweek, reviewing the agency's findings February 19, 1962, commented: "At first glance, the problems are staggering. Defence work accounts for nearly 10 per cent of the nation's output, and employs nearly 10 per cent of the labour force; what's more, the work is concentrated heavily in some industries and geographical areas." As we have seen, this applies particularly to Texas. "In addition," Newsweek continued, "the defence programme supports half of the country's research and development work. Without it, technological progress would slow to a crawl. Even the stock market, with its huge influence on the economy, would probably react sharply to the prospect of lower defence earnings. The panel concluded that, without firm action to ease the impact, a $5 billion yearly cut in defence spending could shrink the economy by $10 billion to $12 billion a year." If Kennedy succeeded in attaining real disarmament, however, in his second term, the United States was faced with a reduction not of 5 but eventually of $50 billion dollars.

How could the President's assassination automatically benefit the authors of the murder plot? It is clear, certainly, that they employed Lee Harvey Oswald for the purpose of increasing tension between the United States and Cuba, and above all the Soviet Union. This must be regarded as a maximum objective, from which they were willing to be forced back into a prepared position that the murderer was just a solitary madman-though of Marxist leanings. But the only element that would be automatic, if the President were killed, is that the vice-president would take his place. What, then, are the major differences between Kennedy and Johnson?

1. On civil rights, despite the fact that Lyndon Johnson is a Southerner, there is no overwhelming difference between the martyred President and his successor. Johnson is, by Southern standards, rather liberal in his approach to civil rights. He is no Dixiecrat; he certainly can be expected to pursue a policy of gradual extension of desegregation practically indistinguishable from the previous administration. It is for this reason that I have not even bothered to discuss the possibility that Kennedy was murdered by pro-segregationists. I find no evidence at all which would sustain this thesis. Anti-Negro sentiment, of course, plays an important part in furnishing a mass basis for extreme right-wing activity in the United States, just as anti-Semitism did in Germany, during the rise of Hitler. Thyssen was not, however, motivated by his anti-Semitism, but by certain economic objectives in which he thought the Nazis would serve a useful purpose. I do not believe that any Texas millionaire would risk electrocution to finance the President's assassination for such motives. He would have no contact with the Negro population of his State, who represent a mere 12 per cent of those who live in Texas. Dallas is not Birmingham, and Texas is not Mississippi. The right-wing of Dallas is inflamed against the Reds; it scarcely notices the Blacks' existence.

2. On foreign policy, the difference between the President and his successor starts to be important. It is premature, at this time, to assert that Johnson will reverse the progress Kennedy had made to a détente. What is important, though, is that the right-wing groups in the United States believe that he will do so. The John Birch Society's General Walker predicted, after Kennedy's death, "There will be considerable changes, even if they are not immediately apparent." And US News & World Report, using almost identical language, summed it up this way: "There will be important changes, but gradual, in behaviour, personalities and politics. Intellectuals will not be favoured. Businessmen will be guaranteed a good rest. Khrushchev will find Johnson a hard man."

3. The one field in which Kennedy and Johnson were in total disagreement was the one which Texans feel to be the most important: Kennedy was an opponent of the tax concession for the Texas oil men; Johnson was the man whom Texas millionaires selected to succeed Sam Rayburn to defend their interests in Washington. The Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, had defended the oil interests of Texas until his retirement. He kept all proposals to reduce the precious 27.5 per cent "depletion allowance" bottled up in the House Ways and Means Committee, to prevent a general debate. John Bainbridge quotes him as declaring, "Let it out of committee and they'd cut it to 15, 10, 5 per cent-might take it away altogether. Do you think you could convince a Detroit factory worker that the depletion allowance is a good thing? Once it got on the floor, it would be cut to ribbons." After Rayburn, who was then a very old man, finally retired, the man whom he had trained to carry on his work was Lyndon Johnson. Rayburn was the leading backer of his fellow-Texan, Johnson, at the 1960 Democratic national convention. But the winner of the nomination was a Northerner who did not "understand" the Texans' need for tax protection. Illinois Senator Douglas had, in 1957, introduced a bill to cut this benefit for large producers to 15 per cent. The Douglas bill was beaten by a vote of 56 to 30, but among the 30 "Communists" who supported Douglas was a certain John Fitzgerald Kennedy of Massachusetts. In the 1960 Democratic platform, written by the followers of this same Yankee, was a pledge to "close the loopholes in the tax laws by which certain privileged groups legally escape their fair share of taxation." It said "among the more conspicuous loopholes are depletion allowances, which are inequitable."

Sam Rayburn did his best to reassure his fellow-Texans that these words meant nothing. "I've never heard of the 27.5 per cent oil depletion allowance being considered a loophole," said Rayburn. "I trust that the oil people do not consider it to be. I do not and never have." And Lyndon Johnson, Rayburn's protégé, declared, "The platform pertains to loopholes, and I see none in oil." But Texas millionaires were not convinced. In Dallas, their money and their votes went solidly to Nixon, who had made it clear that he proposed no change in the depletion allowance.


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But Pat, whether he did it or not, is it not possible, indeed probable, that Castro survived and his regime survived, as a result of the assassination of John F. Kennedy? That was the belief of Manuel Artime and Oveida. Artime, of course, was working on a RFK-endorsed second invasion of Cuba. LBJ deactivated, although over time, all of JFK's behind-the-scenes efforts to redeem the pledge he made to Brigade 2506 in the Orange Bowl.

It does not, of course, prove he did it, but Castro certainly benefited from the death of JFK, in my opinion. And I think him smart enough he may have even prompted his enemies in the exile community to do his dirty business for him by leaking information on JFK's "peace feelures". You see, Castro knew what Kennedy was really up to while many members of the exile community did not. If, as some believe, anti-Castro Cubans killed Kennedy by doing so they also killed their own cause.

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Pat wrote:

I just don't understand how Castro, assuming Cubela was a double and told him of Futzgerald's lie,

Pat, it may not have been a lie. RFK's phone records show he received a rare call from Fitzgerald on the same day that Cubela had demanded an audience with RFK.

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Pat wrote:

"I just don't understand how Castro, assuming Cubela was a double and told him of Futzgerald's lie, would think he'd be better off with LBJ."'

Whether what Fitzgerald told him was a lie or not, Castro had reaon to believe JFK had approved the latest plot to kill him (using a poison pen that he would hardly feel).

How, pray tell, could he be worse off under LBJ? Did he think LBJ would insist on a more painful death than that?

When someone has announced his intent to KILL you anyone else has to be a possibly better alternative!

I mean, what did he have to lose?

And, IF he did it, his gamble paid off. Whether or not he did it, Castro's regime is probably still in power now only because of the assassins' bullets that fateful Friday. I do not remember which exile said it but he said their dreams of a free Cuba also died on the streets of Dallas that fateful Friday. He was right.

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1. Helms testified that he and Fitzgerald made a decision not to involve Robert Kennedy in the Amlash operation. They clearly were afraid he'd shut it down. So, unless you drank the kool-aid and believe Helms was protecting the memory of RFK many years after his death, at an enormous cost to his own memory (using Kennedy's name without his permission in order to arrange a murder), Fitzgerald lied.

2. Castro had survived many attempts on his life. Even if he was aware of Cubela, he would have had no reason to think killing Kennedy would change a thing. Kennedy was seen as a more reasonable man than LBJ, and there was that back channel. Castro would have almost certainly felt there was time to make nice with Kennedy before the Cubela plots could get to him.

3. The Artime-led second invasion was almost positively a ruse by the U.S. to keep the anti-Castro forces out of the U.S., while we figured out what to do with them. It should be remembered here that one of the main reasons Kennedy went along with the Bay of Pigs was because he was afraid what would happen if he called it off. The anti-Castro forces were a domestic problem, and better to have them in Nicaragua or Guatemala then on U.S. soil. If McCone, Bundy, McNamara and the JCS were all gung-ho why didn't they go ahead and push it once LBJ came rushing in? No way was LBJ so strong-willed on Foreign Relations that he would make the decision to retreat from agression against Cuba, whilst simultaneouslly upping the ante in Vietnam. Remember, he was close to Thomas Mann, the father of all Castro did it bureaucrats. It just makes no sense that LBJ would back off from Cuba purely on his own. It's obvious to me that the CIA et al had grown sick of the anti-Castro forces, and were hoping they'd just disappear. I believe the anti-Castro forces knew this to be true. There's your motive. They were the ones who had nothing to lose.

Edited by Pat Speer
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Pat wrote:

If McCone, Bundy, McNamara and the JCS were all gung-ho why didn't they go ahead and push it once LBJ came rushing in? No way was LBJ so strong-willed on Foreign Relations that he would make the decision to retreat from agression against Cuba, whilst simultaneouslly upping the ante in Vietnam. Remember, he was close to Thomas Mann, the father of all Castro did it bureaucrats. It just makes no sense that LBJ would back off from Cuba purely on his own.


Perhaps, just perhaps, LBJ saw what happened to JFK and did not want to meet the same fate. My understanding is that LBJ, while a bully, was personally a coward. The fact that he may have believed his friend Mann's theory that "Castro did it" supports my supposition that fear of his own assassination may have led LBJ to back off Castro.

And it is arguing against history to try to assert that things did not vastly improve for Castro under LBJ, for whatever reason. Joseph Califano's recent memoirs demonstrate that LBJ almost immediately started the process to wind down the war against Cuba. It was NOT that the CIA grew tired of the fight. LBJ shifted priorities from Cuba to Vietnam. That, I think, is incontravertable.

And another point: if the exiles such as Artime and Oveida knew their hopes died with JFK, don't you suppose Fidel was smart enough to figure that out as well? I think the immediate reaction of the exiles demonstrates the fallacy that Castro could not have known he would be better under LBJ than under JFK. If the exiles knew that immediately afterward, Castro had reaason to know it beforehand.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Mark wrote:

"Those trying to tailor an assassination to compliment their political philosophy are easily exposed." 

I assume this comment must be directed at the many leftists to attempt to argue that Kennedy was killed by, as Dawn put it, "the powers that be", but who offer not one scintilla of evidence to support that theory.

It may be that those who, in the immediate aftermath of the assassination, proclaimed that Castro did it were motivated, at least in part, by anti-Communism. It amazes me that so many members of the Forum seem incapable of understanding that when I suggest that Castro did it it is not related to or motivated by my admittedly right-of-center views. For I make it clear that Castro's motive was not anti-Americanism but self-preservation: to stop the CIA plots to kill him. Trujillo, a right-wing dictatior, could have had the same motivation. I am critical of all members of American government who condoned murder as an instrument of our foreign policy. This is a sentiment that should be shared by persons of all political philosophies. I would note that the man who  initiated contracting with the Mafia to kill Castro was a liberal CIA official and a Kennedy official.

Mark also wrote:

"Why then would the Soviets have LHO, a man with Communist leanings, in Dallas pointing suspicion right back at them?"

Mark, do you then take the position that Oswald was a definite Communist-leading leftist?  Many people believe, as I do, that Oswald was probably working for US intelligence. If Oswald was a patsy, he was presumably set-up by Communists who knew his connections to US intelligence, knowing that those connections would guarantee a cover-up. It would be foolhardy indeed for the CIA to use as a patsy someone who could be connected to the CIA. The only rational explanation would be that Oswald was set up by renegade elements of the CIA who did not know of his connections to US intelligence. It seems to me that if Oswald was connected to US intelligence that fact almost conclusively rules out US intelligence as part of the conspiracy. Certainly there were genuine leftists who could have been made the patsy if necessary.

Frankly what might make me reevaluate my position was if I was convinced that Oswald was a genuine leftist but not in fact a KGB agent.  Then I agree it would make no sense for the Soviets or Cubans to pin the assassination on him.

Your point that if Communists were behind the assassination they would have shut up and supported the lone nut theory is one, however, that merits serious consideration. One possible explanation is that the Communists arguning a right-wing conspiracy were not in fact aware that it was a Communist plot. I assume Communist intelligence also employed compartmentalization.

It is necessary to evaluate all possible scenarios.  Another explanation is that Castro did it but without official Soviet sponsorship and those Soviets denouncing the lone nut theory may have even thought an investigation would prove CIA involvement if, as they suspected, Oswald was a CIA agent.


Your reply concerning researchers tailoring their theories to their political persuasions is acknowledged. I probably should have worded that sentence more carefully.

On your further suggested scenario re LHO, I agree LHO was working for one or both of the agencies but this only makes it more likely, IMO, that the plot had its genesis in the USA. My point about the Soviet/KGB theory is that if they were behind the assassination why would they frame an innocent man with (percieved) communist leanings? Or are you saying the local authorities framed LHO as a favor to the real plotters (Soviet/KGB)? The only remaining alternative is that you think LHO is guilty--but you believe, like me, that he was working for US Intelligence. It seems that you're trying to twist the facts in order to fit them into a predetermined outcome.

The other thing that makes the Soviet/KGB scenario so unlikely is how did the plotters convince Ruby to help out? He had no leftist sympathies at all. Another favor from the local authorities?

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Pat wrote:

It's obvious to me that the CIA et al had grown sick of the anti Castro forces and were hoping they'd just disappear. I believe the anti Castro forces knew this. There's your motive. They were the ones who had nothing to lose.

This is an interesting point. The case presented in "Invisible Government" by David Wise and Thomas B. Ross tends to support this. The book is discussed at greater length on another thread. By the time of the Bay of Pigs, the CIA had assembled quite a fleet of leased vessels and B26 and C46 planes. When they suddenly relocated their base from Guatemala to Nicaragua, ostensibly for political reasons, it was quite an effort. It was becoming unwieldy. There was also the ever present chore of maintaining morale. I think the CIA got sick of them early in the piece. Which makes them sitting ducks for a group persuasive enough to convince the anti-Castro forces that there was something in it for them if they would lend their assistance. Doublecrossing them by not invading Cuba wouldn't have been an insurmountable problem--some were killed shortly after the assassination.

Who would that group be? Possibly US Military Intelligence, at the urging of the JCS. If this scenario were accurate, even the JCS may not have been the originator of the plan. The plot keeps thickening.

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  • 5 months later...

In my opinion Thomas G. Buchanan was the ghost writer of "Farewell America." He fits the profile given to me by Herve Lamarre, the French intelligence agent who fronted the Farewell project. Buchanan was far from a Communist. He was a World War II veteran, an Ivy Leaguer and a correspondent for L'Express, for whom he covered the Jack Ruby trial.

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  • 2 weeks later...
In my opinion Thomas G. Buchanan was the ghost writer of "Farewell America." He fits the profile given to me by Herve Lamarre, the French intelligence agent who fronted the Farewell project. Buchanan was far from a Communist. He was a World War II veteran, an Ivy Leaguer and a correspondent for L'Express, for whom he covered the Jack Ruby trial.

According to Kenneth Rahn, Buchanan was sacked by Washington Evening Star in 1948 after it was discovered that he was a member of the American Communist Party.


Buchanan was blacklisted and was forced to leave the United States. In 1951 Buchanan settled in France and eventually became head of the Programming Department of the General Organisation Company in Paris.

Is it possible that Jean Daniel was the author of Farewell America? I suspect that Buchanan got a lot of his information from Daniel, who agreed to carry out negotiations with Castro for JFK. Daniel had a meeting with JFK a few days before he was assassinated. Daniel was with Castro when news arrived of JFK's death.

In March, 1964, Buchanan began publishing articles about the assassination of JFK in L’ Express. At the time Daniel was foreign editor of L'Express. What is clear from these articles and his book, Who Killed Kennedy?, is that he had an important contact from within the Warren Commission. Interestingly, Buchanan appears to have been the first writer to suggest that Lyndon B. Johnson and "Texas oil interests" were responsible for Kennedy's death.

Do you know if Buchanan and Daniel are still alive?

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In my opinion Thomas G. Buchanan was the ghost writer of "Farewell America." He fits the profile given to me by Herve Lamarre, the French intelligence agent who fronted the Farewell project. Buchanan was far from a Communist. He was a World War II veteran, an Ivy Leaguer and a correspondent for L'Express, for whom he covered the Jack Ruby trial.

According to Kenneth Rahn, Buchanan was sacked by Washington Evening Star in 1948 after it was discovered that he was a member of the American Communist Party.


Buchanan was blacklisted and was forced to leave the United States. In 1951 Buchanan settled in France and eventually became head of the Programming Department of the General Organisation Company in Paris.

Is it possible that Jean Daniel was the author of Farewell America? I suspect that Buchanan got a lot of his information from Daniel, who agreed to carry out negotiations with Castro for JFK. Daniel had a meeting with JFK a few days before he was assassinated. Daniel was with Castro when news arrived of JFK's death.

In March, 1964, Buchanan began publishing articles about the assassination of JFK in L’ Express. At the time Daniel was foreign editor of L'Express. What is clear from these articles and his book, Who Killed Kennedy?, is that he had an important contact from within the Warren Commission. Interestingly, Buchanan appears to have been the first writer to suggest that Lyndon B. Johnson and "Texas oil interests" were responsible for Kennedy's death.

Do you know if Buchanan and Daniel are still alive?


Buchanan actually dismisses LBJ as a suspect (I think he was wrong on this). Quoting Buchanan (p.188):

"That Lyndon Johnson is, in any way, involved in Mr. X's plot would be, of course, fantastic. No such implication is intended."

He goes on to suggest an unnamed Texas oil millionaire (Mr. X) as the architect of the assassination.

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In my opinion Thomas G. Buchanan was the ghost writer of "Farewell America." He fits the profile given to me by Herve Lamarre, the French intelligence agent who fronted the Farewell project. Buchanan was far from a Communist. He was a World War II veteran, an Ivy Leaguer and a correspondent for L'Express, for whom he covered the Jack Ruby trial.

According to Kenneth Rahn, Buchanan was sacked by Washington Evening Star in 1948 after it was discovered that he was a member of the American Communist Party.


Buchanan was blacklisted and was forced to leave the United States. In 1951 Buchanan settled in France and eventually became head of the Programming Department of the General Organisation Company in Paris.

Is it possible that Jean Daniel was the author of Farewell America? I suspect that Buchanan got a lot of his information from Daniel, who agreed to carry out negotiations with Castro for JFK. Daniel had a meeting with JFK a few days before he was assassinated. Daniel was also with Castro when news arrived of JFK's death.

In March, 1964, Buchanan began publishing articles about the assassination of JFK in L’ Express. At the time Daniel was foreign editor of L'Express. What is clear from these articles and his book, Who Killed Kennedy?, is that he had an important contact from within the Warren Commission. Interestingly, Buchanan appears to have been the first writer to suggest that Lyndon B. Johnson and "Texas oil interests" were responsible for Kennedy's death.

Do you know if Buchanan and Daniel are still alive?

I wasn't aware that Buchanan belonged to CPUSA. Whether he was or wasn't is immaterial. I have no doubt he ghosted Farewell America. He may well have gotten info from Jean Daniel. I don't know whether they are still alive.

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John wrote:

The comment that “all Communists are liars” is ridiculous. However, much we might disagree with someone political philosophy to believe that everything they say is a lie is daft. For example, the philosophy I hate most of all is fascism. However, I would never say that “all fascists are liars”.

John, I believe that all communists and all fascists are liars in the sense that they subvert the truth to the advancement of their political philosophy. It is one facet of the amoral totalitarian philosophy that "the end justifies the means". I suggest that Lenin and Stalin would agree with me that if a man is not willing to lie to advance the communist cause, he is not a "good communist", so perhaps I should amend my statement to say "all good communists are liars".

This does not mean that everything a good communist says is a lie. It does not mean a good communist is a pathological xxxx for whom lying is like a psychological disorder. It means simply that truth does not matter to them. They will lie when it supports the party cause and they will tell the truth when it supports the party cause.

Therefore, one can never accept the word of a communist because whatever he or she says could be a lie.

I agree with you, of course, that a philosophy of "once a communist, always a communist" is ridiculous. Many times a former communist, having experienced the evils and lies of the system, will become a strong anti-communist. Forum member Nathaniel Weyl is of course a prime example.

I do not know for a fact that Buchanan remained a communist in the 1960s but that is the implication of the article from Rahn's web-site. I agree it would be important to know whether he had renounced communism.

I do not know whether Rahn discounts the word of all leftists, but I do not. Although I disagree with their political philosophy, I have great respect for certain leftists such as Mark Lane, Carl Oglesby--and you. Again, there is a difference between a democratic leftist who elevates truth over the need to advance a political philosophy, and a communist, who does the reverse.

John, I think deep down you youself acknowledge the validity of my points. You took offense when you thought I was implying you knew Buchanan was a Communist but did not disclose it. Had Buchanan been nothing but a socialist, and had I said, "John, you never told us Buchanan was a socialist", you would have laughed at me and said (rightly): "So what?" But you knew the Forum members would want to know if Buchanan was indeed a Communist. If Buchanan was a communist in 1964 the proper response would not be "so what?"; but rather "oh, that is important."

And of course what makes the matter all the more salient is that two Communist states have been accused of being participants in the assassination. Therfore, Buchanan's communism would be all the more important. It would be similar, for instance, if it was discovered that Trento was paid by the CIA to write his book.

Re: "John, I believe that all communists and all fascists are liars in the sense that they subvert the truth to the advancement of their political philosophy".

Does this mean that Shrub and the rest of the Neocons are communists due to their subversion of truth to justify thier invasion of Iraq?

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  • 10 months later...

In the thread he initiated on Thomas Buchanan, author of Who Killed Kennedy? (!964), John Simkin wrote on Apr 13 2005, 04:38 PM

I am very interested in the way that Operation Mockingbird dealt with the JFK assassination. Thomas Buchanan appears to have been the first one to get out a book out criticising the lone-gunman theory (May, 1964).

The CIA was able to put enough pressure on American companies not to publish the book. However, Buchanan got a contract from the left-wing UK publisher, Secker & Warburg.

Sorry, John, but this is wrong.

Secker and Warburg, the UK publisher of Who Killed Kennedy?, was not a “left-wing” publisher by 1964, if it ever had been. Quite the reverse – it was a CIA “beard,” as Francis Stonor Saunders made clear in “Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War” (London: Granta, 1999). Frederick Warburg was in fact a witting collaborator first with IRD (on the board of the British Society for Cultural Freedom no later than 1952), then with CIA (whose chief Encounter panjandrums referred to Warburg as one of “The Cousins,” the other so described being Malcolm Muggeridge). Stonor Saunders offers this touching portrait of the edifying business of dishing out the tax-payer’s dosh:

“Later the IRD paid the money into a private account at publishers Secker and Warburg, and Warburg would then arrange for a cheque for the same amount to be made out to the British Society for Cultural Freedom, of which he was treasurer. The British Society, by now no more than a front for IRD’s cash-flow to Encounter, then made over the same amount to the magazine. In intelligence phraseology, this kind of funding mechanism was known as a ‘triple pass’” (Ibid., p.177).

Thus Thomas Buchanan’s Who Killed Kennedy? was published, in the UK, by a publisher at the very heart of the Anglo-American spook politico-cultural nexus.

Nor is this the only evidence of CIA-backing for Buchanan’s book.

Stonor Saunders’ book is fascinating and I warmly commend it, not least on the subject of CIA control of Hollywood. But there are problems. One for the moment.

In order to earn the status of mainstream dissident – and thus garner favourable reviews from The Guardian, and other nominally left-wing organs – Saunders must perforce exercise a highly selective eye. Thus there is nothing in her book on a remarkable review of Buchanan’s “Who Killed Kennedy?” by that habitual CIA gofer, Goronwy Rees. Here is the review in full:

Encounter, June 1964, pp. 73-74, 76 & 78

Books & Writers: Whodunnit

By Goronwy Rees

Who Killed Kennedy? By Thomas G. Buchanan. Secker and Warburg, 18s.

For the overwhelming majority of Americans, the office of the President has a numinous quality which is reflected upon all its occupants. The President is hedged by a kind of divinity which has long ceased to surround a king. Thus, for Americans, there is something sacrilegious in the murder of a President, which others cannot wholly understand, however much they may sympathise. It is a desecration of the Union’s hallowed ground and for an American it is almost inconceivable that this could be anything except the work of a diseased and deranged personality. To think otherwise, one would have to assume that there are evil men who for their own ends would plot and conspire to violate the most sacred altars of the Republic, and, unless of course such men were Communists, this is something most Americans cannot bring themselves to accept.

Mr. Buchanan, himself an American, has now written a book which will outrage all such beliefs, or superstitions, and at the same time give profound offence to many who believe themselves to be friends of the United States. Who Killed Kennedy? is in many ways an unpleasant book. It is marred by that kind of sour malice, of innuendo and Schadenfreude, to which left-wingers (Mr. Buchanan is a recent ex-Communist) are so often unfortunately prone; even the shade of Jefferson Davis does not escape a perfectly irrelevant sneer. It is also marred by errors of historical interpretation which make one doubt Mr. Buchanan’s credentials as a commentator on the contemporary American scene. If he can be so wrong about the historical situation which led to the assassination of Lincoln, about which after all one knows a great deal, if still not everything, why should we trust his account of the forces which led to the assassination of Kennedy, about which we as yet know very little?

Nevertheless, it would be a pity if its faults denied Mr. Buchanan’s book the attention it deserves. Who Killed Kennedy? asks a serious question which demands a serious answer; and if no better answers are given than those we have already received from Dallas, one might reasonably conclude, as Mr. Buchanan does, that the United States may be threatened by even greater disasters than the murder of a President.

Who Killed Kennedy? has something of the manner, the form, and the fascination of an extremely high class detective story. It begins with a study of the assassination of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley; it is as if Mr. Buchanan were examining the history of some well-ordered and apparently prosperous family whose past has dark secrets, some taint of blood, which one day will once again erupt into violence.

Mr. Buchanan has no difficulty in showing that the assassins of the three Presidents were in no ordinary, or medical, or legal sense mad; in the case of the two of them who were brought to trial, the courts held that they were responsible for their acts. He also shows that they all had definite political motives, however eccentric or mistaken; that John Wilkes Booth certainly was the centre of a widespread plot, even though we still do not quite understand all its ramifications; that Guiteau, who murdered Garfield, thought he was acting on behalf of a defeated political faction; that McKinley’s assassin, Czolgosz, was an anarchist who believed he was acting in the interest both of his own cause and of the people of the United States: “I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good working people.”

What Buchanan is trying to establish is that there is a pattern of Presidential assassination in the United States and that this pattern does not accord with the popular belief that the murder of a President is necessarily the irrational act of a lonely and isolated individual who is diseased or deranged in mind. He wished to show this in particular because the case against Lee Harvey Oswald is precisely that he was such an individual, who acted for no none motive; the original charge that he was a Communist agent was hastily dropped, both because of its inherent improbability and because it would have been extremely difficult to reconcile it with the details of Oswald’s extraordinarily tortuous and ambiguous career. And indeed nothing that is known about Oswald lends support to the theory that he was a totally isolated individual capable of a wholly irrational act; any more than anything that is known about Ruby lends support to the theory that he was a patriotic and emotional American capable of shooting Oswald to spare Mrs. Kennedy further suffering.

The second act of Mr. Buchanan’s whodunnit consists of a detailed analysis of the circumstances of President Kennedy’s murder, so far as these are known from official statements and press reports. This is the best part of the book; and it should be noted that his criticisms of the official theory of the murder coincide with those of others, who may be believed to be less prejudiced than Mr. Buchanan but have found the same difficulty in accepting the baffling improbabilities of the official version. That version is that Oswald and Oswald alone was responsible for the crime and that he shot the President from a room on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository on the corner of Houston Street in Dallas.

Unfortunately, Oswald once again does not conform to the character of the assassin required by the official theory. It requires that, within the space of 5½ seconds, using telescopic sights, he should have directed three accurate shots from a rifle which had to be reloaded after each shot, at a range of 100 yards at a target moving at a speed of ten miles an hour. Such a feat would challenge the skill of the greatest marksman in the world. But Oswald’s record as a marine shows that he was a poor, at best a mediocre shot, and I agree with Mr. Buchanan that even the most intensive training and instruction (which would imply that he had accomplices) could not have transformed him into the superlative marksman who is held to have shot the President.

There is the further difficulty that the distinguished surgeons who operated on the President stated that the bullet which killed the President entered his throat from the front. The assassin on Houston Street, of course, shot the President from the back. The surgeons’ statement was later retracted and we are asked to believe that they made a mistake in the excitement and confusion.

But indeed the series of official statements issued in support of the case against Oswald present such bewildering inconsistencies and contradictions that they defy even the most willing suspension of disbelief. As Mr. Buchanan says, the only constant factor in them was the repeated assertion that Oswald alone was guilty, and as facts appeared which seemed to make this improbable if not impossible, the official version, but not its underlying premise, was hurriedly altered to accommodate them. The official case is surrounded by such a cloud of improbabilities and coincidences (as of the second Carcano rifle which, before the murder, a gunsmith fitted with telescopic sights to the order of an Oswald who was not Lee Harvey Oswald) that it places an almost intolerable strain on one’s credulity. Mr. Buchanan concludes his examination of the police case by leaving the verdict to the reader; but he leaves no doubt of his own conclusion that Oswald alone did not and could not possibly have assassinated the President.

This brings him to the third act of his drama. For if Oswald was not alone guilty, who else was implicated and how was the crime committed? In answering this question Mr. Buchanan is necessarily driven far into the realm of speculation, and most of his readers, unless they share his own prejudices, will be inclined to dismiss his conclusions as at best non proven and at worst as the product of a fervent and malevolent imagination.

His account of the assassination involves the existence of two assassins, one of whom shot the President from the front from the railway tracks over the underpass which the President’s car was approaching (it is significant that when the first shot was fired the onlookers instinctively thought it had come from the direction of the underpass), while the other, with the assistance of Oswald, shot him from behind from the book depository on Houston Street. It involves the complicity of the Dallas police, who left the underpass unguarded and allowed Oswald to leave the book depository before, precisely one minute later, issuing an order for his arrest; and also of the unfortunate policeman Tippit, who was shot by Oswald after the assassination. It involves the existence of a widespread plot, in which Oswald was cast as the scapegoat and fall guy, and Tippit for that of his executioner, who would shoot him down, “while attempting to escape.” (It is inexplicable that Tippit was alone in his radio car in the neighbourhood of Oswald’s rooming-house, after a general call had been sent out for his arrest, though Oswald’s address was known to the police.) But Oswald shot first, and by remaining alive became, for two days, an intolerable embarrassment to the conspirators until, with otherwise inexplicable negligence, the police created the opportunity for the professional gangster Ruby to shoot Oswald before the eyes of the astonished world.

But who were the instigators of the plot? Mr. Buchanan accuses the chiefs of the Texan oil industry, who through the “Dallas Citizens’ Council” control Dallas and its police as effectively as any robber baron ever ruled a medieval community, and in particular one of them, Mr. X, a man of fabulous wealth and a colossal gambler who was willing to take all the immense risks involved in the conspiracy; Mr. Buchanan’s description of him leaves little doubt whom precisely he has in mind.

But what were his motives and what had he to gain? His motives were political; to remove President Kennedy because, firstly, his policy of détente with the U.S.S.R. and consequently of disarmament was a threat to the Texas oil industry’s huge investment in the industrial expansion which had taken place in Texas since the war, and, secondly, because he favoured a reduction in the 25% tax concession which makes oil the most privileged industry in the United States. Equally the motive was to replace Kennedy by Lyndon Johnson, a Southerner, a Texan, sympathetic to the oil industry and as a favourite of reactionary Texans less inclined than Kennedy to make the concessions which a détente with the U.S.S.R. would require.

Stated so briefly, Mr. Buchanan’s charges have an air of fantasy; we are in the world of the Manchurian Candidate, only the cops and robbers have changed sides. But they also have a basis of reality. He supports them with an account of the known connection between politics, big business and organized crime in America, based on the findings of the Kefauver Senate Committee, and with an analysis of the structure and organisation of the Texas oil industry, and the psychology and political chauvinism of its masters, which does not differ in essentials (though with the note of admiration missing) from what one may read in such respectable writers as Mr. John Bainbridge or Miss Edna Ferber. Mr. X is Giant.

And indeed in this lies the sting and the venom of his book. Mr. Buchanan uses the murder of the President to hold up a mirror to America which reflects such a Caliban image of brutishness and corruption that her enemies can only view it with glee and her friends with dismay. It acquires force simply because the analysis of the President’s murder is sufficiently searching and persuasive almost to convince one that this explanation of it must be true; at the very least one is inclined to say that it covers what appear to be known facts better than the official explanation. Mr. X is a more convincing figure than Oswald as a lone assassin or Ruby as a patriot.

What is worse is that the seeds which Mr. Buchanan has sown will find fertile ground to fall on, if not in America, in the rest of the world, where millions of men and women who are only too glad to think the worst of the United States, whether she is their friend or their enemy. It is fortunate, therefore, that, even if Mr. Buchanan were right in his account of the particular elements in American life which he has chosen to emphasise for the purposes of his book, there are also other elements in it which he chooses to ignore though in the long run they have invariably proved the stronger.

In the President’s Commission on the assassination of President Kennedy, presided over by Mr. Earl Warren, ex-Governor of California, and Chief Justice of the United States, America has an instrument which can either put an end to the suspicion and charges raised by Mr. Buchanan, and not by him alone, or ensure that the guilty are brought to justice. No-one who is familiar with the career or the reputation of Mr. Warren can have any doubt of his integrity or his courage or his devotion to the principles to which the United States is dedicated; equally, one cannot doubt that Mr. Robert Kennedy will use to their fullest extent his powers as the Cabinet minister responsible for the F.B.I. to ensure that the Commission will have all the technical assistance it requires in its investigation. (Though Mr. Buchanan, no doubt, would ask us to remember that it was only Texas which gave the Democratic Party its victory in the last Presidential election.)

It must be said, however, that unless the Commission examines in closest detail Mr. Buchanan’s criticisms of the official case against Lee Harvey Oswald, there will be many outside America who will fail to be convinced that it has discharged its task adequately. In his Preface Mr. Buchanan states that, at the request of a staff member, his book has been filed in Washington with the President’s Commission. One may expect therefore that it will receive from the Commission the scrupulous and objective examination it deserves, and until the Commission has reported it would perhaps be an act of friendship to suspend the doubts which the question Who Killed Kennedy? must arouse in anyone who has seriously studied the case.

There is however one fascinating corollary to the hypothesis Mr. Buchanan has formed about the President’s murder, and indeed it might be used as the principle of its verification. If Mr. Buchanan is, in general terms, correct, it should follow as the night the day that Ruby will never live to go to the electric chair. He has appealed against his sentence, and the processes of American law are protracted; in the meantime he constitutes precisely the same dangers to the conspirators, if there was a conspiracy, as Oswald did before Ruby shot him. One must hope that Ruby is given better protection than the Dallas police gave Oswald.

The principle underpinning the CIA’s decision to commission and run such a review isn’t hard to discern: Anybody but the Agency killed Kennedy.

In assessing Buchanan’s bona fides, it would be useful to see what French Communists wrote about the Elm Street coup. Alas, my French is negligible, so the best I can offer is the work of British Communist contemporaries. Both pieces are taken from Labour Monthly, the product, slightly confusingly, of the British Communist Party. The first, in chronological order, is Palme Dutt’s January 1964 piece, “Notes of the Month: After Kennedy,” Vol. XLVI, No. 1, pp.1-15:

Labour Monthly, January 1964, pp. 1-15;

Notes of the Month: After Kennedy

Truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long


By R. Palme Dutt

December 10, 1963

President Kennedy’s murder has thrown a sudden fierce light on the realities of the world in which we live, beneath all the smooth, polite façade of ‘Western civilization.’ This murder was a political act. Its consequences may reach far. The murder of an Archduke in Sarajevo at one end of Europe and the murder of the silver-tongued orator of socialism, Juares, at the other, inaugurated the first world war. The murders of Liebknecht and of Rosa Luxembourg immediately after the first world war, and of Rathenau in the succeeding years, presaged the downward slide of the Weimar Republic into Nazism. The murders of the last independent French Foreign Minister Barthou and King Alexander of Jugoslavia heralded the appeasement of Nazism. What will prove the sequel to Kennedy’s murder? It is no wonder that concern and anxiety is shared in many countries among wide circles of the people far beyond those sharing his political outlook.

Karl Marx’s Address to President Johnson

After the murder of President Abraham Lincoln the First International or International Working Men’s Association (the centenary whose foundation we honour this year) transmitted an ‘Address’ written by Karl Marx, and signed by Marx and all his associates of the General Council, to Lincoln’s successor, President Johnson, whom as Vice-President the assassin had also sought to kill, but who had escaped and survived to find himself suddenly, not by his own wish or solicitation, President Johnson. In his Address Karl Marx and his fellow signatories declared:

It is not our part to call words of sorrow and horror, while the heart of two worlds heaves with emotion. Even the sycophants who, year after year and day by day, stuck to their Sisyphus work of morally assassinating Abraham Lincoln and the great republic he headed stand now aghast at this universal outburst of popular feeling, and rival with each other to strew rhetorical flowers upon his open grave…Such indeed was the modesty of this great and good man that the world only discovered him a hero after he had fallen a martyr…

Yours, Sir, has become the tremendous task to uproot by the law which had been felled by the sword, to preside over the arduous work of political reconstruction and social regeneration. A profound sense of your great mission will save you from any compromise with stern duties. You will never forget that to initiate the new era of the emancipation of labour the American people devolved the responsibility of leadership upon two men of labour – the one Abraham Lincoln, the other Andrew Johnson.

Such were the words Marx chose to address the President of the United States a century ago.

From Lincoln to Kennedy

Kennedy was no Lincoln. Nevertheless it is true that the same evil upas tree of racial slavery, which was and remains the foundation of American ‘free’ institutions and of American wealth, just as of all Western ‘freedom’ and Western wealth, struck down Lincoln a century ago and was one of the key factors in striking down Kennedy today. Lincoln was the leader of ascendant American capitalism, when it was still progressive; and his leadership of the fight of the Republican North against the slave owners of the South made it possible for this Head of State of the already powerful American capitalism to be acclaimed by Marx as a ‘hero’ honoured by the international working class. Yet Lincoln was at the same time the head of what Marx characterised, in his letter to Engels of September 10, 1862, as ‘a bourgeois republic where fraud has so long reigned supreme,’ or again, in his letter to Engels on September 7, 1864, as ‘the model country of the democratic swindle.’ This merciless exposure, in informal private correspondence, of the real character of United States capitalism and capitalist democracy did not prevent Marx from recognising at the same time the historic significance of the role of its President in a given national and international situation, and from giving unreserved public expression to that recognition. It is possible that even today Marxists can learn something from this example of Marx, that it is not enough simply to classify a given political figure by his class affiliation and thereby regard the issue as closed when the need is to judge correctly his political significance in a given historical situation.

Dilemma of United States Policy

Certainly Kennedy belonged to a very different era from that of Lincoln. Kennedy was the representative, no longer of ascendant American capitalism, but of American capitalism in extreme decay, in the culminating stages of monopolist decline: on the one hand, extending its tentacles over the entire world; aggressive, ruthless and brutal; on the other hand, desperate and fearful before the advance of the new world of socialism and national liberation. The lords of American capital are finding themselves compelled to learn today, as the lords of the British Empire had to learn yesterday, that they are no longer all-powerful rulers of the world, capable of dictating their will in any quarter of the globe where they chose to impose it. They have to reckon with a new world situation in which there is equality of forces on either side. They have to reckon with a new strategic situation in which the superiority of ‘Western civilisation’ can no longer be proved by the superiority of the gatling gun over bows and arrows; while the alternative replacement dream, which had currency in the years after the second world war, of atomic monopoly or superiority to maintain the old supremacy has now also vanished. The have to reckon with a new world economic situation where the previous incontestable scientific and technological superiority of capitalism over older systems has now been successfully challenged in turn by the increasingly manifest superiority of the newer economic system of socialism. All this presents a new type of problem for the American policy makers, unguessed even in the days of the foundation of NATO.


From this situation follows the peculiar schizophrenia, the switchback somersaults of contradictions, the open clash of conflicting trends also on the highest levels, the ferocious battles in the Senate Committees or between rival strategic services, the ceaseless ‘agonising reappraisals’ of American policy in the current period. All the previous dreams of ‘the American century’; the spate of bombastic volumes of the Ludwell Denny type proclaiming the inevitability of the American world empire (‘What chance has Britain against America? Or what chance has the world?); the Colliers Magazine ‘Third World War’ Specials in five million copies in 1951 depicting on the cover the American G.I. bestriding Moscow, and proclaiming the theme ‘Russia’s Defeat and Occupation 1952-1960’ – all these have had to vanish into the discard so completely that younger people today, who know nothing of them, would find it difficult to believe that such was the current coinage of the Western world only a dozen years ago, when Priestley also contributed a star article to the Colliers’ ‘Third World War’ Special, describing with imaginative gusto the American occupation of Moscow, or Bertrand Russell, who has since to his honour abundantly redeemed his temporary loss of direction at that time, was advocating a preventative atomic war on the Soviet Union.

Toynbee on the American Counter-Revolution

But once these Fulton dreams of a Truman and a Churchill, of a Bevin and an Attlee, these dreams of the ‘policy of strength,’ of invincible Western power, of nuclear superiority, of triumphant ‘showdown’ with the Soviet Union to ‘roll back the frontiers of Communism,’ have vanished, what is to take their place? There is the problem, there is still the unresolved dilemma of American policy today. All the instincts of the American lords of capital, accustomed to bludgeon and bulldose their way triumphantly against all lesser breeds either within the United States or on the American Continent or abroad, and above all against any whom they might choose to describe as ‘Reds,’ revolt against the idea of negotiating on a basis of equality with the Soviet Union, with Communists. ‘Treason.’ ‘Twenty years of treason.’ They took sixteen years even to recognise the Soviet Union. After fifteen years they have not even yet recognised the Chinese People’s Republic. The banner of revolution raised in the American War of Independence nearly two centuries ago has turned to the opposite. As the historian Arnold Toynbee, until recently the favoured idol in the United States with his mystical cyclical theories cherished by reaction as the doom of any conception of human progress, has noted in his latest lectures published this year:

America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in defence of vested interests.

(Arnold J. Toynbee, America and the World Revolution, 1963.)

‘Paralysis of Power’

But while all the instincts of American reaction continue more violent and aggressive than ever, the more Communism advances in the world, prudence and hard facts and realism compel the recognition of the possible necessity of alternative courses. Slowly, hesitantly, doubtfully, amid the snarls of reaction, the U.S.-Soviet dialogue begins. George Kennan, who initially in the first years after the war (in the famous semi-official article signed by ‘X’) was one of the authors of the cold war theory, describing how its practice would inevitably lead to the crumbling and disintegration of the Soviet Union, has in the subsequent period, notably in the famous Reith lectures of 1958, been among the foremost to recognise the changed facts and the consequent necessity for a change in policy. In his most recent study ‘The Paralysis of American Power’ he has posed the question as ‘the heart of the problem’ of American policy:

Do we want to destroy or negotiate with Communist nations?

And again:

Do we want political or military solutions for the Cold War?

There indeed is ‘the heart of the problem’ of American policy today. And it is this context that needs to be seen the significance equally of the transitional role of Kennedy and of the murder of Kennedy.

Passing of the Eisenhower Era

When President Eisenhower went to the first Summit Conference in 1955, it was not by any means out of his own wishes or with any hope of the prospect that he went. It was the compulsion of world conditions and the climate of world opinion that sent him there. He has recorded in his recently published Memoirs The White House Years: Mandate for Change, 1953-1956, how initially Anthony Eden, when he was Foreign Secretary under Churchill, was opposed to the idea, but that after April 5, 1955, when he became Prime Minister,

For some reason, whether because of political exigencies of his new position or the turn of events in the world, Anthony now reversed his former opposition.

Eisenhower reveals that he eventually fell into line, ‘not wishing to appear senselessly stubborn.’ So the 1955 opportunity came and went, with nothing visible to show save for the theatrical gesture of the ‘Open Skies’ proposal of Eisenhower. Odd, incidentally, how, whenever it comes to proposals at the conference table, the American negotiators have always tended to harp on their central strategic aim of inspection of the Soviet Union. The U2 was another highly unorthodox kind of ‘Open Skies’ inspection. The test ban negotiations were bogged down for years on the issue of inspection. And now, when discussions have been opened on the possible next steps for disarmament, it appears that the American proposals are concentrated on the stationing of inspection teams in the Soviet Union. This nagging desire, with the calculations behind the desire, has become too obvious even to the most unobservant – as Blackett has long ago shown.

Eisenhower’s Unhappy End

1955 passed into the dead record. From the point of view of British Toryism the election had been won, and the urgency of the need was over.

The Devil was sick;

The Devil a Summiteer would be.

The Devil was well;

The Devil a Summiteer was he.

But then came the 1959 election; and the need became urgent again. This time the level of world pressure had risen far higher. Once again the reluctant Eisenhower was brought to the mountain. This time the most extraordinary measures had to be taken by the Central Intelligence Agency and the strategic services to wreck the Summit. The U2 was sent out on its reckless illegal raiding mission over the heart of the Soviet Union at a height which was believed to be beyond the reach of any known rocket, while in case of accident the pilot was equipped, not only with his roubles and revolver, but also his suicide instructions and kit. All went wrong. The deadly accuracy of Soviet rocketry capable of bringing down a fly at 80,000 feet was demonstrated to the world, while the pilot survived to tell the tale of how the massive bribe of dollars had led him to this shameful role. The unhappy Eisenhower was compelled, first to deny knowledge, then to claim a supposed accidental error of flight direction (before it was known that the pilot had survived to tell the tale); then to admit publicly that he, the American President, had lied, and confess to full guilty knowledge beforehand; finally to try to bluster it out and claim the sacred right of American aggression to violate sovereignty any where in the world. So Eisenhower passed out in a blaze of ignominy. The tragedy was duly repeated as farce when his colleague of the abortive Summit of 1960, Macmillan, ended in his turn with the ridiculous ignominy of finding the dignity of his name of a would-be grand signeur inextricably linked for all future history with the final episode of a Profumo and a Keeler attached like a tin can to his tail.

Transition to Kennedy

Kennedy was elected President in 1960 – by an extremely narrow majority against the notorious Red-baiter Nixon – on the basis of a very vehement electoral campaign of denunciation of the entire record of Eisenhower as a record of slackness and sloth. This cut both ways. Eisenhower had himself been originally returned in 1952 on a basis of a vehement electoral denunciation of the Democratic President Truman and his Secretary of State Acheson for their role in the Korean War and a solemn pledge to end the Korean War and bring peace in Korea. He kept that pledge and agreed to the Korean Armistice in 1953. It is one of the more engaging sidelights on American electoral tactics, and also one of the permanent indications of the deep true feelings of the masses of the American people beneath all the noisy official chauvinist bluster on the surface, that any promise of peace from a leading contender can be regarded as a sure electoral winner. President Wilson won the 1916 election on the unanswerable slogan ‘He Kept Us Out of War,’ only to enter the war as soon as the election was safely over, in the spring of 1917. The denunciation of Eisenhower by Kennedy included denunciation of the ‘weakness’ of Eisenhower on Cuba and the promise of vigorous action against the Castro regime in Cuba. That was one side of the medal. But it was not the whole picture.

Two Sides of Kennedy

The historic significance of the role of President Kennedy was that he embodied in his own person both the two conflicting trends in American policy today. On the one hand, he was a most active champion of the cold war. He raised arms expenditure again and again to the most staggering record peacetime height. He sanctioned the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in the first year of his office. Infuriated by the fiasco of that adventure, he prepared in the following year to launch the most massive large-scale official assault and invasion of Cuba, and was only foiled by the Soviet missiles. He conducted the dirtiest war of modern times in South Vietnam. At home, fearful of the power of the Southern Democrats controlling the levers of his machine, he faltered and fumbled before the imperative issue of Civil Rights, until his hand was forced, and let the flames of lawless racial violence rise to such heights as found expression in the murder of tiny Negro children in the open streets while the majesty of American law and power appeared palsied and impotent. The sequel was rapid. The bullet that had shot the Negro children with impunity shot Kennedy as the next victim. Just as the murder of Lumumba prepared the murder of Hammarskjold, so the murder of the Negro children prepared the murder of Kennedy. But it was not for the crimes of the cold war, or the dark record over Cuba and South Vietnam, or for the faltering over Civil Rights, that Kennedy was shot. It was only when he appeared to be moving in the direction of East-West negotiations and possible accommodation, when he set up the joint private exchange line with Premier Khrushchev, when he began to press forward the bill of Civil Rights, that he became the universal target of hatred and calumny by American reaction on a scale unparalleled since Roosevelt after Yalta. The death shot was the sequel.

Kennedy and Peace

For the other side of Kennedy’s restless, enquiring, action-seeking outlook and personality, that side which recognised with sober seriousness the deadly hazards of cold war recklessness and nuclear strategy, and which began to grope, however hesitantly, for an alternative, that side was also present from the outset, and visibly grew as his experience grew, as his contacts with Soviet representatives extended, as he grew with the responsibilities of the Presidency. Already in his election year in 1960 Senator Kennedy had called the ‘liberation’ policy of Dulles and Eisenhower ‘a snare and a delusion,’ and had declared that the United States ‘had neither the intention nor the capacity to liberate Eastern Europe’ (see J. Crown and G. Penty, Kennedy in Power, New York, 1961). True, in his platform speeches (reprinted in the collection under his name entitled To Turn the Tide by Harper and Brothers, 1962) he could still hand out the old threadbare rhetoric about the ‘eternal struggle of liberty against tyranny,’ dating it on one occasion from ‘500 years before the birth of Christ,’ on another occasion as ‘since the beginning of history,’ and on another occasion (all in the same book) as ‘since the end of the second world war.’ But the more the problems gathered around him, the more the real alternatives shattered the tinsel of rhetorical platitudes, and especially after the Caribbean crisis of the autumn of 1962, with the experience of the Soviet-American confrontation and final co-operation for peace in that grave test, the new positive note of insistence on the necessity of negotiation began to sound increasingly in all his major utterances.

‘Re-Examine Our Attitude to Peace’

On June 10, 1963, came the famous speech, appealing to Americans to re-examine their whole attitude to the Soviet Union and to the cold war – the speech which was the first public expression of the approach to a major new phase in American policy, and which was at the same time the starting point of the developments that culminated for Kennedy on November 22. He rejected the conception of a ‘Pax American’ based on the ‘policy of strength’:

What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax American enforced on the world by American weapons of war.

In common with the 1960 Statement of the 81 Communist Parties he recognised two basic propositions of the present epoch. First, that the latest development of nuclear weapons had brought a qualitative change to the question of a new world war:

I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces.

Second, that a third world war should not be regarded as fatalistically inevitable:

Let us re-examine our attitude towards peace itself. Too many of us think it impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed. We must not accept that viewpoint.

On this basis, while emphasising the fundamental difference of social system and outlook of the United States and the Soviet Union as not to be surrendered by either side, he urged the aim and possibility of ‘attainable peace’ through successive limited concrete agreements corresponding to the interests of both sides:

I am not referring to the absolute infinite concept of universal peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics still dream. Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace – based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a more gradual evolution in human institutions – on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned.

‘Re-Examine the Cold War’

Confronting directly the argument of opponents that the character of the Soviet Union and of Communism ruled out the possibility of any stable agreements or peace, he launched out in a series of appeals to the American public to re-think these questions and prepare for the prospect of a reversal of the traditional attitudes of the past eighteen years and a new era of U.S.-Soviet relations:

History teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising shifts in the relations between nations and neighbours…

Let us re-examine our attitudes towards the Soviet Union…Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war. Almost unique among the major world powers, we have never been at war with each other. And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Russians suffered in the course of the second world war…

Let us re-examine our attitude towards the cold war…Our conflicts, to be sure, are real. Our concepts of the world are different. No service is performed by failing to make clear our disagreements…but…we need a much better weapon than the H-bomb – a weapon better than ballistic missiles or nuclear submarines – and that better weapon is peaceful co-operation.

However much the innovating content of this June 10 speech might have been wrapped up in an accompaniment of conventional phrases and sentiments from the cold war armoury to reassure suspicious hearers, the unmistakable signpost pointing towards a major shift in U.S.-Soviet relations and possible closer co-operation was noted by diplomats all over the world, and not least by all the reactionaries and militarists of the United States and West Germany, who already began to sound the alarm.

‘A New Yalta’

Only the most naïve would imagine that an eloquent statement of principles is the same as action. Within a fortnight of that June 10 speech Kennedy was basking in the applause of the neo-Nazi hearers in West Berlin as he denounced Communism and proclaimed himself ‘a Berliner.’ Nevertheless, despite all the obvious contradictions and clashes, through all the fluctuating zig zags, the major line indicated in that June 10 speech continued to be pursued. By the end of July the Partial Test Ban Treaty was initialled, with the official signing by the beginning of August, and was universally recognised as opening a new diplomatic perspective. The anger and alarm of all the embattled hosts of reaction and militarism in the United States and West Germany now became open and unconcealed, all the more as rumours spread (denied by Kennedy on October 31) that the United States was preparing to withdraw some of its occupation troops from West Germany. Talk of a ‘new Yalta’ now began to be heard. Thus in the West German Welt am Sonntag of August 18 the influential economist, reputed close to Erhard, Professor Ropke, wrote:

Kennedy, being progressive, suffers from chronic distortion of sight in face of communist danger. Notwithstanding all the assurances he has given the Germans, he is gravely jeopardising the German glacis by pursuing a policy of one-sided concessions inaugurated by his emissary Harriman, one of the chief architects of the capitulation at Yalta. What de Gaulle justifiably fears is…a decision on Europe made by the Harrimans, the Kennedys and Macmillans – in a word, a new Yalta, whose first stage would be the recognition of the communist rape of territory and of peoples that Yalta made possible, and the second stage the systematic moral and political subversion of what remains of free Europe.

It is rich indeed when the heirs of Hitler can publicly rebuke the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union for daring to draw up the Crimea Agreement (drawn up at Yalta) pledging Three Power co-operation for the destruction of German militarism, Nazism, and fascism.

The ‘Final Solution’

But there is no mistaking the significance of this language which now became current in all the powerful right-wing cold war circles in the United States and West Germany during the autumn of 1963. In these circles ‘Yalta’ represents the ultimate term of abuse, because it was the expression of Western-Soviet unity for the destruction of Nazism and militarism. All the venom and hatred which was piled up against Roosevelt after Yalta from the wealthy monopolists and jackals of reaction began to be accumulated against Kennedy as the target. This menacing trend was accentuated by the internal situation in the United States. Just as the fury of the big vested interests against Roosevelt was intensified by his home measures of the ‘New Deal’ union recognition and war-time taxation (although all these measures were in reality indispensable prescriptions to seek to save the sick American capitalism), so the fury of reaction against Kennedy was intensified as he endeavoured to press forward with even the minimum measure of the Civil Rights bill. On November 11 the Economist recorded from Washington increasing

suspicion of the President’s contacts with the Russians. The report that he and Mr. Khrushchev have exchanged forty or so letters in the past year has become a matter for reproach as well as suspicion.

Kennedy, never lacking in courage, went to beard the beast of American right-wing reaction in its den in Dallas. There on November 22 he was shot dead. Whoever shot those three bullets with such unerring accuracy from a distant window at a moving target, with each bullet a bull’s eye, was certainly a skilled marksman. Kennedy’s death was sudden and rapid, unlike the painful and lingering road to death of Roosevelt during the two months after Yalta. The stock exchange, as soon as it re-opened after the assassination, soared to record heights.

Presidential Murders as a Political System

For a century the murder of the President from time to time has been an unwritten article of the American Constitution. Commentators have observed that out of thirty-two Presidents during the past century four have been assassinated (leaving out the score unsuccessful attempts on others), and that one in eight chances of sudden death might appear a somewhat high casualty rate. But they have either remarked on this as a curious phenomenon, or deduced from it a strain of violence in the American Way of Life. What they have not observed is the constitutional significance of this practice. Under the United States Constitution the President, once he is installed in office for his term of four years (which in practice in the modern period has tended to become a term of eight years), exercises supreme executive power at will, and cannot be removed by any device in the Constitution. He cannot be forced to resign by a vote of Congress. He cannot be impeached. If a President develops progressive tendencies, and begins to enter on courses of action displeasing to the great propertied interests which are the real rulers of America, there is no legal or constitutional way of removing him, there is no way of getting rid of him save by physical elimination. The record of the kingdom of the Carnegies and Rockefellers has shown no scruples in that respect, either within the United States or through the actions of the Marines or the C.I.A. or other agencies in Latin America or other countries.

A Roll of Dead Presidents

Lincoln and Kennedy were shot dead in public. Others also from the moment of causing displeasure to the ruling interests vanished rapidly from the scene. Woodrow Wilson, aflame with the ideal of the League of Nations as a vision of international peace, incurred the obstructive hatred of the Elders of the Senate, who understood very well that American monopoly capitalism could not yet dominate an international organisation of this type and would therefore be stronger outside. Buoyantly Wilson entered on a speaking tour to convert the nation with his unrivalled prestige and popularity. On the tour he was suddenly struck down with physical collapse from which he never recovered; and he died an embittered man. Roosevelt returned from Yalta with its triumphant vision of American-Soviet co-operation for peace and popular advance in the post-war world, and incurred such venomous hatred from American reaction as has never been equalled. Within two months he was dead. He was replaced by the miserable pigmy Truman to inaugurate the cold war.

A C.I.A. Job?

The facts of the Dallas murder may become later more fully known. Or, as is more likely, they may remain forever buried. Universal suspicion has certainly been aroused in all countries by the peculiar circumstances and the still more peculiar actions and successive statements of the authorities both before and after. The obvious tale of ‘a Communist’ was too crude to take in anyone anywhere – especially as it was evident to all that the blow was a blow precisely against the aims most ardently supported by Communists and the left, the aims of peaceful co-existence, American-Soviet co-operation and democratic rights, which Kennedy was accused by the right of helping. The old legal maxim in a case of murder, cui bono – for whose benefit? – still has its value for sniffing out the guilty party. It is natural therefore that most commentators have surmised a coup of the Ultra-Right or racialists of Dallas. That may be but the trail, if followed up seriously, seems to reach wider. Any speculation at present can only be in the air, since the essential facts are still hidden. But on the face of it this highly organised coup (even to the provision of a ‘fall guy’ Van der Lubbe and rapid killing of the fall guy while manacled in custody, as soon as there appeared a danger of his talking), with the manifest complicity necessary of a very wide range of authorities, bears all the hallmarks of a C.I.A. job.

Can the Rat be Deodorised?

After all, the C.I.A. had just arrived fresh from bumping off Diem earlier in the same month. The Kennedy job was certainly a larger order to undertake; but the operation was manifestly organised with the customary elaborate attention to detail. Even the background information offered with regard to the Van der Lubbe presented a highly peculiar story. From the Marines; a supposed ‘defector’ to the Soviet Union being rejected by the Soviet Union; after he has done his job there, returning with all expenses paid by the U.S. Government (not usually so generous to ‘defectors’); endeavours to join anti-Castro gangs in New Orleans, but is rejected by them on the grounds that they regard him as an agent of the C.I.A.; turns up next as a supposed Chairman of a non-existent branch of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which denies knowledge of him or the existence of any branch either in Louisiana or Texas; applies vainly for a visa to Cuba; travels about widely, including to Mexico, with no visible source of finance. Here is typical small fry (‘so weary with disasters, tugg’d with fortune, that I would set my life on any chance, to mend it or be rid on ‘t’) fit to be chosen, and equipped with damning ‘evidence’ as an expendable fall guy, while a more skilled hand does the deed. By accident, when the whole of Dallas is screened in vigilant preparation, the one most strategic building on the route is overlooked. By accident the one notorious suspect, already under supervision by the F.B.I., but intended this time to be found as a suspect, is overlooked in the general rounding up and clearing out of all suspects. By accident, when immediately after the murder the whole building is swarming with police, he is able to walk out unmolested. And then the unhappy fall guy, tricked and trapped and no doubt double-crossed in face of previous promises of an easy getaway and rich reward, noisily protests his innocence, a quick shot inside the prison closes his mouth; and the shot is fired, oddly enough, again through an accidental oversight in letting this unauthorised intruder come close with a revolver, by a type described as an underworld character close to the police. No. The whole story is really too thick; and the more details are offered, the thicker it gets. Of course it will all be cleared up now by the Presidential Commission of Enquiry. Or perhaps not. Naturally we can have every confidence. For on the Presidential Commission Enquiry sits appropriately enough our old friend Allen Dulles, former Director of the C.I.A.

What Now, President Johnson?

What, then, is the prospect now for the United States and the world? It is another of the special features of the American Constitution that when the President dies or is killed, the Vice-President automatically succeeds. The smooth efficiency of this has been much admired. But the other side of the medal is less often noticed. The candidates for President and Vice-President are chosen in the dust and heat and smoky intrigues of the party conventions, with the Vice-Presidency as a kind of sinecure consolation prize for the defeated candidate. If a progressive representative is chosen to run for the Presidency, then the party machine requires that balance shall be maintained by nominating a representative of the right wing for Vice-President so as to leave everyone happy. Suddenly this tactical choice of a convention for a nominal job becomes the political choice of the country. Roosevelt had for running mate the execrable Truman; the electors chose Roosevelt, but they got Truman. When Kennedy was chosen as candidate by the Democratic convention, the balance was made by choosing for the Vice-Presidency a Southern Democrat from Texas.

The People Will Decide

No one would wish now to pre-judge the role of President Lyndon Johnson. In the past his utterances on foreign affairs have been closer to the ‘tough’ cold war line of an Acheson. His resounding crusade in West Berlin immediately after the building of the Wall of Peace, when he distributed ballpoint pens to the admiring population and with a slight lapse of historical memory proclaimed the Germans the finest and truest allies the Americans had ever had, will not easily be forgotten. He has a past to live down (not to mention the ticklish problem of extricating himself from the snowballing scandal associated with Bobby Baker, the Quorum Club and Ellen Rometsch) as well as a future to live up to. Nevertheless, he has also a record as a staunch supporter of Roosevelt’s New Deal. He is a skilled and realist political manipulator; and that can be an important virtue in diplomacy in the present situation. Everyone will assuredly hope that, within the limits of the present stage and existing political forces in the United States, he will rise to the height of the opportunities and responsibilities of the present historic testing time, equally for the future of peace and East-West relations, and for the future of democratic rights within the United States. Above all, the real outcome depends, not on the character of an individual, but on the role of the peoples in every country in the world and on the political leadership of the working class. Not least here in Britain we can influence the outcome by our contribution and our political activity in the coming year. 1964 is General Election Year, when the defeat of Toryism can be accompanied by the advance of the fight for an effective alternative policy, such as Communism and all on the left are striving to achieve.

The second piece is by Ivor Montagu, the film-maker, and Lenin Peace Prize Winner (1959):

Labour Monthly, November 1964, pp.499-503, & 506-509

The Warren Report

By Ivor Montagu

Legend already relates that when Chief Justice Earl Warren agreed to accept the Chairmanship of the Kennedy Enquiry Commission he wept. He had good reason. Just as others had good reason to press him to undertake it. It is interesting to speculate what would have been the reception of its report had the Commission been headed by another of its members – for instance Alan Dulles, the Central Intelligence Agency chief whom Kennedy let go after the Bay of Pigs, or McCloy, ex-High Commissioner in Germany, or either of the racist Democratic Senators (from Georgia and Louisiana) or the Goldwaterite Republican. ‘But Brutus is an honourable man.’ Or so said Marc Anthony when he was commenting upon another murder by conspiracy. In that case, Julius Caesar. In this, the truth itself. As it is, because of Brutus, the conspiracy has got off to a fair start. Not so fair as the reader of the British press, with its unanimous hooflick nowadays in response to any ‘moo’ of the Washington sacred cow, might imagine however. The headline in the New York Times on the day following publication (September 29) reads: ‘WARREN FINDINGS SATISFY OFFICIALS IN WEST EUROPE: MUCH OF PUBLIC SCEPTICAL.’ Just so.

The main impact of the report is its voluminousness. It is a real bucket of brainwash. 718 often repetitious pages, a list of 552 witnesses, innumerable staff, a score or so of volumes of testimony promised ultimately – who, after this, would be ungrateful enough to doubt the thoroughness with which the job was done. The old army sweat will easily recognise this technique. It was called he was hauled before the C.O., ‘blinding him with science.’ And the job? To divert attention from the source that stood out as most obviously to be accused.

In the January issue of this magazine, before ever the Commission got down to work, the editor outlined the case, the obvious pointers to C.I.A., F.B.I. and the Dallas police, that the world had seized upon and that these agencies of national and local government had to answer. Cumulatively it was damning. Every one of the counts that he enumerated is confirmed in the report. And much more. The sins of omission, the sins of commission, the facts that arouse suspicion.

It cannot be said that these accused were totally disregarded. The former head of one – Allen Dulles – sat actually on the Commission. The gathering of facts was completely – or in effect completely - entrusted to the second, the F.B.I. That neither was linked to the crimes in any way is concluded from the assurances of their chiefs. The assurance of Mr. McCone. The assurance of Mr. J. Edgar Hoover. Both gentlemen, through their subordinates, were kind enough to produce files. The CIA found no blameworthy association of Oswald with the CIA. The FBI found no blameworthy association between him and the FBI. Again and again, when a piece of evidence is cited that points in these directions we are told that the FBI found no confirmation. Exactly. There was no cross examination. When relatives of the bumped-off Lee Harvey Oswald asked to appoint counsel to represent him, they were refused. Half-way through, the Commission got cold feet about this and appointed a respected officer of the Court (who hardly ever bothered to attend), a distinguished Goldwaterite, to advise them whether they were being fair. How one would have liked to hear Lawrence Preston, or even Perry Mason, have a go at this sort of thing.

From the beginning of course, the Commission assumed that U.S. agencies cannot frame, cannot fake evidence, cannot lie. Behind them were Sacco and Vanzetti, the Rosenbergs, Hoffa, the Presidential assurances about the U2, Adlai Stevenson’s assurances to the United Nations about the Bay of Pigs. The ink was scarcely blotted on the confessions about the pretended incidents in the Bay of Tonking. But this was its assumption. It remarks firmly that after the releases and pictures and allegations about Lee Harvey Oswald it would have been impossible to ensure a fair trial because of the assumptions any possible jury would make. And then it makes the same assumptions its own whole point of departure in a trial in which his voice was silenced.

Its starting point and its end: not only that Lee Harvey Oswald did it, but that he did it alone. This ‘alone’ was vital. Some people may wonder why, after the careful construction of threads tying Oswald to the U.S.S.R., to Communists, Trotskyists, Cuba, etc., someone changed his mind and the ‘alone’ version, followed by the Commission, was followed instead, from within an hour or two of his arrest. Someone was sensible. These threads were altogether too thin and must snap under any weight. It was too dangerous to have any live accused whose counter-attack might smash the whole thing. After all, the Reichstag Fire Trial was not without its lesson. To prove the Communists guilty, the prosecution revealed evidence that Van der Lubbe could not have done the job alone. As nothing could implicate the Communists, the Nazis pointed at themselves and all the efforts nowadays to whitewash them are bound to fail. How much handier to have bumped off Van der Lubbe on the spot, instead of merely drugging him, and then had a posthumous enquiry commission with Goering as a member and the Gestapo in sole control of collecting evidence.

To reach their preordained conclusion, the Commission had to do some splendid wriggling. The student of the report will notice three outstanding features. First, that when there is any conflict of evidence the Commission threads itself neatly through it, adopting anything consistent with its theory, dismissing as ‘mistaken’ anything that contradicts it. The doctors who first examined Kennedy thought he was shot from the front. Easy, they were mistaken. Some witnesses thought the shots heard were fired from the depository, some from the bridge. Easy, the first were right, the second wrong. Contradictions in time and identity alike are solved by this convenient formula. However, sometimes this wears a little thin. Witnesses who saw Oswald in inconvenient places were mistaken in their recognition – they had seen T.V. pictures of him and this vitiates their evidence. But on the other hand, in their conclusion the Commission claim that nine witnesses saw Oswald kill Tippett or run away after his murder. It becomes a little ingenuous of them to ignore (what they admit later in their text) that the same reservation applies to these. Sometimes they make downright mistakes. One awkward identification of Oswald is dismissed because the ‘Oswald’ seen got drunk, and Lee Harvey, the Commission says, did not drink. But the report later describes an incident in which he did, most thoroughly. (Incidentally, a tantalising reference occurs (p.628) to ‘the English language edition of the Daily Worker,’ allegedly read by Oswald. One would like to know more about this paper.)

On one crucial question let us examine the Commission’s treatment of the question whether it was possible for a man like Oswald to fire the shots and hit the President. This is a clear example of its method. It knows that there is a great question whether one man with such a rifle could accurately have fired the number of shots available in the given time. So first it is anxious to minimise the number of shots. After a lot of weighing and microscopic examination of the bullets (and no explanation of the interval before traces of bullets were looked for on the ground) it concludes that the number must have been three or four and plumps for three. After analysing the evidence of times shots were heard and wounds were seen it comes to the conclusion that if, of the three bullets fired, two hit Kennedy and one hit Governor Connolly the time necessary would have been 4.8 to 5.6 seconds. But this is inconvenient because it comes too close to the time taken for these shots in their tests. So they have the magnificent idea that if one shot missed, and if this was not the middle one but the first or third, the time evidence could be held to give up to 7.1 or even 7.9 seconds. Accordingly in their report they not only state it as a possibility, that one shot hit both Kennedy and Connolly, but conclude it as a fact, loading a headline THE SHOT THAT MISSED, although this is absolutely contrary not only to Connolly’s impression but to the insistent evidence of Connolly’s wife, also in the car, who is determined it was after Kennedy was hit that she heard the shot that hit her husband. The Commission argue that this is perfectly consistent with their conclusion because sound does not travel instantaneously. According to the distance it gives, the sound would have reached Mrs.

Edited by Paul Rigby
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