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IB Essay: JFK's Foreign Policy & the Assassination


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We can thank our lucky stars that Castro was no Communist; the situation was made to order for them.

— William Attwood, in "Look", March 3, 1959.

William Attwood was of course right about this. The problem was that Eisenhower's policy towards Castro was so inept that he drove him into the arms of the Soviets. There were senior figures in the CIA who also believed that supporting Castro in the late 1950s was the best way of keeping Cuba from falling to the communists. They knew that Batista was so corrupt that it was just a matter of time before he was overthrown. The problem was that Republican presidents prefered to help keep corrupt military dictators in power. Nothing changes does it.

John wrote:

William Attwood was of course right about this.

But John Kennedy said:

I look at Cuba, 90 miles off the coast of the United States. In 1957 I was in Havana. I talked to the American Ambassador there. He said that he was the second most powerful man in Cuba, and yet even though Ambassador Smith and Ambassador Gardner, both Republican Ambassadors, both warned of Castro, the Marxist influences around Castro, the Communist influences around Castro, both of them have testified in the last 6 weeks, that in spite of their warnings to the American Government, nothing was done.

Fourth Presidential Debate, New York City, October 21, 1960 (full text available at jfk library web-site).

Kennedy was right!  So were Gardner and Smith.  But Attwood was wrong!  (If Attwood was correct, then Fidel was a xxxx--right, John?  He may or may not be an assassin, but he was clearly a xxxx about when he became a Communist if your position is correct).

This is all about dates. When William Attwood wrote about Castro for Look in 1959 he was not a communist. Attwood, like senior members of the CIA, realised that at this stage Castro was a nationalist and not a communist. They also realized that it was just a matter of time before Batista was overthrown. He was a corrupt military dictator running Cuba on behalf of himself, the Mafia and the large US corporations with considerable investments in the country. Attwood and the CIA thought it was in the best long-term interests of the US to replace Batista with Castro.

However, there were some right-wing extremists like Earl Smith (and apparently Tim) that would rather have someone like Batista in control (Smith was getting a rake-off, what is your excuse Tim). This is the way it has always been. Right-wing American presidents have always felt more comfortable with military dictators than nationalist reformers. It has caused disaster after disaster and has resulted in the Soviet Union and China to take the high moral ground by supporting reformist groups throughout the Third World.

The CIA plan to persuade Castro to become pro-US. This would have been possible after Castro had cleared out the Mafia from Cuba. The Mafia were extremely unpopular in Cuba (mainly because of the way it went against the teachings of the Catholic Church with its policies of creating wide-spread prostitution to cater for the tastes of American tourists). This was a central point of Castro's policy and had gained him the support of the Church.

As Robert has pointed out Eisenhower's policy gave Castro no option. It was either accepting the support of the Soviet Union or mass starvation.

William Attwood was right to say in 1959 that Castro was not a communist. John Kennedy was right in 1960 to say that Castro was a communist.

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But John in his 1960 debate JFK was refering to the situation in 1957, when he met with Ambassador Smith (before the American Embassy Christmas Party) by the way. JFK was clearly refering to Communist influences around Castro in 1960.

By the way, what evidence do you have that Smith was getting a "rake-off"> A rake-off of what?

Your joke was funny, though!

My friends on the left always assume somebody should be paying me for my posts. Alas, it does not happen!

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But John in his 1960 debate JFK was refering to the situation in 1957, when he met with Ambassador Smith (before the American Embassy Christmas Party) by the way.  JFK was clearly refering to Communist influences around Castro in 1960.

JFK is clearly playing politics with this speech. Nixon was vulnerable to the charge in 1960 that the Eisenhower administration allowed a communist sponsored Castro to gain power. That is what Earl Smith was saying in 1960. See for example his testimony to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on 27th August, 1960.

http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/us-cub...rdner-smith.htm

In June, 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Smith as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Cuba. FBI files reveal that over the next two years JFK made more than a dozen visits to Cuba. However, in most cases he met Smith's wife, Florence Pritchett Smith. JFK had been having an affair with Florence since 1944.

JFK also met Florence in Miami and Palm Beach, where their homes were conveniently adjoined. According to one account: "JFK would elude the Secret Service on occasion in order to have trysts with women. He did this in Palm Beach when he hopped a fence to swim with Flo Smith. The Secret Service agents couldn't find him and called in the FBI. They finally turned to Palm Beach Police Chief Homer Large, a trusted Kennedy family associate. The Police Chief knew exactly where to find Jack - next door in Earl E. T. Smith's swimming pool. Jack and Flo were alone, and as Homer put it, "They weren't doing the Australian crawl."

JFK did listen to the opinions of Earl Smith. However, he spent more time listening to William Attwood who was one of his chief foreign advisors in 1960. He also wrote several forein policy speeches during the 1960 campaign. Attwood remained one of JFK most important advisors until the assassination in 1963.

By the way, what evidence do you have that Smith was getting a "rake-off"> A rake-off of what?

As I have said before, right-wing anti-communists mainly hold these opinions for economic, and not ideological reasons (see for example George Bush's current relationship with President Karimov of Uzbekistan).

Earl Smith was no different. His support for Batista was rewarded by pay offs from the Mafia who controlled the gambling and prostitution on the island. He was also in the pay of those US corporations that did so well under Batista. This later became official when Smith became director of the U.S. Sugar Corporation.

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John wrote:

Earl Smith was no different. His support for Batista was rewarded by pay offs from the Mafia who controlled the gambling and prostitution on the island.

John, what is your evidence for this?

Let us do a deal. I will answer this question if you answer the questions I have been asking you. For example:

1. What policies did you support in 1972?

2. Why did you say you agreed with Donald Segretti's suggestions he made during your meeting with him?

3. Why did you stop being a lawyer?

By the way, what do you make of William Turner's posting?

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=4487

To quote William Turner:

"The interesting part of this scenario is that it establishes Ulasewicz's presence in Wisconsin at the critical time. I interviewed by phone Earl S. Nunnery, who was the terminal master for the C&O ferry which ran between Milwaukee and Michigan, where it is known that Bremer stalked Wallace. On one occasion when he went to the ferry terminal, Bremer was accompanied by an older man with whom he talked excitedly about a campaign and bringing lots of kids across, but in the end it was only Bremer who was ticketed. The man was build like a football player six feet two and 225 pounds. He wore a mustache and had curley black hair. He did most of the talking, with a New York accent or Jersey brogue. He was attired in a mod checked suit and wide tie with a stickpin with a red stone. The FBI showed Nunnery an assortment of photos, none of which he could identify. Could this have been Ulasewicz?"

Was Ulasewicz the man described above? Or is it a description of Dennis Cassini?

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John asked:

1. What policies did you support in 1972?

2. Why did you say you agreed with Donald Segretti's suggestions he made during your meeting with him?

3. Why did you stop being a lawyer?

By the way, what do you make of William Turner's posting?

1. John I have several times described the "policies" I supported in 1972.

Nixon had not been my candidate of choice in 1968 to be sure and I did not agree with all of his policies. Given my strong anti-communist perspective I was not sure if I necessarily agreed with his "embrace" of Communist China. I generally supported his effort to achieve detente with the Soviet Union. As I recall, I was generally satisfied with Nixon's domestic policies. Nixon, as you probably know, endorsed and helped effectuate the Environmental Protection Agency. In general I considered Nixon's record that of a "moderate" Republican. Not quite sure what my "policies" (I assume you mean the "policies" I supported) have to do with the price of tea in China. Do you have a question about a specific political issue in question in 1972? I'm not trying to evade the question but it does seem quite broad.

2. I do not recall to whom the memorandum was addressed. As I have repeatedly stated, Segretti was suggesting certain things (such as printing fake tickets to fund-raising tickets) that I considered, at the minimum, highly questionable, which was the reason I complained about him. But he also had offered several ideas that seemed ethically permissible and an appropriate part of political debate. I think my memo which you did publish in full enunciated some of those ideas. Again, it was my opinion that Segretti was either an agent provocateur for the Democrats who would lure Republicans into positions that were compromising or embarrassing ; or he was working independently of CREEP, financed by some rich Republican(s) but he also had the potential of embarrassing the campaign. In either case, I thought it important for CREEP to figure out who he was and who he was really working for.

3. John I think it has already come out that I was disbarred in Wisconsin in 1993. I am embarrassed and ashamed but it has nothing to do with this Forum or the issues being and I do think it is rather akin to "hitting below the belt" to publicize the personal failures of a member of the Forum. I suspect it was more than a coincidence that my personal problems of a dozen years ago were first raised when I started to discuss whether the Forum was publishing libelous statements about me.

Regarding Mr. Turner's posting it is clear that in his book "Government by Gunplay" he refered to the article from the Milwaukee newspaper that discussed the Segretti incident. It clearly never implied that I had anything to do with funding Bremer (nor any "group" with which I was associated). So it appears that Sprage seized on that passage and whether deliberately or sloppily twisted it all around.

John, Ulasewicz was probably 6 foot two and probably about 225 pounds but anyone who has seen his photo or recalls his testimony would hardly say that he was "built like a football player". Nor did he have "curly black hair". So I do not think the man being described was Ulasewicz.

I eagerly await your proof that Smith was "on the take" from the Mafia.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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We can thank our lucky stars that Castro was no Communist; the situation was made to order for them.

— William Attwood, in "Look", March 3, 1959.

William Attwood was of course right about this. The problem was that Eisenhower's policy towards Castro was so inept that he drove him into the arms of the Soviets. There were senior figures in the CIA who also believed that supporting Castro in the late 1950s was the best way of keeping Cuba from falling to the communists. They knew that Batista was so corrupt that it was just a matter of time before he was overthrown. The problem was that Republican presidents prefered to help keep corrupt military dictators in power. Nothing changes does it.

John wrote:

William Attwood was of course right about this.

But John Kennedy said:

I look at Cuba, 90 miles off the coast of the United States. In 1957 I was in Havana. I talked to the American Ambassador there. He said that he was the second most powerful man in Cuba, and yet even though Ambassador Smith and Ambassador Gardner, both Republican Ambassadors, both warned of Castro, the Marxist influences around Castro, the Communist influences around Castro, both of them have testified in the last 6 weeks, that in spite of their warnings to the American Government, nothing was done.

Fourth Presidential Debate, New York City, October 21, 1960 (full text available at jfk library web-site).

Kennedy was right!  So were Gardner and Smith.  But Attwood was wrong!  (If Attwood was correct, then Fidel was a xxxx--right, John?  He may or may not be an assassin, but he was clearly a xxxx about when he became a Communist if your position is correct).

William Attwood explained this article in his book, The Twilight Struggle: Tales of the Cold War (1987):

In a report for Look after my January visit, I wrote, "We can thank our lucky stars that Castro was no Communist." This statement may sound naive today, but it was valid then. CIA Director Allen Dulles told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, "We do not think that Castro himself has any Communist leanings," but warned that he could lose control of the situation and that his brother Raul was "more irresponsible." Vice President Nixon, after meeting Castro in Washington in April, also said he was not a Communist but "a captive of the Communists." I doubt he was ever anyone's captive but he did publicly embrace Communist doctrine in 1961, after the Bay of Pigs, though not Soviet discipline. That June, Khrushchev told Kennedy that Castro was "not a Communist but U.S. policy could make him one."

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John wrote:

Earl Smith was no different. His support for Batista was rewarded by pay offs from the Mafia who controlled the gambling and prostitution on the island.

John, what is your evidence for this?

It is very difficult to provide concrete evidence of politician’s corruption. For example, recently we had the case of George Bush’s chief advisor on global warming being given a top job with Exxon Mobil, the world’s leading oil company. It is it a coincidence that while Bush's adviser he claimed that global warming was not happening?

Then we have the case of US under-secretary of state, Paula Dobriansky, a strong opponent of the Kyoto agreement. Documents have recently been revealed that showed that Dobriansky wrote to Exxon thanking its executives for the company's "active involvement" in helping to determine climate change policy, and also seeking its advice on what climate change policies the company might find acceptable.

This evidence would not be good enough to win a court case. For example, it does not show conclusively that there is a connection between Bush’s unwillingness to accept global warming or his decision not to sign Kyoto and the large sums of money Exxon, a company valued at $379bn, has paid to the Republican Party. However, those with any political understanding of how these things work, realize why companies like Exxon pay such large sums of money to political parties.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/st...1501646,00.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/st...1501632,00.html

The same is true in the UK. I have posted numerous examples of Tony Blair’s corruption on the forum. Here is just one example. Rupert Murdoch used his media empire to promote the Conservative Party during the period 1979-1997. Murdoch did very well under this arrangement. For example, during this period, the Conservative government refused to close tax loopholes that meant that Murdoch did not pay any tax in the UK. In return, Margaret Thatcher and John Major obtained lucrative deals to write their memoirs. Both these politicians had their memoirs published by HarperCollins, a company owned by Murdoch. Commentators said at the time that Murdoch had paid too much for these memoirs and would never get his money back. However, Murdoch knew what he was doing, it was a way of paying a bribe without being charged with corruption.

In 1997 Murdoch’s empire changed sides and supported New Labour instead of the Conservative Party. This was a wise move as it seemed certain that the Conservatives would be beaten in this election. However, this decision by Murdoch followed several meetings with Blair. Apparently, Murdoch was very concerned about Gordon Brown, New Labour’s shadow chancellor, who had made several speeches promising to close the tax loophole that Murdoch had been using under the Conservative government.

New Labour was duly elected and Brown did indeed close some tax loopholes. However, not the one that Murdoch had been using. Something else happened as well. Blair’s policies began to mirror those of Murdoch (including the invasion of Iraq).

18 months ago Blair decided to buy a house in London that was on the market for £3.5m. However, at first he could not get a mortgage for this house. Eventually he obtained this mortgage by revealing that he had signed a 3.5m deal with HarperCollins for his memoirs. Just a coincidence of course but an excellent way of paying a bribe (the tactic actually dates back to David Lolyd George in the 1920s).

Now look at the case of Earl Smith. The money trial from the Mafia/US Sugar Corporation will never be found. The one way we can see how money passes hands from one to the other. In Smith’s case this happened via his job with the US Sugar Corporation.

Bobby Baker once explained how he passed money from the Mafia to corrupt politicians. It was done mainly by giving them tips to buy shares in certain companies. Another way was to give tips on horses that “could not lose”. This was how the Mafia paid J. Edgar Hoover for his services. They also paid for all his holidays, etc. That is the way politics works. You don't really believe that people like Earl Smith and George Bush really care about democracy in countries like Cuba and Iraq?

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To add to John's post above, it's quite inconsistent for the current--or any other--administration to espouse free trade within a particular hemisphere on one hand [CAFTA a recent example, and NAFTA a slightly-more-distant one], and then also support the ban on trade with Cuba. If the Cuban citizens were exposed to the fruits of capitalism--the products of industry, and the profits available from the sale of their own products as well--it's difficult to argue that they would continue to think that Castro's form of government is in any way superior.

Whether the citizens would rise up and demand something more akin to democracy is dangerous speculation. But keeping the trade embargo with Cuba intact, in my opinion, only strengthen's Castro's 45-year-old contention that Cuba is, indeed, holding its own in spite of Uncle Sam...and the propaganda value of that, in my opinion, outweighs any boost Castro might get from trade with the US.

In fact, I believe that lifting the embargo would do more to undermine Castro than it would to support him, as it would expose the true nature of Cuba under Castro to another 250 million people to the north, and should a citizen uprising then occur, the US would then have "humanitarian" reasons to get involved.

But with the Cuban economy now a "closed book" to the average American citizen, the poverty of the average citizen there escapes notice and there is no sense of outrage...only apathy.

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Simone: It will help you a great deal if you can get hold of William Attwood's book, The Twilight Struggle: Tales of the Cold War (1987). Attwood was probably JFK's most important foreign policy advisor. He was the man who arranged the negotiations between the JFK administration and Castro in 1963. Here is a long extract from this book to explain what was taking place in 1963. I believe this document helps to understand why JFK was assassinated. Take a close look at the last two paragraphs.

On April 21, 1963, McGeorge Bundy, Kennedy's national security adviser, wrote a memorandum entitled "Cuban Alternatives" that made the point, heretofore overlooked, that Castro's death would lead to "singularly unpromising" consequences for U.S. policy, since he would almost certainly be succeeded by his brother Raul. And there was little doubt that Raul was far more likely than Fidel to follow the Soviet script to the letter.

Bundy's memorandum also identified three possible alternatives to continuing futile plots and pinpricks indefinitely: (i) forcing "a nonCommunist solution in Cuba by all necessary means"; (ii) insisting on "major but limited ends"; (iii) moving "in the direction of a gradual development of some form of accommodation with Castro."

The last alternative, which grew out of a January proposal from Bundy to Kennedy about exploring the possibility of communicating with Castro, was then accepted by a new committee, the Special Group, which had assumed responsibility within the White House for reviewing and approving covert actions in Cuba. Sabotage had all but ceased early in 1963. Yet in June-the same month Kennedy delivered his famous speech on making the world "safe for diversity"-a sabotage program designed to "nourish a spirit of resistance and disaffection" was approved in the White House, and thirteen major operations planned for the November 1963 January 1964 period.

What could we-or should we-have been doing instead?

Four realities had to be kept in mind, and weren't:

First, Fidel Castro's one-man revolution was improvised, erratic, whimsical at times, but pervasive - and fueled by passionate popular support. Politically, he was an impetuous radical revolutionary - too undisciplined to be the Communists' satrap but not averse to using them and parts of their doctrine, nor to turning to the Soviet Union for the aid and trade he needed to keep going. His avowal in December 1961 that he'd always been a Marxist was believed by no one who knew him well; but his pride compelled him to say he was neither an opportunist nor some wet-behind-the-ears recent convert to Lenin's teachings.

Second, the revolution he'd set in motion could never be reversed after 1959. To turn the clock back, as the exiles hoped to do, would have meant closing schools and clinics, taking shoes away from children, returning most sugar plantations to absentee landlords, reopening Havana's casinos and notorious brothels and denationalizing expropriated firms whose owners had by now fled. There was just no way. The social and economic transformation of Cuba was too far advanced. Even if the revolution was mismanaged, as it was, the Soviets seemed willing to bail out their protégée indefinitely by buying his sugar above market prices and selling him oil below market prices. As a result, Castro has cost them billions of rubles over the past quarter century; but why should this concern us?

Third, the Cuban exile community, augmented annually by Castro's shrewd policy of letting the disgruntled leave-with one suitcase each created a voting bloc in Florida and some northeastern states that soon carried weight with politicians. Denouncing Castro became a ritual for candidates in certain congressional districts, even though there were more brutal and corrupt dictators then in power all over Latin America.

Fourth, the only identifiable U.S. interests in Cuba were to retain our naval base at Guantanamo Bay (which we have) and to prevent Cuba from becoming a center for Soviet subversion of Latin America.

As it turned out, the Soviets preferred using traditional (and obedient) Communist parties for this purpose, and Castro's forays in the area were such failures that he all but gave up trying to export his revolution in mid-1964, by which time it had become somewhat tarnished by economic failures. Che Guevara, more restless and romantic, carried his revolutionary torch a while longer until his death in the jungles of Bolivia in 1967.

My hunch, buttressed by what I've read and heard, is that by mid 1959 it was too late for us to influence the course or the pace of the Cuban revolution. Castro, like a runaway horse with the bit in his teeth, was going all out. He barely found the time to see our able and generally sympathetic new career ambassador, Philip Bonsal, who replaced two successive pro-Batista political envoys, Arthur Gardner and Earl Smith. Bonsal hadn't given up on Castro in July, as I said earlier, but that was before Cienfuegos's mysterious disappearance, Urrutria's ouster and Matos's arrest and conviction.

In 1958, imaginative diplomacy on our part might have succeeded in persuading Batista to leave (as Marcos was persuaded twenty-eight years later) and allowing the democratic reformists to set up a government while Castro was still in the mountains-a government, backed by the army, in which his 26th of July Movement could play a role but not a commanding one-certainly until elections were held. I was told just such a course of action was proposed in Washington but flatly rejected by Ambassador Smith.

But if Fidel Castro was in fact committed to an anti-American policy, why did he sound so conciliatory in his talk with me? Indeed, why did he even bother to see me? The answer, I think, is that he had not yet turned against us (as he did, understandably, in 1960, when he learned of the Eisenhower Administration's preparations for the Bay of Pigs). He plausibly wanted normal diplomatic and trade relations with us, provided we didn't interfere with his revolutionary programs or even protest-as we did in May 1959 - the seizure of U.S. property without compensation under the new Agrarian Reform Law. Castro was erratic and, as he confessed to me, emotional. It was in character for him to say, "Let us be friends" - and mean it - even while taking economic and political actions in the name of the revolution that were certain to anger us.

My own view today is that our wisest policy would have been to accept the fact that Castro was firmly in control and treat him with benign indifference, letting him know our door was open if he wanted to talk (as I once told Sekou Toure). Harassing or insulting him served no American purpose and was also an unbecoming stance for a great power. After all, we held on to Guantanamo, even though he refused to accept the annual rental payment; we didn't need his sugar, and he was never a threat to our security except in our fevered political rhetoric. The missile crisis was a U.S.-U.S.S.R. stare-down, with Fidel as a bystander, furious when Khrushchev backed off; it was never a Cuban-American crisis. As for the lure of Castroism in Latin America, his efforts in that direction finally fizzled out in Caracas, and Castro turned his attention to agronomy. Look, which had opened a South American bureau in 1963 to cover the expected Fidelista penetration of the continent, closed it down two years later. Absent the specter of Fidelismo, readers of American mass magazines couldn't care less about that part of the world.

To sum up, our national interest was not served by a policy of unremitting hostility any more than it was in the eighties in Nicaragua. It merely isolated us progressively from the Organization of American States and, on the trade embargo, from our European allies, who continued to do business with Cuba. Even the Vatican has kept a papal nuncio in Havana through the years. We have managed to look both surly and scared and, since the Bay of Pigs, vengeful. Europeans often told me we kept slapping at Castro because he'd had the effrontery to thumb his nose at us, just ninety miles from our shores. All we really accomplished was to dispel the myth (to which some Americans still cling) that we are both innocent and omnipotent.

The foregoing considerations made me receptive to some signals I began picking up in September 1963 at the United Nations, where I was assigned to our delegation as special adviser on African affairs. Among my duties were keeping in touch with African delegates and trying to mitigate the effects of our frequent votes in favor of South African or Portuguese positions. (The lawyers who dominated our delegation persisted in viewing the General Assembly as a tidy parliamentary chamber or judicial body, which it certainly wasn't, instead of an unruly political convention where no one ever got nominated and scoring publicity points was the name of the game (along with letting off steam.) Even President Kennedy questioned our almost automatic support of Portugal, something the Pentagon insisted on to safeguard our bases in the Azores. (When I once mentioned to him that backing Portuguese colonialism hurt us in Black Africa, he mused aloud, "The navy keeps saying the Azores are vital to our security. But I bet they'd find an alternative if the Azores disappeared in a tidal wave.")

Anyway, on September 5, I was talking Africa with Lisa Howard, an ABC correspondent, who told me she'd recently interviewed Castro in Havana and was convinced he'd like to restore communications with the U.S. She offered to arrange a social gathering at her apartment where I could meet casually and informally with Carlos Lechuga, Cuba's representative at the U.N.

I told her I'd let her know, on the understanding that she would keep all such contacts confidential in exchange for exclusivity if there should be a story to be told somewhere down the road. But her impression reminded me of something Sekou Toure said to me during the 1962 missile crisis: "I'm sorry for Castro. I think he is a nationalist and a neutralist at heart, whatever he sometimes says. But he had neither the intellectual training nor the ideological experience to understand the Communists. I did-in the trade union movement-so I know how they operate. But Castro is naive and has allowed himself to be used by them. Even so, if you are flexible, I think he can be brought back to a neutralist position."

This could be the moment to be flexible, and in Washington a week later I mentioned the possibility of sounding out Lechuga to Averell Harriman, then an assistant secretary of state. He was intrigued and asked me to do a memo on it. Ken Galbraith, back from India and returning to Harvard, told me Harriman, rather than Stevenson, was the man to see in order to get the president's attention.

On September 17, I ran into Seydou Diallo, Guinea's ambassador to Cuba, in the Delegates' Lounge, and he volunteered the information that Cuba's economy was in a slump and Castro would soon be amenable to some sort of agreement with us. "He is salvageable," he said. "Give him another three months." Other Africans I talked to expressed generally the same view.

That day I wrote a "Memorandum on Cuba," based on the premise that the policy of isolating Cuba not only intensified Castro's desire to cause trouble but froze the United States before the world "in the unattractive posture of a big country trying to bully a small country."

The memo went on:

According to neutral diplomats I have talked to at the U.N., there is reason to believe that Castro is unhappy about his present dependence on the Soviet Union; that he does not enjoy in effect being a satellite; that our trade embargo is hurting him-though not enough to endanger his position; and that he would like to establish some official contact with the United States and would go to some length to obtain normalization of relations with us-even though this would not be welcomed by most of his hard-core Communist entourage ...

All of this may or may not be true. But it would seem that we have something to gain and nothing to lose by finding out whether in fact Castro does want to talk and what concessions he would be prepared to make ...

What I am proposing is a discreet inquiry into neutralizing Cuba on our terms. It is based on the assumption that, short of a change of regime, our principal political objectives in Cuba are: i. The evacuation of all Soviet bloc military personnel. ii. An end to subversive activities by Cuba in Latin America. iii. Adoption by Cuba of a policy of nonalignment.

I suggested the time and place for this inquiry were the current session of the U.N. General Assembly and that, having visited Cuba and talked with Castro in 1959, it would be natural for me to meet informally with Lechuga. If Castro was interested, one thing might lead to another: "For the moment, all I would like is the authority to make contact with Lechuga. We'll see what happens then."

The next day, I showed the memorandum to Stevenson, who liked it. "Unfortunately," he said, "the CIA is still in charge of Cuba." But he offered to take it up with the president. Harriman was in New York on the nineteenth, so I gave him a copy too. He said he was "adventuresome enough" to be interested but urged me to see Bob Kennedy, whose approval would be essential. I called Kennedy and got an appointment to see him on the twenty-fourth.

Meanwhile, Stevenson told me he had talked to the president about the Cuban initiative when he came to New York on the twentieth to address the General Assembly, and got his agreement to go ahead. For some reason, Stevenson was not keen on my seeing Robert Kennedy, but I trusted Harriman's instincts. Bob had been deeply involved in our Cuban relations and would expect to be consulted about this gambit; also, he had his brother's ear as did no one else.

I did tell Lisa to organize her cocktail party, and on the twenty-third Lechuga and I found ourselves talking about Fidel and the revolution in a corner of her apartment. He said Castro had hoped to establish some sort of contact with Kennedy after he became president in 1961, but the Bay of Pigs ended any chance of that, at least for the time being. But Castro had read Kennedy's American University speech in June and had liked its tone. I mentioned my Havana visit in 1959 and Fidel's "Let us be friends" remark in our conversation. Lechuga said another such conversation in Havana could be useful and might be arranged. He expressed irritation at the continuing exile raids and our freezing $33 million in Cuban assets in U.S. banks in July. We agreed the present situation was abnormal and we should keep in touch.

On the twenty-fourth I flew to Washington, gave Bob Kennedy my memo, which he read, and told him of my talk with Lechuga the night before. He said my going to Cuba, as Lechuga had mentioned, was too risky-it was bound to leak-and if nothing came of it the Republicans would call it appeasement and demand a congressional investigation. But he thought the matter was worth pursuing at the U.N. and perhaps even with Castro some place outside Cuba. He said he'd consult with Harriman and McGeorge Bundy.

On the twenty-seventh I met Lechuga in the U.N. Delegates' Lounge-always a good place for discreet encounters because of its noise and confusion-and said it would be difficult for me, in my present capacity as a government official, to accept an invitation to Cuba; however, I was authorized to talk to anyone who came here from Havana. He said he'd pass my message along. Meanwhile, he warned me he'd be making a tough anti-American speech on October 7, but not to take it too seriously.

On October 2, Bundy called to say that Gordon Chase, one of his deputies, would be my White House contact and to keep him informed.

The next day, I lunched with an old friend, Jean Daniel, the editor of the French socialist newsweekly L'Observateur, who said he was going to Washington and then Havana to see Castro, who he had reason to believe would now be receptive to some bold diplomacy from our side. I called Ben Bradlee, then Newsweek's Washington bureau chief, who knew Daniel, and suggested he try to get him an appointment with the president.

On the seventh, Lechuga made his speech, denouncing our trade embargo and the exile raids as warlike acts. It got a lot of applause, even from the moderates, who instinctively sympathized with a small country standing up to a superpower. Stevenson had asked me for a draft of a reply, in which he said that Castro could have peace with all his neighbors if he stopped trying to subvert other nations and taking orders from Moscow and instead started honoring the original democratic pledges of his revolution.

On October 19, a Greek town planner named Doxiades, just back from Havana, dropped in to tell me Castro was sincerely interested in normalizing relations with us.

Two days later Chase called and I told him the ball was still in Lechuga's court.

On the twenty-fourth, the president saw Daniel after Bradlee told him of his forthcoming trip to Cuba. Kennedy blamed our pro-Batista policy in the fifties for "economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation" and added, "We'll have to pay for those sins." But he said the Cuban problem now had a Soviet dimension in that Castro was doing the Kremlin's bidding and acting as its agent in Latin America: "The continuation of our economic blockade depends on his continuation of subversive activities." But as Daniel wrote later, "I could see plainly that John Kennedy had doubts and was seeking a way out."

On the twenty-eighth, Lechuga told me Havana didn't see how formal talks could be useful just now but he'd be glad to continue chatting with me anyway. Lisa Howard had meanwhile been in touch by phone with Castro's personal aide, Major Rene Vallejo. He told her Castro did want to talk personally and privately to us about improving relations and was glad we were ready to listen. She told him about our proposal for a meeting at the U.N., but Vallejo said Castro couldn't leave Cuba just now.

On the thirty-first, Vallejo called her back and said Castro would like a U.S. official to come and see him alone. He appreciated the importance of discretion and therefore offered to send a plane to fly the official to a private airport near Varadero, where no one else would see him. She told him I was the official concerned and would get in touch.

I kept Stevenson informed and also called Chase, who told me on November 4 to come to the White House the next day. There, I briefed him and Bundy on Vallejo's message to Lisa. Bundy said the president was more interested in this Cuban exercise than was the State Department. (I knew he could see the political advantage of possibly weaning Castro away from the Soviet fold.) He asked for a chronological memorandum describing all the exchanges that had taken place since my first talk with Lisa.

On the twelfth, she told me Vallejo had phoned again suggesting I come to Varadero from Key West on an American plane, which was bound to attract less attention than a Cuban plane in Florida. Bundy then called, reiterating that the president favored a preliminary discussion about an agenda, perhaps with Vallejo, at the U.N.-and to call Cuba and tell him so.

During the next four days I tried to reach Vallejo but either the circuit was out or he was. Finally, on the eighteenth, I spoke to him at 2 A.M. and told him the White House position. He said Castro would send instructions to Lechuga to discuss an agenda with me. He spoke fluent English and called me "sir." (Many years later, Castro told me he was listening in on our conversation.)

I reported to Bundy in the morning. He said once an agenda had been agreed upon, the president would want to see me and decide what to say to Castro. He said the president would be making a brief trip to Dallas but otherwise planned to be in Washington.

Meanwhile, in a speech the day before, the president said of Cuba that it had become "a weapon in an effort dictated by external powers to subvert the other American republics. This and this alone divides us. As long as this is true, nothing is possible. Without it, everything is possible." Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who helped in the preparation of this speech, said it was intended to help me by signaling to Castro that normalization was possible if Cuba simply stopped doing the Kremlin's work in Latin America (such as trying to sabotage-vainly, as it turned out-the upcoming Venezuelan elections).

Daniel saw Castro on November 20 and told him of his meeting with Kennedy. He found the Cuban leader thoughtful and attentive; he had Daniel repeat what Kennedy had said about Batista. "He has come to understand many things over the past few months," Castro concluded, adding, "As a revolutionary, the present situation does not displease me. But as a man and a statesman, it is my duty to indicate what the bases for understanding could be."

They met again on the twenty-second, just as the news of Kennedy's assassination was broadcast. Castro seemed stunned. "Es una mala noticia, " he murmured. "This is bad news. This is a serious matter, an extremely serious matter. There is the end of your mission of peace." And later: "At least Kennedy was an enemy to whom we had become accustomed."

He also predicted to Daniel that the Cubans would be blamed for it, as they were for several days after the murder. What Fidel did not know was that Desmond FitzGerald, a senior CIA official, was on that very day, in Paris, giving Rolando Cubela, whose code name was AM/ LASH, a poison pen with which to kill Castro. There is no evidence that Kennedy knew this either. And indeed, what motive would either of them have in plotting the death of someone they were planning to communicate with?

One thing was clear: Stevenson was right when he told me back in September that "the CIA is in charge of Cuba"; or anyway, acted as if it thought it was, and to hell with the president it was pledged to serve.

After November 22, the Cuban exercise was gradually laid to rest by our side. On the twenty-ninth, I told Lisa, who was seeing Lechuga, that I had no instructions yet to call it off. On December 2, Lechuga confirmed getting a message from Vallejo authorizing him to talk to me "in general terms"-and had I heard anything from Washington? I called Chase and said the next move was up to us.

Two days later, Lechuga approached me in the Delegates' Lounge to say he now had a letter from Fidel himself, instructing him to talk with me about a specific agenda. I called Chase, who replied all policies were now under review and to be patient.

Jean Daniel returned from Cuba that week, convinced that Fidel wanted to reach a modus vivendi with us. I phoned Schlesinger and Chase at the White House and arranged an appointment for Daniel with Bundy.

On the twelfth, I told Lechuga to be patient and that so far as I knew, we weren't closing the door. (Neither of us knew then that it would be six years before we would meet again-in Havana.)

The General Assembly was coming to an end, and the next day I finally had the satisfaction of casting a vote in the Fourth Committee against South Africa on the question of self-determination for Namibia, which was (and still is) illegally occupied by the South Africans.

President Johnson came to New York and lunched with our delegation after reassuring the General Assembly that he'd be carrying on Kennedy's policies. At lunch, he told me he'd read my chronological account of our Cuban initiative "with interest."

And that was it. I was named ambassador to Kenya in January, and during my Washington briefings I saw Chase, who told me there was apparently no desire among the Johnson people to do anything about Cuba in an election year.

On April 7, Johnson did decide to discontinue the CIA-controlled sabotage raids against Cuba, which John McCone, the CIA director, interpreted as giving up our long-standing objective of overthrowing the regime. Later, Johnson was quoted in an interview as saying that when he took office he had discovered that "we had been operating a damned Murder, Inc., in the Caribbean."

What part, if any, our Cuban gambit played in Kennedy's assassination is the kind of question that now seems pointless to raise. While we kept the exercise under wraps (apparently not even the secretary of state was fully apprised), the CIA must have had an inkling of what was happening from phone taps and surveillance of Lechuga. The news could then have trickled down to the frustrated Bay of Pigs veterans still huddled around their CIA case officers, still hoping for another invasion attempt. An accommodation would have dashed these hopes. Many Cuban adventurers like Frank Fiorini, alias Frank Sturgis, who would wind up working the catacombs of Watergate, could easily have been aroused by what Schlesinger has referred to as "a broadside of unknown origin that told Cuban exiles in Miami that `only one development' would return them to their homeland - 'if an inspired Act of God should place in the White House within weeks a Texan known to be a friend of all Latin Americans."'

Aroused enough to help perform the "act"? I don't know and don't care to speculate about it.

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Simone, if you've read all this material, you will have realized that the whole field of "JFK Research" is a minefield! There are very strongly held opinions supporting a wide variety of conspiracy theories blaming the assassination on, among others, Castro, Cuban exiles, the CIA, the "military-industrial complex", a secret cabal based at Yale University, the mafia, Greek gangsters, etc, etc, and the proponents of each of these theories ALL claim to have incontrovertible evidence -- some of it based on "secret" documents, or private interviews -- to support their views. Some of the theories are clearly wacky, others may or may not contain an element of truth.

The problem you face with regard to writing an IB extended essay on this topic is that there is no widely accepted link between foreign policy and the assassination among reputable historians. This will make your task in meeting the IB requirements regarding extended essays very difficult indeed. You are required to make an in-depth assessment of the historiography if the issue you are researching, and I don't think you'll be able to do so easily.

What you suggest is a very risky undertaking. If the examiner who reads your script is not a believer in the particular "conspiracy" you choose, he could end up giving you an F on your essay which would mean that you automatically fail the diploma. I recall attending an IB workshop in New York a couple of years ago in which we examined an extended essay which put forward the theory that Hitler had not, in fact, died in 1945 but had somehow escaped. There are some people you actually believe this, and the candidate did manage to find some internet sources which he/she used as "evidence". The candidate received an F.

My experience in teaching IB for a number of years and as an IB assistant examiner -- experience which I suspect few of the other contributors to this thread share -- leads me to advise you most strongly to look at a different topic. Perhaps, if you're set on JFK and foreign policy, you could look at the differences in foriegn policy aims between the JFK and LBJ administrations...

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The problem you face with regard to writing an IB extended essay on this topic is that there is no widely accepted link between foreign policy and the assassination among reputable historians. This will make your task in meeting the IB requirements regarding extended essays very difficult indeed. You are required to make an in-depth assessment of the historiography if the issue you are researching, and I don't think you'll be able to do so easily.

This is not true. There are several historians who have argued that there is a link between JFK’s foreign policy and his assassination. For example see, Thomas Buchanan’s, Who Killed Kennedy? (1964), William Attwood’s The Twilight Struggle (1987), Peter Kornbluh’s Bay of Pigs Declassified (1998), James G. Blight, Politics and Illusion (1998), Richard Mahoney’s Sons and Brothers (1999), Larry Hancock's Someone Would Have Talked (2004), etc.

It is true that some historians refused to believe the testimony of Jean Daniel, Lisa Howard and Carlos Lechuga that they had been involved in setting up these secret negotiations between JFK and Castro. However, they had to eat humble pie when in 2003 the National Security Archive released secret documents showing that Daniel, Howard and Lechuga had been telling the truth. In fact, JFK attempted to keep these negotiations secret from the CIA. (They had the UN building bugged and were therefore able to discover what was going on).

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/

What you suggest is a very risky undertaking. If the examiner who reads your script is not a believer in the particular "conspiracy" you choose, he could end up giving you an F on your essay which would mean that you automatically fail the diploma. I recall attending an IB workshop in New York a couple of years ago in which we examined an extended essay which put forward the theory that Hitler had not, in fact, died in 1945 but had somehow escaped. There are some people you actually believe this, and the candidate did manage to find some internet sources which he/she used as "evidence". The candidate received an F.

There is no comparison between JFK secret foreign policy in 1963 with the claim that Hitler did not die in 1945. The candidate definitely deserved an “F” is she tried to argue this in an IB essay.

My experience in teaching IB for a number of years and as an IB assistant examiner -- experience which I suspect few of the other contributors to this thread share -- leads me to advise you most strongly to look at a different topic. Perhaps, if you're set on JFK and foreign policy, you could look at the differences in foreign policy aims between the JFK and LBJ administrations...

Mike is definitely right that you are indeed taking a chance with this essay (if you remember I warned you about this when I met you in Toulouse). After all, you might be assessed by someone like Mike who does not appear to have a full understanding of the topic. The other problem is being assessed by someone who only believes something if it was published before he or she left university (I am afraid most history teachers do not have the time to keep up with the latest research). I therefore suggest that you play safe and follow Mike’s advice and concentrate on the way that JFK’s foreign policy changed between 1960-1964. To be extra safe, only quote from professors of history who have taught at the top universities.

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Simone, John's absolutely right -- I'm not familiar with all the material he has cited here, or, for that matter, with the rather different material people like Tim Gratz refers to. The topic isn't one in which I am particularly interested, and, as a busy teacher, I have many other priorities which I rank rather higher. The point I was trying to make was that you are much more likely to be graded by someone like me than by someone like John...

This isn't to say that you can't write anything controversial in an IB extended essay. The requirement is that you show awareness of historiographical issues and of the strengths and weaknesses of the sources upon which you rely. Mr Jones-Nerzic could certainly give you very useful guidance in this regard. John's suggestion that you should only rely on sources from professors at top universities is an exaggeration, but looking at the qualifications and experience of the authors would be one test of reliability. One would attach more credibility to someone who had published several books on the subject with a reputable publisher and who had impressive academic credentials than you would to something written by an enthusiastic amateur.

John, I didn't say that no historians made a link between foreign policy and the assassination but rather that there wasn't any sort of consensus among academic historians in this regard. I've read a lot of your posts here and am well aware that there are, indeed, historians who make this claim. However, I haven't read any of them and would not feel qualified to comment on their reliability (in IB terms, if you like). I apologise if I expressed myself imprecisely. The main intent of my post was to warn of the dangers inherent in this topic for an IB extended essay. I used the Hitler essay as an example of how examiners tend to react to the unconventional. I suspect that there would be a similar reaction to an extended essay which attempted to make a case for holocaust denial, even though there are some written sources that could be used to support such a case, and, as we have seen on this forum in the past, a lot of "researchers" out there whole will present lots of "evidence" in support of their twisted logic.

I'm not IN ANY WAY equating holocaust denial with JFK research, just attempted to point out the dangers to the unwary...

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  • 2 weeks later...

You might want to look at the activities of a group of CIA operatives led by David Atlee Phillips.

Phillips joined the CIA in 1950. Over the next few years Phillips was involved in clandestine operations in Guatemala against President Jacobo Arbenz. The plot against Arbenz became part of Executive Action (a plan to remove unfriendly foreign leaders from power). The plot to remove Arbenz from power was called “Operation Success”. It was well-named, it eventually became the most successful operation in CIA history. The removal of Arbenz enabled Frank Wisner to convince Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon that covert operations worked. Operation Success became a blue print for how to remove foreign leaders from power. Those who took part in this operation were seen as the “experts” in this kind of work. Those involved included the following: of David Atlee Phillips, David Sanchez Morales, Rip Robertson, Tracy Barnes, Richard Bissell and E. Howard Hunt. It is no coincidence that the same team were recruited to get rid of Fidel Castro after he gained power in 1959. I, like others, believe that it was this failed operation that helps explain the assassination of JFK.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKarbenz.htm

Phillips worked undercover in Havana (1959-60). He was seen as the “expert” on Castro. As a result, he was involved in organizing the Bay of Pigs operation. So also were the rest of the team: Morales, Robertson, Barnes, Bissell and Hunt. Castro was no Arbenz. He was not removed, he was made stronger. Phillips and company could not believe that the reason for this was their own misreading of the situation in Cuba. As far as they were concerned, the Bay of Pigs failed because of one man: John F. Kennedy.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/COLDcubanmissile.htm

Barnes and Bissell, liberal supporters of the Democratic Party, were quick to forgive Kennedy. Phillips, Morales, Robertson and Hunt came from a different tradition. As far as they were concerned, JFK was a traitor and needed to be removed from power. However, at first, they did not do anything that would make this happen. They assumed that a right-wing Republican would be elected in 1964 and this would be followed by an armed invasion of Cuba.

After the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the Phillips gang realized that JFK would not be defeated in 1964. His image had been transformed. He was now seen as the tough Cold War leader who had made the Soviet Union back down. The reality of the situation was very different. This is why Operation Tilt was organized.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKtilt.htm

It hoped to provide Barry Goldwater with the necessary ammunition to destroy JFK in the presidential election. Once again the operation ended in failure. JFK looked certain to be elected. The situation became even worse for this right-wing faction when it was discovered in 1963 that JFK was carrying out secret negotiations with Castro. The future did not look good for the CIA’s anti-Castro group. JFK was likely to serve until 1968 and then he would be replaced by Robert Kennedy. In time, Edward Kennedy would take over from Robert. The Kennedy Dynasty could become a reality. What is more, John and Robert had moved to the left as a result of their experiences in government? They genuinely seemed to want to bring the Cold War to an end. This was indeed a frightening prospect for people like Phillips. It was also very worrying for the Military Industrial Congressional Complex (MICC). It was also a problem for Congressional part of the MICC. In other words, Lyndon Johnson and his cronies.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKgroup8F.htm

In 1963 JFK had some serious enemies who could see not see how they could use conventional methods to get rid of him. If drastic action was needed, who better to approach than that group that had been responsible for getting rid of dangerous political leaders in the past. The highest-ranking member of this right-wing group within the CIA in 1963 was David Atlee Phillips.

In 1963 Phillips was Chief of Cuban Operations. He worked closely with David Morales at JM WAVE in Miami. Phillips also provided support to Alpha 66. It was later claimed that Phillips told Antonio Veciana his goal was to provoke US intervention in Cuba by "putting Kennedy's back to the wall."

Phillips therefore had the motivation and the opportunity to organize the assassination. However, is there any evidence that he was the man responsible?

In 1976 Antonio Veciana was interviewed by Gaeton Fonzi of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The founder of the anti-Castro organization, Alpha 66, he told the committee about his relationship with his Central Intelligence Agency contact, Maurice Bishop. He claimed that in August, 1963, he saw Bishop and Lee Harvey Oswald together in Dallas. Veciana admitted that Bishop had organized and funded the Alpha 66 attacks on the Soviet ships docked in Cuba in 1963.

Veciana explained the policy: "It was my case officer, Maurice Bishop, who had the idea to attack the Soviet ships. The intention was to cause trouble between Kennedy and Russia. Bishop believed that Kennedy and Khrushchev had made a secret agreement that the USA would do nothing more to help in the fight against Castro. Bishop felt - he told me many times - that President Kennedy was a man without experience surrounded by a group of young men who were also inexperienced with mistaken ideas on how to manage this country. He said you had to put Kennedy against the wall in order to force him to make decisions that would remove Castro's regime."

Richard Schweiker, a member of the committee, speculated that Bishop was David Atlee Phillips. Schweiker asked his researcher, Gaeton Fonzi, to investigate this issue. Fonzi arranged for Veciana and Phillips to be introduced at a meeting of the Association of Retired Intelligence Officers in Reston. Phillips denied knowing Veciana. After the meeting Veciana told Schweiker that Phillips was not the man known to him as Bishop.

Fonzi was unconvinced by this evidence. He found it difficult to believe Phillips would not have known the leader of Alpha 66. Especially as Phillips had been in charge of covert action in Cuba when Alpha 66 was established. Other information also emerged to undermine Phillips. CIA agent, Ron Crozier, who worked in Cuba during this period, claimed that Phillips sometimes used the code name, Maurice Bishop.

Phillips testified before the House Select Committee on Assassinations on 25th April, 1978. He denied he ever used the name Maurice Bishop. He also insisted that he had never met Veciana.

According to Larry Hancock (Someone Would Have Talked), just before his death Phillips told Kevin Walsh, an investigator with the House Select Committee on Assassinations: "My final take on the assassination is there was a conspiracy, likely including American intelligence officers." (Some books wrongly quote Phillips as saying: "My private opinion is that JFK was done in by a conspiracy, likely including rogue American intelligence people.")

Phillips died of cancer on 7th July, 1988. He left behind an unpublished manuscript. The novel is about a CIA officer who lived in Mexico City. In the novel the character states: "I was one of those officers who handled Lee Harvey Oswald... We gave him the mission of killing Fidel Castro in Cuba... I don't know why he killed Kennedy. But I do know he used precisely the plan we had devised against Castro. Thus the CIA did not anticipate the president's assassination, but it was responsible for it. I share that guilt."

Is this a confession? Phillips knew that people were speculating that he had organized the assassination? Phillips knew that after his death people like us would accuse him of this horrendous crime. Was he trying to shift the blame to people below him? Was he pointing the finger at people like David Sanchez Morales, Rip Robertson or E. Howard Hunt? Or was he lying? Was Phillips the man who organized the assassination? My own view is that the novel tells the truth. Although Phillips knew what was going on, Morales was the man who organized the assassination. I suspect that Morales was getting his orders from someone outside of the CIA. However, I am willing to be convinced that Phillips was the mastermind behind the assassination.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKphillips.htm

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