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Four more years.


Guest Stephen Turner
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Guest Stephen Turner

I have come to believe that whoever planned, and executed the asassination, the main reason for it was JFK's almost certain landslide victory in 64. no-one would have taken such a huge risk if Kennedy looked a lame-duck, one term president. i would be interested to hear what members think about this, with particular reference to possible second term legislation, Vietnam, Cuba, The Soviets, civil rights Federal reserve etc And what part this played in strengthening the plotters resolve to remove Kennedy from high office. Also what did Johnson give them in return for his "Great Society" reforms. Further, do members feel that the guns of Dallas sounded a warning to all future incumbents about what would, and would not be tolerated by the rich and powerful.

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I have come to believe that whoever planned, and executed the asassination, the main reason for it was JFK's almost certain landslide victory in 64. no-one would have taken such a huge risk if Kennedy looked a lame-duck, one term president. i would be interested to hear what members think about this, with particular reference to possible second term legislation, Vietnam, Cuba, The Soviets, civil rights Federal reserve etc And what part this played in strengthening the plotters resolve to remove Kennedy from high office. Also what did Johnson give them in return for his "Great Society" reforms. Further, do members feel that the guns of Dallas sounded a warning to all future incumbents about what would, and would not be tolerated by the rich and powerful.

A lot of people like to claim that Kennedy was a cold warrior, and his inaugural speeches, Bay of Pigs, and other such things are cited to support this. I don't think the claim is entirely specious - my view is that Kennedy was a nuanced and practical leader who was something of a cold warrior and enamored of guerrilla warfare and so on, though still clearly to the left of his military advisors and other hawks. He turned down advice to introduce combat troops in Vietnam in the fall of 1961, for instance. But I think his already thoughtful and war-avoidant instincts were greatly amplified in 1963 after the Missile Crisis.

In the aftermath of the Cuban Missle Crisis, 1963 saw:

1. Spring decisions to begin clamping down on Cuban exiles operating from US shores, and moving them to Nicaragua and other Latin American countries. Project AMWORLD, cited by Lamar Waldron as CIA's part of a Kennedy coup plan using Che Guevera, appears isntead to be the operation to move Manuel Artime to Nicaragua.

2. May 1963 plans for complete withdrawal from Vietnam by 1965, with implementation of a 1000-man pullout ordered in October.

3. June 10 American speech promoting co-existence with the Soviet Union

4. Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

5. Backdoor channel to Castro with the aim of cutting a deal with him which would have normalized relations in exchange for renouncing the Soviet Union and not exporting revolution to Latin America. Pointedly, Kennedy's aims did not include returning appropriated property.

6. US complicity/encouragement of 2 coup attempts against Diem, the second of which was successful. This was not popular with all administration or military officials.

Not to mention halting steps to protect the civil rights of African Americans, discussion of eliminating oil subsidies, etc.

Two terms of this, with RFK waiting in the wings, was clearly not a pleasant prospect to contemplate for hawks.

Rex

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IMO::

Kennedy was also an incredibly dynmic and level headed principled scholar, who built his presidency over a period of 14 odd years.

Kennedy had a vision of a new frontier, and he had people around himself that were up to the task. He travelled widely through america, where some issues in particular were important to him, such as the poor, the secondclass citizens, education, housing, etc etc. He saw peace as a desirable state for humanity to flourish in. He talked of the potential brilliant minds going to waste through lack of nutrition and opportunity. And he set about doing something about it.

He recognised the debilitating cost of an arms race, mentioning things such as the power to destroy everything and the power to feed everyone. He draw a distinction between the world he was presented with and a better world. I think this reached to the whole world and thus the assassination was really a robbery of the entire world. He established a possibility of solidarity, or union. It's to the hawks like a coorupt doctor shaking his head in despair at lost income at the growing health of the population. So miuch of the status quo is shaken by people like Kennedy, that assassination is always a risk. I suspect that had Kennedy survived, or if Robert had had the depth of insight of Kennedy and drew the lessons from Dallas, guided by the principles Kennedy had, the sixties would have been different, and the world we have today would be different. Had the hawks not been able to reimpose disorder, the evolution of human society could very well have leapt ahead.

Alas, it was not to be...then

(There WILL be a second wave. Of that there can be no doubt. Such is the nature, it's irrevocable. The worst seeds its antithesis. Eduacation, of which keeeping the memory of people such as Kennedy alive, and studying and implementing lessons learnt will strengthen the possibility of the established ascendancy of good the next time.)

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I'd like to add two more items on Kennedy's agenda for a second term: gettting rid of LBJ and Hoover. JFK's political moves notwithstanding, those two men had many allies who also disapproved of the way Kennedy seemed to be heading. Johnson's career was falling apart at the seams by November 22, 1963.

And I don't think Hoover would have balked at anything to stay in power. At the very least, they were both useful tools to be used by other unscrupulous men.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have come to believe that whoever planned, and executed the asassination, the main reason for it was JFK's almost certain landslide victory in 64. no-one would have taken such a huge risk if Kennedy looked a lame-duck, one term president. i would be interested to hear what members think about this, with particular reference to possible second term legislation, Vietnam, Cuba, The Soviets, civil rights Federal reserve etc And what part this played in strengthening the plotters resolve to remove Kennedy from high office. Also what did Johnson give them in return for his "Great Society" reforms. Further, do members feel that the guns of Dallas sounded a warning to all future incumbents about what would, and would not be tolerated by the rich and powerful.

A lot of people like to claim that Kennedy was a cold warrior, and his inaugural speeches, Bay of Pigs, and other such things are cited to support this. I don't think the claim is entirely specious - my view is that Kennedy was a nuanced and practical leader who was something of a cold warrior and enamored of guerrilla warfare and so on, though still clearly to the left of his military advisors and other hawks. He turned down advice to introduce combat troops in Vietnam in the fall of 1961, for instance. But I think his already thoughtful and war-avoidant instincts were greatly amplified in 1963 after the Missile Crisis.

In the aftermath of the Cuban Missle Crisis, 1963 saw:

1. Spring decisions to begin clamping down on Cuban exiles operating from US shores, and moving them to Nicaragua and other Latin American countries. Project AMWORLD, cited by Lamar Waldron as CIA's part of a Kennedy coup plan using Che Guevera, appears isntead to be the operation to move Manuel Artime to Nicaragua.

2. May 1963 plans for complete withdrawal from Vietnam by 1965, with implementation of a 1000-man pullout ordered in October.

3. June 10 American speech promoting co-existence with the Soviet Union

4. Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

5. Backdoor channel to Castro with the aim of cutting a deal with him which would have normalized relations in exchange for renouncing the Soviet Union and not exporting revolution to Latin America. Pointedly, Kennedy's aims did not include returning appropriated property.

6. US complicity/encouragement of 2 coup attempts against Diem, the second of which was successful. This was not popular with all administration or military officials.

Not to mention halting steps to protect the civil rights of African Americans, discussion of eliminating oil subsidies, etc.

Two terms of this, with RFK waiting in the wings, was clearly not a pleasant prospect to contemplate for hawks.

Rex

Hi Rex,

I agree. Kennedy's foreign policy 11/62 and beyond clearly illustrates his intentions:

Consider:

*NSAM 263

*Kennedy's signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963

*Kennedy's decision to opt for blockade during the missile crisis, despite pressure from within his administration to invade or conduct air strikes (Thirteen Days)

*Kennedy's White House and the Kremlin carried out intensive back-channel communications and negotiations during the entire crisis. And while Kennedy publicly took a firm, no-negotiations stance toward the Soviet Union, he privately pursued ways to bring the crisis to a peaceful end.

*The Jean Daniel meeting, which clearly signaled his intent to open a dialogue with Castro

*The deal he cut to resolve the missile crisis. Specifically, his promise not to invade Cuba along the removal of the Jupiter missiles from Turkey. With this, one must also consider the content and tone of Khrushchev's 12/11/62 letter to Kennedy:

"I will tell you frankly that we have removed our means from Cuba relying on your assurance that the United States and its allies will not invade Cuba. Those means really had the purpose of defending the sovereignty of Cuba and therefore after your assurance they lost their purpose. We hope and we would like to believe--I spoke of that publicly too, as you know--that you will adhere to the commitments which you have taken, as strictly as we do with regard to our commitments. We, Mr. President, have already fulfilled our commitments concerning the removal of our missiles and IL-28 planes from Cuba and we did it even ahead of time. It is obvious that fulfillment by you of your commitments cannot be as clearly demonstrated as it was done by us since your commitments are of a long-term nature. Within a short period of time we and you have lived through a rather acute crisis. The acuteness of it was that we and you were already prepared to fight and this would lead to a thermonuclear war. Yes, to a thermonuclear world war with all its dreadful consequences. We agreed to a compromise because our main purpose was to extend a helping hand to the Cuban people in order to exclude the possibility of invasion of Cuba so that Cuba could exist and develop as a free sovereign state. This is our main purpose today, it remains to be our main purpose for tomorrow and we did not and do not pursue any other purposes. Therefore, Mr. President, everything--the stability in this area and not only in this area but in the entire world--depends on how you will now fulfill the commitments taken by you. Furthermore, it will be now a sort of litmus paper, an indicator whether it is possible to trust if similar difficulties arise in other geographical areas. I think you will agree that if our arrangement for settling the Cuban crisis fails it will undermine a possibility for maneuver which you and we would resort to for elimination of danger, a possibility for compromise in the future if similar difficulties arise in other areas of the world, and they really can arise. We attach great significance to all this, and subsequent development will depend on you as President and on the U.S. Government."

Also consider the recently discovered documents regarding Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Vietnam detailed in the following piece by Bryan Bender (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2005/06/06/papers_reveal_jfk_efforts_on_vietnam/?page=1):

Papers reveal JFK efforts on Vietnam

By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff | June 6, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Newly uncovered documents from both American and Polish archives show that President John F. Kennedy and the Soviet Union secretly sought ways to find a diplomatic settlement to the war in Vietnam, starting three years before the United States sent combat troops.

Kennedy, relying on his ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith, planned to reach out to the North Vietnamese in April 1962 through a senior Indian diplomat, according to a secret State Department cable that was never dispatched.

Back-channel discussions also were attempted in January 1963, this time through the Polish government, which relayed the overture to Soviet leaders. New Polish records indicate Moscow was much more open than previously thought to using its influence with North Vietnam to cool a Cold War flash point.

The attempts to use India and Poland as go-betweens ultimately fizzled, partly because of North Vietnamese resistance and partly because Kennedy faced pressure from advisers to expand American military involvement, according to the documents and interviews with scholars. Both India and Poland were members of the International Control Commission that monitored the 1954 agreement that divided North and South Vietnam.

The documents are seen by former Kennedy aides as new evidence of his true intentions in Vietnam. The question of whether Kennedy would have escalated the war or sought some diplomatic exit has been heatedly debated by historians and officials who served under both Kennedy and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson.

When Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, there were 16,000 US military advisers in Vietnam. The number of troops grew to more than 500,000, and the war raged for another decade.

''I think the issue of how JFK would have acted differently than LBJ is something that will never be settled, but intrigues biographers," said Robert Dallek, author of noted biographies of Kennedy and Johnson.

''Historians partial to Kennedy see matters differently from those partial to LBJ," Dallek added. ''Vietnam has become a point of contention in defending and criticizing JFK."

But some Kennedy loyalists say the documents show he would have negotiated a settlement or withdrawn from Vietnam despite the objections of many top advisers, such as Kennedy and Johnson's defense secretary, Robert S. McNamara, who opposed Galbraith's diplomatic efforts at the time.

''The drafts are perfectly authentic," said Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who was a White House aide to Kennedy. ''They show Kennedy felt we were over-committed in Vietnam and he was very uneasy. I think he would have withdrawn by 1965 before he took steps to Americanize the war."

McNamara said in an interview Wednesday that he had ''no recollection" of the Galbraith discussions, but ''I have no doubt that Kennedy would have been interested in it. He reached out to divergent views."

Others, however, are highly skeptical the new information signals what action Kennedy would have ultimately taken.

''It's unknowable what he would have done," said Carl Kaysen, who was Kennedy's deputy special assistant for national security.

Kaysen, who also judged the documents to be authentic, believes Kennedy was just as likely as his successors to misjudge the situation. ''The basic mistake the US made was to underestimate the determination of North Vietnam and the communist party in South Vietnam, the Viet Minh, and to overstate its own position," he said Thursday.

He also doubted that North Vietnam would have been willing to negotiate a deal acceptable to the United States. ''In hindsight, it would have been another futile effort," Kaysen said, because the North Vietnamese were determined to control the fate of South Vietnam.

But the documents, which came from the archives of then-Assistant Secretary of State W. Averell Harriman and the communist government in Warsaw, demonstrate that Kennedy and the Soviets were looking for common ground.

They also shed new light on Galbraith's role. The Harvard economist was on friendly terms with India's prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and a close confidant of Kennedy's. Galbraith sent numerous telegrams to the president warning about the risks of greater military intervention.

Galbraith told the Globe last week that he and Kennedy discussed the war in Vietnam at a farm in rural Virginia in early April 1962, where Galbraith handed the president a two-page plan to use India as an emissary for peace negotiations.

Records show that McNamara and the military brass quickly criticized the proposal. An April 14 Pentagon memo to Kennedy said that ''a reversal of US policy could have disastrous effects, not only upon our relationship with South Vietnam, but with the rest of our Asian and other allies as well."

Nevertheless, Kennedy later told Harriman to instruct Galbraith to pursue the channel through M. J. Desai, then India's foreign secretary. At the time, the United States had only 1,500 military advisers in South Vietnam.

''The president wants to have instructions sent to Ambassador Galbraith to talk to Desai telling him that if Hanoi takes steps to reduce guerrilla activity [in South Vietnam], we would correspond accordingly," Harriman states in an April 17, 1962, memo to his staff. ''If they stop the guerrilla activity entirely, we would withdraw to a normal basis."

A draft cable dated the same day instructed Galbraith to use Desai as a ''channel discreetly communicating to responsible leaders [in the] North Vietnamese regime . . . the president's position as he indicated it."

But a week later, Harriman met with Kennedy and apparently persuaded him to delay, according to other documents, and the overture was never revived.

Galbraith, 97, never received the official instructions but said last week that the documents are ''wholly in line" with his discussions with Kennedy and that he had expected Kennedy to pursue the Indian channel.

The draft of the unsent cable was discovered in Harriman's papers by scholar Gareth Porter and are outlined in a forthcoming book, ''Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam."

Meanwhile, the Polish archives from a year later revealed another back-channel attempt to find a possible settlement.

At the urging of Nehru, Galbraith met with the Polish foreign minister, Adam Rapacki, in New Delhi on Jan. 21, 1963, where Galbraith expressed Kennedy's likely interest in a Polish proposal for a cease-fire and new elections in South Vietnam. There is no evidence of further discussions between the two diplomats. Rapacki returned to Warsaw a day later. Galbraith wrote in his memoirs that it was not followed up.

But the newly released Polish documents, obtained by George Washington University researcher Malgorzata Gnoinska, show that Galbraith's message was sent to Moscow, where it was taken seriously.

A lengthy February memo from the Soviet politburo reported on the Galbraith-Rapacki discussions. It concluded that Kennedy and ''part of the administration . . . did not want Vietnam to turn into a second Korea" and appeared interested in a diplomatic settlement akin to one reached in 1962 about Laos, Vietnam's neighbor.

''It is apparent that Kennedy is not opposed to finding a compromise regarding South Vietnam," the memo said, according to Gnoinska's translation. ''It seems that the Americans have arrived at the conclusion that the continued intervention in Vietnam does not promise victory and have decided to somehow untangle themselves from the difficult situation they find themselves in over there."

It went on to say that ''neutralizing" the crises ''could untangle the dangerous knot of international tensions in Southeast Asia."

Definitive reasons both the Indian and Polish attempts were not pursued further are not known. In October 1963, the South Vietnamese government was overthrown, igniting political chaos. North Vietnam may have become more certain it would prevail. Neither the Indian or Vietnamese archives are available. The would-be Indian emissary, Desai, whom records indicate still lives in Bombay, could not be reached.

Kennedy had few options. Many believe North Vietnam would have swiftly prevailed over the South if the United States pulled out; that is what happened more than a decade later. It would have been extremely difficult to risk such an outcome at the height of the Cold War, fearing communism would spread to other countries under the so-called domino theory.

''There was no open debate in the Kennedy or Johnson administration about whether the domino theory was correct," McNamara said. It was simply gospel, he said.

Nonetheless, the new information sheds light on Kennedy's misgivings about getting further embroiled in the Vietnam War; up to his death he refused to do as most of his advisers urged and allow US ground troops to participate in the fighting, as Johnson did beginning in 1965. Galbraith said Kennedy ''harbored doubts, extending to measured resistance, on the Vietnam War." But it was ''countered by the fact that he had such articulate and committed warriors to contend with" in his administration, he said.

''It's another clear indication that my brother was very reluctant to accept the strong recommendations he was getting to send troops to Vietnam," Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, told the Globe on Friday after reviewing the cable to Galbraith. ''It's hard to believe that Jack would ever have allowed the tentative steps he took in those days to escalate into the huge military crisis that Vietnam became."

Of the cable, Theodore Sorensen, who was a special assistant to Kennedy, said: ''It is clearly consistent with what I have always thought and said about JFK's attitude toward Vietnam."

Daniel Ellsberg, a former Pentagon official and coauthor of the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of US policy toward Vietnam, added that the documents ''show a willingness to negotiate [a pullout] that LBJ didn't have in 1964-66." But, Ellsberg added, ''he might not have been able to do it."

These new documents and the supporting statements made by Schlesinger, McNamara, Galbraith, Edward Kennedy, Sorenson, and Ellsberg, add yet another significant structural element to that framework which shows us, regardless of any political maneuvering in which he may have been engaged vis-a-vis Cuba, JFK's true beliefs with regard to confrontation, war, and communism (eradication by force vs. diplomatic/political solutions).

The Cuban Missile Crisis had a profound impact on JFK and his foreign policy decisions thereafter.

Edited by Greg Wagner
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Stephen, Rex etc:

I agree with all of the above, except I do not believe JFK participated in the assassinations of the Diem brothers. Nor do I believe he encouraged such- (tho I could be wrong).

Viet Nam was a huge reason for the murder, as was Cuba. And Peace. Interesting, historian Robert Dallek has as little to say in his Boston Globe statements as he has in his very long "An Unfinished Life". On the assassination issue he devotes a few lines, most of which are out and out misstatements: Referring to potential threats from the "radically left" Dallek describes Oswald as being "openly identified with Castro's Cuba". For a book that 714 pages long, you'd think that a historian might have taken a bit more time to learn more of the truth about Oswald, unless of course this historian has an agenda. (And given the libelous statements he made about Barr McClellan on the History Channel, it's clear to me that his agenda is not consistent with the facts). Dallek also incorrectly describes a bullet "in the back of the NECK". There was no such bullet. The shot- (one of them)- from behind hit JFK's BACK and did not exit. (The neck wound was described by all the doctors at Parkland hospital as a wound of entrance).

Interesting that Dallek would spend so much time on salacious details of JFK's alleged sex life and alleged medical conditions and so little on his murder.

Had he lived JFK's re-election would have been bigger than the landslide Nixon enjoyed in 72. No Viet Nam...

"imagine"!!

I think that there is no doubt that Bobby would succeeded JFK. (68- 76). I disagree that Bobby "lacked insight". I think he knew exactly who killed Jack and why. There was a rumor in his campaign headquarters that Bobby was warned to "get out of this election or MLK will be killed" . 4/4/68 ended the dream for Martin Luther King and less than two months later RFK would meet the same fate. (6/6/68).

By the same forces who killed JFK. Who are in power right now, imho.

Dawn

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Dawn, I'm not suggesting Bobby 'lacked' insight.

It puzzles me that it happened a second time: hence (my reading of it) : I did say he didn't have 'the depth of insight of Kennedy' and didn't draw 'the lessons from Dallas', by which I mean, in the context of JFK surviving, a modified approach to security and campaigning. IOW quite likely no assassination in 67. Bobby was an intellectual powerhouse with a naive kind of courage and trust. I suspect JFK would have been more practical.

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Dawn, I'm not suggesting Bobby 'lacked' insight.

It puzzles me that it happened a second time: hence (my reading of it) : I did say he didn't have 'the depth of insight of Kennedy' and didn't draw 'the lessons from Dallas', by which I mean, in the context of JFK surviving, a modified approach to security and campaigning. IOW quite likely no assassination in 67. Bobby was an intellectual powerhouse with a naive kind of courage and trust. I suspect JFK would have been more practical.

John:

What "happened a second time"? The asassination? I do not think we are in any disagreement here. "Courage" comes to mind certainly because after MLK was killed Bobby was surely not so naive to believe that he could live. His courage and determination to seek justice -as President- was almost baffling, given what he surely knew.

And I do not for a second believe the crap in Joan Mellen's otherwise terrific bio of Jim Garrison (A Farewell To Justice) that Bobby knew all about LHO and was secretly (with JFK) trying to have Castro killed. Joan got taken on that one. The oldest CIA/ JFK lie out there.

Dawn

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