On April 8, 2009, Alec Baldwin at Huffington Post, wrote a column decrying the financial problems the New York Times and saying that it would be a real loss if somehow the Times would have to curtail publication to an online edition. On Len Osanic's Black Op Radio, I took issue with this and said the opposite: When the Times, Washington Post, and LA Times all finally fell, listeners should visit the empty buildings and spit on them. My reasoning being that on the serious issues of the day, the scandals, the murders, and wars that make up modern American history – the JFK assassination, Vietnam, the King murder, the killing of Robert Kennedy, the CIA and drugs, Iran-Contra, Watergate, the phony Clinton scandals (e.g. Whitewater), the elections heists of 2000 and 2004, and the phony run-up to the Iraq War – those papers have not just been wrong, but they have been misleading. And in many cases they have been deliberately so. And it is those issues that have helped form the current reality of American life. Which, in comparative terms, if you were around in the sixties, is pretty bad.
This leaves the obvious question to Mr. Baldwin: Why then Alec, should we lament their current problems and their possible diminution and cessation? How have the served the American public well since 1963? I would argue the opposite. Since they have served us so poorly, we should actually look forward to the day we are free of them. The only problem being that, as I wrote about elsewhere, what is waiting in the wings isn't a heck of a lot better. And this includes the outlet where Baldwin's piece appeared. (Click here for why its not.)
But that does not mean that we cannot try and build something better in the future. Especially since it is proven that these three newspapers are incorrigible in this regard. That is, no matter how often they are proved wrong, no matter how vociferously they are criticized, they never ever change. For instance, Jerry Policoff wrote his first essay critiquing the NY Times on the JFK case back in 1971. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, p. 379) At the time, it had no effect. And in the following nearly four decades, the increasing barrage of criticism also went unheeded. And the worst aspect of this controversy is this: Those organizations do not seem to understand how their obstinacy led to 1.) The increasing public cynicism about both politics and the media, and 2.) The rise of alternative forms of media, especially on the Internet. That's arrogance for you.
The Times' latest outburst of arrogance forms the basis for this column. On April 14th, the New York Times published an essay, properly labeled an opinion piece, co-authored by Mark Medish and Joel McLeary. The title of the essay was "Assassination Season is Open". The authors begin the piece by saying that "state-sponsored assassinations are back in season". They then marked this trend by referring to "targeted snuff jobs" from "Dubai to Dagestan, from Yemen to Wazirstan". As if somehow this had been dominating the news and American consciousness lately. Well no one has approached me lately and said, "Jim, what did you think about that political hit in Dagestan last month?" If they did, my reply would have been, "Where is Dagestan?"
The authors used this pretext to segue into the questions of whether or not the elimination of a foreign leader by assassination is morally justified, and whether it carries with it the law of unintended consequences: "Elimination of an enemy's leadership may seem like a simple solution, but one must ask what will come in its place."
Then comes the real reason for the essay. It's in the following sentence: "The last era of unrestrained use of assassination by the United States was during the Kennedy administration." If one knows the history of the Times on the twin issues of the Kennedys and domestic assassinations, one could have predicted this was coming. I thoroughly discussed the issue in my essay, "The Posthumous Assassination of John F. Kennedy". (The Assassinations, p. 324) In that long essay, I located where this whole debate about the uses of so-called executive action began, and the mad desire of the MSM to somehow place responsibility for it on the Kennedys. When, in fact, the historical record would simply not support that deduction.
As I wrote in Part 8 of my review of Reclaiming History, the concept of "regime change" and the consequent murders that accompany it originated with the changes brought to the CIA by Allen Dulles. Which was seven years before John Kennedy even ran for president. But since the MSM had always been close with the CIA, and since Allen Dulles had actually started Operation Mockingbird-the attempt by the CIA to control the media-they were not going to readily admit this. Even if it was true. So during the 1974-75 investigations by the Church and Pike committees – when the crimes of the CIA and FBI were first given heavy exposure – these CIA murder plots were heavily publicized. And the CIA took a public flogging over it. Especially since, in their own Inspector General report, they admitted that they had no presidential approval for the plots to kill Fidel Castro, and that they deliberately kept them from the Kennedys. (The Assassinations, pgs 327-28) So when the NY Times says that Kennedy's 'executive action" policy targeted Fidel Castro in Cuba, this is ass backwards. And the CIA admitted it in their own report. And it is a primary document in this discussion. A primary document, which somehow, these two reporters failed to consult.
In fact, the Church Committee clearly demarcated the beginnings of these assassination plots against foreign leaders as beginning with Allen Dulles and President Eisenhower. And they blamed the eventual plot that took the life of Patrice Lumumba as being OK'd for Dulles by Eisenhower. (ibid, p. 326) Which again shows how stupid the Times is. Because, incredibly, the Times article also blames the murder of Lumumba on the Kennedys! This is so wrong as to be Orwellian. (Or, even worse, Chomskyian, since Noam Chomsky blames this one on Kennedy also.) The truth is the opposite. As more than one author has insinuated, Allen Dulles speeded up the plot against Lumumba in the interim between Eisenhower's departure and Kennedy's inauguration because he knew that Kennedy would never approve it. (John M. Blum, Years of Discord, p. 23; Jonathan Kwitny, Endless Enemies, p. 69) Therefore, Lumumba died on January 17, 1961, three days before Kennedy took office. Dulles turned out to be right. Because right after entering office, but before learning of Lumumba's death, Kennedy formulated a new policy for Lumumba's Congo. One that pretty much was a reversal of Eisenhower's. A part of this new policy was to free all political prisoners-including Lumumba. Lumumba was being held by an enemy tribe at the behest of the former mother country Belgium, which was in league with the CIA. If he had been freed, he would not have been killed. Dulles obviously knew Kennedy better than the New York Times does. Which, by the way, was opposed to Kennedy's Congo policy at the time. For another part of his plan was to oppose the breaking away of the mineral rich Katanga province from Congo. The Times supported that breakaway. Which would have helped Belgium and American investors but hurt the Congo. (Kwitny, p. 55)
The truth of this situation is this: Kennedy supported Lumumba and his struggle to make the Congo free of European influence. Dulles understood this. Which is why he made sure that Lumumba was killed before Kennedy took office. But after Lumumba's death, Kennedy supported an independent, non-aligned Congo. He persisted in this even after Dag Hammarskjold died in a mysterious plane crash. And he did so not just against European economic interests. But since Congo was such a rich country, his policy also opposed against domestic ones. And he did so until his death. (See the fine chapter on this struggle in JFK: Ordeal in Africa by Richard Mahoney.)
But the Times is still not through in exhibiting its disregard of the historical record. They also have Kennedy being responsible for the death of South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem. Again, even JFK's enemies knew this was false. That is why Howard Hunt tried to forge documents implicating Kennedy in Diem's assassination. He had to since he learned from the horse's mouth that President Kennedy was not so involved. Who is the horse's mouth in this situation: CIA officer Lucien Conein. The Times might ask itself an obvious question: Why would Hunt have risked the forgery if it was unnecessary?
The unfortunate death of Diem and his brother Nhu is a rather complex affair. And with the kind of scholarship exhibited by the Times here, they are simply not interested in consulting the record. The two best sources that I know of on the subject are John Newman's JFK and Vietnam, and Jim Douglass' JFK and the Unspeakable. What appears to have happened was a two-stage process. First, Kennedy's anti-Diem advisers hatched a plot to send a cable to Saigon approving a coup attempt by dissident generals in the military. The deliberately did this while Kennedy and his Cabinet officers were away on the weekend. (See Newman pgs. 345-56) Then, Saigon CIA official Conein and the new ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge allied themselves with the generals to obstruct Kennedy's policy toward Diem. Since Diem was unaware of the obstruction, he trusted Lodge and kept on calling him, even after the coup. He was unawares that Lodge and Conein were cooperating with the military to insure that Diem and his brother could not get out of Saigon before they were killed. (See Douglass, pgs. 207-10)
When he learned of the brothers' deaths, Kennedy was shocked and agonized. Arthur Schlesinger said he had not seen him so depressed since the Bay of Pigs disaster. (ibid, p. 211) In fact, as a result of this outcome he planned on doing two things. First, he was going to review the process by which the cable had been sent. (Gordon Goldstein, Lessons in Disaster, p. 90) Second, he was going to recall Lodge to Washington for the purpose of firing him. (Douglass, p. 375) His death interceded with those plans.
Three strikes isn't enough for the Times. They actually even try and blame the death of Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic on Kennedy. This happened just four months after Kennedy was inaugurated. The truth is that Trujillo was probably the most unpopular man in South America at the time. Why? Because he tried to kill Venezuelan leader Romulo Betancourt with a car bomb in 1960. As a result the OAS severed relations with him. He then had the three Mirabel sisters-Patria, Maria, and Minerva-who protested his dictatorship, murdered. Because Trujillo was such a bloodthirsty dictator, the CIA had plotted with dissidents in country to kill him as far back as 1958. (William Blum The CIA: A Forgotten History, p. 196) But as Blum notes, although the CIA did supply arms for an assassination attempt, there is no proof these were used in the murder. Which appears to have been a spur of the moment affair carried out by the local dissidents. (ibid) Blum does note that American cooperation with them cooled after Kennedy took office. (ibid, p. 197)
In fact, in 1963, Kennedy told his friend George Smathers that he had to get control of the CIA. Precisely because he was appalled by the idea of political assassination. Smathers said: "I remember him saying that the CIA frequently did things he didn't know about, and he was unhappy about it. He complained that the CIA was almost autonomous. He told me he believed the CIA had arranged to have Diem and Trujillo bumped off. He was pretty shocked about that. He thought it was a stupid thing to do, and he wanted to get control of what the CIA was doing." (The Assassinations, p. 329) As many people who have studied the Kennedy assassination believe, the CIA understood this was Kennedy's intent in a second term. And they decided to get Kennedy before he got them. You will never ever hear this sentiment voiced in the Times, since they have almost always pimped for the CIA. Including covering up their drug running aspects when the late Gary Webb exposed some of them.
The article then gets even more ridiculous. Somehow the authors include the murder of General Rene Schneider as part of Kennedy's watch. The problem is Kennedy had been dead for seven years when Schneider was assassinated by allies of the CIA. His death was part of the CIA program ordered by President Nixon and Henry Kissinger to stop Salvador Allende from stepping up to the presidency. (William Blum, p. 237)
If you can believe it, the Times actually sources the Church Committee report in this article. Even though that report discovered no evidence that the Kennedys were involved in any of these deaths. In fact, in my essay I argued that it was this verdict that caused the CIA and its rightwing allies to begin to circulate disinformation to reverse what Sen. Frank Church had uncovered. That campaign has been unrelenting ever since. The Times, with former Nixon speechwriter William Safire in their employ, has been a prime part of it. (The Assassinations, p. 329)
Towards the end, the article cites the most ancient CIA disinformation tale of all: Oswald killed Kennedy for Castro because Castro found out about the plots against himself. Which, as Castro has noted, is utterly ridiculous on two grounds. First, as Jim Douglass has described in detail, Kennedy and Castro were hard at work on dÈtente at the time. (pgs. 248-50) And secondly, as Jesse Ventura relates in his book American Conspiracies, Castro told him he would have never risked a full-scale invasion of Cuba over such a thing. The article also mentions the meeting in Paris in November of 1963 between a CIA representative and recruited Castro assassin Rolando Cubela. What they do not say is that CIA official Richard Helms had deliberately kept this from the Kennedys. Even though the CIA representative meeting with Cubela told him that RFK knew about it. (Douglass, p. 251)
The article concludes with "One need not believe in conspiracy theories about JFK to be seriously concerned about the wisdom of JFK's assassination policy. The laws of war and self defense may permit political assassination in certain cases, but prudence dictates thinking carefully before pulling that fateful trigger."
The only assassination theories discussed in this article are the half-baked ones about Kennedy's mythological executive action programs. Which, as shown above, he actually opposed. In opposition to the authors, the fact that Kennedy was actually killed by a political conspiracy is not a theory. The revelations of the ARRB have shown it to be a fact. But you will never learn that in the New York Times. Which in its nonsensical agenda on the issue, makes a strange alliance with the likes of John McAdams and Noam Chomsky.
This is one more farcical piece of gutter journalism by the Times on the subjects of President Kennedy's policies and his murder. It's a smelly trail that goes back to 1963. And it shows no sign of abating. So Alec, as much as I liked you in Glengarry Glen Ross and others, I think you are dead wrong on the hole the Times would leave behind. If it went under, I wouldn't miss it at all. One reason being that a pile of lies like this would not have its imprimatur assigned to it.
But its publication shows why that imprimatur isn't worth very much anymore.