He's one of the most knowledgeable and tenacious researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s. He's the author of 1992's Destiny Betrayed, which details the New Orleans district attorney, Jim Garrison's, investigation in the trial of Clay Shaw, which was greatly expanded for a revised edition issued in 2012. Also, Reclaiming Parkland, published in 2013, but reissued and expanded in 2016. He's also the co-author and editor of The Assassinations: Probe magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X. He co-edited the acclaimed Probe Magazine from 1993 until 2000, and was a guest commentator on the anniversary issue of the film JFK, re-released by Warner Brothers in 2013. His website, kennedysandking.com, is one of the best and most reliable online resources for students and scholars of American political assassinations of the 60s. Please welcome Jim DiEugenio.
First of all, I'd like to thank Lee Shepherd for doing this. These things are never easy to put together. And I'd like to be gracious about sharing the program with two great guys like Bill Davy and John Newman, who I've both known for about 25 years. I've worked with them for about that long also, and their books, in my opinion, would rank in any top 15 listing of the best of the JFK Library. Considering there's 1,000 books in that library, that's saying something.
I want to introduce what I'm going to talk about tonight by stating that my last book, Reclaiming Parkland, largely about the state of the evidence, as it was in 2013 in the JFK case, is what we call in the trade, something called a micro-study. As one reviewer said, it was really a kind of an updating of Sylvia Meagher's classic book, Accessories After the Fact, which I thought was a very kind complement indeed.
After publishing that book, I came to the conclusion, after months on end of study of all the detailed evidence, like the bullet shells, CE399, the medical evidence, etc., that there really was no case against Oswald today, that Oswald was not the victim of a miscarriage of justice. The simple problem was that there was no justice at all. You had a rogue prosecution, led by the FBI, and the Warren Commission acted essentially as a kangaroo court. But once that evidence presented was minutely examined, the case against Oswald simply did not exist. They were allowed to get away with this because, of course, Oswald had no legal defense and there were no legal restrictions to protect his rights. After going through all this, I have no problem today saying that, to say Oswald was guilty is the legal and moral equivalent of being a Holocaust denier.
So after I disposed of that, I began to concentrate more on why was Kennedy assassinated. And I began to look more and more at Kennedy's foreign policy. And the more I looked, the more I began to search outside of the JFK Library of books, simply because if you stay aligned with that particular lexicon, you're probably going get like 90% Cuba/Vietnam, as if this was all Kennedy did for three years. And I found out that really was not the case, not by a long shot.
And I also discovered something else. As much as I liked Jim Douglass' book, JFK and the Unspeakable—and I would recommend that book to anybody who hasn't read it—I disagree with the sales slogan that was used to sell the book. This was something like "A Cold Warrior Turns", meaning that after 1962 and the missile crisis, that JFK stopped being a cold warrior and tried to work with Khrushchev and Castro for detente.
The way I looked at this, and the discoveries I was making, is that Kennedy's foreign policy was pretty much set once he entered the White House. There's three key events that we have to question in order to understand who Kennedy was, once he entered the White House. These are number 1) Why did Kennedy not send in the Navy to bail out the Bay of Pigs invasion? That would've been easy enough. Arleigh Burke, the admiral, was there trying to get him to do that the first night of the invasion.
2.) Why, in the fall of 1961, did Kennedy not send combat troops into South Vietnam? And, by the way, I have to say, in reading Gordon Goldstein's book, Lessons in Disaster, which is a biography of McGeorge Bundy, that culminating debate in November of 1961 was preceded by eight previous requests for JFK to send troops into Vietnam. So this is nine times in that one year that Kennedy was determined to turn down sending the military into Vietnam.
And the third question is: Why did Kennedy not bomb the missile silos during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962? Again, almost everybody in the room was asking him to take some kind of military action. And by the end of the 13 days, even McNamara, who had proposed the blockade in the first place, was leaning in that direction. But Kennedy didn't do it. He stuck with his back channel between RFK and the Russian ambassador in Washington.
So my question is, all these books mention them, but nobody tries to explain why he did not do those things. And if Kennedy was really a Cold Warrior, he would have done all three of those things, or at least two out of the three. For instance, we know that LBJ wanted to send troops into Vietnam in 1961. In fact, we have him on tape in 1964, telling McNamara how frustrated he was, watching McNamara and Kennedy arrange this withdrawal plan. We know that Nixon would have sent in the Navy at the Bay of Pigs, because that's what he told Kennedy to do. When Kennedy called him, either the second or third night of the crisis, he asked him "What should I do?" Nixon said "declare a beachhead and send in the Navy", but he didn't do that. He was willing to accept defeat in April of 1961, at the Bay of Pigs, and he was willing to withdraw, leading to an inevitable defeat, in Vietnam. So the question is: Why?
And so, I began to study this phenomenon and I began to consult books outside the Kennedy assassination lexicon and I discovered that the key to understanding this is a man who’s name was in no book up until Jim Douglass' book. His name's not mentioned anywhere that I could find, and his name is Edmund Gullion. Gullion worked in the State Department when Kennedy was a congressman and that's when they first met. Kennedy needed some advice on a speech, so he went over to the State Department and Gullion gave him a consultation. In 1951, Gullion, because he spoke fluent French, had been transferred to South Vietnam.
In that same year, Kennedy was preparing to run against Henry Cabot Lodge for the senatorial seat from his home state of Massachusetts. So he flies into Saigon, because he wants to become more well versed in foreign policy, which is what senators spent a lot of their time on. He decides to ditch the French emissaries that had been sent to meet him at the airport, and he starts knocking on doors of people who have good reputations in the media, there were a couple back then, and in the State Department. One of the guys he meets with is Edmund Gullion.
So they have dinner at a roof top restaurant in Saigon, and Kennedy asks him flat out: We're allied with the French in this thing, we're actually bankrolling this effort, are the French going to win? Gullion says something like: There is no way in Hades that France is going win this war. Kennedy, of course, asks him: Well, how come? And he says: It’s rather simple. Ho Chi Minh has fired up the general population, to a point that you've got tens of thousands of these young Viet Minh who'd rather die than go back under the yoke of colonialism. France will never win a long, drawn out, prolonged, bloody war of attrition, because the home front simply will not accept it. And that's how it's going to end.
To say that conversation had a rather deep impact on JFK is a large understatement. When he got back to Massachusetts, he began writing letters, making speeches and doing radio addresses; criticizing both the Republican foreign policy establishment and the Democratic foreign policy establishment and, most of all, the State Department for not understanding the real plight of colonized people in the Third World. In his new way of thinking, this was not a battle between Communism and Capitalism, but it was one between independence and colonialism. And colonialism, according to Kennedy, was going to lose.
|Allen & John Foster Dulles|
This manifests itself, on a national level, in 1954 during Operation Vulture. Vulture was John Foster Dulles—the Secretary of State at that time—it was his plan to bail out the doomed French effort in Vietnam. This was a huge air armada of about 210 planes, 3 of them were carrying atomic bombs, and this was going to bail out the French effort at the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Well, Nixon, who is the Vice President at that time, is the liaison between Congress and the White House on this whole issue. Kennedy gets wind of this, of what's going to happen, and he begins to rail against Dulles and Eisenhower. He wants them to come down here and explain to us how nuclear weapons are going win a guerrilla war. And he then added, no amount of weaponry could defeat an enemy which was everywhere and nowhere, and had the support of the people.
And by the way, that's a very important passage there, because one of the things historians are supposed to do is to find origins and patterns in a man's foreign policy. And that phrase that he said, about being everywhere and nowhere and having the people’s support, that's the argument he's going to use in 1961; when everybody wanted to commit troops to Vietnam. Nobody had an answer to it then. I call that Kennedy's first defining moment; his first face off against the Dulles brothers, Nixon and Eisenhower.
Three years later, there's another one, except it's much more public. The second one is in 1957, when Kennedy takes the floor of the Senate and he begins to attack, very specifically, Dulles, Nixon and Eisenhower again. This time it's over their continued alliance with French colonialism, except this time it's off the north coast of Africa, in Algeria, where France is now involved in another civil war to maintain the French colony of Algeria. Five hundred thousand troops devolved into a war of horrible atrocities. Kennedy attacked the White House again for allying itself with the hopeless struggle of a European country to maintain an overseas empire in the Third World. And he predicted that this would turn out just like what happened three years previous in Vietnam, with another French defeat. What we needed to do, he said, was to convince Paris to negotiate, in order not to destroy the country of France in a futile war against brother and sister over this horrible dispute in Algeria. But, as important, if not more important, we had to begin to free the colonized nations of Africa.
That was his second defining moment. And what was surprising about this speech, and by the way, I would say that speech is very much worth reading, even today. It's an incredible speech for a young man to be making on the floor of the Senate, considering the makeup of the Senate and the White House at that time.
This time, Kennedy was attacked, not just by Nixon and John Foster Dulles. But by people in his own party, like Dean Acheson and Adlai Stevenson. It was a very controversial speech. It made headlines in a lot of newspapers. There were 163 editorial comments. Over two thirds of them were negative. Kennedy really thought that he made a mistake and he called up his father and asked him what he thought. His father said he hadn't made a mistake: You watch what's going to happen. This situation in Algeria is going to get even worse. In two years, everybody will realize that you were right. And by the way, that's exactly what happened. Eric Sevareid made an editorial comment on CBS TV in 1959, saying: Well, John Kennedy looks like a prophet these days, doesn't he?
But that Algeria speech actually did something else. It made him a hero to the colonized people of Africa. He now became a kind of unofficial ambassador to visiting African dignitaries. And that appeal began to spread to other Third World areas. So Kennedy now became a great admirer of the Chairman of the UN, Dag Hammarskjöld, who wanted the United Nations to be a kind of international forum that would give voice to the powerless nations coming out of colonialism and provide a lectern to express themselves. They began to make a secret alliance over the areas of Indonesia and Africa.
By 1960, Kennedy is very conscious that he's on the edge with his foreign policy. So, on the eve of the 1960 convention, he told one of his advisors, Harris Wofford: We have to win this thing. Because if Johnson wins or Symington wins, its just going to be more of John Foster Dulles all over again. And, by the way, I have to say that, with what LBJ did once Kennedy took over, from '64 to '68, I think Kennedy was actually right about that.
|Kennedy addresses |
the U.N. General Assembly
Once Kennedy is in office, he immediately begins to alter the Dulles brothers' policies. For example, in the Congo, where he supported Hammarskjöld's policy to stop the country from being partitioned or recolonized by Belgium. And he began to work with Hammarskjöld, reversing American policy in Indonesia. The Dulles brothers had tried to overthrow Sukarno the Nationalist leader of Indonesia in 1958 and 59. Kennedy decided that that was going to be reversed. That he was going to support Sukarno, both politically and economically.
|Kennedy & Sukarno|
Now what's really remarkable about just those two instances, those alterations of the Dulles brothers' foreign policy is this: That Kennedy continued those two policies after Hammarskjöld was murdered in the fall of 1961. And, by the way, I have no problem using the word “murdered”. Because all you have to do is read Susan Williams' book, “Who Killed Dag Hammarskjöld?” You will see that that was not an accident, that airplane crash was not an accident. In other words, with Hammarskjöld dead, Kennedy was carrying this burden by himself. And, in fact, he had to go to New York to convince the United Nations, after Hammarskjöld's death, not to give up their mission in Congo. He actually did that twice. And then he planned a State visit to Indonesia in the summer of 1964, which Sukarno was very much looking forward to.
Now I can mention other places where this occurs, that is when Kennedy comes in, he reverses the Dulles/Eisenhower foreign policy. For example, he wanted a negotiated settlement in Laos. Very important and, again, very overlooked, is that in the Middle East, the Dulles brothers had isolated Nasser and were beginning to favor Saudi Arabia.
Nasser, the head of Egypt.
|Gamal Abdel Nasser|
Yes, Nasser was the president of Egypt. And Kennedy reversed that, also. He began to favor Nasser and isolating Saudi Arabia. Now the reason he did that was because he thought, because Nasser was a Socialist and a secularist, that he could begin to mold the foreign policy in the Middle East away from the fundamentalism and the monarchy of places like Saudi Arabia and Iran.
And, by the way, he even mentioned that issue in 1957. Because there was a big Moslem population in Algeria. He refused to meet with David Rockefeller because he did not want to initiate a coup in Brazil, which is what Rockefeller wanted to meet him about, and he moved to isolate the military regime that had deposed the Dominican Republic’s President Juan Bosch.
Now every one of those policies, without exception, began to change at a slow rate and then at a rapid rate, under the pressure of Johnson and the CIA, in a period of about 18 months after Kennedy is assassinated. In each case, the end result was a calamity for the people living in those areas. A very good example being the CIA sponsored coup in Indonesia that took place in 1965 and which killed well over 500,000 citizens; and led to the looting of the nation by Suharto and his corporate cronies. What Kennedy wanted to do there, he was actually arranging deals for Sukarno to nationalize the industries on a very good split, the majority of the profits going to Indonesia. And Sukarno was going to use that money to start doing things like building hospitals and an infrastructure and schools, etc. He wanted those benefits of those natural resources to go to the people.
Now let me conclude with, what I think, is a very important aspect of this whole Dulles vs. Kennedy foreign policy dispute. As most people understand today, Kennedy was never going to commit the military into Vietnam. In fact, he was withdrawing the advisory force from that area at the time of his assassination. The Assassinations Records Review Board released some really important documents on this in 1997 and that, in addition to several books, including John's book, JFK and Vietnam, for me sealed the deal on that issue.
|Truman reacts to the assassination|
Within a month of Kennedy's assassination, I think on December 20th, 1963, former president Harry Truman published a column in the Washington Post, in which he assailed how the CIA had strayed so far from the mission he had envisioned for them when he was putting that agency together. To the point where he really kind of didn't recognize what it had become. From his notes, it's clear that Truman began writing that column eight days after Kennedy's death.
|“Harry Truman Writes”|
In the spring of 1964, while he was sitting on the Warren Commission, Allen Dulles visited Truman at his home in Missouri. This was not a social visit. He was there for one reason. He wanted Truman to retract the column. That attempt by Dulles failed. Truman never did retract what he wrote and, in fact, about a year later, in Look magazine, he repeated those same thoughts.
But a very curious exchange occurred as Dulles was leaving. As he got to the door to join his waiting escorts, he turned to Truman and said words to the effect: You know, Kennedy denied those stories about how the CIA was clashing with him in Vietnam. Which is a really startling thing to say. Because Dulles' visit was supposed to be about Truman's article. And Truman never mentioned Kennedy or Vietnam in the article.
Further, the two newspaper pieces Dulles referred to are likely one by Arthur Krock and one by Richard Starnes, both published in October of 1963. They both discussed the CIA's growing influence over foreign policy and they both conclude that, if there was ever an overthrow of the US government, unlike Seven Days in May, the novel that had been made into a film around that time, it would be sponsored by the Agency and not the Pentagon. Again, Truman never went that far in his article. This whole angle was imputed to him and initiated by Allen Dulles. I think it's pretty clear, from that conversation, that Dulles made the visit because he thought Truman wrote the column because the former president believed the CIA had a role in killing Kennedy over the Vietnam issue.
What makes this even more remarkable are these two aspects. Number one, at that time, in the spring of 1964, nobody had connected those dots: That is, the CIA, Kennedy, Vietnam and Kennedy's assassination. No one. The first time it's going be done is four years later by Jim Garrison.
Number two, Truman had already said to the press in 1961 that Hammarskjöld had been murdered over his Congo policy. And Dulles was aware of that. In my opinion, he saw what had happened with Hammarskjöld, and he did not want Truman to get more explicit in the Kennedy case. So in the language of prosecutors, specifically the late Vincent Bugliosi, he would have said something like this—if he had been on our side: What Dulles was doing here was showing something called consciousness of guilt, while he was sitting on the Warren Commission. Which is one more reason that the commission is really a joke.
After four years of study, 2013 to 2017, I've concluded that the cover up about Kennedy's foreign policy, and how reformist it was, has been more deliberate, more strenuous, more systematic, than the cover up about the circumstances of his death. The reason being that it gives a clear and understandable motive for the Power Elite to hatch a plot against him. There were literally tens of billions of dollars on the table in the Third World, especially Indonesia. And that's the kind of money that these people commit very serious crimes about.
This is why, at the time of his death, people like Nasser in Egypt fell into a month long depression. And he ordered Kennedy's funeral to be shown four times on national television. It's why Sukarno openly wept and asked "Why did they kill Kennedy?" It's why Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, when the American Ambassador gave him a copy of the Warren report, he returned it to him. He pointed out the name of Allen Dulles on the title page and said one word: "Whitewash." The people about to be victimized understood what had happened. Because of our lousy media in the United States, it's taken the American public quite a bit longer to understand.
Okay, thank you, I'll conclude with that.
James, can I ask you one question.
You're mentioning Dulles quite a bit.
Who do you think is behind this whole thing?
Well, I gave David Talbot's book a very good review: The Devil's Chessboard. And I think he makes a pretty good case, that Dulles, if I had to categorize it, I think Dulles was the outside guy and I think James Angleton was the inside guy.
So the assignment was given to Angleton?
I think Angleton was the inside guy.
He was the guy working in the, what we would call, the infrastructure. And I think Dulles was the outside guy, arranging it with the people he knew had to back him.
But Dulles was fired.
Dulles was what?
Dulles was fired by that stage, by John Kennedy.
Yeah, he was fired. But if you read Talbot's book, he was only fired symbolically. Because he kept on having meetings over at his townhouse in Georgetown. And he actually wrote about those meetings in his diary and anybody could read who he was meeting with, people like Angleton, people like Des FitzGerald, etc. And then on the day of the assassination, he ends up at the Farm,—
—which is the CIA headquarters.
Is that Camp Parry? Camp Parry, Virginia?
Secondary command post of the CIA?
Okay, good, thank you.
So he was figuratively separated from the CIA. But as Talbot says in his book, he was really more like leading a kind of like in-country junta against Kennedy.
Okay, James. Thank you so much.