On March 3, 1964, John McCone, Director of the CIA, wrote a memorandum to James J. Rowley, Chief of the U.S. Secret Service. The memorandum was stamped CONFIDENTIAL. Its subject: Central Intelligence Report on the Assassination of John Kennedy.
The memorandum begins: “In response to the request made by your office on 24 February 1964 re: Lee Oswald’s activities and assignments on behalf of this agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, there follows a narrative summary…”
Paragraph four reads:
“Oswald subject was trained by this agency, under cover of the Office of Naval Intelligence, for Soviet assignments. During preliminary training, in 1957, subject was active is aerial reconnaissance of mainland China and maintained a security clearance up to the ‘confidential’ level. His military records during this period are open to your agency and I have directed that they be forwarded to the Commission.”
Paragraph five begins:
“Subject received additional indoctrination at our own Camp (looks like) Peary site from September 8 to October 17, 1958, and participated in a few relatively minor assignments until arrangements were made for his entry into the Soviet Union in September, 1959. While in the Soviet Union, he was on special assignment in the area of Minsk. It would not be advantageous at this time to divulge the specifics of that assignment…”
All of this is very interesting, of course, in light of the claim by the U.S. government, in the Warren Report and subsequently, and during the trial of Clay Shaw for conspiracy in the Kennedy murder, that Oswald was a ‘lone nut,’ a maladjusted lunatic looking for fame and a pro-Castro radical.
I know a few people so badly detached from reality and in such denial that they actually think the murders of the Kennedys and of Martin Luther King, Jr., were a really bad run of luck, that the government, while occasionally harboring rascals, is not truly malign, and that history is bent as it has been over the past fifty years essentially by accident.
The startling disclosure contained in the McCone memorandum will no doubt make no difference to the willfully ignorant but it is a satisfactory development for people who actually give a damn about the country and who have been digging at this mountain of evil over the years.
It’s a ‘cold case’ as one fellow wrote to me recently. They’re all ‘cold cases’, those murders in the 1960s. After all, most of those involved are dead by now, including anyone who looked unreliable enough to have talked too much, and that's about as cold as you can get, and the country is in a new era, a new time, a new world order, in fact. Lucky us.
There have been quite a few warnings through the years. Jack Ruby smuggled a letter out of the Dallas jail. Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell predicted, in the midst of the Watergate affair, ‘this country is going to go so far to the right you will not even recognize it.’ Howard Hunt left death bed tapes naming names.
There’s been a rather amazing load of newly-discovered material. Previously unexamined film of the Ambassador Hotel ballroom on June 4, 1968, shows three CIA assassins at the Kennedy for President celebration. Film taken of the John Kennedy motorcade’s start in Dallas shows the Secret Service agents who would ordinarily have stood on the right and left rear running boards waved off by a supervisor, with one agent eloquently raising his arms at his sides asking, What’s going on?
None of it matters, you see. Facts inconvenient to the government and to the willful ignorance of reality deniers simply disappear into the ether. I have many times had the invigorating experience of reciting a long list of undeniable facts relating to what’s actually happened in my country only to have them unceremoniously waved off, much as the Secret Service agents were waved off Kennedy’s running boards.
The difficulty, you see, is that I have an obligation. I made the mistake of believing my teachers when they described the constitution and Bill of Rights. I made another mistake in listening to people who called me to honor the advantages I’d been given. I remember sitting in the Greek Theater at Berkeley, fall of 1966, as Senator Robert Kennedy reminded us that we were among the very fortunate young, given a place at a great university and able to use it for either personal gain or public good.
I made the mistake of following my curiosity, at first, on learning that some of the pieces of Dallas didn’t seem to fit, and of continuing to look for answers even after it became clear that the truth was worse than I had imagined.
Our empire is collapsing. I know, I know, that’s what empires do. I probably shouldn’t take it personally. We had a good run, after all, and I was one of those most graced with advantage, so I should have no complaints. Human beings are wildly imperfect. We blow it, that seems to be our nature.
Except that I remember Bob Kennedy, knowing that he might be killed, nonetheless running for President, against great odds, because people were dying and because the poor were suffering and he thought he could change that. Jack Kennedy and Dr. King also fully realized how dangerous it was for them, the peril they were courting. Didn’t slow either of them down for a second.
I’ve learned a lot about those men, and about who killed them. They are the bravest people I’ve ever seen. It is quite certain that there was a great struggle for control of America in the 1960s, for what kind of country we would be, for our national soul. The outcome of that struggle, at the center of which were these killings, is anything but irrelevant to the world we live in today, because America can never be healed, can never be saved, until and unless we confront the sickness at the very heart of our country.
Most people, I think, don’t really understand how deeply tragic is our national life. The notion that a country’s leaders might consider the slaughter of people, even in the millions, to be reasonable, is simply antithetical to how we think of ourselves. Yet, it happens.
It was an American Secretary of State in a Democratic administration who said, when asked about the death of half a million innocents caused by U.S. sanctions, “we think it was worth it.”
No, I won’t quit. The only chance we’ve got is to expose these terrible woundings to the light of day. I realize that what I can do is very small. But that doesn’t matter.
In June of 1966, Bob Kennedy went to South Africa, against the wishes of the apartheid government. He spoke to student groups and banned leaders. In one address, he said this:
“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope; and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”