Category Archives: Power Structure
– President John F. Kennedy
Secrecy is the slayer of liberty, it is the essence of which dictatorships are made, of which free societies are suffocated by and of which people are subjugated by. When that secrecy becomes institutionalized in the most powerful corridors of government then it is only a matter of time until that government becomes a weapon of the powerful to be used against the people. Today, in mid-2009 we here in the United States of America (or at least those of us who are awake) are bearing witness to the last vestiges of a once vibrant democracy slowly strangled to death by a deeply embedded culture of secrecy. There has been a hijacking of the intentions of the founders who envisioned a free people by a corrupt and immoral oligarchy and those who serve it. It is backed by the rise of a high-tech police state built on on our backs and enforced by Big Brother style surveillance, incessant propaganda and the vicious undercurrent of social manipulation in order to sow the seeds of hatred necessary for divisiveness and ignorance that are protection for the gangster state. Our last great leader, President John F. Kennedy once warned of the danger of secrecy in a 1961 speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association:
The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.
The early days were largely the work of a small cabal, a few rogue networks run by the real owners of America to implement a system that would serve their interests alone and to brutally put down challenges. They would count on the ability of the media and the lies to anesthetize the public at large, amuse them, distract them with emotional appeals, ball games, contests and triviality to provide distractions and to remove the necessary civic involvement for democracy to exist. Today, as we stumble about in a fog amidst the wreckage of the Bush years, the trap is almost closed, facilitated by that holiest of holies that is 9/11, jusfification for everything.
This is the story of the Octopus…
I am going to begin this installment where I left off with part three , the story of the strange dealings and murders at the Cabazon Indian Reservation in the California desert. Emmy award winning investigative reporter Nathan Baca of KESQ, a Palm Springs television station has just come out with his latest installment in the excellent series The Octopus Murders. The series developed out of a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department cold case squad investigation into the 1981 execution style murders of three people in a Rancho Mirage home and the swirling dark dealings that have been associated with those murders. Cabazon Indian tribe Vice Chairman Fred Alvarez had grown suspicious of shadowy government operatives and arms dealers using the reservation as a testing and development ground from which to profit through the supply of weapons to third world regimes, the type of countries in which the U.S. funded vicious thugs, death squads, assassinations, black ops and in which the American intelligence services such as the CIA played a hand in training the torturers and killers. The recent Honduran coup and the revelations that some of the leaders received training at Fort Benning’s notoriously vile School of the Americas puts this sort of destabilization (which was especially in vogue during the era of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush) back into the headlines albeit several layers below the ongoing Michael Jackson saturation coverage.
Fred Alvarez was going to blow the whistle on how Cabazon sovereign land was being used for nefarious purposes by national security state operatives and the contracting outfits (CIA fronts?) Wackenhut Corporation and Meridian Arms Company. When interests of this nature are threatened there is a long history of the ‘meddlers’ ending up dead (typically suicides, accidents or ‘heart attacks’) but the chances of Alvarez blowing up this particular operation which would prove to be huge and multi-faceted, a veritable nexus of clandestine activity during the Reagan years had to be halted with extreme prejudice. So on July 1, 1981 Alvarez along with two friends who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time were professionally executed. The names of the other victims were Patty Castro and Ralph Boger, just collateral damage to the ice cold killers, professionals when it came to protecting the interests of those they were hired by. But sometimes things like this come back to haunt, Mr. Boger’s daughter, Rachel Begley has tirelessly investigated the murder of her father (her website is Desertfae and she also maintains The Octopus Wiki) and the cold case investigation had worked it’s way through the system to the California Department of Justice – where it is now effectively stalled. These murders are the key to a dangerous Pandora’s box that if opened would implicate numerous top political figures, expose the way that the deep state really operates and offer a true glimpse behind the star spangled façade of false morality that America exists behind. It would also show that the PROMIS software, the legendary, highly advanced program that has been integral in the formation of the police state infrastructure was modified for espionage and profit on Cabazon Indian land. To say that this is the story of the century is not mere hyperbole, the trail of dead bodies over the years can attest to that and it is time that it be told.
Joseph Daniel Casolaro 1947-1991
II: Danny Casolaro and the Octopus
How much violence was there in Nazi Germany…before the old Germany, the center of theatre, opera, philosophy, poetry, psychology and medicine was destroyed? How many incidents took place that were not coincidental before it was called Fascism? What were the transitions? How many people? Was it when the first tailor disappeared? Or librarian? Or professor? Or when the first press was closed or the first song eliminated? Or when the first political science teacher was killed coming home on his bike? How many incidents happened that were perfectly normal until people woke up and said, ‘Hey, we’re in a police state!’
According to the book The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro by Kenn Thomas and Jim Keith casolaro had identified a core group of individuals operating within the national security apparatus and their influence in post WW II political history:
When it comes to the mysterious deaths related to this story, free lance investigative journalist Danny Casolaro, who was ‘suicided’ in a Martinsburg, West Virginia hotel room in August 1991 is the most notable for he was getting close to the truth. His body was found by a maid in the bathtub in a grisly blood-spattered bathroom, his wrists had been deeply slashed numerous times. In what is a discernable pattern, many of those who threaten the hidden power are found in hotel rooms, allegedly the victims of suicides even though as in Casolaro’s case the victim did not appear to friends, family and associates as being despondent or otherwise suicidal. In his case it was quite the opposite, Casolaro had been devoted to an investigation into a covert network of spooks, criminals and government officials that he had called ‘The Octopus.’ He had been working on a book and according to sources, had gone to West Virginia in pursuit of a final piece of evidence that would break the case. His files, which he carried everywhere, were missing when his body was discovered. Adding to the suspicious circumstances, the room where he was found was professionally cleaned preventing further investigation and the body was illegally embalmed before the family could claim his remains.
Casolaro had been putting together connections involving some of the most critical and dangerous elements of the deep state and he was threatening powerful interests. He had traced an ‘dirty old boy’ network of the OSS/CIA that had gotten together for profit in the aftermath of WW II. That critical period for the U.S. presented an unprecedented opportunity for some to profit from the military industrial complex (which has never been dismantled despite the ominous warnings from President Eisenhower in his farewell address) and the wave of anti-communist paranoia that would be used in order to justify the most extreme and immoral conduct by elements connected to the U.S. Government.
It is well documented that the CIA assimilated former Nazi war criminals into the ranks ostensibly to be used in the fight against the red menace but many of the scientists ended up participating in the darkest forms of research involving mind control techniques and the evolution of the American space/defense sector where they worked on weaponry. Rescued Nazis were also sent to South America where they would assist in supporting right-wing regimes to against the rise of popular movements that could threaten western business interests. In addition to the merger with some of the most foul remnants of Hitler’s Reich such as the Gehlen Org, the bogeyman of an international communist conspiracy also gave rise to networks of money laundering, drug trafficking and arms dealings that would make the business of the warfare state into a very lucrative trade. Corrupt insiders were able to play both ends against the middle and had no qualms about cutting deals with some of the most unsavory and violent types.
But I am getting ahead of myself so I digress…
Danny Casolaro had been able to find a common denominator, a thread that ran through some of the most prevalent schemes and scandals of the time. Iran-Contra, Reagan’s secret wars in Latin America, BCCI, The October Surprise, the INSLAW case and PROMIS and was set to visit Indio California and the Cabazon reservation. He was onto something and it was big enough to put the fear into some very serious people. Not only was he investigating ties between global arms dealers and government operatives tied to Iran-Contra (one of the greatest scandals of the 20th century in both audacity and magnitude one which is still not completely understood) but the very ascension of Reagan to the presidency (along with the true power that was George H.W. Bush) which was facilitated when a deal was cut to prolong the Iran hostage crisis until after Jimmy Carter was defeated. This is high treason of course, something that the Bushes and their ilk are intimately familiar with but the manipulation of the 1980 election could be viewed as a bloodless coup in that it brought the shadow government into the White House itself. Now another person of interest involved in the Iran hostages deal includes a figure named Earl Brian, an intimate of Reagan who was in on the Paris sessions to delay hostage release for political benefit. For a payment he was allegedly allowed to profit from the sale of the stolen version of INSLAW’s PROMIS software.
Brian’s Hadron Inc, in which he was allied with longtime Reagan crony Edwin Meese would be instrumental in the misappropriation, modification and subsequent sale of PROMIS to foreign governments. The entire sordid business of what was done is a proverbial snakepit without a bottom and it taps into many elements of the vast criminality that had infected the system. There is a very good reason for the trail of dead bodies (including Casolaro), wrecked careers, ginned up charges leading to imprisonment and disinformation that has orbited the PROMIS scandal.
The foreign governments included Israel which now has a massive intelligence and telecommunications infrastructure in place in the United States and it’s all legitimate. I am not going to get into this right now but for the sake of reference please see the following pieces by Gordon Thomas on PROMIS and the Mossad, Christopher Ketcham (whose article The Last Roundup was instumental in breaking the news on the Main Core database) on the ongoing programs of Israeli espionage – Trojan Horse and Breaking the Taboo on Israel’s Spying Efforts in the United States) as well as the following from James Bamford (author of The Shadow Factory) – a Democracy Now interview and the Haaretz article on Bamford Is Israel’s booming high-tech industry a branch of the Mossad?. It is no secret that Israel plays a major part in the PROMIS saga and that will be covered in the next part of this series in more depth.
Again, PROMIS plays an integral part in the subversion of the system itself in order to allow the relatively few with juice who are connected to profit obscenely due to its at the time highly advanced technological capabilities to implement it as a tool of control in order to engage in monitoring and spying on potential threats. In part one of this series I mentioned that according to a Wired Magazine piece entitled The INSLAW Octopus that none other than rogue Colonel Oliver North was using the PROMIS software to support his extra constitutional programs like REX 84:
Casolaro had been concentrating on the INSLAW case around the time of his demise. He had been receiving information from insiders within the intelligence community that would bring to light the use of PROMIS by the government. One source was a civilian employee of the NSA named Alan Standorf whose body was found in the back seat of his car in an airport parking lot, it was set up to look like he was the victim of a robbery. Sources say that he may have been providing Casolaro with proof that the NSA was using PROMIS but as with so many others who crossed paths with The Octopus he became collateral damage.
As to who ‘suicided’ Danny Casolaro and most importantly why, there may never be an answer. Casolaro had his fingers in too many pies and the nexus of evil that he was untangling was just too huge for the investigation to have ended any way but badly for him.
Lt. Col. Oliver North also may have been using the program. According to several intelligence community sources, PROMIS was in use at a 6,100-square-foot command center built on the sixth floor of the Justice Department. According to both a contractor who helped design the center and information disclosed during the Iran-Contra hearings, Oliver North had a similar, but smaller, White House operations room that was connected by computer link to the DOJ’s command center.
Using the computers in his command center, North tracked dissidents and potential troublemakers within the United States as part of a domestic emergency preparedness program, commissioned under Reagan’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to sources and published reports. Using PROMIS, sources point out, North could have drawn up lists of anyone ever arrested for a political protest, for example, or anyone who had ever refused to pay their taxes. Compared to PROMIS, Richard Nixon’s enemies list or Sen. Joe McCarthy’s blacklist look downright crude. This operation was so sensitive that when Rep. Jack Brooks asked North about it during the Iran-Contra hearings, the hearing was immediately suspended pending an executive (secret) conference. When the hearings were reconvened, the issue of North’s FEMA dealings was dropped.
When researching the shadow government or Deep State it is amazing how so many of the same names keep popping up. One of those names belongs to Robert Booth Nichols, a longtime player who was recently back in the news. Mr. Nichols, who died under strange circumstances back in February was involved with the current financial crisis through Sam Israel, one of the thousands of Bernie Madoffs that have been using intricately structured financial instruments, shady hedge funds and offshore banking to destabilize America from within as though it were just another banana republic. The opaque, above the law, rigged games that have brought the country to the brink of ruination for the benefit of a corrupt oligarchy have working blueprints in CIA/shadow government fronts of the past such as BCCI and the Nugan Hand Bank and there is no reliable way of knowing just how much of the finance, insurance and real estate (F.I.R.E.) economy is derived from such shady organizations.
I would strongly suspect that the amount of money laundering, involvement with organized crime, narcotics and weapons dealing that is being currently conducted is stunning. Only the recent high profile cases like that of Alan Stanford who has been tied to such dirty activities as well as Madoff and Israel get the attention but they are the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Without digressing too much I just want to point out that much of the post WW II intelligence apparatus including the cowboys who were at the heart of the original Octopus were directly tied to the Eastern establishment, Skull and Bones types from which the OSS/CIA was comprised of. This being said, it is only natural that such grand scale financial chicanery and speculation has come to dominate both the U.S. economy as well as the government itself which is so thoroughly intertwined with the pirates that the schemes of the Wall Street high rollers are preserved at the expense of the millions of lesser beings whose lives are being destroyed by the ongoing greed and the subsidizing of such by a system gone cancerous.
Now back to Robert Booth Nichols who prior to his death was involved in a complex financial scheme with Samuel Israel and Bayou Investments involving a fee of $10 million to be paid to Nichols for services rendered for assistance in the locating of a mysterious $250 billion U.S. treasury note that is secured by 2,500 metric tons of gold that sits in the Atlanta Federal Reserve. Israel, who after being convicted for large scale financial fraud faked his own suicide, allegedly jumping off of a bridge and leaving on the hood of his SUV traced in dust the words “Suicide is Painless” never was able to obtain the T-Note (which was sitting in a London Safe Deposit Company and has been seized) subsequently sued Nichols for get this, cheating him. Now here is the kicker, according to papers filed by Nichols the transaction was conducted under the premise of “matters of national interest” and according to a Bloomberg story (Bayou’s Israel Was Cheated in Scam Investigator Says) was vouched for by a member of the Bush family, John P. Ellis whose previous claim to fame was calling the rigged 2000 election for George W. Bush while working for FOX News. When doing an objective review of the myriad scandals and dirty deeds in America over the past 50 or so years it is astounding just how many times that a member of the Bush crime family is involved but more on them later.
Now what is of greater interest pertaining to Nichols is that he was deeply involved in the Cabazon Reservation activities as well as tied in to Danny Casolaro’s doomed investigation of The Octopus. Nichols had contributed much to Casolaro and he had previously worked as a partner of political prisoner Michael Riconosciuto on projects on weapons development at the Cabazon Indian Reservation and the ongoing activities there through the company Meridian Arms.
Riconosciuto was the technical wizard who performed the alteration of the PROMIS software on the reservation to include the “back door” feature that would go on to figure so prominently in the espionage activities that it was later used for – political and financial. With the activities at the reservation including weapons development, training of paramilitaries and money laundering it was a veritable spook nest and the use of sovereign Indian lands for unauthorized purposes is something that needs to be seriously investigated. Author Joel Bainerman, in his book The Crimes of a President referred to the reservation as a “CIA cutout”, with the revelations in Baca’s KESQ series that three other local Indian tribes were also being investigated in the Alvarez murders and the weapons testing activities at the Cabazon reservation the question is to what extent has this sort of piggybacking of black ops on sovereign land existed throughout the and for how long.
With Nichols being a connected guy he would be a hugely important source for Casolaro, or was he a disinformation agent? According to sources, Nichols and Casolaro spoke often and at length in the month before Casolaro’s demise. Nichols, it must be noted also allegedly had organized crime ties to the Gambino crime family as well as to the Japanese Yakuza. It has already been established that the CIA and Shadow Government had regularly worked with organized crime figures (see Operation Underworld) including those who had been burned by Castro’s takeover of Cuba. Again, the war against communism, Cuba in this case provided blanket justification for lawlessness, nefarious alliances and the deviation from accepted American ideals.With Nazi war criminals already on board with the CIA, ties with The Syndicate were consistent with the pattern. In this context, the question must be asked regarding Robert Booth Nichols and whether he was sanctioned as a contact with the organized crime elements on behalf of the establishment. It should be recognized that the mob played a part in forging the political careers of many an influential U.S. figures, Ronald Reagan and Richard M. Nixon to name a few. and, it would be naïve to not believe that many of our elected representatives are not just as much in the pockets of organized crime as they are with other interests that threaten the system as a whole. (I would recommend this piece as food for thought as it references a current influential politican who has been a party to much of the overt criminality of the past several years, primarily as an accomplice).
The presence of Robert Booth Nichols in the milieu surrounding Casolaro’s research as well as with Bayou Investments and the $250 billion treasury note is just another example of the interconnectivity between the underworld and the overworld. The financial aspects of this cannot be downplayed in the wake of the global meltdown that is largely due to the shadow banking system comprised of offshore banks largely exempt from U.S. laws, money laundering, pools of black money, narcotics/weapons dealing profits and speculative finance that have been a permanent fixture of the oligarchy’s financial matrix. Any legitimate investigation of power in the U.S. must include an analysis of intricate financial institutions, layered in Enron style subversion and patterned after CIA/Wall Street front companies expressly created for the purpose of funding off the books operations.
IV: Tentacles of the Octopus
“We will know that we have succeeded when everything the public believes is false.”
– William J. Casey
It must be understood that there has always been a powerful segment of this country that has been enamored with fascism as the perfect sort of government that would support the long-term evolution of capitalism itself. Fortune Magazine once featured a fawning cover story extolling the virtues of Benito Mussolini’s corporatist/fascist state in pre-WW II Italy and even Hitler had ardent admirers in America. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that the precursors to today’s Wall Street ruling elite were perfectly willing to do business with the Nazi regime as long as it was in their short term financial interests to do so. Let me be emphatic that this is NOT an attack on capitalism itself but rather on those who are able to use the system to advance their interests and agendas and to destroy any and all impediments and obstacles. I would like to opine that the system is fatally flawed and like communism, contains the seeds of its own demise, what is going on right now is a testament to that.
In order for the bastardized form of capitalism that exists today (largely through the machinations of those that I am addressing in this section) to continue to evolve it mush become much more authoritarian in nature, the early forms of fascism are too ostentatious for the more sophisticated era in which we now live so we need to look more to China as the current role model. For profit prisons, all encompassing surveillance, a militarized police state, compromised courts and above all the possibility of disappearance into a gulag system with no trial and the nearly codified indefinite detention along with torture must be a tool for which to exercise control over the dissenters and the rabble.
The conditions for the creation of the Octopus, or as Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty would refer to it, a Secret Team were set into motion with Harry S. Truman’s much maligned creation of the National Security State with the signing into law of the National Security Act of 1947. This set into up the post WW II world and allowed for the use of the intelligence services to be used to perpetuate their wartime stance into a permanent fixture of U.S. policy. The act also created the CIA although its original mandate would be expanded to include the anti-democratic functions that it has since become known for. In creating the CIA, the successor of the wartime Office of Strategic Services (OSS) there would be no end to the warfare state, only a redirection into clandestine and covert activities that would include destabilization of governments deemed ‘unfriendly’ to U.S. interests, propaganda, sabotage, training and support of paramilitary forces and above all snooping.
Being that the OSS largely grew out of the Eastern Establishment and the Skull and Bones types (from which it drew recruits) it would naturally serve the interests of Wall Street finance oligarchs, corporations, industrialists, oil barons and other moguls.It would also due to the very nature of secrecy under which it existed be a fertile ground for rogue elements, private CIA’s within the CIA so to speak.
I do want to state that the CIA is far from the only U.S. intelligence agency, there are many and too often they are lumped in with the CIA as it is the most prominent. There are at least sixteen separate intelligence agencies and those are only the ones that we know about and there is often collaboration with foreign intelligence to circumvent laws and ensure plausible deniability. The CIA though is unique in that it was created to serve as an enforcement arm for the Wall Street elite and the money power, its primary obligation is not to the United States itself but that element that exists in the shadows. I recommend reading: How the CIA Created a Ruling, Corporate Overclass in America for some very good examples.
The Wall Street cultivated OSSwas established in 1942 by the hated Franklin D. Roosevelt, a man whom the financial elite once tried to overthrow(see the Business Plot) to consolidate intelligence during the war. William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, a powerful member of the Eastern Establishment and a Wall Street lawyer would head it up. Other OSS luminaries with elite pedigrees would include Allen Dulles (of firm Sullivan and Cromwell, another Wall Street business that didn’t shy away from doing business with the Nazis) who would go on to play an integral role in the CIA as it developed. Dulles would be a key force in Operation Paperclip, the assimilation of Third Reich refugee war criminals into the CIA and sciences where their Nazi experience could be drawn upon to serve what would one day become The Homeland. Dulles, who would later become head of the CIA was unceremoniously forced out after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion by John F. Kennedy who was sufficiently aware of the dirty deeds of America’s unofficial terrorist organization would threaten to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds”. The accompanying blowback took care of Kennedy and in what should go down as one of the greatest conflicts of interest in American history Allan Dulles would go on to become a member of the Warren Commission ‘investigating’ the assassination and coming up with the crazed lone gunman conclusion.
It also should be recognized that the fight against Fidel Castro for his takeover and subsequent nationalization of Cuba’s resources as well as property ‘owned’ by U.S. interests including that of organized crime figures who operated casinos out of Havana represented opportunity. With the common interests of both the mob and U.S. oligarchs threatened it would provide a good excuse for the for the CIA and mob to join forces against Castro. The precedent for alliances with organized crime had already been set during the war and the CIA would welcome with open arms such notorious mobsters as Johnny Roselli, Sam Giancana, Carlos Marcello, Santos Trafficante, Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano and Meyer Lansky brokered by veteran operative Robert Maheu who would later go on to work for Howard Hughes in Las Vegas. The joint venture against Castro would allow the mob to get the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent with certain elements of the government and very likely would lead back to domestic black operations associated with the JFK assassination.
Now let me make it clear that I personally have an attitude of ambivalence towards mob and organized crime in general, it’s just another line of work as far as I am concerned. So with that out of the way what I do have a problem with are government bureaucrats, U.S. military and intelligence and elected officials crossing the line into where they become gangsters themselves by working with organized crime. This is a very important aspect in what has gone seriously wrong in America post WW II in that the lines were not only blurred but the shadow government and the mob (as well as international organized crime syndicates) actively joined forces, knowingly and willingly for an agenda that ran counter to long term American interests and the CIA was responsible for allowing this to happen.
But I digress….
The OSS was also a breeding ground for virulent right-wingers, military men and dyed in the wool fascists with axes to grind against the communist devils. One of these men was General Edward Lansdale, a serious reactionary who was involved in anti-Castro plotting and allegedly, according to some, notably L. Fletcher Prouty was in Dallas on the day of the Kennedy assassination (as were others including Richard M. Nixon and George H.W. Bush but more on that in the next section) where he was allegedly seen in the vicinity of the ‘three tramps’. Other prominent spooks from the OSS would include future CIA chiefs William Colby (also of the Phoenix Program) and William Casey whose tenure under Reagan would occur during the Iran-Contra period and intersect with the PROMIS software ordeal.
General Lansdale, as legend has it, was involved with gold taken from vanquished WW II enemies (see Yamashita’s Gold) and using it to provide funding for black operations. The illegal narcotics trade would also prove to be a useful source in providing operational money for secret wars and off the books operations. Lansdale’s work against the Castro regime would bring him into contact with Theodore Shackley aka The Blond Ghost out of the Miami JMWAVE headquarters [note that George Bush’s Zapata Corporation also allegedly had ties to this operation, likely a CIA front]. Ted Shackley would go on to turn up in an astounding number of scandals and shadow government operations over the years. Shackley was identified by Danny Casolaro as a part of the dirty old boy network that would become The Octopus so keep that in mind. When the work against Cuba was no longer a top priority with the Vietnam War ratcheting up, Shackley was sent to Southeast Asia where he was involved along with other anti-Castro operatives namely Felix Rodriguez, Thomas Clines and Edwin Wilson (among others) in CIA operations such as the Phoenix Program (note also that the aforementioned Earl Brian who was a benefactor of the illegal sales of PROMIS was associated with this fearsome assassination and torture venture as well), the Secret Team was now up and running in another war zone where their skills could be fully utilized. I also want to note that regarding the anti-Castro operation from which so many of these rogue operators sprang also produced the infamous E. Howard Hunt, a veteran spook who at least according to a deathbed ‘confession’ recording had inside knowledge of the Kennedy assassination (this from a Rolling Stone article The Last Confessions of E. Howard Hunt). Interestingly enough, Hunt would go on to be one of the Watergate burglars who Nixon feared was going to spill his guts about that “Bay of Pigs thing”. Hunt’s wife Dorothy would be killed in a suspicious plane crash which is described in Carl Oglesby’s book The Yankee and Cowboy War in chapter seven which is transcribed here. Hunt, like Shackley was suspected by Casolaro to be a member of The Octopus.
Once in Vietnam, the Shackley operation would draw in the next generation of shadow government figures including Richard Secord, Richard Armitage and Oliver North who would all turn up later during the ongoing operations of “The Enterprise” during Iran-Contra. North and Secord specifically would play key roles, augmented by key neocons within the bureaucracy such as Elliott Abrams, John Negroponte, Michael Ledeen, John Poindexter and most importantly Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush. The Vietnam group that had coalesced around Shackley would also be involved in the Nugan Hand Bank, a conduit for dirty money (drugs, guns) that would be redirected to fund the secret off the books spook wars under the ideological cover of the battle against communist influence. The Nugan Hand Bank operated until 1980 when Frank Nugan, an Australian lawyer with more shady connections than the proverbial switchboard and under investigation for stock fraud was found dead in his Mercedes-Benz, the victim of what appeared to be a self inflicted gunshot wound, his wallet contained the business card of William Colby in his wallet. The other half of Nugan Hand was former Green Beret Michael Jon Hand whose special operations experience allegedly included a good amount of work in the Golden Triangle with the heroin trade. Hand disappeared and was never seen again after Nugan’s death.
The Nugan Hand bank with its extremely high rates of return, tax-free accounts and promises of anonymity was a model that would eventually be replicated and in today’s convoluted morass of offshore banking and fraudulent high finance there are likely thousands of smaller operations, of note is the recent scandal involving high rolling Texan investment guru Alan Stanford and his suspected involvement in money laundering for Mexican drug cartels. The system has become thoroughly polluted, corrupted and rigged in order to benefit the Wall Street oligarchy that was so instrumental in originally setting up the CIA. With the blueprint for such grand scale financial chicanery that was originally a big part of black ops monetary alchemy available and the entire system eventually honeycombed with the sort of illicit, amoral types that were all too willing to grab onto the teats of the anti-communist cash cow. With the Vietnam experience an ugly and tragic blight on the American consciousness, Nixon run out of Washington in disgrace and the ruling establishment hydra reconfiguring itself out of the ashes there would be a haven for The Octopus and its operatives within the shining palace of American renewal that would be erected as a temple for the soon to be annoited savior and heroic all-American warrior king Ronald Reagan.
..the Bush Family is so heavily connected and is so interwoven with this systemic fraud, they’re concerned about a cascade effect within the public. They don’t mind if one incident comes out that they can point to it as an isolated incident. What they’re concerned about is the public beginning to understand the level of corruption that exists within all agencies of government and the intricate connection the Bush family has had to this fraud over the decades.
-Al Martin (author of The Conspirators – Secrets of an Iran-Contra Insider)
The involvement of a member of the Bush family, cousin John P. Ellis with Samuel Israel of Bayou Investments and the $250 billion treasury note referenced earlier is a continuation of the amazing and ongoing presence of the Bush dynasty in post WW II America politics. The Bushes are generational scoundrels and have served the most powerful interests of the American oligarchy since the early days of the Twentieth Century. There have been a few excellent books written about the family and of note are Webster Griffin Tarpley’s early and rather lurid tome that is entitled George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, Kevin Phillips’ American Dynasty and an extremely interesting recent book that has been completely ignored by the corporatist media (other than a few hit pieces) Family Of Secrets by Russ Baker.
The Bush family runs like a poisonous serpent through the recent American history Their deep seated ties to the ruling oligarchy, the Ivy League Eastern Establishment and later the southern fried fascism of big oil, big religion and the sunbelt weapons colossus goes back for several generations. A good resource on the rise of the Bushes would be the aforementioned Kevin Phillips book which lays out the early history of these scoundrels. Further embellishment on the ill gotten gains, murky business dealings and political deviltry of the family can be found in the other two books. The early history of the Bushes is that of patriarchs Samuel P. Bush and the relation to gig oil, steel and munitions during the early period of the American Empire. Sam Bush was a big kahuna for a company called Buckeye Steel Castings, run by members of the Rockefeller family when they were tall in the saddle as some of the nation’s foremost Robber Barons. He would eventually rise to a position of prominence with the War Industries Board as director of the Small Arms, Ammunition and Ordnance Division prior to the U.S. entry into World War I. General Smedley D. Butler was absolutely correct when he famously proclaimed in his seminal tract that War Is A Racket (a statement bordering on heresy in the current militarist America) and it would prove to be a very lucrative one indeed for the Bush Family.
Another early member of the House of Bush was George Herbert Walker ‘Bert’ Bush, a high rolling banking establishment type whose ties to the upper crust of the financial oligarchy, such as the railroad and financial elite Harriman family (Brown Brothers Harriman) would allow for the early fortification of power for the later generations. Bert was a man who was able to parlay his connections and expertise in doing business with Russia and Germany post WW I and he would do much to ensure that Prescott, his son in law would get a primo position on Wall Street, with the lucrative business of the foreign clients who would later go on to infamy after they were armed by the money mongers whose only loyalty was to mammon, not country. It was under the stewardship of Prescott that the Bush family would take a darker turn. As a famous alumnus of the Yale secretive society Skull and Bones Dubya’s grandpa gained notoriety for being one of the Bonesmen who raided the grave of Indian warrior Geronimo and took his skull as a trophy.
It was the Skull and Bones pedigree that punched Prescott Bush’s ticket into the upper echelon of the American fascist club and while I am not going to into these secret societies here, many of which are mischaracterized as being satanic or occult oriented rather than what they truly are which is a bunch of rich pricks determined to keep the game rigged. Skull and Bones is well known for the influential and interconnected members who engage in bizarre initiation rituals and swear allegiance to each other as they work together to ensure that the status quo remains intact. It should be mentioned that both candidates in the 2004 Presidential election, George W. Bush and John Kerry (who ran the Kerry Commission that later would investigate – or as cynics would portend ‘cover up’ allegations of CIA involvement in drug trafficking associated with Iran-Contra) were from Skull and Bones. A look at the roster of alumni from this secret group alone shows the influence of a very small and selective oligarchy in America.
Prescott Bush followed the trajectory of his faulty moral compass (and the call of the fascist elements of his era) to work with Wall Steet interests in helping to build the Nazi war machine, reputedly as a money launderer for Hitler’s murderous regime through the Union Banking Corporation which served German magnate Fritz Thyssen the German industrialist known as “Hitler’s Angel” who was indispensable in providing the financial backing and carried clout that would create what was then the strongest military machine in the world as well as the most bellicose. While the Bush-Nazi links received no attention domestically in our neutered, corporatist media here is an article from The Guardian, How Bush’s grandfather helped Hitler’s rise to power and here is a link to another piece by journalist John Buchanan that is entitled Bush Nazi Link Confirmed that was published in the New Hampshire Gazette. The Nazi skeleton is but one of a great number in the Bush family closets and potentially the most damning of all. The Union Banking Corporation would be shut down by FDR in 1942 under the Trading With the Enemy Act, just another reason for the American fascists to burn for revenge against Roosevelt and fuel the fire for their relentless crusade against New Deal policies that continues to this day.
Prescott Bush went on to be an extremely influential figure in U.S. politics in the post-war era, his son George H.W. Bush would cut his teeth in intelligence, dirty dealing and black ops as a matter of family heritage, the father would pass down the business to his spawn in the truly American fashion. Phillips pegs it dead on here in describing the Bush Crime Family as:
A great family (great as in power, not morality) that has bulit a base over the course of the Twentieth Century in the back corridors of the new military-industrial complex and in close association with the growing intelligence and national security establishment.
The father of the 41st President and the grandfather of the most overtly fascist and recently departed leader in U.S. history, George W. Bush burrowed deeply into the establishment. He became a Senator in 1952 and as legend has it helped to groom Richard M. Nixon for his rise as a tool of the establishment.
Prescott Bush and Dick Nixon
Nixon’s political career was formed by his run for a California Congressional seat where he was backed by big money power (post-WW II fascist elements)against incumbent Jerry Voorhis, a backer of the New Deal and a man who had run afoul of the oligarchy for his opposition to Standard Oil and a secret government drilling contract in the Elk Hills reserve that he had exposed before Congress. Voorhis was a marked man and was challenging Wall Street power at every opportunity, railing agains the “cancerous superstructure of monopolies and cartels”. It was Nixon who would perform the political hit on Voorhis, subjecting him to a withering onlsaught of red baiting propaganda, the sort that would become religion in the U.S. as the war against the unions and the middle class began in earnest. Nixon would later go on to play a big part in the poisonous culture wars that have so ill-served this country and which we can now see the wreckage of in our thoroughly corrupted, diseased political system and the new feudalism as exemplified by the massive redistribution of wealth to reinflate speculative capitalism and the big Wall Street banks.
Russ Baker does some very interesting analysis in his Family Of Secrets, especially in regard to George H.W. Bush (aka Poppy) who appears to have been a member of intelligence dating back to at least the 1950’s instead of when he was formally put in charge of the CIA in 1976. There is the very interesting story that Poppy is ‘unable’ to remember exactly where he was on the day of the JFK assassination (interestingly Nixon was in Dallas that day too) which in and of itself is odd, Baker makes the following statement in an interview:
I am very careful not to speculate. What I do is begin with the curious fact that G.H.W. Bush has said he could not remember where he was on November 22, 1963. That makes him just about the only adult alive at the time who has that memory defect.
Which in and of itself proves nothing but it is very unusual that Mr. Bush would not remember where he was, even more so when considering the existence of a memo from then FBI head J. Edgar Hoover on the Kennedy assassination dated 11/29/63 that specifically mentions a “Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency”. Bush and the CIA denied that they were the same person (another George Bush briefly worked for the CIA at the time, perhaps brought in as a cover) but there is the matter of Bush’s company the Zapata Corp. that has been linked to the CIA as a front, according to Baker the CIA helped Bush to establish this company. Note that during the Bay of Pigs, the code name for the invasion was Operation Zapata. During this particular period Bush would become familiar with some of the aforementioned anti-Cuban operatives such as Ted Shackley, E. Howard Hunt, Felix Rodriguez and an interesting figure by the name of Barry Seal. Seal, like many others would eventually turn up again in the milieu of drug dealers, gun runners and black operations that swirled around Iran-Contra when Bush was in the White House as Reagan’s V.P.
George H.W. Bush’s connections to many of the most shadowy figures and operations of the past half century as well as the criminal nature of his entire family make a strong argument that the ongoing destabilization of the United States by fascists has been aided greatly by the Bushes. I don’t have the time to go into every aspect (I’ll save it for the future) but the evolution of the Bush family from well connected servants of the early robber barons, to the arms trade, the Nazis and the smuggled out war criminals who would greatly aid and assimilate themselves into the intelligence services and the war against communism on through the JFK assassination, Vietnam, Iran Contra and ultimately the ruinous eight year reign of the Bush-Cheney regime have been instrumental in the fascist takeover of America.
An interesting footnote is the association of Bush’s son Neil to the brother of John W. Hinkley Jr., the disturbed young man who attempted to kill President Reagan. Neil Bush and Scott Hinkley had dinner plans the night after the botched assassination, interesting bit of happenstance or perhaps a postponement of a celebration? Assassination researcher John Judge made the following comment on this:
They knew each other socially quite well. The press said that they were to have dinner — Scott Hinkley and Neil Bush were to have dinner on March 31 1981. But they cancelled the dinner after the news of the shooting. The press said that that was ironic. It gives a new meaning to the word `irony’. Because if Robert Oswald, Lee Harvey’s older brother and Lynda Bird Johnson were going to have dinner the night of the JFK assassination, somebody would figure out it meant something.
One can never be too suspicious of such sort of things when they involve members of the Bush family. Hinckley the shooter had ties to World Vision, a right-wing organization that allegedly acted as a CIA front run by John W. Hinkley Sr. that worked in Central America. Rumors of mind control (manchurian candidates?) have surfaced in regard to World Vision but whatever activities surround it are like most of our history, concealed behind the veil of secrecy. Some credence can however be given to the CIA’s long history of mind control experiments (MKULTRA), the secret wars waged against leftist governments in the Southern Cone and the really creepy story that Mark David Chapman, the killer of the hated by the establishment John Lennon also had ties to World Vision.
I would strongly encourage everybody who has taken the time to read this to do your own research on the connections between the Bush family and the downward trajectory of this once great country into the fascist gangster state that it has become today and despite the disgraced rule of George W. Bush he was after all able to successfully eviscerate the Constitution during his time in office as well as to put into place the most formidable high-tech police state in the history of mankind. The economy has been destroyed, the privatization projects of the fascists are now a reality and with more states in financial distress along the lines of California there will soon be national fire sales of roads, infrastructure and landmarks to the descendants of the early Robber Barons whose power has been consolidated by insiders such as the Bush family beyond their wildest of dreams. The only things that the United States of America is now capable of producing is death, destruction, financial scams, for profit prisons, paranoia and a massive Big Brother style surveillance and repression apparatus that is the envy of all dictators.
And the Bush family isn’t finished yet, Jeb is coming soon. You can count on it.
Obama and Potemkin America 2009
Conclusion: The Octopus Ascendant
While it initially began with clandestine operations and murky, beneath the surface alliances The Octopus has become the underlying but inextricable operating system for the American capitalist empire as it exists today. It is the very kernal of all that we known and now has gone legit or perhaps more appropriately the system has descended to the level of corruption once the domain of rogue forces within. It has been a long and slow process, layered over the decades as the last vestiges of a free system where liberty is paramount has been leeched out leaving in its place a land that is America in name only, except that shingle has been replaced with one that says Homeland, a fitting legacy for the fascists who used the aftermath of WW II to mount their takeover. Now The Octopus is comprised of much more and it’s gone corporate, ponder how the following tentacles have become interconnected and now dominate our ever declining way of life:
1: Energy and Resources (Soon to include privatized food and water…got money? I sure hope so if you plan on any sort of a continued existence)
2: Banking and Finance (The recent financial crisis has allowed the most powerful of institutions to essentially take over the government so that tax dollars will be directed to shore up their bogus markets and Ponzi schemes)
3: Transportation and Infrastructure (Our airports have already been transformed into Soviet bloc style checkpoints, it’s all a matter of conditioning and time until all freedom of movement has been restricted entirely, the tracking chips are already being successfully sold as prevention against child abduction.)
4: Drugs (Pharmaceuticals are giving narcotics a run for their money and there will be no serious efforts at meaningful reform)
5: Munitons, Military Spending (Oceania always has and always will be at war)
6: Geopolitics (The coups, destabilizations, puppet dictatorships, torture and ethnic cleansings will go on, it’s all business as usual – for an intersting perspective see Tom Hayden’s piece from The Nation entitled Understanding the Long War)
7: Media (Would anything be possible without the wonderful complicity of the media. The CIA had it right with Operation Mockingbird, it would only be further refined over time with the rise of the right-wing, corporatist think tanks, the ginned up attack on the ‘liberal’ media and the rise of cable television, the corporatization and consolidation have built a propaganda machine that not even Goebbels cound have envisioned. The mass hypnosis that has narcotized an entire population through television has been an astounding boon for the fascists.)
8: Intelligence (The ‘terrorist’ attacks of 9/11 have legitimized the ubiquitous surveillance of the American people helped along by the technology of PROMIS and Main Core, our new forms of social control are already being beta tested by American corporations in China. See Naomi Klein’s piece on China’s All-Seeing Eye from Rolling Stone Magazine).
And it’s all tied up in the big, shiny, star-spangled package of EMPIRE.
The Obama administration has been a major disappointment in reigning in any of the power of the fascist state established by his predecessors, I seriously am beginning to think that he doesn’t care, nor do any of the Democrats who triumphantly retook the White House and the Congress – they are the insiders now and they control the cash spigots, and most importantly they have favors to pay back. Americans were promised change, here are a few of the changes that we have received to this point: a continuation of domestic spying, a bailout of the fraudulent financial system of Wall Street speculation, the Federal Reserve creating trillions of dollars out of nothing, apologies for torture (whoops – enhanced interrogation techniques – my bad), the failure to prosecute war criminals, a continuation of anti-labor practices, more secrecy (the suppression of the additonal Abu Ghraib photos), plans to censor the internet, the diabolical conflation of dissenters and extremists (terrorists) by the anti-American Department of Homeland Security and coming soon, the bait and switch of a public health care option that would only allow the filthy scoundrels in the insurance industry and the Wall Street profiteers to further enrich themselves while beggaring the population. And of course there are the wars, dealing in the death and devastation it is far too lucrative of a business to ever abandon and the swords that should long ago have been beaten back into plowshares are being honed to razor sharpness and pointed at the necks of all Americans who chose awareness and enlightenment over denial and acquiescence.
Face it, the same people who once glorified Benito Mussolini on the cover of Fortune Magazine for his wondrous corporatist state have won and we are their subjects, their slaves, their chattel and if you don’t like it you can go and live in a for profit prison or simply disappear without any possiblity of a trial for the rest of your life. As American capitalism and its excesses gradually mutated from the original petri dish of the post World War II era world, the corruption, the greed and the pathological need for the necessary control for it to exist on a grand scale has metastasized to the point where it has consumed all, instead of The Octopus a more fitting metaphor for all that has taken place is the 1950’s science fiction movie The Blob.
What happens now is no longer a matter of simply exposing the elements that set into motion the chain of events that are now reaching critical mass but in waging total war against the entire system itself through acts of civil disobedience and refusal to comply, I would caution those who are instigating for a full blown revolution, the rulers have bigger guns and more money than God, you are but ants to them and you will be squashed if you use violence to rebel. That is the only way that there will be a chance for survival now that the state has been weaponized against the people, equipped with a monstrous high technological surveillance system that morphed out of the theft of the PROMIS software and the police state infrastructure that grew out of the Reagan era programs such as Garden Plot, Cable Splicer and REX 84. The plans for the camps are ready if not the camps themselves…it has become fashionable to demonize those who now speak of them albeit ironic that the loudest of them never uttered a peep when George W. Bush was in charge of generating the pick-up lists.
But for the most part America sleeps. The coronation of Barack Obama, a product, a brand name and a triumph of modern public relations and marketing has provided the soothing balm for the raw sores on backs courtesy of the Bush administration. For a television addicted nation of sheep content to live on the world’s largest lemming farm he is their perfect leader, a reality television show president, crooning sweet words while his actions belie the rhetoric. The vast majority of the fools will still be watching American Idol when the jackboots kick in their doors.
Hughes in Vegas
Hughes responded to divestiture aggressively by using his $486 million cash in hand (he was lugging it around the country in suitcases) to go after the Lansky Syndicate’s monopoly of big-time gambling. He hovered for a moment in Boston undecided whether to attack in Montreal, the Bahamas, or Las Vegas, but shortly determined upon Las Vegas. By Thanksgiving 1966 Hughes was sliding quietly into his new headquarters at the Desert Inn penthouse which his advance man – reenter Robert Maheu – had prepared for him. He would remain there, for four years to the day, then disappear under circumstances much more mysterious than those of his coming.
There can be no serious doubt of Hughes’ intentions of establishing a Nevada empire and of competing head-to-head with Lansky. Editor Greenspun of the Sun pushed for such an establishment from Hughes’s first day in town on the shortsighted argument that Las Vegas’s best weapon against the Syndicate was such a capitalist as Hughes – strong and independent.
And of course, ambitious. We have already cited Dietrich to the effect that in the West Coast phase, Hughes tried to buy up the entire local governing infrastructure from tax assessors to senators. In 1974, the then-deposed Maheu testified to the same ambition in Hughes: “I clearly recall explaining to [Hughes’s Nevada lawyer] Tom Bell the desire of Howard Hughes to own the state of Nevada, to own the judges in Nevada, to own all the officials of Nevada. I was concerned about the desire of Mr. Hughes to want to own the President of the United States.
By 1968, Hughes’s Nevada operations had grown under Maheu’s management to a worth estimated at well above a half billion dollars. Hughes was the state’s biggest employer with a staff of over eight thousand and a $50 million payroll and a private security force (under another ex-FBI man, Jack Hooper) easily a rival of the official and criminal agencies with which it might have to contend. He had put some $400 million into hotels and casinos. He owned the Desert Inn, the Sands, the Castaways, the Fontier, the Landmark, and the Silver Slipper. He was angling for the Silver Nugget, the Stardust, and the Dunes. He also owned Alamo Airways and McCarran Field and was on his way to getting Air West. He owned KLAS-TV. He owned the Krupp Ranch and thousands of square miles of other Nevada real estate and some $30 million in mining claims. Governor Paul Laxalt said flatly, “Howard Hughes’s operations are as important to Nevada as U.S. Steel is to the nation or General Motors to Michigan.”
Reflecting and furthering that eminence, Hughes in 1968 gave $150,000 to Nixon (two-thirds of it covertly), $100,000 to his presidential opponent Humphrey (half of it covertly), $70,000 to Senator Cannon, $50,000 to Senator Bible, and – strangely – $25,000 to the estate of the recently assassinated Senator Robert Kennedy.
Let us take a moment with this Kennedy contribution, superficially so out of character for Hughes. It has been explained as a Hughes sympathy gift to help with the costs of the funeral. But Hughes? The Kennedys? We might find a more plausible explanation if we set this $25,000 in the context of another gesture Hughes was making at the very same moment in the direction of the again-bereaved Kennedy camp.
On June 28, 1968 two weeks after Robert Kennedy’s death in Los Angeles, Maheu concluded a lengthy handwritten memo to Hughes with the following item:
Larry O’Brien – He is coming here on Wednesday next for a conference as per our request after the assassination of Senator Kennedy. He is prepared to talk employment and has received a commitment (without any obligation whatsoever) from the four or five top men in the Kennedy camp that they will not become obligated until they hear from him.
O’Brien Associates of New York and Washington did indeed subsequently sign a consulting contract with Hughes-Mahue, but my efforts to find out from O’Briens’s office and home what he was doing for Hughes were unproductive. No one better equipped to get an answer seems interested, even though as I write one of the prevailing theories of the Watergate DNC break-in is, in substance, that the Nixon people were afraid that O’Brien’s stint with Hughes-Nevada had taught him, and thus the Democrats, something useful about the Nixon-Hughes relationship, and that they sent the Plumbers into the DNC to try to find out what that could be.
But what was Hughes’s original interest in Larry O’Brien and the other superliberals of the RFK staff? What could have been O’Brien’s interest in a figure of Hughes’s far-right ideology? And was it not a little early after the prince’s murder for his ministers to be sifting job offers from a kingdom of the ideological opposition?
Investigator-journalist Jim Hougan, who has made a special study of Intertel (see below), buesses that by the phrase “the for or five top men in the Kennedy camp,” Hughes actually meant the attorneys, notably Robert Peloquin and William Hundley, who played roles in Robert Kennedy’s early 1960’s campaign against organized crime. By 1968 Hughes was moving irreversibly toward his confrontation with the Syndicate over control of Las Vegas gambling. Hougan thinks that in reaching out to the RFK anticrime staff, Hughes may have been simply seeking to strengthen his front.
We do not know whether this was the basis of Hughes’s interest in the Kennedy staff people or of theirs in him or how far any such common interests might have been realized in joint projects. We do not know how to evaluate the importance of Hughes’s now exposed special relationship to the CIA, Glomar, the Maheu-Roselli link, etc.) in terms of the antagonism between elements of the CIA and the Kennedy group. But we do know for a fact that the Hughes contact with the RFK staff was made, that it came about at Hughes’s initiation through Maheu, that Hughes did contribute the $25,000, that the job offers were made and at least in O’Brien’s case accepted, and that all this coincided (a) with Hughes’s efforts to reverse several antitrust decisions limiting his further expansion on the Lansky Strip and (b) with his tortuous payment via Richard Danner to Nixon of $100,000 in cash for which Nixon would be accountable to no one – not even Lansky.
The following passage from Maheu’s June 1968 memo to Hughes shows how conscious Maheu and Hughes were of the anti-Syndicate aspect of their expansion. Maheu wrote:
Howard Cannon called me this afternoon to inform that he and Senator Bible have been told all day long – by fellow Senators – that they can depend on full support and assistance in sustaining their position that we obtain the Stardust. Cannon stated that Justice was severely ridiculed for having taken action which precluded the accomplishment of what the criminal division has tried to do for fifteen years – when particularly the result was only 52 hours away.
And Hughes answered:
Now also, re the club being a gathering place for North Las Vegas’s less respectable citizens, all the more reason for us to control this very dangerous gathering place for less desirables to the result that it no longer continues to be a gathering place for the less desirable element. For this reason, Bog, I am determined we under no circumstances bring Moe [Dalitz of Cleveland’s infamous Mayfield Road Mob] or any of his group in to run it under our control. This is the very very last thing I feel we should do. So please don’t discuss the Nugget with Moe or any of his group at this time.
Hughes goes on in the same memo to approve a Maheu offer to approach the chief of the Nevada FBI. “At the same meeting, please try to arrange that Mr. FBI of Nevada will convince Dickerson [of the Nevada Gaming Commission] also of the likewise importance of our buying out the Silver Nugget of NLF because of the criminal element no gathering there and the hope that under our management this would be discontinued.”
Whether this was indeed Hughes’s purpose or just convenient rhetoric, certainly Maheu’s buying spree was having the advertised effect. As crime-writer Richard Hammer wrote a few years later, “though the Organization never completely abandoned the Las Vegas gold fields, its influence and control began to wane with the increasing dominance of Hughes. Before, there had been a widespread feeling that only the mobsters could run casinos profitably; the Hughes operations proved this was only a Mob-perpetuated myth. And the arrival of Hughes also pushed some Nevada officials out of their easy chairs to take a closer look at the casinos that they had long claimed could not be controlled.
How and why did the Syndicate let this happen? It cannot be simply that Hughes was too strong to be kept out and that Lansky had no choice but to bow before his billions. The fact is that Hughes could never have come to Las Vegas to begin with if Lansky had not decided to permit and support it. Maheu cultivated a close relationship in particular with Moe Dalitz (see Hughes’s memo to Maheu, above). Maheu actually purchased from Dalitz the hotel-casino the Desert Inn, where Hughes made his headquarters. “Not only did I depend very much upon the advice of Mr. Dalitz,” said Maheu, “but so did Mr. Hughes. Repeatedly he would ask me to get Mr. Dalitz’s advice. Mr. Hughes recognized, as I did that we had no expertise in the gambling business and that there was no one in the Hughes world at that time who did.”
Fortune speculated that the Syndicate’s earlier friendliness to Hughes was predicated on Lansky’s sense that Hughes’s “entry into gambling lent respectability to a sleazy business; stock in gaming companies enjoyed a considerable vogue at the time.” There may be something to that. It conforms with Lansky’s usual style of legitimizing previously criminal business operations. But it would not tell us why Lansky let Hughes drive him out of one of his major bases without an apparent fight.
Could Lansky in fact have been playing on a bigger field than Hughes knew? I think there is a case he was, and that Hughes was ultimately no more the victor in the struggle for Las Vegas than in the struggle for TWA. The reason I say this involves the case of John Meier.
John Meier – do not confuse with Johnny Meyer, Hughes’s aid in the Brewster episode (above) – was in his early thirties when he joined Hughes’s Nevada operations in 1968. He was diagrammatically at Maheu’s level in the organization in that he reported to Hughes through the throneroom guard, though he had none of Maheu’s power in the larger works. He had a background in ecology, systems analysis, and the Rand Corporation and had been a member of Nixon’s Resources Aid Environmental Task Force. In 1970, he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate from Nevada. With Hughes, his special province was silver mining claims and other real estate. His job was to find claims worth buying and to recommend purchases to Hughes. The altitude this had him flyin at is roughly indicated by current estimates valuing Hughes’s Nevada land and mining holdings in the $20 million range.
Two grand juries in Las Vegas later decided that what was actually happening was that Meier was in cahoots with Syndicate fronts in a massive land fraud in which Hughes was the victim. One of Meier’s confederate groups was Georgetown Research and Development, which materialized in a Watergate address one day, sold off its worthless holdings to Hughes the next, and dematerialized that night. A more constant companion was the Toledo Mining Company of Salt Lake City, whose president, Anthony Hatsis, is identified by the Senate Select Committee investigators as an executive-level officer of the Lansky Syndicate. Hughes’s losses to such Syndicate fronts on land and mining deals may have totaled as much as $10 million in the brief period, less than two years, during which Meier occupied his advantageous position.
What happened to all this money? Part of it went into a trust in the name of Meier-Callandria at Overseas, Ltd., a Swiss bank with a Robert Vesco connection. A larger part was routed out of the country through banks in the Bahamas and Montreal holding companies into a Dutch firm called Maatschappil Intermovie.
The money, thus laundered in Europe, was then funneled back to the States, where Meier and Hatsis used it to finance business ventures involving Nizon’s brother, Donald. The three men visited the Dominican Republic in September 1969. Dominican Present Juan Belaguer staged a classy public reception and sold what the Wall Street Journal termed “valuable” concessions to Hatsis’s Toledo Mining, whose stock rose to $30 per share. In a splashy public ceremony, Donald Nixon conspicuous at the side, Belaguer decorated Meier for “Hughes’s charities” in the Dominican Republic, and Meier and Hatsis scratched back by giving blocks of Toledo stock to various Dominican officials “for services rendered in regard to securing a mining concession.”
The relationship developing between John Meier and Donald Nixon was observed from the White House with some anxiety. The president’s personal tax accountant, Arthur Blech, was told to review all of Donald’s proposed projects, including the Dominican ones. Blech is said to have turned them all down. Then White House pressure against Meier’s relationship to Donald intensified. Rebozo called Maheu in Las Vegas and told him to keep Meier away from Donald. Nixon’s famous brother-bugs were put in. Donald was put under twenty-four-hour White House surveillance. The FBI hassled Meier, Donald and Hatsis together at a Florida airport in September on one of their trips to the Dominican Republic. Maheu answered Reboxo that he too wanted to get rid of Meier, but that Meier worked for Hughes, not for him. Maheu said that Hughes liked Meier, and that all Maheu could do was to ask him to keep away.
Maheu also put a tail on Meier and thus found him and Donald Nixon trysting in October in the Orange County Airport. As a result of the intense reaction this provoked, Hughes at last cut Meier loose. Maheu said he was fired, Meier called it resigning. Meier was taken on at once by Hatsis at Toledo Mining as a $6,000-a-month consultant. IN the Summer of 1975, he was avoiding indictments in British Columbia.
The Thanksgiving Coup
The conflict developing here between Hughes and Lansky, with the Meier branch of it curving through the foreground, forms the strategic context of the events of November and December, 1970, the Thanksgiving coup of Hughes’s Nevada Operations and the overthrow of Maheu.
We are concerned in this coup with a power struggle between two parts of the Hughes empire in which various outside parties participated, not always openly. On one side, the main force was the Toolco board of directors and the main actor was Chester Davis. On the other side, the main force was Hughes’s $400-million Nevada Operations and the main actor was Maheu.
Davis and Maheu were not new men to the Hughes empire. Davis had come on to fight the TWA case in 1960 and was stilla stride it. Maheu had come in through the FBI and a private career in the security business. The hotel-dicks-at-heart who make up this insulfurated subculture must see their highest dreams realized in Maheu’s life. Before his fall, this entailed a $600,000 mansion to live in rent free and an annual salary of $520,000 to play around with, never mind the fishing and hunting lodges, the private airplanes always ready to go anywhere, the constant company of millionaires and their kind of people. He had come to Hughes in the late fifties as a security and intelligence expert with a background of FBI work in Chicago. As noted, he took charge of such seamier chores of Hughes-tending as matchmaking the CIA with the Rosselli-Giancana crowd in plots against Castro’s life and against the life of who knows who else besides. He got it on with Syndicate heavies like Dalitz in order to operate casinos successfully in Las Vegas. After the Castro work, he turned up next in the Boston interlude after the divestment of TWA when Hughes first decided to take on the Syndicate for control of Las Vegas. Maheu put together the whole secret move to Las Vegas, including the impenetrable security precautions, and allowed Hughes to arrive while Lansky slept or pretended to. He quickly became the chief officer in charge of Hughes’s boisterous Nevada expansion.
Maheu was fearful as early as March 1968 that the old Hughes guard of Houston and Los Angeles, the Toolco board, would grow jealous of his unique closeness to Hughes. The Toolco board’s authorization was still required for most of Maheu’s deals in Vegas. Although, the board would never refuse a specific order from Hughes, it could be dilatory in the absence of such an order. It could cut Maheu off. Maheu sought reassurance from Hughes in 1968 against any problems the intrinsically touchy situation could lead to. Hughes answered him as follows:
Bob, I have your message. I do not feel your apprehension in the least unjustified. If I give you my word to find a solution promptly, such as a voting trust for my Hughes Tool Company stock [which of course would have made Maheu the legal master of the whole Hughes empire], and if I put the formalities into a state of effectiveness for your scrutiny without any unreasonable delay, will you consider it done as of now, so your mind will not be filled with these thoughts in the near future? I will assume an affirmative answer and proceed accordingly.
Hughes never got around to doing that, but at the same time he stayed available to Maheu by memo and phone, sometimes (so ‘tis said) spending twenty hours a day on the phone with him.
In January 1970 Hughes put Maheu in charge of the TWA case, an act which set in train the events leading to the major climax of his career, the Thanksgiving coup, and possibly thence to Watergate. Hughes’s tone as he undertook this move was definite:
“Bob, please understand one thing which I do not think you have understood heretofore: you have the ball on the TWA situation. You do not need further approval from me to a specific settlement of a specific sum of money….If I am to hold you responsible for the overall outcome of this litigation, I must give you the complete authority to decide which law firm you want to handle each phase of it. I repeat, Bob, you have full authority.”
Maheu convinced Hughes to say this to the Toolco directors.
He did, they accepted the news with whatever inner murmurings but no recorded protest. And indeed issued Maheu “the necessary authorizations to handle all the phases and aspects of the TWA suit, including a settlement.”
This gave Maheu strength but left him exposed. There were first of all the troubles normal and natural to the TWA case itself. On April 14, 1970, Judge Metzner handed down a final judgment in favor of TWA against Hughes of $145,448,141.07. By the time the Supreme Court threw the whole thing out of court three years later, chargeable expenses had worked that amount up to about $160 million. That was what Maheu was looking at, and his job was to succeed where Davis had failed in finding a way not to have to pay it. On top of this, he had the additional problem of having to work without the sympathy of the powerful Toolco directors.
No sooner does Hughes turn the TWA problem over to Maheu than Maheu learns – this is in February 1970 – of a large-scale land fraud operating somewhere inside Nevada Operations. Now we can sense the Lansky pressure, but all Maheu had to go on then was a rumor. Taking up the TWA task with one hand, with the other hand he began to track down the silver mining swindle.
Maheu seems to have done everything you and I would have done to avoid getting shredded to pieces by the corporate violence implicit in this situation. Especially on the TWA matter, it is hard to see how he could have covered himself any better than he did, first in getting Hughes actually to tell the Toolco board that he was putting Maheu in charge, then in getting everything confirmed in explicit Toolco authorizations.
Maheu’s first step with TWA was to hear everyone out on the question of what to do. First he heard Chester Davis, whom he thought too defensive of his own role in the preceding legal defeats. Davis might well have been very defensive. These defeats amounted to the loss of a very large airline and the threatened loss of a very large amount of cash. The Supreme Court would finally agree in January 1973 that Davis was right and had been from the first day. But early in 1970, facing a damages bill for $160 million and a lost airline, Maheu thought Davis’s efforts to defend himself and his strategy too self-serving to be true.
So Maheu went to four blue-chip law firms with the question: Given everything that has happened and the situation as it is, what should Hughes do to save whatever can be saved out of the TWA mess? Maheu went to Washington to Clark Clifford’s firm of Clifford, Warnke, Glass, McIlwain & Finney. He went to New York to Welch & Morgan, the Morgan being Edward P., a close friend of Maheu’s and the Hughes lawyer whose advice originally decided Hughes on going to Las Vegas. He went to New York’s Donovan, Leisure, which represented Toolco throughout the damages hearings. And he went to the Beverly Hills firm of Wyman, Bautzer, Finell, Rothman & Kuchel, whose Gregory Bautzer was a long-time associate and Hollywood friend of Hughes.
Each one of these firms told Maheu to do the same thing; namely, get Davis off the case. This was not necessarily because they found Davis is a bad lawyer. It was because rightly or not the arguments he stood for had been rejected by the bar, and what was n ecessary for Hughes now above all was to get the case back in court. That required new arguments and new arguments necessarily required a new chief counsel. So Davis had to leave the case. One could think up the new arguments later. Perhaps there were even some good ones. It did seem strange, after all, that the largest damages claim ever yet awarded in the history of civil law should have been awarded in behalf of a company against the man who built, made, and owned that company. And it was also strange that the claim was not awarded on the merits of the case at all but because some inexplicable inner compulsion kept Hughes from appearing personally to testify in his own behalf.
What about Hughes solitude? Why could he not show his face to save $160 million? Does this not go beyond eccentricity? Sometimes it seems Hughes must have died, as so many insist, long before April 1976. The only people who claim definitely to have seen and had daily transactions with Hughes are the so-called Mormon Mafia, or the Big Five, the mostly Mormon superstraights who were said to tend him as nurses and secretaries. They were all recruited by Bill Gay of the Toolco board, and they are of course loyal to Gay. Parties to the events they served, partisans, these five men alone assured us of Hughes’s existence. That he did as they say he did, willed as they say he willed, we have no word but theirs.
But this is getting us too much ahead. We are thinking here of the standing mystery of Hughes’s reclusiveness, and we note that, come to think of it, with a tiny number of doubtful exceptions, the only people who actually saw Hughes since 1970 were Gay’s men. Maheu later took his place in the ranks of ministers who must observe ruefully, as he did, “All you have to do is control the palace guard, because that is who really controls the empire.”
But Maheu’s rue came a year later. In early 1970, armed with the best legal opinion Hughes’s money could buy, he opened his reign as strawboss of the TWA project by informing Toolco and Davis that Davis was off the TWA case. Not that he was no longer Toolco’s chief counsel; Maheu never claimed the power to fire Davis from his corporate bastion. Only that the universally recommended legal strategy in the TWA case required the use of new attorneys.
At that moment, Hughes suddenly moved Maheu in two new directions simultaneously. First, he launched him in an effort to penetrate gambling in the Bahamas. Hughes’ consciousness of what this entailed ins indicated in a fragment from an early 1970 phone conversation (taped) with Maheu: “If I were to make this move I would expect you to wrap up that government down there to a point where it will be – well, a captive entity in every way.
Hughees’ interest in the Bahamas was not new. His choice came down to the Bahamas or Las Vegas in Boston in 1966. But actually activating Maheu to start thinking of ways to take on and beat the Lansky apparatus in the Bahamas – that would look new and different from a Lansky perspective, all the more so because Hughes’s concurrent gyrations with Nixon in Washington.
And second, Hughes got Maheu going on a secret campaign to find out what Meier was up to in his theretofore secluded little silver-mining corner. In other words, Hughes was now opening two new fronts against the Syndicate on top of his already achieved preeminence on the Las Vegas Strip. He was expanding to the Syndicate’s other capital, and he was about to discover their man in his machine.
These were Maheu’s preoccupations as Davis mobilized his response to the TWA dismissal notice. Davis informed Maheu that his notice naturally meant nothing to him or to Toolco, and would Maheu please stay out of matters lying far outside the scope of his contact as a consultant on gambling and hotel security.
To date you have lost this case at every level with catastrophically adverse financial and other injury to the defendant….You were previously before the Second Circuit on this case and sustained a crushing defeat. This must not be repeated. You have repeatedly assured me that no antitrust violations were involved and that in consequence TWA could prove no damages. I must conclude that you were either wrong or wholly ineffectual, for the judgment now stands at a staggering figure. The time is at hand for other counsel to endeavor to achieve a favorable result….I deeply resent your presumptuous request that I “cease interference with the counsel in charge and responsible for the case.” There has been no interference on my part other than taking steps to accord other counsel an opportunity to salvage a case which you have tragically lost.
The Toolco directors behind Davis were meanwhile taking four concrete steps.
1: They voted the dismissal of Maheu.
2: They mandated Director Bill Gay to have the Mormon Mafia cut off Maheu’s communications. Maheu was from now on losing this particular game.
3: They ordered the two chiefs of the throneroom guardsmen, Howard Eckersley and Levar B. Myler, to enter in unto Hughes with a one-sentence proxy conferring full powers to the Davis group. This proxy was signed by Hughes, according to Eckersley who notarized it and Myler, who witnessed it. Hughes had now assigned to the Toolco board the right to run a large section of his empire.
This was November 14. Myler took the signed proxy to the Nevada State Bank in Las Vegas and put it in a strongbox.
4: Toolco promoted a whisper-in-Hughes’s-ear campaign against Maheu. “No outsider so far is privy to the exact details,” writes Tinnin, “but in essence, the reports informed Hughes that Maheu had developed into a disloyal and avaricious employee, who was taking his trusted employer for all he was worth.” The story on Maheu was that he was pocketing part or all of the finder’s fees for everything Hughes was buying in Nevada. These charges were never proved. It now is clearer that what was happening was that Toolco was accusing Maheu of the crimes that the Syndicate was committing and that maheu had begun to stumble onto.
Hughes’ Nevada security chief, Jack Hooper, left un-guarded the back stairway leading down from Hughes’s Desert Inn penthouse to a backdoor opening onto a parking lot, Hooper had taken off the door handle and assumed the doorway was now permanently closed. On November 26, 1970, the palace guards, the Eckersley-Myler group, took Hughes down nine flights of back stairs, out that door, and into one of several waiting station wagons. IN a variation on the Boston departure of 1966, a decoy caravan of black sedans with California plates was dispatched to Hughes’s McCarran Field, while the actual Hughes party drove to Nellis Air Force Base. There they were met by a Lockheed JetStar, leased from the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, come to carry Hughes away to the Bahamas.
Hughes was met in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving Day by an Intertel official named James Golden, whose presence in the melodramatic escape episode is interesting because of his reputation as “Nixon’s man.” Secret Serviceman Golden was assigned to Vice-President Nixon in 1957. He accompanied Nixon to Russia and Central America. They got stoned together in Venezuela. They grew close. When Nixon left the White House in 1960, Golden left the Secret Service to take a job as security chief for Lockheed. In 1968 Lockheed gave him a leave of absence to join Nixon’s campaign as director of security. After Nixon’s election he became Resorts International’s deputy director of security on Paradise Island. He was a founding officer of Intertel and one of its vice-presidents at the time of the events of November. He later joined the Hughes Las Vegas staff. As of summer 1975, he was at the Justice Department as chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force of the Law Enforcement Assistance Agency.
Golden’s presence in the coup raises the question of a Nixon influence, since “Nixon’s man” either means nothing or something. Could Nixon have been involved in the plot of Thanksgiving 1970 to overthrow Maheu, abduct and confuse Hughes, and radically change the nature of the crime-connected, FBI-connected, and CIA-connected Hughes empire? Was the motive to protect the Meier-Donald Nixon racket against exposure? Was it to resolve the tensions of the Hughes-Lansky conflict within the Nixon coaliton? Golden’s possible role constitutes a workpoint for further investigations.
For the next four days, Hoopers’s guards kept routine vigil at their closed-circuit TV displays which showed every means of access to Hughes except the one actually used by the intruders. Then Greenspun got a tip from a Syndicate friend at the Desert Inn to the effect that Hughes’s suite had been strangely quiet lately. Greenspun got his intelligence to Maheu. Maheu tried to put through a call to Hughes. A second-level aide finally answered and told him Hughes was no longer there.
The next day, December 3, the Sun headlined, “Howard Hughes Missing.” A Toolco director later said that Hughes saw this headline on December 4 on Paradise Island and was infuriated. Throneroom guardsman Levar Myler claims to have heard Hughes say that Greenspun by himself would never have dared print such a headline and that Maheu therefore had to be behind it, and thus that Maheu should be fired at once. Myler said Hughes then told him to release the November 14 proxy.
On that same day, December 4, Toolco battle commander Davis summoned his adversary’s friend and lawyer, Ed Morgan, to a meeting in Beverly Hills. Morgan had been active that summer in the transfer of the Danner-Rebozo money (and would be again active in its return three years later). On this trip to face Davis, in fact, Morgan brought Danner along. Danner’s reputation is that of an intimate of Nixon’s. He was also at this time a manager of one of Hughes’s hotels in Las Vegas.
Morgan and Danner found Davis awaiting them in Beverly Hills with Toolco directors Bill Gay, Calvin Collier, and Raymond Holliday. Davis told Morgan that Morgan’s client, Maheu, was thereby formally and officially fired by Davis’s client, Toolco, which was sole representative of Hughes. Davis flashed the November 14 proxy to prove it. Hughes had lost confidence in Maheu, said Davis. Nevada operation were not doing well. Earnings were less than 5 percent on a turnover of about $5 million. Only the Sands was showing a good profit. (And Danner was also fired, screamed Holliday, “number five on a list of 155,” This was a mistake soon corrected. Holliday had perhaps not appreciated the importance of Danner’s relationship with Nixon. Danner is last seen, post-Watergage, running the Sands.) Both groups flew back to Las Vegas that same day.
December 4, 1970, transfigured Vegas night. In swooped the Davis command – secretaries, files and telephones going full speed from first landing. Davis commandeered the penthouse at the Sands. The Sands was at that time managed by Maheu, but like the rest of Hughes’s Nevada holdings, it was actually owned in the name of Toolco. The Sands and the rest fell within the legal authority of the Toolco board and Davis.
Davis liberated and occupied his chosen headquarters swiftly. He installed a tough-looking security guard and announced that he alone spoke for Hughes, that Maheu was now out, and that a whole new order reigned.
Simultaneously, Davis commanded his “small army of special agents form Intertel,” flashing their mysterious credentials, to move with no more than necessary force into the sacrosanct cashiers’ cages in all the Hughes casinos. The Intertel men stuffed the cash into paper bags and boxes with no explanation other than their story about “a new management” and no credentials other than their advantage in surprise and force. They could as easily have been robbers as cops. They completely succeeded in putting the law’s first nine parts to work for Toolco. Subsequent discussion about who actually should boss the casinos was much influenced by the fact that Davis did.
We noted above that Maheu had feared something like this all along and had repeatedly sought Hughes’s reassurances that he was doing just what Hughes wanted him to do. Now he had no access to Hughes and therefore no reassurances and therefore nothing. The lawyers Morgan and Bell were loyal to Maheu, as were Greenspun with his paper and Hooper with his shamefaced security force. These people gave Maheu some capability for tactical defense but not enough. Without Hughes’s voice to animate it, Maheu’s world turned back into a pumpkin.
But Maheu did make a good argument of it. He gave four solid reasons in support of his outrageous theory that Hughes had actually been abducted by his enemies.
1: Hughes’s health was too poor for so sudden and hurried a trip. Newsweek reported on these events in its issue of December 21, 1970. This story scornfully informed its readers that “Maheu’s group spread another story that Hughes had been visited by a heart specialist (or in one version, three heart specialists) in November, that he was too ill to be moved anywhere but to a hospital, and that he had been kidnapped.” But actually, one of the few hard facts in this case accepted by all sides is that in the early part of that month, Hughes’s health had so sharply declined that Hooper’s security agents and Gay’s throneroom guards were compelled to open the airlock and let a doctor-human from the normal world, Dr. Harold Feikes, come into the innermost bubble to examine Hughes in the flesh, forbidding task. Davis quickly got a court order shutting Feikes up on what he had observed behind the screen at Oz, but in the split second before the order fell, Feikes said enough to confirm the general lines of Maheu’s claim.
According to Feikes, Hughes stood six feet four inches and normally weighted about 150 pounds. Now, said Feikes, he weighed 97 pounds and was suffering from an active heart condition, pneumonia, and anemia stemming from chronic malnutrition. (Malnutrition in one of the world’s richest men? His routine lifelong diet was cookies and milk.)
Feikes gave him immediate blood transfusions and said later that he was still on transfusions at the time of his sudden departure for the Bahamas, a departure carried out so hastily, however long it may have been considered, that he actually left behind his till-then precious or even indispensable life-support equipment. Maheu may well have found this sufficiently improbable to raise doubts about Davis’s claims.
2: Maheu thought it was strange that Hughes should choose Davis and Gay as his personal trustees in a matter as sensitive as this. Maheu said he once suggested to Hughes that Davis be brought to Las Vegas for a certain legal task, and that Hughes answered, “God damn it, Bob, you must be losing your mind. If we allow this man to come to Las Vegas, in 24 hours the whole city will be devastated, and in 48 hours the entire state of Nevada will be in chaos. This is of course self-serving on Maheu’s part, but it was apparently ture that Davis had been in bad standing with Hughes. Hughes had tried to take Davis off the TWA case and may easily have sensed and resented his resistance. The Toolco directors of course knew all about this, having gone through the ritual transfer of authority from Davis to Maheu earlier in the year.
Gay was also on the outs with Hughes. In 1965, Hughes backed a new major corporate undertaking on Gay’s recommendation. This was a computer company, Hughes Dynamics, aimed at capturing a piece of IBM’s action. Hughes Dynamics collapsed within a year with a loss of about $9 millioin. When Hughes was preparing his clandestine entry into Las Vegas, he turned to Maheu for security, Gay’s former preserve. According to Maheu, Hughes also gave instructions that Maheu was “not to invite Bill… and not to permit him to be privy to our affairs….I no longer trust him. My bill of complaints against Bill’s conduct goes very deep.”
I explained this to bill Gay in great detail. But he resented it to the extent that he began to move into areas of my domain…Shortly after we had arrived here [in Las Vegas], I asked [Hughes] if, on land problems, I was to take instructions from Bill Gay. Whereupon he literally went into a tirade and explained…that Bill Gay was less important in his world than his aides [i.e., than the throneroom guard]. He said that Bill Gay’s only assignment in life was to keep his relationship with Mrs. Hughes intact…and to keep Mrs. Hughes’s name out of the newspapers. He said Bill was just a baby-sitter for Jean.
Maheu, then cited a passage from a later Hughes memo on Gay: “Bills total indifference and laxity to my plea for help in my domestic area, voiced urgently to h im week by week, throughout the past seven or eight years, have resulted in a complete, I am afraid irrevocable loss of my wife. I blame bill completely for this unnecessary debacle. I feel he let me down – utterly, totally, completely.” (Hughes and Jean Peters were formally divorced in 1970.)
3: Maheu argued that it was certainly peculiar for a man like Hughes, engaged as he was at that exact moment in a battle for control of the Las Vegas-Bahamas gambling axis, suddenly to abandon old friends and helpers in the game, people like Maheu himself and Hooper, and to leap headlong down the spiderhole of an organization like Resorts International, “a company which operates a casino in the Bahamas…in direct competition with those in Nevada.” This in spite of bad health and only on the counsel of formerly dispirited executives. On top of all, what would possibly lead him to employ as over-all manager of this trip a security organization, Intertel, 94 percent of which was owned by Resorts International?
So even if Intertel was not the CIA or the Lansky Syndicate, it was still the least the CIA of Resorts International, and that Resorts International, whether it was a Syndicate front or not, was still Hughes’s chief competion.
4: Lastly, Maheu raised the question: If Hughes was so down on him, why not simply terminate his contract? Why so much fuss? Why the seemingly deliberate attempt to provoke a public controversy? And was it not another stupendous coincidence that Hughes should have closed himself off to Maheu at the very moment the Toolco board felt most threatened by him? One moment Maheu is a good guy with Hughes doing a hard job honestly and well. His communication lines are open to the top. He bends over backward to keep his face and hands clean. He is studiedly correct in all things. Then, pop! The mandate he won by that very competence, the TWA mandate, brings him up against the power of Davis and Toolco. So Gay tells the throneroom guard not to carry Maheu’s memos to Hughes anymore, not to put his phone calls through, to tear up his Valentines and badmouth him to Hughes – and thus lead Hughes to the belief that Maheu was responsible for the Syndicate’s silver-mining swindle.
The force of Maheu’s self-defense grew with developments, the following two in particular.
First, after years of digging in the records of Maheu’s Nevada administration, Toolco attorneys were unable to find a single fault to stick him with. Then in July 1974, in Los Angeles, Maheu won a jury verdict in his multimillion-dollar libel suit entered against Hughes in 1972 after Hughes told reporters (in a telephone interview growing out of the Clifford Irving “hoax” biography affair) that Maheu was a “no-good, dishonest son of a bitch and he stole me blind,” a view Hughes held on the strength of information he got from the Toolco throneroom guard service, the Mormon Mafia.
The Las Vegas battle was finally resolved not by the force of anyone’s arguments or by the integrity of either side, but by the Eckersley-Myler proxy of November 14. Myler got it from the strongbox and presented it to the court on December 10. Eckersley arrived the same day from Paradise Island with a long letter purportedly from Hughes in support of Davis. Two days before, phoning from the Britannia Beach Hotel, Hughes spoke to Governor Laxalt and District Attorney George Franklin. Both of them said they were positive the person they heard calling himself Hughes over the phone was the same person they had heard every other time they believed themselves to be talking to Hughes. Hughes told them he was alive and reasonably well, that Maheu was a disloyal employee and had been fired, and that Davis spoke from him in all matters.
Maheu produced a handwriting expert who swore that the Hughes signature on the proxy was a fake. Davis produced another handwriting expert who swore it was genuine. The court found Davis’s expert the more convincing one. Maheu lost his job.
In the aftermath came a complete reconfiguration of the over-all Hughes empire. In place of the old Toolco, a new creature materialized, the Summa Corporation. And stock in the drillbit company from which it all had started was publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The CIA relationship was continued within the structure of Summa and the Hughes Medical Institute of Miami.
Something had come full-circle. Hughes, the individualist tycoon had now disappeared altogether behind exactly the kind of closet corporation that had been hounding him all of his life – perhaps the master, but perhaps after Thanksgiving 1970, the slave and victim of an ambitious and resourceful staff in revolt.
The Greenspun Caper
Maheu could not prevail against Davis, but he protected himself against annihilation by stashing away, in the safe of his ally Greenspun, his large private collection of Hughes documents and tapes. It contained memorable items not only from the teeming four years of happiness in Las Vegas, but also from all Maheu’s adventures with Hughes before that, such as the time Maheu got the CIA and the Syndicate together. Since Maheu was at one time or another immersed in these activities, his documents presumably painted an insider’s picture of the larger relationship emerging between Hughes, Toolco, the CIA, and the Syndicate.
Rumor of the scope of Maheu’s document trove finally prompted Robert Bennett, president of the CIA-linked public relations firm of Robert Mullen and Company, to convene a meeting in Washington between himself, Howard Hunt and Ralph White. White was the new Hughes-Nevada security chief after the coming of Toolco. He has an Intertel background. Bennett assembled this group in order ot discuss “the communality of interests” among them in the contents of Greenspun’s safe. Bennett is the son of Utah Senator Wallace Bennett, a high official of the Mormon Church. He joined Mullen and Company as its president early in 1971, bringing the Toolco-Davis account with him.
Mullen and Company was incorporated in n1959. According to Senator Baker’s special report on the CIA and Watergate (July 2, 1974), Mullen “maintained a relationship with the CIA” from then on and was providing cover for agents in Amsterdam and Singapore at the hour of the Watergate break-in. Besides Hughes, Mullen was also close to ITT and CREEP. Douglas Caddy worked out of Mullen offices during the halcyon days of the Huston Plan.
Hunt told the Ervin Committee what he had told McCord, that there was some scandal on Muskie in Greenspun’s safe. Hunt’s tenacity in struggle is better than this story. Greenspun’s denial, the partial revelation of the Maheu papers, and the whole subsequent flow of the situation persuade us that McCord’s estimate the following December was better; that Nixon and Mitchell thought “Greenspun had other material which would personally incriminate the President and his friends.” We need only wipe away the dust to see that this material was the Maheu collection.
The February 1972 meeting at Mullen’s Washington office determined upon a straight-ahead, Liddy-style approach to the problem, i.e., burglary, a Plumber favorite. McCord’s testimony is that Liddy told him that he, Liddy, shortly thereafter handled a first-installment Hughes contribution of $50,000 to CREEP, the money flowing from Hughes through Bennett. In November, also flowing between Bennett and Liddy at the Mullen/CIA office, another Hughes cash dose for CREEP came through, this one for $100,000. Was Toolco hiring the services of the White House Plumbers?
In April, Liddy went to Las Vegas (again according to McCord) to case the layout of the Sun a second time. McCord does not say the break-in was actually attempted, but his account indicates that plans and preparations were carried to extensive detail. The Maheu documents and their White House thieves were to have been flown out of the country to a Central American haven in an airplane provided for that purpose by Toolco.
An unsuccessful attempt to open the Sun’s safe was reported that month. It has never been conclusively linked to the Plumbers. But whether the Greenspun document heist was abandoned in the planning stage or muffed in the attempted execution, it remains an abiding fact of American history that it did not end the interest of the Nixon people in the contents of Greenspun’s safe or the Hughes problem. The best current explanation of the actual Watergate break-ins of June 1972 is that they were motivated by fear that something on Hughes and Nixon – possibly on the whole question of Cuba, the CIA, and the attempted Castro assassination – had fallen into the hands of the McGovernites of the Democratic party. Even in the glaring publicity of the Senate Watergate hearings, the Nixon people still could not resist a last little try to get these papers back to Toolco. On May 23, 1973, the day after McCord told the Ervin Committee and the world of the Greenspun break-in plot, two IRS agents showed up at Greenspun’s office with a pretext for demanding the Maheu material. Greenspun went to court and got that stopped. The safe remained inviolate, and Maheu’s treasure helped serve him a victory in his Los Angeles libel suit against Hughes.
The Hughes-Nixon Connection
We opened this exploration of the political-economic Hughes with the words that first brought his name into Watergate, those of McCord to Ervin on May 20, 1973. In view of the specific light cast by the story just reconstructed, I think we now know how to decode the McCord statement. He is telling us the technical truth, but he is also telling us that a significant detail is wrong, that something else was afoot, that we should look for a twist. He is saying through clenched teeth that Nixon was the presidential figure whome the Maheu-Greenspun documents posed a threat to, not Muskie. Decoded, his original statement would then read:
Liddy said that Mitchell told him that Greenspun had in his possession blackmail type information involving NIXON [not Muskie] and Mitchell wanted that material, and Liddy said that this information was in some way racketeer-related, indicating that if this candidate, NIXON [not Muskie] became president, the racketeers or national crime syndicate would have a control or influence over him as president.
I submit that this is the “other motive” McCord hinted of, the unnamed motive he thought might actually have prompted the Greenspun caper. The link between the “presidential candidate” and organized crime existed, but if I am ever to be too obvious, the motive oof the attempt on Greenspun’s safe was to protect that secret, not to acquire it, because the link did not run between Lansky and Muskie, it ran between Lansky and Nixon and Hughes.
Theory: Hughes and Lansky both had a piece of Nixon.
When Hughes and Lansky got along, as they did so well on the Cuban question, things went well. They went badly after about 1968, when Meier appeared. The Hughes-Lansky conflict over Nevada was a conflict internal to the Nixon coalition, essentially a conflict for control of the presidency and the president.
The Yankee and Cowboy War
Watergate is a labyrinth we traverse in three directions in the following essays on Howard Hughes, Dorothy Hunt, and James McCord. My central claim is that the arrest of the Watergate burglars was the result of a set-up, that it was no more an accident that the Plumbers were caught than that they were in the offices of the Democratic National Committee to begin with, that there were actually two secret operations at Watergate, colliding invisibly as hunter and prey.
The issues joined in this incredible intrigue are the general issues of the struggle between Yankees and Cowboys. The essay on Hughes takes up the Yankee/Cowboy theme at length and sets out to show in concrete detail how the larger forces thus indicated can be seen at work in the history of Hughes and his battles and wars, first against the East Coast banking combines around the Rockefellers, then against the international crime Syndicate under Lansky. We follow step-by-step the evolution of the general features of the Yankee/Cowboy, Rockefeller/Hughes, Hughes/Lansky conflicts into the particular features of the Watergate confrontation.
The essay on Dorothy Hunt’s death in an airplane crash argues that the crash was the result of sabotage with a Watergate-related motive, bearing on the crisis of the Howard Hunt/White House blackmail scheme. I don not know or pretend to know how or by whom this plane was brought down, any more than I know who killed the two Kennedys and King. But just as in those cases, the careful review of the material evidence indicates that we are once again in the presence of an official deception in a capital case.
The McCord essay then explores in detail the anomalies surrounding McCord’s person and role in Watergate. The argument is that McCord did not blunder, that there was no slip-up to it when he left the telltale tape on the door, that he was actually an anti-Nixon double agent responsible to Yankee interests, pointman in another Yankee attempt at counter-coup – this one a success.
The Hughes Connection
Howard Hughes’s name surfaced in the story of Watergate on May 20, 1973. When James McCord told the Ervin committed and its media audience of an abandoned 1972 White House plot to steal certain documents from the safe of editor Hank Greenspun’s Las Vegas Sun. Greenspun was an ally of Robert Meheu, the top Hughes aide who connected the CIA and the Mafia in 1960, who came to prominence in the Hughes empire late in 1970. McCord testified that his fellow Plumbers, Hunt and Liddy, were to have carried out the break-in and theft of the papers and that Hughes interests were to have supplied them with a getaway plane and a safe hideout in an unnamed Central American country.
What could the Greenspun documents have been? Why should both Hughes and Nixon have been interested enough in them to attempt a robbery?
Liddy said [testified McCord] that Attorney General John Mitchell had told him that Greenspun had in his possession blackmail type information involving a Democratic candidate for President, that Mitchell wanted that material, and Liddy said that this information was in some way racketeer-related, indicating that if this candidate became President, the racketeers or national crime syndicate could have a control or influence over him as President. My inclination at this point in time, speaking as of today, is to disbelieve the allegation against the Democratic candidate referred to above and to believe that there was in reality some other motive for wanting to get into Greenspun’s safe.
For their own reasons, the senators were not tempted to follow that thread in their public examinations of McCord. But the investigative staff took a few more steps, and some independent but related court cases came to term, and it thus became possible to build a reasonably solid speculation about the role Hughes and his empire played in the Watergate confrontation. It is still not possible for outsiders – i.e., ordinary citizens – to form more than a rough sense of the underlying truth, but the following provisional reconstruction may sharpen our impression of the quality of the Hughes mystery and show why we cannot be satisfied with the conventional sense that it belongs only to the realm of the eccentricities of the rich, not to the realm of world-historical politics.
Hughes unites in his single person all the major sides of Cowboy capitalism’s current situation: its compromised relationship to organized crime, its servility towards militaristic authority, its last-ditch entrepreneurial desperation and bitterness, its gradual transformation into multicorporatized (i.e., monopolized) business structure in spit of all. Yet Hughes was not the ally of big crime, and he was not finally Nixon’s friend.
In 1935, when Bebe Rebozo was opening his first gas station in Miami and Richard Nixon was at Quaker school and Meyer Lansky was launching his Cuban projects and David Rockefeller was cutting his banker’s teeth on Depression economics, Howard Hughes at thirty was flying a widely admired aircraft of his own conception, design, and fabrication, the Hughes H-1 Racer, to a world speed record of 352 miles per hour. Two years later he set the coast-to-coast flying record of seven hours and twenty-eight minutes. In 1941 he flew around the world in a Hughes-modified Lockheed Lodestar, demonstrating the feasibility of a world air transportation network. Congress struck a medal for him in 1941 for his aviation exploits. He was a force behind the Lockheed Constellation, the first American high-speed passenger transport, replaced only by the big jets of the fifties. He was a force behind the big jets.
In World War II, as we noted in chapter 2, there was a great feeling of insecurity about the sea lanes. Industrialist Henry Kaiser suggested that the best way to beat the Nazi submarine menace would be to make giant airplanes that could take over the work of ships. Hughes found that idea congenial and got behind it. Shortly he and Kaiser had a contract calling for the delivery in 1944 of three monster flying boats designed to fly nonstop from Honolulu to Tokyo loaded with two battalions of armed infantry or equipment.
By delivery date, the hull was barely begun and at least another year of work remained. In a foretaste of later troubles at Hughes Aircraft, the works manager quit, Hughes dawdled at replacing him, and twenty-one engineers resigned en masse protesting they were without leadership.
In February 1944, the contract was cancelled. Hughes flew to Washington to tell the War Production Board that his and Kaiser’s HK-1 Hercules was not only the biggest airplane in the world, it was also a flying laboratory that would influence the direction of aviation development for decades. Would it not be foolish to waste the time and money already invested?
President Roosevelt was an admirer of Hughes. The contract was rewritten, cutting back from three planes to one.
Hughes returned to California, work resumed, FDR died, the war ended, Lansky founded the Strip, Nixon won his first election, and in 1947 Republican Senator Owen Brewster of Maine angrily exposed the fact that the U.S. government had paid Hughes $66 million for XF-11s and the HK-1 and had yet to receive a single airplane.
Hughes was not alone in his vulnerable position. The United States spent some $825 million for warplanes and some $6 billion for other weapons that were undeliverable at the end of the war. Possibly Brewster recalled the impact of the Merchant-of-Death hearings at the end of World War I and sensed that Hughes’s Hollywood playboyism would make him a soft target on profiteering. And Brewster knew that Hughes was connected in a potentially scandalous relationship with the late President’s son, Col. Elliott Roosevelt.
Hughes had a Hollywood aide by the name of Johnny Meyer whose job was to pick up the tab for the entertainments that Hughes provided those who would do him favors. Meyer told the Brewster committee that between 1942 and 1945 he laid out about $160,000 of Hughes’s money for entertainment of military and government officials. A large part of that, he said, provided for the entertainment of Col. Roosevelt.
Besides the connections of a good name, Col. Roosevelt had the additional advantage of being chief of the Requirements Division of the Army Air Force Reconnaissance Branch. He was treated with due respect when he visited Hughes’s Culver City works in the summer of 1943 and by the way plunged into a brilliant public romance, leading to marriage with actress Faye Emerson. Meyer and Hughes provided the Roosevelt-Emerson party with race-track tickets, liquor, hotel rooms, lavish dinner parties, black market nylons, and a wedding party.
The calendar showed that it was in the welter of those heady days that Col. Roosevelt made the recommendation that won for Hughes a $48 million contract to produce the ultimately unproduced forerunner of the XF-11.
The colonel got his piss and vinegar and charged into the committee room to defend his honor, but possibly helped Brewster make a larger point by denying “with all my heart and soul that Johnny Meyer ever got me a girl” and pushing hard the lame assurance that he never made “recommendations that would have in any way endangered the lives of the men under me.”
Now what could Hughes do? Had he not told Meyer to pay out this money? Had he not plainly hustled for the favors of a man whose influence was worth tens of millions to him in war contracts? Had his bribes not been shamelessly accepted by this officer-son of the president? Had the probably purpose of the bribes not been realized? Had not the contracts been awarded on the president’s approval? And then to top all, the planes had never even been delivered. Was it worse than wasteful? Was the XF-11 a straight rip-off? Was the Spruce Goose not an unflyable travesty from the start?
So Hughes came to the hearing tieless in an open shirt, sloppy work pants, and an old brown fedora to defend himself. He began by accepting and then brushing aside Brewster’s charges about influence buying: “All the aircraft companies were doing the same thing,” he said.
I believe Meyer patterned his work after what he saw in other companies. I don’t know whether it’s a good system or not. But the system did obtain. And it certainly did not seem fair for all my competitors to entertain while I sat back and ignored the government and its officials. You, Senator, are a lawmaker, and if you can pass a law that no one can entertain Army officers and you can enforce it, I’ll be glad to abide by it. I never wanted to bother with it. If you can get others to do business that way, I’ll be glad to do so, too.
Then he bore down. Influence was not even the real issue in the hearing, he said, no more than the issue was his guilt or innocence in the question of delivering the airplanes.
The hearings, said Hughes, were part of a well-heeled Wall Street conspiracy to force him out of control of TWA. Senator Brewster in particular was privy to this conspiracy, Hughes claimed. Brewster was acting as its agent in pushing these hearings on Hughes. Said Hughes to a startled committee:
If Senator Brewster really believed me guilty of obtaining war contracts by improper means, he would not be romancing me on the side, inviting me to lunch, and making appointments over the telephone to see me in California. I charge specifically that at a lunch in the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., last February, Senator Brewster in so many words told me that the hearings need not go on if I agreed to merge the TWA airline with Pan American Airways and go along with the bill for a single overseas airline.
And with that was launched an explicit and fateful confrontation between Yankee and Cowboy business forces.
Brewster was close to Juan Trippe, the president of Pan American Airways. Pan Am was (and is) controlled by a high-powered Wall Street banking consort around Rockefeller interests. Trippe’s proposal was that the Congress legislate the merger of all of America’s overseas airlines into a single giant carrier. The argument for this was of the essence of postwar Yankee consciousness. In the wake of the war and under the intense and numerous pressures of European reconstruction and the Cold War, European capitalism found it convenient to the point of necessity to organize government-industry cartels as a means of generating large amounts of finance capital quickly. In practical terms, that meant that America’s several transoceanic airlines would have to compete against one big united West German fleet (Lufthansa), one big united British fleet (BOAC), and so on. How could we maintain our competitive position in international air transportation unless we too resorted to a national cartel?
Hughes could see through that. So the Yankee banks had taken a liking to his airline, had they? And wanted to melt it into their airline, did they? Fancy that.
Tempers in the hearing room became short. At a certain point the subcommittee’s chairman, Senator Ferguson, wanted to go back to influence peddling and get away from the question of Brewster’s relationship to Rockefeller and the Trippe plan. To do this, he wanted to bring Johnny Meyer back to the witness chair, but Meyer was not in the committee room when his name came up.
“Do you know where Meyer is?” Ferguson said to Hughes?
“Will you see that he is here at two P.M.?”
Pause. “I don’t know that I will.”
Newsreels show Hughes calm and self-possessed. Ferguson could not think what to say, so Hughes sat back and continued, “Just to put him up here on the stand beside me and make a publicity show? My company has been inconvenienced just about enough. I brought Meyer here twice. You had time for unlimited questioning.”
“The chair feels that as president of the company, you should know where Meyer is. I must warn you of possible contempt. Give me your answer to the preceding question.”
“I don’t remember.”
“I’ve just asked what your answer was.”
“I don’t remember – get it off the record.”
Ferguson slammed his hand on the desk. “Will you bring Mr. Meyer in here at two P.M.?”
“No. No, I don’t think I will.”
In a matter of moments, the hearing had turned into a shouting match. Brewster was desperate to regain the offense and chose to attack Hughes’s pride by attacking the flying boat. He attacked its very concept, as though it were only the expression of the vanity of an individual and not of the hubris of an entire class. He called the plane “Hughes’s flying lumberyard”
I had to sweat five weeks in Washington to prevent cancellation of the contract from the start because a lot of people in government didn’t like it. We got pushed around everywhere. I had to build up a staff of engineers from scratch. I designed every nut and bolt that went into this airplane. I designed this ship to a greater degree than any one man has ever designed any of the recent large airplanes. I worked for eighteen to twenty hours a day for six months on this plane. If the flying boat fails to fly, I will probably exile myself from this country. I have put the sweat of my life into this thing, and $7,200,000 of my own money. My reputation is wrapped up in it. I have stated that if it fails to fly, I will leave this country, and I mean it.
The hearings adjourned till November. Brewster retired to his home base. In spite of the “poisoned arrows” Hughes had hit him with, Brewster was confident enough to say, “My moral code will compare favorably with that of this young man [of 42] who found time while others were fighting the war to produce The Outlaw.”
Early in November, before the hearings recommenced, Hughes moved the Hercules to specially built hangar at Long Beach, where it was reassembled and prepared for flight (and where it sat until 1975, when it was broken up for museums).
The Brewster side sneered at the Spruce Goose and predicted that the tables would be turned on Hughes when the hearings reopened. Hughes answered by inviting the whole of the Brewster committee to California for the Hercules’s first flight. Brewster did not accept, but others on the committee had fallen under Hughes’s charm or become intrigued with him and so came and saw and were conquered all over again, this time by his creation, this gigantic plywood flying boat with a tail ten stories tall and wings of 320 feet (60 percent larger than the 747’s). But though its pieces were “as neatly fitted as a mandolin,” it was still too early. It was wooden. Wood was wrong for such immense stresses and strains. It was powered by piston engines delivering too little thrust. It was a prefiguration of something still to come, not yet completely possible.
Yet on the last of several taxi runs at Long Beach that day, as Hughes explained, “it just felt so buoyant and light, I just pulled it up.” He climbed to seventy feet and sailed along at that altitude for about a mile, then brought it down, satisfied evidently, because that was the single solitary flight of the Goose-Hercules. Brewster was destroyed.
The unmasking of Brewster of a deep-dyed conspiracy of Yankee bankers plotting to take TWA off Hughes’s hands gives us a startlingly unobstructed glimpse into the workings of national power elites. It puts in sunlight the fact that a Yankee conspiracy against Hughes, aiming to take over TWA, existed as early as 1947. It shows us again how mainstream an instrument conspiracy is, how the best families do it, how it reaches the highest and squarest levels of business and government, how it is behind many events that seem disconnected, as with the Brewster hearings and the Trippe plan. It even shows how a rock-ribbed Republican stalwart from the superstraight state of Maine can thunder and roar and tear up about other people’s moral deficiencies at the very moment and in the very act of conspiring with other, higher powers in a rip-off scheme of his own, still more perverse because it uses and humiliates the Congress as a whole. This is very deep corruption. It says something about where the moral gloom that overcame America in the fifties came from.
The Soviet Union secretly exploded its first A-bomb late in August 1949. A month later Truman gave the world the news that the American nuclear monopoly was broken.
Shortly thereafter, Colorado Sen. Edwin Johnson accused Atomic Energy Commission Chairman David Lilienthal of conspiring to turn over U.S. atomic secrets to Britain. Lillienthal answered with an impassioned warning against the domination of the military in foreign affairs and resigned in the midst of a tense situation.
On February 1, 1950, against the advice of the AEC, Truman ordered the go-ahead on development of the H-bomb.
On February 9, in Wheeling, West Virginia, Sen. Joe McCarthy told an assembly, “I have in my hand 57 cases of individuals who would appear to be either card-carrying members or certainly loyal to the Communist Party, but who are nevertheless helping to shape our foreign policy.”
Yankees countered. In February and March the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Millard Tydings of Maryland, spolke out in a series of Senate speeches against the “defeatism” of the Truman line on Russia and communism, arguing that the presumption of inevitable conflict would lead to conflict inevitably. Tydings urged Truman to start moves toward a world disarmament conference. Connecticut’s Sen. Brian McMahon, chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, called also for conferences with the Soviet Union and argued that the best way to save the peace would be a program of massive aid to the poor countries. And Harrison Salisbury reported from Moscow that the Russians wanted to meet with the Americans to discuss A-bombs and disarmament – Yankees for an early détente.
Then on April 28, in a big speech to the always right-wing American Newspaper Publishers Association, Herbert Hoover proposed expulsion of the Communists from the United Nations and the formation of “a new united front of those who disavow communism.” The speech was met with a “thunderous, almost impassioned ovation.”
Yankee publicist and secret Round Table member Walter Lippmann leapt into the breech. Was there not a fatal contradiction in the stance of these “old guard Republican forces?” he asked. How could they “reconcile their warlike and crusading fervor against communism and Soviet Russia with their growing opposition to the European Recovery Plan, military aid, Point 4, and all the other measures of that sort?”
At the same time, the view which the Yankees denounced as isolationism was actually a rival internationalism – a rival strategy of expansion. Precisely in the manner of the Yankee Atlanticist looking to Europe, the Cowboy Frontierists looking to Asia were moved to view the problems of American life as originating in external pressures. As the Yankees were instinct with the need to reconstruct and consolidate in Europe, the Cowboys were instinct with the like need to maintain the Open Door in Asia.
And precisely as Hughes saw his wide open spaces being rationalize and regulated out from under him by the combined powers of the Establishment East, constantly encroaching, so he saw the traditional means of escape being sealed off by the rise of revolutionary communism in Asia. This is perhaps how he and so many other hard rightists could come to think of the New York bankers and the Reds as being in on the great rip-off together.
Hughes joined in the fight against banker’s communism so fiercely because it touched him so intimately, right in his airplane company. In the struggle that followed, like Joe McCarthy at the same time, Hughes found himself misaligned against the Pentagon, the institution with which has political relations might have been most agreeable.
The issue was the old and recurrent one of corporate control and accountability. Hughes Aircraft Company had built up its position dramatically in the previous few years under the management of former Air Transport Command Chief General Harold George and the technical leadership of Simon Ramo from Cal Tech and Dean Wooldridge from Bell Labs. At the end of 1953, when the trouble long brewing between Hughes and his management team broke out, HAC sales stood at $200 million a year, almost every dollar of it a top military secret.
The trouble between Hughes and his Hughes Aircraft Company team began in the late 1940s when Ramo, Wooldridge, and George demanded a face-to-face meeting with Hughes to argue for a new lab, needed they said, because of the expansion of the company’s defense contracts. Hughes agreed to a new lab, but proposed to build it in Las Vegas. The HAC people were horrified. They wanted the research center and the production center together. They fought their boss’s proposal. Hughes was angry and stubborn but at last gave way and let the lab be built in Culver City.
How can we characterize this rebellion? The technostructure, as John Kenneth Galbraigh and, after him, such other liberals as Andrew St. George would come to call it, wanted only to discharge its ultimate duties to its capitalist owner and master and therefore to its owner’s customers. It wanted to make big money and to help secure the country against military threats. So from its standpoint, it had not rebelled against its owner at all, it had only asserted the powers of rational action inherent to its contract, had only insisted upon its right to do what it was being paid to do.
But the more fundamental significance of this rebellion is that it showed that management and ownership, former indivisible politically, had diverged. Now they were not altogether as tight as before. It appeared now that management could actually sustain its bureaucratic interests over the objection of the owner, and especially could do this if the company was in effect a single-source-supplier to the Pentagon of major weapon system components. And if to own a (defense) company was no longer to control it, then which end was up in the world of private capital and the American state?
In approximately June 1952, HAC management concluded that HAC’s growth under their leadership had inspired jealousy in the parent organization, the Hughes Tool Company board of directors, to whom they were accountable, and that Noah Dietrich, the so-called financial wizard of the Hughes empire from the beginning was the main power on the Toolco board, was actually hatching a plot to seize control of HAC away from themselves.
The occasion of the clash was an HAC revolving credit fund that General George wanted to establish at $35 million. Dietrich unilaterally and arbitrarily cut this back to $25 million. The HAC management team insisted that this posed a threat to national security. They threatened to complain to the Air Force. Hughes met with them a second time, but was unwilling to listen to their most important general complaint, that the company’s once commanding position in the industry was being destroyed by Dietrich, who at best (they said) was misapplying the finance principles of boomtown oil to an altogether different business situation, and who at worst was maliciously engineering the troubles at HAC in order to fight off an imagined play for his own power.
Hughes reminded the rebels that Dietrich was a champion-class professional and that his sense of HAC’s true needs could not be discounted. There was a perspective, larger, after all, than that of a mere division like HAC, namely, that of the Hughes empire as a whole. And larger even than that was the perspective of Hughes the person, the rugged individual. What was good for HAC (or later, TWA) might not be good for Toolco, just as what was good for Toolco might not be good for Hughes the person. And Hughes the person, said Hughes, still happened to be in command.
Well, answered the technostructure, was national security not a perspective still larger than that of Hughes the person?
Which is when Hughes started thundering: “Communism! Communism!”
Fortune somehow saved the following dialogue:
HUGHES: You are proposing to take from me the right to manage my own property, I’ll burn down the plant first.
GEORGE: You are accomplishing the same effect without matches. I do not intend to preside over the liquidation of a great company.
George thereupon quit, soon followed by Ramo and Wooldridge and virtually the whole of the top technical staff behind them. Secretary of the Air Force Harold Talbott flew to Culver City to meet with Hughes and find out what was happening. He found Hughes furious. They were all troublemakers, he said. The company would be better off without them.
TALBOTT: You have made a hell of a mess of a great property, and by God, as long as I am Secretary of the Air Force, you are not going to get another dollar of new business.
HUGHES: If you mean to tell me that the government is prepared to destroy a business merely on the unfounded charges of a few disgruntled employees, then you are introducing socialism, if not communism.
TALBOTT: I intend to see that the Air Force contracts are protected.
The overriding issue of modern capitalism, the issue of individual control versus social accountability, could hardly have been more frontally joined than between these two forces, free enterprise and the anti-Communist military, more usually imagined as locked in embrace eternal.
Hughes being Hughes, with his capacity for putting all his excesses in one basket, was fighting out the very same issue at that very same moment in a separate province of his empire. He had picked up the movie studio RKO in 1948, and it had promptly begun crumbling in his fingers. The explanation universally given for this business disaster was the same as the explanation given in the HAC case tumbling along at the side, the Spruce Goose case a little behind, and the TWA developing underneath. The explanation was always that Hughes was a foolish, neurotic, procrastinating crank whose compulsive retention of control over the least rivet made him catastrophically unsuited for the management of large-scale corporate systems.
“It is impossible to estimate the damage done to RKO by Howard Hughes,” said Fortune from the commanding financial heights of Yankeedom. “Where is the accountant who can set a figure on the hundreds of intangible losses that came from Hughes’s inability to produce enough movies? With adequate production, RKO would have been able to develop stars of its own, rather than buying them from other studios at fancy prices…. The Hughes regime at RKO was about as dismal as it could be… “ The assault on his ownership continued with $30 million in stockholder lawsuits that suddenly materialized out of nowhere.
In a double jam, crossed two ways for being a good capitalist in America, land of the free, etc., Hughes was at last forced to roll up RKO into a ball and sell out to Akron interests. His profit was more than $7 ½ million over his purchase price, but now he was shut out of the movie business and he had not wanted that.
It is not known for a fact that Hughes supported Nixon financially in the early part of Nixon’s public career, from 1946 to 1952. Dietrich maintains that onward from the late forties, Hughes financed a great many politicians – “governors, congressmen, senators, judges, yes and vice presidents too.” Still this was written well before the fact and Dietrich may only have been recalling the famous “Hughes loan” of 1957.
This well-known but not so well understood episode is the first definitely recorded significant transaction between Hughes and Nixon. What Nixon got from Hughes was $205,000 for the benefit of brother Donald, whose Southern California fast-food chain was failing (it finally went broke anyway). What Hughes got from Nixon was approval of a previously denied St. Louis-Miami route for TWA, government reversal of a ten-year-old decision against letting Hughes lend TWA $5 million from HAC coffers, recomputation of mail transport credits to TWA generating a multimillion-dollar refund out of what had been a TWA debt, SEC approval of a TWA stock transfer that it had turned down four times previously, reversal of an unfavorable IRS judgment against Hughes’s Medical Institute in Miami, and the dropping of a Justice Department antitrust action against Toolco.
The Hughes loan was expensive for Nixon. In fact, the Nixon-Hughes relationship throughout is charged with negativity and mutual destructiveness. IN the current instance, word reached Nixon in the waning days of the 1960 presidential campaign that Kennedy scouts had discovered the Hughes loan and that Kennedy was waiting until just before the election to expose it, leaving Nixon no time to recover. Nixon decided therefore to break the story himself, hopefully thus to deflate it.
That proved a foolishly speculative decision. Nixon told the story and it erupted in his face. Possibly that was what kept Nixon out of the White House in 1960. Almost certainly it kept him out of Sacramento in 1962 when it boiled up again. Then came the crescendo of 1972, Watergate, the reappearance of Hughes as a weight on Nixon. Hughes is Nixon’s nemesis. It will appear in the following that Hughes may also be Nixon’s victim.
The Flight of TWA
To understand Nixon at the time of Watergate, we must understand Hughes in 1970 and thus his situation in Las Vegas. To understand that, we must first know what made him go there. And that brings us to the battle for TWA, the exemplary illustration from the world of contemporary big business of the Yankee/Cowboy conflict in play, paradigmatic of the working contradictions of American capitalism, and along with the wreck of the Penn Central, the towering commercial conflict of the sixties.
Hughes acquired Transcontinental and Western Airlines and four smaller lines in 1939 and merged them into Trans World Airlines, pumping up the new corporation with an investment of $90 million of his own funds. He controlled 70 percent of its stock. It was his airline in a sense that no airline has ever belonged to any single person.
And this was indeed the crux of the struggle about to take place. Hughes wanted a banker who would lend him what he needed, then let him run his own business, but the bankers wanted to change the private Hughes empire into publicly traded properties.
David Tinnin makes this the central point of his detailed account of the Hughes-TWA affair, Just About Everybody Vs. Howard Hughes (Doubleday, 1973),, upon which my summary is based. Hughes, ,he writes, “was fighting for a very personal cause – to retain sole possession of the country’s last individually owned industrial empire. The Fricks, the Rockefellers and the Fords had long since relinquished absolute ownership of their enterprises. This man alone held out.” One doubts Tinnin’s use of relinquish in this case, first because he is blurring the important distinction between “possession” or “ownership” and control, but more importantly, because the evolution of Rockefeller-Morgan magnitude power, displayed so awesomely in this fight, is in no respect of history of relinquishing; it is rather a history of how great financial power begets still greater financial power, and how financial power risen to new degrees necessarily begets new institutional requirements, and how these requirements ultimately come to transcend and dominate the personalities of specific princes. David Rockefeller does not share Hughes’s autonomy as of 1960, but that is not because he has relinquished anything, it is because his empire weights in the vicinity of $303 billion and is inextricably bound into a vast design of interlocking corporate powers reaching far beyond the Chase Manhattan Bank itself. As a consequence, it cannot be supported by the structures of individual personality. There was nothing smallish about Hughes’s estimated worth of $3 billion, but that didn’t even put him in Rockefeller’s class. Hughes’s control structures are therefore faster, but also lighter in weight.
This difference tends to be concealed in the Hughes-Rockefeller TWA fight as a difference of personal style. People on the Yankee side think themselves more cultivated. Those on the Cowboy side think themselves more virile. Tinnin might even be saying Rockefeller is more modest than Hughes, since he no longer struggles for so much personal control, and less eccentric, since his accomplished control seems so rationally bureaucratized. But the stylistic differences between them actually originate in the larger patterns of their unequal and differently structured empires. Tinnin’s own rich narrative makes it plain the Hughes lost because he was the weaker of the two powers, not because he was eccentric or old-fashioned or on the wrong side of the law, and a thousand times not because he was any more grasping than his adversaries or less willing than they to relinquish what he thought was his.
The Brewster prelude past, the great Hughes-vs-Rockefeller fight for TWA began to move toward its main battles slowly in the fifties with the coming of the age of jet transport aircraft. New engine technology developed under pressures of the Korean was made the Boeing KC-135 possible, and in 1955 the Air Force gave Boeing permission to produce it commercially as the 707. The airlines wanted and needed the new jets but were in no financial shape to buy them out of cash reserves, which were badly depleted in the Eisenhower recession.
Enter the big Eastern financial consortium formed up around Dillon, Read and Company and in one way or another involving the Metropolitan, the Equitable and the Prudential insurance companies plus Irving Trust, Chemical Bank New York Trust Company, Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company, the Bank of America, and the Chase Manhattan. They had the money the transition to jets would need, saw the airlines’ needs as opportunities, and were just willing to do whatever the could to establish control over this new high growth sector of the national transportation system.
TWA was in worse shape to receive the jets than the other big airlines. This was partly because Hughes miscalculated the tempo at which the transition to jets would take place. He thought there was time for one more generation of propeller aircraft and so he bought for TWA a fleet of Lockheed Jetstream Super Constellations, possibly the most graceful planes of their kind, the China Clipper of flight. Too late. Other troubles arose from his persisting too long in the hope that a jetliner partly of his own conception and design, the design forerunner of the Convair 880, could be produced on a competitive schedule. It was finally not produced at all owing to a decision made by Convair’s major creditors, Prudential and Chase Manhattan. Yankees everywhere.
So Hughes had been waiting for a jet that now was not coming. He had depleted his cash and credit in the top-dollar purchase of piston-engine airplanes that had become obsolete before they could be delivered. Antitrust regulations prevented his financing a TWA jet fleet from the immense profits of Hughes Tool or Hughes Aircraft, so he had to find external sources. And the Eastern banks were on the march to take the airline away, much more earnestly now than in 1947, their strategy the classic one: (1) make him a debtor, (2) foreclose.
First Hughes had to be convinced to take the Easterners’ money. Once that happened, TWA’s management could gradually be made accountable to the bankers’ combine rather than to Toolco’s board of directors. The plan drawn up by Dillon, Read & Company was many times revised, discarded, picked up and revised again, but its main elements stayed the same. The insurance companies would put up $90 million, the banks $70 million, and Toolco $100 million (through purchase of TWA subordinated debentures). With this loan of $260 million, TWA could pay off a sizable accumulation of debts and acquire its jet airplanes.
The terrible catch of it all from Hughes’s standpoint was that in order to get this loan he would have to turn over the management of TWA to a three-person voting trust in which he would have one vote and the lenders two.
Hughes badly wanted this not to happen. Through his chief counsel in the TWA matter, Chester Davis, he argued that he was being raided by a financial conspiracy whose underlying purpose was to take away his airline. Said Davis, “There is a conspiracy, certainly concerted action, among these defendants [i.e., the banks in Hughes’s countersuit]. These are not bare naked allegations.
The larger world got a small taste of Davis’s style in 1973 when he was called before an executive session of the Ervin committee to tell what he knew about the mysterious $100,000 Hughes gave Nixon on 1969 and ’70, the money Rebozo said he kept for three years without touching and then gave back. Davis came to the hearing with a suitcase packed with that much cash and the words, “You want the money, here’s the goddamn money,” dumped its contents on the table. Tinnen calls him “forceful, blunt…irrepressibly obdurate.” At the time Toolco retained him for this job, he was chief of the trial department of a powerful Wall Street firm. He soon set up his own office to deal exclusively with the Hughes case. (His partner in the new all-Hughes firm – one of the more engaging coincidences of Watergate – was Maxwell Cox, brother of the special Watergate prosecutor, Archibald Cox, who was fired by Nixon in the famous Saturday Night Massacre, according to some reports, for coming too close to the Hughes connection. Or was it because the Hughes connection was coming too close to him?)
Davis’s rival attorney was John Sonnett, another all-star of another super-heavy Wall Street firm. Sonnett was more conventional than Davis in manner but equally suited to his task. On June 30, 1961, he launched the struggle by filing a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (in Wall Street’s Foley Square), an antitrust action against Hughes on behalf of TWA.
An antitrust action by a company against its owner? Sonnett’s argument was that TWA’s chronic money problems and the constant and expensive turmoil of its upper management were all attributable (as usual) to the eccentricity of Hughes. If Hughes would leave TWA alone to behave in accordance with good business principles, TWA would make money, but he would not leave it alone, so it lost money. By rejecting the earlier versions of the Dillon, Read plan, Hughes had in effect kept TWA from getting jets at the same time as the other big lines, costing TWA money in lost profits.
How much? Scores of lawyers toiled for thousands of hours over TWA’s complex financial records and arrived at a precise figure. Hughes’s refusal to accept financing when financing was needed and available from the Yankee banks had cost his airline exactly $45,870,435.95. The rule of settlement in such cases is to multiply the damages by three, add fees, then start charging interest on the amount owed every day it remains unpaid. The bill to in this suit worked itself up to about $160 million.
To show the court the depth of Hughes’s managerial irresponsibility to his own airline and his unfitness for motherhood of a pubic utility, Sonnett fastened onto the episode in 1957 when Hughes flew off to the Bahamas with one of the first of the new Jetstreams to be delivered to TWA, No. 313. TWA was short of airplanes and losing blood rapidly. If it could get its big new liners into service on the lucrative long-distance routes quickly enough, it might recover. Hughes knew this. Had he not gifted the Nixon brother to the tune of $205,000 that very summer to win Civil Aviation Board approval of the plush St. Louis-Miami route for TWA? Then what possessed him to take this badly needed equipment on a vacation?
He flew No. 313 every day for a month, landing and taking off over and over in the bright Atlantic sunshine, as though he were its only possible test pilot. It made no apparent difference to him that his executives at TWA were screaming. They were his executives, they worked for him, not he for them, just as No. 313 was his airplane to do with as he pleased, as indeed what of TWA’s was not his personal property? If what he pleased to do cost TWA money, that meant only that it cost him money, and his money was his business, was it not, and was it not the whole meaning of American capitalism that nothing was allowed to interfere with that privileged intimacy between a businessman, his property, and his money? He flew No. 313 back alone one night across the country to Los Angeles. He told the mechanics to change the engines and said no more about it.
Well, what was the use of being a rich man if you couldn’t take off in your airplane for the Bahamas when you wanted to? One might ask why he didn’t fly his own plane instead of TWA’s, like other rich men. But this distinction between “his” and “TWA’s” was precisely the distinction he was fighting not to accept. The idea that TWA might have an identity, never mind a will, that was in any way separate and alienable from his own proper person was, for Hughes, simply wrong, was a bad idea, a mistake in thinking.
Remember too that Hughes’s tenacity in the cause of big airplanes was rooted less in proved successes than in a faith that solutions to the many technical problems that exist. The solutions would come with new metallurgy, new electronics, new magnitudes of concentration of technology and capital, mountain ranges of technical and administrative bureaucracy beyond anything Hughes’s generation had yet seen. These were still to come. IN his time, the task was still to determine whether the vision of “the airways” was illusion or reality. In retrospect, the airways may seem to have been realized quickly and logically. Hughes’s life bears out the old truth that for those involved in the actual making, the individual concrete steps are often uncertain and accidental and dangerous. Hughes had personally experienced nothing but trouble in getting big airplanes to fly. In 1946 he had nearly been killed test piloting the XF-11 when a but in the electronic control system suddenly, in mid-flight, reversed the thrust of the propeller on the righthand engine.
Then a scant year and a half later had come the failure of the Goose-Hercules. True, it had flown, had proved itself an actual airplane, had saved Hughes’s reputation and extended his legend and given him a dramatic final triumph over Senator Brewster. But for all its eight engines, it did not begin to have the power Hughes knew he needed for safe flight, and it took him just a few taxi runs up and down Long Beach and one mile-long flight at seventy feet to understand and accept that.
Ten years later, down in the Bahamas in 1957, Hughes at last found himself at the controls of an airplane that solved the former problems (in piston-engine terms) and with considerable engineering and design elegance. But the Jetstream was obsolete even as he proved it out. The problems it solved so well were being put behind. The jets were coming on and everything was being changed by this faster than Hughes thought it would be.
As Sonnett told the story of No. 313 before the New York court five year later, it was only more proof of Hughes’s madness, a madness, Sonnett argued, that disgraced TWA, spoiled its profitabilities, and made its sharpest executives want to resign. TWA could not be allowed to remain the plaything of a crank. The airlines were public utilities. TWA had a schedule to keep, like the rest of them. Its managers were morally bound to pursue maximum profit lines to the enrichment of the owners. Hughes’s eccentricity, in other words, had made it impossible for others to fulfill their bounden contract duties thoward him. And in this, said Sonnett, was Hughes himself not culpable on his own terms, a criminal under his own law?
Chester Davis answered that TWA had indeed been hurt, but not by Hughes. It was the Eastern banking cabal, he charged, that had nearly wrecked the company, and it had done this though conspiratorial efforts to force its financing plan upon Hughes, when Hughes had known perfectly well that his plan was only the opening wedge of a takeover campaign, a raid. Hughes did not need New York’s bankers to tell him that he needed money in the amount of $100 million a year for two or three years. That was plain on the situation’s face. If the Dillon, Read group actually cared that much about the health of TWA as an airline rather than as a future Rockefeller property, they would prove their concern better by staying out of Hughes’s efforts to secure more favorable financing terms elsewhere.
One of Hughes’s alternative plans, for example, involving nine banks plus Corvair and Lockheed, fell through at the last minute because Convar’s main creditors vetoed its participation. The creditors were Prudential and Chase Manhattan, leading members of the Dillon, Read consort. At about the same time, top officers of Equitable and Metropolitan, major TWA creditors, advised TWA President Charles Thomas to resign, which he did in a rancorous public episode that cost Hughes dearly in prestige.
Then the lenders drew on their powers as TWA creditors in a handful of smaller loans to force TWA not to accept any aircraft from Hughes. This crippled other financial schemes Hughes was working on which entailed the purchase of the new jets by Toolco. Toolco, which easily could afford them, would have leased them to TWA on easy term. The lenders also unilaterally advanced the due dates for two fo these loans.
Only after these moves had put him up against the wall did Hughes capitulate to the Yankee plan. He asked only that he be allowed to repay the loan at any time without penalty. But not even that was acceptable to the Yankee bankers. “We have made up our minds,” said Ben Sessel of the Irving Trust. “The banks do not want to do business with Howard Hughes.”
Either Hughes would accept the Dillon, Read plan with its penalty clause, its high interest rate, and its voting trust, or the lenders would foreclose, throw him into bankruptcy and TWA into receivership, seize Toolco and open its files, and sell off enough of its assets to meet Hughes’s obligations to themselves, his creditors.
Hughes’s cash and credit position was badly deteriorated by this time. He was forced to send a squad of his security men to the Corvair plant in San Diego to seize dome dozen 880s being readied for delivery to TWA and hold them at an isolated corner of the airfield. He could not allow them to be delivered because he could not pay for them. The angry Sessel said, “It is time for Howard Hughes to realize that he is in the hands of the banks and will do what we say.”
But how had this happened? It has happened, said Davis, because the banking conspiracy wanted to get TWA. The banks cared little how badly their manipulations might damage the airline before they got it. “During the years from 1947 through 1960,” said Davis, “TWA realized earnings before taxes of $95,600,000. Upon information and belief, TWA in 1961[when the banks were in control] lost in excess of $30 million.
So Davis attacked with a countersuit by Toolco against the banks. The major claim was that the Easterners had conspired, first, to keep TWA from getting capital from anybody else but them, and second, to impose the voting-trust stipulation that completed Hughes’s loss of control. This is what disrupted TWA’s jet procurement program, forced Hughes to accept financing at loan-shark rates, and created TWA’s bad situation. Hughes’s putative eccentricities had nothing to do with it. Because of this conspiracy, said Hughes, TWA had suffered damages in the amount of $45 million and Toolco in the amount of $77 million. Time three equals $366 million. That was Hughes’s answer to the bankers $160 million suit against him.
Sonnett’s original antitrust action against Hughes was based simply on the idea that Hughes owned Hughes Aircraft Company, presumably a manufacturer of aircraft, and so was disallowed under the antitrust laws from owning an airline too. To this, Davis answered, first, that as Sonnett ought to know, the Federal Aviation Act exempted the airlines from antitrust regulation; second, that issues such as those raised by Sonnett’s action ought to be raised before the Civil Aviation Board, not in the courts; and finally, that the CAB had in fact spoken on precisely these questions when it first approved Hughes’ s original acquisitions. Davis asked the court the throw the case out.
We jump ahead ten years to January 1973 when the Supreme Court at last spoke on TWA v. Hughes to note that this is exactly and completely the position finally upheld. Justice Douglas, writing for the majority, adopted the line of reasoning Davis had taken from his first day on the job, namely,, that the case ought never to have gone to court. Jurisdiction belonged with the CAB; the antitrust law did not apply. So much for a few hundred thousand hours of the highest-price lawyering downtown Manhattan has for sale, with combined fees running close to $10 million.
But that was 1973. Until then, Hughes lost every battle. In 1960 he was forced to accept financing he did not want under provisions that left him powerless over his own company. In 1965, on the strength of Sonnett’s ultimately flawed antitrust argument, he was forced to divest himself of his 78 percent holding and get out of TWA and the airlines altogether. And in 1970, he was told by the court that he owed $160 million in damages to the very people who had robbed him of his airline.
How could there have been so wide a difference between the final judgment of the Supreme Court and the earlier judgment of the district and appellate courts? The lower court judges involved and the special masters they appointed to hear the depositions were angered by Hughes’s refusal to appear in person and be deposed like everyone else. The 1970 judgment against him was partly motivated by their irritation over this. Yet to award, on grounds of mere default, the largest amount of money in damages ever awarded by any court seemed a large, wild thing to do. This is why Special Master Herbert Brownell, who heard the depositions for Federal District Judge Charles Metzner, took almos a year to study the arguments and make his report. Then Judge Metzner took nineteen months more to study Master Brownell’s report and affirm its recommendations.
Moreover, at every step of the way, Davis appeared to have the better of the debate with Sonnett, so clearly as to color the speculation that Hughes lost in some part because the game was being played in the other side’s arena with hometown referees. Once, in 1964, Davis almost won the Supreme Court review that might have given him his win ten years before it finally came. The Supreme Court hid just made a ruling in a strikingly similar case, the U.S. v. Pan American World Airways, W.R. Grace & Co., and Pan American-Grace Airways (shortened to Panegra). The ruling in that case seemed exactly to support Davis’s central argument, i.e., that jurisdiction lay with the CAB, not the courts. But the very next moment, with no explanation, the Supreme Court accepted Sonnett’s contention that the decision to review the TWA v. Hughes case had been “improvidently granted.” Apparently the justices thought either there was no need for a review or that a review was not yet possible, but the practical effect was the irrevocable dismissal of Hughes’s countersuit. The default judgment against him was allowed to stand and the presumption of his guilt was supported.
So the wheel would remain in spin for another eight years, first causing Hughes to divest his TWA stock, then requiring the painful hearings to determine the precise amount he would hav to pay the new owners of his old airline for the damage he had done in trying to keep it from them.
The divestment occurred on May 3, 1965. Ordinarily the sudden sale of so much stock would depress the price, but the community had followed TWA v. Hughes closely and understood why Hughes was selling, so the price was firm at $86 a share. Merrill Lynch handled the transaction with the h elp of 410 other domestic and foreign underwriters. Public sale of the six-and-a-half million shares took half an hour. The underwriters deducted their fee of $4 per share, then wrote Hughes a check for the remainder: $546,549,771. Taxes reduced this to about $486 million free and clear. Only the Ford stock sale of 1956 was bigger.
So Hughes was out one airline and his overall empire had been brutally shaken by those five years, and more was coming, and worse. But at the moment, as of the sale of TWA, he had ready cash again and could start looking for another game.
(To Be Continued)
The Yankee and Cowboy War
The gold-outflow crisis of January-February showed the Yankees how vulnerable the Vietnam war of the Cowboy administration had made the American economy and all those economies that depended on it. There were sophisticated ways to mystify the fact, and they were used, but most of the world had no trouble grasping the main thrust of events. The larger economic system of the Western world as a whole was suffering from another great malaise which in some way or another was connected to the Vietnam war. Interpretation was, as it remains, of course, open to the usual ideological variations, and as there were those who decided Vietnam was getting too expensive to win and those who decided Vietnam was getting to expensive to lose, the new realization about the actual magnitude of the cost did not in itself settle a thing, except that the firght would grow more intense.
The Tet Offensive
This was another event both fatally unambiguous and ultimately mystifying. All parties to the dispute would continue to agree that Tet was a major event, full of military meanings and political consequences – whatever they might turn out to be. For who in 1968 could see how the war was going to turn out? Cowboys thought the main thing about Tet was that the opposing forces, in all-units, all-out attack, had been beaten back from their objectives, mauled and spent beyond powers of recovery, provided that the United States and friendlies would now seize the time. Yankees tended to think, on the contrary, that Tet’s main teaching was that it was indeed the strategy of military escalation itself that had failed. If you could field a half-million men in Vietnam and commit the strategic quadroons at such length and such intensity and still get a Tet offensive unannounced, then something was wrong with the strategy and/or the assumptions upon which it was founded. The economy was meanwhile bleeding away, main arteries open and gushing. West Europe was blanching. If the Americans lost grip, what would become of the rest? The correct strategy must then be to cut Vietnam losses and bid to hold the line in Thailand, where conditions were better.
Precisely according to their material interests and their historical perspectives, Yankee consciousness affirmed the priority of the Atlantic basin while Cowboy consciousness affirmed the priority of the Pacific rim. Formerly these images had been harmonized in the conduct of a two-front, two-ocean, two-theater war, a great Atlantic and Pacific effort joined and supported equally by all descendents of Civil War foes. This World War II coalition endured in the strategy of two-front Cold War in which Red Russia traded places with Nazi Germany and Red China with Fascist Japan, a friend for a foe and a foe for a friend. With the Tet offensive, people started pulling back from the coalition. Naturally enough, the ones who were the first to pull back were the ones who had the least to win from staying in and winning and the most to lose from staying in and losing, the Yankees.
Historian Geoffrey Barraclough of Oxford and Brandeis writes of this moment “that the war in Vietnam, and the mounting inflation that ensued, undermined the international system built up since 1947, and in particular weakened the position of the United States, the linchpin of the system.” He quotes C. Fred Bergsten of the Brookings Institution and the Kissinger fraternity: “After 1967, the rules and institutional bases of the old structure began to disintegrate.”
This sense of collapse prompts the Yankee rejection of Johnson. Barraclough observes, “In retrospect, it would seem probable that the operative cause [of Johnson’s “retirement”] was less the much advertised student unrest than a revolt of big business and corporate finance, frightened by the damage Johnson’s policies were inflicting on the U.S. economy and on its economic position abroad.” This “revolt of big business and corporate finance” is what I imagine was at the base of the movement afoot early in 1968 to get rid of Johnson: a Yankee revolt.
The Abdication of Johnson
The tell-tale sign that Johnson’s March 31 stepdown was a result of a power play was the number of chieftains of the opposing tribe who played key roles in the ceremonies of transition, most notably and visibly the top-class Yankee gunslingers Clark Clifford, Averill Harriman, Cyrus Vance, and George Ball. Defense Secretary Clifford was the acting chief national executive presiding behind the scenes from his perch over the Defense Department because it was (and is) basically the Defense Department that the president of the United States is required to rule. Harriman and Vance set up the Paris peace talks. Vance defused the Pueblo incident. Ball went to the UN. All the old boys were spinning and driving together.
That Johnson’s decision not to run in 1968 was somehow forced upon him is to my mind further indicated in such details as (a) the suddenness of his move, (b) his failure to pass power on to a designated heir the likes of John Connally, and (c) the extend to which the stepdown benefited his main blood enemies: The Kennedys and the Yankee Establishment. Johnson’s abdication as well as his switch to a negotiated settlement line on Vietnam may be more clearly seen as outcomes of an internal power struggle much like the struggle we discerned in the record of Frontier Camelot. I am far from wanting to say that Johnson’s downfall was in the least detached from the Tet Offensive, or the rise of the antiwar movement, or the degeneration of the Atlantic-system Free World economy under the burden of limitless Vietnam expenses. On the contrary, these large social motions, “contingencies” of world-historical scale, defined the terms of clandestine power struggle and determined the objectives of its participants: the Cowboy to win a war believed to be winnable except for domestic and internal dissension, the Yankee to break off a war believed to be unwinnable except through an internal police state, both sides fighting for control of the levers of military and state-police power through control of the presidency. Johnson’s Ides of March was a less bloody Dallas, but it was a Dallas just the same: it came of a concerted effort of conspirators to install a new national policy by clandestine means. Its main difference from Dallas is that it finally did not succeed.
The Turn Toward Peace
Was the Eugene McCarthy campaign a stalking horse for Kennedy? By design or by flaw, it had that effect. It warmed the waters and perfumed the air for the Kennedy antiwar campaign. When Kennedy stepped out to soar he already knew where the wind was. So did the hunters.
What is it about Kennedy’s politics and situation that makes it possible for this Irish Catholic and decidedly nonestablishment family to form national electoral coalitions inclusive of the big-city machines, acedemic liberals, and the Establishment? We have noted (chapter 2) how the Kennedy link with the WASP Establishment was formed in pre-World War II days when father Joseph and son John were at the Court of St. James. But what was the basis, for example, of John Kennedy’s access to Johnson in 1960 or Robert Kennedy’s to Daley in 1968?
However the Kennedy presidential coalition was formed, it was in the process of forming again in 1968 around Robert. We do not and cannot ever know whether he would have returned the crown to the East, but we should not forget that at the time of his assassination he had assembled a prowithdrawal coalition easily strong enough to dominate the Democratic party and carry off the nomination, and that owing to Johnson’s early “retirement,” he would have enjoyed the further advantage of not having to face an incumbent.
The Assassination of King
The problems of the lone-Ray theory are much the same as the problems with the lone-Oswald. Four eyewitnesses to the April 4 killing, including two police detectives spying on King, said they saw the gunman in the bushes on the ground, not in the second-story window in which Ray was said to have been perched. The angle of the mortal wound is consistent with a shot fired from the ground, inconsistent with a shot fired from the second story. For the alleged murder weapon, a rifle, to be aimed at the correct angle from the bathroom window alleged to have been Ray’s nest, the butt would have had to project into the wall. Ray’s travels after the assassination took him to Montreal and then Europe, although (like Oswald) he had no visible purse. He traveled under the aliases Eric S. Galt, Paul Bridgman, and George Ramon Sneyd, which turned out to be names of real people living in Montreal, all Ray’s age, all had Ray’s build, all bearing and astonishing facial resemblance to Ray, including in one case identical scars. And so on.
Ray’s first lawyer, Alabaman Arthur Hanes, convinced Ray to sell the rights to his story as the only way to raise funds for legal defense. The author thus retained came to pressure Hanes not to let Ray testify in court for fear of compromising the commercial prospects of the forthcoming book – according to Ray, who therefore dissolved the contract.
His next lawyer, Percy Foreman, connected to the H.L. Hunt empire, took the stance from the start that ray’s only reasonable tactic was to plead guilty, which he did only after he and his family strenuously resisted; all Foreman’s lawyerly skills almost could not make them see the necessity of a guilty plea. (The guilty plea guaranteed, of course, against a serious trial and a serious investigation.) Foreman was at the same time involved in a big-money deal on the book rights to Ray’s story, a deal whose only commercial premise obviously was that Ray would in fact be convicted as the real assassin of King. Foreman told the Ray family that he “didn’t want Jimmy to testify because he’d talk about conspiracy.” Strange reason, but it may ring a distant bell to learn that Foreman was also one of Jack Ruby’s lawyers during the no-conspiracy period. Meanwhile, the only witness who positively connected Ray to the crime was a drunk, alleged to be on the Memphis police payrolls as an informant, whose wife testified that, at the time of the shooting, he “was drunk and saw nothing.”
Ray’s later assertion of innocence does not reject the possibility that he may have been unwittingly used: “I personally did not shoot Dr. King, but I may have been partly responsible.” The evidence of conspiracy and cover-up has persuaded Coretta King among others that a new investigation is necessary: “I do not believe an impartial investigation has been held.” As of early 1976, it had not been held because of the refusal of the Tennessee court to let Ray reverse his guilty plea.
The May Memos of Hoover
This is the battery of memos signed May 10 with which Hoover formerly launched the FBI’s so-called counter insurgency intelligence program, called “Cointelpro,” the explicit purpose of which was to crush the civil rights and antiwar movement, the New Left. We do not yet know all the details of Cointelpro, we do not know its full range; above all, we do not know its impact – except that there is no longer a New Left. But we have the large print up front and it is not hard to deduce the basic variations. Directing all offices to mount an attack on the “New Left movement and its key activists…who spout revolution and unlawfully challenge society to obtain their demands,” Hoover wrote that “the purpose of this program is to expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize the activities of the various New Left organizations, their leadership and adherents. It is imperative that the activities of these groups be followed on a continuous basis so we may take advantage of all opportunities for counterintelligence and also inspire action where circumstances warrant.” He said, “consideration must be given to disrupting the organized anarchistic activity of these groups…the devious maneuvers and duplicity of whose activists…can paralyze institutions of learning, induction centers, cripple traffic, and tie the arms of law enforcement officials to the detriment of our society….Law and order is mandatory for any civilization to survive.”
The Assassination of RFK
Besides the woman in the polka dot dress, there are the following mysteries in the RFK shooting:
1: The Los Angeles coroner, Thomas T. Noguchi, insisted from the first that the shots fatal to Kennedy were fired from the rear, point blank to the back of his neck, not from Sirhan’s position several feet in front of Kennedy. As in the JFK case, this problem of the direction of the lethal fire is basic.
2: The bullet taken from Kennedy’s neck and the bullet taken from the body of newsman William Wiesel have never been matched to the same pistol.
3: The bullet removed from Kennedy has never been conclusive matched to the Iver Johnson .22 Cadet, the revolver the police took from Sirhan.
4: There is even a single-bullet theory. Since Sirhan’s pistol held only eight bullets and seven were recovered from the bodies and there were three bullet holes in the ceiling, the L.A. police were inspired, Specter-like, to theorize that one of these bullets went up through a ceiling panel, ricocheted off the floor above, came back through another ceiling panel, hit the floor, bounced up and wounded a bystander in the head. In the summer of 1975, Kennedy aide and former Congressman Allard Lowenstein reported that the Los Angeles police had destroyed the ceiling panels.
5: The L.A. police might have laid the ballistics doubts to rest long since by simply test-firing the Sirhan pistol. On one occasion they did carry out a test firing, but the results were odd. Yes, the police said, the test proved it against Sirhan, the bullet fired from his pistol into a watertank and recovered compared positively with the bullet removed from Kennedy. But closer inspection turned up the fact that the serial number of the pistol fired in this test was totally different from the serial number of Sirhan’s pistol. This embarrassment doubtless reinforced the natural shyness of the police, and the ten volumes of evidence collected by the unit set up to investigate “Special Unit: Senator” are still secret.
Whatever time teaches us to think about the origins of the RFK assassination, its result was the destruction of the Yankee effort at unhorsing the Cowboys in 1968. The nomination of McCarthy had always been impossible, and the ascendancy of Hubert Humphrey guaranteed against any basic new departures in U.S. foreign policy and Vietnam.
Then came Chicago against the background of Prague, Paris, Mexico City. The the election of Nixon, the continuation of war and repression – the secret wars, Bach Mai, Kent State, Jackson State, Watergate.
The Yankee and Cowboy War
Rose Cherami at forty was employed as a stripper at Jack Ruby’s Dallas nightclub, the Carousel, at the time of Kennedy’s murder. She was a narcotics addict with an arrest record two-and-a-half pages long from jails in San Antonio, Amarillo, Dallas, Shreveport, Angola, Houston, New Orleans, Austin, Galveston, Los Angeles, Tucson, Deming, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Montgomery, Jackson, and South Gretna, mostly on vagrancy and narcotics charges, though the charge filed in Jackson was “criminally insane.”
On November 20, 1963, she and two unidentified men were driving through Louisiana on a dope run – so she later said – for Jack Ruby. An argument turned violent. The men threw her out of the moving car and abandoned her on a state highway outside Eunice.
She was found hurt and dazed by Lt. Francis Fruge of the Louisiana State Patrol. Fruge took her for treatment to a hospital, then brought her back to the jail and held her on a suspected narcotics connection. Her withdrawal symptoms grew violent. She stripped off her clothing and slashed her ankles. Fruge committed her to the Jackson Mental Hospital, where she was confined until November 26.
During her confinement, after the Kennedy assassination but before Ruby killed Oswald, she told the house psychiatrist at Jackson, Dr. Victor J. Weiss, Jr. (in the words of Frank Meloche), “that she knew both Ruby and Oswald and had seen them sitting together on occasions at Ruby’s club.”
“Information was also received,” says Meloche, “that several nurses employed at Jackson Mental Hospital who were watching television along with Rose Cherami the day Kennedy was assassinated stated that during the telecast moments before Kennedy was shot Rose Cherami stated to them, ‘This is when it is going to happen,’ and at that moment Kennedy was assassinated. Information states that these nurses had told several people of this incident.
On November 26 Rose Cherami was returned to prison in Eunice for questioning. She gave Lt. Fruge information about a narcotics ring operating between Louisiana and Houston. Lt. Fruge told Meloche this turned out to be “true and good information.”
She was then flown to Houston for further questioning on the narcotics angle. “While in flight,” said Meloche,
Rose Cherami picked up a newspaper with headlines of Ruby killing Oswald and further on down in the newspaper it stated where Ruby denied ever knowing or seeing Oswald in his life. Rose Cherami laughed ans stated to Lt. Fruge that Ruby and Oswald were very good friends. They had been in the Club (Ruby’s) together and also stated that Ruby and Oswald had been bed partners. Upon arrival at Houston she again repeated this story to Captain Morgan. When asked to talk to the federal authorities about this, she refused and stated that she did not want to get involved in this mess.
Meloche and Fruge tried to track Rose Cherami down in 1967 in connection with Garrison’s case but found that in September of 1965 she had been killed in a peculiar auto accident outside Big Sandy, Texas. Reads Fruge’s report:
The accident was reported to Officer Andrews by the operator of the car after he had taken the subject to the hospital. Andrews stated that the operator related that the victim was apparently lying on the roadway with her head and upper part of her body resting on the traffic lane, and although he had attempted to avoid running over her, he ran over the top part of her skull, causing fatal injuries. An investigation of the physical evidence at the scene of the accident was unable to contradict this statement. Officer Andrews stated that due to the unusual circumstances, namely time, location, injuries received and lack of prominent physical evidence, he attempted to establish a relationship between the operator of the vehicle and the victim to determine if any foul play was involved. This resulted negative. It should be noted that Hwy #155 is a farm to market road, running parallel to US Hwys #271 and #80. It is our opinion, from experience, that if a subject was hitch-hiking, as this report wants to indicate, that this does not run true to form. It is our opinion that the subject would have been on one of the U.S. Highways. Andrews stated that although he had some doubt as to the authenticity of the information received, due to the fact that the relatives of the victim did not pursue the investigation, he closed it as accidental death.
We wish to further state that fingerprint identification shows that deceased subject, Melba Christine Marcades, is the same person as subject Rose Cherami, who was in custody, by us, from November 21, 1963, through November 28, 1963, at which time she stated that she once worked for Jack Ruby as a stripper, which was verified, and that Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald were definitely associated and known to be, as she stated, “bed partners.” She further referred to Ruby as alias “Pinky.”
The fate of Julia Ann Mercer, another Ruby witness, was much better but still bad. As she deposed in New Orleans in January 1968 to Garrison:
On the morning of the President’s assassination, in the vicinity of 11:00 o’clock, I was driving west on Elm Street toward the Triple Underpass. There was a green pickup truck parked on the right-hand side of the road, with its two right wheels up on the curb. I was delayed by traffic congestion long enough to observe a man remove from the back of the truck a rifle wrapped in paper.
Because the delay caused by traffic I happened to see the face of the driver of the truck quite clearly. While I was stopped there he looked at me twice. This man was, as I later recognized from the papers, Jack Ruby.
The next morning FBI agents showed me photographs. This was on Saturday – the day after the assassination and the day before Ruby shot Oswald. The FBI then showed me some photographs to choose from. One of the men I picked out was Jack Ruby. When one of the FBI agents turned the picture over I saw Ruby’s name on the back….
The next morning I was looking at television with my family and when I saw Ruby shoot Oswald, I said, “That was the man I saw in the truck.” Form the view the television screen gave of Ruby – especially when they showed it again slowly – I recognized him as the man who was at the wheel of the truck on Friday and as the man whose picture the FBI showed me on Saturday.
But what happened to her information in the hands of the FBI is just another of the countless reasons serious investigators of the JFK death are driven to the conclusion that the FBI was in some way creatively involved in whatever foul play happened in Dallas. Her testimony was turned completely upside down in the FBI report filed by Special Agent Louis Kelley. Kelley reported that she was “shown a group of photographs which included a photograph of Jack Ruby. Mercer could not identify any of the photographs as being identical with he person she had observed….She was then shown a photograph of Ruby, and she advised the person in the truck had a rather large round face similar to Ruby’s, but she could not identify him as the person.”
Four years later, Garrison showed Julia Mercer a copy of this FBI report. “This is not an accurate statement,” she deposed, “because I did pick out Ruby’s picture. Also, this report does not mention the fact that the FBI showed me Ruby’s picture on November 23rd, the day before he shot Lee Oswald.”
I have also been shown a separate FBI report….[which states] that I only felt able to identify the man with the gun and not the driver. Contrary to this identification, I had no doubts about what the driver’s face looked like. This was on the same day they showed me Ruby’s picture, among others, and the day when I picked him and three similar pictures as looking like the driver of the truck. I do not know whether the other three pictures shown me were other men who looked like Ruby or whether they were three other pictures of Jack Ruby. But they definitely showed me Jack Ruby and I definitely picked him out as looking like the driver.
Another funny thing. The FBI report of November 23 says that Mercer described a sign on the door of the green truck made up of the words “air conditioning” in a crescent design. Half the force was sent looking for a green Ford pickup with a sign like that on its door. “This is not true,” deposed Mercer to Garrison. Every time I was interviewed-and at least two of the interviews were by the FBI- I stated that there was no sign of any kind on the side of the truck. The words ‘air conditioning’ were not painted on the truck, nor were any other words. It was a plain green truck without any printing on it and I made this clear from the outset.”
She goes on to depose that her signature as it appears on a document put out as her affidavit by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department is a forgery; that a notary public has signed this document, whereas there was no notary present at her interviews; that like the FBI statement, the sheriff’s affidavit also has her describing the nonexistent sign. “That is not the way it was at all,” she deposed to Garrison: “The truck was plain and had no letters whatsoever painted on it.”
And her coda: “That ‘affidavit’ also has me stating, with regard to the driver, that I could not see him too clearly.’ That is not true. I saw the driver very clearly. I looked right in his face and he looked at me twice. It was Jack Ruby.
“I was not asked to testify before the Warren Commission.”
The Warren Report tells us that “Ruby was unquestionably familiar, if not friendly, with some Chicago criminals” (p. 790). A partial list of Ruby’s organized-crime connections as they were known to the Warren Commission, would include:
Lewis McWillie, a “gambler and murderer” who had managed the Lansky Syndicate’s Tropicana in Havana before 1959 and by 1963 was an executive at the Thunderbird in Las Vegas, another prime Lansky holding. Ruby traveled to Cuba with McWillie, received two phone calls from him from Cuba, and shipped him a pistol, all in 1959.
Dave Yaras, an intimate of Ruby’s from Chicago childhood days, a Syndicate mobster operating out of Chicago and Miami. Yaras told the Warren Commission that Ruby was also close to:
Lenny Patrick, another Chicago-based hood also known to Ruby’s sister Eva as a friend of her brother’s. Yaras and Patrick are both prominently identified in congressional crime hearings as important figures in the Chicago Syndicate.
Paul Roland Jones, Paul “Needlenose” Labriola, Marcus Lipsky, Jimmy Wienberg, Danny Lardino, and Jack Knappi, the Chicago Syndicate group that moved into Dallas in 1947 (the year Ruby moved to Dallas). Jones, an opium smuggler in the forties, told the Warren Commission that “if Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald on orders, the man to talk to would be Joe Savella [properly Civello], then head of Syndicate operations in Dallas. Chicago Daily News crime reporter Jack Wilner also told the commission that Ruby was involved in 1947 in the Chicago Syndicate takeover of Dallas gambling. “The Commission finds it difficult to accept this report,” said Warren.
Robert “Barney” Baker, a Teamster hood convicted by RFK. His phone number was in Ruby’s address book.
Milt Jaffe, also in Ruby’s address book, a point holder in the Stardust of Las Vegas with Cleveland Syndicate heavy Moe Dalitz.
Ruby told the commission that he had once dined with the “Fox brothers” who “ran the Tropicana” in Havana and were “the greatest that have been expelled from Cuba” by Castro. The “Fox brothers,” as the Commission might easily have established, were Meyer and Jake Lansky.
At the age of fifteen Ruby already belonged to a gang of Chicago youths who ran messages for Al Capone. This gang produced such other notables as Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, Capone’s successor as head of the Chicago Syndicate, and his associate, Charles “Cherry Nose” Gior, busted in 1943 with John Roselli who is later associated with the CIA-Syndicate scheme to assassinate Castro.
Peter Dale Scott (whose citations I gratefully borrow here) has identified three independent reports to the Warren Commission strongly suggesting that Ruby was “in fact a pay-off or liaison man between organized crime and the Dallas police department (over half of whose policemen Ruby knew personally).”
1: In 1956, the Los Angeles FBI advised the Dallas FBI that Mr. And Mrs. James Breen, “acting…as informants for the Federal Narcotics Bureau,” had become involved with “a large narcotics setup operating between Mexico, Texas and the East….In some fashion, James [Breen] got the okay to operate through Jack Ruby of Dallas.” In 1964, reinterviewed by the Chicago FBI, Mrs. Breen confirmed her 1956 story.
2: After the assassination, a prisoner in an Alabama jail told the FBI that a year previous to the assassination, when he had tried to set up a numbers game in Dallas, he was advised “that in order to operate in Dallas it was necessary to have the clearance of Jack Ruby…who had the fix with the county authorities.”
3: Again after the assassination, another prisoner in Los Angeles, Harry Hall, contacted the Secret Service (who vouched for his reliability) with the information that in his days as a Dallas gambler he had turned over 40 percent of his profits to Ruby, who “was supposed to have influence with the police.”
The Warren Commission’s conclusion was that “the evidence does not establish a significant link between Ruby and organized crime.”
The commission also failed to investigate a communication received on June 9, 1964, only two days after Ruby’s testimony, from J. Edgar Hoover, in which Hoover disclosed that Ruby may have been and FBI informant for several months in 1959. Nor did it seek to reconcile its picture of Ruby as a small time psychotic with evidence that Ruby was on good terms with such powerful Texas millionaires as H.L. Hunt, his son Lamar (whose office Ruby visited the day before the assassination), Billy Byars, and Clint Murchison, a power behind Johnson and involved heavily in the Bobby Baker scandal.
All the testimonies in the twenty-six volumes of the Warren Commission Hearings begin with conventional courtroom punctilio, except for that of the second lone assassin of Dallas. In Ruby’s act, the hero himself if the first to break the silence.
“Without a lie detector on my testimony,” he blurts out of nowhere, “my verbal statements to you, how do you know if I am tell[ing] the truth?”
His lawyer Joe Tonahill jumps: “Don’t worry about that, Jack.”
Ruby persists: “Just a minute, gentlemen.”
Warren turns: “You wanted to ask something, Mr. Ruby?”
Ruby: “I would like to be able to get a lie detector test or truth serum of what motivated me to do what I did at that particular time, and it seems as you get further into something, even though you know what you did, it operates against you somehow, brainwashes you, that you are weak in what you want to tell the truth about, and what you want to say which is the truth.”
I offer her that Ruby’s tortured phrase, “you are weak in what you want to tell the truth about,” is monumentally expressive of the situation in which he found himself. He was too weak to tell the truth that he wanted to tell. But we must come the long way around to this in order to see it.
We pick Ruby’s testimony up a few sentences later as he continues struggling to explain why he wants a lie-detector test.
As it started to trial – I don’t know if you realize my reasoning, how I happened to be involved – I was carried away tremendously emotionally, and all the time I tried to ask Mr. [Melvin] Belli [his first lawyer], I wanted to get up and say the truth regarding the steps that led me to do what I have got involved in, but since I have a spotty background in the nightclub business, I should have been the last person to ever want to do something that I had been involved in. In other words, I was carried away tremendously. You want to ask me questions?
Yes, Mr. Ruby, I would have said. Take this last sentence, “since I have a spotty background in the nightclub business, I should have been the last person to ever want to do something that I had been involved in.” Can you straighten that out? Are you trying to say that since you have a Syndicate-linked background, it doesn’t make sense for you to have killed Kennedy’s assassin in order to protect the beloved widow from the mortifications of a trial? Is that what you are trying to say through your clenched teeth?
But Warren said no such thing. Instead he said, “You tell us what you want, and then we will ask you some questions.”
And Ruby says, “Am I boring you?”
The more closely one reads the some hundred pages of Ruby’s testimony to Warren (the second two-thirds of which are spoken from a polygraph harness to the FBI’s top interrogator), the harder it is to avoid seeing something very brave in Ruby. The exasperated pugnacity of that “Am I boring you?” for example, couldn’t be better: Warren, he is saying, if you want to understand me, you are going to have to pay close attention to what I say. It would seem a fair enough proposition from a key witness to the chief commissioner of a big public probe. But of the seven august commissioners only two were present, Warren and the ubiquitous Gerald Ford, and they were not overly inclined to probe. And Warren had not even wanted to talk to Ruby. Ruby had to fight his lawyers and send the messages to Warren through his family. The hearing took place with a handful of lawyers hostile to Ruby present, plus the court recorder, and a Dallas policeman at the door. They were all I the interrogation room of the Dallas County Jail at Houston and Main looking out on Dealey Plaza. It was 11:45 A.M., June 7, 1964. The Warren Commission Report was at this point virtually complete. For that reason in itself, perhaps, the commission members were disinclined to pursue distant echoes in Ruby’s difficult but suggestive language.
Against the commission’s passivity, what Ruby most wants to tell them is that he wants a lie detector test. The reason for this, he says, is that the story he is telling about why he shot Oswald is inherently implausible. How can the commission believe he is telling the truth if he is not put in a polygraph harness? But why is his story inherently implausible? We will come across that, too, in his own words.
We skip through a half-dozen pages of meandering but tense discussion of Ruby’s activities on November 22, 1963, mainly bearing on an anti-JFK ad placed in one of the Dallas papers. Then at last Ruby comes to the events of that night. He tells Warren how he remembered that it had been a hard day for his friends, the police (he was on personal terms with virtually the entire force), and how he decided to take them a snack:
RUBY: ….I had the sandwiches with me and some soda pop and various things, and Russ Knight opened the door and we went upstairs.
(Mr. Arlen Specter, a staff counsel, entered the room.)
WARREN: This is another man on my staff, Mr. Specter. Would you mind if he came in?
(Chief Justice Warren introduced the men around the room.)
RUBY: Is there any way to get me to Washington?
WARREN: I beg your pardon?
RUBY: Is there any way of you getting me to Washington?
WARREN: I don’t know of any. I will be glad to talk to your counsel about what the situation is, Mr. Ruby, when we get an opportunity to talk. [Ruby has been intermittently begging a chance to talk to Warren alone.]
RUBY: I don’t think I will get a fair representation with my counsel, Joe Tonahill. I don’t think so. I would like to request that I go to Washington and take all the tests I have to take. It is very important.
TONAHILL: Jack, will you tell him why you don’t think you will get a fair representation?
RUBY: Because I have been over this for the longest time to get the lie detector test. Somebody has been holding it back from me.
WARREN: Mr. Ruby, I might say to you that the lateness of this thing is not due to your counsel….It was our own delay due to the pressures we had on us at the time.
Ruby carefully summarizes his story up to this point, starts into a skirmish with Tonahill, then abruptly, “throwing pad on table,” as the commission stenographer notes (a stage direction preserved) he turns abruptly to his main idea and desire, to get out of Dallas somehow.
RUBY: ….Gentlemen, unless you get me to Washington, you can’t get a fair shake out of me. If you understand my way of talking, you have got to bring me to Washington to get the tests. Do I sound dramatic? Off the beam?
WARREN: No; you are speaking very, very rationally, and I am really surprised that you can remember as much as you have remembered up to the present time. You have given it to us in great detail.
RUBY: Unless you can get me to Washington, and I am not a crackpot, I have all my senses – I don’t want to evade any crime I am guilty of. But Mr. Moore, have I spoken this way when we have talked?
MOORE: Yes. [Elmer W. Moore is a Secret Service agent.]
RUBY: Unless you get me to Washington immediately, I am afraid after what Mr. Tonahill has written there…
An argument ensues with Tonahill, Tonahill trying to stop him from saying things a prosecutor could use to show he had prior intention of killing Oswald. Unmindful of Ruby’s apparent belief that his best interest lay in getting the truth out, Tonahill as defense attorney wants at least to be able to argue that the killing was an unpremeditated act, motivated by an errant burst of emotion. Ruby had the same complaint against Belli, his first lawyer. Belli could only think in lawyerly terms, that is, in terms of conviction and acquittal. Ruby, on the other hand, wanted to tell his story to a lie detector. Why?
Exasperated with Tonahill, he turns back to Warren: “Well, it is too bad, Chief Warren, that you didn’t get me to your headquarters six months ago.”
We skip a few pages of intense but repetitive discussion on the question of premeditation and the lie-detector and truth-serum tests Ruby wants to take, with Ruby hurling obscure shafts to Tonahill, such as “it is a greater premeditation than you know is true,” which sends Tonahill up the wall. “I don’t say it is premeditation,” says the lawyer, “I never have. I don’t think it is.” And Ruby, discounting a certain story helpful to the spontaneous-act-of-passion theory: “You would like to have built it up for my defense, but that is not it. I am here to tell the truth.”
The question turns to why Ruby was not dealt with earlier and Warren promises a no-delay lie-detector test. Ruby pushes for speed and discovers that Warren is leaving in the morning. And at that point, Dallas County Sheriff J.E. (Bill) Decker, unbidden, enters the dialogue.
RUBY: Are you staying overnight here, Chief Warren?
WARREN: No; I have to be back, because we have an early session of Court tomorrow morning.
RUBY: Is there any way of getting the polygraph here?
DECKER: May I make a suggestion? Jack, listen, you and I have had a lot of dealings. Do you want my officers removed from the room while you talk to this Commission?
RUBY: That wouldn’t prove any truth.
DECKER: These people came several thousand miles to interview you. You have wanted to tell me your story and I have refused to let you tell me. Now be a man with a bunch of men that have come a long way to give you an opportunity to –
RUBY: I wish the President were right her now. It is a terrible ordeal, I tell you that…. [he subsides for a moment to his pat narrative, then turns back to Decker.] Bill, will you do that for me that you asked a minute ago? You said you wanted to leave the room.
DECKER: I will have everyone leave the room including myself, if you want to talk about it . You name it, and we will go.
RUBY: All right.
DECKER: You want all of us outside?
DECKER: I will leave Tonahill and Moore. I am not going to have Joe leave.
RUBY: If you not going to have Joe leave –
DECKER: Moore, his body is responsible to you. His body is responsible to you.
RUBY: Bill, I am not accomplishing anything if they are here, and Joe Tonahill is here. You asked me anybody I wanted out.
DECKER: Jack, this is your attorney. That is your lawyer.
RUBY: He is not my lawyer. (Sheriff Decker and law enforcement officers left room.) Gentlemen, if you want to hear any further testimony, you will have to get me to Washington soon, because it has something to do with you, Chief Warren. Do I sound sober enough to tell you this?
WARREN: Yes; go right ahead.
RUBY: I want to tell the truth, and I can’t tell it here. I can’t tell it here. Does that make sense to you?
WARREN: Well, let’s not talk about sense. But I really can’t see why you can’t tell this Commission.
RUBY: But this isn’t the place for me to tell what I want to tell.
MOORE: The Commission is looking into the entire matter, and you are part of it, should be.
RUBY: Chief Warren, your life is in danger in this city, do you know that?
WARREN: No; I don’t know that. If that is the thing that you don’t want to talk about, you can tell me, if you wish, when this is all over, just between you and me.
RUBY: No; I would like to talk to you in private.
WARREN: You may do that when you finish your story. You may tell me that phase of it.
RUBY: I bet you haven’t had a witness like me in your whole investigation, is that correct?
WARREN: There are many witnesses whose memory has not been as good as yours. I tell you that, honestly.
RUBY: My reluctance to talk – you haven’t had any witness in telling the story, in finding so many problems.
WARREN: You have a greater problem than any witness we have had.
RUBY: I have a lot of reasons for having those problems.
WARREN: I know that, and we want to respect your rights, whatever they may be. And I only want to hear what you are willing to tell us, because I realize that you still have a great problem before you, and I am not trying to press you….
RUBY: When are you going back to Washington?
WARREN: I am going back very shortly after we finish this hearing – I am going to have some lunch.
RUBY: Can I make a statement?
RUBY: If you request me to go back to Washington with you right now now, that couldn’t be done, could it?
WARREN: No; it could not be done. It could not be done. There are a good many things involved in that, Mr. Ruby.
RUBY: What are they?
WARREN: Well, the public attention that it would attract, and the people who would be around. We have no place for you to be safe when we take you out, and we are not law enforcement officers, and it isn’t our responsibility to go into anything of that kind. And certainly it couldn’t be done on a moment’s notice this way.
RUBY: Gentlemen, my life is in danger here. Not with my guilty plea of execution [i.e., not because of killing Oswald]. Do I sound sober enough to you as I say this?
WARREN: You do. You sound entirely sober.
RUBY: From the moment I started my testimony, have I sounded as though, with the exception of becoming emotional, haven’t I sounded as though I made sense, what I was speaking about?
WARREN: You have indeed. I understand everything you have said. If I haven’t, it is my fault.
RUBY: Then I follow this up. I may not live tomorrow to give any further testimony. The reason why I add this to this, since you assure me that I have been speaking sense by then, I might be speaking sense by following what I have said, and the only thing I want to get out to the public, and I can’t say it here, is with authenticity, with sincerity of the truth of everything and why my act was committed, but it can’t be said here.
It can be said, it’s got to be said amongst people of the highest authority that would give me the benefit of doubt. And following that, immediately give me the lie-detector teast after I do make the statement.
Chairman Warren, if you felt that your life was in danger at the moment, how would you feel? Wouldn’t you be reluctant to go on speaking, even though you request me to do so?
WARREN: I think I might have some reluctance if I was in your position, yes; I think I would. I think I would figure it out very carefully as to whether it would endanger me or not. If you think that anything that I am doing or anything that I am asking you is endangering you in any way, shape, or form, I want you to feel absolutely free to say that the interview is over. [A prize specimen of Warren integrity: If telling us the trugh in Dallas would hurt you, cost you your life, we’d rather you just left it unsaid than go to the trouble of getting you to a place where you could feel safe to say it.]
RUBY: What happens then? I didn’t accomplish anything.
WARREN: No, nothing has been accomplished.
RUBY: Well, then you won’t follow up with anything further?
WARREN: There wouldn’t be anything to follow up if you hadn’t completed your statement.
RUBY: You said you have the power to do what you want to do, is that correct?
RUBY: Without any limitations?
WARREN: Within the purview of the Executive Order which established the Commission….
RUBY: But you don’t have a right to take a prisoner back with you when you want to?
WARREN: No; we have the power to subpoena witnesses to Washington if we want to do it, but we have taken the testimony of 200 or 300 people, I would imagine, here in Dallas without going to Washington.
RUBY: Yes; but those people aren’t Jack Ruby.
WARREN: No; they weren’t.
RUBY: They weren’t.
WARREN: Now I want you to feel that we are not her to take any advantage of you, because I know that you are in a delicate position, and unless you had indicated not only through your lawyers but also through your sister, who wrote a letter addressed either to me or Mr. Rankin saying that you wanted to testify before the Commission, unless she had told us that, I wouldn’t have bothered you….
RUBY: The thing is, that with your power that you you have, Chief Justice Warren, and all these gentlemen, too much time has gone by for me to give you any benefit of what I may say now.
Warren protests that it is not so. Ruby names his family, says they are all threatened; and for a moment he seems to give up and revert to the basic story of his motive, the unpremeditated-murder story, namely, that he saw in that Sunday morning’s newspaper “the most heartbreaking letter to Caroline Kennedy…and alongside that letter a small comment in the newspaper that…that Mrs. Kennedy might have to come back for the trial of Lee Harvey Oswald. That caused me to do what I did; that caused me to go like I did.” Then continuing in this new tone, Ruby goes almost singsong: “…I never spoke to anyone about attempting to do anything. No subversive organization gave me any idea. No underworld person made any effort to contact me. It all happened that Sunday morning.”
So Sunday morning he drives downtown on an errand taking him to the Western Union office near the ramp of the county jail, where Oswald was being removed that morning. The errand had to do with a call he received that morning from “a little girl – she wanted some money – that worked for me” at the Carousel. The next day was payday, but he had closed the club.
It was ten o’clock when he got downtown. He tells us he noticed the crowd at the jail but assumed Oswald had already been moved. He carried out his errand at the Western Union office, “sent the money order, whatever it was,” and walked the short distance to the ramp. “I didn’t sneak in,” he says, “I didn’t linger in there. I didn’t crouch or hide behind anyone, unless the television camera can make it seem that way. There was an officer talking – I don’t know what rank he had – talking to a Sam Pease in a car parked up on the curb.” Thus he underscores the fact that the police saw him and let him pass freely into the closed-off ramp area. Then to the killing: “I think I used the words, You killed my President, you rat.’. The next thing I knew I was down on the floor.”
In the murkiest passages of his testimony, Ruby then proceeds to tell (as he calls it) “a slipshod story” in which he insinuates at least a part of the background information he feels he cannot directly give out. We will not try unraveling it here because it would take a lot of unraveling and we are interested in the coming climax of the Warren-Ruby confrontation. But in his slipshod story, Ruby develops a quite detailed and potentially verifiable picture of his underworld past, but as though to deny that it existed. For example, he names as a “very close” friend one Lewis J. McWillie as typical of “Catholics” Ruby knew who would be especially “heartbroken” over Kennedy’s murder. Which is a joke. “Catholic” McWillie was even then a prominent Syndicate gambler with big interests in pre-revolutionary Cuba. “He was a key man over the Tropicana down there,” says Ruby. “That was during our good times. Was in harmony with our enemy of the present time.” In August 1959, Ruby tells Warren, McWillie paid his plane fare down to Havana. “I was with him constantly,” Ruby says, strongly suggesting a professional relationship if only because McWillie was such an important Syndicate executive, and as of August 1959, had concern for the future of its Havana games.
Ruby also mentions another important racketeer with whom he had an association, but in a strangely concealing way, as though he were preparing for subsequent denials, “As a matter of fact,” he says, “I even called a Mr. – hold it before I say it – headed the American Federation of Labor – I can’t think – in the state of Texas – Miller.” Warren says, “I don’t know.” Then Ruby gets it: “Is there a Deutsch I. Maylor? I called a Mr. Maylor here in Texas to see if he could help me out” in an obscure situation involving nightclub competition, i.e., Syndicate vice arrangements, some years before. This person, whom Ruby first calls Miller and then, ever so deliberately, changes into Deutsch I. Maylor, is actually Dusty Miller, head of the Teamsters Southern Conference. Peter Dale Scott made this identification first, but blamed the Warren stenographer for the distortion of Dusty Miller into Deutsch I. Maylor, even though Ruby had just shown that he could pronounce Miller perfectly well and the stenographer had shown he could spell it. I think it is a precious detail in the reconstruction of Ruby, and I submit to common sense whether Deutsch I. Maylor could have been anything other than an intentional and purposeful distortion on Ruby’s part. He is hiding something in order to reveal it. Chief Council Rankin forces the testimony back to other questions, but Ruby tirelessly weaves in his stories of Cuban gambling and bigtime crime, his relationship to McWillie and other Syndicate people like Dave Yaras and Mike McLaney, and his general awareness of Syndicate networks.
When Rankin asks him point bland, “Did you know Officer Tippit?” he responds with another intriguingly indirect and suggestive answer, thus: “I knew there was three Tippits on the force. The only one I knew used to work for special services.” This last refers to the Dallas Police Department’s Special Services Bureau. The SSB was working closely with the FBI and was responsible, as Scott indicates, for both the world of subversives and the world of organized crime, the worlds of the cover-story Oswald and the underlying Ruby. (Scott adds that another responsibility for the SSB was taking care of intelligence preparations for visiting VIPs like the president.) Ruby says he is “certain” his Tippit and the dead Tippit are not the same, but then perhaps the “wrong” Tippit was the dead one after all, and the “right” Tippit was this other one that Ruby did indeed know, the Tippit of the SSB whom Vice-Chief Gilmore elsewhere testified was “a close friend” of Ruby’s and visited his club “every night they are open.”
The above came out when Warren confronted Ruby with the story with which Mark Lane had already confronted the commission some time earlier, that shortly before the assassination Ruby had seen at a booth in his nightclub with Officer Tippit and a “rich oil man” otherwise not identified. Above is Ruby’s denial of any such Tippit relationship, that is to say, his nondenial of it (“I knew there was three Tippits,” etc). On the score of the “rich oil man”, he only volunteers it migh thave been the man who then owned the Stork Club, William Howard. Warren observes that Lane’s informant had not given Lane permission to reveal this story. It was before them after all as groundless hearsay. They had decided nevertheless to put it to Ruby in the bigness of their intellectual curiosity. They had now put it to him. He had now answered it. “So we will leave that matter as it is,” which elicited from Ruby another of his remarkable improvisations: “No, I am as innocent regarding any conspiracy as any of you gentlemen in the room….”
Warren grows restless and turns to Ford and the lawyers. “Congressmen, do you have anything further?”
Ruby, one imagines quickly, says: “You can get more out of me. Let’s not break up too soon.”
And Ford, perhaps startled, comes up with a good question: “When you got to Havana, who met you in Havana?” This gives Ruby an opportunity he obviously relishes to spin a little thicker his web of insinuations that his Havana relationship to Syndicate executive McWillie was a serious one. But Warren again tires: “Would you mind telling us anything you have on your mind?” Ruby falters, then starts a line that suddenly swerves to the heart of the matter: “If I cannot get these tests you give [the truth tests], it is pretty haphazard to tell you the things I should tell you.”
Rankin decides he must test the slack:
RANKIN: It isn’t entirely clear how you feel about your family and you yourself are threatened by your telling what you have to the Commission. How do you come to the conclusion that they might be killed? Will you tell us a little bit more about that, if you can?
RUBY: Well, assuming that, as I stated before, some persons are accusing me falsely of being part of the plot – naturally, in all the time from over six months ago, my family has been so interested in helping me.
RANKIN: By that, you mean a party to the plot of Oswald?
RUBY: That I was party to a plot to silence Oswald.
In other words, this is the inference which he has all along been begging them to make. The commission does not respond. The stenographer then moves Ruby to a new paragraph. He stumbles through several hundred murky words on the impact of the affair on his family and notes that he has the sympathy of a good many people for killing the President’s assassin. But he says, “That sympathy isn’t going to help me, because the people that have the power here, they have a different verdict. [Get this:] They already have me as the accused assassin of our beloved president.” The commission must have given him a blank look as this new idea tried to register: Ruby shot Kennedy? Ruby says, “Now if I sound screwy telling you this, then I must be screwy.”
Warren rallies his senses and moves into the breech:
WARREN: Mr. Ruby, I think you are entitled to a statement to this effect, because you have been frank with us and have told us your story.
I think I can say to you that there has been no witness before this commission out of the hundreds we have questioned who has claimed to have any personal knowledge that you were a party to any conspiracy to kill our President.
RUBY: Yes, but you don’t know this area here. [They squabble about the point. Warren really wants to evade this.]
WARREN: Well, I will make this additional statement to you, that if any witness should testify before the Commission that you were, to their knowledge, a party to any conspiracy to assassinate the President, I assure you that we will give you the opportunity to deny it and to take any tests that you may desire to so disprove it.
But how does he know this is what Ruby is talking about, or that Ruby would necessarily want to “deny and disprove” it? And above all, why should Warren be so blazingly uninterested in this man? Ruby maybe said it all back in the first minute: “Am I boring you?”
It is the beginning of summer, the report is in, the presses are about to cook, the awful part of this thing in Dallas is about to be wrapped up, and now this hangnail, Ruby, with his weird way of talking, his ominous and portentous airs, his impenetrable, melodramatic double-meanings:
RUBY: ….And I wish that our beloved President, Lyndon Johnson, would have delved deeper into the situation, hear me, not to accept just circumstantial facts about my guilt or innocence, and would have questioned to find out the truth about me before he relinquished certain powers to these certain people….consequently, a whole new form of government is going to take over our country, and I know I won’t live to see you another time. Do I would screwy in telling you these things?
WARREN: No; I think that is what you believe or you wouldn’t tell it under your oath.
RUBY: But it is a very serious situation. I guess it is too late to stop it, isn’t it?…
Ruby seems to struggle against this insight later, but I think that at just this point in the text he is about to see into the heart of darkness. He is coming to think that, indeed, it is too late, because not only are the Dallas police and the Dallas sheriff in on it, but so is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And unknown to everyone but Ruby the ones actually in on it, as a consequence of this, “a whole new form of government is going to take over the country.”
FORD: Are there any questions that ought to be asked to help clarify the situation that you described?
RUBY: There is only one thing. If you don’t take me back to Washington tonight to give me a chance to prove to the President that I am not guilty, then you will see the most tragic, then you will see the most tragic thing that will ever happen….
RUBY: ….Now maybe something can be saved. It may not be too late, whatever happens, if our President, Lyndon Johnson, knew the truth from me.
But if I am eliminated, there won’t be any way of knowing.
Right now, when I leave your presence now, I am the only one that can bring out the truth to our President, who believes in righteousness and justice.
But he has been told, I am certain, that I was part of a plot to assassinate the President. [!]
I know your hands are tied; you are helpless.
WARREN: Mr. Ruby, I think I can say this to you, that if he has been told any such thing, there is no indication of any kind that he believes it.
RUBY: I am sorry, Chief Justice Warren, I thought I would be very effective in telling you what I have said here. But in all fairness to everyone, maybe all I want to do is beg that if they found out I was telling the truth, maybe they can succeed in what their motives are, but maybe my people won’t be tortured and mutilated. [That is, Ruby begs forgiveness from the assassination conspiracy, having failed in his effort to rat on it through double meanings tossed into Warren’s ear.]
WARREN: Well, you may be sure that my President and his whole Commission will do anything that is necessary to see that your people are not tortured.
WARREN: You may be sure of that.
RUBY: No. The only way you can do it is if he knows the truth, that I am telling the truth, and why I was down in that basement Sunday morning, and maybe some sense of decency will come out and they can still fulfill their plan, as I stated before, without my people going through torture and mutilation.
WARREN: The President will know everything that you have said, everything that you have said.
RUBY: But I won’t be around, Chief Justice. I won’t be around to verify [!] those things you are going to tell the President.
TONAHILL: [Who never left the room] Who do you think is going to eliminate you, Jack?
RUBY: I have been used for a purpose, and there will be a certain tragic occurrence happening if you don’t take my testimony and somehow vindicate me so my people don’t suffer because of what I have done.
WARREN: But we have taken your testimony. We have it here. It will be in permanent form for the President of the United States and for the Congress of the United States, and for the courts of the United States, and for the people of the entire world.
It is there, it will be recorded for all to see. That is the purpose of our coming here today. We feel that you are entitled to have your story told.
RUBY: You have lost me though. You have lost me, Chief Justice Warren.
WARREN: Lost you in what sense?
RUBY: I won’t be around for you to come and question again.
WARREN: Well, it is very hard for me to believe that. I am sure that everybody would want to protect you to the very limit.
RUBY: All that I want is a lie-detector test, and you refuse to give it to me.
Because as it stands now – and the truth serum, and any other – Pentothal – how do you pronounce it, whatever it is. And they will not give it to me, because I want to tell the truth.
And then I want to leave this world.
Warren again promises the test, and soon, and then again starts trying to wrap things up. But then again Ruby asks for more:
“Hold on another minute,” Warren says, “All right.” Ruby says, “How do you know if the facts I stated about everything I said, statements with reference to, are the truth or not?” Ruby’s overburdened syntax is finally crumbling. Ford and Warren repeat their promise of protection and speedy tests and again seem half out of their chairs.
RUBY: How are we going to communicate and so on?
WARREN: We will communicate directly with you.
RUBY: You have a lost cause, Earl Warren. You don’t stand a chance. They feel about you like the do about me, Chief Justice Warren.
I shouldn’t hurt your feelings in telling you that.
Remarking that he knows he has his enemies, Warren adjourns the session. It has consumed three hours and five minutes.
Ruby got his lie-detector test six weeks later, not exactly right away in the Warren scheme of all deliberate speed. Against all standard procedures, the test was a marathon, some eight hours long with only short breaks. Other people were in the room, some of whom Ruby insisted were his enemies (for example, his lawyer, Joe Tonahill). Little wonder that the chief FBI expert in lie-detection polygraphy, Bell P. Herndon, who gave the test, testified later that its results were too ambiguous to support any conclusive interpretation.
Yet Ruby’s session with the lie-detector is as rich with suggestive details as the session before Warren and Ford. We are anxious to press on to a statement of our conception of Dallas, but the person of Ruby has been ignored too long, and the special volatility of the JFK issue as a whole just now begs for special awareness of the importance of Ruby’s role. Ruby’s gangland situation makes him a direct link between the Bay of Pigs and Dallas.
The text of this interview must be read in its entirety to be appreciated, something we cannot begin to do here. We must be satisfied with the key points from the interview itself. Then we go to the sequel, the psychiatrist’s on-the-spot analysis of what Ruby was up to in his “psychotic delusional” state, and the examiners explanation of the ambiguity of the test.
The basic problem of the lie-detector test surfaces as soon as Ruby comes into the Dallas City Jail interrogation room at 2:23 p.m., July 18, 1964. His lawyers and family have taken the position that he must not give the prosecuting attorney (William Alexander, present in the room) a way to prove his murder of Oswald was a premeditated act. His lawyers want to argue that it was total coincidence he drifted into the basement of the jail just as Oswald was being moved, and that it was only when he happened to see Oswald before him that he was overwhelmed by the idea of taking out the pistol, which he was packing by another coincidence, and shooting him down on the spot, without stopping to think about it.
But the story Ruby seems careless in telling is that his motive began to form early that morning when he saw a press item about Caroline Kennedy in the Sunday paper and realized that the widow would have to return to Dallas for the trial of Oswald. Ostensibly to show that Jews like himself (so runs his story) could act in a patriotic and brave way, he seized the time.
It is true that Ruby never says he started planning to kill Oswald that morning before he went downtown. He says clearly he went downtown to send money to a stripper who complained that morning by phone from Fort Worth that she needed money since Ruby had closed the Carousel for three days including the regular payday. He went down to the Western Union office to send her a money order, then went in a very straight line over to the jail, eased down the ramp, was confronted at once with Oswald, and stepped into the experience that killed both of them.
The polygraph testimony opens with Ruby offstage, his lawyers laying what ground they can to keep the results of the lie-detector test closed up. The Warren people are sympathetic to that. Assistant Counsel Specter loses no opportunity to make it clear tha the test is not happening because of any desire of the commission’s: it’s members have never entertained the least doubt of Ruby’s basic story.
Ruby is not long on stage before this comes up. He at once moves to make his position plain, lawyers or no lawyers. “I want to supersede the attorney…in stating that I want everything to come out immediately, as soon as possible, and whoever wants to know the results – what the results are – I want it to be known, regardless of which way it turns.”
A little later he tries unsuccessfully to get one of his lawyers out of the room:
RUBY: Did you get your pants sewed up, Joe?
TONAHIL: It went through to my leg.
RUBY: That was a pretty rough brawl we had, wasn’t it, Joe?
RUBY: Joe, I’d appreciate it if you weren’t in the room. Can I ask you to leave, Joe?
TONAHILL: I’ll be glad to leave, if you want me to, Jack.
RUBY: As a matter of fact, I prefer Bill Alexander to you, you’re supposed to be my friend.
TONAHILL: Let the record show that Mr. Ruby says he prefers Bill Alexander being herd during this investigation, who is the assistant district attorney who asked that a jury give him the death sentence, to myself, who asked the jury to acquit him, his attorney.
HERNDON: May we proceed?
And they do, and no one leaves the room. From this point on, no doubt, it is absurd to think the polygraph could prove anything whatsoever. The atmosphere is demonstrably too unsettling; conditions are too controlled from the standpoint of forensic polygraphy to support any meaningful interpretation of Ruby’s responses. The test is being run purely to satisfy Ruby, and no one shows any intention of treating at as a serious probe for a difficult truth.
Finally comes the test proper, the long, emotionally grueling examination covering exactly those aspects of the event that Ruby specified, touching on such issues as the Cuban connection, the Syndicate connection, the Communist angle, and his intentions toward Oswald. Herndon first walks Ruby through each test series, adjusts the questions to make sure they are exactly the questions Ruby wants to answer and that ht understands them completely, then goes through them again with the polygraph switched on. The sixty-six pages of testimony are shot through with haunting and suggestive exchanges, such as the following, as Herndon reads through the question that comes closest to the heart of the premeditation issue:
HERNDON: Did you tell anyone you were thinking of shooting Oswald before you did it?
HERNDON: Is that question all right, do you understand it?
RUBY: Yes – I take that back. Sunday morning – I want to elaborate on that – before I left my apartment – it evidently didn’t register with the person [he may mean his roommate, George Senator] because of the way I said it. In other words, the whole basis of this whole thing was that Mrs. Kennedy would have to come back for trial.
Whereupon Tonahill’s partner, Fowler, stages a demonstration to stop Ruby from saying such a thing with his prosecutor present.
For the purposes of our summary, Ruby’s key statement in this lie-detector testimony is the following. It comes toward the end, when he is tired and seems to feel the situation slipping away.
RUBY: Let me put it this way: Here I run a nightclub. I run a nightclub and on Friday this tragic event happens, and I get carried away more so than anyone else. Why? Why was I so sick mentally or so carried away?
I immediately replace my newspaper ads so that I would be closed for those 3 days. This is the ironic part of it, that wouldn’t it be a tremendous hoax, or certain people would probably believe it that way, a that here’s a fellow that didn’t vote for the president, closes his clubs for 3 days, made a trip to Cuba, relayed a message from a person – from Ray Brantley – look at circumstantially how guilty I am. If you want to put these things together. Then I happen to be down there [the ramp], which is a million to one shot, that I should happen to be down there at that particular second when this man comes out of whatever it was, an elevator or whatever it was. All these things. Plus the fact of the post office box and some other rumors that they saw us together at the club. How can we give me the clearance that the ads I put in where authentic, my sincerity, my feeling of emotionalism were sincere; that that Sunday morning I got carried away after reading the article, a letter addressed to Caroline and then this little article that stated Mrs. Kenned might be requested to come back and face the ordeal of the trial.
Also, if there was a conspiracy, then this little girl that called me on the phone in Fort Worth then is part of the conspiracy. Do you follow me?
If I follow Ruby, he is giving us here a perfectly serious lead – who was “this little Fort Worth girl?” – as well as a powerful list of reasons why he should not be taken at his work about killing Oswald out of love for Kennedy and sympathy for the widow. (a) He was not a Kennedy man. (b) It was verifiable that he was in Cuba on Syndicate business just before the Revolution took power, and that he relayed an important Syndicate business message in 1959, i.e., Ruby was on the exact opposite side of the fence from the anti-Syndicate Kennedys. (c) It was a million-to-one shot that he should have been on the ramp just as Oswald appeared. (d) There are traces of a prior Ruby-Oswald-Tippit relationship, or of some such thickening of the story underneath. But this excited no great interest in the commission or Assistant Counsel Specter, who believed already that these were innocuous coincidences and acceptable doubts.
Three minutes after Ruby left the room, at 9:10, the commission reconvened to question Dr. William Robert Beavers, a psychiatrist who had been examining Ruby, on his reaction to Ruby’s behavior under the long questioning.
Specter was trying to get Beavers to say that Ruby was out of his mind, and technically at least Beavers does that. He says that when he first examined Ruby late in April, “he had briefly what I call a psychotic depression, that is, he had evidence of auditory hallucinations and a poorly defined but definite delusional system which waxed and waned during the time of the interview, and he had evidence of a severe degree of depression….”
Asked if he has now a different view in light of the interrogation just concluded, Beavers answers, “Yes, I do. I think that as I have seen him, the depressive element has diminished, and that the delusional system has become less open and obvious….”
What struck him as indicative of Ruby’s unsoundness of mind was “the relationship he has with his attorneys [Tonahill and Fowler]. There are certain kinds of actions and behavior in these two relationships which fit better in my opinion with the continuation of a covert delusional system concerning threats to his race, his family, based on his presumed activity in a conspiracy, than it would with rational realistic appreciation of the factors in his environment.”
A few lines later, Beavers backs a little closer to it:”….It seemed to me, because he was fairly certain in his answers during the trial run, and then following this during the actual run of the polygraph, there was so much hesitation and uncertainty which resulted in no answers, that we were seeing a good deal of internal struggle as to just was reality.
Then speculating on the possible reason for this “hesitation and uncertainty,” Beavers almost puts his finger on it: “It possibly could have been his trying to protect in some way an answer from the polygraph.”
Protect? Meaning to conceal? This Ruby who has given us a hundred tips that he is concealing something which he does not wish to conceal? An who could have concealed everything by simply not demanding this test at the top of his voice against the wishes of all the other parties?
Maybe on the contrary, Ruby was trying to say something. As he said when Herndon asked him why he closed his eyes in answering the questions, “I’m trying to be more emphatic with the truth when I close my eyes – more than the truth.”
The more Beavers goes on, the more he dissolves his own original picture of Ruby as a depressive- delusional psychotic. “In the greater proportion of the time that he answered the question,” he says, “I felt that he was aware of the question and that he understood them, and that he was giving answers based on an apprehension of reality.” And again: “In short, he seemed to behave like a man with a well-fixed delusional system in which whole areas of his thinking and his behavior are not strongly interfered with by the delusion.”
That is, Beavers thought Ruby was sane in all respects except his belief that there had been a conspiracy in Dallas.
But now Ruby’s hated attorney Joe Tonahill comes on and poses a preposterous but fascinating question. First he sums up what they have all seen about Ruby’s attitude towards himself and Alexander, the prosecuting attorney in his murder trial. Tonahill notes that Ruby has been consistently antagonistic to himself and yet has shown “tremendous faith and confidence in Mr. Alexander.” Now comes the question: “Have you an opinion as to what goes on with reference to Ruby’s mental illness that causes him to put faith in Mr. Alexander and no faith in me?”
Beavers first accepts the premise of that question, i.e., that Tonahill’s view of Ruby’s best interests is correct, and that if Ruby’s view does not coincide with this view, then Ruby must be crazy. But then Beavers starts to go beyond that assumption and comes as close as anyone I know of to the conception of Ruby I am working out here. Like Icarus he soars and then falls:
….in fact there is a considerable body of people, the district attorney’s office and district attorneys included, who do feel that he is party of a conspiracy, and that in fact either past, present and/or future actions toward loved ones and toward members of his race are going to be taken against these people because of this presumed conspiracy. If this were the case, then it would make extremely good sense that he would want Mr. Alexander here, and he would want him here very definitely, because…he is much more concerned with getting the truth out so that a whole host of terrible things won’t happen.
Ten days later, Specter interviewed Herndon on the interpretation of Ruby’s polygraph. Herndon took note of the others who had been present in the room, acknowledged the irregularity of that and the length of the test, and said outright that during the latter prat of the test Ruby’s fatigue had probably “desensitized” his reactions. Within that limit, Herndon’s general conclusion was, “if in fact Ruby was mentally competent and sane, that there was no indication of deception with regard to the specific relevant pertinent questions of this investigation.”
But then even under the incurious questioning of Specter, Herndon seemed to cast doubt on his own judgment, or more exactly, on the polygraph’s ability to support a solid interpretation of any kind.
For example, he says that Ruby’s negative answer to the question, “Did you assist Oswald in the assassination?” could be interpreted [as suggesting] that there was no physiological response to the stimulus of the question,” and yet when Specter asks him what he means by “could be interpreted,” it develops that the polygraph showed “a slight impact of the GSR” (galvanic skin response) to that question. Or again, to the question, “Between the assassination and the shooting, did anybody you know tell you they knew Oswald?” Herndon says Ruby answered with “a noticeable change in the pneumograph pattern,” but waves it off as owing to the relatively long length of this particular question.” Then consider Herndon’s explanation of Ruby’s response pattern to one of the most significant sequences of questions:
HERNDON: This particular series, 3a [Exhobit 4], was what would be called a modified peak of tension series [i.e., all questions are “significant” and not interspersed with insignificant ones]. Ruby was carefully instructed prior to the series that four relevant questions were going to be asked in a consecutive order.
Question No. 3: “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald on Friday night?” He responded “No.”
Question No. 4: “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald Saturday morning?” He responded “No.”
Question No. 5: “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald Saturday night?”. He responded “No.”
Question No. 6: “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald Sunday morning?” He responded “Yes.”
These are the only relevant questions in this series. A review of the chart with regard to his responses in this series reveals that the Ruby’s blood pressure continually rose from the question No. 3 until it reached a peak just as question No. 6 was asked. In addition it was noted that there was a rather noticeable change in his breathing pattern as question No. 6 was approached. There is a slight impact in the GSR tracing as question No. 6 was approached. This would mean to me in interpreting the chart that Ruby reached a peak of tension as the question No. 6 was about to be asked in which he responded “Yes” to “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald Sunday morning?” This particular type of series cannot be interpreted with regard to whether or not there was any deception, but it does indicate that Ruby built up a physiological peak of tension to the time of Sunday morning with regard to his shooting Oswald.
SPECTER: Is there any correlation between the building up of a peak of tension and the accurate answer to the series?
HERNDON: In normal usage of polygraph technique where a peak of tension is used, if the series is effective, the party will usually respond to a particular item which happens to be the most pertinent with regard to the offense. In this case it appears that Ruby projected his entire thoughts and built up a physiological peak of tension at the point of Sunday morning.
SPECTER: Are there any other significant readings on Exhibit No. 4?
HERNDON: There is no other significant reading on series 4.
Decoded and straightened out, what Ruby was trying to say to Warren comes down to the following main points:
Because of threats against his family emanating from the Dallas Police Department primarily, he could not tell his story in Dallas or indeed to anyone not powerful enough to secure his family once he did talk.
Failing in his plan to escape to Washington with Warren, Ruby opts for the shrewd but naïve strategy of telling his lie to a lie detector. But thanks to Herndon, that didn’t work either.
His story is a long way yet from reconstruction, but he gives us leads and fragments, the most spectacular of which is a whole rich set of suggestions tying him variously into high-level Syndicate figures operating in pre-revolutionary Cuba, and as we know today, involved later in attempts against the Castro government in covert operations connected with elements of the CIA and stemming from the Bay of Pigs, operations which Kennedy used force to extirpate two months before his death. This makes the Ruby case totally of a piece with the over-all affair of the Bay of Pigs/Dallas reactions. The world of Ruby, of the Carousel, and of the Dallas cops was also the world of the Bay of Pigs and of the secret staging bases outside Miami and New Orleans.
Ruby asks us as directly as he can to entertain the hypothesis that he was a member of the JFK assassination cabal, that his purpose in liquidating Oswald was to satisfy the cabal’s need to keep the patsy from standing trial, and that something happened to him in the Dallas jail between the time he killed Oswald and the time he began demanding to come before Warren, something to change his mind. Of course I don not press this speculation, but I do say that it better fits the few facts we have than the Warren theory that Ruby too was just another lone nut of Dallas. Thanks to the providential bust at Watergate, we are now too ferociously educated about our government to dismiss as inherently crazy Ruby’s fear of covert reprisals from the police or his warnings that “a whole new form of government” was being installed as a result of Dallas.
For this is indeed the direction in which our current discoveries and insights about the assassination and its cover-up are propelling us, namely, that what happened in Dealey Plaza was a coup d’etat. The motive of this coup no one could have foreseen at the time without access to the innermost closets of the group that engineered it. As Johnson began shouldering Yankee advisers aside (see the Pentagon Papers), meanwhile mystifying his relationship to Kennedy to make himself seem merely the continuation of Kennedy by other means, it was hard for many to see the coming of a radically new war policy in Vietnam, though the big war was very soon upon us (two-hundred thousand troops by the time of the first national March on Washington against the war in April 1965). As we have noted, Johnson also set in motion plans to carry out a for-good invasion of Cuba, the so-called Second Naval Guerrilla, abandoned only because of the outbreak of the Dominican revolt in early 1965 and Johnson’s decision to suppress it with the invasion forces assembled originally for Cuba. Now we see these under-the-table moves quite clearly and see them as radical departures from Frontier Camelot policy lines, not as the continuations which Johnson and Nixon and all the other chauvinists found it convenient to pretend they were. The Johnson administration was not the fulfillment of Kennedy policy; it was its defeat and reversal.
Among the witnesses who testified to Warren, few more than Ruby make us feel the presence of these momentous themes. He is garbled, murky, incomplete, and as his friend and roommate George Senator says, apolitical in any conventional sense. Yet something about what happened to him after killing Oswald makes him more fully in touch with the situation’s underlying realities than anyone else who testified – or who listened from the bench.
In late 1965, Washington post columnist Dorothy Killgallen interviewed Ruby at length in the Dallas jail. She came out to tell a few friends that on the basis of this interview she was “about to blow the JFK case sky high.” Within a few days, however, before she had a chance to do that, she died of a massive overdose of barbiturates, ruled a suicide. Her New York apartment was found in a shambles. Her notes from the Ruby interview never turned up.
Sick with cancer (he claimed he was being poisoned), Ruby died in his cell of a stroke early in 1967.
The Yankee and Cowboy War
The conclusion of chapter four will be forthcoming.
In my ongoing project to make available online the entire text of Carl Oglesby’s book on the JFK assassination, Watergate and the various elements that influenced the events –The Yankee and Cowboy War – I am not going to present the first part of Chapter Four. This chapter is a very long one and full of important details on what happened that dark day in Dealey Plaza and the characters and subplots involved in both the highly-coordinated takedown of President Kennedy as well as the cover-up that exists to this day. Like 9/11 the true story of what happened has yet to be told and the same rogue secretive infrastructure that blew off JFK’s head for crossing them has morphed and adapted over the years into a similar one that aided and abetted the ‘terrorist’ attacks on September 11, 2001 as the implementation of a militarized police state domestically as well as a relentless and illegal war machine abroad has been swapped out with what used to be a constitutionally protected republic.
The Yankee and Cowboy War
By Carl Oglesby
Chapter Four (part one)
According to the Warren Commission, Lee Harvey Oswald was a chronic malcontent and loner who in 1959 broke off his career in the U.S. Marines with an irregular discharge in order to defect to the Soviet Union, to which he may have supplied valuable military secrets. He married in Russia, tried to settle down to a Communist domesticity with a job in an electronics factory in Minsk, but reconsidered after two years and decided to come home. He returned in mid-1962 with his wife Marina and their two children, stayed briefly in New Orleans then settled in Dallas-Fort Worth.
He clung to his Marxist beliefs in spite of his evidently unhappy experience in Russia and became an activist, setting up the New Orleans chapter of a pro-Castro group called the Fair Play for Cuba Committee – a chapter of which he remained, however, the only member. Early in 1963, he may have fired a shot at retired General Edwin Walker, a hard-line rightwinger. Strangely for one of his apparent views, he tried later to join up with Prio’s Cuban Revolutionary Council, the major anti-Castro grouping among the militant Cuban exiles camped those days in Miami and New Orleans and still seething over the Bay of Pigs. But then Earl Warren finds him back in character a few days later passing out pro-Castro leaflets (a courageous act in the New Orleans of that period), then going to Mexico City in September in an (unsuccessful) effort to get a visa to visit Cuba. On November 22, in Dallas, at 12:31 p.m. at Dealey Plaza, according to Warren, he shot and killed the president and shot and severely wounded Texas Governor John Connolly in the presidential limousine; then less than an hour later, in another part of town, desperate to escape, he shot and killed Dallas patrolman J.D. Tippit.
He was captured soon after by a police squadron alerted to a gate-crasher at the Texas Theater. He was interrogated for six hours off the record by Dallas officers, who charged him early with the murder of Tippit, then later with the Dealey Plaza shootings. Unlike the standard political assassin qua lone nut, who characteristically boasts of his deed and claims it before history, Oswald took an unashamedly frightened stance, begged someone to come forward to help him, and said from the beginning that he was being made a patsy and could prove it.
On the Sunday morning after that Friday, Oswald was to be transferred to the city jail to the county jail, where it was said he would be more secure. The millions absorbed in television scenes of the funeral procession were rudely switched to Dallas for the on-camera murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby in the very basement of the Dallas jail. Ruby was a Dallas nightclub operator who said he was motivated by sorrow for the plight of the widow, who would have to come to Dallas for the trial of Oswald, a further ordeal he wished to spare her. As a result of his act, the case against Oswald was effectively closed. Ruby’s extensive ties to the Dallas police, organized crime, and the Dallas oligarchy were briefly noted by Warren, but not explored. Like Oswald, Ruby was painted as another lone nut.
Ruby died in prison in 1967, protesting in a voice constantly breaking into hysteria that the real truth about Dallas was still not known.
As will emerge from point to point in the following critique of the Warren theory of Dealey Plaza, the early objections to this theory have only been fortified over the years of debate by new discoveries and insights. More than a dozen years later, the classic critique of Warren retains its original form and power. The first-generation critics, notably Sylvia Meagher, Harold Weisberg, Josia Thompson, Mark Lane, Edward Epstein and Penn Jones, have not been surpassed.
This attests to their good sense, but it also points to the magnitude of the Warren theory’s main faults. There they stand for all who look to see – the problems of the bullet and the rifle, the medical indications, the sloppy, not to say prejudiced character of the deliberation over the evidence, the concealment of doubts, etc.
The newcomer to the detailed evidence is often surprised to find the Warren Report’s flaws so apparent. For example, Connally never gave up his conviction that he was hit by a different bullet from the one that went through Kennedy’s neck. If that is true, then (as we see in detail below) any lone-gunman theory tied to Oswald is ruled out absolutely, no subtlety to it. Yet Connally is today, as he always has been, a supporter of the Warren theory. Asked to reconcile the two beliefs, he answers that he knows he was not hit by the first Kennedy shot, but that the Warren commissioners were “good patriots” whose would could not be doubted. The main support for the Warren no-conspiracy theory was Warren’s reputation.
Contemporary critique is not so dazzled by Warren’s moral genius. We do not for a moment doubt his passionate desire to do the right thing. We insist, however, that in the complex moral predicament into which the assassination of Kennedy plunged Warren (and Warren liberalism), it was entirely possible that Warren lost his way and did not know what the right thing was. Then he could not resist taking the path others were expecting him to take, the path of the lone-assassin pretense.
We criticize the Warren theory of Dallas in any case on purely factual terms, concentrating on (1) the physical details of the shootings of Kennedy and Connally, (2) the identity of Oswald, and (3) the testimony of Ruby. Then we take up (4) the politics of the evident Warren cover-up. Finally we attempt (5) an alternative reconstruction of the crime.
Oswald had been a stock handler at the depository since October. At lunchtime on Friday, November 22 – according to Warren – he was alone in the southeast corner window of the sixth floor with a 6.5 mm bolt-action Mannlicher-Carcanno rifle in his hands, an early World War II weapon, which, according to Warren, he had purchased only a few months before from Klein’s Mail-Order Sporting Goods for $12.79, and which he had brought to work that morning wrapped as curtain rods.
At 12:30 the lead cars in the motorcade from Love Field appeared below him at the corner of Main and Houston, turned up Houston directly toward him, then turned again to pass in front of him down Elm toward the triple underpass. Then the presidential limousine followed. J. Edgar Hoover once observed that Oswald’s easiest shot came as his target was approaching him up Houston. He waited until the car had made the turn and was several hundred feet down Elm. According to Warren, he then fired three shots at the president’s back within a period not longer than 5.6 seconds.
Of the first two shots, according to Warren, one of the other struck Kennedy high up on the back, deviated the first of several times from its original flight path, ranged upwards and leftwards through his body, exited at his neck, nicked the left side of the knot in the necktie, deviated again downwards and to the right, struck Connally in the back over the right armpit, tore through the governor’s body, and came out just inside the right nipple, leaving a gaping exit wound. It then deviated again to strike his right hand at the wrist, smashing the wrist bone into seven fragments. It exited the wrist and plunged into the left thigh just above the knee. Then it worked its way out Connally’s thigh on a stretcher at Parkland Hospital, where it was found by a hospital attendant and turned over to the Dallas police. This bullet found on the stretcher, Commission Exhibit 399, is the totality of the hard evidence tying Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle to the crime, just as the rifle itself is the only hard evidence tying the crime to Oswald. Everything else is circumstantial. But we are getting ahead.
The other of the first two shots missed altogether and hit the curb far ahead of the car. A fragment of curbstone chipped off by the bullet superficially wounded the cheek of a bystander, James Tague.
Oswalds third shot, said Warren, hit Kennedy above the front right temple and blew off that portion of his head. The limousine had been slowing until then. At that point it sped off for Parkland Hostpital.
The physical and logical inadequacies of this reconstruction may grouped into three areas:
(1) the magic bullet
(2) the magic rifle, and
(3) indications of a front shot.
Its pristine condition is the simplest of these reasons and in any other situation would be easily conclusive all by itself. One can simply see from the Warren photos that the bullet is all but undamaged. It never hit anything harder than a bale of cotton; it had nothing to do with these wounds.
As if indeed to force us to see this, Warren prints the photograph of CE399 alongside an identical bullet fired by the FBI through the wrist of a cadaver. As all can see, the test bullet came through severely distorted; the whole upper body of the bullet was flattened by impact with the wristbone, one of the denser bones in the body. The only real explanation offered by Warren for CE399’s pristine condition was that it must have tumbled upon smashing through Connally’s ribs and hit his wrist flying backwards, that is, with the blunt-end, that is with the blunt end to the fore –as though a blunt-end impact would not lead to a still more radical shape deformation and still greater weight loss.
Second, as we have noted, Connally was convinced that the bullet that hit him and the bullet that hit Kennedy in the neck were two separate bullets, not the same CE399. Warren Commission Attorney Arlen Specter, the author of the single bullet theory, examined Connally before the commission on April 21, 1964. The exchange on this point went as follows:
MR. SPECTER: In your view, which bullet caused the injury to you chest, Governor Connelly?
GOVERNOR CONNALLY: The second one.
MR. SPECTER: And what is you reason for that conclusion, sir?
GOVERNOR CONNALLY: Well, in my judgment, it just couldn’t conceivably have been the first one because I heard the sound of the shot. In the first place, I don’t know anything about the velocity of this particular bullet [2000 fps], but any rifle has a velocity that exceeds the speed of sound [6-700 fps], and when I heard the sound of that first shot, that bullet had already reached where I was, or it had reached that far, and after I heard that shot, I had time to turn to my right, and start to turn to my left before I felt anything.
It is not conceivable to me that I could have been hit by the first bullet, and then I felt the blow from something which was obviously a bullet, which I assumed was a bullet, and I never heard the second shot, didn’t hear it. I didn’t hear but two shots, I think I heard the first shot and the third shot.
MR. SPECTER: Do you have any idea as to why you did not hear the second shot?
GOVERNOR CONNALLY: Well, first, again I assume the bullet was traveling faster than sound. I was hit by the bullet prior to the time the sound reached me, and I was in either a state of shock or the impact was such that the sound didn’t even register on me, but I was never conscious of hearing the second shot at all.
Obviously, at least the major wound that I took in the shoulder through the chest couldn’t have been anything but the second shot. Obviously, it couldn’t have been the third, because when the third shot was fired I was in a reclining position, and heard it, saw it and the effects of it, rather – I didn’t see it, I saw the effects of it –so it obviously could not have been the third, and couldn’t have been the first, in my judgment.
Third, the famous Zapruder film shows that as much as a full second after Kennedy was shot in the neck, Connally remained apparently unwounded. When he did react, there was nothing ambiguous about it. His hair shot up. His mouth dropped. Then he seemed to be hit a second time. He slumped immediately to his left into his wife’s lap.
The Warren lawyers explain away the time lapse as a “delayed reaction,” even though the specific pathology of Connally’s wounds, notably the breaking of the ribs and the wrist, make such a theory implausible on its face, and even though the commission had heard expert medical testimony against the delayed-reaction explanation. (Connally is visibly holding his Stetson in the hand with the shattered wrist many Z-frames after Kennedy has first been hit.)
Fourth, the commission produced out of it’s own inquiries the most technically conclusive evidence against the magic bullet theory, although the significance of this evidence may have been concealed from the commission by the FBI, which arranged for the test to be conducted for the commission by the Atomic Energy Commission. This test, neutron-activation analysis, or NAA, involves the same technique that two Swedish scientists used to prove in 1961 that Napolean had actually been murdered by gradual arsenic poising. The method is to bombard the specimen material with neutrons and then measure the emissions thus produced. The operating premise is that any difference in atomic structure of two materials, however slight, will be observable in these emissions. This is why Allegheny County coroner Cyril Wecht describes NAA as “one of the most powerful and sophisticated science methods ever developed.”
In the current case, NAA was used to compare fragments of a bullet taken from Connally’s wrist (and elsewhere) with material taken from the nose of CE399. If the fragments and the slivers are from the same bullet, they will give off precisely the same emissions under neutron activation.
Until the success of Harold Weisberg’s Freedom-of-Information Act suit in 1974, it was not known for a fact that NAA had been performed. Hoover reported that it had been, but knowingly or not, he concealed the significance of it in a letter to Warren’s chief counsel Rankin dated July 8, 1964. By that time, Specter’s draft of chapter 3 of the Report, setting forth the single-bullet theory, had already been submitted to Rankin. As Wecht observes, Hoover’s language “hast to be read in its entirety to be appreciated,” so I follow him in repeating the letter in full:
As previously reported to the Commission, certain small lead metal fragments uncovered in connection with this matter were analyzed spectrographically to determine whether they could be associated with one or more of the lead bullet fragments and no significant differences were found within the sensitivity of the spectrographic method.
Because the higher sensitivity of the neutron activation analysis, certain of the small lead fragments were then subjected to neutron activation analysis and comparisons with larger bullet fragments. The items analyzed included the following: C1 – bullet from stretcher; C2 – fragment from front seat cushion; C4 and C5 – metal fragments from President Kennedy’s head; C9 – metal fragment from the arm of Governor Connally; C16 – metal fragments from the rear floor board carpet of the car.
While minor variations in composition were found by this method, these were not considered sufficient to permit positively differentiating among the larger bullet fragments and thus positively determining from which of the larger bullet fragments any given small lead fragment may have come.
[s] J. Edgar Hoover.
The boiling obfuscations of that last paragraph show us Hoover at his best. There is no way for the technically uninformed to know that in the NAA test any difference is “sufficient.” If one could strip down Hoover’s subordinate clause to its grammatical essentials, one would have the heart of the matter right enough: “Variations…were found.” Therefore the fragments from Connally’s wrist and CE399 were not of the same bullet. Which should have been obvious to grown men to start with from looking at bullet CE399 with their own two eyes open.
2. The magic rifle is Oswald’s 6.5 – mm Mannlicher-Carcano. Like its companion bullet CE399, it rates the status of magic because it shows so little sign of having been able to do what, for Warren theory purposes, it must have done.
The weapon Oswald is supposed to have selected for his great moment was a bolt-action Italian army rifle mass-produced in the early 1940s. It was not a serious sharpshooting weapon when it was made and two decades of aging could not have improved it.
The telescopic sight was fitted for a left-handed marksman. Oswald was right-handed.
The scope was misaligned so badly that the FBI had to adjust the mounting apparatus before it could test-fire the rifle.
But the deeper problem would still exist even if the rifle had been straight-shooting and fitted with a properly mounted and adjusted scope, because the deeper problem is that the maximum number of shots Oswald could have taken with that rifle in five-and-half seconds was three, and three shots are too few to explain all the damage that was done at that moment to people and things in Dealey plaza.
Add to this the fact that Oswald was rated only a poor marksman in the Marines and that, in one expert’s words, “The feat attributed to Oswald at Dallas was impossible for any one but a world champion marksman using a high-precision semiautomatic rifle mounted on a carriage and equipped with an aim corrector, and who had practiced at moving targets in similar set-ups.”
The most impressive defense of the Mannlicher and Oswald’s ability to use it in the way claimed by Warren that anyone has seen so far was produced by CBS News in the first of its four-part special called The American Assassins, aired in most cities around Thanksgiving 1975. The first part was devoted to the physical analysis of the JFK case. Setting out to settle the dispute about the rifle’s capabilities once and for all, CBS erected in the countryside a target-sled and platform arrangement simulating the geometry and distances of the shot from the southeast corner of the sixth floor of the Book Depository, then brought 11 expert riflemen- from the military, from the police, from the firearms industry – to give it a crack: Here toes the sled at the speed and along the path of the limousine. You have 5.6 seconds to squeeze off three shots and score with two of them. After practice, two of the eleven experts were able to do what Oswald is said to have done, two hits out of three shots in 5.6 seconds. CBS does not pause to say how many total series were fired by these eleven, or how many times the two who did it once could do it again. They are impatient to state their interpretation of this result. The reasoning now goes: Since a small percentage of expert riflemen could do it, it was possible. Since it was possible, it was possible for Oswald. Therefore he must have done it. CBS knew that Oswald had never practiced from that position or elevation, that he had not even been on a target range for at least two months, and that all his ex-Marine comrades regarded him as a poor shot. CBS is forced to make the argument, read from the teleprompter by an unblinking Dan Rather, that Oswald had scored, “after all, in the second highest category of marksmen in an outfit, the United States Marines, that prides itself on its marksmanship.” Whoever wrote that had to know that when Oswald was in the Marines, there were only three categories, that you were already in the third of these if you could heft the rifle to your shoulder, and that the minimum score required to enter “the second highest category” was 190, and that Oswald’s score was 191. CBS knew this. It is all in the Warren hearings. It is all nicely accessible in Sylvia Meagher’s work which CBS says it consulted. Misunderstanding or difference of interpretation can always be understood, but does this treatment of the rifle’s capabilities, the demands of the shot, and Oswald’s skill with the weapon fall within that dispensation? Do these look like honest mistakes?
But the worst problem is that for all its testing and proving, CBS is not even addressing the real issue with the rifle. The problem that leads people to doubt that Oswald did what Warren said he did with that rifle is that shot that first hit Kennedy and the shot that first hit Connolly came only 1.8 seconds apart, as is easily determined by analysis of the Zapruder film, and not even the fastest of CBS team of experts was able to reload and fire the Mannlicher anywhere near that fast.
3. Among several indications of a front shot, the backward snap of Kennedy’s head and body visible in the Zapruder film at frame 313 is without doubt the most gruesome and most convincing piece of evidence against the lone-Oswald theory. Indeed, not taking Zapruder into advance account may ultimately prove the big mistake the assassination cabal made.
With his brand-new 8-mm Bell and Howell camera, Abraham Zapruder was standing part way up the grassy knoll that borders Elm on the north and runs up to the railroad tracks. He looked to his left (east) to pick up the motorcade at it turned from Houston left onto Elm, and panned with the Kennedy limousine as it passed in front of him. Kennedy disappeared momentarily behind the Stemmons Freeway sign. He was shot first at precisely that one moment offstage to Zapruder’s camera. When he reappeared a fraction of a second later, his hands were already going to his throat. Then in about a second and a half Connally was going over too.
Just when the episode seems finished comes that endless-seeming moment before the fatal headshot. Zapruder had steadied his camera again. The limousine is actually slowing down. Four-one-thousand, five-one-thousand. Kennedy is straight in front of us. Then his head explodes in a plume of pink mist and he is driven violently into the back of the carseat.
Members of the Assassination Information Bureau, including myself, presented the Zapruder film and other photographic evidence to the editorial board of the Boston Globe and at a meeting at the Globe offices on April 23, 1975. Two days later Globe Executive Editor Robert Healey published a long editorial in which he summed up the board’s general reaction to the Zapruder film as follows:
It is this particular piece of film, with stop action and with individual still frames, that is being shown around the nation and which has convinced some, at least, that Oswald could not have fired all the shots that killed President Kennedy….The visual presentation is far more convincing than all the books and all the magazine articles that have ever been advanced. They make a simple and convincing case that President Kennedy had to be killed by bullets fired from two directions and thus by more than one person. And no words can make the case better than the Zapruder film. It is as simple as that.
It was not as simple as that to CBS, of course, or its carfully selected array of medical and ballistics experts.
Warren defenders, among them CBS prominently, have searched over the years for a plausible explanation of the backward movement of Kennedy’s head. How could a shot fired from behind the President have driven him backward?
An early theory was that the car lurched forward at just that moment, but that was abandoned when it was pointed out (from Zapruder) that the limousine continued to slow down until Secret Service agent Clint Hill got to the back of the car and climbed on. It did not speed up until Jackie Kennedy had crawled out on the rear deck to pick up a piece of her husband’s skull.
Then it was explained that “a neuromuscular spasm” was to blame, but that lost favor when resort to Zapruder’s film showed Kennedy’s body had not stiffened but rather hitting the back seat (in Robert Groden’s phrase) “like a rag doll.” Then came the theory that the bullet hit the back of the head with such force that it caused the brain to explode, that in exploding, the brain blew out the front of the head, and that, as a “jet effect” of this explosion, the head was driven backwards. This novel explanation suffers unfairly from the painfulness of explaining it, but its main problem is that the technical premise has never been demonstrated outside its creator’s backyard.
CBS was satisfied with none of these explanations and preferred, again through an unblinking Rather, to offer an altogether new explanation for the backward motion. “Jackie pushed him!” (??) Yes, in her shock, she pushed him away. Again we turn to the film. Can we see it? Does she push? Is there the least sign of a pushing motion on her part? We go frame by frame again and again through the horrible sequence of images from Z-300 or so through 313 and on to 330. What could be clearer? He is knocked backwards out of her hands by a violent force. She is like a statue as he moves. CBS people can see that as readily as you and I. Then why do they say Jackie pushed him?
There are other indications that shots were fired from the front. Here are a few of these.
Another film of the assassination moment, this one taken by Orville Nix from the south side of Elm. He was on the inner mall of the plaza panning with the limousine from right to left. In much poorer quality exposures and with eye-level crowd interference, we nevertheless see everything in the Nix film we see in the Zapruder film, except from the other side – the president thrown backwards. We see Zapruder filming this. We also see the whole crowd on that side of the street reacting spontaneously as though they hear gunfire from the area of the grassy knoll and the railroad bridge.
Two thirds of the ninety witnesses whom Warren asked said the firing came from the grassy knoll area.
Two Parkland Hospital doctors, the first to reach and examine Kennedy upon his arrival at emergency, thought the hole in Kennedy’s neck was a would of entrance, not exit. A complete autopsy might have determined this one way or another, but the throat wound was never explored by the autopsy surgeons.
A Dallas policeman named Joe Smith, one of several policemen who hurried to the grassy knoll area and the shoulder of the railroad bridge in the belief that the gunfire had come from there, said he was summoned by a woman crying: “They are shooting the President from the bushes.” When he got to the knoll he found a man. He told the FBI, “I pulled my gun from my holster and I thought, ‘This is silly, I don’t know who I am looking for,’ and I put it back. Just as I did, he showed me he was a Secret Service agent.” Secret Service records, which I this respect are careful, show that no Secret Serviceman was assigned that area. No Secret Service agent afterward identified himself as the person confronted by Smith.
The Case Against Oswald
Here is the chain of evidence that convicts Oswald: The wounds to Kennedy and Connally are caused by CE399. The bullet CE399 was fired from the Mannlicher-Carcano found in the depository at the sixth-floor window. The Mannlicher-Carcano had been purchased from a mail-order gun supplier a few weeks before in the name of one A. Hidell. Oswald was carrying papers identifying him as Hidell at the time of his arrest.
The astonishing thing is that this is the entirety of the case against Oswald. Besides that chain of associations, the rest of the evidence comes down to an eyewitness who could not repeat his identification of Oswald at a police line-up and a photograph of the alleged assassin published to the whole world on the cover of Life which contained as plain as the nose on Oswald’s face the ocular proof of its totally bogus character.
First take up the links of this chain one by one.
1. The bullet’s link to the wounds: We have already seen how conjectural this link is . It simply does not appear that CE399 was fired into anything harder than a bale of cotton. No test, whether old technology or new, has ever established that any of the fragments found in Kennedy, in Connally, or on the floor of the car came from CE399.
2. The bullet’s link to the rifle: This is the Warren theory’s strong point. There is no doubt that CE399 was fired from a 6.5-mm Mannlicher-Carcano.
3. The rifle’s link to Oswald: As we have noted, Oswald did not own this rifle in his own name. He used the name A. Hiddell to buy it through the mail, said the Dallas police, who claimed the found papers on him identifying him as that person. The Alek Hidell whom Oswald supposedly pretended to be is reckoned by Warren to be the same A. Hidell who left off the Mannlicher-Carcano at a Dallas gunshop several weeks before the shooting to have the sight mounted.
The problems with this link are several. Fist, the gunshop tag showing that the weapon had been scopesighted was discounted by the commission itself as unverifiable and suspect because at the time “Hidell” brought it into the gunshop, Oswald was supposed to be in Mexico City. Second and most important, Warren’s only source for this Hidell information was the Dallas police, and the Dallas police cannot be relied on in this matter. Even one of the Commission’s members, Assistant Council (now Judge) Burt W. Griffin, has discredited the role of the Dallas police in the investigation, telling reporter Robert Kaiser in 1975, “I don’t think some agencies were candid with us. I never thought the Dallas police were telling us the entire truth. Neither was the FBI.
This is not to say that the rifle could not be Oswald’s. The Dallas police are not reliable in this case, but one may still not claim that they always lied in it, or presume that since it was the police who found the Hidell papers on Oswald, then the Hidell papers must be attributed to them as part of the frame-up; or that since it was the police who discovered the rifle at the depository window with its three spent shells neatly in a row against the wall and the cartridge jammed in the firing chamber, it must be the police who set the scene. It would be playing games to deny that there is a certain temptation toward saying the cops did it because who else could get away with it.
But there may be other answers to our questions going beyond current anticipations and fantasies. It would be better to wait for a real investigation, if only because of the likelihood that there are several cover stories hiding the truth of Dallas, of which the lone-Oswald cover story is only the most thinly transparent. Once the necessity for some conspiracy hypothesis is clearly and widely acknowledged, only then will the real arguments erupt. What kind of conspiracy? Left or right? Foreign or domestic? Private or public?
We are already seeing the Castro-plot theory recirculated.
ON the CBS News for April 24, 1975, Walter Cronkite screened for the first time some footage from his September 1969 interview with Lyndon Johnson which had formerly been suppressed to comply with a government request based on the usual standard of national security. CBS now revealed this footage, said Cronkite, because a columnist had lately given the secret away. Actually, it had been out of the bag since Leo Janos’s reminiscence of Johnson’s final days published in the Atlantic Monthly of July 1973, in which Janos quotes Johnson as saying that while he could “accept that Oswald pulled the trigger” he could not be sure the Commission had got to the bottom of it, and his hunch was that Oswald might have been linked to pro-Castro Cubans out for revenge for the Bay of Pigs.
So we have the first-degree cover story that Oswald was alone; now we have the second-degree cover story that Oswald was Castro’s agent. There are likely to be other stories increasingly difficult to challenge and explore from afar: The CIA did it. The FBI did it. The Secret Service did it. The Pentagon did it. The Dallas cops did it. The White Citizens Council did it. The Syndicate did it. The Texas oligarchy did it.
We have every citizenly need and right to voice our intuitions in this matter; we also have a citizenly right to force the questions politically on the basis of the flimsiness of the official case against Oswald, not on the basis of a necessarily speculative interpretation. No new interpretation could possibly be elaborated and defended in the absence of subpoena powers and a strong national commitment to find the truth. The issue is not whether I or someone else can tell you who killed JFK. The issue at the moment is whether or not the government has been telling or concealing the truth.
Next take the Life magazine cover photo of Oswald which appeared on February 21, 1964. People will find it easy to locate. They will see for themselves what might have been obvious at once to the whole world, and certainly to the photo lovers who put Life and the Warren Report together, namely, that this is a doctored photo, and more than that, it is a crudely doctored photo, and doctored more than once, by different hands, at different times.
At first glance, we see simply Oswald in his battle gear, more encumbered-seeming than menacing. In his left hand with the butt against his thigh is (possibly) the weapon of the sixth floor. In his right hand he shows us some literature of the Socialist Workers Party (the FBI’s favorite radical whipping boy; see Hoover’s antileft “conintelpros”). On his right hip is the pistol with which he is supposed to have slain patrolman Tippit.
But if we notice the shadows on Oswald’s face and the shadows his body casts, at once we see that they fall at obviously different angles. The shadow under his nose falls straight down, as though the sun were in front of him. All the other shadows in the photo, including the shadow of his body, fall off sharply to his right behind him, as though the sun were to his left. Then we notice how the entire body is standing seemingly at a gravity-defying angle.
A still closer look at Oswald’s face shows another give-away: the chin is not Oswald’s sharp cleft chin but a broad, round, blunt chin bearing no resemblance to Oswald’s at all. The horizontal line separating the face of Oswald from the rest of the body is also perfectly apparent once one looks.
Where did this bogus photo come from? It was said to have been found among Oswald’s effects by the Dallas police, who also produced another photo of Oswald armed, similarly doctored, taken with the same camera as the first. No other pictures in the collection had been taken by the camera, nor was the camera found among Oswald’s things.
But we said it was doctored more than once. The second time was in the photolab of the Time-Life building, where someone unknown, but with the authority to do so, told and illustrator to paint a telescopic sight on the rifle shown in the photo, something the rifle had when the police presented it to the world after the killing but not when this picture was taken. What could have possessed Time’s editors, that they would tamper in the least respect with this critical piece of evidence?
But there was to come yet a third and much worse tampering, again by the specialists of Time, Inc. In its issue of November 24, 1975, once more sallying forth to lay all doubts of the lone-Oswald theory to rest, Time reprinted this photo – rather, an artfully selected portion of it. For as though to solve the problem of the contradictory shadows, Time cut off the picture at Oswald’s knees, so there was simply no shadow on the ground to see. And as though to solve the problem of the tilting figure, Time rotated the whole photo a few degrees to straighten the sides and lightly airbrushing the background of fence and houses to obscure the fact that the background was now tilting crazily to the right.
What kind of journalism is this? The only possible innocuous explanation is ignorance, and how could ignorance un-aided have hit all these hidden bases so squarely? The layout man at Time is not an expert on Dealey Plaza, but surely the writers and editor of that story cannot claim such an excuse. How do we avoid drawing an inference of intentional deception.
To top it off, with the same article, Time printed a diagram of Dealey Plaza which totally mislocated the famous grassy knoll. As every schoolchild to the debate about JFK’s death learns on the first day in class, “grassy knoll” is a term used exclusively to refer to the area north of Elm up an incline towards the triple overpass, that is, the area to Zapruder’s right. But in the Time drawing the grassy knoll is shown at Zapruder’s left, just next to the depository.
Could this be another accidental slip? Certainly it is not trivial. The whole debate about JFK’s assassination hinges on the shots which Warren’s critics say came from this area, the grassy knoll. What gives so much concrete power to this claim is the massive congruity between the president’s reaction to the headshot and the response of the crowd: he is thrown backwards, and they, after a moment of shock, surge up the knoll in the direction they thought the shots were coming from. This area, of course, is totally separated from Oswald’s supposed perch in the depository at Zapruder’s left.
But on the other hand – as evidently occurred to someone – if the grassy knoll were next to the depository instead of at the other end of the Plaza from it, then the immensity of this problem for the Warren reconstruction of the crime would be lost on the newcomer to the dispute. The newcomer will look at Time’s diagram and justly conclude that, since the grassy knoll and the depository are next to each other, the conflict among the witnesses about the origin of the shots must not be so important.
The Case for Oswald as Patsy
Over and above the weakness of the case against him, Oswald has a handful of interesting positive arguments in his defense. One of these is that he may be visible (in the ubiquitous Altgens photo) in the crowd inside the depository entranceway at the very instant of the shooting. Another is that he was seen by a Dallas policeman and his boss at the depository, standing calmly in the lunch room on the second floor, a maximum of a minute and a half after shooting the president of the United States and the governor of Texas – supposedly – and supposedly having run down four flights of stairs in the meantime, Oswald showed not the least discomposure, Said another depository employee, “I had no thoughts…of him having any connection with it all because he was very calm.”
A different kind of evidence was introduced in 1975 with the so-called Psychological Stress Evaluator, PSE, an instrumental technique that came into being through the CIA efforts to improve the standard lie-detector test. Its technical premise is that the frequency patterns of normal, relaxed speech disappear under stress. A person can show stress and be telling the truth at the same time, say ex-CIA officer George O’Toole and other advocates of the PSE, but if there is no sign of stress, that is a positive indication of truthfulness. “Stress is a necessary but not sufficient condition of lying,” says O’Toole, “but the absence of stress is a sufficient condition of truthfulness.” The device has the added interest of being usable with any voice record, even on low-quality telephone tapes. Its inventors, says O’Toole, originally intended it as an additional channel in their conventional polygraph setup, but found in use that “the new variable was so reliable and accurate a measure of psychological stress that there was really no need to measure the other polygraph variables.”
Two acoustic tape recordings of Oswald’s voice denying his guilt are preserved, recorded during his stay in the Dallas jail between Friday and Sunday. O’Toole found one in the CBS archive. It contains the following exchange between Oswald and the press at midnight Friday in the basement of the jail, Oswald shackled between two policemen.
OSWALD: I positively know nothing about this situation here. I would like to have legal representation.
OSWALD: Well, I was questioned by a judge. However, I protested at that time that I was not allowed legal representation during that very short and sweet hearing. I really don’t know what this situation is about. Nobody has told me anything, except that I’m accused of murdering a policeman. I know nothing more than that. I do request someone to come forward to give me legal assistance.
REPORTER: Did you kill the President?
OSWALD: No, I have not been charged with that. In fact, nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question.
O’Toole tracked down the second specimen in the private collection of a conspiratorialist of Dallas, Al Chapman, in a Columbia Records audio documentary attack on Warren’s critics put out in 1966. Oswald speaks once on this record. O’Toole conjectures the recording was made while Oswald was being led along the crowded third-floor corridor of the police station that Friday night.
OSWALD: These people have given me a hearing without legal representation or anything.
REPORTER: Did you shoot the President?
OSWALD: I didn’t shoot anybody, no sir.
In both specimens, says O’Toole, Oswald shows low stress. The second, categorical denial “contains almost no stress at all.” O’Toole finds in this a proof “that Oswald was telling the truth, that he was not the assassin.” He has support in this judgment so far from several leading technical specialists and practitioners in the PSE field, although at the time of the publication of his book The Assassination Tapes in spring 1975, he says he had not sought expert endorsement. The only criticism of his findings so far is the criticism of the PSE method itself. Presumably this means that if the method is ound, then we have an acoustical companion piece to the Zapruder film. As the film shows us that others had to be shooting at Kennedy, the tape shows us that Oswald was not.
Oswald joined the Marines in 1957 and after basic training was sent to Atsugi, Japan, where one of the CIA’s larger out-front bases was located, a staging area at the time for covert operations into the Chinese mainland and for U-2 overflights.
In September 1959, tow months before normal mustering out, Oswald suddenly applied for a hardship discharge to take care of his mother, who had been slightly injured at work ten months before. Mother Oswald was supported by her regular doctor and an Industrial Accident Board when she denied that this or any other accident cost her any wage-earning capacity or that it was the real motive of her son’s hasty discharge. According to researcher Peter Dale Scott, “…the swift handling of Oswald’s release suggests that it was a cover: Oswald was being ‘sheep dipped’ [prior to] assignment to a covert intelligence role.” Scott points out that his immediate application for a passport for travel to Europe suggests that that role concerned his “defection” to the Soviet Union.
The commission was of course not interested in such speculation and decided to take the word of two CIA and five FBI officials that, in the Report’s words, “there was no, absolutely no type of informant or undercover relationship between an agency of the U.S. Government and Lee Harvey Oswald,” even though in its secret session of January, 27, 1964, the commission heard its own member say that the CIA and the FBI both would deny a connection with Oswald even if one existed.
From the moment of Oswald’s arrest, the story circulated to the effect that he indeed did enjoy such an FBI relationship. This story was finally passed on to the Warren Commission as a formal charge by Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr. Carr said he had learned from reliable informants (who turned out to be on the Dallas district attorneys’ staff) that Oswald got two hundred dollars every month from the FBI as an informer and that his FBI number was 179. On January 27, 1964, the commission went into a secret session to deliberate on this. The record of that meeting would not be released for ten years. The transcript shows Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin defnining the problem and the task: “We do have a dirty rumor that is very bad for the Commission… and it is very damaging for the agencies that are involved in it and it must be wiped out insofar as it is possible to do so by the Commission.”
But as spy-wise Commissioner Allen Dulles was quick to point out, even if Oswald was an agent for Hoover, it would never be possible to prove it because Hoover would deny it and there would be no way to prove him wrong. “I think under any circumstances,” said Dulles, “…Mr. Hoover would certainly say he didn’t have anything to do with this fellow….If he says no, I didn’t have anything to do with it, you can’t prove what the facts are.” Would Dulles lie in the same situation, asked the commissioners. Yes, said Dulles, and so would any other officer of the CIA. Whereupon the commission goes on to ask two CIA and five FBI officers if Oswald was secretly connected with their outfits, and records their answer that he was not as the basis of their official conclusion on the matter.
Discharged in record time from a CIA-related detachment of the Marines on a seemingly fabricated need to take care of a mother who was not infirm, Oswald stayed home a total of three days, then set off for the Soviet Union by way of France, England and Finland with a $1500 ticked purchased out of a $203 bank balance (never explained).
By 1960 he was in Moscow to stage a scene at the U.S. Embassy. First he renounced his American citizenship, then declared that he was about to give the Russians valuable military secrets. He was then shipped off by the Russians to a factory job in Minsk. There he met and married Marina Pruskova, the niece of a top Soviet intelligence official in the Ministry of the Interior.
He decided in 1962 that he now wanted to come back to the States. In spite of his former scene at the Embassy and the radar secrets and failure to recant, the State Department speedily gave him a new passport and an allotment of several hundred dollars of the return trip with Marina.
The Oswalds were met in the United Sttes by Spas T. Raikin, whome Warren identifies as an official of Travelers Aid. Warren knew, of course, but decided not to add that Raikin was also the former secretary general of the American Friends of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, a group with extensive ties to intelligence agencies in the Far East and Europe, including the Gehlen-Vlassov operation (chapter 2) and the CIA.
In April 1963, the Oswalds moved to New Orleans. According to former CIA official Victor Marchetti, Oswald at that time came into contact with Clay Shaw, now identified positively (by Marchetti) as a CIA officer. Shaw was also close to David Ferrie, an instructor at the guerilla training camps at which, at this point, militant anti-Castro exiles and possibly breakaway elements of the CIA were preparing raids if not new invasions of Cuba. This was the month in which Kennedy for the first time publicly acknowledged the existence of these bases and ordered them closed. The world does not now know what Oswald’s relationship to the CIA’s Shaw was, only that it existed (this by the testimony of nine witnesses). It was while this immediate association with the CIA was alight, however, that Oswald became the one-man New Orleans chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, supposedly a pro-Castro organization.
The pro-Castro leaflets Oswald once distributed for this committee were stamped with the address, “544 Camp Street.” The commission found no evidence that Oswald kept an office there, but it did find the office of an anti-Castro group, the Cuban Revolutionary Council. We now know the Cuban Revolutionary Council was a CIA creation put together by Howard Hunt, and that the 544 Camp Street was a major headquarters of anti-Castro activity throughout that period.
In August 1963, while passing out his pro-Castro leaflets (something he did twice), Oswald got into a scuffle with some anti-Castro Cubans and was arrested by the New Orleans police. The first and only thing he said at the police department was that he wanted to speak to the FBI, a novel request for a leftwinger of that place, period and predicament. The agent appeared and Oswald got off quickly with a ten-dollar fine.
In September 1963 Oswald supposedly took a bus from New Orleans to Mexico City. His purpose is said to have been to obtain a Cuban travel visa. On October 1, the CIA cabled the State Department and the Office of Naval Intelligence to tell of information from a “reliable and sensitive source” that one Lee Henry Oswald had entered the Soviet Embassy. When the National Archives released a previously classified memo from Helms to the commission dated March 24, 1964, another piece fell into the puzzle: “On 22 and 23 November,” said Helms, “immediately following the assassination of President Kennedy, three cabled reports were received from [deleted] in Mexico City relative to photographs of an unidentified man who visited the Cuban and Soviet Embassies in that city during October and November 1963” (Commission Document 674, National Archives).
The original description of this Oswald in the CIA report ran like this: “The American was described as approximately 35 years old, with an athletic build, about six feet tall, with a receding hairline.” Oswald was 24, about 5’8” and 160 pounds. Who was pretending to be Oswald at the Russian and Cuban embassies in Mexico City a month before this same Oswald allegedly was to shoot the president?
There is evidence actually of several Oswalds in circulation at this time. There is in the first place the presumptive original himself installed since late October in the depository. There is the thirty-five-year old Oswald in Mexico City freshening up the Red spoor at the Cuban and Soviet missions. There is the Oswald or Oswalds who move around Dallas just before the hit planting unforgettable memories of a man about to become an assassin: the Oswald of the firing range who fires cross-range into other people’s targets and then belligerently starts a long argument in which he carefully and loudly repeats his name; the Oswald of the used-car lot who sneers at Texas and the American flag and drives recklessly, though Oswald had no driver’s license and did not know how to drive; the Oswald who visited exile Sylvia Odio a few weeks before the assassination in the company of two anti-Castro militants at a time when the real Oswald (or is it the other way around?) is supposed to be in Mexico City. Who are all these Oswalds?
In another crucial Freedom of Information suit, Harold Weisberg forced the government to make and release the transcript of a theretofore untranscribed stenographer’s tape of another secret meeting of the Warren Commission on January 22, 1964. The transcript indicates that Congressman Gerald Ford suspected Oswald of being an informant for the FBI. Ford participated in a discussion concerning Oswald’s repeated use of post office boxes, an operating method characteristic of undercover FBI informants, and remarked on Oswald’s informer-like behavior in playing both sides of the wrangle between the Communists who identify with Stalin and the Communists who identify with Trotsky. “He was playing ball,” said for of Oswald, “writing letters, to both elements of the Communist Party. I mean, he’s playing ball with the Trotskyites and the others. This was a strange circumstance to me.”
In the meeting, Chief Counsel Rankin told the commissioners the FBI was behaving in an unusual way in the Oswald investigation and seemed to be attempting to close the case without checking out numerous leads into Oswald’s activities. On the final page of the thirteen-page transcript, Allen Dulles summed up his reaction to an Oswald connection to the FBI by saying, “I think this record out to be destroyed.”
Somewhat lost in the hand-wringing over two Supreme Court decisions on the rights of gun ownership and death to pederasts (has there ever been a country more obsessed with the death penalty? It’s getting pretty creepy these days.) was the massive reduction in damages due as a result of the Exxon Valdez environmental by the fascist bloc of pocket justices who are worth every penny that corporatists have paid to advance their careers. While the trademark wedge issues have set the corporate media and far too many of the blogs atwitter, the shaving off of $2 billion and change from the damages owed to the state of Alaska by those greedy fuckers at Exxon shows exactly what this country is all about. Two systems of justice, one for the rich and the corporatists and one for all of us lesser beings, just another day in the ongoing travesty of societal decay among the feed cattle of the vampire elite here in Der Heimat.
That the courts no longer work for the majority of Americans and that ‘justice’ has become just another abstract term that is synonomous for commodity (as the Orwellian changes in the meanings of words proceeds unabated) is apparent to all but the most incorrigible of idiots and deniers, all the better to herd them into the vast networks of for profit corporate prisons that are the festering boils on the slimy reptilian skin of a demonic police state. The courts have been far too long polluted with the fascist lackeys of the anti-American Federalist Society with a smattering of graduates of hokum law schools founded by a score of high rolling false prophet millionaire preachers mixed in to give the appearance of a social and religious crusade to seize America for God. Nothing shows this corruption of the courts like the boon to Exxon courtesy of apple cheeked Johnny Roberts and his fellow appointee that the Dems didn’t bother filibustering Sammy Alito who along with entrenched extremists fat Tony Scalia and Clarence ‘Uncle’ Thomas delivered the bacon for their paymasters. The public as usual just swims along in their blissful ignorance, carefree frogs blessing their luck for the warmer water in that great big cauldron while the invisible hand slowly ratchets up the thermostat.
Just like the recently deceased social critic George Carlin said:
That’s what the owners count on, the fact that Americans will remain wilfully ignorant about the big red, white and blue dick that is being shoved up their ass every day. Because the owners know the truth. It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.
The increasingly irrelevant, packed by special interests and politicized mockery of a judicial system though has nothing on the roiling spring of filth that is the United States Congress. The House and Senate are largely a pack of perverts, crooks, cronies, moles and jackals who are every bit as complicit in wrecking his country as their more overtly fascist collaborators actually in the Bush-Cheney administration itself. This unholy temple of whores and swine have never failed to fail when it comes to protecting the Constitution (or as Lord Bush likes to refer to it that “goddamned piece of paper”) with the latest outrage being the bestowment of retroactive immunity against both the Bushreich and thieving big telecommunications corporations for their illegal spying on Americans under the big lie of the grand Orwellian War on Terror. So over the top outrageous was this latest disembowelment of the Constitution that essentially has wiped out the Fourth Amendment and taken us all a bit closer to a mixture of a post-industrial version of Nazi Germany, Oceania and an Eastern bloc authoritarian police state that finally enough Americans have realized that there is no longer a point in trying to work with those entrenched within the existing rotting system.
So in a time of total systemic failure we finally have an alliance coming together that is going to attempt to transcend the bogus left-right paradigm that has pitted us all against each other for far too long while our pockets have been picked and our rights stolen by the oligarchy. I speak of that wonderful new coalition that calls itself Strange Bedfellows and features some of the best of the ‘left’ an the best of the ‘right’ unifying to raise enough money to afford one gigantic enema bag which one day with a bit of luck and a lot of tenacity and hard work can be stuck right into that giant reeking asshole that is Washington D.C. and the bulb be given one hell of a squeeze. The alliance, originally started as an effort to stop the monstrously unjust and just signed off on by both houses of Congress FISA bill is being led by the great blogger Glenn Greenwald, elements of the Ron Paul Revolution including Money Bomb organizer Trevor Lyman, the great blog Breakthematrix.com, the ACLU, Jane Hamsher of Firedog Lake and others to finally do the only logical thing and come together despite the obvious ideological differences (that are always brought up as obstacles by the doubters and those with much to lose if the existing status quo is challenged) to take a serious and principled stand against the fascism that has metastasized through this county like some form of malignant cancer.
Greenwald, a growing voice with crossover appeal as well as a man of principle has rocked the boat by coming out in his Thursday Salon column entitled Keith Olbermann: Then and now and questioning MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann for his failure to hold Barack Obama accountable in any sort of consistently meaningful way for his callous and politically expedient cave in on the FISA bill rather than to apply the same standards set by his special comment back in January on Bush’s bullying to include immunity for the telecoms made appropriate references to fascism and Nazi Germany including the scathing:
“This is no longer just a farce in which protecting telecoms is dressed up as protecting us from terrorists conference cells. Now it begins to look like the bureaucrats of the Third Reich, trying to protect the Krupp family, the industrial giants, re-writing the laws of Nazi Germany for their benefit.”
Now in saying that I believe that Olbermann has consistently been the most vocal critic of Bushist and Fox fascism to be found anywhere on cable or regular television (Jon Stewart doesn’t count as he is just an outright buffoon) I have noticed that he often comes across more often as just another shill for the Democratic wing of the corrupt two party joke of a system but such is the price of success. What likely really put the burr up the ass of Olbermann and his General Electric owned MSNBC is that Greenwald does have a point and in using his platform in the blogosphere to advocate for unity against a rancid ruling class and their media toadies he represents a threat to the oligarchy in a manner that blowhard ass clowns like Bill O’Reilly could never hope to. Olbermann, outraged at the audacity of Greenwald for daring to question the high priest of Democratic restoration for his failure to apply the same standards when it comes to desecrating the Constitution to Mr. Obama as he does to King George, the sharp dressed man turned to none other than that teeming nest of venomous orange striped cocksuckers and their charismatic cult leader: Daily Kos.
The intention would to one as jaded as myself (who has had his own share of run ins with those minions of that monkey faced little pigfucker Markos Moulitsas-Zuniga) seem to be to unleash the full fury of those savage little laptop thumping pricks for a counter attack against the growing coalition of Strange Bedfellows. This is going to be pretty interesting to see as Cyber Stalin unleashes his legions of yuppie, orange hued winged monkeys with orders to put the phasers on kill. One of the one aspects of blogging that has increasingly brought much revulsion to me is the co-opting of the so called “A List” blogs (a bunch of sniveling, self centered shithacks if you ask me) by the Democratic party political machine. The Olbermann-Kos thing is going to be absolutely fascinating to watch in the coming days and weeks as they swarm like mindless programmed antibodies to attack any threats to the system that they are tasked with guarding. That Olbermann would eventually become a ‘left’ gatekeeper should certainly come as no shock to anybody who is truly aware of the way that things operate, the shameless Bill Maher’s attacks on those who question 9/11 and Israeli human rights violation show that these guys place priority over principle and let’s face it, neither of them are exactly hurting as the rest of the country is beggared and the economic diaspora grows by the day. Bill Maher knows where his bread is buttered and balling porn stars, partying and enjoying the celebrity status of a top gatekeeper on HBO is a gig that anybody would kill for. As for what ultimately drives Keith Olbermann who really knows but you cannot be a renegade while being part of the same system that you claim to want to change.
Greenwald and Strange Bedfellows are the proverbial live grenade rolling around in the bunker so explosive is the possibility of an alliance that no longer buys the preposterous folderol that has been routinely sold to the chumps that exist here on our God kissed land mass on planet shit and are just well enough educated and pissed off enough to call bullshit on the entire fucking game. A thing like this, which could begin to spread given the growing rate of dissatisfaction and waves of anger that threaten to crash through the once invincible dam of managed reality for the masses – the comments about Olbermann are a shot across the bow and the owners of this country damned well know it. That treacherous foreign pig Rupert Murdoch ‘s newly acquired crown jewel in the American propaganda machine The Wall Street Journal (or as I like to refer to it The Gospel for the Moneychangers already has chimed in on Strange Bedfellows as well so the alarm bells are going off in ivory towers throughout the land. I am personally going to join this alliance and would strongly recommend the rest of you to do likewise if you really want to make a difference and get in on the ground floor for as I have preached in the past this is the future and long after the Daily Kos and the rest of the former internet insurgents who chose the seductive lure of going native over integrity are once again irrelevant the new alliance will reign supreme.
Anyway, it is a damned good idea and the end result has the potential to be far more rewarding than just raising coin to target corporate quisling Democrats like that glad handing, crab cake quaffing AIPAC stooge Steny Hoyer and his ilk for their complicity in once again selling the American people down the river for thirty pieces of silver. A sustained and growing coalition has the possibility to overturn the tables in the rigged casinos, the dens of iniquity and the wood paneled parlors that serve as breeding grounds for the rats who ensure that the game stays rigged and the sham democracy and its pocket media kingmakers can continue to feed on the rest of us like the fucking vultures that they are.
By Ed Encho
Clandestine America: Three Sources
What is actually possible on the stage of American politics? Can presidents be assassinated by conspirators who go free and win out in the end? Are events which the media soberly report on often little more than play shows contrived by Machiavellian power elites for the manipulation of mass consciousness?
Even after Watergate, the idea that there may be a clandestine American state vastly predating Nixon’s arrival in the White House, transcending Nixon and lingering beyond him, will seem too wild, will seem “to go too far,” unless we come upon it as the wind and the rain fashioned the thing itself, bit by bit. The following three stories about how that happened could be followed by thirty more rather like them; I am not trying to be definitive or exhaustive, only to exemplify the steps taken, now well behind us, that pointed us down the path toward Dallas and Watergate, toward COINTELPRO, Chaos, Garden Plot, and the secret state:
1. The long-term penetration of the American foreign ¬policy bureaucracy by a secret group of Anglophiles operating worldwide as the “Round Table.”
2. The so-called “Operation: Underworld” of the World War II years, a secret but evidently formal and binding compact linking the federal police apparatus and the crime syndicate of Meyer Lansky.
3. The secret submission of the U.S. World War II command to the astonishing demands of Nazi Germany’s top spymaster, General Reinhard Gehlen, who leapt from Hitler’s sinking general staff to become unrivalled chief of American, West German and NATO intelligence systems in the Cold War years.
But as these narratives will be appreciated better in view of their distance from standard ideas, we will first take up two other responses to this question, one by a conservative CIA sophisticate, Miles Copeland, a retired CIA official, and the other by his liberal counterpart, Andrew St. George, a journalist specializing in CIA themes. The Copeland piece appeared in the October 1973 issue of William Buckley’s I National Review. St. George’s piece came out a month later in Harper’s. Both articles were cited in the report of Senator Howard Baker’s special Watergate subcommittee looking into the CIA’s role at Watergate.’ Both writers were questioned in secret by Congressional investigators. And as we shall see, despite their conservative-liberal opposition, the men are ideological bookends. Both assure us-I almost said reassure-that in terms of Big Brotherism and the police state, things will be getting worse.
Copeland opens his explanation of clandestinism in U.S. politics by setting out a picture of concatenating world-scale disasters mounting over the coming years and battering with cumulative force against the foundations of human society everywhere. He sees this process of breakdown as leading inevitably to the world-wide escalation of left-wing terrorism. In response to this forthcoming contagion, the governments of the world one after the other will be forced to the use of totalitarian methods of social control. Watergate gives us, he says, a slice-of-life look at the way these forces were developing (i.e., shows us that Nixon was provoked to the police state by those who opposed him). The inevitability of terror in a collapsing situation culminates in the inevitability of a Gestapo response. “The only answer to the problem [of terror],” Copeland writes, “seems to be to keep whole communities under surveillance. ‘This means we are subscribing to police-state methods,’ says Mother, `but what else can we do?”‘
Copeland does not stop to consider that for some of us this might not be a self-answering question, or whether, person for person, it might not be braver and better for a people and a society to endure terror, if that is indeed the only alternative, than to countenance tyranny. The point he is in a rush to make is that, for the ruling classes with whom he identifies, it is better to impose a police state than to suffer a revolution. He is also saying that even in the United States, the people will tolerate or welcome this police state as the only, _alternative to revolution. “With intelligence on the `people’s war’ pouring in as it presently is,” he writes, “even the most liberal-minded CIA officers feel that they have no choice but to do whatever is necessary to deal with it.”
They believe that, sooner rather than later, the public will swing over to sharing the alarm, and will become suddenly unsqueamish about police-state methods or whatever it takes to give them a good night’s sleep: The CIA, the FBI, and other security agencies had better be prepared. They had better have in readiness methods of “community surveillance” which have in them only such invasions of privacy as are absolutely necessary, and which ensure that the invasions are handled with such discretion and delicacy that even the most ardent liberal can’t object to them.
These still-to-be-demonstrated “methods,” as Copeland airily calls them, are at the same time, so he assures, essentially benign, in some respects benevolent, and efficient in implementation. “The FBI has a comparatively simple problem,” he writes. “Provided it can be assured of freedom from political influences, it can easily administer a system of community surveillance which will be pervasive enough to check terrorist influences in the United States yet not constitute more than a minor departure from our traditional ways of doing things.”
Thanks to the Seymour Hersh/New York Times disclosures of Christmas 1974, showing a vast CIA-run domestic-intelligence activity, we now understand of course that the presumptively futuristic scenes promoted by Copeland, wherein the CIA enters massively into domestic intelligence operations to stop some future crescendo of terrorism, were already old hat when he was writing. “Intelligence leans toward keeping discreet track of terrorist groups and neutralizing them quietly while policemen think in terms of evidence that will stand up in court,” he writes. “In the future, these distinctions will become less and less important-and extra-legal (i.e., intelligence) actions against terrorism will be closely coordinated with legal (police) actions against them.”
Nothing futuristic about all this at all, as it turned out. All ancient history. Witness the Hoover memos of May 1968 inaugurating a massive program of FBI aggression against the antiwar and civil-rights movement – not against “terrorism,” by the way, but against “dissent,” against a rival political standpoint. Witness the Huston Plan and Operation Gemstone and Octopus and all the rest that came with the succession of Nixon to the Johnson throne. We have a concrete sequence of repression, of the use of police-state methods, exactly along Copeland’s lines, undertaken exactly with his kind of self-flattering and historically ignorant posturings about keeping order and giving people “a good night’s sleep,” as though that were a fit image of a self-governing people, a nation asleep.
A current failure of Buckleyite conservatism as a serious political philosophy is that it refuses to dissociate itself from this anticonstitutional mania for the state-financed subversion of political dissent and radical-popular movements of reform. It has no values to propose other than the one single flattened-out value of the total security of the state. The more traditional and substantial conservative values of republicanism, limits, and constitutionality are all reduced in the National Review to the one imperious demand for
order, silence, sleep.
Tyranny was never a remedy for terror. Tyranny is terror. Tyranny and terror promote and multiply each other so well because each is the other’s only possible “legitimation.” But if they are actually the same, as any Socrates could show, then they cannot “legitimate” each other. The choice between terror and totalitarianism is a choice that can only be made-can-only be identified as a choice-by terrorists ‘ and tyrants. The democrat, the republican, and the independent among us will not be so quick to see terror and tyranny as opposite alternatives, but only as two sides of one coin, a single composite choice against liberty and humanity. The authentic rejection of terror mandates the rejection of tyranny. The authentic rejection of tyranny mandates the rejection of terror. There is no way to defend the democracy by the use of anti-democratic means. There is no anti-republican method corresponding to a republican purpose. There is no furtherance of national and personal, political and social independence through submission to national police controls. The state cannot at the same time uphold the law and trample it underfoot.
The liberal survey of the same forces, however, is disquietingly similar. As Copeland finds totalitarianism necessary, Andrew St. George finds it irresistible. Too enlightened to fall back on Copeland’s all-vindicating menace of Red terror as the legitimating raison d’etre of the clandestine American police state, St. George rather sees a monster he calls technofascism as emerging from the material conditions of ultramodern production, from the computerization of everyday fife. His position is sociologically sophisticated. He borrows knowledgeably from the Weberian literature and incorporates the pessimism of current observers like Jacques Ellul and Hannah Arendt without a trace of unconfidence.
St. George calls Watergate “the poisonous afterbirth of Vietnam…. An end to external conflict, the inward-turning of the nation’s aggressions, the unmistakable first step toward genuine convergence with our erstwhile totalitarian opponents.” He quotes Patrick McGarvey’s 1972 work, The CIA: The Myth and the Madness, “United States intelligence is now turning inward on the citizens of this country…. The next logical step would be for an administration to do exactly what its people suspect it of doing start mounting intelligence operations against citizen groups and assemblies.”
“Richard Nixon and John Mitchell,” continues St. George, “may have been instinctively, if not consciously, motivated toward Watergate by an intuitive sense that the era of foreign intervention was drawing to a close. [He is writing before the CIA-Chile exposures.] From now on America would have to generate the climate of defactualization and policeness [St. George finds the Hannah Arendt coinage useful] right at home if it wanted continued progress toward fully achieved, seamlessly engineered, cybernetically controlled techno-totalitarianism.”
Taking as his given the rapid growth in funds and prestige technology available to the national security complex, St. George asks how this complex arose, where it came from, and “what history is trying to tell us” about it. He writes, “Technological society is a matter of internal controls. The very concept of national security has changed; its focus is no longer on spies and seditionists, but on the bureaucracy’s internal power arrangements and hierarchical structures.” How has this transformation come about?
“Within a year of the Bay of Pigs,” he writes, “the CIA curiously and inexplicably began to grow, to branch out, to gather more and more responsibility for ‘the Cuban problem’ etc…. By the time of the 1965 U.S. military intervention in the Dominican Republic both the good guys and the bad guys – i.e., the ‘radical’ civilian politicos and the ‘conservative’ generals-turned out to have been financed by La Compania…. Owing largely to the Bay of Pigs, the CIA ceased-being an invisible government: it became an empire.”
Now he approaches a mysterious question. “The Agency had become a tireless data digger and interviewer and fact collector about the smallest details of life in Cuba under Castro-until the landing preparations began in earnest in early 1961. Then intelligence collection began to drop off: the `operators’ took over. It seemed that when the operational side of the Agency cut in, the intelligence side cut out. It was baffling…. The real question was: Why?”
Why did CIA-Intelligence “cut out” of the Bay of Pigs invasion at roughly the moment Kennedy was inaugurated, and why did CIA-Operations then “cut in”? To go to the heart of it, what seems strange on the assumption that the CIA is an integrated bureaucratic entity ceases to seem strange on the assumption-our assumption-that it is a house divided against itself. St. George might have been about to lay this important distinction bare. But he goes wrong. He chooses the path of “psychohistorical analysis” over the path of political criticism.
Arming himself pretentiously with Arendt’s “magisterial” concept of “defactualization” (information deteriorates upwards through bureaucracies), he sets out to treat the problem of clandestinism as a syndrome belonging to the domain of psychological aberration. St. George knows or surmises that a conflict shoots through the CIA, through the presidency, through the entire executive system, and that effective presidential command and control are the more deeply in doubt the deeper one goes into the heart of the national defense and security establishments. Then why try to explain breakdowns, when they occur, as though they were the result of “turning away from reality, from empirical data, provable facts, rational truth, toward image-making and self-deception.”? Why ignore the overwhelming differ¬entials of policy and faction at play in these breakdowns?
It is not Nixon himself, the Joint Chiefs, or the CIA whom Nixon, the Chiefs, and the CIA are deceiving, it is only ordinary people. Nixon knew he was secretly bombing Cambodia. The Joint Chiefs knew they were secretly bombing exempted targets in North Vietnam. The defense and security establishment knew that “peace with honor” was a slogan with a hatch in the bottom, and that the “peace” mandate Nixon would secure with it was prestructured for easy transmutation into a war mandate. Watergate cannot be reduced to a question of Nixon’s personal psychology. He was not deceiving himself, only others. He was not deceiving his class.
St. George lets the fashion for psychohistory guide him to the belief that the hero of the story will turn out to have been J. Edgar Hoover. St. George says Hoover distrusted and hated the CIA.
He thought of it as a viperine lair of liars and high-domed intellectuals, of insolent Yalies who sneered at Fordham’s finest, of rich young ne’er-do-wells who dabbled in spy work because they could not be trusted to run the family business, of wily “Princeton Ought-Ought” himself, “Dickie” Helms, who spun his tweedy web from an ultramodern, electronically secured enclave up the river in Virginia…. Hoover realized that inevitably, disastrously, the CIA’s tainted ways were seeping back home to America; there is a vengeful law of historic osmosis about these things.
“Hoover was proven fatally right,” St. George continues, blithely putting his own ideas into the dead director’s mind and altogether overlooking the fact that it was the director himself who already launched in May 1968 a concerted, all out FBI “counterintelligence” campaign “to expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize the activities of the various New Left organizations, their leadership and adherents” Certainly Hoover struggled with the CIA about domestic intelligence, just as he opposed the Huston Plan, but that was because he saw the CIA and the White House as rivals to the FBI, as rival power bases, not because he had suddenly grown sentimental about the Constitution and democracy.
Yet St. George’s larger point about the growth of the national-security complex stands up. Estimating the CIA staff at 150,000 and the total national security budget at $10 billion a year, he confronts the meanings of this with honest emotions: “One should pause to absorb this in its full… innovative enormity,” he writes, “a United States Senator tapped and trailed on his legislative rounds by American Army agents but there are facts and figures to back up the claim: Senator Ervin’s other investigating committee, the Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, ‘revealed last year, in a report that went largely unnoticed, that by 1969 the Army-not the Defense Department [and not the CIA], just the Army-had built up a massive system’ for keeping watch on U.S. politics…. The simple fact is that as the Sixties turned into the Seventies, America became a nation under surveillance.” Say it with trumpets. Blow the alarm. This did not stop with Watergate.
No doubt, as Copeland’s example teaches, the persistence of left-wing terror in the world scene will make an easy excuse for totalitarian-minded persons. No doubt, as St. George’s example teaches, the computerization of everyday life will seem to embody an irresistibly transcendent force. But let us remember that we are actually looking back on the certain knowledge of a clandestine America which these writers can still pretend to see as a future threat. We are trying to understand the onset of an achieved, not merely a prognosticated, predicament. So we may not be so abstract. We must find the concrete mechanisms. The way into the blind snarls of clandestinism was not led by pious elders seeking to quiet the public sleep or by robots programmed with a contempt for democracy. The way was taken step by step by ordinary human beings acting under the burden of ordinary human motives. The following three examples will bear out the importance of this innocuous reminder.
The Round Table
The John Birch Society maintains that linked up with, if not actually behind, the International Communist Conspiracy is a higher-level super cabal of internationalists of the United States and Western Europe, led here by the Rockefeller-Morgan group and there by the Rothschilds, whose purpose is to create a unified world political order. “This myth,” writes its most temperate and only first-hand historian, Carroll Quigley (Tragedy and Hope, Macmillan, 1966), “like all fables, does in fact have a modicum of truth. There does exist, and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some extent, the way the radical right believes the Communists act. In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other groups [e.g., as we see below, the Nazis] and frequently does so.”
Quigley studied the operations of the Round Table first hand for twenty years and for two years during the early 1960s was permitted access to its papers and secret records. He objects to a few of its policies (e.g., its conception of England as an Atlantic rather than a European power), but says his chief complaint about the Round Table is its secrecy a secrecy which he comes forward to break. “The American branch of this organization, sometimes called `The Eastern Establishment,’ has played a very significant role in the history of the United States in the last generation,” he writes “and I believe its role in history is significant enough to bi known.”
The Round Table Groups, by Quigley’s detailed report, are semi-covert policy and action groups formed at the turn of the first decade of this century on the initiatives of the Rhodes Trust and its dominant Trustee of the 1905-1925 period, Lord Milner. Their original political aim was federation of the English-speaking world along lines laid down by Cecil Rhodes.
By 1915, Round Table Groups were functioning in England and in six outposts of the Empire-South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and the United States. The U.S. group included George Louis Beer, Walter Lippmann, Frank Aydelotte, Whitney Shepardson, Thomas W. Lamont, Jerome D. Greene, and Erwin D. Canham of the Christian Science Monitor, a Yankee bouquet.
The organization was originally financed by the associates and followers of Cecil Rhodes, chiefly from the Rhodes Trust itself, but since 1925, according to Quigley, substantial contributions have come from wealthy individuals, foundations, and firms associated with the international banking fraternity, especially the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, and other organizations associated with J. P. Morgan, the Rockefeller and Whitney families, and the associates of Lazard Brothers and of Morgan, Grenfell, and Company. The chief link-up in this organization was once that of the Morgan Bank in New York to a group of international financiers in London led by Lazard Brothers, but at the end of the war of 1914, the organization was greatly extended. In England and in each dominion a group was set up to function as a cover for the existing local Round Table Group.
In London, this front was the Royal Institute of International Affairs, which had as its secret nucleus the existing Round Table Group. The New York group was the Council on Foreign Relations. The Morgan men who dominated the CFR went to the Paris Peace Conference and there became close to a similar group of English experts recruited by Milner. There thus grew up “a power structure” linking London and New York banks and deeply penetrating “university life, the press, and the practice of foreign policy.”
The founding aims of this elaborate, semisecret organization were “to coordinate the international activities and outlooks of all the English-speaking world into one … to work to maintain peace; to help backward, colonial, and underdeveloped areas to advance toward stability, law, and order and prosperity, along lines somehow similar to those taught at Oxford and the University of London….” These aims were pursued by “gracious and cultured gentlemen of somewhat limited social experience…. If their failures now loom larger than their successes, this should not be allowed to conceal the high motives in which they attempted both.”
Quigley calls this relationship between London and New York financial circles “one of the most powerful influences in twentieth-century American and world history. The two ends of this English-speaking axis have sometimes been called, perhaps facetiously, the English and American Establishments. There is, however, a considerable degree of truth behind the joke, a truth which reflects a very real power structure. It is this power structure which the Radical Right in the United States has been attacking for years in the belief that they are attacking the Communists.”
Am I borrowing on Quigley then to say with the far right that this one conspiracy rules the world? The arguments for a conspiracy theory are indeed often dismissed on the grounds that no one conspiracy could possibly control everything. But that is not what this theory sets out to show. Quigley is not saying that modern history is the invention of an esoteric cabal designing events omnipotently to suit its ends. The implicit claim, on the contrary, is that a multitude of conspiracies contend in the night. Clandestinism is not the usage of a handful of rogues, it is a formalized practice of an entire class in which a thousand hands spontaneously join. Conspiracy is the normal continuation of normal politics by normal means.
What we behold in the Round Table, functioning in the United States through its cover organization, the Council on’ Foreign Relations, is one focal point among many of one among many conspiracies. The whole thrust of the Yankee/ Cowboy interpretation in fact is set dead against the omnipotent-cabal interpretation favored by Gary Allen and others of the John Birch Society, basically in the respect that it posits and divided social-historical American order,’ conflict-wracked and dialectical rather than serene and hierarchical, in which results constantly elude every faction’s intentions because all conspire against each and each against all.
This point arose in a seminar I was once in with a handful of businessmen and a former ambassador or two in 1970 at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. The question of – conspiracy in government came up. I advanced the theory that government is intrinsically conspiratorial. Blank incredulous stares around the table. “Surely you don’t propose there is conspiracy at the top levels?” But only turn the tables and ask how much conspiring these men of the world do in the conduct of their own affairs, and the atmosphere changes altogether. Now they are all unbuttoned and full of stories, this one telling how he got his competitor’s price list, that one how he found out whom to bribe, the other one how he gathered secret intelligence on his own top staff. Routinely, these businessmen all operated in some respects covertly, they all made sure to acquire and hold the power to do so, they saw nothing irregular in it, they saw it as part of the duty, a submerged part of the job description. Only with respect to the higher levels of power, around the national presidency, even though they saw their own corporate brothers skulking about there, were they unwilling to concede the prevalence of clandestine practice. Conspiratorial play is a universal of power politics, and where there is no limit to power, there is no limit to conspiracy.
The Round Table is not the only source of American clandestinism. As we are to see, there are other main roads to the self-same city. I call attention to it because it is precisely the kind of semi-hidden organization that standard consciousness does not recognize as a force in the flow of events, and yet whose influence is vast. When I read in Quigley’s account of the Round Table that it was “concerned only to bring the English-speaking world into a single power unit, chiefly by getting the United States and Great Britain to support common policies,” I suffer a painful shock of recognition: How much of what we most take for granted about the political world, how much of standard thought, is the artifact of Yankee bankers?
The Derivation of Kennedy
John Kennedy was not by personal heritage a Round Tabler any more than his family was by type or beginnings an Establishment Yankee family. On the contrary. He was the great-grandson of an emigrant Irish cooper and the grandson of a ward-heeling East Boston saloonkeeper. His father Joseph, the founder of the dynasty (if indeed the family is to prove dynastic), was an operator, speculator, wheeler-dealer and Prohibition-era smuggler whose drive for wealth, power and social status was easily worthy of any new-rich Cowboy, and who was in fact often snubbed by the Boston brahminate.
According to Quigley, JFK’s “introduction to the Establishment arose from his support of Britain in opposition to his father [FDR’s ambassador to the Court of St. James and an ardent anti-interventionist] in the critical days at the American Embassy in London in 1938-40. His acceptance into the English Establishment opened its American branch as well” (p. 1245). But maybe this rounds off .the corners too much. At that time, JFK was a mere Harvard stripling, and according to his father’s biographer, Richard J. Whalen (The Founding Father, New American Library-World, 1964), he was wholly influenced by his father’s political views. According to Whalen (p. 294), JFK’s senior thesis, published in 1940 as Why England Slept, “was almost a carbon copy of his father’s position.” JFK followed his father in excusing Munich, defending Chamberlain, and blaming Britain’s military unpreparedness for World War II on “the slowness of the British democracy to change from a` disarmament policy.”
How could the Founder have so misread the situation of ‘ European spirit? Whalen says (p. 348) that Joseph “might have muddled through-except for one failing. He identified himself with the `top people’ in England and moved to embrace their views. But these men and women of lofty rank and distinguished lineage belonged to a dying England. Dazzled, charmed, delighting in his acceptance, Kennedy spent little time at other levels of society, in the company of men holding radically different (though not necessarily `radical’) opinion, who would lead England’s struggle and revive her spirit in the days of supreme trial. The intimate of those who first lost their function, then their faith in ‘ themselves and in their country, Kennedy rode high and handsome at their side, and shared their fall.”
Thus, a rather more likely explanation of the British Establishment’s initial interest in seeing the Kennedys elevated socially and thus politically in the United States is that the aristocrats in whom the arriviste ambassador took such delight were themselves mesmerized by Hitler’s military power and spiritually incapable of challenging it.
German U-boats had already been sinking defenseless U.S. merchants within sight of East Coast beaches when a string of sabotage incidents on the East Coast docks climaxed in 1942 in the burning of the French liner Normandie, just on the eve of its rechristening as an Allied freighter. The event showed Roosevelt how easily Mussolini’s saboteurs could strike at the base of U.S. shipping.
Meyer Lansky, meanwhile, chief minister of organized crime, was troubled because certain Mafia families were proving reluctant to join the larger Syndicate which he had been building since Prohibition under the yellow and black colors of Lucky Luciano. Luciano had been jailed in 1937 by New York D.A. Thomas Dewey, and Lansky had been operating since as his top man in the world of the other capos, where his main problem was how to persuade the Sicilian holdouts to accept the executive leadership of a Jew.
Different students of organized crime in America interpret Lansky’s role in different ways. The perceptive and original Alfred McCoy, for example; in The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (1972), treats Luciano himself, not Lansky, as the first wholly modern executive of crime and attributes to him, not Lansky, the insights that led to the current federation of previously autonomous criminal groups around particular rackets and particular cities.
But Hank Messick, who develops the point in a string of unique books of crime reportage, notably Lansky (1971) and John Edgar Hoover (1972), thinks Luciano’s greatest genius lay in his grasp of Lansky’s greater genius, and that Lansky was always the main strategist in bringing big crime to accept the standpoint of the Harvard Business School and the necessity of monopoly-style business rationalization. McCoy would agree that Lansky at least became the top boss after Luciano’s sudden death by heart attack in a Naples airport in 1962. I follow Messick on the point if only because Lansky was Luciano’s front man in the real world during the nearly ten years Luciano was imprisoned and carried out the concrete tasks that actually brought the new super-corporate organization, “the Syndicate,” into existence.
But this difference matters little for the current point. Whether it was Lansky’s or Luciano’s doing or the doing of “social forces” pushing towards “multicorporatism” in every sphere of exchange, in business and politics as well as in crime, in Hughes’s and Rockefeller’s and Nixon’s worlds as well as Lansky’s, the fact of expansion and integration, of the centralizing of business authority in an unimpeachable bureaucracy, is the main fact of organized crime’s inner life from Prohibition on, and it seems appropriate to associate this general movement with the long period of Lansky’s preeminence.
Roosevelt’s problem then was how to guarantee the security of the docks against Fascist sabotage. Lansky’s problem was how to complete the organization of the Syndicate. What artist of the possible saw the convergence of these two problems in a common solution?
The precise origins of “Operation Underworld” are not public knowledge. Both McCoy and Messick fasten upon a Brooklyn shipyards office of U.S. Naval Intelligence. That would not mean the initiative was necessarily federal or the Navy’s. The idea could have been dropped there by any messenger. In any case, it came down to a straightforward proposition. Lansky first turns to the reluctant capo and says: What if I can free thy leader, Luciano? Then he turns to the anxious Roosevelt and says: What if I can secure thy docks against sabotage?
The offer Lansky made in particular was simply for Roosevelt to intervene in the Luciano matter, although from the prosperity enjoyed by organized crime during World War II, it may appear to imply that the deal went much further and actually entailed federal protection for certain areas of Syndicate wartime acfivity, e.g., smuggling.
Luciano was moved right away from the remote Dannemora Prison to the more comfortable and spacious Great Meadow Prison north of Albany. His accessibilities thus improved, he lived out the war years in a style befitting the prisoner who is also the jailer’s benefactor and a party to a larger arrangement with the throne. Promptly on V-E Day, his lawyer filed the papers that opened the doors for his release and deportation to Sicily. He would shortly return to his Godfatherly duties in the exile capital Lansky had been preparing all the while in Havana. Lansky delivered Luciano and won federal protection. The Syndicate was made. But that only began it. Syndicate collaboration with the American war effort went much further.
The Sicilian Mafia, for example, had been all but wiped out by Mussolini in fascism’s long violent rise to power. The Mafia was a power rival and Mussolini crushed it bloodily. But when General George Patton landed on Sicily with the Seventh Army’s Third Division in 1943, he came with instructions to fly Luciano’s black and yellow scarf along with the Stars and Stripes and to seek out the tactical support of local Mafiosi, who would offer themselves as guides and informants. This support may or may not have been of measurable military value. The Kefauver Committee theorized later that it was too slight to have justified the release of Luciano on patriotic grounds. But what Patton’s tanks meant to the Mafia was purely and simply its restoration to power in Sicily.
Then in 1944 Roosevelt wanted Batista to step aside in Cuba. The most persuasive confidential ambassador he could think of, the best man for delivering such a message to Batista, Messick reports, was Lansky himself. Whom else would Batista listen to?
Lansky and Batista had first met ten years before in the year of Repeal, 1934. Lansky had seen that the coming legalization of liquor might give an enormous business opportunity to those who had run it when it was illegal. So as Repeal drew nearer, he started shopping for raw material sources, for all the world like a run-of-the-mill corporate-imperial businessman.
He got to Havana in 1934 shortly after Batista first won power. The two men found themselves in deep harmony. Lansky stayed three weeks and worked out with Batista the arrangements that would bring molasses from Cuban cane to Syndicate-controlled distilleries and set up Havana as a major gaming capital of the Western hemisphere.
From these beginnings, the Lansky-Batista association prospered greatly over the next decade. No one better than Lansky could have carried Roosevelt’s message, nor could Batista have wiled away his exile period in a more appropriate or comfortable setting than the Palm Springs mansion which Lansky made available. When the wind changed yet another time in the early 1950s and it was time for Batista to go back to Cuba and resume command, it was again Lansky who gave Batista the word to move.
In France, too, the forces of crime were integrated into U.S. efforts to establish anti-Communist postwar governments, notably at Marseilles, where the World War II CIA (OSS) employed Corsican Syndicate goon-squads to break the French Communist Party’s control of the docks. It was another twisted situation. The main serious wartime resistance to European fascism was that of European Communists. Their resistance was militarily and therefore politically significant. Beyond Communist Party activity, resistance to Nazi Germany had been fragmentary or weak willed and ineffectual. The non-Communist left (e.g., the groups around Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus) had prestige but little combat or political-organizational capability. The rest of the country collaborated.
With no interference from outside, the natural result of this disposition of factors in postwar Europe might easily have been the immediate rise of the Communist Party to great power if not dominance in French affairs.
The same thing was threatening to happen all across Europe. Given that American policy was committed to the achievement of a non-Communist postwar Western Europe, there was possibly no way for the pacification effort to have avoided collusion with crime. Besides the Corsican Syndicate, there was no other group sufficiently organized and ‘disciplined to challenge the French CP for control of the Marseilles docks. A result is that Marseilles became within a few years the heroin-manufacturing capital of the Western world and the production base of the Lansky-Luciano-Trafficanto heroin traffic into the American ghetto.
The integration of the forces of law with the forces of organized crime extends from the municipal to the federal level. It takes in vast reaches of the law-enforcement and security establishment: police, military, paramilitary, and private alike. It constitutes a burden of corruption possibly already too heavy to be thrown off.
When we look back from Watergate to find the causes of it all, the Yankee wartime leadership’s amazing opportunism looms large. With Operation Underworld, Roosevelt made the Mafiosi all but official masters of the U.S. East Coast docks and gave implicit protection to their activities everywhere. With his instructions to Patton in 1943, he restored the Mafia to power in Sicily. When he sent Lansky to Batista in 1944, he paved the way for the spread of Syndicate influence throughout the Caribbean and Central America. When he directed the CIA to use Syndicate thugs at Marseilles in 1945, he licensed the heroin factories that would be feeding the American habit into a contagion virtually unchecked over the years of the Cold War.
One can easily enough sympathize with Roosevelt’s desire to strike at the Axis powers with whatever weapons came to hand, and especially to do something to protect the docks. But we must also judge his acts by their longer-term consequences. Certainly we cannot say it is all Nixon’s fault if during his novice and formative years in political administration, when he and Rebozo may have found themselves in a relationship around black market tires in wartime Miami (see below), he should have come upon the idea, FDR-sponsored, that some crooks were patriotic, and the patriotic ones were okay to do business with, just as though a few purchased gestures of patriotism could make crime itself legitimate. Fine word, legitimate. Operation Underworld is one of the roots of Operation Gemstone. Roosevelt is one of the authors of Watergate.
The Derivation of Nixon
Tricky is perhaps the most despicable President this nation has ever had. He was a cheat, a liar and a crook, and he brought my country, which I love, into disrepute. Even worse than abusing his office, he abused the American people. -Earl Warren
Nixon is commonly supposed to have been introduced to Bebe Rebozo by Richard Danner, the courier and connecter who left the FBI to become city manager of Miami Beach at. a time when it was under the all-but-open control of the Mob. Danner first met Nixon at a party thrown in Washington in 1947 by another newly elected congressman, George Smathers. Smathers was by that time already an intimate friend and business partner of Rebozo and a friend of Batista. When Nixon vacationed in Havana after his 1952 election to the vice-presidency, Syndicate-wise Danner used his clout with Lansky’s man Norman “Roughhouse” Rothman to get gambling credit at the Sans Souci for Nixon’s traveling companion, Dana Smith. We recall Dana , Smith as the manager of the secret slush fund set up to finance Pat Nixon’s cloth coats, the exposure of which led to the famous Checkers TV speech during the 1952 campaign. Smith dropped a bundle at the Sans Souci and left Cuba: without paying it back. Safe in the States, he repudiated the debt. That infuriated Rothman. Nixon was forced to ask the State Department to intervene in Smith’s behalf.
It is poetically satisfying to imagine Nixon and Rebozo meeting through Danner. When Danner reenters in the next to last act of Watergate with the $100,000 from Hughes which only he seems to have been able to deliver, we may sense a wheel coming full circle. But there is the possibility also that Rebozo and Nixon actually connected in Miami in 1942, and it is almost certain that they knew of each other then, as will emerge.
Here are the fragments with which we reconstruct Rebozo: (1) he is associated with the anti-Castro Cuban exile community in Florida; (2) an all-Cuban shopping center in Miami is constructed for him by Polizzi Construction Co., headed by Cleveland Mafioso Al “The Owl” Polizzi, listed by the McClellan crime committee as one of “the most influential members of the underworld in. the United States”; (3) his Key Biscayne Bank was involved in the E. F. Hutton stock theft, in which the Mafia fenced stolen securities through his bank.
Rebozo’s will to power appears to have developed during the war, when he made it big in the “used-tire” and “retread” business. Used-tire distributors all over the country; of course, were willingly and unwillingly turned into fences of Mafia black market tires during the war. Rebozo could have been used and still not know it.
He was born in 1912 in Florida to a family of poor Cuban immigrants, was ambitious, and by 1935 had his first gas station. By the time the war was over, his lucrative retread business had turned him into a capitalist and he was buying up Florida land. Before long he was buying vast amounts of it in partnership with Smathers and spreading thence into the small-loans business, sometimes called loan-sharking. From lending he went to insuring. He and Smathers insured each other’s business operations. His successes soon carried him to the sphere of principalities and powers the likes of W. Clement Stone of Chicago and the aerosol king Robert Abplanalp, both of whom met Nixon through him. Also during the war, Rebozo was navigator in a part-time Military Air Transport Command crew that flew military transports to Europe full and back empty, which some find a Minderbinderesque detail.
During the first year of the war, before going into the Navy, Nixon worked in the interpretations unit of the legal section of the tire-rationing branch of the Office of Price Administration. Investigator Jeff Gerth has discovered that three weeks after Nixon began this job, his close friend-to-be, George Smathers, came to federal court for the defendant in this case, United States vs. Standard Oil of Kansas. U.S. Customs had confiscated a load of American-made tires reentering the country through Cuba in an “attempt to circumvent national tire rationing,” i.e., bootleg tires. Smathers wanted to speed up the case for his client, and so wrote to the OPA for a ruling. His letter must have come to Nixon, who, OPA records show, was responsible for all correspondence on tire rationing questions. It was therefore Nixon’s business to answer Smathers. Especially since this was the first knock on the door, it would be nice to know what Nixon said and how the matter was disposed of. “Unfortunately,” reports Gerth, “most OPA records were destroyed after the war. The court file for this case is supposed to be in the Atlanta Records Center, but a written request submitted to the clerk of the civil court on July 6, 1972, has not been honored, despite the usual one week response time. Written questions submitted to President Nixon and Bebe Robozo have also gone unanswered. Among the relevant questions is whether Miami was one of the regional offices Nixon set up.
Was this the bending of the twig? And if Rebozo and Nixon actually did meet then, even if only through bureaucratic transactions around the flow of tires, then they met within the sphere of intense Syndicate activity at a time when Roosevelt’s Operation Underworld had conferred immense prestige and freedom of movement on Syndicate activities. Could the Nixon-Rebozo relationship escape being affected by FDR’s truce between law arid crime?
Let us spell out this theory of Nixon’s beginnings in A-B-C simplicity.
Prohibition: Organized crime takes over the distilleries industry.
Repeal: Bootlegging goes legit, the Syndicate thereby expanding into the sphere of “legal” operations. This is the first big foothold of organized crime in the operations of the state.
Cuba/Batista: Lansky goes to Cuba in 1934 in search of a molasses source, meets and courts the newly ascendant strongman Batista, stays three weeks and lays plans for developing Havana into the major off-shore freezone of State-side organized crime, Cuba playing the role in the Caribbean of Sicily and Corsica in the Mediterranean.
World War II: In despair of otherwise securing the physical security of the docks against sabotage which may or may not have been Fascist-inspired, Roosevelt accepts a secret arrangement with organized crime. He comforts Luciano in prison and agrees to release him to exile at the end of the war. He generates an atmosphere of coalition with crime for the duration. In that atmosphere, Syndicate projects prosper. But one of the smugglers, Kansas Standard, gets too brazen and is caught, perhaps, by naive customs officials. Smathers takes the case for the defendant and thus comes into contact with Nixon.
Noting Gerth’s discovery that the records of this case have inexplicably disappeared from the files, noting Rebozo’s involvement in the tire business and his rapid enrichment during World War II, and noting Smathers’s well-known affection for Cuban associations, we generalize to the straight-forward hypothesis that Nixon may have been fused to the Syndicate already in 1942. Was his 1944 stint in the Navy a sheep-dipping? Look at this rise: 1946: Nixon for Congress; 1948: Nixon for Congress (II); 1950: Nixon for Senate; 1952: a heartbeat away.
So it is another Dr. Frankenstein story. The Yankees beget in sheer expediency and offhandedness the forces that will later grow strong enough to challenge them for leadership. Operation Underworld was the supreme pioneering joint effort of crime and the state, the first major direct step taken toward their ultimate covert integration in the Dallas-Watergate decade.
The Gehlen Organization
Recall two generals of World War II. First, General Andrei Vlassov, a Red Army officer secretly working with an extensive anti-Bolshevist spy ring. He joined up his forces with the advancing Germans during the invasion of the Ukraine, where the Bolsheviks had collected. Vlassov commanded the co-called Army of Liberation, a full division of more or less well equipped troops fighting under the flag of Great White Russian reaction for the restoration of the Czar.
And second, General Reinhard Gehlen, the famous “superspy” of the same war, master of Hitler’s powerful Soviet intelligence apparatus. The practical basis of the great success of Gehlen’s Soviet intelligence system was his relationship to Vlassov. Through Vlassov, Gehlen had access to the Russian anti-Bolshevist underground network that had long since penetrated if not captured key departments of the Soviet regime. At a moment in their invasion when the Nazis still though themselves on the brink of triumph, Gehlen proposed to Hitler that Vlassov be made the head of the forthcoming provisional government. Hitler declined, presumably out of respect for Vlassov’s power, but the relationship between Gehlen and Vlassov and their spy systems remained intact, even after the defeat of the Wehrmacht in the Battle of Stalingrad, winter of 1942-43.
By Christmas 1944 Gehlen had reached the belief that Germany’s cause was hopeless. Against the certainty of national defeat, he decided that his only personal choice lay between surrender to the Russians and surrender to the Americans.
In April 1945, with the Russian army closing on Berlin, Gehlen gathered together with his top aides in a hotel room in Bad Elster, Sazony, to begin the decisive and most dangerous step of their decision. They stripped their archives of the intelligence information that would be most useful to them in subsequent negotiations. Burning tons of other documents, they stored their basic intelligence cache in fifty-two crates and with elaborate security measures moved these crates south into the Bavarian Redoubt and buried them in a high mountain field called Misery Meador, overlooked by the chalet which Gehlen’s foresight had long before provisioned. Safe there with his forty top aides and his buried spy treasures, Gehlen settled down to await the Americans.
By May Day 1945 the Red Army was in Berlin and Hitler was dead. Three weeks later, columns of the 101st Airborne moved up the valley below Gehlen’s mountain fortress. Gehlen’s aides descended from the upper slopes to present themselves for capture and arrange an appointment for the capture of their commander, the highest-ranking German officer and Hitler’s only staff general yet to make his way to safety in American hands.
No ceremonies were slighted. One interview followed another. Captured in May, Gehlen arrived in Washington three months later, August 22, 1945, in the uniform of a general of the United States Army, flown there in the command transport of Gen. Walter Bedell Smith. In a series of secret meetings with Allen Dulles and Wild Bill Donovan of the OSS, he laid out in detail the proposal – the surrender conditions, essentially – which he was offering the Americans.
Postwar Europe, he pointed out, as everyone knew, was certain to become the arena of confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union ultimately even greater than the confrontation just ending between the victorious Allies and the vanquished Axis powers. The Soviets, he said, were well prepared for this new confrontation from an intelligence standpoint, as who better than he could say, and the Americans were not. The Russians had a crack spy network in West Europe and America, but the Americans did not have a spy network of any kind or quality in East Europe and Russia. Did that not put the Americans at an important disadvantage in the forthcoming stuggles?
Then where and how could the Americans procure the needed capability? Recruiting and training a corps of Russian and Central European intelligence agents and building a network of reliable sources and experts nearly from scratch could take years, generations. The Americans agreed with Gehlen that they did not have that much time.
Very well, Gehlen had a practical solution to this very problem. His own intelligence apparatus was still intact within the collapsing Hitler government. It was as capable as ever of delivering large masses of high-quality intelligence data on all aspects of Soviet life. Hitler had never taken advantage of this capability, Gehlen explained. Hitler had ignored Gehlen’s organization and had gone on to ruin. Still it was there. It might have been put to better use. It still could be, should the Americans accept his offer.
Gehlen’s offer was for the Americans to pick up his organization bodily and bolt it into the empty space of their own intelligence system, as though it were one of the spoils of the war. Gehlen could plausibly guarantee his network’s unmatched and unbending loyalty to the cause of anti-Bolshevism and the fifty-two crates he had buried in Misery Meadow were tangible proofs of his power and a foretaste of secret knowledge to come.
All the Americans had to do was to meet Gehlen’s four conditions. First, Gehlen was to have complete autonomy within his organization and total control over its activities. The Americans would tell him what they wanted and they would get it, satisfaction guaranteed, but they would have to know nothing about the process by which Gehlen got it to give them; that knowledge was Gehlen’s own. He even reserved the right to approve U.S. liason officers assigned to him. Second, the Americans would agree to use Gehlen only against the USSR and the East European satellites. Third, when a new German government was set up, the Americans would constitutionally install the Gehlen organization in it as its official central intelligence agency and cancel automatically all outstanding Gehlen commitments to the United States. Fourth, the Americans would never require Gehlen to do anything he considered against German national interests.
In the long and the short, our guys fell for it. Even as the United States was publicly proclaiming a policy of unconditional German surrender, Gehlen’s incredible conditions were met and his organization was being established at the very core and seat of the American system of foreign intelligence under the responsibility of Allen Dulles’s Secret Intelligence Branch of the OSS. By the time of the transformation of the OSS into the CIA in 1948, Gehlen had grown tight with Dulles and his organization had become in effect the CIA’s department of Russian and East European affairs. Soon after the formation of NATO, it became the official NATO intelligence organization. And as per Gehlen’s third condition, his organization was installed as the core and he as the director of the West German CIA, the Bundesnachtendienst (BND).
We need to go no further into the exploits of this last long improbable phase of Gehlen’s career, save to note that it spans the Cold War, that it was current as of Watergate, and that Gehlen had to be pried out of a spy’s “retirement” in 1974 to testify in the sensational West German spy scandal that brought down Willy Brandt. Look what power the victors conceded the vanquished. Exclusive purveyor of intelligence on the Soviet Union and East Europe to the United States, West Germany, and NATO, Gehlen and the spirit kept alive in him and his staff had more power over the official American perceptions in the postwar than even a German victory could have given them. The Gehlen-Vlassov intelligence system had become a main source and fountain of official American consciousness.
Behold the span of this concatenation. First in the time of Trotsky there is General Vlassov and his anti-Bolshevist army and spy ring. The Vlassove apparatus is then at a certain later point assimilated to the Gehlen apparatus. Then just as the White Russian spies jumped to the Nazis when their own army went down, so now the German Nazi and Russian Czarist spies together jumped to the American army as the Wehrmacht was falling. Vlassov first became a department of Gehlen, then Gehlen became a department of Allen Dulles.
This is how it came to pass that a Czarist spy ring inside a Nazi spy ring took up the inner seats in the American foreign intelligence apparatus at the precise moment that this apparatus was starting to come forward as a major player in the great policy wars of Washington and the world. This is how it came to pass that everything official Washington would know about the Soviet Union and East Europe on the most believable report, everything about the enemy our policymakers would most confidently believe, would come by way of Czarists and Nazis installed at the center of our national intelligence system. That was a buzzard that would come home to roost again and again.
Clandestinism is a disease of republican twilight. Its coming bespeaks the degeneration of the constitutional republic into the military empire. It worsens when the empire shakes, as in the Vietnam war America was shaken. In the American case, it does not arise from the mere accident of the Round Table’s domination of the foreign service or of FDR’s ready capitulation to Syndicate extortion or the ideological gullibility of America’s wartime espionage elite before the rational blandishments of a Nazi superspy. Rather, such accidents themselves were given significance by the larger transformation taking place around them: the dissolution of the wartime alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union and the crystallizing in its place of the Cold War conflict between them. But one must always return to the specific events in which these larger forces unveiled themselves. Otherwise we repeat the conservative’s error of assuming that the state clandestinism results from the struggle against subversive terror instead of the struggle to maintain illegitimate state power, and the liberal’s error of thinking that fascism is a result of the high-technology era instead of the domination of this era by the activities of self-serving power elites.
Carl Oglesby’s The Yankee And Cowboy War is a one of those rare books that is unfortunately out of print but gives us insight into the machinations of the true power structures in this country. I have been able to find only bits and pieces of this work on the internet and would greatly appreciate it if anybody who reads this is able to find additional chapters. I am going to post the introduction here and will follow whenever possible with newly available portions. There is also a good article on Oglesby and the potential for the necessary ‘best of the left and best of the right’ paradigm smashing alliance in a recent issue of The American Conservative (available online) by Bill Kauffman entitled When The Left Was Right. It will be necessary to build this alliance today in order to fight the fascist globalists and their police state/war machine.
The Yankee and Cowboy War
by Carl Oglesby
1: Yankees and Cowboys: A Perspective on the Dallas-Watergate Decade
The assassination of John Kennedy and the downfall of Richard-Nixon have both been viewed as isolated moral disasters for American democracy: Kennedy’s murder as a demonstration of our continuing national inability or unwillingness to cope with violence; Nixon’s downfall as a demonstration of the failure of our democratic institutions to overcome the abuses of secret intelligence and electronic surveillance at the seat of national power.
But these two events represent neither isolated disasters nor a generalized failure of American institutions but something almost beyond the ability of ordinary people even to see, much less control. The two events – Dallas and Watergate – are actually concrete links in a chain of related and ominous events passing through the entire decade in which they occurred and beyond. And this chain of events itself represents only the violent eruptions of a deeper struggle of rival power elites identified here as Yankees and Cowboys.
This book proposes to show that Dallas and Watergate are intrinsically linked conspiracies in a hidden drama of coup and countercoup which represents the life of an inner oligarchic power sphere, and “invisible government,” capable of any act in the pursuit of its objectives, that sets itself above the law and beyond the moral rule: a clandestine American state, perhaps an embryonic police state.
We see the expressions and symptoms of clandestine America in a dozen places now-the FBI’s COINTELPRO scheme, the CIA’s Operation Chaos, the Pentagon’s Operation Garden Plot, the large-scale and generally successful attempts to destroy legitimate and essential dissent in which all the intelligence agencies participated, a, campaign whose full scope and fury are still not revealed. We see it in the ruthlessness and indifference to world, as well as national, opinion with which the CIA contracted its skills out to ITT to destroy democracy’s last little chance in Chile. We see it as well, as this book argues, in the crime and coverup of Dealey Plaza, the crime and cover-up of Watergate.
How could the clandestine state have stricken us so profoundly? How could we – as we might have fancied, “of all people” – have given way with so little resistance, in fact with so little evident understanding of what was happening? What accounts for the way the various organs of state force-defense and security alike-became so divided – against each other? CIA-Intelligence against CIA-Operations, the CIA, the Pentagon, the FBI, and the presidency at one time or another against each other-what is this internal conflict all about? Why should the country’s premier political coalition, formed after Reconstruction and reformed by Franklin Roosevelt, have begun to destabilize so badly in the 1960s and 1970s?
The intensification of clandestine, illicit methods against racial and antiwar dissent as a “threat” to the (secret) state precisely coincided with the intensified use of such methods in conflicts for power and hegemony taking place within the secret state, against a background of declining consensus.
This book proposes to show that Dallas and Watergate are intrinsically linked conspiracies in a hidden drama of coup and countercoup which represents the life of an inner oligarchic power sphere, and “invisible government,” capable of any act in the pursuit of its objectives, that sets itself above the law and beyond the moral rule: a clandestine American state, perhaps an embryonic police state.
We see the expressions and symptoms of clandestine America in a dozen places now-the FBI’s COINTELPRO scheme, the CIA’s Operation Chaos, the Pentagon’s Operation Garden Plot, the large-scale and generally successful attempts to destroy legitimate and essential dissent in which all the intelligence agencies participated, aa campaign whose full scope and fury are still not revealed. We see it in the ruthlessness and indifference to world, as well as national, opinion with which the CIA contracted its skills out to ITT to destroy democracy’s last little chance in Chile. We see it as well, as this book argues, in the crime and coverup of Dealey Plaza, the crime and cover-up of Watergate.
The Dallas-to-Watergate outburst is fundamentally attributable to the breakdown taking place within the incumbent national coalition, the coalition of the Greater Northeastern powers with the Greater Southwestern powers, the post-Civil War, post-Reconstruction coalition, the coalition of the New Deal, of Yankees and Cowboys.
This is the theme, at bottom, of the entire narration to follow. The agony of the Yankees and the Cowboys, the “cause” of their divergence in the later Cold War period, is that there was finally too much tension between the militarist strategy of the Yankees in the Atlantic and the militarist strategy of the Cowboys in the Pacific. To maintain the two lines was, in effect, to maintain two separate and opposed realities at once, two separate and contradictory domains of world-historical truth. In Europe and the industrial world, the evident truth was that we could live with communism. In Asia and the Third World, the evident truth was that we could not, that we had to fight and win wars against it or else face terrible consequences at home.
As long as the spheres of detente and violence could be kept apart in American policy and consciousness, as long as the Atlantic and Pacific could remain two separate planes of reality wheeling within each other on opposite assumptions and never colliding, then American foreign policy could wear a look of reasonable integration. But when it became clear that the United States could not win its way militarily in the Third World without risking a nuclear challenge in the North Atlantic, the makings of a dissolving consensus were at hand.
I argue in Part Two of this book that the power-elite collision one sensed at Dallas on November 22, 1963, was real. It was no chance collision of a lone political maniac with a lone political star. It was a collision anchored in the larger social dialectic that propels the life of the national ruling elites. The conspiracy to kill JFK and the much larger conspiracy to keep official silence embodied this collision and had their being in this, the opposition of Yankee and Cowboy.
The lines of division became clear early in 1968 with the rapid crystallizing of a whole new front of opposition to the war, that of the “corporate liberals.” Formerly, the established liberalism of the sort we associate with Xerox and Harvard had been inclined to defend the U.S. position in Vietnam as a part of its long-standing general commitment to anticommunism. The Yankee lights had made the usual arrangements to provide world banking services to a Free South Vietnam and take the oil from its waters, and it was always clear that there would be no serious objection from the Yankees as a whole if the Vietnam War turned out to be winnable.’ But now in 1967-68 a new line of criticism of Johnson and his war policy opened up.
The war’s costs had exploded out of all proportion to the original objective, one now heard. No vital American interests were being attacked or defended in Vietnam, after all. Europe was appalled at us. Our European alliances were suffering. Our young people were strenuously alienated. Our economy was hurting. Other problems were lying neglected. We needed to wrap up the bleeding stump and move to a better position. General James Gavin, for example, one of President Kennedy’s chief military advisers, developed these and related ideas about the war in various public forums during that period.
But the strategy that was continued by Nixon in 1969 in the aftermath of the Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinations and Nixon’s resultant reelection, was, of course, escalation – the secret air war, the invasion of the “sanctuaries” in Cambodia and Laos, the Christmas bombings, etc. But for a moment in 1968, Johnson had suddenly and strangely abdicated, stopped the bombing, and opened the Paris peace talks, and Robert Kennedy had assembled an electoral coalition reaching from Mayor Daley to the liberal peaceniks, if not Tom Hayden, a New-Politics style coalition that appeared easily capable of beating , the opposition of Yankee and Cowboy.
The lines of division became clear early in 1968 with the rapid crystallizing of a whole new front of opposition to the war, that of the “corporate liberals.” Formerly, the established liberalism of the sort we associate with Xerox and Harvard had been inclined to defend the U.S. position in Vietnam as a part of its long-standing general commitment to anticommunism. The Yankee lights had made the usual arrangements to provide world banking services to a Free South Vietnam and take the oil from its waters, and it was always clear that there would be no serious objection from the Yankees as a whole if the Vietnam War turned out to be winnable.’ But now in 1967-68 a new line of criticism of Johnson and his war policy opened up.
So whereas there had formerly appeared to be essential agreement at the top of the American power structure on the Vietnam question, now we had two “ruling-class” voices to account for, one demanding more military effort and insisting upon the necessity of the original objective, the other tiring of the frustrations and costs of the attempt, unwilling to sacrifice resources at a yet higher magnitude, and wanting to be free to worry about other things-oil, gold, the Middle East, Europe, the economy, and so on.
It was directly clear that there was a regional component to this difference. Of course there are major points that do not fit the Yankee/Cowboy curve. The West Coast Bank of America, for example, spoke throughout the period of maximum unrest over the war with an essentially liberal voice. And Fulbright is from Arkansas. But on balance, the souls most fervently desirous of decisive military measures to prevent a Communist takeover tended to argue from a Frontierist, China-Lobby kind of position, and the souls most calmly able to accept losses and pull back tended to argue from an Atlanticist, Council on Foreign Relations, NATO-haunted kind of position.
The Yankee/Cowboy split thus suggested itself as a not too simplistic way to indicate in swift, available terms the existence of a rich and complex rivalry, the general cultural disposition of its chief contending principals, and the jointly historical and mythic character of their struggle, commingling John Wayne fantasies with real bloodshed, real genocide.
The profile of these types is best suggested in the persons and relationship of corporate-banker/monopolist David Rockefeller and tycoon entrepreneur Howard-Hughes. An inquiry into their long rivalry is the first step in our exposition of Watergate in Part Three. But the spirit of Yankeeness is given off by many things besides the Chase Manhattan and of Cowboyness by many things besides the Hughes empire. Yankeeness is the Ivy League and Cowboyness is the NFL. Yankee is the exclusive clubs of Manhattan, Boston, and Georgetown. Cowboy is the exclusive clubs of Dallas and New Orleans, Orange County East and West. Yankee is the Council on Foreign Relations, the secret Round Table, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bundles for Britain, and at a certain point, the Dulles brothers and the doctrine of massive retaliation. Cowboy is Johnson, Connally, Howard Hunt and the Bay of Pigs team. Yankee is Kennedy, Cowboy is Nixon.
But I stress my purpose is not to name a concrete group of conspirators and assassins, though I do not doubt that the conspiracies I speak of are actual. My aim rather is to call attention to the persistence of Civil War splits in the current situation and to the historical ideological substance of the positions at play.
It must be often the case, as it was with me and the Yankee/Cowboy idea, that one’s fresh insight turns out to be already well mapped and settled. I first proposed the Yankee/Cowboy references in early 1968 but wrote nothing of any account on the theme until a series of articles about Watergate for the Boston Phoenix in 1973 and 1974. A reader of one of those pieces informed me of the similarity of my views with those of Professor Carroll Quigley, a historian at Georgetown.
Quigley is the author of a huge book about the contemporary world, Tragedy and Hope, to which I will return in chapter two. I begin my debt to Quigley here by borrowing the following observation from his summary. Noting that since 1950 a “revolutionary change” has been occurring in American politics, Quigley says this transformation involves “a disintegration of the middle class and a corresponding increase in significance by the petty bourgeoisie at the same time that the economic influence of the older Wall Street financial groups has been weakening and been challenged by new wealth springing up outside the eastern cities, notably in the Southwest and Far West.” He continues:
“These new sources of wealth have been based very largely on government action and government spending but have, none the less, adopted a petty-bourgeois outlook rather than the semi aristocratic outlook that pervades the Eastern Establishment. This new wealth, based on petroleum, natural gas, ruthless exploitation of national resources, the aviation industry, military bases in the South and West, and finally on space with all its attendant activities, has centered in Texas and southern California. Its existence, for the first. time, made it possible for the petty-bourgeois outlook to – make itself felt in the political nomination process instead of in the unrewarding effort to influence politics by voting for a Republican candidate nominated under Eastern Establishment influence…. By the 1964 elec¬tion, the major political issue in the country was the financial struggle behind the scenes between the old wealth, civilized and cultured in its foundations, and the new wealth, virile and uninformed, arising from the flowing profits of government-dependent corporations in the Southwest and West.” (Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, 1966)
The whole point of introducing the Cowboy/Yankee language, of course, is to bring precisely that old money/ new money, Atlanticist-Frontierist tension into focus in the plane of current events. The main idea of looking at things this way is to see that a sectional rivalry, derived from the patterns of the Civil War, still operates in American politics, indeed that at the altitude of national power elites, it may be the most sensitive and inflamed division of all, more concentrated than race and class and more basic than two-party system attachments and ideologies. The argument of this book is that the emerging clash of Yankee and Cowboy wills beneath the visible stream of events is the dominant fact of real U.S. political life since 1960. The dissolution of the Yankee/ Cowboy consensus of World War II and the Cold War until 1960 is behind the Dallas of Kennedy and the Watergate of Nixon.
Let us go a step further with these types, Cowboy and Yankee, and sketch a first outline of the differing worlds they see.
The Yankee mind, of global scope, is at home in the great world, used to regarding it as a whole thing integrated in the far-flung activities of Western exploration, conquest, and commerce. The Yankee believes that the basis of a good world order is the health of America’s alliances across the North Atlantic, the relations with the Western Democracies from which our tradition mainly flows. He believes the United States continues the culture of Europe and relates to the Atlantic as to a lake whose other shore must be secured as a matter of domestic priority. Europe is the key world theater, and it is self-evident to the Yankee mind that the fate of the United States is inevitably linked up with Europe’s in a career of white cultural destiny transcending national boundaries: that a community of a unified world civilization exists, that there is such a thing as “the West,” “One World.”
The Cowboy mind has no room for the assumption that American and European culture are continuous. The Cowboy is moved instead by the discontinuity of the New World from the Old and substitutes for the Yankee’s Atlantic-oriented culture a new system of culture (Big Sky, Giant) oriented to an expanding wilderness Frontier and based on an advanced Pacific strategy.
The Yankee monopolists who first broke faith with the goal of military victory in Vietnam did so in view of what they saw as the high probability of failure and the certain ambiguity of success. The Cowboy entrepreneurs who fought hardest to keep that faith alive did so out of conviction of the necessity of success. Said the multicorporate-liberal Yankee (about 1968): “The United States cannot wage a whining nonnuclear land campaign in Asia. It will destroy its much more essential relations in Europe if in spite of all wisdom its leadership continues to siphon off precious national blood and treasure to win this war. It is necessary to stand down.” Said the Cowboy: “Only the strong are free.”
The distinction between the East Coast monopolist and the Western tycoon entrepreneur is the main class-economic distinction set out by the Yankee/ Cowboy perspective. It arises because one naturally looks for a class-economic basis for this apparent conflict at the summit of American power. That is because one must assume that parties without a class economic base could not endure struggle at that height. It is then only necessary to recall that antiwar feeling struck the Eastern Establishment next after it struck the students, the teachers, and the clergy-struck the large bank-connected firms tied into the trans-Atlantic business grid. During the same period, industrial segments around the construction industry, the military-industrial complex, agribusiness, the Southern Boom of the sixties and seventies, and independent Texas/ Southwest oil interests-i.e., the forces Quigley calls “new wealth”-never suffered a moment of war-weariness. They supported the Texan Johnson and the Southern Californian Nixon as far as they would go toward a final military solution. (See Steve Weissman and Steve Johnson, Ramparts, August 1974)
Why should this difference have arisen? After a century of Northeastern leadership, and one-quarter century of Cold War unity, why should the national ruling coalition of the old and new owning classes, Yankee and Cowboy, have begun pulling apart? But then we have to go back: What was the basis of their unity to begin with?
William Appleman Williams deals with a variation of this question when he argues that the basis for the long-term general (or “pluralist”) coalition of the forces of capitalism (or “plutocracy”) with the forces of democracy in American politics is the constant companionship of the expanding wilderness frontier. Williams thus stands the Turner Frontier on its head, correcting it. (William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, 1959)
I add that another and cognate effect of the frontier in American economic development was to preserve the entrepreneurial option long after the arrival of the vast monopoly structures which tend to consume entrepreneurs. In the states whose political-economic histories Marx studied, for example, the frontier was never the factor that it was in America, except as America itself was Europe’s Wild West. The rugged individualist self-made rich man, the autonomous man of power, the wildcatter, began to drop out of sight, to lose presence as individual, type, and class, with the rise of the current-day computer-centered monopoly-corporate formations. The tycoon-entrepreneur is of course disappearing as a type in America too, at least as a political force in national life. The Hughes empire, at last, has been corporatized. Old man Hunt is dead. His sons are bringing Harvard Business School rational bureaucracy to the operation. But that only makes it all the more curious that political power continued to emanate from the type and the person, the image and the reality, the ghost perhaps, of a creature like Hughes as late as the second victorious presidential campaign of Nixon. Why should the Cowboy tycoon have persisted so long as a political force, competent to struggle against the biggest banking cartels for control of the levers of national power?
As others have argued, the Frontier was a reprieve for democracy. We may note here that it was also a reprieve for capitalism as well, whose internal conflicts were constantly being financed off an endless-seeming input of vast stretches of natural riches, having no origin in capitalist production. All that was needed was for the settlers to accept the genocidal elimination of the native population and a great deal became possible-the purple mountains, the fruited plains. And generation after generation of American whites were able to accept that program. The Indian wars won the West. The railroads and highways were laid. The country was resettled by a new race, a new nation.
Energies of expansion consumed the continent in about two centuries, pushing on to Hawaii and Alaska. There is no way to calculate the impact of that constant territorial expansion on the development of American institutions.
There is no way to imagine those institutions apart from the environment created by that expansion. It is a matter our standard national hagiography paints out of the picture, though we make much of the populist-saga aspect of the pioneering (never “conquering”) of the West. How can we congratulate our national performance for its general democracy and constitutionalism without taking into account the background of that constant expansion? We do not teach our children that we are democrats in order to expand forever and republicans on condition of an unfrozen western boundary with unclaimed wilderness. To the extent that the American miracle of pluralism exists at all, we still do not know how miraculous it would be in the absence of an expanding frontier, its constant companion till the time of the Chinese revolution.
The war in Asia has its internal American origin in the native reflex to maintain the Western Frontier on the old terms and to do so at all cost, since our whole way of life hinges on the Frontier. What the late-blooming Yankee liberal critics of the Vietnam war refused to hear and recognize between the lines of the prowar arguments of the more philosophical Cowboy hawks was this essential point about the importance of Frontier expansion in American life from the beginning.
In the nature of things, the American Frontier continued to expand with the prosperity it financed. Now, in our generation, it has brought us to this particular moment of world confrontation across the Pacific, fully global in scale for both sides, fully modern in its technological expression far both sides – the old Westward-surging battle for space projected onto the stage of superpowers.
The success and then the successful defense from 1950 to 1975 of the Asian revolutionary nationalist campaigns against further Western dominance in Asia-China, Korea, Vietnam-means that all that is changed. What was once true about the space to the west of America is no longer true and will never be true again. There will never be a time again when the white adventurer may peer over his western horizon at an Asia helplessly plunged in social disorganization. In terms of their social power to operate as a unified people and in the assimilation of technology, the Chinese people are, since 1950, a self-modernizing people, not colonials any more. And instead of a Wild West, Americans now have a mature common boundary with other moderns like ourselves, not savages, not Redskins, not Reds, only modern people like ourselves in a single modern world. This is new for us, a new experience for Americans altogether.
Our national transformation from an unbounded to a bounded state will of course continue to stir the internal furies. No one interpretation of the event will be able to establish itself. No one will agree what the end of the Frontier means, what it will lead to, what one ought to do about it. But all will agree that it is upon us and past, whether it is called one thing or another. And now after Vietnam, as though it were not clear enough before, it is apparent beyond any possibility of doubt that whatever this force of Asian self-modernization is, whether it is evil br good or beyond good and evil, it is assuredly not a force that United States policy-makers can manhandle and manipulate and hold back through diplomatic chicanery and military force. Even if it were still advisable for the United States to stop “the march of Asian communism,” if that is what we are really talking about, it is not possible for the United States to do that. Look and see: China, Korea, Vietnam.
I have not written this book to say at the end, choose sides between Cowboy and Yankee for Civil War II. My less bloody belief is that ordinary people all over the map, Northeast by Southwest, have a deep, simple, and common need to oppose all these intrigues and intriguers, whatever terms one calls them by and however one understands their development. But this need of course must be recognized, and that is why I write: to offer an analysis of the situation of domestic politics from the standpoint of power-elite collisions taking place at the top, and then, at the end, to suggest that democracy’s first response must be to demand a realistic reconstruction of the assassination of President Kennedy. To comprehend his murder (as with the murder of Lincoln) is to comprehend a very basic event in the history of American government, as well as the crimes that came after it. The comprehension of these covert political actions is the absolute precondition of self-government, the first step toward the restoration of the legitimate state.
More broadly I write to say that we are the American generations for whom the frontier is the fact that there is no more frontier and who must somehow begin to decide how to deal with this.
What shall America do about the loss of its wilderness frontier? Can we form our nation anew, on new, non-expansionist terms without first having to see everything old swept violently away? The unarticulated tension around, that question undermined the long-standing Yankee/Cowboy coalition and introduced, with President Kennedy’s assassination, the current period of violent and irregular movement at the top of the power hierarchy. It is the precipitous and at the same time unfocused character of this question of the closed, lost frontier that has created such a challenge, such a threat, to traditional American values and institutions, the threat of a cancerously spreading clandestine state within.