November 22, 1963 marked the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of America's thirty-fifth president, John F. Kennedy. In response to this tragic anniversary, there were a plethora of documentaries devoted to Kennedy's life and legacy, and to the questions that continue to linger about his untimely death.
Perhaps the most compelling of these documentaries was a two-hour
special hosted by ABC television’s Peter Jennings, which endeavored to debunk
many of the "conspiracy theories," surrounding the assassination. Central to these conspiracy theories is the idea that more than one gunman shot Kennedy on that fateful November day. The Jennings report, however, was largely successful in proving that a lone gunman could have fired three shots from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository—the building where Kennedy's alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald was employed.
The documentary also debunked the compelling "magic bullet" theory, a pivotal plot point in Oliver Stone's movie JFK. This theory alleged that the second bullet fired (the first shot had apparently missed) could not have been solely responsible for the wounds inflicted on both Kennedy and then-Texas Governor John Connolly without defying the laws of physics. The documentary established that the manner in which Kennedy and Connolly were seated (Kennedy in the back seat of the limousine, directly behind Connolly) allowed this bullet to pass straight through Kennedy's body and enter into Connolly's.
Finally, the documentary argued that the final (and fatal) shot, which many contend came from the front of the motorcade, had also been fired from the book depository. This argument was buttressed by X-ray evidence indicating an entry wound in the back of Kennedy's skull.
But despite these persuasive arguments, the documentary still did not disprove the possibility that a lone assassin could still have been supported by co-conspirators, who did not participate in the actual shooting, but who nevertheless provided financial and logistical support. The efforts to dismiss this hypothesis focused primarily on Oswald's psychological patterns, arguing he was so desperate for attention that he would often go to extremes to achieve notoriety .
There is some evidence to support this thesis. During the "Cold War" in America, communists were largely reviled by "mainstream" Americans, and those who openly embraced Marxism were sure to draw attention to themselves. The documentary implied that Oswald's quest for such attention was the impetus behind his efforts to defect to the Soviet Union, as well as his incentive to hand out pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans, Louisiana, then a haven for anti-Castro activity.
Yet it could also be argued that the ideal cover for an anti-Castro operative was to camouflage him as a Marxist. After Oswald’s leafleting had resulted in his arrest, he was interviewed on local radio and television about his pro-Castro activities. In addition, rumors still persist that "pro-Castro" Oswald was friendly with anti-Castro elements in New Orleans.
The documentary even implied that Jack Ruby, the man who ultimately shot and killed Oswald, was also driven by a craving for attention. The primary difference was that Ruby wanted to be cast in a "heroic" role, as opposed to a "rebellious" one, and believed this could be achieved by shooting Oswald.
Ironically this discussion about the psychological profiles of these two men, Oswald and Ruby, was perhaps the most compelling part of the Jennings' documentary. Although both went to extremes to satiate their needs (if Oswald was indeed guilty), their desire for attention is not that Uncommon in human nature. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called this desire the "Drum Major Instinct," where people are not satisfied with simply marching in the parade, but actually want to lead it. Unfortunately this desire can also become destructive if followers perceive or believe that they are making greater sacrifices than their leaders, but with lesser or no recognition.
It was then I wondered how often people, particularly those in power, endeavor to wrap themselves in garments of nobility, altruism or social conscience simply to conceal the fact that they are actually being driven by their basest instincts. Perhaps the most glaring example of this resides in the rationalizations utilized by the Bush administration to justify the Iraqi war. In fact one of the instigators of this war, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, basically admitted that the "weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)" argument was simply the one rationale that everyone in the Bush regime could agree on. Yet as time goes by, and the depth of the Bush deception becomes clearer, it is not difficult to discern the real
motives behind this war.
There was the primordial lust for conquest, coupled with the desire to instill fear in other nations, by showing that America will defy international law and world opinion to accomplish by force what it cannot achieve by diplomacy. There was greed, as evidenced by Bush cronies lining their pockets through lucrative "rebuilding" contracts. Finally there were (and are) Bush's own selfish ambitions: waging war to vindicate the legacy of his father, who had been condemned for stopping the first Gulf War "too soon"; exploiting the war to satiate his ego, even though he avoided military service himself by joining the National Guard, and then, according to some reports, going AWOL (absent without leave) before his tour of duty had ended; and using the war to divert focus away from the corrupt way he
gained the presidency, aided by his brother, the Florida governor, who some argue used the power of his office to dilute the voting strength of minorities, and Florida's Secretary of State, Kathleen Harris, who saw the advancement of Bush as the fulcrum needed to advance her own political career. This is why many Americans, particularly those with family members in Iraq, find it inordinately vile to observe Bush standing on the deck of a aircraft carrier, or making proclamations about staying the course in Iraq, while he gorges himself on lavish banquets in Britain, side-by-side with his puppet, British Prime Minister Tony Blair. This is why it is equally vile to witness chicken hawks like Wolfowitz, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Attorney-General John Ashcroft bluster about war when all of them
avoided military service themselves.
Recently the NEW YORK TIMES reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has resumed its role as America's "thought police" by spying on the anti-war movement. Although the rationalization for such spying is the purported desire to "protect" anti-war protesters from violent elements, or from being targeted by "terrorist groups," history has demonstrated that the real motive may be the desire to reinstitute the corrupt COINTELPRO operation that was directed against anti-war protesters during the 1960s.
Those who doubt this need only look at the conspicuous lack of interest in monitoring "pro-war" groups, whose support of Bush's war in Iraq would logically make them even greater targets of terrorists. In fact such a spying program suggests that even the Bush regime doubts its own legitimacy, since only illegitimate regimes use illegitimate means to retain power.
When I discussed COINTELPRO, with its legacy of FBI instigated violence and murders (which in itself casts doubt on the alleged "reasons" for spying on the anti-war movement), in two previous PRAVDA articles--LEONARD PELTIER, AMERICA’S POLITICAL PRISONER (July 18, 2003) and the POLITICS OF ASSASSINATION (October 2, 2003) -- I did so not just to resurrect the past, but to warn of the future.
COINTELPRO was spawned during the decline of the McCarthy era, when former
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover came to realize he could no longer rely on fear
and hysteria to push unconstitutional laws through Congress. Taking his
lesson from the "Palmer raids" of the 1920s, he decided to do covertly what
he could no longer do overtly; thus COINTELPRO was born.
After Senate hearings in the mid-1970s exposed the abuses of the COINTELPRO
operation, some reforms were implemented. Of course these reforms did little to help COINTELPRO victims like Leonard Peltier, who remains in prison to this day even though courts have acknowledged that his conviction was secured through the withholding of evidence and the intimidation of witnesses.
But if there is one verity about the corrupting influence of power, it is that power resents being restrained. Therefore it was no surprise that these so-called reforms were short-lived. In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan pardoned two FBI agents who had been convicted of COINTELPRO abuses, and the erosion has continued in varying degrees ever since.
But ultimately it was the fear generated by the events of September 11, 2001, and Bush and Ashcroft's manipulation of this fear, that is eradicating the check-and-balance system, and destroying the Bill of Rights. All that is needed is a new COINTELPRO operation to silence, intimidate and imprison Americans who dare to question the potential for abuse inherent in "expanded" governmental powers.
But such an operation cannot be successful without the acquiescence of the media. And American media, particularly television and radio, is firmly in the grasp of right-wing ideologues and hypocrites who are profiting from the Bush's regime's warmongering and quashing of dissent. So-called "conservative" pundits play the role of the outraged "common man" on cable news networks, then retreat to their multi-million dollar mansions. Right-wing hypocrites like Rush Limbaugh dominate radio airwaves, ranting about drug addicts while abusing drugs themselves. And even when media show a little courage by attempting to present diverse viewpoints, they are usually intimidated into silence by right-wing campaigns of censorship.
Ironically the right-wing dominance of television and radio, coupled with media's obsession over ratings and profits, have inadvertently proven a key argument made by Karl Marx—that one cannot be socially free while economically enslaved. Even though there is "freedom of press" on a "legal" level, it is nonexistent on an economic one.
Those who doubt the hypocrisy of corporate-controlled media need only be reminded of the fate of Ed Gernon, a co-producer of the television mini-series, HITLER: THE RISE OF EVIL. Although this series ended with Edmund Burke's famous quotation: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing," when Gernon compared the erosion of civil liberties in the United States to what had occurred in Nazi Germany, he was terminated from his employment.
There are many historians who argue that evil triumphed the day Kennedy was killed. If he had lived, they contend, there would have been no President Lyndon Johnson and thus no prolonged war in Vietnam, no election of Richard Nixon and thus no Watergate, no pardoning of Richard Nixon by his hand-picked successor Gerald Ford and thus no loss of trust in, or doubts about, the motives of America's leaders.
So regardless of whether one believes in conspiracy, or simply accepts that a remarkable set of coincidences placed Lee Harvey Oswald in the ideal sniper's nest on that November day, perhaps the most tragic lesson of that tragic event is how evil always finds a way to prosper. Some sociologists say that people tend to become more conservative as they become older. I believe they simply become more resigned to the realization that evil is the predominant force in human affairs, and there is very little they can do about it.
There is a saying that without evil, good would not be recognized. Unfortunately when evil is overwhelming, good can be silenced. So perhaps it is time to question the motives of those in power; perhaps it is time to cease listening to those who speak not from their hearts, but from their own selfish desires; perhaps it is time to reject those who exploit hatred as a way of life. But perhaps most of all, it is time to take our country, and our freedoms, back.
David R. Hoffman, Legal Editor of PRAVDA