The outcome of the US presidential election in 2016 had at least one good effect on society, which was that for the first time in a long while people began to pay serious attention to politics. Before this time, people had more of an indifferent tolerance of political views they didn’t like because politics was seen as something abstract and distant from their lives. After 2016, people were starting to feel directly threatened by the changing political landscape, so political debate suddenly became high-stakes and personal.

The problem was that many of the newly awakened had no way to get oriented in this confusing new reality. They had no knowledge of history, and nothing but equally benighted cable news anchors and late night comedians to guide them. But there were a few older and more knowledgeable analysts who were able to trace recent developments back through the decades and see that the 1960s was the era in which the seeds of the present disaster were planted. This is not to say that it couldn’t be traced back farther to the flawed democracies that were founded on the Doctrine of Discovery laid down in the 15th century, but the last time political leaders really talked about breaking up the military industrial complex was in the period between 1963 and 1968. In other words, the present catastrophe came out of the political assassinations of those years. Thus it was curious to see talk of the JFK assassination reappearing occasionally while Trump was wreaking havoc in the world in the 2016-19 period.

An explanation of the mass disorientation felt since 2016

Hannah Arendt in Origins of Totalitarianism of a “mixture of gullibility and cynicism… prevalent in all ranks of totalitarian movements”:

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true… The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness… The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world… is being destroyed.[1]

Trump had a history of expressing interest in the JFK murder, and here he was now, a complete Washington outsider, elected president at a time when there was a legally-required deadline for the release of JFK assassination records in 2017. Historian Richard Bartholomew described how Robert Mueller, head inquisitor of the Russiagate investigation, is related to Richard Bissell and Charles Cabell, two high-ranking CIA officers fired by JFK and later implicated in the assassination. He writes, “If Trump really wanted to discredit Mueller, all he would have to do is use his JFK Act powers to release the files that are being illegally withheld or redacted since Oct. 26, 2017.”[2]

There was also the appearance of Roger Stone in the Trump campaign, a much reviled political fixer for the Republican Party who was now coming back to politics as a libertarian devoted to saving America from the devastation caused by the two-party establishment. Before he became infamous to a new generation through the Trump campaign, he had published a book on the JFK assassination in 2013 entitled, The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ (this earlier post goes over the case laid out by Stone). Curiously, the book has never been mentioned in all the media attention that has been given to him in recent years over his involvement with the Trump campaign. While Stone is well-known for his recent conviction for witness tampering, obstructing an official proceeding, and making false statements—and for his despicable antics and provocations during his long career in Republican political campaigns—for a while when he was out of the game he wore another more civilized mask. There are several videos on Youtube in which he speaks like a subdued, gentleman historian about his book—a book which the mainstream press and assassination researchers have studiously avoided reviewing seriously. In spite of its flaws, it raises some disturbing reminders about Lyndon Johnson that liberals and Democratic partisans would rather not draw attention to.

One review of the book that appears in internet searches is a smear job that cherry picks one discredited source in the book but ignores the central thesis and the other evidence supporting it.[3] The tip-off that it is a smear comes when the reviewer dismisses in the same way Jim Garrison’s trial of Clay Shaw for conspiring in the murder of JFK (more about this trial below). He mentions a strategic blunder that Garrison made in the trial but fails to mention everything that he got right, especially the fact that after Clay Shaw died, the CIA admitted that he had indeed worked for the CIA.

Roger Stone puts together a convincing argument that LBJ had the motive, means and opportunity to be in on the assassination plot. It’s unfortunate for him that his erratic and deplorable behavior as a dirty-trickster damaged his credibility. What a pity that this book was not written by someone without this baggage. However, the book shed some light on what turned Roger Stone into the man he became. It was the personal and political scandals of JFK and the corrupt Democratic party machine that turned young Roger Stone into a cynical operator. The formative lesson seems to have been that American electoral politics is a dirty cage match sport in which one does whatever is necessary to win. Nixon, whom Stone was devoted to, was consoled after his close loss to JFK by the joke that the Kennedy team “stole it fair and square.” How Nixon and Roger Stone operated in subsequent years is too well known to need repeating here.

The point of all this preamble is that the 1960s still matter, as Richard Bartholomew put it in the introduction to the article cited above:

What was left of the US government by 1963, after the rise of the post-war Deep State, ceased to exist entirely upon President Kennedy’s death. What replaced it can best be called an assassinocracy. Trump is merely the latest manifestation of that usurpation, and Clinton was aware of it all along. The assassinocracy is what creates the lies voters believe. It is what has prevented candidates from addressing the deep political issues of our time. The takeover was secured with the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy, the last political leaders who directly addressed them. The assassinocracy is the thing to understand and to stop if you want a legitimate election… we won’t have a democracy until we resolve the Kennedy assassination.

garrison_001-cover

To further elaborate this point, I have included below an interview from an obscure magazine from the 1960s called NOLA Express. Ironically, it became available through an FBI file on the dissident interviewed which was made available to the pubic in subsequent years. In the spring of 1968, the interviewee, Mark Lane, was in New Orleans helping district attorney Jim Garrison with his case against Clay Shaw—a case which was, more significantly, the only attempt ever to put someone on trial as a conspirator in the murder of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. In addition to aiding Garrison he was also helping young men resist the draft. In the interview, Lane comments on the failure of the liberal press to ask critical questions about the Warren Commission cover up and to report on Jim Garrison’s work honestly. There is an obvious parallel with the contemporary media’s hysterical Russiagate coverage coinciding with its neglect of the military industrial complex pushing the country towards war with China and Russia.

Mark Lane was well-known in the 1960s because only one month after the assassination, he published “Oswald Innocent? A Lawyer’s Brief” in the National Guardian, on December 19, 1963. Leading periodicals such as New Republic, Look, Life, the Saturday Evening Post, and the Progressive refused to touch it, though the New York Times published a story about Lane’s National Guardian article and the sensation it ignited by questioning the official explanation that only one person had shot JFK from behind. Another article that appeared the same month by Staughton Lynd and Jack Minnis entitled “Seeds of Doubt: Some Questions about the Assassination.”

In 1973, Mark Lane, Dalton Trumbo and Donald Freed wrote film Executive Action which was released nation-wide but was not a box-office hit. Almost twenty years before Oliver Stone’s JFK it depicted the assassination, like the latter film, as a plot carried out by a cabal of wealthy industrialists and powerful interests who had been angered by Kennedy’s policies such as his reduction of the oil depletion allowance, his interest in ending the Cold War, and the possibility of a withdrawal from Vietnam.

For those who may not know the background to the interview in NOLA Express, first a summary of Jim Garrison’s trial of Clay Shaw as a conspirator in the murder of JFK, in New Orleans, 1969:

On the Trail of the Assassins—the primary source material for Oliver Stone’s film JFK—is Garrison’s own account of his investigations into the background of Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of President Kennedy, and his prosecution of Clay Shaw in the trial that followed.

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy haunts the American psyche and stands as a turning point in the nation’s history. The Warren Commission rushed out its report in 1964, but questions continued to linger: Was there a conspiracy? Was there a coup at the highest levels of government?

On March 1, 1967, New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison shocked the world by arresting local businessman Clay Shaw for conspiracy to murder the president. His alleged co-conspirator, David Ferrie, had been found dead a few days before. Garrison charged that elements of the United States government, in particular the CIA, were behind the crime. From the beginning, his probe was virulently attacked in the media and denounced from Washington. His office was infiltrated and sabotaged, and witnesses disappeared and died strangely. Eventually, Shaw was acquitted after the briefest of jury deliberation and the only prosecution ever brought for the murder of President Kennedy was over. In 1979, after Shaw’s death, Richard Helms, Director of Covert Operations in 1963 (Director of Central Intelligence 1966 to 1973), admitted under oath to the US Senate’s Church Committee that Clay Shaw had worked for the CIA. This statement vindicated Garrison and showed that Shaw had committed perjury when he said during his trial that he had never had any association with the CIA.

In the afterword of On the Trail of the Assassins, Carl Oglesby wrote:

[Garrison] threatens to make Hamlets of all who listen to him—children of a slain father-leader whose killers, for all we know, still in secret possess the throne. He confronts us with the secret murder at the heart of the contemporary American dilemma. His whole terrifying narrative forces down upon us the appalling questions: Of what is our constitution made? What is our vaunted citizenship worth? What is the future of democracy in a country where a president can be assassinated under conspicuously suspicious circumstances while the machinery of legal action scarcely trembles? … We Americans like to regard ourselves as pragmatic about politics, but this seems to mean that we tend to believe what makes us happy and not to believe what confuses and depresses us. Garrison’s analysis of the J.F.K. murder challenges us to be unhappy about our political environment and to adopt a perspective that could easily put us at odds with it. [4]

An interview with Mark Lane, author, lawyer and activist in the American anti-war movement of the 1960s

Credit to the website Kennedys and King for posting the scanned FBI file from which the following transcript was made.

From the FBI file on Mark Lane, Document ID 2212202, file no. 100-17689:

In March and April, 1968, Mark Lane was in New Orleans, Louisiana, to assist New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison in Garrison’s prosecution of New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw for conspiracy in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November, 1963. While in New Orleans, Lane met on several occasions with Bob Head and Darlene Fife who originated and published the NOLA Express, a militant underground New Orleans newspaper. Lane reportedly told Fife that he is a very close friend of District Attorney Garrison, and was also to assist Darlene Fife in covering the trial in New Orleans for the National Guardian newspaper of New York City.

Lane reportedly told Fife that the right-wing element in New Orleans is against District Attorney Garrison’s action against Clay Shaw, and that he would be willing to accept support from the New Left movement in the New Orleans area.

In Volume 1, Number 1, of the NOLA Express, dated April, 1968, the following interview with Mark Lane took place and is set forth below in its entirety:

Interview held on March 12, 1968:

Darlene Fife (DF): What are your objectives?

Mark Lane (ML): Garrison has limited objectives. He wants the American people to know who killed the president. He wants to arrest everyone in his jurisdiction [involved in the conspiracy], although he believes no one will go to jail. And he wants the ramifications of be sufficiently great so that the United States government will have to dissolve the Central Intelligence Agency and find three new letters for the organization that will be formed. He has no illusions about permanent change.

DF: Say Garrison gets all his convictions and it turns out that high men in the CIA are involved and Johnson flees the country to join the American deserters in Sweden. What do you think is going to happen? Certainly there’s some kind of “power vacuum” left.

ML: Well, we are presently residing in a totalitarian state and the fact that there might be a power vacuum doesn’t frighten me. That would be a massive improvement over what we have at the present time. I don’t see President Johnson fleeing to Sweden. I don’t think that will be the result and I don’t think that what takes place in New Orleans in terms of the trial will have that kind of shocking effect upon the American people, firstly because they probably won’t even know about it because they have to rely on the media for the facts. And the media has not proved to be too reliable in this area for the last four and a half years. They might hear about a conviction or two, and Walter Cronkite in stentorian tones will make some reference to Southern justice. So I think that what is taking place here will never be accurately reported, just as what has been taking place here for the last year has been distorted by NBC, CBS, the New York Times, Time Magazine and most of all Newsweek, the liberal publication. And I think that one cannot expect that the facts which are presented at the Shaw trial will be genuinely broadcast around the country.

DF: Explain to me what Garrison is talking about when he talks about an operational level, an intermediate level, and then the sponsor level.

ML: I’ve recently interviewed a person closely associated with the CIA for a number of years. I’ve talked with him about the assassination of the president and he said it fits into the classic pattern of a program for “executive action” and which any intelligence agency in the United States or abroad would have used to bring about the operation. He says the footprints of an intelligence operation are all over Dealey Plaza. He describes it as at one end of the chart there is a sponsor; that is, the man or organization who wants the job done. At the other end of the chart is the target. The target is the objective the sponsor wants to achieve. It may be the blowing up of a bridge, the sabotaging of a ship, or assassination of a head of state. It may be going into an embassy and removing documents, photographing them and returning them. In the latter case the objective is never to let anyone know the job has been planned or has been done. However, when it comes to blowing up a bridge or killing a president, it is of course impossible to prevent knowledge that the job has been done, and then it is most important to prevent anyone from knowing who the real sponsor is. In order to see to it that the information is not divulged, first of all in the chain of command each person just knows the person above him and below him. The chain can be broken at any time by the removal—they call it the “permanent termination”—of anyone in the chain. I asked him what was meant by that and he said, “You kill him.” There is a series of false sponsors that is also established so that in case anyone is curious, which the Warren Commission was not, they will find false leads.

So if the Commission had examined the evidence closely and found there was a conspiracy, and were they curious enough to have found out who might have been behind the conspiracy, they would have uncovered many false leads which were scattered around Dealey Plaza like leaves on an autumn day. For example, they would have found out that Jack Ruby was associated with organized crime. There would have been indications that Castro was involved in the assassination. There are a whole host of clues that point in various directions such as the extreme right, extreme left, or organized crime. These are just three examples of the clues that were developed, but it never got that far because the Commission, being a liberal body, decided that it had no concern with the truth and that it would compromise. True liberalism. The Commission decided it would compromise because those who planned the assassination envisioned planes taking off the next morning to bomb China or Cuba or Russia, or hopefully all three. The president didn’t want that to happen and the Commission was designed to conceal the facts, and in concealing the facts, they also concealed any evidence of a conspiracy, including the conspiracy the CIA wanted them to fall upon—the evidence of a conspiracy of the left involving foreign governments.

DF: The CIA was the sponsor and Kennedy was the target, and all the people Garrison is investigating like Shaw and Ferrie were in the intermediate level?

ML: Yes.

DF: Does Garrison have an inside view yet? Has anyone confessed?

ML: No one has confessed, and I don’t think you can expect many confessions in this case because if you’re convicted without confessing, all you can get in a conspiracy to kill the president is twenty years, and you don’t serve twenty years. You may just serve one third of the term. And if you confessed, you’d probably be permanently terminated by the sponsor.

DF: What kind of support has Garrison received from the press or say a “movement”?

ML: Well, almost none from the press, as you know. The press is almost unanimous. NBC had a historically unprecedented program which was the trial of Clay Shaw. It took place on television before it took place in real life. CBS did four one-hour reports on the Warren Report, defending the report from its critics. At one point Walter Cronkite said, “Garrison has made many charges, but he hasn’t proven any of them in court.” In fact, Garrison has made two charges, one of them against Dean Andrews for perjury in a case closely related to the assassination investigation, and the other against Clay Shaw. It’s true he hasn’t proven the guilt of Shaw because for over a year now Shaw has been doing everything to prevent that case from coming to trial. About Dean Andrews: Three days after Cronkite said Garrison had not proven anything in court, Dean Andrews was convicted of perjury. I watched television the next night to see how Cronkite was going to explain this, but he never did.

The only movement which has supported Garrison is the Citizens’ Committee of Inquiry on various college campuses and cities which was established early after the assassination for the purpose of making the facts known. Of course, Ramparts Magazine has been very helpful in terms of publishing new material, but one of the things that dismays me is that while one would expect attacks from the right, one would expect the left to have a more sophisticated view, a knowledgeable view of what takes place in this society. One would expect the left to support Garrison, but the left seems to be sitting back watching, waiting very cautiously. That’s not the position the left should be taking at the present time, it seems to me. One of the problems is the atmosphere around to convince us that Garrison is some kind of nut. One listens long enough and tends to believe it and gives that as an excuse for not participating. I think that’s unforgiveable.

DF: I think one of the problems is that, even assuming everything Garrison says is true, you say you have to get three new letters for the agency and everything is the same again. There have been heads of state assassinated in other countries and nothing changes.

ML: Well, that’s a very cynical view by those who are sitting back and taking no position right now, and saying that the truth is not sufficient, the truth must do that which we want it to do; the abstract truth is not sufficient. But I think things will change. [If change] comes from the conclusion that the CIA, an agency of the federal government, killed President Kennedy, things can never be exactly the same in America. I don’t think revolution will take place the next day. I don’t think there will be rioting in the streets, either, but I think there will be a change, and a healthy change.

DF: I know your position on the war in Vietnam. What is Garrison’s view on the war?

ML: I spoke at the Louisiana Polytechnic Institute about four months ago. Garrison had been there just a year ago. That was before his investigation began, and they asked if he would go back to discuss the assassination, and I said I would raise the issue with him. I saw him the next day and told him I was there. He said, “I was there a year ago. Did they tell you?” I said, “Yes, they told me.” He said, “Did they tell you what I talked about there?” I said no. He said, “I was lieutenant colonel in the active reserve. I spoke in favor of the war in Vietnam.” He blushed. He said that in his forties when he came across the Warren Report and the contradictions, and he began his investigation, he realized for the first time that honorable men had issued this false report. It brought a great change in his thinking. He is now wholeheartedly against the war in Vietnam and has resigned as lieutenant colonel in the active reserve. And he believes in the very near future there will be an American Dien Bien Phu.[5] He says the American people probably don’t realize that those in this country and outside this country who oppose our policy in Vietnam are the only ones today defending American freedom.

– end of interview –

More on this topic: Garrison Interview, “Some Unauthorized Comments on the State of the Union” (May 27, 1969), found in the US National Archives, described as originally published in a “European publication.” Republished by Kennedys and King on August 6, 2019.

Notes

[1]. Hannah Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1951).

[2]. Richard Bartholomew, “2020: The Deep Political Realities,” Garrison, April-May, 2019, 12-18.

[3]. Hugh Aynesoworth, “Review of The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ,” Washington Times, February 25, 2014.

[4]. Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (Skyhorse Publishing, 1988, 2008). This passage from the afterword was used in Oliver Stone’s film JFK in the concluding remarks to the jury at the end of the film. In spite of allegations that Oliver Stone was just making stuff up in a Hollywood movie, the script was faithful to the trial transcript and to Garrison’s account of the trial.

[5]. Dien Bien Phu refers to the decisive battle of 1954 which led to French withdrawal from Vietnam and the UN agreement to partition the country into North and South Vietnam. At the time this interview occurred, the Tet Offensive had already occurred a few months earlier. American military operations ended in 1973 and Saigon fell to North Vietnamese troops on April 30, 1975. This note does not appear in the original article or the FBI file.