Over two thousand books have been written about the life and death of John F. Kennedy almost 50 years ago and 60% of the American people don’t believe the “lone assassin” theory espoused by the official Warren Commission report. It’s interesting to reflect on the fact that if the real assassins have not been brought to justice, they have been and still are, if alive, “hiding in plain sight.” A fractious consensus among assassination researchers points to multiple, complex conspiracies involving elements in the CIA, the military, the mob and Cuban exile groups – all of whom had demonstrated antagonism against the President, thus the motive and the means to carry out the crime.
I am going to discuss two recently published books: (1) David Talbot’s Brothers – The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years (2007) and (2) Peter Janney’s Mary’s Mosaic – The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace (2012). Both are extensively documented and annotated books of over 400 pages, telling complex stories impossible to summarize. I will follow the example of Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, and state out front the view that I have come to hold, so that the reader can know what my bias is, rather than trying to pretend I don’t have one. I have come to believe that the multiple assassinations of leaders (JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X to name only four of the most prominent) that occurred in the 1960s signaled the end of the American republic and the establishment of a military-industrial empire, governed according to increasingly secretive, fascistic and militaristic principles, with the formerly “free press” reduced to being the propaganda extension of the controlling elites.
The assassination of JFK brought about the end of the American republic analogously to the way the assassination of Julius Caesar by a cabal of wealthy land-owner senators, whose power and influence Caesar had started to break up, brought about the end of the 500-hundred year history of the Roman Republic and was followed by a totalitarian empire. For a fascinating fresh look at that event, read historian Michael Parenti’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar (2003).
David Talbot’s Brothers focuses on the relationship of JFK and Robert Kennedy, who became not only his attorney general, but his most trusted advisory as it became clear that, because of the debacle of the botched Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion he could not trust the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, who were always itching to go to war (that’s what the military always want) and had become his sworn enemies. He also could not trust the CIA (which he said he wanted to “splinter into a thousand pieces”) when he realized they were always pursuing their own subversive agendas in various parts of the world, without any oversight or even truthful disclosure, as required by law. The CIA and their Cuban exile allies wanted to take Cuba back from Castro and were deeply resentful of what they perceived as Kennedy’s failure to follow-up their Bay of Pigs invasion agenda by “sending in the Marines” even though Kennedy had assured them beforehand he had no intention of doing so.
During the Cuban missile crisis, when the entire world came within a hair’s breadth of exchanging nuclear missiles and terminating civilization as we know it, JFK only managed to defuse the situation through his personal back-channel connection to Nikita Krushchev, the Soviet Premier who was similarly being pushed by his military commanders breathing down his neck to let fly the missiles. The two men talked directly, but secretly, by telephone and agreed to turn their respective countries away from war and toward peace. Kennedy and Krushchev thereafter started taking the first, small steps toward a negotiated, gradual disarmament process. As a life-long peace activist, this was to me the most moving and dramatic revelation of Talbot’s book – to know that at the height of maximum tension in the Cold War, these two warriors at the heads of their respective imperial armies reached out and agreed to take steps to avert and avoid war for ever. Immediately after the assassination, Robert Kennedy, who was of course aware of his brother’s plans and activities, took pains to use his own back channel connection with the Kremlin to assure Krushchev that he and the Americans were not blaming the Soviets for his brother’s assassination (knowing that the CIA and the military would have attempted to do just that).
Peter Janney’s book Mary’s Mosaic is about Mary Pinchot Meyer – a woman whom Kennedy really loved (unlike the numerous bimbos his sex addiction brought to his bed) and with whom he came to share his vision of turning the world toward a lasting peace. Mary Meyer was assassinated in a Washington park where she was walking, a few months after the JFK assassination. An uneducated black man walking nearby was arrested and tried for the murder – but acquitted for lack of credible evidence. Since Mary Meyer came from an upper class family and had relatives and friends in high places (her former husband was Cord Meyer, who was a high CIA official) her death occupied the rumor mills for quite a while, but then receded into oblivion as yet another unsolved murder case. Peter Janney, who spent forty years researching this book, had a personal connection to Mary Meyer since he was best friends with her son, who got killed in an automobile accident as a child. And Janney’s father was also a high-ranking CIA official, making with Cord Meyer and James Angleton, a trio of CIA spooks who feature repeatedly in the various conspiratorial scenarios that swirl around the assassinations of the 1960s and beyond.
I found his book incredibly interesting and powerful, blending a poignant story of personal tragedy with stories of outrageous criminality in the highest corridors of the American imperial court. The Mary Meyer murder story, which features briefly in David Talbot’s book and hardly at all in most other Kennedy books is the central focus of Janney’s book, because of his personal connection to her family. My old friend and colleague Tim Leary also features in the Mary Meyer story, although I personally never heard him talk about this connection. (It does not surprise me at all that Leary would keep his contacts with Mary secret, at her request). In his autobiography Flashbacks, Leary relates that Mary came to see him in 1962-63, seeking guidance on how to guide LSD sessions for a small group of Washington insider wives, who were wanting to turn the world system to world peace. They had a few meetings, Mary reported that things were going well – but then something happened that alarmed her, her peace conspiracy had been discovered. She warned Leary to lie low, they lost contact. Then in November 1963, JFK was killed, three or four months later Mary Meyer was killed. Many people believe that Mary kept a diary of her meetings with JFK, which the CIA and others were anxious to retrieve.
Regardless of whether there was a diary in which Mary described her affair with the President and/or his designs for peace – a supposition that I for one find unlikely, given the woman’s obvious understanding of the explosiveness of their thinking if it was revealed prematurely or at all. Janney’s book includes a description of a never-before published two-hour interview of Tim Leary and what he knew about Mary Meyer, conducted by Leo Damore (himself an assassination researcher who died of a sudden brain tumor before he could finish his own book) in 1990 (i.e. more than forty years after the assassination) confirming much of the story Leary told in Flashbacks, and adding details.
The conclusions emerging from this book are staggering –Kennedy and the only woman he truly loved took LSD together in the White House, conceiving and birthing their vision for world peace and how to bring it about. As Janney writes, explaining his concluding understanding of why she was killed, –
After Dallas, amid utter horror and shock, Mary had taken it upon herself to to discover and make sense of the truth of the conspiracy that had taken place – only to realize the magnitude of the second conspiracy, a cover-up taking place right before her eyes.. It was her own mosaic of people, events, circumstances, and exploration that informed her understanding – not only of the evil that had taken place in Dallas, but of the villainous darkness that was now enveloping all of America. She had furiously confronted her ex-husband, Cord Meyer, possibly Jim Angleton as well, with what she had discovered, not fully realizing the extent of their own diabolical ruthlessness. The Warren Report was nothing but a house of cards; once ignited, it would be engulfed in flames. If Mary courageously went public with who she was, and what she knew, making clear her position in the final years of Jack’s life, people with influence would take notice; the fire of suspicion around Dallas would erupt into a conflagration. She had to be eliminated (p. 391).
This book shines a brave and brilliant light of truth into a still dark and somber chapter of American history (irrespective of whether the story he tells is precisely true in all its details), a crucial turning point on the pathway from republican democracy to military empire, a pathway on which he are still marching, blinded by fear and ignorance. May these two books (and others now coming out about the Kennedy era) contribute to our awakening and a returning to sanity.