Hunt, JFK and Obama
by Travis Kelly
On the 45th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, we stand much closer to a final truth in the case, thanks to E. Howard Hunt’s posthumous confession this year (published in the March edition of Rolling Stone*, with videos released in October), corroborating what many researchers have long concluded. Finally, the self-deluding “someone would have talked by now” mantra sung for five decades with stubborn rectitude by the MSM — which has never lifted a pebble in this case — should have ended. Hunt has been a prime suspect in the assassination for 30 years, and his guilt had already been established in the landmark 1985 Hunt vs. Liberty Lobby trial. Haven’t heard of it? Nor the Hunt confession? If a tree falls in the forest, and the MSM doesn’t hear it... there’s no sound and little fury.
The confession should have been adequate occasion for an honest journalism to at least examine the evidence (abundantly researched by 2008) for Hunt’s involvement; or if that’s too distant now, for some of our university historians, most of whom still swear allegiance to this most moribund of myths with the fealty of Catholic priests for the Holy Trinity. Curiously, several of the last bastions of the dying faith can be found in left-of-center venues: an editor at Salon rejects this proposed article, uttering obeisance to the Lone Nut dogma; at Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn still fervently clutches his ragged bible from the Warren Commission; Justin Raimondo at AntiWar.com grudgingly refers to the “still-lingering mystery” on occasion; Noam Chomsky will have none of it (he’s above this riff-raff, too). I won’t mention the whole chorus of hacks in our major dailies and channels — one can only adopt Mencken's detached amusement and laugh bitterly. He wasn’t only speaking of American rubes as “the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the end of the Middle Ages” — a majority of our journalists and historians are at the center of the herd.
Among my favorite of the herd’s Pavlovian triggered (by the mere utterance “conspiracy”) grunts and calls:
“We couldn’t face the truth then — now we’ll never know.”
“Occam’s Razor unerringly dictates that Lee Harvey Oswald did it solo.”
“Someone would have talked by now.”
Which brings us to an examination of the evidence for the talking Hunt and his named co-conspirators’ guilt...
But first: why should we care now, about an event half a decade ago, with the nation reeling from a tsunami of crises demanding our urgent attention? Aside from the cliched admonitions (”Know the past is prologue, and it will set you free.”), there is the new man whom we’ve elected to solve these crises, and there is more than a superficial resemblance in the global adulation greeting Obama’s and JFK’s elections: Obama faces conditions very much like those confronting the man elected in 1960 — entering office in a recession, with an agenda to curb the speculative excesses of Wall Street, and managing an imperialist War Party determined to intervene wherever corporate interests are challenged, whatever the ideology — communist, social democratic, Islamic or merely nationalist.
Rendered by the nuance-free binary thought endemic to American thought, JFK was either a Cold War hawk, or the seminal peacenik of the ‘60s. Actually, his Irish Catholic ancestry determined his general anti-imperialism: he opposed both Soviet domination and Western neo-colonialism, favoring national economic development and political reform as the surest bulwark against communist importunity, inciting a furious WASP nest of old-boy bankers and militarists — the British-inflected Eastern establishment, headquartered in the Council on Foreign Relations (and its London parent, the Royal Institute of International Affairs), determined to carry on the global Anglo empire via the “shock doctrine” of USAF carpetbombing and World Bank/IMF carpetbagging. Domestically, he enraged Wall Street with investment tax policies encouraging domestic productive investment, curtailing off-shore tax shelters and punishing speculation. This was a double blow to the “economic royalists” epitomized by Allen Dulles, chief of the CIA, aka the “private army of the Fortune 500.” (for the best account of this conflict, see Donald Gibson’s Battling Wall Street: The Kennedy Presidency).
That reactionary aristocracy has come a long way since, over the minor speed bump of Carter and the hiccup of Clinton, culminating in the totally unbridled “feed-the-good-ole-boys” regime of George Bush, and the crippling overextension on both the domestic and foreign fronts that Obama inherits. Will he muster the resolve to reign in the insatiable predators in Halliburton/Blackwater and the financial cannibals on Wall Street? More costly surges and bailouts, or the genuine reforms demanded by the public that elected him? Like JFK, Obama cannot be totally deaf to his own ancestry — surely there is an anti-imperialist animus in his bones. But like JFK, he is surrounded by a ruthless plutocracy capable of extinguishing pluralistic progress at home as effectively as it has done around the third world for half a century.
If Obama continues to staff up with more hawks (Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Zbigniew Brzezenski, Hillary Clinton, Gates), yet struggles to fulfill his principle mandate, to end the fraudulent War on Terror, he may be heading for his own Bay of Pigs — the proximate cause of JFK’s demise. Will he eventually confront the War Party as JFK did, or will the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex (Eisenhower’s unedited term, reflecting the density of defense industry stocks in Capitol HIll portfolios, the Democrats leading), enriched and entrenched ever deeper after a decade of fructifying privatization, cross the Rubicon again and commit another Roman coup? And most importantly: could our bewigged Lords get away with it again? Given our punditocracy’s steadfast evasion and denial about JFK’s takedown over five decades, the praetorian guard must feel confident that it could contain and reverse any excess populism by the Afro-American president.
Ultimately, Mencken’s sardonic chuckle rings hollow: the defenders of the faith choose to let the insidious precedent stand as a beacon for the future — that the ultimate sanction against an American president is not impeachment by a congressional majority, but homicide by a powerful minority of war hawks. So, yes, I accuse all of them, the whole pusillanimous pack of pravda chihuahuas, of a criminal dereliction of conscience and duty. For half a century, they have persisted as accomplices after the fact, in the most grievous of crimes against the polity.
THE “WHOLE BAY OF PIGS THING”
According to one of his chief lieutenants, H.R. Haldeman (in The Ends of Power), Nixon was using “the whole Bay of Pigs thing” as a euphemism for the JFK assassination in this segment from the Watergate tapes:
...this Hunt, that will uncover a lot of things. You open a scab, there's a hell of a lot of things...This involves these Cubans, Hunt, and a lot of hanky-panky...Just say...very bad to have this fellow Hunt, ah, he knows too damned much, if he was involved...If it gets out that this is all involved, the Cuba thing, it would be a fiasco. It would make the CIA look bad, it's going to make Hunt look bad, and it's going to blow the whole Bay of Pigs thing which we think would be very unfortunate-both for the CIA and the country...
Hunt was blackmailing Nixon for hush money at the time, as he along with Frank Sturgis and a few Cuban operatives were taking the fall for the Watergate burglary.
In another of those inexhaustible satori revelations that populate this greatest of all murder mysteries: Nixon was in Dallas on Nov. 22 (he couldn’t recall exactly at first). And so was E. Howard Hunt, if we are to credit the verdict of a Miami jury in 1985 in which Hunt lost a libel appeal against the allegation that top CIA brass had discussed “a limited hangout” with Hunt as the fall guy during the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation, which was burrowing dangerously close to the truth. Ex-CIA agent Victor Marchetti (The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence) authored the article in the Liberty Lobby’s publication, The Spotlight, referring to a memo between DCI Richard Helms and counterintelligence chief James Angleton, stating: “Someday we will have to explain Hunt's presence in Dallas on November 22, 1963.” Curiously, it was Angleton himself who supplied the memo to both Marchetti’s source, New Jersey reporter James Trento, and to HSCA investigator Gaeton Fonzi.
Hunt won the first trial, but faced the seminal JFK conspiracy researcher and attorney for the deceased assassin, Mark Lane (Rush to Judgment, 1966), in the second — and lost. Among other damages, Hunt claimed that the Dallas allegation had alienated the affections of his three children, who came to him demanding to know if it was true — had he been in Dallas on Nov. 22? On the witness stand, Hunt was crucified by Lane with the glaring contradiction of this claim against his stated alibi: that he had been in Washington with his now deceased wife and three children (two of them teenagers) on Nov. 22... yet they all seemed to have forgotten this small detail on a day for which everyone else alive at the time enjoys near perfect recall. None of them were called to testify in Hunt’s defense.
The forewoman of the jury, Leslie Armstrong, stated to the local media afterwards: “(Lane) wanted us to say our own government had killed our president. We listened to the evidence very carefully. We discussed it. We concluded that the CIA killed President Kennedy; and I call upon the United States government to do something about that." That de facto verdict, and news of the trial itself, never escaped the enduring MSM quarantine on the case. But Hunt knew that it was the final judgment against his legacy, and it is against this backstory that we must judge his final confession to his eldest son, St. John Hunt, who has since publicly recalled that his father was not in Washington on that day, but had left town for “a business trip” to Dallas that week.
Hunt names this chain of the command in the assassination: LBJ, and CIA agents Cord Meyer, David Atlee Phillips, William Harvey and David Morales, with his own role limited to that of “benchwarmer” — probably a coy admission that he didn’t actually pull a trigger or spot a sniper that day... a “limited hangout” to the one child he was still close to, but who knew too much to swallow the “plausible denial” canards offered to the public.
Circumstantial evidence that he was on the team in some capacity, along with his longtime CIA partner David Atlee Phillips, Chief of Station in Mexico City, co-conspirator in the Iranian and Guatemalan coups, and fellow planner of the Bay of Pigs fiasco (all under the aegis of Nixon), includes:
• In 1963, Hunt was deputy chief of the CIA's newly created DOD, Domestic Operations Division (whose very title seems to violate the CIA's charter against domestic ops), and Chief of Covert Operations. He had set up the Cuban Revolutionary Council, a far-right anti-Castro Cuban group, in New Orleans. Witnesses have placed Hunt visiting its headquarters — the same 544 Camp Street address where “pro-Castro” defector Lee Harvey Oswald operated under the tutelage of anti-Castro ex-FBI agent Guy Bannister.
• In September '63, Hunt moved to Mexico City as temporary CIA Chief of Station — presumably the permanent Chief there, David Atlee Phillips, had gone elsewhere while Lee Harvey Oswald arrived in town on his trail-laying mission to the Cuban and Soviet embassies, all observed 24/7 by CIA surveillance. (Hunt’s biographer, Tad Szulc, is the source, although Hunt later denied this temporary duty under oath to the Rockefeller Commission. But in a deposition for the Hunt vs. Liberty Lobby trial, Phillips cagily admitted that he had seen Hunt in Mexico City sometime between Sept. '61 and March '65.
• Where might Phillips have been vacationing while Hunt took over his duties in the Mexican capital? It appears he was in Dallas sometime earlier in the month, meeting with Lee Harvey Oswald before his departure south. This was the bombshell revelation given to HSCA investigator Gaeton Fonzi by Antonio Veciana, head of the most radical anti-Castro militia, Alpha 66. Veciana only identified his CIA controller as "Maurice Bishop" — an alias now definitively known to have been used by Phillips — but he never specifically linked the two, or spoke of them ever again subsequent to his near assassination in Miami’s Little Havana after the confession.
• Kerry Thornley, an ex-Marine stationed with Oswald in Japan who also lived in New Orleans for two priors prior to the hit, had conversations with two mysterious middle-aged men there named "Gary Kirstein" and "Slim Brooks," among them the subject of how one might assassinate President Kennedy. Thornley’s post-Marine path eerily paralleled Oswald’s — he believes he may have been groomed as a backup patsy. Jim Garrison questioned him in his 1967 investigation. Thornley has stated "Kirstein" was actually E. Howard Hunt.
• In 1975, Texas JFK researcher Penn Jones, Jr. receives a photocopy of a handwritten letter mailed from Mexico City, the original dated 11-08-63:
Dear Mr. Hunt,
I would like information concerning my position. I am only asking for information. I am suggesting that we discuss the matter fully before any steps are taken by me or anyone else.
Thank you, Lee Harvey Oswald
Three handwriting experts testified it was Oswald's writing, although the HSCA came to no definite conclusion.
• In the Hunt vs. Liberty Lobby trial, CIA contract agent and former Castro lover Marita Lorenz testified that she had met with Hunt in Dallas on Nov. 21, '63, along with fellow Watergate conspirator Frank Sturgis and anti-Castro Cuban exiles who had driven from Miami (she also gave this testimony to the HSCA, which again came to no definite conclusion about her veracity). She identified Hunt as the paymaster of the operation.
• Hunt’s final identified conspirator was an anonymous “French gunman” on the grassy knoll. This would almost certainly be Jean Souetre, a French OAS right-wing terrorist suspected in assassination attempts against DeGaulle (for sacrificing Algeria). Souetre was arrested by the FBI in Dallas that day, and promptly deported, apparently without interrogation (another “coincidence” to bedevil the WC apologists). A French investigator has reported that Hunt met with Souetre in Paris in May ‘63.
• In a 2004 Havana conference between American assassination researchers and retired Cuban intelligence officers, former chief Fabian Escalante testified: “By mid-1963, we had infiltrated a special group of exiles working with the CIA. A CIA official came to a safe-house in Miami and said to a group of Cuban exiles, `You must eliminate Kennedy.’” The Cubans identified this CIA officer as “Maurice Bishop,” with corroborating evidence that his true name was David Atlee Phillips.
A SINGULAR CAULDRON OF PARANOIA AND HATRED
The “whole Bay of Pigs thing” resulted in a cauldron of delirium and fanaticism after the Cuban missile crisis — long after his Watergate convictions, Hunt believed that the missiles were still hidden in Cuba, and that Castro’s survival ranked as the greatest tragedy in American history. In the Pentagon, bizarre plots were hatched: submarines firing special high-altitude fireworks to simulate the Second Coming, abetted by agents spreading the panic, and the good Catholics would rise up and overthrow their heathen leader in time for salvation. Even more Machiavellian were the Operation Northwoods schemes, including false-flag terrorist acts against American planes and citizens to spark the next invasion. Meanwhile, a certain faction of CIA officers, eager and desperate to rehabilitate themselves after the massive bungling of the Bay of Pigs, were hatching a plot of their own with the return of an asset freshly repatriated from the U.S.S.R — Lee Harvey Oswald (for the most thorough examination of Oswald as CIA asset, see history professor Philip Melanson’s Spy Saga: Lee Harvey Oswald and U.S. Intelligence).
By mid 1963, eight assassination attempts against Castro had failed. One of Hunt’s accused con-conspirators, William Harvey, directed them in alliance with Santos Trafficante and Johnny Roselli — mobsters who wanted their casinos back — through his ZR/RIFLE program. (Oswald was also well-known to the Mob: his uncle, Dutch Murret, was a numbers man for Carlos Marcello in New Orleans). Then the feverish Cubans and their CIA handlers learned of the ultimate betrayal: JFK’s secret back-channel detente talks with Castro and Khruschev. The missile crisis had sobered this Cold Warrior, but not the cadre of fanatics in the south, who did not have to deal with Khruschev’s threat to retaliate against another Cuban invasion by engulfing West Berlin.
David Morales, the last named in Hunt’s hierarchy, is the man most likely to have plotted the tactical hit, as he had personally assassinated a number of Communists and leftists in South America, and orchestrated the Bay of Pigs invasion. A Native-American from Arizona, he was known as “El Indio,” a courageous front-line agent and heavy drinker whose expressed hatred of JFK even exceeded Hunt’s — 114 of the men he personally recruited had been sacrificed on those beaches, and it was all JFK’s fault for failing to send in American jets. Actually, there was air support: a “contra” air force of ancient B-26 bombers flying from Nicaragua with no insignia, but the CIA tacticians (perhaps Morales?) had forgotten to calculate the time-zone difference. They arrived an hour late. With little genuine experience in military operations, the CIA had also miscalculated the tides, forcing the whole marine brigade to wade in at low tide against murderous shore fire.
Former anti-Castro CIA contract agent Gerry Patrick Hemming, has suggested to me that some operations, including the Bay of Pigs, were designed to fail — and that thought certainly occurred to JFK, just as a similar suspicion about the summit-sabotaging U2 affair had prompted Eisenhower to deliver his odd Military-Industrial Complex speech. JFK did threaten to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces.” And the CIA, or at least it’s compartment directed by Phillips, vowed to “force JFK’s hand” in the fight not to abandon Cuba.
But the CIA was not alone in facing extinction: both LBJ and Hoover were facing political mortality if JFK had lived — LBJ embroiled in the Bobby Baker scandal, with the headline in the Dallas Morning News on Nov. 22 reading “Nixon Predicts JFK May Drop Johnson.” Hoover faced mandatory retirement in a second Kennedy term, and there was no chance of a reprieve, as they despised each other. These were the two most powerful men in Washington in real terms, and their hatred of the president burned almost as hotly as David Morales’. It was not only the survival of the nation against Castro’s influence (the example of his health care system as dangerous as his nukes), but the conspirators’ personal survival as well that brought it to the tipping point. The actual operation, no more radical and violent than the Northwoods false-flag plans that JFK had scotched, may have originated with Phillips, Hunt, their Cuban pit bulls and Mob asssets, but LBJ and Hoover almost certainly got wind of it and tacitly approved it at the least. Hoover had an inside source — none other than LHO himself (Texas attorney general Waggoner Carr identified Oswald as an FBI informant to the Warren Commission, throwing that august body into a panicked en camera session.) Both LHO’s and Jack Ruby’s curious pasts were airbrushed out of existence in the WC’s final report.
November 22 solved all these problems efficiently: Castro had obviously Svengalied Oswald in the assassination of a president, who could no longer impede this final casus belli for Cuba Libre. This was the line being disseminated by Phillips’ and Morales’ propaganda assets in Miami, even before the police in Dallas knew anything but Oswald’s name. Grilled about these connections by HSCA investigator Gaeton Fonzi, Phillips nearly came unglued — he had 3 cigarettes going at once, according to Fonzi (basically, they had their man on the run, but how the HSCA was sabotaged in a beltway coup is recounted in Fonzi’s book, The Last Investigation). Fabian Escalante sums it up: “We believe Kennedy became an obstacle to US military aggression against Cuba. There were two objectives to the plot — to kill Kennedy and to blame Cuba for the crime.”
Two other points of evidence corroborate Hunt about LBJ’s involvement:
• On the night before the asssassination, LBJ attended a gathering in Dallas millionaire Clint Murchison’s home, according to the video testimony of his long-time mistress Madeleine Brown before her death. Also there: Nixon and Hoover (she didn’t mention Clyde Tolson, or what striking ensembles they might have worn to this gala). When LBJ emerged from the private power confab, he told her: “After tomorrow, those SOBs will never embarrass me again. That’s a promise.”
• The fingerprint of LBJ’s longtime enforcer, Mac Wallace (convicted of one murder of an early LBJ enemy, and suspected in another) has been identified on one of the boxes from the TSBD sniper’s nest — one that had eluded all identification until certified fingerprint expert Nathan Darby compared it to Wallace’s prints in 1998 and came up with a legally viable 12-point match (it’s been disputed by the ever reliable Warren Commission acolytes).
That leaves the last named conspirator, the most dubious on Hunt’s list: Cord Meyer. In the now vast literature on the assassination, Meyer has never been suspected, and there is not a shred of evidence to connect him with the other players named by Hunt, or their motivations. Meyer was one of the more liberal leaning officers of the CIA — he had been investigated by the McCarthy witch hunters for his association with several leftist “subversive” groups. Adding a potboiler element to his confession (as in his many novels), Hunt alleges that Meyer was furious over JFK’s affair with his former wife, Mary Pinchot Meyer, who was murdered in a park in 1964 (the M.O. had all the markings of a professional hit). The affair did not begin until 1961, three years after their divorce. In 2001, writer C. David Heymann visited Meyer in a nursing home and asked him of his suspicions about Mary’s unsolved murder. “The same sons of bitches that killed Kennedy,” he hissed. It’s highly doubtful that he was referring to himself.
In the final analysis, Hunt’s history as a masterful propagandist, criminal and forger of evidence to accuse another innocent man of assassination (JFK for the Vietnamese president Diem, using fabricated cables), must be taken into account. It is probable that Hunt was adulterating the hard truth in his final days — as much of it as he dared tell the one son who still loved him. Substitute Hunt himself for Meyer in the hierarchy — a far more likely candidate and no “benchwarmer” in the Cuban/CIA “hate-Kennedy” mobs — and we have a more credible cabal.
LBJ, Nixon, Hoover and Hunt, all convened in Dallas on Nov. 21-22 — no adult should believe the coincidental innocence of that gathering, any more than the innocence of Jack Ruby prowling the DPD basement.
And no adult should doubt that it could easily happen again. The first victims of the War Party are always the peacemakers. Obama will walk point on that dangerous route, and only a mature, undeluded and discerning public at his back will see him through.
It’s far past time that the nation’s intellectual class muster the courage of its counterparts in Argentina, Chile, Russia and Germany, and deliver a candid historical judgment on these conspirators: 45 years later, Castro’s regime is still in power. Florida has never flown the red flag. Vietnam — which JFK refused to escalate beyond the Green Beret advisors** — fell and the predicted dominos didn’t, after the unnecessary sacrifice of 56,000 men. The men who perpetrated this atrocity, and all the iniquity spawned by it, should be identified and condemned utterly.
* Also alone among American journals, in the 1970s Rolling Stone published Carl Bernstein's exposé about the CIA penetration and co-optation of the media — Operation Mockingbird. It's agents of influence, and many sympathetic fellow travelers in the press, have effectively promoted the notion of "conspiracy" as fevered delusion, and actively disparaged researchers and authors investigating the assassinations of the '60s.
** A mother lode of tendentious obfuscation and revisionism on this point. For the definitive account, see ex-Army intelligence officer John Newman’s excellent book-length doctoral thesis, JFK and Vietnam, and the most highly regarded recent book about both the JFK presidency and the assassination: JFK, the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglass.
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