Civil Rights

50 Years After the Coup That Changed America Forever

By Jim Smith

Have you heard it on the news

About this fascist groove thang

Evil men with racist views

Spreading all across the land

Don’t just sit there on your ass

Unlock that funky chaindance

Brothers, sisters shoot your best

We don’t need this fascist groove thang

–Heaven 17

This is the 50th anniversary of the end of progressive government in America. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963 has profoundly changed our country and our daily lives to this day. It was a coup d’état by the 1 percent that was carried out by a multi-departmental “Murder Incorporated” that had been growing within the federal government since World War II.

From the beginning, Americans in overwhelming poll numbers have rejected the lone-gunman theory that the Warren Commission and the mass media have presented to cover up their dastardly deed. Now on the 50th anniversary, we’ll see a parade of pundits on TV who will try to convince us of the impossible: that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, in spite of volumes of evidence that Kennedy was killed by those elements of government who had been killing – and continue killing – ordinary citizens and heads of state.

Two new books have been published that can serve as refresher courses for those who lived through this nightmare, and for those who were not yet born in 1963. They Killed Our President, by Jesse Ventura and Dick Russell, brings together 63 reasons why Oswald didn’t act alone, and didn’t even shoot anyone as he said after his arrest. (“I’m just a patsy,” said Oswald.) This exhaustive survey can save you the time of reading many, many books to get an overview of the assassination.

JFK’s last hundred days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President, by Thurston Clarke, takes a different tack. It shows how Kennedy changed from a Cold Warrior to a peace advocate, a supporter of civil rights, and an enemy of the military-intelligence-crime syndicate within his own government. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was a crowning achievement of his administration. Although he was born to great wealth, he became a traitor to the ruling class.

The details of the assassination and coverup are important for an understanding of the world in which we live. But what often doesn’t come through is what America was like in 1963.

I wasn’t an eyewitness to the murder of our 35th President, but I was an eyewitness to life in 1963. I can tell you that the hatred for President Kennedy was dark and deep. It was much greater than that against President Obama. 1963 was a time when the John Birch Society was going strong. The China Lobby was still seething over the Red Army winning the civil war and driving their hero Chiang Kai-shek into exile on the island of Taiwan. There had not yet been a victory for the civil rights movement and jim crow laws and hard-core racism was rampant in the South, including Texas. Whole classrooms of children, echoing their parents’ attitudes, cheered when they heard of Kennedy’s death.

Dead president’s corpse in the driver’s car.

The engine runs on glue and tar.

Come on along, not going very far.

To the East, to meet the Czar.

–Jim Morrison, The Doors

Assassinations of leaders and murders of individuals were commonplace in the 1960s, so much so that the decade has been called the Era of Assassinations. Before Kennedy, Civil rights leader Medgar Evers had been murdered on June 12, 1963 by the KKK. Assassinations of foreign leaders were commonplace, including Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba (1961) on orders of CIA chief Allen Dulles and South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem (1963). The possible assassination of United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld (1961) is the subject of a new inquiry by a UN committee. The CIA attempted to assassinate Fidel Castro more than 600 times, according to some accounts. The CIA was also involved in an attempt on the life of French President Charles de Gaulle (1962). And then, after the successful coup, came the murders of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and hundreds more.

From time to time during 1963, I would happen to see President Kennedy on TV. His comments struck me as much more progressive on civil rights and foreign affairs than I had ever heard from any other government official, including JFK, in past years. As detailed in Clarke’s book, JFK’s last hundred days, he was genuinely trying to end the Cold War, establish equality between races and undermine control by the military and intelligence establishments. Not everyone was as pleased with the President’s policies as I was. Hatred and violence were running rampant. There had been more than 400 threats on the life of the President in the months leading up to Dallas, according to the Secret Service.

On Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, I had recently turned 20, and no longer a teenager, I was looking forward to a wild weekend with my homies. It would be three days without school or work. While I was a somewhat studious young man, I liked to run with the JDs (juvenile delinquents). That morning some of us were sitting in a drive-in restaurant planning out our weekend. We divided up our first diet pills, the amphetamines of the day.

As we pulled out of the drive-in, I turned on the radio expecting to hear some Top 40 hits. Instead, someone was saying, “the doctors have just reported that the President is dead.” At first, I wondered who they were talking about, president of what? Then it slowly dawned on me they meant Kennedy. I felt stunned, disbelieving and angry, all at once.

We drove slowly down the street, hearing more news reports, then pulled into a gas station for a dollar’s worth of gas. An older man with grease stained overalls came out to operate the pump. He said to me, “I hope they’re happy, the bastards, they finally got what they wanted.” It was then that the enormity of the murder began to sink in. We were all united in our shock and grief – my friends, family, the guy in the gas station, everyone I encountered in that whirlwind weekend with my brain zooming from the speed.

Before long, it was announced that a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, killed Kennedy all by himself. Yeah, right!

As one sleepless, frantic day turned into another, and then another, we caught glimpses of the evolving drama on TV. When our gang stopped at someone’s house to take a shower, pick someone up or change clothes, the parents were always like zombies, glued to the set. At one house, we arrived just in time to see Oswald gunned down by Jack Ruby. Wow. That proved to me that there was more involved than just a crazy guy with a rifle that hardly worked.

That sad weekend, we talked about the assassination for hours on end (how could we not). Even then, it seemed like something in our universe had changed, had slipped out of the comfortable rock ‘n roll, car crazy, girl crazy, half-way to adulthood world we knew. Now 50 years later, I look back at Vietnam, the Cold War, the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war machine, the homeless, the unrealized struggle for freedom and dignity and know that this world didn’t have to be.

A year later I was hired as a bartender at Curtis Fowler’s “go-go” bar in a seedy part of town. Fowler, who may have had mob connections himself, had previously run a bar in Dallas where he had known Jack Ruby. He told me that it was well-known in Dallas that Ruby was a “soldier” with the Chicago Mafia. Ruby’s crime connection has since become an indisputable fact.

Within two to four years, my friends and I would mostly be wearing army uniforms. Freddie became a helicopter gunner in Vietnam. Bennie died over there. Our girlfriends, our loves, found new boyfriends while we were away at “war.” The world turned upside down, and the Sixties generation was born. Kennedy’s enemies became our enemies.

Kennedy was worried about a coup d’état, says Clarke. JFK asked his Hollywood contacts to please make a film from the book Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel. He thought that a strong statement in the media against a coup might help head one off. The film was made with an all-star cast, and with White House support, but was released too late in Feb. 1964. The military-Intelligence coup took place in Dallas. The spooks and generals put their man, Lyndon Johnson, in the White House.

Almost immediately, Johnson reversed Kennedy’s executive order to pull all troops out of Vietnam by 1965. The raids and assassination attempts in Cuba resumed as did the Cold War in all its fury. We got war, and more war, instead of the world of peace that Kennedy envisioned in his American University speech, delivered on June 10, 1963: “What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war, not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace”

Hey Hey LBJ how many kids

did you kill today – Sixties chant

What motivated top officials and leaders of the federal government to kill the President? 1) Kennedy was ending the Cold War. He had already cut billions from the military budget and was eliminating the reason for a massive military-industrial complex; 2) He was conducting secret talks with Fidel Castro aimed at normalizing relations with Cuba. The Cuban thugs and killers who worked with the CIA were most unhappy with this turn of events; 3) The mob felt that the Kennedy brothers had betrayed them after the crime syndicate had made sure JFK won Illinois in 1960, which put him in office; 4) The oil billionaires in Texas were threatened with losing their source of massive profits, the Oil Depletion Allowance; 5) Right-wing racists saw Kennedy turning their world upside down with civil rights legislation and his advocacy of equality; 6) JFK stood in the way of Lyndon Johnson, the most ambitious and ruthless vice-president  in history; 7) While JFK lived, Richard Nixon would likely never become President; 8) People with grudges: He fired CIA Director Allen Dulles, who considered the organization his personal property, as well Deputy Director Charles Cabell, whose brother was Mayor of Dallas, Earle Cabell. Mayor Cabell reportedly made a last-minute change in the route of JFK’s motorcade which took it into Dealey Plaza where the assassins were waiting.

How was the assassination coup accomplished? Since its inception with the National Security Act of 1947, the CIA had assembled a Murder Incorporated in the heard of the U.S. government. It recruited cold-blooded killers including General Reinhard Gehlen’s organization of Nazi war criminals <>, Cuban police and torturers from the deposed dictator Fulangio Batista’s regime, as well as home-grown mobsters, assassins and serial killers. Sadly, this group continues to take its toll on union activists, populist leaders and anti-corporate crusaders around the world.

The men at the top of the coup were likely Allen Dulles, Lyndon Johnson, mobsters Sam Giancana (Chicago), Carlos Marcello (New Orleans), Santos Trafficante and Johnny Roselli, who was identified as being in Dealey Plaza (both of Florida),  Oilmen H.L. Hunt and Clint Murchison, some of the generals, possible Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay, who was parodied in Dr. Strangelove, but he may have been too much of a loose cannon to have been brought in by the other coup plotters.

A party and meeting was held at Clint Murchison’s mansion the night before the assassination. According to eyewitnesses, attendees included Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush.

The Operations Chief for the “Big Event,” as CIA agent and one of Nixon’s Plummers, E. Howard Hunt said it was called, was likely Air Force General Edward Lansdale, who was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, according his aide, Col. Fletcher Proudy and others.

How did they get away with it when so many people were involved? The coup plotters got away with it because it was in the interest of nearly every center of power in the U.S., including the military, the CIA, the FBI, the 1 percent, which even then controlled the media and organized crime. Anyone who didn’t go along with the official story was silenced, fired, killed or labeled a conspiracy kook.

When some people confessed to being part of the plot, they were ignored by the media. E. Howard Hunt made a tape recorded death bed confession that he was involved under the general direction of Johnson. A number of others have come forward to reveal their parts in the assassination. Some are still alive, but discredited.

Why didn’t the Kennedy family speak out? Short answer: they would have been killed, and many of them were killed. Robert Kennedy reportedly demanded of Johnson: “Why did you kill my brother?” Robert was killed in 1968 as soon as he won the California primary and it appeared he would be the party’s nominee. Ted Kennedy broke his back and nearly died in an unexplained plane crash in 1964. How could Jacqueline Kennedy, the First Lady, protect their children? A few months after the second Kennedy brother was killed, she married one of the richest and most powerful men in the world, Aristotle Onassis. But time marches on. John F. Kennedy Jr. (John-John) died in another mysterious plane crash in 1999, shortly after announcing he was interested in seeking public office. When JFK’s remaining child, Caroline Kennedy, expressed an interest in the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton, she was greeted with a storm of criticism from the mass media, which said she was unqualifed while at the same time raising little fuss about Tea Party candidates for Congress.

A few people courageously disputed the Warren Commission’s finding that Oswald was the lone assassin. Among them was Attorney Mark Lane, whose book, Rush to Judgement, became an overnight best seller after being turned down by 16 publishing houses. I did an exclusive interview with Lane in 1969. It can be found at Jim Garrison, New Orleans District Attorney, would have blown the coverup wide open in the 1970s except that his witnesses kept dying before testifying or were frightened into submission. It was later revealed that the CIA worked overtime to subvert his case.

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations found that at least two shooters killed President Kennedy. While this should have ended the government’s coverup, the media paid scant attention to it. The Committee’s chief counsel, Robert Blakey, refused to be sidetracked by the CIA, and plowed on to a truthful assessment of what happened in Dealey Plaza. Along with Lane and Garrison, he was a true people’s hero in uncovering the truth.

If JFK had not be murdered, we might be living in quite a different world today. If he had been successful in making peace with the Soviet Union, billions of dollars could have been spent on people’s needs, instead of weapons of war. What if the U.S. and the Soviet Union had joined together to go into space, and had conducted joint worldwide health and anti-disease programs. Might the USSR been influenced to become more democratic, and might the US have been influenced to focus on social welfare programs for the betterment of Americans?

White boots marching

in a yellow land – Phil Ochs

Many of us see Kennedy’s assassination as a primary event that pushed the youth culture into a rejection of all authority and government. How different it would have been if there had been no Vietnam war and if the Sixties generation political thrust had been to defend the social democratic gains and peace program of the Kennedy administration against the constant attacks by the rich and the Right.

Kennedy would have won a landslide victory in 1964 over Barry Goldwater, who was the most far-right candidate of the Republican Party in the 20th Century. It is very possible that JFK would have been succeeded in 1968 by his brother Robert Kennedy. Sixteen years of a progressive, peaceful America would have made it impossible for any of the collection of Southern Democrats and right-wing Republicans who have held the Presidency since to have been elected in the first place. Nixon, Reagan, and two Bushes would have been footnotes in history.

Instead, we have been condemned to a world of unrestrained capitalism including war, violence, assassinations, drone attacks, growing poverty and homelessness, global warming, continued racism and sexism, low-wage jobs and high-cost education.

Fifty years later, the road back to the promise of 1963 will be a hard one, but it is the road we must take if we are to realize the peace, happiness and potential for all people that seemed so close, so long ago.

(I have avoided web citations as much as possible for brevity. I would urge anyone interested in the details to read Ventura’s book, “They Killed Our President,” or search the internet. The truth is out there.)


The Prisoner

By Jim Smith

They took him prisoner

when the celebration was over.

The limos arrived at his house

bringing famous men

and twitchy bodyguards.

“Congratulations Mr. President,”

said the man with the TV face.

“Here’s how it will be

Your speeches will be cleared with us

Any questions, just ask

Ron or Tim or Hillary,

they know the drill.”

When he protested,

they complimented his pretty wife,

and his beautiful children.

Then they talked about Kennedy.

He had so much potential.

What a pity he defied them.

And wasn’t it a shame

about John, Jr. and Caroline.

“You see, Mr. President,

the business of America is business.

Your role is to speak on our behalf,

nothing more.”

That’s why the CIA, the NSA,

the military and Wall Street

have taken the place of Congress

and the Office of the President.

It’s just more efficient.”

We’re so excited that you won.

It will be great working with you.”


4 replies »

  1. Simply amazing! I was only three ears old but we lived near the Ambassador Hotel where Robert was shot. it affected me emotionally too. I grew up in New Orleans and Carlos Marcelos was legendary. I believe in this conspiracy and have seen a video tying the Bush presidents to the assassination.

    I remember when I was the closest thing to a minority in a segregated South (the Indian boy or the Dago kid)and I remember during integration the black kids tormenting us white(er) kids. I have seen my world change and I can remember listening to the old white men talk about the,”Good ol’ days,” when they could drive through negroe neighborhoods and shoot and kill blacks indiscriminately without fear of legal consequences. It even seems that at some point there was a time when raping women, especially minorities was an acceptable pass time as well. But of that I cannot be sure, only that killing black men was an acceptable sport.

    I wonder too, what the world would have been like if all these civil rights leaders had not been murdered. Would I still have been sent to military school and felt compelled to invent weapon systems when I was only int he fifth grade out of fear of going to Vietnam when I grew up, only to have those designs stolen when my an parents divorced and see them come up when I became impoverished? Would I have made something of myself instead of rebelling against wealth and authority? Would I still be poor and oppressed today?

    I had begun wondering why I even bothered to study journalism when clearly I prefer to be an inventor and especially since I studied at the worst college in Southern California which is near President Nixon.s favorite retreat, where he wrote his book. It’s no secret people hate Hispanics here and especially Mexicans. I was supposed to have lost my mind and killed myself and a random group of people by now but I haven’t. And I’m nobody important. No government intelligence cares about me. Just a bunch of racists who work for the government here that hate me because of their preconceived notions of me. How I wish it were different for me.

    What IF, I really was judged by the content of my character and not the color of my skin or my national origin? What if I really could concentrate on what I can do for my country instead of worrying about what my country can do for me because I am so damned needy?

    What if all the other newspapers could print the truth like the Free Venice Beachhead does? Would people rebel still? I must have fallen into the most backwards part of Southern California , the only valley wherein all the towns are refusing to allow medical marijuana dispensaries. The best town here was founded by a racist who required investors to promise never to rent or sell to black people, and this was Roy Rogers’ home town! Beware of the Victor Valley!

    I want to come home to Venice.