PETER FROST tries to avoid the conspiracy theories and sycophantic uncritical praise that is marking the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s death.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot dead on November 22, 1963, as his limousine drove through Dallas, Texas. That much is fact.
Fifty years on, the assassination continues to be debated and argued about. It has generated scores of conspiracy theories spelt out in web sites, books, films, articles and TV documentaries.
It is doubtful if we will ever get to the real truth about the killing. The official Warren Report took 888 pages to declare the assassination was the work of one man – Lee Harvey Oswald – acting entirely alone.
This despite the fact that Oswald had long links with the CIA, and was a poor shot armed with a cheap and inaccurate rifle. These and many other facts throw doubt on the single assassin theory.
Oswald never got to tell his side of the story. He was shot in a police station basement by strip club owner Jack Ruby just days after his arrest. Ruby got into the police station helped by corrupt Dallas police officer friends.
Ruby had many connections with organised crime and had worked for the mob in Havana. He died before his second trial could be heard.
Far from Oswald acting alone a much more likely explanation is that the assassination was the work of CIA and Mafia operators using Oswald to take the rap.
Both the CIA and Mafia had many reasons to want to get rid of a President who wouldn’t do their bidding. Working together, and with the support of the US establishment they had the resources, the operatives and the motive, not just to kill the President, but to bury the truth forever.
22 months is a long time in Politics.
President John F Kennedy occupied the White House for just twenty two turbulent Cold War months.
Far from the progressive liberal President he is thought of, Kennedy was a friend of red-baiter Joe McCarthy and a traditional Cold War Warrior. McCarthy dated two of JFK’s sisters and was godfather to Bobby Kennedy’s children.
However JFK’s refusal to send ground troops to Vietnam and his pledge of a phased withdrawal of all US personnel from that conflict angered political enemies. After Kennedy’s death President Johnson would despatch more than half a million American troops to fight and lose that terrible war.
Kennedy enraged US racists when he proposed civil rights legislation. More perceptive supporters of the movement recognised that he was timid in taking on the racists within the powerful Democratic Party machine in the Southern states.
He created the Peace Corps that sent young volunteers to help in the third world. Sadly the Corps would often be used by the CIA as a cover for its nefarious activities.
JFK pledged the USA would, in ten years, send a man to the moon and safely return him to earth. It was a predictable, if bold, reaction to the Soviet Union who were heading the space race.
The USSR had put the first artificial satellite – Sputnik – into orbit. Then the first dog, man and woman into space. Laika, Yuri Gagarin, and Valentina Tereshkova all shocked and frightened US public opinion.
By far the biggest issue of the Kennedy Presidency however was Cuba. Fidel Castro had liberated the country in 1959. Prior to that this sun-baked island of brothels, sleazy bars and casinos had been run by Mafia puppets.
Now this communist island just 90 miles from the US mainland was irritating America and having a profound effect on World politics.
In 1961, just three months after Kennedy was elected, the CIA came up with a harebrained plan to invade Cuba. They trained and equipped a motley group of anti-communist, anti-Castro renegade Cubans that landed at the Bay of Pigs.
They believed that this would provoke Kennedy to step in with American forces. In fact when the operation turned into a fiasco, Kennedy refused to help. The CIA would never forgive him.
They plotted their revenge.
In September 1962, US spy planes spotted missile launch sites being built in Cuba. Soviet freighters with missile cargos were seen approaching Havana. Kennedy protested to the Soviet Union.
At home, Republicans and conservative southern Democrats in Congress had blocked much of Kennedy’s legislation. His poll ratings were at an all time low.
After the Bay of Pigs the Republicans were making Cuba the main issue. Kennedy imposed a naval blockade and ordered the air-force to prepare for attacks on Castro’s island and the Soviet Union. 125,000 fighting men in Florida waited for orders to invade.
The world waited anxiously, if the Soviet ships carrying weapons did not turn back armed conflict seemed inevitable. Six out of every ten Americans expected nuclear war.
On a personal note, as sixteen year old, I joined thousands of angry protesters outside the American Embassy in London.
On October 24, Nikita Khrushchev ordered his ships to turn back. He accused Kennedy of creating the crisis to help win the election.
Two days later Khrushchev sent Kennedy another letter. It proposed removing the missiles in Cuba in exchange for a promise that the US would not invade the island.
A further letter from Khrushchev demanded the removal of US nuclear bases in Turkey.
Then news came through that a US spy plane had been shot down over Cuba.
The world held its breath again. CIA and military advisers demanded Kennedy should now bomb Cuba. JFK refused and instead sent a letter to Khrushchev accepting the terms of his first missive.
Khrushchev agreed and gave orders for the missiles to be dismantled. The world sighed with relief.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was the first and most serious nuclear confrontation between the USA and USSR. After it, many things changed in Cold War relations.
The two sides agreed to establish a teletype Hot Line between leaders. No more war and peace negotiations by letter.
The USA quietly withdrew its nuclear missiles from Turkey and Italy.
A Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in August 1963.
Meanwhile the Pentagon, CIA and Mafia bosses grew incandescent with rage, and their real plotting began.
That rage would culminate in the shots that rang out over Dealey Plaza and the Grassy Knoll, they are still echoing half a century later.
Just part of American politics
Assassination has always been part of American political life and death.
Four USA presidents have been murdered: Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy. Two others, Roosevelt and Reagan, were injured in assassination attempts.
Assassins cut short the political work of Robert F Kennedy; Gay rights activist Harvey Milk; Civil Rights worker Medgar Evers; Malcolm X; Martin Luther King Jr and his Mother Alberta Williams King; Black Panther Fred Hampton; Native American leader Anna Mae Aquash; Anti-Mafia journalist Don Bolles; gun control advocate Thomas C Wales and many, many others.
Hundreds of fighters for civil rights were slain in that bloody struggle.
The latest outrage has been doctors and health workers providing legal abortions who have been cut down.
As well as those killed, hundreds of people have escaped death but been shot and injured because of their political beliefs or campaigning.
The nearest thing to an American Royal Family
The Kennedys are the nearest the USA has ever got to having its own home-grown royal dynasty.
Founded on the bootleg whisky trade during Prohibition, patriarch, Joseph Kennedy, was a rum-runner and close associate of Mafia bigwigs Frank Costello and Meyer Lansky.
Despite his mob connections Joe Kennedy craved respectability. He made his fortune in the underworld of violence and criminality, and he desperately wanted his sons to make their mark in the legitimate world.
In 1938 Roosevelt appointed Joe Kennedy ambassador to Britain. Kennedy advocated appeasement with Hitler and Nazi Germany and resigned.
Joseph Kennedy’s first son, another Joe died during World War II.
Second son, John F. Kennedy used the immense family fortune to enter politics. Unlimited funds, good looks and excellent TV skills saw him win seats in both Congress and Senate.
Much to his father’s satisfaction JFK set his sights on the White House. There was one significant obstacle— he was a Catholic. There was a strong anti-Catholic prejudice particularly from the Bible Belt Protestant in the South.
Joe Kennedy persuaded family friend Frank Sinatra to ask his Mafia contacts to help his son. Mobster Sam Giancana, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and other crooked politicians stuffed ballot boxes to ensure a Kennedy Presidential nomination.
JFK was elected president in 1960, narrowly beating Richard Nixon.
JFK – and the many women in his life.
On holiday earlier this year I visited the Kennedy Museum at Hyannisport on Cape Cod. The sycophantic museum’s message constantly reiterated what a devoted family man JFK was.
Reality, of course, is very different, the Kennedy Brothers, John and Bobby were both serial philanderers; in some cases, as with Marilyn Monroe, sharing their sexual conquests.
JFK, it seemed, had an insatiable sexual appetite, all his life he treated young and beautiful women as sex objects.
He married Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953 when she was a 24-year-old journalist and he was a 36-year-old newly elected senator. Her undoubted glamour and popularity made a major contribution to his political career. The Kennedys projected a public image of the perfect American family.
JFK privately pursued plenty of other women. Henry Kissinger, who worked as a consultant for JFK famously said “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”.
Best known affair was with Marilyn Monroe. Her breathless rendition of Happy Birthday for the President at a 1962 Democratic Party fundraiser gave the game away.
Judith Campbell Exner had a steamy affair with Kennedy, simultaneously sharing her favours with Gangsters Sam Giancana and John Roselli.
Mimi Beardsley was a 19-year-old White House intern when Kennedy took away her virginity on Jackie’s bed and there were many others.
Kennedy’s Secret Service bodyguard Anthony Sherman related that JFK constantly hired prostitutes causing blackmail worries.
Peter Frost’s new book ‘Comrade Marilyn – A most unlikely Communist’, will be published next month by Five Leaves. It contains much information on the relationship between Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedy brothers.
This feature was published in the Morning Star on November 23 2013 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the shooting in Dallas