By Herbert L Calhoun on August 15, 2008
This is the first of several high-level political analyses motivated by a need to better understand the politics that led to both the JFK assassination and the Nixon Watergate Affair. It deploys as the primary theoretical model, C. Wright Mills “Theory of the Power Elite” and the framework in Carroll Quigleys book “Tragedy and Hope.”
With these tools, Carl Oglesby posits an interesting thesis: that JFKs assassination, instead of being a random act by a lone nut was in fact a carefully planned and professional executed ongoing coup d’ etat a la Americaine, a not so silent coup by the same forces responsible for the murders of JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X and possibly the demise and eventual destruction of the billionaire Howard Hughes.
What all of these events had in common was that they were links in a chain designed to replace one set of power elite (members of the old moneyed “peace promoting” Eastern Yankee Establishment) with another (the Nuevo Riche and newly arrived, “progress through war” Western Cowboys). Thus it is argued here that the events connecting Dallas, Memphis, Watergate and the demise of the Hughes empire, are but threads in a common fabric, growing and evolving directly out of the systematic corruption of American politics and out of contemporary political realities.
Altogether it is thus a seductive and believable theory that says as much about American political realities as it does about the events of Dallas, LA, Memphis and NY themselves. What Oglesby tries to do, and succeeds at it brilliantly, is expose the almost organic level of corruption in the structure of the political process that led to the events in Dallas and Watergate. When the connections linking these two are examined in detail, and are traced backwards in time to their origins, they extend not just back to CIA dirty tricks to get rid of Castro, or to the Cuban rum and gun-running days of Batista, or for that matter, even to the unholy and corrupt pre-war alliance forged by FDR between Meyer Lanksys wing of the mob and the USG, but they go all the way back to the competing North-South power factions emerging in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Left unchecked, except by the tug of war being waged in the under currents of the competing interests of the power elite, this corruption eventually led to the ceding of power to what we have come to recognize as the “Secret National Security State.” It is precisely this melding of corruption and the built in power of the national security state that General Eisenhower had warns us about in his farewell address. And in both the JFK assassination and the Watergate Affair. it seems (at least to Oglesby) that those events were a simple case of “the buzzards coming home to roost:” In short, the machinations of competing factions within the Secret National Security State eventually took on a life of their own.
Of all the books on the JFK assassination one is likely to read, this is one of the few that gets directly at the heart of the matter. And even though it deals confidently and adequately with the facts surrounding both the JFK assassination and the Watergate Affair, which are important in and of themselves, it is not just about the discrete facts of those events, but about what it means for the republic when two of our elected Presidents are brought down by clandestine and hidden powers that undermine and substitute a Secret National Security State for our democracy.
The book seeks to answer the question: How could these things have happened in a self-respecting democracy? What does it means when “We the People” can go on pretending that even though two coup d’ etats occurred before our very eyes, that life goes on behind our collective denial as if nothing has really happened? Ultimately, these questions are more important than who and how JFK was killed.
Anyone who doubts that answering these two questions is Oglesby ultimate aim should read first the epilogue, Chapter 9, entitled “Who Killed Kennedy?” then go back and read the rest of the book. Chapter 9 is an essay so chilling it will make any self-respecting democrat, republican or independents hair stand on its head. It is the single most chilling chapter of any book on American democracy one is ever likely to read.
What Oglesby tells us in this brilliantly written epilogue is that when a President bleeds, whether through assassination or by being hounded out of office, it is our solemn duty to clean up the blood. We have a choice in this unpleasant task: We can exercise the default option and sleep in the blood as we have done for the last forty five years, pretending that sleeping in blood is the new reality. Or to use John Deans metaphor in the advice he gave to President Nixon, we can pretend that the cancer on the Presidency has not finally metastasized and now has infected us all. Or we can chose the toughest option of all, which is to pro-actively defend the republic and its future against the bureaucratized criminally corrupt cabals that felled two Presidents and appears to be using its unchecked power under the secrecy of the National Security State to completely replace our democratic form of government. In either case, by what we do or dont do, we have made a choice about what kind of democracy we are willing to settle for. If we choose not to fight, as we apparently have done, then the war of competing corrupt and powerful elites going on above our heads will continue unchecked.
In this book, Oglesby just wants us to be clear about what it is we have done when we capitulate: We have effectively forfeited our right to a democracy and all the values, ideals and traditions that go along with it. Arguably, todays political existence in the U.S. is a whole new form of quietly hidden tyranny run by the Secret National Security State as the proxy for two competing vampire power elites.
The overarching point of this book is to tell us that there is no free lunch even in a democracy. As in any other political system, in a democracy too the choice is between terror and tyranny, between Democracy and Fascism. These two poles of political existence cannot be finessed through laziness, exhaustion, or choosing to live in denial. Like all other political systems, democracy also exists on that tenuous sliver of ground that lies between these two poles; there are no angles left to be played. Those who somehow believe that benign tyranny “by their own favorite corrupt power elite” is the answer to terror, have failed to notice Oglesbys crowning point about the JFK assassination: that terror and tyranny are but opposite sides of the same corrupt coin: that tyranny is terror, just by another name, and by other more elaborate means.
That this fact is true could not be made clearer in todays post-911, post-JFK, RFK, MLK and Malcolm X assassination era. In the current heightened internal security frenzy, it is easy enough to see that the American internal security landscape has finally being transformed in plain sight, into a proto-Fascist nation overrun by rent-a-cops, hired security guards and undercover agents of all descriptions, gated communities, metal detectors, mercenary armies, informants, spies, counterspies and intelligence stringers, NARCs and DEA agents, FBI, CIA, Secret service and IRS agents, helicopter surveillance, bill collection agencies, and bounty hunters, just to name a few.
And this is being done at the same time that our leaders take us to war without asking our consent and without good reason. It is now the USA, not the Communists nations, that is throwing suspected terrorists in jail and torturing them without the benefits of even the minimum of legal protections. It is our own home-grown democracy, not Russia or South Africa that now leads the world in prisoners with 2.3 million of our own citizens locked behind bars. And all of this is taking place after two Presidential elections have been decided under a cloud thought to be normal only in a Banana Republic.
Under such dramatic circumstances it is no longer just an academic exercise to ask the question Oglesby poses in this book: Where does our democracy now lie along that spectrum between tyranny and terror? Between Fascism and democracy? Nor is it mere hyperbole that John Dean, one of the surviving principals in the Watergate Affair, is at this very moment furiously writing books warning us all over again that the cancer he spoke to President Nixon about has finally metastasized and spread throughout the American body politic. If no one has noticed but Carl Oglesby, those who assassinated Kennedy and ran Nixon out of office with the Watergate caper, are now in charge of the Secret National Security State.
What Oglesby proposes in this analysis is that it is the Yankee-Cowboy War that has finally lulled us to sleep. We have been socialized into hiding behind our favorite power elite team jerseys, outsourcing our hard won freedoms and power by proxy to those Yankees and Cowboys, who, at the same time they stand-in for us, also rape us in the name of their own private economic self-interests. We have been socialized into handing over our loyalty to those who have proven that they no longer have the interests of this nation at heart, those with no demonstrable values above their own ability to seek power and their ability to accumulate wealth. To them, this Yankee-Cowboy War may be a game with a winning strategy. However, for us, the true heirs and the true sovereigns of American democracy, trickle-down Socialism, or trickledown Cowboy Entrepreneurism (which in the end are pretty much the same thing) is a losing proposition whether our proxy is a Cowboy or a Yankee, whether our political party is democrat or republican, and whether our team jersey is red or blue.
JFK, Nixon, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm were all brought down by those who somehow have used their corrupt power to bore their way into the walls and crevices of our blindly and insanely partisan democracy, establishing in its place a Secret National Security State, an entity that grows without bounds like a cancer and one that is ever inching the nation closer toward Fascist tyranny. And like the political imbeciles they each take us to be, We the People have allowed them to ride into town on their red and blue Trojan horses to steal away our power, our freedom and our peace of mind under the guise of political partisanism, and keeping us safe from terror and tyranny.
This is an important book not just because it builds up, brick-by-brick, a coherent frame of reference for situating the events that unfolded into the JFK assassination and the Watergate caper, but also because it forces the reader to think and to ask the hard questions laying at the subtext of the JFK assassination: What does it say about us as a nation if a President can be murdered in broad daylight, and the murder covered-up for half a century, and the nation goes on pretending that it was all the result of a lone nut?
When a President bleeds, who will clean up the blood?
Phi Beta Iota: Daniel P. Sheehan uses this book to conclude his 2013 university course covering seven theories of who killed JFK. See his online references and videos: Daniel P. Sheehan: Who Killed JFK?.