Tuesday, 27 June 2023 02:23

Chris Hedges and Aaron Mate: Please Sit Down

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Two disgusting exhibitions, by Mate and Hedges. This is what happens when liberal “alternative” reporters put their trust in Sy Hersh’s atrocity of a book. Someone should wash Hedges’ mouth out with soap.

On the podcast of Useful Idiots for June 23rd, Katie Helper and Aaron Mate guested founder of Salon and bestselling author David Talbot. A second guest was Aaron Good, who hosts the podcast American Exception and is author of the book of the same name. Because of the interest of those two authors in the JFK assassination, plus the presidential candidacy of Robert Kennedy Jr. the subject of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy arose. Helper asked a general question about his assassination: as to why he thought it occurred. Talbot replied that it was likely because of Kennedy’s attempts to end the Cold War. He then named a few examples, like the Partial Nuclear Test Ban, his attempts at détente with Cuba and Russia, and his withdrawal of advisors from Vietnam.

Aaron Mate then joined in. Mate is a journalist I would like to like. He has done some good work in battling the MSM, for example on the issue of Russia Gate. I was just about bowled over when he said that he had only read the works of Seymour Hersh and Noam Chomsky on the subject of the John F. Kennedy presidency. Which would be the equivalent of him saying that he has only read Gerald Posner and Vincent Bugliosi on his assassination. A respectable reporter could hardly choose two worse sources than those two men. (Click here for Hersh and here for Chomsky)

Mate started in with, well yes, John Kennedy did make the famous American University Peace Speech. But he also then made his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech later that same June month in 1963. As this linked article shows Kennedy made the Berlin speech since he wanted to fortify the Atlantic Alliance over the doubts sown about its solidarity by French leader Charles DeGaulle.

As anyone who studies the Kennedy presidency understands, the city of Berlin, because it was located inside East Germany, was of prime importance to Kennedy, as was the Atlantic Alliance. Unlike Vietnam, he felt this was an area and an alliance that impacted America’s national security. For example, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy thought that Nikita Khrushchev was going to use his newly installed missiles in Cuba as a way to either barter or to move on Berlin. (The Kennedy Tapes by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow, pp. 176-77). But this did not affect his continued efforts at rapprochement with Moscow and Havana. Those were ongoing up until his assassination.

Mate then went on to say that raids against Cuba persisted after Operation Mongoose was discontinued. (He actually said after the Bay of Pigs invasion, but this was a clear chronological error on his part.) Talbot replied that this was merely boom and bang that did not result in anything of substance. Which is correct. In fact, upon Kennedy’s death Des Fitzgerald, CIA’s chief of Cuban operations at the time, suggested they be stopped. There were only five in the second half of 1963 and they were of little consequence, individually or as a whole. In two letters Fitzgerald wrote to the White House he clearly implied this effort was so meager that it was counterproductive. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, second edition, p. 70) But the important aspect to note is that, as author Peter Kornbluh has observed, the back channel efforts with Fidel Castro ended upon JFK’s assassination. Much to the chagrin of Castro. (Click here)

But the worst comments that Mate made were on Vietnam. In reference to National Security Action Memorandum 263, he used the old Chomsky mythology that this thousand man withdrawal was conditional on the war being favorable to Saigon. The implication being that somehow Kennedy would reverse policy if it weren’t. Anyone can read NSAM 263, for example, in John Newman’s revised version of his book JFK and Vietnam. (p. 417). There is nothing conditional about it. The first thousand advisors were being withdrawn by the end of 1963.

But further, Kennedy told his aides Ken O’Donnell and Dave Powers that he had been convinced by Senator Mike Mansfield. Mansfield had told JFK twice that the American effort in Vietnam was not effective. That the proper policy was to send no more reinforcements and to begin a withdrawal from the area. After the second discussion of Mansfield’s plan Kennedy said that in 1965 he would become an unpopular president. He would be branded a communist appeaser and another McCarthy Red Scare would ensue. But he was satisfied with that. As long as it happened after he was reelected, and everyone was out: “So we had better make damned sure that I am reelected.” (Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye , by O’Donnell and Powers, pp. 16-17).

Would Kennedy say he was going to be branded a commie appeaser if he thought the withdrawal would result in victory?

Secondly, Mate is quoting Chomsky from a book the latter published before the declassification process of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) began. In December of 1997, the ARRB declassified hundreds of pages of records on Vietnam. This included the Sec/Def meeting from May of 1963, where all US representatives—Pentagon, CIA, State Department—would meet to review the situation in Indochina. At this particular meeting Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara collected the withdrawal plans from the Pentagon that he had requested earlier. Everyone in the room understood that the withdrawal would be completed by 1965. There is no mention by anyone of escalation if the war turned south. In fact, General Earle Wheeler noted that proposals for any such action would elicit “a negative Presidential decision.” (Probe Magazine, Vol. 5 No. 3, p. 19)

Third, as Newman discussed in Oliver Stone’s film JFK: Destiny Betrayed, he was given permission by McNamara to listen to and read the transcripts of his Pentagon debriefs. In that record, McNamara said that he and Kennedy had concluded that they could give equipment, training and advisors to Saigon. But they could not fight the war for them. Once the training mission was completed America was leaving, and it did not matter what the military situation was on the ground.

Former New York Times journalist Chris Hedges might be even worse on the subject of Kennedy history. I had the misfortune of watching his interview on the Bad Faith podcast with Briahna Joy Gray. Just what we need, another professional Chomskyite leftist who relies on Sy Hersh’s hatchet job of a book on JFK. Anyone who admits that in public—as these two men did—should be pilloried and castigated for being an unreliable sucker.

First, unlike what Hedges conveys, according to Jules Witcover’s authoritative book 85 Days, prior to the 1968 New Hampshire primary, Bobby Kennedy had decided to enter the Democratic race for president. He stayed out of that primary in deference to Gene McCarthy’s candidacy. Bobby entered the race because he did not think that McCarthy was strong enough on domestic issues.

Second, I just about fell out of my chair when Hedges said that RFK was somehow obsessed with the death of Fidel Castro. This is simply false. The CIA/Mafia plots to assassinate Castro went back to 1960. And anyone who reads the Inspector General report on them would know that Bobby Kennedy did not know about them until May of 1962. And he found out about them through an accident. Sam Giancana wanted a hotel room in Vegas wiretapped since he thought his girlfriend, Phyllis McGuire, was carrying on with comedian Dan Rowan. This illegal surveillance, commissioned by the CIA Castro plotter Robert Maheu, was discovered by the local authorities. It was kicked up to the FBI. When RFK learned of it he requested a briefing as to why Maheu was trying to comply with Giancana’s request. That is how he found out about the plots. When the CIA briefed him, they told him that the plots had been discontinued. This was a lie and the CIA knew it was false when they told him. (CIA IG Report, pp. 57-66)

But further, the CIA’s internal report proved that at no time did any president give any approval or authorization to the plots to kill Castro. (IG Report, pp. 132-33). Yet the CIA authorized, through Director of Plans Richard Helms, the use of RFK’s name in a further extension of the plots through a Cuban national named Rolando Cubela. (IG Report, pp. 89-93).

This is how wrong Hedges is about this whole sorry episode. I mean a function of a journalist—especially an alternative reporter—is to consult the primary sources on a subject like this. If not, you run the risk of misinforming the public. The CIA Inspector General report is online. There is no excuse for not reading it. (Here it is)

Neither, as Hedges maintains, did JFK buy into the whole Cold War ethos, especially in the Third World. Did Hedges miss Kennedy’s famous speech in 1957, where he bucked the entire media/political establishment on this issue in the French colonial conflict in Algeria? All one has to do is read Richard Mahoney’s JFK: Ordeal in Africa about President Kennedy and the Congo to understand that. Kennedy was backing Congo’s Patrice Lumumba against the European power Belgium in that epic struggle. The CIA helped to get rid of Lumumba about three days before Kennedy was inaugurated.(Mahoney, pp. 69-74)

Question to Hedges: Was that just a coincidence? Or did they not like the fact that they knew JFK was going to back Lumumba? In fact, Kennedy directly caused the UN to back Lumumba’s successor, labor leader Cyrille Adoula, against the secession of the rich European backed Katanga province. And Kennedy gave the go ahead to use the United Nation’s military force, Operation Grand Slam, to do so. (Mahoney, pp. 154-56).

I almost threw up when Hedges said that the Kennedys were late to support civil rights. This is just utter nonsense. I proved in a 60 page documented essay that no president since Lincoln did more for civil rights than JFK. And no Attorney General did more on the issue than Bobby Kennedy. And it started within about two months after Kennedy was inaugurated. To name just one achievement: JFK signed the first executive order about affirmative action. To name another: RFK prosecuted the Secretary of Education in Louisiana for not obeying a judicial decree on school integration. (Click here)

This almost MSM goofiness is topped when Hedges says that RFK hated Martin Luther King. On that one I went from puking to cardiac arrest. Bobby Kennedy supervised the famous March on Washington in 1963. He was determined that this event would come off like clockwork so the civil rights movement would be hailed as a non-violent triumph. It did and it was. (Irving Bernstein, Promises Kept, p. 114). As most people in the know understand—except maybe Hedges—it was Bobby Kennedy who gave King the idea for a Poor People’s March. (Arthur Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy and His Times, pp. 911-12) It was Robert Kennedy who rescued the Freedom Riders and King in Montgomery by sending in 500 federal marshals under the direction of Byron White. (Bernstein, p. 66) It was JFK who called Coretta Scott King when her husband was imprisoned during the presidential race in 1960. It was Bobby who then intervened and had King released.(Bernstein, pp. 35-36) It was Bobby Kennedy who gave the address in Indianapolis the night King was killed to a predominantly Afro-American crowd. That was the only major city that did not go up in flames over King’s murder. Anyone who can listen to this speech and say RFK hated King is not to be trusted on the subject.

The excuse Hedges gives for cancelling all of this out and saying that Bobby hated King was the approval the Attorney General gave to a wiretap on King’s phone. What he leaves out is that Bobby was under relentless pressure by J. Edgar Hoover to do so. As FBI official William Sullivan wrote, RFK resisted, resisted and resisted any such action. But Hoover’s clearly implied threat was that the FBI would release evidence that King was secretly a communist sympathizer who had people who were pink in his employ. Finally, the AG agreed to a 30 day trial on the grounds that if nothing was found, that would be it for the accusations and the surveillance. The problem was that President Kennedy was killed around the time it lapsed and that was it for RFK’s control over Hoover. To put it mildly, Hoover’s good friend Lyndon Johnson had no such qualms about the FBI’s battles against King. And beyond that, the evidence indicates that Hoover already had King wired, and was trying to cover himself with his threats about exposure. (Harris Wofford, Of Kennedys and Kings, pp. 211-17)

It is crucial to note that King did not endorse Eugene McCarthy in 1968. He was waiting for RFK to make up his mind. When Bobby announced he said, “We’ve got to get behind Bobby now that he’s in.”(Schlesinger, p. 912) Let me also add, back in 2015, the late Paul Schrade told me that it was Cesar Chavez’ idea to get RFK to Delano, California for the hearings on suppression against the farm workers. To put it mildly, Bobby came through for them. (Click here to see)

If King and Chavez are not enough, we know that after JFK passed, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Achmed Sukarno of Indonesia, and Juan Bosch of the Dominican Republic were all mired in pain, to the point of tears. They all knew the road ahead. They were correct. We know what happened after—except for maybe Chris Hedges and Aaron Mate.

All of this is not a matter of politics. It is a matter of defiled history.

Last modified on Tuesday, 27 June 2023 18:55
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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