Sunday, 13 March 2022 19:45

Bob Buzzanco: Chomsky’s “Useful Idiot”

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Next up in our continuing examination of the media responses to Oliver Stone’s documentary JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, Jim DiEugenio considers 94-year-old Noam Chomsky’s appearance on Robert Buzzanco’s podcast Green and Red and, in light of their lack of familiarity with the work of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) as presented in the film, asks the question, “How can men who attest to be leading intellectuals of the left do such incredibly sloppy and irresponsible work?”

Robert Buzzanco is a history professor at the University of Houston. He is also a co-host—along with Scott Parkin—of a podcast called Green and Red. On January 12, 2022, Buzzanco had the 94-year-old Noam Chomsky—looking every year of his age—on his show to reply to the treatment of Vietnam in Oliver Stone’s documentary JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass. Chomsky could not help but make some general comments about Kennedy. In this regard, the linguist was his usual pompous and somewhat ludicrous self. At one point, he compared President Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. If Chomsky can show us where either of the latter supported Medicare, universal healthcare, and equal rights for African Americans in the sixties, I would be curious to read about it, because Kennedy did all three. The program then slipped into Rocky Horror Picture Show low camp: Chomsky tried to parallel Kennedy’s success to the conditions existing in Germany in the twenties. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not. The only way there is any resemblance is that the assassinations of that decade—JFK, Malcolm X, King and Robert Kennedy—led to the election of Richard Nixon, the premature end of an era of hope and aspiration, and a continuance of the war in Vietnam. I wish I could add that Buzzanco pointed out these absurd exaggerations. He didn’t. (For more on Chomsky, click here and here)

As the program went on, it became clear that Chomsky and Buzzanco had done zero research on the new evidence about the subject of Vietnam adduced by the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) and presented in JFK Revisited. The pair was largely relying on what Chomsky had written, if you can believe it, back in the nineties in response to Stone’s film JFK. The pair actually ended up being worse than the MSM on the subject.

How? Because back in December of 1997, the Board declassified the records of the May 1963, SecDef meeting in Hawaii. This was a regular meeting that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had with representatives of each branch of the American government in Saigon: State, CIA, Pentagon, etc. Those declassified documents were so direct and compelling they convinced the New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer that, at the time of his death, Kennedy was getting out of Vietnam. (Probe Magazine, Vol. 5 No. 3, p. 19) It should be noted that the NY Times story was written by MSM stalwart Tim Wiener. But yet, Chomsky was still using his old excuse that Kennedy was only getting out if Saigon was winning. This was ridiculously illogical back in the nineties, because, as John Newman pointed out in his book JFK and Vietnam, Kennedy understood that the Pentagon was rigging their numbers in order to make it appear Saigon was winning. Newman demonstrates this awareness in the book. He even named the two men who cooked the books: General Paul Harkins and Air Force Colonel Joseph Winterbottom. (pp. 185–245, 2017 edition)

The thesis of Newman’s book is that Kennedy was going to use this optimistic information to hoist the Pentagon on their own petard. Revealing on this point is that Kennedy told McGeorge Bundy’s assistant Michael Forrestal that America had about a hundred to one chance of winning in Vietnam. He then said that when he returned from Dallas:

I want to start a complete and very profound review of how we got into this country, what we thought we were doing, and what we now think we can do. I even want to think about whether or not we should be there. (James Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, p. 183)

The other point that is important in this regard is that, after it became clear what JFK was doing—and also what the new president wanted—the intelligence reports began to change. They now became pessimistic and also backdated to early November, and even before. (Click here; see also The Third Decade Vol. 9 No. 6 pp. 8–10; Newman, 2017 edition, p. 438)

Is not the point made with those two pieces of data? In fact, as historian Aaron Good has stated, when one combines the evidence, this “profound review” suggests the genesis of the Pentagon Papers. By 1967, it was fairly clear that President Johnson’s escalation and direct intervention was not going to work. Robert McNamara was still Secretary of Defense. Realizing that Johnson’s strategy of air and infantry escalation had failed, he had become quite emotionally disturbed. In 1966, fearing he was going to be attacked at Harvard, he escaped a hostile crowd through a tunnel. His son had draped a Viet Cong flag across his bedroom. He would rage against the war’s futility and then turn to the window and literally cry into the curtains. As his secretary said, that happened frequently. (Steve Sheinkin, Most Dangerous, p. 98, p. 121, p. 126) It’s a logical deduction that McNamara realized what had happened between Kennedy and Johnson and he was now expiating his guilt by exposing the secret history of the war through the Pentagon Papers, which is likely why he kept this 18-month effort a secret from Johnson. And he had no objection to Daniel Ellsberg giving the papers to, first, the New York Times and, then, the Washington Post.

In fact, in JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, Stone plays a tape from February of 1964 in which Johnson admits that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was implementing Kennedy’s withdrawal policy. Johnson states that he knew this and he stewed in silence, because as Vice President he could not do anything about it, at least at that time. Somehow both Chomsky and Buzzanco missed this.

But that is not what I really wish to address here. On that podcast, near the end, Buzzanco implies that somehow, there was no information in the documentary about Lee Harvey Oswald that was not in the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) volumes. I could barely believe what I was hearing, but I really think he meant it. If that is so, then Buzzanco:

  1. Could not have read the HSCA volumes
  2. Did not pay any attention at all to the documentary.

This from a man who pontificates to the listener that he knows what he is talking about and can be trusted to set the record straight.

One will search in vain through the 12 volumes of the HSCA for any annex on Oswald’s relationship with the CIA and/or FBI at any time in his career. In the film, we have John Newman and Jeff Morley talking about this issue. To mention just four things they brought up that are not in those volumes:

  1. That the liaison for the HSCA with the CIA also secretly handled the Cuban exile who tried to frame Oswald after the assassination for killing Kennedy for Cuba.
  2. That the FBI scraped off the address of 544 Camp Street from the Oswald flyers before they were sent to HQ. That address housed the offices of Guy Banister and also the CIA-backed Cuban Revolutionary Council.
  3. The FBI took Oswald’s flash warning off his file in the first week of October 1963. This meant the Secret Service was unlikely to remove him from the motorcade route. That warning had been on the file for 4 years prior.
  4.  A similar thing occurred at CIA, in order to lower Oswald’s profile in advance of the assassination.

In fact, one will only see the last point in the so called Lopez Report. This was the HSCA’s classified report on Oswald and Mexico City, which was only released by the ARRB, a body which Buzzanco refers to only in passing, discounting it as he does. The middle two points were also only discovered as a result of that Board’s work. So just what is Buzzanco talking about in regards to the HSCA? He clearly has not done his homework on the subject.

In fact, the only systematic, direct work done on Oswald and the CIA by the HSCA was not declassified until after the Board went out of existence. This was in 2005. I am referring to the scintillating work of HSCA researcher Betsy Wolf and it was discovered by British researcher Malcolm Blunt. (I would like Buzzanco to prove to me he knew of either person before he opened up his mouth on the subject.) Back in 1977–78, Wolf was the main HSCA researcher on the Oswald file at CIA. She discovered that there were two odd things about this file. First, there was no 201 file opened on Oswald for 13 months after his defection, even though the CIA knew about the defection within days, and had accumulated many papers on the man in just one month.

The second thing she discovered was that the documents on Oswald did not go to the place where they should have gone, namely the Soviet Russia Division. Instead, they went to the Office of Security, which, as Malcolm found out, almost guaranteed there would be no 201 file opened on him.

These anomalies disturbed Wolf. She decided to interview officers in the CIA who would know about such matters. She discovered that there was an unofficial Agency rule which said, once there were five documents on a subject, a 201 file should be opened. This was clearly and blatantly disregarded in the Oswald case. But it was not until late in 1978, when the HSCA was about to close down, that she found her Holy Grail about the Oswald file and its weird path. At that time, she interviewed Robert Gambino, who was the present Chief of Security at CIA. He told her that it did not matter how many documents came in on a subject or if they were stamped to a certain division. If someone had already arranged with the Office of Mail Logistics, those papers would go to the agreed upon destination. (Click here for that information) I would like for Buzzanco to show me where Gambino’s information is located in the HSCA volumes. I think I will have a very long wait, since, from what I can see, Wolf’s memos were not typed into memoranda form.

When one combines the above information with what JFK: Destiny Betrayed reveals about another ARRB discovery, then we learn much, much more about who Oswald was. The four-hour version of the film, released this month, has an interview with ARRB Military Records Analyst Doug Horne. He revealed to Stone that in Oswald’s last quarter in the Marines, he was not being paid by that organization, but likely by someone else. The combination of these two new important pieces of information—the bizarre file routing, and the source of funds—would all but clinch the fact that Oswald was an intelligence project before he left for Russia. Buzzanco will not find that information in the HSCA volumes.

I won’t go into all the incredibly important data that Oliver Stone unveiled to millions of people around the world in his film and which directly impacts on the facts of Kennedy’s death. How else does one explain that CE 399, the Magic Bullet, got to FBI HQ before it was delivered there. But on top of that, the FBI declared that the agent who dropped it off placed his initials on that bullet. The film proves they are not there.

The film all but proves that CE 399 was never fired in Dealey Plaza that day and would never be admitted into a court of law since, as Stone said on the Joe Rogan Show—in front of 2.5 million people—it has no chain of custody. Buzzanco and Chomsky ignored this key evidentiary issue, because, as David Mantik states in the film, in all previous inquiries CE 399 was foundational to the case against Oswald.

As Doug Horne says in the two-hour version of the film, the official autopsy photographer John Stringer denied under oath that he took the pictures of Kennedy’s brain at the Archives. He did this on at least five grounds. The first two being that he never used the type of film utilized in the photos. Second, he never used the optical processing method to produce the photos, which was a press pack. (For more details see Horne’s Inside the ARRB Vol. 3, p. 810) With Stringer’s denial, these official autopsy photographs would not be admitted into court. And they also indicate, as we show in the film, that the brain in evidence today cannot be Kennedy’s. The fact this subterfuge took place at a military controlled medical center, with many generals and admirals in control, betrays a high-level conspiracy—without even dealing with the mysterious flight plan of General Curtis Le May that day, which is also described in the recently released long version of the film.

How can men who attest to be leading intellectuals of the left do such incredibly sloppy and irresponsible work? This critique could have easily been twice as long as it is. And it would have been just as pungent and pointed. Buzzanco and Chomsky remind me of what psychologists term a folie a’ deux. It spiraled into a collapsing domino effect, since neither man made any attempt to check the other. There was never one ounce of effort placed on fact checking on matters they knew nothing about, which was a lot.

This has always been my problem with what I call the doctrinaire/structuralist left. In an odd way, their aims meet the MSM; and the underpinnings of both are exposed as being built on quicksand, because they both value expedience over facts, but for different aims.

Addendum: In another program one week later, Buzzanco apparently could not get anyone to interview him, so he had Parkin act as his line reader for what amounted to an Orwellian “60 Minutes Hate” against President Kennedy. Like Buzzanco with Chomsky, Parkin did not cross check his colleague once. Buzzanco did issue a debate challenge, which I accept, but not on his program, since that would help aid his viewership. He can contact me and we can arrange an agreed upon venue with an agreed upon agenda that follows the subject lines of JFK Revisited.

I await his response.

Last modified on Monday, 14 March 2022 16:27
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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