On November 22, 1963, I sat in my 9th Grade classroom in Jefferson Davis Junior High School in Hampton, Virginia, when the school Principal announced over the public address system that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been murdered in Dallas, Texas. Classes were let out and we all went home to the weekend that no one alive at the time will ever forget.
I was too young to understand the forces that were at play that resulted in the murder of President Kennedy. Just a little more than a year before, those of us sitting in those seats had confronted our imminent death, as the Cuban Missile Crisis played itself out internationally, while we who lived in the cross hairs in the largest concentration of military facilities in eastern North America went home from school to a blood red sunset that we knew for certain was to be our last.
Since 1962, an entire old growth forest of technical reports and popular books have been written about that day, the days before it, the days that followed and the effect of that one event on the history of the United States and the world. The technical details are myriad, hard to understand, poorly explained. Government officials immediately declared Lee Harvey Oswald as the “lone assassin,” before the dust had settled at Dealy Plaza, before any semblance of due process was even attempted. Jack Ruby’s bullet forever ended the opportunity for an open trial to discover the how and why of this terrible tragedy.
The killings continued. Malcom X was murdered in 1965. Then, in quick succession in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John’s brother Robert Kennedy were brutally murdered by so-called “lone assassins.” In 1969, Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were shot repeatedly by 14 Chicago police officers as they lay sleeping in their apartment.
The world seemed tipped over into madness.
Decades have gone by, my knowledge and perceptions of government and politics, industry and economics have increased and deepened. I now know there was indeed a connection among those horrible events of the 60s that transformed John Kennedy’s vision of a world of peace into the permanent war footing of the military/corporate oligarchy that rules the United States today and exports violence and economic oppression throughout the world.
What did John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fred Hampton and Mark Clark have in common that made them all the targets of assassins within an astonishingly short period of six years? What was happening in the United States that triggered these insane killings, that forestalled any meaningful investigation and revelation of their geneses?
What these men had in common was their unwavering resistance to the growing power of the United States military (the Pentagon) and its corporate contractors, the illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of Vietnam, the burgeoning domestic security establishment (CIA, FBI, NSA, military intelligence), worldwide organized crime and the increasing influence of these forces in United States politics.
What happened to United States government policy after these men were murdered?
The United States government turned away from President Kennedy’s moves to pull out of Vietnam and work toward general disarmament in cooperation with Cuba and the Soviet Union. The Johnson administration accelerated the invasion and occupation of Vietnam and the expanded Pentagon budget. Pentagon contractors gained a windfall in government contracts for the manufacture of military equipment and supplies. The CIA and organized crime gained access to Southeast Asian drug sources and used them to fund further covert activities in other countries.
When the United States military was defeated in 1975 and forced to flee Vietnam, the “War on Drugs” replaced the War against Communism. At the same time the CIA and organized crime were actively engaged in building up illicit drug availability in the United States, as a source of continuing funding for covert CIA activities and for the pacification (a military term) of poor urban minorities.
The security establishment treated the United States internally as it had treated foreign governments that were uncooperative to United States “interests,” through manipulation, disruption and destabilization of the opposition. The CIA used assassination, disinformation and cover stories; the FBI used COINTEL-PRO programs, as well as outright murder, to disrupt and marginalize opposition members and groups who became “too effective.”
Cui bono? Just look at the world of January 20, 2016 compared to the world of November 21, 1963. In 1963, the Kennedy administration presided over a culture of optimism and hope for a future free from war, from the drain of military spending on social support for those most in need. United States science stood on the threshold of space, boldly going where none had gone before. Though still in struggle, human rights were at the forefront, with African Americans and Native Americans awakening to the possibility of a future of political and economic equality after centuries of oppression. The world was bright with promise.
Today, in 2016, social support systems and public infrastructure are crumbling as United States imperialism increasingly draws public money into the black hole of the Pentagon. The CIA has become a rogue agency, engaged in uncontrolled kidnapping, torture and assassinations. Local and state police forces are increasingly militarized and turned against the people, treating the very citizens they are dedicated to protect as guilty before proven innocent. A police culture of oppression and defensiveness has replaced the friendly policeman on the community corner. Fears of Global Warming have replaced concerns for conservation of critical habitat, as environments around us decline and degrade.
I live in a much poorer world today than I did in the 9th Grade. Quality of life for many has declined, not improved. A tiny minority are unfathomably rich and powerful while a growing majority sink into poverty and despair. This is not the world we dreamed of while listening to President Kennedy’s speeches.
Cui bono? and cui amittit? Who is in control now? Who benefits from the world the way it is today? Who loses and why and how?
How did those in control of the events of the 1960s effect our lives today? Who are the heirs of power today?
Most importantly, what can we do about it now?