Part 10: Declassified Kennedy Tapes
by Robert L. Kocher
Several pieces of seriously disturbing information were declassified around October of 1999.
One of these revised the deliberately false history that was written to misportray the role of Jack Kennedy in the overthrow of Diem’s government in Viet Nam. Kennedy had secretly tape recorded the White House meetings at which the overthrow of the Vietnamese government was planned. The tapes were kept secret for nearly 40 years. The tapes were declassified in the fall of 1999.
The consequence of Kennedy’s decision to overthrow Diem in producing the loss of the Viet Nam War was discussed in earlier parts of the Viet Nam series appearing here in The Laissez Faire City Times. The tapes further present evidence that Jack Kennedy was a strange personality of extremely cynical and corrupt nature who was out of place in the US presidency.
Liberal history protects Kennedy as being a nearly tangential figure in the Viet Nam government overthrow who was almost a naive victim of feuds among his advisors and who was tricked into making the decision to overthrow the Vietnamese government while on vacation at Cape Cod. The meeting tapes show quite the opposite to be true. The tapes show Kennedy initiated the overthrow from the beginning and was in complete command throughout the process.
Partial taped transcripts were made public in the article “JFK and the fall of Diem,” by Ken Hughes (Boston Globe Online Sunday Magazine, October 24, 1999). What follows are parts of the recordings reported by Hughes in the article, along with some of his interpretations, and my discussion and alternative interpretations. The sequence of events here is not the same as that discussed in the Hughes report which begins, for dramatic purposes, with tape recordings made immediately after Diem’s assassination.
According to Hughes:
In 1963, Vietnam was a place President Kennedy wanted to get out of —after winning reelection in 1964. JFK approached Vietnam with the same tough-minded political realism that he brought to all major decisions. “If I tried to pull out completely now from Vietnam, we would have another Joe McCarthy Red scare on our hands,” one aide recalled Kennedy saying, “but I can do it after I’m reelected. So we had better make damned sure that I am reelected.”
No matter what he may have said in private, President Kennedy maintained a hard line in public. “I am concerned … that Americans will get impatient and say … we should withdraw,” Kennedy said on television. “I think we should stay.” A majority of Americans, far from impatient (yet) with the progress of the war, told pollsters they favored escalation if the communist Viet Cong gained too much ground.
There is no indication who the quoted Kennedy aide was. Viet Nam continues to be a hotly contested issue to this day. There are anti-Viet Nam war advocates attempting to argue the case of what Kennedy, who has been canonized by liberal historians, would or would not have done.
If we assume that any of the above is close to being correct, we find ourselves immediately immersed in a convoluted world equaling the plot of the most bizarre novel. We can be certain of one truth. Kennedy wanted to continue in the presidency for reasons of personal ambition or amusement. But his frame of reference was on the basis of corrupt local Boston politics where you win for the sake of winning without any other considerations. The only rule was to win by any means or deception necessary. The ideas of long term consequences or a larger vision was not applicable. Everything was short term tactics.
Kennedy As Liar
A second aspect is also true. If any of the aides attributed as sources in the article are given any credibility, there was absolutely no correlation between anything Kennedy said versus what he was doing or meant to do. The American people were to have absolutely no idea what was happening in the Kennedy White House and were being told the exact opposite of the truth. This same conclusion is corroborated by the information on the tapes. If the American people had had any idea what was really taking place, there would have been rioting in the streets.
The statement, “So we had better make damned sure that I am reelected,” does not logically follow anything but a desire to remain in power.
Was the deception necessary? Was the overthrow of the Vietnamese government necessary?
Kennedy was like a vaudeville performer who enjoyed the razzamataz. Power was a cheap drunk for Kennedy. Indications are Kennedy liked the exhilaration of deception and was amused by his ability to captivate people in seconds and manipulate them. It was an casual exercise for him that got him through life. But it was also the only ability he ever had. He possessed neither intelligence nor depth. There is no evidence to indicate Kennedy could think. He could react, often with a type of disarming superficial wit, but there is no evidence that Kennedy ever seriously thought about anything. Jack Kennedy would never be able to succeed at anything on the basis of honest merit. He would also be lost and in over his head in anything requiring honest ability. He was an accident waiting to happen.
As documented earlier in the Viet Nam series here, the war could have been easily won with an aggressive competent President and Secretary of Defense. From both a strategic anti-communist standpoint and a personal political standpoint, there was every serious reason for Kennedy to stay in and conduct the war if he believed communism should be confronted and defeated, and no reason for him to want to leave. Had Kennedy stayed in office and been competent, with a committed competent Secretary of Defense, Kennedy would have gone down in history as the President who defeated communism in Asia. Instead, Ho Chi Minh and Chairman Mao celebrated Kennedy’s overthrow of Diem as a gift from God. CIA director William Colby and Richard Nixon viewed the overthrow of Diem as a decisive mistake in the losing of the Viet Nam War. The overthrow made no ordinary sense. But Kennedy had no sense.
It does make sense in that there was a twist in Kennedy and those around him advising him who had the clueless and dependent Kennedy in their grip. There is in the leftist mentality a pattern of compulsive destructive demonstration of superiority and contemptuousness channeled into the sadism of finding fault and validating that finding by making it come true. Leftists leave a predictable path of destruction in everything they touch which they almost celebrate upon achieving. It runs deep within them. It runs strong within them. It’s something they can not control in themselves for any length of time. Eventually, there is a destructive urge and twist to everything they do.
People in America were beginning to sense something was wrong and something of the above twisted nature was going on in the Kennedy administration. Consequently, Kennedy was facing serious probability of not being reelected. Kennedy needed a front to obscure the incompetence and destructiveness and put it off until his reelection. Consequently, the American people would be told the exact opposite of what was really happening, and what was to happen. And even that was twisted.
Aside from the effects on the Viet Nam war, the other long term effects would be disastrous. The Kennedy lunacy established the principle that integrity or maturity of any kind was no longer a necessity or to be expected in the White House. Casual deception without serious purpose was allowable. Distrust of the government by the American people was fully justified.
The Hilsman Cable and Big Minh
There had been serious friction between the Catholics and Buddhists which was discussed earlier in the Viet Nam series which was, and continues to be, poorly understood and was deliberately misinterpreted by leftists in the United States. If exaggerated and exploited in the US, this could be used as a rationalization to justify anything. Following a series of internal religious confrontations in Viet Nam, assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern affairs Roger Hilsman along with other State Department personnel wrote secret instructions to the US embassy in Saigon to “tell appropriate military commanders we will give them direct support in any interim period of breakdown [of the] central government.” President Kennedy personally approved and signed the Hilsman cable on October 8, 1963.
In a later recorded meeting John Kennedy says, “(Vietnamese general) Big Minh has come forward and asked what the United States would do if they had a coup.” General Maxwell Taylor, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, replies, “Mr. President, we’re wasting our time with Big Minh.” General Taylor and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had just spoken with Big Minh while on a Viet Nam fact-finding tour. Big Minh eluded attempts at interrogation from both of them. Taylor says, “One day, I went out and played tennis with him for the primary purpose of allowing him to talk.” The Vietnamese general revealed nothing but his ability to defeat the American general at tennis.
McNamara joins in, “Two people on Big Minh for an hour and I couldn’t get a damn thing out of him.” McNamara complains, “This is a very, very unsophisticated approach to overthrowing a government and I think it’s cost us a lot already. It’s all become known to the press. It’s really disgraceful, when you look back on what happened [with the Hilsman cable.] It’s – it’s taken as gospel by now that this government tried to overthrow Diem’s government.”
Kennedy says, “I don’t know Big Minh at all. Who is he?”
Taylor answers, “He’s now military adviser to the President.”
Although it’s not clear from the Hughes article as to who made the statement at the meeting, Big Minh had approached a CIA agent with a proposal:
“General Minh made it clear that he did not expect any specific American support for an effort on the part of himself and his colleagues to change the government, but he stated he does need American assurances that the US government will not attempt to thwart this plan. … General Minh insisted that his only purpose is to win the war. He added emphatically that to do this, continuation of American military and economic aid at the present level (he said one and one half million dollars per day) is necessary.”
As to Big Minh’s puzzling silence, it would never occur to the Kennedy cabal that Big Minh had solid reason to distrust Americans who casually dabbled in overthrow of governments for their own purposes and amusements. Big Minh, after all, might be next in line to be overthrown when it became convenient for the kooks he must have known he was dealing with. Concurrent, or subsequent, private statements by Kennedy revealed that this was in fact the future the Kennedy forces planned for Big Minh. For one’s own survival, the first order of business in dealing with the Kennedy administration was to defend oneself against the Kennedys and the Kennedy administration.
According to Hughes, JFK oversaw the drafting of a secret cable to American and Vietnamese coup planners in Saigon with the answer Big Minh wanted:
“While we do not wish to stimulate coup, we also do not wish to leave impression that US would thwart a change of government or deny economic and military assistance to a new regime if it appeared capable of increasing effectiveness of military effort, ensuring popular support to win war, and improving working relations with the US.”
White House Takes Charge
According to Hughes:
Compounding Kennedy’s problems was the opposition of CIA leaders to the coup plot. The CIA understood the South Vietnamese government’s problems much better than did the Pentagon but feared that a coup would produce a civil war, political instability, and a government no better than Diem’s. So JFK set up his own covert-action apparatus. The unlikely instrument of his will was Henry Cabot Lodge, ambassador to Vietnam.
With Lodge in Saigon, JFK could bypass the coup opposition within his own government. White House instructions went directly to the ambassador, who gave them directly to the CIA liaison to the coup plotters …
The CIA who understood the Viet Nam situation referred to in the above was principally the disgusted William Colby who began revealing the depth of his disgust before his untimely death. His evaluation was discussed earlier in the Viet Nam series and was absolutely correct. The consequences of the Diem overthrow would be catastrophic.
But an addle-witted charismatic little boy President who was isolated from reality and who had no real idea of what conditions were in Viet Nam established his own personal clandestine operation through Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge to overthrow a friendly foreign government for purposes getting himself reelected. He was aided in this effort by equally isolated left-wing fops in his own administration and elsewhere who seemed compromised by investment in proving the romanticized view that socialism/communism was the historically unopposable, and at best cosmetically delayable, people’s movement and who were subtly sabotaging opposition to make the thesis come true.
As extracted from the Hughes piece:
November 1, 1963, 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., the Cabinet Room.
“The prospect seems to be,” Secretary Rusk says, “that the coup will succeed.” Not one of the President’s aides admits having been wrong about the coup’s chances. No matter. Success heals the divisions within the US government. They all realize that the only way to support the war now is to support Big Minh.
First, they must hide their role in Minh’s rise to power. “I think our press problem is likely to be pinpointed on US involvement,” [Secretary of State] Rusk says.
The President, who must leave in the middle of the meeting for All Saints’ Day Mass, says, “I think we have to make it clear this is not an American coup.”
“Right,” says [CIA Director] McCone. “Sure.”
A State Department spokesman issues a one-sentence statement for the American public: “I can categorically state that the US government was not involved in any way.”
The statement, “I think we have to make it clear this is not an American coup,” is mind-boggling. It’s almost as if Kennedy believes it is not an American coup and believes the task is to convince people of this truth. There is, throughout the entire overthrow operation, a perverse atmosphere of unreality.
When the coup begins, Ambassador Lodge sent a package containing 5,000,000 piasters in cash to the Vietnamese generals.
Diem is killed. As pointed out earlier in the series, he was killed because the coup generals knew Diem had the support and respect of the ordinary Vietnamese and the coup would have been overturned by the people.
Diem’s murder placed Kennedy and his associates in a difficult public relations position. The American people would have demanded the immediate expulsion of Kennedy and the collection of nut cases around him from the White house. The ordinary Vietnamese would have rioted against Americans.
Although the Kennedy forces knew it was not true, they were willing to give credibility to the story that Diem committed suicide to produce a cloud of confusion and free themselves from public responsibility. Eventually the policy adopted by the Kennedy conspirators was to fabricate a story and stick to it.
Kennedy’s comments on tape were, “It ought to be a true story, if possible.”
Of course Kennedy knew, or should have known, there was no way there could be an admission of anything that happened from the beginning. Truth was not an option at this point and had not been a consideration at the beginning. The original intent had been to deceive the America people for purposes of reelection and other purposes. The Saigon Government was being deliberately deceived. Big Minh was being tricked, deceived, and set up for a fall after Kennedy’s reelection. Lies were everywhere and being built upon each other. But, upon serious reflection it’s impossible to be certain Kennedy understood any of it. The Kennedy mind operated at a remarkable detachment from reality. Bill Clinton, who modeled himself after Kennedy, and Kennedy, seem to share one important thing in common. Both of them lost any conception of the truth early in their lives. The second element Kennedy and Clinton have in common is that they are both warped enough to believe their own lies.
The rest is history.
The McNamara Mentality
What subsequently occurred was an extended contest between leftists in the media and government versus the American people in which the political left subverted the war and slowly ground down the American people. The warped McNamara mentality developed an exquisite slow killing machine into which nearly half a million American military were fed at a time with tens of thousands of American deaths while the communist architects and military were guaranteed safety. The systematic destruction of the American Army could only have been deliberate. Those who read the previous parts of the Viet Nam series know the Viet Cong were completely defeated during the Nixon period. North Viet Nam was a week away from capitulation during the Nixon bombing, and could have been completely defeated a second time by a four-hour military action against the concentrated vulnerable North Vietnamese army poised for the final attack on the South. But the expanded power of leftist support created in America during the McNamara tenure intervened to achieve their desired North Vietnamese victory.
The declared McNamara doctrine was to show the communist North that they could not win. This became the cover story for a sadistic pattern of sabotage in which the US military was slowly picked to pieces while being immobilized from fully protecting itself. The undefeatability of people’s communism would eventually be superficially vindicated to the satisfaction of American intellectuals inside and outside of the Kennedy administration. The eventual result would be to accomplish the same effect as the original secretly planned Kennedy betrayal.
There is a definitive comment in the Hughes piece:
(An [Kennedy] aide later recalled that when asked how he would engineer a withdrawal, JFK said: “Easy – put a government in there that will ask us to leave.”)
For Kennedy, it was that easy. Overthrow a government at will or personal convenience. It becomes evident that what existed in the White House was an ignorant spoiled brat who assumed personal entitlement to overthrow foreign governments on impulse to suit his reelection plans or for any other purposes. It’s doubtful that in many cases Kennedy even knew what those other purposes were. He was supported, or guided, in his aberrations by his so-called “brightest and best” left wing nuts gathered around him. The idea of the mistrust this induced in allies is not the issue at this point. The concern is with Jack Kennedy’s full knowledge and approval in such actions. To the extent he was sane, Kennedy had full knowledge.
As to who had reason to kill Kennedy, anyone who realized Kennedy was the conscienceless unpredictable loose cannon that he actually was, and was concerned for their own survival, would have done well to put a bullet through him in preemptive self defense.
The original account I gave in the Viet Nam series regarding the overthrow of Diem in which an unknowing Kennedy was tricked while on vacation at Cape Cod was wrong. However, it was the account universally agreed upon by historians based upon their acceptance and recitation of the story Kennedy and his co-conspirators concocted at the time. Previous to the release of the tapes, only about eight or 10 people in the world were present at all the meetings and knew what happened. They stuck to their story.
Kennedy and Castro
by Associated Press
Castro also invited Johnson to continue a U.S.-Cuban dialogue that Kennedy had initiated in the months before his assassination.Castro’s comments are contained in a series of once-secret 1960s documents on U.S.-Cuban relations that were obtained by Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, a research group at George Washington University.
Kornbluh wrote an article based on the documents in the current edition of Cigar Aficionado.
The Castro message, dated Feb. 12, 1964, was given verbally by Castro to Lisa Howard of ABC News in Havana for delivery to Johnson.
Castro, who then held the title of prime minister, asked Howard to “Please tell President Johnson that I earnestly desire his election to the presidency in November … though that appears assured. …. Seriously, I have observed how Republicans use Cuba as a weapon against the Democrats. So tell President Johnson to let me know what I can do.”
He suggested that his offer remain secret lest it become useful to the Republicans. It was a time when the conservative wing of the party was poised to seize power after long years of dominance by moderates.
That summer, the GOP nominated one of those conservative rebels, Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, to run against Johnson in the 1964 presidential election.
Castro continued: “If the president feels it necessary during the campaign to make bellicose statements about Cuba or even to take hostile action, if he will inform me unofficially that a specific action is required because of domestic political considerations, I shall understand and not take any serious retaliatory action.”
This last paragraph enunciates a secret agreement wherein President Johnson could stage a military action against Castro, assuming it was done in a way that nobody really got seriously hurt, to deceive the American people into believing Johnson supported a strong anticommunist position and ensure his reelection.
It becomes implicitly obvious that Johnson’s predecessor, Kennedy, had no deep serious animosity toward Castro, toward Castro’s system, or toward Castro’s intentions. Castro had become used to the manipulation of US public opinion under Kennedy, during which Kennedy’s duplicitous public statements were belied by his actions behind the scenes. Naturally Castro assumed Johnson would continue the public charade.
If the contents of this message had become known, it would have vindicated Republican Barry Goldwater and caused Lyndon Johnson’s defeat.
Apparently, it was a continuation of a similar secret agreement Castro had with Kennedy. And this is the same Castro who would later use Che Guevara and others try to export revolution to South America and other places.
Those who read the earlier parts of the Viet Nam series know that the attempt to free Cuba by the free Cubans at the Bay of Pigs was deliberately betrayed by the Kennedy administration. The Vietnamese war effort could not have been more effectively and cleverly sabotaged if the Kennedy administration had been working for the other side.
It’s very possible to wonder whether the Kennedy blockade of Cuba was a serious event or merely a mutually agreed-upon staged posturing and puffing to deceive the American public as offered in the Castro message to LBJ. The blocade was, after all, a public show with no real damage done to Castro or the communists.
The Secret Government
The only consistent unifying explanation that makes sense, particularly in the case of Democratic presidents, is that the American people have been ruled by two governments simultaneously.
One of these governments is a virtual government. It is the government presented for election. It is the government people believe they are voting for. It is the deceptive facade that is presented to the people after the candidates enter office.
The second government is the real functioning government. It is a pro-socialist government that has worked against confrontation of communist/socialist systems. It is exactly the opposite of what is presented to the American people. It continues to work like termites eating and subverting the national and international strength of the American nation.
It is unacceptable to say that because it sounds so much like what has been labeled ultra right wing crazy nutty paranoia. Nobody is supposed to believe such things. The problem is that after a period, and with the release of previously secret information, that which was labeled crazy has turned out to be true. Full knowledge of the period will not be available for another 35 or 50 years, and then only with luck.
Is it possible we’ve been conditioned to laugh at and dismiss the obvious truth as being crazy?
As a historical reality, during the past 60 years more than three quarters of the earth’s population, and the earth’s nations, have been ruled by leaders who were psychopaths or otherwise mentally unbalanced. That’s most of Europe, much of the middle east, the Soviet Union, Asia, much of Latin America, and most of Africa. Political life intrinsically draws the empty ambitious, the psychopaths, and the mentally unbalanced, as well as those who have visions for the future they justify keeping secret because those who are to be brought into subservience to that plan are considered too limited and ungrateful to understand and accept it. The people will adapt later after the plan is imposed. This is the historical rule, not the exception.
Americans are raised with the view of being fortunate in living in a country where it can’t happen here. But it can happen here. The cost of America’s not conforming to the world historical norm is serious, realistic, and somewhat mistrustful cynical vigilance.
Certainly any of the Democratic presidents of the last 40 years were psychopathic or otherwise mentally unbalanced. To great extent the Republic was saved from the full effect of their aberrations and authoritarianism by the surviving governmental institutions from previous periods. Clearly, beneath a veneer of almost irresistible photogenic charm, Jack Kennedy was as unaffected by internal conscience or ethics as any man in history.
It couldn’t happen here. But clearly, with the election of Jack Kennedy, it was happening, although with subtlety and the vehicle of public charm. And that subversion, dear hearts, is classified top secret everywhere but here in these articles.
Socialism/liberalism is like a destructive absurd religion that creates and rewards populations that live in denial. If, in the future, in the increasingly unlikely event mankind returns to a realistic and serious view of history, study as to what caused the decline and destruction of America will point to the inescapable conclusion that one of the key factors was the Kennedy Presidency.