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For The Record  

FTR #978 The JFK Assassination and the Vietnam War

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Introduction: Considerable attention has been devoted by the media to a TV documentary by Ken Burns about the Vietnam War. What has not been covered by Burns et al is the fact that JFK’s assassination was the decisive pivot-point of the policy pursued by the U.S. in the conflict.

Excerpting The Guns of November, Part 3 (recorded on 11/15/1983), this program notes how Kennedy’s decision to begin a phased withdrawal from Vietnam was one of the central reasons for his murder.

The central element in the broadcast is professor Peter Dale Scott’s skillful discussion (and excerpting) of relevant National Security Action Memoranda pertaining to Kennedy’s Vietnam policy. The program details Kennedy’s plans to phase out direct U.S. military participation in the conflict.

Presiding over severe dissent from within his own administration, as well as from the military and intelligence establishments, Kennedy initiated this U.S. withdrawal seven weeks before his death. Two days after the assassination, Kennedy’s Vietnam policy was reversed and the course of action was determined for what was to follow. In addition to canceling the troop withdrawal and providing for troop increases, the policy shift resumed the program of covert action against North Vietnam that lead to the Gulf of Tonkin incident. That alleged attack on U.S. destroyers (never independently verified and widely believed to be fraudulent) precipitated U.S. military escalation.

National Security Memorandum 263

The principal documents in question are National Security Action Memoranda #’s 111, 249, 263 and 273.

National Security Memorandum 111, dated two years to the day from JFK’s assassination, resolved a long-standing debate within the Kennedy assassination. That memorandum committed the U.S. to “helping” the South Vietnamese government in the war, pointedly avoiding the language “helping the South Vietnamese win the war.”

Although this might appear to an untrained observer as a minor semantic distinction, it was well understood within the Kennedy administration to define the difference between a limited commitment to aiding the South Vietnamese and an unlimited, open-ended commitment to helping the South Vietnamese win. 

Crafted in June 25 of 1963, NSAM 249 suspended covert operations against North Vietnam pending a review of policy.

In National Security Action Memorandum 263 (10/11/1963), Kennedy scheduled the initial withdrawal of 1,000 military personnel by the end of 1963, as part of a phased withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel.

National Security Action Memorandum 273, which was formulated by LBJ on the Sunday after Kennedy’s murder (the day Jack Ruby killed Oswald) and released two days after that, negated the previous three documents. The troop withdrawal formulated in NSAM 263 was cancelled and troop increases were scheduled. The U.S. was committed to “helping the South Vietnamese win,” pointedly using the language avoided by Kennedy in NSAM 111.

Furthermore plans were formulated for the program of covert operations against North Vietnam that resulted in the Gulf of Tonkin Incident and the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (permitting LBJ to plunge the U.S. into the war).

Covert operations against the North had been suspended  and were resumed in June of 1963 against JFK’s wishes and apparently without his knowledge.

In the roughly 34 years since this program excerpt was recorded, other books have explored how JFK’s assassination reversed U.S. Vietnam policy. One of the best is James Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.

Program Highlights Include:

  1. The intensification in late 1963 of U.S. covert paramilitary operations in Laos.
  2. The intensification in that same period of U.S. covert paramilitary operations against Cambodia.
  3. The Pentagon Papers’ apparently deliberate falsification of U.S. Vietnam policy, maintaining against the historical record that there was continuity of Vietnam policy from JFK’s administration to LBJ’s.

 

Discussion

2 comments for “FTR #978 The JFK Assassination and the Vietnam War”

  1. holding breath, not

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-release-jfk-files-subject-further-information-132254683.html

    10/21/17 Reuters via Yahoo

    “Trump to release JFK files, subject to ‘further information’

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday that, subject to receipt of further information, he planned to allow the opening of long-secret files on the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy due for release next week.

    Politico magazine earlier quoted Trump administration and other U.S. government officials as saying the president would almost certainly block the release of information from some of the thousands of classified files, which the U.S. National Archives is scheduled to make public by an Oct. 26 deadline. (http://politi.co/2yGjMtr)
    “Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened,” Trump said in a tweet.
    The Nov. 22 1963 assassination cut short “Camelot,” as the 1,000 days of the Kennedy presidency became known. Kennedy was 46 and remains one of the most admired U.S. presidents.
    Thousands of books, articles, TV shows, movies and documentaries have been produced about the assassination and surveys have shown a majority of Americans still distrust official evidence pointing to Lee Harvey Oswald as the sole killer.
    Despite serious questions about the official inquest, and theories purporting that organized crime, Cuba or a cabal of U.S. security agents was involved, conspiracy theorists have yet to produce conclusive proof Oswald acted in consort with anyone.
    Over the years, the National Archives has released most documents related to the case, but a final batch, amounting to tens of thousands of pages, remains and only Trump has the authority to decide whether some should continue to be withheld or released in redacted form.
    The Washington Post and other media have quoted officials as saying that government agencies have lobbied Trump to withhold some of the documents, arguing that they could expose relatively recent intelligence and law enforcement operations.
    Philip Shenon, the author of the Politico article and of a book on the assassination, said he did not think the last batch of papers contained any major bombshells, but may shed light on the activities of Oswald while he was traveling in Mexico City in late September 1963, and courting Cuban and Soviet spies.”From the record we already have, we know he met there with Soviet spies and Cuban spies and other people who might have wanted to see Kennedy dead,” Shenon said.
    “It’s going to be very interesting to see what else the government knew about the threat Oswald might pose – how much more they learned about his trip in Mexico City and whether or not they bungled evidence to suggest he was a threat.”
    Shenon said it would be interesting, too, to see if there was anything in the documents to substantiate comments Trump made during his election campaign linking Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s father to Oswald.
    “It’s the president’s favorite conspiracy theory about the Kennedy assassination … but I don’t think there is,” Shenon said.
    Cruz’s father Rafael has called Trump’s allegations that he was pictured with Oswald in New Orleans before the assassination “ludicrous.”
    (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Nick Zieminski)”

    Posted by GK | October 21, 2017, 4:36 pm
  2. Dave,

    Speaking of fascism encroaching in America, there is a recently published book that will probably interest you if you are not aware of it already. You may want to interview its author, Steven Ross, on your podcast.

    https://www.amazon.com/Hitler-Los-Angeles-Against-Hollywood/dp/1620405628

    Sincerely, Mark

    Posted by Mark Schulman | November 17, 2017, 12:03 pm

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