One of the most important historical events of the century’s second half, the Kennedy assassination both overlaps and overshadows many subsequent events. Neither the Vietnam War, nor the Watergate scandal can be fully analyzed without delving into how Kennedy’s death helped to shape both events.
Beginning with 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 was to 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.
Richard Nixon’s political demise came through the Watergate scandal. Nixon initiated the Watergate cover-up because he feared that “the whole Bay of Pigs thing” would come out. In his political memoir The Ends of Power, Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman wrote that the phrase “Bay of Pigs” was a code-word within the Nixon White House for the Kennedy assassination.
The program documents many of the areas of overlap between the Watergate and Kennedy investigations.
Nixon himself was in Dallas on November 22, 1963, as a lawyer for Pepsico (the parent company of Pepsi Cola.) Flying out of Dallas roughly two hours before Kennedy was slain, Nixon told the FBI in February of 1964 that the only time he had been in Dallas in 1963 had been “two days prior to the assassination.” This blatant lie is negated by a wire service interview Nixon gave in Dallas on November 21. Text of the interview ran in the New York Times and other major newspapers.
Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski was selected by Nixon to replace the illegally fired Archibald Cox. Jaworski had previously served as a Warren Commission Counsel, while at the same time serving as director of a CIA domestic funding conduit.
Nixon named former Warren Commission member Gerald Ford to replace Vice President Agnew. Ford then replaced Nixon as President and pardoned him of all crimes he may have committed.
The broadcast features portions of Jack Ruby’s testimony before the Warren Commission, in which he appears to confess to being part of a conspiracy. This testimony is given in front of Warren (a protege of Nixon aide and former mob lawyer Murray Chotiner), Ford, Jaworski and Arlen Specter, among others.
The program discusses evidentiary tributaries connecting numerous other figures to the both investigations, including Watergate Judge John Sirica and Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis.
To attempt selective erasure of the all-important Watergate tapes, Nixon sought the assistance of Gordon Novel, a veteran intelligencer, electronics expert, anti-Castro veteran and a figure in Jim Garrison’s investigation in New Orleans. At least one key tape was partially erased (the famous 18 1/2 minute gap), though no culprit was ever identified.
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