Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

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.

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.



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

  1. hold­ing breath, not


    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.


    Sin­cere­ly, Mark

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

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