The November Assassinations That Rocked The World

Part II – John F. Kennedy: Sinner or Saint?

Author: John Malch

John F. Kennedy: Sinner or Saint?

John F. Kennedy: Sinner or Saint?

Way back in 1960, when Nixon faced off with Kennedy for the U.S. presidency, I asked my father who he would be voting for.  He answered: “While in confession last Sunday, my penance was I must vote for Kennedy or suffer mortal sin.”[1] I thought he was joking because after becoming an American citizen in 1914, he had always voted Republican. Dad gave me a brief history lesson about the Kennedy dynasty.[2] It began with Joseph P. Kennedy’s premeditated agreements with Distillers to become the sole American importer of three of its most valuable brands of liquor one month prior to the repeal of the 36th amendment which ended Prohibition. This transaction may be the reason he was infamously called ‘Joe-

Joseph A. Malch & son, John, circa 1960

Joseph A. Malch & son, John, circa 1960

the-bootlegger’.  I remembered my dad calling senior Kennedy, ‘Joe-the-bootlegger’ because he was supplying spiritual wine to Catholic parishes, which was legal during Probation via government bonded warehouses.  Surely, some of those spirits spilled over to old Joe’s cronies although no hard evidence has ever proved Joe was a rum-runner during Prohibition.[3]  Also, Joe Kennedy’s ‘nefarious escapades’ during the ‘Roaring Twenties’ are well documented. His business ventures included banking, manipulation of the stock market through insider trading and some slick ‘selling short’ moves when he got out of the stock market before the crash of 1929.[4]

In early 1938, Joseph P. Kennedy was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James in London.  His fierce

In 1938, Joseph P. Kennedy appointed Ambassador to Great Britain

In 1938, Joseph P. Kennedy appointed Ambassador to Great Britain

anti-Communist and anti-Semitic position are well documented and well known.  Not as widely known is that he favored Adolph Hitler’s solution to both these ideologies as “world problems”.[5]

Joe Kennedy’s dream was to see his first born son, Joseph Jr., inaugurated as the first Roman Catholic President of The United States, but Joe Jr. was killed in World War II.  The dream did not vanish with Joe Jr.’s death and Joseph Sr. was not deterred: he

 Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.

wanted a Kennedy in the Whitehouse. The second son, Jack, picked up the baton, ran the races and grabbed the brass ring for the Kennedy family-John F. Kennedy (Jack) became the 35th President of the United States on January 20, 1961.

The 1960 Democratic National Convention was held in Los Angeles and I remembered two new challengers, Adlai Stevenson II and Lyndon B. Johnson, tossed their hats in the ring just one week before the convention opened. Continue reading

The November Assassinations That Rocked The World

Author: John Malch

Editor’s Note: Jealousy, political or religious ideology, contract killing, revenge, geopolitical manipulation and nation building are all motives for assassination: the murder of an individual who is usually a famous celebrity, politician, religious figure or royal. John Malch’s post addresses the brutal assassinations of South Vietnam’s Ngô Ðình Diem and his brother on November 2, 1963. The assassinations haunted U.S. President Kennedy, but by November 22, 1963, less than three weeks later Kennedy, himself, would die from an assassin’s bullet(s).

Part I Friendly Dictators

The United States has a dark history of poor choices for ‘Puppets of State’. Especially in

Prime Minister Ngô Ðình Diem casting his ballot in 1955 State of Vietnam referendum (Cuoc trung cau dân ý mien Nam Viet Nam 1955)  https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=osu1091210764&disposition=inline

Prime Minister Ngô Ðình Diem casting his ballot in 1955 State of Vietnam referendum (Cuoc trung cau dân ý mien Nam Viet Nam 1955)
https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=osu1091210764&disposition=inline

Latin America, South East Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. One of the most controversial and disturbing choices the United States’ made was in 1956, when, backed by the “American Plan”, Ngô Ðình Diem proclaimed the formation of the Republic of Vietnam, naming himself President.

I have often wondered whether Diem was ever vetted for this position. Ngô Ðình Diem was born in Phú Cam, Quong Binh Province,‘North Vietnam’. Diem was christened Jean-Baptiste in the Roman Catholic cathedral in Hue in 1907. His primary education started at a French Catholic school. He later entered a private school started by his father. At the end of his secondary schooling, his examination results were sufficiently impressive at the French lycée in Hue, he was offered a scholarship to Paris. Diem declined. Instead, He moved to Hanoi to study at the School of Public Administration and Law, a French school that trained Vietnamese bureaucrats. It was there that he had the only romantic relationship of his life when he fell in love with one of his teacher’s daughters. After she persisted with her vocation, entering a convent, he remained celibate.

Why would the United States select a Roman Catholic, with a formal French education

Buddhism in Vietnam

Buddhism in Vietnam

and very little knowledge of Anman and especially Cochin-china where the population in 1956 was over 92% non-Christian, i.e., Animism, Buddhism (70% of the population), Cao Dai, Confucianism, Hinduism, Hinduism, Hoa Hao, and Islam, as president of newly formed Republic of Vietnam?

Vietnamese elders I know, claimed it may have been necessary for the United States to appease France in softening the blow for their loss of their Colony, French Indo-China. Tongue-in-cheek they said it was better for the new president to speak fluent French rather than English.

The United States had rushed headlong into supporting Diem, seemingly without consideration of the culture. South Vietnam was a U.S. government construct, a nation-building exercise illuminated by the Pentagon Papers.

“The United States moved quickly to prevent the unification and to establish South Vietnam as an American sphere. It set up in Saigon as head of the government a former Vietnamese official named Ngo Dinh Diem, who had recently been living in New Jersey, and encouraged him not to hold the scheduled elections for unification. A memo in early 1954 of the joint Chiefs of Staff said that intelligence estimates showed “a settlement based on free elections would be attended by almost certain loss of the Associated States [Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam-the three parts of Indochina created by the Geneva Conference] to Communist control.” Diem again and again blocked the elections requested by the Vietminh, and with American money and arms his government became more and more firmly established. As the Pentagon Papers put it: “South Viet Nam was essentially the creation of the United States.”[1] Continue reading

Johnson and the CIA

Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, was not an easy man.  Bill, a

Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States (November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969)

Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States (November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969)

colleague with whom I worked on Johnston Atoll in the 1980s, was on the Johnsons’ security detail during their Texas visits.  He spoke of loud, embarrassing, drunken fights between the Johnsons and crude behavior like throwing dishes of jelly beans and popcorn and expecting the security detail to pick it all up immediately.  Ronald Kessler’s book, In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect, confirms much of what Bill told me then.  Regardless of his personal behavior, Johnson was a political sophisticate who understood power at a fundamental level.  By all accounts, Johnson’s rise to power was steady and ruthless.

The dichotomy among historians becomes apparent once Johnson assumes the presidency following President Kennedy’s assassination.  The gulf widens through the nine years of the Johnson presidency.  Was Johnson a model for business executives and a great progressive leader as portrayed by historian Robert A. Caro, who has studied Johnson for the better part of three decades?[1]  Or, at the other end of the spectrum, was Johnson a dangerous, paranoid individual?  According to former Kennedy speech writer and author Richard N. Goodwin in his 1988 book Remembering America: A Voice From the Sixties, Johnson’s behavior drove two presidential assistants to separately seek opinions on Johnson’s mental stability from psychiatrists.[2]

Dominican Republic 1965. U.S. troops patrolling the streets of Santo Domingo

Dominican Republic 1965. U.S. troops patrolling the streets of Santo Domingo

What can be said with certainty is that, as president, Johnson drove social engineering to new heights with his ‘War on Poverty’ and ‘Great Society’, which included legislation for public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, and aid to education.  Johnson did not confine his activity to just the home front, though.  He was busy with the CIA, too; the U.S. Dominican Republic intervention in 1965, the Vietnam War, the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War in 1967, and efforts to reduce tension with the Soviet Union.

It took three tries to land a Director of Central Intelligence, DCI, he wanted, but Johnson finally got the job done.  Johnson inherited DCI John A. McCone from Kennedy.  Kennedy asked McCone to head up the CIA following Kennedy’s termination of Allen W. Dulles, a remnant of Wild Bill Donovan’s OSS, after the Bay of Pigs disaster.  McCone was reputed to be an excellent manager and returned balance to an agency enamored of covert activities and nation-building.  Under McCone, the CIA redistributed its organizational energy between analysis and science and technology in addition to its well-known covert actions.  Not everyone in the CIA was a happy camper with this intelligence outsider, but McCone earned his spurs during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Johnson and DCI McCone parted ways in 1965 over disagreements about the Vietnam build-up. Continue reading