I have a lot of respect for Bill Blum. His Killing Hope is one of the best things I have ever read. He deserves a Nobel for the title alone.
But he wrote something recently which was so bizarre that I think it deserves attention.
1. Robert Kennedy contradicts the many people who are convinced that, had he lived, JFK would have brought the US involvement in Vietnam to a fairly prompt end, instead of it continuing for ten more terrible years. The author, Stoll, quotes a few of these people. And these other statements are just as convincing as RFK’s statements presented here. And if that is not confusing enough, Stoll then quotes RFK himself in 1967 speaking unmistakably in support of the war.
It appears that we’ll never know with any kind of certainty what would have happened if JFK had not been assassinated, but I still go by his Cold War record in concluding that US foreign policy would have continued along its imperial, anti-communist path…
I’m not familiar with the book he cites–I’m not going to read it and am disappointed he did, given its title–but certainly the interview he reproduces in his article needs to be contexted.
His brother had been assassinated. The people who killed him were now in power. His brothers successor, within two or three days after Dallas, wrote a National Security Action Memo countermanding the won written by JFK which authorized the withdrawal of a thousand US troops from Vietnam. This was to occur by the end of ’63 with the rest of our forces there to be withdrawn by the end of ’64. (i.e. after the election.)
So here is RFK, no doubt wondering if there were plans to kill him too, backing the new president’s policy, which was in turn backed by the Democratic Party. Can you imagine ever being in a position in life where one has more good reasons to lie? I think not.
He also may have been protecting his brother’s legacy (and his own political future) as JFK had been publicly saying that he intended to keep the troops there for fear that the Republicans would accuse him of being soft on communism. If he tells his interviewer that JFK planned to pull the troops out, he would be exposing his dead brother as a liar.
Blum says that the author of book he cites offers testimony that JFK did not intend to pull the troops out of Vietnam. I don’t know who they are, or whether they believed what they were saying, but arrayed against these naysayers are an extensive and impressive list of people who have come forward in print and in videoed interviews to insist that JFK was indeed going to pull the troops out after his re-election. They include (but are not limited to) Tip O’neill, Teddy Kennedy, Ken O’Donnell, David Powers, Robert MacNamara, Pierre Salinger, Fletcher Prouty, Mike Mansfield, just to name a few.
Beyond that, there is more documentary evidence of this intention which has been unearthed an published in a good many books written about the assassination. One such, JFK and the Unspeakable, I have read and recommend. And there is lots, lots more.
How fatuous can Blum be? The evidence that JFK was going to remove the ground troops from Vietnam is copious and incontrovertible. One has to be determined not to see it. Blum is just making a fool of himself.
Why? Those who lived through those years are familiar with JFK the overheated Cold Warrior. And so he was. But the evidence that his private sentiments were different from his public pronouncements is overwhelming, and that he had made peace with the idea of peace is everywhere to be seen. He instituted a unilateral ban on atmospheric testing of atomic bombs, had insisted that the Soviet and American space programs undertake joint missions etc.
How the author of Killing Hope could have placed so much weight the interview he cites, particularly under the circumstances, is beyond me. JFK wasn’t Che. He was what he said he was–a liberal. And the evidence that he was trying to re-work the relationship between capital and communism is conspicuous in its abundance.
And that Blum cannot see it is as surprising as it is disappointing.