The Dallas Investigation
New Times, No. 49, 11 December 1963, pp. 10-12.
Nearly a century ago, in April 1865, a few days after the
surrender of the South, President Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech from a
balcony of the White House in Washington. Dusk having fallen, the President’s
secretary held a candle for him to read his prepared text by. The problem of
Negro voting would be left to the states but he, Lincoln, hoped that “very
intelligent” coloured men and those who had served the Union as soldiers would
be permitted to vote.
In the crowd below one of the listeners exclaimed sotto voce to his companion: “That means Nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I’ll put him through!” The speaker was John Wilkes Booth, an out-of-work actor.
A few days passed. On April 14 Lincoln sat with his wife and another couple in a theatre box watching a play called “Our American Cousin.” It was a poor play and a poor performance. Lincoln was bored.
Booth knew the theatre inside out. Armed with a pistol and a dagger, he waited for his opportunity. The doors of the President’s box were guarded by a policeman from the President’s personal guard. A man who liked his drink, he left his post for a quick one at the next-door saloon. Booth slipped into the box and shot Lincoln in the back of the head. Then he struck the President’s guest with his dagger and leapt to the stage with the cry: “Sic semper Tyrannis!” (“Ever thus to tyrants!”) Before the public could gather its wits he escaped through the stage door.
That assassination was part of an ambitious conspiracy. The same night one of Booth’s accomplices wounded Secretary of State Seward. Vice-President Andrew Johnson was to be the third victim but the attempt against him failed. All the conspirators paid with their lives. Booth was fatally wounded as he was being captured, his accomplices were hanged. The new President, Andrew Johnson, ordered stronger protection for members of the government.
I do not mean to compare John Fitzgerald Kennedy with Abraham Lincoln. I merely want to point out the similarity of some of the circumstances in the assassination of each. In both cases the murderers were aiming not only at the head of the President of the United States but at his policy.
Immediately after Kennedy’s death the Dallas police, who
had so signally failed to safeguard their country’s President, hastened to
release their version of the crime. The murderer, they announced, was Lee Harvey
Oswald, a “Communist” and “Marxist.” For some reason they ruled out the
possibility of an organized conspiracy and the existence of other accomplices.
Though Oswald said nothing about that when questioned, the police categorically
declared: he acted alone, he had no accomplices.
To those who meant to exploit the President’s murder to incite anti-Communist hysteria and hatred for the Land of Socialism Oswald was a godsend. He was a newcomer in Dallas with no relatives or friends there. In addition, this obscure man of no known occupation had been given the rare opportunity shortly before to appear on television and publicly proclaim his “sympathies with Marxism.” Now, how many American unemployed are invited to appear on television?
To fill the bill of the President’s assassin Oswald was too good a find to be true.
So clumsy a story could in our day only be conceived in the “wilds” of Texas, and then only in the minds of men as ignorant as they are bumptious.
Its authors overlooked the fact that their crude method had already been repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, employed by the forces of reaction. The Whiteguard Gorgoulov who killed France’s President Paul Doumer in the thirties was even found to have on him a Communist membership card. At the time of the Reichstag fire the Berlin police too lost no time branding as a Communist the mentally deranged Van der Lubbe, of Holland, who happened to be in Berlin at the time and had no visible means of support. Frame-ups of this sort have fallen into hopeless disrepute.
In Texas they failed to notice that the world has grown up a bit since the days when they were tried. The events of our stormy age have left their mark, the forces of progress and peace have not laboured in vain. To incite reactionary hysteria and fan hatred for an alien land and people is very much harder today than it used to be.
Not one serious newspaper, not one self-respecting news agency has accepted the Dallas police version. In Western Europe, and on other continents as well, it has been greeted with unconcealed irony. The Paris Monde suggests that the Dallas police prepared themselves a “suspect” beforehand. “Everything about this Dallas business is suspicious and foul,” writes the Swiss Catholic Courrier de Genève. “We are filled with anger and indignation when we read how Kennedy’s assassination was ‘investigated,’” declares the Cairo Al Akhbar.
The world has not let itself be duped by the authors of the Dallas story. And in the mass the Americans too have proved more mature than was imagined in Texas. Dorothy Kilgallen, the decidedly conservative commentator of the Hearst New York Journal-American, says that her countrymen are gravely concerned about what happened in Dallas, that it has “made them bitter ashamed and a little afraid.” Even the yellow press, which specializes in Red-baiting and inciting hatred among peoples and which at first caught up the Dallas police version, gradually changed its tone.
By now that version has in effect been torn to shreds. Experts on firearms have vouched that there could not have been only one man firing at the President. Oswald, it has been learned, made anti-Soviet statements upon his return from the U.S.S.R. and had written a book strongly hostile to the socialist system. He had even dropped hints that he had been in the Soviet Union as an American secret agent. Even the Dallas district attorney’s office has had to admit that there is no evidence of Oswald’s membership in the Communist Party.
And still, in defiance of all the facts, the Dallas police continue to insist on their version, issuing confused and contradictory statements in support of it.
Soon after the assassination Nashville Attorney Richard Ely
told a (white) Citizens Council that President John F. Kennedy “died a
tyrant’s death.” The attorney can hardly be so ignorant of his country’s
history as not to know that he was saying in English what Booth had said in
Latin. The reactionaries and racists of present-day America have shamelessly
taken over the torch of hatred and violence from their predecessors of a century
That excesses and acts of terrorism were in preparation in the South against Federal authorities and that the preparers were ultra-reactionaries and racists was known to the whole world. For his recent book on latter-day fascists and nazis Daily Herald correspondent Dennis Eisenberg made a thorough study of the activities of ultra-reactionary organizations in the United States. The conclusion he arrived at was that such organizations would have no trouble in choosing from among their members a crack marksman or group of marksmen to slay the man they thought the most dangerous Communist agent in the Western world—John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Kennedy himself received warnings from all quarters not to go to Texas, which the oil magnates and millionaire cattle dealers had made the chief centre of the American “ultras.” Texas Governor Connally even flew to Washington to urge Kennedy to put his visit off. And when the irreparable happened, public opinion at once pointed its finger at the probable perpetrators of the crime.
A curious detail. I have before me a copy of the European edition of the New York Herald Tribune for November 23–24, carrying the announcement of the President’s death. On the same black-bordered front page it gives the Dallas police version without comment. And on the third page it presents an article entitled: “Texas Home for Radicals of All Persuasions.” The idea, apparently, was to take a neutral stand and show the activity of both Right and Left extremists in Dallas. But the only Left organization it turned up there was the Dallas United Nations Association! And the activity this organization engaged in was to invite Adlai Stevenson to give a public lecture in the city (after which the ultras spat on him and hit him with a stick).
Of ultra-Right organizations, on the other hand, it found a whole spate. There are the John Birch Society (the idea of which, incidentally, was conceived right there in Dallas), and the National Indignation Convention founded by wealthy Dallas businessman Frank McGhee, and Texans for America—the brain child of cattle dealer J. Evetts Haley. Only last April the windows of Jewish-owned shops in Dallas were pasted over with black swastikas. Also, as the paper points out, “two of the country’s leading Right-wing advocates live in Dallas.” They are multimillionaire H. L. Hunt, who financed the late unlamented Senator McCarthy, and retired General Edwin A. Walker, führer of the American ultras.
There you have the associations the first news of the terrorist act in Dallas evoked.
Of General Walker. Immediately after the assassination he gave an interview to the West-German ultra-militarist Nationalzeitung und Soldaten-Zeitung in which he did not trouble to conceal his satisfaction at what had happened. Kennedy’s death, he declared, did not come as a surprise, for plenty of inflammable matter had collected. He went on to predict that pretty big changes would follow in American policy, one of them being, in his opinion, that the United States and the G.F.R. would become “real partners.”
There is no question about it—the trail leads to the camp of the ultras. That all the world sees, only Dallas closes its eyes to it. But then, do law and order exist in Dallas?
Anyone familiar with life in present-day America knows of
the existence there of a powerful triumvirate: politicians–police–gangsters.
That triple alliance finds reflection in everything, in daily events, in the
press, even in art and literature. In the chain of Dallas crimes it sticks out
like a sore thumb.
Lee Harvey Oswald was well known to the police. They kept an eye on him. A note found on his person bore the name of an FBI agent. It has been established that the agent interviewed Oswald a few days before the President’s death. Witness Helene Markham saw Oswald talking with policeman Tippit in a quiet side street less than an hour after the President’s death; Tippit was at the wheel of a car and Oswald had his head in the window. Suddenly the policeman stepped out of the car, Oswald leapt aside and fired at him. After killing Tippit he apparently lost his head. He dashed into a nearby cinema theatre where he was caught and arrested. Was it because he learned that he was to be made the scapegoat for the President’s murder that he panicked and shot Tippit?
In any case, Oswald did not want to be made a scapegoat. “I didn’t kill the President!” newspapermen report him as shouting at the police station. Nor did ten hours of questioning break him down. Then, having decided to transfer him to the jail, the police had the foresight to warn hospital workers to stand by in case an attempt was made against him.
That was certainly very prudent of them! The wonder of it is that with all their foresight they first failed to safeguard the President and then the man they accused of his murder.
This is the point where the sinister figure of the Chicago gangster Ruby, nicknamed “Sparky,” entered the picture. An individual with a rich criminal past and a no less criminal present. As the owner of a strip-tease joint and a dance hall of doubtful character, he was wholly dependent upon the good will of the police. He had it. He lived in peace and harmony with them and felt perfectly at home in the police station. Given the opportunity to wipe out Oswald, he did it in the typical gangster fashion, by shooting his victim in the stomach.
After Oswald’s death the police and attorney’s office hastened to announce his case “closed”—which meant closing the case of the President’s assassination as well. That was a trick that didn’t work.
Even if no other facts were available the behaviour of the Dallas police would alone have been enough to sow the suspicion that the President’s assassination was part of a big conspiracy involving, among others, those whose official duty it was to guard the life of the head of that state and maintain public order.
Now, it is reported, the FBI is investigating, under the personal direction of Edgar Hoover. But it must not be forgotten that this Edgar Hoover is the author of anti-Communist books in which he portrays Communists as monsters. Can he be expected to conduct an objective investigation of a case in which ultras, men of like mind as himself, are involved?
No wonder American news agencies predict that the FBI report promises nothing sensational. One prominent FBI official defined the object of the investigation thus: “We must dispel all suspicions and remove all doubts.”
That, however, will not be simple to do. A week after Kennedy’s death President Johnson appointed a blue-ribbon commission headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren to investigate. Among its seven members are ex-CIA chief Allen Dulles, ex-disarmament adviser John McCloy and several Congressmen. Attorney-General Robert Kennedy, the late President’s brother, is not included.
President Johnson’s instructions to the commission are “to satisfy itself that the truth is known as far as it can be discovered, and to report its findings and conclusions to him, to the American people, and to the world.”
The world now awaits an honest and unimpeded investigation of all the circumstances of the bitter tragedy.
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