Note: During the nearly three years he was in office President John Kennedy underwent a remarkable metamorphosis. In his masterful book, “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters” author James Douglas does an expert job of chronicling the events Kennedy experienced and which precipitated this change. Of all the books I know of on the Kennedy years and his assassination Douglas’s book and L. Fletcher Prouty’s excellent “JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy”are the two best and most important. They both are meticulously researched and documented. Most of the material for this series of articles comes from these books and for the full story you must read them. It has been 50 years since these events have taken place. Revisionists have had their way with the histories of those times. Most young people I have talked to are woefully ignorant of the true facts of this history and in their computer and video game world are never likely to find out. Even most of those of my generation, who actually lived through these times, do not know the truth behind the influences that have shaped their lives and which in many ways shaped the nation we have today; a nation that is in serious  danger of losing forever our precious heritage of freedom. It is my hope that illuminating the truth will douse the mystery and put people into action in present time. If enough people are challenged fast enough there is still time to save the United States. MA


At the time of his election in 1960 John F. Kennedy was a committed Cold Warrior. In his January, 1961 inaugural address he acknowledged as much when he said: “…let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.” In the bellicose, anti-communist days of the early ‘60s we all knew that comment was directed at the Soviet Union. JFK knew it too. Over the next two and a half years, however, Kennedy would make a sea change and in all likelihood would have brought about a sea change for the nation had he not been assassinated. Subtly at first, and then more markedly as his administration progressed through 1962 and into 1963, Kennedy made the turn toward a policy of peaceful co-existence with the Soviet Union and away from the “Report from Iron Mountain” idea that a nation’s war powers provided its governmental means of control over its population as well as its economic well being. (For information on “Report from Iron Mountain” please see my earlier blog in this series “Some Comments on War…”) It was this change and the promise that it held for changing the nation that got JFK killed. The military-intelligence-industrial complex and those above it pulling its strings would not allow the Kennedy sought change toward peace to occur.

As discussed in earlier blogs in this series, John Kennedy’s presidential rocking chair was hardly warm when he was hit with the first major crisis of his administration; the CIA caused disaster at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in April, 1961. (Due to a bad back JFK would often sit in a rocking chair.) As noted in those writings, though he took responsibility for the Bay of Pigs debacle publicly, privately he felt he had been lied to and misled by the CIA. The handlings he took to depower the CIA included firing the Director and Deputy Director (Allen Dulles and Charles Cabell) and the issuing of National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) #55 to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in which he directed that they would be as responsible for advice to him in Cold War operations as in regular wartime operations, thus signaling to the CIA the intent to curtail their covert operation powers. In addition to these already noted actions he also fired Richard Bissell, who as Deputy Director for Plans ran the Bay of Pigs operation and was, for practical purposes, the number three man at the CIA. He also cut the CIA’s budget and issued orders to all the U.S. embassies around the world that he held the U.S. Ambassador to each nation responsible for the actions by all U.S. personnel in his zone. This effectively put the U.S. Ambassador to any country senior to any CIA personnel and operations within that country with power over them. Needless to say, the CIA did not like these efforts at control and as a result a major schism developed between the President and his intelligence community.

Following the Bay of Pigs through to the end of 1962 Kennedy negotiated his way through an obstacle course of one crisis after another, starting first with the Southeast Asian country of Laos (situated just to the west of Vietnam), then Berlin and finally the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962. Looming over all of these was the specter of Vietnam, which from 1954 on was being built up by the CIA and would ultimately become the next major armed conflict in the Cold War. Had Kennedy lived Vietnam never would have happened, and therein is the key to his assassination. Because of this fact his death was a major turning point for the nation, which can now be clearly seen in retrospect. To appreciate the magnitude of this turning point, ask yourself these questions:

“What if the Vietnam War had never happened? What if the 58,000 Americans who died there went on to live out their lives? What if, by some estimates, the nearly 2 million Vietnamese killed through the Vietnam War were never killed? What if the nearly $500 billion (in 1960s dollars) spent on the Vietnam War was never spent and what if the social upheaval in the United States that occurred in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s as a result of the war never took place?”

Ask yourself these questions and try to envision the answers. Do so and you will start to have an appreciation of just what occurred in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963 when President Kennedy was killed. Revisionist historians have tried to obscure the truth, claiming that JFK is the President who got us into Vietnam. As we walk through the events leading to Kennedy’s murder in Dallas draw your own conclusions.

Edmond Gullion

Edmond Gullion

During the First Indochina War, in 1951, ten years before he was elected President and at the time a congressman, John F. Kennedy took a trip to Vietnam with his brother Robert. You will recall that after World War II the French were trying to re-assert their control over their former colony. They were being opposed in this effort by Ho Chi Minh and his army, the Viet Minh, who were fighting for Vietnamese control of their homeland. During the trip Kennedy spoke to the French commander, who had over 250,000 troops at his disposal. The French commander told JFK that with this overwhelming force there was no way he could lose to the Viet Minh. On this trip Kennedy also spoke to a friend of his, a man named Edmund Gullion, who at the time was an official at the U.S. consulate. Gullion told Kennedy the exact opposite:

“We’re going nowhere out here”, he said. “The French have lost. If we come in here and do the same thing, we will lose, too, for the same reason. There’s no will or support for this kind of war back in Paris. The home front is lost. The same thing would happen to us.”

Spoken 3 years before the devastating French defeat at the battle of Dien Bien Phu, Gullion’s words take on a kind of prophetic air. Kennedy never forgot them.

This partially explains why, though at the beginning of his term he was as dedicated an anti-communist as any of his intelligence or military men, Kennedy would never commit U.S. ground troops to action in any of the crises he handled, despite the pressure brought from the CIA or the Joint Chiefs of Staff to do so. In addition he was acutely aware of the threat posed by a possible nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union and what this would mean for mankind. In September of 1961 he revealed this concern in an address to the United Nations when he stated:

“Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”

 For these reasons, time and again when faced with a crisis, with his military and intelligence men demanding that he commit U.S. forces to action, Kennedy would find a way out and not do it. The pattern, as we shall see, is unmistakable. It manifested in the Bay of Pigs debacle when he refused to release U.S. forces to salvage the CIA’s battered brigade on the Cuban beaches and it would manifest several more times through the next two years. It was a pattern that would cost him his life.

To be continued…
Copyright © 2013
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved
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4 Responses to A Turn From War: JFK and the Road to Dallas—by Mark Arnold

  1. Wow! It makes so much sense… long term survival concepts JFK had integrity about vs the suppressive forces we as a people had little inkling of.

  2. Mark Arnold says:

    Thanks Steve! JFK was a complex figure, very sane in the area of foreign policy, good grasp of the international scene, dedicated to keeping the U.S. out of a ground war in Asia that he knew could not be won, and as a result made a lot of enemies in the “national security state”…and at the same time and absolute idiot on his second dynamic with multiple affairs and liaisons, that same integrity you speak of was no where to be found in his personal life…because of this the guy was brilliant but flawed. In this series am only concentrating on the factors regarding the incidents leading to his assassination because it was such a major turning point for the nation. MA

  3. Robert Frederiksen says:

    One of my favorite fiction genres is alternate history. You bring up some “what ifs” that would make for an interesting exercise in writing such a novel.

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