Comparing JFK assasination to 9/11, and have our own security concerns turned us into a police state we’ve always fought against?

November 4, 2013

I’m not sure what has been the most momentous thing to happen in current events in my lifetime, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or the 9/11 attack on the U.S.

With the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination coming up (Nov. 22) I was thinking of those two events. In my life, perhaps, the JFK assassination has had more significance. I was a freshman in high school. I paid attention to current events and read a weekly news magazine and watched Huntley-Brinkley and Walter Cronkite newscasts on TV. I knew that not everyone loved JFK even if the hype in popular culture seemed to indicate otherwise. Still, he and his family were something different and exciting for much of the public. The president was relatively young (in his 40s), when compared to the previous presidents, and I guess JFK and wife Jackie and children Caroline and John John were the first mediagenic first family. And JFK had that strange but fun-to-listen-to Boston/Irish accent where he pronounced Cuba as “cuber”, and in his press conferences, of which he held many, he would flash that magic, magnetic smile, often along with some expression of wry humor often via innuendo, which to any guy seemed cool and probably to any girl or woman, well, whatever…

But when it came to things like the Cuban Missile Crisis when the nation was actually concerned that it might end up in nuclear war at any second with the standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, he presented himself as a steady reassuring hand as he soberly addressed the public. He just seemed to say the right thing.

They say he was not a top student at Harvard (I don’t know, maybe he kept up the “gentleman’s c”) but he was eloquent in speech and always seemed to make the well-reasoned and convincing case.

He was staunchly pro-civil rights but had to deal with the political realities of the times. It would take the older and much more seasoned congressional wheeler-dealer Lyndon Johnson, JFK’s vice president, to push the civil rights legislation through after he assumed the presidency, upon the assassination of JFK.

The assassination of JFK blew our whole world apart. While he had his detractors much of the nation seemed enthralled with him and his family. They were like royalty almost. And maybe that is what someone or ones were afraid of.

I’m not a conspiracy buff by any means. But I have to wonder if his assassination was not a CIA job. That theory has been posited before of course. I have a book by some woman who claims to have been a lover of Fidel Castro (I mean one of his lovers) and who claims that she was with the CIA and that they were mad about JFK’s abandoning the Anti-Castro forces in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation. I think her book is rather obscure and she may have well been just trying to make some money. You think? But still…

We know that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin. We also know that he did not just pop up out of nowhere. The CIA and the FBI already knew about him and yet why did they not make sure where he was that fateful day in Dallas? Well, back then maybe we did not have that much capability in tracking people? (We had a hard time finding Osama Bin Laden is nearly plain sight.)

And what made me think of all of this is the recent and ongoing revelations as to how much our own government via the National Security Agency and other intelligence branches is spying on its own citizens — eavesdropping on phone calls, emails, and other world-wide web data. It is also spying on friendly foreign leaders and in the process the president himself (which he claims not to have known about — and that is bad either way). I mean what possible reason or justification is there to spy on our allies? And is not an agency dangerous if it is spying on the president? J. Edgar Hoover, the late director of the FBI, was infamous for blackmailing high officials with the dossiers he held on them.

And then to 9/11. In the first direct attack on U.S. soil since the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, a group of terrorists pulled off the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, hijacked four airliners, and ran one into the Pentagon. And the baffling thing is that our intelligence agencies had the names of these guys and I guess their descriptions on their watch list and yet they were allowed to board airliners. Okay probably too paranoid conspiracy-centric here, but did someone want this to happen? We know that forces behind the rather dim-witted former president George W. Bush were pushing for war in the Middle East and even published a paper that opined we needed a new Pearl Harbor to wake the electorate up — and along comes 9/11 with the numbers of dead very close, close to 3,000 in each.

The death of JFK put LBJ in office. I have no doubt that he had good intentions, but he was perplexed over what to do about the ongoing situation in Vietnam, threatened by an ongoing insurgency that would result in a communist takeover of South Vietnam. And it was simply understood at the time that we had to stop communism anywhere we could. While JFK was trying to keep from sending actual American combat troops there, while supporting the anti-communist side nonetheless — we only had military advisers in the theatre — LBJ eventually sent as many as a half million U.S. troops there, even though he knew from almost the start that the situation was hopeless. But ever since China was lost to the communists in 1949 during a Democratic administration, Democrats had to be on guard not to lose anything else. The fear of being weak in the face of the communist threat forced President Harry Truman to send troops to save South Korea (a highly unpopular move at the time).

And the lives of so may young Americans (and the their loved ones) were forever changed by LBJ’s actions. I probably would not have gone into the Army if it were not for the Vietnam. In some kind of twisted logic I joined the Army, figuring I would be drafted soon enough anyway. The draft lottery had not been put into place at that time. But I was sent to Germany. But one of my brothers was grabbed by Uncle Sam and put into the Army and sent to Vietnam. Fortunately he did his tour and came home safe and sound. But such was not the case for nearly 60,000 American troops who died and thousands more who were gravely wounded. And besides that: all the lives torn apart. Wives who lost husbands and parents who lost children and so on.

(Even though I joined the Army I was not much of a soldier, but I am glad I served if for no other reason than I can say I served. I am proud that all the boys in my family served. My oldest brother served 20 years in the U.S. Navy.)

So, anyway, the 9/11 disaster was used as a pretext to get our nation into war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We all know what that has wrought, nearly 7,000 dead Americans over a decade (thousands more wounded) with no discernible good to have come of it and trillions of dollars drained from our treasury. But of course we can’t afford to guarantee health care to our own citizens, the troubled Obamacare program notwithstanding, and have to cut back on aid to the poor, and we fail to invest in our infrastructure.

So, it is hard to choose as to which event was more momentous, the JFK assassination, or 9/11. There is no correct answer. It depends upon your age, really, and your own personal situation (you may have lost someone in the current wars).

And then again, with the result that intelligence agencies have been so emboldened to turn on the public they are supposed to protect, maybe 9/11 is the more momentous.

We are all so accustomed to giving out our Social Security number and our email address and we are so wired-in now with commercial interests knowing our personal tastes and information and every move, that we almost do not notice that we have become something close to a police state worthy of the old Soviet Union or East Germany or Hitler’s Germany. So far, no discernible ill effects, but overnight that all could change, the apparatus for the evil of control over all humans by a minority is already in place.

There is talk (or maybe it has already happened) of domestic use of drone aircraft by local law enforcement. We may not fear it as much when used elsewhere, but here?

We really need to pause and think about all of this.

Nine Eleven was not Pearl Harbor; we made some missteps; Bush may have had one thing right, though

September 11, 2011

Pearl Harbor, 9/11 was not. But it was a tragedy, and I have come to think, maybe just today on its tenth anniversary, that President George W. Bush was at least partially right in his reactions to the event — maybe. But first:

Well 9/11 or 9-11-11 is all but a done deal now and thank goodness, as I write this, nothing yet. (Well actually there was an attack by the Taliban in the ongoing Afghan War over the last 24 hours, with many Americans — at least 77 — injured, but nothing in the homeland, as it has been called, particularly since 9/11 ).

I also want to interject here before I go further that regardless of what I think of the War on Terror I felt sad and outraged when I heard an interview on NPR in which a National Guardsman who served in Afghanistan said he got into a fight in a bar here at home when someone said to him: “your war doesn’t count”. This soldier, according to the interview, had been involved in going out and searching for IEDs and had suffered the shock of blasts from them more than once.

Its kind of chicken…t that we have this all-volunteer military and we can stand by and let them be sent hither and yon and into harm’s way but not even consider the policies that send them there because it does not affect our own life. Besides, the soldier does what he or she is supposed to do and if he or she was not available, each one of us might be subject to the call. And the soldier is separate from the government policy that puts him or her in harm’s way.

(There is the Nuremberg, I was only following orders thing, but I think the guilt rests with the higher ups, generally.)

But back to what I wanted to say on this tenth anniversary before it is over:

There has been a lot of comparison of 9/11 to Pearl Harbor. In fact those neocons who wanted us to go to war in the Middle East (again since Desert Storm) even had the audacity to wish on paper for another Pearl Harbor in their Project for a New American Century treatise.

But while it is spooky and almost a little too convenient that indeed we had a Pearl Harbor-like attack (it did come from the air), there are not really a lot of similarities, except about the same number of lost lives.

Pearl Harbor was an act of war by an identifiable nation — Japan. I don’t know if the Japanese admiral really said it, but in a movie account he is heard saying: “I am afraid we have awakened a sleeping giant”. Indeed the Japanese did. There was a strong isolationist feeling in America, right up until the Japs attacked. At that point the isolationist movement  died.

We had a fairly unified reaction to 9/11 but as the response dragged on and got muddled I think the public turned indifferent for the most part.

On 9/11 we were attacked by a stateless group of folks. It was staged, though, from Afghanistan where the group who would claim responsibility and calls itself Al Qaeda was being harbored along with its then leader Osama Bin Laden by the Taliban who controlled that nation. We demanded they turn over Bin Laden and they refused and we attacked. But as everyone knows, almost inexplicably our former president, George W. Bush, seemed to become half-hearted at that and turned his sights on Iraq, successfully conflating events there with 9/11 (it is well known he wanted an excuse to attack Iraq even before 9/11). While certainly the then leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, was probably sympathetic with the aims of Al Qaeda, as far as them being against America, there is no evidence he had anything whatsoever to do with 9/11. Nonetheless we wound up attacking Iraq and making much more of a show of it there than Afghanistan until years later. We are still engaged in hostilities in both nations. And of course President Obama successfully ordered and got the killing of Bin Laden by our special military units, most notably the Navy SEALS.

But while the attack on Pearl Harbor was an act of clear aggression by an identifiable nation, and while Pearl Harbor pushed America into World War II against the Axis powers of Japan and Germany (and for a time Italy), and while congress officially declared war on the Axis powers, and while that war was budgeted and consumer goods became scarce and food was rationed in the war effort — none of those things took place for 9/11. And oh, yes, we, the U.S. and its allies, clearly won WWII. We went for complete victory to include unconditional surrender of the enemy.

Today we have no complete victory and no unconditional surrender and at times we don’t even know who the enemy is. Indeed the presidential authorizations to fight this war or wars seems to be against terrorism in general, as if you could declare war on a tactic or against evil itself.

Our constitution does not really tell us what to do in this instance. I don’t think the framers dreamed that one day we would have a president who would up and decide to wipe out all evil in the world by declaring war on it. And our wars in these modern times, especially since World War II, are just not fought in the same way.

In the end, we actually prospered from WWII and became the world’s leading economic and military power.

Today we are essentially going bankrupt due in large part to the War on Terror.

And we are no safer today, a trillion or more dollars and thousands of casualties later, after a decade, or at least it is hard to think we could be.

One of the more agonizing things about both Pearl Harbor and 9/11 is that in both cases we had warning. Pearl Harbor had actually been predicted back in the 1920s, even though it did not occur until 1941. A 9/11-type attack had also been predicted years ahead of time, despite the erroneous observation by Condoleezza Rice that no one ever thought such a thing might happen. We also had the very culprits who got on the airplanes and carried out the 9/11 attacks on a terrorist watch list, but it all got lost in the bureaucracy and interagency rivalry.

Some have even suggested that there was an inside conspiracy in both cases by people who wanted us to go to war. While I doubt that, I do think that the events handed them their cases on a silver platter and maybe some did look the other way at warnings hoping something might happen.

Twenty-twenty hindsight is easy, I admit. But we do need to reflect on what happened and how we handled it and see if we cannot come up with something better.

While I have always been critical of Bush for his actions, particularly his striking at Iraq, instead of concentrating on Afghanistan or even on just going after the actual perpetrators — the ones besides the ones that died in the attack of course — and their leader Bin Laden (it took another president to get that job done), I think he, Bush, had the right idea after all, maybe, in putting those who would attack America on notice that they could run, but they could not hide — we will get them.

We indeed did get Bin Laden (even if it took a decade), and we have killed scores of Al Qaeda leaders. I mean it has got to make some of these bad guys nervous that an unseen drone flying overhead could send a missile up their rear end at any moment.

I think we may have overdone things militarily, especially since we don’t seem to have the desire or stomach to actually defeat nations, occupy them for a time, and then make sure they fly right. We did so with Germany and Japan, but that was then and this is now.

I’m thinking drones, cloak and dagger, and keeping our mouths shut, and letting our actions speak louder than words, just might be the way to go.

But there still may come a time when it will be necessary to use our military in a more conventional sense. We have to have public support to make that effective. And we should not do so without it.

And although for much of today I was involved with my truck driving work, I did manage to catch some of the comments from folks who suffered on 9/11, who lost loved ones.

I felt terribly sad for them.


ADD 1:

I just now recall that I heard a story the other day I think on NPR that the ten-year anniversary of Pearl Harbor was not marked in any special way for the most part because we were all into having our former foe Japan be on our side and be an important base for our operations against North Korea at the time, the Korean War being in progress.



Looking back in a more personal way in my own life, I recall that fateful day. My now late wife was in the hospital suffering from a mysterious illness. It was touch and go and I had been up late with her. At the time we were living with my mother. I was on leave (using vacation time) from my work. That morning I was sleeping in, having been up late at the hospital. My mom woke me up and told me a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. News junkie that I am, normally I would have jumped up. But I was tired. But after I finally did get up, I saw the video of a jet crashing into one of the towers.  And I recall once the second plane hit, we instantly knew this was not a freak accident.

As it turned out, my wife would recover for the most part, but unfortunately she only had about nine years. She died just over a year ago.

Wished I could have made more of those nine years with her.

We should all make the best of things each day. Things like 9/11 happen, and even smaller every day tragedies occur too. None of us knows how long we have and how long we will share things with our loved ones.

With the BP oil mess and Katrina and 9/11 as a guide, one wonders just how much security our government provides…

June 7, 2010

If you stop and really think how unprepared our government and industry (at least BP) was for the Gulf of Mexico oil blowout, you almost have to think about how unprepared we are for most any dire contingency, such as a nuclear strike or a dirty bomb.

The weather or a natural disaster offers a special challenge, because there is nothing you can do to prevent it. But a prepared and willing government can come to the aid of its own people or it can act woefully incompetent, as in the case of Katrina.

The right hand can not know what the left hand is doing or rival government agencies — the CIA and FBI — can allow a situation that results in disaster, such as ignoring terrorists on a watch list, thus allowing them to board and hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings, ala 9/11.

Watchdog agencies can be starved for funds and/or filled with incompetent bureaucrats who take bribes for looking the other way and not making waves, the exact thing they are supposed to do (make waves), resulting in tainted food and oil well blow outs a mile-deep in the ocean, with proper procedures and safeguards ignored, and dangerous and fraudulent financial transactions that endanger our whole economic system.

We all thought for so long that there could never really be another event like the Great Depression because we had safeguards. We shed some of those safeguards in the name of unhindered capitalism and greed some time ago, and the remaining safeguards were useless because regulators looked the other way and watched porn while drawing government paychecks and because in the end nothing really trumps greed.

A lack of confidence that our government is there for us in matters of security is enough to bring the whole system down.

Half measures will not do in keeping terrorists from Pakistani nukes…

May 8, 2009

As we face the prospect of a grave military threat from terrorists in Pakistan who might grab that unstable nation’s nukes, I ponder my attitude toward war.

(And I call them terrorists because that is their methodology. They use the name of Islam, but their method is terrorism as brutal as any ever used and they have made no bones about wanting to destroy our way of life in the Western world and us along with it.)

I have always looked toward the wars in our time with ambivalence. Basically I am anti-war. That is to say I don’t see war as just another foreign policy tool. At the same time I have thought that once the nation is engaged in a war it should do so with focus on an acceptable outcome. That would be winning versus stalemate.

Unfortunately during my lifetime we have had no wars that I can think of with an acceptable outcome. Korea took place when I was a small child. We did hold the red tide back or beat the red tide back, but at great cost. I think in history it is questioned as to whether we should have gotten involved. North Korea with the backing of Red China (remember? we used to call it that) and the Soviet Union overran South Korea, but we got involved under the auspices of the United Nations and beat them back to a stalemate and all these decades later must still contend with a belligerent communist North Korea who threatens us with ultimate creation of their own nuclear force. This is after the Soviet Union dissolved and although the old Red China is still communist in government, it has a primarily capitalist economy (that I think one day would result in communism dissolving). We wouldn’t let Gen. MacArthur chase the red devils all the way to the North Korean capital. I was still a child, as I said, but that was the start of our more cautious approach to war. Whereas in World War II we decided the way to resolve the issue was total victory, by the early 50s we had no stomach for that – quit while we are ahead (where we began is where we finished).

And then came Vietnam. Again, the red menace. The country was sold (at least there seemed to be support) at first when it was thought we would just throw a little weight around (yes I’m skipping over volumes of history) and be done with it. But the war dragged on. Casualties mounted. And we did not define what winning was, let alone resolve to go for total victory, which would have been to take over what was North Vietnam, the belligerent who eventually overran the south. Nearly 60,000 American dead and thousands gravely wounded, and for what? Today a unified Vietnam as China has a communist government and, though not on the scale of China, it has moved toward a capitalist economic system.

Saddam Hussein’s forces turned out to be a pushover in the first Gulf War, but once again our resolve was less than full fledged (at least by our leaders), and instead of total victory, overrunning the belligerent nation that started it all, Iraq, we held back. And eventually the first president Bush’s son became president and found a convenient excuse to finish what his daddy didn’t. Some say all the trouble the younger Bush had in Iraq is proof we would have been wrong to invade the first time. But that was then and this is now. All evidence is we certainly could have done the job the first time, but we would have needed the forces and the resolve.

There is evidence we might have gotten more cooperation this time around in our initial invasion had a large portion of the Iraqi population thought we had the resolve the get the job done. They correctly guessed we did not and acted accordingly.

We initially invaded Afghanistan supposedly to go after Osama bin Laden and his forces who took credit for the 9/11 attacks. There was widespread public support and world sympathy (help would be nice, but sympathy’s good too and I know we’ve had help, but only token help — again my apologies to the soldiers involved). But little Bush decided he wanted to make a stand in Iraq and we dithered in Afghanistan (with all due respect to the actual troops who did not run the war – I’m talking about the leadership).

Today we face the threat of Taliban and Al Qaeda getting their hands on nuclear weapons due to an unstable Pakistan, our nominal ally.

I continue to be ambivalent toward war. It shouldn’t be  just a tool in the bag of foreign relations. But the survival of all mankind depends upon keeping nukes out of the hands of terrorists.

Does Barack Obama have more resolve than his modern predecessors?

The fate of the world may depend upon the true answer to that question.


I actually was going to blog on a slightly different, but closely related subject. It had to do with the fact we don’t seem to get much actual war reporting. I checked out a library book entitled “The Blog of War” (a play on the phrase “the fog of war”), by Matthew Currier Burden, a former U.S. Army major. Nowadays soldiers tell their own stories in realtime (or near), blogging from the field. But unless you read those blogs you are not likely to know how things really are. It is not going to convince me politically whether a war is right or wrong by knowing how a participant feels, but he or she can provide me a sense of the real situation on the ground and the human aspect of the whole thing. That is something that has been missing, I think. And really the whole dynamic of the professional soldier (the all-volunteer military) vs. the drafted citizen soldier adds a whole new dimension to war for the United States, good and bad. When I finish reading the book I will have one more thing blog about, I’m sure. I had previously purchased another book with a kind of insider’s view of the war but at the time it seemed too much of a pro-warrior, my country right or wrong, inside baseball approach. But I’ll have to get back to it sometime, because it too had some actual battle accounts you just don’t get from the standard media. I think those who run the paid media feel that citizens just don’t have the patience or attention span for real stories and the business-oriented management thinks that they don’t sell. This is a long post script. I’ll quit now.

Sixty seven for Pearl Harbor, seven for 9/11

December 7, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Sixty seven years ago today it was also Sunday. It was Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941.

The Japanese made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, inflicting severe damage on the U.S. Naval fleet and heavy casualties on sailors and other miliary personnel and civilians and damaging other targets as well. The American casualties that day were 2,402 dead and 1,282 wounded.

Now this was several years before my birth, but apparently this instantly united the nation, much of which was in the isolationist mood and did not care to get involved in another major war, with the senseless tragedy of World War I still present in the public mind. The Pearl Harbor attack changed the minds instantly among most of the steadfast isolationists. The U.S. entered World War II.

The U.S. put itself into all-out war with both Japan and its Axis ally, Nazi Germany. Four years later, with the help of our allies, total victory over the Axis powers had been achieved.

Our modern day equivalent happened seven years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. The death toll was put at 2,974.

I think our nation was united initially on that one. Part of the problem, though, was that the enemy was not as easily identifiable. It was not another nation (at least not directly), but apparently a terrorist group with no actual state identity. Nonetheless Osama bin Laden, identified as the leader of a group called Al Qaeda, took credit and it became known that Afghanistan was harboring him and its leaders would not turn him over. So, we initially invaded that nation in hopes of rooting out the terrorist organization responsible and catching the head guy.

The public seemed to accept that as reasonable.

But as time advanced, it seemed that our military was forced to take it slow and hold back and probably not enough troops were committed. No one seemed to know why. And as has been the case since the end of World War II and especially since the Vietnam fiasco, there seemed to be confusion as to whether it was wise to use overwhelming force and thereby “escalate” a war. To me, and I’ll bet many others, a war is neither escalated nor de-escalated. There is either a win or a loss (even by default if one side chooses to quit) or perhaps in Korea style, a draw.

Some, many of whom would be classified as conspiracy theory buffs, have wondered if FDR didn’t know Pearl Harbor was coming and let it happen because he favored our entry into WWII which was already being fought by Briton. Likewise some have suggested the George W. Bush administration, acting on a neo-conservative doctrine that called for U.S. hegemony in the Mideast, knew of the impending 9/11 attack or at least of its possibility and let it happen. A neo-conservative think tank report had stated that the nation needed a modern-day Pearl Harbor to get the public behind the move to dominate the Middle East.

The lack of concentration in the Afghanistan effort, I think, confused the public, and in that confusion, the Bush administration morphed an ongoing dispute with Iraq into part of the whole “war on terror” 9/11 response effort, and in the public’s mind in all became a muddle.

And even though the Bush administration proclaimed that its war on terror was meant to fight against something that affected the security of all free nations, neither the US population nor that of other nations was mobilized World War II style.

So, seven years later, while there are now some promising signs of success in Iraq, in general we are no better off in the Middle East, and in fact, probably worse off (considering Afghanistan), than we were seven years ago. And we never have caught up with bin Laden.

And, one has to remember, we went into Iraq under false pretenses and would not have to worry about success there if we had not gone there in the first place – it was a war of choice (if it was wrong in the first place, success would not make it right now, although it might make us feel better).

As the result of Pearl Harbor 67 years ago we faced up to the threat of the times, the subjugation of the free world by the dictatorial powers of Japan and Germany, and set a goal of total defeat of those powers and met it.

Today, even though we have elected a new president, it is still unclear to me what our aim is and even more unclear to me as to what the public would accept as a reasonable sacrifice, if any.

(Being as the new president has not taken office yet and we can only have one president at a time, it is an awkward situation.)

More than 400,000 U.S. military personnel were killed in World War II.

The current wars in the Middle East have claimed nearly 5,000 U.S. dead and nearly 50,000 wounded (and all that in response to not quite 3,000 killed on 9/11 – but of course there is the potential for far more should terrorists get their way).

Pearl Harbor, 9/11 – history does not quite repeat itself.

P.s. But let us give tribute to those who met the challenge of Pearl Harbor, as well as those who met and are meeting the challenge of 9/11 as interpreted and put upon them by their government in the name of the people. We can only hope that the government and the people are correct and stay interested in the efforts they put upon their fellow citizens in uniform.

Unexpected drama part and parcel to presidency

November 25, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Most or all of my knowledge of President John F. Kennedy’s administration is like a video tape rolling in my head. I watched so much of it on TV as an adolescent. But that doesn’t mean that everything in there is accurate. I just got through madly searching Wikipedia and anything else I could find on the web concerning Kennedy’s immediate public reaction to the Bay of Pigs fiasco and didn’t have much luck.

Even though several sources indicated that he took “full responsibility” for the failure, I did not find what in my head I always assumed to be fact. I always have pictured him making one of those solitary oval office television addresses, such as the one on the Cuban Missile Crisis, acknowledging his mistake concerning the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. But nowhere could I immediately find that.

So, maybe I’ll get back to that point later after more research.

History tells us, though, that the fiasco was not only covertly supported by the U.S., but that it was what you might call an open secret at the time. It had been set in motion by the Eisenhower administration, who informed the incoming president Kennedy of the plan. Kennedy went along with it, but apparently decided that he would not get our armed forces involved in it should things go wrong. Unfortunately, that was not what the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency-backed Cuban expatriates who invaded were told and the end result is that they were left stranded on the beach with not so much as air cover (that they expected), eventually being killed or captured by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s forces. The U.S. was at odds with Castro, who had become a follower of the Soviets.

It was an embarrassment for the new administration, but it moved on. Later the Cuban Missile Crisis came along and Kennedy redeemed himself by standing up to the Soviets.

Some conspiracy theorists think that the CIA was so mad at Kennedy over the Bay of Pigs and for the purported notion that Kennedy was ready to pull out of Vietnam (the U.S. still being in an advisory role in that fight against the communist insurgency) that they were behind his assassination. Kennedy of course was assassinated on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, 45 years ago.

Faulty memory or not, I can tell you this, the assassination was one of the most bizarre things I have ever witnessed (via TV and newspapers). The president was shot while riding in an open limousine on the streets of Dallas, and then the apparent shooter was assassinated by a gunman as he was being taken on what we might call today a “perp walk”, one of those contrived occurrences where a criminal suspect is marched in front of the cameras, usually in shackles. In this case they were moving Lee Harvey Oswald from one jail to another though a crowd of newsmen and others (how much sense did that make?).

Over the weekend I saw a clip from an interview with the cop that was escorting Oswald. He said that just before they started on the walk he remarked to Oswald: “If anyone shoots, I hope they’re accurate,” meaning he hoped they hit Oswald, not him (and how weird is that? that he would think to say such a thing). Shooting point blank, Jack Ruby couldn’t hardly miss. And he had no trouble getting into position, both because of the mob scene and the fact he was a well-known fixture around the police headquarters, being kind of a groupie. The hand gun Ruby used had been purchased for him by a policeman friend, although reportedly not for killing Oswald but for Ruby’s protection as a nightclub owner who carried large amounts of cash to the bank.

(And come to think of it, I think the live-on-TV shooting of assassination suspect Oswald by Ruby was the first time I ever remember of a news clip being played constantly over and over again for a day or more. In fact, I understand the now archaic technology used to replay that video (or film?) led to the modern instant replay used so much in sports. The next news clip that got possibly even more play was the space ship Challenger blowup on Jan. 28, 1986. Nowadays all kinds of clips are on YouTube and elsewhere for constant replay.)

I think a lot of people wondered if we really had gotten out of control as a nation when after just enduring the assassination of our president we witnessed live on TV the murder of the suspected assassin.

And while the evidence is clear that Oswald shot from the upper story window of the Texas School Book Depository, just who were those mysterious characters on the grassy knoll? I am sure I recall hearing something about them in the original news reports. I have a book written by a woman who claims to have been Castro’s girlfriend at one time and also a CIA agent. She claims she went on a mission to Dallas just before the assassination (of which she apparently did not know what the real reason was for), but went back home to the east coast after she got sick. But she claims or implies that her CIA cohorts were in on the Kennedy assassination. Now obviously I think it is just as likely she has a good imagination and had a need for a story to put into book form to hopefully make some money.

But the point of this is that the whole episode was bizarre – oh and my memory still seems to be hazy about Kennedy’s mea culpa on the Bay of Pigs. I’ll have to do more research. Can anyone offer suggestions on that?

P.s. If Kennedy had supported the Bay of Pigs invaders we might have been able to wipe out Castro. I’m not sure why that would have been a good thing, though. I think Kennedy was afraid the Soviets might use our action as a pretext to cause troubles elsewhere. But my observation is that every time we stood up to the Soviets they backed down (is my memory faulty again?).

P.s.  P.s. Kennedy came into office and was almost immediately faced with the Bay of Pigs. George W. Bush was faced with 9/11. I have a feeling Barack Obama’s first big crisis, besides the already-known one, the economy, will come early and will be something off everyone’s radar screen.

Seven years after 9/11, still confusing…

September 11, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

I suppose every generation has its moment or day that it never forgets. This is the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

For some, the never-forget day might be Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, or Nov. 22, 1963, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but for the younger adults, I guess the so-called “Generation X” and younger, and some of all ages, it is 9/11.

I quickly add, though, that in our current society, although everyone knows what 9/11 is, a large part of the populace is near oblivious to it all, nonetheless. Pearl Harbor took us into a World War, young men were drafted into the military and others (including women) signed up, and a great sacrifice was put upon the nation, citizens were called on not to just honor the dead at Pearl Harbor and then go shopping, but to help the war effort. Rationing was imposed (some got around it, but that is always the case in a society).

This time around we have imposed no sacrifice on ourselves outright, but we may well be sacrificing our future, in terms of monetary cost, broken lives, world relations. Although it is much talked and written about, it seems that the powers that be in Washington and even on Main Street don’t fully realize that the war is bankrupting our nation.

Yes, the polls say the war is unpopular, but I don’t know what that means. If the majority of the voters do not want us in the war, why are we in it seven years later? And if the war is difficult, but necessary, why would the majority of the public be against it? Or are they against the war or against the manner in which it is being prosecuted?

Actually, 9/11 and its aftermath is still a puzzle. It’s not simple, such as when Japan, a nation, clearly attacked us, and when it was the Axis partner of Germany, which was in the process of taking over Europe, attacking Great Britain, and eventually attacking the Soviet Union (which became our temporatry ally).

Details of 9/11 are still in question. We were not attacked head-on by another nation or even wholly recognizable group (although we now call it Al Queda). We have settled for the fact that Osama bin Laden, someone we once sponsored, masterminded the attack and that he does or has led a group called Al Queda. But we don’t really know how strong that group is and whether it is now centrally organized or decentralized, loosely held together with independent cells. We don’t even know if bin Laden is alive.

(And now I just heard on CNN that we are going into Pakistan with Special Forces teams without compromising our efforts by telling the Pakistanis who may well be passing on the info to our enemies, and I say it’s about time.)

We (at least we the private citizens) really don’t know who the enemy is, at least not entirely (although we hope our intelligence services have a handle on things, but they sure didn’t prior to 9/11 – or did they?).

We sometimes wish we could just control the whole world so we could keep things safe. We used to be secure (I was) in the fact that we were the world’s only remaining super power. To some extent we have found that such just makes up more vulnerable. We’re kind of like an elephant being harassed by mice. And when we go after Al Queda with all of our might sometimes it’s like going after a gnat with a sledge hammer.

And now in a crazy misstep we are stuck trying to build a new nation in Iraq and we are stuck in a quagmire in Afghanistan, with our military leaders warning we might not be able to win. And wasn’t Afghanistan the old Soviet Union’s version of Vietnam and did we forget the lessons of Vietnam?

And, I always have to remind myself to ask myself, what are we doing? Going after Osama bin Laden? No, the Bush administration publicly admitted to abandoning that idea (although I guess we are supposedly back to doing that now — very confusing).

Originally we went into Afghanistan because the Taliban leadership there was harboring bin Laden. But for some strange reason, perhaps only known in the minds of George W. Bush and his cronies, we all but abandoned the effort there and went full force into Iraq, at first ostensibly because they supposedly were developing or holding”weapons of mass destruction” (none found yet). It was all very confusing and today much of our populace thinks Iraq attacked us and we are fighting back.

And what about that invasion of Afghanistan? I have to admit, I and apparently most of the nation, felt that was the right and necessary move at the time.

But in your town, if there was a murder, and the murderer came from another town, would you call up the army and attack that other town and call in the air force and bomb it? Would you attack still another town because you had a suspicion someone there might be up to something evil? And are we fighting terror? We are creating terror along the way, if so. And how do you properly prosecute a war against a noun or a concept, “terror?”

Is it really just kind of a tacit acceptance among all of us that we are really going after the oil, but let’s don’t admit it? We’re not doing a very good job of it. Iraq has cut a deal for its oil with China and has cancelled some deals with western oil companies.

If the preceding seems kind of disjointed, it’s because 9/11 and its aftermath is confusing to say the least and this is only a blog, not a treatise on war and politics and history.

And do you recall where you were and what you were doing on 9/11?

I remember where I was when I heard the news of 9/11. In bed. I had taken a vacation from my job as a long-haul truck driver to be with my wife who was ill. I had been late at the hospital visiting her. When I was told that the World Trade Center in New York had been hit by an airplane I rolled over and went back to sleep. I got up in time to see the second tower hit (or was it not live, but a replay, I’m not sure). I watched the surreal pictures on television and as the news came out that the attack was perpetrated by foreign terrorists, I wondered, what now?

Well this is what now, where we are today, seven years later. More than 4,000 American combat deaths and thousands more terrible injuries and ruined lives and of course thousands and thousands of innocent and not innocent civilians in the Mid East killed and wounded. Just for perspective, we lost some 3,000 on 9/11. In the forgotten war in Afghanistan where things have heated up as of late, we’ve lost some 586 of our military personnel (I am not counting the relavtively small coalition contingent, but no disrespect intended).

I would not fault George W. Bush for his initial actions, but he has botched the whole thing since. It happens. People fail. I do wonder about his possible ulterior motives in it all. I’m not a conspiracy buff, but I am aware that some have suggested President Franklin Roosevelt saw the good side of Pearl Harbor being it made us get into a war he thought we, an isolationist-minded nation at the time, must be in. The Project for a New Century report, published prior to 9/11, a neocon blueprint for foreign policy, stated we needed another “Pearl Harbor” to convince the American public that we must establish our dominance in the Mid East. And 9/11 was apparently what its authors had in mind.

Even if we do have a degree of success, and after all of this, I would hope that we do, what have we really achieved? We will have to forever watch over (and finance) another part of the world. And if it was wrong in the first place to go into Iraq, how is it now right?

What we really ought to be doing is not nation building. We should be going after in whatever manner that is practicable those who wish to deal evil upon us. To some extent we are using clandestine efforts to do that very thing, I believe. In some cases, conventional military action may still be necessary.


But we need a fresh approach.

May God bless those who perished in 9/11 and their loved ones. And yes, despite my policy disagreements with our current administration, may God bless all of those who have agreed to serve their country in uniform and take orders as they must do. And I can’t forget the heroic deeds of the firemen and other public safety personnel and private citizens that day at the World Trade Center and Washington D.C. and on a flight over Pennsylvania (United Flight 93, on which passengers fought back against 9/11 terrorist hijackers, losing their lives but preventing another plane from hitting Washington, D.C.). May God bless us all. We’re going to need that blessing.

P.S. For those who are not familiar with my thinking, I am neither pro-war nor anti-war in general. I see war (in general) as possibly a necessary evil. But I abhor wars that have no clear purpose, no clear identification of what a victory would be, and fought for ever-changing and nebulous reasons, such is the case in Iraq (and to some extent Afghanistan).


In an originally posted draft of my previous blog, “Lipstick lies…” I left out a word, but corrected it in a second draft. Anyway, the phrase I was referring to was “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” In that original draft I forgot to put in the word “silk.”