On December 15, the night that the Biden administration released some of the remaining JFK files while withholding others with another half-assed excuse, Tucker Carlson, the most-watched cable news television host, delivered a monologue about the JFK assassination. It garnered a great deal of attention.
Although I don’t watch Carlson’s television show, I received messages from many friends and colleagues, people I highly respect, about his monologue’s great significance, so I watched that episode. And then I watched it many more times.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a man whom I hold in the highest esteem, tweeted that it was “the most courageous newscast in 60 years. The CIA’s murder of my uncle was a successful coup d’état from which our democracy has never recovered.”
While I completely agree with his second sentence, I was underwhelmed by Carlson’s words, to put it mildly. I thought it was clearly “a limited hangout,” as described by the former CIA agent Victor Marchetti:
Spy jargon for a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting, sometimes even volunteering, some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further.
Or listens carefully.
Carlson surely said some things that were true, and, as my friends and many others have insisted, he was the first mainstream corporate journalist to say that “the CIA was involved in the assassination of the president.”
But “involved” is a word worthy of a lawyer, a public relations expert, or the CIA itself because it can mean something significant or nothing. Or a little of both. It is a weasel word.
And the source for Carlson’s claim was an anonymous source, someone who he said “had access” to the JFK files that were never released. We know, of course, that when The New York Times and its ilk cite “anonymous sources,” claiming that they have told them this or that, this raises eyebrows. Or should. Anyone who closely follows that paper’s claims knows that it is a CIA conduit, but now, those who know this are embracing Tucker Carlson as if he were the prophet of truth, as if a Rupert Murdock-owned Fox TV host who is paid many millions of dollars, has become the Julian Assange of corporate journalism.
In a 2010 radio interview, Mr. Carlson said, “ I am 100 % his bitch. Whatever Mr. Murdoch says, I do.”
The obvious question is: Why would Fox News allow Carlson to say now what many hear as shocking news about the JFK assassination?
So let me run down exactly what Carlson did say.
For five minutes of the 7:28 minute monologue, he said things that are obviously true: that Jack Ruby killed Oswald and that the claim that both acted alone is weird and beyond any odds; that the Warren Commission was shoddy; that the CIA weaponized the term “conspiracy theory” in 1967 according to Lance De Haven-Smith’s book Conspiracy Theory in America; that the CIA’s brainwashing specialist psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West visited Jack Ruby in jail and declared him insane, contrary to all other assessments of Ruby’s mental state; and that the 1976 House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that there was probably a conspiracy in the president’s assassination.
All of this is true but not news to those knowledgeable about the assassination. Nevertheless, it was perhaps news to Carlson’s audience and therefore good to hear on a corporate news site.
But then, the next few minutes – the key part of his report, the part that drew all the attention – got tricky.
Carlson said that just that day – December 15, 2022 – when all the JFK documents were due to be released but many were withheld, “we spoke to someone who had access to these still hidden CIA documents.” Who would have such access, and how, is left unaddressed, but it is implied that it is a CIA source, but maybe not. It is strange to say the least.
Carlson then said he asked this person, “Did the CIA have a hand in the murder of John F. Kennedy?” And the answer was “I believe they were involved.” Carlson goes on to say, “And the answer we received was unequivocal. Yes, the CIA was involved in the assassination of the president.”
Note the words “hand,” “believe,” “involved,” and then “unequivocal.”
“Hand” can mean many things and is very vague. For example, in front of his wife, a man tells his friend, “I had a hand in preparing Christmas dinner.” To which his wife, laughing, replies, “Yes, he did, he put the napkins on the table.”
To “believe” something is very different from knowing it, as Dr. Martin Schotz, one of the most perceptive JFK assassination researchers, has written in his book, History Will Not Absolve Us: Orwellian Control, Public Denial, and the Murder of President Kennedy
On Belief Versus Knowledge
It is so important to understand that one of the primary means of immobilizing the American people politically today is to hold them in a state of confusion in which anything can be believed but nothing can be known, nothing of significance that is.
And the American people are more than willing to be held in this state because to know the truth — as opposed to only believe the truth — is to face an awful terror and to be no longer able to evade responsibility. It is precisely in moving from belief to knowledge that the citizen moves from irresponsibility to responsibility, from helplessness and hopelessness to action, with the ultimate aim of being empowered and confident in one’s rational powers.
“Involved,” like the word “hand,” can mean many things; it is vague, slippery, not definitive, and is used by tabloid gossip columnists to suggest scandals that may or not be true.
“Unequivocal” does not accurately describe the source’s statement, which was: “I believe.” That is, unless you take someone’s belief as evidence of the truth, or you wish to make it sound so.
Note that nowhere in Carlson’s report does he or his alleged source say clearly and definitively that the CIA/National Security State murdered President Kennedy, for which there has long been overwhelming evidence. Such beating-around-the-bush is quite common and tantalizes the audience to think the next explosive revelation will be dispositive. Yet no release of documents is needed to confirm that the CIA killed Kennedy, as if the national security state would allow itself to be pinned for the murder.
Waiting for the documents is like waiting for Godot; and to promote some hidden smoking gun, some great revelation is to engage in a pseudo-debate without end. It is to do the killers’ bidding for them. And it is quite common. There are many well-known “dissident” writers who continue to claim that there is not enough evidence to conclude that the CIA/national security state killed the president. And this is so for those who question the official story. Furthermore, there are many more pundits who maintain that Oswald did the deed alone, as the Warren Report concluded and the mainstream corporate media trumpet. This group is led by Noam Chomsky, whose acolytes bow to their master’s ignorant conclusions.
Maybe we’ll know the truth in 2063.
While it is true that some people change dramatically, Tucker Carlson, the Fox Television celebrity, would be a very unlikely candidate. He defended Eliot Abrams and praised Oliver North; supported the Contras against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua; went to Nicaragua to support those Contras; smeared the great journalist Gary Webb while defending the CIA; supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq; and much more. Alan MacLeod chronicled all this in February of this year for those who have known nothing of Carlson’s past, including his father’s work as a U.S. intelligence operative as director of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), the body that oversees government-funded media, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Martí and Voice of America – all U.S. propaganda outlets.
Now we are being asked to accept that Carlson is out to show how the CIA is “involved” in the murder of JFK. Why would so many fall for such rhetoric?
No doubt any crumb of national news coverage about the CIA and the assassination by a major corporate player elicits an enthusiastic response from those who have tried for many years to tell the truth about JFK’s murder. One’s first response is excitement. But such reactions need to tempered by sober analyses of exactly what has been said, which is what I am doing here. I, too, wish it were a breakthrough but think it is more of the same. Much ado about nothing. A way to continue to foster uncertainty, not knowledge, about the crime.
I see it as a game of false binaries in the same way the Democrats and Republicans are portrayed as mortal enemies. Yes, there are some differences, but all-in-all they are one party, the War Party, who agree on the essential tenets of U.S. imperial policy. They both represent the interests of the upper classes and are financed by them. They both work within the same frame of reference. They both support what Ray McGovern, the former CIA analyst, rightly calls the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex (MICIMATT).
If one asks a dedicated believer in the truthfulness of The New York Times Corporation or NPR, for example, what they think of Tucker Carlson, they will generally dismiss him with disdain as a right-wing charlatan. This, of course, works in reverse if you ask Carlson’s followers what they think of the Times or NPR. Yet for those who think outside the frame – and they are all non-mainstream – a different picture emerges. But sometimes they are taken in by those whose equivocations are extremely lawyerly but appeal to what they wish to hear. This is exactly what a “limited hangout” is. Snagged by some actual truths, they bite on the bait of nuances that don’t mean what they think they do.
Left vs. right, Fox TV vs. The New York Times, NPR, etc.: Just as Carlson’s father Dick Carlson ran the CIA-created U.S. overseas radio propaganda under Reagan and George H. W. Bush, so too the present head of National Public Radio, John Lansing, did the same under Barack Obama. See my piece, Will NPR Now Change its Name to National Propaganda Radio. Birds of a feather disguised as hawks and sparrows in a game meant to confuse and create scrambled brains.
Lastly, let me mention an odd “coincidence.” On December 6 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., nine days before the partial JFK files release and Tucker Carlson’s monologue, the Mary Ferrell Foundation, an organization devoted to JFK research, gave a presentation showcasing what was advertised as explosive new information about the Kennedy assassination. The key presenter was Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post reporter and prominent JFK assassination researcher who has sued the CIA for documents involving Lee Harvey Oswald and CIA operative George Joannides.
On November 22 Morley had published an article titled “Yes, There is a JFK Smoking Gun.” It was subtitled: It will be found in 44 CIA documents that are still “Denied in Full.” The documents he was referring to allegedly concern contacts between Oswald and Joannides in the summer and fall of 1963 in New Orleans and in Mexico City. “They [the CIA] were running a psychological warfare operation, authorized in June 1963, that followed Oswald from New Orleans to Mexico City later that year,” wrote Morley.
Well, the “smoking gun” documents were not released on Dec 15, although on November 20 and then again at The National Press Club on December 6, Morley spoke of them as proving his point about the CIA’s involvement with Oswald, which has been obvious for a long time. Although he said he hadn’t seen these key documents but was awaiting their release, he added that even if they were not released that will still prove him correct. In other words, with this bit of legerdemain, he was saying: What I don’t know, and may not soon not know, supports what I’m claiming even though I don’t know it. And even if the files were released, he writes, “As for the conspiracy question, the massive withholding of documents makes it premature to draw any conclusions. The undisclosed Oswald operation was not necessarily part of a conspiracy. It might indicate CIA incompetence, not complicity. Again, only the CIA knows for sure.” So the smoking gun is not a smoking gun and the waters of uncertainty roll on and on into the receding future.
CIA incompetence, not complicity. Of course. It ain’t necessarily so. Or it is, or might be, or isn’t.
Morley is one of many who still cannot say that the CIA killed the president. Tucker Carlson can speak of its “involvement” just like Morley. We need more information, more files, etc. But even if we get them, we still won’t know. Maybe by 2063.
My question for Tucker Carlson: Who was your anonymous source? And did your source see the documents that were never disclosed? What specific documents are you referring to? And do they prove that the CIA killed Kennedy or just suggest “involvement”?
Finally, as I said before, even as there has long been a mountain of evidence for the CIA’s murder of JFK (and RFK as well, although that is never mentioned), many prominent people continue to play as if there is not. Listen to this video interview between Chris Hedges and former CIA officer John Kiriakou. It is all about the nefarious deeds of the CIA. Right toward the end of the interview (see minutes 32:30-33:19), Hedges says, “So I have to ask [since he has to answer] this question since I know Oliver Stone is convinced the CIA killed JFK … I’ve never seen any evidence that backs it up …” and they both share a mocking laugh at Stone as if he were the village idiot when he knows more about the JFK assassination than the two of them put together, and Kiriakou says he too has not seen such evidence. It’s a disgusting but typical display of arrogance and a “limited hangout.” Criticize the CIA only to make sure you whitewash them for one of their greatest achievements: the murder of President John F. Kennedy. This is straight from Chomsky’s playbook.
Beware double-talkers and the games they play. They come in different flavors.
One thing that every late-stage ruling class has in common is a high tolerance for mediocrity. Standards decline, the edges fray, but nobody in charge seems to notice. They’re happy in their sinecures and getting richer. In a culture like this, there’s no penalty for being wrong. The talentless prosper, rising inexorably toward positions of greater power, and breaking things along the way. It happened to the Ottomans. Max Boot is living proof that it’s happening in America.
Boot is a professional foreign policy expert, a job category that doesn’t exist outside of a select number of cities. Boot has degrees from Berkeley and Yale, and is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has written a number of books and countless newspaper columns on foreign affairs and military history. The International Institute for Strategic Studies, an influential British think tank, describes Boot as one of the “world’s leading authorities on armed conflict.”
None of this, it turns out, means anything. The professional requirements for being one ofthe world’s Leading Authorities on Armed Conflict do not include relevant experience with armed conflict. Leading authorities on the subject don’t need a track record of wise assessments or accurate predictions. All that’s required are the circular recommendations of fellow credential holders. If other Leading Authorities on Armed Conflict induct you into their ranks, you’re in. That’s good news for Max Boot.
Boot first became famous in the weeks after 9/11 for outlining a response that the Bush administration seemed to read like a script, virtually word for word. While others were debating whether Kandahar or Kabul ought to get the first round of American bombs, Boot was thinking big. In October 2001, he published a piece in The Weekly Standard titled “The Case for American Empire.”:
The September 11 attack was a result of insufficient American involvement and ambition. The solution is to be more expansive in our goals and more assertive in their implementation.
In order to prevent more terror attacks in American cities, Boot called for a series of U.S.-led revolutions around the world, beginning in Afghanistan and moving swiftly to Iraq. Boot wrote:
Once we have deposed Saddam, we can impose an American-led, international regency in Baghdad, to go along with the one in Kabul ... to turn Iraq into a beacon of hope for the oppressed peoples of the Middle East: Now that would be a historic war aim. Is this an ambitious agenda? Without a doubt. Does America have the resources to carry it out? Also without a doubt.
In retrospect, Boot’s words are painful to read, like love letters from a marriage that ended in divorce. Iraq remains a smoldering mess. The Afghan war is still in progress close to 20 years in. For perspective, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of France, crowned himself emperor, defeated four European coalitions against him, invaded Russia, lost, was defeated and exiled, returned, and was defeated and exiled a second time, all in less time than the United States has spent trying to turn Afghanistan into a stable country.
Things haven’t gone as planned. What’s remarkable is that despite all the failure and waste and deflated expectations, defeats that have stirred self-doubt in the heartiest of men, Boot has remained utterly convinced of the virtue of his original predictions. Certainty is a prerequisite for Leading Authorities on Armed Conflict.
In the spring of 2003, with the war in Iraq under way, Boot began to consider new countries to invade. He quickly identified Syria and Iran as plausible targets, the latter because it was “less than two years” from building a nuclear bomb. North Korea made Boot’s list as well. Then Boot became more ambitious. Saudi Arabia could use a democracy, he decided:
If the U.S. armed forces made such short work of a hardened goon like Saddam Hussein, imagine what they could do to the soft and sybaritic Saudi royal family”
Five years later, in a piece for The Wall Street Journal, Boot advocated for the military occupation of Pakistan and Somalia. The only potential problem, he predicted, was unreasonable public opposition to new wars:
Ragtag guerrillas have proven dismayingly successful in driving out or neutering international peacekeeping forces. Think of American and French troops blown up in Beirut in 1983, or the ‘Black Hawk Down’ incident in Somalia in 1993. Too often, when outside states do agree to send troops, they are so fearful of casualties that they impose rules of engagement that preclude meaningful action.
In other words, the tragedy of foreign wars isn’t that Americans die, but that too few Americans are willing to die. To solve this problem, Boot recommended recruiting foreign mercenaries. “The military would do well today to open its ranks not only to legal immigrants but also to illegal ones,” he wrote in the Los Angeles Times. When foreigners get killed fighting for America, he noted, there’s less political backlash at home.