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Commentary Last Updated: Jan 24th, 2007 - 01:36:37

America�s shadow
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Jan 23, 2007, 01:10

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In his book, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, Peter Dale Scott talks about America�s destructive actions rooted so deep in its politics that they prove not to be anomalies but integral parts of our political psyche. Scott invokes Jung�s buried shadow, �the repository for repressed unpleasantness.� Yet the shadow (as in who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men), can still be exposed by the freedoms still available to us in America. And this is our salvation.

Healing, as Scott writes, �can come from an enlargement of insight,� which suggests optimism. He adds �for if America were no more than its shadows depicted here, logic and common sense would rule out the writing and publication of this book.� And so Deep Politics is an invitation to understand beyond political paradigms of logic or reason the irrational and/or criminal forces at work in the woodwork, chewing down the State House while other carpenters toil incessantly to Raise High the Roof Beams.

And so, according to Scott, the murder of John F. Kennedy was not a historic one-off, but the body politic�s modus operandi, cloned in the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and I might add John Lennon and the attempted assassinations of George Wallace, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. Scott reports that within the investigatory process of the Warren Commission, there were some 21 or more violent deaths. And 16 more that died at the time of the Garrison investigation of 1967, later immortalized in Oliver Stone�s milestone film, JFK, not to mention our memory.

Along with these shadows (a term also used in theater to describe the dark side of a character), comes the cast of suspects, the usual round of lone nut gunmen, Mafiosi, tainted patriots, CIA and Secret Service �Secret Sharers,� dark operatives, drug runners, money launderers, pimps, generals, defense contractors, politicians, spinmeisters, spymasters, the hated minority, world leaders, plotters, the vicious and/or bereaved Americans. This cast persists from drama to drama.

In fact, we can follow it via Watergate to Iran-contra and Iraqgate to 9/11 to find the lone terrorist patsies capped by bin Laden, the NORAD generals, the CIA/FBI/NSA nexus, the corrupt politicians, the cabinet, the hapless president, the vice president who would be king, the drug-runners, money-launderers, defense companies, corporate donors, spinners, military bases where assassins train, Wall Street where financial hitmen train, and so on.

In fact, in a separate article JFK and 9/11, Scott elaborates on these two American real-life tragic movies, their similar devices in scripts and players, and how they play over and over again on the unsuspecting and suspecting public, shadows (paradigms) projected by light on a huge white screen of time.

It is my impression that the desire to absorb the shadow paradigms may be also at the root of our fascination with political cum sci-fi melodramas, movies from Dr. Strangelove to The Matrix to The Good Shepherd, whose truly dark scenarios are missing from �All the News That�s Fit To Print� and the everyday media, whose real/life counterparts are scathingly replayed on the Internet for their agog scholars.

Perhaps our blindness towards America�s shadows is that we so recognize them in fiction that we no longer fear them in reality, even though they have the potential to lull us into a virtual Apocalypse Now. For instance, let me deal with a major example from Scott�s book, a staple of the American shadow, the obfuscation to make war.

Two scenarios: NSAM 263 AND NSAM 273

National Security Action Memoranda 263 was issued by John F Kennedy on October 11, 1963. It was Kennedy�s last NSAM policy directive issued on Vietnam. Simply stated, it called for a withdrawal of 1,000 troops, combatants, from Vietnam. Beyond that stunner, was Kennedy�s firm ambition, made known to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and the generals, to withdraw the balance of the troops by the end of 1965. The NSAM document, Scott points out, is on the screen of Stone�s JFK for six seconds, fast enough in film time to see, but merely a blip to fully understand. And to watch it morph, supposedly following in Kennedy�s directive steps to NSAM 273, is mind-boggling. This National Security Action Memo was issued only four days after Kennedy�s death by Lyndon Johnson, giving General Maxwell Taylor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the permission to escalate �to insure victory� and take the �war North.�

For Kennedy�s NSAM 263, as Scott tells us, �reflected the �political� priority of avoiding an unlimited commitment to the war, by the signal (important politically but not militarily) of withdrawing 1,000 troops. Johnson�s NSAM 273, while deceptively reiterating language from a still earlier and lower-level document about withdrawal, chose instead the �military� option of escalation, and also reversed Kennedy�s most recent Vietnam policy NSAM.�

Beyond that Johnson had an ongoing flow of information from the military of the darker, truer picture of Nam events, via a back channel. This while the military and Johnson forwarded a rosier series of reports to Kennedy (who never saw the darker), though Kennedy bought none of it.

Stone�s JFK critics from Leslie Gelb in the Times to Alexander Cockburn in The Nation, Scott points out, �replaced this verifiable issue of fact by an unverifiable one: whether or not JFK would have pulled the United States out of Vietnam.� That is speculation not history. And it was the escalation permitted by NSAM 273 that led to the military bombing of North Vietnam. This, in turn, led to US destroyer patrols and the August 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incidents, which had been discussed in the Pentagon before but only then received presidential authorization. The falsified attacks on American warships in the Gulf of Tonkin led to a full-out escalation into perdition.

Supposedly, McNamara himself never saw the plans until November 20. But there�s no question that NSAM 273 wants the US to fight. NSAM 263 expresses Kennedy�s desire for limited engagement and ends with his assassination. This is the shadow of our history and its movie running in memory.

The execution of the scenario

With NSAM 263, Kennedy bucks the intense bureaucratic opposition, from the career generals to the fresh-stung Bay of Pigs attendees; from the CIA and Cuban loyalists to the fired CIA director and assistants; from the frustrated defense industrialists who saw millions, billions slipping away, to the oil-thirsty corporations eyeing Southeast Asia for petro-profits; from the diehard anti-communist ideologues thinking JFK was going soft on commies to the drug lords of the Mafia and their CIA partners anxious to peddle their wares in the fog of war; from the open-pocket politicians to the close-mouthed killers; in short, from all came back the shock wave of triangulated assassination as if set in motion by the laws of physics and nature itself.

And so, the Secret Service turns the Kennedy car left off the planned route of Main Street to a short distance on Houston Street to a left again onto Elm Street into Dealey Plaza, a long volley of shots exploding from the front, the right and the rear, killing Kennedy, wounding Texas Governor John Connally, eight wounds in all, the limousine slowed from 25 to 10 mph, then sped up on the direct route to Parkland Hospital; the full 26 seconds of shadows and cutouts caught on the dress manufacturer Abraham Zapruder�s 8-millimeter camera. The film, film for the folly, for perpetuity, for Life Magazine, for prevarication, recut that very night by the CIA.

And behind the four door Lincoln convertible (a bullet hole in the upper right of its windshield), we find at a reasonable distance the finned Cadillac convertible with the vice president in mint condition. Johnson was host that previous evening to Allen Dulles, former CIA chief, the soon to be member of the Warren Commission. It is a feeding frenzy, blood on the water.

And the cast of characters caught on stills standing in the Plaza or in front of the Texas School Book Depository are alleged to include rightwing extremist Joseph Milteer, CIA agent Lucien Conein, the CIA's Colonel Edward Lansdale and GHW Bush, among others. This with multiples of the lone goat Oswald identified here and there and caught in a matter of minutes, just like Sirhan Sirhan, Talmadge Hayer, John Hinckley, Arthur Bremer, and so on, systemic, repeating themselves, Sam Giancana, Jimmy Roselli, Carlos Marcellus, Santo Trafficante, players in a national drama that will be revived when necessary like Hello Dolly or even Sondheim�s Assassins.

The drama shakes the paradigm of propriety to pieces: that this couldn�t happen but did happen and will happen time after time, one way or the other, to replace those who get in the way of those with the more profitable direction. The 9/11 Commission in for the Warren Commission, the obfuscators greasing the wheels of progress and war, the giant reels of the projector showing us the news of democracy in action from Cuba to Vietnam, Iran to Iraq, Chile to Nicaragua, and so on -- American as apple pie. And with a president who knows better today that he must surge in Iraq in his blue serge suit, red tie and white shirt. So it goes. It is endemic this epidemic of �killing and creation� as our world turns.

Beyond it all, the indelible sunshine of life, the cloudless blue skies of November 22, 1963, in Dallas and September 11, 2001, in New York City, and all the days between. Days of the fall, the coming thanksgiving for all we have and have not, for how it is, and can be, for better or for worse.

Thanks to Peter Dale Scott, poet, professor, political seer, for seeing the shadow, and Oliver Stone for putting it on film. After all what is film, like life, but the capture of shadow and light?

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at

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