Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 13/15
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In a Boston Globe op-ed, Newman denounces George Lardner of the Washington Post, who wrote that NSAM 273 continued JFK's withdrawal policy. Sneering at this "irresponsible journalistic fiction" and "journalistic license," Newman writes that NSAM 273 only referred to "a slippery White House statement of October 3, 1963," which conditioned withdrawal on military progress, and "failed to address the 1,000 man withdrawal specifically or Kennedy's top secret order -- NSAM-263 -- of October 11, 1963, which implemented it." In reality, NSAM 263 referred to (and can charitably be taken as calling for) the implementation of the military recommendations of the McNamara-Taylor report of October 2, all conditioned on victory. NSAM 273 refers to the White House statement of October 2 (not October 3), already cited, which approves the very same proposal. Furthermore, NSAM 273 is identical to the draft prepared for Kennedy in this respect. In his book, going beyond the evidence, Newman writes that in NSAM 263, "Kennedy actually implemented the [McNamara-Taylor] plan, directing that 1,000 men be withdrawn before the end of the year." But, Newman adds correctly, the condition was "that `no further reductions in U.S. strength would be made until the requirements of the 1964 [military] campaigns were clear'." His accurate statement that, "So far, it had been couched in terms of battlefield success," adequately refutes his own claims in the denunciation of "journalistic license."

Continuing the denunciation, Newman claims again that "Kennedy's public statements contradicted his private ones," citing only the alleged statements to Congressmen and to O'Donnell, which, Newman asserts, made his intent to withdraw "abundantly clear." Newman falsely claims that the secret record "is more explicit," citing NSAM 263, which "seems to buttress the case that Kennedy was feinting right while moving left," which it surely does not. He also makes the remarkable claim that in 1961 Kennedy rejected the dispatch of combat troops to Vietnam "when all the arguments that could be mustered for sending them had been made -- the same arguments, incidentally, which led Johnson to approve sending combat troops in 1965." The conditions were so radically different that the comparison is meaningless; no one would claim that escalation on the scale of JFK's 1961-1962 moves would have sufficed for military victory in 1965.

In a lengthy response to a detailed and accurate exposure by Alexander Cockburn of his misrepresentation of documentary evidence, Newman evades the factual issues raised entirely, preferring supercilious dismissal of this "loose cannon" who "knows little about this subject" and therefore "has distinguished himself by poking fun at serious scholars" with "ad hominem" charges: "it is time to stop joking around and get serious." We find the same appeal to the "top-secret documentary record" and to JFK's alleged knowledge that "the war was a lost cause." Cockburn is advised "to hit the books for a while" and study the documents. Perhaps he would do better to study with a good psychic, so he too might see into JFK's heart.48

The hero-villain scenario, and the dual theses on which it rests, are by no means definitively refuted, nor could they be; but Newman's efforts diminish their plausibility still further. His injunction "to hit the books for a while" is well taken. When we follow it, we find that his theses are undermined at every turn. The primary value of his contribution is to reveal the extraordinary lengths to which it is necessary to go to try to make a case for the theses advanced by Newman, Schlesinger, and a wide range of others.

Whatever genre this may be, concern for fact has been left far behind. As in the case of the post-Tet memoirs, this strange performance and its reception are of some interest, but not as a contribution to history: rather, as a chapter of cultural history in the late 20th century.

Perhaps a few words might be added on the latest episode, the publication of a book by the man who served as the model for Oliver Stone's "Deep Throat," the all-knowing "Man X" of his movie JFK, whose work "provided vital parts of the movie's theme."49 The author, Fletcher Prouty, has long been a central figure in the theories of a "secret team" that has hijacked the state, "the crime of the century" being only one feat. He shows, Stone writes in his introduction, that the CIA killed John F. Kennedy because he was withdrawing from Vietnam, failing to pursue the Cuba adventure with sufficient vigor, and "fundamentally...affecting the economic might of this nation-planet, U.S.A., Inc., and its New World Order"; also undermining the Federal Reserve Board, "The CIA and its thousand-headed Medusa of an economic system," and the entire global order run by the "High Cabal" that rules the world. For this achievement, Prouty's "name will go down in history."

Kennedy's October 1963 withdrawal plan was "a seismic change that would have defused the Cold War," Prouty writes, a consequence intolerable to the High Cabal, a global "super power elite" that bases its thinking on "a quartet of the greatest propaganda schemes ever put forth by man": Locke's philosophy of natural law, the population theory of Malthus, Darwin's theory of evolution, and Heisenberg's theory of indeterminacy, a collection of "errors and confusion" that underlie the "invisible war" called the Cold War. The Cabal had already selected Vietnam as a "major battleground" during World War II, when they shipped stockpiles intended for the invasion of Japan to Vietnam, turning them over to Ho Chi Minh and his top commander Vo Nguyen Giap. "Decisions of such magnitude" could only have been made by a "super power elite" standing above such figures as FDR, Churchill, Stalin, and other official leaders. He suggests Averell Harriman as the closest model.

The entire game was to be ended by JFK, the "bombshell" being NSAM 263, a document so extraordinary that "many historians and journalists" deny its existence, and the record leading to it "has been savagely distorted in basic government documents," including "such grandiose 'cover story' creations as the Pentagon Papers," with its "subtle anti-Kennedy slant" and selection of documents that is "the source of the anti-Kennedy forgeries." The State Department history, reviewed earlier, is a complex effort "to further obfuscate this record" in order to maintain "the cover story"; the proof is that documents are presented in chronological order (as always in these publications), requiring the reader to cross-check (following the precise instructions given). NSAM 273 was "a total reversal of Kennedy's own policy." Many other events of the past half-century have been "caused to happen" in accord with the "game plan of the High Cabal," Prouty relates.

Apart from some phrases from the documentary record, the evidence is anecdotal, based on the author's alleged direct participation in these awesome events.

Again, questions of contemporary cultural history arise, but little more.

Go to the next segment.

48 Newman, BG, Jan. 14; JFK, 409-10; letter, Nation, May 18, 1992.

49 Prouty, JFK, xviii.