Posts Tagged ‘assassination’

The Assassination of Robert Kennedy

Christopher Plumley (1992)

Film Review

This classic documentary from 1992 neatly summarizes a reasonably ironclad case that a second gunman, not Sirhan Sirhan, shot and killed Robert Kennedy in June 1968. It also reveals how the Los Angeles police (LAPD) systematically destroyed and suppressed evidence pointing to the true killer.

Filmmaker Christopher Plumley begins with the forensic and autopsy evidence. The latter shows clearly that the bullet killing Kennedy came from immediately (2-3 inches) behind, whereas Sirhan was in front of him. According to 76 eyewitnesses he was never closer than three feet to Kennedy. At the time if Sirhan’s, trial there were approximately 1,000 photos of the shooting, which the LAPD subsequently destroyed in a hospital incinerator.

Too Many Bullets

The “official” LAPD crime scene reconstruction shows eight bullets (Sirhan’s gun only held eight) hitting Kennedy three times and wounding five other victims. Both the FBI and the LAPD crime scene officer disputed the official reconstruction, based on eyewitness testimony, the autopsy report and bullet holes in the woodwork of the Ambassador Hotel pantry showing there had to be at least 12 bullets.

The autopsy alone proves Sirhan couldn’t have been the assassin. Instead of challenging the autopsy evidence at trial, his defense attorney (who seems to have been party to the conspiracy) advised him to plead diminished responsibility. To this day, Sirhan maintains he has no recollection whatsoever of the shooting.Neither the defense nor the prosecution presented any eyewitness testimony, which clearly would have exonerated the supposed deranged lone gunman.

Witness Coercion

LAPD browbeat and threatened several eyewitnesses who saw Sirhan together with another man and a woman in a polka dot dress. According to at least one witness, the woman claimed responsibility for the shooting as the couple fled the crime scene. Plumley plays a choice selection of a recorded polygraph examination of an ex-CIA polygraph specialist emotionally abusing her – as he tries to coerce her into change her story.

The CIA’s Project Artichoke

The most damaging evidence against Sirhan was a notebook in which he repeatedly scribbled nonsensical threats about killing Kennedy. The last ten minutes of the film looks at declassified evidence about the CIA’s Project Artichoke, a top secret program in which robot assassins were hypno-programed to commit murder and have no subsequent recollection of their actions.

This section features a 1974 audiotape made by Dr William Bryan Jr, who reportedly bragged about being the hypnotist who hypno-programed Sirhan. The psychologist who examined Sirhan in prison confirmed he had been hypno-programed. The latter was fired after seeking permission to deprogram him.

 

The Assassination of Julius Caesar

Michael Parenti (2012)

Film Review

In this presentation, Michael Parenti discusses the fraudulent history we are taught about the late Roman Republic. In particular, he focuses on the popular resistance movement that led to the rise of the Populares in the Roman senate in the second century BC. The revolt of the Roman proletariat was largely a reaction to the privatization of Rome’s collective agricultural lands as latifundia (plantations owned by Roman aristocrats). Historically there was no private land ownership in Rome until thugs hired by aristocrats drove the peasants off their land around 200 BC.

Parenti starts by demolishing the myth promulgated by mainstream historians that Rome was a republic. The Roman senate was a self-appointed oligarchy. For the most part Roman senators paid no taxes though. Instead they loaned money at interest to the Roman government (sound familiar?). The lower classes, in contrast, were heavily taxed.

The first great Populares to serve as consul was Tiberius Gracchus in 133 BC. He and his brother Gaius, who succeeded him, fought for land reform to break up the latifundia and redistribute them to the landless. Despite their aristocratic background, all the Populares consuls challenged a Roman economic system that was rigged in favor of the elites All were assassinated by aristocratic death squads.

Julius Caesar would be the last Populares consul, and he, too, would be assassinated in 44 BC. Among the reforms he enacted were

  • Lowering interest and fines on debts
  • Building exceptional public libraries to be used by all Roman citizens
  • Guaranteeing freedom of religion to Roman Jews
  • Ending the practice of forcing people with unpaid debts into slavery
  • Introducing a democratic constitution
  • Creating state jobs in Rome and the colonies for the unemployed
  • Ending Cicero’s* witch hunts and extrajudicial executions

The aristocrats in the senate, who detested Caesar because he threatened their wealth and privilege, responded by labeling him a brutal tyrant and assassinating him. Ironically the emperors who succeeded him were far more tyrannical. Yet the senate aristocrats supported them as they protected their wealth and privilege.

What strikes me most about this presentation are the clear parallels with the current period, with the liberal elite and intelligence establishment portraying Trump as an unspeakable fascist tyrant based on little evidence other than his rhetoric. I’m aware that much of the liberal establishment is justifiably frightened of the ultraconservative bent of Trump’s appointees. However most of the strident anti-Trump rhetoric seems over the top to me.

For me the two main ways the parallels break down are 1) the absence of a genuine reform movement from below similar to the Roman resistance movement that led to the formation of the Populares 2) the absence in Trump of the towering intelligence, charisma and military and political ingenuity that Caesar displayed. Trump’s lack of political experience raises the vital question whether he or his conservative cabinet will be in control. Despite his promise of numerous populist reforms, I’m extremely skeptical whether the prominent conservatives in his cabinet support them.

The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders

John Potash (2008)

Review

In the video below, author John Potash uses a slideshow format to discuss his 2008 book The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders. The book is a compilation of years of research (based on court documents, news reports, archival photos and FOIA documents) into the FBI role in the assassination and false imprisonment of black political leaders and rock stars.

This presentation mainly focuses on the FBI assassination of Tupak Shakur in 1996, though Potash also briefly covers the FBI murder of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Fred Hampton, Huey Newton, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley and the CIA murder of Robert F Kennedy.

As background, Bishop also outlines the key strategies of Cointelpro the FBI war against the Black Panther Party.  In addition to assassinating their leaders, the FBI collaborated with police intelligence units to imprison multiple Panther leaders on false charges, as well as extensive infiltrating their groups.

The Panther 21 Trial

Both Tupac’s Black Panther parents were framed on fictitious charges in the infamous Panther 21 trial in 1971. Tupac’s mother Afeni, who handled their defense pro se, got all of them acquitted. Tupac, who had numerous Panther mentors growing up, would become president of the New African Panther Organization (NAPO) in 1989,

In 1992, he helped broker a truce between the Bloods and Crips, encouraging them to focus their anger on the white power structure. In part due to his growing fame, the FBI responded with repeated attempts to assassinate him, as well as numerous arrests on fictitious charges.

By 1995, his financial resources depleted by multiple arrests and frivolous lawsuits, Tupac was eventually framed by an FBI informant on a phony sexual assault charge. Although he was acquitted on a rape charge, he would be sentenced to four years in prison (on a $5 million bond) for “touching a woman’s buttocks without her permission.”

Death Row Records

What horrified me most about this presentation was learning about Death Row Records, a recording company run by three undercover cops from the LAPD intelligence unit. The latter used their position in the recording industry to traffic drugs (the president of Death Row was an affiliate of Freeway Ricky Ross who distributed cocaine imported to the US by the CIA Contras) and guns and to murder performers who attempted to politicize rap music.

Death Row Records was also instrumental in ending the Bloods/Crips truce by instigating a fictitious East Coast/West Coast rap war and collaborating with police “rap squads” in Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere to frame truce leaders on phony charges carrying long prison sentences. They were also instrumental in breaking up Niggas wit Attitudes (N.W.A.)

Tupac was released from prison within days of signing with Death Row, which closely censored the political content of his recordings and performances. The FBI and the undercover cops at Death Row also instigated the phony feud between Tupac and rap star Biggie Small.

After Tupac left Death Row to start his own record company, the FBI organized his assassination and planted rumors in the press that Biggie Small had ordered the drive by shooting. They subsequently murdered Biggie Small to cover up the FBI role in Tupac’s murder.

Apologies of an Economic Hitman

Directed by Stelios Kouloglou (2008)

Film Review

This is a very intriguing Greek documentary about John Perkins, author of the 2004 book Confessions of an Economic Hitman. In the film, Perkins summarizes his recruitment by the NSA to work as an “economic hitman.” Despite his close affiliation to US intelligence, he was technically under the employ of a private engineering company called Charles T Main Inc. It was his role to approach third world presidents with bribes to accept World Bank loans for massive infrastructure projects – which were usually built by major US companies such as Bechtel and Halliburton.

This was done with the deliberate intention of saddling the third world countries with debt they couldn’t repay. Their only option would be to seek refinancing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which usually demanded they slash public services and open up their resources to further exploitation by Wall Street interests .

As Perkins describes it, this was the strategy of choice (as opposed to direct military intervention) for expanding US empire between 1945-2000. Any third world leader who refused to play ball was openly threatened with assassination. The first step in dealing with a recalcitrant leader was to send in the “jackals,” CIA officers and contractors who would try to instigate a military coup. If this failed, US intelligence would send in an assassination team. If this also failed, they would fall back on military invasion and occupation (always a last resort).

The film zeroes in on the assassination (via plane crash) of Ecuadorian president Jaime Roldós Aguilera and Panamanian president Omar Torrijos in 1981. It also provides interesting background to the US invasion of Iraq, following Saddam Hussein’s rejection of a massive Bechtel oil pipeline project.

I was previously unaware of the CIA effort to instigate a military coup against Saddam in 1996. The CIA discarded the option of assassinating him because he had too many doubles. Even his own bodyguards never knew if they were guarding the real Saddam.

In the following video, Jeremy Cahill discusses his book The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program. For the most part, the book consists of leaked documents about the CIA’s “secret” drone assassination program. This is the first time any official documents have been made public.

Cahill’s latest book includes documents setting out the criteria for putting Americans and others on the terrorist “watch list.” Other documents describe the “kill chain,” the process by which prospects are moved from the “watch list” to the “kill list.” When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, she signed off on every targeted assassination carried out by the Obama White House.

According to Scahill, the watch list contains over one million entries, including 21,000 Americans. Among other data, the watch list includes bank records and confidential medical records.

Scahill begins his talk with fascinating commentary on the three main presidential candidates. Among other observations, he points out 1) that Bernie Sanders supports both the kill list and drone warfare 2)  that Trump didn’t bring fascism to the US – that he merely brought existing US fascism into public view and 3) that Bill and Hillary Clinton were using her private email server to operate a parallel government structure.

In Scahill’s words, Hillary is the “empire candidate.” She has already been endorsed by William Kristol, Max Booth and other neoconservatives. He maintains most of the Republican leadership is preparing to support her presidential campaign.

Scahill is also scathingly critical of Ben Rhodes and the other 20 to 30-year-old “frat” boys who manage Obama’s foreign policy, ie make the decision who to kill next and which countries to invade.

 

In the following video author David Swanson discusses his book War is a Lie. As a long time anti-war campaigner, Swanson’s purpose is to demolish the widespread belief that some wars (eg the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War and World War II) are “good wars. He carefully dispels the lies ruling elites have told us about each of these wars, simultaneously clarifying that each had the true purpose of expanding American empire.

With numerous historical examples, he demonstrates that war was totally unnecessary to win American independence (eg the US launched the War of 1812 as an excuse to invade Canada.). And not only was the Civil War unnecessary to end slavery, but slavery didn’t end in the US until World War II. (See 1941: The Year Slavery Finally Ended)

Swanson is extremely critical of environmentalists who are too timid to condemn war as the major destroyer of the environment and civil libertarians who condemn torture and assassination without condemning war as the root cause of these atrocities. He’s also highly critical of activists who bemoan that the corporate elite is too powerfully entrenched to be crushed by a mass movement.

Unlike most presentations, the Q&A’s – which start at 31:00 – are the best part of this video.