FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bobby Kennedy Was No Hero

by DAVID MACARAY

It’s a mystery why John F. Kennedy is still regarded as the family moderate?cautious, pragmatic, shrewd and calculating?while brother Bobby gets to be portrayed as the impetuous, left-leaning, idealistic humanitarian.  It’s a mystery because even a cursory examination of history reveals that that wasn’t Bobby.

For openers, Bobby Kennedy was about as “leftist” as Douglas MacArthur.  In truth, he, like his brother John, was a shrieking anti-Communist.  The Kennedys were not only Cold Warriors, they were fairly paranoid about it?confusing progressivism with Bolshevism?which is why they believed, ludicrously, that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Communist, and is why they (John as president and Bobby as Attorney General) had King’s telephone tapped.

How much of an anti-Communist was Bobby Kennedy?  Consider:  During the early 1950s Bobby served as an aide to Senator Joseph McCarthy.  Yes, that Joseph McCarthy.  His witch-hunting senate committee ruined the careers of scores of Americans through the use of smears and innuendo.  It’s a fact.  Bobby (“Don’t get mad?.get even”) Kennedy was Joe McCarthy’s boy.

It was only after family patriarch, Joe Kennedy, advised his son to jump off the McCarthy bandwagon (alas, “Tail-Gunner Joe” had become an embarrassment, having degenerated into a clownish, alcoholic demagogue) that Bobby sought a new vocation.  It was only after Papa Joe urged him to abandon Commie-hunting and focus on another bogy man that Bobby Kennedy decided to make America’s labor unions his next victim.

Obviously, there were many corruption targets to choose from.  He could have gone after Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, insurance companies, defense fraud, payola in the record industry, etc., but because Joe Kennedy had no ties, no loyalties, no connections of any kind to the working class?indeed, he held the common working man in contempt?organized labor became Bobby’s new whipping boy.  Best to leave those well-groomed gentlemen in the three-piece suits alone, and go after the guys in the watchmen’s caps and mackinaws.

As for Bobby’s celebrated social conscience, that’s another exaggeration.  In his award-winning history of the CIA (“Legacy of Ashes”), Tim Weiner reports that it was Bobby himself who spearheaded the plan to murder Fidel Castro.  It was Bobby Kennedy who not only initiated the assassination plot, but who?following one ignominious failure after another?flogged the hare-brained operation to keep it going.  After all, he was the president’s brother.  Who was going to tell him to back off?

All those conspiracies?the exploding cigars, the LSD-laced coffee, the chemical additives to cause Fidel’s beard to fall out (!), bribing trusted Castro associates to poison him, hiring out-of-town Mafia hitmen to murder him outright?those were all sanctioned by Bobby.

Based on documents released via FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), as well as material gleaned from numerous first-person interviews (“Legacy of Ashes” has 150 pages of notes), Weiner made the case that Bobby Kennedy was obsessed with killing Fidel Castro, that he ate, drank and breathed Castro assassination fantasies.

It’s also been documented that Bobby Kennedy bullied Lyndon Johnson into continuing the Vietnam war.  According to  Doris Kearns Goodwin (in “Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream”), Bobby insisted to LBJ that President Kennedy would have done everything in his power to keep Southeast Asia from falling to the Communists, and that it was therefore incumbent upon Johnson to honor his dead brother’s legacy by not abandoning the war.  He pressured LBJ to remain in Vietnam, arguing that pulling out would be the act of a coward and traitor.

It was only after the Vietnam war had become toxically unpopular and been deemed unwinnable that Bobby, who was now seeking the 1968 presidential nomination, reversed his position and declared himself America’s “peace candidate,” harshly criticizing Johnson for his hawkishness.  So much for Bobby’s principles?.and so much for Brother John’s “legacy.”

While Bobby Kennedy obviously had some good qualities, it’s a mistake to regard him as heroic?as a combination of Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and Che Guevara.  Bobby was no hero.  He was a hardboiled player.  If we insist on making comparisons, he was a combination of Lee Atwater, John Gotti and Henry Kissinger.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail