Lyndon Johnson, Sinister “Colossus”
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I am more and more impressed by the fact that it is largely futile to get up and make statements about current problems. At the same time, I know that silent acquiescence in evil is also out of the question.
Thomas Merton, Faith and Violence, 1968
The more we learn about the 36th president of the United States, the more we see the fairly modern words “sociopath” or “psychopath” associated with his name. (Do a Net search pairing “Lyndon Johnson” with each.) As one reads Phillip F. Nelson’s sequel to LBJ, the Mastermind of the JFK Assassination entitled LBJ: From Mastermind to “The Colossus,” the very old fashioned word of “evil” is the one that comes repeatedly to my mind. Johnson’s own grandmother, Ruth Baines, according to Nelson, sized up his character when he was only five years old and predicted that he would end up in the penitentiary.
Instead of becoming a problem for a prison warden, though, he became a problem for his country and for the world. In his first volume, Nelson argued persuasively that what many had suspected all along but were afraid to face up to it or share their suspicions with others, that is, that LBJ was behind his predecessor’s assassination.
And why wouldn’t he have been? He was the primary beneficiary, after all. He appointed the Warren Commission, and they performed what most people realize now was a monumental cover-up by pinning the entire blame upon a low level secret government operative with no motive and without the means to have fired all the shots that were fired. Once it is acknowledged that the assassination was the result of a plot involving a number of people it follows inexorably that the man who would become president had to have been, at the very least, on board with it. Otherwise, it would have been entirely too risky for the plotters. The killing also occurred right on Johnson’s Texas turf, and he had been instrumental in getting Kennedy to make the trip to Dallas.
We also learned from that first volume that that turf was already littered with bodies thanks to Lyndon’s machinations. While most of his new book is devoted to analysis of LBJ’s actions once he became president, Nelson begins with a further fleshing out of the story of the 1961 murder (originally improbably ruled a suicide) of United States Department of Agriculture agent Henry Marshall. Marshall had been hot on the trail of the widespread fraudulent operations of Billie Sol Estes and Lyndon Johnson’s intimate connections to them. Johnson, by that time, was already Vice President, but had Marshall remained alive and on the case, his future did not look bright.
The Real Lone Ranger
The hero of Chapter 1 is Texas Ranger Clint Peoples, who was thwarted by the political muscle wielded by Johnson in his attempt to get Marshall’s cause of death changed from suicide to murder. Thanks mainly to his dogged continued efforts, a federal grand jury in 1984 did change the ruling from suicide to murder, but by then the likely culprits, LBJ and his henchmen Cliff Carter and Malcolm “Mac” Wallace, were all dead and there was no one to charge with the crime.
Had Captain Peoples been able to have the cause of death changed to “homicide” in 1962 he could have aggressively pursued his investigation of Johnson and probably brought an indictment and if that had happened…the name Lyndon B. Johnson would have been lost in the dustbin of history as just another dirty politician who spent his last years in the penitentiary, just as his own grandmother had predicted would occur.
Had Captain Peoples been successful in 1962, it follows that John F. Kennedy might have remained president for another five years and the 50,000 plus American men and women killed in Vietnam during the Johnson-Nixon years would have also lived on. The millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians killed during those years would also have been able to continue living there lives, for the most part, as peaceful peasants. For those killed in the civil war, at least it would not have been by the crusading Americans, but by their own tribe, and in much smaller numbers. There would have been many other changes if Johnson’s war had never occurred, so many that it is impossible not to comprehend the “what-ifs” of a culture undamaged by the Johnson presidency. One thing is clear though: The magnitude of that difference would have been “colossal” in the most literal sense. (pp. 18-19)
With his unblinking second look at the purely evil deeds of which Lyndon Johnson was capable with his reign of terror in Texas, Nelson stands out from the more mainstream biographers such as Robert Caro and Robert Dallek, no matter how comprehensive, unvarnished, and even negative their portraits of the man might seem. This groundwork is essential for understanding the further evils that LBJ perpetrated with respect to the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, and the Six Day War.
For the first of those subjects, one must read Nelson’s first volume on Johnson; there’s little rehash in this one. He addresses the other two, and much more, in “The Colossus” but before he does, he does some more spadework in Texas. Some of that handiwork was recently put on display at LewRockwell.com in the form of excerpts from the book. These are “LBJ’s Double—Cousin Jay Bert Peck—And His Untimely Death” and “John M. Liggett: From Embalmer Extraordinaire to Serial Killer—then Dead Man Walking.”
Readers not wishing to digress by clicking on those links might consider two shorter vignettes from the book that suggest that the psychologists might, indeed, have some useful insights concerning LBJ that transcend questions of morality. The case can certainly be made that he was not just homicidal, but he was a homicidal madman.
Life Imitates Art
The two passages I have chosen fall into what one might call the “life imitating art” category. When George Carlin made his observation at the 4-minute mark of this video that war is just a lot of prick waving, it is highly unlikely that he knew of the incident that had occurred some two decades before:
Another entry [in the daily notes of historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.] made just a week before Johnson left the White House for good indicated that Schlesinger had talked to Bill Moyers and Richard “Dick” Goodwin about the problems with anyone ever trying to write a book about Johnson, because “no one would believe it.” He also wrote that Moyers had said that Johnson was a “sick man” and that both Moyers and Goodwin read up on mental illness. Goodwin tackled the paranoia issue and Moyers studied up on manic-depressive cycles. Moyers also appeared in a later note, dated November 11, 1971, when he made a comment about how Johnson thought that his “manhood” had been tested during the period of the escalation of the Vietnam War. This was a particularly insightful point because it runs parallel with an incident that occurred during the very period of the escalation, in a 1965 press conference held at his ranch. A reporter had asked him to explain why we were at war with Vietnam and President Lyndon B. Johnson, in response to that question, unzipped his pants, withdrew his penis and, holding it so that all the reporters, male and female could view it clearly, exclaimed “This is why!” And with that the press conference ended and everyone walked away, so stunned that the original question was soon nearly forgotten. Naturally, this incident was not widely reported in the press by those same reporters, who were more concerned with protecting the president from such knowledge becoming public. Fortunately, there a few brave souls who made sure the record was duly noted. (p. lii)
Sadly, from the picture that Nelson paints of the man, had Johnson ventured a more serious answer to the reporter’s question he could hardly have done any better than he did. He knew nothing of world affairs. He was never a student of anything except how to amass more power for himself and dominate other people. His complete ignorance of military matters did not prevent him from pushing ahead in Vietnam and micro-managing every aspect of America’s war, though.
Interestingly, one of Adolf Hitler’s greatest failings as a national leader is that he fancied himself a great military strategist and meddled far too much in matters that he should have left to his experts. In the following long paragraph we see a Lyndon Johnson who is eerily reminiscent of Der Führer in the much-parodied dressing down of his generals that is ubiquitous on YouTube:
[Marine Corps] Lieutenant General [Charles G.] Cooper’s book, A Marine’s Story of Combat in Peace and War, written with Richard E. Goodspeed, provides a vivid description of the inner workings of the White House/Pentagon decision-making process in 1967. It also reveals something even more important than the chaotic manner in which the White House made decisions; it documented yet another of Lyndon Johnson’s manic—clearly psychotic—episodes as he screamed obscenities at the very officers who had struggled to come up with an effective plan to achieve the results that Johnson had demanded of them despite severely limiting their options. Cooper had accompanied the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the White House meeting, which they had requested, to resolve a problem they felt was caused by the existing policy of “piling on forces in Vietnam without understanding the consequences.” The Joint Chiefs were led by the chairman, General Earle Wheeler of the US Army. The other chiefs of their respective military organizations were: General Harold Johnson, the Army chief of staff; General John P. McConnell, the Air Force chief of staff; General Wallace Greene Jr., the commandant of the Marines Corps; Admiral David McDonald, the chief of naval operations. Secretary [Robert] McNamara had reluctantly acceded to their request after discussing and preparing the president for their meeting. While seeking the opinions of these generals and admirals, and pretending to understand the strategic planning they had put together, Johnson seemed to appear in deep thought as he processed the information, briefly turning his back on them. The following passages provide a vivid account of what happened next, as Cooper held a map of Vietnam for the presentation by General Wheeler. As soon as he finished, Johnson began his vicious assault, suddenly whirling around, screaming and cursing each of them in turn. Lieutenant General Cooper summarized his recollections of that frightening day:
Noting that it was he who was carrying the weight of the free world on his shoulders, he called them filthy names—shitheads, dumb shits, pompous assholes—and used “the F-word” as an adjective more freely than a Marine in boot camp would use it. It was unnerving, degrading.
Author Cooper’s stunning description of presidential behavior to his visitors that day, as he quoted Johnson’s statements—for example, those “idiots gave him stupid advice, [adding that] he had the whole damn world to worry about” –bespeaks more than the words in the excerpt say. This was another Johnson meltdown, an incident that suggests the “Colossus” was in another psychotic rage, just like those that Richard Goodwin wrote about in his book, or the account of lobbyist Robert Winter-Berger as he told of Johnson’s meltdown in Speaker McCormack’s office in March 1964 covered elsewhere, that other historians go to great lengths to avoid because it does not fit in well with the paradigm that they have attempted to construct. (pp. 347-348)
The Vietnam War that that Johnson mishandled in almost every way imaginable was not something he inherited from his predecessor and struggled to cope with as best he could, as many historians would have us believe, either. Although he was a stout anti-Communist, Kennedy had all the subtle understanding of world politics that Johnson lacked and was on his way to ending American direct participation in the war. One of Johnson’s very first decisions, notes Nelson, was to reverse that policy and to set the course toward making that war America’s war.
Johnson had three main reasons for escalating the conflict in Vietnam, none of which had anything to do with sound geopolitics. The first was connected to that graphic display before the news reporters. We were the tough guys, and Lyndon was just going to show those impudent little Vietnamese who was the boss. America’s military was to be used simply as an extension of the Johnson personality, the psychotic bully. Second, the JFK assassination could be regarded as a coup d’état by the national security state—sometimes called the secret government—the leadership of which Johnson through his machinations had acquired. One of the main purposes of the Kennedy assassination was to reverse Kennedy’s course in Vietnam, so that’s what Johnson promptly did. Third—an explanation that I have first encountered in this book—Johnson learned all his most important political lessons as a pro-New Deal politician supporting Franklin Roosevelt in Texas. He always thought of himself in the most grandiose terms, of his historical legacy. Success in war, he saw from Roosevelt, was the surest way for history to regard him as a “great” president. He thought that victory would be relatively easy and he would be hailed as a hero (shades of a later president from Texas).
Just as Johnson was a hands-on president, to a fault, when it came to running the war, and up to his eyeballs in the JFK assassination, so, too, must he have been at the pinnacle of the plots that ended the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Nelson devotes seven pages to the first subject and an entire chapter to the second.
Not Giving the Devil His Due
Even the domestic legislation that he pushed through, Medicare, Medicaid, and the various other “Great Society” welfare programs that he is credited for having pushed through may be regarded as Lyndon’s attempt to buy popularity by the FDR method.
Nelson also takes a decidedly revisionist view of Johnson’s accomplishments on the civil rights front. He reminds us that as the powerful Senate majority leader he was the primary obstacle to the passage of any meaningful civil rights legislation for many years, or any significant legislation at all, for that matter. Maybe he could be given the benefit of the doubt on that because he had to get reelected in Texas, but, according to Nelson, he continued to be an obstacle as vice president, repeatedly telling Kennedy that the time was not right and offering none of the political clout with the Congress that he was still able to wield. Knowing, in fact, that the time was overdue for civil rights improvements, he wanted to make sure that he could get credit for them when he became president through the plot that was brewing.
What LBJ was particularly good at was in seeking power, in detecting where it truly lay, and figuring out how to best ingratiate himself with the power wielders so that he could participate in it. His abuse of his subordinates was also legendary, which we get some flavor of in the military episode cited and throughout Nelson’s book. In my days in the bureaucracy I encountered more than one of what we called the “kiss up and kick down” personality types. Lyndon is almost a caricature of the ones I knew.
That Johnson should have bought a house in Washington that made him a close neighbor of another such type, FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, could hardly have been an accident, according to Nelson. He also sucked up to House Speaker and fellow Texan Sam Rayburn and to the powerful Georgia Senator Richard Russell.
Even from Caro one quickly sees that LBJ from his youth was a person with an uncommon nose for power. What we don’t get from Caro or from Dallek or from the outrageously mistitled Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream: The Most Revealing Portrait of a President and Presidential Power by Doris Kearns Goodwin is any great sense of the real corrupt power that Johnson sucked up to and on whose behalf he exercised his modicum of power once he had achieved it. That’s what sets Nelson’s book apart and makes it “must” reading for anyone who would understand what Johnson did to the country and where we are today. The title of his Chapter 4, and the names of the section headings within it tell the story.
Power for What and for Whom?
First, the title: “LBJ’s Use of America’s Wealthiest and Most Influential—and How It Led to Presidential Treason.” And here are the section headings:
Š President Johnson’s Zionist Connections (1937-67)
Š Lyndon Johnson: The First Jewish President?
Š 1941: Lyndon Johnson Goes to War—in Hollywood
Š The Zionist/Terrorist Associates of LBJ
Š Completing the Circle: Johnson’s Long History of Indenture to Zionists
Š A Quick Look at Twentieth Century International Developments and Lyndon Johnson’s Role in Them
Š Senator Lyndon Johnson’s Favor to his Zionist Friends
Š The Israeli Lobby, circa 1960-63 vs. 1964-68
That last section shows how the power of that lobby over the American presidency grew exponentially with JFK’s assassination. To demonstrate that Kennedy was standing up to Israel in opposition to its development of nuclear weapons Nelson even reprints the entire text of the strong letter that Kennedy wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol on July 5, 1963, that one can read on this Rense.com site. Following the logic, he even comes very close to endorsing Michael Collins Piper’s thesis, explained on that site, that Israel was principally behind the Kennedy assassination:
Michael Collins Piper, in his controversial 1995 book, Final Judgment, made the case that the Mossad, through its direct connections to James Angleton and its indirect other connections to the CIA front international corporation known as Permindex—with its direct ties to Clay Shaw, who had been indicted for his role in “handling” Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans—was “involved” in the JFK assassination…
There is no question that Kennedy took a hard line against Israel’s procurement of nuclear weapons while Lyndon Johnson reversed that to the point of giving in to their every demand, as we will examine shortly. For the record, I find that Piper’s charge is not of equal credence with the assertions of complicity by the other named parties in this and my previous book. Even if the Mossad played a significant role in the assassination, it was inexorably tied to its undeniably close connection to James J. Angleton, “Israel’s best friend” as noted elsewhere, and his involvement would have been inherently dependent upon the existence of the “driving force,” for which the chief driver and the only man who had the power to bring all the other disparate forces together, as demonstrated in LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination, was Lyndon B. Johnson. (pp. 205-206)
At this point, we must note that Nelson can make such a confident assertion about LBJ’s primacy in the JFK assassination by omitting all mention of a lawyer by the name of Louis Bloomfield. The following quote is from the aforementioned Rense.com site: “The chairman of Permindex was Louis M. Bloomfield of Montreal, a key figure in the Israeli lobby and an operative of the Bronfman family of Canada, long-time [Meyer] Lansky associates and among Israel's primary international patrons.”
Oswald’s handler, Shaw, then, would have been in world Zionism’s chain of command and not in LBJ’s chain of command. Furthermore, from reading Nelson’s Chapter 4 only, one might seriously wonder if Lyndon, himself, was just another link in that command chain.
For more on this subject see my article “The Kennedy Assassination and the Press,” particularly the section entitled “Who’s Mister Big?” Who calls the shots for the news media, whose crucial complicity is evident in every major scandal in living memory, from the James Forrestal murder to 9/11? My conclusion is that it is not the American president, even when the president had the power that LBJ had.
Courageous New Ground
Nelson truly sets himself apart from all who have gone before him on LBJ with his willingness to take a clear-eyed look at two of the very biggest political hot potatoes of the twentieth century. These are the 1949 violent death of America’s first secretary of defense, James Forrestal, and the 1967 Israeli assault of the USS Liberty.
Taking the second of these first, devoting his entire Chapter 7 to the topic, after careful detailed analysis Nelson comes to what appears to be the inescapable conclusion that not only was the assault on the Navy spy vessel not accidental, but that it was a carefully planned set-up in which our president was treasonously complicit. It is abundantly evident that the Israelis knew what ship that they were attacking and that they made every effort to sink it, killing everyone on board. The Egyptians were to have been blamed, “Remember the Liberty!” was to have been the resonating war cry, and the false flag attack would have had the United States militarily involved in the Middle East on behalf of its attacker 44 years before the events of September 11, 2001. The crewmen of the Liberty were amazingly able to keep the ship afloat with 34 killed and scores wounded and a gaping torpedo hole in the side, and to defeat radio-jamming efforts and get out a call for rescue. Initially, Johnson called back rescue planes with the clear intent of letting the ship sink with all on board killed, and thereby silenced. Only when it became obvious that the cover story was completely blown was the murderous attack called off.
But this single order to abandon all protection for a US Navy spy ship is, lamentably, only incidental to an overall story about greater deceits and treachery on the high seas, and in high places, one that remains “unresolved.” The timeline referenced in the previous citation goes on, to include much of the continuing developments covered within this chapter.
There is one entry in particular on that extended timeline that is of more than the usual interest, under the date of June 14, 1967, six days after the attack: “Liberty arrives in Malta. Total news blackout imposed. Rear Admiral [Isaac] Kidd, acting on orders from [Admiral] John McCain II, warns crew: ‘You are never, repeat never, to discuss this with anyone, not even your wives. If you do, you will be court-martialed and will end your lives in prison, or worse.’ Secretary of Defense McNamara informs media that, ‘Department of Defense will have no further comment.’” (p. 390) [Emphasis added by Nelson]
Nelson makes the further comment, “It is sobering to ponder what could possibly be ‘worse’ than ‘ending your life in prison’ and why would McNamara announce that the Department of Defense would have no further comment; this was a rather unusual statement, considering the circumstances.”
What is abundantly evident is that extraordinary efforts were made, after the sinking of the ship failed, to cover the whole thing up. We saw the same thing 18 years before when Forrestal went out a 16th floor window of the Bethesda Naval Hospital and the official investigation of the incident was kept secret. The conclusion of my poem written some months before I obtained the investigation with by third Freedom of Information Act request applies equally to the Liberty incident:
Did James V. Forrestal murder himself,
Or was he assassinated?
To examine the Navy’s official report,
For 54 years we have waited.
Is there official skulduggery here?
I’ll let you readers decide.
But usually when someone keeps something hidden,
It’s because he has something to hide.
What is little known to the public is that the young Zionist partisan Johnson, freshly elevated from the House to the Senate in a thoroughly tainted election, played a role in the Forrestal death saga, albeit, probably no more than a bit part. As we report in Part 1 of “Who Killed James Forrestal,” and Nelson does in his Chapter 5, Johnson paid a visit to Forrestal at his room in Bethesda Naval Hospital, to which the latter had been confined after he had experienced some sort of mysterious breakdown. We can rule out that it was an innocent social visit by a well-wisher. We learned of the visit from Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal by Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley and they learned of it from an interview by the late Hoopes of Forrestal assistant Marx Leva, who also told them that it was “against Forrestal’s wishes.”
Johnson and Forrestal were on far opposite sides of the fence over the question of recognition of the new state of Israel. Forrestal, primarily out of concern for U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East, had been the administration’s strongest opponent of the Zionist venture and had suffered merciless, indeed slanderous, attacks in the press on account of it.
Nelson speculates that the purpose of the visit might have been to subject Forrestal, in his weakened emotional state, to the notorious “Johnson Treatment,” a combination of “supplication, accusation, cajolery, exuberance, scorn, tears, complaint, and hint of threat.”
He is suggesting, I suppose, that the intent was to drive Forrestal even further over the edge and perhaps to induce him to kill himself so others wouldn’t have to do it. Since their political differences should have been well known and since Forrestal would have surely communicated to his doctors that Johnson’s visit was unwanted, it amounts to virtual medical malpractice for the visit to have been permitted. Not surprisingly, the subject never came up when the Navy conducted its review.
My own guess is that Johnson was brought in on that action in the manner in which a member of the Mafia becomes a “made man.” Maybe he was asked to report on the means of access to Forrestal’s room for the phony patients on the same floor who would eventually throttle him and throw him out the window. The role might have been wholly superfluous, but he had been made a party to a monumentally treacherous political act of the sort that would mark his entire political career, and it would have been done on behalf of the people whom he would serve throughout his life.
Nelson is quite convincing in his argument that the Israelis would never have had the audacity to engage in their attack upon the Liberty without Lyndon Johnson’s total knowing acquiescence. Nelson, citing British journalist Peter Hounam’s book, Operation Cyanide: How the Bombing of the USS Liberty Nearly Caused World War Three, notes that B-52s carrying nuclear weapons, with their refueling plane escorts, were scrambled from the west coast of the United States some two hours before the Israeli assault even began, between 2 and 4 am Pacific time and presidential adviser Clark Clifford was urgently called to White House at around 6 am Eastern time. Reminiscent of the BBC reporting the collapse of Building 7 before it occurred, Johnson was apparently prematurely reacting to the false flag attack on the Liberty. So deeply must he have been involved that it’s not a complete reach to say that he was as much the “mastermind” in the killing of 34 American sailors as he was in the killing of his presidential predecessor, and had the attack succeeded completely he would have been the “mastermind” of an almost unspeakable atrocity.
No one could suggest, though, that with his involvement in the Zionist plot against Forrestal he was doing any more than getting his feet wet in a conspiracy that originated somewhere much higher than he was at the time. One of the lessons he surely learned from the success of the assassination was that he could count on the cooperation of the press in covering up high political crime as long as it was beneficial to those to whom he owed a higher loyalty. Looking over the man’s entire political career, rather than to call him a “Mastermind” or a “Colossus” or a “Flawed Giant,” as Dallek does in the title of his biography, I think that “Malignant Minion” is more fitting.
November 25, 2014