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Dallas Texas

 

For people of my generation Dallas is famous for one thing, the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  He was killed at the end of 1963, just as I was going to University and I've written about this before.  Read more...

As a result the course of my life changed.  Possibly not as much as the time a drunk traveller for a wine company ran into the back of our old Wolseley on the highway outside of Royal North Shore Hospital and wrote it off, yet sufficiently that although I might still have children they would not have been the same children.

No doubt it's the same for everyone of my generation. So the future of the world was entirely changed that day.  For example, would Kennedy have pressed on in Vietnam? 

Days before his own death he'd authorised the killing of the brothers Diem during the CIA sponsored coup in South Vietnam that made General Minh the virtual dictator and the Country began falling into chaos. Ho Chi Minh marked it as the day he won the war. It was not until a year later that we in Australia went 'All the way with LBJ' - the new President Lyndon Baines Johnson. As a result we needed conscription to increase the number of young Australian men who would get killed to keep Vietnam 'free'.  Along with thousands of young Americans they died for naught and Vietnam still isn't free. Although, as I've reported elsewhere, it's now a pleasant place to spend a holiday, with seemingly happy, healthy and increasingly prosperous people. Read more...

Lee Harvey Oswald was very quickly caught and identified as the shooter. His mail-order gun was found hidden near the sixth floor window of the book depository where he worked. Around the shooter's window boxes had been moved into a makeshift wall to provide hiding place and a gun rest. 

But before he could say much or be brought to trial he was murdered at point blank, in front of reporters, by Dallas night club owner and sometime mob associate Jack Ruby.  It turned out Ruby had terminal cancer.  To many this seemed suspicious and there have been so many wild conspiracy theories that I soon gave up listening to them. 

There was an official enquiry that concluded that Kennedy was shot twice and Governor Connolly was shot once but Oswald had only managed to get off two shots.  The first 'magic' bullet had hit both men, passing right through Kennedy.  The second, the head shot instantly killed Kennedy. It required rapid reloading and re-aiming of a cheap bolt action gun. It was either amazingly skilled or, given that the first much easier shot had hit Kennedy in the shoulder, just extraordinarily 'lucky'.  The testimony of witnesses, their photographs showing police running and the sound track on a home movie, that had recorded several rapid bangs, initially suggested that there had been more than one shooter, possibly from a nearby rise, topped by a wall providing cover, that came to be known as The Grassy Knoll.

The film producer Oliver Stone made a movie in which he explored this evidence, including new evidence about Oswald's possible recruitment, and concluded that there had been a conspiracy.  A second enquiry was held that included a full reconstruction, complete with sound recordings of the echoes produced by gunfire. It again found that Oswald acted alone but unsettlingly, discovered that there had been evidence tampering by someone immediately following the killing.  New (old) papers are about to be released by President Trump that might reveal the culprit but now Trump has reneged on his commitment to release them all.  Why are we not surprised?

At the museum that now occupies the Book Depository you can see a video reconstruction of the presidential limousine coming slowly down the street towards the building. Kennedy is in the back seat of the open car, fully exposed. The screen is below the window adjacent to Oswald's so you can simultaneously see the actual scene.  The most extraordinary thing is that Oswald had a clear and easy shot at Kennedy for almost a minute but didn't fire.  He waited until the car had turned the corner and would soon be out of range.  The final head shot, that hit Kennedy close to the centre of his head, was indeed worthy of a first class marksman using a professional sniper rifle, with full adjustment for wind and exact range.  No wonder everyone who's ever fired a bolt action rifle and looked at this reconstruction gets suspicious, including several men with military experience discussing it the day we were there.

 

Kennedy Assassination
Kennedy Assassination

The Kennedy Assassination - look at the relative size of the cars and people in the street.
A good shot with Oswald's rifle and scope might hit the guy by the near corner in the head
but what about the fellow in the blue shirt adjacent to the second shot? Remember the car was speeding away by then.
To see more detail click on 'Dallas from the JFK Museum' below

 

As the museum itself is keen to point out, Kennedy was not without enemies. In addition to a list of sins published by political enemies during the campaign that appears in the museum, old Joe Kennedy, the family patriarch, a very wealthy pillar of Chicago High Society, had an evil reputation for ruthlessness and possible Mafia connections. Kennedy and his brothers were wealthy playboys who didn't stop at handing women back and forth between them.  They, no doubt, had more than one man after them on that ground alone.  And Kennedy himself was happy to sanction assassination. Not only had he approved the killing of the Diem brothers in Vietnam just weeks earlier, but he'd also authorised several attempts on the life of Cuba's Fidel Castro.  Then there was the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion that had alienated a lot of Castro's enemies as well.  To that clamping down on the Mafia and forced desegregation in the South can add the Mob and the Ku Klux Klan or one of several other such white supremacist groups to the list.  He'd also recently come to such verbal blows (expletives deleted) over price controls on the Steel industry that it too had led to unhappy investors and death threats.  There's quite a long list.

At the museum we're invited to believe that Oswald was driven by such hatred that he took advantage of a serendipitous opportunity to shoot Kennedy.  By chance he was already an employee at the Book Depositary.  By chance he'd purchased a rifle and scope and suitable ammunition weeks before. By chance there was a convenient empty floor and well placed window with a big pile of boxes to hide his shooting position.  

All this was exceedingly fortuitous because unless Oswald had inside knowledge he couldn't have even known that Kennedy was coming to Dallas, let alone the Presidential schedule, timing and route, that just happened to come past his building.  To him it must have seemed amazingly providential.  He couldn't have had more than a day or two to prepare, during which he had to plan the shooting, build his hide and smuggle in his gun.  So to have hit Kennedy in the head and killed him with his hurried, longer range, second shot must have seemed miraculous. 

At the time the Russian secret service, the KGB, had similar doubts and reported to Moscow that LBJ had ordered Kennedy's killing and that Oswald who, as it turns out they knew quite well, was a patsy, duped into covering for the real marksman somewhere else.

Given the strange delay in Oswald opening fire, that I noticed first hand, combined with just too many coincidences, then considering motive, means and opportunity, I'm starting to think that's a conspiracy theory with legs.  There's certainly a strong smell of fish in that place. But it could be all the red herrings.

 


Dallas from the JFK Museum - Click on this picture to see more
 

 

Whatever the truth may be about the killing, my main concern is that the museum fails to mention Kennedy's many failings.  Andrew Jackson's got an airing at the Hermitage.  In that way this one's like the Elvis Presley museum. As I said there, eulogising a pop star so as to build the legend, and the cash flow, and not to offend his sensitive fans, is one thing but to do it for a president is more problematic. 

Kennedy's marriage is represented as close to ideal.  Marilyn Monroe and his other women get scant mention and no mention is made of Jackie's almost immediate remarriage. No mention is made of his abuse of prescription drugs or even of his disability.  But these are foibles compared to blatantly inventing the 'Missile Gap' in order to win the election, or deploying PGM-19 Jupiter medium range nuclear ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey targeted on Moscow, thereby massively accelerating the 'Cold War'.  Nor is admitted that the 'Cuban Missile Crisis' was resolved by giving Russia what it wanted: the removal of those missiles threatening Moscow.  Although he was hailed as a hero at home that was hollow. It was in no way the victory for Kennedy that is suggested by the museum.  Instead he had, for no sensible reason, taken the world as close to Armageddon as we have ever been. 

Kennedy is most remembered for the second Berlin airlift, after the Wall was built, and the decision to go to the moon.  He made several great speeches in these causes that inspired the world.  Yet his brilliant speech writer, Ted Sorensen, goes uncredited, even though Kennedy himself was more than happy to acknowledge Sorensen as his 'intellectual blood bank'.   And so it goes.  The same thing applies at the Kennedy Memorial at Arlington where Jackie is buried alongside as if she was still his wife. 

I was reminded of the Shakespeare memorial at Stratford that's engraved with his most famous lines.  Did he pen all these himself or was he the entrepreneur who commissioned and owned the plays.  In five hundred years Sorensen will be forgotten and the speeches will be Kennedy's alone.  In this museum it's taken a few years.

Dallas is not without culture and has another great art gallery - the Dallas Museum of Art - DMA that has a surprisingly large collection of impressionists in addition to more modern and more traditional European works.  They also have more ancient gold - is it all in Texas?

 


Dallas Museum of Art - DMA - Click on this picture to see more

 

Another museum to see in Dallas is the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum.  George junior is the son of a previous president and entirely on his own merit became Governor of Texas.  As Governor he managed two ground-breaking achievements.  First, he gained praise in 'oil man' circles for being a sort of negative Robin Hood - seeking to privatise social services to the poor and needy to help pay for Texas' biggest ever tax cuts.  Second, he made Texas a leader among all the 31 states where capital punishment is still legal.  By presiding over the execution of 152, mostly black men, he broke a United States gubernatorial record.  It could even be a world record if it weren't for the superpowers of state sanctioned murder: China; Iran and Saudi Arabia.  But then are their governors empowered to make such a decision?

Normally when visiting another country I try to refrain from commenting on people like governors. But this one went on to be leader of the 'free world' and through the ANZUS alliance thus involved Australia in several of his actions. 

His museum is populated by a team of sycophantic volunteers who are under the impression that 'W' was the greatest President who ever lived.  Certainly not a simple man who managed, under the influence of others smarter than he, to stuff-up almost everything he touched. 

Yet I prefer to believe he's simple, because he seems well-meaning and the alternative is complicit.

 


The George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum - Father and Son
Click on this picture to see more
 

 

The museum tells us that when elected his first mission, encouraged by his librarian wife, was to do something about the appalling state of literacy in the US.  Contrary to an assertion in the museum, the outcome, as measured by qualified researchers, was that literacy improved not one iota, so we can give him an F in English.  Then he decided the US was spending too much on space exploration and shut down most of NASA.  Other scientific programs got similar treatment. That's an F in Science. 

When the World Trade Centre in New York got hit by aircraft flown by Saudis, funded by a Saudi, he flew his Saudi business associates out of the country when other aircraft were still grounded.  Then he cut back on the war in Afghanistan, where the culprit was probably hiding hosted by Taliban, trained in Pakistan, funded by Saudis. At the same time he was paying Pakistan billions, it was said to stop them using their actual nuclear weapons, he persuaded his allies (or did they persuade him?) to illegally attack distant Iraq, alleging possession of non-existent 'weapons of mass destruction' to justify this.   Then he foolishly claimed to have won that war when it had hardly begun. 

Not content with destabilising the middle east he then sabotaged efforts to reach a rapprochement with North Korea and Iran, to halt their nuclear programs with diplomacy, by calling them members of the Axis of Evil and imposing sanctions that made them redouble their efforts.   

Meanwhile his War on Terror  was about as effective as his father's War on Drugs and could more properly be called the War for Terror as the war in Afghanistan escalated; stability in the Middle East crumbled; and sectarian differences in Iraq led to ISIS and so to many more terrorist incidents around the world. 

Then came the Global Financial Crisis.  Many countries road through this as an economic 'bumpy patch' but in the US people were ruined and left their homes with the keys in the letterbox.  Many are still 'underwater'.  The generally recognised culprits walked away unscathed.

Being underwater was not a euphemism for a lot of people in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck. But then as a result of Bush's equivocations the aftermath was mismanaged for month upon month. During the recovery negative social indicators like racial tension and school shootings rose sharply.  As we clearly saw, much of the country is still recovering from the GFC.  

But he's a great guy; self-disparaging about his many 'goofs'; with a charming smile; and a wonderful dinner companion. At least I can infer this by the very expensive necklace a Saudi gave to his wife, along with other generous gifts, properly declared and displayed in a showcase in his museum.

From Dallas we would fly to that unspellable town: Albuquerque in New Mexico.  So it was time to say goodbye to yet another trusty car.

 

 

 

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