Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Ultimate Sacrifice: A Review

The authors of the new book Ultimate Sacrifice, Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann, which I read over the holiday break, allege that the Kennedy administration had a very closely-held plan to invade Cuba on or about December 1, 1963, after a coup which was to be led by a hero of the Cuban revolution, who is clearly Che Guevara.

They further maintain that the Mafia--particularly Johnny Rosselli, Santo Trafficante, and Carlos Marcello--gained knowledge of that plan (called AMWORLD by the CIA), and used that knowledge to manipulate Lee Harvey Oswald, as well as CIA officials, and Kennedy administration figures, including Robert Kennedy, to provoke a massive cover-up after they assassinated the President on November 22. The authors do portray one CIA official, David Morales, as likely being involved in the assassination, although even here they leave open the possiblility that he was guilty only of shooting off his mouth in drunken conversations with Mafioso Johnny Rosselli. Otherwise, the authors clear the CIA.

In particular, they clear David Atlee Phillips (for information from his nephew see my first-ever post on this blog. They do take note of this information, citing this blog.) They write:

"Phillips and the CIA had their own agenda for Oswald, an agenda that had nothing to do with JFK's assassination and everything to do with a US operation directed against Castro."

Thus, they bring the conspiracy to kill Kennedy up to the door of the CIA, but do not knock.

Some reviewers of this book have expressed skepticism as to the "plan" to invade Cuba in late 1963, which the authors call C-Day, a term of their own invention which is meant to evoke D-Day. They point out that Robert McNamara, Kennedy's Secretary of Defense, has stated that he had no knowledge of such a plan.

Researcher Gus Russo, with close intelligence ties, has recently commented on C-Day, in a statement sent to researchers and friends and posted by Bill Kelly on John Simkin's forum. His conclusions:

1) that there was indeed a massive push by the Kennedys to resolve the “Cuban problem” before the fall 1964 US presidential election; 2) that massive staging camps were being funded in Central America for that purpose; 3) that things would get underway as soon as AMLASH (Cubela) succeeded in hitting Fidel, 4) that Manuel Artime’s Nicaraguan buildup was a key component, and; 5) that the Pentagon had drafted OPLANS on the assumption that there would likely be a new invasion in October 1964, IF (and this is an important IF) all the preceding points had moved to fruition. Interestingly, all of Artime’s aides that I spoke with agreed with these conclusions. I also interviewed the late Miami Station Chief Ted Shackley over three lunches in Georgetown. Shackley oversaw the CIA-funded Cuban exile ops and agreed that nothing was imminent when JFK was killed, but that anything could happen in the upcoming year.

Russo further states:

1) His key operation AMWORLD is not a new revelation; it was one of the many codes released by NARA, and seen by me, and doubtless others, in 1998 and thereafter. Just yesterday, a NARA JFK archivist assured me that these documents have been available all along and Lamar has to know it – they have “Released by CIA 1998” in bold stamp. Type in AMWORLD into the NARA JFK online search, and you get 17 hits. Archivist Martha Murphy laughed and said that that databasehadn’t been updated in years.

2) I had some of these docs, and now, after a quick trip to the Archives have all of them. It is abundantly clear that they refer to Artime’s Central American operation, but have nothing to do with a December “coup,” or “C-Day” as Lamar refers to it. Interestingly, my Miami friend, Nilo Messer, is noted as an “AMWORLD representative” and Artime’s personal secretary – and yet Lamar doesn’t appear to have spoken to him about the coup. I did, over a 1999 dinner at the Hotel Intercontinental, and he said there was no coup planned for December. And he would have known.

3) The AMWORLD docs span from June 28, 1963 (inception) to Jan 3, 1965. A 2-9-64 AMWORLD memo says that the purpose of the Artime operation, like the other “AMs”, was, hopefully by late 1964, to “mount small, simple, quick in and out ops, such as low risk sabotage, abduction or assassination, release and exfil of prisoners, etc.” An undated memo defines AMWORLD thus: “This was Agency support to the Revolutionary Recovery Movement headed by Dr. Manuel Artime dedicated to bringing about the overthrow of the Castro Government. Operations against Cuba were tentatively scheduled for December 1963, but most strikes took place in November 1963.” This is a clear reference to the fact that AMWORLD was about “strikes,” not coups. A 2-9-64 AMWORLD memo says: “AMWORLD is a generally sound approach to developing the personnel and physical assets they will require for effective operations…[and] if a solid foundation for the entire program could be laid down, the payoff in the long run would be much more. However, it must be pointed out that AMWORLD will have to have successful operations before the people and support they will require are forthcoming in sufficient numbers to perform their ultimate mission.” Doesn’t sound much like a Dec 1963 coup to me. In fact, it reads like one of countless other AM docs discussing general sabotage – which is why I ignored it in 1998.

A primary source for Ultimate Sacrifice was Harry Williams, a prominent Cuban exile. I do not doubt his claims that the Kennedy administration was in discussions with Che Guevara regarding a possible coup in Cuba, and that there were plans for that contingency.

The authors present a fairly strong case for Mafia involvement in the JFK assassination, although most of their evidence is not new. That the same Mafia leaders were conspiring with the CIA to kill Castro is a matter of historical fact. That some of these CIA co-conspirators were involved in the JFK assassination is likely, in my opinion.

It is clear from this book that some anti-Castro activists, particularly those out-of-the-loop on AMWORLD, as well as some in the CIA were not particularly happy with the Kennedy approach to the Castro problem. Carlos Prio, a former President of Cuba, who worked with both the CIA and the Mafia, spoke of a plan to replace Castro with a "Tito-type government." Some exiles reported what they called "Operation Judas," US recognition of a "Communist" regime. John Martino, who confessed to his role in the JFK assassination, wrote in a December 1963 article in Human Events that the plan had been to establish a "left-wing coalition" in Cuba. This approach, which some in the exile community called "Fidelism without Fidel" would not have been popular with the more extreme-right anti-Castro forces--or with some of their CIA allies. Considering that JFK was pursuing a two-track policy, and that the other track involved dialog with Castro himself, a CIA connection to the assassination is not unlikely. Richard Cain, a high official in the Cook County Chicago Sheriff's office, as well as a CIA asset and a "made" Mafia member, spoke of an exile force sponsored "by the Pentagon which is in competition with CIA." David Phillips himself said shortly before his death that the assassination likely involved "rogue" intelligence agents, although he did not admit to being one of them.

There is new evidence in this book. The authors interviewed a Naval Intelligence investigator who revealed that Oswald had been under "tight surveillance" in the months before the assassination. After Kennedy was killed Navy Intelligence engaged in massive destruction of documents, although their own secret investigation concluded that Oswald was not the shooter on November 22.

Both the CIA and the Kennedys were trying to solve the problem of a Soviet client state only 90 miles from our shore. The Kennedys were willing to accept a left-progressive government as an alternative to Castro, as well as being willing to negotiate a detente with Castro himself. The CIA preferred, of course, a right-wing dictatorship, involving the most corrupt and regressive exiles, including individuals such as Mafia-connected, former death-squad leader Rolando Masferrer.

The authors are strangely reluctant to name names. Not only do they not explicitly name the "coup leader" (Che Guevara!) but they are coy about naming others as well. Harry Williams is taken to meet Mafia boss Trafficante by "a CIA official later involved in Watergate." A list of associates of the three Mafia leaders who also knew of C-Day includes "a CIA operative."

By all means, read this book. The material on former Secret Service agent Abrahan Bolden alone--who was imprisoned to prevent his testimony before the Warren Commission--is worth the price of the book. Then read Joan Mellen's book A Farewell to Justice, which not only knocks on that door labeled CIA, but goes inside.


Anonymous Doc said...

This, especially after a read of "Farewell to Justice" by Joan Mellen, appears to be largely disinformation, and part of the whitewash. I'd like to know of any possible role played by the mob (perhaps specifically as a source of the snipers), but it is clear that this was a CIA "op" from the "get-go." It is also far from certain that this "AMWORLD" story holds any water. Published last year, "JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters," by James W. Douglass makes a good case for President's strong concern for cooling down the Cold War, and relations with the Soviet Union.

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Doc said...

I.e., President Kennedy's strong concern about cooling down Cold War tensions. His having definite plans for a Cuban coup seems terribly inlikely, in this context. This book appears to represent just one more chapter in the "Let's smear JFK!" campaign: a very ugly propositon!! Millions of Americans still consider President Kennedy one of our very best presidents. By way of comparison, Bush & Company can be cited as having no ethical standards, no integrity, whatever!!

10:06 PM  

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