But every administration, and each party, and each President, is different. Here's my analogy: 8 is 8 whether you arrive at it by addition, multiplication, subtraction or division. But how you get there is as important to understanding the process of politics as is the destination. My point is that it does no good for political analysis to only compare similarities and discount differences. What's important is why we seem to end in the same place.
Here's where I'd start:
Obama has gotten a lot of grief from the Left about retaining Robert Gates as head of the Defense Department. Obama, and Obama through Gates, keeps up the nuclear lie about Iran and supports the ratcheting up of the heat in Afghanistan without much explanation about the purpose of that war. Gates was even the designated member of the cabinet kept away and hidden in an undisclosed bunker, ready to step in as President in case something drastic happened during the Inauguration and Washington, D.C. had been wiped off the map. (Stick that wad of symbolism in your cheek for awhile.) During the campaign Obama was criticized from the Left for switching his position on FISA. What was that about? And what's with putting Hillary Clinton in at State? My first thought about that was "Otto Otepka". These are signs that the permanent government may very well continue without so much as a bump through Obama's term.
At one point during the campaign Obama seemed like a tempting alternative to some progressives but now the Left is painting him as the familiar right-of-center Democratic profile that keeps winding up in the White House on those few occasions when a Democrat actually gets into the White House.
But back to the question here: Why would Barack Obama keep Robert Gates around?
I'd like to offer a few paragraphs from the foreword of The Man Who Knew Too Much by Dick Russell. The book itself is an extraordinary investigation of a military intelligence officer, Richard Case Nagell, who apparently was trying to stop President Kennedy's assassination before it could happen.
In the foreword Carl Oglesby, author of, among other books, The Yankee and Cowboy War, begins:
In May 1992, CIA Director Robert Gates told the Senate Intelligence
Committee that the CIA could not release certain elements of its large secret
file on accused JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald because to do so would compromise
the security of its collection methods.
Especially compromising, Gates held, would be the release of a secret
280-page report prepared in 1978 by the staff of the House Select Committee on
Assassinations. This document reported the discovery of solid CIA evidence that
Oswald was actually impersonated in the famous confrontations at the Soviet
Embassy and the Cuban consulate in Mexico City a month and a half before Dealey
Plaza--scenes adduced by the Warren Commission to show that Oswald was a
belligerent radical looking for trouble.
Clearly, if Oswald was impersonated in these episodes, then in the first
place they no longer prove the least thing about him except that--point two--he
was someone whose name the Mexico City mystery man chose to use, which may be
something very interesting to learn about Oswald indeed. A key part of the
Warren Commission theory of the crime would crumble, and the guardians of the
official theory would have another sinister character to explain away.
But in the third place and much more important, proof of politically
motivated impersonations of Oswald so near the moment of the assassination would
necessarily and resoundingly raise the question of what in the world was going
on. Why might someone want to impersonate a "nobody" and a "loner" such as
Oswald and go to such great lengths to establish Oswald's name and a violent
image of Oswald to Communist diplomats in Mexico City? Was Oswald not really a
Is there something more about Oswald we ought to know?
Maybe, too, there's something more about Robert Gates we ought to know.
Maybe, too, there's something more about Robert Gates we ought to know.
When then-CIA Director Robert Gates was withholding information from the Senate Intelligence Committee in May 1992 the President was George H. W. Bush. If you remember the legend of George H. W. Bush, he left his preppy Ivy League background to make it on his own as an oil man in Texas. He became involved in Republican politics and while never before having had anything to do with the CIA had been named its Director in 1976 by then-President Gerald Ford, just in time to help keep many government files away from such ongoing Congressional investigations as the Church Committee, the Pike Committee, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, all generated in the aftermath of Watergate, all trying to plumb the dark depths of our secret services. And though he was an outsider, the story goes, Bush was so beloved by careerists in the Agency that they named its headquarters building after him. All this for less than a year in the office of Director of the CIA.
Contrast this to how the status quo in the Agency treated his replacement, outsider Stansfield Turner.
One document in the JFK files that had been declassified and released earlier and became a slight problem in the 1988 election was this:
The document was written in the days after the JFK assassination, in 1963, by J. Edgar Hoover. Please note the key line from the letter is: "The substance of the foregoing information was orally transmitted by Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency..." Of course, that would contradict the official legend of George H. W. Bush that he had not been involved with the CIA prior to being made its Director in 1976. The document was written about in The Nation and caused a minor scandal at the time, minor because very little of the mainstream media chose to mention it or its implications. No one wanted to go there. When the document came out the Bush campaign claimed that there was another George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency feeding post-assassination intelligence to J. Edgar Hoover. Two George Bushes, if you will. And there were two George Bushes. The official explanation was that the one in the CIA who'd been quoted by Hoover, who was a file clerk at the CIA, then went on to become a file clerk in another federal agency; the other one who was not in the CIA eventually became the head of the Agency (and then President). Got that?
(It turns out that George H. W. Bush was also at least a "business acquaintance" of the mysterious Count George de Mohrenschildt, Oswald's "friend" in the year before the assassination. De Mohrenschildt is believed to have been a CIA operative working under the cover as an oil industry functionary who was Oswald's "handler" in Dallas. In de Mohrenschildt's address book was Bush's home phone number alongside Bush's nickname "Poppy". But that's not all. And would it surprise you that the Count was suicided in anticipation of his appearance in front of the HSCA after he sent a letter to DCI Bush asking for help regarding the ongoing Congressional investigation?)
Let's review our scorecard: We have a President, the father of our newly ex-President, who, once as Director of Central Intelligence and once as President, blocked classified documents about the Kennedy assassination and who also is suspected of being a CIA agent filing a report on the assassination to J. Edgar Hoover as well as having had an association with a player in the alleged assassin's background. And we have the past and future Secretary of Defense who as head of the CIA blocked documents about the Kennedy assassination for a former President (GHW Bush). And that same President G. H. W. Bush himself had been appointed DCI by a President who'd been appointed as Vice President and then moved into the top chair in the wake of Watergate. And that President, Gerald Ford, had been on the Warren Commission.
It's all rather cozy, eh? It would certainly explain why four years after the above document slipped through to public attention that the first President Bush wouldn't want more documents about Oswald being released by DCI Gates, or that when he reluctantly signed the Assassinations Records Review Act he anticipated his son by inserting a signing statement that gave the President the right to hold back troublesome documents.
(A brand new book, Family Of Secrets by investigative reporter Russ Baker, gives the most detailed description yet of the web of class, crime and greed surrounding the Bushes and their cronies through the last sixty years or so of American history, including the 1963 doings in Dallas. How well-connected everyone is up there in the ruling class kleptocratic stratosphere will amaze and depress you.)
Eventually lots of documents were released through the Assassinations Record Review Board during the Clinton Administration. But not all of them. Probably the most interesting of the reading material is still tucked away in the archives.
Harvey & Lee by John Armstrong is a thousand-page opus that uses a lot of the documents that were released by the ARRB. It meticulously posits that "Oswald" had been a long-term CIA project from at least the early fifties. Armstrong does a good job of showing that this alleged CIA project had two concurrent "Oswalds", men who looked very similar. Initially the purpose of the Oswald project was to insert an intelligence agent behind the Iron Curtain. (One Oswald did eventually go behind the Iron Curtain while another Lee Oswald, who remained in the U.S. at the same time was, among other things, negotiating a contract for trucks for a reactionary Cuban group in New Orleans.) Armstrong shows that from 1953 the documented record of "Lee Harvey Oswald" is consistently contradictory. Children in different grade schools at the same time, different heights, different medical records. Different missing teeth in different dental records. Jobs in different places. Even different mothers who appear to witnesses as either tall and attractive or short, unattractive and with an unpleasant personality. Different-acting Oswalds assigned to different military bases. After the assassination the FBI essentially picked and chose from the two parallel lives to create a composite life for Lee Harvey Oswald for the Warren Commission. Things like school or military records that conflicted with the Oswald legend were collected by the FBI and then disappeared in the days after Dealey Plaza.
Which leads us to this passage from Harvey and Lee:
In January 1953 the HUAC [House Unamerican Activities Committee] in New York
made reference to a "Mrs. M. Oswald" in a CIA Office of Security file. The file
contained references to "1941", "Nazis", and "New Jersey". Judge John Tunheim of
the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) [this in the 1990s], wrote to
Henry Hyde in an attempt to get the HUAC files on Lee and Marguerite Oswald
released, but his request was refused.
1953 would be at the beginning of Armstrong's "two-Oswald" trail. We know that the original Lee Harvey Oswald and his mother Marguerite had been moving back and forth between Texas and New Orleans in the forties and early fifties before the two moved to New York City in 1953. So what's this about Nazis and New Jersey in 1941? And why would Henry Hyde, that Republican seeker of truth, want to hide information that might link the Oswald saga to perhaps Nazi Bund organizations back in the forties?
Wouldn't you like to know?
And another passage from Armstrong's book:
Visits to the Cuban and Russian embassies by an Oswald no one identified by
sight as Lee Harvey Oswald took place on September 27. That evening, a "Leon
Oswald," probably Lee Oswald, was in Dallas visiting Silvia Odio.
In the afternoon of the following day, Mrs. Lorena Brayshaw and her
daughter Carol met and spent time with Oswald, probably Harvey Oswald, in New
Orleans in the French Quarter.
[Armstrong keeps track of the two different Oswalds by calling one "Lee" and the other "Harvey". One actually hated the name Harvey and the other liked it.]
That same day, September 28, with an Oswald in Mexico City, and Harvey in New
Orleans, Lee Oswald arrived at the Sports Drome Rifle Range driving a 1940 Model
Ford. He asked Mr. Price, a friend of the owner of the facility, to help him
sight in his rifle. With car lights shining on the target, Mr. Price sighted in
Silvia Odio was the daughter of an anti-Castro leader living in Dallas. When an Oswald was in Dallas visiting Odio there was another Oswald in New Orleans and still a third man impersonating Oswald in Mexico City. Often in the past the credibility of various witnesses could be attacked because of evidence that Oswald was somewhere else. That actually is a function of having two agents using the same identity. For example, Castro used identical twins as intelligence agents. While one was involved in risky business the other was establishing an alibi for his look-alike. In the Oswalds' case, while one was living his life (which included playing the part of a Marxist in public street theater while being a government agent) another Oswald was creating a darker, more violent legend. And a third one, in Mexico City, was trying to establish Oswald's bona fides as the raging homicidal Marxist with ties to the USSR and Cuba who was about to kill the President. It was sort of like having two George Bushes in the CIA at the same time, in case one gets caught. But in Oswald's case, it was creating two Oswalds with the intention of one of them getting caught.
Above was just one example of multiple Oswald sightings at the same time. There's plenty more. Oswald buying a money order for the purchase of the assassination rifle on the morning he's accounted for, across town working at Jaggers-Chiles-Stovall. Oswald taking a new car for a test drive, racing it around and telling the car salesman how great the Soviet Union was while another Oswald (who did not have a driver's license) is accounted for, working at the Texas Book Depository. Oswald taking a rifle to a gun store to have a sight put on it while Oswald is accounted for, working at the TBD. You get the idea. Once you realize that there were two Oswalds (and occasionally three) then it all becomes clear.
Here are photos of the three different Oswalds:
The fact alone that someone was impersonating Oswald in Mexico City should be enough to blow the Warren Report out of the water. Multiple Oswalds mean that the official version of the assassination and all those appended versions foisted on us over the years by the government and its allies in the media just aren't true. And since the photo of the Mexico City Oswald was taken by the CIA and in the government's possession at the time of the assassination it is clear that from the start that the Warren Commission's purpose was to cover up what by any coherent thinking had to have been an inside job. Quite simply, elements within the government assassinated the President. If you're looking for the culprits you can start in Langley, Virginia.
From immediately after the assassination those elements in the government have been keeping this information from us. And they continue to do so. Twice information gatekeepers have been rewarded by becoming President (Ford, for his work on the Warren Commission, didn't even have to be elected; Bush, for his work as DCI under Ford, would have been President a lot earlier if Reagan hadn't survived the assassination attempted on him), and the son of one of those gatekeeper Presidents became a President himself. Robert Gates, another gatekeeper if you will, got to be the emergency designated President and remains the head of our military, left behind to keep an eye on things.
As time goes on and we get farther away from the Kennedy assassination people who were around it have been dying off, like the generations of veterans of our past wars. But the Central Intelligence Agency as an institution continues to have an investment in keeping the secrets covered up. And the permanent government seems to have an investment in keeping the CIA covered. Why do you think that would be?
The myth of America is that, no matter how badly we may stray, we are a democracy. The will of the people eventually triumphs, or at least has the potential to triumph. But what if the last forty-five years have been a lie? What if the President was actually removed by what are essentially our international Pinkertons, and what if the Executive Branch and to a great extent all branches of government have been controlled by them and their allies all these years, and that elections are just cast changes for the longest-running show off-Broadway?
While it would be consonant with many leftist views of American democracy that it's a fixed game ultimately controlled by the rich and powerful, acknowledging this coup actually adds a new dimension. It's one thing to tsk-tsk our violent military overthrows of governments around the world and our intrusions into other countries based on brutal corporate money-making schemes. Who could write a history of Chile's last fifty years without mentioning the overthrow of Allende and the fascist Pinochet's seizure of power? But what does it mean if our own government was overthrown? If we can recognize the real power structure of the Roman Empire versus its theoretical schematics as a kind of democracy then why can't the critics see our government through the emperor's clothes? Why can't structural analysis admit the actual structure here in the homeland? Can anyone acknowledge it or does reality betray some vested social theory?
Why is it that Carter's White House didn't have the power to change the culture of the CIA but the CIA was strong enough to undermine Carter's administration? How come Clinton and the Democrats didn't pursue all the law-breaking done by the CIA and their shady allies during the Iran-contra, savings-and-loan and BCCI scandals? Why does the Obama Administration suddenly flipflop on state secrets? If you graph power by what decisions all administrations have made since 1963 you will see that benefits keep accruing to the darker corners of the military-industrial complex, and the deformations in our laws and Constitution sag in favor of our secret services. It is consistent no matter who is President. It is only more apparent and shocking to us when a Democrat is in the White House.
Criticizing Obama for being too far to the right would have to be in the context that his options are limited by those who really hold the reins of power. Maybe his change of heart on the FISA vote happened because of the mechanical difficulties his plane had experienced in the air a couple days prior to the vote. Or because of the lax security he was given on the campaign trail in Dallas. Or maybe just because at some point, in some private briefing, someone showed Obama his dossier and then explained the real parameters of his job. Or maybe all the means of controlling who even runs and who wins elections or who is even acknowledged in the media are so fundamentally fixed that the same conglomeration owns all the horses in every race.
Wouldn't that be depressing?
I think that many critics of American politics are content to criticize the foibles and character failures of Presidents who are unable to overcome the boundaries set for them without even admitting to those boundaries. Historians like to find the flaws in great men, and we are all historians at heart. Obama the man is not the problem. The problem is a lot bigger than Obama. It's easy to say that Obama is the same as, or no better than, or hardly better than Bush, and to find parallel policies or to point out appointees who have worked both sides of the political ditch. But to say that the system is so rigged that no one can succeed with a progressive agenda in this crooked casino is a soul-crippling revelation. Most people won't go there. Most critics of Obama have no willingness to understand who holds the real power in America and how that power is delegated. And just blaming Obama doesn't get you anywhere near the source of the problem.
No political leader will succeed in getting real change in the structure of power until Americans understand and admit to what has happened here. That includes the intelligentsia on the Left who don't have the courage or sense to recognize what is in front of their faces.
Obama was only a toddler when JFK was murdered. I doubt he was having his diapers changed on the Grassy Knoll. I'd suggest that Obama didn't choose Robert Gates. Rather, Gates came with the furniture.