Summary: We live in the now, confident in our knowledge. Just like the Americans of 1963. But much of what they knew about America’s government were lies, ripped away during the 1970s. Do we see the world as poorly today as we did then? Has a new cycle of revelations begun? This is one of the two most important posts of the 4600 on the FM website. They are potentially shattering to our complacency. If we learn from these revelations, as we tragically did not in the 1970s, they could open path to reform.
“Hegel says somewhere that all great historic facts and personages occur twice, so to speak. He forgot to add: ‘Once as tragedy, and again as farce.’”
— The opening of Karl Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1869).
- How the people of 1963 saw their world.
- The shocking revelations of the 1970s.
- Has a new cycle begun?
- What truths will erupt next?
- For More Information.
- A New America under construction.
(1) The world of 1963, as they saw it
In the 1960s we were wrapped in illusions about the nature of our government. The shocking revelations of the 1970s altered – perhaps permanently – our relationship with it.
Kennedy was the star of Camelot, an ideal President. Athletic, devoted father, war hero, author. In fact he was almost a cripple, sustained by a diet of powerful drugs. He was the very opposite of a “family man” (I’ve long suspected Jackie had him killed; no jury of women would convict her). He received a Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage, mostly written by Ted Sorensen. JFK might have stolen the election of 1960 (we will never know for sure).
FBI agents were honest, incorruptible guardians like Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. on “The FBI” TV show (1965-1974; see Wikipedia). The reality was quite different. The FBI denied even the existence of the Mafia until public pressure forced action after 1957. The fabled FBI crime lab was found to be corrupt (see Wikipedia). Much of the FBI’s effort went into illegal political operations, such as COINTELPRO.
We knew the CIA was an effective secret organization, like the Mission Impossible Force. In fact generations of revelations reveal it to be a clown show, with a long history of failed forecasts, missed major developments (most notably, surprised by the collapse of the Soviet Union), and botched operations. The most recent summary of this sad history is Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.
We lived in the 1950s and 1960s safely behind the shied of the US military, defending us from the horror of atomic war. The terrible reality is that our military leaders were eager to begin WWIII. For example, during the Cuban Missile Crisis we in more danger from our generals than from the USSR. Tapes of meetings of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOM) revealed our generals to be eager for war, willing to take insane risks of nuclear war for no rational reason. The eventual compromise – removing our nukes in Turkey for the USSR’s on Cuba (kept secret from us) – could have been made without taking us to the verge of WW3. For details see these resources.
- The amazing story told in Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived.
- Audio tapes of the EXCOMM meetings – JFK was often the only same man in the room.
- “The World On the Brink: John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis“ – interactive exhibits at the John F. Kennedy Library website.
(2) The shocking revelations of the 1970s – and thereafter
The revelations came with shattering force came in the 1970s, shattering our vision of America. These began the era of cynicism about government – about America – which continues today.
In 1971 the New York Times published the secret DoD study of the Vietnam War 1945-1967, showing that it was built on a combination of lies and incompetence (later published as The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War).
In 1971 newspapers published information about CONTELPRO stolen by the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI from an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania.
In 1975 Church Committee revealed large-scale long-term violations of laws and basic constitutional rights by Federal intelligence agencies (especially the FBI, CIA, and NSA). See their reports here. Plus a long list of assassinations of foreign leaders by US government agents.
Recent revelations show the USAF’s contempt not just for the nation’s civilian leaders, but also for America’s safety. For example, setting the nuclear launch codes to 00000000, in defiance of the obvious need for fail-safe controls. Real codes were installed only in 1977. For more about this shameful history, gambling the safety of the nation and the world:
- “Keeping Presidents in the Nuclear Dark: The Case of the Missing ‘Permissive Action Links’” by Bruce G. Blair (President, former Minuteman missile control officer; Wikipedia entry) at the Center for Defense Information, 11 February 2004.
- “The USAF’s non-denial” at Foreign Policy, 20 January 2014.
- “Almost Everything in ‘Dr. Strangelove’ Was True” by Eric Schlosser in The New Yorker, 23 January 2014
Most importantly, we have decades of evidence proving that senior officials of the US government lie to us as easily as breathing – even (or especially) about matters of the greatest importance. See some examples in The Big List of Lies by our Leaders.
There were reforms, which seemed substantial at the time. Such as Executive Order 11905 in 1976, banning assassinations. But they were criticized at the time, and time proved that they were shallowly rooted in the US political system – and easily overturned. Critics accused the committee of treason. See these to learn more about this sad history.
- “Congressional Oversight and the Crippling of the CIA“ by Stephen F. Knott (Prof National Security, West Point) at the History News Network, 4 November 2001.
- “Back to Church“ by Chris Mooney at The American Prospect, 5 November 2001 — The Church-bashing started before the WTC’s ash cooled.
(3) Has a new cycle begun?
Do we see the world clearly today, or are we as lost in dreams as we were 50 years ago? Were the revelations of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning and Edward Snowden the start of a new cycle of revelations? Many people believed their government conducted surveillance of us, but the scale and power of its programs were beyond the worst many of us imagined.
Since Trump’s election the Deep State has emerged into the light from the shadows, to be seen by all that looked. The New York Times published a coming-out announcement. Its other operations against Trump were impossible to conceal (examples here). There is considerable – although inconclusive – that people in the FBI (and other agencies) worked to prevent Trump’s election – and either cripple his Administration or drive him from office.
Also revealing was the reaction to Trump’s decision to throttle down our operations in Syria (but not end them). The mask of a two-party system was torn, showing the consensus of elites that runs America (as did the lavish treatment of the 1% during the 2008 crash).
Perhaps many such discoveries lie ahead of us, things only crazy people on the fringes see today.
Flag from a bygone age, of a different people.
(5) What truths will erupt next?
“Telemachus, now is the time to be angry.”
— Odysseus, when the time came to deal with the Suitors. From the film The Odyssey (1997).
Decade after decade, we are lied to by American officials. Who can we trust?
Decade after decade we learn of mind-blowing revelations, shattering our beliefs about our government. On what can we rely? Only the most extreme cranks predicted the things that we have learned. We ignore that everybody’s Weird Uncle Al, ranting at Thanksgiving, proved a better guide to some events than the New York Times.
The lesson we refuse to learn: only the most radically open imaginations can see events in our age. Otherwise we are pawns, easily manipulated by lies and secrets. Unless we learn to see more clearly, the Republic might be toast.
“Unless you expect the unexpected you will never find truth, for it is difficult to discover.”
— Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic “Weeping Philosopher” of Ionia.
(6) For More Information
We can fix America. See the suggestions in Reforming America: steps to a new politics.
Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.
- Important: A picture of America, showing a path to political reform.
- Remembering is the first step to learning. Living in the now is ignorance.
- The missing but essential key to building a better America – Clear sight about our condition.
- Swear allegiance to the truth as a step to reforming America.
- We live in an age of ignorance, but can decide to fix this – today.
- American politics is a fun parade of lies, for which we pay dearly.
- The bizarre but easy next step to fixing America: vision!