Swinerton/My Turn: Separate the man from myth

Victor Lasky’s book, “Man and the Myth,” written and published before Kennedy’s death gave an overall view of the myths of Jack Kennedy.

In the last 50 years, the myth and truths of Kennedy’s life and presidency have blossomed to positively bubble-bursting explosions.

Carl Doerner’s essay, titled “Conspiracy and Cover-up,” one filled with inaccuracies and wild and absurd theories is the perfect example of someone trying to rewrite the past and write the last chapter as they wish it to be written!

Doerner implies the Kennedy assassination launched the Vietnam War! Nonsense!

Eisenhower placed some advisers in Vietnam, but Doerner forgets that on the day Kennedy died, the president had already placed 16,000 troops in Vietnam. The war was now booming and the first of 56,000 casualties were already coming home.

Kennedy’s own words tell us why our involvement in Vietnam was so important to him.

Before he was president, he called Vietnam “The keystone to the arch, the finger in the dike, our offspring — we cannot abandon it,” in a 1956 speech.

In September 1963 responding to a question on Vietnam, Kennedy said, “His policy was to win” and “We are not there to see a war lost.”

Five years after the assassination, Robert Kennedy told an interviewer his brother “Had a strong overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam and that we should win the war.” He continued by saying “there was never any consideration to pulling out.”

Johnson’s biggest mistake was helping Kennedy’s handpicked advisers. They were not his type of thinking men. As a result, the war escalated.

Kennedy was determined to stop communism everywhere. He felt Eisenhower had not done enough to stop communism.

Several weeks after Kennedy came into power, he appeared on national television explaining why it was important to get involved in a country called Laos.

I remember being told to pronounce it as if it were rhyming with mouse!

Kennedy soon after went slap-happy calling up reserve units. Many of us lived in agony at the time waiting for our significant others to be called into action.

Only unit in this area to be called to serve in 1961 was the 104th Air National Guard from Barnes. They spent a year in France in case the Russians made a move in Europe. That never happened!

Vietnam’s unpopular leaders, the Diem brothers, were killed and we were now deeply involved in Vietnam. One of the Diem widows came to the United States and spoke at Harvard University and blamed Kennedy for her husband’s death. Soon after, while crossing the street in Paris, she was hit by a car. We were told the CIA was responsible for the brothers’ deaths and, of course, the president knew nothing about it, just like the Bay of Pigs spectacular failure. All done by the CIA and against the president’s wishes! Please.

Why are we always told the president is involved if all goes well and if it is a failure, the president knows nothing about it? Sound familiar?

In Doerner’s essay, he blames the FBI, CIA and Secret Service for plotting to kill the president. These agencies are made up of decent citizens and yet Doerner places them in the same bowl as the Mafia. Shameful!

Something tells me someone is living in La-La Land when they suggest all three agencies have nothing to do but join together to plot against the president.

Doerner claims Kennedy condemned government secrecy. More nonsense!

The truth about who really blinked first to end the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is just the opposite. Nikita Khrushchev made the offer to pull back if we would remove our missiles from Turkey. Robert Kennedy secretly, in the middle of the night, went to the Soviet Union embassy, agreed to the plan and a disaster was averted.

The agreement, however, had to be kept a secret because it would make Kennedy look weak and Khrushchev look strong. For 50 years, it was kept a secret although it had been known by some. Now, even Chris Matthews talks about it!

When it comes to a choice of believing the myth or the actions of the man, in Kennedy’s case it’s easier to choose the myth. You have glamour, glitz and in the early 1960s where one was admired if they were rich, even if they inherited their wealth. If they had a wife who as associated with the horse set — it was class.

If you choose the man, you see someone who involved us in an ugly war, failed to get much passed in Congress and spied on Martin Luther King and did little when it came to Civil Rights. His womanizing made Clinton look like the pope and exposed a serious character flaw. Someone recently said, “Everyone wants a hero.” When choosing yours, check out the facts and don’t rely on the myths.

Georgie Swinerton is a South Deerfield resident.

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