By Chris Floyd
Robert F. Kennedy would have been 81 today. Tonight, the BBC will air a documentary about his 1968 assassination detailing the strong, credible evidence of a CIA role in the killing. The autopsy and ballistic evidence have long discredited the idea that the usual "lone nut" Sirhan Sirhan was responsible, or solely responsible for the murder. The Guardian has more in this article by the film's director, Shane O'Sullivan: Did the CIA kill Bobby Kennedy?
as we mentioned the other day in a piece about Jim Webb, there is no
point in hero-worshipping any politician. RFK spent his career as a
ruthless, ball-breaking operative. He began as a happy camper in Joe
McCarthy's brutal band of hard-right thugs; and later, as Attorney
General (an appointment of mind-boggling, unprecedented nepotism,
perhaps the most flagrant conflict-of-interest in American political
history, at least until Dick Cheney's wartime pocketing of fat checks
from Halliburton), Kennedy shredded civil liberties and constitutional
safeguards with a reckless, savage glee that John Ashcroft could only
dream of. (Again, Alberto Gonzales, the willing enabler of aggressive
war and torture, has probably outstripped RFK in this regard.) He
played the same role in his brother's administration that George W.
Bush played in his father's: draconian enforcer of loyalty to the
family's political fortunes, which trumped any and all other values.
yet there is no denying he was in many respects a remarkable man, with
an intelligence and learning unheard of in our piping times. His extraordinary speech on the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
was an act of moral courage that did much to redeem past
transgressions. (Which included, of course, the vicious campaign of
smearing and spying that the Kennedy brothers and the man who held
blackmail power over them, J. Edgar Hoover, launched against King.)
Kennedy was in the ghetto of Indianapolis, just hours after King was
murdered, facing a crowd enraged by news of the slaying. Kennedy
improvised an eloquent speech acknowledging the anger but calling for
reconciliation, citing King's own life and teaching as an example.
was hubris in this, especially considering how the Kennedys had sought
to undermine, dampen, contain and divert King's message, while
exploiting it as far as possible for their own political purposes. In
effect, RFK openly and deliberately took King's mantle upon himself
that night: borrowed robes, full of nemesis, which extracted its full
measure just a few weeks later in Los Angeles. Kennedy himself seemed
to sense the tragedy crackling in the air, as he quoted Aeschylus in
the speech. Yet he ended with ancient Greek dream of transcendence over
the intractable violence of human nature: "Let us dedicate ourselves to
what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man
and make gentle the life of this world."
one knows how Robert Kennedy would have governed as president, if he
had indeed gone on to win the election. No doubt he would have sown
bitter disappointment among many people, as he had already done by his
splitting of the anti-war movement, jumping on the bandwagon only after
Sen. Eugene McCarthy had proven its political worth with his courageous
stand against LBJ. There is no indication that RFK had lost his sense
of politics as bloodsport. Yet many say that after his brother's
murder, he was a changed man, that his championing of the poor and
opposition to America's ruinous, murderous foreign policy was genuine.
But whatever the unknowable truth of what might have been, the fact
remains that his murder was a foul act that thwarted the democratic
process, an act that, whatever its provenance, redounded greatly to the
advantage of elitist factions glutted on war profits and fiercely
determined to protect their power and privilege from any diminishment
by the "consent of the governed."
We still live in the shadow of these elites and their unquenchable lust for dominion.