1979: Bang Bang!
Published in Socialist Worker 13 October 1979, as one of the regular columns I wrote in 1979‑80 under the title: “It’s The Same the Whole World Over”.
In the United States prices are rocketing and so are the unemployment figures. Jimmy Carter’s ineptitude in dealing with the situation is getting so obvious that a horde of Presidential candidates for next year’s election are crawling out of the woodwork.
Notable among them is one Edward Kennedy. Teddy owes his popularity, not to his talents or achievements – it would be hard to find any evidence of either – but to his family reputation.
Both Teddy’s big brothers got shot. John F Kennedy, in 1963, after three years as President, and Robert, in 1968, before he even got his snout in the trough.
You might say that they couldn’t really grumble. In 1975 no less a person than Vice President Rockefeller produced evidence to show that both the Kennedys had been tied up with a number of plots to murder Fidel Castro.
What is more serious is that the Kennedys are often described as being ‘liberals’, or belonging to what is laughingly called the ‘left’ of the Democratic Party. Brave bright-eyed visionaries who, if the assassin’s bullet had spared them, would have brought reform at home and enhanced the cause of peace in the world. The real record shows something a little different.
When John F Kennedy was in power, the United States was a loyal friend to dictators around the world. The US supported no less than seven military coups against constitutionally elected governments – in El Salvador, Argentina, Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Honduras. From Paraguay to Franco’s Spain to Thailand brutal rulers got US aid. And just to prove how devoted he was to the ‘free world’, Kennedy rapidly increased US spending on nuclear weapons.
Moreover, while Johnson and Nixon have taken most of the blame for the Vietnam war it was Kennedy who bears the responsibility for that tragic conflict. When Kennedy came to power there were a little over a thousand US troops in Vietnam; when he died there were nearly twenty thousand.
Kennedy appointed the first military commander-in-chief in Vietnam (before that there were just ‘advisers’). Kennedy authorised the use of napalm and defoliants. In 1962 under Kennedy 1400 Vietnamese villages were destroyed.
After John F Kennedy’s death, Robert Kennedy faithfully supported the war effort. Only in 1968, when the Vietnamese had shown they were winning, did the rat leave the sinking ship, hoping to pick up peace movement votes in the fight for the Presidency.
If the Kennedys ever made reforms, they did it as a calculated move to preserve the rule of their own kind. As John F Kennedy put it, with delightful cynicism in his inaugural address: ‘If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.’
When John F Kennedy was shot, the black revolutionary Malcolm X commented that the chickens were coming home to roost. If Teddy makes it to the White House, he will find the air still full of chickens.