Phillip F Nelson
An interview with the author by John Valeri of the Hartford Examiner, November 17, 2010:
1). You were a college student when Lyndon Johnson assumed the presidency. Can you tell us how your initial reservations about his character resulted in the research and publication of LBJ: THE MASTERMIND OF JFK'S ASSASSINATION nearly fifty years later? Was there one particular moment that solidified your suspicions or was it an overall consideration of facts?
I have very vivid memories of 1962-63, mostly about my own experiences as a recent high school graduate in Indiana just beginning to shake off my adolescent ways and become a little more cognizant of things larger than myself. One of those was my newly found political awareness, which led me to read the weekly magazines that happened to be reporting on such things as the breaking Billie Sol Estes scandal; it was his hazy connections to Vice President Lyndon Johnson which caught my eye initially, though back then I didn't have any reason to suspect that the depth of his criminal activities was quite as great as we've learned since then. Then, in 1963, the Bobby Baker scandals started being reported in the late summer, leading into autumn. Life magazine published a major front cover expose, ironically under the date of November 22, 1963, which contained many allusions to his association with Johnson. No one knew then, as we do now, that Bobby Kennedy was behind the release of much of the dirt on Lyndon Johnson in order to force him off the 1964 ticket.
All during that horrible but memorable weekend, I remember reading Life magazine between breaks while watching the live television coverage. Naturally, in the process of reading about the latest scandal involving this person who had just assumed the highest office in the nation, I began wondering whether he was a man to be trusted. But I still had not given a passing thought as to the possibility of his involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. At that time, a possible coup was simply an "unthinkable thought," too abhorrent to even try to contemplate (which, I submit, is the same phenomenon that causes many people to continue denying, to this day, the truth of what happened).
That didn't really start until a year or two later. By then, questions had started to mount about not only the mysteries related to the assassination (.e.g. the incredible "magic bullet"), but about the character and veracity of the new president. The rationale for heavy military build-up in Vietnam and the growing casualties began to make less and less sense; his growing "credibility gap" on this folly caused my suspicions about his character to grow. I don't know that there was ever one specific moment at which the idea first sprang forth in my mind; it was more of a decades-long epiphany which developed incrementally the more I studied the matter; it has obviously become the only possible explanation that makes any sense to me, given the complexities of the real story.
2). How do you see LBJ's culpability as fitting in with other conspiracy theories that have been put forth? Who do you believe were his accomplices? And how has the truth remained shrouded in mystery for nearly five decades?
My theories closely parallel those of several notable authors who were referenced extensively in the book. The "main plot-line" includes reference to body, photo and film alterations advanced by David Lifton, Douglas Horne and Noel Twyman. Along with the suborning of witness testimony, or the ignoring of credible witnesses whose stories were not congruent with the "official line," and the fabricated, lost or destroyed evidence, there is a mountain of irrefutable facts which render the official verdict to be the "official lie."
His accomplices included men at the highest levels of the CIA, men such as James Jesus Angleton, William K. (Bill) Harvey, David Atlee Phillips, David Sanchez Morales. There were participants from the Mafia (Carlos Marcello, Johnny Rosseli), the Texas oilmen (H.L. Hunt, Clint Murchison) and, I believe, even J. Edgar Hoover, who was at the very least clearly involved in the post-assassination cover-up.
The reason I devoted so much of the book (nearly half of it) to setting the context--the domestic political situation, the cold-war international antagonisms, the rabid anti-Communist agenda shared by both left and right-wing zealots, were all part of the mix--was because it is necessary to understand how this background related to the assassination. To comprehend why the truth has been "shrouded in mystery for nearly five decades," one must first understand all of that, which is explained in the first 300 pages of the book. But the last two chapters return to that point as well, because they detail just how Lyndon Johnson was able, as president, to obtain the ultimate "benefit of the doubt" by becoming president. He used the automatic deference accorded all presidents to remake his image from a conniving, narcissistic megalomaniac--someone not above the use of criminal conduct to achieve his goals, as he had done throughout his political career--to that of a consensus-seeking "good ol' boy" and magnanimous liberal politician.
The coupe de grace was his successful management of the Warren Commission in reaching a "verdict" that even he later acknowledged was not correct. But it took the matter off the table for at least a dozen years, which was helped by his edict that all evidence be locked away for 75 years. It wasn't until 1975 that the public even saw a purloined copy of the Zapruder film, two years after Johnson died. He calculated that proof of his complicity would automatically die with him and the matter would never really be solved after that, which is why he apparently willed his own early death, as explained in the book.
Lyndon Johnson was a genius at leading, and misleading, people. One simple example of this from the book came from a man who worked for Johnson's radio station KTBC, when he said that "he learned more about the art of deception from Lyndon than he had ever learned from anyone, including his own father, a magician known as "the Great Blackstone." He said, "I worked quite some time for Lyndon Johnson as broadcast personnel, and I think I learned more about the art of deception from him than I did from my father . . . he was a man who understood the art of misdirection--of making the eye watch 'A' when the dirty work was going on at 'B.'"
His ability to ingratiate himself with the right people--in this case, a number of credulous journalists or future historians like Doris Kearns, Merle Miller, Ronnie Dugger, and sycophants like Jack Valenti and Bill Moyers--enabled him to remake his image and therefore his historical record. He isn't remembered, for example, for stalling and impeding civil rights legislation for over twenty five years (even supporting such things as the "poll tax" used in Southern states to inhibit minority voting) and continuing to block Kennedy's agenda on this; instead, he is given credit for its eventual passage in the aftermath of the assassination (though the New York Times gave the lion's share of the credit for its passage to Republican Everett Dirksen, the minority leader). I believe his real accomplishment was purposely stalling it all during Kennedy's presidency; he did it for the purpose of saving it for his own legacy and to use it to win the support of a lot of people for his 1964 election.
3) What do you hope that your book contributes to the historical record? What lessons can be learned for future generations?
More than anything else, I think that a cleansing of the national consciousness, one that finally acknowledges real history, and not the fiction that was presented in 1964, is essential. It has always amazed me that over 75% of the population, according to polls, do not believe the Warren Report; in fact, "we" still don't know what to believe about this watershed event.
It is time that the truth of the assassination and the truth of Lyndon Johnson's lifetime of crimes leading to his involvement in the "Crime of the Century" is revealed. There are still many secrets buried by our own federal government--and they acknowledge it, and they vow to keep them secret, as noted in the book--and until such time as they are revealed and the matter dealt with honestly, we as a nation cannot fully recover from the trauma which has caused us unquantifiable harm.
The real Lyndon Johnson continues to be revered by the very historians who should know better. History is supposed to be about true and actual events and people, not contrived and deceitful stories meant to sugar-coat the facts; it seems to me that most "historians" have been asleep at the switch for nearly fifty years.. Edward Albee, despite his brilliance in the "Theater of the Absurd," couldn't have made this up.
4) There is a true literary lexicon devoted to this case. What books would you recommend as essential reading for serious students of the assassination?
Other than my own, of course, I recommend the following books:
I. General Subject:
JFK and the Unspeakable -James Douglass
Bloody Treason - Noel Tywman
Murder in Dealey Plaza - James Fetzer, Ed.
Someone Would Have Talked - Larry Hancock
Crossfire - Jim Marrs
II. Truths about Lyndon Johnson:
The Years of Lyndon B. Johnson - Three part biographies by Robert Caro
Power Beyond Reason: The Mental Collapse of Lyndon Johnson -
D. Jablow Hershman
A Texan Looks at Lyndon - J. Evetts Haley
III. Post Assassination Cover-up
Inside the ARRB - Doug Horne
Best Evidence - David Lifton
Breach of Trust--How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation
5). How do you think the course of history would have been altered had JFK lived to serve out his presidency?
Without question, the United States' involvement in Vietnam would have been wound down in 1964 and over by 1965; JFK had already decided that, as detailed in my book and many others. The CIA, which had grown out of control under Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, would have been dismantled and the intelligence function would have been assigned to the newly formed and more tightly managed DIA. Probably one of the things JFK did to seal his fate was his promise to "Tear the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds." It wasn't hard for Johnson to find willing accomplices in the CIA through his "back channel" to them and to renegade high level military officers to carry out the assassination.
Without Vietnam, there would have not been the thunderous backlash which resulted from it. The nation would have been spared the eventual double catharsis which resulted from JFK's assassination and the ensuing war purposely designed and run by Johnson, who thought of himself as an omnipotent deity and above the hand-wringing and second-guessing of those who questioned the merits of his war. It is unlikely that the 1960's counter-revolution would have occurred in mid-decade and the violent aspects of it - the Weathermen, the Chicago Seven and all the others - would have not had their "fifteen minutes of fame." Doesn't it follow that everything else that occurred due to the 1960's cultural revolution either would not have happened, or would have at least turned out differently?
The misallocation of precious resources to Vietnam was a tremendous waste of national treasure. It did make many people very wealthy, not the least of whom was Lyndon B. Johnson (though his rapid accumulation of wealth, despite having started out with virtually no net worth, is given virtually no scrutiny by most of his biographers and apologists). Another man who profited from the war was the Chicago financier and mob-connected Henry Crown, who was a major stockholder in General Dynamics, the nearly bankrupt Texas-based company at the heart of the TFX scandal. Johnson went to great lengths to help save this company from bankruptcy in 1961-62 and it is yet another example of his corruption. Crown's wealth grew even more because of the additional number of fighter jets required for Johnson's war (unfortunately for his heir, his son Lester, the family lost $1 Billion during the 2008-09 economic crash; their net worth now stands at only $4 Billion (Forbes magazine: The Forbes 400, October 19, 2009 p. 124).
The United States would have probably grown and prospered even more than was the case with Kennedy's successors, starting with Johnson. Imagine if none of those 60 thousand soldiers, sailors and airmen had been killed there and their lives had instead been devoted to the positive and productive things they wanted to accomplish, rather than the quite meaningless war which Johnson committed them to. Yes, life would have turned out much different for them, of that we can be certain; the rest of us would have, at the very least, been spared the insanity of those times. I cannot begin to list all of the repercussions that these traumas have inflicted on us as a nation.
LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination
- By: Phillip F. Nelson
- Narrated by: Fred Sanders
- Length: 27 hrs and 28 mins
The case against Lyndon B. Johnson and his role in Kennedy's assassination has never been sounder....
LBJ plotted to kill JFK? Makes you think...
- By Karen on 04-03-13
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