The Execution of Martin Luther King, and Dying in Iraq
- Hi. As covers for the lies of the current administration are being stripped
from the public eye, the atmosphere created allows an opportunity to expand
that public eye to revisit past governmental cover-ups. None more important
or memorable than that of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The 2nd article, even with its narrow focus on GI's, relates to this ongoing
mendacity, but also to Dr. King's political thrust of expanding the views of
and engaging the working class. And, who more educable or potentially
powerful a force than the parents of kids over there.
Nuff said. -Ed
Dissecting an assassination
An Act of State. The Execution of Martin Luther King by William Pepper
Reviewed by Sreeram Chaulia
"Truth crushed to earth shall rise again" - Martin Luther King
Americans celebrate Martin Luther King Day to commemorate the message of the
greatest prophet of non-violence the world has seen since Mahatma Gandhi.
School textbooks in the US contain chapters on the civil rights movement
spearheaded by King, and universities offer undergraduate and graduate level
courses on his philosophy, actions and significance.
Yet the most under-researched and clouded subject is that of his
assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Neither the speechmakers on MLK
Day, nor the Americans who are taught about the man in school and college
know who shot King on that fateful evening and why. Like three other
contemporaries who were assassinated inexplicably in the turmoil-ridden
1960s, John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Malcolm X, King's murder has
remained an unsolved mystery.
William Pepper, an American lawyer and associate of King, has been
fearlessly probing the truth for a quarter of a century, fighting threats to
his life and other insuperable roadblocks and hurdles. This book summarizes
his findings and finalizes the list of conspirators who wanted the apostle
of peace out of their way.
In spring 1967, King was emerging as the focal point of a coalition of the
growing peace and economic justice movements in the US. Against the
advice of his peers who limited themselves to civil liberties in the
arena, King catapulted to the epicenter of the anti-Vietnam war cause due
to his formidable conscience and belief in the oneness of human suffering in
every corner of the world. Pointing out that civil rights legislation was
enough to meet the basic needs of poor Americans, King was mobilizing
half a million impoverished citizens in the Poor People's Campaign that
would culminate in a unique demonstration-cum-encampment outside the
US Congress to demand economic justice. King declared intentions
of moving into mainstream politics as a potential presidential candidate to
highlight the anti-war and anti-poverty agenda. These bold and captivating
planks outraged and struck fear in the hearts of wealthy and powerful
interest groups in the country. "It was for this reason alone that King had
to be stopped." (p 6)
During a whirlwind tour to galvanize public opinion, King went to Memphis
to participate in a sanitation worker's strike on April 3, 1968. He was shot
dead the following day on the balcony of his hotel room. State
investigations nailed a petty criminal, James Earl Ray, for the killing and
sentenced him to 99 years in prison without a judicial trial. It was another
lone-assassin explanation for the removal of another progressive leader.
In 1978, following persistent rumors of a gross miscarriage of justice, the
author interviewed Ray in jail and found that "he was set up" and was not
even present at the crime scene when King was murdered.
Pepper began poring through the official version of events that was
published for limited circulation by the House Select Committee on
Assassinations. Some startling facts surfaced. As early as December 1963,
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials met in Washington "to
explore ways of neutralizing King as an effective Negro leader". (p 11)
Wiretaps and phone bugging of King and his entourage went on uninterrupted
for the last five years of his life. The bureau also engaged in
activities and burglaries against King to soil his reputation. There was an
attempt to assassinate King in 1965 through the collaboration of FBI and
Louisville police officers, involving a US$50,000 contract to kill.
Pepper found out that the state's chief witness, who claimed that James Earl
Ray shot King from a bathroom window and then fled, was heavily drunk that
evening. Other witnesses testified that the bathroom was empty at the time
of the shooting. Members of organized crime rings in Memphis and New Orleans
had a connection to the murder, as was admitted by Lloyd Jowers, the owner
of the grill opposite King's hotel and a key player in the assassination.
Jowers was approached before the assassination with $100,000 and a weapon,
and he was present to take the gun from the actual sniper seconds after
firing at King, not from the bathroom but a bushy area adjoining his bar.
When Pepper petitioned the attorney-general to reconsider Ray's case based
on new evidence, he was met with stony refusals.
Undeterred, the author continued arranging meetings with witnesses that were
never considered by the state prosecutors. Oil and media baron H L Hunt's
aide confessed that at various meetings between his boss and FBI director
J Edgar Hoover, King was discussed. In June 1967, Hunt told Hoover "he
could finish King by constantly attacking him on his daily radio
to which Hoover replied, "The only way to stop King would be to completely
silence him." (p 43)
Hunt, who had top-level mafia ties, was interestingly a close friend of then
president Lyndon Johnson and his assistant, Booth Mooney, the author of
many anti-King radio broadcast scripts. On the evening of the assassination,
to ward off suspicions, Hoover called Hunt and advised him to cancel his
King radio programs. The same cabal of Johnson, Hunt and Hoover met the
evening before JFK's assassination in 1963 in a closeted session, at the end
of which LBJ came out and told his wife, "After tomorrow, those goddamn
Kennedys will never embarrass me again - that's a promise." (p 127)
Corroborating the link between the JFK and King assassinations, Pepper
uncovered facts about the shadowy "Raul" who set up James Earl Ray and also
had close ties with Jack Ruby, the killer of Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey
Widening the focus of the inquiry, the author next lands on incontrovertible
proof of the hand of US army intelligence in the King assassination. Army
intelligence had been desperately searching for a way to finish King,
according to several sources. A Special Forces Alpha 184 sniper team was in
Memphis on the day of the killing. It was notorious for "behind the fence"
covert operations and special training links with the Ku Klux Klan. A
two-man "reconnaissance unit" was sent to Memphis on April 4 with explicit
orders to "shoot to kill 'body mass' [center, chest cavity] Dr Martin Luther
King Jr and the Reverend Andrew Young". The team's pep talk before the
mission stressed how the targets were "enemies of the United States who were
determined to bring down the government". (p 68)
The Alpha 184 mission was a backup plan to an officially deniable "civilian
scenario" that involved Jowers and the mobsters. Army photographers were
perched on top of a nearby building to capture the entire killing on camera
to suppress observations and tamper with the evidence on the crime site
immediately after the killing. Members of this sensitive mission either died
in mysterious circumstances a few years later or escaped the country. One of
them admitted "a clean-up process had begun within a year of the
assassination ... if he returned to the United States he would be
immediately killed". (p 73) The 1972 Ervin Committee condemned the US
military for domestic surveillance of civilian political activity in no mean
terms, confirming that King was one of the millions of US citizens and
entities targeted for bugging and infiltration.
By a tortuous and circuitous route, Pepper got the case proving innocence of
Ray running in a County Criminal court. Judge Brown concluded that the rifle
produced by the state was not the murder weapon because the death slug did
not match test-fired bullets from the same gun. Just as legal momentum was
gaining, the government got a higher court to overturn Brown's ruling and
removed him from the case on grounds that he had "ceased to be impartial."
Pepper went on unveiling new parts of the conspiracy puzzle. Members of the
Memphis Police Department (MPD) used Lloyd Jowers' grill for "planning
sessions" before the assassination. The MPD's best shooter, Earl Clark, may
have been the actual trigger puller behind the bushes. When a former FBI
agent spotted a person in Atlanta who matched the murder suspect and asked
for permission to apprehend him, he received strange instructions and was
disallowed from detaining the suspect without explanation. The massive
damage limitation and cover-up operations, understandable given how far up
the official line the conspiracy went, ensured that government investigators
sidelined crucial facts like these.
In 1999, Pepper and the King family managed to arrange for a trial of Lloyd
Jowers. The jury pool contained a disproportionate number of employees of
law enforcement agencies and security firms. Aspects of the local and wider
conspiracy came out cogently at the trial. Mafia organizations had informed
the co-conspirators that "there would be no security, the police were
cooperating, and that a patsy (decoy) was in place". (p111) Removal of
police from the area of the crime, failures to place the usual security unit
around King and deletion of other individuals whose presence in the area
could jeopardize the assassination - all inevitably pointed to an
orchestrated plan. An anonymous caller changed King's lodging from the
protected ground floor to an open balcony terrace room. The small police
presence at King's hotel completely disappeared within half an hour of the
murder. A fireman yelled at the police standing at some distance that the
shot came from a clump of bushes but was ignored. Moments after the
shooting, a figure rushed into a car and drove right past the police
barricading the street, as the MPD let him go. There never was a
house-to-house investigation after the incident despite it being a standard
Other exposes at the trial included an FBI agent who was in the
assassination in-group telling one witness, "the CIA ordered it done". A
journalist who knew Raul, the weapon and cash facilitator, startled the
court by informing that the accused's family was "being protected and
advised by US government agents who had visited their home on three
occasions - the government was helping them through these difficult days".
(p125) When Ray tried a prison break in 1976, he narrowly escaped death,
not capture, by an FBI SWAT team consisting of more than 30 sharpshooters.
The implication of this astonishing operation was to prevent Ray from
any beans on the cover-up once he was out of custody.
Last but not least, the King versus Jowers trial threw light on government
use of the media for disinformation, psychological warfare and propaganda.
In 1967-68, there was extraordinary press and radio hostility for King's
anti-Vietnam war position. The "powerfully comprehensive control of the
media by the forces who control American public policy" enabled biased and
unquestioning coverage of the assassination and repeated brainwashing of the
public with the official version of events. No less a publication than the
New York Times was implicated in furthering the official spin.
The final judgement of the case apportioned 30 percent liability to
defendant Jowers and 70 percent to "all other co-conspirators", ie agents of
the City of Memphis, the State of Tennessee and the Government of the United
States. Despite this overwhelming verdict and President Clinton's orders to
conduct another official investigation into fresh allegations, the US
Attorney General dished out one more sham exonerating report in June 2000.
The Department of Justice taskforce that collected proof for this report had
an "orientation to defend the status quo in the case at all costs". (p226)
It selectively decided who and what to believe and protected agencies whose
culpability was an open secret. Pepper's disappointment with this latest
charade is vivid: "Our democracy is a perpetrated illusion, a myth, even a
disappearing fantasy when it comes up against the special interests of
wealth and power." (p261) Martin Luther King's vision of root-and-branch
transformation of society to overcome militarism, infringement of liberties
and unresolved racism is still a valid pursuit for decent Americans. The
truth about his assassination plot is a wake-up call for them and a shocking
rebuttal of what George W Bush loudly trumpets as "the meaning of American
An Act of State. The Execution of Martin Luther King by William Pepper,
Verso Books, London, 2003. ISBN: 1-85984-695-5. Price: US$25, 334 pages.
July 31, 2003
Dying in Iraq
By BOB HERBERT
Those are good kids that we're sending into the shooting gallery
called Iraq, and unless you have the conviction of a Bush or a Rumsfeld or a
Bechtel or a Halliburton, you have to be nursing the sick feeling that each
death is a tragic waste, and that this conflict is as much of a fool's
errand as the war in Vietnam.
Despite the deceit and chronic dissembling of their political leaders in
Washington, and the wretched conditions on the ground in Iraq, the young men
and women are fighting bravely. So there was Gov. George Pataki earlier this
week with the unhappy task of asking for a moment of silence in remembrance
of Sgt. Heath McMillin, a 29-year-old National Guardsman from Clifton
Springs in upstate New York.
Sergeant McMillin was killed on Sunday when his unit was attacked while on
patrol south of Baghdad.
Over the weekend The New York Times had an article about the close-knit
family of Cpl. Travis J. Bradach-Nall, a 21-year-old marine from Portland,
Ore., who was killed on July 1 while clearing mines in south-central Iraq.
The corporal loved tattoos, and his favorite movie was "Ghostbusters." The
article was accompanied by a photo showing his brother and three cousins
with memorial "Ghostbusters" tattoos.
Why are these kids dying?
The United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. But instead of using all
the means available to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda,
the Bush administration became obsessed with the ouster of Saddam Hussein
and the takeover of Iraq.
That is a very peculiar ordering of priorities.
The federal government issued public warnings this week after being alerted
to potential new terror attacks against Americans by Al Qaeda, including the
possibility of airline hijackings in the U.S. or overseas. President Bush
said yesterday, "We're talking to foreign governments and foreign airlines
to indicate to them the reality of the threat."
But even as the president was speaking, word was coming out that the
Transportation Security Administration is trying to cut back its air
marshals program to save money. The war in Iraq is costing scores of
billions of dollars a month, and the president's tax cuts have grown so
large they're casting shadows over generations to come. But we can't afford
to fully fund a program to protect American airline passengers.
"When we are faced with more priorities than we have funding to support, we
have to go through a process of trying to address the most urgent needs,"
said a spokesman for the security administration.
The credibility of the Bush administration is approaching meltdown. The
White House won't level with the American people on the cost of the war, or
the number of troops that are really needed, or the amount of taxpayer money
that is being funneled to the politically connected corporations that have
been given carte blanche for the reconstruction.
While the Bush crowd was happy to let the public believe that Saddam Hussein
was somehow connected to the Sept. 11 attacks, it won't come clean about the
real links between the Saudis and Al Qaeda. And you won't hear from the
administration that the phantom weapons of mass destruction were never the
real reason for the war, but merely the pretext. The real goals were to
establish a military foothold in the region, remake the Middle East and
capture control of Iraq's fabulous oil reserves.
Right now there is no viable plan for securing the peace in Iraq, and no
exit strategy. There is no real plan for demolishing Al Qaeda and the
genuine threat it poses to the security of all Americans. (Similarly, at
home, there is no plan to get the economy moving and the millions of
unemployed Americans back to work.)
Iraq is not Vietnam, where more than 58,000 Americans were killed. But it is
like Vietnam in that deceptive leaders have maneuvered the country into a
tragic situation that I do not believe Americans will support over time.
For the Bushes and the Rumsfelds, this is a grand imperial adventure, with
press-conference posturing and wonderful photo-ops, like the president's
"Top Gun" moment on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln.
For the youngsters condemned to the shooting gallery, it's a fearful
exercise in survival in a conflict that has never been adequately explained.