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The Execution of Martin Luther King, and Dying in Iraq

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  • Ed Pearl
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2003
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      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


      Book review
      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
      police practice.

      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.


      NY Times
      July 31, 2003

      Dying in Iraq


      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.
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