Friday, June 06, 2008

Bobby: Forty Years in the American Wilderness

The 40th anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's assassination has just occured and in the passage forty years of a painful recognition that the United States would be a far different nation today had he lived. I was in Los Angeles when he was killed. I had traveled - hitchiking the entire distance - from New York to California after the shocking and earthquake murder of Martin Luthor King. The counter-cultural movement was in full flower as was the explosion of the anti-war movement, which RFK had come to embody. While I was very political, my focus was on dealing with the weight of the Draft, and feeling if he was to secure the nomination - the Vietnam War would/could be wound down and the spiral of destruction to the American society would also be curtailed with his message of hope and renewal, messages that are resounding today, with the Barack Obama Democratic nomination for President on track for the Convention and November ballots. I recall hearing the news of his being shot as he had just been on TV with his Victory being celebrated. Stunned, and in shock, as the cascading and horrific reality set in, that another murder was befalling our society, and only two months after ML King. Within days, I left for San Francisco, and would later make the trek to Chicago and the Democrat's National Convention, where "the whole world is watching" would be the further painful reminder of a nation and world coming apart. A world we are still paying the price for. Bobby, we hardly knew ya...Last year, the film "Bobby" would recreate the events of the night at the hotel, and the impact on various lives there, and on the days preceeding Bobby's death. I wept then, and I weep still, as we have wandered ever since, wounded and weary. - MS

Here is the Wikipedia entry on RFK's assassination with footnotes.

The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, a United States Senator and brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, took place shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968. He was killed following celebrations of his successful campaign in the Californian primary elections while seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. The perpetrator was a 24-year old Palestinian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan, who remains incarcerated for this crime as of 2008. The number of reporters near the scene meant that the shooting was recorded on audio and the aftermath was captured on film, with the subject dominating news coverage over the following week.
Kennedy's body lay in repose at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York for two days before a funeral mass was held on June 8. His body was interred near his brother John at Arlington National Cemetery. His death prompted the protection of presidential candidates by the United States Secret Service. Hubert Humphrey went on to win the Democratic nomination for the presidency, but ultimately lost the election to Richard Nixon.
As with his brother's death, Robert Kennedy's assassination and the circumstances surrounding it have spawned a variety of conspiracy theories, particularly in relation to the existence of a supposed second gunman.

Robert Kennedy had been appointed United States Attorney General in January 1961, and remained in this post until he resigned on September 3, 1964, to run for election as a United States senator.[1] He took office on January 3, 1965.[1]
The approach of the 1968 presidential election saw the incumbent president, Lyndon Johnson, who had won the 1964 election with a landslide of the popular vote, presiding over social unrest: there were ghetto riots in the major cities despite Johnson's attempts at introducing anti-poverty and anti-discrimination legislation, and there was significant opposition to ongoing military action in Vietnam.[2][3] The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in April 1968 led to further riots in 100 cities.[4]
Kennedy entered the race for the Democratic Party's nomination for President in 1968 after Senator Eugene McCarthy received 42% of the vote in the New Hampshire primary against the incumbent Johnson's 49%.[5] Following a series of electoral battles for convention delegates, Kennedy was still in second place after the California primary, with 393 delegates compared to Hubert Humphrey's 561.[6]

Four hours after the polls had closed in California, Robert F. Kennedy claimed victory in the state's Democratic presidential primary. At approximately 12:15 a.m. PDT, he addressed his campaign supporters in the Embassy Room ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel, located in the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles.[7] At the time, the government provided Secret Service protection for incumbent presidents but not for presidential candidates, and Kennedy's only security was provided by former FBI agent William Barry, while two former professional athletes acted as unofficial bodyguards.[8] During the campaign, Kennedy had welcomed contact with the public, and people had often sought frantically to touch him.[9]
Kennedy had planned, when he finished speaking, to walk through the ballroom and go to another gathering of supporters elsewhere in the hotel.[10] With deadlines fast approaching, however, reporters wanted a press conference. As Kennedy spoke, campaign aide Fred Dutton made the decision that Kennedy would forego the second gathering and instead go through the kitchen and pantry area behind the ballroom to the press area. Kennedy finished speaking and started out, when William Barry stopped him and said, "No, it's been changed. We're going this way."[11] Barry and Dutton began clearing a way for Kennedy to go left through swinging doors to the kitchen corridor, but Kennedy, hemmed in by the crowd, followed hotel maitre d' Karl Uecker through a back exit.[12]
Uecker led Kennedy through the kitchen area, holding Kennedy's right hand but frequently releasing it as Kennedy shook hands with people in the area.[13] Uecker and Kennedy started down a passage way narrowed by an ice machine against the right wall and a steam table to the left.[13] Kennedy turned to his left and shook hands with busboy Juan Romero as Sirhan Sirhan stepped down from a low tray-stacker beside the ice machine, rushed past Uecker, and repeatedly fired what was later identified as a .22 caliber Iver-Johnson Cadet revolver.[14][15]
After Kennedy had fallen to the floor, security man Bill Barry hit Sirhan twice in the face and others, including maître d's Uecker and Edward Minasian, writer George Plimpton, Olympic gold medal decathlete Rafer Johnson and professional football player Rosey Grier, forced Sirhan against the steam table and disarmed him.[16] Sirhan wrestled free and grabbed the revolver again, but he had already fired all the bullets.[17] Barry went to Kennedy and lay his jacket under the candidate's head, later recalling: "I knew immediately it was a .22, a small caliber, so I hoped it wouldn't be so bad, but then I saw the hole in the Senator's head, and I knew."[18] Reporters and photographers rushed into the area from both directions, contributing to the chaos. As Kennedy lay wounded, Juan Romero cradled the senator's head and placed a rosary in his hand.[19] Kennedy asked Romero, "Is everybody safe, OK?" and Romero responded, "Yes, yes, everything is going to be OK."[20] Captured by Life photographer Bill Eppridge, the picture of Kennedy and Romero became the iconic image of the assassination.[21][22]
Ethel Kennedy stood outside the crush of people at the scene, seeking help.[23] She was soon led to her husband and knelt beside him. He turned his head and seemed to recognize her.[24] After several minutes, medical attendants arrived at the hotel and lifted Kennedy onto a stretcher, prompting him to exclaim, "No, no."[25] He lost consciousness shortly thereafter.[26] Kennedy was taken a mile away to Central Receiving Hospital, where he arrived near death. One doctor slapped his face, calling, "Bob, Bob," while another began massaging Kennedy's heart. After obtaining a good heartbeat, doctors handed a stethoscope to Ethel Kennedy so she could hear her husband's heart beating, and she was relieved.[27] After about 30 minutes, Kennedy was transferred several blocks to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan for surgery. Surgery began at 3:12 a.m. PDT and lasted three hours and 40 minutes.[28] Ten and a half hours later, at 5:30 P.M. PDT on Wednesday, spokesman Frank Mankiewicz announced that Kennedy's doctors were "concerned over his continuing failure to show improvement," while his condition remained "extremely critical as to life."[29]
Kennedy had been shot a total of three times: one shot was behind his right ear at a range of approximately 1 inch (2.54 cm) and bullet fragments were dispersed throughout his brain.[30] Two other bullets entered at the rear of his right armpit, one of which exited from his chest while the other lodged in the back of his neck.[31] Despite extensive neurosurgery at the Good Samaritan Hospital to remove the bullet and bone fragments from his brain, Kennedy died at 1:44 a.m. PDT, nearly 26 hours after being shot.[32]
Five other people were also wounded: William Weisel of ABC News, Paul Schrade of the United Auto Workers union, Democratic Party activist Elizabeth Evans, Ira Goldstein of the Continental News Service and Kennedy campaign volunteer Irwin Stroll.[16] Although not physically wounded, singer Rosemary Clooney, a strong supporter of Kennedy, was present in the ballroom during the shooting in the pantry and suffered a nervous breakdown shortly afterward.[33]
Conspiracy theories
As with the assassination of Robert Kennedy's brother, President John F. Kennedy, in 1963, the senator's death has been the subject of widespread analysis. Some persons involved in the original investigation and some researchers have suggested alternative scenarios for the crime, or have argued that there are serious problems with the official case.

CIA involvement
In November 2006, the BBC's Newsnight program presented research by filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan alleging that several CIA officers were present on the night of the assassination.[46] Three men who appear in video and photographs from the night of the assassination were positively identified by former colleagues and associates as former senior CIA officers who had worked together in 1963 at JMWAVE, the CIA's main anti-Castro station based in Miami. They were JMWAVE Chief of Operations David Morales, Chief of Maritime Operations Gordon Campbell and Chief of Psychological Warfare Operations George Joannides.[46]
The program featured an interview with Morales's former attorney Robert Walton, who quoted him as having said, "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard."[46] O'Sullivan reported that the CIA declined to comment on the officers in question. It was also alleged that Morales was known for his deep anger with the Kennedys for what he saw as their betrayal during the Bay of Pigs Invasion.[47]
After further investigation, O'Sullivan produced the feature documentary, RFK Must Die. The film casts some doubt on the earlier identifications and ultimately reveals that the man previously identified as Gordon Campbell was in fact Michael D. Roman, a now-deceased Bulova Watch Company employee, who was at the Ambassador Hotel for a company convention. O'Sullivan ultimately expresses his doubt that the "Morales" in the film footage at the Ambassador Hotel and the man positively identified as Morales in later photographs are the same man.[48]

Second gunman
The location of Kennedy's wounds suggested that his assailant had stood behind him, but witnesses said that Sirhan faced west as Kennedy moved through the pantry facing east.[49] This has led to the suggestion that a second gunman actually fired the fatal shot, a possibility supported by coroner Thomas Noguchi.[50] Several witnesses, though, said that as Sirhan approached, Kennedy was turning to his left shaking hands, facing north and so exposing his right side.[51] During a reexamination of the case in 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered expert examination of the possibility of a second gun having been used, and the conclusion of the experts was that there was little or no evidence to support this theory.[52]
More recently, analysis of audio recordings of the shootings taken by freelance reporter Stanislaw Pruszynski appear, according to forensic expert Philip van Praag, to indicate that thirteen shots were fired, even though Sirhan's gun held only eight rounds.[49] While this would strongly indicate a second gunman, further independent analysis by a series of other experts indicates that there are only eight shots present on the tape.[53]

1. a b Kennedy, Robert Francis - Biographical information. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
2. "1964: Election triumph for Lyndon B Johnson", On this Day, BBC, 2005. Retrieved on 2008-04-24.
3. Biography of Lyndon B. Johnson. Retrieved on 2008-04-24.
4. "1968: Martin Luther King shot dead", On this Day, BBC, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-09-17.
5. A timeline of Sen. Eugene McCarthy's life and political career. Minnesota Public Radio.
6. Moldea 1995, p. 26n.
7. "Senator Robert F. Kennedy Assassination FBI - Los Angeles County District Attorney Files". Retrieved on 2008-04-27. (URL)
8. Moldea 1995, pp. 24-25.
9. Witcover 1969, pp. 113-14.
10. Witcover 1969, p. 264.
11. Witcover 1969, pp. 264-65.
12. Witcover 1969, pp. 264-65.
13. a b Dan E. Moldea. The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy:Chapter One. Retrieved on 2008-05-18.
14. Witcover 1969, p. 266
15. Thom White (2005). RFK Assassination Far From Resolved. CITIZINEmag. Retrieved on February 16, 2007.
16. a b c A Life On The Way To Death. TIME (1968-06-14). Retrieved on 2008-04-27.
17. Witcover 1969, p. 269.
18. Witcover 1969, p. 269.
19. Steve Lopez (1998). Guarding the Dream. TIME. Retrieved on August 16, 2007.
20. "Bobby's Last, Longest Day," Newsweek, June 17, 1968, p. 29.
21. Assassination of presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy (PICTURE). National Museum of American History (2007). Retrieved on 2008-05-14.
22. NikonNet and 'Legends Behind the Lens' Honor the Iconic Works of Photojournalist Bill Eppridge. NikonUSA. Retrieved on 2008-05-14.
23. "Bobby's Last, Longest Day," Newsweek, June 17, 1968, p. 29.
24. Witcover 1969, p. 272.
25. Witcover 1969, p. 273.
26. Witcover 1969, p. 273.
27. "Bobby's Last, Longest Day," Newsweek, June 17, 1968, p. 30.
28. Witcover 1969, pp. 281-82.
29. Witcover 1969, p. 289.
30. The Man Who Loved Kennedy. TIME. Retrieved on 2008-04-27.
31. Moldea 1995, p. 85.
32. Everything Was Not Enough. TIME (1968-06-14). Retrieved on 2008-04-27.
33. Rosemary Clooney: 1928-2002. cincy post (2002). Retrieved on 2008-04-01.
34. a b Behind Steel Doors. Time (1969-01-17). Retrieved on 2008-04-27.
35. Selectivity In Los Angeles. Time (1969-01-31). Retrieved on 2008-04-27.
36. Coleman 2004.
37. Ayton, Mel (2005-09-06). Part II: Why Sirhan Sirhan Assassinated Robert Kennedy by Mel Ayton. Crime magazine: An encyclopedia of crime. Retrieved on 2008-04-26.
38. The article was from the June 2 edition of the Pasadena Independent Star News. Moldea 1995, p. 52n.
39. Trial transcript, vol. 18, p. 5244 Mary Ferrell Foundation
40. a b A Deadly Iteration. TIME (1969-03-07). Retrieved on 2008-04-27.
41. Skoloff, Brian (2003-03-06). Sirhan Sirhan denied parole for 12th time. Associated Press. Retrieved on 2008-04-26.
42. Sirhan Sirhan Kept Behind Bars. CBS (2003-03-06).
43. Warren Kozak (2006-03-17). One Common Link. NY Sun.
44. a b c What Was Going On?. Time (1968-06-14). Retrieved on 2008-04-28.
45. Andrew West of KRKD (June 5, 1968). Hear it Now! RFK ASSASSINATED (AUDIO). Hear it Now!. Retrieved on 2007-08-19.
46. a b c CIA role claim in Kennedy killing. BBC (2006-11-21). Retrieved on 2008-04-27.
47. O'Sullivan, Shane. "Did the CIA kill Bobby Kennedy?", The Guardian, 2006-11-20. Retrieved on 2006-11-21.
48. Post by O'Sullivan on The Education Forum, retrieved 2008-04-27..
49. a b James Randerson (2008-02-22). New evidence challenges official picture of Kennedy shooting. Retrieved on 2008-04-28.
50. Noguchi 1985
51. FBI Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Summary, Part 1(b), p. 35, retrieved 2008-04-28. (PDF).
52. Robert F. Kennedy Assassination(Summary) - Part 1(b). Retrieved on 2008-04-28.
53. Harrison, P. (2007) ‘Analysis of “The Pruszynski Tape”’ (report on recording of gunshots). In Ayton, M., The Forgotten Terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Washington: Potomac Books.
54. a b Hoggard, Liz. "The night Bobby Kennedy was shot", The Independent on Sunday, 2007-01-21. Retrieved on 2008-05-12.
55. American Rhetoric: Edward Kennedy - Eulogy for Robert F. Kennedy. Retrieved on 2008-05-12.
56. a b Arlington National Cemetery: Visitor Information. Retrieved on 2008-05-12.
57. United States Secret Service History. Retrieved on 2008-05-12.
58. Terence Smith (2003-10-29). Transcript:Online NewsHour - Deadlines Past. Retrieved on 2008-05-18.
59. Kerridge, Steven (2007-01-27). Would Robert Kennedy have been president?. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2007-11-26.
60. Thomas 2000, p. 24
61. Schlesinger 1996
62. J. R. Jones (2008-02-28). History Now. Chicago Reader. Retrieved on 2008-05-18.
63. Beschloss, Michael. "Let's Have Conventions With Cliffhangers", New York Times, New York Times, 1996-08-11. Retrieved on 2008-05-13.

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