It’s interesting to compare the attitude of the U.S. mainstream press toward the assassination of Benazir Bhutto with its attitude toward the assassination of President John Kennedy.
The immediate reaction of the American press (and U.S. government officials) to the Bhutto killing has been a presumption of a conspiracy. Equally important, among the prime suspects are Pakistani intelligence agencies.
For example, the New York Times reported:
“Pakistani and Western security experts said the government’s insistence that Ms. Bhutto, a former prime minister, was not killed by a bullet was intended to deflect attention from the lack of government security around her…. Her vehicle came under attack by a gunman and suicide bomber as she left a political rally in Rawalpindi, where the Pakistani Army keeps its headquarters, and where the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency has a strong presence.”
“The new images of the men who appear to have been Ms. Bhutto’s assassins showed one dressed in a sleeveless black waistcoat and rimless sunglasses, and holding aloft what appeared to be a gun. He had a short haircut and wore the kind of attire reminiscent of plainclothes intelligence officials, though Al Qaeda and other militants have also been known to dress attackers in Western-style clothing in order to disguise them.”
Yet, in the Kennedy assassination, the presumption has always been the exact opposite. After the killing, the U.S. mainstream press immediately embraced the conclusion quickly reached by U.S. officials that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone assassin as well as the decision by federal officials to immediately shut down any serious investigation into whether there was a conspiracy behind the killing, including a conspiracy in which U.S. intelligence agencies might have participated.
Why is the mainstream press considering the possibility that Pakistani intelligence agencies were behind the Bhutto killing? According to the Guardian, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies “are widely believed to carry out kidnappings, unlawful detentions and extrajudicial killings. The speed with which the government accused al-Qaida did little to allay fears of state involvement, and conflicting accounts of the cause of death have convinced many of a cover-up.”
Yet, as everyone knows, U.S. intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, have long been involved in the same sort of nefarious activities — kidnappings, torture, coups, murder, and assassinations, even as far back as the Kennedy administration.
Now, notice that no one in the mainstream press is screaming, “Conspiracy theory! Conspiracy theory!” in response to the suspicion that Pakistani intelligence agencies might have been behind the Bhutto killing. On the contrary, the mainstream press is actually treating such a conspiracy as a viable possibility.
Yet, whenever someone suggests that U.S. intelligence agencies might have been involved in the JFK killing, the immediate attitude of the U.S. mainstream press is exactly the opposite: “Conspiracy theory! Conspiracy theory!”
The longtime protective attitude toward the CIA among the mainstream press has been most recently reflected in the controversy over the CIA’s obstruction of justice and cover-up in the George Joannides matter. Despite the ominous overtones of the Joannides scandal, the entire matter has been met with a collective yawn of indifference among the mainstream press.
During the time that Oswald was in New Orleans, one of the groups with which he interacted was a virulent anti-Castro student group in New Orleans. Oswald first approached the group by offering his services as a former U.S. Marine to help train anti-Castro guerrillas. Soon after that, Oswald switched roles and took a pro- Castro position, causing him to get into an altercation with the same anti-Castro group.
Soon after the Kennedy assassination, that New Orleans anti-Castro group made a big deal to the press about Oswald being a pro-Castro advocate. What no one knew at the time, however, was that the CIA was funding the group, a fact that, for some reason, CIA officials knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately kept from the Warren Commission.
Then, when the House Select Committee on Assassinations reopened the investigation into the Kennedy assassination in the 1970s, the CIA called a CIA official, George Joannides, out of retirement to serve as the liaison between the CIA and the House committee.
Why Joannides? Well, he was the CIA contact for the anti-Castro group in New Orleans with whom Oswald had had that interaction. He was the guy in charge of funneling the CIA money into the group. He, along with his superiors at the CIA, kept his role secret from the Warren Commission. He was also the guy who kept his role secret from the House Select Committee during the 1970s even though the CIA was supposedly cooperating with the committee’s investigation.
In other words, when Joannides was called out of retirement to serve as the CIA’s liaison with the House Committee, CIA officials knew that he could be trusted to keep the Joannides information secret from the House investigators.
For the past few years, the CIA has been fighting vehemently to keep the American people from viewing its Joannides files. Why? Well, the CIA’s position is that if the public were to see such files, the entire security of the United States would be threatened.
Now, think for a moment how ridiculous that position is. How in the world could the disclosure of files relating to a CIA’s relationship to an anti-Castro group with whom Lee Harvey Oswald interacted some four decades ago threaten the national security of the United States? The fact is: It couldn’t. It’s a ridiculous claim.
A few weeks ago, a U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the CIA to search for the Joannides files and provide a report of its findings to a federal district judge. My hunch is that the CIA, which is currently undergoing scrutiny for its intentional destruction of videotapes showing CIA agents torturing a suspected terrorist, is going to have a difficult time finding those files, perhaps for the same reason that it can’t produce those torture videotapes.
Yet, the U.S. mainstream press will undoubtedly accept without any question whatever explanation the CIA comes up with, including “national security,” even while the press accepts as perfectly natural the possibility that Pakistani intelligence agencies killed Bhutto.
I can’t help but wonder whether Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf will appoint a blue-ribbon investigatory commission to investigate the Bhutto killing, headed up by one of those Supreme Court justices that he recently appointed to the court after he fired the independent justices that were serving on the court. Such a commission might not satisfy the Pakistani people but at least it would be likely to resolve doubts among the U.S. mainstream press.