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Simpich writes: "Bobby took the hardest blow that anyone can imagine - the assassination of his brother - and rose up to fight again. His power - his passion - is the heart of his hidden legacy."

Robert F. Kennedy delivers his victory speech for the 1968 California democratic primary at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Moments later he was shot. (photo: Dick Strobel/AP)
Robert F. Kennedy delivers his victory speech for the 1968 California democratic primary at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Moments later he was shot. (photo: Dick Strobel/AP)

Bobby Kennedy and the Promise of Rebirth

By Bill Simpich, Reader Supported News

05 June 18

“The key question is to pass beyond the facts of CIA’s operations to the reasons they were established – which inexorably will lead to economic questions:

“Preservation of property relations and other institutions on which rest the interests of our own wealthy and privileged minority.

These, not the CIA, are the critical issue.“

– Philip Agee, CIA officer.

t was 1968.

Bobby Kennedy was running for President.

He offered the opportunity to redeem the terrible slaying of his brother.

Bobby blamed himself for Jack’s death. If it hadn’t have been for the machinations around Cuba, Jack might have still been President.

Bobby was in the middle of those machinations. He had been giving advice to the CIA on how to do its job in Latin America and elsewhere. Many Agency officers did not appreciate his efforts, and said so.

He had his own ideas on how to overthrow Castro – while ordering the Agency to stop working with the Mafia to assassinate the Cuban leader.

He had his own ruthless side. Historian Evan Thomas has described how Bobby considered manufacturing an incident to justify an American invasion in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis.

He also supported his brother when Jack changed tactics and tried to reach rapproachement with Fidel in the summer and autumn of 1963.

In the days after Jack’s death, both Bobby and Jackie Kennedy reached out to the Russians and told them that they believed that JFK had been killed due to a domestic operation.

LBJ didn’t want any part of Cuba after what happened to JFK. He turned to Vietnam.

The escalation of civil rights struggles in the midst of a war economy resulted in a social explosion. LBJ was forced to step down. Bobby found himself being forced to step up.

The question of “who had what” and “who had how much” was on the table.

The Black Panthers were seen doing security at his big city rallies.

He traveled to the Mississippi Delta to learn more about poverty.

Cesar Chavez and Bobby stood together in the Central Valley fields.

Working-class white people embraced RFK as one of their own. He was Irish. His father was a bootlegger.

Religious leaders welcomed him. He was a devout Catholic, fiercely ecumenical.

He was determined to bring an end to the Vietnam War.

In a divisive time, a terrible time, he offered the possibility of healing.

He delivered an incredible oration in Indianapolis that prevented riots in that city during the night that Martin Luther King was killed.

To that largely African American audience, he spoke about Aeschylus, the ancient Greek playwright. Aeschylus is known as the father of tragedy.

Bobby had studied Aeschylus in his attempts to cope with his profound suffering.

Aeschylus worked in a vineyard. He told how the god Dionysus visited him in his sleep. Dionysus commanded him to make tragedy his life’s work.

Aeschylus and his brother Cynegeirus fought to defend Athens during the Persian invasion at the Battle of Marathon. The Athenians triumphed over impossible odds. Cynegeirus, however, died in the battle.

From memory, Bobby quoted Aeschylus to the men and women turned towards him that night.

“He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”

Even now, it is hard to grasp the loss of Martin Luther King. Or Medgar Evers. Or the four little girls in Birmingham. Or Malcolm. Or many other civil rights leaders.

When there was a second Kennedy assassination, it seemed like the end of hope.

Many of Bobby’s followers turned to the right and voted for George Wallace in the general election, a Southern governor who stood for segregation.

What made it even worse – if humanly possible – is that there was no attempt for justice for Bobby.

Everyone knew Sirhan Sirhan had fired a revolver – but the coroner made a critical finding.

“The powder residue pattern on the right ear of Senator Kennedy was caused at a muzzle distance of approximately one inch.”

No one saw Sirhan get closer than two feet from RFK. No one ever saw him get behind Bobby’s head. The acoustics evidence showed 13 shots. There were more than eight bullet holes. Sirhan’s revolver held eight bullets.

The evidence was manipulated by a special police unit led by Manuel Pena, who intimidated witnesses and misconstrued the facts at every turn. Pena had been working on special assignments for the CIA for more than ten years.

The autopsy report showing the “one inch muzzle distance” was not given to Sirhan’s lawyer Grant Cooper until he had already stipulated to his client’s guilt.

Furthermore, Cooper was fatally compromised. The attorney was facing disbarment due to a controversy involving grand jury papers found on his desk while he was on a defense team representing Johnny Rosselli, a key player in the CIA-Mafia plots to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Cooper wasn’t about to rock the boat by putting the government on trial. He used a diminished capacity defense and ignored the second gunman evidence. It was no surprise that this anemic approach failed. Sirhan was convicted for first degree murder and was given life in prison. Why did Sirhan do it? Who were his compatriots? We, the people, learned nothing.

From the seventies onward, the progressive challenge was to fight against succumbing to apathy. Poverty in America went from bad to worse. The forces of military and intelligence took a momentary hit after Vietnam, only to proceed to double and redouble their formidable budgets.

Many progressive organizers were no longer willing to work in national politics – or politics at all.

George McGovern managed to obtain the Democratic nomination in 1972 – only to learn later on that his victory was the plan of the Nixon inner circle. Nixon’s people sabotaged the campaign of the more centrist Ed Muskie.

Remember Lucianne Goldberg – the woman who convinced Linda Tripp to convince Monica Lewinsky to hold on to the blue dress with Clinton’s DNA all over it? During 1972, she succeeded in the outing of McGovern’s vice presidential candidate Tom Eagleton for electroshock treatments, effectively destroying any chance the campaign had to overtake Nixon’s reelection machine.

There was a resurgence of progressive work in the 70s – steadily beaten down and marginalized by the strange terrors of the SLA, the Zebra Killings, and Jonestown. The strange deaths of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. The mysterious assassination of RFK champion Al Lowenstein, one of the only politicians questioning the cause of Bobby’s assassination.

All of these tragedies – from JFK’s death to the shooting of Reagan – had one thing in common: the determined incuriosity of the elected classes and the media. Any organized attempt to investigate these events was waved off as unpatriotic or scoffed at as paranoid.

The result was predictable: A country that no longer knows its history. A nation with little belief in progress, or even the notion of progress. A culture that can be readily manipulated by yet another shock or media event.

The shooting of leaders seemed to end with the shooting of Reagan. The strange events then shifted to “honey traps” – Gary Hart and Bill Clinton were just two men whose careers and reputations took a U-turn. Plenty of Republican and Democratic leaders were taken down in the process. A particularly virulent form of opposition research.

The underground economy of drugs became as large as the visible economy. Arms trading, secret wars, Iraq, Afghanistan – fueled by the powerful tools emerging from Silicon Valley – became the driver of employment. The economy of the middle of the country was hollowed out. Manufacturers fled to the Third World for fewer regulations and cheaper labor. Meanwhile, the cost of real estate on the coastlines of the US and Western Europe spiraled to undreamed-of heights.

Now, in 2018, economic dislocation is the order of the day. Like in FDR’s time.

People in the West now realize what they have in common. In a culture based on possessions, most Americans own relatively little. The last thirty years have seen the biggest transfer of wealth from one social class to another in human history. One percent of the population controls about 40 percent of the resources.

The antipoverty organizer Cheri Honkala likes to say: “The poor have zero. They don’t own anything, so they can’t owe anything. A big portion of the middle class is $80,000 or more in debt.”

It’s no accident that candidates like Bernie Sanders have risen to the forefront. For decades, people on the left did contortions to avoid being called “liberals.” Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist.” The polls show that enormous sectors of the voting population identify with his description.

In an era where Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, #NeverAgain, Fight for 15, and the Poor People’s Campaign are gaining traction, Bernie Sanders is just about the only socialist member of Congress. It’s hard to describe a more profound disconnect between the state and the people.

It’s also hard to describe a more profound disconnect for my generation, the Boomers. Ever since the Kennedys and the McGovern effort, progressives have been in the political wilderness.

With the aid of a corporate-driven security council, the Carter administration thought it would be clever to create a quagmire for the Soviets in Afghanistan. Then they invited the Shah of Iran to take refuge in the United States. It’s been downhill ever since.

The Boomers began their lives with youthful dreams of utopia. We have now spent our adult lives surrounded by Republicans and Republican-like Democrats. For most of my life, the legacy of FDR being prodded by vibrant social movements seemed as distant as Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years’ War.

The centrist Obama offered a brief moment of hope. Occupy and the social movements that erupted during Obama’s time were far more significant. Bernie Sanders opened the door to something real.

Look at the elections this week. Progressives are rising up around the country. Young working-class veterans are joining the fight, coming from a social milieu that doesn’t usually run for office.

These candidates would be getting nowhere without the emerging social movements. These movements are led by people of color and the millennials – the essential ingredients for lasting social change.

Last week, RFK Jr. called for a new investigation of his father’s death, stating that he was now convinced there was a second gunman. His call was joined by his sister in Maryland, Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

The Kennedy family, for understandable reasons, has historically been reluctant to endanger any more family members by taking a position on this explosive question. Many Americans ask a related question: What’s the point?

On one level, it’s important to know everything we can know. Only then can we move on. On another level, it always comes back to the same thing.

Until a culture is willing to look into its heart of darkness, and grapple with its own weaknesses, nothing much is going to change. The only way to move forward is to face the greatest fears and come to terms with the hardest parts of reality. It’s nothing less than what Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and others call the hero’s journey.

It’s no different than looking at the history of racism or the roots of war. When you look at the life of Bobby Kennedy, there is one distinguishing characteristic – and it’s not his heroic death.

Bobby took the hardest blow that anyone can imagine – the assassination of his brother – and rose up to fight again. His power – his passion – is the heart of his hidden legacy. What Bobby Kennedy offers to all of us is the promise of rebirth.

Bill Simpich is an Oakland attorney who knows that it doesn't have to be like this. He was part of the legal team chosen by Public Justice as Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2003 for winning a jury verdict of 4.4 million in Judi Bari's lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland police. your social media marketing partner


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+17 # barkingcarpet 2018-06-05 09:23
Bobby Kennedy was a good and great human working for a better world for all. Taken out by those corrupted by control, power, and excess greed.

What are we doing to change the World, with our time here?

Are we actively involved or taking paths of least resistance into questionable futures?
+10 # Benign Observer 2018-06-05 09:37
Three of the greatest tragedies in post-WW2 America are the formation of the CIA and the assassinations of RFK and MLK, not unrelated.
+2 # AldoJay69 2018-06-06 09:27
The CIA was not post-WW2, it was the continuation of the OSS which worked for FDR's WW2 effort. They were cowboys who wouldn't hang up their spurs. Thanks, Truman!
BTW, I would consider the assassination of JFK to be the biggest tragedy. After 1968 he would have been Bobby's consigliere, but I digress.
0 # Benign Observer 2018-06-11 10:05
Exactly. Not sure what you're disputing. The OSS was formed and acted during WW2. The CIA was formed and named in 1947. Regardless of its origin, the CIA was formed post-WW2.

JFK was not as liberal as Bobby became. Personally I consider RFK and MLK the greater tragedies for our society, though I certainly wish JFK had been around all this time too.
+12 # Observer 47 2018-06-05 11:13
Outstanding article! When Bobby was killed, the CIA/MIC and the other dark forces achieved their goal: the end of hope for a better world. Now, 50 years later, there is finally a glimmer of that same hope, embodied by the young people of today. This boomer is amazed and gratified to see a little light showing at last.
0 # RICHARDKANE.Philadelphia 2018-06-05 12:23
An extremely similar assassination is of Israel's peace Prime Minister Rabin, and I think also of Officer Danny Faulkner the only non-corrupt police officer in "Wikipedia's 39th District Corruption Scandal" [DON"T KNOW HOW TO EMBED LINKS] The officer was likely first shot by Mumia abu Jamal’s gun but not the up close bullet to Faulkner's head which was ruled inconclusive as coming from Mumia gun. The badly wounded Mumia supposedly ran up close to Faulkner and fired again then staggered back to where he was first shot, to lose consciousness in a pool of blood.
Mumia's main supporters claimed a missing powder test means Mumia never fired his gun. However, whoever signed as conducting the powder test would have had to note whether or not blood from Faulkner's splattered brain was on Mumia's gun. Sadly Mumia activists don't take the time to investigate who really killed Officer Faulkner which would have been too dangerous before Obama became President and Prosecutor Lynne Abraham left office. CONTINUED
-1 # AldoJay69 2018-06-06 09:30
"An extremely similar assassination" is Joe Colombo. Can you say CIA/Mafia?
0 # RICHARDKANE.Philadelphia 2018-06-05 12:26
As for Sirhan Sirhan, Paul Schrade who Sirhan shot, asked that Sirhan be given parole because Paul asserted Sirhan never killed Robert Kennedy, and asked for help from the Innocence Project to free Sirhan. If the other victims and relatives would do the same this would totally change the dynamics.

Particularly awkward would be for Dr. King's relatives to ask that gun supplier James Earl Ray be set free, but doing so would open that case up also.

The ideal scenario would be for ex-corruption prosecutor Robert Kennedy Jr. to ask to be appointed Assistant Prosecutor with the overwhelmed new Philadelphia Prosecutor Larry Krasner; but any competent investigator could get involved.
+11 # librarian1984 2018-06-05 18:43
Bobby represented the best of US, someone who was grew and evolved, someone born into wealth who, like FDR, came to love everyone.

I curse the people who took this wonderful man from us. I sure as hell wouldn't name an airport after them.
+3 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-06-08 13:51
Research William Turner and Raznikov (sp.?) Bobby's campaign manager in California. They proved Sirhan shot Bobby, but did not kill him. A private guard standing behind Bobby fired the fatal shot.
Sadly Bernie is the first politician since Bobby that I have believed in (the past 48 years). Reopen the investigation NOW.
0 # NAVYVET 2018-06-08 20:03
I was a Naval officer during JFK's term and when RFK was also assassinated. I had come to realize that Kennedys, their cabinet, theier CIA and close supporters were the architects of the US's cold war policy that quagmired us in the war in Vietnam that killed tens of thousands of USians and millions of Vietnamese. That incredibly idiotic war was based not on good sense--but mostly on chest thumping machismo. The Kennedys, raised by a pathological father, were conditioned to use and abuse women, and that desentitized them to human life in general. Kennedys to Drumpf is easy to imagine. PLEASE--no more Kennedy nostalgia! I mourned when they were killed, but although I voted for JFK in 1960, considering that the alternative was Nixon, after the Missile Crisis of October 1962 I vowed never again to vote for a Kennedy. For me, two good things came of it. I began to save money with the goal of resigning my commission. And I diligently studied the history of socialism in the US, realizing that the Left was where I belonged.

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