We've been inerested in watching the developing hysteria about opposition to Lyndon's war in Vietnam. It may be that hysteria is not too good a word to use in describing the Great Society's reaction. At first glance it appears that all the reaction is helter-skelter, unplanned, lashing-out at those who think Lyndon ought to stop slaughtering the Vietnamese people and let them work out their political problems themselves. But then, when you examine some of the details, you begin to wonder.
Most of the readers will know by this time that, the demonstration in New York last Saturday, FBI agents arrested a young fellow who burned his draft card. Lyndon and J. Edgar and all the boys seemed delighted to arm on the man who violates a federal law, and hustling him off to jail right away. Of course that's what the civil rights movement has been trying to get the FBI to do in the South for the last five years. But when FBI arrests are suggested in connection with civil rights laws is an investigating agency only and that it cannot make arrests. Countless violations of the new voting rights act by public officials and vigilantes have been reported to Lyndon's Justice Department during recent weeks. Not a single arrest has been made.
We think it's only sensible to conclude that the FBI is neither an investigating agency nor a law enforcement agency (for either of these terms imply some degree of legal and official concern about all law violations, and appropriate action based upon that concern). We think the FBI, judged by its performance, has to be characterized as a kind of quasi-official goon squad which stand by for use aginst anyone who threatens the power of those who rule this country. In the meantime, when their's no apparent serious threat to the rule of Lyndon and his cronies, of the Corporate Empire, FBI agents run around with their note pads, "investigating" this and that. You might call this "keeping in shape" for when real threats appear to what can only be called the ruling class of the U.S. It's like the war games which the military play when they're not out slaughtering folks like the Vietnamese "to preserve American freedom". Too, while they're "investigating" things like civil rights violations, the FBI agents have an opportunity to familiarize themselves and their masters with the details of the operations and personnel of civil rights organizations, peace groups, etc. Thus the basic investigative ground work will already have been laid in the event it becomes necessary to move against such groups to protect the power base of Great Society.
And it looks like this is precisely what's getting ready to happen.
J. Edgar published Tuesday an "annual report" which had been written before the demonstrations of last week-end occurred. In the report, J. Edgar said that the Communist Party of the U.S. "pressed with renewed vigor in all areas of its operations, giving special attention to slashing attacks on American foreign policy, the infiltration of the civil rights movement and youth recruitment... Denouncing U.S. action in South Viet Nam as 'brutal' and 'barbarous', the party has instructe its member to cooperate with all protest groups in order to intensify these activities and weaken the Government's publicly, for months, it seems likely that J.Edgar's report was written in anticipation of them, and with the idea in mind of opening ared-baiting attack immediately after the demonstrations occurred.
J. Edgar's companion-at-arms, Senator Eastland, with his Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, arranged to do much the same. The Subcommittee issued a 256 page red-baiting study of the "Anti-Vietnam Agitation and the Teach-in Movement", along with a news release for publication October 15, the first day of the weekend demonstrations. Senator Thomas J. Dodd, of Connecticut, said in the news release which accompanied the study, that "The control of the anti-Vietnam movement has clearly passed from the hands of moderate elements who may have controlled it at one time, into the hands of Communists...."
So here was the procession of events.
On the first day of the demonstration, October 15, the Internal Security Subcommittee release, stating the Communists control the opposition to Lyndon's Vietnam war, was the subject of newspaper stories and radio and TV comment throughout the country. Then in Saturday's newspaper and newscasts, Senator Stennis, Eastland's partner in Mississippi racism, issued a statement saying that the anti-draft movement (which is a companion to, outgrowth of, or part of, of the Anti-Vietnam movement) was an "unwarranted and disgraceful campaign" which Lyndon should jerk up "by the roots and grind it to bits before it has the opportunity to spread further." In the same news stories, Senator Henry M. Jackson was quoted as agreeing with Stennis that leaders of the antidraft campaign "are violating the Federal laws relating to our national security and should be prosecuted." Senator Jackson is frequently called the "Senator from Boeing" because of his close affiliation with and support of the Boeing Company which has hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. government contracts for the production of armaments for use in the Vietnam war.
Then, on Sunday, of course, all the newspaper and newscasts were filled with the most abusive kinds of denunciatory "observations" on the Friday and Saturday demonstrations. And on Monday Lyndon himself chimed in, saying he was surprised that any citizen "would feel toward his country in a way not consistent with the national interest and giving our adverseries a false picture of what the people actually feel in this country." On Monday, also, Katzenbach, Lyndon's chief operative at the Justice Department, siad he was going to investigate the hell out of the anti-war agitation. (We can be sure he'll devoe a lot more time, energy, resources and vigor to that investigation than he ever has to the daily pattern of criminial activity indulged in by the white racists of the South)
Finally, on Tuesday, came J. Edgar's diatribe, rounding out the charge that the agitation is really being that monster, INTERNATIONAL COMMUNISM.
It looks as though this red-baiting has a dual purpose, First, to exploit the ignorance of most Americans as to what the world, the war, and the Great Society are all about in a campaign charging that no reasonable, intelligent, "loyal" American could possibly be opposed to the slaughter in Vietnam and, that, therefore, such opposition must come from INTERNATIONAL COMMUNISM, bent upon duping Americans into betraying their own interests in world affairs. And second, if the argument can be shifted from what the U.S. is doing in Vietnam, and the reasons why it is doing it, to an argument about whether or not opposition to U.S. Foreign Policy is a part of the INTERNATIONAL COMMUNISM CONSPIRACY, Lyndon and his gang can avoid answering the increasingly embarrassing questions that are raised by the simple facts of what we're doing in Southeast Asia, and the real reasons for doing it.
And, it appears, the grand strategy of the Lyndon gang is to isolate a small minority of Americans whose convictions will not permit them to condone the wanton slaughter of a nation that's progressing daily in Vietnam (and now, apparently, also in Indonesia). If the isolation can be effected, then the dissenters can be dealt with according to the procedures already proveded by the federal laws enacte during the McCarthy period--the concentration camps.
Fascism has been festering beneath the skin of American life during the past 20 years of Cold War militarism.
Lyndon just happens to be the running sore which has finally burst through to the surface. We all know what fasicim meant in Germany, Italy and Japan. We can expect the same thing here.
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Last September the state courts in Alabama and Mississippi issued, at the request of the fine Democrat governors those two states, injunctions forbidding local reistrars t list for voting persons who were registered by the federal registrars. So long as these injunctions are in effect, the person registered by the federals under Lyndon's voting act of 1965 will be unable to vote. Already, in Mississippi, a city band election has been held in Greenwood, in which the newly registered voters were not allowed to bote. The local voting officials told the peole they couldn't vote because their names were not on the precinct lists. And they explained that the names could not be on the precinct lists, because of the injunctions forbidding the local registrars to put them there.
We've been waiting to see what the Justice Department was going to do about the injunctions. We decided we'd waited long enough, so we called the Justice Department in Washington last week to see what we could learn. We learned quite a little, though none of it was really new.
We asked the operator for John Doar's office, and the phone was answeed by a sweet-voiced female who informed us that John was not yet in the office and that he was going to leave town that morning. She wanted to know if anyone else could help us. We explained what we wanted. With respect to the Greenwood elections, the female said "Oh, we're right on top of that situation." Not being absolutely sure just what being "on top of the situation" might mean, we asked if an investigation was being conducted. She said yes. We asked who might be conducting the investigation. At this point, the lovey-lady seemed to feel she might be getting in a bit over her head, so she asked us to wait. We waited a good two minutes, long enough, we suppose, for the recording instruments to be hooked up so a record could be made of the conversation. Then a male voice came on the phone, identifying itself as belonging to Robert Owen.
We asked the Owen voice what was being done about the Greenwood elections. He said nothing was being done. We indicated a degree of surprise that the Justice Department would be so frank about it. The Owen voice, in the most cultured and persuasive, accents explained. You see, he said, the voting act requires that the federally registered voters be certified to the local registrar at least 45 days before an election in which the federally registered voters are to vote. Owen said that the federal registrars had not certified the list of voters to the Greenwood registrar until August 31. Since the elections was held on October 8, the August 31st certification was too late to qualify the new voters, under the 45 day clause, to vote in the Greenwood election. (They would have had to be certified no later than August 24.) We thanked the Owen voice for this very licid and reasonable explanation of why nothing could be done about the Greenwood election. We did not ask him why the lovely lady had told us that the election was being investigated; we supposed that whether the lady had been mistaken, or she had been instructed to reply that way to all inquiries by civil rights organizations.
We then asked Owen what was being done, or planned, abou the ALabama and Mississippi injuctions prohibiting the lising of federally registered voters by the local registars. He first explainded that this injunction against the Leflore County registar was also a barrier vote in the October 8 election. Then, he went on, there was the general matter of the injunctions and what to do about them. He was very militant and specific on the Justice Department's intentions about that. "We got to do something about those injuctions," he said. We asked him what was being planned. He said that the Justice Department was "studying" the injunctions. The Mississippi injuctions went into effect September 8. The Alabama injunctions went into effect September 15. The Justice Department, then, has been "studying" these simple injuctions for better than six weeks. Comptent simply to ask a federal court for an order restraining the state courts from enforcing their injunctions. They say at any time since the state court injunctions were handed down. It's hard to figure what could be keeping the Justice Department from going ahead. Owen didn't offer any suggestions that would help. But we examined rather closely what happened in those Greenwood elections, and uncovered some facts which seem to show that the Justice Department, the federal registars, and Lyndon are not much interested in using the voting rights act to secure the vote for Southern Negroes.
The Greenwood election involved a $250,000 bond issue. The money was to be used for the construction of new "law enforcement facilities". We suppose these "facilities" reanged from new cattle prods to better steel on the jailhouse bars and nicer recreational facilitie for the cops. Considering the record of the Greenwood police during the past years, it could hardly be expected that the new Negro voters would look wih much favor on voting them money for more and better facilities. And we think this may have somehting to do with the performance of the federal registars and he Justice Department.
The voting rights act of 1965 provides that the federal registars shall certify the newly registered voters to the local registar "at least once a month." Now where does the act provide that the federal registars must wait until the end of the month to certify the new voters. Indeed, the act anticpates more frequent certifications when it provides that "any such lists and supplements there to transmitted during the month shall be available for public inspection on the last business day of the month." (emphasis added)
Federal registars moved into Greenwood on August 11. By August 19, the federal reported they had registered 2,451 new Negro voters. On August 35, the federals reported the total of newly registered Negro voters to be 3,597. As noted above, the deadline for certifying the new voters to the local registar for voting in the October 8 election, was August 24. Thus, there were somewhere between 2,451 and 3,597 new voters who could have been certified for voting in the October 8 election, if the federal registars had chosen to certify them.
Furthermore, since the injunctions prohiiting listing of the new voters by the local registar did not go into effect until September 8, the injunctions could not have been a barrier to listing by the local registar on the deadline date of August 24 for voting the October 8 election.
Thus it appears that the Justice Department, the federal registars, and the rest of the federal appartus involved, may have conspired with the local Greenwood officials to prevent the newly registered Negroes from voting in the bond election which the negroes would most likely have voted against. Only residents of Greenwood 2,500 or so of new voters wouldn't have been able to vote. Many of them doubtless live outside the city limits. However, if only one-fifth of them lived in the city, that would have been sufficient to defeat the bond issue it won by a vote of 738 to 214.
And even if you do not figure that the federal agents conspired with the local whites to prevent the Negroes from voting in the election, you have to ask just how diligently the federal agents performed their duty in not seeing to it that as many as possible of the new voters were able to exercise the franchise as soon as possible after passage of Lyndon's Great Voting Rights Act of 1965.
After all, it has been 100 years, now.
While his agents in Greenwood were, intentionally or unintentionally, subverting the voting rights act, John Doar, Assistant Attorney General in chare of the civil rights division of the Justice Department, issured a statement in wahington (August 25, was the date) stating of Mississippi officials that "People down there have demonstrated a respect for the law." It was not only a lie to say this about the Mississippi "people"; it wasn't even true to say it about the federal official charged with the responsibility of seeing to it that the voting rights act was implemented in Greenwood.
Meanwhile, the injuction in Alabama and Mississippi are still in effect and the Justice Department is "studying."
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Lyndon, of course, is very upset about all this. He's so upset that he order Katzenbach to investigate the Anti-Vietnam demonstrators.
Then he showed reporters the scar from his gall-bladder operation.
Jack Minnis October 21, 1965
Copyright © Jack Minnis, 1965