The assassination of Robert Kennedy, Part 1
June 5th marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy in the kitchen area of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. It was shortly after midnight. An exhausted Kennedy had just finished addressing the crowd gathered to celebrate his victory in the California primary for the Democratic nomination to the presidency. His next stop was Chicago. If he won in Illinois, the nomination was his.
It's difficult to imagine, today, what Robert Kennedy meant to many in the U.S. in 1968. There is really no parallel that can be drawn with any politician since. Following the death of his brother, John, in Dallas less than 5 years previous, the nation has been brought almost to the brink of civil war under the Johnson administration. Millions were taking to the streets across the country to protest the war in Vietnam, political factions were springing up like wildflowers after a rain, the yippies were engaging in irreverent “political theater,” the hippies were tuning in, turning on and dropping out, the Black Panther's Bobby Hutton, only 17 years old, was killed by the Oakland, California Police. His house was set on fire, forcing Hutton, unarmed, to run into a hail of bullets. He was hit ten times.
Just two days before Hutton's death, Martin Luther King was assassinated. The man charged with and convicted of the crime was James Earl Ray. Four months before the assassination, Ray lived in Los Angeles and had been hypnotized by Reverend Xavier von Koss, head of the International Society of Hypnosis. For some reason, Los Angeles had become connected to a long string of deaths under mysterious circumstances around that time, including a rather long list of bizarre associations and killings centered around the Laural Canyon music crowd. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The country Robert Kennedy sought the presidency of was fractured and, so it seemed to many, on the brink of collapse. Or perhaps it would explode. Whites were afraid of the uprising Blacks, Blacks were arming themselves to defend themselves from police who had shown clearly that they thought nothing of murdering them in cold blood, and Hispanics were rising up to demand fair treatment and pay for their hard labor. The Florida Education Association instituted the nations first state-wide teachers strike.
Then there was the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, in which U.S. soldiers killed as many as 504 unarmed civilians. Many were raped and tortured before being killed. The U.S. Congress repealed the necessity to back the dollar with gold. And, in a grand effort to turn everyone's mind away from the horrors gripping the country, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (the name a play on a form of non-violent protest being used at the time called a sit-in) debuted on NBC. The year before was the infamous "Summer of Love" and the year following would see a gathering of hundreds of thousands for a music festival at Woodstock.
Every political and social card was up in the air and no one knew where they would land.
And into the middle of this chaos came the younger brother of John Kennedy, affectionately referred to by many as simply Bobby. He had served as Attorney General of the United States in his brother's administration. During that time, he earned a reputation for being highly intelligent, indefatigable, and unbelievably honest. As one contemporary stated,
The politicians are half people as a rule or 60% people. The other 40% is some putty that's trying to please and beg and plead and whine. You can't even have a drink with them. Their awful. It's a bad breed. [Bobby] was almost a whole person, yes, which is a rarity in politics.
Bobby Kennedy's integrity was tested time and again, always with the same result. He was, as far as anyone could tell, incorruptible. He approved the prosecution of Judge Vincent Keogh on bribery charges. Keogh's brother was a powerful congressman (whose name has been memorialized in the Keogh retirement plan) and staunch supporter of John Kennedy. Even JFK had hoped that Bobby would not follow through with the prosecution and sent a message to his brother to that effect by inviting Congressman Keogh as his guest to the 1962 Army/Navy football game. But Bobby proceeded with the prosecution. The judge was convicted of bribery, along with the mobster, Tony 'Ducks' Corralo.
Bobby had more than just integrity, however. He had the looks, self-assurance and stage presence of a seasoned Hollywood star. He could crack a joke off the cuff and made everyone who he spoke with feel respected and at ease. His popularity crossed all races. In short, Bobby Kennedy was a man who many believed would be able to begin the process of healing the rifts that were tearing the country apart and institute social policies that could put the U.S. on a path to become the nation it had always believed itself to be.
The were probably right. And the powers-that-be were terrified of what might happen if Bobby Kennedy became president.
Yet even worse for the PTB—for social policies that would have been implemented by Kennedy could have been undone by future administrations—was another crime Bobby sought justice for: the assassination of his brother in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Given his track record as Attorney General, there could be no doubt in the minds of anyone involved about whether he would succeed. But, in order to find the truth behind the events of that day, Bobby needed control over the Justice Department. And the only way he would gain that control was to become President of the United States.
On June 5th 1968, just after midnight, Bobby Kennedy delivered the final words of his California primary victory speech to an adoring crowd in the Embassy Ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel, then left the stage. He was one primary away from securing the Democratic nomination, and only moments away from his death.
Following his speech, Kennedy was to give a press conference in the Colonial Room of the hotel. It was suggested to him that he take a short cut through the kitchen. He was lead through by security guard Thane Eugene Cesar. As Cesar pushed him through the crowd, a young, quiet Palestinian man named Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, with no history of violence, psychological problems or political activity, appeared. He pointed a .22 caliber Iver Johnson pistol at Kennedy and fired two shots before being subdued. As members of Kennedy's entourage attempted to wrest the pistol from his hand, he fired the other six rounds still in his pistol, wounding five others in the crowd.
And then things really started to get weird.
What follows only scratches the surface of a vast web of, let's call it coincidence and happenstance, surrounding the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Conspiracy has become such an ugly word these days, and it is a very difficult thing to prove. In this case, everyone saw Sirhan pull a gun and fire at Kennedy. He was wrestled to the ground with the gun still in his hand. He was even pulling the trigger while he was being subdued. An open and shut case if ever there was one.
And yet, as you will see, things are rarely as they appear on the surface. Yes, Sirhan did point a .22 at Kennedy and pull the trigger. Yes, he was witnessed doing it. Yes, he did still have the gun in his hand when he was subdued. But there is far more to this story, not the least of which is this: it can be shown from evidence presented in court that not only did Sirhan not fire the fatal shot that killed Bobby Kennedy, he apparently fired no real shots at him at all. His gun, it would appear, was loaded with blanks!
But I'm getting ahead of myself again. We'll start with a round-up of the usual suspects along with a few less-than-usual. Bring your spider repellent folks, because you are about to walk in to one hellacious web.
More to come...