Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Assassination and Mrs. Paine: Behind the Curtin

Edward Curtin says that he is very concerned about "human duplicity." So much so that he has written a book about it called Seeking Truth in a Country of Lies: Critical & Lyrical Essays. Seems like a noble cause. That is, until you look behind the curtain, which is what his website claims he himself does, at his review of Max Good's film The Assassination and Mrs. Paine. Good himself has promoted the review as "thoughtful."

But the ostensible truth seeker Curtin spreads so much misinformation in this review that it is difficult to know where to begin. However, a look at Curtin's world view is instructive. Curtin believes that "all" of the mainstream media—CBS, ABC, The Washington Post, etc.—"speak for the Central Intelligence Agency." Curtin says that "many journalists and academics hold dual positions, since they secretly work as assets for the intelligence services."

Notably, Curtin completely agrees with the late Vincent Salandria who he believes was one of the "most brilliant critics of the official story." A quote from Salandria that Curtin finds significant enough to blockquote in his review is the following:

There is no mystery here. It’s all self-evident. It was a coup. It was designed to be a false mystery and the debate would be eternal and why (emphasis by Curtin) it [killing JFK] was done – forgotten. In order to commit yourself to truth here, you’re changing your real identity from a citizen of a democracy to a subject of a military empire. A big step.

Having ascertained where Curtin is coming from, let's take a look at the misleading and inaccurate statements (highlighted in green) from his review and my responses. Because, as Curtin says, "Human duplicity is a marvel to contemplate."

"...a good number of the people who appear in The Assassination and Mrs. Paine have no ostensible institutional affiliation but may be working in some capacity for an invisible institutional paymaster who calls their tunes. No names required."

Curtin doesn't want to mention names for legal reasons but he is obviously talking about Ruth Paine, Max Holland and Gerald Posner among others. In response to Curtin's qualified assertion, I will simply quote Max Holland from Good's film:

A favorite tactic of conspiracy theorists is to make accusations that anybody who they disagree with has a connection with the intelligence community. It's been made against me, it's been made against Ruth and Michael. The only explanation could be that we’re part of the coverup, paid by the CIA ...

Curtin, by the way, is one of those who has proven Holland's point for the umpteenth time just since the film was released in June.

"Her [Ruth Paine's] testimony led to the WC’s conclusion that Oswald, and Oswald alone shot, the president."

One hundred percent false. See complete discussions of the subject here and here. What led to the WC conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin was the overwhelming evidence they uncovered. The vast majority of that evidence has nothing to do with Ruth or Michael Paine.

"The Assassination and Mrs. Paine is Max Good’s second full-length documentary. He came to the subject after reading a section (pp.168-172) on Ruth and Michael Paine in James W. Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters, a book considered by many to be the best on the JFK assassination."

See the late Professor John McAdams' demolition of Douglass here.

"she [Ruth] agreed to be interviewed, something she has done for 59 years, always protesting her innocence even though over the decades researchers have uncovered much evidence to the contrary."

"Researchers" have uncovered precisely NO evidence that Ruth was guilty of being involved in a plot to kill JFK or a plot to cover-up such a conspiracy. What they have "uncovered" is many people who are suspicious of her. The reason these individuals are suspicious is that they believe there was a conspiracy to kill JFK and Ruth's first-hand experience with Oswald must be explained away in an expedient manner because it doesn't fit into any of their theories.

"The Paines, who have claimed they are pacifists, might best be superficially described as unassuming, liberal Quaker/Unitarian do-gooders, whose wealth and astounding family and intelligence connections would make heads spin, if they were known. The film exposes many of those connections."

Unfounded doubts about the sincerity of the Paines religious beliefs are discussed here. The fact that Michael Paine came from a wealthy family and both Ruth and Michael have "connections" that theorists find suspicious were not "exposed" by Max Good. These facts have been known for years.

"The fundamental undisputed facts are as follows. In February 1963, Ruth, who spoke and taught Russian, was invited to a party by George de Mohrenschildt, a White Russian CIA asset who was ‘babysitting' Lee Harvey Oswald at the request of the CIA. There she met Oswald."

Curtin's "undisputed facts" are anything but. It was not de Mohrenschildt but Everett Glover who invited Ruth to the party. And Curtin's assertion that de Mohrenschildt was "babysitting" Oswald stems from his interview with journalist Edward Epstein which occurred when the baron was suffering from a demonstrable mental illness. It should also be mentioned that de Mohrenschildt was being paid by the Reader's Digest for the interview and he undoubtedly wanted to give Epstein something new for his money. J. Walton Moore, the Domestic Contact employee who de Mohrenschildt knew, denied that he had spoken to the baron about Oswald. Read much more about de Mohrenschildt and the suspicions of theorists here.

"On her long road trip south, she made numerous stops, including at her sister Sylvia Hyde Hoke’s house in Falls Church, Virginia. Sylvia worked for the CIA, as documents have confirmed, and her husband worked for the agency’s front, the U.S. Agency for International Development..."

Since Curtin likes facts, here are a few. Ruth's father and brother-in-law probably worked for USAID. But not everyone in USAID is secretly working for the CIA. And the fact that Ruth visited her sister while on a road trip is hardly newsworthy. There is no credible evidence that Ruth ever worked for the CIA as an agent or asset. And there is no evidence that any family member was feeding her instructions from Allen Dulles.

"...yet to this day – and in Good’s interview in the film – she claims not to know where her sister worked."

Ruth "to this day" is completely aware that her sister worked in an evidently non-covert capacity for the CIA. Why would she not be—Good showed her documents that proved it. But Sylvia Hoke was undoubtedly not broadcasting her relationship with the agency and it seems that while Ruth was aware that her sister was employed by the government in some capacity, she never pressed the issue further.

"In mid-October, again out of alleged kindness, she got Lee a job in the Texas School Book Depository, despite calls to her house from an employment agency offering him a much higher paying job. When asked about this by the Warren Commission, Ruth gave an evasive answer."

Researcher Greg Doudna has addressed this issue here. The short version is that it is unknown if the man from the employment office told Ruth that the prospective job paid more than the one Oswald had just taken at the Texas School Book Depository. But theorists like Curtin will undoubtedly continue to say that she knowingly withheld this information even though they can offer no proof of it.

"Then when JFK was killed, an empty blanket roll that allegedly held Oswald’s rifle was found in the Paines’ garage."

Ruth knew nothing of the rifle or the blanket roll that held it. That information was provided to the authorities by Marina Oswald.

"And Ruth claimed to have found a note – the ”Walker Note” that was used to show his propensity for violence – and a letter also allegedly written by Oswald to the Russian Embassy that was used as evidence of his guilt."

The Walker note is discussed here. Both the signature on the letter that Oswald wrote to the Soviet embassy and the draft that he worked from were confirmed by handwriting experts to have been written by him. In any case, the letter merely helped to confirm his presence in Mexico and did not establish his "guilt" in the JFK, Tippit or Walker shootings.

"The Paines have always said that Oswald killed Kennedy to make a name for himself – the little man kills the big one syndrome. They repeat this in the documentary. Ruth says of Oswald, “He realized he had the opportunity to no longer be a little guy but someone extraordinary.” But as Jim DiEugenio (one of the finest and most informed commentators in the film) says, if that were so, then why did Oswald always claim he was innocent, a patsy who didn’t shoot anyone. Those who wish to kill to make a name for themselves obviously claim credit, but the Paines seem not to get this. Their claim makes no sense, yet they both repeat it in the film."

What would make no sense would be Oswald incriminating himself in a death penalty state. There was no need for him to declare that he was guilty to "make a name for himself." Every news camera and every reporter in the world was already focused on him. By he way, Jim DiEugenio has a poor track record as a JFK scholar.

"Paine’s defenders make sure to bash Oliver Stone and his film, JFK..."

Stone's film was universally bashed by just about everyone in the know. Read about it here.

"Bill Simpich interjects that there is “something about the Ruth Paine story that simply doesn't jell.” Good then proceeds to ask Ruth a series of hard questions that viewers will find very interesting. But he never lets the audience know what he has concluded about her guilt or innocence. He is impartial to the end."

Nonsense. Good has stated in interviews that the book that began his JFK research was Douglass' JFK and the Unspeakable. And that volume is certainly critical of the Paines. In addition, I have done a study of the objectivity of the film and concluded that it is clearly slanted toward the conspiracy side.

Interestingly, in a recent interview with the San Antonio Express News, Good stated that he had reached some conclusions about the Paines which he "intentionally" left out of the film. "...I decided not to reveal what my conclusion is, at least for now," Good explained, "because I think the film’s more powerful when people watch it and they have to be on their toes wondering and thinking about who they trust."

But when pondering the possibilities, Good's "conclusions" seem to be limited to three. I credit much of the following to an email discussion with noted researcher Paul Hoch. First, Good could believe that Ruth had nothing to do with a conspiracy. But in that case, how could he justify publicizing some of the irresponsible remarks by DiEugenio, Salandria and others? Secondly, he could believe Ruth is guilty of something. But then how and why can he continue to maintain that his film is truly balanced? The "why" may be partly explained by the fact that Good does not want to be perceived as just another conspiracy theorist even though he must maintain a relationship with more extreme individuals whom he may not agree with. Keeping his own position under wraps skirts the issue for now.

But I am putting my money on a third theory that I'll call the Jefferson Morley approach. Good believes there was a conspiracy and the Paines must fit into it as Salandria told him. But Good (along with a million other theorists) hasn't quite figured it all out yet. And his search for JFK knowledge gives him the perfect excuse for a sequel (or a series of them) just as it has provided Morley with a reason to pen five books related to the subject. Because conspiracies, which are really just historical mysteries, sell.

Edward Curtin and Max Good say (or at least imply) they are seeking truth in the matter of Ruth and Michael Paine. The reader can decide if they have found it or if they have muddied the waters even more than they were.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Assassination and Mrs. Paine--Part Two: Did Ruth Incriminate LHO?

Continuing the discussion regarding items that theorists believe “Ruth [Paine] and her garage provided” to incriminate Lee Harvey Oswald, consider the following Max Good narration from his film The Assassination and Mrs. Paine:

Good (1:15:40): Two weeks after the assassination, as doubts about Oswald's trip to Mexico were surfacing, Ruth miraculously found several incriminating items sitting in a drawer in the room where the Oswalds had stayed.

Before examining the evidence in this matter, a question must be asked. Since the Oswalds used Ruth's house to store many of their personal belongings, what is so "miraculous" about any particular item being found there? Ruth explained in her Warren Commission testimony how these specific items were found:

"And it was not then until perhaps a week or something less after the assassination when an FBI agent asked me was there anything left in the house that would be pertinent, and he and I went together and looked in the drawer in the room where Marina had been staying, and found there [the items Good shows among others]."

What was "incriminating" about these items? Good and his fellow theorists don't say. For instance, there was not a gun found among the items but rather innocuous objects which included coins, postcards, a bracelet and a Spanish-English dictionary. One of Good's "featured" experts, James DiEugenio, said this about the items in his book Destiny Betrayed:

...the Commission now had some corroboration for a trip to Mexico...

Indeed, the items do help make the case that Oswald visited Mexico City, a fact that theorists like DiEugenio deny despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This evidence includes a letter from Oswald to the Soviet embassy and his visa application complete with photo and signature.

The postcards mentioned depicted Mexican scenes including bullfights. In the Spanish dictionary, a written list was found that included the following:

  • phone embassy
  • get bus tickets
  • watch Jai-[A]lai game
  • buy silver bracelet

The evidence shows that while in Mexico, Oswald did indeed travel by bus and phone the Soviet embassy about a visa. He may or may not have bought the bracelet in Mexico and there is no proof that he attended the Jai-Alai game. But at the very least, some of this evidence is suggestive of a trip south of the border.

But while Oswald's presence or absence in Mexico City is crucial to many conspiracy theories it is irrelevant when contemplating his guilt in the murders of JFK and Tippit. DiEugenio and Good effectively admit this by providing no explanation for how the items would have been incriminatory. Therefore, as in the case of the Walker note and the backyard photos, it would be pointless for Ruth to plant these things and there is no evidence she did.

Researcher Greg Doudna probably said it best in a post at the Education Forum:

[Ruth] never testified to witnessing a criminal act committed by Oswald, or to having knowledge of a plan or intention on Oswald’s part to commit a criminal act.

She had nothing to do with connecting the sixth floor rifle or any other firearm to Oswald.

She never claimed to hear Oswald express hatred for Kennedy, or any other motive to kill Kennedy.

She never claimed to have seen Oswald be violent, or threaten violence. She gave no testimony incriminating Oswald in the assassination of President Kennedy, the Walker shooting, or the Tippit killing. The characterization [of] Ruth Paine as the second most important witness in history against Lee Harvey Oswald is a misconstrual of reality of epic proportions.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Assassination and Mrs. Paine-Part One Did Ruth Incriminate LHO?

Filmmaker Max Good's narration introduces yet another series of allegations about perennial conspiracy villain Ruth Paine. This time, Good and his cohorts allege that Ruth almost single-handedly incriminated Lee Harvey Oswald:

Good: "Other than Marina, Ruth Paine had been history's most important witness against Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruth and her garage provided much of the incriminating evidence..."

Researcher Greg Doudna has made a series of posts on the Education Forum about Good's film. In one of his posts, Doudna notes:

"Up to that point the presentation has the overt structure of a neutral narrator... The words of the narrator above depart from that overt stance of neutrality and now favor the side of Ruth’s accusers."

Good's "featured" expert James DiEugenio lays out the case regarding the first item of evidence that he believes Ruth found too conveniently (1:13:10):

DiEugenio: "Seven or eight days after the assassination Ruth Paine says she has to return a couple of books to Marina. Out of nowhere, in one of those books, she accidentally finds this note which the FBI turned into a piece of evidence about the [right wing General Edwin] Walker shooting. By the time that gets to the Warren Commission, this is supposed to be a precedent for Oswald shooting Kennedy."

The Walker note and other evidence indicating Oswald's involvement in the crime certainly pointed to his willingness to take violent action for a political cause. And the so called backyard photos were indeed one thing that tied Oswald to the JFK murder weapon. But these items are just a tiny subset of the voluminous evidence that pointed to his guilt in the JFK, Tippit and Walker matters.

Author Vincent Bugliosi chronicled 53 points of evidence indicating Oswald's complicity in his book Reclaiming History. But most of these points have nothing to do with Ruth. For example, no one is arguing that Ruth made Oswald tell the numerous and demonstrable lies about the evidence that he related to authorities after his arrest. Nor did she have anything to do with the evidence in the Tippit case which points to Oswald's guilt in that crime.

What of the evidence mentioned in the Good film? Would any of it have been crucial in a legal case against Oswald? Would alleged conspirators really have risked fabricating it? Let's start with the Walker note.

Like several other claims he made in the film, DiEugenio's statement that Ruth found the Walker note is incorrect. Ruth had asked the local police to return some miscellaneous items to Marina Oswald. Among these items were two Russian books. Unbeknownst to Ruth, the police gave the items to the Secret Service instead of Marina and it was they who found the note in a tome titled Book of Helpful Instructions.

Such a false statement by DiEugenio is not surprising. Those in the know have come to expect this from him. But what is somewhat unexpected is that Good uses a clip of Ruth in an apparent attempt to bolster DiEugenio's false claim. At 1:13:40, Ruth says this:

"If I hadn’t taken that book to Marina, we might not even know that he had made the attempt on Walker. I was sending things to Marina and of course [waving fingers] they look through books to see what might fall out. And out fell this note that I didn’t know was there."

The clip of Ruth immediately follows the segment where DiEugenio makes his false claim that Ruth found the note. Two things in this clip could lead an uninitiated viewer to believe DiEugenio's assertion. First, Ruth says that she had "taken" the book to Marina. But it would have been more accurate for Ruth to say that the book was taken to the Secret Service who gave it to Marina. Secondly, Ruth says "out fell this note that I didn’t know was there," again removing the Secret Service from the equation. But one must listen closely to hear Ruth say "they" which confirms a third party—the Secret Service—having possession of the book and uncovering the note.

DiEugenio provides his version of what happened next:

DiEugenio: “The Secret Service returned that note to Ruth saying, This is yours, isn't it? (laughs) (laughing) That's how suspicious the Secret Service was of Ruth Paine. They thought she wrote the note!”

DiEugenio's inappropriate jocularity aside, since the Secret Service knew Ruth had sent the books to Marina and the Walker note was in one of the books, it was natural for them to ask Ruth about it. Because the note was in Russian, it is unclear if the agents even knew what it said. And despite DiEugenio's statement, there is no reason to believe the Secret Service was generally "suspicious" of Ruth and her statement to them cleared up the matter to their satisfaction.

And unfortunately for theorists who believe that Ruth planted the note in the book, Marina testified otherwise:

Mr. RANKIN. What did you do with the note that he had left for you after you talked about it and said you were going to keep it?
Mrs. OSWALD. I had it among my things in a cookbook. But I have two--I don't remember in which.

Marina also told the Warren Commission the complete story of her husband's assassination attempt against Walker including details like a notebook he kept that included photographs and a map. The Walker note itself contained instructions for Marina in the event Oswald was captured. Given the solid evidence pointing to Oswald as the would-be assassin in the Walker matter, theorists like DiEugenio must do what they can to solicit doubt:

DiEugenio: "There were seven fingerprints taken off the so-called Walker Note. None of them match Lee. None of them match Marina."

But Doudna points out that it was about seven months between the time the note was written and when it was handed over to authorities and examined for fingerprints. And according to a reference work on the subject by M. Edwin O'Neill:

...under ordinary circumstances successful development [of fingerprints from paper items] cannot be effected after a few weeks, and in some cases the impressions may be lost after a few days.

As Doudna mentions, the method used by the FBI to obtain the prints is not documented. But it is reasonable to assume that it was the silver nitrate method since that was the method used on other paper and cardboard items of evidence.

Doudna quotes a second reference source on the effectiveness of the silver nitrate method on paper items:

The silver nitrate method is a simple and effective technique to develop latent fingerprints on normal porous substrates and some water-repelling surfaces. However, it is suggested that the age of latent fingerprints should not be older than one week.

So, there is no reason to assume that the methods used by the FBI would find the fingerprints of either Lee or Marina Oswald after several months. The fingerprints the bureau did find were likely those of the FBI people who handled the note and/or the Secret Service agents. Doudna sums up the matter succinctly:

"The only purpose served by DiEugenio’s mention of the fingerprints, and the inclusion of that soundbite in the film, seems solely to insinuate suspicion of Ruth to viewers who have no means to know better..."

The final nails in the coffin for those who believe the Walker note is suspect are separate handwriting analyses performed by the FBI for the Warren Commission and by the HSCA as part of their investigation in the late seventies. As Doudna notes:

"'The Assassination & Mrs. Paine' fails to inform the viewer of the highly relevant information that the handwriting of the [Walker] note was conclusively found to be Oswald's."

Good next turns his attention to another conspiracy favorite:

Good:"...the Walker note wasn't the only piece [of evidence] that curiously popped up after the initial police search of Ruth's house. The infamous Backyard Photos were found in the second police search the day after the assassination. And Ruth later handed over the cameras that had supposedly been overlooked. One was matched to the Backyard Photos."

Good's implication is that Ruth planted the backyard photos and the camera used to take them. Using that logic, the photos would have been fabricated by her CIA superiors. But Good's statement that Ruth "handed over" the camera doesn't begin to tell the full story. Answering several key questions helps to get at the truth. How did the authorities gain possession of the camera? Did Marina take the photos? Are the photos authentic? Once all the facts are known, a plot involving Ruth becomes untenable.

In February of 1964, the FBI conducted an investigation to see if they could locate the camera that had taken the backyard photos. On February 18th, Marina described the camera that she had used to take the photos. She told bureau agents it was a "grayish ...box-type" camera that took photos by "looking down into a viewer at the top of the camera." But there was no camera of this type in the inventory of Oswald's possessions.

On the 19th, Detective John McCabe of the Irving Police told bureau agents that he was sure he had seen a "light gray box camera" in a box of items at the Paine home during the initial search. McCabe later told agents that he did not seize the camera because he believed it had "no evidentiary value" since it was in "poor condition" and he felt it was "not capable of taking pictures."

On the same day they spoke to McCabe, the FBI went to see Ruth Paine. She told them that Lee Oswald's brother Robert had visited her after the assassination and requested possession of the "remaining property" of Lee and Marina. Ruth directed Robert, who was accompanied by Marina's business manager and another individual, to the garage where the things were stored and the three men took them.

The FBI obtained the camera, an Imperial Reflex model, from Robert five days after speaking to Ruth. Robert kept the camera because, as he told the bureau, "he could see no evidentiary value" in the "cheap camera." Robert was very familiar with the camera, which he said his brother purchased in about 1957, since he had possession of it from about 1959 to mid-1962 while Lee was in Russia. On February 25th, Marina identified the Imperial Reflex as the camera she had used to take the backyard photos. The camera looked exactly like the one she described several days before–a "grayish ...box-type" camera with a "viewer at the top of the camera."

In addition to her testimony that she took the photos, and in spite of the fact that she has fallen under the sway of theorists who have convinced her that her husband was innocent, Marina has told several private researchers that she took the photos. In 1991, she told Harrison Livingstone "I did take those pictures of Lee. . . . I took them one Sunday. Yes. I swear on my children I'm telling the truth." In 2000, Bugliosi and conspiracy researcher Jack Duffy interviewed Marina and she again stated that she took the infamous photos. Underestimating the ability of Good and others to beat a dead horse, Duffy quipped "That settles that issue."

Significantly, according to the Warren Commission and an extensive analysis by the HSCA, the photos are genuine and show no signs of fakery and were taken with the Imperial Reflex camera to the exclusion of all other cameras. Additionally, in 2015, a study of the photos by Hany Farid at Dartmouth University used 3D modeling to deconstruct several conspiracy claims having to do with lighting and shadows.

Additional evidence that the photos preexisted the assassination and are therefore genuine comes from several sources. Author Gus Russo found several witnesses at the offices of the Socialist Workers' Party who remembered seeing a photo sent by Oswald. This group published The Militant, a newspaper Oswald is seen holding in the photos. Additionally, the HSCA determined that Oswald's handwriting appeared on a print (item #31) found after the assassination by George de Mohrenschildt and his wife. The inscription reads "To my friend George from Lee Oswald" and was dated April 5, 1963.

In summary, the evidence proves that Marina took the photos with the Imperial Reflex camera and they are genuine and predated the assassination. Similarly, Robert had pre-assassination knowledge of the Imperial Reflex camera. Obviously, there would have been no reason for Ruth to plant these items.

In the case of the Walker note, handwriting experts proved Lee Oswald authored it. But for the sake of argument, say that the note was somehow fabricated. The bulk of the evidence regarding that shooting comes from Marina. But none of it does anything to legally implicate Oswald in the assassination of JFK. Indeed, most of the Walker evidence would have been useless in court since a wife could not be compelled to testify against her husband. Since any deception carries with it the possibility of discovery, why would conspirators assume the added risk of fabricating a note that would do little to incriminate their "patsy?"

See also Steve Roe's refutation of the notion that Ruth forged the Walker note.

Part Two will discuss the items related to Mexico City found by Ruth.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

The Assassination and Mrs. Paine-Are Some of Ruth's Critics Prejudiced?

In his film The Assassination and Mrs. Paine, filmmaker Max Good touches on an issue related to the criticism of Ruth Paine:

There are those who feel that they can just tell that Ruth Paine is lying, it is written all over her face. Some say that she's too articulate, that she must be a CIA agent repeating rehearsed lines.

Good, Eric Hunley and Mark Groubert expanded on this theme in a conversation on the America's Untold Stories webcast (6:48):

Groubert: "Max, it's amazing how they all have the same tonality and manipulation of words, and that includes Max Holland, her [Priscilla Johnson McMillan] and Ruth Paine; they all take your question and slightly twist it around, which comes out in the film, that I notice how similar they are."

Good: "Yeah, they're all very intelligent people and sometimes almost lawyerly in the way they speak; you might notice some interesting phrasing some of these people use."

Groubert: "Well, I loved how you showed her over the years at every anniversary, Ruth Paine -- I mean, this chick should have won the Academy Award for acting, I think; everybody says she's a bad actor, or bad liar; I tend to disagree ..."

Hunley: "No!"

Groubert: "... she stuck to her notes for 50 years in every single show, under bright lights, and that part where you showed her saying the same thing over and over again was so powerful, Max, to see that, how this woman stuck to the script; she wasn't chosen by accident; I mean, this woman was skillful."

Good: "Yeah, well, there are two ways to look at that, just like everything in the film; you can say that she's given so many interviews and she has to tell this story over and over again so it becomes kind of a standard retelling that she gives - or you can say she's sticking to a script that somebody told her to stick to."

So, while Groubert says Ruth is "skillful," she is still a "bad liar" and a "chick" who is reciting from a script prepared by her presumably paternal masters. And Good, for his part, offers little resistance to this concept. Groubert's analysis is typical of what has been advanced by Ruth's critics over the years.

Few would doubt that Ruth is an intelligent, articulate and confident woman. She holds a Master's Degree and was a school psychologist and administrator. But those who promulgate the notion that an articulate woman must have been trained and controlled by the CIA may be revealing their own sexist prejudices. But such potential sexism is unfortunately just one of the objectionable preconceptions exhibited by Ruth's critics. Note that in addition to being prejudicial, the assertions are frequently incorrect.

According to a Facebook post, David Talbot, who interviewed the Paines for his book, The Devil's Chessboard, found Michael Paine to be "wooly-headed and passive" and an "eccentric." Compare that relatively benign assessment to the one afforded Ruth who Talbot thought was "more calculated -- arrogant in her own ignorance" and "devious" according to a second Facebook post.

In his book, Talbot calls Ruth a "busybody" who "felt she could set the world straight" and had the "obligation to do so." Talbot also alleges that Ruth somehow "helped lay waste to the Oswalds’ lives." Evidently, in Talbot's world Lee Oswald himself had nothing to do with the matter.

Another comment by Talbot brings up a second category of criticism often used against Ruth. That concerns her Quaker faith and its alleged relevance to the assassination controversy. "Good's unsettling line of questions, posed to Ruth near the end of his film," Talbot asserts, "shed a harsh light on this self-righteous Quaker woman."

While Good's questions were sometimes indeed unsettling, Talbot's "self-righteous Quaker woman" handled them with "impressive equanimity" according to one review of the film.

Similarly, Carol Hewett, a long-time Paine critic, speaking at a "November in Dallas" conference maintained that Ruth “professes to be a Quaker though her only known act of charity seems to have been taking in Marina. This woman did not donate clothes to the Goodwill, did not take in stray animals.”

But Hewett's comments reveal either extraordinary ignorance of Ruth Paine's charity work or willful deceit. Ruth made nine separate trips to Nicaragua as a part of the ProNica charity group whose humanitarian work included providing water, raising poultry and establishing medical clinics for women.

Perhaps the most frequent prejudicial statements made about Ruth concern unfounded accusations regarding her sexual orientation. The gold standard among these comes from AJ Weberman, author of Coup d'etat in America:

"Ruth Paine was nine years older than Marina Oswald and had never conducted a similar living arrangement with a woman before. Evidence presented in later information nodules indicated that Marina Oswald was a sexually active individual. She could have engaged in homosexual activities with Ruth Paine. Ruth Paine looked very "butch" around this time and had separated from her husband, perhaps for sexual reasons. She never remarried."

Talbot appears in this category too, noting in his book that "To some, [not Talbot himself of course] it seemed that Ruth was also romantically infatuated with her exotic houseguest, who exuded a kind of seductive distress."

More relevant to the discussion of Max Good's film are comments made by one of Good's "featured" experts James DiEugenio. At John Simkin's Education Forum DiEugenio made the point that Ruth had asked Marina Oswald to move in with her only three weeks after meeting her. DiEugenio went on to say that although he had met filmmaker/playwright David Mamet and had been very taken with him, he never would have thought of asking him to move in with him.

But DiEugenio is making an absurd comparison. This was the early sixties before the advent of the Internet and support groups and both Ruth and Marina were separated from their husbands with young children to care for. The arrangement between the women was mutually beneficial. Marina got free room and board while Ruth received Marina's help with the Russian language. Additionally, Marina gained the security of being sheltered from Lee Harvey Oswald's verifiable abusive behavior.

Both Ruth and Marina have denied a lesbian relationship. Thomas Mallon, author of Mrs. Paine's Garage, wrote "To the suggestion that she and Marina had a lesbian attachment, Ruth today replies, with a laugh, 'No, that hadn't occurred to me!'" Similarly, Marina told People magazine “They called me lesbian, because I had a friendship with Ruth Paine, who isn't that way at all. People are quick to apply names."

In a 2014 article for the Philadelphia Gay News, Tim Cwiek undoubtedly expressed the prevailing view among the LGBT community when he wrote "... speculation about an LGBT connection to his assassination should be put to rest once and for all."

The same could be said for the sexism and religious bigotry exhibited by some of Ruth's critics.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

The Assassination and Mrs. Paine-The Strange Beliefs of Vincent Salandria

One of Max Good's "featured" experts on the conspiracy side in his film The Assassination and Mrs. Paine was a long time critic of Ruth and her husband Michael. The late Philadelphia attorney Vincent Salandria was a first generation Warren Commission critic who had strong opinions. Consider the following quotes from his appearance in the film:

If you wanted to have a conspiracy, you’ve got to complete the circle. In this case you’ve got to get the Oswalds into the Dallas area. You’ve got to get Oswald into the Texas Book Depository in time. People with a garage where the so-called murder weapon can be stored. Suppose it's a conspiracy that says we’ll just wait, somebody will get Oswald and his family into Dallas, we’ll just wait--maybe he’ll happen to find a job in the Texas Book Depository. Once you see a conspiracy, its over for the Paines. You can’t close the circle without the Paines! There’s no way they can be innocent! No way!

His [Michael's] father was George Lyman Paine, a leading Trotskyan of the West Coast. Michael Paine works for Bell Helicopter. That’s secret clearance! You don’t get that without a quid pro quo! He’s an agent! You know that immediately.

There’s no mystery here! It's all self-evident! It was a coup. It was designed to be a false mystery, and the debate would be eternal. And then to focus on why it was done—forgotten.

Salandria's dubious opinions on the Paines and the assassination are one thing and not that different from many of his conspiracy colleagues. But Salandria, who died in 2020, held other beliefs that are unique to say the least.

One example of these unusual beliefs is provided by Salandria's interpretation of events that occurred during an August 1965 road trip. According to an account he authored, Salandria traveled to Texas to interview the Paines. Accompanying him was Shirley Martin, another student of the assassination from Oklahoma. Salandria told Martin, who knew the Paines well, that it would be best if she did not inform them that he was coming along. Salandria notes that on the way Martin was pulled over by a "local" police officer for an unstated reason. The officer supposedly said "Ms. Martin, we see that you are on your way on a trip. Please drive carefully.”

Upon reaching Texas, Salandria and Martin first stopped in Dealey Plaza. Salandria was approached by a man wearing sandals who asked "How is Mark Lane?" After Salandria didn't answer the man gestured to the surrounding area and said "Do you know what this is?" Salandria responded "Dealey Plaza". “No, do you know what it is?” the man persisted. Salandria said he didn't. “This is a WPA project, a socialist project where a socialist president was killed" the man allegedly told Salandria. "The next time you write an article, mention that" he added. After delivering an anti-Semitic lecture on the holocaust, the man advised Salandria that he knew who he was and why he was in Dealey Plaza. Then, the mysterious man "slowly and calmly" walked away.

Upon arriving in Irving and being introduced to Michael Paine, he allegedly asked Salandria "Why are you working on the assassination? Why don’t you stick to your work in civil liberties and civil rights? "I wondered how he had learned about my work in civil liberties and civil rights" Salandria, who was an ACLU member, mused. He concluded that the Paines "had apparently been informed about my identity" before his visit to interview them.

On the way back from Dallas, Martin was again stopped by the police and this time was given a ticket for speeding even though she was "well within the speed limit" according to Salandria.

From Salandria's perspective, perhaps the most significant occurrence related to the trip came after he returned to Philadelphia. Salandria received a phone call from Spencer Coxe who was the local head of the ACLU and a good friend of Salandria's. Coxe told Salandria that he had been contacted by the National Office of the ACLU who wanted him to stop writing about the JFK case. Salandria immediately "resigned" both his ACLU membership and his friendship with Coxe.

What is most fascinating is Salandria's reaction to the events he had just experienced:

"Through this visit to the Paines I was grimly force-fed certain facts by the conspirators. They were informing me of their extensive power of surveillance. Rather than being secretive about their tracking me, they were informing me that they were so powerful that they were willing to have me know that they had instructed the Paines on how to toy with me. I was being advised that the Paines did not see themselves as having any need to conceal their foreknowledge of me. The killers were informing me that the Paines did not see that it was necessary for them to conceal from me their connections with the power that was tracking me. The conspirators were telling me that their operatives, the Paines, were absolutely and transparently loyal to them."

Having absorbed this, Salandria's reaction to the ACLU incident should not be surprising:

Michael Paine had informed me, although indirectly, that the assassins, to which he was transparently closely connected, were quite formidable. They were so powerful that they had prevailed upon the ACLU to seek to discourage me from writing about the Kennedy assassination.

But the ACLU complaining about Salandria's JFK writings sounds more like a matter of internal politics. In any case, it makes no sense that Salandria would not have questioned Coxe about this. Who exactly was this directive coming from? What specifically were the complaints? Yet none of these things are mentioned in Salandria's article nor does he provide any proof that Michael, who had no special position within the ACLU, was behind it.

Note that Michael Paine could have learned about Salandria's ACLU membership from the latter's January 1965 article in the monthly journal Liberation. The periodical reported on page 2 that "VINCENT J. SALANDRIA serves as legal consultant in the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) area for the American Civil Liberties Union, Women Strike for Peace and SANE."

Additionally, Salandria had given a copy of the article to Martin who was "eagerly awaiting its arrival." This suggests that Martin could have provided the article to Michael Paine well before Salandria's admonition about not warning the Paines of his visit. Or the Paines, who are often described as "well read" and "students" of the assassination could have simply obtained the issue on their own. In any case, there is nothing ominous about Michael's knowledge of Salandria's ACLU membership.

Similarly, Dealey Plaza is a gathering place for kooks of all kinds and the fact that Salandria came across one is not surprising. Recently, QAnon members gathered there to await the return of JFK Jr. And getting caught in a speed trap during a road trip is not necessarily indicative of a warning from the deep state.

Salandria's general opinions about the JFK assassination are likewise unconventional as even Max Good admits. "For over fifty years," Good notes, "his analysis of the case has been considered to be the most cutting edge, or the most extreme, depending on your persuasion." According to his book, False Mystery, among other things Salandria believed:

  • The "silence of the Kennedys [rather than being a tacit agreement with the lone assassin theory] is plainly their mute acknowledgement that the assassination was perpetrated by our new rulers who possess awesome power which dwarfs the power of the Kennedy family."
  • [JFK advisor McGeorge Bundy was effectively telling LBJ] “Now, hear this! Oswald is the assassin, the sole assassin. Evidence is not available yet. Evidence will be obtained, or in lieu thereof evidence will be created. This is a crucial matter of state that cannot await evidence. The new rulers have spoken. You, there, Mr. New President, and therefore dispatchable stuff, and you the underlings of a deposed President, heed the message well.”
  • "[after the killing of JFK] Our cities have been turned into tense and neglected seas of metastasizing blight. Our economy, buffeted by push-and-pull war-induced inflation, has become unbalanced. Our international trade position has deteriorated, so that now we find ourselves with not only an unfavorable balance of payments, but also an unfavorable balance of trade. Our urban public schools are relegated to bare custodial functions. The standard of living of our workers and the middle class has dipped along with the quality of their lives."
  • The CIA is a "secret elitist police organization."
  • "The purpose for the transparent conspiracy to kill Kennedy, in my judgment, was to attain for the Eastern establishment, through the use of the intelligence community as its executive and executing arm, power over American politics and ultimately preeminent power over the minds of the American citizenry."

As Gary Aguilar noted in the film "If you’re a believer in America’s good faith, the integrity of its fundamental institutions, you're liable to try to filter your understanding of the Kennedy case and much else through that prism."

Salandria's documented beliefs demonstrate that the inverse is also true.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Assassination and Mrs. Paine-Ruth Spied in Nicaragua?

Perhaps one of the most dubious assertions in Max Good's film concerns Ruth Paine's turn as a volunteer in Nicaragua. In addition to being wrong-headed, there is little doubt that this accusation caused Ruth much personal anguish.

Max Good's main propagandist, James DiEugenio, "peace activist" Sue Wheaton and an anonymous source outline their suspicions:

DiEugenio: "Later on in her life Ruth Paine goes down to Nicaragua, and there were reports of her going to Sandinista sympathizer meetings and taking notations of what went down. For many, many people, the veneer has come off Ruth and Michael Paine, and they are just not credible any more."

Anonymous man (image scrambled and voice altered): "I know a woman who in the early 1990s who worked with Ruth Paine as a Christian peace activist in Nicaragua. This was during the time of the civil war in Nicaragua during the Reagan and Bush I years."

Sue Wheaton: "It was a contentious time down there. It was very clear that the CIA was supporting the so-called Contra freedom fighters all the way. The Contras were the ones opposing the Sandinista revolution."

Anonymous man: "The Christian group that this woman and Ruth were involved with was called ProNica. And they were helping the poor people of Nicaragua who naturally sided with the Sandinistas. And because of this, these Christian peace groups were often heavily monitored by our U.S. intelligence agencies."

Ruth Paine: "My work in Nicaragua was with a Quaker organization. We had a project to help the poorest of the poor in Nicaragua. And at one of these meetings a woman showed up and proceeded to accuse me of a lot of things."

Wheaton: "She introduced herself as Ruth Paine, representing the Quakers. And I said, well, you're not the Quaker Ruth Paine who knew Marina Oswald are you?"

Anonymous man: "This woman told me that after Sue Wheaton had told people about Ruth's association with the assassination, which they did not know about, then they became even more suspicious of her. She and others in their organization believed that Ruth was a CIA agent or asset who was down there for the purpose of gathering information about the group."

Wheaton: "So Ruth had a photographer that came and was with her. He was there snapping everybody. And that’s when they said, well, we’re doing this article for the Nicaragua Network. But Nicaragua Network had never heard of such a story. They were taking everybody's picture at a meeting, and we tried to take their picture and they left."

Thus, if Good, DiEugenio and Wheaton are to be believed, Ruth Paine first assisted the CIA with their murder of Kennedy. After proving herself in this assassination mission, Paine was apparently not content with simply fading into obscurity and agreed to travel to Nicaragua to do the agency's bidding supporting the Contras. Researcher Greg Doudna looked into the claims made in the film and this article is based on his work.

First, it is necessary to have an understanding of who Wheaton is. She is no doubt a peace activist and a fine woman, but she is also a JFK conspiracy believer and possesses all the inherent biases as a result. Wheaton wrote a paper that she called "Occurrence in Nicaragua" in 1991 to document her interaction with Ruth Paine. The article also outlines her beliefs regarding the JFK killing.

Wheaton wrote that the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) "closed its doors after several of its witnesses were killed and/or died under mysterious circumstances." Wheaton also claims that "many" researchers concluded that the JFK murder was "a conspiracy involving the CIA, organized crime, anti-Castro Cubans, and right-wing activists and businessmen, with prior knowledge and cover-up by the FBI and members of the Dallas police force."

These researchers (whom Wheaton obviously agrees with) also believed that "Oswald had intelligence connections" and while he "probably was involved in the conspiracy in some way," he "did not fire the shots which killed Kennedy (which these researchers conclude came from the front) and possibly did not even fire a gun during the assassination." Needless to say, these beliefs go against the findings of both the Warren Commission and the HSCA whose investigations concluded that Oswald fired the shots that killed JFK and had no connection to US Intelligence.

Most damaging to her credibility is the fact that Wheaton was a follower of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. Books have been written about Garrison's unwarranted and destructive prosecution of Clay Shaw, most recently by Fred Litwin who demolished Garrison and acolytes such as DiEugenio and Wheaton by association. Perhaps tellingly, Wheaton concludes her litany of conspiracy beliefs with several that found their way to Max Good's film (p. 2 of the PDF).

It is through the lens of her conspiracy beliefs that Wheaton's claims regarding Ruth Paine must be viewed. On February 5th, 1991, according to Wheaton's account and details provided by Doudna, Ruth attended a council meeting of the Benjamin Linder House in Managua with Jon Roise who was the newly appointed director of the (Quaker affiliated) Friends Center and a member of the council. Ruth was then the director of the St. Petersburg, Florida-based ProNica organization which Roise oversaw along with all Friends activity in Nicaragua. Wheaton was at the meeting representing "another" Benjamin Linder House member group which, according to one report, was "anti-Contra."

Things started innocently enough. After Ruth introduced herself to the group, Wheaton asked if "she were the same Quaker Ruth Paine who had known the Oswalds." Ruth said that she was and after Wheaton said she was interested in the assassination, Ruth sensibly suggested that she read Marina and Lee (which Wheaton obviously never did since she referred to the book in her document as "Lee and Marina").

Wheaton admits that Ruth was "well informed" and took "many notes on everything we discussed." Wheaton writes that Ruth "made comments which indicated she shared the presuppositions and objectives of others in the group, and she was fully involved in the discussion." Wheaton found Ruth's level of involvement "unusual" since visitors normally do not attend council meetings. But as director of ProNica, Ruth was no mere visitor. Among other statements made by Ruth that Wheaton found to be not "in sync" with Wheaton's own opinion was her dubious reaction to one estimate that "hundreds of thousands" of civilians had been killed by US bombing in Iraq.

The next time that Ruth and Wheaton came together was at a "pot luck" at the Benjamin Linder House on February 15th. By Wheaton's own account, Ruth was unaware that the group was planning to discuss "the implications of the Kennedy assassination related to the course of U.S. politics and foreign relations." According to Wheaton, this had been "tentatively" planned two months prior. One has to wonder if the "tentative" plan was quickly finalized after the appearance of Ruth at the previous meeting. In any case, despite being surprised by the topic of conversation, Ruth graciously shared her observations on the Oswalds and the assassination when asked to do so. Although her remarks consisted of the well-known story she has told repeatedly over the years, what was likely most significant to the conspiracy-oriented Wheaton was Ruth's admission that she believed the Warren Commission conclusions.

"During the next two or three weeks," Wheaton reports, Ruth, Roise and a young man named Sean Miller attended meetings at the Linder House and other locations. Miller, according to Wheaton, "took many pictures, using a special lens, and taped presentations." Ruth allegedly said that Miller was staying at the Friends Center and taking pictures for the Nicaragua Network.

According to Wheaton, "Ruth came to the March meeting" of the Benjamin Linder Council and "took copious notes of every name, organization and subject mentioned." She also "peered over the organizational membership list in the office prior to the meeting and took notes." Wheaton says that at the close of the meeting, the chairperson asked if Ruth would provide "a copy of her report." Ruth responded that "her notes were simply for her report to the group back in St. Petersburg and the purpose was to determine whether or not the Quaker project would continue as a member group of the Ben Linder Council." Ruth added that she planned to recommend that they continue as a member since she believed that their work was "of value." She added that Miller was "not affiliated with her program."

It would seem that the original problems with Ruth in Nicaragua, as documented by Wheaton in April of 1991 shortly after the events took place, were that she took copious notes and a young friend of hers was taking photographs. At some point, it is clear that rumors began to spread that Ruth and Miller's activity was undertaken at the behest of the CIA. Two additional allegations came to light in January of the following year when Wheaton claimed that "The Nicaragua Network in Washington, D.C. told a friend of ours that they had not commissioned anyone to take pictures in Nicaragua." Wheaton concluded that Ruth's explanation for the photographs was "not valid."

The second allegation was that the "Quakers" were assisting Contra-affiliated individuals with "support." Evidently, this report came from Wheaton's husband. The implication is that the Contras were known to be backed by the US government covertly during the Reagan administration so Ruth and the Quaker-affiliated groups must be working for the government as well.

But as it turns out, in an April 1991 meeting with Wheaton and her husband Jon Roise provided some answers to their concerns. The meeting also made it clear who was driving the insinuations against Ruth. After Roise expressed his concern that a "whisper campaign" against Ruth was underway, Wheaton assured him that was not the case because rather than whispering she had "been telling people loud and clear" about Ruth's "history" with the assassination. Wheaton went on to say that she "had no intention of not talking about [Ruth's role in the assassination story]."

Roise explained to Wheaton that it was Ruth's habit to "write things down." Indeed, Greg Doudna, who met Ruth at the St. Petersburg Friends Meeting in the early 2000s, has noted that the Friends are known to document virtually everything and historians consider their records to be among the best in existence.

To sum up the situation as it existed circa 1991-92, we have the following allegations/concerns against Ruth and Miller which were admittedly strenuously promoted by Wheaton herself among what she calls the "U.S. solidarity community":

  • Ruth took "copious" notes.
  • Miller took photographs and recorded presentations.
  • Ruth's explanation that Miller was taking photos for the Nicaragua Network was not accurate.
  • Ruth's organization provided "support" for Contra-affiliated individuals.

Note that there could have been concerns about Ruth that predated Wheaton although these are undocumented and seem to come from second-hand reports. And while there is no indisputable evidence that Wheaton told anyone that Ruth was working for the CIA, the circumstancial evidence convinces some Ruth supporters. Thomas Mallon, author of Mrs. Paine's Garage, writes "Wheaton managed to convince three or four people Ruth worked with that Mrs. Paine was not to be trusted; they came to wonder whether Ruth’s presence in Nicaragua wasn’t really a matter of undercover intelligence activity." "I tend to take photographs and try to remember names," Ruth told Mallon, “and that made them extremely nervous.”

But there is a reasonable explanation for each of these concerns that does not require either Ruth or Miller to be CIA assets. First, as Roise and Doudna point out, it is normal for individuals working for the Friends to take notes. Additionally, as Wheaton knew, Ruth was in the process of determining whether ProNica would continue to be associated with the Linder House. Anyone in this position could be expected to be taking notes and doing ordinary fact-finding.

On the issue of the photography, Wheaton implies in the Good film that Miller was working with Ruth and Roise. But, as her article makes clear, Wheaton was told that Miller was a student who was "simply a guest at the Quaker hospitality house and his pictures were for the Nicaragua Network, not her organization."

Wheaton says that the Nicaragua Network told "a friend" that Miller had not been commissioned to take photos. What friend? Who was this second-hand source and how is anyone to judge the accuracy of this alleged report? But for the sake of argument, let's say the report is correct and Miller was not working for the Nicaragua Network but was taking photos for some undetermined reason. Miller could have told Ruth that he was taking pictures for the Nicaragua Network and Ruth, with no reason to doubt Miller's word, simply repeated this to Wheaton and the rest of the group.

As for Wheaton's concern that the Friends were helping Contra-affiliated people, it should be mentioned that one of the individuals in question was a former Contra fighter who was in a wheelchair and living in a squatter settlement. According to Doudna it is "in keeping with Friends practice" to provide what was certainly humanitarian assistance to such individuals.

Of course, the notion that the CIA would send people to meetings in Nicaragua to take photographs and collect information in a completely overt manner is extremely dubious at best. And if Ruth and Miller were really CIA assets, wouldn't they have had an indisputable cover story? If this were the end of the saga, it would be bad enough. But the allegations given life by Wheaton have endured and been expanded by her and others.

New accusations against Ruth emerged in a 1996 report by Steve Jones, Carol Hewett and Barbara LaMonica. The person fueling the accusations against Ruth was again Wheaton who now maintained that Ruth was not simply making notes but specifically, "taking down information about Americans in Nicaragua who opposed U.S. policy there." Additionally, Wheaton reported that "someone" had informed her that Ruth was "copying everything" on the bulletin board. Ruth also allegedly made reference to people in the US embassy whom Wheaton "abhorred."

Jones returned with "new evidence" circa 1997 resulting from his conversations with yet another unidentified individual. This person was ostensibly a "close personal friend" of Ruth's although one wonders what type of "friend" reveals such uncomplimentary information. This "friend" went on to reiterate the same accusations voiced by Wheaton with some new additions. New were "inappropriate personal questions" that Ruth had supposedly asked. Most remarkably, in the latest story it was not Miller but Ruth who was taking photographs.

In a speech to the Coalition on Political Assassinations in 1998, Vincent Salandria stated "According to recent research in the 1980s Ruth Paine assisted illegal anti-socialist activity in Nicaragua." According to Doudna, this statement was based entirely on the humanitarian aid provided to the ex-Contra fighter and others like him.

This brings us to 2022 and the statements of Wheaton in Good's film. Now rather than just taking photos, Miller was "snapping everybody." Wheaton also uses the word "they" which implies that Ruth and Miller were working together, a fact that she knows is not true. Additionally, she adds the new detail that Ruth and Miller "left" after her group tried to take their photo.

What was the true nature of Ruth's work in Nicaragua? The ProNica website reports:

"In 1996 Ruth Paine, a member of St. Petersburg Meeting wrote, “We began ten years ago, a volunteer crew of defenders of human rights. We wanted to do something tangible. We now have a very effective organization with a clear mission delivering aid to very well-run projects in Nicaragua.”

"On May 31, 2002, ProNica, Inc. became a Florida non-profit corporation, focusing on healing and peace building. Ruth stepped up to reorganize ProNica. Ruth Paine directed ProNica for many years, working steadily building the organization and its reputation for integrity and true solidarity. Ruth never collected a salary."

"ProNica sponsored AVP (Alternatives to Violence Project) workshops in Nicaraguan prisons in the 1990s and eventually spread across the country by training ‘trainers’ using the AVP model to teach non-violence and self-empowerment. Money was raised to drill wells in communities to provide safe potable water sources. Cooperative groups of women were given funding to jointly raise poultry to earn money and feed their families. ProNica helped develop a cooperative’s transition to the production of organic sesame oil, which garnered a fair trade contract with The Body Shop. The ProNica newsletter told stories of Nicaraguan communities organizing collective responses to their post-war needs for trauma healing, feeding and housing displaced people, establishing free clinics for women for cancer screening, pre and post natal care, family planning, and counseling for the high rates of abuse and post-traumatic stress."

Summing up this sorry chapter in JFK assassination lore promoted by Max Good and his cohorts, there is absolutely no credible evidence that Ruth Paine was doing anything other than charity work when she ran into Sue Wheaton in the early nineties. The Wheaton story has been exaggerated over the years beyond the facts in her original report. The accusations are based on gossip and innuendo and the suspicions of those like Sue Wheaton who are predisposed to dislike Ruth because of their conspiracy-oriented beliefs and because Ruth's group was willing to provide humanitarian support to the Contras that Wheaton opposed.

Monday, June 27, 2022

The Assassination and Mrs. Paine-JFK and Vietnam

What was the motive of the conspirators whose yet undetected plot killed President John F. Kennedy? Filmmaker Max Good allows two of his "featured" conspiracy mavens, James DiEugenio and Gary Aguilar, to lay out the case that JFK was planning to pull out of Vietnam as part of a larger effort to spread peace throughout the world:

Aguilar: (41:45) "Kennedy was telling people privately that once he got re-elected, he was going to back out of Vietnam and he was not going to commit forces of the United States to a land war in Asia. He had infuriated them [the conspirators presumably the CIA and the Joint Chiefs] with the Bay of Pigs. He infuriated them with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. He infuriated them during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And he was not gonna let them have their war. [claps and then makes umpire’s over-the-shoulder 'you're out' sign] ‘Next’ (chuckles). Very, very few people were ever allowed the intimate details [of the alleged plot], I'm sure. Kennedy was taken out, and [mimicking voice of lone assassin advocates] anyone who doubts the official statements of [the] US government is crazy!"

DiEugenio: (1:34:30) "One of the things that you study if you try and take in the big picture is what happened to American foreign policy after [JFK's death]. When Kennedy was assassinated there was not one American combat troop in Vietnam. By 1967, there were over half a million there. American foreign policy becomes much more militant, much more violent in the third world."

But the argument that JFK was a peacenik in the making is not supported by a preponderance of hard evidence. Even in his foreign policy decisions apart from Vietnam, Kennedy looked every bit the typical cold warrior. For instance, in 1961 during the Berlin crisis JFK seriously contemplated a nuclear first-strike against the Soviet Union in response to agressive actions taken by Nikita Khrushchev toward the German capital. And although he altered President Eisenhower's original plan, JFK ordered the Bay of Pigs invasion in an attempt to eliminate communist leader Fidel Castro. After the failure of that mission, Attorney General Robert Kennedy oversaw an organized assassination operation against the bearded leader.

On the question of Vietnam, Kennedy had signaled his attitude even before assuming office. As a US Senator in 1956, he refered to the southeast Asian nation as “the cornerstone of the free world in Asia” and added that it was “our offspring, we cannot abandon it.” JFK set the tone for his foreign policy in his inaugural address when he said, "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

After assuming the Presidency, JFK began to see the political expediency that a successful action in Vietnam could provide. In addition to the obvious goal of halting the spread of communism in Southeast Asia, JFK advisor Walt Rostow suggested that “clean-cut success in Vietnam” would be one way to divert attention from the Bay of Pigs debacle. Indeed, General Lionel McGarr, head of the American Military Assistance Advisory Group in Saigon, noted that there was a "strong determination" to stop the “deterioration of US prestige” early in the JFK administration.

By January of 1962, Kennedy authorized the Counterinsurgency Plan for southern Vietnam which called for training the South Vietnamese forces in both conventional warfare and anti-guerrilla tactics. JFK ultimately approved the expansion of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) to 219,000 troops and the Civil Guard to 77,000. To pay for the escalation, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem received an additional $42 million from Kennedy on top of the $225 million he was already getting. Furthermore, the number of American advisors in Vietnam grew from just 800 when JFK took office to 16,700 at the time of his death. It is clear that despite what DiEugenio and Aguilar maintain, the United States under Kennedy had made a substantial military commitment to South Vietnam.

Two key September 1963 interviews with Chet Huntley and Walter Cronkite confirmed JFK's dedication to the Vietnam cause. Kennedy told Cronkite, "... I don't agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake. I know people don't like Americans to be engaged in this kind of an effort. Forty-seven Americans have been killed in combat with the enemy, but this is a very important struggle even though it is far away." Similarly, JFK told Huntley, “withdrawal only makes it easy for the Communist. I think we should stay.”

Further evidence of JFK's commitment to Vietnam is provided by his tacit approval of the coup against President Diem just three weeks before his own death. Kennedy had decided, as diplomatic and military officials in southern Vietnam had reported, “that the war against the Viet Cong in Vietnam cannot be won under the Diem regime.” While JFK was shocked when Diem and his brother were murdered, there can be no doubt that he sanctioned the coup that removed them from power because of Diem's ineptitude in fighting the communists.

National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263 is often cited by theorists as proof that JFK planned to withdraw from Vietnam by the end of 1965. But the order does no such thing. JFK signed NSAM 263 in October of 1963 and while the directive did call for the withdrawal of 1000 military personel, it is neccessary to look at the big picture. Robert Thompson of the British Advisory Mission refered to the withdrawl as a "token" one in a 1962 meeting with JCS Chief Maxwell Taylor. In a confab with JFK the following year, Thompson used similar language and there is no indication that Kennedy or his top advisors differed with this assessment. This limited withdrawal was designed to reap political benefits at home while not adversely impacting the war effort and definitely "was not part of a Kennedy plan to pull out of Vietnam" as historian Mark White notes. The withdrawal also served as a device to apply pressure on Diem (before a final decision on his fate had been reached) but remained firmly contingent on the military success of the ARVN forces.

The language used by Kennedy in an October 31st press conference reinforces the concept that troop withdrawl was dependent on military success. JFK stated in response to a question about troop reductions (emphasis added) "If we are able to do that, that would be our schedule. I think the first unit or first contingent would be 250 men who are not involved in what might be called front-line operations. It would be our hope to lessen the number of Americans there by 1000, as the training intensifies, and is carried on in South Vietnam."

Moreover, NSAM 263 outlined the continuation of the same US policies that were previously in effect. Those included the Vietnamese taking over “essential functions” of warfare by late 1965. Indeed the “central object” of the US presence in Vietnam continued to be “to assist the people and Government of that country to win their contest against the externally directed and supported Communist conspiracy. The test of all decisions and U.S. actions in this area should be the effectiveness of their contributions to this purpose.”

Perhaps the most compelling proof of JFK's anti-communist agenda and his commitment to Vietnam comes from the text of his undelivered speech prepeared for the Dallas Trade Mart luncheon. On the day of his death, JFK would have reminded the attendees of his foreign policy successes in Berlin and Cuba. He also planned to provide an extensive laundry list of increases in both conventional and nuclear weapons under his watch. Significantly, JFK would have reminded the audience of the aid that the US was giving other countries to fight the Communist menace. Finally, Kennedy would have firmly told the assembled guests, “Our assistance to these nations can be painful, risky and costly, as is true in Southeast Asia today. But we dare not weary of the task.”

Comments by members of JFK's inner circle provide more evidence that he had no plans to pull out of Vietnam. Kennedy's Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, vehemently disagreed with the notion that he had decided to abandon the cause. "I talked with John Kennedy on hundreds of occasions about Southeast Asia," Rusk wrote in his memiors, "and not once did he suggest or even hint at a withdrawal."

Similarly, Robert Kennedy gave interviewer John Bartlow Martin a firm "no" when asked if there was "any consideration given to pulling out [of Vietnam]." "The president felt," Bobby continued, "... He had a strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam and that we should win the war in Vietnam."

Critical to the conspiracy notion that JFK was murdered by unnamed military figures is the concept that these actors strongly desired a full-scale war in Vietnam. But there is solid evidence that not all of JFK's military people were the "hawks" they are made out to be by the likes of DiEugenio and Aguilar.

For example, Army Chief of Staff General George Decker believed “there was no good place to fight” in Southeast Asia. The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral Harry D. Felt, stated he was “strongly opposed” to troop deployments. One reason for Felt's reticence was his belief that the ARVN would be less effective if American troops did the brunt of the fighting. Felt was convinced that the US role should be limited to training and supplying arms to the ARVN.

Among the war's harshest critics was Colonel John Paul Vann. His leaks to the New York Times revealed that South Vietnamese forces were refusing to fight while huge numbers of civilian villagers were becoming casualties of American weaponry. Indeed, an Army report from 1962 noted, “the military and political situation in South Vietnam can be aptly described by four words, ‘it is a mess.’”

A final indication of the invalidity of the DiEugenio-Aguilar Vietnam theory is the post-assassination behavior of the military men who susposedly authored the first American coup against a sitting president. If these individuals really wanted to remove JFK to facilitate an all-out war against communist forces in Vietnam, why did they balk at Johnson's 1964-65 escalations of the conflict? Both Taylor and William Westmoreland, known for their hawkish reputations, expressed strong opposition to combat troops during this period as did other ranking officers. Many of JFK's military men recognized the inherent problems with fighting a war in Vietnam and prefered to avoid conflict there.

In conclusion, the sophomoric view that JFK had decided to get out of Vietnam and that choice led to his death at the hands of conveniently unnamed conspirators is poorly supported by the evidence. In his book, Destiny Betrayed, DiEugenio went even further than his on-camera statements to Max Good. On page 65, he wrote that JFK was "formulating his policy to withdraw from Vietnam" and "disguising" (p. 371) that plan around his reelection. While DiEugenio may believe that he knows that JFK would have pulled out of Vietnam had he lived, real historians remain divided on the issue. But those experts all agree on one thing—it is impossible to know for sure.

Special thanks to Fred Litwin for providing sources for this article.

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