One of the most noteworthy aspects of the Kennedy assassination is the silence among conservative, reform-oriented libertarians on the national-security state’s assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
What’s up with that?
After all, wouldn’t you think that a domestic regime-change operation against a U.S. president would be something every libertarian would be condemning, even if it did happen more than 50 years ago? Libertarians, after all, condemn U.S. regime-change operations against foreign rulers that preceded the Kennedy assassination. Why the silence on a domestic regime-change operation?
The reason for this deafening silence lies with the conservative baggage that reform-oriented libertarians brought with them when they joined the libertarian movement. We’ve seen this baggage, of course, with respect to such conservative-oriented reform proposals as school vouchers, health-savings accounts, Social Security “privatization,” immigration-control reform, and much more.
Perhaps the biggest and heaviest baggage that conservative-oriented libertarians have brought with them into the libertarian movement is with respect to their support for the national-security establishment or for what President Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” or for what the Founding Fathers called “standing armies.”
Ever since World War II, conservatives have been unabashed supporters of the national-security state way of life. They were convinced that it was necessary to convert the federal government from a limited-government republic to a national-security state, which is a totalitarian form of governmental structure. They were convinced and remain convinced that the conversion was necessary to protect us from a communist takeover during the Cold War.
Conservatives also favor the omnipotent powers that are wielded by the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, including the power of assassination. They are convinced that omnipotent government is necessary to keep us safe and secure, not only from communists but also from terrorists and other dangerous creatures in the world.
It’s that conservative baggage that the reform-oriented libertarians have imported into the libertarian movement.
Now, there is one difference between conservatives and conservative-oriented libertarians. The former support unconditionally whatever the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA determine is necessary to keep us safe or what is in the interests of “national security.” The latter objects to abuses that these agencies commit and call for reforming them.
But there is one overriding commonality between conservatives and conservative-oriented libertarians: their joint devotion to the very existence of the national-security state. Search the articles, books, blog posts, speeches, and conferences of the conservative-oriented libertarians and you will hardly ever find any call for the dismantling of America’s national-security establishment and the restoration of America’s founding governmental system of a limited-government republic.
At most, you’ll find a call for repealing the Patriot Act, or for some sort of reform proposal on NSA surveillance, or maybe for more oversight of the FISA court, or for more judicious intervention in foreign affairs, or for a call to end America’s “forever wars.” But what you won’t see is a call to dismantle the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA and restore a limited-government republic to our land.
What does this conservative baggage have to do with the Kennedy assassination?
Conservatives and conservative-oriented libertarians have long extolled the Chilean regime of conservative military General Augusto Pinochet. They love the guy because he was a conservative — a Thatcher-like conservative — who brought the “Chicago Boys” and their “free enterprise” proposals to Chile, including Social Security “privatization.”
When you remind such libertarians that Pinochet gained power through a domestic regime-change operation against a democratically elected president, their answer is an revealing one — they say that the operation was necessary to save Chile from a president whose policies posed a grave threat to Chile’s national security.
When you point out to them that the Chilean constitution did not provide for a coup as a way to save the nation from a president whose policies ostensibly posed a grave threat to national security, their response is predictable: The constitution is not a “suicide pact,” they say. If it’s necessary for the national-security establishment to violate it to save the nation, then so be it.
When you point out that Pinochet’s goons rounded, incarcerated, tortured, raped, abused, executed, or disappeared more than 50,000 innocent people, including two Americans, they respond that that was unfortunate but that it must be weighed against Pinochet’s ostensible saving of the nation from a democratically elected president whose policies were supposedly leading the nation to destruction.
This is the same conservative mindset that has led reform-oriented libertarians to maintain a strict silence in the Kennedy assassination. If the U.S. national-security establishment determined that Kennedy’s policies posed a grave threat to national security, then that it is the end of the matter for conservative-oriented libertarians, just as it was when the Chilean national-security establishment determined that Allende’s policies posed a grave threat to national security in Chile.
Equally important, if the U.S. national-security establishment wants to keep its role in the Kennedy regime-change operation covert, just as it has in many of its foreign regime-change operations, then that too is the end of the matter for conservative-oriented libertarians. Our national-security officials know what’s best to protect us and keep us safe, they believe, and we must defer to their judgment.
Fortunately, however, there are many libertarians who reject this conservative national-security state mindset. They are skeptical of the official narrative in the Kennedy assassination but have not delved deeply into the matter. They continue to seek understanding about this pivotal event in the history of the U.S. national-security state.
That’s the purpose of our upcoming conference — “The National Security State and the Kennedy Assassination” — to provide an easy-to-understand synopsis of the JFK assassination — why he was assassinated and the adverse consequences the assassination has had on the nation — and why it is imperative that we restore a limited-government republic to our land if we want a genuinely free, peaceful, prosperous, and harmonious society.
Our conference website is forthcoming. Mark your calendar: Wednesday, March 3, at 7 p.m. for the first presentation and continuing weekly every Wednesday evening after that through April 21. Registration will be required but admission will be free.
Reprinted with permission from The Future of Freedom Foundation.