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RFK and the “Mysterious” End of Kennedy’s Populism

How would the United States of America and the world be today if, on June 5th 1968, Robert Francis Kennedy had not been stopped?

Illustration by Antonio Giambanco for VNY

Fifty years ago, on an important night for the Democratic primaries, candidate Robert F. Kennedy died in Los Angeles, the brother of former president, JFK. RFK understood right away that, more than Communism, it was the Mafia and its relationship with the establishment that was the enemy within that had to be examined. And if he and his brother had not been killed, perhaps today we would give new meaning to the word “populism”

How would have the United States, and the world, been today if on November 22nd 1963, President John F. Kennedy had not been assassinated in Dallas? This is a question that millions of Americans and people around the world, even born after 1963, have asked themselves at least once in their lives. But how many of them have ever posed this question, this time substituting the first letter of the initials JFK with an “R”, the last digit of 1963 with an “8”, and then flying from Dallas to Los Angeles? Fifty years ago, after being shot in the head, on June 5th 1968, during an important night for the Democratic primaries, to then be nominated as presidential candidate, Robert Francis Kennedy – Bobby, for his friends and family — died in LA.  Bob, for his supporters, who, in 1968, were becoming an unstoppable avalanche capable of taking him to the Oval Office where he had already been his brother’s most heeded “advisor”.

La copertina del libro di Stefano Vaccara "Carlos Marcello: the Man Behind the JFK Assassination" Enigma Books 2013

The cover of Stefano Vaccara’s book, “Carlos Marcello: The Man Behind the JFK Assassination” Enigma Books 2013

But let’s take a step back 5 years. Before Air Force One that was transporting JFK and First Lady Jacqueline landed in Dallas on that fateful day in 1963, Bobby was, after the president, the most “dangerous” man of the United States. In fact, he was the Attorney General with the most power in American history, given that his boss was his brother, Jack, who not only thought the world of him, but whom he trusted, even if he realized a certain rigidity in his character. In fact, RFK’s nickname amongst family members was “Black Bobby”, precisely for his taciturn, and above all, skeptic, character towards every type of idealism.  In fact, after completing his studies at Harvard, differently from JFK, the law graduate RFK went to work as a legal assistant for a junior senator of Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, the same person that gave his name to the terrible McCarthyism Communist witch hunt.

But there will be different “ideologic” changes in RFK’s career. In fact, Communism’s “red beast” cue ball — seen as the enemy of the American people always lurking in the shadows — will soon substituted by the young attorney with another danger for American society: The Mafia. After his fieldwork with McCarthy, Kennedy went to work for the Senate’s McClellan Committee, which was investigating the relationships between the labor unions and organized crime racketeering – a commission where even his older brother, by now a senator, sat on.   

Here, RFK notices how much the Mafia had become influential in the labor world and that of American labor unions.  Everyone remembers the Kennedy’s duel, starting with Jimmy Hoffa, the head of the Teamsters Union. However in 1959, RFK also begins another, much more perilous, duel, which will continue until his death: the one with Carlos Marcello (born Calogero Minacori), boss of the oldest Mafia family in America, the one in New Orleans. RFK calls Marcello to testify in Washington, and there, the young Kennedy, seated next to his older brother, interrogated the Mafia head of Sicilian origins, whose emigrant parents from the province of Agrigento (Ravanusa) never naturalized him to become an American citizen. And pointing his finger at him, after Marcello took the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer his questions, yelled, “Mr. Marcello, you are not even a citizen and you do not merit living in this country and we will do everything possible to send you away from the United States forever”.

Robert Kennedy with his brother, John, during the McClellan Commission’s interrogation.

When RFK spoke these words, he was still a simple lawyer, even though he was working as an advisor for an important Commission of the Congress. From there, in less than two years, he was nominated by his brother, now elected President, as Attorney General: The most powerful attorney general in the world.

Before even occupying that hot seat, RFK had theorized and made public what he would have done when he would finally have the power to do so. His book, entitled, “The Enemy Within”, was published in 1960, far before JFK’s election to the White House. In it, he claimed that the main enemy capable of destroying American liberty and prosperity “from within” was not Communism, but the Mafia!

One of the first acts that RFK brought forth as attorney general was precisely that of wanting to expel Carlos Marcello from the United States. And he did so in an unconstitutional manner, having him “kidnapped” by federal agents, dragging him onto a plane, and literally throwing him onto the airport runway of Guatemala City, the capital of the country where Marcello had citizenship obtained using false documents — and RFK knew this. But since he was unable to send him to Italy (it refused to take him) Marcello had bribed some Italian officials in charge of the paperwork, and RKF took advantage of the Guatemalan citizenship, even if it had been done ad hoc by Cosa Nostra’s boss to remain close to New Orleans.

We cannot recount in this article all of the passages of this “duel” between RFK and Marcello, so for purposes of convenience, you can refer to my book here.  But surely, when in Dallas in 1963, two days after JFK’s assassination, a certain Jack Ruby (a nightclub manager and Marcello’s employee) took out Lee Harvey Oswald inside a police station, Attorney General Robert Kennedy has already understood by now who was behind his brother’s homicide. “The Enemy Within” — that Mafia that RFK understands — would not act without the protection and the help of “strong powers”, of that establishment that, between exchanges of favors and collusion, nurtures and strengthens its power. It is not by chance that JFK was killed in Texas, the political stronghold of the man who will take JFK’s place as president, and also territory under the “jurisdiction” of the New Orleans’ Mafia. The FBI with its strange investigations and the Johnson administration, with its staging of the Warren Commission, will take care in dodging the truth regarding the conspiracy, which will remain concealed for over 50 years.  Despite President Trump’s “blackmail warnings”, it was in fact decided that these secrets still be kept well covered. But just two days after Dallas, the attorney general understood that his President brother was dead also because of what he was doing against the Mafia.

When, in September 1964, RFK resigns as attorney general and gets on the campaign trail to become the senator of New York state, we’re at another passage of Bobby’s brief life, no longer the “dark” conservative, but, just like in his brother, Jack’s, last period, a supporter of the “new frontier”, of “civil rights”. Even RFK had at this point turned to “Kennedy-like populist idealism”, directed towards that America with the greatest need for rights and opportunity.   

Robert Kennedy knows his enemies well, and the archenemy not only commands in New Orleans, but is also seated in the Oval Office of the White House, and so Bobby remains even more prudent during his years at the Senate. He conceals his intentions well and doesn’t let on that he plans to set off on the campaign trail to the White House — the only place from which he could have continued his brother’s political mission and also finally bring truth and justice regarding his death.

When RFK, in March of 1968, decides to candidate himself at the last minute for the democratic nomination, perhaps he has already understood that LBJ will not be seeking re-election. At the same time, his is a very difficult fight, because despite his position against the Vietnam War, he has in Minnesota senator Eugene McCarthy a formidable adversary in gathering that pool of young, anti-war adult voters necessary to secure a win.  So, after having lost in Oregon, on June 5, 1968, Kennedy wins the most important race – California. The smile that he flaunts in front of the crowd flocking to the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles is the smile of someone who has a glimpse of his dream coming true 5 years after Jack’s death. 

A few minutes after his victory speech, his race is brought to a halt by gunshots. According to the “official truth”, they were all shots fired by a young Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan, who was waiting for him in the hotel’s kitchen hallway, from where Kennedy is made to pass through — a strange decision made at the last moment to make him arrive to a press conference with journalists.   

RFK was pronounced dead at the hospital after 26 hours of agony. For America, who had just lost JFK and less than two months prior had lost Martin Luther King, the shock continued. And yet, the people of the most powerful nation in the world, are again made to believe that after a young, crazy loner had killed President Kennedy – planning and doing everything on his own –– to then being in turn be killed by a very shady individual named Jack Ruby, here we have yet another crazy person, another loner acting by himself, who would kill JFK’s brother, a man aspiring to become president, as well.

5 giugno 1968: il senatore Robert Kennedy agonizzante dopo essere stato colpito all’Ambassador Hotel di Los Angeles

Sirhan, who was given the death penalty at his trial, remains alive in a California prison, because that state abolished the death penalty prior to carrying out his sentence.  The young son of Christian Palestinian refugees, right from the first trial, will recount that he did not remember anything about the moment of the shooting. As if under hypnosis, just like in the movie, “The Manchurian Candidate”.

Sirhan Sirhan right after his arrest

At the same time, an audio recording of the moment of the shooting will reveal that in those few seconds 13 shots had been fired. But Sirhan’s gun would have only been able to fire a maximum of 8, because according to testimony, the young man had been blocked right after firing off the first shots and would never have had the opportunity to reload the gun. At the same time, the shot that would prove fatal, after the hours of agony that JFK suffered, was that which wounded the senator in the head, entering from behind his ear, shot from the bottom up. According to testimony, while Sirhan fired at RFK, he always remained facing the senator, and was never close up.

Many people were wounded during the shooting. Among them, as the wonderful Netflix documentary,  “Bobby Kennedy for President”, explains quite clearly, the union official, Paul Schrade, who will remain wounded in the head, but will miraculously survive, and whom to this day remains convinced that Sihran was not the only person firing shots that evening, and that there was a plot to kill Kennedy. 

Now, – and this is new – even some of RFK’s children are finally convinced of this and want to have the case regarding their father’s death reopened. Besides Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who recently met with Sirhan Sirhan in jail, even his sister Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, ex assistant governor of Maryland, stated in the Washington Post that “the case regarding her father’s assassination deserves to be re-opened”. Finally. Also, because for quite some time now — at least 30 years — it has been written by very attentive researchers that even for RFK, there were strange coincidences and suspicions regarding his alleged assassin. Just as with Lee Harvey Oswald, who besides being born and raised in New Orleans, returned in the summer of 1963 to the city where Carlos Marcello reigned, to live in his uncle, Charles Murret’s, home – known for collecting illegal gambling debts for years that had been organized by the Mafia boss. That same Oswald, who will be seen for most of that summer keeping company in gay bars around New Orleans with the pilot David Ferrie (remember Joe Pesci in the movie JFK by Oliver Stone?), who works as an investigator for Carlos Marcello. And here’s a damning piece of coincidence: this young man of Palestinian origin worked as a stable hand at the racetrack controlled by Los Angeles Mafia boss, Micky Cohen — Carlos Marcello’s ally and close friend.

After the funeral held in New York on June 8, 1968, RFK’s body was transported to Washington, D.C. by train, and during that trip, the spectacle of American people lined up all along the route recognized the courage in the ideas of “democratic populist” Kennedy. Let’s stop here for a moment and go back to the beginning of this long article. Right: How would America, and the world, be if RFK had continued his “populist” campaign for the White House and had beat, just as his brother, Jack, had done 8 years prior, Richard Nixon? Would they have been a completely different America and world? Today, after half a century, we are witnessing another type of populism making its way forward and winning, but it is not RFK’s inclusive one, which supported the weak without having to go against the weakest, a populism for a large coalition of minorities — the working class and white Americans, all pro civil, economic, and social rights, and anti-war, which RFK promised to defend during his political campaign.  No, now it has to do with “Trump-like populism”, imitated in Italy by Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord party and its supporters (along with the Five Star Movement that seems to have been hypnotized), which is based on putting up walls and taking down “the enemies of the people”, including journalists and all those who do not kneel before the myth of “America Great Again” or the rallying cry, “Italians First!”.

Robert Kennedy shaking hands with his supporters (Culturadar).

Knowing the truth about who and why every possibility of that inclusive Kennedy-like populism was shut down, represented by the trio JFK-MLK-RFK, the three “populists” that they still want us to believe had been killed in America by three lone gunmen, loner assassins, perhaps could wake everyone up from the spell of Trumpism – having arrived after all right on time as a result of a day in 1963 in Dallas, and a night in 1968 in Los Angeles.

Translation by Emmelina De Feo

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