Saturday, November 13, 2010

Shock Doctrine: A New Paradigm for the JFK Assassination?

                      Shock Doctrine: A New Paradigm for the JFK Assassination?
                                              John Delane Williams

Naomi Klein [1] has introduced a new interpretation regarding events in the latter half of the twentieth Century, and the first decade of the twenty-first. At the center of her interpretation are Milton Friedman and the University of Chicago School of Economics. Friedman observed that …“only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to our existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.” [2] The ideas that Friedman and his followers had developed were unabashedly radical free market capitalism. Klein has labeled Friedman’s approach as the “shock doctrine” (also referred to as “disaster capitalism”).

Perhaps one of the early events that would help shape the shock doctrine took place in 1953, when the CIA plot successfully overthrew the Mohammad Mossadegh regime in Iran, replacing him with the Shah. Then in 1954, at the behest of the United Fruit Company, President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman of Guatemala was removed through another CIA plot. In both cases developing third world countries were attempting to bring their citizens out of abject poverty in the course of establishing the beginnings of a more modern capitalistic economy. These efforts were derailed by the CIA. These new regimes apparently went afoul of the ideas of John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under President Eisenhower, and his brother, Allen Dulles, Director of the CIA, who saw the new regimes as being too leftist, and likely to fall under Soviet influence. These early coup d’etats could be said to be part of the learning curve for future American misadventures.

                                    The Chicago School and the Coup in Chile

It would seem Chile was to be the entrée into the process of using third world countries as a laboratory for the free-market experiments to test out Friedman’s theories. Starting in 1956, 40 to 50 Chileans and other Latin American graduate students were afforded funding by the U.S. taxpayers and U.S. corporations for their expenses at the ultra-conservative economics department at the University of Chicago. Students were taught disdain for attempts to alleviate poverty, control prices, or erect trade barriers. The Latin American graduates were returned to their countries of origin with the intent of placing them in critical positions in either the government or in university economics departments as clones of the University of Chicago free trade devotees. Between 1957 and 1970, over 100 Chilean students had graduated from the economics department at the University of Chicago. A clone department was created at the Santiago Catholic University, with the same English language texts used at the University of Chicago. Having these ultra-conservative free marketers proselytizing Freidman’s ideas was not winning hearts and minds in Chile. Democracy produced a Salvatore Allende instead of fertile ground for the Freidmanites. The coup that assassinated Allende on September 11, 1973 was said to have three prongs 1) the shock of the coup itself 2) the economic reform agenda of Milton Friedman, which included privatizing most state-owned companies (sold at a fraction of their worth), eliminating price controls, opening the borders to foreign imports, and cutting social spending, which was supposed to “correct” the market. Instead, Chile had inflation reach 375%. The Chicago boys presumed the problem to be that the cuts weren’t drastic enough. The third prong of the shock treatment was the torture of the populace that was unwilling to go along with the extreme measures. The  third prong brings yet another CIA connection. Ewen Cameron, a Scottish born American citizen, was funded by the CIA to do brainwashing research, which he completed in Canada. Cameron tried to return persons to a “tabula rosa” (blank slate). “It was ‘shock and awe’ warfare of the mind.” [3]

In Chile, Friedman personally recommended an across the board cut of 25% in government spending, which supposedly would only cause temporary unemployment, as people moved from public to private employment. The shock treatment worked—in bringing abject poverty to Chile. In Klein’s words, “… perhaps shock treatment was never really about jolting the economy into health. Perhaps it was meant to do exactly what it did-hover wealth up to the top and shock much of the middle class out of existence.” [4] If we fast forward to the present, the current president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, was, along with her mother, tortured in 1975 in Villa Grimaldi, known for its small wooden cubicles. Her father, a military officer who refused to go along with the coup, was murdered by Pinochet’s men. Other South American countries at the southern tip of the continent, each with developing democracies, were also targets for replacement by the Friedmanites. Friedman’s Chicago School tactics were then visited on many of the other South American countries, and then exported to the Eastern hemisphere, most notably Poland, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Korea, and more recently, Iraq.

Perhaps most interesting to many readers are recent shocks in the U.S., as described by Klein. They include 9/11/01 and Hurricane Katrina. Both represent crises in the U.S. The 9/11/01 crisis might have been resolved in any number of ways. It may be a long time before we have definitive information on our resolution, but the shock doctrine does give us some strong hypotheses.   One of the first actions at home was the passing of the Patriot Act, which stripped many of the constitutional rights from our citizenry, and particularly stripped non-citizens of many of their usual protections. Other actions, such as the use of non-warranted wiretappings of phones and e-mails were done, even though such actions were illegal. The Bush administration tried to get tacit approval of their tactics, with some degree of approval by Congress. The seeking of approval by Congress by President Bush seems to have been to forestall lawsuits rather than gather advice and consent. For those who tried to lend some sanity into the process, retaliation was there in abundance. Joseph C. Wilson was sent to Niger in 2002 to check on the story that Iraq had purchased uranium yellowcake for making weapons of mass distruction. Wilson found that the story had no substance and wrote an op-ed about his non-findings in the New York Times. [5] In retaliation, Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was outed from the CIA, ending her career there. “Uncooperative” lawyers in the Justice Department were fired, removing more checks and balances. Various kinds of torture were used with prisoners, including waterboarding, all against the Geneva Convention. Part of the U.S. explanation was that the Bush administration was redefining torture! The adventure into Iraq is truly amazing. Not since the civil war have such a high proportion of our armed forces been made up of members of the National Guard. And then there is the private army, Blackwater USA, which has been used. [6] Iraqis have tried to get Blackwater banned from their country for their misdeeds. Blackwater is immune to Iraqi law, because the United States, before turning over sovereignty to Iraq, passed Order No. 17, which gives contractor companies immunity to Iraqi law. [7, 8]

                         Studying the JFK Assassination by Various Secretive Agencies

What is suggested here is that a recursive process (that is, using a feedback loop) is in play in connecting the shock doctrine to the JFK assassination. It is recursive in the sense that studying the assassination with the shock doctrine as a guide to the maze could shed some light on the assassination. Studying events prior to the assassination through this lens can inform us about that November in Dallas. Each subsequent shock (either natural or contrived) informs about later shocks. From the point of the Friedmanites, each new disaster allows a further testing of the shock doctrine, and refining its implementation (but without changing the underlining economic theory).

Those who study the assassination include, not only members of the critical community, but also many government entities, not only in the United States, but in other countries as well. Surely we would expect the Secret Service to have done a complete investigation of the JFK assassination, and hopefully, reassessed their procedures. The attack on President Reagan should have brought another reassessment within the Secret Service of the protection they provide a president. It is not unusual that such studies are not made public; were this to happen, those who would endanger a president would be given access to the thinking they need to confront. Other agencies, such as the FBI, CIA, DIA, and perhaps police systems in both the District of Columbia and the State of Texas have likely done extensive studies of the JFK assassination. We know that the FBI conducted much of the original “official” investigation of the assassination. Many agencies of foreign governments have most likely looked at the assassination for their own reasons, including avoiding a repetition in their own countries of the assassination of local or foreign dignitaries. We know of the investigation that was done in the Soviet Union. We also know the Mossad in Israel had used the JFK assassination in the training of future katsas (somewhat similar to CIA agents). Former katsaViktor Ostrovsky recalled in his training the use of a film, “A President in the Crosshairs”. The Mossad theory was that the killers were Mafia hit-men, whose actual target was Texas governor John Connelly. Had Connelly been killed, the assumed target would have been JFK; if the assassins wanted to get JFK, they could have gotten him anywhere. The Mossad had several available films of the assassination, as well as pictures throughout Dealey Plaza; the Mossad duplicated the presidential trip through the plaza. Using mannequins, they ran through the death scene over and over again. It was the Mossad’s interpretation that the guns were trained on the back of Connelly’s head. Movement by JFK at just the wrong moment caused his death. It was clear to the Mossad that Oswald could not have possibly have done what the official version claimed he did. [9]

                             Relating the Shock Doctrine to the JFK Assassination

The inferential leap here (some might argue that it is a very small leap) is that the elements responsible for the assassination were economically and politically likely to embrace the ideas of the shock doctrine, pro-free trade (with perhaps their industries, particularly big oil, in a favored position) and unfavorably disposed toward worker’s rights and unions. A Texas connection seems implicit. [See Zirbel, 10] There was probably some degree of tentativeness associated with the assassination. Could the assassination be pulled off with the master plotters and persons paying for the assassination escaping detection? The removal of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 and Guzman in Guatemala in 1954 would have likely increased the resolve to proceed for the planners of the JFK assassination. One such possible co-conspirator would have been H. L. Hunt. Hunt was a man who felt that society’s rules didn’t pertain to him. He was said to have as many as three wives at one time. Directly after the assassination, Hunt left Dallas to reside, at least temporarily, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., at the insistence of the FBI, so they could avail him adequate protection. [11] After President Johnson successfully began his cover-up of the assassination [12, 13], Hunt felt it was safe to return to Dallas.

At the time, one might surmise that most believers in free trade and suppression of workers would still have seen the assassination of an American president, or even applying the shock doctrine to the U.S., as risky; third world countries were more likely to yield success. Indeed, that view was exactly the view of then President Nixon. Though Nixon helped Friedman and the Chicago crew to power in Chile, he took a very different view at home. Nixon had named several of Friedman’s associates to economic positions in his administration, among them a 37 year old Donald Rumsfeld. Instead of instituting Friedman’s policies, Nixon worried about his reelection. In a very non-Friedmanite move Nixon instituted price controls, infuriating Friedman. Don Rumsfeld, who was in charge of the wage and price program, was called by Friedman who told Rumsfeld, “You’ve got to stop doing what you’re doing.” [14] Rumsfeld argued that the programs seemed to be working. Friedman countered with the idea that people would learn the wrong lesson. The lesson here seemed to be that Democracy interfered with Friedman’s agenda. An end run around Democracy would be needed. There are several ways to achieve an end run around Democracy---assassination, steal an election (or several [15]) lie about your opponent (Swift Boaters against Kerry) stage a military coup, or have a right wing supreme court decide an election. The goal of the shock doctrine is not just to put into office right wing free-traders but to transform the society into a free trade multi-national corporate society. The needs of corporations, and not the needs of individual persons, should direct decision making. 

It would seem the JFK assassination, while likely planned by persons oriented to the free trade concept, were more interested in their own economic positions (i.e., leaving the oil depletion allowance unchanged) but were successful in a coup d’etat and then securing the government promulgated Warren Commission interpretation of the assassination. Shock Doctrine devotees would have learned that the President could be assassinated without immediate detection of the planners. Holding fast to the facts of the assassination could be sustained for a significant period. At the time of JFK’s assassination and funeral, we were indeed in “shock and awe”.

Thus, if the JFK assassination is looked at through the lens of moving society toward the acceptance of the free trade dogma, a recursive learning process can help us better understand the whys of the assassination. The JFK assassination was an event early in the ascendancy of the ideas of radical free market capitalism- but the theoretical perspective was already in place.

  1. Klein, N. (2007). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Metropolitan Books.
  2. Freidman, M. (1962) Capitalism and Freedom. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press (repr. 1982, ix; also in Klein, p. 6)
  3. Klein, p. 31.
  4. Klein, p. 86.
  5. Wilson, J.C. (7/6/2003). What I didn’t find in Africa. New York Times.
  6. Scahill, J. (2007).Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. New York: Nation Books.
      7.   Tavernise, S. (9/18/2008). U.S. Contractor Banned by Iraq Over Shootings. New     
           York Times, p.1A.                                                          
      8. Tavernise, S. & Glanz, J. (9/19/2008). New York Times, p. A12.
      9. Ostrovsky, V. & Hoy, C. (1990). By Way of Deception. New York: St. Martin’s                                      
     10. Zirbel, C. (1991). The Texas Connection: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.
           Scottsdale, AZ: TCC Publishers. 
     11. Twyman, N. (1997). Bloody Treason. Rancho Santa Fe, CA: Laurel Publishing.
     12. Brown, W. (2005). The Guns of Texas are uponYou.Williamsport, PA: The Last              
            Hurrah Press.
     13. Williams, J.D. (1999). LBJ and the Assassination Conspiracies. JFK/Deep Politics                                                                   
            Quarterly, 4, 2, 25-28.
     14. Klein, p. 133.
     15. Perhaps the most flagrant example of a stolen presidential election is the election         
           of 1876. Samuel Tilden (D) appeared to be the clear winner over Rutherford B.
           Hayes (R), winning in both popular votes and electoral votes.  The Southern states                                 
           of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina each sent two sets of electors to the                                                      
           electoral college. One of Oregon’s electoral votes was also disputed. An Electoral                                                                                                                                   
           Commission was named, composed of 5 Senators, 5 Members of the House of             
           Representatives, and 5 members of the Supreme Court. It was thought that the                   
           Committee was split evenly, with one independent member, Justice David Davis,
           considered to be the deciding vote. On January 25, 1877, Davis was elected to the
           U.S. Senate by the Illinois State Legislature. Davis resigned from the Supreme
           Court, and then from the Commission. He was replace on the Commission by
           Justice Joseph Bradley, a Republican. In a drawn out process, the Commission      
           voted along party lines 8-7 in favor of Hayes on each set of disputed electors.  
           A ruling of the Commission would stand unless both Houses of Congress
           overturned a decision. The Senate, controlled by the Republicans 40-24, in each
           case affirmed the Commissions rulings giving Hayes an 185-184 edge in electoral
           votes. (See Hayes vs. Tilden at

           From JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly (2008).12, 4, 12-19.


  1. Suffering from the P.A.S.T.Post assassination Stress trauma we all are and forever shall be till the end unless the warless egalitarian , very Christian world I might add that the Pope, JFK, Thomas Merton and Sergei Khrushchevs father imagined materializes.At every angle from the shootings to the motorcade, the investigations, the collaborating beneficiaries it is obvious to any up syndrome child or adult the only down is the people who falsely through theoretical theologies falsely promulgate fear and belief in a power that if suborned to will abolish their deaths though so greatly feel while not living truthfully though they can spell honest, enough.

  2. I agree with the analysis. I think in addition to the Friedman scenario we need to include in shock doctrine the Halford MacKinder geosratategic theory of surrounding Eurasia to allow the British and the West to maintain control of the Earth's resources. Together the 2 theories complement and make more likely the establishment of the transnational corporate economic system referred to.