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Did the Elites Have Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Killed?

The most compelling argument against the existence of a vast conspiracy orchestrating the assassinations of Jack and Bobby Kennedy is that the brothers were never threats to ruling power. The Kennedys were card-carrying members of the global elites, ran in their circles, catered to their whims, administered their political and economic bidding. (Just ask Fidel Castro.) With MLK, it could be a different matter. And with the infinitely more radical Malcolm X it certainly was. Whatever King’s actual function–and the Reverend was given a hard time as something of an Uncle Tom by radicals in the later Sixties–the ruling power construed him as a threat.

King was assassinated almost forty-six years ago, at just after 6 in evening, as he stood on a balcony of the Lorraine motel in Memphis, Tennessee. A single rifle bullet hit him in the jaw, then severed his spinal cord. James Earl Ray, a white man, was convicted of the killing and sentenced to 99 years. Ray was certainly the gunman.

But there are credible theories of a conspiracy, possibly involving US Army intelligence, whose role in the life and death of Martin Luther King was explored by Stephens Tompkins in the Memphis Commercial Appeal in 1993.

The Army’s interest in the King family stretched back to 1917 when the War Department opened a file on King’s maternal grandfather, first president of Atlanta’s branch of the NAACP. King’s father, Martin Sr., also entered Army intelligence files as a potential troublemaker, as did Martin Jr. in 1947 when he was 18. He was attending Dorothy Lilley’s Intercollegiate School in Atlanta and 111th Military Intelligence Group in Fort McPherson in Atlanta suspected Ms Lilley of having Communist ties.

King’s famous denunciation of America’s war in Vietnam came exactly a year before his murder, before a crowd of 3,000 in the Riverside Church in Manhattan. He described Vietnam’s destruction at the hands of ”deadly Western arrogance,” insisting that ”we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”

US Army spies secretly recorded black radical Stokely Carmichael warning King, “The Man don’t care you call ghettos concentration camps, but when you tell him his war machine is nothing but hired killers you got trouble.” Carmichael was right.

After the 1967 Detroit riots 496 black men under arrest were interviewed by agents of the Army’s Psychological Operations Group, dressed as civilians. It turned out King was by far the most popular leader. That same year, watching the great antiwar march on Washington in October 1967 from the roof of the Pentagon Major General William Yarborough, assistant chief of staff for Army intelligence, concluded that “the empire was coming apart at the seams”. He thought there were too few reliable troops to fight the war in Vietnam and hold the line at home.

The Army increased surveillance on King. Green Berets and other Special Forces veterans from Vietnam began making street maps and identifying sniper sites in major American cities. The Ku Klux Klan was recruited by the 20th Special Forces Group, headquartered in Alabama, as a subsidiary intelligence network. The Army began offering 30.06 sniper rifles to police departments, including that of Memphis. King was dogged by spy units through early ’67. A Green Beret unit was operating in Memphis the day he was shot. The bullet that killed him came from a 30.06 rifle purchased in a Memphis store. Army intelligence chiefs became increasingly hysterical over the threat of King to national stability.

After his Vietnam speech the major US newspapers savaged King. Fifteen years later the New York Times was still bitter when the notion of a national holiday honoring the civil rights leader was being pressed–with ultimate success–by labor unions and black groups. “Why not a Martin Luther King Day?” an NYT editorial asked primly. “Dr King, a humble man, would have objected to giving that much importance to any individual. Nor should he be given singular tribute if that demeans other historical black figures.” Give one of them a holiday and they’ll all be wanting one.

Within hours of King’s murder rioting broke out in 80 cities across the country. Dozens of people, mostly black were killed. On April 6 the Oakland cornered the Black Panther leadership and when one of the young leaders, Bobby Hutton, emerged with his shirt off and his hands up, shot him dead. Further police executions of Panthers followed, most notoriously the killing of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, as they slept, by the Chicago police, with FBI complicity, in December, 1969.

In contrast to Hutton, the Panthers and above all Malcolm X, slain in 1965, white liberal opinion, resentments at the disloyalty of the Riverside Church speech conveniently forgotten, has hailed King as a man who chose to work within the system and who furthermore failed to make any significant dent on business as usual.

In his last years King was haunted by a sense of failure. Amid a failed organizing campaign in Chicago he was booed at a mass meting there and, as he lay sleepless that night he wrote later that he knew why: “I had urged them [his fellow blacks ] to have faith in America and in white society They were now booing because they felt were unable to deliver on our promises They were now hostile because they were watching the dream they had so readily accepted turn into a nightmare.”

As the radical journalist Andrew Kopkind wrote shortly after King’s assassination, “That he failed to change the system that brutalizes his race is a profound relief to the white majority. As a reward they have now elevated his minor successes into major triumphs.”

Forty years on, America is still disfigured by racial injustice. Militant black leadership has all but disappeared. To black radicals Obama’s sedate homilies and respectful paeans to America’s ladders of advancement available to the industrious are to the fierce demands for justice of Malcolm X and of King in his more radical moments, as Muzak is to Charlie Parker.

Obama is caught, even as King was. The moment whites fear he is raising the political volume, he’s savaged with every bludgeon of convenience, starting with the robust sermons of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose sin is to have reminded whites that there are black Americans who are really angry. “Damn America,” roared the Rev Wright. King was just as rough at Riverside Church in the speech that so terrified the white elites: “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.”

Honesty of this sort from a black politician in America extorts due retribution.

This article is adapted and expanded from a piece which originally appeared in the January 2009 print edition of CounterPunch.

Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature, Grand Theft Pentagon and Born Under a Bad Sky. His latest book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.


(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: History • Tags: Counterpunch Archives, Martin Luther King 
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17 Comments to "Did the Elites Have Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Killed?"

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  1. Paul Rain
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    “This article is adapted and expanded from a piece which originally appeared in the January 2009 print edition of CounterPunch.”

    Given that the false claim that the “Ku Klux Klan was recruited by the 20th Special Forces Group” has been printed in “Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press” and “End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate” over the past 25 years, that’s understating things juuuust a little bit.

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  2. FreeSociety
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    “Kennedys were card-carrying members of the global elites, ran in their circles, catered to their whims, administered their political and economic bidding”.

    These statements are completely false, and reflect the very propaganda that the elites wish to deflect the issue.

    The CIA and John Kennedy were at War with each other, as documented by Arthur Krock’s article in The New York Times warning that a Coup by the CIA was possible because a “high official” was concerned that the CIA was sabatoging White House policy, and beyond control.
    Kennedy prevented the U.S. Military from starting open Warfare on Cuba on mulitple occasions: 1) during the CIA’s “Bay of Pigs” manipulations, 2) by rejecting the Joint Chief’s “Operation Northwoods” false flag event, and 3) by focusing on diplomacy during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy also then withdrew U.S. Missiles from Turkey, which was regarded by the War Establishment as heresy at the time. He also then took a leadership role, similar to Mikhale Gorbechev in the 1980s, to promote World Disarmament and an agreement with Russia for the first Atomic Ban Treaty in 1963.

    Simply put, Kennedy wanted peace and planned in 1963 to begin the withdrawal of the advisors in Vietnam, and documented his plan with NSAM 263 to have all personnel out of Vietnam by 1965.

    Beyond that Kennedy also cut off the Oil Depletion allowance, pressured U.S. Steel to cease price gouging the American public, and took on the Federal Reserve Monopoly by having the U.S. Treasury print 1963 series “United States Notes”, which were debt-free and backed by silver.

    The fact that Wall Street, The War Establishment, The CIA (in paritcular), and The U.S. Media have all scrambled to deceive the public into believing in “magic bullets”, and head shots from the front coming from behind, and ignored all the documents that prove direct CIA involvement is all the proof anyone needs to recognize that Kennedy was not in any way doing what the global elites wanted.

    Robert Kennedy was also clearly a threat to The Establishment, and vowed to end the Vietnam War in 1968.

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  3. E. A. Costa
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    Elites have murderous disagreements, and have had since ancient times. Just one example: the Gracchi. More importantly, perpend: Ngo Dinh Diem, assassinated 2 November, 1963. Ring a bell? whatever the complexities all these events center around Vietnam. One is no fan of King, who was very late to oppose Vietnam, but it seems it did him in. Putting Obama in the same category is absurd–Obama has been a hired hand since the beginning, with obvious trails leading to his mother and his stepfather, not to mention his legal work in NYC.

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  4. J. Fallstar
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    I have to admit I didn’t get past the first paragraph. I should have stopped at the first sentence which set off huge BS alarm bells.

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  5. Fran Macadam
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    “I have to admit I didn’t get past the first paragraph. I should have stopped at the first sentence which set off huge BS alarm bells.”

    That either of the vetted nominees for President of the duopoly parties could ever represent a threat to ruling power is improbable. Let’s say, recently proven impossible. Certainly the Kennedy pedigree developed into one of status quo power, long before the brief ascendancy of “Camelot,” with the transmogrification of prohibition bootlegger Joe into respected and powerful Ambassador Kennedy.

    As far as the rest of the paragraph? Take President Obama’s statement about why he didn’t translate election promises of hope and change into action, as reported in The Christian Century: “it would have pissed off too many powerful people.” He readily basks in the sentimentalized, sanitized and bowdlerized version of King’s mantle, that threatens no one and changes nothing. As to the prophetic judgment of King’s Riverside antiwar speech, he regularly contradicts it by both word and deed.

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  6. If King was assassinated because of his opposition to the Vietnam War, why was Eugene McCarthy, a man who did vastly more to undermine the U.S. commitment to Vietnam than anyone else, including King or Robert Kennedy, was never so much as molested by the police? Clean Gene runs strongly enough in 1968 to force Johnson out of the race but he’s not a threat to the war machine, but King makes 1 speech and he’s public enemy number one? Give me a break!

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  7. voltaire
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    Kennedy signed his own death warrant when he tried to prevent the Israelis from continuing their development of their nuclear weapons at Dimona. The Zionists hated JFK for this and had had never forgiven the Kennedy family for Papa Joe’s Word War II isolationism which they considered to be merely based on Joe’s antisemitism.

    The powers that be in the left realized that MLK’s pacifism presented a threat to their long held commitment to violent Troskyite revolution, a belief that today’s Neocons actually continue to hold. It is no accident that the Black Panthers took took over the a large part of the leadership of the black movement soon after MLK’s death. His continued presence and his belief in non violence would have made their rise to power much more difficult.

    Think back to how the media lionized the Panthers with non stop coverages in the newspapers and TV. Remember Leonard Bernstein inviting them to his home for parties where they got to meet the real elite. This favorable blitz only started to come to an end about the time that the Panthers started doing such very non PC things such as voicing support for the Palestinians. Then any cachet they might have enjoyed within in the white left came to a rapid end and the media and police attacks began.

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  8. Je' Czaja
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    No need to speculate about whether or not MLK was killed by a conspiracy. The civil court case said he was. “A jury in a civil suit brought by the family of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. decided today that a retired Memphis cafe owner was part of a conspiracy in the 1968 killing of Dr. King.

    The jury’s decision means it did not believe that James Earl Ray, who was convicted of the crime, fired the shot that killed Dr. King.

    After four weeks of testimony and one hour of deliberation, the jury in the wrongful-death case found that Loyd Jowers as well as ”others, including governmental agencies” had been part of a conspiracy. The jury awarded the King family the damages they had sought: $100, which the family says it will donate to charity.” New York Times 12/9/1999

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  9. LBJ wanted JFK dead – He was power hungry -wanted to be president. Conspired with the rest in this list
    Hoover wanted Kennedy Dead -JFK backed RFK going after the Mafia
    CIA wanted JFK dead – Bay of Pigs
    Mossad wanted Kennedy dead – He was going to rein in their nuclear weapons development and be subject to inspection- Zionist have controlled the foreign policy of the U.S in the Middle East since thee days of Woodrow Wilson.
    The mob wanted Kennedy dead- RFK was going after the Mafia
    Hunt Brothers wanted JFK dead – He was coming after th oil depletion allowance

    RFK would have continued going after the Mob, Got us out of Vietnam – alienating Military Industrial Complex and going after the oil depletion allowance, would have opened up investigation into JFK murder which would implicated LBJ, CIA, Big Oil, the Mob and Mossad, George Herbert Walker Bush, Richard Nixon.

    MLK, Jr. – Hoover hated him, King’s message about Vietnam was resonating with White Middle Class Working Class and white poor, pumped up the juices of moribund unions alienating corporate giants, ending the Vietnam War alienates more military industrial complex – more corporate giants. You’ll learn that James Earl Ray was the patsy in the MLK, Jr. murder, just as Sirhan Sirhan was the patsy in the RFK murder and Lee Harvey Oswald was the patsy in the JFK Murder. (I have very good reason to believe that Arthur Bremer was the patsy in the assassination attempt on Wallace and very closely connected with the operation and means by which Sirhan Sirhan was manipulated into his attempt on RFK. BTW none of bullets of Sirhan’s gun ever hit RFK nor were they ever identified as such.

    You’ll find it all here in a 10+ hour epic Evidence of Revision. It’s in 6 parts. D/l it in full -Watch them all – Listen carefully. even if it means pausing and listening again to make sure you heard it correctly.
    I guarantee – If you were an adult during that period,what you see and hear I can guarantee you will find absolutely mind boggling, jaw drawing, shocking and awesome in the true sense of both of those words.

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  10. David F.
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    The amount of dirt on King that the media and the government had at the time of his assassination was colossal. Simply keeping it under wraps was hard enough. The media or government agencies could have trashed his reputation and cut off his all-important media coverage if they had wished to.

    No real opponent of King would have killed him–he obviously would be far more powerful as a martyr than as a declining figure battered by accusations of fraud, plagiarism, and outrageous sexual escapades.

    If you really consider who benefited from his death–it was his own side: the Left. King was far more useful to them as a dead martyr than as a living has-been. The predictable riots would have been a great bonus for leftists who longed for revolution, and hard-edged pro-Soviets who were eager to profit from our racial turmoil.

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  11. indictmsm
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    Previous commenter David F. has all the fingerprints of the ghost of J.Edgar Hoover who hated MLK & laundered his slimy Co-intelpro red-baiting, smears, provocations & forgeries throughout the CIA-FBI infested “Operation Mockingbird” media. That media now includes the internet which we know is infested even more deviously & massively by the CIA, FBI, State Department & Military’s armies of fake persona Co-Intelpro sock-puppets who pose as ”John Q. Public. “”David’s”” preposterous attempt to blame MLK’s supporters for his murder is exactly the dirty tactic used by the government to snitch-jacket & spread false rumors to instigate in-fighting in the movements for social justice. BTW, only FBI-CIA provocateurs & police-state plotters benefit from nihilist riots, not leftists . Search: “Cass Sunstein Cognitively Infiltrates Sock Puppets Into Internet”

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  12. ray
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    “The most compelling argument against the existence of a vast conspiracy orchestrating the assassinations of Jack and Bobby Kennedy is that the brothers were never threats to ruling power.”

    That’s the common propaganda, all right… and a poor (and erroneous) opening assumption, especially for a piece on political assassination.

    MLK was a political hit, with religious undertones — but primarily, a way to manipulate the nation (and world) into the desired ideopolitical paths and assumptions.

    But JFK and RFK were chiefly aspects of religious war, with tremendous socio-political fallout. Indeed, the shield provided by their wealth and upbringing was precisely what allowed them — unlike the mass of fellow-Americans in the naive early-Sixties, to understand what interests actually ran the nation. JFK and RFK had MANY enemies, of all kinds. But when Jack announced to a press club that he and bro were intent on opposing, exposing, and breaking the ‘rule by secrecy’ — the masonic cryptocracy beneath U.S. (and global) politics — their death warrant was stamped.

    Mason LBJ was installed, and since JFK there have been no ‘chances taken’ with the U.S. presidency… or with national congresses, for that matter. Exactly opposite to the article’s opening assertion, the Kennedy brothers, despite many personal flaws, were the LAST institutional hope of the nation.

    You don’t have much chance of ‘fixing’ a nation whose actual history of half-a-century running you still do not vaguely understand. Or worse, seek to camoflage.

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  13. Bill
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    Jfk and Rfk had made many powerful enemies including the cia and the military industrial complex. He was engaged in secret back channel correspondence with both Kruschev and Castro to end the cold war. He had vowed to destroy the cia after thr bay of pigs and he fired allen dulles later the dominant character in the Warren commission. For an extremely well written and documented explanation on how the Kennedys had run afoul of the Washington power structure read Jfk and the unspeakable.

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  14. If only.

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  15. Sam
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    I second this. Evidence of Revision is very powerful. It’s only shows TV or video primary sources. There’s no commentary. You see what was on the news and what people said.

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  16. That affirmative-action parasite currently defiling the White House IS violating the constitution in MAJOR ways. He has assumed the powers of a dictator. His administration OPENLY has declared that Whites have no protection under the law from violence and intimidation by lively, vibrant diverses.

    Obonzo is also using “executive orders” to give amnesty to millions of illegal aliens: if they are third-world savages. If they are White, they get deported like as not. Obonzo meanwhile is orchestrating a hostile invasion of third-world savages over our southern border.

    Obonzo is an accessory to murder because of Fast and Furious, in which he attempted to create a problem that would allow his regime to deprive us of the right to bear arms. This at a time when Whites desperately NEED firearms to protect ourselves from violent attack by nonWhites.

    And the gun problem in the U.S. is, quite frankly, a problem of violent Blacks, Hispanics and Asians (Hmong, Vietnamese, etc.). Among White people, crime is an extremely minor problem. Among nonWhites crime is a way of life. They kill each other, with guns, as their standard operating procedure.

    Because of the egalitarian, politically-correct lie of Multiculturalism, Whites are treated as if THEY are the problem. Cowardly, traitorous Leftists would love to see their precious nonWhite wards disarmed so they wouldn’t have to be afraid of their little brown and black brothers. But since they cannot admit this, Leftist scum must disarm Whites as well.

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  17. MWTexas
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    “Honesty of this sort from a black politician in America extorts due retribution.”

    Too bad that in this country now [dis]honesty from a black politician in America [fails to] extort[] due retribution.

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