Kennedy’s journey to his death has been well documented, most recently by Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Kennedy. On the other side of the world another politician –Iraqi dictator Abdul Qasim (aka “Abdul Kassem”) was also headed for disaster. The lives of the two heads of state were to intertwine.
Kennedy was elected in 1960. In Iraq, Qasim had seized power in 1958 as part of a military coup; but after he was installed as the Prime Minister he worked to improve the lot if the Iraqi people. He seized foreign land holdings and distributed farms to more of the population. He also oversaw the building of 35,000 residential units, most of which are in today’s “Sadr City”, to house the poor and lower middle classes. He rewrote the constitution to encourage women’s participation in the society.
Like his counterpart Qasim struggled with divisions in his country and with the need to keep his generals happy. Having installed him as their head of state they expected him to procure money and weapons for the Iraqi army.
Iraq’s economy, then as now, depended heavily on its oil industry. The industry was dominated by the Iraq Petroleum Company (“IPC”), which was jointly owned by Iraq and some of the world’s largest oil companies including Exxon and Gulf. It had a virtual monopoly on all oil exploration and production in Iraq from 1925 to 1961.
Prior to 1960, American oil interests were not especially concerned about Iraqi oil. The United States, and especially Texas, dominated world oil markets, leveraging off their influence with President Eisenhower.
In 1960 the picture changed. Moved by a spreading anti-west sentiment, Venezuela and Iran had been courting Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia since 1949, suggesting that they exchange views and explore avenues for regular and closer communication among petroleum-producing nations.
In September 1960, the overtures came to fruition. Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Kuwait met in Baghdad to discuss ways to increase the price of the crude oil produced by their respective countries. The result was OPEC, an organization founded to coordinate its members’ petroleum policies.
Texas oil interests faced a major threat: losing control over the world’s oil markets. They needed information, a source inside OPEC to tell them what was going on.
OPEC provided Qasim with several opportunities. First, Iraq had the support of its fellow members in establishing and enforcing its oil policies. But more important to Qasim personally, OPEC provided the dictator with a valuable source of knowledge, knowledge that could be shared with IPC’s Western partners for a price.
Nothing is known about Qasim’s relationship with the Texans who controlled IPC’s prominent members. What appears from public documents is a struggle between Qasim and IPC, highlighted by threats to nationalize the company. However, nationalization made little sense for Qasim or his country. Iraq did not have the technical or managerial skill to run IPC on its own. It depended on the foreigners who worked there.
And Qasim needed foreign currency. Like most leaders in the Arab world, Qasim had significant trouble keeping his hands on the reins of power. He had been installed by the military on the promise that he would support the Pan-Arab movement started by Egyptian President Nasser. Once in power, however, he began to fear Nasser’s influence on his country and his generals. The only available countervailing sources of influence were the Soviets and the West.
In public it appeared that Qasim was leaning towards the Soviets. He legitimized the Iraqi communist party. Beneath the surface, however, something else might have been occurring. The best source of weapons for his generals would be the United States. President Kennedy had rebuffed Israel’s request for nuclear arms. Perhaps his actions reflected an American desire to win Arab approval?
It is likely that, like many Arabs at the time (and even now) Qasim saw the United States as a monolith. The United States President and the United States oil interests were one and the same. Qasim may have had no idea of Kennedy’s dislike of Big Oil and his pledge to end the depletion allowance, or of the ultra-conservative Texans’ hatred of the liberal Catholic President. Ending the depletion allowance would mean hundreds of millions of lost revenue to the oil companies.
Qasim may have extracted large monetary bribes from the US Oil companies. But he needed more. He needed American-made weapons If Qasim’s attempts to extort military favors through his IPC/Texas contacts failed he may have tried other channels – channels that led to Kennedy. And if Kennedy had discovered that Texans were using their contacts in IPC to bribe Qasim, with the knowledge of Lyndon Johnson, to obtain sensitive information about Middle East oil policies, his reaction could have been to threaten the Texans with public humiliation and possibly even prosecution-potent weapons in his fight to remove the depletion allowance.
His second reaction might have been to seek Qasim’s removal, thus cutting the lines of communication between Texas and OPEC.
Qasim’s tactics were typical of other dictators who don’t get their way. First, threaten IPC with nationalization. Then threaten to charge outrageous transportation rates for oil in IPC terminals. Then order the return of real estate holding held by IPC. They reflect the thrashings of a man who is desperate for something he has demanded and is not getting.
Qasim was overthrown by the party of Saddam Hussein, the Ba’athists, on February 8, 1963 and was subsequently killed. Rumors abound of American involvement in the plot. A memo to President Kennedy on February 8, 1963, the night of the coup refers to the CIA reports on the results.
The alleged motivation for CIA involvement was fear of growing communist influence in Iraq. It does not seem likely that such fears would motivate a request for the CIA to interfere in a distant part of the world less than two years after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. A much more persuasive reason would be to stop Big Oil’s perceived interference in foreign policy. Admittedly there is no documentary evidence for this theory. On the other hand the facts seem to fit. And if Kennedy had discovered such activities and was preparing to take action against Texas oil interests, what better reason to kill the President?
Powerful men do not act out of hatred; hatred is a motive for madmen. They act to protect themselves.
The Kennedy family’s last Christmas was full of activities and family visits.
The White House foyer was decorated with a 16 foot “Nutcracker Tree… trimmed with candy canes and toys…every branch laden with trinkets, toys and sweets.” It had been “Mrs. Kennedy’s wish to decorate the White House in the style of an old time country home,” with “holly and untrimmed fir trees…throughout the mansion, and bunches of mistletoe hung from the door.”
The White House Christmas Card in 1962 featured a photograph of Mrs. Kennedy, Caroline, and John Jr. in a sleigh drawn by Caroline’s pony Macaroni on the south lawn of the White House.
In early December the Kennedys enjoyed a visit from Lee Radziwell, Jackie Kennedy’s sister, and her family. A picture of the family gathering can be found at:
On December 17, President Kennedy presided over the lighting of the National Christmas Tree at the White House Ellipse Grounds. The U.S. Marine Band and the Tuskeegee Institute Choir from Alabama provided music. The White House imported eight reindeer from the National Zoo.
President Kennedy delivered a radio message to the American People:
Ladies and gentlemen, Secretary Udall, members of the clergy:
With the lighting of this tree, which is an old ceremony in Washington and one which has been among the most important responsibilities of a good many Presidents of the United States, we initiate, in a formal way, the Christmas Season.
We mark the festival of Christmas which is the most sacred and hopeful day in our civilization. For nearly 2,000 years the message of Christmas, the message of peace and good will towards all men, has been the guiding star of our endeavors. This morning I had a meeting at the White House which included some of our representatives from far off countries in Africa and Asia. They were returning to their posts for the Christmas holidays. Talking with them afterwards, I was struck by the fact that in the far off continents Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, as well as Christians, pause from their labors on the 25th day of December to celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace. There could be no more striking proof that Christmas is truly the universal holiday of all men. It is the day when all of us dedicate our thoughts to others; when all are reminded that mercy and compassion are the enduring virtues; when all show, by small deeds and large and by acts, that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
It is the day when we remind ourselves that man can and must live in peace with his neighbors and that it is the peacemakers who are truly blessed. In this year of 1962 we greet each other at Christmas with some special sense of the blessings of peace. This has been a year of peril when the peace has been sorely threatened. But it has been a year when peril was faced and when reason ruled. As a result, we may talk, at this Christmas, just a little bit more confidently of peace on earth, good will to men. As a result, the hopes of the American people are perhaps a little higher. We have much yet to do. We still need to ask that God bless everyone. But yet I think we can enter this season of good will with more than usual joy in our hearts.
And I think all of us extend a special word of gratitude and appreciation to those who serve the United States abroad; to the one million men in uniform who will celebrate this Christmas away from their homes; to those hundreds of young men and women and some older men and women who serve in far off countries in our Peace Corps; to the members of the Foreign Service; to those who work in the various information services, AID agencies, and others who work for us abroad who will celebrate this December 25th thousands of miles from us at sea, on land, and in the air, but with us. It is to them that we offer the best of Christmases and to all of you I send my very best wishes for a blessed and happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year. Thank you.
This [indicating the electric switch] was first pressed by President Coolidge in 1923 and succeedingly by President Hoover, Vice President Curtis, by President Franklin Roosevelt on many occasions, by President Harry Truman, by President Eisenhower, by Vice President Johnson. I am delighted to be in that illustrious company and we therefore light the tree.
The Kennedy family spent Christmas Day in Palm Beach, Florida. Five-year-old Caroline got a talking doll from Santa Claus, while two-year old John received a helicopter. Mrs. Kennedy gave President Kennedy a gift of scrimshaw, a 9 ½ x 4 ½ inch molar from the jawbone of a whale, with an inscription of the Presidential seal sketched on it by scrimshaw artist Delano Milton, a distant relative of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
John Connally had a lot to celebrate that Christmas. He had resigned from his position as Secretary of the Navy to run for Texas Governor, and had defeated former Texas Governor Price Daniels, with 54% of the vote, that November.
There is no written record of how the Connallys spent Christmas the next month; but it must have been a busy time. Connally would have been preparing for the inauguration in January. The weather in Austin was mercurial as usual that hear, with highs in the 80’s and lows below zero.
The Connally family probably gathered at the Picosa Ranch, south of San Antonio. They had three surviving children: Sharon (whose sons still operate the Picosa Ranch Resort), John III and Mark. Connally was one of eight children so large family gatherings were probably a part of the holidays. Hunting was (and still is) a popular pastime, and the ranch had plenty of deer.
1962 would be the last Christmas for the Kennedy family and probably the last peaceful Christmas for many years for the Connallys. The next November would change the lives of each of these families, as well as the lives of most Americans, forever.
Thanks to Professor Nancy Rapoport for her nod to Trip in the Dark on her blog. Nancy is the preeminent authority on lawyer’s professional ethics. (yes, that’s not an oxymoron).
Trip in the Dark presents an ethical challenge for its hero, so it’s appropriate that the heroine, Beth Nielsen, is based in part on Nancy. Beth’s character honors several women– Nancy, Elizabeth Warren (I suppose we need to address her as Senator now) and Evelyn Biery, retired partner at Fulbright Jaworski – all women I greatly admire. Hopefully the book will be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble shortly.
The moral dilemma that faces Tom Nielsen – the hero-involves a set of tape recordings that Jake McCarty (based on Governor Connally) stole from Richard Nixon. Nixon stole them himself, from the White House. He planned to use the recordings, that incriminated Lyndon Johnson, J Edgar Hoover and several other prominent politicians, to save his Presidency. McCarty convinced him not to, but then removed the tapes as Nixon was giving his resignation speech.
When McCarty has to file bankruptcy he decides to give the tapes to the University of Texas (his alma mater) and uses Tom Nielsen as the carrier. Of course, since McCarty is in a bankruptcy the tapes belong to his bankruptcy trustee. McCarty simply ignores this inconvenience, but Tom and especially Beth his wife realize the moral dilemma.
To deliver the tapes to the trustee is to assure they will fall into the hands of a group of criminals, who already plan to buy them at the bankruptcy auction. To deliver the tapes to the University is to aid and abet a theft of property of a federal bankruptcy estate – a felony.
What to do? Tom and Beth come up with a creative solution (probably not one Nancy would have thought of). But what would you do?
In the book, Tom is McCarty’s protégé, but is unable to represent him because of a conflict of interest – Tom’s firm represents McCarty’s largest creditor. Would the moral/ethical considerations be different if Tom were McCarty’s lawyer?
Perhaps Professor Rapoport can comment on this issue?
The issue is not as far fetched as you might think. In this recession, as in the one that plagued Houston in the 1980’s, many prominent people have had to file bankruptcy. Their first thought is generally not how they can pay their creditors but how they can protect their assets. They frequently confess this wish to their attorneys even before they file. The question arises in several ways. First, most states (and the Bankruptcy Code) permit an individual to claim property of a certain type and value as “exempt”. The property includes things like household furnishings, personal clothing, cars, etc. There is also a “wild card” exemption – property less than a certain value, regardless of the type.
Of course, the exemption all depends on how property is valued. If household furnishings include an antique armoire, how is it valued? How closely does the lawyer have to check their client’s evaluation?
The issue can also arise after the bankruptcy filing, when the lawyer spots his client cruising around town in a Jaguar that was not listed as one of the Debtor’s automobiles.
In better times, the debtor’s truthfulness would be double checked by the bankruptcy trustee. But in these days, with thousands of bankruptcies being filed, trustees are overwhelmed. They depend on the bankruptcy attorneys to be the watchdogs.
Is this appropriate? How diligent must the lawyer be in checking the client’s list and value of assets? If the lawyer has a client they know is trying to hide something, what should they do? Doesn’t attorney client privilege protect the lawyer? Can the client sue the lawyer if he tattles?
What do you think?
Saturday, November 23, 1963. President Kennedy’s body lay in state in the Rotunda of the US Capital while more than 250,000 people waited up to ten hours in lines hat often stretched forty blocks.
President Johnson was tiptoeing cautiously along the fine line between appearing uncaring of the nation’s collective grieving and appearing incompetent to replace President Kennedy.
In Dallas, John Connally lay in Parkland hospital, still in critical condition. Nellie his wife, Bill Stinson his aide, and twenty members of his family gathered at the hospital to comfort each other. Stinson handled all calls to the wounded governor, who was still comatose. Connally woke occasionally, at first to notice that his arm was in a brace in traction above him. Then he asked about the President, and Nellie told him. “I knew,” he mumbled. “I knew.” Connally’s hospital room was guarded by Texas Rangers. Later it was learned that Jack Ruby had been at the hospital the day before.
On Sunday, November 24, as Connally returned to consciousness, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot. The Connallys watched the shooting as it occurred on TV. Oswald was also brought to Parkland Hospital. Bill Stinson left Connally’s room to oversee the emergency room as Oswald was brought in, and stayed by Oswald’s side as the doctors tried to save him, hoping for some sort of confession, which never came.
The President’s funeral was the next day, November 25. The Connallys had to decide how to deal with the funeral. The Governor was obviously not in a position to attend. His wife would not leave him. They decided to send their seventeen-year-old son, John Connally III, with a note of condolence the young man personally delivered to Mrs. Kennedy. He told Mrs. Kennedy that the letter was very hard for his mother to write. Mrs. Kennedy took his hand and told him that “the only good thing that has come from this is that your father will live”. Connally’s son joined Mrs. Kennedy, Robert and Ted Kennedy and the Johnsons to walk behind the caisson to the cathedral. Nellie and John Connally watched the funeral from his hospital bed.
She also spoke to the reporters from the hospital, saying that Dallas should not be blamed for Kennedy’s death. She met with Mrs. Tippett, wife of Officer Tippett, the Dallas policeman who Oswald had killed in his escape attempt.
In the following months, as the nation got used to Kennedy’s death, the Governor faced the possibility that he could be Texas’ “Governor for Life”. A Texas Governor’s term was only two years; Connally had to stand for reelection in 1964. But Connally’s national stature was such that he would be assured of at least one reelection, if not several. He ended up serving until 1969. Connally’s wounds changed him forever. Although he fostered an image of himself as a man’s man, his friends noticed that he was visibly slowed. It is possible that the wounds to his lungs led to the pulmonary fibrosis that caused his death.
Nellie Connally was the last survivor among the passengers in the ill-fated car. In 2003, the fortieth anniversary of the assassination, she released a book “From Love Field” in which she shared her recollections of that day. She had written notes about the event shortly after she brought her husband home from the hospital so that she could share them with her children and their descendants. She told Larry King that she then put them in an old file cabinet and forgot about them for 33 years. Later she donated her notes to the LBJ library. She died peacefully in her sleep at Westminster Manor, a distinguished retirement community in Austin in 2006 at age 87. She not only survived the other passengers in the car, she lived longer than any of them. Her husband died in 1993 at age 76. Jackie Kennedy died in 1994 at age 65. President Kennedy was 46 when he died.
November 22, 1963. While people all over the world listened in shock and grief to the reports on Kennedy’s assassination, another victim lay in a coma at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Texas Governor John Connally, riding in the front seat of the Kennedy limo, had been critically wounded as well.
Connally had tried to discourage Kennedy from coming to Texas but Kennedy needed Texas money and votes to win in 1964. Lyndon Johnson, who had delivered the State for Kennedy in 1960, was now a politically neutered Vice President. Connally was the rising star of the Texas Democratic Party. Unbeknownst to Johnson, Connally had been invited to Washington for a private meeting with the President to discuss the trip. Despite numerous problems with coming to Texas – Kennedy was an unpopular President with the right wing of the Democratic Party- Connally’s main supporterr. And Texas was full of nuts. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson had recently been attacked during a visit to the State. The President would not be swayed. He would come.
Kennedy was finally able to persuade his wife Jacqueline to accompany him – a move Kennedy felt sure would help increase his popularity in the state.The trip was planned for November. Connally would be required to act as official host.
The trip turned out to be much more successful than Connallly had feared. Huge crowds turned out in San Antonio and Houston to cheer the President. Even conservative Texas industrialists and oilmen listened appreciatively to Kennedy’s non-confrontational speech in Houston, praising the space program, the dreams of old men and the visions of young explorers.
The relationship between Connally and the Kennedy’s meanwhile, had allegedly taken a turn for the worse. According to James Reston Jr., Jackie Kennedy had decided she disliked Connally. He was too “full of himself” and he treated women like ornaments.
On November 22, the party flew from drizzly Fort Worth to Dallas. To their surprise they arrived to bright sunshine. They were treated to a warm reception by the crowds as their motorcade left Love Field for the Trade Mart, where Kennedy was to give a luncheon speech.
As the car turned on Elm Street and passed the Texas Book Depository, the crowds thinned and the Connally’s relaxed and adjusted themselves in the front seat of the limo. Nellie Connally had turned to Kennedy and said “You can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you, Mr. President.” Kennedy’s last words were: “No, you certainly can’t.” John Connally had just assured him that he would carry the state, narrowly defeating Barry Goldwater.
Connally heard a rifle shot. He was a hunter and knew what a rifle sounded like. He turned to his right to see what had happened, but the car’s bulkhead prevented him from turning completely around. He turned back to his left when he felt the bullet slam into his back. He looked at his lap and saw it was covered with blood. He slumped into Nellie’s lap as he heard another shot and saw blue matter spray the car. He knew it was brains.
He screamed “My God, they’ll kill us all!” As he slumped into his wife’s lap his arm fell across his chest. Nellie put her arm over his arm and said “Don’t worry. Be quiet. You’re going to be all right.” She thought he was going to die.
It was his good fortune that his arm had covered his wound and stopped the blood loss, and that the car had gotten to the hospital so quickly. It was later said that if the ride had been eight minutes longer he would have been dead.
As the car screeched to a halt at the hospital Connally regained consciousness. He tried to sit up, aware that people needed to get to Kennedy, but he was in too much pain. The President’s wife was holding her husband, covering his head with a secret service agent jacket. She was not letting go. People were scrambling over the critically wounded Connally to try to get to Kennedy. Finally, a sobbing Dave Powers, the President’s friend, grabbed Connally’s legs. Others grabbed his arms and lifed him onto a gurney so they could reach the President. Nellie Connally remembered feeling bitter at the lack of concern for her husband. She knew Kennedy was already dead.
As Connally was rushed to the emergency room, his aid Bill Stinson ran beside the gurney asking if there was anything he could do. Connally said, “Take care of Nellie”.
As Connally was lifted from the gurney an object fell to the floor. A nurse picked it up. It was a bullet. The bullet had entered his back and shattered a rib. The fragments had punctured his lung, which collapsed and his bronchia. It had then exited his chest and fractured his wrist, finally ending in his thigh.
Dr. Red Duke, the treating surgeon, noted that Connally had a baseball-size hole in his chest. But he was breathing, he was conscious enough to scream to the surgeons to cut off his trousers. Nellie could hear him and knew that he was alive.
Connally died in June, 1993, of pulmonary fibrosis – scarring of the lungs.