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Authors: Garry Wills

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He rejected the idea that Communists had killed Kennedy “because he was planning to turn American.” On the contrary, he said, he saw no evidence that Kennedy planned to “turn American.” Instead, the assassination of Kennedy was meant to trigger the backlash killing of true patriots all across the land. That plan failed only because the Dallas police captured Oswald. Then the Communists had to send Ruby to kill Oswald before he could reveal the plan.
Eventually, Oliver became too crazy even for the Birch Society, and he was forced out, making his few followers call him a martyr, “the man who knew too much.” The Warren Commission did not publicly refute Oliver any more than it did Rich. It did not want to spend decades chasing down the phantoms of fanatics. But that left it vulnerable to men like Lane who could use the fanatics to create their own phantoms.
Tom Wolfe and E. W. Johnson,
The New Journalism
(Harper & Row, 1973), p. 21.
Mark Lane,
Rush to Judgment: A Critique of the Warren Commission's Inquiry into the Murder of President John F. Kennedy, Officer J. D. Tippit, and Lee Harvey Oswald
(Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1966), p. 295.
Turbulent Times
fter earlier urban riots—Watts, Detroit, Newark—there was great fear that the cities could succumb to a general conflagration in 1968. Political and police leaders went into a flurry of preparations for trouble, buying armored vehicles and testing new technologies for crowd control. The Pentagon did studies on better ways to back up National Guard units, as it had (belatedly) in the Detroit riot. The Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) studied the range of nonlethal weapons that could be used on citizens (exotic things like “liquid banana peel”). The FBI issued a manual,
Prevention and Control of Mobs and Riots.
The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice made riots a new focus. Antiwar demonstrations were increasing and authorities were scurrying about to cope with the threat.
In this climate,
s editor, Harold Hayes, sent me to nine cities to talk with mayors and police officials on what preparations they were making for control of the threat. I flew over Watts in a police helicopter. I toured Chicago in police cars. I talked with the police chief in Detroit, Ray Girardin, who said the riot there would not have been so bad if Governor George Romney had not wanted to promote his presidential race by refusing federal troops for too long. I talked to Frank Rizzo, the tough police commissioner in Philadelphia, who had heavily armed teams cruising around the clock for quick response to trouble. Rizzo had new weaponry, including a Stoner gun that could shoot snipers not just at a window or on a rooftop but by firing through a brick wall at them. In Detroit, a police official took me to a range to fire a Stoner gun and showed me a block of clay that had been hit. I could put my fist through the hole—imagine what that would do to a human chest.
A Pentagon adviser told me that the IDA report was bumbling. If I wanted to learn about nonlethal weapons I should go to the young genius who had invented Mace, Alan Litman. I went to Litman's home for an afternoon and evening, eating dinner with him and his wife. Litman was an experimental designer fascinated by the principles of structure. He had patents for a whole range of new products, not just for Mace. As a college student, he had done experiments on the intelligence of sea life, and he still had, in basement tanks, the crocodile (smart and tamable) and alligator (dumb and dangerous) he used in the experiments. He liked the design principles evolution had given them. Of his crocodile, whom he called Ernst, he said, while tickling the sack under his jaw:
He's a masterpiece of design. See this ridge? It curls the water off around his eyes so he can get up speed without blinding himself. And this bunch of muscles here protects the hinges of his jaw. His teeth are all askew, you notice—he drops and replaces them constantly. He has an inner thin lid under his heavy eyelid—it slides sideways, he can see through it, and it corrects for underwater refraction of light so he can strike accurately underwater. Ernst is a great fisherman.
To demonstrate the inadequacies of the IDA report on nonlethal weapons, he took me out on his porch and fired some of them. Tear gas drifted back on its user unless he was half blinded with a mask. He smeared a little pepper spray on my cheek. In twelve minutes it had begun to sting. Twenty minutes later it had left a red irritation. “It's a great deterrent for a man attacking you, if you can manage to run away from him for twelve minutes.” Why does pepper spray work on dogs?
It gets into the nostrils and mouth, and on the tongue, and has a good chance of getting in his eyes. But with a human, the nostrils and mouth are dry and not so accessible. To be effective on a human, you have to score a direct hit in the eyes—which are easily shielded or simply closed. For some reason, the Institute of Defense Analysis has shown an entirely disproportionate interest in pepper.
I asked how he had invented Mace. After a friend of his wife was mugged, he experimented with the deterrents available to his wife. They were either ineffective or dangerous (not really nonlethal). He needed something that could be directed in an aim-focused stream that would disable without permanent harm. He found the right combination of chemicals, and he and his wife took out the patent. Some civil rights groups claimed the effectiveness of Mace showed it had lasting harmful effects. To disprove this, the chief of the Cook County police in Illinois, Joe Woods (brother to Rose Mary Woods, Richard Nixon's secretary who handled his tapes), had himself shot with Mace on TV.
Litman said one need not go that far to do an experiment on oneself. He squirted some Mace into the bathtub and told me to duck my face down for a moment near the wet spot—even in that mild dose, it made me feel like my face was on fire. Mace was not for sale at the time except to police and military units, but Litman gave me several bottles—and for years my wife kept one by her bed when I was traveling out of town. Litman stopped giving interviews about his invention as it caused more controversy, so law review treatments of its toxicity had to cite Litman from my
article as the main source on its safety.
In Chicago, I was driven around for two days by Hutch and Duke—James Hutchinson and Leonard Hunter—two deputy sheriffs hired by Joe Woods to be his Youth Council. They were black policemen in their twenties, Vietnam veterans, who spouted statistics like sociologists and analyzed the various communities, black and white, they drove me through. They were black militants, but they controlled the young men like themselves by saying, “Don't be stupid.” Their heroes were men like Stokely Carmichael. “He never lied to us.” They had no respect for most of the Chicago police, but they liked Woods, who never condescended to them. They had more intelligent things to say about riots and riot control than I had heard from most policemen or politicians.
After I had completed my tour of nine cities, I went to the Pentagon to interview the provost marshal general, Carl Turner, the commander of military police, on his preparations for urban disorder. Turner was in charge of troops at the March on the Pentagon, which had not been handled well (I was there to see that). But he admitted no error, nor any uncertainty in his role of “making doctrine” (as he put it) on riot control. When I asked to interview him, as the man responsible for riot response, he refused, saying the press had no right to know what the military was planning: “I have too often been the screwee from the press.” When I went above him and got a Pentagon official to say he must respond to legitimate questions, he received me with great and surly hostility.
I asked permission to tape our interview and he refused. I said that it was a protection for him, against misquotation. He answered, “If the newsmen are going to misquote me, then I say to hell with them.” He brought with him two public relations people from the Pentagon, who throughout the interview regularly reduced his answers to euphemism or placation, to his obvious disgust. When he got to “making doctrine” over riots, he told me that the first priority, when trouble impends, is for the police to take all the guns from gun shops. When I ran this idea by various police chiefs, they snorted with derision. Apart from the legal problem of seizing property in this way, the diversion of manpower to the task would take officers away from dealing with crowds, just when they are most overstretched.
Turner's second idea was to handle snipers in a building by driving an armored car up to the building and debouching teams inside to hunt the snipers from within. When I said that most police forces did not have armored cars (yet), he said that you can hang armor on a truck. My impression, which I conveyed in the article, was that General Turner was a ninny. This so infuriated J. Edgar Hoover, when the article was brought to his attention, that he had me investigated. I would not learn this for several years, but the point is that he sent an agent to talk to General Turner and get his refutation of my
I had not committed any crime. This was part of the FBI′s thought control. But though I had committed no malfeasance, Turner did. He was forced to resign as chief U.S. marshal when it was discovered that he sold 688 weapons confiscated from rioters for his own personal gain, without reporting his profit to the IRS. (No wonder he wanted police to seize guns wholesale.)
My next experience of the turbulent years was in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1970, President Nixon was having trouble going anywhere in public without burdening the local police with control of violent protests against his appearance. He solved that problem in the spring of 1970 by going to a sympathetic area (Knoxville) to enter a locally patriotic venue (the football stadium of the University of Tennessee Volunteers) where a religious rally was scheduled by one of his most popular supporters, the preacher Billy Graham. Any protest there would be not only a disturbance of the peace but an interruption of a religious service, which is against the law in Tennessee. (Police handed out copies of the relevant law at the entrance to the stadium.) No placards would be admitted to the event. Young protesters folded up large sheets of paper with the Bible quote “Thou shalt not kill.” But when they took them out and held them up, they were hustled out and arrested. Some shouting protesters were arrested later, identified by police photographs of the event.
I had met with young people planning to protest the rally. They were liberals and radicals in a conservative enclave. They had not been very successful activists. One confessed that he flunked Arson 101. He had tried to burn down the ROTC building. After putting gasoline-soaked rags all around the wooden structure, he lit a fuse across the street and waited to watch the empty building go up in flames. But he had bought a slow fuse, one that crept along for an hour and then fizzled. I kept in touch with these feisty people after I left Knoxville, since they told me what was happening to those arrested at and after the Graham crusade. Then, one day, one of them called me from Canada. He and others had fled the draft and were living in a commune with other war protesters (some deserters from the army). They invited me to visit them, and I did. I listened to their stories, ate their frugal meals, played touch football with them.
When I left, I suggested they call me with any developments in their touchy relationship with the Canadian authorities. They said they could do so only if I left my credit card number with them. That was a mistake. My wife, who pays the bills, soon noticed that a number of calls were going from Canada to other parts of America—apparently the commune members were calling their family and friends on my dollar. But they did not put any other purchases on the card. They were honorable in that respect.
My wife was also noticing odd sounds on our telephone. She had asked several times that I get any FBI files on me that might exist. She thought the FBI might be tracking the deserters and activists in Canada. I thought it more likely that they would be interested in my ties with the Institute for Policy Studies. When the IPS got its files, they ran to thousands of pages. The FBI had planted an agent in the Institute, posing as a secretary. He rummaged through the refuse of the offices, looking for incriminating papers. He even took used typewriter ribbons to the Bureau, so its lab could reconstitute typed messages. One of the Institute directors, Dick Barnet, liked to get out of the office and walk around Dupont Circle for fresh air. When a visitor wanted to talk, he would suggest they do so while strolling. The FBI plant said that was when crimes were discussed, and the agency should track anyone who went outside with Dick.
One of the fellows at the Institute with whom I became friendly was Ivanhoe Donaldson, a handsome man from the Caribbean who had been a charismatic firebrand in the civil rights movement. Our relationship got off to a shaky start. He denounced me the first time we met as a collaborator in the extermination of black leaders.
He said that
had done one of its customary charts on leading figures in any field. This one rated the most influential blacks in America. They were arranged in concentric circles around an inner core. Since this gave the chart the appearance of a bull's-eye target, Ivanhoe said it was an invitation to shoot at the people being rated.
BOOK: Outside Looking In
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