Early in 1968, Clyde Tolson, F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover’s deputy and bosom buddy, a key player in the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., expressed both the hope and intent of those making sure that there would never be another president by the name Kennedy, when he said about RFK that “I hope someone shoots and kills the son of a bitch.” Earlier, as reported by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in his new book, American Values: Lessons I Learned from My Family, the influential conservative Westbrook Pegler expressed this hope even more depravingly when he wished “that some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter [Robert Kennedy’s] spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies.”
These sick men were not alone. Senator Robert Kennedy was a marked man. And he knew it. That he was nevertheless willing to stand up to the forces of hate and violence that were killing innocents at home and abroad is a testimony to his incredible courage and love of country. To honor such a man requires that we discover and speak the truth about those who killed him. The propaganda that he was killed by a crazed young Arab needs exposure.
When he was assassinated by a bullet to the back of his head on June 5, 1968, not by the accused patsy Sirhan Sirhan, who was standing in front of RFK, but by a conspiracy that clearly implicates U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, not only did a precious and good man die, but so too did any chance for significant political change through the official political system, short of a miracle. We are still waiting for such a miracle.
Robert F. Kennedy’s death, following as it did the assassination by U.S. government forces of Dr. Martin Luther King two months earlier, marked an emphatic end to the sense of hope that marked the election to the presidency of his brother John in 1960. Henceforth, efforts to change the political system from within became moot; the coup d’état effected on November 22, 1963, with the CIA’s assassination of JFK was signed and sealed. RFK’s murder added the period to this sentence of rule by murderous deep state forces. And despite valiant efforts of dissent from outside the system since, the systemic war machine has rolled on and the economic stranglehold of the elites has tightened over the decades. An RFK presidency was this country’s last chance from within to save itself from the tyranny that has ensued.
We now live in a country that would be unrecognizable to anyone who died prior to 1968. All protest has become symbolic as the American Empire has expanded abroad through countless ongoing wars, coups and the undermining of foreign governments; civil liberties have been eviscerated; the wealthy elites, ably assisted by a corrupt political establishment, have made a mockery of economic justice; an endless war on terror and a national emergency engendered by the insider attacks of September 11, 2001, and enshrined in public consciousness with the planted emergency telephonic meme of 9/11 have been instituted to justify massive profits for the military-industrial complex; and a new and very dangerous Cold War with Russia has been resurrected to threaten the world with nuclear annihilation. All this and more has vigorously been supported by every U.S. president since, Democrats as well as Republicans, with no exceptions, including the icons of the neo-liberals, Clinton and Obama, who have bombed and droned the world wide, smiling all the way. We live in very dark times indeed. If significant change ever comes to the United States, it will be a result of pressures from without, for the political system is rotten to the core, and almost without exception our political leaders are cowards and liars. This seems obviously true to me, though it pains me to admit it.
Fifty years have passed since RFK’s murder, and for those fifty years very few Americans have thought to question what is a conspicuous conspiracy. It is as though a painful exhaustion or a veil of denial set in in 1968, a year in which 536,000 plus American troops were waging war against the Vietnamese and the slaughter was horrendous. Body bags and slaughtered Vietnamese filled the TV screens. Chicago cops rioted and beat antiwar demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. American cities were exploding. Then the “peace candidate” Nixon, together with Kissinger, assumed the mantle of power only to increase the horror. War criminals ruled. It was a year when mere anarchy was loosed upon the world and the truth of Robert Kennedy’s assassination was lost in the storm. The manifest truth became latent, and there it has remained for most people all these years. All most people “know” is that RFK was assassinated by a crazy Arab guy. His name? Oh yeah, Sirhan Sirhan or something like that. It was so long ago and, anyway, it doesn’t matter anymore.
But it does matter greatly. Unless we choose to remain children forever, children in denial of the truth of their childhood traumas, the truth about RFK’s murder will haunt us and poison any hope we still might harbor for our country. Killers seized the levers of power with the murders of JFK, MLK, and RFK (and Malcolm X, Thomas Merton, et al.), and they have never relinquished them.
It is time that each of us decide: Do we stand with the killers or their victims?
Finally a Kennedy family member has spoken out on the case. As reported by Tom Jackman in The Washington Post, May 27, 2018, Robert f. Kennedy Jr. after studying the case at the instigation of Paul Schrade, RFK’s assistant, who was the first person shot that night, and visiting Sirhan in prison, has publicly said that he doesn’t think Sirhan killed his father and has called for a reinvestigation of the case, a most mild request. Who will do the reinvestigation? The authorities in the government and press that have covered up the truth for fifty years? Nevertheless, Jackman’s article and RFK Jr.’s statement bring needed attention to the assassination while focusing on the fact of a second gunman and therefore a conspiracy. Its focus is on the ballistics of the case, which are of course crucial.
But I would like to focus on another angle that confirms the fact of a second gunman and a vast cover-up that involves the LAPD, FBI, and CIA, therefore not just asserting the presence of a second gunman, but one in the employ of state forces. So let us look into this brutal murder, with its layers of subterfuge.
Right from the start the conspirators had intricate plans in place just in case questions were asked. Plans to confuse. False leads. Fallback stories. Something far beyond the ken of the 24-year-old Sirhan Sirhan. Consider the following questions.
If you were going to arrange a political assassination in an indoor crowded setting, would you have one of your operatives (not the assassin) at the murder site be a strikingly curvaceous young woman in a conspicuous white dress with black polka-dots, and then have her flee the scene, yelling, “We’ve shot him, we’ve shot him,” so that multiple witnesses would see and hear her as she made her escape?
Would you have the same woman earlier in the day pick up a salesman in the hotel where the assassination was planned, spend the day with him driving around and having dinner together, while repeatedly inviting (i.e., luring) him to join her later that night at a big public event where they will shoot their famous victim, whom she names?
Would you have your operative tell this man that, although she wasn’t staying at the hotel, and although she had been in town only three days, having flown from NYC where she had arrived from overseas, that she knew the hotel stair routes very well, including an unobtrusive one that she shows the man?
Would you have this woman tell this man that a few days earlier she had met with a very famous political operative (whom she names), diametrically opposed to your victim’s political philosophy and that she would need to flee the country after the assassination and would like the man’s help?
Would you have this woman be seen by multiple witnesses in the company of Sirhan?
Would you have your operative in the tight dress so conspicuously lay down a trail of breadcrumbs from morning until night, until she made her escape, never to be found despite having been seen by more than a dozen credible witnesses at the shooting site?
I think you would agree that you would have to be extremely stupid to plan an assassination in this manner, except if you were extremely devious, and the voluptuous stand-out girl was part of your intricate plot to create a false lead to someone other than the assassins.
This is exactly what happened when Senator Robert Kennedy, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, was shot shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, after celebrating his victory in the California Democratic Primary. The woman in question came to be known as “the girl in the polka-dot dress,” but unlike the ways we associate girls with innocence, this woman was a key player in hideous evil.
Did the polka-dot girl scream “We shot Senator Kennedy” intentionally as part of some sort of “limited hangout” in a most sophisticated conspiracy? For why would a person involved in the conspiracy run away screaming such words, drawing attention to herself and her fleeing companion, unless it was a diversionary tactic?
(“Limited Hangout” according to Former Special Assistant to the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Victor Marchetti, is “spy jargon for a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting—sometimes even volunteering—some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further.”)
While many people are aware that President John Kennedy was killed five years earlier in a conspiracy organized by U.S. intelligence operatives and that Lee Harvey Oswald was the “patsy” that he said he was, far fewer realize that Robert Kennedy was also killed as a result of a conspiracy and that the convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan did not kill RFK. In fact, not one bullet from his gun struck the senator. Sirhan was standing in front of Kennedy when, as the autopsy definitively showed, RFK was shot from the rear at point blank range, three bullets entering his body, with the fatal head-shot coming upward at a 45 degree angle from 1-3 inches behind his right ear. In addition, an audio recording shows that many more bullets than the eight in Sirhan’s gun were fired in the hotel pantry that night. It was impossible for Sirhan to have killed RFK.
While Sirhan sits in prison to this day, the real killers of Senator Kennedy went free that night. For anyone who studies the case with an impartial eye (see this, this, this, this, and this), the evidence is overwhelming that there was a very sophisticated conspiracy at work, one that continued long after as police, FBI, intelligence agencies, and the legal system covered up the true nature of the crime. That Sirhan was a Manchurian candidate hypnotized to play his part as seeming assassin is also abundantly clear. Dr. Daniel P. Brown, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, an international expert on hypnosis, affirms the obvious: that Sirhan was hypno-programmed to shoot his pistol in response to a post hypnotic touch cue, most likely from the girl in the polka-dot dress. Dr. Brown states that Sirhan “did not have the knowledge, or intention, to shoot a human being, let alone Senator Kennedy.” At the request of Sirhan’s defense team seeking a new trial and a parole for Sirhan (efforts led by the lawyer William Peppers and the heroic Paul Schrade), Dr. Brown “conducted a forensic assessment in six different two-day sessions over a three-year span spending over sixty hours interviewing and testing Sirhan at Corona Penitentiary and Pleasant Valley in California.”
In his declaration to the Parole Board Dr. Brown stated unequivocally that Sirhan was hypnotized and was therefore a “Manchurian Candidate” who did not kill RFK (see the CIA’s programs ARTICHOKE and MKUltra.
One of the sad ironies of RFK’s murder is that he and his family spent the day of the primary at the home of John Frankenheimer, the producer and director of the film, The Manchurian Candidate, and as Kennedy was being shot, Frankenheimer and his wife were waiting outside the Ambassador Hotel in their car to take the Kennedys back to their house.
But it is not my intention here to detail all the facts of the case that still scream out for justice, as do the linked assassinations of JFK and MLK. In fact, referring to the Kennedy assassination is a misnomer; we should speak of the Kennedy assassinations, since JFK wasn’t the only one. There were others.
I would like to focus on the so-called “girl in the polka-dot dress,” and ask you to think along with me as we explore why she was so conspicuous that day and night, and what function she may have served. I know you will agree that it is counterintuitive for her to have behaved the way she did. Counterintuitive for the general public, that is, but not for those who plan assassinations that they can pin on crazed lone gunmen or strange accidents. Being counter-intuitive, however, is not dispositive. More evidence is necessary to make a case, and that evidence is readily available.
The best detailed day-to-day account of this mysterious girl is in a book by Fernando Faura, The Polka-Dot File: on the Robert F. Kennedy Killing. Faura, an old school reporter nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for another series of articles, investigated the case from day one. He rarely speculates. He sticks to giving us the record of his investigation as it happened—transcripts, documents, FBI and LAPD records, his day-to-day itineraries, his doubts, hunches, confirmations, etc.—all in the space of days, weeks, months of the assassination. Therein lies its great value.
Quoting transcripts of his own tape-recorded interviews with key witnesses, as well as police and FBI records, Faura systematically takes us through his investigation from start to finish. Reading it carefully, one cannot but be deeply impressed by his thoroughness and attention to detail. Nor can one not be chagrined by the ways his work was stymied by law enforcement and he was “followed, spied on, and harassed.” It becomes evident that his pursuit of the truth was dangerous.
He writes, “Seconds after the shooting stopped, a young woman in a polka-dot dress ran out of the kitchen, past Sandra Serrano, a Kennedy campaign worker. The woman shouted, ‘We shot him, we shot him.’ Asked who they shot, the woman replied, ‘Kennedy,’ and ran into the morning darkness, never to be found.” Although Serrano was interviewed by Sander Vanocur of NBC News on live TV at 1:30 AM shortly after the shooting, she—as well as other eyewitnesses to this girl—was browbeaten by the police to retract her story, yet she never did. The police shut down its pursuit of this girl, despite more than a dozen witnesses who saw and heard her. The LAPD officer in charge of the investigation, Lt. Manny Pena, was CIA connected, having worked for U.S. AID and been recently brought back to control the investigation. So too was the brutal interrogator, Sgt. Hank Hernandez, CIA affiliated.
It is obvious that this girl was part of a conspiracy to kill Robert Kennedy and that it is equally obvious that she was meant to stand out, be seen, and to be heard shouting what she did. Why? And it is equally obvious the authorities had no intention of finding her, concluding, amazingly, that she never existed. This becomes laughable after reading Faura’s chapter of his tape recorded interview with John Fahey, the man who picked up, or was picked up, by the girl in the polka-dot dress and who spent the entire day with her.
Logically it follows that she was meant to create false leads, and generate mystery when there was none. Writing of the JFK assassination, Vince Salandria, the eminent and early critic of the government’s false conspiracy story, has recently said something quite appropriate to the RFK case and this girl: “The Kennedy assassination is a false mystery. It was conceived by the conspirators to be a false mystery which was designed to cause interminable debate. The purpose of the protracted debate was to obscure what was quite clearly and plainly a coup d’état. . . . President Kennedy was assassinated by our national-security state . . .” While far fewer people have yet to question the false narrative in the RFK case, when or if they do, they will find that the polka-dot girl’s actions and her disappearance could keep them guessing for a long time, and that that guessing will lead away from the obvious and essential truth.
The recently deceased investigative journalist Robert Parry has written about how Richard Nixon sabotaged a possible peace accord in Vietnam in the summer/fall of 1968. This he did through an intermediary, right-wing Republican Chinese émigré Anna Chennault, wife of General Claire Chennault, legendary founder of the Flying Tigers. Parry explained, “Nixon’s gambit was to have Chennault pass on word to South Vietnamese President Thieu that if he boycotted Johnson’s Paris peace talks—thus derailing the negotiations—Nixon would assure Thieu continued U.S. military support for the war.” This treachery has been confirmed. Having stumbled on Parry’s work in 2014, the reporter Fernando Faura was startled to find himself connecting the girl in the polka-dot dress to Anna Chennault and to Nixon. This was because he remembered that the man, John Fahey, who had spent all day with the girl on June 4, 1968, and dropped her off in the evening at the Ambassador Hotel, had told him that the political operative she had met with three days before the assassination was Anna Chennault. Faura speculates that perhaps Nixon was therefore connected to RFK’s assassination because he feared that if Robert Kennedy were to become the Democratic presidential nominee, he would push to end the Vietnam War and would be more likely that anyone else to defeat him in the general election. He speculates that the “peace talks” conspiracy might have been the origin of the Kennedy killing; that the two conspiracies were connected.
But at the same time Faura writes, “Why is the CIA’s shadow all over this?” And since the CIA’s shadow is all over the RFK assassination, we are left to ask if Nixon and the CIA were operating on the same page. Or was it the reverse, that Nixon and the CIA were at odds? Did the CIA remove Nixon from office with Watergate? Could the girl have been used to create a false lead to Nixon? Or was it something else again? Was it simply fortuitous that Sirhan’s Palestinian Arabic origins were emphasized and that his lawyers, who in no way defended him, suggested that he was mad at RFK for supporting the sending of planes to Israel and the oppression of the Palestinians by Israel? What were JFK’s and RFK’s positions vis-à- vis Israel and their nuclear weapons? Who was the girl? What country had she come from when she arrived in NYC three days before?
While I could answer many of these questions, I will defer to my readers’ passion for investigating the truth.
For many questions leading hither and yon originate with this girl. And it is obvious that she was meant to do that: to muddy the waters and keep people guessing once they came to realize that Sirhan obviously did not kill RFK. And she “disappeared” as quickly as she “appeared.” And the authorities shut down their investigation and pursuit of her. They denied her existence against all the evidence. Meant to stand out, she was also meant to go out, leaving a trail of questions.
Former Congressman Allard Lowenstein, who was investigating Robert Kennedy’s killing and was also strangely murdered, put it well:
Robert Kennedy’s death, like the president’s, was mourned as an extension of senseless violence; events moved on, and the profound alterations that these deaths . . . brought in the equation of power in America was perceived as random. . . . What is odd is not that some people thought it was all random, but that so many intelligent people refused to believe that it might be anything else. Nothing can measure more graphically how limited was the general understanding of what is possible in America.
While such pseudo-innocence prevailed then and is still very widespread, perhaps no one epitomized the twisted mind games played by intelligence agencies more than James Jesus Angleton, the notorious CIA counterintelligence chief for so many years, in whose safe were found gruesome photos of Robert Kennedy’s autopsy. Why, one may ask, were those photos there, since Angleton allegedly had no connection to the RFK killing and since Sirhan was said to be the assassin? Was Angleton’s work as CIA liaison with Israel in any way connected?
As I wrote earlier, if one objectively studies the assassination of Senator Kennedy, one cannot but conclude there was a government conspiracy and that Sirhan is not guilty. That much is not particularly complicated, although many people not familiar with the facts of the case may think otherwise.
The mystery girl is another matter. Everything about her has served to hypnotize, first Sirhan, and then those seeking to get to the deeper forces behind this American tragedy.
Robert Kennedy, like his brother John, was a great danger to those virulent forces of war and oppression within his own government, and he died opposing them as a true patriot.
If we wish to honor him, we are obligated to pursue the truth of why he died and why it still matters. No government agency will ever do that for us. Fifty years of silence must be ended, and it up to us.
Edward Curtin is a sociologist and writer who teaches at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and has published widely.