Oliver Stone on James Forrestal
One need not spend the time slogging through all 784 pages of Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold History of the United States to realize that what you are going to get is what one might call “approved establishment-left history.” It might as well have been co-written by Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman or a team of writers from Z Magazine. (Who knows? Maybe it was, or by a team at Langley, Virginia.) In fact, Goodman has already given the co-authors a soft-ball promotional interview on her program.
To an awful lot of people these days, by far the biggest untold story in American history concerns what really happened on September 11, 2001. By that litmus test, at a book presentation in California, in the view of one of the attendees, the authors are complete failures, if not phonies. But they do pass the establishment-left test with flying colors.
That they have the ruling establishment’s stamp of approval is shown by the fact that the book is being piped into lots of homes by the Showtime cable-TV network in the form of a 10-part mini-series. Showtime is owned by CBS, which is really all that we need to know. Superficially, there would appear to be a bit of a contradiction here in that CBS has been a leader in attacking any challenge to the official lone-nut and magic-bullet story of the John Kennedy assassination when Stone’s movie JFK is still probably the best known such challenge. Stone, though, in this instance, along with American University history professor Kuznick, is primarily wearing his left-liberal, virtually pro-Communist hat. Recall that it was CBS and their news man Edward R. Murrow who did the big hatchet job on anti-Communist crusader Senator Joe McCarthy, as celebrated by the movie, Good Night and Good Luck. If anti-anti-Communism is primarily what you’re hawking, Showtime is the ideal platform from which to hawk it.
And if you’re gunning primarily at American anti-Communism in the mid-20th century, the godfather of the movement, James Forrestal, must also be in the crosshairs. Forrestal was a formidable man, one of the most talented, hard-working, farsighted public servants this country has ever seen. They say he killed himself, but we have demonstrated beyond any serious doubt that he was assassinated. In spite of all the falsehoods that we have revealed in the mainstream press’s story of Forrestal’s demise, Stone and Kuznick show us that focus upon this supposed “suicide” remains the primary means by which his persistent enemies attack his message. Nothing sums up the approach better than the caption under their photograph of Forrestal on page 225:
The first secretary of defense, James Forrestal, suffered a nervous breakdown and, tormented by his own anti-Communist paranoia, committed suicide, jumping from his sixteenth floor room at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
The core supporting text is as follows:
Drew Pearson informed his radio audience that Forrestal was “out of his mind” after Forrestal was discovered in the street and shouting, “The Russians are coming!” He believed that the Russians had invaded the United States. Pearson later reported that during his brief stay in Florida, Forrestal had attempted suicide four times by hanging, slashing his wrists, and taking sleeping pills. (pp. 224-225)
Alone in his room, he suffered constant nightmares. He thought he would suffer the same fate as Czechoslovakian Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk—to be pushed out of a window. But his condition began to improve, and on the night of May 22, 1949, he stayed up late copying Sophocles’ “The Chorus from Ajax,” in which the hero ponders his fate far from home. At the word “nightingale” he put his pen down and jumped. (p. 226)
Their references are a newspaper article by the scurrilous Pearson and Boston Globe establishment-left journalist, James Carroll’s 2006 book, House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of Pentagon Power. How’s that for scholarship? They would have done a lot better with Wikipedia.
The reference to Carroll is page 151 of his book, which is in Chapter 3 entitled “The Cold War Begins” with section heading titles like “Forrestal Agonistes,” “Foundational Paranoia,” and “The Russians are Coming,” which encompasses page 151. Sure enough, referring to Forrestal’s brief stay in Hobe Sound, Florida, at the estate of Under Secretary of State Robert Lovett, Carroll has this passage:
Rumors flew around Washington. One radio report had it that Forrestal was found in his pajamas a few blocks from Lovett’s house, and he was calling out, “The Russians are coming!”
At that point Carroll has an endnote, which Stone and Kuznick have apparently chosen not to have noticed. Carroll’s reference is to page 739 of David McCullough’s Truman, but he adds the following:
Drew Pearson was the source of this report. His previous vilifications of Forrestal make the report unreliable, but Forrestal’s mental illness definitely included delusions that the Soviets had invaded the United States. See also Hoopes and Brinkley, Driven Patriot, 451, 455.
Unreliable indeed! Furthermore, Carroll’s assertion that Forrestal definitely believed the Soviets had invaded the United States is a flat-out lie…if not a “delusion” reflecting, perhaps, his own “mental illness.” Turning to those pages in Hoopes and Brinkley, we find nothing resembling a belief by anyone that the Soviets had invaded the United States. What we get is a rehash of Arnold Rogow’s attempt to paint Forrestal as paranoid because of his very legitimate concern that two groups with proven homicidal track records were out to get him, the Communists and the Zionists, and that they were monitoring his conversations. As he put it upon arriving in Florida, “Bob, they’re after me.” They were, and they still are. (See “Who Killed James Forrestal? Part 1,” especially the “On the Beach” and “Forrestal Was Bugged” sections.)
Just as Stone and Kuznick should have checked out Carroll’s endnote before relaying Drew Pearson’s fanciful Forrestal vilification as gospel truth, Carroll should not have stopped his Hoopes and Brinkley reading at the end of page 455. As it happens, the key passage is quoted on the Wikipedia page for “The Russians are coming,” and it has been there since 2006:
The allegation originated with Forrestal's bitter political enemy, columnist Drew Pearson, and has been verified by no other person. This is what Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley have to say about the episode in their 1992 book, Driven Patriot, the Life and Times of James Forrestal:
Pearson had, in fact, decided to fire his heaviest ammunition in a radio broadcast on April 9. He charged that Forrestal, awakened by the sound of a fire siren (on the night of April 1 at Hobe Sound), had rushed out of his cottage screaming, “The Russians are attacking.” He defined Forrestal’s condition as “temporary insanity.” In subsequent newspaper columns he asserted that Forrestal made three suicide attempts while in Florida — by drug overdose, by hanging, and by slashing his wrists. According to a later statement by [Navy psychiatrist Captain George] Raines, all of these assertions were lies. — pp. 455-456.
New York Times reporter Arthur Krock is too kind to Pearson in his speculation about the origins of the “Russians are coming” story. This is from page 256 of his 1968 Memoirs (The “Z” to whom he refers is clearly Ferdinand Eberstadt, as we are able to deduce from other sources.):
After dinner Forrestal went to bed and slept soundly, and Z and Forrestal’s former aide, Rear Admiral John Gingrich, watched him through the night. He slept so soundly, with the aid of a sedative, that he did not hear a siren blow at about six o’clock in the morning. After noting that this had not awakened Forrestal, Z went down to the beach for a swim. He thinks that whoever was reporting to Drew Pearson saw Z come out of the house at that point, and that this gave rise to Pearson’s statement that Forrestal had rushed out of the house when the siren blew, thinking the Russians had attacked the United States.
What he means is that this at-best mistaken identity episode “gave rise” to a complete fabrication for malign purposes. But it gets even worse for Pearson and Carroll, and, by extension, for Stone and Kuznick. Carroll’s basic reference for his “Russians are coming” assertion, page 739 of McCullough’s Truman, has this passage, “Drew Pearson reported that Forrestal was ‘out of his mind’ and claimed incorrectly that in Florida Forrestal had rushed out into the street screaming, “The Russians are coming.” (Emphasis added)
So Carroll knew that the information didn’t just come from an unreliable source but that it was revealed as untrue by the Truman biographer whom he references for it. Nevertheless, he goes forward with his Forrestal slander, making it the title of a section heading and the centerpiece of his case against the former defense secretary. Stone and Kuznick then proceed to state it as fact because it was reported by Drew Pearson and repeated by James Carroll. Is this scholarship, dear readers, or is it out-and-out propaganda of the Big Lie variety?
Now let’s look at the rest of what Stone and Kuznick have written about Forrestal’s demise, starting with the photo caption. Did Forrestal really suffer a nervous breakdown and was he tormented by paranoia? What did the doctors who treated him at Bethesda Naval Hospital have to say? Until 2004, when this writer was able to shake the official investigation free from the government with repeated Freedom of Information Act requests, we didn’t know what that was, except for sketchy statements to the press by lead psychiatrist Captain George Raines and various hospital spokesmen. Now we not only have the Willcutts review board interviews of all the doctors online, but since February of 2010 we have it in a searchable htm format.
Give it a try. You’ll see that the word “nervous” comes up only once when a testifying doctor describes his qualifications. “Nervous breakdown” does not appear. “Paranoia” shows up only in this sentence by the editor, the host of the ARIWatch web site, “Mark Hunter”: “Forrestal has been called crazy, yet you will search the report in vain for such words as delusion, persecution, anxiety, paranoia.” You won’t find “paranoid” either, except again in the words of the editor telling us that Forrestal’s Navy driver said that he was neither depressed nor paranoid.
Not that it matters a great deal, but the word “nightmare” doesn’t turn up either nor can it be found as anything that Forrestal experienced at the hospital in Arnold Rogow’s exercise in quack psychoanalysis. That Forrestal might have feared that he would suffer the same fate as the anti-Communist Jan Masaryk appears more as a manifestation of common sense rather than paranoia, not unlike his belief that he was being bugged and followed by Zionist operatives or that U.S. support for the creation of the state of Israel would in due time cause us to be dragged militarily into the Middle East and would alienate the Arab world.
Not only is virtually everything that Stone and Kuznick say about Forrestal’s demise provably false, but they don’t even do a very good job of parroting their flawed sources. Drew Pearson didn’t say that Forrestal tried to kill himself four times during his brief stay in Florida. The fourth unsuccessful attempt supposedly occurred at Bethesda Naval Hospital, according to Pearson. We have seen that Captain Raines denied that any such attempts took place, and it’s really very hard to imagine that anyone as capable as Forrestal could have been so incompetent at the suicide act. Raines, by the way, was alone among the doctors in even suggesting that Forrestal might have had any suicidal tendencies. One can tell that he was trying his very best to uphold the suicide story without resorting to outright whoppers.
Forrestal did not go out the window of his hospital room; he went out the window of the kitchen across the hall from his room. Also, in saying twice that Forrestal “jumped” Stone and Kuznick fail to address the question of what that bathrobe belt was doing tied around his neck. The newspapers and the establishment authors have solved that conundrum by speculating that he must have been trying to hang himself out the 16th floor window, as improbable as that sounds. It’s not quite the same thing as freestyle jumping, as suggested by Stone and Kuznick.
We learn further from the Willcutts Report that Forrestal was not seen writing from any book just before he went out the window. The Naval corpsman on duty said that when he looked in at that time the room was dark and Forrestal appeared to be sleeping and that he had witnessed no reading or writing by Forrestal the whole time that he had been on duty. (See the author’s letter to Douglas Brinkley.)
Finally, Forrestal didn’t copy “Chorus from Ajax” by Sophocles that night or at any other time, even though Dr. Raines, trying his best to help the suicide case, volunteered in his testimony that the handwriting looked like Forrestal’s. The reader can see for himself that it looks nothing of the sort.
The Common Thread
Upon closer examination we find that there is a thread that connects these people who are trying so hard to persuade us that Forrestal’s death was indeed a suicide, and the connecting thread might well run to those whom I have previously identified as likely prime suspects in his murder. The dust jacket to Rogow’s book says that he is the author of four other books. It does not name them. Maybe that is because this biographer who strongly suggests that Forrestal’s opposition to recognizing the state of Israel was based upon Forrestal’s personal anti-Semitism had previously edited the collection entitled The Jew in a Gentile World: An Anthology of Writings about Jews by Non-Jews. His dangerously paranoid, ethnocentric orientation is well summed up by this sentence from the preface: “Jew-baiters and anti-Semites of one variety or the other–Greek, Roman, and Christian–have largely dominated the Gentile world, and as a result that world has been one in which the Jew has always had to move cautiously and, more often than not, live dangerously.”
Later he wrote a chapter on anti-Semitism in the International Encyclopedia of Social Science. His is the sort of thinking that gave rise to the modern state of Israel, that is, that Jews can never be safe living in majority gentile populations, so they must have a state of their own.
The late John Henshaw was chief legman for columnist Drew Pearson, who later broke with Pearson. At that time, Henshaw’s expenses were paid by the Anti-Defamation League, a lobby for Israel, which had a “special relationship” with Pearson. Thus Henshaw’s Middle East insights are unique.
Recall from the first installment of “Who Killed James Forrestal” that the other powerful columnist and radio commentator slandering Forrestal over his Israel opposition, Walter Winchell, also had a very special relationship with the ADL and its domestic spying and eavesdropping operation.
[Eliot] Janeway’s Jewish connections are more tenuous. Though born Eliot Jacobstein of New York Jews of Lithuanian origin, he changed his last name in his teens and concealed his Jewishness from everyone around him, including his children. If he plumped for Israel, it would more likely have been on behalf of his employer, Time magazine, than out of a sense of ethnic or religious solidarity.
Occasionally with [Time publisher Henry] Luce and others, not often, he raised a word or hand on that nation’s behalf, from the point of view of a power broker toward an ally. But this was never personal, and he never acknowledged even in a vague way Jewish religion, culture, or heritage.
And if Janeway was quite consciously lying when he relayed what the safely dead Eberstadt had supposedly said about that Forrestal suicide attempt to Doug Brinkley, it, too, would have been from the point of view of a power broker toward an ally. It would also have been completely in character. Janeway regularly did flack work and wrote speeches for New Deal Democrats while on the Luce payroll as a supposedly objective reporter on these same Democrats who were running the country. He had a taste for power and influence and a nose for seeking it out. In spite of having been expelled from Cornell, probably for selling stolen library books and having been such an active communist that he wrote for the Moscow Daily News for a time in Russia, he had been able to use his connections to avoid service in the military in World War II. All of this we learn from Janeway’s son in the latter’s new and very revealing book, cited above.
In sum, the sources of the stories that Forrestal had previously attempted suicide are of a highly questionable, biased quality. They are as questionable as the stories, themselves, which lack any details, whatsoever. Pearson’s stories, in particular, are undoubtedly fabrications. The fact that someone felt the need to make up such stories suggests very strongly, just by itself, that Forrestal did not commit suicide. Furthermore, it is very unlikely that Pearson made up these stories himself. What is more likely is that they originated with the people who were responsible for Forrestal’s death.
We first encountered Pearson, from a historical chronology standpoint, acting as a shill against Franklin Roosevelt’s anti-Communist, anti-Zionist emissary General Patrick Hurley. The story is told in “The Old Zionist Smear Machine.” Hurley’s letter of complaint to Roosevelt elicited the following response:
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL August 30, 1943
Thanks for yours of August nineteenth referring to a printed story in Drew Pearson's column. You are quite right in answering none of the letters from Jews or others who believe Drew Pearson's columns.
His ill-considered falsehoods have come to the point where he is doing much harm to his own Government and to other nations. It is a pity that anyone anywhere believes anything that he writes.
So much for Mr. Drew Pearson.
(s) FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
The following passage from Arthur Krock’s Memoirs speaks volumes about the character of Drew Pearson and of the American press generally:
But not until the succession of radio broadcasts by Drew Pearson of which Forrestal was the target did I get an impression of irrationality and indecisiveness that was so completely at variance with the man I had known so well. After each of these Sunday broadcasts Forrestal would telephone me to discuss, but never decide, what to do about them.
Then came a broadcast that upset him more than any—a report that when Mrs. Forrestal was being held up in front of their Beekman Place home in New York City, her husband “hid” in his quarters. It happened by chance that I was in a position to refute the charge, having spent that evening in Forrestal’s company and having slept in his guest room that fronted on the East River, a location where we could not—and did not—know of the holdup until the following morning. It was typical of Mrs. Forrestal that she did not awaken her husband to inform him of what, after all, was a fait accompli.
To Forrestal’s fervently expressed relief, I volunteered to acquaint Pearson with the facts, offering the opinion that he would undoubtedly withdraw the charge. But though Pearson, on receipt of a written and detailed account, wired me “THANKS. WILL DO,” the retraction was never forthcoming. From that time forward I did observe a deterioration of spirit in Forrestal, though, in fairness, it should be noted that the broadcast was only one of the causes. – pp. 250-251
Indeed, I should think a bigger cause for despondency on Forrestal’s part would have been that his friend Krock, who wrote for the most influential newspaper in the country, would treat something like this as primarily Forrestal’s problem and a reflection upon Forrestal because he was unable to solve it. The New York Times by itself had the power to expose Pearson, even to drum him out of the profession. No one of his character should have been permitted the national megaphone that he had, both with a widely circulated syndicated column and a Sunday night broadcast. His standards of probity were demonstrably so low that he should not have been allowed into the company of decent people, much less to practice journalism. And to think, it is the likes of a Drew Pearson that Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick exalt as an authority and whose allegations form the very centerpiece of their book, and it is the likes of the deeply patriotic and dedicated James Forrestal that they disparage.
Stone and Kuznick and James Carroll are not alone in coming down on Forrestal, the reason for which was obviously his anti-Communism and, much more importantly, his anti-Zionism. It started early when his “friends” in the journalistic community like Krock and Walter Trohan lay low while Pearson and Winchell poured out their calumnies. It continued when he was confined to Bethesda Naval Hospital for almost two months and not one of his powerful friends and admirers bothered to pay him a visit. These included Robert Lovett, Artemus Gates, Ferdinand Eberstadt, and Bernard Baruch. Not even the man closest to him at the Pentagon, top aide Marx Leva, bothered to come see him. They could all see which way the wind was blowing.
Forrestal could no doubt see it himself. He knew all about how Communist infiltration of the executive branch had resulted in making Joseph Stalin the biggest winner of World War II. He had to have known about the letter bombs that the Stern Gang had sent in an attempt on the life of President Truman in 1947. What must he have thought when he saw the whole episode hushed up? He must have felt like Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster’s sons when they read the unanimous opinion of the press that their father had committed suicide and further, that the police had been turned away from the Foster house the night of his death and that they, the sons, had never come back to the house that night when they knew none of it was true.
The abandonment of Forrestal continued when Pearson’s preposterously false claim of four previous suicide attempts went unchallenged at the time and when the delay in issuing the report of the investigation of his death dragged on and on. It continued when only the sketchy conclusions of the report were released some four and a half months late and no one seemed to notice that the report did not conclude that Forrestal had committed suicide. Then, they all held their tongues—including those great press “friends” of his Krock and Trohan—as the report of the investigation itself was held back and kept secret. The American molders of public opinion continued to hold their tongues when Princeton’s Seeley Mudd Manuscript Library put out a press release announcing that after 55 years the report on Forrestal’s death was finally available to the public.
All I can say, in the best Elizabethan sense of the expression, is fie on them all.
Down with Forrestal, Up with Wallace
It is hardly a surprise that authors who would make the anti-Communist, anti-Zionist Forrestal a major villain of their book should make FDR’s vice-president before Truman, Henry Wallace, a hero. Consider this excerpt from a predictably glowing review by The Nation:
At many pivotal moments, Stone argues, history could have taken a radically different course. The missed opportunities, the roads not taken—these are Stone’s central themes, which he argues with energy, passion and a mountain of evidence (the companion volume has eighty-nine pages of footnotes).
Case number one: if Henry Wallace had won the vice presidential nomination in 1944, he would have become president when Roosevelt died in 1945, and we probably would not have bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and could have avoided the cold war as well. It’s a startling and intriguing argument. Usually we teach about Wallace as the hopeless, left-wing third-party candidate of 1948, when he split from the Democrats and ran on the Progressive Party ticket. McCarthyism had already taken hold of American politics, and Wallace was redbaited into a crushing defeat.
Four years earlier, however, the situation was very different: Wallace was Roosevelt’s incumbent vice president, and the Soviets were our allies. A Gallup poll in July 1944 asked likely Democratic voters whom they wanted on the ticket as veep. Sixty-five percent said Wallace, while Truman came in eighth, with just 2 percent. Roosevelt announced that, were he a delegate, he would vote for Wallace. Claude Pepper, a Democratic senator from Florida, tried to nominate Wallace at the convention, but the conservative party bosses, who opposed him, adjourned the proceedings. “Had Pepper made it five more feet [to the microphone] and nominated Wallace,” Stone argues, “Wallace would have become president in 1945 and…there might have been no atomic bombings, no nuclear arms race, and no Cold War.”
We have had a brief look at the quality of those “eighty-nine pages of footnotes,” and it is not encouraging. But if Forrestal had been listened to, not only would we not have dropped atom bombs on Japan or anyone, but it is very likely neither China nor North Korea would have been captured by the Communists. Furthermore, you can take it to the bank that if Wallace had succeeded Roosevelt, all of the Korean peninsula would now be under the Red boot of the latest ruler from the Kim family dynasty. Owen Lattimore might well have been his Secretary of State.
[Henry] Wallaceattracted many Jews: around 30% of his followers were Jews. Among them his fund-raiser, William Gailmore, was an ex-rabbi. He controlled the Bronx thanks to Leo Isaacson who was elected to the congress as a member of the progressive party. Many communists and Jewish communists supported Wallace who always was blamed as a front for Moscow. But Wallace did something else, he never forgot to declare his support of Zionism and a Jewish state. On Dec. 1947, he visited Palestine as a guest of the Labor movement. Wallace also believed in the Judeo-Christian idea and a project to develop the Middle-East for Jews and Arabs alike. Furthermore, he helped the 'Friends of Lehi in the U.S." (the so-called 'Stern Gang.') And Karabell wrote that on July 23, 1948 the Progressive Party's convention hosted "the Stern Gang, the Israeli underground paramilitary organization that had blown up buildings and assassinated British officials in Palestine..." He wrote that the Lehi (Freedom Fighters of Israel) were close to the Irgun's Menachem Begin, but Yitzhak Shamir was the Lehi's commander together with Natan Yellin-Morand Israel Eldad. Truman was pushed by his pro-Zionist advisors (Mark Cliford) [sic] to support Israel in 1948 in order to attract the Jewish vote away from Wallace's camp. Also, Dewey was pro-Zionist.
Annoyed by Wallace’s pressure for a more conciliatory U.S. position toward the Soviet Union, Truman ousted him in 1946.
Wallace then became editor of The New Republic. In its pages he strongly defended the Zionist cause, at one point going so far as to suggest that the Jewish underground’s guerrilla war against the British was “in some respects like the fight the American colonies carried on in 1776…”
In October 1947, Wallace spent 10 days in the Holy Land, surveying Jewish settlements and industries and meeting with leaders such as Jewish Agency chairman David Ben-Gurion. Wallace’s glowing prediction that the Zionists would turn the Negev desert into “a veritable garden” received widespread attention. He also met with Irgun Zvai Leumi underground chief Menachem Begin.
Where to start? First, Wallace did not just become editor of The New Republic, he was chosen for the job by a spy for the Soviet Union affiliated with the Cambridge Five, publisher Michael Whitney Straight. Second, this Lehi organization that he was said to have helped, and which supported him, is the Stern Gang, the terrorists who tried to kill Truman and perpetrated numerous other outrages. And not long after Wallace saw fit to cozy up to Irgun leader Menachem Begin in Israel, a group of prominent Jewish American intellectuals led by Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt wrote a letter to The New York Times detailing the Irgun’s numerous crimes and outragesthat concluded as follows:
The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a "Leader State" is the goal.
In the light of the foregoing considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin's efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.
The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.
Wallace was ousted from the Democratic ticket in 1944 in the nick of time and we slowly began to resist the Communist takeover, but the warning by Einstein et al. was not heeded, and the capitulation to the worst elements of Zionism continues apace. That it is a complete certainty that no one in the mainstream press will point out Oliver Stone’s lies about the death of James Forrestal is but one measure of the degree of our capitulation.
December 5, 2012