Andrew Gavin Marshall

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The Kennedy Brothers, State Terror, and Friendly Dictatorships

Well, since reaching the target goal (and some!) for the People’s Grant for the four chapters on American imperialism, I have been quite productive. It’s not quite moving as quickly as I had hoped, since it requires a great deal of work. However, I am nearly finished the chapter on Latin America, which I expect to be done this week, already over 40 pages single-spaced. I have been collecting enormous sources and research for my other chapters, and am unsure as to whether I will be tackling the Southeast Asia chapter or the Middle East and North Africa one next. These are quite extensive undertakings as they stand, so I am sure to put in the necessary research required to make them all meet an equal standard. Thus, they will require a lot of time and effort. Luckily, I have most of the materials, books, journals, and access to declassified documents required to properly do the research.

On that note, I would like to share a couple little gems of research I happened to stumble across for the chapter on Latin America. I have spent days sifting through documents which are posted on the State Department’s website in the Office of the Historian, in what is called the “Foreign Relations of the United States” series. These consist of thousands of declassified documents from the State Department, National Security Council, Pentagon, CIA, and other government agencies and individuals for several administrations following World War II. I was initially attempting to track down a document that Noam Chomsky cited so I could see the original source. I searched through Google Scholar extensively, and had to conclude that apart from papers written by Chomsky himself, there was no mention of this document in the entire existing academic literature. Thus, I had to search through the database of the original documents themselves, a tedious and tiring process, though yielding incredible results (so it’s worth it!). I feel as if I have comes across an endless treasure-trove of research GOLD. Essentially, it’s like Wikileaks, but covering literally decades and decades of information. What is so incredible is the candid nature of so much of the documents and diplomatic cables. Truly, it tears to pieces the idea that American imperialism is an “interpretation” of America’s role in the world, when the internal documents from the planning bodies and agencies of that government state as much in such direct language. However, a great deal is burrowed in diplomatic-talk, and requires some ‘translating’ for people like myself who prefer things to be stated more directly.

Now, I stumbled across a couple documents which I have not seen cited anywhere else, and felt that they yielded such incredible information, it would just be important to share it with you, my readers and supporters, now!

The two documents in question challenge any pre-conceived notions of the Kennedy brothers as being “peaceful” figures, or non-imperialists. Indeed, many critical scholars and writers have often presented the Kennedy’s as “exceptions to the rule” for American political leadership, myself included (I have been guilty of presenting them as such on a number of occasions!). However, when reading documents quoting the brothers (John F. and Robert Kennedy), one cannot read such statements without adjusting your own views of these individuals (unless of course, you already had a more informed opinion of them). Both documents referred to here deal with the crisis in the Dominican Republic between 1961 and 1965, in which America’s favoured dictator since 1930, Rafael Trujillo, was assassinated, and several transition governments faltered, ultimately resulting in an American invasion and occupation in 1965 by President Johnson.

Following the assassination of Trujillo, internal documents show, American officials were meeting on matters related to ensuring that U.S. interests would not be threatened, and were discussing the prospects of an American invasion to ensure a favourable outcome. Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General at the time, according to the State Department cable, “clearly looking for an excuse to move in on the island,” and even suggested, “apparently seriously, that we might have to blow up the [American] Consulate to provide the rationale.” Feeling that the new government would align with Castro, Robert Kennedy thought, “that it should be destroyed – with an excuse if possible, without one if necessary.” Secretary of Defense McNamara agreed.

Source: Document 310, “Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Bowles),” Foreign Relations of the United States, Vol. 12, American Republics, 3 June 1961.

President John F. Kennedy was quoted in a cable sent by his assistant to the National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, which reported on a meeting that took place a week after the assassination of Trujillo, in which JFK stressed that the United States “wanted a Democratic regime in the Dominican Republic,” but that, “failing that we would prefer a friendly dictatorship,” a phrase that could only be logical if stated from an imperial perspective. The last thing the United States wanted, said Kennedy, “was a Castro type regime.”

Source: Document 312, “Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Goodwin) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy),” Foreign Relations of the United States, Vol. 12, American Republics, 8 June 1961.

There are several other documents that I have come across which are incredibly revealing in exposing the American Empire, through their own eyes and in their own words, but I don’t want to give away all the information I have comes across yet! But these were quite important documents which reveal a great deal not only about popular political leaders, both of whom have been idolized by many of the left/progressive and critical perspectives (not excluding some of my previous work here), but also in terms of exposing very general ideas and strategies used by political leaders in pursuit of empire, domination, and control, even supposedly “liberal” politicians. In these two documents, we see that the United States Attorney General suggested blowing up an American Consulate in the Dominican Republic in order to create an excuse to invade the country and “destroy” elements which threaten American interests. In the other document, we see how President JFK, who was at the time establishing the hemispheric strategy of the “Alliance for Progress” in which it was America’s stated objective to promote and support democracies in region, stating that if a democracy which is friendly to the U.S. is not possible, “we would prefer a friendly dictatorship.” Apparently, whether or not the dictatorship is “friendly” to its domestic population is of no significance. In fact, dictatorships which actually help their populations (particularly the poor), are framed as “Castro-type regimes”, and therefore, “friendly dictatorships” are typically those which ruthlessly repress their populations and crush resistance. It is, after all, the “friendly dictatorships” of the region which were among the most ruthless, brutal, fascistic, and oppressive governments in the past century.

But they were good for business, so… they were “friendly”! Funny how that works, eh? Well, I suppose it would be funny if the consequences weren’t so horrific. Anyhow, some important documents worthy of sharing.

There are sure to be much more of these types of documents in all my chapters on the American Empire, so this is a mere tiny sample of what’s to come thanks to your support!



Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project.


  1. […] The Kennedy Brothers, State Terror, and Friendly Dictatorships […]

  2. […] The Kennedy Brothers, State Terror, and Friendly Dictatorships […]

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