By Joe Carter
The fortieth anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy, who was killed on 22 November 1963, has produced the usual flood of eulogies.
The reality was very different. Kennedy's actions in office were those of a pro-business government, with an imperial foreign policy which continued the work of the previous Republican administration.
William Blum, author of Killing Hope, a book about US intervention since 1945, has documented the activities of the US military and the CIA, including incidents while Kennedy was president (January 1961 to November 1963).
During his election campaign in 1960, Kennedy openly called for the funding of anti-Castro guerrillas. In power, the CIA funded and trained thousands of anti-Castro forces, and the US backed the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961, including transporting them to the island. Although Kennedy withdrew air support from the invasion, he did authorise attempted assassinations of Castro.
Kennedy persuaded Britain to delay granting independence to Guiana, because it independence forces were led by Cheddi Jagan, the democratically elected leader of the colony who described himself as a socialist. No foreign aid was given to Jagan, and the CIA helped to organise and finance anti-Jagan protests.
In Haiti, the Kennedy administration supported the overthrow of the dictator Papa Doc Duvalier, providing arms to Haitian dissidents who understood they had US backing to assassinate Duvalier. But from 1963, Duvalier, who supported the US over Cuba, became an ally, despite his record of human rights abuses.
In Brazil, after receiving newly elected President Goulart in New York in 1962, Kennedy later sanctioned his overthrow, according to an American defence attache Vernon Walters. Goulart was overthrown by his own military in March 1964.
In the Dominican Republic, Kennedy's administration orchestrated a campaign against Juan Bosch, who was democratically elected in December 1962, and who was overthrown in a military coup, backed by the US, in September 1963.
In Indonesia, Kennedy backed the Indonesian military so that, in the words of his foreign aide Arthur Schlesinger, "In order to make sure that, if anything happened to [President] Sukarno, the powerful Indonesian Communist Party would not inherit the country". By 1963 one-third of the Indonesian general staff had been trained by the US, and half the officer corps. In 1965, General Suharto overthrew Sukarno, killed perhaps a million people, and instituted 33 years of dictatorship, with US backing and CIA involvement.
In Chile, it is well known that Salvador Allende's government was overthrown by General Pinochet in 1973. Less well known is that after Allende almost won the presidency in 1958, the Kennedy administration organised a dirty tricks campaign in preparation for the 1964 election. These included funding organisations, newspapers and backing candidates opposed to Allende.
In March 1963 in Guatemala, the US backed a military coup against the government elected in 1958. The CIA had been instrumental in the overthrow of the Arbenz government in 1954.
Finally, in Vietnam, Kennedy committed huge "military assistance" to the South, so that by 1963, there were 16,000 "military advisers" in the country, helping to prop up the corrupt and undemocratic regime of Ngo Dinh Diem. One of Kennedy's last acts was to sanction the overthrow of Diem by his generals in November 1963 - and it was members of his administration that went on to start the bombing and commit ground troops shortly after his death.
The picture on the domestic front is similar. Kennedy is sometimes credited with ending segregation laws against African-Americans, finally passed after his death. However he showed few signs of commitment to equal rights until forced to concede by the massive civil rights protests across the country, culminating in the March on Washington in 1963.
Kennedy was far from representing the US working class, and offered no progressive alternative. The myths built up around him deserve to be punctured.