In November 22, 1963, history was created (or destroyed, as many would say in retrospect) in Dealy plaza, Dallas, Texas.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of United States was shot dead, presumably by Lee Harvey Oswald.
The world went into shock, and a nation went into mourning. More than 50 years later JFK still continues to be an enigma, an American Lancelot. The public reaction to his assassination was of shock followed by deep despair. Some wept openly.
People loved JFK, and his death sealed that love. Had he lived perhaps, he won't have been remembered as fondly as he is now.
JFK is memorable for many of the initiatives that he actually took during his tenure in office or for which he paved the way.
But is he really the hero that the world believes him to be?
JFK won the presidential polls of 1960, and his term began in 1961 January. His brother Robert Kennedy had started a ruthless battle against organized crime during this time. And some conspiracy theories surrounding JFK's death actually point the finger at the Mafia for his death. But is JFK really the brave Lancelot who fought an impossible war against mafia?
JFK's father, Joseph Kennedy, had ties with the mafia running back to the bootlegging days. He is supposed to have been close friends with Sam Giancana. And it was through those connections that JFK received financial contribution for his 1960 election from Giancana.
Also the mob may have further helped him secure his win of the west Virginia polls in 1960.
JFK is often cited as a leader who made an exemplary contribution towards world peace. For example he created the peace corps and signed the ban on nuclear tests. He was quite vocal expressing his desire for world peace, as is evident by his numerous speeches on the subject.
But Kennedy's aspirations for world peace seemed to have had noted exceptions for eradicating communism. He was ready to do anything and everything to stop the spread of communism. And something so mundane as human lives and world peace was definitely not going to stop the Kennedy administration stop and think.
Kennedy's term is notable for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion which was backed by the US to overthrow Fidel Castro. It was a complete failure and in fact strengthened the Cuban public support for Castro. Kennedy also sanctioned the numerous schemes and attempts by the CIA to assassinate Castro. Only he maintained opposition in the face of public in anticipation of the negative public opinion it might bring him.
According to his administrative staff, Kennedy dealt with every aspect of foreign policy and he knew everything that was going on. So he was directly responsible for any decisions pertaining to foreign policy.
In 1963 February, as part of the Arab cold war, US backed a coup in Iraq to overthrow and kill the then Iraqi prime minister Abd Al Karim Quasim and establish a Baathist government. The CIA provided the new right wing government with a list of communists and a blood bath followed. Thousands died.
Vietnam was also one of the famous examples of Kennedy's double standards in relation to world peace. Once again stopping the spread of communism was high priority over world peace.
In 1961 Kennedy affirmed his commitment to defend south Vietnam.
The then prevailing Diem regime in South Vietnam had so far been successful in containing the spread of communism. But by late 1962 it had started to become unpopular. So in 1963 November, Diem was assassinated by CIA, just three weeks before JFK himself was killed.
Kennedy in direct contrast to his facade of humanity authorised the use of agent Orange in Vietnam, in 1961. Agent Orange was an herbicide which when sprayed from air, destroyed the vegetation providing cover for the terrorists. Agent Orange as a biological weapon has many adverse effects on humans. But the batch which was used in Vietnam was worse. They were contaminated with TCDD, which has known ability to cause haematological malignancies and birth defects in humans. The contamination was deemed accidental of course.... But the questions remain......
In 1962, under JFK authorisation, Agent Blue, another biological weapon was unleashed on Vietnam. This time there was no pretence.... Agent Blue targeted field crops.
Back home JFK continued to make wonderfully moving speeches on moral and human issues.
Biological and chemical weapons were nothing new to the JFK administration. A biological and chemical weapon experimentation project dubbed project 112, was initiated in 1962. The aim was to measure the effects of biological and chemical weapons on people, plants, animals, insects, vehicles, ships and equipment.
JFK authorised the project with orders that if allegations are made they should prove to be unfounded or unprovable.
The project was so secret that the US denied its existence until 2000 May, when it was exposed by investigative reporter Eric Longabardi.
Some of those experiments were designed to identify US warships' vulnerability to chemical warfare. The experiments were launched from ships and the sailors were mostly unaware that they were being used as human guinea pigs.
Tests were conducted on civilian subjects as well, and included release of aerosols and testing the feasibility of using mosquitoes as vectors.
Apparently informed consent was not high fashion in the '60s.
Kennedy is remembered nowadays as a leader who paved the way to end racial segregation in the US. His tenure is highlighted with memorable milestones of the civil rights movement. He made the problem of segregation into a moral issue in his famous civil rights address, after the incident of "stand in the school house door". But critics argue that he didn't really do all he could have done to end racial segregation. Some even go as far to say that he simply played the role of a safe bystander who was really very reluctant to compromise the white votes of the deep South. But it may be worth remembering that he claimed that he could end housing segregation with one stroke of a pen once he entered white horse. And because of this, activists started to send him pens after he assumed office, because that single stroke of a pen was really slow to come.
But still, despite everything, Kennedy still ranks amongst the all time most popular US presidents..