Because we must decide: Mort Sahl's warning echoes for 9/11 activists
In his 1968 interview with Perry Adams, Mort Sahl explains the urgency of bringing to justice the conspirators behind the public execution of JFK. After reviewing the evidence, Sahl had made the decision to assist New Orleans DA Jim Garrison in his investigation. As a consequence of his vocal support for Garrison, Sahl--whose face made the cover of (CIA's) Time Magazine in 1960--was blacklisted and his successful mainstream career as an entertainer came to an end overnight.
Sahl's words and his sacrifice will not be lost on the generation of activists working to expose the truth of 9/11 and other shattering acts of state terrorism.
"ARGO: Why is the truth behind the assassination of President Kennedy the last chance of America for its survival?
SAHL: Because the evidence developed by District Attorney Garrison indicates that certain people had to take President Kennedy's life in order to control ours. In other words, as Richard Starnes of the New York World-Telegram said, the shots in Dallas were the opening shots of World War III. There's been a great change in this country since Kennedy. I'm afraid a great deal of our hope was interred with his remains.
ARGO: What is the long, hard night that America must go through that you've spoken of?
SAHL: She has to hang on through a period of the military and the CIA with a blank check trying to sell fascism. If she can hang on long enough, Americans may yet live in the country in which they were born. And that is the country structured by Tom Paine and Tom Jefferson.
ARGO: What is the renaissance following this long, hard night, that you also spoke about?
SAHL: We'll start pursuing the American dream again. I don't know if we'll ever realize it, but we're supposed to have the right to pursue it. And that's what this country is. It's an active exercise in man reaching his upper limit, as they used to say in the math department. And the renaissance will be that a ground swell of public opinion will flush out the rascals because the CIA has infiltrated every area of our national life. I'm afraid that the country they subverted best was the United States, be they in the various right-wing churches or be they in the Dallas Police Department. In fact, the CIA is the only organization I know that could penetrate the Birch Society and make them drift further to the right.
ARGO: What is the extent of the conspiracy and why is the government so desperate to keep the truth from the American public?
SAHL: We have determined that elements of the Central Intelligence Agency planned the execution and killed the President. Lee Oswald attended those meetings planning it. He was the only non-CIA man at the meeting. And he worked for the FBI. We then find that an FBI code clerk has a message come through, a twx, through the southern regional offices of the FBI, warning five days ahead that the President will be assassinated and we still later find Oswald saying, "I was a patsy," in the Dallas Police Station. The "elements" are in the Central Intelligence Agency. They don't want to lose their power. And they don't want to fall. It has become government by hoodlum. And I don't blame them. If I were them, I wouldn't want to fall either. I would pull out all the stops as well, as they have. On the other hand, while I know that neo-Nazis would want to kill a man like John Kennedy, I don't understand why liberals would want to protect them from prosecution.
ARGO: What would you say are the roots of this whole era?
SAHL: Fascism. It started with the death of Roosevelt. They moved in and they negated every treaty we made with every world leader who didn't fit the fascist/militarist mold. We went back on our word. As David Schoenbrun says very well, "I am not a dissenter for saying this. Those who betrayed American policy are the dissenters." We've gone back on the dream of national independence and we were the model for the rest of the world. Then when they followed our model, we attacked them for it. Shameful. No one has a right to stain the American flag. And unfortunately, we have people in this country who did it. If America goes, it will surely be an inside job.
ARGO: What will make the American people face themselves and, to use your expression, rise up like an army?
SAHL: Well, they have very decent instincts. If they didn't, the government would not have to hide the facts from them. They could give them any facts and the people would be insensitive. But, they have a sense of decency because they come from better stock then that. And so, once the truth is revealed to them, they're no longer under a cloak of ignorance. Public opinion will change things. There will be a ground swell. These people will resign or will be lost in the shuffle. But, you know, the country was structured so that we could have violent change without violent overthrow. I'm very optimistic in that sense. The principles of America may be better than the group currently practicing or ignoring them, as you will. But, the country has great relilience, and once they get the information, they my yet have time to save themselves.
Our job here is to give the young people time. We're just like the fellow in the movie The Seventh Cross. He works with the partisans. We've got to give the young people time to get here, to save America.
ARGO: Why is the trial that Mr. Garrison's pursuing really the trial of the American people?
SAHL: Because we have to decide. Once the neo-fascists became bold enough to slay the President on the street, they showed their hand. They showed how arrogant they had become. Now it's a question of symptom. That crime was a national symptom. If we can turn our back on that, we will pay a terrible price. That will be the end of this democracy. As a matter of fact, it's been dying since Kennedy's death. We have to cleanse our soul. It's much the same as the French when they regained their national honor, not by framing Dreyfus, but by admitting that they did.
ARGO: What does Garrison mean: "The key to the whole case is through the looking glass. Black is white; white is black"?
SAHL: He means that the first thing the government did when the President was killed was to ratify his death and to appoint a group of honorable men to initial a fraudulent report. To eventually say there is no fourth bullet, even though there's a fourth bullet hole. The man was shot at from three sides, but there was only one side. In other words, the government decrees it is so. And that eventually the government may be forced to form a Ministry of Truth which will rule there was no John Kennedy, if it becomes convenient. That's what he means. When Lyndon Johnson says to us, as an example, "We have continually keep up brush fire wars to protect the peace." Well, that's Orwell. War is peace, and peace is war, and love is hate. And you finally sell it just that way; the contradiction. And you do it by making the American people mad because those are the mouthings of a madman. We can be driven mad; it's the same virus that bit the Germans.
ARGO: What is meant by "elements" of the CIA?
SAHL: I'm afraid we'll have to wait for the trial for that. But, elements within the CIA planned it and wanted the President dead and saw to it that he was.
ARGO: Is there a difference between "elements" of the CIA and "ex-employees" of the CIA?
SAHL: I'll tell you why that is, Perry. The evidence is developmental and as you get further into the case, you'll learn more. Jim always puts it on the basis of the elephant. He said an elephant had a trunk; now I find he has four legs, he's also grey, and he has a tail. That's where it is. In the beginning, Jim could not believe that people in the United States government would want to harm their president. He now believes that. He's no longer an innocent. He's had a baptism of fire. And, of course, the lengths the agency's gone to, to see that nobody involved with this case is allowed to work in this country, and the wire taps, and the tails in the street, etc.; the great harrassment is phenomenal. The things that we've done to ourselves in the name of fighting communism. . .
When he said that the CIA had gone to such great lengths to protect the people charged in this case, and to keep witnesses from being extradited, and to smear Garrison, we didn't know how far they would go. But, it is evident now that if they will kill a President, they will go to any lengths not to be toppled. And they are so imbedded in the society that the Presidents are almost transients. The only President that ever went up against them was Kennedy. And we see what happened to him for his pains.
Ramsey Clark, on Face the Nation a couple of weeks ago, said that he saw nothing new in the Garrison investigation. I pointed that out to Garrison. He said to me, "Yes, there is nothing new as far as he's concerned. We found out the CIA killed the President and he knew it. So it's nothing new to him."
I know the pressure on those of us who have spoken up in this case. The minute I made a decision for America and decided to park everything else and go ahead, I suddenly was unemployable, and by an awful lot of people you'd call liberal. I want to make it very clear. The people on the right are not large enough to be an army, but they have an army of indifferent men, men indifferent to terror. The road to fascism is paved with liberal bricks. While our job to give the young people time enough to become radicals, the job of the liberals is to castrate them before they can get to the radical side, before they can save America, in effect. It's wholly incredible to me. If I gave you the names of people in show business who are attempting to supress me, they all qualify as wild-eyed left-wing thinkers, in the popular mind."