Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Free Man

President Gerald Ford died a free man at the age of 93, on the day after Christmas in 2006.

Ford attained his high position after President Richard Milhous Nixon’s first Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, resigned under a cloud of corruption investigations in his home state. Nixon selected then-Congressman Ford to be Vice-President. Nixon resigned under a cloud of suspicion in 1974, and Ford became President. He then granted Nixon a pardon.

Ford has been praised for his unpopular and supposedly courageous decision to pardon Nixon and “heal the nation.” But the nation wasn’t ill and didn’t need to be healed. The media huffed and puffed about a constitutional crisis, but no such crisis existed. Ford’s action served primarily to forestall public awareness of the Watergate affair and the involvement of the C.I.A. With one exception, all of the Watergate burglars were Agency officers or assets. The two men running the show, Everette Howard Hunt, Jr. and James McCord, were career intelligence officers with the highest clearance. The C.I.A. provided the burglars with money, disguises, electronic equipment, and lock-picking expertise. To this day, most people have no idea what Watergate was about.

Ford installed George Herbert Walker Bush as Director of Central Intelligence in the critical period preceding the House Select Committee on Assassinations inquiry into the murders of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Nixon’s chief-of-staff, H. R. Haldeman, noted that the C.I.A. obliterated a mountain of evidence connecting the Agency to Kennedy’s assassination. (Haldeman, H. R., with Joseph DiMona, The Ends of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House, New York, Time Books, 1978, pp. 39-40)

And Ford didn’t merely pardon Nixon for Watergate; Ford issued a blanket pardon for any crimes Nixon may have committed as President.

I can think of at least one crime Nixon may have committed as President: The U.S.-backed assassination of Chilean President Salvador Allende on 9/11/1973. Nixon’s economic efforts to “make the [Chilean] economy scream” brought hardship to Chile but failed to unseat Allende. The alternative approach, killing him, worked better.

Allende’s successor, Augusto Pinochet, recently died a free man while under investigation for “disappearing” thousands of “dissidents.” Some of the victims were foreigners from the U.S., Spain, or France. During a visit to France 28 years after Allende’s murder, Nixon’s Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, was invited by the authorities to respond to certain inquiries. Kissinger promptly fled to Italy. Nixon died a free man in 1994. Henry Kissinger isn’t getting any younger; and he will most likely die a free man under a cloud of suspicion.

In 1963, 50-year-old Congressman Ford was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to serve on the Warren Commission which oversaw the federal investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy. The Commissioners classified important evidence for 75 years. Commissioner Allen Dulles had served for nine years as director of the C.I.A.; he was fired by Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Newsweek magazine described Gerald Ford as “the C.I.A.’s best friend in Congress.”

The Warren Report became the most discredited document ever printed by the Government Printing Office, a record previously held by the Roberts Commission Report on the attack against Pearl Harbor.

When Indonesia was preparing to invade East Timor in 1975, their primary concern was U.S. opposition which might have led to the withholding of arms shipments to Indonesia. That December, Ford met Indonesian President Sukarno and gave him the green light. Ford then flew to Guam to deliver a speech on the anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor — as Indonesia began the surprise carnage in East Timor. The death toll in East Timor, considered as a percentage of the total population, was worse than the slaughter visited upon Europe by Adolph Hitler.

Yes, Ford did grant amnesty to U.S. citizens who went to Canada to escape the draft during the invasion of Vietnam. But that lone positive gesture was more than offset by the damage he did.

Gerald Ford died a free man at the age of 93, on the day after Christmas in 2006.


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