By Tania Bhattacharya
Some political murders have successfully created a void within the nation, and altered its path in history, such as the 1986 killing of Olof Palme, in Stockholm.
Most people underestimate the immense power of self-awareness and wonder why most of their relationships are less than sweet. A social lockdown can mean the liberation of our own true identity. So why not do ourselves a favor and try and fix traits in ourselves that prevent us from having great relationships with others.
Death is the great leveller, it is said. Until that is, it favours the common man over and above far more successful and visible public figures. Then, it merely becomes the final act in a play about conspiracies and the miscarriage of justice. The victims are usually high profile political and administrative personalities, who were plotting to blow the lid, off whatever had caused their conscience to flail. While scores of such deaths have been registered throughout modern history, at least four from the post-war decades of the last century, deserve to be mentioned. Their cases remain open, despite the many attempts made to close them. The Cold War’s greatest whodunit; the case of Somerton Man, has not been included.
Uwe Barschel was elected the President of West Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein, in the October of 1982. He belonged to the Centre-Right Christian Democratic Union which was being headed by Helmut Kohl. Barschel was regarded as being full of promise, and his tenure was counted as a success. Unfortunately, Barschel was falsely implicated on corruption charges by vested interests, which made him resign his post, and embark on a hectic international itinerary, in an attempt to get away from the mess, probably in the hopes that the rumours would soon die down, making his return to West Germany, possible.
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His first choice of destination was Gran Canaria in the Canary islands, following which he made his way to Geneva. With what on his mind did he choose Geneva for a visit, has remained murky. However Uwe Barschel’s widow has alleged, that his getaways were essential as he was concealing incriminating evidence in the form of documents, and photos. The scandal that had consumed Barschel was termed Waterkant-Gate, after the fashion of giving a silent nod to that mother of all scandals; Watergate.
It was in his Geneva hotel room, that Barschel’s lifeless body was discovered. He was fully clothed, and lying submerged in a bathtub. A post-mortem had established that his bloodstream was carrying enough sedatives to put a dozen horses to sleep. There were barbiturates, antihistamines, sleeping pills, and more of such drugs. The official report – brushing aside objections raised by his widow – certified his death as ‘suicide’. But to even an untrained eye, the conclusion seemed erroneous. To begin with, his room bore evidence of others having been present; and many items had been moved around. The position of the corpse seemed to be odd.
Uwe Barschel’s death remains an open-ended case, but progress seems to have been made of late. In 2010, Hans Brandenberger, a Toxicologist from Switzerland, and someone who had built a reputation as a forensic expert, re-opened the case of the politician’s mysterious demise. One of his contentions was, that a number of drugs that were traced in the dead Barschel’s bloodstream, could not have been obtained over-the-counter, or even with an ordinary prescription. In all probability, the lethal combination of medications was forced down his oesophagus, in what he surmised, was a bumping off.
Investigations into the baffling circumstances surrounding Barschel’s death in the ensuing decades, have thrown up a curious fact. That this successful politician from West Germany, may have been a secret informer of the dreaded East German Secret Police; the STASI. Mere involvement with an espionage agency however, is not enough to prove complicity. The STASI or for that matter, East Germany, had no reason to target Uwe Barschel. This brings us to the most circulated theory about his assassination. Ex-Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky has insinuated in his writings, that Barschel was a victim of his former employers, who wanted to prevent the politician from denying the use of West German soil, for exacerbating the raging Middle East conflict. It seems Barschel’s family had already been aware of the weapons and training being provided from Shleswig-Holstein, and were opposed to it.
Ostrovsky’s claim has been, that Uwe Barschel signed his own death warrant, by disallowing Israel the use of the ports of his region, which were being recruited for shipping arms to Iran.
In time, the said arms trade, would lead to another grand scandal; this time located on the other side of the globe: the infamous Iran-Contra Affair.
Olof Palme is relatively well known among the old-timers in India. He was the Prime Minister of Sweden on several occasions, and was a key figure in the Bofors Scandal. Noble by birth, but a Social Democrat by ideology, Palme bore a unique connection to this country. His great-aunt Anna Palme had married the Bengali doctor Upendra Dutt. Their son Rajani Palme Dutt – referred to by the initials of RPD – grew up to become a leading thinker in the Marxist tradition. RPD remained an anointed figure both in Europe, as well as in his paternal homeland of India.
In Sweden, Olof Palme is a hero, despite the many unsavoury details that dot his biography. This is primarily because Sweden, aside from Count Folke Bernadotte, and Dag Hammarskjold, had not had a national leader who was able to make the country matter, on an international scale. Prime Minister Olof Palme at long last ensured, that Swedish opinion was going to be heeded, through his vocal support of the developing world, and his efforts at keeping his country equidistant from the two power blocs.
As a student at Kenyon College in the United States, it is believed that Palme was sought out by STASI handlers who honed his talents in espionage, sending him on a number of missions for gathering intelligence. A not-so-well known image of the Prime Minister, taken in 1948, was examined by the Scotland Yard sometime ago, and the conclusion they drew was, that it was a doctored photo, probably manufactured to hide the true whereabouts of Palme. Alternative media site Blueshift has the relevant details, here:
In the 1980s, the Swedish Premier was embroiled in a child prostitution scandal, with at least two of the victims, now in their fifties, alleging, that among the high profile men they had to service, was Palme himself. Over the years, and many media onslaughts later, neither women – one of whom is named Eva Bengtsson – have budged an inch from their original statements. It is a testament to Palme’s popularity, that he could successfully dodge the accusations being levelled at him from different quarters, retain his popular appeal, and continue to steer Sweden in the path of Democratic Socialism, even though this alienated a section of society that loathed the high taxes he made them pay.
So when Olof Palme was felled on the night of the 28th of February 1986, as he was strolling down from a movie theatre along with his wife, Sweden was in shock. The murder was anything but an open and shut case. There has been no closure till date, with competing theories still trying to establish for a fact, as to what the true nature of events had been.
Media reports had stated that the assassin had sauntered up to the couple and shot Mr. Palme in the back, in the process, injuring his wife Lisbet. Common sense though, finds this assumption had to stomach. Surely, bullets travel on a linear route? How then could the same one have both, killed the Swedish Prime Minister, and simultaneously injured his wife?
Who would have benefitted from Palme’s death? This particular whodunit has vexed the conscience of Sweden more than anything else, in its modern history. It is almost as though the Gandhi of that country, had been made to perish.
Author and scientist Jan Bondeson has speculated on some feints in his book Blood On The Snow. He informs the reader, that at least three people had warned Swedish law enforcement of Palme’s impending fate. One of them was Yugoslav soldier Ivan Von Birchan, who had claimed that one Charles Morgan of the CIA had hired him and placed a hit on the Prime Minister. To prevent the latter from assuming office once again, a secret organization under the aegis of the American politicians Caspar Weinberger and Henry Kissinger, had approached Von Birchan. If this is true, then a wider, international conspiracy needs to be taken into account.
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It is notable, that Olof Palme was yet another high-profile player in the trans-Atlantic arms trade. It is entirely possible, that he was privy to sensitive secrets, which vested interests were afraid, would be compromised.
Not many are familiar with his name, not even his own coutrymen. The Man Nobody Knew: In Search Of My Father, is a book by Colby’s son, the documentary filmmaker Carl Colby. William Colby was a former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who was responsible for the success of many of the organization’s operations in the 60s and 70s. He was in knowledge of the CIA’s MK-Ultra program, which was centred upon the development of mind-control drugs that could be used to neutralize enemies or people who posed a threat to the country’s agenda. For a long time, passed off as a mere ‘conspiracy theory’, it is now established for a fact, that MK-Ultra was used on a number of celebrity test subjects such as Ken Kesey, Whitey Bulger, and James Stanley, and was responsible for the November 18, 1978 cult massacres of Jonestown.
In present times, there is a petition on Change.Org demanding an end to mind-control research by the CIA, given its deadly effects. Last year NPR (National Public Radio) of the US, named Sidney Gottlieb as being the chemist who was enlisted by the CIA in developing the MK-Ultra program.
Espionage requires its personnel to carry certain virtues. Attention to detail, secrecy, fastidiousness, and being methodical to a fault, being a few of them. William Colby, as a top spymaster, was presumably in possession of these qualities. Upon his retirement from the agency, he purchased a simple, nondescript home across the marina from Cobb Island, situated near Washington DC. He would spend the weekends rowing his canoe, and never forgot to wear his life jacket.
That is why, when he disappeared in the April of 1996 from his Cobb island home, and didn’t surface for days – quite literally – it caused concern to his family and friends. Especially one particular friend who happened to be an author and publisher, Mr. Zalin Grant.
As is usual with cases of skulduggery involving people of importance, Colby’s disappearance was attributed in its early days to suicide. The more enterprising among the speculators, conjectured that Colby was probably silenced by the people he had opposed during his days as the CIA chief. But it seems as if there was more to the case than previously thought.
Bill Colby had been in the process of writing a tell-all, that was to inform people about the secret and unacknowledged actions of the American deep state; up to and including its denial of knowledge pertaining to extra-terrestrial energy harvesting. His book would have disclosed the machinations of the CIA in its quest for world domination; the global figures it had assassinated or plotted to, and its involvement in the international arms trade.
Mr. Grant has correctly estimated that ex-intelligence agents, especially someone like Bill Colby, who despite being in his mid-seventies was in the prime of his life, were unlikely to commit simple mistakes like not wearing his life jacket before going out to canoe, canoeing on a full stomach, or doing so well after sundown; features that were curiously present during the investigation into Colby’s disappearance. About ten days later, his bloated body had washed ashore at exactly the same place, where search efforts had looked thoroughly multiple number of times in the preceding days.
If Mr. Colby had not planned to write the incriminating tome he was doggedly bent on doing, he might have lived out his entire lifetime.
THE JFK ASSASSINATION’S NEGLECTED DETAILS
A lot has been written and discussed about the usual suspects pertaining to JFK’s assassination. Reader’s Digest had serialized Jay Epstein’s The Secret World Of Lee Harvey Oswald in the late 1980s, which I used to read passionately. With the birth of the internet, many websites have been created exclusively dealing with the contentious points of Oswald, and Jack Ruby’s roles. Films have been made that pin the blame on the CIA. There are reliable bloggers who have produced photographic evidence of many of Oswald’s images standing solo and holding a weapon, being doctored. These having much literature dedicated to them, I would like to instead highlight some aberrations that appear in the Zapruder film – a citizen’s effort that captures the assassination much to the chagrin of those behind it – in combination with some suspicious happenings that occurred in the aftermath of the event.
A. Umbrella Man
The grassy knoll in the captured footage moments before the tragedy, has a man attired in black, sitting on it. As the President’s motorcade begins to pass by, he stands up, opens his umbrella and waves it in the air in a circular motion. It almost seems as though he is signalling for action to begin over something, but the man was later questioned, and he defended himself by saying that it was a sign of protest at JFK’s father Joseph Kennedy’s policies when he was ambassador to Great Britain in the late 1930s. The umbrella was a reference to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who was never seen without one. Even though this may sound plausible, one wonders if the man already had his excuse ready knowing full well that he could be questioned. And if he was indeed gesturing at his co-conspirators, then who was he working for? It had been a sunny day in Dallas, where umbrellas would not have been required.
B. Babushka Lady
An even more mysterious figure in the plot, is a woman who has never been identified, but who seemed to be filming the assassination as it progressed. She is referred to as ‘Babushka Lady’ in reference to the Russian-style scarf that was covering her head. Interestingly, while the other bystanders run for cover once the shots are heard, Babushka Lady remains rooted and unmoved. Theories have abounded as to her true identity. Was she a Russian spy? Once again, the presence of an unusual object – her scarf – raises questions. The clement weather did not require one’s head to be protected from a drizzle. And unlike the other regular female eyewitnesses, her legs are positioned apart. What’s more, even though everyone else told the authorities what they saw that day, BL did not attempt to do so.
C. Dorothy Kilgallen
Dorothy Kilgallen was a charismatic television presenter, who doubled as a journalist. She participated in ‘What’s My Line’, a TV show that aired in the 1950s, and remains the only investigator to have spoken with Jack Ruby before his trial began. JFK was a friend of hers. Through exhaustive research, Kilgallen had collated a bunch of evidence that she wished to get published on the President’s murder. Criminal attorney Mark Shaw has detailed her efforts in his book The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. Days before travelling to New Orleans for an appointment with an informer on the case, Kilgallen was found dead in her home. The cause of death was drug overdose. Her diary and paperwork containing proof on the circumstances surrounding the President’s murder, were never found.
D. Mary Meyer
Mary Pinchot Meyer was a different kind of woman that had been introduced to JFK. She was married to a CIA operative Cord Meyer, and was an educated socialite. JFK had previously been involved with provocatively attired, air-headed floozies from the movie and modelling industries, who rarely if ever, offered him intellectual companionship. They would seek him out due to the aura of power he had about him. He looked upon them as needy and wanting. Meyer was more than a tad different. For the first time, as a skirt-chaser, the philandering President had met his match. He had felt deeply drawn to her educated upbringing, and her talent as a painter. Kennedy’s lovelorn paeons written to Meyer, reveal an unsure man who was craving for Meyer’s attention. The two remained lovers till the time of his death, often consuming LSDs in each-other’s company, in the White House.
Mary Pinchot Meyer became the victim of an unsolved murder in 1964. A Black American man Ray Crump, was arrested on the charges of sexually assaulting and robbing her, but the truth may never be known. As the ex-wife of a CIA aide, and a lover of the President himself, Meyer had long been targeted by powerful forces who were intimidated at her efforts of trying to unravel the facts over JFK’s demise.
E. Sam Giancana
Sam ‘Mooney’ Giancana was a well-feared Italian-American* mobster of Chicago, whose brush with politics first occurred when Joseph Kennedy approached him, requesting the former’s intervention in winning a mandate for JFK, during the Massachusetts primary. The mobster willingly helped out by exerting his influence on the pollsters and the polls themselves, involving assassinations, death-threats, and booth capturing; which to a crime syndicate, was just another day at work. The claims were made by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in his book The Dark Side Of Camelot.
Thus, it was entirely unacceptable to Giancana, when the same forces he had helped to power, turned against him. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the President’s younger brother, was tasked with eradicating the Mafiosi from American soil, which he had every intention of following through with. In the eyes of ‘Mooney’, this was high treason. Giancana was himself, no stranger to duplicity. He had worked in tandem with the CIA, in trying to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and not just once.
Of the many theories posited pertaining to the JFK case, one deals with the culpability of the American underworld in general, and the Chicago mafia, in particular. Did the CIA and Giancana join hands to rid themselves of a common enemy?
A word of caution here. One must be careful not to idolize the Kennedy clan. While the face they present to the world is one of philanthropy and social justice, a background check of their origins will reveal, that they made their fortune through bootlegging and underhand dealings during the Prohibition of the 1930s.
*American Mafia has often been culturally confined. There were Irish gangs, as well as Jewish ones like ‘Murder Inc’ headed by the mobster Bugsy Siegel, just as there were Italian outfits. Over the last few decades, African-American and East Asian syndicates have emerged as well. It would be timely to remind ourselves, that Film Industries and the underworld, all over the globe, have shared a disturbing bonhomie.
While the Kennedy killing continues to remain a ‘Whodunit’, its consequences are no longer moot. Once again, and not surprisingly, the arms trade makes its appearance, along with the larger role of the Vietnam War that Kennedy had come to oppose.
Investigative reporter Patrick Baab and former Pentagon advisor Robert Harkavy, have published a joint effort named: The Spider Web Of Secret Services: Why Were Olof Palme, Uwe Barschel and William Colby Murdered?
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It is easy to dismiss Cold War conspiracies and their dynamics as a thing of the past. How, for example, does the Trans-Atlantic arms trade matter anymore?
Well, it matters, because the weapons trade after receiving an initial jolt from the dissolving of the Eastern Bloc and its Afghan War, reinvented itself as the illegal arms market that was made available to the Islamic Jihadis, who discompose us to this day.