▶ Listen: Oswald talks about Cuba (and Ed Butler listens)

From JFK Lancer, a recording of radio program broadcast by WDSU radio in New Orleans on August 20, 1963.

▶ Lee H. Oswald debates the Cuba issue with anti-communist activist Ed Butler, and anti-Castro militant Carlos Bringuier of Cuban Student Directorate (DRE)

Bringuier is an important witness, and the CIA-sponsored DRE, is significant. But recently it is Butler’s role in this debate that holds my interest.

1) From the start, Butler presicently saw propaganda value in Oswald’s radio appearance. He made a tape of the WDSU debate and gave a copy to the FBI within days. He also save a copy for himself. That tape wound up playing an important role in the first day news coverage of JFK’s assassination.

When Oswald was named a suspect in the assassination of President Kennedy on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, Butler hit the jackpot. He gave a copy of the tape to the news media and soon it was playing on the national radio and TV networks. Butler’s  tape provided proof that the Kennedy’s suspected killer was a self-proclaimed Marxist.

2) Like the DRE, INCA had a collaborative relationship with the CIA. The agency, “did not fund this organization,” wrote one CIA official about INCA, “though we had contacts with some of its members.”  In other words, the agency could count on cooperation.

3) Butler, professional propagandist for the anti-communist cause, made the Oswald tape into a compelling piece of propaganda, as a long-playing vinyl record entitled “Self-Portrait in Red.”

4) Despite his key role in noticing and publicizing Oswald’s pro-Castro politics, Butler was not called to testify to the Warren Commission. That seems like a deliberate omission but perhaps there is some other explanation.

5) Butler was defensive about the CIA’s role in the JFK story. John Simkin’s Spartacus profile of Butler has this nugget:

“Butler wrote a book in 1968 entitled Revolution is My Profession in which he attacked as communist infiltrators those whose tactics have “been to try to link the CIA with all sorts of crime, especially President Kennedy’s assassination”

 

34 comments

  1. GM says:

    Interesting that when Oswald was asked how he supported himself in Russia, he sounded nervous, and replied that he had the protection of the American government, before ‘correcting’ himself and saying he did not after all.

  2. Jonathan says:

    In the recording Oswald maintains FPCC is not a Communist organization. From what I’ve read, that is correct, though it was penetrated by the FBI and investigated by congress.

    Oswald comes off in the recording as a calm, relaxed, focused, well-prepared individual. Hardly the psychotic loner he’s been portrayed to be.

    • GM says:

      Yes he did. As far as I could make out Oswald only had trouble with answering the question of how he supported himself when he was in Russia. Interestingly, Oswald also seemed to emphasise that he remained an American citizen while in Russia. Whether this was deliberate on his part or not who knows. He certainly appears to have control of himself in the interview.

    • Gerry Simone says:

      Agreed.

      LHO was highly intelligent.

  3. John McAdams says:

    The agency, “did not fund this organization,” wrote one CIA official about INCA, “though we had contacts with some of its members.” In other words, the agency could count on cooperation.

    No, that doesn’t follow. The CIA had lots of “contacts” with lots of people, and far from all of them would be cooperative on any given issue.

    So quit trying to imply that INCA was an arm of the CIA.

    Butler was defensive about the CIA’s role in the JFK story.

    So what? He knew that a lot of left wingers blamed the CIA because of their ideological biases. He had every right to complain about that.

    Jeff, are you starting with the assumption that the CIA was involved, and thus is becomes “suspicious” if somebody defends the CIA?

    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      I would think after writing Our Man in Mexico and suing the CIA for 10 years he knows they have and are breaking the law. Unauthorized raids on Cuba, unauthorized attempts on Castro, unauthorized enlistment of the mafia in this. The whole Mexico charade of pictures of a not Oswald and recordings that were not him. It goes on and on. In addition to Jeff’s book read Oswald and the CIA, Destiny Betrayed, and Reclaiming Parkland, rebut the documented facts in them with facts and we’ll talk some more.
      Meanwhile if they would FREETHEFILES we would know if there is anything in them relevant to this discussion.

      • John McAdams says:

        I would think after writing Our Man in Mexico and suing the CIA for 10 years he knows they have and are breaking the law.

        Actually, Jeff doesn’t know that INCA was some sort of CIA creation, or even that it would do the CIA’s bidding. He doesn’t know that anything that happened with the DRE in New Orleans was at the behest of the CIA.

        He just has a lot of suspicions.

        rebut the documented facts in them with facts and we’ll talk some more.

        You need to specify what you think are “documented facts.”

        For example, it’s not a “document fact” that there was any tape supposedly of Oswald that was not Oswald’s voice. That’s a conspiracy factoid:

        http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/clueless3.htm

    • Fearfaxer says:

      In your world, I suppose Encounter magazine was not a creation of the CIA.

      Given the amount of things the CIA has been involved with over the years, and the way it lied about whether or not it was involved, anybody has a right to be suspicious about anything the Agency does.

    • Alex S says:

      “So quit trying to imply that INCA was an arm of the CIA.”

      Oh look everyone, the boss of JFKfacts has arrived!

      • John McAdams says:

        If you think INCA was an arm of the CIA, post your evidence.

        If there is no evidence, any real “truth seeker” will object to people saying things that are simply made up.

  4. Arnaldo M Fernandez says:

    This interview makes sense only as intelligence operation against the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) in the context of LHO´s open pro Castro activities in New Orleans.
    August 1. LHO wrote the FPCC about his “efforts to start a branch” in New Orleans. In this letter he even related an incident that had not happened yet:“a street demonstration was attacked” by Cuban exiles and “we were officially cautioned by police.”
    August 5. LHO visited DRE leader Carlos Bringuier, and introduced himself as ex-Marine ready to train anti-Castro guerillas.
    August 9. Bringuier and two friends saw LHO leafleting for the FPCC. As the latter had foretold, they argued and the police came.
    August 16. After short stint in jail, LHO hired two unemployed people to pass out leaflets. WDSU-TV filmed the event.
    August 17. LHO was interviewed by Bill Stuckey for his radio show “Latin Listening Post” (WDSU). Stuckey will contact both Bringuier and Ed Butler, CEO of the anti-Communist Information Council on the Americas (INCA), for a debate with Oswald.
    August 21 (Verify the date, please). At 6:05 pm WDSU broadcasted “Conversation Carte Blanche.” Bringuier and Butler revealed Oswald’s defection to the Soviet Union, while LHO exaggerated his one-man FPCC chapter and repeatedly delivered the message that the FPCC had absolutely nothing to do with the CPSUA.
    August 28. LHO wrote to CPUSA asking for advice “upon a problem of personal tactics:” whether or not to go underground. He put on paper the very linkage he had denied on the air: “Frankly, I have used my position to foster communist ideals.”
    LHO never informed the FPCC of the peril he had placed with such a paper-trial linkage (Commission Exhibit 1145) tying FPCC to the CPSUA and, through his own background as defector, to Moscow.
    As Bill Simpich has demonstrated, such a pro-Castro Lee in New Orleans blends perfectly with Castroit pro Soviet Harvey in Mexico City.

    • Jonathan says:

      Another interpretation is that Oswald’s FPCC pose was designed to establish his bona fides as a sureptitious FBI informant.

      One possibility goes like this: When Oswald returns from the Soviet Union, he’s perceived to have informant capabilities by some U.S. intelligence service, which recruits him on an as-needed basis. Oswald believes he’s been recruited by the FBI. His handler in NOLA is Guy Bannister, a former FBI officer. Oswald believes his job is to penetrate pro- and anti-Castro groups and furnish information on them to the FBI.

      At the time, everyone concerned knows J.Edgar Hoover, possibly the most powerful individual in America, hates and distrusts the CIA. He’s most concerned about the CIA’s violating its charter and engaging in domestic operations. Hoover certainly knows who Oswald is. Oswald is pleased to serve Hoover.

      Reality is, Oswald wasn’t recruited by the FBI. Or if he was, someone posing as an FBI loyalist but whose loyalties lie elsewhere, steps in to direct him. I nominate Guy Bannister.

      Oswald with great skill in a most public forum, develops his pro-Castro credentials. These are a cover story, he believes and he is advised, which will help him become a more productive informant for the FBI.

      Oswald at this point is an unwitting agent of the CIA. He does not believe the CIA is manipulating him. When he gets arrested in NOLA, he calls Warren DeBrueys.

      At this point, everything is Kosher in 1963. Oswald is a useful guy for intelligence services. So they use him, but carefully so as to obscure handling.

      Someone whose job it is to kill JFK has the inside track on all this. Oswald is the perfect patsy. Making him patsy drives the FBI and CIA into defensive, cover-up positions. That’s one danger of running domestic intelligence operations aimed at foreign enemies. Patsies get set up. Irrevocably. Even in the the decade of 2000-2009.

      • Arnaldo M Fernandez says:

        That’s the point. Oswald was somehow involved in the FBI-CIA joint venture against FPCC, and the assassination was rather a piggybacked operation by CIA agents. I think Simpich has hit the nail on the head with “El Indio” Sanchez, deputy chief at JMWAVE.

  5. Cousin Jack says:

    This is a fascinating interview. Lee Harvey Oswald (it seems he’s already chosen to call himself by all 3 names)acknowledges at one point(8:18+)that the FPFC, unlike the Republican Party, has a “radical…violent and sometimes emotional opposition” to America’s Cuban Policy. That is a provocative admission. He also admits he’s a Marxist and support’s the UK’s “socialized medicine” (which hardly sounds radical, at least today anyway), but he seems quite evasive about whether he received a government subsidy from the U.S. when he was in Russia. He criticizes the right wing Anti-Castro exile community (which I suppose could have made him an enemy or two among whoever listened in then to this broadcast). But he demurs at the pro-Castro characterization of the President as a “ruffian and a thief” preferring instead to disparage the CIA and State Department’s “monumental mistakes” in dealing with Cuba (angering perhaps some government employees who heard this broadcast as well?).

    It’s all quite psychologically puzzling.

  6. Tom says:

    He doesn’t sound like a loner to me.

    • Fearfaxer says:

      He wasn’t. Just check the Warren Commission testimony of anyone who knew him personally. Though he didn’t develop many serious friendships, he was constantly chatting up people and placing himself in situations where he had to interact with other human beings. That’s quite a contrast with, say, Arthur Bremer (who shot George Wallace), who certainly could be classified as a psychotic loner.

  7. Streaming access to both of Oswald’s 1963 WDSU radio shows — http://Oswald-On-The-Radio.blogspot.com

  8. Michael says:

    As another poster said this Oswald is not the raving pro-Castro Marxist loon the WC was trying to convince everyone he was.This was a clearly an intelligent man.I wonder if this interview was part of an op.

  9. John Kirsch says:

    In the 1960s, Roger Miller had a hit called “King of the Road.” Apparently a “trailers for rent” sign and a statue of a hobo served as sources of inspiration for the song, according to Miller.
    Lee Harvey Oswald would have been a perfect inspiration.
    A list, not necessarily complete, of the places Oswald visited or lived after joining the Marines:
    Atsugi AFB, Japan; Taiwan; the Philippines; California; Helsinki, Finland; Moscow; Minsk; Dallas-Fort Worth: New Orleans; Mexico City (maybe); Dallas.
    He certainly got around, didn’t he? For this he could, as often as not, thank the U.S. government.
    King of the Road, indeed.

    • Fearfaxer says:

      And all of that between the ages of 17 and 24! All in all, the man lived a fascinating, extraordinary life. The notion that he was some embittered, frustrated loser is ridiculous. As I’ve said a number of times, in the summer of 1963, how many 23 year-old high school dropouts had spend at least half their adult lives living abroad, mastered a foreign language, and were appearing on radio programs in major cities debating American policy towards Cuba with men now known to be connected to the CIA in one way or another?

      • Robert Harper says:

        J.K. & Fearfax:

        In addition one can listen to him read passages of “Othello” with his Russian friend Titovet and read that what he most loved about Russia was the opera! During the summer before his death, he took out 34 books to read and spent time playing with his two children. These in addition to those cited by the above posters.
        His calm assured tone on the radio compliments his controlled restraint when first under arrest. Quick–think of any 24 year old today whose life could
        contain such multitudes.
        Crazy, angry loner who needed to kill. Right.

    • Bob Truitt says:

      John an outstanding list to include his first duty station San Diego, CA, and NYC.

  10. TLR says:

    This is Oswald playing his role as agent provocateur, infiltrator and informant. All of this media attention before the assassination had an obvious purpose – to discredit pro-Castro groups and associate them with Communism. Oswald wasn’t aware that he was also helping the plotters to link him with Castro and the USSR in the public eye so they would be blamed for the assassination.

  11. leslie sharp says:

    Texas Monthly, acclaimed magazine originating from Austin, published a timeline 1963-1983 that listed two seminal events during the year of 20th anniversary: (http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/pieces-puzzle)

    ^ March 1983. Rolling Stone article: “Did Lee Harvey Oswald Drop Acid?”

    ^ Fall 1983. Jean Davison publishes Oswald’s Game , which supports Warren Report conclusion that Oswald acted alone although motivated by anger at Kennedy plots against Castro.

    In 1983, the most politically active generation of the 1960’s was aging; a new generation would begin to ask questions about Kennedy’s assassination. I posit that if “Texas Monthly” recognized the significance of “Oswald’s Game,” others did, and that it represented a watershed moment in the popular mind. It preceded Posner and Bugliosi in the specialized genre of in depth study of Oswald, The Individual. Therefore it must be studied for its potential for propaganda designed to promote the lone nut theory.

    From Davison’s introduction: “Then in 1968 I happened to read an article about Oswald in The Westwood Village Square. a conservative, youth-oriented magazine that has since folded. The article was written by an anti-Communist propagandist named Ed Butler, who said he had faced Oswald in a New Orleans radio debate on Cuba in August 1963. That surprised me, since I found it hard to imagine Oswald, who apparently couldn’t even hold a menial job, holding his own in a public debate. But according to Butler, he was a well-informed and articulate debater who was dedicated to the cause of Castro’s Cuba. Butler produced testimony and documents from the Warren Commission records to bolster his belief that Oswald had been “conditioned to kill” by the Communist propaganda he’d been reading since he was a teenager. That didn’t seem likely, to put it mildly, but even taking Butler’s political bias into account, I couldn’t reconcile this picture of Oswald as a skilled public debater with the one’ had previously be_ei_igven of him as a hapless drifter. Although I didn’t realize it, I was getting bitten by one of the central mysteries of the Kennedy assassination— the question of who Oswald really was.”

    According to this, after reading a publication of anti-communist propagandist Ed Butler, Davison moves the investigation from Butler’s political (albeit biased?) assessment of Lee Harvey Oswald to a far more unbiased, thorough and revelatory one of Oswald … and yet wasn’t the end result the same – even though the emphasis was shifted from Communism to Marxism – as that of propagandist Mr. Butler’s original claim? Mr. vonPein seems to think so:

    “After reading “Oswald’s Game”, it’s very nearly impossible to NOT say to yourself dozens of times throughout these chapters: This guy Oswald was just EXACTLY the type of crackpot Marxist who just might want to take a potshot at the President of the United States if given THE GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY TO DO SO (which he was afforded — on 11/22/63 in Dallas, Texas).

    • John McAdams says:

      I posit that if “Texas Monthly” recognized the significance of “Oswald’s Game,” others did, and that it represented a watershed moment in the popular mind. It preceded Posner and Bugliosi in the specialized genre of in depth study of Oswald, The Individual. Therefore it must be studied for its potential for propaganda designed to promote the lone nut theory.

      So people who disagree with you are engaged in “propaganda.”

      But your favorite conspiracy authors aren’t.

      You really need to accept legitimate differences of opinion on these issues.

  12. Bob Prudhomme says:

    I’ve often wondered if LHO introduced himself to strangers as Lee or Lee Harvey. I cannot imagine introducing myself as Bob Maurice, or even Robert Maurice, for that matter. Odd that his acquaintance Buell Wesley Frazier always referred to him as merely Lee. Then again, did Frazier introduce himself as Buell Wesley or just Buell? Or Wesley?

    LHO seemed very dedicated to the cause of granting fair play to Cuba. Is there any evidence to show he continued these efforts after moving back to Dallas from New Orleans?

  13. Frank says:

    He sounds well rehearsed, well spoken, confident, and nuanced. He apparently knew right where the lines were and how to walk them so as to attract a calibrated shade of radical thinking on the left while inflaming a Cuban brand of radical thinking on the right. Perhaps he was a dual agent provocateur in his own mind while a patsy packaged and delivered in the minds of some others.

    We are asked to believe he transformed from this reasonably sophisticated operator into an irrational lone nut desperately issuing a scenario for having been made a patsy (“I didn’t shoot anybody” – “They’re taking me in because I went to Russia” – “Of course I was there, I worked in the building”) and ultimately announcing a conspiracy to the world (“I’m just a patsy”); all in an attempt to feign innocence? Why not just say “I didn’t shoot anybody” and leave it at that? Would that have been too nuanced for him? No. Not after listening to him on the radio. Saying he was a patsy was admitting complicity and guilt. He was hardly that stupid if he was a lone assassin seeking to exculpate himself but he was certainly desperate enough as one who was conscious of a conspiracy. Imagine the shock if suddenly realizing every life line was severed or non-existent. Nobody would save him but himself, which he may have tried to do by spilling his guts, but if so, then it obviously didn’t work.

  14. Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

    The key point here is that, on the air, LHO insisted on denying any FPCC’s linkage to international Communism, but short thereafter (August 28)he wrote to the PCUSA asking for advice in “personal tactics” and stated: “Here in New Orleans, I am the secretary of the local brach (sic) of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee [which was false], a position which, frankly, I have used to foster communist ideals.” Thus, “pro Castro Lee” was establishing a paper-trail linkage against his own statements on the air, tying FPCC to the PCUSA as a “pro Communist Harvey” actually tied to Moscow given his own background of defector.

  15. Nathaniel Heidenheimer says:

    Why did you forget to mention INCA’s move to Los Angeles, just in time to blame the RFK assassination on Castro?

    The links between the major political assassinations seem to be No Fly Zone.

  16. Larry Schnapf says:

    I would start with the proposition that Ed Butler was a genuine patriot who formed and used INCA in the propaganda campaign to prevent the spread of Communism in Latin America. In his fundraising efforts, he came into contact with individuals and organizations that were supported by the CIA. There may not have been a direct connection between INCA and the CIA but given his mission, it would not be surprising if some of his funding came other CIA-funded assets. Whether he was directly compensated by the CIA may be a distinction without a difference in the propaganda world.

    Even if he received funding directly or indirectly from the CIA, it doesn’t necessarily follow (to borrow a phrase from McAdams-God forgive me) that Butler deliberately setup Oswald as part of some pre-assassination planning. Butler could have been manipulated so that he would take advantage of what he perceived was a propaganda coup (the Oswald interview).

    Interestingly, the owner of the William Reily Coffee Company where Oswald worked for awhile in New Orleans, was one of the financial supporters of INCA. Might be mere coincidence. could be a connection. Certainly alot of smoke.

    • John McAdams says:

      Interestingly, the owner of the William Reily Coffee Company where Oswald worked for awhile in New Orleans, was one of the financial supporters of INCA. Might be mere coincidence. could be a connection. Certainly a lot of smoke.

      Let’s see: a rich capitalist in New Orleans gave financial support to an anti-communist activist group in that city.

      Odd indeed.

      How many places in New Orleans was it possible to work where the owner gave money to an anti-communist or conservative cause? A lot of them.

  17. Kennedy63 says:

    As there is no definitive bio on Oswald, we are left to view him through the lens of writers who, for various reasons, choose to project only that portrait of him connected to the JFK assassination in 1963. Obviously, as intelligent (trained) as LHO seems to appear, he knew of the plot against JFK; however, this does NOT make him an assassin. From all the evidence planted, found, and endlessly debated, LHO has yet to be definitively nailed down. He moved in very fascinating circles among people who either the CIA, FBI, Mafia, White Russians, anti-Castro Cubans, or right-wing extremist were in some way connected. Perhaps this is the thread that leads to the assassination, that all these groups were, in fact, connected by infiltrating CIA and FBI agents. There is ample evidence that despite the “alleged dislike” between Hoover and CIA, these agencies had informal working relationships, both officially and in the field (domestic and foreign). Seems to me that each agency knew or “discovered” what the other agencies were doing. The Kennedy assassination was not so much a cover-up as it was an official recognition that rogue agents/operators within a certain government agency carried out the assassination as a matter of “changing the regime in Washington.” There are four groups that operated in tandem that had the will, motive, and capability to assassinate JFK: Military, CIA, FBI, and the Mafia. LHO had neither.

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