Sunday, January 26, 2003

In the Sunday section of today's Vanguardia, there's an article titled "A State Crime?". It's a full-page story, and the hook is that one William Pepper has published another book, this one called "An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King". William Pepper is a notorious conspiracy fruitcake whose crowning achievement was, in 1999, to persuade a mentally borderline Memphis jury to decide, in a civil case, that one Lloyd Jowers had been behind the King conspiracy. The award was $100.

The best book on the King assassination is Gerald Posner's Killing the Dream, which concludes that James Earl Ray did the murder, possibly with the help in the planning and the getaway of at least one of his brothers. It cannot be excluded that there was a low-level conspiracy, as it was a well-known rumor in America's prisons that there was a reward out, to be paid by some racist businessmen, for King's head. There's an outside chance that rumor might have been true.

I googled "william pepper king conspiracy" and found these five articles from fairly respectable sources, all of which condemn Pepper as a fraud, a nut, or both: The Washington Post (by Gerald Posner, a must-read), Court TV, CNN/Time, Slate, and the Boston Globe (another must-read, by Christopher Hitchens).

Here's the article, in italics, of course.

Maybe it was because of the glacial cold that froze the large neogothic tower of the Riverside church in Harlem last Thursday, but an audience of thirty people didn't seem like much to listen to the lawyer and former collaborator with Martin Luther King, William Pepper, at the release of his new book, "An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King". The work is the fruit of an investigation which has stretched on for more than ten years, in which Pepper has brought to life a series of evidence that prove that King was the victim of a plot coordinated by various American intelligence services, with the collaboration of the Army, the Memphis police, and the local Mafia.

"The media in the United States doesn't want to listen, this book will never come out in the newspapers," assured Pepper. And, in fact, despite the unending homages to the black leader rendered these days because of Martin Luther King Day, only the weekly Village Voice has published an article about the book. The New York Times asked Pepper for an op-ed, but they pulled out at the last moment.

Although Pepper's exhaustive investigation seems made for Hollywood, after the success of Oliver Stone's JFK, not even television has shown any interest. White but committed, Pepper worked with King during the year prior to his assassination on April 4, 1968. "They were times," Pepper recalls, "in which the reverend and civil rights activist became radicalized, strengthened his opposition to the Vietnam War, and widened his accusations to include "economic racism".

Just a year before falling, hit by a sniper's bullet on the balcony of a Memphis hotel, King had made a speech in the selfsame Riverside church in New york, and the rebellion of the Afro-Americans spread throughout the country and combined with the campaign against the war. "After that speech in this church," Pepper explains, "a hundred cities were under siege and the country in flames. They were very frightened in Washington, and King had to be eliminated."

This lawyer's arguments do not have much to do with the movies. Pepper is Professor of Law at Oxford University (???--not the one in England) and has been accumulating abundant evidence since he began representing James Earl Ray, the small-time crook who was accused of the death of King because of alleged racist motives and who remained in jail until his death in 1998.

"Ray was a docile, passive person who was no more racist than any working-class guy," explains the researcher. "He told me that he said he was guilty because they'd warned him that if he didn't confess, he'd fry in the electric chair." In any case, as soon as Ray entered jail, he asked for another trial. "Ray," says Pepper, "was set up in an operation planned together by the Army's military intelligence staff and a group of arms traffickers linked to the Mafia."

For this chronicler of the life and death of King, it is proven that the intelligence services considered that it was an absolute priority to subvert the civil rights movement, so they even infiltrated its ranks. The King operation was carried out by the Army, "because it had more blacks than the CIA and so it would have to take care of the protests."

"The role of the Army and other governmental agencies that collaborated in the murder of Dr. King," writes Pepper in his book, "has been one of the most sinister secrets of our country." According to his version, that afternoon of April 4, 1968, a team of Green Beret snipers just arrived from Vietnam had traveled to Memphis with one order: to assassinate Martin luther King and another black leader, the reverend Andrew Young.

Two of them, who now, after changing identities, live in Costa Rica and are Pepper's direct sources, were posted on the roof of a building nest to the Lorraine Motel, where King was staying the day before leading a demonstration of sanitation workers, principally blacks, as part of his campaign against economic racism.

Forced to change the room he had been given on the first floor for 306, on the third floor and much more exposed. King leaned over the balcony and was hit by a bullet that entered his jaw, went through his neck, and lodged in his shoulder. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

Nevertheless, it wasn't the military intelligence agents who had fired, says Pepper. When he was aiming at Young, the military sniper, Pepper's source, heard another shot. It had been fired, Pepper assures, by Earl Clark, a Memphis policeman who was hiding with one of the members of the gang of arms traffickers among the weeds of a nearby vacant lot. Clark, according to the investigator, was following orders from the Mafia padrino of Memphis Frank Liberto and his superior in the New Orleans Mafia, Carlos Marcello, involved in illegal arms trafficking to Latin America.

After King's assassination, the protest movement in which the campaign against the Vietnam War and the struggle for Afro-American civil rights entered into decline. A year before, Malcolm X--another irreplaceable leader--fell victim to another bullet. "Do you think the government killed Malcolm, too?" asked a middle-aged black woman in the Riverside church. "In the case of Martin Luther King I know for sure," Pepper affirmed; "with Malcolm X it would be a speculation, but yes, I believe the government killed him too."

Many of those present, survivors of the struggles back then, let it be known that they think the same thing. "The groups of special operations went to the demonstrations with photos of thise who the authorities considered to be dangerous, with orders to select them as targets in case a riot broke out," said Pepper.

What was said that day in Harlem should have been a front-page news story, if not in the United States, in the rest of the world. But it was too cold for the journalists to go to the Riverside church.

You see what we're up against over here? This article can kindly be understood as the ravings of a paranoiac schizophrenic or unkindly considered as the cynical lies of a charlatan, depending on what you believe William Pepper is. What it's not, though, is anything that anybody with the slightest common sense could believe. It is out-and-out bullshit. Bullcrap. And bullfuck. Yet it is published in La Vanguardia, the conservative leading newspaper--200,000 or so daily circulation--in Spain's second-largest city, as if it were fact. They didn't bother looking up William Pepper, that's for sure, so they're guilty of gross journalistic negligence at the very least. Of course, if they did look up Dr. Pepper, as he likes to be called, and discovered what a nut everybody respectable says he is, then they're guilty of bad faith. I suspect the latter, though the former can't be ruled out. Probably some combination of the two.

But if you're an average intelligent educated Spanish Joe who believes what he reads in the paper and sees on the TV news about the US, you see this crap and you believe it. Perfectly reasonably, they say, "Hey, that's what I read in the newspaper, so I believe it's true." No wonder they all think America is Satanic, if this is what the conservative press stakes its journalistic respectability to print. Imagine what the leftist press is like.

I did look up the Village Voice piece. It's mildly skeptical, not nearly enough. It does mention that Dr. Pepper's next mission is to go to Venezuela and preside a "fact-finding commission"--at Hugo Chávez's personal request.

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