Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Other Side of the Coin: The Kennedys and I; JFK's Bold Words on the Middle East Conflict

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Other Side of the Coin: The Kennedys and I; JFK's Bold Words on the Middle East Conflict

Article excerpt

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN: The Kennedys and I; JFK's Bold Words on the Middle East Conflict

Like millions around the world, I mourned the tragic and untimely death of John E Kennedy, Jr. I will always regret that I never made an attempt to be in touch with the youthful editor of George. I had met his mother and knew his father well.

Back in 1948, I attended the inaugural meetings of the United Nations, the new international organization, being held at the San Francisco Opera House. I was staying at the Manx, a small hotel just below the imposing St. Francis hotel, when the phone rang early one morning, awakening me from a deep slumber. The hotel clerk said that a "Lieutenant Kennedy" would like to see me. "Send him up," I replied.

It was Lt. John F. Kennedy, recently released from the Navy and now serving as correspondent for the Hearst Chicago Herald-American. Lieutenant Kennedy told me he had read that I had been designated one of three G.I. consultants to the American delegation. The national press had carried this story, which included my photo alongside those of Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek. It quoted me as saying: "We need an international organization with muscles."

"I came to get your views on the United Nations Organization which is being drawn up," said the lieutenant.

Over coffee we chatted a bit. I had been stationed in the Middle East but my experience in World War II was very limited compared to his: He had been badly injured and only barely survived when his PT boat was literally cut in half and sunk by a Japanese destroyer. He still walked with a slight limp.

My next encounter with JFK occurred in 1960 after he appeared on the Longines Chronoscope television program, following a visit to Algiers, and called for Algerian self-determination. He was at that time serving in Congress from Massachusetts.

I sent a note to him in Washington: "Dear John: Resign from that seat in Congress and become a television idol! You were terrific last night. I accidentally fell upon you on the Chronoscope program. I am interested in the area you discussed, as you will note from my enclosed American Mercury article, and was happy to learn that I was in perfect agreement with your views. Certainly if we are to support independence for Algeria, for which you called, we ought to do something to allow the Palestinians to rule themselves."

I indicated that I expected to be in Washington soon and hoped to have a serious talk with him. He replied, "Please let me know your schedule so that we can get together." We met at the then-new Hilton Hotel at 16th and K Streets, where we enjoyed a drink together in the bar. He was by far the most charismatic individual I had ever met. We chatted at length about U.S. foreign policy until he had to leave for another appointment.

Later that year, I attended both the Democratic and Republican conventions in order to once again carry to the delegates my determination to take the Middle East out of domestic politics. I had decided it was best to pursue this goal through personal correspondence with the candidates of the two major parties. In a series of letters written before and after the conventions to the presidential nominees of both parties, then-Vice President Richard Nixon and then-Senator Kennedy, I tried to correct what I believed to be existing, widespread "mythinformation" regarding the Middle East. I also set forth what I concluded to be essentials for the advancement of American relations with the Arabs and Israelis and for the well-being of the free world.

In the first of several letters to the vice president, I expressed deep concern over his recent statement to The New York Times relative to the Suez Canal crisis. I warned him against the grave danger of seeking to make the Republican Party even more pro-Israeli than it had been in previous years.


As I feared, to my grave disappointment, the Republican platform labeled attitudes and actions of Arab countries as "anti-Semitic" and called for "the cessation of discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs. …

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