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Connor Cruise O'Brien, Warren Report critic, dead
Or: How censorship by obituary.

Here's the Torygraph's obit:

Conor Cruise O'Brien dies aged 91

Quote:Conor Cruise O'Brien, the colourful former Irish government minister and journalist, has died at the age of 91.

A man known for championing unpopular causes, he was a strident critic of republicanism and opposed power-sharing deals in Northern Ireland.

"Conor Cruise O'Brien was blessed with a strong intellect, and he was a man of strong convictions," said Taoiseach Brian Cowen, leader of the Fianna Fail party with which Cruise O'Brien regularly clashed.

"His political views were not always in accordance with those of my own party over the years, but I never doubted his sincerity or his commitment to a better and more peaceful Ireland."

Cruise O'Brien, a history and literature graduate of Trinity College, first gained fame in his early 40s when he served as a senior United Nations diplomat seeking a solution to civil war in the Congo in 1961. He resigned within the year – after repeatedly clashing on policy issues with his UN superiors – to write To Katanga and Back, a classic expose on UN bureaucracy and weakness.

He served as chancellor of the University of Ghana from 1962 to 1965, lectured in humanities at New York University from 1965 to 1969, then returned to Ireland to launch his political career with the Labour Party, the left-wing also-rans of Irish politics.

From the start, Cruise O'Brien bitterly opposed the rise of the IRA. He frequently wrote that the Republic of Ireland, with its Catholic ethos, must abandon romanticised support for IRA rebels and come to respect – and champion the rights – of the Protestant majority in the north.

To many, Cruise O'Brien destroyed his liberal credentials when, as minister for posts and telegraphs from 1973 to 1977 during the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, he championed a censorship law banning IRA members or supporters from Irish airwaves. Cruise O'Brien defended the move on the grounds that the IRA represented a threat to the legitimate governments of both parts of Ireland.

When he lost his parliamentary seat in 1977, Cruise O'Brien became editor-in-chief of The Observer in Britain, but was forced out within three years after criticising the paper's ownership.

Cruise O'Brien swam against the tide of Northern Ireland's 1990s peace process, arguing against offering concessions to the IRA in exchange for its ceasefires. When power-sharing between Protestants and Sinn Fein fell apart in 2002, he expressed vindication. "I'm glad to see this bloody thing crash. It's been a horrible fraud," he said.

Cruise O'Brien had faded from public life since suffering a stroke in 1998 and several broken bones in a 2007 fall. He died at his home overlooking Dublin Bay.

He is survived by his second wife Maire, two sons and two daughters.

Odd how opposition to the Warren Report absurdity is routinely removed from mainstream biogs and obits.

The New Statesman, 30 September 1966, pp.479-481

Books: No One Else But Him

By Connor Cruise O’Brien

Quote:These two books* are widely different in scope, in tone and in the nature of some critical underlying assumptions. Mr. Lane, as the advocate retained by Marguerite Oswald in an effort to protect the interests of her dead son, Lee Harvey Oswald, before the Warren Commission, has been concerned with this inquiry from the beginning, and from very early on saw cause to challenge the Commission’s methods. In Rush To Judgement he sets himself, with formidable talent and industry, to tear to shreds the whole fabric of the Warren Commission Report. He shows serious reason to doubt all the principal elements of the Commission’s case: that all the shots were fired from the Book Depository; that the President’s wounds were of a nature to fit that theory; that a connection between Oswald and the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, or between that rifle and the assassination was established; that Oswald alone shot both President Kennedy and Officer Tippit, and that Ruby had no assistance from within the Dallas police force in entering the police station and killing Oswald. The authors of the report assumed, or wrote as if they assumed, that evidence presented by the Dallas police was reliable, however improbable some of it might seem; that reports, even unsigned, on F.B.I. stationery can be relied on as evidence of what witnesses, unheard and unseen by the Commission or its counsel, said; that, in considering Marina Oswald’s evolving evidence, at a time when she was under the close and continuous surveillance of Federal investigative officers, no allowance need be made for possible pressures on her; and that Dallas residents, who changed their testimony in the course of the investigation from something which did not fit the theory of ‘Oswald alone’ to something which did, were the beneficiaries of a spontaneous return of mnemonic accuracy, and were not affected by a wish to survive in an environment hostile to the implications of their original testimony.

Mr. Lane implicitly rejects all these assumptions. He scrutinises with suspicion all evidence emanating from the Dallas police; shows a lesser but considerable degree of scepticism about F.B.I. reports and casts doubt on a large part of the testimony accepted by the Commission as liable to be vitiated by pressure, reward or terror. While he carefully refrains from formulating any explicit general hypothesis of his own, the trend of his critique and of the evidence he cites suggests the following: that there was a conspiracy to assassinate the President, using Oswald as the ‘fall guy’; that some Dallas police officers may have collaborated in this conspiracy; that the F.B.I. was not anxious to pursue leads which seemed to point in the direction of such a conspiracy; and that the Warren Commission was content to rely on the F.B.I. and the Dallas police and on witnesses brought forward and perhaps influenced by them in order to produce a report impressively validating the sedative hypothesis which was proclaimed on television as fact by Henry Wade, District Attorney of Dallas, as early as the night of the assassination:

Q: Was this, was there any indication that this was an organised plot or was there just one man?
Wade: We – there’s no one else but him.

Mr. Lane’s tone is appropriate to the task he has set himself. It is not at all ‘shrill’ or ‘strident’ – although some American reviewers have called it so at the top of their voices. It is grim, lacking in veneration, and touched by a cold, understated irony:
Not long after Oswald’s arrest, Chief Curry was asked by a reporter if the ballistics report proved his guilt.
Q: What about the ballistics test, Chief?
Curry: The ballistics test – we haven’t had a final report, but it is – I understand will be favourable.

The use of the term ‘favourable’, meaning consistent with Oswald’s guilt, betrays a certain bias, and the fact that Curry presumably understood what the results would be prior to the completion of the test stands in need of further illumination.

Mr. Epstein’s Inquest, on the other hand, is relatively detached and respectful in tone and is the work of a student, not an advocate. He deprecates the ‘demonology’ of earlier writers on this subject and does not include Mr. Lane among those he would exempt from this charge, although his own thesis owes more to Mr. Lane than he acknowledges. As befits a graduate student, Mr. Epstein is careful not to suggest anything he cannot prove, and he nowhere implies that evidence may be faked or witnesses intimidated or suborned. For these reasons he has in America found an audience among people who at an earlier period spoke with irritation and contempt of those who refused to accept the Warren Commission’s Report as closing the matter. This is a significant change, because in essentials – in its finding that the Commission’s version of the ‘single assassin’ theory is so improbable as to verge on impossibility – Inquest points in the same direction as Rush To Judgement – that is to say in the direction of conspiracy. Like Mr. Lane – but devoting more of his time to this particular matter – Mr. Epstein shows that – contrary to the Commission’s own contention – the Commission’s version of the assassination logically and necessarily requires one bullet to have passed through President Kennedy and Governor Connally, and that the bullet which is indicated as having done this could not have done it. On this analysis, it seems almost impossible for Oswald alone to have fired the three shots: the likelihood of more than one assassin forces itself through.

Some of those associated with the Commission’s work seem to have had considerable doubts about the single assassin theory from the beginning. Mr. Lane cites a preliminary report by two lawyers for the Commission raising a number of issues suggestive of conspiracy, in which the Commission showed little subsequent interest except for the purpose of dismissing them. That serious doubts still linger among these people, Mr. Epstein’s book makes clear. The ‘most important source’ acknowledged in his preface consists of a series of interviews with members of the Commission, and counsel and assistant counsel to the Commission. The value of these interviews, at this late stage, is perhaps not so great as Mr. Epstein appears to assume, but it is at least interesting to note that several of those intimately concerned with the preparation of the Report now seem to be more concerned to dissociate themselves from it than to go down to posterity identified with a document whose conclusive character and impressive quality were being so frequently hailed, even in this journal, only a short time ago.

The interested reader who holds to the view that the Warren Report, while apparently rather shakier in its details than one was given to understand at the time of its publication, is still probable in its general lines would do well to read Inquest – 154 pages, plus appendices. Anyone who does so will, I believe, have his mind opened to the likelihood of what Mr. Epstein prudently calls ‘a second assassin’ and be prepared for Mr. Lane’s more radical approach. Confidence in the Warren Commission Report, undermined by Mr. Epstein, is likely to be swept away by Mr. Lane. It must be said – contrary to the impression which might be produced by a good deal of the comment on the two books – that Mr. Lane’s book is much the solider, in that it quite clearly rests on a deeper study of the 26 volumes of the hearings (not that that is quite so formidable a task as it sounds, since the volumes are not free from padding). Like the Commission itself, I was working to a deadline. I have, however, followed up some 1,500 of such references, including all which appeared to me to be crucial, and on these latter I also followed up the parallel references from the Report itself to the Hearings and exhibits; I have also read, in extenso, the testimony of a number of key witnesses. The procedure is a rather rough and ready one and can, I admit, lead only to provisional conclusions. At the same time, since many writers, even eminent jurists, proclaimed the Warren Report to be utterly and overwhelmingly conclusive before the evidence on which it was supposedly based was published at all, one need not perhaps be too diffident about expressing an opinion.

The worst that can be said against Mr. Lane is that he writes as an advocate, not as an impartial assessor. This characteristic he shares with the authors of the Commission’s Report. The important differentiating circumstance is that, while Mr. Lane enters the enquiry frankly as an advocate, denied the effective opportunity to act as such before the Commission, the authors of the Report are understood to be acting in a quasi-judicial capacity. If a witness says, or is alleged on F.B.I. notepaper to have said, that he thought the person he saw looked like X but he couldn’t be quite sure, the Commission’s Report and Mr. Lane are both capable of interpreting this either as simply ‘failed to identify X’ or ‘noted a resemblance but fell short of complete identification’ according as the trend of their argument requires. The procedure is, I think, regrettable in both cases but much more regrettable on the Commission’s part. It should surely have examined evidence running counter to the hypothesis favoured, and in some cases robustly favoured, by the investigative agencies. By, instead, handling such evidence as a prosecution counsel might have been expected to do, it imparted an additional and consistently grooved twist to material which, there is reason to believe, was subjected to a similar twist before it reached them at all.

We have not said enough, however, when we say that the authors of the Report and Mr. Lane both function as advocates. The more one studies the Report, the Hearings, and Mr. Lane’s book, the more one feels the Report is the work of advocates working in a desperate hurry, under fearful pressure, and relying in great part on prestige and public sympathy to carry them through. The interviews which Mr. Epstein records show that the conditions under which the authors of the Report worked were such as to make this outcome almost inevitable. Mr. Lane, on the other hand, being unable to count on public sympathy, or the prestige of a Chief Justice, and not being burdened by the quasi-diplomatic concerns which seem to have affected the Commission’s work, has had to count on familiarity with the evidence alone for his sole strength. If he occasionally sinks to the level normally trodden by the authors of the Commission’s Report, he normally works above that level and never sinks to that flagrant disregard for the evidence of which the Commission, at its worst, was capable. Those who doubt that last statement about the Commission can find copious corroboration for it in Lane’s book. I have space here to cite only one example: the Commission’s treatment of Mr. Lane’s own evidence. Lane told the Commission, inter alia, that he had been informed that a meeting had taken place at Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club on 14 November – about a week before President Kennedy’s assassination – between Jack Ruby, Officer Tippit (murdered, allegedly by Oswald, on the day of the President’s assassination) and Bernard Weissman, the person who caused the black-bordered Rightist advertisement attacking Kennedy to be inserted in a Dallas paper for his arrival. The following is the manner in which the Commission discussed Lane’s allegation with one of the two surviving persons alleged to have participated:

MR RANKIN: There was a story that you were seen sitting in your Carousel Club with Mr. Weissman, Officer Tippit, and another who has been called a rich oil man, at one time shortly before the assassination. Can you tell us anything about that?
MR RUBY: Who was the rich oil man?
MR RANKIN: Can you remember? We haven’t been told. We are just trying to find out anything that you know about him…
MR RANKIN: This Weissman and the rich oil man, did you ever have a conversation with them?
MR RUBY: There was only a few. Bill Rudman from the YMCA, and I haven’t seen him in years.
And there is Bill Howard, but he is not a rich oil man. He owns the Stork Club now. He used to dabble in oil.
CHIEF JUSTICE EARL WARREN: This story was given a by a lawyer by the name of Mark Lane, who is representing Mrs Marguerite Oswald, the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald, and it was in the paper, so we subpoenaed him, and he testified that someone had given him information to the effect that a week or two before President Kennedy was assassinated, that in your Carousel Club you and Weissman and Tippit, Officer Tippit, the one who was killed, and a rich oil man had an interview or conversation for an hour or two.

The Commission turned Lane’s three-man meeting into a four-man one, introducing ‘a rich oil man’ whom Lane had never mentioned. Lane’s actual testimony is, of course, on record in the Hearings, as is the Chief Justice’s distorted presentation of it. It should be noted also that the witness who was being questioned in this rather casual way was in Dallas jail, where he felt himself to be in danger, and that he had asked to be taken to some other place, so that he might testify freely. The request was refused. The Commission, in its Report, stated that it ‘had investigated the allegation of a Weissman-Ruby-Tippit meeting and…found no evidence that such a meeting took place anywhere at any time.’ It remains quite possible that no such meeting ever did take place, but considering the manner in which the Commission investigated the allegation it is not surprising that it found no evidence.

It is true that in substantiation of its finding that Ruby denied that the Tippit-Ruby-Weissman meeting took place, the Commission relies not on this passage but on later testimony. In that testimony the question was put to Ruby in this form:

MR HERNDEN (F.B.I.): Did you ever meet with Oswald and Officer Tippit at your club?

The Report transmutes this testimony into a denial by Ruby that he met Tippit and Weissman at his club. Mr. Lane, who is here being rebutted, had never mentioned Oswald in this connection, any more than he had mentioned the ‘rich oil man’. Mr. Lane shows that the Commission consistently - though only in a few instances as flagrantly as on this occasion – sought not to investigate but to invalidate all testimony tending to discredit its ‘single assassin’ hypothesis.

Why? Mr. Epstein’s answer is essentially that, while the Commission’s sole ostensible purpose was to establish the truth, in reality it had another purpose which predetermined the result of its enquiry:

Quote:Why did the Commission fail to take cognizance in its conclusions of this evidence of a second assassin? Quite clearly, a serious discussion of this problem would in itself have undermined the dominant purpose of the Commission, namely, the settling of doubts and suspicions. Indeed, if the Commission had made it clear that very substantial evidence indicated the presence of a second assassin, it would have opened a Pandora’s box of doubts and suspicions. In establishing its version of the truth, the Warren Commission acted to reassure the nation and protect the national interest.

There is nothing in the Commission’s conduct of the inquiry which is inconsistent with this view of its ‘dominant purpose’. Established by a politician, and largely political in composition, it acted as if it were dealing with a political problem, to which Burke’s dictum could be applied: ‘Political problems do not primarily concern truth or falsehood; they relate to good or evil. What in the result is likely to produce evil is politically false; that which is productive of good, politically true.’

Many thoughtful Americans, by no means exclusively of the Right and Centre, were pleased by the Commission’s findings and are not disposed to judge it harshly in retrospect, even if it now appears that it was deliberately myopic on conspiracy possibilities. Politically speaking, the findings pleased many political groupings, including all the most important ones, and annoyed almost nobody. For both Republicans and Democrats, an inquiry into conspiracy, just before the 1964 election, presented incalculable dangers. The Democrats, headed by a Texan, could have but little taste for a prolonged discussion of the possibilities of conspiracy, involving an examination into connections between politics, law enforcement and crime in Texas. The Republicans, headed by Goldwater, had reason to be apprehensive in view of the activities of the extreme Right, including Birchite elements, in Texas both before, on and after the day of the assassination. In these circumstances it is not surprising that counsel for the Commission showed more spontaneous interest in Jack Ruby’s psychology, in his relations with his dogs and in his mother’s ‘fishbone delusion’ than in his relations with organised crime, which were closer than the Report suggests and fishier than Ruby’s mother’s delusion. (‘Virtually all of Ruby’s Chicago friends,’ says the Commission, ‘stated he had no close connection with organised crime.’ Virtually all of Al Capone’s Chicago friends said the same of him.) The solid and decisive centre of American politics was attached both by temperament and by calculation to the ‘no conspiracy’ theory. Neither the Right nor the Left seriously objected. The Right was glad that Kennedy was dead – as they showed with champagne in Dallas that night – and that a ‘Marxist’ had been identified as the sole killer. The Left feared that investigation of conspiracy might lead to an anti-communist witch-hunt in a ‘McCarthy rides again’ spirit and were only too happy to settle for ‘Oswald and no one else’. Besides, as a Leftist student said to me, ‘Kennedy wasn’t all that progressive anyway.’

The fact remains that the Commission’s principal findings, while, apparently, ‘politically true’, are probably not true in a merely factual sense. It can no longer be held to be probable that both Oswald and Ruby acted alone. If they did not, then members of a successful conspiracy to assassinate a President of the United States are likely to be still at large.

Americans regard conspiracy as a European idea and consider that Europeans who believe that President Kennedy was probably the victim of a conspiracy are merely projecting onto the American screen the image of their own low habits and practices. This is a curious delusion in a country in which organised crime – which is by definition a conspiracy – exerts power and penetrates law enforcement agencies on a scale unmatched anywhere else on earth. It is true that the conspiracy of crime is not ideological, though it may have its preferences: one of Jack Ruby’s friends, denying that he had any communist sympathies, said that he was more of a ‘capitolist’ (sic), being chiefly interested ‘in financial gain’. The existence of such criminal combinations, mercenary by definition, together with groups of very rich men strongly animated by political hatred – as their subsidised publications prove – will not necessarily convince outside observers that conspiracy for political assassination is an American impossibility.

The Warren Commission Report is undoubtedly directed - as members of the Commission have made clear – to international opinion as well as to opinion in the United States itself. This is reasonable, since the whole world is powerfully affected by the American Presidency and therefore by the assassination of an American President and by the possible assassination of others. Perhaps we can say at this stage that, in view of the cogent criticisms of Mssrs Epstein, Lane and others, we require for our reassurance no longer a political answer to a political problem but an actual investigation of the facts. The present administration in the United States is unlikely to reopen the inquiry in any serious way; a subsequent administration might do so. In the meantime, it might be useful if, say, a group of British and American historians were to examine the Report and pronounce on such questions as whether the Commission’s findings can be regarded as satisfactory in the merits of such hypotheses as that advanced in Professor Popkin’s The Second Oswald, to the effect that someone had impersonated Oswald, and what other lines of inquiry might still be pursued. Such a committee might request access to the considerable amount of Commission material which remains classified for reasons of ‘good taste’ and, it seems, other reasons also

* Rush To Judgement by Mark Lane Bodley Head 42s & Inquest by Edward Epstein Hutchinson 30s
Paul Rigby Wrote:Or: How censorship by obituary.

Odd how opposition to the Warren Report absurdity is routinely removed from mainstream biogs and obits.

The New Statesman, 30 September 1966, pp.479-481

Books: No One Else But Him

By Connor Cruise O’Brien

Quote:Tom Easton, “Tittle-tattle,” Lobster, 56, Winter 2008/9, p.9:

“The role of obituarists as gatekeepers of orthodox historical wisdom may one day attract serious research attention…”

Conor Cruise O'Brien: Irish intellectual with a long career as journalist, politician, literary critic and public servant

By W.J. Mc Cormack

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Cruise O'Brien: his gift was to provoke thought, not to persuade

Quote:The author of just two competent stage plays, Conor Cruise O'Brien was the most important public man of letters Ireland witnessed since W.B. Yeats died in 1939.

It will take years to sort out the Yeats from the chaff (of which there was plenty). Nevertheless, Cruise O'Brien's standing as the principal post-war broker between the currencies of literature and politics is undeniable. His impact on international perceptions of "the Troubles" is best measured by the animosity manifest among his fellow-countrymen. I have been hostilely greeted in a rural public house because my jacket resembled "something Cruise O'Brien might wear". Finally, he possessed at his intermittent best a writing style equal to that of George Orwell.

Donal Conor David Dermot Donat Cruise O'Brien was born in Dublin in 1917, the only child of the journalist Frank Cruise O'Brien and his wife Kathleen (née Sheehy). The parents being ostentatiously progressive, the child's baptism as a Catholic might be regarded as an oversight. But the elder Cruise O'Brien's death on Christmas Day 1927 inaugurated a pattern of sombre mythic thinking in the solitary boy which throughout life complemented his mischievous dissent from orthodoxies in both church and state.

After a decent secondary education achieved through much sacrifice on the mother's part, Conor Cruise O'Brien entered Trinity College Dublin in 1936. An unconventional but brilliant student, he took a double First in Modern Languages (French and Irish) and History, and his postgraduate research was published as Parnell and His Party (1957). Already he had embarked on two careers – as civil servant and occasional literary critic.

While Sean MacBride was Ireland's Minister for External Affairs (1948-51), the young Cruise O'Brien argued a strongly anti-partitionist position in some ephemeral publications which his biographer-bibliographer has ignored. His association with MacBride brought a growing awareness of the world outside Ireland as a political arena as well as a cultural resource. In Sean O'Faolain's magazine The Bell, "Donat O'Donnell" had published perceptive criticism of Catholic novelists including Evelyn Waugh and François Mauriac. A collected edition appeared in 1953 as Maria Cross: imaginative patterns in a group of modern Catholic writers. The pressure of diplomatic work delayed further reflective work in essay form, but Writers and Politics (1965) gathered reviews, lectures, and other short pieces. By now, he was a well-known contributor to international magazines and newspapers. He continued to write for The New York Review of Books.

Characteristically, Cruise O'Brien was changing course even as success drew alongside. Among Irish delegates at the United Nations from 1956 onwards, he attracted the attention of the Secretary-General, Dag Hammerskjold. With crisis deepening in copper-rich Congo, the UN sought to play buffer between the great powers (including Belgium) and the new government. In 1961 Cruise O'Brien was despatched as Hammerskjold's personal representative, a situation complicated by the presence of Irish troops among the UN forces and the more personal attendance of another Irish civil servant, Máire Mac Entee.

To Katanga and Back (1962) represents the high point of Ireland's non-aligned commitment in the United Nations, and constitutes its author's best claim to a radical pedigree. His analysis of duplicitous manoeuvrings by Belgium, the UK and the United States gave substance to the suspicions of decolonising Africa. The book also narrates aspects of Cruise O'Brien's private and domestic life, culminating in (Mexican) divorce and remarriage.

While still students, Cruise O'Brien had met Christine Foster, daughter of a Northern Irish classics master and international rugby player. Married in 1939, they had three children. International conflict is not an ideal background for a re-alignment of one's emotional and domestic life. But he and Miss Mac Entee (a poet in Gaelic, and daughter of a government minister) succeeded in the essentials, though not without sharp comment from the Dublin Sunday newspapers. The murder of Patrice Lumumba and the débâcle of UN attempts to discipline the rebel province of Katanga hastened Cruise O'Brien's resignation both from his UN responsibilities and the Irish diplomatic corps.

Africa had been exciting, and he found himself installed as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana in 1962, some months after his second marriage. Disagreements arising about the value of academic freedom, the contract was not renewed. While in Ghana, Cruise O'Brien wrote "Passion and Cunning", an analysis of Yeats's political attitudes and behaviour. Published in a volume of essays celebrating the poet's centenary in 1965, it caused outrage among the professors. A silently modified version was issued in 1988.

Moving from diplomacy to the mango groves of academia, Cruise O'Brien next became Schweitzer Professor of Humanities in New York University. From 1965 to 1969 he contributed vigorously both to the academic life of the city and the growing anti-war movement. A notable product of this period was The Morality of Scholarship (1967), edited with Northrop Frye and Stuart Hampshire.

In Ireland, radicalism was stirring, even in the Labour Party which proclaimed "The Seventies will be Socialist", and recruited a brilliant cohort of intellectuals including Justin Keating and Cruise O'Brien. Having joined the party back in 1937, he was now cautiously groomed for a public role. Some meetings were hosted by Michael McInerney, political correspondent for The Irish Times and a staunch supporter of Noel Browne, soon to be Vice-Chairman of the party. Opinion was sharply divided, and the new member of Dáil Eireann (elected for Dublin North-East in 1968) disappointed neither friend nor foe.

He was now "The Cruiser" whose political career can be personalised as his conflict with Charles Haughey (also a TD for Dublin North-East), geographically identified with Northern Ireland and its constitutional status, or ideologically traced through his implacable opposition to the Provisional IRA. Electoral defeat in 1977 ensured that ministerial experience was limited to one term (1973-77) in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, a period dominated by his imposing a total broadcasting ban on Provos or their supporters.

This heavy-handed censorship cost him liberal friends while it paradoxically refined the Provos' approach to media management, of which they are today's acknowledged masters. Yet Haughey died in disgrace, the Irish Constitution no longer makes claim on the North, and the Provos have signed up to the Good Friday Agreement. So much argues for Cruise O'Brien's success, despite his own loud prophecies of yet more doom.

When the Cosgrave government fell in 1977, he had found a by-road back into politics as a senator representing Trinity College Dublin. His attendance record was deplorable, too much time being spent in London, where he served on The Observer in an editorial capacity (1977-1981). A highly publicised trip to South Africa incensed the international Anti-Apartheid Movement, while domestically his politics swung into a position not just sympathetic to Ulster Unionists but uncritically identical with theirs.

A mere list of his publications would be overwhelming. Though Ireland is everywhere a thematic concern, Cruise O'Brien contributed Albert Camus to the Fontana Modern Masters series, and wrote a study of Israel and Zionism (The Siege, 1986; translated into German in 1991). His refusal to meet or interview Yasser Arafat confirmed for many the emergence of a renegade from radicalism, even a paid stooge of "US-Zionist imperialism". Though the book lacks balance, and indulges in occasional flights of philo-Semitic special pleading, its author could not be accused of sustained pro-Americanism. Excursions into American history (The Long Affair, 1996) generally disguised a larger concern with the legacies of revolution (the French, in particular).

Obsessed as he was by the theme of religion and politics, Conor Cruise O'Brien's place in Irish history will be hotly debated. If governments use certain agents whom they class as "deniables", then Irish public opinion might borrow the term to understand what it sought from this mercurial and dedicated public servant. As the British left once said of Harold Wilson, he may be a rat but he is still our rat. As with Swift, his wit wounded. His gift was to provoke thought, not to persuade. He not only lacked the common touch, he loathed it.

Iconoclastic reviewer, socialist member of the Opposition, tough government minister, Gaelic-speaking revisionist historian and the stranger's best friend, Cruise O'Brien undertook a missionary programme of exploration which no contemporary could have rivalled. And he unquestionably delivered. His findings, like his initial sentiments, were rarely welcome. The wonder is that this messenger was not shot by one or other of those constituencies of passion and cunning to whom he reported.

It is arguable that the traumatic death of his father established psychic needs which were translated into conflictual goals – independence and security, a selective egalitarianism. Certainly, his innovative work on Edmund Burke (The Great Melody, 1992) reveals a strange need to feel Burke's contemporary presence, in the same room with the author. His later years were darkened by the sudden death of his beloved daughter Kate from a brain haemorrhage. His adoptive family were as deeply loved.

In March 2003, Cruise O'Brien attended the annual conference of the UK Unionist Party in Bangor, Co Down. This was not his first endorsement of full integration as a solution to Northern Ireland's difficult relationship with Britain. At 85, it bespoke a persistence in marginalisation strikingly different from the canny manoeuvres of the younger careerist.

He was still a workhorse journalist, not least to keep the taxman at bay, but the puckish humour had become ponderous and sibylline. In December 2003, a long-awaited report on bombings in Dublin and Monaghan drew terse pre-emptive denials that the Cosgrave government had lacked commitment in seeking to identify and prosecute the perpetrators (thought to include "rogue" elements in British security.)

If the rest is silence, it is a rest well earned.

Donal Conor David Dermot Donat Cruise O'Brien, politician, literary critic and historian: born Dublin 3 November 1917; staff, Department of External Affairs of Ireland 1944-61, Head of UN Section 1956-60, Assistant Secretary 1960-61; Vice-Chancellor, University of Ghana 1962-65; Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities, New York University 1965-69; TD (Labour) for Dublin North-East 1969-77; Minister for Posts and Telegraphs 1973-77; Pro-Chancellor, University of Dublin 1973-2008; Member of Senate, Republic of Ireland 1977-79; Fellow, St Catherine's College, Oxford 1978-81; Editor-in-Chief, The Observer 1979-81; FRSL 1984; married 1939 Christine Foster (one son, one daughter, and one daughter deceased; marriage dissolved 1962), 1962 Máire Mac Entee (one adopted son, one adopted daughter); died Howth, Co Dublin 18 December

The Times, December 20, 2008

Conor Cruise O'Brien: diplomat, historian, politician and journalist

Quote:O'Brien: his sharp account of the Congo crisis has been generally vindicated by historians but its tone and content cost him many friends in high places

Conor Cruise O’Brien’s life straddled diplomacy, politics, historical scholarship, literature and journalism. He was a diplomat at the UN, a professor in the US, a government minister in Ireland, the Editor-in-Chief of The Observer in Britain and a writer whose work commanded attention throughout the English-speaking world.

He was an inveterate controversialist, the quality of whose judgment and the wisdom of whose actions were often questioned, especially in his homeland. But none could deny the force of his intellect, the skill of his exposition and the courage with which he held to his convictions.

He was born in 1917 into a family caught up in the heady political and literary life of Dublin. His mother Katherine, daughter of the Irish Party MP David Sheehy, was probably the original of Miss Ivors, a strident nationalist girl depicted in James Joyce’s short story The Dead. His father, Francis Cruise O’Brien, was a somewhat waspish journalist who disconcerted his associates by abandoning his religion and speaking with an Oxford accent. He died suddenly in Conor’s presence on Christmas Day 1927, when the boy, his only child, was 10.

O’Brien’s upbringing then became a political and religious battleground between two formidable widowed aunts, Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington, an agnostic radical whose pacifist husband had been executed on the orders of an insane British army officer during the 1916 Rebellion, and her sister, Mary Kettle, a pious Catholic, whose husband, the poet and former MP Tom Kettle, had been killed in action on the Somme.

Despite pressure from priests and some of her family, O’Brien’s mother conformed to her agnostic husband’s wish that their son should not be sent to a Catholic school. Friends, among them Joyce, clubbed together to find the fees to send him to Sandford Park, a non-denominational school where his cousin, Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, was head boy. From there the young O’Brien went on to the predominantly Protestant Trinity College Dublin.

The result was that he was educated in a minority culture, apart from the mainstream of Catholic Ireland. His accent was different. He was to remain an outsider in Irish life, widely perceived as having the superior attitude to his compatriots associated in many of their minds with Trinity and the Protestant Ascendancy.

At Trinity O’Brien read Irish and French before turning to history, and made a clean sweep of the prizes. Contemporaries thought him somewhat arrogant, though, and denied him election to the highest office in the college debating society. He took his first steps in journalism as college correspondent of The Irish Times. He also joined the Irish Labour Party — and then embarrassed it by his outspoken opposition to Franco in Spain.

Before he left Trinity he married Christine Foster, a fellow-student who was a member of a noted liberal Protestant family in Ulster.

In 1944 he entered the Department of External Affairs, as the Irish diplomatic service was described, having served for a time in the Department of Finance, whose work he found uncongenial (he had little interest in economics). In the late 1940s and early 1950s he was employed on a virulent anti-partition campaign launched by the Foreign Minister, Sean MacBride, and universally supported by Irish political leaders. This denied the right of the majority in Northern Ireland to opt out of the Republic. O’Brien ran the Irish News Agency, which spewed out propaganda. For all his later protestations, there is no evidence that he was other than enthusiastic about the policies he helped to propound.

If O’Brien subscribed fully at this stage to the irredentist national aims of the Irish State, he remained apart from the strong Catholic ethos of its people. But he was not indifferent to his ancestral faith, the influence of which on literature and politics was a constant preoccupation. He could never forgive the hurt caused to his mother by some of the Church’s rules.

In 1952, under the pen-name Donat O’Donnell, he published a book, Maria Cross, a series of essays on Catholic writers including Albert Camus, Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. At this time he was also engaged on a study of Charles Stewart Parnell, for which he was awarded a doctorate. Published in 1956, it placed him in the front rank of Irish historians.

After a stint at the Paris Embassy in the mid-1950s, O’Brien was appointed head of the UN section of the Department of External Affairs. Ireland had just been admitted to membership of the UN. The Foreign Minister, Frank Aiken, rejected suggestions that Ireland should align itself totally with the US and its Western allies. This was manifested in a decision to vote in favour of discussing the admission of Communist China to the UN. Since Aiken was a man of limited intellect, it was widely but wrongly assumed that O’Brien had led him astray.

O’Brien believed that Ireland should model its approach on that of neutral Sweden, and did not hide his conviction that imperialism was a greater evil than communist movements in the developing world.

Dag Hammerskjöld, the Swede who was Secretary-General of the UN, had observed O’Brien closely and read Maria Cross. As a result, the Irish Government was requested to second O’Brien to serve with the UN in the Congo, where civil war broke out after the country became independent of Belgium. Although a UN resolution had stated that force was to be used in the last resort to remove from Katanga the foreign mercenaries who were assisting the secessionist regime of Moise Tshombe, O’Brien was reviled as unnecessarily pugnacious when he authorised such force.

Belgium and Britain had an interest in maintaining a compliant regime in mineral-rich Katanga. Under pressure from the Western powers, Hammarskjöld sought a compromise and was on the way to negotiate with Tshombe when he was killed in a plane crash. After his death it was impossible for O’Brien to establish definitively that he had acted within his remit, and he was recalled to New York and relieved of his post.

At this stage O’Brien could have returned quietly to the Irish diplomatic service, but his colleagues there had helped to undermine him and he feared that he would be relegated to obscurity and become known as “poor O’Brien”. At any rate he ached to tell his side of the story. So he resigned. In interviews and in the columns of The Observer he accused Harold Macmillan and his Government of duplicity in supporting a UN resolution to end the secession of Katanga while working secretly to prevent its implementation. He was not even accorded the satisfaction of a reply.

He then wrote a superb but rather sharp book, To Katanga and Back, in which he blamed Hammarskjöld for allowing him to be made a scapegoat. His account has been essentially vindicated by historians, but its tone and content were such as to leave him with few friends in high places.

By this time O’Brien’s marriage had broken down, his wife complaining that it was impossible to go on living with a man who thought he was God. O’Brien had formed an attachment to a colleague in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Máire MacEntee, whose father was Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister). The affair was made public by the British press when MacEntee appeared in the Congo at the height of the crisis. This was used as a stick to beat O’Brien in the UN, and it embarrassed the Irish Government. MacEntee resigned from the diplomatic service, and after O’Brien’s divorce in Mexico, they were married in a Catholic church in New York. This was possible because O’Brien had been baptised a Catholic, and his first marriage in a register office was, therefore, invalid in the eyes of the Church.

Leaders of the emerging African nations admired O’Brien’s stand against the colonial nations in the Congo. In 1962 Kwame Nkrumah, President of Ghana, invited him to become Vice-Chancellor of the newly created University of Ghana. Relations went sour, however, little over a year after O’Brien took up the appointment, when he protested publicly against the dismissal of the Chief Justice who had acquitted some of the President’s political opponents.

There were disputes about academic freedom, one of which culminated in several lecturers being deported. Courageous as ever, O’Brien stood his ground and Nkrumah knew that he would lose face in Africa if he dismissed O’Brien. They parted by mutual consent at the end of the three-year term. The O’Briens maintained their connection with Ghana by later adopting a boy of mixed Irish-Ghanaian parentage. They also adopted a half-African daughter.

From 1965 to 1969 O’Brien was Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities at New York University, where he shocked the academic world by branding William Butler Yeats a fascist. Although he generally maintained a lower public profile, he took part in the agitation against the war in Vietnam and was arrested and manhandled, together with other demonstrators, during Stop the Draft Week in 1966. He was also involved in a bitter confrontation with Encounter magazine when it was exposed as the recipient of money from the CIA.

In these years he was still a figure of the Left. But he had become interested in Edmund Burke, whose Reflections on the Revolution in France he edited for Penguin and who was to influence him profoundly for the rest of his life.

The death in 1970 of his cousin, the Trinity lecturer and socialist senator Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, removed a major left-wing influence in his life.

O’Brien had returned to Ireland in 1969, when he was invited by the Labour Party to contest a seat in the Dáil. He was successful and became the party’s spokesman on Northern Ireland.

At first he identified with the movement for civil rights among the Catholic population, which was then directed against discrimination in housing and employment. On one visit to the North he was assaulted by loyalists. However, when the IRA began its campaign of violence, he came to see that the root of the problem lay in the Republic’s claim of right to Northern Ireland irrespective of the wishes of its inhabitants.

In his book States of Ireland (1972) he challenged the nationalist dogma that Ireland was one nation. Ultimately this reshaped Irish attitudes, but at the time it raised doubts about O’Brien’s nationalist credentials.

As a minister in Liam Cosgrave’s coalition Government formed in 1973, O’Brien urged his colleagues to settle for power-sharing in Northern Ireland and not to press for a Council of Ireland that would be anathema to Unionists. His wise advice was not heeded, and provision was made for a potentially powerful council in the Sunningdale agreement. This undermined support among the Protestant community for the Unionists who had joined moderate nationalists in a power-sharing executive set up under the agreement. These Unionists suffered heavy losses in the British general election of 1974. The executive collapsed later that year when Harold Wilson’s newly elected Government backed off from a confrontation in the face of a loyalist general strike.

But like many prophets of doom, O’Brien was not held in any esteem for his prescience among those to whom his warnings were directed. He irritated nationalists by concentrating all his criticism on the IRA and overlooking the misdeeds of the security forces. Even worse was his challenge to the glorification of the 1916 Rebellion that was central to the Irish nationalist culture. He fell foul of the media when, as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, he forbade interviews with supporters of Sinn Feín, the political wing of the IRA. It was a form of censorship that had no parallel in Northern Ireland or the rest of the UK.

His manner, which was sometimes supercilious and pugnacious, did not help. Rather than search for common ground, he preferred to focus on points of disagreement. It was always an imperative to spell out his views to the full, however impolitic that might be. His uproarious wit, which could be cutting, his compulsive irreverence and his tendency to indiscretion made some wary of him. He was also prone to fail in the simple politenesses of life, such as honouring appointments.

In the 1977 general election the Government of which O’Brien was a member was heavily defeated, and he lost his Dublin seat. Although he managed to win election to the Senate, representing Trinity College (of which he was Pro-Chancellor), it was a humiliating rejection. “I was sore in my head for about six months,” he wrote later, “and then I was very glad.”

But he would not be silenced. He railed against the IRA and its fellow-travellers in Fianna Fáil, especially Charles Haughey, who was shortly to become Taoiseach. He continued to expose the ambivalence even among constitutional nationalists about giving Northern Ireland a right to self-determination. The honeyed words and what he saw as the essential intransigence of the persuasive Ulster nationalist leader John Hume, advocating “an agreed Ireland”, was a favourite target. O’Brien warned that a withdrawal of British troops would lead to mass slaughter. Direct rule, he concluded, was the least bad solution and the defeat of terrorism was the most important objective.

He summarised his views in a series of lectures in 1978 and 1979 that won the Ewart-Biggs award, named after the British Ambassador assassinated in Dublin in 1976. He too was a likely target for the IRA, and was often threatened. He was fortunate that its leadership reckoned that his pronouncements did it little harm with Irish public opinion.

In truth, Ireland, for all the largely unrequited love he bore it, was too restricted a stage for the man the Irish nicknamed “the Cruiser”. He was fortunate when he was recommended to the new American owners of The Observer as an Editor-in-Chief by David Astor and also by his old adversary, Harold Macmillan, who said the paper needed another J. L. Garvin. At his best O’Brien was a brilliant columnist, concise, witty and always easy to read. In 1980 he was named Columnist of the Year in the Granada press awards. But the proprietors were not best pleased when he was persuaded to support Labour in the 1979 general election. He also blotted his copybook by giving evidence at the Monopolies Commission against Tiny Rowland’s subsequent takeover of the paper. He was retired as Editor-in-Chief in 1981 but wrote a weekly column until 1984.

O’Brien continued his work unabated from his home in Howth near Dublin, apart from occasional terms as a visiting lecturer at US universities. He managed a punishing schedule of journalism and more profound scholarship. Although he rarely finished a day fully sober, he would be at his desk by 6am the next day with his sharp mind fuelling an even sharper pen.

He had a lifelong affection for Jews and had Jewish friends at school and in Trinity. He had shared their horror of fascism. His sympathy found expression in The Siege (1986), a book about Israel and Zionism, which was faulted for not presenting the Arab case fairly. He had declined an offer to talk to Yassir Arafat, the Palestinian leader. His indifference to the Palestinians was symptomatic of a declining sympathy for the Third World and its grievances. In international politics as in Ireland he came to be perceived as a figure of the Right, and he focused more on the evils of terrorism than on the political conditions that had nurtured it. Even on apartheid, of which he had once been a relentless critic, he broke ranks with friends when he took a post at the University of Cape Town in 1986, only to be forced to quit after a student demonstration against him. Economic exploitation of poorer countries did not engage his attention in the way that had once made him such a determined opponent of political imperialism and racial discrimination.

He continued to be a scourge of republicans and their fellow-travellers at home, whether in his weekly column in the Irish Independent or in The Times, to which he became a regular contributor. His favourite target was Charles Haughey, who was Taoiseach in 1979-81, for part of 1982, and in 1987-92. His unexplained wealth, his arrogance and association with the illegal importation of arms in 1970 made him a good target. But O’Brien did not know when to stop and, in the absence of proof, the campaign deteriorated into a vendetta; Haughey, who did not deign to reply, sailed on regardless to be exposed only after he had retired.

O’Brien also broke with his old colleagues in the Labour Party when they helped to negotiate the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, on which the Ulster Unionists were not consulted and which gave the Irish Government an institutionalised consultative role in the government of Northern Ireland. He advocated the reintroduction of internment without trial. As he continued to challenge the sacred cows of Catholic nationalist Ireland, it seemed that in his defiant way he relished being a kind of itching powder of his own people.

All the time he was working away at the life of his hero Edmund Burke, from whose speeches and other writings he could quote long passages from memory. What was termed a “thematic biography” was published in 1992, as The Great Melody, a title taken from Yeats’s tribute to Burke. Going well beyond biography, it was a brilliant polemical vindication of his subject against all those, from Thomas Paine to Sir Lewis Namier, who had written him off as a time-serving toady of mighty aristocrats.

O’Brien put Burke back into the context of his background among the Irish Catholic gentry of the 18th century who were deprived of civil and political rights by the Penal Laws. Burke, he maintained, was conditioned by that background to resent the abuse of power, whether by tyrannical governments or by revolutionaries. O’Brien empathised with Burke as a fellow Trinity man and as an intellectual involved in politics, dominating party leaders by sheer intellectual and verbal power — and he even unearthed a possible family connection. Some critics thought parts of the argument relating to Burke’s background attenuated and that the identification between author and subject was so great that O’Brien had recreated Burke in his own image.

His interest in Burke led O’Brien on to Thomas Jefferson, of whom he wrote a rather debunking biography published in 1996. Jefferson’s support for the French Revolution was depicted as politically opportunistic, and his support for liberty and equality was condemned as hypocritical, in that he accepted slavery and did not envisage blacks ever being equal citizens.

Much though O’Brien admired the religious convictions of Burke, who he believed may have desired to die as a Catholic, neither this nor his own wife’s strong religious faith led him back to the Church into which he had been born. His book On the Eve of the Millennium (1996) was highly critical of Pope John Paul II’s Church, which he grouped with Muslim fundamentalists as forces leading the world away from the values of his beloved Enlightenment.

That pessimism extended to his own country. With what he may have thought was Burkean prescience, he foresaw that the IRA ceasefire of 1994 would not hold and insisted that communal warfare would be the inevitable outcome of any effort under the Downing Street declaration of the previous year to foist all-Ireland institutions on Ulster Unionists. This led him to join Bob McCartney’s UK Unionist Party, which was free from the sectarian overtones of other Unionist parties and favoured closer integration with mainland Britain. As such he served in 1996 on the Northern Ireland Forum, which was to lay the groundwork for the Good Friday agreement of 1998.

O’Brien felt that agreement, which brought Sinn Feín into government, was disastrous, and in a curious twist he suggested that Northern Unionists would be better off moving of their own accord to negotiate a deal to join the Republic on terms that protected them, rather than soldiering on in a state where more and more concessions were being made to republicans under threat of force. This accorded with his dream of an Ireland dominated by moderate Unionists and moderate nationalists working in harmony to repress extremists on both sides. But it was too clever for the Unionist rank and file, and he was forced to take leave of the UK Unionist Party while continuing to support its leader and his policy of non-participation in the new power-sharing government.
Although there was some special pleading and much repetition of his old themes in his Memoirs, the book afforded an insight into the roots of the personal insecurity and vulnerability behind the self-assurance that so often came over as arrogance. It also showed him to be a man of quite narrow focus, without any interests outside politics and literature.

O’Brien continued to contribute a regular column to the Irish Independent until early 2007. To the end, he predicted that Ian Paisley and his party would never enter a power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland with the former terrorists of the IRA whose conversion to constitutional politics O’Brien did not credit. His abhorrence of terrorism led him to take understanding view of the international adventures of the Bush presidency.

On his 90th birthday O’Brien announced that he would die with a pen in his hand and that his biography of George Washington would appear in 2008.

He is survived by his wife Máire, a poet of note in the Irish language, their two adopted children and also a son and daughter of his first marriage. Kate Cruise O’Brien, a writer who was a daughter of his first marriage, died in 1998.

Conor Cruise O’Brien, politician and writer, was born on November 4, 1917. He died on December 18, 2008, aged 91

Conor Cruise O’Brien Brian Fallon, Friday 19 December 2008 14.45 GMT

Conor Cruise O'Brien: 'an intellectually formidable figure'

Quote:Conor Cruise O'Brien, who has died aged 91, was a natural controversialist, probably the most pugnacious Irish intellectual since George Bernard Shaw. He was a man of so many contradictions that to call him a blend of all these seems utterly inappropriate; rather, they appeared to pull him in many contrary directions at once. He seems posthumously fated to give rise to further controversy, since opinions on his career, his writing, his personality and his public stances vary hugely.

He was a historian, an essayist, a journalist-publicist, an academic, a politician, a career diplomat, a cabinet minister (for nearly four years), a man who held many plum jobs, yet was constantly at war with the intellectual and socio-political establishments of his time. At times he seemed consciously to stand above the battle(s), yet his attitude to many of his antagonists, intellectual or political, was often personal and he could be vituperative in his verbal attacks on enemies, real or imagined. His contempt for Charles Haughey, twice Taoiseach and long-term leader of the Fianna Fail party, was notorious, and much of it seems to have been returned by Haughey, who refused to engage in public debate with him.

Not even O'Brien's denigrators, however, could deny that he was an intellectually formidable figure and a man who commanded attention in many countries. Perhaps his nearest equivalent were French intellectuals such as Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. O'Brien, as with many Irishmen of his generation, was deeply influenced by French culture. His early essays on contemporary French writers, especially the neo-Catholic novelists of the 1940s such as François Mauriac, first brought him into the public eye, though they were written under the pseudonym Donat O'Donnell. Later he used the title of a Mauriac novel for his book Maria Cross, which dealt largely with those writers and the intellectual and moral dilemmas with which they wrestled.

O'Brien was born in 1917 in Rathmines, a Dublin suburb, the only child of Francis Cruise O'Brien, a journalist who worked for the Freeman's Journal and later the Irish Independent, and Kathleen Sheehy, a teacher, feminist, pacifist and author of a book on Irish grammar. His father died when his son was 10, so the dominant influence on O'Brien was his strong-minded mother.

Although his father was an agnostic, O'Brien's first school was Muckross college, a Catholic convent school. Later he went to Sandford Park, nominally secular but in effect imbued with the Protestant ethos. His mother's influence had made him fluent in Gaelic, and he won a sizarship to study Irish and French at Trinity College, Dublin. O'Brien was a brilliant student and won a scholarship at the end of his first year, which brought an allowance of £30 a year and rooms in college – a coveted privilege – at half price. His roommate was Vivian Mercier, later a professor of English literature and author of books about Beckett and the Irish comic tradition.

After his mother's death in 1938, he supported himself by giving "grinds" and by dabbling in journalism. Meanwhile, he kept winning prizes. He was active in the college debating society, edited the college magazine, and joined the Fabian society and the Labour party. In his final year he married Christine Foster, a schoolmaster's daughter. He graduated with a first and a year later took another first in history.

Incomprehensibly, he failed the Irish civil service entrance examination, but passed on his second attempt in 1942 and joined the department of finance where he spent two years before moving to the department of external affairs (now foreign affairs). In view of O'Brien's later stances towards Northern Ireland and Republicanism, it is rather ironic to note that in the late 1940s he worked energetically in the Irish government's campaign against partition. Meanwhile, he tried his hand at writing poetry, which was tactfully rejected by Sean O'Faolain, editor of Bell magazine, but he soon made his mark as a critic and commentator.

When the Irish government decided to set up its own Irish News Agency, O'Brien became its first managing director, staying for the seven years it existed. Under a new inter-party government that replaced De Valera's Fianna Fail, he was sent as a councillor to the Irish embassy in Paris. At this time, Irish governments, following the lead of France, were promoting writers and intellectuals to the diplomatic circuit.

With the return to power of Fianna Fail, O'Brien for a time had a good working relationship with the veteran minister for external affairs, Frank Aiken. Ireland by now was playing an active and vocal role in the UN assembly, and O'Brien was generally credited with being one of the people who formulated its policies – which included bringing on to the agenda China's admission to the UN, to the chagrin of American diplomats.

O'Brien was in his 40s when he entered into the most fateful and controversial chapter of his life – his posting to the Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) by the direct initiative of Dag Hammerskjold, then secretary-general of the UN. He arrived in Elizabethville, the capital of Katanga province, in June 1961 to find himself in the epicentre of an international hotbed. The secession of Katanga, the murder of the first prime minister Patrice Lumumba (often ascribed to European-paid mercenaries), the dubious role of Union Minière, made the front pages of the world press for months on end. In the end O'Brien, apparently acting on what he thought was a UN resolution, ordered the UN peacekeeping force into action against the mercenaries and against Katanga's secession. The crisis became semi-farcical when the poet Máire MacEntee (daughter of a Fianna Fail minister) arrived to join him and declare her support.

He had stirred up a hornets' nest internationally. One of the most vocal critics was Paul-Henri Spaak, then Belgian foreign minister and now remembered as an architect of European unity. "Who is Conor Cruise O'Brien?" asked Harold Macmillan, and answered his own question: "An unimportant, expendable man." Pressures on him, on the UN and on the Irish government multiplied. Hammarskjold was forced to desert his protege, then died in a plane crash and his successor, U Thant, formally agreed to a request from Aiken that O'Brien be released from further UN duty. Almost immediately, he announced his resignation from Irish government service.

He had become a hot potato, and the controversy continued when he later published his version of events in the book To Katanga and Back. Meanwhile, he divorced his wife and married MacEntee, and they adopted two Congolese children.

However, the Congo chapter had earned him at least one admirer – President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, who invited him to become vice-chancellor of the university there. For a time this relationship went well, but the two drifted apart and O'Brien – never a man to stay silent long – was occasionally outspoken about what he felt were local breaches in civil rights and free speech. Nkrumah, becoming somewhat paranoid after an assassination attempt, deported several of O'Brien's European colleagues at the university. After an interval, O'Brien followed them voluntarily, becoming Albert Schweitzer professor of humanities at New York University.

There he became a vocal critic of the Vietnam war, attending protest marches. In one, he was kicked by a policeman, and was in considerable pain for days afterwards. During this period, his play Murderous Angels was staged in Los Angeles and later had a brief run in New York – allegedly after black militants had brought pressure on some of the actors to pull out.

Eventually he returned to Ireland, where there had been a swing to the left politically, and stood as a Labour candidate in a Dublin constituency. Unexpectedly, he won a big vote and became embroiled with his bete noire, Haughey, for whom he later coined the word Gubu – standing for "grotesque, unusual, bizarre and unprecedented". O'Brien attacked Haughey over his role in the arms crisis, a cause celébre at the time, in which certain Fianna Fail politicians were alleged to have tried to smuggle arms shipments to nationalists in Northern Ireland.

O'Brien became minister for posts and telegraphs in a coalition government (Fine Gael-Labour). His anti-republican line resulted in the amendment to section 31 of the Broadcasting Act that virtually denied active or even strongly vocal republicans access to radio or TV channels. Dublin journalists were sharply divided about the measure, and it did seem unbalanced considering the frequent interviews with unionist politicians – including Ian Paisley – that were part of Dublin coverage of events in the north. The section has since been repealed. O'Brien believed that there was too much sympathy for Sinn Fein in Radio-Telefís Eireann in particular – a view which, in retrospect, is hard to substantiate. His stated view was: "If the Provos are successful, there will be civil war into which the south will be drawn."

O'Brien had little direct experience of politics or even of life in Northern Ireland, yet he was consistently vocal on the subject and became his party's spokesman on the north. To many, his attitude seemed not only anti-republican – which, considering his essentially home rule background, was to be expected – but anti-nationalist in any sense, and arguably his stance made things harder rather than easier for men such as John Hume, who was striving to maintain a moderately nationalist line, as an alternative to IRA violence. When told that his pronouncements – widely reported at home and abroad – were close to official London policy, O'Brien retorted: "Yes, I am pro-British. I am also pro-French and pro-American. I am even pro-Russian in that I am pro the Russian people. But I am more pro-Irish than I am any of these things. Ireland is my country, and I am just as Irish as any bloody IRA man."

Time was running out for the coalition, and in the 1977 election Fianna Fail came back to power and O'Brien lost his seat. He was elected to the Irish senate, but more to his inclinations was the job as editor-in-chief of the Observer in London, to which he was appointed in 1978. The following year he received Granada TV's columnist of the year award for his journalism and in 1984 he won the Channel 4 What the Papers Say award for his work for the Irish Times and the Observer. Of his career as a politician, he said that his election defeat had liberated him from the necessity of saying things he did not believe: "It sickened me, and I am glad to get out of it."

In 1987 he was embroiled in controversy again, this time as a result of a visit to South Africa, where his lectures at the University of Cape Town angered black students. However, as his writings show, O'Brien was no friend to racial (or racist) policies, and his 1986 book on Israel, The Siege, was characteristically independent in its viewpoint.

Of his later writings, undoubtedly his most important book was the biography of Edmund Burke, The Great Melody – a phrase borrowed from Yeats. A degree of autobiographical self-identification with Burke was noticed by several commentators.

O'Brien continued to denounce nationalism vehemently: "Nationalism everywhere tends to be xenophobic." He also attacked the "insidious and demoralising peace process" in the north, and he shocked some of his liberal followers by canvassing for a Unionist candidate in North Down. Through all this, however, he continued to live peaceably with his second wife in their home in Howth, north of Dublin. In 1992 he told Fergus Pyle of the Irish Times: "I have never spent an entire year away from Ireland. In every year of my life I have been able to come back here for some part of the summer – what the lawyers call the animus revertandi. It is quite strong."

Many still believe that O'Brien was at his best as an academic historian, and that the book Parnell and his Party, which grew out of a student thesis, is his most valuable work. A Concise History of Ireland, published in 1972 under the joint names of himself and his second wife, is a useful "potted" survey and has gone through several editions. His essays and occasional pieces also contain some excellent literary criticism, without the contemporary polemics that intrude into so much of what he wrote and said. But then, polemics and O'Brien could seldom be kept apart for long, and public controversy and debate seemed to answer a fundamental demand of his nature.

O'Brien was a maverick, both as a writer and politician, and to accuse him of inconsistency is beside the point. Some shrewd analysts viewed him as a fine intellectual led astray into public life by ambition and the desire to prove himself a man of action. Others saw him as a courageous radical nonconformist who challenged the forces of obscurantism. It is certainly arguable that, like Burke, he began as a Whig radical and ended up as almost a reactionary. The warring aspects of his personality partly had their roots in old Parnellite and home rule politics, which personalised and sometimes embittered public debate, partly in the example of the generation of French intellectuals that emerged after the second world war, partly in the liberal leftism of the 1950s, and partly in 1960s protest politics. But the crucible of all these was his own mercurial, restless personality and intellectual brilliance, backed by a historian's sense of history and the born journalist's flair for being in the wrong place at the right time.

Conor Cruise O’Brien, Irish Diplomat, Is Dead at 91

By William Grimes

Published: December 19, 2008

Quote:Conor Cruise O’Brien, an Irish diplomat, politician, man of letters and public intellectual who staked out an independent position for Ireland in the United Nations and, despite his Roman Catholic origins, championed the rights of Protestants in Northern Ireland, died Thursday. He was 91 and lived in Howth, near Dublin.

His death was announced by the Labor Party, of which Mr. O’Brien was a member. No cause of death was given. He was reported to have suffered a stroke in 1998 and several broken bones in a fall last year.

Once described by the social critic Christopher Hitchens as “an internationalist, a wit, a polymath and a provocateur,” Mr. O’Brien was a rare combination of scholar and public servant who applied his erudition and stylish pen to a long list of causes, some hopeless, others made less so by his combative reasoning. When called upon, he would put down his pen and enter the fray, more often than not emerging bruised and bloodied.

As a diplomat, he helped chart Ireland’s course as an independent, anticolonialist voice at the United Nations and played a critical role in the United Nations intervention in Congo in 1961. As vice chancellor of the University of Ghana in the early 1960s, he fell out with the dictator Kwame Nkrumah over the question of academic freedom, and while teaching at New York University later that decade, he took part in an antiwar demonstration that led to his arrest.

Most notably, as a lifelong commentator on Irish politics and as a government minister in the early 1970s, he argued passionately against a united Ireland without the full consent of the Protestant north and bitterly criticized the tacit support for the Irish Republican Army then prevalent in the Republic of Ireland. “I intend to administer a shock to the Irish psyche,” he said in defiance.

With the Troubles raging in the North, his position made him a hate figure for many Irish, as did his later opposition to the peace effort aimed at bringing Sinn Fein into the government of Northern Ireland.

Mr. O’Brien, known to friends as the Cruiser, was born in Dublin on Nov. 3, 1917, to a family with a long political pedigree on both sides of the widening split in Irish political life. Ardent republicans in the family somehow took tea with supporters of the Irish Parliamentary Party, which favored home rule but not a break with Britain.

His father, a journalist, moderate nationalist and agnostic, insisted that Conor, his only child, attend a Protestant school, although his mother — the model for Miss Ivors in James Joyce’s story “The Dead” — managed to keep him in a Catholic school until he received his first communion. He later studied history at Trinity College, Dublin, which was also Protestant. On graduating, he found a job in the civil service, initially in the finance department but soon with the department for external affairs (now called the foreign office).

In 1939, Mr. O’Brien married Christine Foster. The marriage ended in divorce. Two of their children survive, a son, Donal, and a daughter, Fidelma Sims. He later married Maire MacEntee, an Irish-language poet who writes under the Gaelic name Maire Mhac an tSaoi. She also survives him, as do their two children, Margaret and Patrick, as well as five grandchildren.

While a civil servant, Mr. O’Brien published two books to wide acclaim: “Maria Cross” (1952), a collection of critical essays on modern Catholic writers, and “Parnell and His Party” (1957). The latter, submitted as his doctoral dissertation at Trinity, caught the eye of Frank Aiken, minister of external affairs, who in 1957 sent Mr. O’Brien to the United Nations with instructions to take an independent line. The British magazine New Statesman wrote of Mr. O’Brien in 1968: “In so far as a civil servant can, he became a minor national hero; the Irish independent, asserting his country’s independence along with his own.”

In 1961, Dag Hammarskjold, the secretary general of the United Nations (and an admirer of “Maria Cross”), sent Mr. O’Brien on a special mission to Congo, which had recently achieved independence from Belgium but faced a separatist revolt in the mineral-rich province of Katanga. The rebellion was being backed openly by Belgium and secretly by France and Britain.

Mr. O’Brien, determined to take decisive action, ordered in United Nations troops, but the operation ended in disarray. In the aftermath, as the United Nations hastily repudiated the mission, Mr. O’Brien took the fall and left the world body. He recounted his version of events in “To Katanga and Back” (1962) and later wrote “Murderous Angels,” a play about Hammarskjold and Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s murdered premier, which was produced in Los Angeles and New York in 1970.

His tenure as vice president of the University of Ghana proved nearly as eventful. Nkrumah, becoming increasingly dictatorial, removed the nation’s chief justice. Mr. O’Brien publicly protested. The Ghanaian press mounted a campaign against the university, portraying it as a hotbed of subversion. Mr. O’Brien departed for the more welcoming environment of N.Y.U., to lecture on literature and social issues.

Mr. O’Brien then plunged into Irish politics, where a changed social climate made it possible for him, as a declared nonbeliever and a divorced man, to take part in public life. “For me, the idea of being able to represent a constituency in the Parliament of Ireland, without accepting the teachings of the church or pretending to accept them, had powerful existential attractions,” he wrote in “Memoir: My Life and Themes” (1998). “It meant that I would be accepted by my own people for what I really was. It closed a kind of schism in the soul, which had long troubled me more than I had ever consciously acknowledged.”

In 1969, as a Labor candidate, he won a seat in Ireland’s Parliament representing Dublin Northeast. Regarded as left-wing by Irish voters, he soon surprised many of his supporters with the provocative and highly influential book “States of Ireland” (1972), in which he attacked what he saw as the myths of the Republican movement and excoriated the nationalist dream as sectarian and colonialist. As minister of posts and telegraphs in the coalition government that formed in 1973, he banned Sinn Fein from the airwaves.

With the defeat of the coalition, Mr. O’Brien became editor in chief of The Observer, the London Sunday newspaper. For the two years he occupied the post, it gave him a platform from which to write polemical articles on politics and to indulge his passion for literature and history.

This he did, in a variety of forums and forms, for the rest of his long life. He was a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and The Atlantic in the United States and The Irish Independent in Ireland. He also wrote many books, among them “Religion and Politics” (1984); “Passion and Cunning: Essays on Nationalism, Terrorism and Revolution” (1988); “The Great Melody” (1993), a biography of Edmund Burke; and “The Long Affair,” a revisionist study of Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution. At his death, he was working on a study of George Washington’s presidency.

“I think the intellectual in relation to politics is something like the Greek chorus,” Mr. O’Brien told an interviewer in 2000. “He’s outside the action, but he tells you quite a bit about it.”
Paul Rigby Wrote:Or: How censorship by obituary.

Here's the Torygraph's obit:

Conor Cruise O'Brien dies aged 91

Odd how opposition to the Warren Report absurdity is routinely removed from mainstream biogs and obits.

The New Statesman, 30 September 1966, pp.479-481

Books: No One Else But Him

By Connor Cruise O’Brien

* Rush To Judgement by Mark Lane Bodley Head 42s & Inquest by Edward Epstein Hutchinson 30s

The Minority of One

December 1967 – Number 97 (Volume 9, No 12)

Connor Cruise O’Brien, “Veto by Assassination?,” pp.16-18 - O’Brien’s lengthy review of Sylvia Meagher’s Accessories After the Fact: The Warren Commission, the Authorities & the Report (NY: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967, 477pp).

Page 18:

Quote:“Any serious investigation such as Mrs. Meagher demands must explore hypotheses of this character [Garrison’s – PR] instead of looking studiously away from them as the Warren Commission did. It is not merely for the historical record that this is necessary. If indeed a conspiracy of this kind did kill Kennedy, then a future President who incurred the displeasure of the same or similar circles would be likely to meet the same fate…

“The conspiracy hypothesis about Kennedy’s death is probable; if it is correct, then there are people in existence who possess the experience of having mounted a successful assassination conspiracy with impunity, probably with the complicity from inside several law-enforcement agencies and certainly with distinguished “accessories after the fact” in the persons of the Warren Commission and their counsel.

“If this is so then the American Right will have acquired a kind of veto by assassination over future American policy. Once the “lone assassin” theory of Kennedy’s death has been discredited – and it is thoroughly discredited in this book – then veto by assassination becomes more than a possibility, it becomes a probability. And it is the existence of this probability, affecting not merely the past but also the present and the future, that makes it urgently necessary to call for a serious and independent investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy…”

September 1968 – Number 106 (Volume 10, No 9)

Connor Cruise O’Brien, “How Many Conspiracies?,” p.16:

Quote:“I am incline to think that the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King belong essentially in the same pattern of veto by assassination – in that in each case a right wing group – not necessarily the same one – deliberately eliminated a personality whom they believed to be giving leadership in a direction of change, contrary to their interests, or prejudices. However on present information I doubt whether Robert Kennedy’s assassination fits into the same picture…

“But regardless of the outcome in the Sirhan case or that of James Earl Ray, justice remains to be done in the Oswald case. Oswald stands wrongfully and cruelly stigmatized as a lone assassin in a crime which was committed by a conspiracy. He is the victim of a governmental commission whose depraved “investigation” signifies an official policy of falsehood and abuse of trust. As every part of the fabric of American life shows increasing tension and threatens to disintegrate completely, we are forced back to Dallas, where the frightening chain reaction started, and to Los Angeles, where the prospect was diminished for some moderation or reversal of the ferocious policy of carnage abroad and attrition at home against protest and dissent. While the Warren Report remains a gangrenous stain on the history books, it is a license to the Government to mutilate truth and justice, to frustrate the great yearning for a return to a humanistic ideal, and to mechanize and conform society by the force of clubs, bullets, mace and napalm.

“While that big lie endures in its official wrappers, there will be new assassinations again and still again, until the earth at Arlington groans under its burden of martyrs.”
Paul Rigby Wrote:Or: Censorship by obituary.

How opposition to the Warren Report absurdity is routinely removed from mainstream biogs and obits.

The New Statesman, 30 September 1966, pp.479-481

Books: No One Else But Him

By Connor Cruise O’Brien

* Rush To Judgement by Mark Lane Bodley Head 42s & Inquest by Edward Epstein Hutchinson 30s

The New Statesman, 14 January 1966, pp.50-51

The Life and Death of Kennedy

By Connor Cruise O’Brien

Quote:In Britain, I suppose, one is either a politician or not; in America, the line is not so clear. There, the cabinet-member or trusted adviser of one government does not usually go into opposition on the fall of that government; he goes back into private life, often with the hope of returning to politics when the government changes again. Normally, such hopes hinge on the alternations of the parties in power. At present it is not so much a question of Democrat and Republican; there is an air of fin de republique around; a dynastic loyalty stirs; the servants of the murdered Caesar have much god to say of young Octavian. John Kennedy, Mr. Schlesinger tells us, ‘was particularly proud of his brother, always balanced, never rattled, his eye fixed on the ultimate as well as on the immediate.’ ‘Bob’s unique role,’ says Mr. Sorensen† in his first chapter, ‘is implicit in nearly every chapter that follows.’ And Sorensen also reminds us of a pertinent observation made by John Kennedy in his senatorial days: ‘Just as I went into politics when Joe died, if anything happened to me tomorrow my brother Bobby would run for my seat.’

We can hear him running now, if we listen; Schlesinger and Sorensen are listening. Nothing in either of these important and valuable books is inconsistent with the hypothesis that both authors expect to serve, before long, in the administration of President Robert Kennedy. I believe that this expectation exists, is reasonable and honourable, and is a limiting factor on the candour, and therefore the value to the public, of both books. Mr. Sorensen has written a dry book, even a dull one: he could certainly produce a blaze if he chose, but his fires are banked; there is nothing in these sober pages that could embarrass or hamper a future Secretary of State. Granted the length of the book, the subjects treated, and the considerable amount of information conveyed, this feat is in itself a proof of Mr. Sorensen’s formidable talents.

Mr. Schlesinger, on the other hand, is entertaining, easy, sometimes witty; there is a touch of Pepys, of Boswell, even of Pooter about him, as he revels in it all. He is too much the writer, the don, even the ham, to be capable of Mr. Sorensen’s iron discretion. So much the better Mr. Schlesinger’s book, so much more remote, I suspect, Mr. Schlesinger’s person from the future throne. Happy consequences, both.

A Thousand Days has been much condemned, in America, for its ‘indiscretions’, and notably for disclosing that Kennedy planned to drop Dean Rusk. (‘Drop Rusk on Hanoi,’ said one of the peppier placards at the last Washington march.) All indiscretions are indiscreet – ‘if he did it once he may do it again’ – yet some indiscretions have an in-built teleological discretion at their core. This particular disclosure is a flaming indiscretion in the view of the Johnson administration since it diminishes what is called the ‘credibility’ of an already sufficiently improbable Secretary of State. But what is scandalous under Johnson, damaging to Johnson, may be helpful to the second Kennedy, and pardoned by him, with obvious reservations. In any case, entertaining as the book is, it certainly could have been much more entertaining: there are moments when one seems to hear the muffled struggle as some lively anecdote is suppressed for the time being. Nothing is here that could hurt any Kennedy candidature, no scarves are plucked from Caesar’s images.

Not that that particular Caesar had any real need of scarves. Both these books on Kennedy, which complement each other, record the emergence of an unmistakably great man: a powerful mind and indomitable will at work, steadily divesting themselves of the inherited and unnecessary, and beginning, towards the end, to master the multiple, unruly energies of the greatest power in history. The natural momentum of this power-system is towards world-domination: throughout the world ‘power-vacuums’ ‘have’ to be filled, dependents advised or admonished, potential enemies bought, besieged or destroyed. This sheer momentum dragged Kennedy through the Bay of Pigs and left him, on the far side, a sadder, dirtier and very much wiser man.

That salutary fiasco shattered, as these books show, all the idols of the Establishment – the Joint Chiefs, the State Department, and especially the CIA – and led Kennedy to depend increasingly on his own judgment, and on those whom he chose to consult informally. The momentum remained: he sought, with increasing success, to control it. That the attempted installation of Russian rockets in Cuba was answered not by invasion but by selective blockade, is proof of the degree of control he had won. What the momentum will do when not under the control of a human mind we have seen in the case of the Dominican Republic, invaded in a Texan reflex. Mr. Sorensen’s account of the Cuban missile crisis is sober, detailed and lucid; it is also a first-hand account and thereby to be preferred to Mr. Schlesinger’s . In the first Cuban crisis Mr. Schlesinger was present for the critical decisions, and Mr. Sorensen was not; in the second Cuban crisis Mr. Sorensen (working closely with Robert Kennedy) was involved in shaping the decisions, and Mr. Schlesinger was not. As Mr. Schlesinger says, President Kennedy grew while in office.

It should be impossible to read Mr. Sorensen’s account of those fateful 13 days without immense admiration for the President’s combination of nerve and prudence, his concern for leaving a way out open to his adversary, his refusal to posture during the events or to gloat after them.

Did I think so at the time? No, I did not. I resembled in this respect ‘the British’ who, Mr. Schlesinger says, greeted Kennedy’s speech – announcing the presence of the missiles – ‘with surprising scepticism.’ Mr, Schlesinger, of all people, has no call to be ‘surprised’ that people should treat with scepticism American announcements about Cuba. In this very book he himself describes the miasma of mendacity which the American official agencies spread around their Bay of Pigs operation. He himself played an active part in the creation of that miasma: in response to a challenge from the New York Times –arising from discrepancies between the version given in A Thousand Days and announcements of his own at the time of the Bay of Pigs – he has admitted (on Thanksgiving Day, 1965) that he lied to the public about the scale and nature of that operation. He did so in the national interest, of course, but the trouble about that is that one never knows when the national interest may not again require such a sacrifice.

I heard the late Adlai Stevenson make his statement to the Political Committee of the United Nations, explaining the authentically and uniquely Cuban nature of the ‘revolution against Castro’: this statement relied for its facts on what is now admitted to be the faked evidence of the CIA and for its ideology on Mr. Arthur J. Schlesinger Jr.’s doctrine of ‘The Revolution Betrayed’. One of the odder things about that shadowy world of credible and incredible images in which Mr. Schlesinger’s mind sometimes likes to move is that Harvard always turns out to be the best judge not only of how a revolution in a place like Cuba should be run, and of when it has been ‘betrayed’, but also of how a Cuban counter-revolution should be run and presented. Thus Mr. Schlesinger tells how the unfortunate émigrés in whose name the CIA ran the invasion prepared a manifesto to their compatriots and supporters. They addressed themselves, quite sensibly from their point of view, I should have thought, to those who had lost as a result of Castro’s victory and Batista’s fall: ‘the foreign investor, the private banker, the dispossessed property-owner’. Their manifesto had very little to say, Mr. Schlesinger points out reprovingly, to ‘the worker, the farmer or the Negro’. Mr. Schlesinger therefore scrapped this insufficiently Cuban and inadequately revolutionary document and invited ‘two Latin American specialists from Harvard’ to produce something more authentic. Shortly afterwards the Cubans who had failed to produce a manifesto capable of arousing Harvard were simply shut away in the deserted airbase of Opa-Locha while revolutionary propaganda, about which they were not consulted, continued to be issued in their name by a public relations expert employed by the CIA. It is disappointing that Mr. Schlesinger does not tell us how ‘the Negro’ in Cuba responded to the calls of freedom coking from Florida.

Apart from the sinister buffooneries of the Cuban crisis of 1961, it is in no way surprising that when the 1962 crisis broke, according to Mr. Schlesinger, ‘the British Ambassador, mentioning the dubious reaction in his own country, suggested the need for evidence’. This time the evidence was there: it was the Russians who were lying and had to climb down.

By the end of the second Cuban crisis Kennedy had little more than a year to live. He did not use his time in exploiting the immense ‘Cold War’ advantages which were his once the Russian cargo-ships had turned back and the missile-sites had been dismantled: he used his time and his advantage to re-examine the assumptions he had inherited and to seek accommodations, tolerable not only for America but for the rest of the world. He worked for and achieved the test-ban treaty; he began to feel his way, as these books show, towards a new relation with Castro’s Cuba; Castro himself observed to Jean Daniel, in the autumn of 1963, that the President had ‘come to understand many things over the past few months’. On Vietnam, too, a problem on which, as Mr. Schlesinger observes, he had hitherto had ‘little time to focus’, he began towards the end to concentrate his attention. Kennedy was clear at least on one important principle which his successors have ignored: ‘The war in Vietnam could be won only so long as it was their war. If it were ever converted into a white man’s war we would lose as the French had lost a decade earlier’ (Schlesinger). He planned to see Ambassador Lodge on Sunday, 24 November, to ‘discuss his most vexing worry, Vietnam’. But on Friday, 22 November, the President who had ‘come to understand many things’ was murdered. ‘Es una mala noticia,’ said Castro.

Who killed Kennedy? Mr. Schlesinger does not attempt this question. But Mr. Sorensen’s comments are of interest, coming from so discreet and far-sighted a man. He pays the ritual tributes to the Warren Commission’s ‘painstaking investigation’, accepts also ‘the conclusion that no plot or political motive was involved’. But in his summing-up he also uses some less orthodox words: ‘we can never be absolutely certain whether some other hand might not have coached, coaxed or coerced the hand of President Kennedy’s killer’. Long before President Johnson’s successor is inaugurated it will have been seen, I believe, that this observation of Mr. Sorensen’s was wiser than his endorsement of the Warren Commission Report. Mr. Mark Lane has shown me the proofs of his forthcoming book, provisionally entitled Rush To Judgment, which is a critique of the Report, based on a detailed study of the published evidence, supplemented by private inquiry. In an argument of devastating, cumulative force, Mr. Lane demonstrates that in case after case the Commission ignored or twisted the evidence before it, in order to reach a pre-ordained conclusion, and that, in particular, it ignored a substantial body of evidence which seemed to point in the direction of conspiracy. The details of this cannot be discussed here and now; there will be ample opportunity to discuss them when Rush To Judgment appears in a few months’ time.

When it does appear, I believe it will be demonstrated that the Warren Report bears the same relation to the facts about Kennedy’s assassination as Adlai Stevenson’s report to the UN bore to the reality of the Bay of Pigs.

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