November 24, 2013  By Fred Gardner      

JFK, THM and the Truth About History

Tod H. Mikuriya, MD, used to say, “It wasn’t just marijuana that got prohibited, it was the truth about history.” The overriding historic question asked in the media concerning John F. Kennedy is: who killed him? But there’s an equally heavy question —or was— concerning how Kennedy would have proceeded in Vietnam, had he lived.


The Catholic church was strongly behind the Diem/Madame Nhu regime in South Vietnam that the Viet Minh were trying to overthrow when Kennedy took office in January, 1961. (Diem had ignored the Geneva Accords by refusing to take part in an election that would unify the country).  The CIA did its best to prop up the Diem regime and the U.S. Army sent Special Forces troops to “advise” Diem’s military. When Kennedy was assassinated, there were indications that he was re-thinking U.S. support for Diem; but many leftists blamed him for prosecuting a “limited” war that Lyndon Johnson would vastly escalate. 

The following letter to the New York Times Book Review by James K. Galbraith, published Nov. 10, documents Kennedy’s turn towards peace.  The author is a professor of government at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin. His father, John Kenneth Galbraith, a renowned economist, had been the U.S. Ambassador to India under Kennedy. Galbraith is responding to a piece about JFK by Jill  Abramson, the executive editor of the New York Times

In her essay on John F. Kennedy, Jill Abramson states: “The belief that he would have limited the American presence in Vietnam is rooted as much in the romance of ‘what might have been’ as in the documented record.”

The record shows that on Oct. 2 and 5, 1963, President Kennedy issued a formal decision to withdraw American forces from Vietnam. I documented this 10 years ago in Boston Review and Salon, and in 2007 in The New York Review of Books.

The relevant documents include records of the Secretary of Defense conference in Honolulu in May 1963; tapes and transcripts of the decision meetings in the White House; and a memorandum from Gen. Maxwell Taylor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Oct. 4, 1963, which states: “All planning will be directed towards preparing RVN forces for the withdrawal of all U.S. special assistance units and personnel by the end of calendar year 1965.”

A veteran journalist named Jeff Greenfield has published a novel called “If Kennedy Lived.”  I never read historic what-ifs —what-happeneds are all my brain can handle. But a friend who read “If Kennedy Lived” reports that Greenfield “takes the Galbraith line, which the record does indeed support. No Vietnam would have changed everything. E.g., Jeff has Tom Hayden running AmeriCorps in ’68, when ultraliberal peacenik Hubert Humphrey is running against Ronald Reagan.”

I empathize with Galbraith.  In 2003 Dr. Mikuriya, an indispensable leader of the medical marijuana movement, published a paper in O’Shaughnessy’s  Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol,”  based on 92 case reports —histories he’d taken from people who had used marijuana instead of ETOH (mainly to achieve disinhibition in social situations). It was a really great paper, and O’S actually is peer-reviewed, in that some of the docs read their colleagues’ drafts and weigh in.

Tod’s paper also appeared in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, which is no longer being brought out. The JoCT was published by the Haworth Press, and formally peer-reviewed. Perhaps if Tod’s paper had been published in the prestigious Journal of Addiction Medicine it would be recognized by “drug policy reform” experts like Mark Kleiman as The Truth. (Isn’t there something awfully Talmudic about The Truth residing in certain texts sanctified by a self-appointed elite?)

Kleiman, who the state of Washington hired to propose regulations for a legal marijuana market (and who is the hero of a recent New Yorker piece called “Buzzkill”) used to correspond with Mikuriya. I assume that he was aware of Tod’s paper and its import.  And yet here he is musing pompously about whether cannabis will turn out to be a substitute for alcohol! Just  give him another 10 years of taxpayer support! (Kleiman is a professor at UCLA and pads his income as a consultant. He defined himself to the NYer as a “policy entrepreneur.”)

Kleiman weighed in Oct. 27 when the New York Times ran a front-page piece headlined “Few Problems With Cannabis for California.” Reporters Adam Nagourney and Rick Lyman took a common-sense, macro-level look at what 17 years of medical use hath wrought in the Golden State.  Among the documented benefits: marijuana use reduces alcohol use and drunk driving. 

A key piece of evidence cited by Nagrouney and Lyman was a forthcoming study:

In a broad study on the ramifications of legalizing recreational marijuana about to be published in The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, two economics professors said a survey of evidence showed a correlation between increased marijuana use and less alcohol use for people ages 18 to 29.

The researchers, D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University and Daniel I. Rees of the University of Colorado, said that based on their study, they expected younger people in Colorado and Washington to use marijuana more and alcohol less.

Was Tod Mikuriya’s prophetic paper cited by The Newspaper of Record? Nope. But the great Mark Kleiman was:

Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an expert on marijuana policy who was the chief adviser to Washington on its marijuana law, said the connection between alcohol and marijuana use, if borne out, would be a powerful argument in favor of decriminalization.

“If it turns out that cannabis and alcohol are substitutes, then by my scoring system, legalizing cannabis is obviously a good idea,” Mr. Kleiman said. “Alcohol is so much more of a problem than cannabis ever has been.”

Still, he said, it will take time before long-term judgments can be made.

“Does it cause problems?” he said. “Certainly. Is it on balance a good or bad thing? Ask me 10 years from now.

Professor Kleiman undoubtedly knew about —and should have borne in mind— Tod’s findings. Tod was the real expert when it came to marijuana. But to Kleiman and his ilk, findings not published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine can conveniently be overlooked, and researchers not university-connected can easily be marginalized. One of Tod’s reasons for willing O’Shaughnessy’s into existence in 2003 was to have an outlet where he could publish “Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol” and get it to patients and colleagues.

William Steig would have pegged Kleiman.

William Steig had the Kleiman type pegged.

When Hollywood writers who held anti-establishment views couldn’t get their movies produced in the 1950s, everybody recognized it as “blacklisting.”  When pro-cannabis doctors can’t get their findings publicized nowadays, nobody calls it blacklisting. They call it “you really ought to do a double-blind placebo-controlled study.” 

Professor Kleiman calls his blog “The Reality-Based Community.”  What he means is “The Status-quo-Based Priesthood.”  The portly prof expects to be dispensing expertise at taxpayer expense 10 years from now! Nice work if you can get it —and you can get it if you give The Man the blither he needs to sustain his system.