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CounterPunch

February 11, 2003

An Act of State

The Execution of Martin Luther King

by DOUGLAS VALENTINE

Bill Pepper's book, An Act of State: the Execution of Martin Luther King (Verso, 2003), is a book whose time has come. It is required reading for anyone interested in how they illegitimate Bush regime will wield its ill-gotten power, not against Iraq, but against dissenters here in America.

An Act of State tells the story of how Martin Luther King was killed, not by James Ray, a bumbling patsy, but by a Memphis policeman in league with the Mafia, backed by soldiers -- some armed with high-powered rifles, others with cameras to film the event -- in a special Military Intelligence unit. The story is broad and deep and implicates high-ranking officers in all the American intelligence and security branches. And it stars Raoul, the assembly line worker now living under government protection. Raoul guided James Ray after his prison escape to a bathroom in a seedy Memphis hotel, above a greasy spoon cafe owned by a sad sack named Loyd Jowers, a creepy old white man having sex with Betty, a 16-year-old black girl. Betty, they say around Memphis, got hooked on drugs and had several illegitimate kids.

Pepper, who resides in Cambridge and spends his time practicing law in United States and the United Kingdom, assembles Jowers and Betty and about 70 other witnesses to make a convincing argument that Jowers and known and unknown members of the U.S. government conspired to kill MLK. Indeed, the argument convinced a jury of exactly that in a civil suit brought by the King family against Jowers and the U.S. government. The trial was held in Memphis in 1999, but the Department of Justice, as Pepper explains, buried the verdict beneath an avalanche of lies and distortions, with a little help from its friends in the media.

Most importantly, Pepper makes it clear that assassinations of this sort could happen on a regular basis in Bush's war-mongering America, where wiping out his political opposition under the guise of fighting terrorism will, if the Imperial wizard has his way, become de rigueur. Quoting Thomas Jefferson, Pepper asserted on C-Span 2's book show that only through a revolution can we stop the budding fascist dictatorship that is incrementally afixing its jackboot to our collective neck.

Pepper's ability to capture this revolutionary spirit, which MLK embodied, is the beauty of the book. Even if Pepper never follows some of the most important leads, like, for example, what CIA agent Marrell McCollough doing on the balcony of the Lorrain Motel while King was lying there dying? McCollough had infiltrated the local black power group, the Invaders, and was part of an Invader-staffed security group that Jesse Jackson allegedly disbursed moments before the assassination. Do we want to know about this? And Pepper doesn't ask who the other guy was on top of the fire station roof overlooking the Lorrain Motel that fateful day, April 4th 1968? We know Sergeant Greene was there, but who was the guy from the 112th Military Intelligence unit from down in Fort Sam Houston, Texas? Maybe that guy was a CIA assassin!

Even without the answers to these overarching questions, Bill Pepper truly makes a case that it was an Act of State that intentionally silenced Martin Luther King and his message of peace, justice and racial harmony, a message that hasn't been heard as eloquently for 35 years, and which, only through the voices of modern American revolutionaries will ever be heard again on the airwaves and on network news. Read the book, and be inspired to act against the state.

Douglas Valentine is the author of The Hotel Tacloban, The Phoenix Program, and TDY. His new book The Strength of the Wolf: the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1930-1968 will be published by Verso. Valentine was an investigator for Pepper on the King case in 1998-1999. For information about Valentine and his books and articles, please visit his website at www.douglasvalentine.com

He can be reached at: redspruce@attbi.com

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