John Lennon Assassination Motive

by Alan Meyers

We were in a taxi in Managua when we first heard the news. It was the morning after. “Se murio John Lennon” said the radio. Thinking back on it, we hadn’t reacted immediately. For one thing, our Spanish wasn’t so good at the time, and we hadn’t heard the rest of the story. When we got back to the place where we were staying, a young British guy said, “I’ve got some horrible news.” “There’s a U.S. invasion?” I recall saying. I remember that he, I don’t know, smiled ruefully or something, and said “No. John Lennon’s dead.” I slumped against the wall. So we had heard right on the radio. I’d sort of suppressed it, naw that can’t be. I mean, Lennon. The person whose music I loved more than anyone’s, then and now. Lennon, someone who was capable of seeing and saying truth. Shea and I would say, speculating on the looming future, well no matter what happens, at least we’ll have Lennon to go through it with. The four U.S. churchwomen had been murdered (after torture and rape) by the Salvadoran military six days before. We’d been to a memorial ceremony for Sr. Maura Clark, “La angela de abierto tres”, the barrio in which she’d worked for fifteen years. For days after Lennon’s murder, the radio played Lennon & Beatles music. That was it, it was a looming…the spirit in Nicaragua was still high, the Revolution still a toddler at a tender 17 months, lots of building going on, talking, organizing. The contra war was still a premonition. I remember very clearly coming back to the U.S. after that — the first night back, in our apartment, full of friends, buzzing about the trip, the radio’s on to NPR, and here’s a clip of Reagan, on the verge of taking power: we’re going to stop Communism in its tracks in Central America, he said. The maw of the future gaped, hundreds of thousands of Central Americans about to be devoured by the monster while we did whatever we could to pull it off them. Somewhere in the shadows figures sat around a table, planning strategy to deal with the predictable domestic response…

It was more than a decade later when a friend who knew of my love for Lennon showed me a copy of Who Killed John Lennon?, she’d found it in her local library. The book (St. Martin’s Press, 1988, now out of print) was written by the British newspaper reporter Fenton Bresler, who was, and I believe remains, the only person ever to investigate Mark David Chapman. There was never a police investigation, and since Chapman pled guilty and refused (despite his lawyer’s entreaties) to plead insanity, there was no trial. The first part of the book makes the case that the CIA is capable of “programming” an assassin, and while it might be a bit weak, there’s plenty of other evidence that if not, it wasn’t for want of trying (see, e.g., The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: the CIA and the Cult of Mind Control by ex-State Department suit John Marks) — but the evidence he presents regarding Chapman is compelling: his early experience with psychedelics; his turn to Jesus; his involvement with the YMCA (identified by Philip Agee, in CIA Diary, as a favored source of Company recruits at least, in Ecuador in the sixties); his tours of duty in Beirut in 1975(!) followed by a stint in a Vietnamese refugee camp at Fort Chaffee immediately following the fall of Saigon (a camp, incidentally, run by World Vision, widely accused of CIA collaboration); his lack of interest in Lennon or the Beatles (he liked Todd Rundgren); his abhorrence of violence; his friendship with a Georgia sheriff’s officer who gave him the hollow-point bullets he used to kill Lennon …

But what’s missing from Bresler’s account is what has convinced me that he is right, and that is the motive. Bresler only asserts that it was Lennon’s likely re-entry into political life in general — he was about to win U.S. citizenship — that motivated his assassination by some agency of our government. But after a decade of Central America solidarity work I am absolutely convinced that Lennon was a victim of the U.S. government’s counter-revolutionary war in Central America. Remember: Lennon died six days after the four U.S. churchwomen. The mass murder by the military and their allied death squads in El Salvador was just at its exponential upstroke, and the contra war in Nicaragua was just being launched. Reagan had just won the election, not yet taken office, and his “transition team” was at the helm. There can be no doubt that a major item (probably the major item) on their agenda was their war in Central America, and thus there had to be some consideration paid to the management of the domestic opposition, which was already active and getting stronger: after all, they must have foreseen that they were about to massacre several hundred thousand people in our own “backyard” and there would be a predictable resistance (and as is now public knowledge, the Reagan Administration was to infiltrate and subvert CISPES and other solidarity organizations). In my view, Lennon would have been seen as the individual with the greatest power – and perhaps, greatest inclination – to galvanize the popular movement (imagine – more to the point, imagine these creeps imagining -what the demonstrations might have looked like had Citizen Lennon helped to popularize the cause). It doesn’t even matter whether or not Lennon had any intention of getting involved at the time of his murder (and there’s no evidence he was; he and Yoko did have tickets to fly to San Francisco to participate in a demonstration, but it involved supporting immigrant workers, not Central America) it was only necessary that the Forces of Darkness felt it was possible Lennon might take up the cause. Why not? If they did it right, Chapman himself would never realize he was being manipulated, so what did they have to lose? It was only after years of work in the solidarity movement and many more trips to the region, demonstrations, etc. that I became convinced that Lennon was assassinated to pre-empt the potential trouble he might make for their war. I think Bresler didn’t get this because he probably didn’t appreciate the intensity of their war effort. But they had a motive.

So it’s my contention that the bad guys got away with it, free and clear, and I’d like to see that corrected, if nowhere else then in the popular imagination. Even if there’s not going to be justice, at least it might be possible to put the notion that some agency of our government was responsible for John Lennon’s death on a comparable footing to that of the JFK matter.

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