Saturday Reads: America’s Greatest MysteryPosted: November 9, 2013
In less than two weeks, our nation will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently reading books and articles about the assassination and it’s aftermath. I have wanted to write a post about it, but I just haven’t been able to do it. For me, the JFK assassination is still a very painful issue–in fact, it has become more and more painful for me over the years as I’ve grown older and wiser and more knowledgeable about politics and history. Anyway, I thought I’d take a shot at writing about it this morning. I may have more to say, as we approach the anniversary. I’m going to focus on the role of the media in defending the conclusions of the Warren Commission.
I think most people who have read my posts in the past probably know that I think the JFK assassination was a coup, and that we haven’t really had more than a very limited form of democracy in this country since that day. We probably will never know who the men were who shot at Kennedy in Dallas in 1963, but anyone who has watched the Zapruder film with anything resembling an open mind, has to know that there was more than one shooter; because Kennedy was shot from both the front and back.
The reasons Kennedy died are varied and complex. He had angered a number of powerful groups inside as well as outside the government.
– Powerful members of the mafia had relationships with JFK’s father Joseph Kennedy, and at his behest had helped carry Illinois–and perhaps West Virginia–for his son. These mafia chiefs expected payback, but instead, they got Bobby Kennedy as Attorney General on a crusade to destroy organized crime. In the 1960s both the CIA and FBI had used the mafia to carry out operations.
– FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover hated Bobby Kennedy for “interfering” with the FBI by ordering Hoover to hire more minorities and generally undercutting Hoover’s absolute control of the organization.
– Elements within the CIA hated Kennedy for his refusal to provide air support for the Bay of Pigs invasion (which had been planned by Vice President Nixon well before the 1960 election), and for firing CIA head Allen Dulles.
– Texas oil men like H.L. Hunt and Clint Murchison hated Kennedy for pushing for repeal of the oil depletion allowance.
– The military hated Kennedy because of the Bay of Pigs, his decision to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis by pulling U.S. missiles out of Turkey in return for removal of the missiles from Cuba instead of responding with a nuclear attack, his efforts to reach out to both the Nikita Krushchev of the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro of Cuba, his firing of General Edward Walker, and his decision to pull the military “advisers” out of Vietnam.
– Vice President Lyndon Johnson hated both Kennedys, and he knew he was on the verge of being dropped from the presidential ticket in 1964. In addition, scandals involving his corrupt financial dealings were coming to a head, and the Kennedys were pushing the stories about Johnson cronies Bobby Baker and Billy Sol Estes in the media.
What I know for sure is that after what happened to Kennedy (and to Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy), there is no way any president would dare to really challenge the military and intelligence infrastructure within the government. Richard Nixon found that out when a number of the same people who were involved in the Kennedy assassination helped to bring him down.
To long-term government bureaucracies, the POTUS is just passing through the government that they essentially control. Any POTUS who crosses them too often is asking for trouble. People who think President Obama should simply force the CIA, NSA, FBI and the military to respect the rights of American citizens should think about that for a minute. Can we as a nation survive the assassination of another president?
For nearly 50 years, the government as a whole, with strong support from the media, has helped to maintain the fiction among elites that Lee Harvey Oswald–a man well-known to both the CIA and FBI (as an informant at the very least) somehow managed to learn ahead of time the route Kennedy would take through Dallas (although a decision on the route was not made until the last minute and it was only announced in the morning newspapers on November 22) and happened to have a rifle with him so that he could suddenly decide to kill the president.
Even if Oswald somehow did carry this off, that doesn’t explain the cover-up that followed–the complete lack of investigation by the Dallas police, the secret autopsy performed in Maryland instead of Dallas, and the half-baked “investigation” by the Warren Commission.
Now, 50 years later, we live in a country in which anyone who questions the consensus version of the JFK assassination is called a “conspiracy theorist” and is marginalized–even if the person doing it is a professional historian, a university professor, or a serious journalist who has spent years studying the archival evidence and interviewing witnesses.
This ban on questioning the mainstream interpretation of historical events extends to other important events as well–like Watergate and 9/11. Immediately following 9/11, we learned that the Bush administration had essentially ignored the issue of terrorism and had dismissed hundreds of warnings in the run up to the planes hitting the twin towers. Today–only 12 years later, the media treats questions about those Bush Administration errors as “conspiracy theories.” I grew up on conspiracies such as Iran Contra. But once the official version is set, you must not question it or you will never again be taken seriously by the serious people.
And so we get articles like this one by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker. Gopnik admits there it is reasonable to suspect that elements of the “national security state” could have wanted to get rid of Kennedy:
By J.F.K.’s own accounting, the Bay of Pigs was the first failure. In the eyes of the national-security hawks, the Cuban missile crisis, though presented to the public as a showdown that Kennedy won, was the second, an exercise in abject appeasement. Kennedy had refused the unanimous advice of his generals and admirals to bomb Cuba, and had settled the crisis by giving the Russians what they wanted, the removal of missiles from Turkey. (This was kept quiet, but the people who knew knew.) The notion that the Cold War national-security state, which Eisenhower warned against, might have decided to kill the President is not as difficult to credit as one wishes. There were C.I.A. operatives prepared to kill foreign leaders, some of them previously friendly, for acts they didn’t like, and to recruit gangsters to do it, and generals who were eager to invade Cuba even at the risk of nuclear war, and who resented Kennedy for restraining them. (A veteran journalist, Jefferson Morley, has been pursuing the trail of a now dead C.I.A. agent named George Joannides through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, believing that, at a minimum, the C.I.A. was keeping a much sharper eye on Oswald than it ever wanted known. Relevant documents are supposed to be released in 2017.)
Oddly, there’s confirmation of this in the work of the Kennedy brothers’ house historian, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. An establishment figure devoted to maintaining the image of the Kennedys, and no friend to the conspiracy theorists, Schlesinger made plain that the Kennedys really did believe themselves to be subject to a hostile alliance of the military and the C.I.A., largely outside their direct control. “Intelligence operatives, in the CIA as well as the FBI, had begun to see themselves as the appointed guardians of the Republic, infinitely more devoted than transient elected officials, morally authorized to do on their own whatever the nation’s security demanded,” Schlesinger concludes. Ted Sorensen, another Kennedy intimate, wrote in his memoir that when Jimmy Carter nominated him, in 1977, to be the director of central intelligence, agency officials worked furiously (and successfully) to get the nomination withdrawn, quite possibly because there was evidence about J.F.K.’s death that they didn’t want him to see. Vincent Bugliosi’s confidence that these things don’t happen here isn’t shared by those closest to the case.
Throughout his essay, Gopnik accurately reports the facts that have come out over the past 50 years that support the notion of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Yet in the end, he comes down on the side of “lone nut” theorists like Vincent Bugliosi and uses Bugliosi’s dismissive term “conspiracy buffs” to refer to anyone who seriously challenges the “Oswald did it” consensus. Here’s his conclusion:
Oswald acted alone, but the hidden country acted through Oswald. This is the perpetual film-noir moral lesson: that the American hierarchy is far more unstable than it seems, and that the small-time crook in his garret and the big-time social leader in his mansion are intimately linked. When Kennedy died, and the mystery of his murder began, we took for granted that the patrician in tails with the perfect family and the sordid Oswald belonged to different worlds, just as Ruby’s Carousel Club and the White House seemed light-years apart. When Kennedy was shot, the dignified hierarchy seemed plausible. Afterward, it no longer did. What turned inside out, after his death, was that reality: the inner surface and the outer show, like a magician’s bag, were revealed to be interchangeable. That’s why the death of J.F.K., even as it fades into history, remains so close, close as can be, and closer than that.
Gopnik is oh so philosophical, so thoughtful, so cogent, so poetic even, as he denies the conclusion that he cannot permit himself to draw from the facts he has recounted in his essay. In the end, he has to say that Oswald did it and that he acted alone. This is the rule now, because any journalist who admits doubts about the elite consensus view will be unmercifully mocked and ridiculed; and if he continues to question, he will be marginalized and likely rendered unable to get a job at a major publication.
Josh Ozersky wrote a brilliant response to Gopnik at Esquire: The Big Problem With Calling People “Conspiracy Theorists.”
Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker’s resident sage and polymath, dilated at some length on the cultural legacy of JFK’s assassination. The piece was uncharacteristically lazy and weak-minded, a rare but complete relaxation of Gopnik’s usually vigorous mind. Gopnik is about as smart as they come, but the piece is dumb, little more than one long scoff. Insofar as it engages in the debate over JFK’s demise at all, it relies on a handful of weak debate points you’ve heard many times before. And there’s a reason you’ve heard them before. They were all originally crafted for public use by the CIA.
Gopnik, like nearly all of his fellow archons in the journalism business, has an unshakable faith in the consensus view of JFK’s assassination. As far as he is concerned, the facts of the case are in plain view and that only “conspiracy theorists” would think otherwise. His breezy, shallow essay urbanely hectors “the world of conspiracy buffs.” No argument on his part is required; these “obsessives” discredit themselves. If they were legit, he seems to think, they would have free run of The New Yorker‘s pages, instead of lurking in “assassination forums and chat rooms.” Brilliant though he may be, Gopnik is in this respect every bit as dumb as any hedge fund manager or surly celebrity; like them, he thinks his place at the top is a testimony to his influence, rather than the cause of it. (His two essays in this issue amount to 11 full pages.) Big-bore public intellectuals tend to think of themselves as floating above the fray. But really, they’re no better or worse than the bloggers and cranks they despise. They only think otherwise because, as another, more cynical New Yorker writer, George Trow, put it, “the referee always wins.”
I hope you’ll go read the rest. It’s not long.
Recently John Kerry admitted that he questions the conclusion that Oswald acted alone. From The Daily Mail:
John Kerry has revealed that he does not believe that President Kennedy’s assassin worked alone as the government claimed in their official finding.
The Secretary of State added more credibility to conspiracy theories surrounding the former president’s death by becoming one of the highest-ranking politicians to openly admit to being suspicious of the official finding.
‘To this day, I have serious doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone,’ Kerry told NBC‘s Tom Brokaw in an interview timed with the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death.
Of course Kerry hedges his bets quite a bit:
‘I certainly have doubts that he was motivated by himself, I mean I’m not sure if anybody else is involved- I won’t go down that road with respect to the Grassy Knoll theory and all that- but I have serious questions about whether they got to the bottom of Lee Harvey Oswald’s time and influence from Cuba and Russia.’
The particular theory that Kerry mentioned is one that was ignored by the Warren Commission who investigated the 1963 shooting.
A number of witnesses recalled seeing smoke and smelling gunpowder near a grassy knoll along the parade route, hinting that there could have been a second shooter who fired from a different angle.
The connections that Lee Harvey Oswald had to Russia and Cuba that the Secretary of State mentioned are far more factual convictions, as it is known that Oswald defected to the Soviet Union and moved there. He only returned to the U.S. the year before Kennedy was shot.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Kerry backtracks further after he takes some ridicule for his very weak remarks. Of course it’s easier for a government official to say something like that as long as he doesn’t start pushing for a new investigation or something. It’s much harder for mainstream journalists who are responsible for reinforcing the versions of history preferred by the elites in the power structure.
This morning, as I was browsing around on-line, I came across an interesting article at The Week: Which professions have the most psychopaths? And which have the fewest? Number 3 and number 6 on the list of professions with the most psychopaths are media (TV and radio) and journalists. Maybe that’s why they can sell their souls to the powerful in order to keep their jobs and advance in their professions.