Saturday Reads: America’s Greatest Mystery

JFK Assassination

Good Morning!!

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.

That’s my offering for today. What stories are you following? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.

31 Comments on “Saturday Reads: America’s Greatest Mystery”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s a very good article at Salon by David Talbot, author of Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years. At the end, Talbot recommends a number of important books on the JFK assassination.

  2. Delphyne49 says:

    Another great post, BB. I’m looking forward to reading the links.

    I don’t think that that day will ever fade for me – I remember it vividly, being in 9th grade and having the teachers crying, walking home as if in a daze, everyone glued to the television. Seeing Ruby shooting Oswald live on television was so shocking.

    Being a duck and cover kid with a fear of nuclear anything and this assassination (I agree – it was a coup) made a deep and lasting impression upon me. It was the beginning of my questioning what the government told us and their motives – and that has only become stronger as I get older.

    Again, a great post and I hope you’ll write more about it as we near the 50th anniversary of this horrible event.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks, Delphyne.

      Although I didn’t know it at the time (I was 14, almost 15) the assassination completely changed the way I looked at the world. I know I’m not alone.

      • Mary Luke says:

        BB, I think even at age 14 (you and I are the same) I remember walking home from school after early dismissal (can you believe our parents thought it normal for us to walk home alone after an event like that in those days?)…so, even while walking home, I knew something horrible and irrevocable that changed America and our lives forever had happened. When I got home and saw the Zapruder, I instinctively knew at age 14 there had to be two separate shots. What happened that day was we would never again see the world as a safe place. Not if a President could be gunned down in the street. And I also think there is a collective unconscious decision to deny it, not talk about it, not legitimize it so that the country can limp on. Because what would happen if it were ever publicly true? As you said, we can’t survive another one.

        • bostonboomer says:

          We didn’t get the news until the second-to-last period. I was in American history class when another student opened the door and told us Kennedy had been shot. The teacher didn’t believe it and tried to continue class. We finally got the news of JFK’s death in the final class period. That was chemistry class for me. Afterwards, people were walking around the halls looking dazed and crying. I went outside–my high school was downtown–and saw adults crying on the street. It was truly shocking.

        • Sweet Sue says:

          The Abraham Zapruder film wasn’t released for years, so unless you’re a time traveler, I don’t understand how you saw in 1963.

          • bostonboomer says:

            It came out in 1975. Sometimes memory does that–it can combine related memories that are years apart. Memories errors are quite common–so common as to be a normal part of the human condition. It happens to everyone. In fact I associate the Zapruder film with Nov. 22, 1963 too. It’s a visual that I’m sure millions of people have added to their memories of that day.

          • Mary Luke says:

            There was a heavily edited version out the weekend, possible the evening of the assassination. It clearly showed the President being hit in the neck, the shot the Warren commission later tried to say was a “reflex backward motion”. But it looked to everyone who saw the edited version as if he was shot first from the front, then in the back of the head. It took weeks or months for the magic bullet theory to emerge.

    • RalphB says:

      Like you all, that day is vivid for me and, even if 50 years have passed, I still don’t like thinking about it. Maybe it has something to do with being close to where it happened and noting the wingnuttery for a long time before and after, I don’t know.

  3. Delphyne49 says:

    Did my response wind up in spam – it seems to have disappeared.

  4. List of X says:

    Are there any classified documents regarding the JFK association? If so, isn’t 50 years the longest period they could remain classified for? Which means we could find out some new details soon.

    • bostonboomer says:

      There are still millions of CIA files–especially about Oswald–that haven’t been released. Some were supposed to be released a couple of years ago, but Obama signed off on keeping them secret longer (see what I mean about presidents being intimidated by the CIA?) Jeff Morley is suing the CIA, but the suit has been going on for years. Moe are supposed to be released in 2017, but as Earl Warren said way back when, they won’t all be public “in your lifetime.”

      • bostonboomer says:

        But many valuable files have come out over the years, and anyone who hasn’t read at least some recent books has no business pontificating on the facts of the case. They can certainly have “opinions,” but the basis for them would be questionable.

  5. ANonOMouse says:

    Excellent work BB. There are many of us who agree with you even if we’re not able to articulate it as well as you.

    The Spring before Kennedy was assassinated I saw him during a 1 day trip he and Jackie made to Nashville. I believe that Kennedy was riding in the very same Limo that he rode in that morning in Dallas. I don’t remember the route being published in the paper that morning, but there were only a handful of ways that Kennedy could have exited the Nashville Airport on his way to a rally at Vanderbilt University. The week before he arrived in Nashville, a friend and I decided to try to catch a glimpse of him near the airport. We went to what we believed would be the most likely exit from the airport, parked our car across the street at a pharmacy, and found a comfortable place to wait near the sidewalk. As we waited many other people joined us and soon the road leading into downtown Nashville was lined with people anticipating the arrival of the President. Sure enough, within an hour we could see the entourage of cars as they approached. We took our places on the sidewalk and when John & Jackie passed they were in the open convertible, traveling at about 20-30 mph. There were no secret service personnel in or on the vehicle and he was so close I could have reached out and touched him. I actually made eye contact with him and I thought to myself how vulnerable he was and that anyone could have pulled a gun or a knife or any sort of weapon and attacked him along the route that morning. My friend was equally dismayed by the lack of security around him and even before I could express my feeling of discomfort to her, she expressed her level of discomfort with the security to me.

    By contrast, many years later, while working at an Aerospace and Defense company that was adjacent to the airport we were put on total lock down during a visit by Reagan. The offices facing the street were inspected and we weren’t allowed to occupy those offices during Reagan’s time on the ground. Even the roof of the building was commandeered by Secret Service.

    • bostonboomer says:

      JFK came to Muncie, IN to campaign in the Fall of ’63, and a bunch of us went to see him from school. It was pretty exciting, although he just talked about farm subsidies and things like that. I didn’t see his car though. He just stood up on a stage downtown.

  6. I saved this link from a while back, it is to the enquirer…but the book that it references is legit. EXCLUSIVE: 2nd GUNMAN NAMED IN JFK ASSASSINATION! – The National Enquirer

    LEE HARVEY OSWALD did NOT act alone – and The ENQUIRER can finally name the second gunman who fired the fatal shot at President JOHN F. KENNEDY from the grassy knoll in Dallas 50 years ago!

    In a blockbuster exclusive, The ENQUIRER has learned that a Cuban exile with ties to both the Mafia and the CIA confessed to being involved in a conspiracy to kill America’s beloved 35th president.

    The startling new evidence was uncovered by re­spected author Anthony Summers, who revealed the assassin’s identity in an update to his classic 1998 book on Kennedy’s slaying, “Not In Your Lifetime.”

    According to Summers, the second rifleman was Herminio Diaz, a hired killer who worked for notorious Mafia boss Santo Trafficante Jr. in Cuba. Diaz executed a Cuban police chief in the late 1940s and likely committed 20 murders in his lifetime.

    It kind of goes along with your point up top about the CIA using mob hit men to carry out CIA operations.

    Check it out.

    Also, in other news:

    Red Cross estimates Philippines death toll at over 1,000 after typhoon | Al Jazeera America

    They expect that number to rise.

    and get this, this is fucked up: Texas anti-LGBT crusader won local election by pretending to be black | The Raw Story

    A Houston electrician known mostly for his personal crusades against LGBT rights and the city’s lesbian mayor has won a seat on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees after pretending in campaign materials to be African American. According to Think Progress, Dave Wilson defeated longtime board member Bruce Austin — who is African American — by circulating campaign materials and faking an endorsement from a black state legislator.

    KHOU reported that Wilson pulled stock images of people of color from websites and magazines and used them to make fliers to distribute in his district.

    Wilson, a conservative white Republican with tea party leanings, realized that he had little to no chance of beating 24-year incumbent Austin in his heavily African-American district, so Wilson decided not to run as a white man. The virulently anti-LGBT activist previously ran and lost as a fringe candidate for mayor on a platform opposing marriage equality or any form of legal recognition for same sex relationships.

    Wilson, who KHOU described as “a gleeful political troublemaker,” sent out the fliers along with direct mailings that said, “Endorsed by Ron Wilson,” a retired African-American state legislator. The fine print on the mailings explained that the Ron Wilson who endorsed Dave Wilson was actually his cousin who lives in Iowa.

  7. dakinikat says:

    Wow, did I really agree this morning as my white straight male yuppie pupppie neighbors appear to go all GI Joe action figure with these damned things.

    I Have Seen the Face of Evil
    The world’s most pointless invention: It’s not just for autumn any more!

  8. Boo Radly says:

    Thank you for this post BB – been waiting for years to hear more of your views on this coup. I was 17 at the time and it removed my rose colored glasses forever. Great links to read – I am not up to date with the new books. It would be interesting to hear from younger readers who were not alive at that time to see what their take is. I was watching both incidents – JFK and Oswalt assassinations in real time. My own children have little interest in this historical event and I can’t understand why. I never felt the same about America, politicians, the military or the press. The Salon article offers some good sites to research.

    • bostonboomer says:

      There are younger people researching the case, but I have a feeling when all of us baby boomers die there won’t be as much interest. You had to be there to understand what an powerful positive effect Kennedy had on most Americans.

      • bostonboomer says:


        Very moving.

        • Delphyne49 says:

          I really enjoyed that article, BB – thanks for the link. I like what he has to say about viewing this event on “pause” and never hitting the “play” button. Thinking about it, it truly affected my thinking and how I viewed adults and their systems. We were violently tossed off the path of our parents and so many of us never returned to it….for me personally, a good thing. I don’t know that I would have survived had I not taken off for California at 20, future unknown, unscripted – better to go anywhere than to face a life dictated by tradition or culture and know that the future held only the past. A life of quiet desperation was not going to be for me.

  9. RalphB says:

    Just a tiny happy dance for near justice…

    Anderson gets jail for wrongful conviction of Michael Morton

    GEORGETOWN, Texas — Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson sat in the defendant’s chair Friday, awaiting punishment for his role in prosecuting an innocent man and keeping him behind bars for nearly 25 years.

    It’s not every day the prosecutor, a current judge, sees any repercussions.

  10. Fannie says:

    Wow, we have like minds BB……….just yesterday, after listening to Kerry, I went and rented this movie. I feel a lot like you do……………I have the original Life, and Look Magazines, and I have tracked those steps at Dealey Plaza, and visited the Library there. It was like walking on sacred ground. And I have read Marina’s book, as well as all the others, watched every movie too. The thing I will never forget from Parkland was when the one guy said “what a shitty place to die”. In the beginning I was wondering about the autopsy, just another second later, they come on with the fight with Feds………freaking Texas trying to keep his body, like their law is more important. Anyways, I will be honest, I always cry…………don’t matter, it just gets to me. And I can’t help think about the political conditions in this country right now, particularly let’s shut the government down tea party and hate groups. I do fear for Obama………there, I’ve said it.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment, Fannie.

      I actually wish they had done the autopsy in Dallas. Once they got back to Maryland it was all done in secrecy, with military people basically telling the doctors what to do. They wouldn’t even let Bobby Kennedy observe the autopsy. No one knows what happen to JFK’s clothes and his brain disappeared! What was let of it…

      I always cry too. Every time I see the film of them moving along in the car, I choke up. It still feels that close.

      Reading the articles about the hate-filled climate in Dallas back in the ’60s–it reminded me of today and the tea party haters. It’s frightening and I worry about Obama too.

  11. Fannie says:

    I was thinking of Adlai Stevenson when he went to Dallas before Pres. Kennedy did, October 1963….there were extremist then, and the John Birch Society nearby. Well, I am almost ashamed of being born in Texas, and I was living in New Orleans when he was shot. This will go with me till my dying day.

  12. Mary Luke says:

    I’ve said for years that business and law are the last socially acceptable refuge of the psychopathic personality disorder. I’d be surprised if they weren’t #1 and 2. The excessive presence of people with that disorder in law practice says a lot about why we can’t improve our legal system.