Sunday, September 23, 2007



This is a disappointing book. I had looked forward to what promised from some comments and reviews to be the first important book on the Kennedy assassination since Anthony Summers' Not In Our Time.

I am, readers will note, discounting numerous books since that publication which re-state old evidence, trying to give it some new twist, and conclude Oswald was the lone assassin.

The main merit of this book is that it does not accept the official story of the assassination. However, it attempts to prove a specific alternate theory, and it fails to do so. Along the way, it is pretty dull.

The first fault of this book is that it is poorly written - dull, heavy, and repetitive. The poor writing to which I refer is not just a matter of style. It includes, for example, many examples of saying, after suggesting some line of thought, that the authors will get to that in a later chapter. This is prima facie evidence of poor organization.

The poor writing includes such annoying faults as introducing facts or quotes with phrases like "as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist said...." Haynes Johnson is introduced three or four times this way. Alert readers will recognize a technique to bolster a claim beyond its merit. In general, one expects such quoted information to stand on its own, not on the citation of a newspaper-marketing award.

The book descends into a almost silly hush-hush tone with a number of footnotes or parenthetical statements about how the authors are protecting the identities of certain people. After making such claims, the authors sometimes proceed to suggest who in fact is involved, the worst example of this being the suggestion that Che Guevara was the CIA's man in Cuba ready to kill Castro.

Another fault of the book is a truly enormous amount of quoted material. This is a lazy-minded practice, a substitute for good analysis. It is also simply padding used to create the kind of fat book many expect on a serious topic like this.

The book brings little that is genuinely new forward. Almost every idea in it has been suggested previously by others, including a number of books on the Mafia as assassins.

The idea that there was a secret C-Day plan (the authors' nickname for a coup and friendly invasion of Cuba being run in top secret by Robert Kennedy) only puts into new words what has been general understanding for years. President Kennedy was a jingo, as was his brother. He embraced the idea of American interference in the affairs of others. He was also part of a family that never accepted defeat with good grace. Neither of the Kennedy brothers would accept the embarrassing defeat of the Bay of Pigs nor the partial-defeat of the resolution to the Cuban missile crisis.

But the book's greatest fault is not proving its thesis. This book has a superficially plausible thesis, that the Mafia infiltrated secret Kennedy plans against Cuba and used the existence of these plans as cover for the assassination, knowing the government would be too embarrassed to reveal the truth afterward.

If indeed the Mafia were behind the Kennedy assassination, then it is doubtful there can be convincing direct evidence left, and indeed the authors fail to produce any. They assemble a complicated story from snippets of still partially-censored government documents and casual remarks. And as all people who have studied the assassination know, the most interesting government documents have never been released or do not exist.

Of course, the Mob doesn't leave filing cabinets full of paper documenting its crimes the way the Nazis did. The best we have had is whispered word that so-in-so said they killed Kennedy.

When you give the authors' thesis a second thought, you realize it is faulty from the start. Why would the government be intimidated about the revelation of its plot in the context of the early 1960s when almost anything anti-Castro was acceptable? Why would the government not go ahead with C-day after the assassination, just using the assassination as cover?

More generally, the CIA's dirty-operations people, armed camps of violent anti-Castro refugees, professional criminals, and other nasty hangers-on were all so tightly bound together in the costly, anti-Castro plots of the early 1960s, it seems inadequate to think of one of the elements, and the smallest element, as separate and influencing exclusively the course of events. Many anti-Castro Cubans themselves hated Kennedy, viewing him as weak in their cause. They didn't need the Mafia, having been generously financed and armed to the teeth by the CIA.

Al Qaeda's future training camps in the mountains of Afghanistan were small, under-financed efforts compared to these American operations involving thousands of people and tens of millions of dollars. It was a giant criminal, terrorist plot financed by government. It failed in its purpose, Castro outlasting two generations of American Presidents, but it managed to kill many people, waste huge amounts of money, and do a great deal of damage.

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