Sunday, July 26, 2009


Let me make my perspective clear in reviewing this book: I am a complete sceptic of the official story of Kennedy’s assassination . As well, I have been a fierce critic of the Warren Commission whose work was riddled with flaws and whose only investigation was wholly adopted from J. Edgar Hoover, a man who loathed the Kennedys and had several motives for hiding the truth, including Oswald’s (almost certain) embarrassing work as a paid FBI informant right up to the end.

It always amazes me when I confront the reality of a whole new generation of readers who appear, from their embrace of books like this, to be so completely unfamiliar with what has gone before. But of course that perspective is true in so many things: the Vietnam War, a pointless bloodbath which determined much of the course of my life and that of millions of others, is almost unknown to young people today if polls are to be believed.

That said, James Douglass’s book was a great disappointment. I had expected from some reviews, including one by Oliver Stone, as well as from the fact that Douglass is an experienced author, albeit of religious books, a significant contribution to the assassination literature.

But no critical mind familiar with the assassination literature could possibly regard this book as a contribution.

Every witness ignored by the Warren Commission or those whose testimony was twisted by Hoover’s FBI (and there were many) has been heard from in nearly forty-six years of books and articles. I accept the validity of a number of these witnesses, and, very importantly, I embrace Bertrand Russell’s profound question on the assassination: "If, as we are told, Oswald was the lone assassin, where is the issue of national security?"

Douglass, in his most successful passages in terms of suspense (undoubtedly, part of his appeal) presents once again a relatively small selection of these, letting readers assume they are getting these stories as new revelations. What is most regrettable is that Douglass includes and emphasizes a couple of the least credible witnesses, while leaving out other interesting, far more credible ones.

Douglass takes the idea of an Oswald double to new heights, quoting the more far-fetched witnesses, as seeing a man who was virtually his double. For those who’ve read the assassination literature, there is no doubt that there was at least one individual vaguely fitting Oswald’s description who was used by the conspirators as a means of spreading legends about Oswald’s activities, but we know from several pieces of evidence that he was no actual double.

Douglass offers nothing new on any of the most critical events around the assassination, including the remarkable activities of George de Mohrenschildt, former-FBI Agent Guy Banister’s operations in New Orleans, and Oswald’s supposed trip to Mexico City, absolute keys to understanding. He sorts out nothing new on these or other vital topics.

Why on earth does Douglass in the early part of his book spend time on an obscure a monk named Thomas Merton? It seems Merton inspired Douglass’s thoughts, but if you read between the lines of Douglass on Merton you find something close to ridiculous, a monk whose hobby was writing long letters to very famous public figures and who published a collection of these.

Douglass carefully avoids dealing with the fact of whether any of these people read Merton’s letters, or even opened them, or ever responded. The picture that emerges is one of a highly eccentric man one would not want to quote in the beginning of a book on a serious subject.

Again, of all the past books on the assassination, Douglass quotes some of the least interesting and credible, including the ponderous and, for me, seemingly delusional, The Man Who Knew Too Much, the supposed experiences of one Richard Case Nagell. Douglass never mentions the most important investigative book ever written on the topic, Anthony Summers’ Conspiracy, a work of immense credibility.

I have often written, when criticizing the many dishonest anti-conspiracy books which have appeared over the years (many of them undoubtedly financed or at least juiced-up by the CIA and its American media allies), that until we have new evidence, we are unable to make the kind of pat conclusions such books make.

We know only to a near certainty that Oswald did not shoot at Kennedy, that Oswald found himself (as an FBI informer) caught up in a series of elaborate plots with which he was not familiar, that no assassination of this nature takes place without considerable resources and planning, that Kennedy’s key wound was inflicted from the front, and that the official agencies, for whatever reason, have hidden what truth they know and certainly some key files.

This book is simply unsatisfying on many levels: read it only if you enjoy carnival side-shows.

Readers interested in my analysis of the assassination may find it in the published pieces, Forty Years of Lies and Lincoln Was Wrong. You’ll find both of them on any of several sites, including Chuckman’s Words On Wordpress.