Friday, September 27, 2013
Readers should note that while Not in Your Lifetime (published in 1998) was advertised as an updated edition of Anthony Summers’ earlier work, Conspiracy (published in 1980), it is almost an entirely different book. The original Conspiracy stands, in this reviewer’s judgment, as the best single investigative book ever written on the Kennedy assassination, and it is the place for anyone new to the assassination to start.
Unfortunately, I believe Mr. Summers, in this “update,” fell too much under the influence of Robert Blakey, Chief Counsel and Staff Director of the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
Mr Blakey became Chief Counsel only after the original appointee, Richard Sprague, had to step down. Sprague’s leaving had to do with his unmistakable intention to conduct a thoroughgoing investigation of the assassination, not depending on the FBI as the Warren Commission had or on other investigative agencies and not constrained in its comprehensiveness. The congressional establishment was having none of that, knowing full well that a lot of bodies lay buried, and Mr. Sprague lost his political leverage through the retirement of his key congressional supporter.
Mr. Blakey became chief proponent of “the Mafia did it,” his past government service having been involved a good deal in fighting crime and racketeering. I read Mr. Blakey’s book and other related ones, and I have never found “the Mafia thesis” convincing. Yes, some important Mafia figures were angry with the Kennedys, but would they put their entire billion-dollar industry at risk? I think not. Anyway, other activities towards the end of killing Kennedy were underway, and some Mafia figures were undoubtedly aware of them. After all, the gigantic secret anti-Cuba terror program conducted by the CIA in the early 1960s made bin Laden’s later little mountaintop operation resemble a boy scout outing. The CIA had thousands of Cuban refugees trained and armed and spent millions on attempts to assassinate Castro, run guns into Cuba, and conduct horrific acts of terror from shootings to bombings.
As with all of Anthony Summers’ investigative books, Not in Your Lifetime (1998) is well written. And there are some interesting new tidbits added to the story, such as the fact that Oswald, at one point during his publicity stunt over renouncing his citizenship (something he never actually did) at the American Embassy in Moscow, was taken behind some doors not open to the general public. But the immense detail of Mr. Summers’ 1980 book, Conspiracy, is gone, details looking into almost every interesting aspect of the assassination. And the author seems to lean towards the “Mafia did it” thesis.
But, to rephrase Bertrand Russell’s famous question about the Warren Commission’s conclusions, if the Mafia did it, why all the state secrecy? It was then just a sensational ordinary murder, and a good excuse to crush the Mafia, not a political crime discrediting some of the secret agencies of government.
Blakey also thought Oswald was involved, but I have never accepted that. Oswald – with his past connections to security services, being trained in Russian while in the Marines, sent on not-well-understood assignments in Japan, and ultimately carrying out a long fraudulent defection to the Soviet Union – fell, when back in the United States, into a murky situation he did not fully understand. He was likely working as an informant for the FBI, the agency charged by the Kennedys with closing the refugee terror-training camps in the American South following the settlement with Khrushchev of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Oswald’s Russian-defector background made him a perfect patsy for the assassins, and his FBI status made him pursue all avenues to information about training camps and those running them. After all, the key to the Kennedy assassination is communism in Cuba and the paranoid, blood-soaked drive to end it. Everything points that way, right down to Oswald’s ridiculous leafleting and his supposed trip to Mexico City, his association with anti-Castro fanatics like Guy Banister and David Ferrie, and his creating a phony, one-man chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.
I am hoping that a new edition of this book, coming out in 2013, reflects more the original approach of Conspiracy, but I am not overly hopeful since being disappointed by Mr. Summers' book on 9/11.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Well, the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination is almost here, and loads of new books on this yet not-fully-understood subject are being published.
Always having been interested in the subject, I will be reading some of the new or updated books. This is necessarily a risky task because the Kennedy assassination literature has consisted of about five-percent genuine books, with the rest an ugly swamp of disinformation, quick-buck products, and just plain stupidities.
I know that we can never fully understand the event while so many vital documents remain buried in classified government files, especially those of the CIA and FBI, but clever researchers do sometimes manage to piece together interesting new conclusions in sorting through the mounds of public evidence.
You try the best you can to not trail again into the swamp, but unless you can actually page through a book in a store, sampling its logic and writing quality – and who does that now very often with the convenience of Amazon? - you are bound to land in the muck a few times. Amazon’s reviews provide a helpful device, but experienced readers know they are larded with meaningless praises from relatives, friends, colleagues, or unscrupulous publishers trying to gin up sales. Humans do have a tendency to abuse every good thing. You really must read a number of any set of reviews with a critical eye, but then information has never been free.
I had some reason to think there might be a new approach in this book, and indeed there is, a new approach to abusing readers. Not only is the author embarrassingly uninformed, but the publisher employs a new sales gimmick: this book is incomplete, virtually ending in midstream, and you must buy volume two (and who knows after that, volumes three or four depending on sales volume?) to let the author finish.
Well, I finished with the author before he finished with me. What can you say about a writer/researcher who doesn’t know so basic a fact as that Oswald never renounced his American citizenship in Russia? The fact is that In front of State Department official (and ex-CIA employee), Richard Snyder, Oswald made a big show for possible witnesses about renouncing at the Embassy, even handing over a legally-meaningless, scribbled note. Snyder explained that the only method of renouncing citizenship involved a standard form to be sworn and witnessed. Oswald never pretended to do so. Further, Anthony Summers, in his second book on the assassination, tells us that Oswald at one point during this whole little stage play for any KGB watchers was admitted to a restricted area behind closed doors.
Yet Mr. Albarelli asserts twice that Oswald renounced his citizenship, contradicting the testimony of everyone involved including Richard Snyder, and contradicting plain logic, too, because had Oswald actually signed the papers and taken the oath he would certainly not have been entitled to return to the United States. Swearing off your citizenship is not a game, it comes with real consequences.
Albarelli pooh-poohs the idea of some highly-informed researchers that Oswald himself never did travel to Mexico City – an idea supported at least in part by the CIA’s never supplying a photo of Oswald (the Cuban Embassy there being under constant photo-surveillance) and claiming telephone-recording tapes of calls Oswald supposedly made were routinely destroyed. No, Albarelli claims Oswald went to Mexico City three times, a bizarre claim I have never come across before.
Albarelli is immersed in notions about the use of drugs and hypnotism to interrogate people and to possibly set them up for carrying out ordered acts. While it is true that the CIA did a huge number of illegal and unethical studies on uninformed people and even hospital patients - killing some of them - it is difficult to see what application this has to the Kennedy assassination. A drugged and/or hypnotized Oswald would have been no more suitable a candidate for assassin than a not-drugged, not-hypnotized one. The man was certifiably a poor shot, and the rifle he supposedly used is a ridiculous piece of garbage.
We can surmise that many pro-Warren Report books on the assassination - Gerald Posner, Priscilla Johnson, or Edward Epstein in the last book of his trilogy come to mind - were generated (either wittingly or unwittingly on the part of authors) through CIA contacts and assets. After all, many who do work for CIA assets and cut-outs never even understand the truth behind their paychecks. But I suspect many of the more outlandish anti-Warren Report books also owe their genesis to CIA assets, it being an effective method of discrediting critics to publish silly or lurid stuff that supposedly represents their views – the precise method used to discredit Jim Garrison’s investigation.
Avoid this book and its sequel or sequels because you will learn nothing worth knowing from it/them.
Monday, September 16, 2013
Why do you think this book was so widely and highly praised in the mainline press? The list of praising quotes reminds me of the spontaneous outpourings we read and heard later for Gerald Posner’s inaccurate and manipulative book on the Kennedy assassination, Case Closed.
Under the pretense of telling an off-beat romantic story, this book serves as a hatchet job on Oswald, the intent being to confirm Oswald’s character as in keeping with the Warren Report’s one-sided prosecution brief. After all, many who knew Oswald and accounts from people in Russia tell us he was not a man who could have shot anyone, much less a political figure he admired. Ms. McMillan’s brief for this book, and it does seem to have been a brief, was to counteract such first-hand observations of Oswald’s character.
Priscilla Johnson McMillan’s book is one of the most dishonest I have ever read. She employs every tidbit of selected material to manipulate her subject, Marina herself having sadly supplied much of it over time. Any conscientious biographer would be ashamed to do what is done here, even for a disliked subject
Ms. McMillan never knew Oswald: she briefly met and interviewed him in Moscow, 1959, after a mysterious tip as to his location, activity with a close-to-zero probability of being coincidental, activity never satisfactorily explained and fully in keeping with a traditional practice of intelligence services to use go-betweens to check up on the progress of their sensitively-placed employees.
Ms. McMillan had worked as a translator at the American Embassy and became a “journalist,” working for a news agency no one ever heard of, and almost certainly worked directly or indirectly for the CIA: after all, many if not most CIA contractors never even know for whom they are working. The profession of journalists abroad in the 1950s and 1960s was so thoroughly compromised by the CIA – Reuters, Life Magazine, The New York Times, and others crawled with disguised agents and contract employees – that security services like the KGB regarded it as the norm to assume suspicious connections.
As to her knowledge of Marina, well that comes long after Marina found herself in an impossible situation and had been brow-beaten into submission by American authorities. After the assassination, Marina found herself alone with a child in a strange land, a Russian speaker in a United States consumed with anti-Communist hysteria, her husband, falsely portrayed as a Marxist and traitor, having been summarily accused of killing the President and then murdered. She was quickly taken in hand by the Secret Service and the FBI after the assassination and whisked away for a long period with no public access, supposedly for her own protection, but in fact to make her understand, one-on-one, the hopelessness of her situation and the one avenue open to her to be able to remain and earn a living in the United States: to confirm whatever nonsense the FBI came up with to blacken her husband’s reputation.
And she did as she was told. Anyone who has seen old video of Marina speaking, or who has read her testimony, gets the impression of a flighty-brained or impossibly-distracted person, or indeed of a mentally unbalanced one. The effect of her words on any topic about her husband is immediate for any unbiased reader or watcher. One almost suspects her treatment by some of the drugs we now know the CIA then was spending millions on to develop and prove both as interrogation drugs and as a means to induce psychological control of unwitting people. The CIA went so far at the time as to conduct many illegal experiments on various uninformed patients and populations, ending in the uncounted deaths of quite a few.
Questions rarely asked and never answered about Marina herself include why she even was admitted to the United States at the height of the Red Scare, why the FBI wouldn’t have kept constant tabs on her as a likely Russian agent, and why she was permitted to remain in the country after such cataclysmic events?
Well, you will learn nothing about those matters nor about anything else of substance from this poor book.
There is only one valid reason for ever reading this book, and that is to understand the bizarre lengths to which American security services have gone to create a legend around Oswald. Why is that? Why should that be necessary? After all, if he was what the Warren Commission and Hoover’s FBI – who incidentally did all of the actual investigating for the Commission - portrayed him to be, he was just one more disgruntled malcontent who committed a murder.
But all clear-thinking people know that isn’t so.