Friday, September 27, 2013

JOHN CHUCKMAN REVIEW OF ANTHONY SUMMERS' NOT IN YOUR LIFETIME (1998)


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.

The assassination planners wanted to get rid of a president who didn’t support (adequately in their view) the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and who settled the Missile Crisis in part by agreeing not invade Cuba again while at the same time creating a new reason for attacking Cuba. And the people most upset by the situation in Cuba were the various Cuban refugee terrorist groups and their key low-level handlers in the CIA: these all were totally ruthless, hate-filled people with unlimited resources and answerable to virtually no one.

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.

1 comment:

benni said...

Fascinating. As always.