Monday, September 16, 2013
JOHN CHUCKMAN REVIEW OF PRISCILLA JOHNSON MCMILLAN'S MARINA AND LEE
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.