Thursday, December 19, 2013


I had hoped, for various reasons, that this book might offer a contribution to the study of the assassination, but, although it is fairly well written and contains a couple of small bits of interest, it is largely a dud. I say this for several reasons, the chief being that Mr. Corsi does not answer his own question, does not even pretend to answer it. But beyond not answering his own question, Mr. Corsi just gives us a core-dump of his past reading on the assassination and leaves us with that, and, indeed, many of his offerings are highly contradictory in nature and occasionally even silly.

Here are a couple of quotes from the book’s dust jacket: “[the book is] the culmination of decades of meticulous research” by a best-selling, investigative journalist. “Corsi sets a new standard for JFK assassination research….”  

Well, I could see no evidence supporting either of these claims, unless it took Mr. Corsi an extraordinary amount of time to read the books he surveys. His book is actually a survey of other people’s books and views on the subject, and, since I have read most of them, not a bad job of capturing some key points. But is that what Mr. Corsi’s book pretends to be? Not at all.

I have no objection to books which survey the literature on a subject – indeed, they can be quite valuable - but in taking the survey approach, an author is supposed to make a selection, a meaningful one, both in the books included and in the contents featured from each, and to offer a comprehensive point of view woven from the mass. Mr. Corsi’s book utterly fails in this first rule of survey literature.

Mr. Corsi has Oswald as a KGB spy, a CIA spy, a double-agent, and a number of other things at various points, leaving any sensible reader confused and dissatisfied. What I believe Oswald so clearly was is a young man who joined the Marines and was selected on the basis of his talents to be part of a “phony defector to Russia” program, one of many hare-brained schemes of American intelligence during the Cold War. Although not a CIA program, it was overseen by James Angleton, chief of CIA counterintelligence for many years, a man who was ultimately proved paranoid and was finally removed from the CIA after creating a huge, destructive internal battle over the Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko. Further, Oswald, on his return to the United States, worked as a paid informant for the FBI, perhaps looking into the training camps which Kennedy wanted closed after his agreement with Khrushchev. It was this work which brought him into close contact with the people intending to assassinate Kennedy, although I doubt Oswald ever knew their ultimate purpose, and his rather weird (by 1960s’ standards) background gave them the perfect material to mold a patsy. 

The author spends, for example, a good amount of time on Ion Pacepa, a defector from Romanian intelligence. Mr. Pacepa’s notions include a reading of Oswald’s writing (!) and other materials to conclude that the KGB was running Oswald as an agent. Not just any agent, but one who was to carry out Nikita Khrushchev’s “desire” to kill Kennedy over his embarrassment from the Cuban Missile Crisis.

For any informed person, this is a preposterous notion. First, Khrushchev actually had some grudging admiration for Kennedy and had established a backchannel of communications with the President. Second, the outcome of the Crisis was not entirely unfavorable to Soviet interests since Kennedy’s pledge not to invade Cuba again – a pledge which infuriated America’s large terrorist armies of Cuban refugees and their CIA trainers and paymasters – met a major goal of putting missiles into Cuba in the first place. Third, the Soviets at that time were the absolute leaders in creating human intelligence networks – they had many great successes - and there is no way they would use a fairly marginal figure like Oswald as a major spy, much less as an assassin since he had zero skills, experience, or knowledge of such matters. Fourth, the risks in the Soviets giving anyone the task of assassinating an American president were beyond calculation in an era when the Pentagon still bristled with madmen who would have loved to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Russia. Fifth, Mr. Pacepa had a double motive for his far-out claims: ingratiating himself with the CIA faction which was intensely, insanely anti-Soviet and his own resentments against the Soviets, coming from, as he did, a Soviet satellite country. Sixth, this view of Oswald’s position is about as far as you can get from some of the other views presented, so why bother presenting it?   

Clearly, you do not give readers a perspective with such a hodgepodge of views, but if the author’s aim was to present many views – which I actually cannot accept since there are views not represented – then it was incumbent upon him to do in each case what this reviewer has done above in the case of Ion Pacepa, present some analysis and perspective, but he does not do so.

I cannot recommend this book, although it might be of some use were someone unfamiliar with the assassination literature to use it as a beginning survey, but even there the risks of misinterpretation are considerable. Besides, there are other books to serve that purpose, books of far greater merit.

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