Oliver Stone: A conspiracy involving the CIA, the Pentagon, Cuban exiles, the Mafia and the military industrial complex killed JFK.

Roger Stone: A conspiracy involving all of the above plus Lyndon Johnson killed JFK.

Rolling Stones: I shouted out, “Who killed the Kennedys?” when after all it was you and me.

Image from Oliver Stone’s JFK: In the courtroom climax, Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) explains what went down at Dealey Plaza. Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones) sits on the right behind Garrison.

Since Donald Trump became president of the United States, many Americans have been asking with fevered gasps whether the country is on the verge of fascism, or heading toward totalitarianism. Is democracy dying? Has the Republic failed? The irony is that such questions have been asked at every pivotal point in the country’s history—during the destruction of the original inhabitants of the land, during the Civil War, and at the end of the 19th century when the US occupied the Hawaiian Kingdom and waged wars overseas and became an empire. These questions arose again during WWI when military necessity crushed free speech and put dissenters in jail, when the atom bombs were dropped on Japan, when Nazi and Japanese war criminals were rehabilitated and used to fight against the Soviet Union. And the questions were raised most emphatically during the half decade of assassinations from1963-1968: JFK, MLK, RFK and Malcolm X. It is strange that Americans have this capacity to perpetually feel that totalitarianism is a threat just over the horizon but not yet upon them. They are incapable of recognizing the state of inverted totalitarianism that has already taken hold.[1] This essay, written in November 2018, looks back at the assassination of JFK fifty-five years ago and also reviews the impact of Oliver Stone’s film JFK, which appeared in 1991 at the mid-way point of those fifty-five years.

Some people who were deeply affected by the assassination of President Kennedy say that every autumn reminds them of the strange days of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 and the assassination in November 1963. The assassination date falls close to American Thanksgiving when we should all give thanks to John F. Kennedy who, alone among all his advisors, decided not to start a nuclear war. We also have to forgive him for his role in provoking the danger in the first place.[2]

The autumn season is also the time of Halloween, All Saints Day, and the Day of the Dead. It’s only natural that in this twilight season before winter humanity’s collective consciousness turns toward the darkness. There were other close encounters with nuclear war in other autumns. Exactly twenty years after the Kennedy assassination a series of events in the autumn of 1983 reminded the world about the threat of nuclear war that was felt most keenly in 1962, but was (and still is) always present. On September 26, 1983, three weeks after the Soviet military had shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, Stanislav Petrov, duty officer at a Soviet early-warning system noted the system reported six incoming missiles from the United States. He correctly judged the report to be a false alarm and is credited with having prevented a retaliatory nuclear attack. In November that year, the NATO war drills called Able Archer had an unprecedented level of realism that was noticed by Soviet military leaders. In response, they readied their nuclear forces and placed air units in East Germany and Poland on alert. On November 20, 1983, the fictional film The Day After depicted apocalyptic nuclear war for an audience of 100 million American television viewers. Finally, this autumn (2018) the US government announced it would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) that was signed in 1987, which prompted General Vladimir Shamanov, head of the Russian lower house of parliament’s defense committee, to say Russia’s response might be the reactivation of Russian military facilities in Cuba, if Cuba agreed.[3] What could possibly go wrong?

Jim Douglass, author of JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters (Touchstone, 2010)

Interviewed on TalkingstickTV in early 2000, commenting on the significance of assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X:

[They] allow us to see what’s happening today in a way that is more profound than anything else I’ve I found. How does it [the MLK assassination] relate to John Kennedy’s assassination, or Robert Kennedy’s, and then eventually Malcolm X’s as well? And I found the same patterns in all four of them, but especially the same patterns in us, and I’m talking about myself personally. I’m talking about a collective reality, the way we see things in this country, and I began to realize there’s an extraordinary denial in us as a people when it comes to dealing with the question of systemic evil within our system, right here, in much more profound ways than anybody on the left, for example, is going to acknowledge any more than any of the rest of us is going to acknowledge. I mean when it comes to the Central Intelligence Agency being involved in assassinations abroad, many people will acknowledge that. When it comes to them doing exactly the same thing in this country, that’s another thing. We don’t want to deal with that. So I think it’s a key to seeing [George Orwell’s] 1984 in action in 2000.

It has now been (in 2018) fifty-five years since the Kennedy assassination, and at the midway point of this period in 1991 came JFK, the famous film directed by Oliver Stone. The film recounts the events leading to the assassination, the murder of the president, and the aftermath. It explains the crime through the non-fiction story of the former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) who, three years after the crime, began to “wake up” and realize he could build a case around the suspects in New Orleans who were alleged to have associated with Lee Harvey Oswald (the sole perpetrator, according to the official government line) in the years before the assassination. The film is based upon Garrison’s book On the Trail of the Assassins. Garrison filed charges against New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones) for his alleged participation in a conspiracy to assassinate the president. Garrison convinced the jury that there was a conspiracy, but did not convince them that Shaw was involved in it. He lost the case but was regarded as a hero by many (but not all) Americans who applauded him for having shone a light on the absurd claims underlying the “lone gunman” theory.

The film was criticized for its many inaccuracies, but it is now possible to give it due credit, in spite of its flaws, for getting to the emotional truth of story and providing a compelling history lesson for the large segment of the population that doesn’t dive deep into history or attend lectures on modern history.

From the film JFK: The director’s rendering of the shooter behind the white picket fence.

Through monologues, the film delivered two long history lectures to audiences who thought they had come to be entertained in the usual way, and this is perhaps the most original achievement of the film. Writers of dramas have always said their mission is to instruct and delight, but few Hollywood directors have every tried so successfully to make audiences absorb so much instruction. One “lecture” is given in the twenty-minute monologue by Mr. X, a character said to be based on Fletcher Prouty, former military intelligence officer and author of JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy.[4] The other comes during Jim Garrison’s thirty-three-minute climactic monologue during the trial of Clay Shaw. The substance of these “lectures” appears in list form in the appendix to this essay.

In 1979, after Shaw’s death, Richard Helms, Director of Covert Operations in 1963 (Director of Central Intelligence 1966 to1973), admitted under oath to the US Senate’s Church Committee that Clay Shaw had worked for the CIA. This statement vindicated Garrison and showed that Shaw had committed perjury when he said in his trial that he had never had any association with the CIA.

On the left of the American political spectrum there are generally two views about why Kennedy was assassinated. Some say his intent in 1963 to end the Cold War and seek peace with the communist world was the reason he was targeted. This view says that he became a different man after the missile crisis and wanted to drastically alter the course of the Cold War. He sought détente with Khrushchev and wanted to reform the CIA, end American involvement in Vietnam and reconcile with Cuba. In June 1963, he made his famous speech at American University which seemed to indicate this new direction was sincere and radical. Many believe this is the reason he was assassinated by enemies within national security complex.

The other view holds that this talk of a new direction was just talk, the elegant speechifying that Kennedy and other presidents tailor according to what an audience wants to hear. In recent years we heard President Obama give a speech about ridding the world of nuclear weapons, and he won the Nobel Peace Prize soon afterward. Yet during his time as president he approved the one-trillion dollar plan to renew the US nuclear arsenal, and he made no progress on disarmament. If he had died shortly after his speech, like Kennedy, his early speeches would be held up endlessly as evidence that he was the last great hope for world peace.

In Kennedy’s case, his aspirational speeches may have frightened his domestic enemies into plotting against him. He was still anti-communist, but not anti-communist enough for extremists and arms makers who feared defense budget cuts. Kennedy never got a chance to act on his plan to end the Cold War, so we will never know what he might have tried to accomplish, or could have actually accomplished. It is likely that due to considerations for his political survival, rather than physical survival, he wouldn’t have tried to go too far with a radical peace plan.

Perhaps the most famous critique of Kennedy as the lost peacemaker is Noam Chomsky’s Rethinking Camelot, written in 1993. Chomsky contended that Kennedy only talked peace from a position of strength which he thought he had gained from “staring down” Khrushchev during the missile crisis:

As for the internal record, it reveals only JFK’s advocacy of withdrawal after victory [in Vietnam] is secure, and exhortations to everyone to “focus on winning the war.” It reveals further that the failure of the Diem-Nhu regime to show sufficient enthusiasm for that task was a factor in the effort of JFK and his advisers to overthrow it, only enhanced by the Diem-Nhu gestures towards political settlement and the increasingly insistent calls for US withdrawal. These were regarded as a dangerous threat, not an opportunity to carry out the alleged intent to withdraw… It seems more than coincidental that fascination with tales of intrigue about Camelot lost reached their peak in 1992 just as discontent with all institutions reached historic peaks, along with a general sense of powerlessness and gloom about the future, and the traditional one-party, two-faction candidate-producing mechanism was challenged by a billionaire with a dubious past, a “blank slate” on which one’s favorite dreams could be inscribed. The audiences differ, but the JFK-Perot movements share a millenarian cast, reminiscent of the cargo cults of South Sea islanders who await the return of the great ships with their bounty. These developments tell us a good bit about the state of American culture at a time of general malaise, unfocused anger and discontent, and effective dissolution of the means for the public to become engaged in a constructive way in determining their fate.[5]

As for the prospect that Kennedy’s “third way” Alliance for Progress offered much of an alternative to developing countries, Chomsky cites Stephen Rabe to make the point that in spite of the lofty rhetoric, Kennedy’s softer, kinder, less anti-communist third world development plan was accompanied by an increase in support for repressive anti-communist regimes in Latin America:

Through its recognition policy, internal security initiatives, and military and economic aid programs, the [Kennedy] Administration demonstrably bolstered regimes and groups that were undemocratic, conservative, and frequently repressive. The short-term security that anti-Communist elites could provide was purchased at the expense of long-term political and social democracy.[6]

Christopher Hitchens, back in the days before he supported such aggression as the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, agreed with Chomsky that Kennedy was far from being a “Camelot” figure. In the early 1990s when the “Kennedy as lost savior” theory was in full swing, thanks to Oliver Stone’s film, Christopher Hitchens commented wryly:

[The film JFK] opens with Eisenhower saying America should beware of the military industrial complex, but it fails to say that Kennedy ran against Eisenhower and Nixon from the right, accusing them of selling the country to the Russians, accusing them of giving Cuba away, inventing a missile gap that wasn’t there, and moving into Vietnam… [The film said] the country lost its innocence by losing this man [Kennedy]… A country that had been through Hiroshima and McCarthyism hadn’t any innocence to lose… like everyone else in my generation, I can remember exactly where I was standing on the fateful day when John Fitzgerald Kennedy nearly killed me because I can remember the Cuba crisis and I can remember him, so far from hating nuclear war and nuclear weapons, being prepared to risk nuclear war for a quarrel with Cuba that he was conducting by means of a hit team, originally, employing the Mafia to try and kill Castro.[7]

This theme was taken up later by Seymour Hersh in 1998 in his harsh critique The Dark Side of Camelot which covered mostly Kennedy’s reckless behavior with women that compromised national security, left him open to blackmail (see note 18), and would have ruined his political career, if the fawning press had stopped turning a blind eye to his behavior. Like Hitchens, Hersh was also critical of the film JFK for overlooking Kennedy’s connections to organized crime. Yet the point was addressed somewhat in the film when Jim Garrison is shown rejecting the notion that the assassination could have been a Mafia hit, regardless of whatever unseemly connections there were between Kennedy and the mafia:

I don’t doubt their involvement at a low level. Could the mob change the parade route? Or eliminate the protection for the President? Could the mob send Oswald to Russia and get him back? Get the FBl, the CIA and the Dallas Police to mess up the investigation? Get the Warren Commission appointed to cover it up? Wreck the autopsy? Influence the national media to go to sleep? Since when has the mob used anything but 38’s for hits up close? The mob wouldn’t have the guts or the power for something of this magnitude. Assassins need payrolls, schedules, times, orders. This was a military-style ambush (02:11:30~).

Nonetheless, Hitchens and Hersh were correct to point out that JFK was too much of a hagiography, conveniently overlooking the seedier side of Kennedy. One can still be outraged by the assassination conspiracy without having to hold onto the idealized vision of a “lost king.”

It is important to note that when it comes to the scandals in the personal lives of the Kennedy brothers, a great deal of them originated in the tabloid press many years after both men were dead and could not respond to the allegations. Some of the tales were spread by unreliable sources motivated by the desire for money and attention. It is also likely that as time passed and fewer people accepted the findings of the Warren Report, elements within government agencies found it useful to carry out the posthumous assassination of the Kennedys; that is, to knock the halo off their heads. They likely fed information to tabloid journalists to create a new and lucrative topic for publishers to feed off of. When it comes down to it, allegations of sexual impropriety are seldom provable. The parties involved may be dead, or if they are alive, one or both of them want to keep the matter secret. Without an admission by both people involved, what is left is only the circumstantial evidence of letters, diaries, interviews, gossip columns and tabloid reporting for a mass audience that will pay for salacious news, much of which is provably false or implausible. If FBI head J. Edgar Hoover had the compromising photos, where are they now? Whatever truth there is to the allegations, if the Kennedy brothers had really had all the love affairs attributed to them, they would have had no time to sustain their political careers, perform their job duties or spend time with their families. And JFK apparently did it all with a bad back and Addison’s disease. It’s also doubtful that such excesses could have been hidden from the media and not used successfully by political rivals at the time. Curiously, their reputation for scandal didn’t really take hold and become a goldmine for publishers and television networks until the 1990s. One the other hand, there is a great deal of corroboration in the accounts of persons close to the Kennedy men saying they were indeed notorious for reckless sexual behavior that limited their effectiveness in government. Some dwell on the “dark side of Camelot,” while others completely deny it or ignore it, making an equal effort to create unnecessary halos over the Kennedy brothers’ heads. See James DiEugenio’s lengthy essay, The Posthumous Assassination of JFK, for an example of the latter.

We don’t have a prayer of staying in Vietnam. We don’t have a prayer of prevailing there. Those people hate us. They are going to throw our tails out of there at almost any point. But I can’t give up a piece of territory like that to the Communists and then get the American people to re-elect me.[8]Oliver Stone seems to have considered some of this criticism since the film was made in 1991. His 1995 film Nixon portrayed Nixon burning with resentment over how the Kennedy’s had narrowly defeated him in 1960 with dirty tricks, which of course fueled his own determination to play dirty in 1968 and 1972. In the film, an aid tells him, “Forget it, Dick, they stole it fair and square.” In Stone’s documentary film and book The Untold History of the United States (2013), co-authored with historian Peter Kuznick, the assessment of Kennedy is also less flattering than it was in JFK. They note the numerous domestic enemies Kennedy had made, but do not advance a theory about who killed him or why. They simply state that the killers and their motives may never be known. They also cite many of the contradictory statements made by Kennedy, before and after the October crisis, as he discussed his foreign policy and plans for Vietnam. These suggest Kennedy never gave up his personal belief that communism had to be defeated, and that he would not sacrifice political survival by giving up the anti-communist crusade—a stance which shifted blame to American voters. They note that he told journalist Charles Bartlett:

They go on to add:

In July 1963, [Kennedy] told a news conference that “for us to withdraw from that effort would mean a collapse not only of South Vietnam but Southeast Asia.” The fact that when he did discuss withdrawal, he made it contingent upon being able to depart victoriously, also fed the belief that he had no intention of changing course.[9]

Much of the confusion on this matter could be a result of people equating Kennedy’s wish to avoid nuclear war with a decision to stop fighting communism. In 1963, Kennedy and Khrushchev sought ways to avoid a repeat of the tensions that occurred during the 1962 missile crisis, but this does not mean Kennedy would have stood aside while Latin American nations, newly independent African nations, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and The Philippines chose socialism, or even a non-aligned form of economic nationalism that threatened the interests of American corporations.

The assassination still stands out as the crime of the century, as far as Americans should be concerned. It was the event that shattered illusions of American superior virtue on the world stage. It led to public awareness of what is called in modern parlance “fake news.” The official explanation put forth in the Warren Commission, and supported still by The New York Times and The Washington Post, was just too ludicrous for the American public to swallow.

JFK, the film, was, after all, entertainment, not an academic study with pages of endnotes to support its hundreds of claims, though it was based on solid research. Oliver Stone and other staff, and some of the cast, did enormous amounts of research. Yet they had to tell the story through actors playing the roles of real people involved in the investigation conducted by Jim Garrison. The dialogue had to be made up, and certain creative freedom had to be taken in creating dramatic tension among the characters. There are valid objections to raise about the ethics of bending the truth of these people’s lives to fit the story into a three-hour film, but this should not take anything away from the great merit of the film. It reminded the old generation, and told a new generation, about an extraordinary period in world history, and it challenged people once again to wake up and stop denying the uncomfortable truth about the erosion of democracy everywhere, not only in the United States. In 2016, journalist David Talbot re-assessed his original criticism of the film by saying it should be appreciated for the “emotional truth” that it told.[10] As Roger Ebert put it in the only positive review published in a major American newspaper:

The achievement of the film is not that it answers the mystery of the Kennedy assassination, because it does not, or even that it vindicates Garrison, who is seen here as a man often whistling in the dark. Its achievement is that it tries to marshal the anger which ever since 1963 has been gnawing away on some dark shelf of the national psyche.[11]

One of the great curiosities about JFK is that it failed to receive other positive reviews in the establishment media. The campaign against it was so obvious that it re-affirmed public perceptions of a cover-up, especially since it was favored with awards and financial success, regardless of what the official voices told Americans they should think about it.

Ignoring this 80 percent of the literature, publications like the New York Times and Washington Post have listed the various theories about the JFK assassination as follows: (a) lone assassin, (b) mafia, (c) Cubans/Soviets, and (d) the “Oliver Stone movie theory.” In other words, they ignore the existence of a vast literature from which the [Oliver Stone movie, JFK] is derived and ascribe the critical theme presented within the film solely to the imagination of a film maker. The mainstream press would have us believe that the notion of a state-sponsored assassination conspiracy and cover-up came out of a movie—when actually the movie was based on a rich and revealing investigative literature.

-Michael Parenti, “The JFK Assassination: Defending the Gangster State,” Dirty Truths (City Lights Publishing,1996, 2001),

If Kennedy was not assassinated because he was a threat to the plans of radical cold warriors, and he was not Camelot, there had to be another reason. A very plausible one was put forward quite well by the comedian Bill Hicks in the early 1990s. He admitted being obsessed about the assassination because it was the pivotal moment that revealed to Americans they were now living under a totalitarian form of government, and he was amazed that so many people wanted to forget about it and “stay asleep.” His theory:

There’s a handful of people who actually run everything. That’s true. It’s provable. I’m not a conspiracy nut. It’s provable—a handful, a very small elite running these corporations, which include the mainstream media. I had this feeling that whoever is elected president, like Clinton was, no matter what your promises on the campaign trail were, when you win, you go into this smoky room with the twelve industrialist, capitalists… who got you in there, and you’re in this smoky room and this little film screen comes down and a big guy with a cigar says, “Roll the film.” And it’s a shot of the Kennedy assassination from an angle you’ve never seen before that looks suspiciously off the grassy knoll. And the screen goes up, and the lights come up, and they say to the new president, “Any questions?”[12]

This theory is plausible because it gets at the purpose of political assassination. Just as in nuclear madman theory, demonstrated violence is meant to deter. There was no modern example of a deterring assassination for Kennedy to look back on, which explains why he was not more careful and more ruthless in dealing with those who threatened his power. Instead of just firing Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, he should have followed up by prosecuting him for his crimes. This deterrence theory also explains why assassinations stopped after the 1960s. The deterrent was in place. Assassinations stopped, just like atmospheric nuclear testing stopped because it was too risky even to those in power and was no longer technically necessary. Every president since then has had the assassination in the back of his mind. As Jim Garrison says in the film:

The assassination reduced the president to a transient official. His job is to speak as often as possible of the nation’s desire for peace while he acts as a business agent in the Congress for the military and their contractors.

Perhaps in the mid-21st century, when the Kennedy assassination is as remote as the Lincoln assassination was to Kennedy, there will be another reminder about who is in charge, but as Senator Gary Hart pointed out, “There are other ways to assassinate a leader these days. You can assassinate his character.”[13] Perhaps the CIA just realized there were too many disadvantages involved in what the mob calls “wet work.” Another possible explanation is that the assassinations stopped because Lyndon Johnson was no longer president. Furthermore, in the 1980s covert operations went overt when the US government invested heavily in “democracy promotion” through the National Endowment for Democracy and other agencies that funneled money to foreign countries through layers of NGOs, publishers and research foundations.[14]

Domestic political assassinations were so passé, which is not to say that they ever stopped in foreign countries, or didn’t find different domestic targets, and this leads finally to what is so disturbing about Americans who cry over their lost paragon of virtue, their shattered democracy. As in many books and public discussions of the assassination, in the film JFK many of the characters express their shock that an elected president could be assassinated here, in America! and they cry over this tragic assault on their democracy. But in the film no tears are spilled for Arbenz in Guatemala, Mossadegh in Iran, or Lumumba in Congo, all overthrown and/or assassinated by the US before Kennedy became president.

In the film, Garrison concluded that a coup d’état had taken place in the United States, but the film, and many writers and scholars on the assassinations of the 1960s, portray this as something shocking and unbelievable, not as something that should have been viewed as the natural result of having run “black ops” in foreign lands for so long. In the film, Mr. X, the deep state source who quit after the assassination, mentions the CIA’s rehabilitation of Nazis after WWII, foreign coups and black operations, but expresses no regret about them. It was only the Kennedy assassination that prompted him to resign, and likewise only the Kennedy assassination that caused many Americans to feel that something very tragic had happened to their country. The film finally makes a reference to the suffering inflicted abroad in the final scroll that comes after the last scene with the mention of “Two million Asian lives lost.”

After the 1960s, the wars, coups and assassinations continued elsewhere. To cite just one of many examples, the film JFK came and went while Bill Clinton was president overseeing the covert American takeover of Central Africa in pursuit of control of Congolese resources. Two presidents, Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda, and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, were assassinated by the American-backed Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) on April 6, 1994. Contrary to the accepted narrative of the time, it is becoming more generally accepted and understood that the mass killings of 1994 did not occur because of an American failure to act. They occurred because of American actions—the decision that that French-backed Rwandan government needed to be eliminated by supporting an invasion by the Uganda-based RPF.[15]

Finally, one interesting question that arises from everything that has been published on the assassination is why the shocking allegations are allowed to be exposed at all. If the conspirators were capable of a cover-up, why could they not cover up everything and intimidate or eliminate everyone who would shine light on the crime? If the situation is really as grim as Jim Garrison said it was, how could a film like JFK be unleashed on a mass audience without causing a fear that the masses would rise up and overthrow the security state? How would rank-and-file soldiers be kept from mutiny against their superiors? The answer is that such permissiveness allows the sowing of doubt while the appearance of freedom of expression remains. The lack of direct suppression is re-assuring to the public. Sometimes the best cover-up is no cover-up. People like Oliver Stone can then be submitted to coordinated attacks to discredit their work and create perpetual doubt about it. They can be associated with truly delusional conspiracy theories to discredit them further. Try it yourself. Bring up the topic at Thanksgiving this year and see how popular you are. Politicians can also be intimidated from ever re-opening the investigation. However, as Roger Ebert bluntly reminded everyone in his review, there was nothing really shocking or new revealed in JFK:

With the words come images, faces, names, snatches of dialogue, flashbacks to the evidence, all marshaled to support his conclusion that the murder of JFK was not the work of one man. Well, do you know anyone who believes Lee Harvey Oswald acted all by himself in killing Kennedy? I don’t.[16]

What is intriguing is that the assassination plot had so many risks of exposure, yet it still went ahead. The conspirators must have known there would be too many witnesses hearing the gunshots from multiple directions, too high a chance of amateur photographers filming the event, too much audacity in expecting people to accept the “magic bullet” and “lone nut” explanations. What were they thinking? They could have killed him out of public view, in a way that might have even seemed like natural causes, but then there would be no way to shift suspicion away from government insiders onto a lonely, unknown member of the general public. So the execution was done in public, and to what must have been their own surprise, they learned that their outrageous lie had no serious consequences. The public swallowed it. The cognitive dissonance was too much. The political establishment and the people were powerless to change the situation. The shadow government can let books and films expose the crime, and the assassins can stare back in silent smugness with the implicit message: So you figured it out, but you are still powerless to do anything about it.

Instead of seizing the opportunity, some left writers condescendingly ascribe a host of mass psychology motivations and emotional needs to those of us who are concerned about the JFK assassination. They psychologize about our illusions of false dreams, our longings for messiahs and father figures, our inability to face unpleasant realities the way they can. They deliver patronizing admissions about our conspiracy captivation and Camelot yearnings. They urge us not to escape into fantasy. They are the cognoscenti who guide us and “out-left” us on the JFK assassination, a subject about which they don’t know a goddamn thing and whose significance they will never be able to and have not been able to grasp. I have a different name for our interests. It is not JFK worship. It’s not Camelot yearnings, as the left critics would say. It’s not big evils and conspiracy titillation, as the mainstream media would say. Our interest is born of democratic struggle, a desire to know what is going on, a desire to have rulers who are worthy of our name and the name of democracy.

– Michael Parenti, The JFK Assassination and the Gangster Nature of the State

Related articles:

Were Cuba and Vietnam distractions from the real motive for the assassination? Was the CIA more concerned about whether Kennedy might let Indonesia “go red”? See The CIA’s Involvement in Indonesia and the Assassinations of JFK and Dag Hammarskjold.

How Stalin dealt with and survived an assassination crisis and power struggles within his own government. Did he have some survival instincts that Kennedy lacked? Read about Stalin’s handling of the Kirov assassination. Or consider why Charles de Gaulle, JFK’s contemporary, was able to survive assassination attempts.

Image from the film JFK: From this bridge Ed Hoffman witnessed the shot and the shooter behind the picket fence. Because he was deaf, he was not distracted by the sounds of the first shots from the buildings up the street, so he noticed the puff of smoke by the fence then the killer tossing the rifle to an accomplice. The Dallas police and the FBI ignored his story, but it was recorded finally in 1989 in the book Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy.


Information about the John F. Kennedy assassination conveyed through monologues in Oliver Stone’s JFK

  1. The Warren Commission, the official government word on the assassination, claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. The film explained the numerous reasons this claim was impossible to believe.
  2. Fifty-one witnesses in Dealey Plaza said they heard shots from a second location, behind the white picket fence on the “grassy knoll.”
  3. The parade route was diverted from its most logical route along Main Street, and instead turned right onto Houston Street then left onto Elm Street, where the president was shot.
  4. Army and Secret Service Security were told to stand down that day.
  5. Security presence in Dealey Plaza was unusually light.
  6. Normally, a sniper in a window would have been spotted by Secret Service Snipers.
  7. Dallas officials and some police officers were known to be virulently opposed to Kennedy.
  8. Oswald was alleged to have used an Italian rifle that would have been a poor choice for the job.
  9. Oswald was known to have poor skills as a sniper.
  10. Oswald couldn’t have fired all the shots that were heard within the time-frame established by the Zapruder film.
  11. Oswald’s line of sight was blocked by a Texas live oak tree, which doesn’t lose its foliage until long after November.
  12. Oswald had a better line of sight when the motorcade turned onto Houston Street, but Kennedy was not killed until the motorcade had turned the next corner onto Elm Street.
  13. By waiting to shoot until after the motorcade made this final turn, Kennedy was in the line of sight of shooters in three positions. He was triangulated in the so-called “turkey shoot.”
  14. The Zapruder film clearly showed a shot hitting Kennedy’s head from his right side, consistent with a shot from the grassy knoll.
  15. The Warren Commission accounted for all seven wounds on Kennedy and Connally by positing a “magic bullet” that changed direction several times.
  16. Witnesses reported encountering Secret Service Agents after the killing, but official records say none were present.
  17. A witness in the lot behind the grassy knoll saw several suspicious people coming and going from the lot in the hour before the murder. He later died in suspicious circumstances.
  18. The CIA destroyed files on Oswald after the assassination.
  19. Oswald had had a strange career in which he was taught Russian during his the military service, then he effortlessly defected to the USSR, then effortlessly returned with a Russian wife, after which time he worked with anti-Castro, anti-communist groups in New Orleans. Sometimes he posed as a pro-Castro activist, seemingly to spy on pro-Castro groups or to foster an identity as a communist.
  20. Oswald may not have known for what purpose his reputation as a communist was being developed. After the assassination, witnesses gave reports of Oswald being in Dallas and Mexico. These fake Oswalds deliberately identified themselves as Oswald, allegedly to create an image of him as a communist with ties to Castro and a hatred for Kennedy. He was being set up as a patsy.
  21. Mafia figures were likely involved, but it would have been impossible for them to orchestrate the conspiracy and influence the cover-up afterwards.
  22. The operation was brilliantly layered to deceive most of the participants or keep them in the dark about the overall objective. The “five bullets, one blank” strategy of a firing squad was implemented. No one would be responsible. Some might have been told that they were merely conducting an attempted assassination with blanks, an operation meant to intimidate and frighten, but not commit murder.
  23. Kennedy’s body was quickly removed from Dallas. Legally, the autopsy should have been done by the Dallas coroner. The autopsy was done badly at a military base in Bethesda, Maryland, supervised by generals and admirals. The doctor performing the autopsy was instructed not to fully examine the wounds and to burn his notes afterwards.
  24. The Zapruder film was the unexpected element that the conspirators could not counter effectively.
  25. Why was the film kept from the public?
  26. The president’s limousine and Connally’s suit were both cleaned before being examined by forensic experts.
  27. Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner with Mafia connections, shot Oswald two days after the assassination.
  28. If the leader of the Soviet Union had allegedly been killed by a “lone nut gunman,” and that suspect had been killed two days later, would anyone in the United States believe that a coup d’etat had not taken place?
  29. The Warren Commission was viewed as fiction within the CIA.
  30. Allen Dulles was fired by Kennedy but ended up as a leading figure on the Warren Commission.
  31. Kennedy told General Lemnitzer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs that the Joint Chiefs would be wholly responsible for all covert paramilitary action in peacetime. This would have ended the reign of the CIA, but the policy was never successfully implemented.
  32. There was extreme hatred for Kennedy from anti-communist extremists.
  33. A fictitious character, Mr. X, is a renegade retired officer from an unidentified security agency. He is said to have been based on the veteran intelligence operative and author Fletcher Prouty. He refused to testify for Garrison but he encouraged him to pursue his investigation because he must finish what he has started.
  34. X tells Garrison he was diverted to another mission just before the assassination, in order to keep him from his duties that involved protecting the president while traveling.
  35. On the day of the assassination, the entire cabinet was in the Asia.
  36. A combat division was returning to the US, possibly to manage internal security if social order broke down.
  37. Telephones were down in Washington for an hour after the assassination.
  38. A large volume of information about Oswald was available to foreign and domestic media immediately after his arrest.
  39. It was common for the CIA to operate front businesses and have contacts with local businessmen like Clay Shaw.
  40. Garrison accused President Johnson of being an accessory after the crime, and benefitting from it, alluding to the possibility that President Johnson was a conspirator.[18]
  41. The film mentioned the billions of dollars gained by the defense industry because of the intensive war fought in Southeast Asia for the next ten years.
  42. Garrison made reference to the fact that there had been numerous political murders disguised as heart attacks, suicides, cancers, drug overdoses, and plane and car crashes.
  43. English poet John Harington is quoted: “Treason doth never prosper. What’s the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”
  44. There was a notable divergence between public opinion and official views held by government and media companies.
  45. In spite of government and media attempts to destroy Garrison’s reputation, he had popular support. He was re-elected in 1978 and he was given financial support from thousands of small donors, and many witnesses took great risks to come forward and testify.
  46. The American constitution was written with government in mind as the biggest threat to guard against.
  47. The jury did not convict Shaw, but they did find there was a conspiracy in the assassination of Kennedy.
  48. Clay Shaw died in 1974 of lung cancer. No autopsy was allowed.
  49. In 1979, Richard Helms, Director of Covert Operations in 1963, admitted under oath that Clay Shaw had worked for the CIA, which confirmed that Clay Shaw committed perjury during his trial.
  50. A Congressional Investigation from 1976-1979 found a “probable conspiracy” in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and recommended the Justice Department investigate further. As of 1991, the Justice Department had done nothing.
  51. The files of the House Select Committee on Assassinations are locked away until the year 2029.
  52. As a result of the film JFK, in 1992 Congress passed legislation to appoint a panel to review all files and determine which ones would be made available to the American public.


[1] Chris Hedges, “Sheldon Wolin and Inverted Totalitarianism,” Truthdig, November 2, 2015.

[2] Benjamin Schwarz, “The Real Cuban Missile Crisis,” The Atlantic, January/February, 2013.

[3] Tyler Durden, “Russia Eyeing Military Base In Cuba As US Prepares To Leave Nuclear Missile Deal,” Zerohedge, October 31, 2018.

[4] Fletcher Prouty, JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy (Carol Publishing Group, 1996).

[5] Noam Chomsky, Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture (South End Press, 1993).

[6] Stephen Rabe in Thomas G. Paterson, Kennedy’s Quest for Victory: American Foreign Policy, 1961-1963 (Oxford University Press, 1989).

[7]The Late Show,” BBC2 (date not given, probably 1991-92, near the time of the release of the film JFK).

[8] Peter Kuznick and Oliver Stone, The Untold History of the United States (Ebury Publishing, 2012), 315.

[9] Ibid, 316.

[10] David Talbot, “Insiders’ Report on the Warren Report,” Assassination and Archives Research Center Symposium, September 2016, broadcast originally on CSPAN.

[11] Roger Ebert, “JFK” (review), rogerebert.com, December 20, 1991. Originally published in The Chicago Sun-Times.

[12] Bill Hicks, Rant in E-Minor (Rykodisc,1997), from shows performed in 1992-93 (1:02:40~). The entire album or the segment cited here may be available on YouTube.

[13] David Talbot, at 27:40 in the video. Ironically, when he ran in the presidential primaries in 1987, Hart’s relationships with women were subjected to intense scrutiny in the media, the likes of which JFK never experienced in spite of all of his blatant, open-secret scandals known by the press. Hart was hounded out of the race as he had to tacitly admit that his marriage was breaking up and there was another woman in his life.

[14] Sean Gervasi, “How the US Caused the Breakup of the Soviet Union,” Global Research, November 24, 2017, based on a lecture delivered in 1992.

[15] Christopher Black, “Top Secret: Rwanda War Crimes Cover-Up,” New Eastern Outlook, October, 22, 2018.

[16] Roger Ebert.

[17] David Talbot, at 23:15 in the video.

[18] See Roger Stone’s The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ (Skyhorse Publishing, 2013) for the more incendiary argument (not covered here because it needs to be covered separately) that President Johnson did indeed have the motive, means, and opportunity to orchestrate the murder of JFK. Stone argues that LBJ blackmailed his way into the vice presidency in 1960 but was sure to be dumped in 1964 to face prosecution for corruption. Stone uses fingerprint evidence and testimony to claim JFK was shot by someone with ties to Johnson. Because this book alleges JKF succumbed to blackmail over his sexual behavior, it is likely to be ignored by those who prefer to study the assassination without looking at the skeletons in the Kennedy family closet. See a 48-minute interview with the author: LBJ and the Killing of JFK with Roger Stone (LipTV, November 24, 2013).