On the 51st anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy we can see how Americans revisit this traumatic event, a political wound with resulting cultural scars, and we find an unfiinished story, a wound unhealed.
The Voice of America said JFK’s assassination “still resonates” and conspiracy theories persist. Historian Barbara Leaming published a new biography of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, which provides unprecedented detail about her reaction to her husband’s murder. Salon thoughtfully called for a new Investigation.
The shameless REELZ channel recycled last year’s hoax, “The Secret Service Man Did It” (which was a regurgitation of bogus conspiracy theory from 1991). NewsMaxTV, the video arm of the conservative news site and newcomer to the JFK story, fell for the jailhouse confession of James Files, a convicted criminal who claims he killed JFK with a gunshot from grassy knoll. (I know of no corroborating evidence for Files’s claims.)
Against such fables, the editors of Newsweek offer a smoothly written, hermetically sealed cover story, The Truth Behind JFK’s Assassination, with the more reassuring hypothesis that the popular liberal president was killed by one man alone for no reason and that the crime was solved by prescient U.S. government officials
before it had even been investigated. “The public must be assured that Oswald was the assassin,” wrote deputy attorney general Nicholas Katzenbach on November 25, 1963, the day before the slain president was buried.
Independent scholar Max Holland, author of the Newsweek piece, takes up Katzenbach’s imperative with single-minded dedication. He rings some new changes on a familiar meme favored by large news organizations for a half century: don’t worry about the fact that a popular president was shot dead in broad daylight and nobody was ever brought to justice for the crime: The System Worked.
This is Holland’s theme. It has been around since Katzenbach wrote his memo. It was memorialized in the report of the Warren Commission, issued in September 1964. It has reappeared regularly in tomes with decisive sounding titles like “Final Disclosure” (1974), “Case Closed” (1992), and “History Reclaimed”(2006). Indeed, 21 years ago Newsweek published a cover story, “The JFK Cover-Up; Its Not What You Think,” which argued, quelle surprise, that the official theory of a lone gunman was indisputable.
Of course, if this alleged truth were so indisputable, if the case were so closed, if the disclosure so final, the history so reclaimed from the ignorant, this theme wouldn’t require constant repetition would it?. Newsweek and Holland revive the well-worn hypothesis that the System Worked precisely because its truth is not self-evident. Indeed, the official theory is not particularly credible, and never has been, not with Washington insiders or with the American people. This widespread belief that JFK’s assassination shows the System Did Not Work worries the editors of Newsweek, and Holland’s essay is deemed the cure.
The new facts bolster the preponderance of evidence showing that Kennedy’s wrongful death was the result of the negligence (or malfeasance) of certain senior CIA officers…
What the New Evidence Shows?
In his Salon essay, “Why the famous murder must be reinvestigated,” Justyn Dillingham writes that “In 1966, the first national poll taken on the subject found that 46 percent of Americans believed that JFK had been struck down by a plot.”
In fact, the first poll on the subject was taken in the week after JFK’s assassination when University of Chicago pollsters asked more than 1,000 Americans whom they thought was responsible.. Sixty two percent of respondents said that they thought that more than one person was involved. The publication of the Warren Report in September 1964 temporarily drove that figure down to 46 percent.
But the Warren report’s persuasiveness was short-lived. A 2013 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 62 percent of the public rejected the idea that a single man had killed the president, exactly the same percentage as 50 years before.
What is most striking about Holland’s essay is how it ignores both the enduring public skepticism and all of the evidence that has emerged since the mid-1990s (except the new evidence provided by Holland himself) about the timing of a gunshot that missed the presidential motorcade entirely. Focusing on the missed shot is a prescription for missing the point.
Among the facts from which Holland and the Newsweek editors avert their eyes.
—A secretive office in the CIA’s Counterintelligence Staff monitored Oswald’s travels, politics and contacts for four years before JFK was killed, according to declassified records. The CIA did not tell the Warren Commission about the activities of the Special Investigations Group (SIG), which reported to CI chief James Angleton or about an October 10, 1963 cable, drafted by SIG officers, and approved by aides to Deputy Director RIchard Helms, stating that life in the Soviet Union had a “maturing effect” on Oswald.
Six weeks later, the supposedly maturing Oswald allegedly shot and killed JFK
If that allegation is true, the October 10 cable is a glaring intelligence failure. Yet the CIA officers responsible for this favorable assessment of Oswald were never held accountable. Holland and the editors of Newsweek aren’t interested in accountability.
—The FBI had targeted the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee for COINTELPRO treatment in 1963, noted historian David Kaiser in his 2007 book “The Road To Dallas.” Whether mounted by the FBI or the CIA COINTELPRO operations regularly used agent provocateurs to discredit leftist organizations.
One obvious question raised by Kaiser: Was Oswald used in a COINTELPRO operation against the FPCC? As Kaiser noted in his book, the question cannot be answered because of official secrecy. In their quest for reassuring certainty, Newsweek prefers to insulate its readers from the latest scholarship on their subject.
—Photographs taken at JFK’s autopsy are no longer in the National Archives collection of medical evidence, according to sworn testimony of medical technicians taken by the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s. The government has never explained why. Newsweek doesn’t even try.
Of course, Holland and the editors of Newsweek can say, accurately, that the new evidence does not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt that any individual participated in a conspiracy to kill the president. That is indisputably true. But what an odd and anti-historical critieria: if new facts don’t prove a certain conclusion, they need not be discussed.
Not only is such a stance anti-intellectual and anti-journalistic. Fifty years of experience proves that it is untenable. The new facts bolster the preponderance of evidence showing that Kennedy’s wrongful death was the result of the negligence (or malfeasance) of certain senior CIA officers reporting to James Angleton and Richard Helms, possibly including deceased officers David Phillips, Bill Harvey, Howard Hunt, George Joannides and others. The historical truth about the role of these men in JFK’s wrongful death cannot be established with anymore precision because of the misconduct of these officers and “national security” secrecy perpetrated by CIA officials today.
The editors of the revived Newsweek seek a tidier and more reassuring conclusion in the vain hope that the majority of Americans will stop disagreeing with the official theory about the causes of JFK’s death. They are wrong in more ways than one.