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June 11, 2007

Brothers & Reclaiming History: Anyone who still believes left-wing conspiracy theories about the assassination of JFK such as Brothers should read Reclaiming History and realise that the Warren Commission got it right

Posted by William D. Rubinstein

Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
by Vincent Bugliosi
New York: W. W. Norton, 2007
Hardback, $49.95

Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years
London: Simon & Schuster, 2007
Hardback, £20

More than a thousand books have been written on the events in Dallas, Texas of 22nd - 24th November 1963, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the killing, two days later, of his accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, by Jack Ruby. A great many people will therefore question the need for two more books on JFK's assassination, despite the enormous interest which these events continue to generate around the world, forty-four years later. These two books, however, do represent where opinion stands on the Kennedy assassination, and how deeply divided it remains, and are worth a closer look.

Let me begin by making clear that I am absolutely convinced that there was no conspiracy of any kind in President Kennedy's assassination, and that Oswald and Ruby certainly acted alone, precisely as the Warren Commission concluded in 1964. The Warren Commission - established by new President Lyndon Johnson shortly after the assassination to arrive at a definitive account of what actually happened, and called after its head, American Chief Justice Earl Warren - is habitually criticised by those who have never actually read its outstanding Report, which demonstrated, in my view beyond dispute, that Oswald and Ruby acted alone.

The Warren Commission did many clever things to establish its view which are entirely omitted from the works which allege a conspiracy. For instance, it investigated Oswald's income in a comprehensive way, to see if he was indeed paid something by the assassination's "masterminds", or if his income suddenly rose for no apparent reason. Between June 1962, when Oswald returned from Russia, and 22 November 1963, Oswald received $3,665 from all sources, or $216 per month, an income probably below the borderline of poverty even in Texas in 1963, and every penny of which was accounted for from his meagre income at a variety of poorly-paid jobs. Oswald and his family were living in virtual poverty. Separated most of the time from his wife Marina, who lived in a suburb of Dallas, Oswald rented a tiny room in a cheap boarding house for eight dollars a week. My price to assassinate the President of the United States in 1963 would have been one million dollars, thank you, half paid up front, plus a guaranteed route of escape and a new identity in Australia or South Africa, failing which my lawyer has letters to be sent to the FBI, television stations, and newspapers naming names. The Warren Commission actually did all manner of clever things like this, and it is impossible to doubt that they arrived at what actually happened.

Unfortunately, my view of the Warren Report is not shared by the hundreds of "Warren Critics" who have, virtually since the day the Report appeared, propounded innumerable conspiracy theories claiming that Oswald and Ruby did not act alone but were working for, as you will, the CIA, the "military-industrial complex", the FBI, the Dallas police, anti-Castro Cubans, the Mafia, Lyndon Johnson, the KGB, or what have you. These many theories certainly had the upper hand for decades, and surveys before the 1990s showed that a majority believed that JFK was murdered by a conspiracy.

This situation prevailed until 1993, when Gerald Posner, a Wall Street lawyer turned author, published Case Closed, a best-selling work which simply demolished all of the conspiracy theories and proved to any rational person that Oswald and Ruby acted alone. Posner's work left some loose ends, and of course it did not silence the Warren Critics. We now have Vincent Bugliosi's Reclaiming History, which effectively completes the work that Posner started. Bugliosi is a prominent Los Angeles prosecuting attorney and lawyer who prosecuted Charles Manson. Since conducting a lengthy television trial of Oswald for ITV in London in 1986 - the jury convicting Oswald by a 10-2 vote - he has devoted twenty years to researching and writing this work.

The most obvious thing about it is its enormous size. It is 1612 pages long. That is, the text and index are 1612 pages long. The footnote references, another thousand pages, are contained in a separate cd-rom attached to each volume. Bugliosi examines every conspiracy theory and shows that, without exception, they are absurd or illogical. He is often hysterically funny, as with his lists at the end of the book of the forty-four different organisations, 214 different co-conspirators, and eighty-two actual gunmen whom Warren Critics have claimed were behind the assassination. Possibly the most valuable part of the book is Bugliosi's point-by-point expose of the dozens of outright lies in Oliver Stone's odious and despicable 1991 film JFK, which should be read by anyone who thinks that he is not watching the Hollywood equivalent of Joseph Goebbels. In America, where Bugliosi's work has just appeared, it is sold for $49.95 - £25 - and one hopes that when it becomes available here it remains affordable despite its size and has as wide an audience as possible.

At the exact opposite point of the spectrum is David Talbot's Brothers, which concerns the relationship of John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy, who of course was himself assassinated in 1968. Talbot is the founder and former editor of Salon, the Washington D.C.-based on-line magazine. His contention is that the Kennedy administration faced unprecedented and unsuspected hostility from right-wing forces within and without the American government, that Kennedy was killed by a right-wing conspiracy, almost certainly because he was serious about making peace with Russia and Cuba. After his death his brother, knowing this to be the case, wrestled with denouncing the Warren Report and probably would have done so if he had lived.

Unfortunately, Talbot's work strikes me as in a real sense the print equivalent of JFK, well-crafted rubbish. Talbot - needless to say - does not offer an iota of evidence that President Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, only supposition and innuendo. Although one might expect the Kennedy family above all others to want the truth known about the President's assassination, no member of the Kennedy clan has ever dissented from the conclusions of the Warren Report, even after forty-four years.

Talbot does, however, offer a sensible assessment of President Kennedy as a moderate who wanted an overall agreement with the Soviet Union. If he was indeed murdered because he was soft on Cuba, as so many Warren Critics allege, his killers must have been bitterly disappointed, since Castro is still in power, having survived eight subsequent American Presidents, none of whom, strangely enough, were assassinated. Brothers is, it should be noted, a left-wing conspiracy theory, as are the vast majority of works alleging a conspiracy. For some strange reason, many still believe that crackpot conspiracy theories are the domain of the far right. They should check out the literature on JFK's assassination as it has emerged for over forty years without a break.

William D. Rubinstein is professor of modern history at the University of Wales-Aberystwyth. He is the author of Men of Property: The Very Wealthy in Britain since the Industrial Revolution, (Social Affairs Unit, 2006).

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An excellent piece - and a very clear demolition of all the Kennedy conspiracy nonsense. You are very good on this - so why are you such a fruitloop on Shakespeare (or should I say Sir Henry Neville) or come to that evolution?

Posted by: Jonathan at June 12, 2007 11:24 AM

You, sir, and others like you (Posner, Bugliosi, etc), are obviously Blind and Stupid!

Posted by: TK Speas at June 12, 2007 03:03 PM

I am unqualified to comment on “JFK”, or even to refute the recent hypothesis that the sonnet “To a Dark Lady” was dedicated to one Martha Jones.

However, it is not in order for the first commentator to so insult the professor over his reluctance to accept the theory of evolution. Most of its voluble proponents, from T.H.Huxley to the present day, have had a concomitant religio-political agenda. I can sympathize with Huxley, since the Name of the Lord had been taken in vain over the centuries by such as Charles I proclaiming the “Divine Right of Kings” to that Anglican apparatchik William Paley proclaiming that “God is an Englishman, so behave, ye tradesmen and ye masses”. However many of the theory’s recent public protagonists seem to be those who have given their own souls to the Devil, and like the fox who lost his tail, want the rest of the world to follow suit.

Moreover, after the professor’s first open and honest enquiry concerning the theory, he was set upon verbally by a mob, apparently stirred up by the Ayatantollah Al-Minnesoti, who by his political pronunciations seems to be one of that wing of the Democratic Party whose antics persuaded otherwise sensible people to vote twice for the sort of president who recently assured the Pope that “Christians are tolerated in Iraq”.

‘Nuff said about the Mad Mullah. But while I delight in the link between Tiktaalik and the Ear, Nose and Throat department of a modern hospital, the attitude of our own “Death Eaters” (aka the British Humanoid Association and the National Scrofular Society) would put me off working in the subject of evolution.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at June 13, 2007 07:10 PM

The only problem with this theory is that, even if most conspiracy theories are problematic, there is still the fact that Norma Carcano ammunition was being produced by the CIA:

"Winchester Repeating Arms, of the US, manufactured 6.5x52 Carcano under a CIA during the early 50's. The intended use is not clear, but varies from being supplemental production for the Italian Military, use during the Greek civil-war, anti-communist efforts in Albania, etc. These rounds found their way into the surplus market in the early 1960's. The rounds supposedly used by Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate President John F. Kennedy were from this production."

And, even if Kennedy was killed by Oswald acting alone, that still does not forgive us of exposing the murderous history of the United States government and its global associates.

Posted by: James Aire at June 24, 2007 02:45 AM

According to researcher Lisa Pease, Warren Commission apologist Vincent Bugliosi was paid a million dollars to write his book. Obviously, Bugliosi is just another hack that has sold out his principles for money.

Posted by: Mary Tracy at August 4, 2007 01:58 AM
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