American Pravda: The JFK Assassination, Part I – What Happened?

American Pravda: The JFK Assassination, Part I – What Happened? By Ron Unz. Is there anything useful to be said on this old topic, after all the conflicting accounts? Perhaps there are some useful lessons about the shenanigans for power, and about the media.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a disgruntled young marine had defected to the USSR in 1959 and finding life behind the Iron Curtain equally unsatisfactory, returned to America a couple of years later. Still having confused Marxist sympathies, he’d joined public protests supporting Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and gradually turning toward violence, purchased a mail-order rifle. During the presidential visit, he had fired three shots from the Dallas School Book Depository, killing JFK, and was quickly apprehended by the local police. Soon, he too was dead, shot by an outraged Kennedy supporter named Jack Ruby. All these sad facts were later confirmed by the Warren Commission in DC, presided over by the U.S. Chief Justice together with some of America’s most respected public figures, and their voluminous report ran nearly 900 pages. …

John Kennedy, US President 1961 – 63.

Garrison is shown denouncing the “lone gunman theory” for claiming that a single bullet was responsible for seven separate wounds in President Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connolly, seated beside him in the limousine. … The seven-wounds-from-one-bullet claim was totally factual, and indeed constituted an absolutely essential element of the orthodox “single gunman” framework given that Oswald had fired at most three shots. So that was the so-called “Magic Bullet” I’d occasionally seen conspiracy-nuts ranting and raving about. For the first time in my entire life, I started to wonder whether maybe, just maybe there actually had been some sort of conspiracy behind the most famous assassination in modern world history. …

Robert Kennedy — suspicious but silent, then assassinated on the verge of becoming President:

To the extent that notions of a JFK conspiracy had ever crossed my mind, I’d considered the argument from silence absolutely conclusive. Surely if there had been the slightest doubt of the “lone gunman” conclusion endorsed by the Warren Commission, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy would have launched a full investigation to avenge his slain brother.

But as Talbot so effectively demonstrates, the reality of the political situation was entirely different. Robert Kennedy may have begun that fatal morning widely regarded as the second most powerful man in the country, but the moment his brother was dead and his bitter personal enemy Lyndon Johnson sworn in as the new president, his governmental authority almost immediately ebbed away. Longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who had been his hostile subordinate, probably scheduled for removal in JFK’s second term, immediately became contemptuous and unresponsive to his requests. Having lost all his control over the levels of power, Robert Kennedy lacked any ability to conduct a serious investigation.

Bobby Kennedy, Attorney General and almost a US President

According to numerous personal interviews, he had almost immediately concluded that his brother had been struck down at the hands of an organized group, very likely including elements from within the U.S. government itself, but he could do nothing about the situation. As he regularly confided to close associates, his hope at the age of 38 was to reach the White House himself at some future date, and with his hands once again upon the levels of power then uncover his brother’s killers and bring them to justice. But until that day, he could do nothing, and any unsubstantiated accusations he made would be totally disastrous both for national unity and for his own personal credibility. So for years, he was forced to nod his head and publicly acquiesce to the official story of his brother’s inexplicable assassination at the hands of a lone nut, a fairy tale publicly endorsed by nearly the entire political establishment, and this situation deeply gnawed at him. …

With the Vietnam War as a political millstone about his neck, President Johnson decided not to seek reelection in 1968, opening the door to a last minute entry into the Democratic race by Robert Kennedy, who overcame considerable odds to win some important primaries. Then on June 4, 1968, he carried gigantic winner-take-all California, placing him on an easy path to the nomination and the presidency itself, at which point he would finally be in a position to fully investigate his brother’s assassination. But minutes after his victory speech, he was shot and fatally wounded, allegedly by another lone gunman, this time a disoriented Palestinian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan, supposedly outraged over Kennedy’s pro-Israel public positions although these were no different than those expressed by most other political candidates in America. …

Many who threatened to spill the beans were killed. Meanwhile, insiders suspect but keep quiet to protect their credibility:

Over the years, my own writings had put me on friendly terms with a well-connected individual whom I considered a member of the elite establishment, and whose intelligence and judgment had always seemed extremely solid. So I decided to very gingerly raise the subject with him, and see whether he had ever doubted the “lone gunman” orthodoxy. To my total astonishment, he explained that as far back as the early 1990s, he’d become absolutely convinced in the reality of a “JFK conspiracy” and over the years had quietly devoured a huge number of the books in that field, but had never breathed a word in public lest his credibility be ruined and his political effectiveness destroyed.

A second friend, a veteran journalist known for his remarkably courageous stands on certain controversial topics, provided almost exactly the same response to my inquiry. For decades, he’d been almost 100% sure that JFK had died in a conspiracy, but once again had never written a word on the topic for fear that his influence would immediately collapse.

If these two individuals were even remotely representative, I began to wonder whether a considerable fraction, perhaps even a majority, of the respectable establishment had long harbored private beliefs about the JFK assassination that were absolutely contrary to the seemingly uniform verdict presented in the media. But with every such respectable voice keeping so silent, I had never once suspected a thing. …

Foreign leaders and their secret services didn’t believe the official story:

Certainly there was immediate and total skepticism overseas, with few foreign leaders ever believing the story, and figures such as Nikita Khrushchev, Charles DeGaulle, and Fidel Castro all immediately concluded that a political plot had been responsible for Kennedy’s elimination. Mainstream media outlets in France and the rest of Western Europe were equally skeptical of the “lone gunman theory,” and some of the most important early criticism of U.S. government claims was produced by Thomas Burnett, an expatriate American writing for one of the largest French newsweeklies. But in pre-Internet days, only the tiniest sliver of the American public had regular access to such foreign publications, and their impact upon domestic opinion would have been nil. …

The genesis of the “conspiracy nut” meme:

During 1966 the CIA had become alarmed at the growing national skepticism of the Warren Commission findings, especially once the public began turning its suspicious eyes toward the intelligence agency itself. Therefore, in January 1967 top CIA officials distributed a memo to all their local stations, directing them to employ their media assets and elite contacts to refute such criticism by various arguments, notably including an emphasis on Robert Kennedy’s supposed endorsement of the “lone gunman” conclusion.

This memo, obtained by a later FOIA request, repeatedly used the term “conspiracy” in a highly negative sense, suggesting that “conspiracy theories” and “conspiracy theorists” be portrayed as irresponsible and irrational. And as I wrote in 2016,

Soon afterward, there suddenly appeared statements in the media making those exact points, with some of the wording, arguments, and patterns of usage closely matching those CIA guidelines. The result was a huge spike in the pejorative use of the phrase, which spread throughout the American media, with the residual impact continuing right down to the present day.

It worked. A united media front and ruthless criticism of any dissent as conspiracy nuttiness quelled the public questions.

The author, who started the investigation as a believer in the official story and repulsed by the conspiracy nuts, concludes:

I read this as a deep apology by America’s national newspaper of record [the New York Times]. “President John F. Kennedy was indeed killed by a conspiracy, and we are sorry we spent more than a half century suppressing that truth and ridiculing those who uncovered it.”