Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 22, 2013

Who was Lee Harvey Oswald?

Filed under: JFK — louisproyect @ 3:28 pm

Twenty years ago PBS Frontline aired a fascinating documentary on “Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?” that can still be seen online. This show would have had a special resonance with members of the Socialist Workers Party, past or present. In the course of his determined but questionable attempts to establish some kind of leftist credentials, Oswald subscribed to the Militant newspaper, the organ of the SWP. In one of the most famous pictures of Oswald, you can see him in his backyard with a rifle in one hand and the Militant newspaper in the other:

backyardphot

Oliver Stone and other conspiracy theorists argue that the photo is bogus, but I have no reason to question its authenticity. It simply strikes me as just one of a number of gestures on Oswald’s part to look like some kind of leftist, but with the predictable wrong note–in this case, holding the rifle that killed JFK in all likelihood.

When I applied for membership in the SWP in 1967, it was only 4 years after the assassination of JFK and the events were still very much alive in the party leadership’s mind. After I received a notice to report to the draft board for a physical, a meeting was set up between Ed Shaw, the branch organizer in NYC, and me. He was to explain the party’s proletarian military policy to me. In 1967 this meant trying to find a way to avoid going into the army, although not out of any moral opposition. We were simply more valuable on the outside. Eventually some SWP’ers did go in and made a big “free speech” stink about the right to have antiwar discussions at Fort Jackson. From that point on, the draft tended to pass us by.

Ed was a lot different than any of the party leaders who would eventually assume the mantle of leadership. He was a merchant seaman during WWII and sported a large tattoo on his bicep. He was also plainspoken and endowed with a salty wit. During the course of our meeting, the question of the Kennedy assassination came up. Ed said that when he returned to his Washington Heights apartment the day of the assassination, shortly after an APB had gone out for Oswald, his building was surrounded by cops looking for him.

I seem to remember Ed saying that Lee Harvey Oswald actually applied for membership, but was turned down because he gave out all sorts of wrong signals. The Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which the SWP played a key role in forming, also kept its distance from Oswald. As the PBS website points out:

“He shows an interest in guns. But Marxist politics are still his ruling passion and his hero is Fidel Castro. He writes to the leading pro-Castro group in the U.S., the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), offering to start a New Orleans chapter. The committee discourages him, but he ignores them and begins printing his own pro-Castro leaflets and phony membership cards. He asks Marina to help him disguise the fact that he is the only member of his organization.”

I can only say that I am not surprised that Frontline can state that “Marxist politics” are Oswald’s ruling passion since PBS has only the foggiest notion of what Karl Marx stood for. If hero worship for Fidel Castro and brandishing firearms is supposed to amount to Marxism, I guess I was wasting my time reading all that Leon Trotsky stuff.

There was so much heat on the SWP that party chairman Farrell Dobbs sent Jackie Kennedy a telegram offering his condolences. This defensive and eminently logical move sent youth leader James Robertson into orbit. From his ultraleft perspective, the telegram was something akin to Christopher Hitchens backing the invasion of Iraq. In a couple of years he would bolt from the SWP and start a group called the Spartacist League which is devoted to this kind of batty contrarianism.

When I was in the Houston branch of the SWP in 1974, I had the assignment of forum director. Even then I had an appetite for reaching as wide an audience for socialist ideas as possible–something that clashed with the insular culture of the local party leadership. Since the JFK assassination was always a hot topic for Texans, I had the bright idea to invite somebody down from Dallas who gave talks on Zapruder’s film, something that he brought with him and which we showed as part of the meeting. He gave a talk that was in the spirit of Oliver Stone’s movie. Afterwards our branch organizer Stu Singer spoke. He made the obvious points about JFK being a capitalist politician who would have dragged us into Vietnam if he had lived, etc., but in such a strident and obnoxious way that anybody considering socialism would have probably run the opposite direction after his presentation.

The PBS documentary tried to straddle rival interpretations of Oswald. Gerald Posner, who wrote a book titled “Case Closed”, defended the findings of the Warren Commission. To the show’s credit, it did not give a platform to some of the more kooky conspiracy theorists like Mark Lane. It also came up with new documentary evidence that tended to poke holes in some of Posner’s claims. For example, Posner states that even though David Ferry (played by Joe Pesci in Stone’s film) and Lee Harvey Oswald were both in the Civilian Air Patrol cadets, they never knew each other. Frontline counters that with a photo of Ferry and Oswald at a training session and even interviews two men who were there with them. They affirm that Ferry and Oswald did know each other.

My own view is that Oswald did not act alone, but I would be loath to offer an interpretation. In general, assassinations of heads of state are extreme measures that only take place in conditions approaching civil war. No matter the dislike of elements of the national security state for the president, it is entirely implausible that they would risk everything in a foolish bid to murder him. It is especially foolish to speculate that the CIA had something to do with this since the agency is largely made up of people who saw the world in exactly the same terms as JFK, namely Yale and Harvard graduates who spent their time listening to Schubert string quartets and reading John Updike when they weren’t dreaming up ways to subvert the colonial revolution.

I have pretty much the same attitude toward September 11th, 2001. Why would the US government go to such lengths to whip the US population into a war frenzy when it took so little for them to intervene in one nation after another for the past 50 years or so? All you really have to do is claim that a country is a threat to our security and the war machine goes into action. It did not take a suicide bomber attack on a NYC building to justify the wars in Central America after all.

21 Comments »

  1. In that Frontline documentary, there is also a letter from Oswald expressing interest in the YPSL, the youth group of the Socialist Party. I personally remember that some official of the SP, after the assassination, realized that Oswald had written, but that he seemed odd and they disregarded it. Operating an addressograph machine at the SP/YPSL headquarters, there was a punched out little metal square with the name and address, which would take ink from the machine. One of the regular things that operators did was to throw out the addressograph squares of people known to be insane or disruptive. Often, people would eventually complain that they were not getting their mail. Going off topic with apologies, there was an anarchist group led by Tom Condit, a Labor Party Third Camp group led by the late Sy Landy and Joel Geier, a proto neocon group later SDUSA, all with subgroups and sub sub groups, all coming to pieces by 1964.

    Comment by Peter Myers — November 22, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

  2. I remember Tom Condit with affection. He died a couple of years ago. Here is a bit of a memoir from him:

    http://www.peaceandfreedom.org/home/component/content/article/12-general/638-tom-condit-presente

    Comment by louisproyect — November 22, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

  3. John and Robert had a way of alienating people within the national security apparatus as well as its allies in organized crime. To say that they exercised a threatening independence of thought and action does not require that one embrace the left hagiography that portrays them as early opponents of the Vietnam War and strong advocates of civil rights. So there are plenty of suspects. Conspiracy theorists have a tendency to identify perpetrators that they are already predisposed to dislike.
    For the left, there is not much to be gained by speculating, as such speculation indirectly reinforces the iconic nonsense about the Kennedys that is pervasive in our culture.

    A common criticism of those who support the Warren Commission report is that it would be impossible to maintain silence about a conspiracy to kill Kennedy. But I doubt it. The government had an institutional motivation to insist upon Oswald as the sole perpetrator, if, for no other reason, because of the fear of what a real investigation might reveal. There was the potential for a lot of embarrassment all around, if not a discrediting of the military-industrial complex during the Cold War. So, it wouldn’t have taken very many people, everyone else would fall into line, as they did. The primary significance of the Kennedy assassination is that the US government did end up losing a lot of credibility, people became more and more suspicious of the government and politicians afterwards, a cynicism that continues to this day. The brilliant television show, “The X-Files”, was a generational outgrowth of this cynicism, this belief that the official explanation is always a ruse.

    Whether he was involved or not, Oswald as the fall guy has an enduring cultural resonance, a potentially real life instance of the plot device used in film noir, most famously at the end of “The Maltese Falcon” (Gutman: “He’s like a son to me.”). Fassbinder later emphasized this theme frequently, right from the beginning in his first film “Love is Colder than Death” when his character Franz B realizes that he has been set up to take the fall for the robbery that he has planned with his friend and girlfriend. Another tragicomic example is the end of “Shadow of Angels”, where he portrays a minor character who is arrested by the police and and tossed into a room for questioning to take the blame for the murders perpetrated by the film’s connected protagonist. Viewers can imagine him being hunted down, much like Oswald, prior to his delivery. Perhaps, it is this noirish aspect that inclines people to believe that he had no involvement in the assassination.

    Comment by Richard Estes — November 22, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

  4. I wrote a novel about the JFK assassination – THE LACEY CONFESSION Llewellyn Publishing (2006) and Vantage Point Books, second printing (2012) – in which I propose the “conspiracy” was a personal one, totally non-political, not associated with the CIA, the mob, the Cubans – just the settling of a personal score. Who knows? Maybe I’m right. So many historical events have “a conspiracy theory” – a single one to which people can, and do, attach themselves, but the thing that distinguishes the JFK assassination is this – it has many conspiracy theories. There is a wealth of evidence lending at least some credibility to almost all of the many conspiracy theories that many of them cannot be dismissed out of hand. They may not be true, but can you be sure? This makes it all the more difficult to point to one theory as “the conspiracy theory” or the “Truth” behind the killing of JFK. The more options available, the less we can be certain this one or that one is true. What seems certain, if anything can seem certain, is that Oswald did not fire three shots from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository and those three shots killed Kennedy. The weapon and his skill level make that so unlikely as to be impossible. The weakest evidence is that supporting this and the single bullet theory of the assassination. And, of course, Oswald’s last public words were, “I’m a patsy.”

    Comment by Richard Greener — November 22, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

  5. What were Mark Lane’s ideas?

    Comment by Jay Rothermel — November 22, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

  6. “So many historical events have “a conspiracy theory” – a single one to which people can, and do, attach themselves, but the thing that distinguishes the JFK assassination is this – it has many conspiracy theories.”

    The interesting thing here is the that the theories emerge out of the romanticized perspective that the proponents have about Kennedy, with the forensics being secondary. Kennedy was pulling the plug on the Vietnam War, Kennedy stared down the nuclear crazies in the Defense Department, Kennedy abandoned the Cuban exiles during the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy supported civil rights . . . . Kennedy was mythic, larger than life, hence his killers had to have an epic motivation for doing it, like Brutus and the other Roman senators killing Caesar.

    But, if Kennedy was, in fact, less than mythic, as Louis and others on the left have correctly observed, then there are less glamourous possibilities. Perhaps, I am stepping on the plot of your book, but a man known for rampant substance abuse and promiscuity could have easily made many enemies based upon personal transgressions. The profusion of theories does, however, point to the assassination as a postmodern moment, one in which the grand narrative of mid-20th Century liberalism began to unravel.

    Oswald is also indicative of this, a man preserved through his writings, pictures and video, yet unknowable, eternally mysterious. He is therefore a sort of Zelig, CIA counterintelligence agent, pro-Cuban leftist, peculiar for his foreign travels when such travels, especially to the USSR, were rare, and, in a more mundane fashion, a man who could just never find his place in life. In this, he can be easily rendered as an American Franz Biberkopf. It is interesting that there are supposedly still many records related to the assassination that still haven’t been released, and Oswald apparently features prominently in them. One thing that tends to be forgotten is that Oswald isn’t, strictly speaking, Kennedy’s assassin, as news headlines over the last week tell again and again. He was never tried for the crime, and, thus, never convicted.

    Comment by Richard Estes — November 22, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

  7. What only few have noticed is that Oswald is ALSO holding a copy of The Worker the name of the CPUSA newspaper after the Daily Workers took a hiatus and before the The Daily Worker started publishing again in 1968. But the paper is partly obscured and thus the focus on The Militant

    Comment by David Walters — November 22, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

  8. This bloke reckons that Cuba did it .

    Comment by Dr Paul — November 22, 2013 @ 10:30 pm

  9. Sorry — the URL disappeared: try here.

    Comment by Dr Paul — November 22, 2013 @ 10:31 pm

  10. I knew Robert Anton Wilson a bit. He did huge amounts of research into Kennedy assassination and concluded it was a mob hit. I agree.Two gangs had a war. One gang was started by the president’s father. The other gang probably thought RFK going after them after Giancana helped deliver Chicago and the election was a bit over the top.

    I think there was probably a specific incident or specific fear of something that was about to happen that led to the assassination. Then again, ‘revenge is a dish best served cold.’

    Comment by Bob Morris — November 23, 2013 @ 4:27 am

  11. I’m no fan of the Sparts but you should at least describe their origins honestly. Robertson and several others created an opposition caucus within the SWP called the Revolutionary Tendency that opposed, among other things, the SWP’s lack of participation in the Civil Rights Movement and the characterization of Cuba as a “healthy workers state” (though somehow one without a workers’ council anywhere in sight). That tendency was expelled. Robertson didn’t “bolt,” he was kicked out. Robertson and comrades then published the Spartacist journal and tried to link up with the International Committee for the Fourth International, but they were rejected from that body. Only after all of that did they form their own organization, the Spartacist League.

    Comment by Steve Oh — November 23, 2013 @ 11:58 am

  12. Some people have obviously commented here without actually having watched this Frontline documentary. That’s a shame. I’ve watched it very carefully 3 times now. Once back in ’93 and twice this week.

    This documentary has cemented my conclusion that Oswald was indeed the only shooter & that there was no conspiracy necessary as he was the only entity with both the motive & the opportunity at that moment in time.

    His motive was not only an unhealthy obsession with being a “famous man” as this documentary shows but also his hatred of those who would harm the Cuban Revolution which he viewed as sacred.

    Here’s the undisputed facts.

    He was working there that day on that floor largely unsupervised. He bought the murder weapon mail order & then actually brought the murder weapon there that day wrapped in brown paper which he said were “curtain rods” as his carpool driver neighbor testified, the weapon which was found at the scene.

    He was an above average marksman in the Marines from start to finish of his service. Some mis-informed people talk about his “inability” but the FACT is all records show he was an EXCEPTIONAL shot. Get that. He was in the 90th percentile of marksman. What are the odds that a dead eye shot of that caliber who worked in that place on that floor on that same day he brought that rifle with that pro-Cuban motive obsessed with making his mark on history after reading the maps in the paper of the motorcades route didn’t shoot that bastard philandering anti-communist President who only won that election thanks to Mayor Daley in Chicago getting stiffs to stuff ballots.

    Every test (and I’ve been obsessed with them for 35 years) has proven an above average marksman can get off 3 accurate rounds in 8 seconds. Conspiracists talk about 6 seconds but that’s nonsense. It was 8 seconds per numerous scientific studies.

    There’s never been a single scientific study refuting the shots coming from the 6th floor corner window but there has been a half dozen scientific reinactments proving the 6th floor corner window was the exact angle the shots came from which corroborates multiple eye witnesses seeing the rifle being withdrawn from that window after the last shot.

    Moreover, the couple of scientific studies proving why there was nothing magical about that one mysterious bullet came to the same conclusion which centers on the crucial fact that the Governors seat in front of JFK sat some 6 or 8 inches lower than the Presidents and thus every trajectory calculation made perfect scientific sense of the bullet’s path.

    This week there was also another scientific based documentary which gave a thorough account of the missing 3rd or “lost bullet”. Google “lost bullet” and watch some science wither away conspiracy: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/explorer/galleries/explorer-jfk-the-lost-bullet-pictures/#triple-underpass-39917

    Ask yourself this. Why if he wasn’t the shooter would he have abandoned his shift & fled the scene after a few minutes (actually he fled just after a cop asked him “who are you?” and a supervisor said “He’s OK, he works here.” then jumped on a public bus that quickly got stuck in traffic so he jumped off the bus and hailed a cab which drove him home where he grabbed a pistol and then a few minutes after that shot a cop 4 times dead? The first three shots were from one side of the car then he walked away but then turned around and walked back to where the cop was lying and fired one more shot point blank into his skull. What kind of “patsy” would do that? Think about it. What would motivate an innocent man to throw his life away killing a nobody Dallas cop unless he knew he already threw his life away getting famous by killing JFK?

    Note also that in virtually every life long interview when asked an uncomfortable question Oswald’s answers were always evasive when only a “yes or no” was expected, the most famous being when he was asked “Did you shoot the President?” and instead of saying “No!” he simply responds: “I haven’t been charged with that”. That type of non-denial-denial typifies Oswald who on close scrutiny is not such a riddle, nor an enigma & definitely not a mystery although he is a rare breed and here’s why.

    As the late Alexander Cockburn (who agreed 100% with me on this subject) once wrote, and I’m paraphrasing here: “Oswald was the rare example of a successful left wing terrorist, since historically most successful terror is reactionary violence.” I’ve never been able to get that great thought out of my mind!

    To my dear African-American friends & fellow activists please note that L. Proyect deserves considerable credit here for pointing out something I never understood but long suspected — that JFK went out of his way & made it his mission to appoint Cracker Ass Federal Judges to the bench in order to ultimately thwart & prolong the agony of the Civil Rights struggle, nevermind greenlighting the wiretapping & bugging for potential frame-ups of MLK.

    My bad for still not having read the read the book by Sam Marcy: “The Klan and the Government: Foes or Allies?”
    http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Klan_and_the_Government.html?id=yFs3AAAACAAJ

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 24, 2013 @ 2:13 am

  13. Louis seems to play two sides of this famous mystery at once: on one hand the SWP believed something was wrong with this dude. He was making a cover with his weird photo-op. Yet on the other hand, Louis writes that the security apparatus “entirely implausible that they would risk everything in a foolish bid to murder him”, and talks about how they saw the world the same way and listened to classical music, etc.. Certainly this is true about many of the staff, but there must be another group that does not like classical music.

    The fact is, once you say Oswald was just using Marxism as a cover and was not alone, you have to ask why he was doing that and what conclusions that leads to.

    Comment by Rakovsky — November 26, 2013 @ 4:09 am

  14. Michael Parenti’s 1996 article that challenges the official story of what happened on 11/22/63 (which was recently reposted at the following link ( http://www.michaelparenti.org/excerpt_the_jfk_assassination_defending_the_gangster_state.html ) included the following facts about who Oswald was:

    “Let us focus on just a small part of the immense brief that has been assembled by investigators. Consider the background of Lee Harvey Oswald. Over the decades to this very day, mainstream commentators have been telling us that Oswald was an incompetent `loner’ and not very bright. Gerald Posner, transforming himself into an instant psychiatric expert, announced that Oswald `had a very disturbed childhood, and he was a passive-aggressive.’ A passive-aggressive assassin? He was also repeatedly labeled a `loner’ and a `leftist.’ The truth is something else.

    “Lee Harvey Oswald spent most of his adult life not as a lone drifter but directly linked to the U.S. intelligence community. All of his IQ tests show that he was above average in intelligence and a quick learner. At the age of eighteen in the U.S. Marines he had secret security clearance and was working at Marine Air Control in Atsugi Air Force Base in Japan, a top secret location from which the CIA launched U2 flights and performed other kinds of covert operations in China. The next year he was assigned to El Toro Air Station in California with security clearance to work radar.

    “Strange things began to happen. While at El Toro, Oswald emerged as a babbling Russophile and a “`ommunist.’ He started playing Russian language records at blast level in his barracks and addressing his fellow Marines in Russian, calling them `comrade.’ He read Russian books and hailed Soviet Communism as `the best system in the world.’ If Oswald was a Soviet or a Cuban spy, as some people now claim, he certainly had a novel way of building a cover.

    “Philip Melanson, author of Spy Saga, a book about Oswald’s links to intelligence, reminds us that the U.S. Marine Corps in 1958 was not exactly a bastion of liberal tolerance and freethinking. But in this instance, for some strange reason, Oswald’s Marine commanders did not seem to mind having a ranting commie sympathizer in their midst. In fact, he kept his security clearance and retained access to a wealth of sensitive radar information and classified data from secret facilities!

    “Other odd things happened. In February 1959, Oswald failed the Marine Corps proficiency test in Russian. Six months later he had developed some fluency in that language. In 1974, a document classified by the Warren Commission–and dislodged mostly by Harold Weisberg’s legal efforts–revealed that Oswald had attended the U.S. Army’s School of Languages at Monterey. Monterey is not open to anyone who just happens to have a language hobby. One is sent by the government, for training in a specific language pertaining to a specific assignment. Oswald learned Russian at Monterey.

    “Another curious thing: Oswald applied for an early dependency discharge from the Marines because his mother had injured her foot–the accident had occurred a year earlier. He was released one week after putting in his request, a decision so swift as to astonish his fellow Marines.

    “Luxury Defection

    “Oswald then `defected’ to the USSR, but how? Melanson notes that such a trip would have cost at least $1,500 in those days, but Oswald’s bank account showed a balance of $203. And how did he get from London to Helsinki on October 11, 1959, when no available commercial flight could have made it in one day? He must have had some kind of private transportation to Helsinki.

    “Once in Russia, he went to the U.S. embassy and openly renounced his U.S. citizenship, declaring that he was going to give military secrets to the Soviets. Embassy officials made no effort to detain him. As the KGB files opened in 1991 show, the Soviets kept him under constant surveillance. KGB defector Yuri Nosenko, who had been responsible for investigating every contact Oswald made in the USSR, reported that the young American had never been associated with Soviet intelligence and that the KGB suspected he was connected with U.S. intelligence.

    “While in Russia Oswald belonged to a gun club at the factory in which he worked, though he showed no interest in guns. He reportedly used to join in rabbit shoots but could never score a hit. Someone would have to stand behind him and shoot the rabbit while he was firing. His performance became something of a joke among his co-workers. His marksmanship in the U.S. Marines had been no better.

    “U.S. intelligence mysteriously departed from normal procedure and made no damage assessment of Oswald’s `defection,’ or so they claimed. Another odd thing: after two-and-a-half years, Oswald’s sudden request to return to the United States was immediately granted by U.S. officials–all this after he had threatened to give away state secrets to the Soviets. Instead of being arrested for treason, Oswald was accepted with open arms by U.S. authorities.

    “The CIA claimed it had no record of debriefing him and was never near him. Their explanation before the Warren Commission was that there were so many tourists coming in and out and there was nothing particularly unusual about Oswald that would have caught their attention. One might wonder what was needed to catch the CIA’s attention.

    “Yet, CIA officials claimed they had suspected all along that he was a Soviet spy–which makes it even more curious that they did not debrief him. In fact, they did debrief him in Holland. But being so eager to cover up any association with Oswald, they could not recognize how in this instance the truth would have been a less suspicious cover than the improbable lie they told about never noticing his return.

    “State Department officials also behaved strangely. They paid all travel and moving expenses back to the United States for Oswald and his wife. Without a moment’s delay they gave him back his passport with full rights to travel anywhere in the world. Another curious thing: his wife was exempted from the usual immigration quotas and granted immediate entry. Years before she had belonged to the Soviet Komsomol, the Communist youth organization, which automatically would have barred her from the United States. Yet in violation of U.S. immigration laws, she was allowed into the country with Oswald.

    The FBI/CIA “Leftist”

    “In Dallas, Lee Harvey Oswald settled under the wing of White Russian emigre’ and former cavalry officer George de Mohrenschildt, an aristocratic reactionary and an associate of oil millionaires H. L. Hunt and Clint Murchinson and other Dallas economic elites. In de Mohrenschildt’s telephone book was found the name of George `Pappy’ Bush. A correspondence existed between Bush Sr. and de Mohrenschildt indicating that they were personal acquaintances.

    “De Mohrenschildt and his wife Jeanne were identified by the Warren Commission as the people closest to Oswald just before the assassination. An investigator for the House Select Committee, Gaeton Fonzi, noted, `Given his background, it seemed strange that de Mohrenschildt would have spontaneously befriended someone with the look of a working-class drifter like Lee Harvey Oswald.’ That was not the only strange thing about de Mohrenschildt. He also was part of a network of ex-Nazis contracted by the CIA.

    “A CIA memorandum written not long after Oswald returned from Russia advised de Mohrenschildt on how to handle the young `defector.’ De Mohrenschildt also had a close friendship with J. Walter Moore, who was an agent of the CIA’s Domestic Contacts Division. As de Mohrenschildt told one investigator just before his sudden death, it was Moore who encouraged him to see Oswald. Investigator Jim Marrs observes in his book Crossfire: `The CIA memos, Moore’s closeness, and de Mohrenschildt’s own testimony all confirm that a certain relationship existed between the CIA and the man closest to Oswald in early 1963. While this does not necessarily involve the Agency in a plot to kill Kennedy, it raises questions about what Agency officials might have known regarding such a plot.’

    “Oswald embarked on a series of short-lived public forays as a `leftist.’ He started a one-person Fair Play for Cuba chapter in New Orleans, without ever bothering to recruit another member. He never met with a single member of the Communist Party or any other left organization, although he wrote friendly letters to the Communist Party and to the Socialist Workers Party (two groups that were not even talking to each other) supposedly asking for instructions. Again, all this was a puzzling way for a Soviet agent and would-be assassin to act.

    “He blazed a highly visible trail as a `leftist'” agitator: managing to get exposure on local T.V. in New Orleans after getting involved in some fistfights while leafleting. One of the leaflets he distributed showed that his organization was on Camp Street in the very same building that a former FBI bureau chief, Guy Banister, had his office. Banister retained close working relations with émigré’ Cuban right-wing groups and with Lee Harvey Oswald.

    “When he wasn’t playing the communist agitator, Oswald spent most of his time with rabid anti-communists, including émigré Cubans and CIA operatives. Besides Banister and de Mohrenschildt, there was David Ferrie. (In his book First Hand Knowledge, Robert Morrow, a conservative businessman and CIA operative, tells how he served as a pilot on CIA missions with Ferrie.) Oswald also knew businessman Clay Shaw who was CIA, as later confirmed by the agency’s director Richard Helms. These were hardly the sort of friends we would expect for a loudmouthed “`arxist revolutionary”‘ just returned from giving away classified secrets in the USSR.

    “The attorney general of Texas, Waggoner Carr, told the Warren Commission that Oswald was an FBI informant or contract agent, with assigned number S-172 or S-179. For his services, Oswald was paid two hundred dollars a month by the FBI. Orest Pena, a Cuban émigré and FBI informant, told Mark Lane that Oswald worked for the FBI and met with FBI personnel from time to time.

    “If not paid by security agencies, how did Oswald support himself during his forays into New Orleans and Dallas? He was employed for a brief time in 1962 by a printing company in Dallas that specialized in highly classified government work, including the making of secret maps of the Soviet Union for U.S. Army Intelligence–again hardly the sort of job to assign an openly pro-Soviet communist agitator. Oswald’s overall employment record and income sources remain something of a mystery. To this day, the U.S. government refuses to release his tax returns, with no explanation as to what issue of national security is at stake.

    The Impossible “Assassin”

    “We are asked to believe that Oswald just happened to get a job at the Texas School Book Depository five weeks before the assassination, when it had not yet been publicized that Kennedy’s limousine was going to pass in front of that building….

    “We are asked to believe that Oswald, who could not hit the side of a barn, chose a Mannlicher-Carcano to kill the president, a cheap, poor performance Italian rifle that the Italians jokingly said never killed anyone on purpose and caused them to lose World War II.

    “We are asked to believe that Oswald would forgo shooting President Kennedy when he had a perfect target of him as he rode right down Houston Street directly toward the Texas School Book Depository. Instead he supposedly waited until the car had turned down Elm Street and was a half-block away. With the President’s head and shoulders barely visible through a tree, Oswald supposedly fired rapidly, getting off three shots in record time, one missing the limousine by twenty-five feet and the other two hitting their target with devastating accuracy and record rapid succession, a feat the best marksmen in the country found impossible to emulate even after much practice and after the sights on the Mannlicher-Carcano were properly reset in a laboratory.

    “We are asked to believe that Oswald then left his rifle at the window, complete with a perfect palm print and, they now say, his fingerprints (but no fingerprints on the clip or handloaded cartridges), along with three spent shells placed on the floor neatly in a row, in a manner no spent shells would fall.

    “We are asked to believe that a bullet would go through John Kennedy, pause in mid-air, change direction, and wound Governor Connally in several places–something Connally never believed–and reappear perfectly intact wedged into the flap of a stretcher in Parkland Hospital, supposedly having fallen out of Connally’s body but obviously pushed into the flap by hand. (It became known as the “magic bullet” among skeptics.)

    “We are asked to believe that only three shots were fired when in fact six bullets were noted: one that entered the president’s throat and remained in his body; the second extracted from Governor Connally’s thigh; a third discovered on the stretcher; a fourth found in fragments in the limousine; a fifth that missed the president’s car by a wide margin, hitting the curb according to several witnesses, and wounding onlooker James Thomas Tague on his face; a sixth found in the grass by Dallas police directly across from where the president’s vehicle had passed.

    “The Secret Service took possession of the presidential limousine, ignored reports in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (12/1/63) that there was a bullet hole in the windshield, and rejected all requests to inspect the vehicle. The inside of the limousine, a trove of physical evidence, was then quickly torn out and rebuilt, supposedly with no thought of covering up anything.

    “We are asked to believe that Kennedy’s autopsy was innocently botched and his brain just accidentally disappeared. The X-ray purporting to be Kennedy’s head now shows a rear entry wound, different from the rear exit wound all the pathologists saw. Someone cropped the jaw out of the picture, so there is no opportunity to determine by dental identification if the X-ray really is the president’s.

    “We are asked by people like Max Holland, writing in the Nation, to believe that the `infamous picture of Oswald posing with rifle in hand'” is not a forgery. Actually there are two pictures, both proven composites, with bodies of different sizes but with the identical head that matches neither body, and with shadows going in incongruous directions. Who fabricated these well publicized photos?

    Rubbing Out the Witnesses

    “The supposedly `lone leftist assassin,’ Lee Harvey Oswald, was a friend of Jack Ruby, a gangster with links to Cuban exiles and the FBI. Ruby once worked for Congressman Richard Nixon and the House Un-American Activities Committee in Chicago when his name was still Jack Rubenstein. He also worked for the FBI in Dallas during the years before the JFK assassination. Ruby claimed he was just an ordinary private citizen, moved to kill Oswald in order to avenge the suffering Oswald had inflicted upon the Kennedy family.

    “While in prison Ruby pleaded with the Warren Commission to be taken to Washington where he could tell the whole story. He feared for his life and claimed “they are killing me here.” Indeed, he died in jail, supposedly of natural causes.

    “We are asked to believe that when twenty-four persons who had information related to the case met violent deaths, this was a colossal coincidence. In 1978, after the House Select Committee investigation got underway, Anthony Summers records that another sixteen connected to the case died violently. This too supposedly was just a coincidence. This latter group included George de Mohrenschildt, killed by a gun blast to the head three hours after a House Assassinations Committee Investigator had tried to contact him. De Mohrenschildt had been worried that he would be murdered. His daughter Kressy Keardon believes it `impossible’ that he shot himself. The sheriff’s office in Palm County, Florida, found the shooting “`ery strange.’ But it was ruled a suicide. Generally, people who voice fears that they might be killed do not then kill themselves.

    “William Sullivan, number three man in the FBI, was secretly on the CIA payroll, according to CIA operative Robert Morrow. He was scheduled to appear before the House Select Committee but before he could do so, he was shot outside his home by a man who claimed to have mistaken him for a deer. The killer was charged with a misdemeanor and released in custody of his father, a state policeman. While under government protection, mobster Sam Giancana was shot dead a day before he was to testify before the House Select Committee about mob and CIA connections. One of the things that emerges from this whole story is the widespread linkages between the CIA and organized crime, between the gangsters and the gangster state.

    “When the House committee was putting its staff together, it was heavily pressured to employ only persons acceptable to the CIA, the very agency it was supposed to investigate. In his book Plausible Denial, Mark Lane reports that when Bernard Fensterwald, an independent minded Washington lawyer, was offered the job of general counsel, a CIA representative called on him and said that the Agency would hand him `his head on a platter’ if he took the assignment. Fensterwald turned it down.

    “Is the Kennedy assassination conspiracy just a lot of hoopla kicked up by `conspiracy buffs’? Most of the independent investigators I have met seem to be serious politically literate people. Their struggle to arrive at the truth is not impelled by a love of conspiracies but by a concern for the political and historic importance of the case. They seek the truth no matter how dirty it might be. That process of confronting the machinations of the national security state is not a conspiracy hobby. It is an essential part of the struggle for democracy.

    “Let me end with a summary quotation by John Judge, which he was kind enough to send me by Gmail:

    85% of the American public reject the findings of the Warren Commission report, as did the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978, finding instead a “probable conspiracy” in the murders of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King. No federal investigation or action followed. We are the mainstream, not the dissent. Oswald’s role as a patsy, not a shooter, is supported by all the best evidence that has been released. The real evidence clearly points to a crime and a cover-up that reaches to the highest levels of the U.S. government and military.”

    Comment by protestfolk — November 26, 2013 @ 5:35 am

  15. The top marksmen in the U.S. military we’re able to replicate what Oswald did. The rifle, if you ever tried it, is a piece of crap bolt action. You can barely get off 3 shots in 8 seconds, let alone on a moving target hundreds of feet away. Being a marksman in the U.S. military is the lowest grade, and if Oswald had been considered a good shot he wouldn’t have been operating radar.

    Oswald spent a lot of time hanging out with the anti-Cuba crowd too. It’s hard to say where he got his money from to survive, and in that way, seems like a spook. We know that both Russia and Cuba were suspicious of him, and thought he was a potential spy.

    Finally, just watch the video. The kill shot shoes Kennedy’s head snapping back.

    All in all, it was probably a faction within the CIA who ran the operation. It wouldn’t have taken many people.

    Comment by jeff — November 26, 2013 @ 7:35 am

  16. Nonsense. Prove it. Every replication of the event has successfully had a marksman repeat that scenario. I’ve watched multiple re-enactments.

    Oswald was in the 90th percentile of Marine marsksman.

    Why were 3 spent shell casings next to the rifle?

    Why did the young black guy & 2 others say they saw a rifle withdrawn from that exact window?

    Why did the neighbor who drove him to work say he had the rifle wrapped in brown paper which Oswald said were curtain rods? I mean what kind of patsy takes a rifle to work?

    Why would a patsy take a cab home, grab a pistol & then shoot a cop just after the President was killed?

    His head snapped back because he was already looking down with his hands around the hole in his throat. A neck can only go so far forward before it either breaks or ligamants snap it back like rubber bands.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 26, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

  17. I think that the evidence that Karl provides pointing to Oswald as the lone gunman is much stronger than the evidence pointing away from that. What I do think is possible is that people high up in the Military Industial Complex were aware that President Kennedy would be driven in an open limo at a slow speed right in front of a man who might try to kill him and they did nothing to prevent such a think from happening. But trying to prove that in court would likely be impossible. Oswald did just get the job their clearly by accident unless, unless a person wants to believe that two Texas housewives were part of the conspiracy, only one month before the day of the Kennedy visit. People working for the FBI new that Oswald was working there. Perhaps those people did not consider him a threating individual. Did these FBI agents tell the Secret Service that Oswald worked along the Kennedy route? Can it be proven that the FBI agents contacted the Secret Service? Would it be fair to think that the FBI considered Oswald to be a potential espionage threat but not a potential assassin? If so they might have not thought that it was neccessary to share anything with the Secret Service.

    Comment by Curt K. — November 27, 2013 @ 9:51 pm

  18. Here’s a response to the ‘it was Cuba’ article to which I gave a link above:

    The main problem with this conspiracy theory hypothesized by Charles Cogan in his H-Diplo essay from Nov 22nd and supported by William Keylor is that it does not respond a key question: If Fidel was behind the plot to kill Kennedy and his intelligence services were so efficient and recruited Oswald, why would he show his hand so crudely and clumsily by allowing him to be linked to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans in such a blatant way and openly visiting the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City?

    I don’t know where did Cogan got his information about Oswald being issued a visa after November 22-24. I have not seen any evidence on that. But again, why would the Cubans issue a visa to a dead man who had just killed the President of the United States? At the time of Kennedy’s murder I worked at the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s North American Department. I had the opportunity of speaking both with the Consul in Mexico who talked to Oswald and the officer in Havana who authorized visas. They both told me that Oswald was simply too suspicious a character to be given a visa in 1963. Remember, there was practically an all-out undercover war between both countries.

    Jean Daniel, the French journalist who interviewed Kennedy and Fidel at the time, was present when Fidel heard the news from Dallas and his first reaction was: They will try to blame us. Later on, in 1963, he asked to be interviewed by investigators from the Warren Commission. Philip Shenon, a lawyer with the Commission, was sent to Havana, interviewed Fidel and came out with the clear conclusion that he had nothing to do with the murder. He has recounted it in his recently published book “A Cruel and Schocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination” (New York: Henry Holt, 2013). The best source on Cuba-Oswald angle as seen from an American scholar, however, is still David Kaiser’s “The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy” (Cambridge, The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2008).

    David’s main hypothesis is much more credible: those involved in the assassination needed a good scapegoat to point at and be believed. None fit that role better than Fidel Castro. On the other hand, the Cuban side of the story has been told by General (Ret) Fabián Escalante, at the time head of the Cuban counter-intelligence service. He has published a trilogy that he calls “The Secret War”, in which he recounts, with the help of original documents, the story of all the CIA plots against the Cuban governments up to 1963. The last volume is “JFK: The Cuba Files. The untold story of the plot to kill Kennedy” (Melbourne, Ocean Press, 2006). His story supports David Kaiser’s hypothesis.

    A final point about Cogan’s assertion that Fidel Castro is a reckless individual. If that were true, why has he survived so many plots against him? Reckless people usually end up being the victims of their own recklessness. Recklessness might be better applied to Operation Mongoose after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. But then, again, Kennedy was trying to approach Fidel when he was assassinated and Fidel knew it. Another reason for him not to do what Cogan accuses him of doing, without very much concrete evidence. Assassinating Kennedy could have produced that which Castro had been trying to avoid all the time and was his worst nightmare: a U.S. invasion of Cuba.

    Ambassador Carlos Alzugaray (PhD), Professor (Retired), Havana University, Member of the Editorial Board of Temas (Topics), a Cuban social science and humanities quarterly

    Comment by Dr Paul — November 28, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

  19. The idea that Castro had a hand in killing JFK is as absurd as the idea that Castro facilitates cocaine traffickers.

    Both are Gusano inspired myths.

    Comment by Kark Friedrich — November 28, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

  20. When JFK was assassinated, I was living in Paris. I was not yet involved in any left (or Trot) group (though three years later I did join the YSA and sent seven years in the Trot movement). The night of the assassination, I happened to be enjoying a dinner at Place Clichy with a former girlfriend and her family, and French television immediately sprang a two-hour special on JFK. My friend’s father sent down to his cave for a vintage 1944 Bordeaux which we consumed while watching the special and guessing at what it all meant. The next morning, as I exited the Metro on the Champs-Elysees, the kiosk newspapers blared headlines in gigantic type with a photo of Oswald: “Je suis Marxiste.” Even though I was a neophyte in left politics, I knew that this was a Big Lie. Marxists do not resort to murder. The lies and confusion have persisted ever since. Surely this has something to do with the interests of the ruling class wanting to keep the truth hidden away. But even then I knew that Kennedy was an imperialist pig. and wrote my mother saying “Hell roast the rotten bastard.”

    Comment by David Thorstad — October 28, 2017 @ 7:44 pm

  21. I think David Talbot’s thesis that Allen Dulles was the mastermind of the JFK assassination is plausible.
    The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government
    by David Talbot, HarperCollins, 2015

    Comment by Dayne Goodwin — October 28, 2017 @ 9:55 pm


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