Editor: Please note this was written 2 years ago. It’s now the 50th anniversary and we are running a series of articles. Here’s the first one. The 2nd on CNN joining the cover-up, and the 3rd “The Big Lie”.
November 22, 1963, – 48 years ago today – was one of the most terrible days in US history. It was the day that John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
No one yet has been successfully prosecuted for his murder. Yes, Lee Harvey Oswald was caught and then killed by Jack Ruby – but to this day – no one besides Oswald has been punished for the most despicable act in our lifetime.
Plenty of us boomers remember those days. I was 15 when it happened and I vividly recall that day at Point Loma High when we heard about the shooting. I felt sick and literally tossed my lunch into the garbage can at school. And I was sitting with my father a day later in our Point Loma home when we both witnessed Jack Ruby assassinate Oswald live on national television.
So, honor the dead president by studying and learning about not only who killed him and how, but more importantly, why was he killed. Why was Kennedy taken out?
There’s been plenty of books written on the assassination and the theories and conspiracies over the decades.
But I happen to recommend Oliver Stone’s excellent academy-award winning 1991 movie “JFK” for a fairly explicit accounting of the who’s, why’s, and wherefore’s. Patty and I watched it Sunday during the rain, and everytime I see it I pick up new material and facts. It contrasted so much with the History channel’s recent replay of all the tired old myths – the lone assassin, the “magic bullet” – that I also watched several days ago, that I realized the cover-up still goes on.
Let’s turn to impartial wikipedia:
JFK is a 1991 American film directed by Oliver Stone. It examines the events leading to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and alleged subsequent cover-up, through the eyes of former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner). Garrison filed charges against New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones) for his alleged participation in a conspiracy to assassinate the President, for which Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman) was found responsible by two Government investigations: the Warren Commission, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (which concluded that there was another assassin shooting with Oswald). The film was adapted by Stone and Zachary Sklar from the books On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison and Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs. Stone described his fictionalized film as a “counter-myth” to the “fictional myth” of the Warren Commission.
Controversy about the film
The film became embroiled in controversy even before it was finished filming, after The Washington Post national security correspondent George Lardner showed up on the set. Based on the first draft of the screenplay, he wrote a scathing article attacking the film. Upon JFK’s theatrical release, many major American newspapers ran editorials accusing Stone of taking liberties with historical facts, including the film’s implication that President Lyndon B. Johnson was part of a coup d’etat to kill Kennedy. After a slow start at the box office, Stone’s film gradually picked up momentum, earning over $205 million in worldwide gross. JFK went on to win two Academy Awards and was nominated for eight in total, including Best Picture.
The film opens with newsreel footage, including the farewell address in 1961 of outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower, warning about the build-up of the “military-industrial complex”. This is followed by a summary of John F. Kennedy’s years as president, emphasizing the events that, in Stone’s thesis, would lead to his assassination. This builds to a reconstruction of the assassination on November 22, 1963. New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) subsequently learns about potential links to the assassination in New Orleans. Garrison and his team investigate several possible conspirators, including private pilot David Ferrie (Joe Pesci), but are forced to let them go after their investigation is publicly rebuked by the federal government. Kennedy’s suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman) is killed by Jack Ruby (Brian Doyle-Murray) before he can go to trial, and Garrison closes the investigation.
The investigation is reopened in late 1966 after Garrison reads the Warren Report and notices what he believes are numerous inaccuracies and conflicts. Garrison and his staff interrogate several witnesses to the Kennedy assassination, and others who were involved with Oswald, Ruby, and Ferrie. Upon Shaw’s informal questioning, Shaw denies any knowledge of meeting Ferrie, O’Keefe or Oswald, but he is soon charged with conspiring to murder the President. Another witness is Willie O’Keefe (Kevin Bacon), a male prostitute serving five years in prison for soliciting, who reveals he witnessed Ferrie discussing Kennedy’s assassination with Shaw, Oswald, and a group of Latin men. As well as briefly meeting Oswald, O’Keefe was romantically involved with a man he knew as “Clay Bertrand”, who was Clay Shaw. Jean Hill (Ellen McElduff), a teacher who describes that she witnessed shots fired from the grassy knoll and she heard four to six shots total, tells the investigators that Secret Service threatened her into saying only three shots came from the book depository, revealing changes that were made to her testimony by the Warren Commission. Garrison and a staff member also go to the sniper’s location in the Texas School Book Depository and aim an empty rifle from the window through which Oswald was alleged to have shot Kennedy. They conclude that Oswald was too poor a marksman to make the shots, and two of the shots were much too close together, indicating that two additional assassins were also involved.
After discovering electronic surveillance microphones that had been planted in his offices, Garrison meets a high-level figure in Washington D.C. who identifies himself as “X” (Donald Sutherland). “X” suggests there was a conspiracy at the highest levels of government, implicating members of the CIA, the military-industrial complex, the Mafia, and Secret Service, FBI, and Kennedy’s vice-president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, as either assassination pre-planning co-conspirators, or, as having motives to cover up the truth after the assassination. “X” explains the President was killed because of a more peaceful outlook in Kennedy’s foreign policy which meant diminished profit for the military-industrial complex. It also enraged high-ranking military officials who viewed such diplomacy as weakness. Kennedy ordered control of secret para-military operations to be removed from the CIA and handed over to Department of Defense Joint Chiefs of Staff. This would have diminished the agency’s power. Further, the Mafia had helped Kennedy win the 1960 election as a favor to his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr, who had done business with the Mafia dating back to the 1920s, and felt betrayed that he had let his brother, Bobby Kennedy, continue his anti-Mob crusade instead of stopping it as he had promised. Furthermore, the Mob wanted revenge for the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which they had helped fund and support in order to get their Cuban casinos—their biggest moneymakers—back from the hands of the Castro government.
“X” reveals how his superior, General “Y”, had “X” sent on an odd trip to Antarctica just before the assassination. One of “X”‘s duties was to supplement presidential security. He points out all the lapses in security during JFK’s fatal trip to Dallas: the open windows along the route, the hairpin turn from Houston to Elm which slowed the limousine, and bystander activities which would not have been allowed. “X” suggests he was ordered out of the country in order to strip away the normal security measures he would have had in place during JFK’s fateful trip to Dallas.
On his way back from Antarctica, “X” touches down in New Zealand. He reads a local newspaper which mysteriously presents a full dossier on Oswald and his guilt in Kennedy’s death. This was hours before Oswald would be charged with the crime and anyone investigating the case knew much about him. “X” views this as clear proof of a cover story (fictitious account) of the type used by CIA black ops. In other words, CIA assets in the media were being used to persuade the public of Oswald’s guilt.
It is clear who “Y” is in the film based on a partial glimpse of the name plate on his desk: General Edward Lansdale, a real life figure who specialized in counter-insurgency. Lansdale established the CIA appartus in Vietnam. There is some evidence Lansdale was in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
“X” further states that Kennedy was intent on pulling U.S. troops from Vietnam by the end of 1965 as evidenced by National Security Order 263. This was countermanded immediately by Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, with National Security Order 273. Therein, concludes “X”, lay the foundation of the Vietnam War.”X” encourages Garrison to keep digging and make further arrests.
Some of Garrison’s staff begin to doubt his motives and disagree with his methods, so they leave the investigation. Garrison’s marriage is strained when his wife Liz (Sissy Spacek) complains that he is spending more time on the case than with his own family. After a sinister phone call is made to their daughter, Liz accuses Garrison of being selfish and attacking Shaw only because of his homosexuality. In addition, the media launches attacks on television and in newspapers attacking Garrison’s character and criticizing the way his office is spending taxpayers’ money. Some key witnesses become scared and refuse to testify while others, such as Ferrie, die in suspicious circumstances. Before his death, Ferrie tells Garrison that he believes people are after him, and reveals there was a conspiracy around Kennedy’s death that involved co-conspirators that were involved in the CIA operation named Operation Mongoose.
The trial of Clay Shaw takes place in 1969. Garrison presents the court with further evidence of multiple killers while attempting to debunk the single bullet theory, proposes a Dealey Plaza shots scenario involving three assassins who fired six total shots, but the jury acquits Shaw on all charges. The film reflects that members of that jury stated publicly that they believed there was a conspiracy behind the assassination, but not enough evidence to link Shaw to that conspiracy. Shaw died of lung cancer in 1974, but in 1979 Richard Helms testified under oath that Clay Shaw had, in fact, been a part-time contract agent of the Domestic Contacts Division of the CIA. The end credits state that secret records related to the assassination will be released to the public in 2029.
The popularity of JFK led to the passage of The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (also known as the JFK Act) and the formation of the U.S. Assassination Records Review Board. The Act was signed into law by President Bush in late October 1992. The ARRB worked until 1998. Witnesses were interviewed (some for the first time), including many medical witnesses, the U.S. government purchased the Zapruder film, and previously-classified documents relating to the assassination were finally made available to public scrutiny. By ARRB law, all existing assassination-related documents will be made public by 2017. [Editor: go to wikipedia for the numerous links.]
Rent and watch the movie. Today is a good day to reflect on the magnitude of this monstrosity of murder and cover-up. And maybe you’ll feel motivated to put some pressure on our politicians, on the mainstream media, and to help educate your children and parents and friends about what really happened 47 years ago.
Editor: This is a version of what we published last year at the same time, same station.