A well crafted, easy read, David Kaiser's The Road To Dallas - The Assassination of John F. Kennedy (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge and London, 2008) places the assassination in its proper context - within the Cuba, mob and CIA matrix.
Because Kaiser is an eminent historian, and Belknap/Harvard is a highly respected press, his conclusion that the President was killed by a conspiracy of mobsters and renegade Cubans (without any help from the CIA) is still a radical departure for both mainstream history and reputable publishers.
Although this is not the first book on the touchy subject of the JFK assassination by an historian (See: Michael Kurtz, Prof. McKnight), it is certainly more controversial (See McAdams, Holland "Road to Nowhere" at Washingtondecoded.com), and is an important addition to the library of JFK assassination literature.
Rather than disuade other academically inclined historians from venturing into the JFK assassination realm, I applaud David Kaiser for making Dealey Plaza an historical destination, though I think he issued his attributive judgement a bit prematurely.
One of the problems with addressing the JFK assassination as history is the fact that the murder of the President is not yet history, but still an unsolved homicide.
In even treating it as history before all the cards are on the table only hedges the bets as to how this thing will eventually play out.
At first, when I learned Kaiser was affiliated with the Naval War College and Harvard Press, I thought that he might have used his connections to get access to Lee Harvey Oswald's ONI records, or his Harvard ties to ferrett out the role of the Harvard Russian Research Institute in monitoring Oswald in Russia. But alas, neither issue is even delt with by Kaiser, who devotes all of a few paragraphs to Oswald's time behind the iron curtain, and focuses more on Kennedy and the mob and Oswald and the Cubans.
In stepping backwards to embrace organized crime as the culpret, Kaiser may be reaching too far, though he puts many of the key players on the game board and accurately designates their roles. The most important aspects of what he has to say however, are not his conclusions, which can be shown to be false, but the tidbits he provides and questions he raises that support the need to have a full national security review of what really happend in Dallas.
In the meantime, we'll try to put it all in the proper perspective, with a bent eye towards David Kaiser's wharped mob view of events.
Kaiser's book is not only important because it is written by an historian, but for establishing the principle that the assassination of the President was a conspiracy even if JFK was killed by one lone gunman, especially if that gunman is Lee Harvey Oswald.
Historically establishing the fact that what happened at Dealey Plaza was a well planned an executed murder, and not the random act of a madman, eleminates all the debates about the single-bullet theory, Zapruder film autenticy and all the bullshit that goes with arguing about any aspect of the evidence.
The case for conspiracy does not rest with a multible assassin scenario, but nor does it have to target possible suspects with a motive to kill the President and lead all the available evidence to that or whatever conclusion, whether the mob, the CIA, Cubans or KGB. What happened at Dealey Plaza was certainly an organized crime, but that doesn't mean that the mob did it.
Why do both Lone Nuters, who promote the idea that a crazy Oswald killed Kennedy all by himself, and conspiracy theoriests of whatever ilk, only assemble the evidence that supports their pet theory of what happened?
But Peter Dale Scott, in the introduction to one of his books on Deep Politics and the Kennedy Assassination, took note that besides lone nuts and conspiracy theorists, there are those who keep an open mind, who don't speculate, stay focused on the evidence and are still trying to solve the case to an legal and moral certainty.
This third force are truely independent researchers with no ties to the past lies, who are truely and sincerely trying to find the answers to the small, but difinitive questions about the assassination, answers that will eventually lead to the resolution of the crime.
Now all policemen, investigators and detectives are supposed to hold this objective perspective, especially when investigating a crime, and journalists too, are suppose to get both sides of the story, as Dealey himself reminds everyone who bothers to read the insription on the outside wall of the newpaper he owned, the Dallas Morning News.
But historians are supposed to take it a step further and really try to interpet history objectively with all the facts and information available. In this reagard I bring up one of the first books that got me hooked on historical research, G. Kinston Clark's The Critical Historian, in which he writes:
“The distortion produced by bias are potentially present in any attempt to write history. Sometimes the danger is obvious and menacing, sometimes it is covert, coming from unexpected angles and in not easily detected forms. ….Any interpretation which makes use of facts which can be shown to be false, or accepts as certainty true facts which are dubious, or does not take into account facts which are known, are at best, potentially misleading, and possibly grossly, and dangerously deceptive. ….It is the first task of the historian to review any narrative to find what links are missing altogether…where what is defective cannot be supplied by further research, it is an historian’s duty to draw attention to the fact so that men can know where they stand.…Any historical conception which has not been adjusted to the most recent results will cease to be satisfactory.”
While Kaiser does not consider elements of the case that oppose or go beyond his theory that the mob was behind the assassination, he does present many new subjects, names, documents and points of view, all of which are welcome.
At least Kaiser takes the accused assassin off the psychiatrists couch, where the lone nutters want to keep him branded, as Max Holland calls him, a "politicalized sociopath," and places Oswald squarely in the Byzantine underworld of Cubans, mobsters and spies, where he always belonged. In that league, Oswald looks more the patsy than hit man.
Rather than portraying Oswald as the archtypical assassin, like the Day of the Jackal's smooth and swave professional killer, Kaiser's Oswald is a confused but lucky and connected assassin whose motive was money, as he was expecting a payoff for the Dealey Plaza hit.
While Kaiser downplays any possible CIA connection, and directly concludes the CIA had nothing whatsoever to do with the assassination, he does give some good background into the DRE, the revolutionarly student organization that became one of the CIA's more radical anti-Castro terrorist organizations. [See: Kaiser on the DRE, http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=12734].
But Kaiser puts off any control the CIA may had had over the DRE, financially or otherwise, despite the evidence to the contrary, and tries to pawn off the backing of the group from the CIA to William Pawley and Clare Booth Luce, both known to have privately fianced a number of anti-Castro Cuban boats that raided Cuba and are tied to the assassination.
But if privately funded, what became of the millions of dollars the CIA was plugging into the DRE, and what became of the monthly operational reports that the DRE's case officer, George Joannidies was suppose to file to justify the expenses they were getting?
Well, this question just happens to be at the pinacle of the ongoing Morley vs. CIA court case that has yet to be legally resolved, and whose verdict will lay heavy on the actual responsiblity of who was running the DRE and Oswald and who was behind the Dealey Plaza operation.
It also emphasises the point that this case is still very hot, getting hotter and is not quite history yet.
Kaiser's book is also being touted as one of the first books to include many of the new records released under the JFK Act (See: JFK Act 1992), though it follows a long line of well researched and documented works (Summers, Russell, Newman, Scott, et al) that relied heavily on the newly released records.
While Kaiser's book does include references to many new records, and even secures a few interviews with some new witnesses, the main theme that the mob and some renegade Cubans were behind the assassination sounds a lot like what we've heard before (from Blakey and Billings; Dan Moldea; David Scheim, et al).
In fact, some areas, like the stories of Sylvia Odio and Jim Braden, are both retold pretty much the same as they were related in the 70s, while we've certainly learned a lot more since then about both. Kaiser insists that Lauren Hall was one of the visitors to Odio's apartment, while others have different suspects.
Jim Braden is another case all together, and he opened the door for me to enter JFK research, which I will tackle in more detail in another post.
The web of deceit and deception have been exposed by research, and supports the conspiracy contention, but not limiting it to the Cubans and the mob. You can't bring in the Cubans without the CIA, and the mob was incapable of pulling off such a murder and getting away with it without inside assistance.
There was a JFK assassination symposium at American University around 1992, which was sparked by Oliver Stone's film, and was recorded and aired on CSPAN TV. On the panel were, among others, John Judge and Dan Moldea. Moldea made the case for the mob killing the President, and John Judge responded by saying how the mob didn't frame the patsy, control the autopsy, the AF1 communications and the investigation, and Judge described the mafia as schleps and watercarriers for the CIA.
Kaiser is correct in annointing Dan Moldea as the first to suspect and write about organized crime being behind the assassination of JFK, and he still promotes his mob theories, but G. Robert Blakey is another legal academic (Cornell, Notre Dame) who espouses the mob as being responsible for the assassination. Although Blakey has come around and seen the light now that his former HSCA liason to the CIA (Joannides) has been postumously exposed as the case officer for the DRE that tangled with the accused assassin in New Orleans, Blakey's theories are given high regard and espoused by Kaiser.
But we've learned so much more since the HSCA in the seventies, and Kaiser's historical and provoctive poke at the mob seems out of place in this day and age.
Kaiser looks at most of the important issues, not as Blakley says, "without preconceptions," but with clear preconceptions and mob tainted views, and he comes down on one side of each issue or the other. The single bullet theory holds water, he says, but the acoustics, if they can be shown to be for real, may provide a second shooter, but one who missed, thus mainting the official Warren Report stance on the ballistics and medical evidence.
In Kaiser's eyes the Zapruder film is an accurate redition of the murder, Oswald took the shots, his motive was money, and he was connected to the Carlos Marcello mob in New Orleans by his uncle Dutz and his CAP Capt. David Ferrie. Thus Marcello was one of the principles behind the murder. Now there's a leap in logic.
Kaiser is undoubtedly familiar with most of the published literature and the unpublished research of others, but has chosen to ignore some pertenant lines of inquiry that don't support his mob conclusions.
Like everyone else who has an opinion on the evidence and witnesses in the case, I agree with some of what he says and disagree with other things.
I agree that the assassination was a conspiracy, regardless of how many shooters there were, but I don't think Oswald shot anyone that day and was just what he says he was, a patsy.
I base my conclusion that Oswald was innocent on killing Kennedy by the simple fact that every witness who saw a man in the TSBD windows with a rifle also said he was wearing a white shirt, thus exonerating the brown stripe shirted Oswald. Nonetheless, Kaiser puts the disgrunted ex-Marine in the 6th floor window and scoring two of three hits in six seconds. No problem, Kaiser says, especially after he had practiced with a similar, though someone else's Manlicher Carcano at a rifle range earlier in the week.
Kaiser believes some incidents, and disbelieves but repeats others, and allows you to make up your own mind on most issues.
What I don't agree with, and must call him on, is Kaiser's claim, which he irritatingly reiterates over and over again, is that, in the end, "we'll probably never know."
We already know, and everybody will eventually come to know that John F. Kennedy, thirty-fifth President of the United States, was not only killed as a result of a conspiracy, but a conspiracy that we will come to know and understand. It is a conspiracy that leads right into the heart of the government itself, one with names of individuals and the crimes they committed.
It is a conspiracy that we must come to know because our national security depends on it.
While David Kaiser's hypothesis that the mob was the driving force behind the murder is still an open question, at least for those who keep an open mind, it is a question that will eventually be answered, one way or the other.
And it won't be historians or conspiracy theorists who figure it out, but indepdenent researchers, cops and lawyers.
One day soon we will learn the total truth about the assassination of President Kennedy, and the nation's security, if not democracy, will be restored.