I found four good reasons to revisit the John F. Kennedy assassination.
First, I have finished reading the 2017 Antonio Veciana memoir,Trained to Kill. Gaeton Fonzi, one of the most thorough and honest assassination investigators always maintained that Veciana, a Cuban anti-Fidel CIA asset, and Sylvia Odio, another member of an anti-Communist organization, were the keys to unlocking the CIA, Oswald, assassination nexus.
Second, there are strong parallels between the engagement of security forces in “correcting” US foreign policy in 1963 and a similar direct activism of security forces in reshaping US foreign policy in 2017.
Third, the National Archives has released the first tranche of the remaining unreleased government JFK assassination files held in the archives. It is mandated to release the rest by October 26.
And finally, a reader of this blog claimed that most Marxists have failed to challenge the Warren Commission orthodoxy and have shown little sympathy toward alternative accounts. Perhaps he is right about most “Marxists”, but my reply: “I don’t believe you can endorse that apologia [the Warren Commission] for a political coup and be a Marxist.”
Veciana and the Security Apparatus
For years, Gaeton Fonzi, formerly an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, sought to get Antonio Veciana to confirm that his CIA contact known by the nom de guerre “Maurice Bishop” was, in fact, CIA handler David Attlee Phillips. In recent years, Veciana has affirmed that connection, though long after Phillips’s death. Had Veciana done so at the time of the investigation, interrogators would have had a useful lever to pry open the tightly shuttered windows to CIA connections with Lee Harvey Oswald.
Self-described as a terrorist (Veciana claims personal engagement with numerous bombings, fires, and assassination attempts before he exited Cuba), Veciana tells of a 1963 meeting in Dallas with Phillips that was also attended by Oswald. A neutral, uninvolved witness claims that the date was September 7. Veciana’s status as a friend of the CIA and a prominent leader of a community bitterly disappointed with Kennedy leaves little room for a motive to lie about the Oswald meeting. To the contrary, Veciana had every reason to connect Oswald to the hated Fidelistas and not his CIA enablers. Similarly, Sylvia Odio’s allegation that Oswald visited her with two anti-Communist militants can only cast a shadow over her political cohorts in that anti-Fidel movement, a movement that would benefit only from the image of Oswald as a leftist. Nonetheless, she has stuck to her story of meeting Oswald.
In his book, Veciana makes some interesting, currently relevant observations about the nature of rule in the US or other imperialist countries (“empires”):
I came to think that there is a parallel power at work in empires, that sets its own rules, for its own ends… But Bishop [Phillips] made me see that outside this traditional, visible authority there is an invisible power acting in the shadows, directing events. However, the true power lies in the hands of a hidden consortium that acts as an unseen overlord, watching over and deciding civilization’s destiny. This “invisible directorate,” this “shadow government,” is politically, economically, and militarily powerful… It passes from generation to generation, forever hidden, yet forever in control.
This is a truly remarkable commentary, coming from a man whose politics were mostly defined by his visceral hatred of Fidel Castro. Assuredly, his words echo the fashionable notion of the “deep state” so frequently cited today.
But a more apt characterization of the forces acting below the surface, in the shadows, is the classic Marxist concept of a “ruling class.” For Marxists, every society since antiquity has been based upon social classes, with one class dominating the others. Until classes are eliminated, this will be so. So, in Marxist theory, behind every form of rule, there exists a ruling class, either out in the open or in the shadows. In modern capitalism, that ruling class governs behind a curtain of bourgeois democracy; it presents a facade of popular rule while ensuring that the outcomes cohere with the interests of that ruling class.
While the term “deep state” conveys the idea of stealth governance, it fails to unambiguously affirm that covert rule is the norm of capitalism; it may suggest that Veciana’s “hidden consortium” is an aberration, a deviation from the normal course of capitalist governance, a “conspiracy” and not a structural feature of capitalist society.
For the liberal who believes that capitalism is reformable, the concept of the “deep state” is welcome because it imagines a world in which the “conspiratorial” apparatus– the CIA and the other security agencies– can be reined in or contained by the “democratic” superstructure of modern-day capitalism. But the truth is that the security services, though often operating clandestinely, are reliable tools of the US ruling class. From the Marxist perspective, the security services acted against Kennedy precisely because the ruling class was determined to change the course of Presidential governance or, at the very least, an important sector of the ruling class decided to alter that course. The agents of change were not, in any significant sense, rogues.
Similarly, the current deluge of anti-Russia leaks attributed to anonymous sources in the security apparatus, are directed at pressing the Trump administration toward a ruling-class consensus on foreign policy. Because no solid evidence is supplied, the insinuating, guilt-by-association claims are grounded on public confidence in the snoops and assassins. The security services are successfully molding the Trump foreign policy agenda without resorting to the violent solution chosen by their predecessors.
The National Archives
It is naive to believe that the National Archives will release a blockbuster document in the next three months. That does not mean, of course, that careful, diligent investigators won’t unearth interesting leads that cast doubt on the official narrative. But be assured that the CIA, the FBI, and other government agencies have suppressed or destroyed any documents that might link them with Oswald, the assassination, or any other element of the Dallas events.
Nonetheless, assassination investigators have done a remarkable job of using the selective documentary evidence to find weaknesses, even contradictions in the dominant narrative. This is truly remarkable because the investigators, excepting those with the Church Committee, the Garrison investigation, and the HSCA, have few resources, limited expertise, and scant support. Certainly, the government did nothing to help and everything to hinder any effort to dig deeper.
It is interesting to see the timing, the content, and the media reaction to the release of the first tranche of documents. The National Archive release featured the Yuri Nosenko files, a quaint sideshow to the assassination and the obsession of the Strangelovian CIA mole-hunter, James Jesus Angleton. Angleton was fixed on laying the blame for the assassination at the Soviet door step. And today’s media is taking the National Archive bait, adding the Nosenko affair to its year-long mud-slinging at Russia based on gossip and innuendo. Typical of the media were the following headlines:
Newly released top secret documents may show that Russia was behind the assassination of JFK (aol.com)
DID RUSSIA KILL A U.S. PRESIDENT? NEW CIA DOCUMENTS REVEAL SPY’S THEORY ABOUT JFK’S DEATH(Newsweek)
Another transparent effort to divert attention from CIA complicity based on the recently released documents can be found here.
No one should think that it is a coincidence that these long dismissed charges are surfacing again precisely in the midst of an all-out media campaign to demonize Russia and fuel a new Cold War. The calculated release does a disservice to the truth of the JFK assassination and further demonstrates government complicity in the demonization of Russia.
Marxists and the Kennedy Assassination
There are “Marxists” and there are Marxists. Michael Parenti is one authentic Marxist who has consistently argued that Kennedy was assassinated by the security arm of the ruling class. In his words:
The state is the instrument used in all these societies by the wealthy few to impoverish and maintain control over the many. Aside from performing collective functions necessary for all societies, the state has the particular task of protecting the process of accumulating wealth for the few… Occasionally an incident occurs that reveals in an unusually vivid manner the gangster nature of the state. The assassination of President John Kennedy in November 1963 is such an occasion… To know the truth about the assassination of John Kennedy is to call into question the state security system and the entire politico-economic order it protects. This is why for over thirty years the corporate-owned press and numerous political leaders have suppressed or attacked the many revelations about the murder unearthed by independent investigators…
While Parenti favors the colorful words “gangster state,” it is clear that he identifies the agents responsible for Kennedy’s assassination as “instruments” of the “wealthy few” (the ruling class). “Gangster” serves Parenti well because, looking in the rear-view mirror after the assassination, he understands the all-too-common thuggery, deceit, manipulation, and violence used against the leadership of sovereign countries in the early years of the CIA: Iran (Mossadegh), Guatemala (Arbenz), and, of course, Cuba (Fidel). Certainly, with such a history of gangsterism in attempting to depose leaders, the CIA should be the first, and not the last, rock to overturn while looking for those responsible for Kennedy’s murder.
The current adulation by the media and elected officials of the FBI and CIA over their claims of Russian interference in the US election is made even more absurd by an even casual knowledge of this history. Why does the hard-charging media refuse to look in the rear-view mirror to see CIA/FBI lies and deceit?
It is wise to heed Parenti’s methodological recommendation:
Unlike fictional mysteries, in real life there usually is no smoking gun. Historians work by a process of accretion, putting piece by piece together until a picture emerges. In the Kennedy murder the pieces make an imposing picture indeed, leaving one with the feeling that while there may not be a smoking gun there is a whole fusillade of impossibilities regarding the flight of bullets, the nature of the wounds, the ignored testimony of eye witnesses, the sudden and mysterious deaths of witnesses, the disappearance and deliberate destruction of evidence, and the repeated acts of official coverup that continue to this day regarding the release of documents.
For anyone identifying with or familiar with US Communism and its history, the official account, from the Warren Commission to Gerald Posner, defies credibility. At the time when Lee Harvey Oswald was building a reputation as a Marxist (in the Marine Corps!), defected to the Soviet Union, returned, and re-established himself as a “friend” of Cuba, Communists were still undergoing McCarthyite repression. In 1958, Junius Scales was convicted as a Communist under the Smith Act. He was released from jail in late 1962. We are asked to believe that open Marxist “Oswaldkovitch” was functioning in the Marine
Corps at this time, holding a security clearance, and was assigned to the secret U2 base in Atsugi, Japan. This was a time when two top leaders of the Communist Party were finishing their sentences for being Communists! No Communist or Marine would find this account to be even remotely possible.
According to the accepted timeline, Oswald was professing Marxism at a time when anti-Marxism had reached hysterical levels in the United States and the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover had collected a Communist Index with over 200,000 names. Unlike the tens of thousands of family, friends and associates of Communists who received visits by the FBI in this period, there appears to be few records of visits in Oswald’s circles. The FBI seems to have shown little interest in him.
Similarly, his return as a defector seemed to draw scant attention from the security services who were reading every letter from the Soviet Union to the US. Apparently, letters posed more interest from the CIA than returning defectors (or, at least, this one!). Since the FBI was suspiciously inquisitive about even mere visitors to the Soviet Union in this era, anyone touched by the rabid anti-Communism of the time would find this lack of interest stunning, indeed!
And the ready acceptance of a defector from the Soviet Union in right-wing circles in the heartland of reaction defies belief.
And how did Oswald’s incarnation as a lone soldier of the pro-Cuba left in New Orleans bring so little action from security services, little harassment, and little violence from the enemies of the left, even with a contrived incident? Have Warren Commission apologists forgotten the murderous violence against dissent, nonconformity and civil rights activism (often equated with “Communism”)? Does “Communist” Lee Harvey Oswald’s unhindered, bold forays through the racist, anti-Communist South make any sense in this context when leftists of any persuasion at that time, or in the following decade, were risking their lives?
Probably nothing ridiculed the plausibility of Oswald, the Marxist revolutionary, as the backyard photo of Oswald holding both the Trotskyist Militant and the Communist Worker in one hand and a rifle in the other. Veterans of the left were astonished that anyone with even a vague relationship to leftist politics would put the three objects in the same room, not to speak of in the hands of one person. The only purpose would be to tarnish the left.
Marxists offer no special technical knowledge or expertise on trajectories, wound analysis, or marksmanship, though acknowledging that assassin investigators have cast more than a little doubt on factual details of the official narrative. However, even the greenest, most inexperienced leftist of the time would have picked Oswald out as a provocateur. For that reason, Oswald’s handlers never placed him in the actual presence of anyone even remotely identified with the US Marxist movement. Oswald never visited headquarters, offices, meetings, etc, but only dealt with the left remotely. Where he approached foreign Marxists (Soviets, Cubans), they were cautious and hesitant with him.
Oswald was a leftist poseur serving a different master.
For a credible, plausible counter-narrative to the Warren Commission, I recommend JFK: The Cuba Files by Fabian Escalante. Escalante is the retired head of Cuban Intelligence, the mastermind behind countering decades of CIA attempts on Fidel Castro. He may well be the world’s leading expert on CIA intrigue, and brings Cuban intelligence resources to the question.
The Last Investigation by former HSCA investigator, the late Gaeton Fonzi, is indispensable for chronicling his tenacious pursuit of the truth in the face of government intransigence, deception, and complicity.
Vincent Salandria was one of the earliest and most challenging critics of the Warren Commission. His False Mystery shows his detailed dissection of the Report and how he located anomalies that occupied the next generation of investigators.
Two more recent investigators, David Talbot and Jefferson Morley, approach the assassination from very different perspectives, but draw fresh, useful conclusions that help flesh out the assassination picture.
E. Martin Schotz’s History Will Not Absolve Me is a useful anthology that brings forward a number of associated issues, especially concerning various responses to both the assassination and the Warren Commission Report.
For a fascinating allegory of the assassination, one should read Michael Parenti’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome.
There are, of course, uncountable commentaries on the JFK assassination. Most are well-intentioned and contain some useful facts or interpretations. It should be understood that the vast majority of these commentators, though honest, are amateur sleuths. Consequently, there are mistakes, false interpretations, and dead ends in many studies. Nonetheless, much useful work has been done.
Among the commentators, there are charlatans, shills, and spooks, some purposefully casting a cloud over assassination studies. The perpetrators, their friends, and allies have great resources, and they use them to great effect.
But there was a coup. We will live with the fears, the uncertainties, and the unchecked elite rule until we expose it. It continues to shape the world we live in.