Sunday, January 13, 2013

What to make of RFK Jr.'s pro conspiracy belief?

I can sum it up in one word, "Listen."  

The Dallas Morning News wonders "What to Make of RFK Jr's Conspiracy View of the JFK Assassination?" And after all the work they did in trashing the Kennedys, and trashing JFK assassination researchers too.  So, what do they do? They seek out John McAdams.  But, at least he's at the bottom of the article.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told the crowd at the Winspear Opera House last night that he was letting us in on something new — “nobody’s told this story before” — about his father and the JFK assassination.
Just what was new was hard to figure. Kennedy told so many stories that melted together, about his father, his uncle, his family, his upbringing. You had the feeling that moderator Charlie Rose was itching to gently touch that Dallas touchstone of Nov. 22, 1963, and he finally got there nearly halfway into the 95-minute interview with Kennedy and his sister Rory.
Bottom line, Kennedy said, his father thought the Warren Report was a “shoddy piece of craftsmanship” (a line that got immediate applause by the opera house crowd) and he himself doesn’t buy the lone gunman theory.
(Updated) RFK Jr.s assassination narrative began with an anecdote about his dad seeing New Orleans DA Jim Garrison’s photo on a newsstand and asking an aide if there was anything to Garrison’s theories about the CIA, Cuba and Mafia in his brother’s killing.
RFK Jr. said his dad was told that Garrison was on to something, but “the specifics of Garrison’s investigation went on the wrong track, but he thought there was a link …”
Kennedy said his dad put investigators on it. When they examined Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald’s phone records, and they saw what was essentially “an inventory of the Mafia leaders that they had been investigating for the past two years” at the Justice Department.
KENNEDY: I think my father was fairly convinced at the end of that that there had been involvement by somebody …
ROSE: Organized crime, Cubans …
KENNEDY: Or rogue CIA …
This was a strange was to tell the story. Garrison began his investigation into the JFK killing in 1966, so that’s presumably when his picture would have been on the newsstand, as per RFK Jr’s yarn. Yet other accounts — specifically David Talbot’s in Brothers/The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years — had RFK starting his investigation even before Ruby killed Oswald.
Here’s an excerpt of a Talbot interview for the Mary Ferrell Foundation JFK website:
He immediately connects the plot to the secret war on Castro. He then tells family this a couple days later at the White House. He starts using surrogates like Walter Sheridan, a former FBI agent, to begin hotly pursuing every lead that he can. When Jack Ruby shoots Oswald down on camera on national television, he immediately has Sheridan looking into Ruby’s mafia connections, and within 24 hours of the shooting, Sheridan’s reporting back to him that he found evidence that Ruby has been paid off in Chicago by associates of teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa, who is, of course, Bobby’s great nemesis.
So, already they’re seeing this as a CIA-Mafia operation. I believe that they’re seeing it as an operation that was masterminded within the government, but some of the sleazier aspects were carried out by the mafia.
Was RFK Jr just oversimplifying things for the Dallas crowd and compressing the timeline?  Don’t know, but it seems like his father’s suspicions have been well plumbed.
Kennedy said the media basically accepted the Warren Report, because they were ready to move on. And even the Church Commission’s review of CIA and mob ties in the 1970s, and its criticism of the Warren report, didn’t re-ignite wide interest.
In recent years, as documents have been declassified, new information dribbling out has “fortified” doubts about the Warren report. But, Kennedy said, it has come out only incrementally and hasn’t focused public attention. Speaking of assassination researchers who have delved more deeply into new information, Kennedy said, “The knee-jerk reaction by the news media has been to marginalize or dismiss those people.”
Then came a 2008 book by pacifist and Catholic theologian James Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable.
“What Douglass has done is distill all that stuff, put it in a very well-documented book, and come to his own conclusions,” Kennedy said. “I don’t know if it’s right or not, but a lot of the evidence, at this point, anyway, is very convincing, there was not a lone gunman.”
Rose steered away from the subject after about only six minutes, pushing for stories about the Kennedy clan’s legendary competitiveness and other rollicking Kennedy stuff. Darn.
Rory didn’t address the assassination at all. There was no discussion of why JFK’s niece and nephew decided to come to Dallas — which we, after all, think is a big deal — and what, if anything, that stirred in them.
So there you have it, perhaps the senior voice of the eldest generation of Kennedy offspring with a mild endorsement of one particular take on the JFK assassination.
And I’m left wondering what the  “never been told before” information was. Or was that just a casual and innocent hype of the yarn he was launching into?
So what about Unspeakable and its author Douglass, a former University of Hawaii religion professor and anti-nuclear activist?  The book makes the case, as others have done, that Kennedy was trying to extricate the U.S. from Vietnam and other military engagements and paid for it with his life.
For one, Douglass has the Oliver Stone seal of approval. Said Stone for the Huffington Post:
In his beautifully written and exhaustively researched treatment, Douglass lays out the “motive” for Kennedy’s assassination. Simply, he traces a process of steady conversion by Kennedy from his origins as a traditional Cold Warrior to his determination to pull the world back from the edge of destruction.
For the National Catholic Reporterreviewer Tom Roberts said:
Should the book receive wider attention, its delineation of the conspiracy against Kennedy rather than his conversion to peacemaking will be the most controversial aspect since it concludes with a minute examination of old and new evidence that Kennedy was done in by his own security apparatus. That’s a jarring thought, but Mr. Douglass is not the first to claim that something is amiss between the government’’s official version of events as contained in the Warren Commission Report and that of a host of witnesses who paint a picture of Lee Harvey Oswald being manipulated as the perfect suspect.
The way Mr. Douglass’ “how” [sic] stacks up with other theories that point toward the Mafia, the Russians, the Cubans or a combination of any or all of those is unclear.
What is clear is that Mr. Douglass seems to have responsibly and painstakingly plumbed the evidence of the Kennedy assassination from a new angle and raised disturbing yet essential questions.
But the book got a rugged review from Marquette University professor John McAdams, who maintains a Kennedy assassination website(The McAdams site is among the “best sites” links on the well-regarded JFKFACTS. It’s billed there as the “best anti-conspiracy Website. … You may disagree with his conclusions but, if so, these are the arguments you have to refute.”)
McAdams’ review of Douglass’ bookUnspeakable was titled “Unspeakably Awful.” Excerpt:
What makes Douglass’s volume unique is that his argument is dressed up in verbiage unfamiliar to JFK assassination buffs. Most authors of books on the assassination  attempt to cloak their political views, and pretend to arrive at the truth about the  assassination after a supposedly objective analysis of the facts. Douglass wears his politics on his sleeve. … Self-styled activists like Douglass have a long history of being opposed to the use of military power by the United States, although they don’t seem to mind as much when military power is used by America’s adversaries. …
   Douglass’s key villain—the “Unspeakable” of his title—turns out to be the same kind of opaque nemesis that Stone is fond of conjuring up. The best identification Douglass can offer is “shadowy intelligence agencies using intermediaries and scapegoats under the cover of ‘plausible deniability,’” and even more vaguely, “an evil whose depth and deceit seemed to go beyond the capacity of words to describe.”[2]
How convenient: a culprit who is indescribable. In essence, though, Douglass’s evil-doer is indistinguishable from that bogeyman of vulgar, atheistic, and leftist radicals from the ‘60s: the “military-industrial complex,” except that he adds to the stew the Central Intelligence Agency.
I was surprised that so many people in the Winspear audience were that attuned to conspiracy stuff, breaking into applause, when possible, at slams against the Warren report. I don’t think it was most of the crowd, but there was an alert contingent that was quick on the draw.
It was a largely Boomer crowd, those of us who are ever-eager to recite “where we were” that noon hour in 1963. I had figured the audience as essentially there to feed a hunger for Kennedy lore and other reminiscences, not so much for dark theories. Wrong again.
There was also eager clapping for liberal anti-corporate lines, like one slam against the Koch brothers pouring millions into political campaigns (as if Hollywood money doesn’t infuse the system) and for power coopting the political process (something Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. had a knack for).
Charlie Rose tried to get bi-partisan at one point, inviting Kennedy to remark on how Uncle Teddy reached across the aisle to work with President George W. Bush. You have to figure Kennedy knows this is Bush’s hometown, but he didn’t take the bait. He launched into stories on Uncle Teddy all right, but there was nary a Bush 43 among them.
Overall, regardless of your politics, it was a stimulating program. For a few minutes there, I thought I was back in Camelot. Good on the AT&T Performing Arts Center for pulling it off.

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