Monday, February 27, 2012

Now, Finally -- Who Really Did Murder JFK? The Critics


Hello again.  Back after it, turning over several of the more unfamiliar rocks of history in hopes of identifying the reptiles who deranged our history.

I think I began to understand why the killing of JFK has gone so long without conclusive investigation once my own treatment of the event, Chapter XIX of Bobby and J. Edgar, began to pull in flak.  Characteristically -- as when it helped get the drums beating prior to the invasion of Iraq -- The New York Times has continued to defend the Warren Commission conclusions, emphasized at the time by its liberal drum-beater Anthony Lewis.  A lot of history is agreed upon at Georgetown cocktail parties.

When Bobby and J. Edgar appeared in 2007 the review fell to David Corn, stammering out opinions at the time as a punster for The Nation.  Having identified the stricken president as "a sex-crazed, drug-dependent, ailment-ridden party-boy politician," Corn attenpted to delegitimize my book on the basis of my having interviewed only fifty-four new subjects, "about a quarter of them..authors and journalists...."  Since Jack Kennedy started out as a journalist after World War II, and a number of his closest friends were writers, I couldn't quite figure out how their profession disqualified these sources, especially since many of them worked in Kennedy's administration.  Why bring up the hundreds of interviews supporting my two prior books about Edward Kennedy? But these are apparently finer distinctions than Corn can permit himself.
Had he looked at the seventy-two pages of source notes in the back -- thousands of entries, a great many from the FBI files and Kennedy family archives to which I had unlimited access -- he would have known why many informed reviewers and commentators tend to attach the adjective "meticulous" to my preparation of material.

After attacking the appropriateness of my bibliographical sources -- almost all of which were books written by players, people in the room, as the Kennedy years were unfolding, and many of whom -- Bobby Baker, Robert Maheu, Richard Goodwin, et. al. --  I took pains to pin them down with extensive interviews of my own.  Corn asserts that "when the book reaches Nov. 22, truly jumps the rails."  I cite "one book of uncertain credibility" on a statement of Gerald Ford -- since backed up on the Watergate tapes by Richard Nixon -- , while books written by the Giancana family and based on first-hand  testimony by the Giancana's daughter and nephew and brother, Corn dismisses as "unreliable."

Corn -- like my other critics -- apparently cannot trouble himself to produce one morsel of evidence to counter the hard and detailed specifics -- ballistic, surgical, autopsy, documentary, forensic -- that I was able to produce in support of my interpretation of events.  Always the dismissive adjective -- "sleazy, eye-popping, discredited" -- in lieu of any investment of serious journalistic digging to counter my reading.  Much easier to brush it off. The Attorney General of Texas testified before the Warren Commission that Oswald was on the FBI payroll?  Well, J. Edgar Hoover says he wasn't, so that's that. What Corn -- and The Times -- appear to maintain their confidence in is the inherently contradictory and largely unsubstiantated case thrown together in the months following the  Kennedy assassination against a dupe dispatched promptly by a Mafia hireling before Oswald could be interrogated anywhere near a court.

Davis Corn has been around a while.  Earlier in his career he wrote a book about Ted Shackley, a hard-nosed operations specialist for the CIA who ran "low-intensity" wars during the sixties and seventies, a covert-warfare manager I knew fairly well.  We had lunch regularly when I was in D.C. researching The Old Boys. Corn's book was spotty, poorly focused, and missed the substance of Shackley's career while subsisting on inaccurate rumors.  Corn met Shackley once, at Shackley's insistence exclusively in the presence of Shackley's lawyers. 

On July 17th, 1979, the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Louis Stokes, called a press conference to announce the committee's final report after almost a decade spent investigating the murder of JFK.  The report specified that "Scientific acoustical evidence established a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy."  There had been a conspiracy.  Media across the spectrum scrambled to ignore or dismiss these results.  A new wave of Warren Commission apologists was soon being  lined up to hit the beaches of public opinion. 

But that must wait until our next blog, Countrysnoops.  Enjoy what's left of February.

Burton Hersh

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