Whodunnit ix: Talbot

Talbot is less precise than Douglass.
In fact, precision in terms of identifying who killed Kennedy and why, is not something Talbot, a former editor at Mother Jones and the founder of Salon.com, is about. His point seems to be that, despite investigations by the Warren Commission and two subsequent congressional committees, too much doubt exists about what happened in Dallas for it to be left to lie. He cites some commission members and investigators, as well as other congressmen, members of the Kennedy family, Kennedy loyalists, prominent mainstream journalists, and ex-CIA personnel, who either remain skeptical of or directly repudiate the Warren conclusions. He notes that polls have steadfastly shown a majority of the public – 61% in 2013, down from a high of 81%, most recently attained in 2001 – doubt Oswald acted alone. (Personally, I don’t find this surprising. I doubt many Americans have read even the one-volume summary, let alone the commission’s complete 27 volume report (I haven’t) or Bugliosi’s 1600 pages. And while Talbot faults the media for not having aggressively investigated the assassination, it has, for 50 years, faithfully reported on the many books, TV shows and films that have criticized the commission and thereby educated the public to believe it failed.)
Without committing himself to a particular theory, Talbot identifies as possible Kennedy killers the Mafia, Jimmy Hoffa, anti-Castro Cubans, pro-Castro Cubans, the Pentagon, the CIA, “rogue” CIA agents, and “a national security cabal,” The most original theory he recounts, set forth in notes for a never-written novel by David Atlee Phillips, an ex-CIA agent who figures in several of these plots. In these notes an alliance of Soviet agents and CIA-hating American leftists co-opt a CIA operation, which had established Oswald’s Marxist credentials in order to get him into Cuba where he would assassinate Castro, and use Oswald instead to kill Kennedy in Dallas in an effort to destroy the CIA. (Talbot admits he can’t tell if this amounts to a “confession” by Phillips or an effort to spread further “disinformation.”)
Talbot ends Brothers by calling for the release of documents never released by the CIA, the Kennedys, Cuba, and Moscow, so yet another formal investigation can take place. I wouldn’t mind seeing more documents, but I don’t share Talbot’s faith that they would yield more light than they would blow further smoke. In either event, I’m not sure what they would accomplish either. Since Warren, Americans have learned truths about Watergate, Vietnam and Iraq, without experiencing any enlightenment I am able to discern.
But anyway, onto the evidence.


As I finish the last writing project to which I’m committed, I’m looking at a new one. I approach it cautiously, due to its nature and because this decision coincides with my going off one of my meds, and the last time I dropped it, some regrettable e-mails and impaired relationships resulted. But I aim to uncover who killed Kennedy.

My plan is to lay out, point-by-point, the arguments in two books which believe the Warren Commission got it wrong and weigh them against the answering points, if they exist, in two books that agree with the Commission. In one corner are James Douglas’s “JFK and the Unimaginable” and David Talbot’s “Brothers.” In the opposite ate Gerald Posner’s “Case Closed” and Vincent Bugliosi’s “Reclaiming History.” I chose the Douglas because it is so highly thought of by my good friend and respected political thinker M that he will no longer discuss its subject — or much else of substance — with me; and I chose the Talbot because it is highly thought of by good friend and respected political thinker B, who not only still puts up with my thoughts but is sometimes influenced by them.

I don’t expect to convince anyone of anything. But I expect to inform myself, not only about the ostensible primary topic, but about how people — including myself — think and reason and inform themselves about what they choose to believe.

Stay tuned. This will take a while.