Allen Dulles

My friend and most trusted political adviser, Budd, hates Allen Dulles. This may surprise those who have not woken up with Mr. Dulles on their mind since before the break-up of the Beatles, but he seems needed fuel for those who believes that those who do not remember history are condemned and wish to remind themselves and others what evil the USA can do.

Budd has been reading a biography of Dulles by David Talbot, a journalist of impeccable… Well, a journalist impeccably ideologically straight-jacketed. Budd is clear on Talbot’s bent, but he still led off our last get-together by fingering Dulles for offing Patrice Lumumba, another figure long absent from “Jeopardy”‘s big board.

Sure, Dulles was probably evil, but Henry Kissinger, whom Budd admires and who is still with us, probably has more blood on his hands. And granted Lumumba’s execution, without due process of semblance of trial, was an abominable act; and while the Congolese and Belgians were more directly implicated, Dulles could easily have gone down as a co-conspirator. But bigger-picture (and sardonic humor)-wise, given went on in the next 50 years in the various states the British, French, and Belgians left behind them, how confident can we be that the Congo citizenry would have been better off if Lumumba had been left in place than if Joseph Mobutu hadn’t been maneuvered to replace him?

I can’t tell from Wikipedia what total body-count Mobutu rolled up while at his nation’s helm, but he did seem to have gutted the country financially, while, in good capitalist fashion, enriching himself unduly. On the other hand, Julius Nyere, who seems to have shared Lumumba’s more socialist inclination, left Tanzania “one of the poorest, least developed, and most foreign aid dependent countries in the world.”

I mean, I think the world can regularly be counted on to throw up evil men, like landslides or earthquakes or famines, to destroy hundreds or thousands or millions. I’ve said this before but maybe, given that, you’ve just got to step back and take the long view. Like President Obama said in the NYT today (in the Styles section, of all places), “(T)he fact is the world is wealthier, healthier, better educated, less violent, more tolerant, more morally conscious, and more attentive to the vulnerable than it has ever been.”

It may be good to get as angry as Budd does, but keep that in mind too.

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, 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.

Whodunit vi: choice of characters (a)

Yesterday I mentioned that, given all the information that exists about the Kennedy assassination, writing a book about it is almost like writing a novel. With that in mind as a premise…

Would you have your three-person team of CIA-contracted assassins include a woman who was a heroin addict? Then while driving from Miami to Dallas, would you have one of the men with whom she was traveling throw her out of a bar, leaving her to wander until hit by a car, so that the police would take her to a hospital for the withdrawal symptoms she was experiencing and, en route, have her explain that the purpose of her trip had been to a) get some money; b) pick-up her baby; c) kill the president; d) proceed to Houston to purchase 10 kilos of heroin from a seaman arriving from Galveston; and e) go to Mexico? A few days later would you have her volunteer that she had worked for Jack Ruby as a stripper and knew he and Lee Harvey Oswald had been engaged in a long-standing homosexual relationship? Finally, having failed to eliminate her before she’d made any of these statements, would you, two years later, have her shot in the head but convince the coroner to attribute the cause of death to a motor vehicle accident?
I didn’t think so.

David Talbot omitted this woman, usually known as Rose Cheramie, from his book. James W. Douglass gave her two pages. He admitted there was a question as to “how reliable” Cheramie was but satisfied himself because the police had confirmed that the ship she’d mentioned had docked in Galveston; the seaman was aboard; and the man supposedly holding the money and her baby was a suspected drug trafficker. For Douglas this outweighed, that, according to Vincent Bugliosi, “Cheramie” was but one of the woman’s two dozen aliases; that she had been arrested more than four-dozen time; and that she had been hospitalized three times for mental problems. Douglass does not mention that there is no record of Ruby ever having owned the club at which she says worked, nor that, within the few days following her first being picked up by the police, she also said that she alone was going to kill the president; that it was the others, but not she, who would; and that it was not any of them but different people entirely, which struck my wife, a former psychotherapist – and someone who believes Oswald didn’t act alone – as the type the mentally ill often make to themselves – or others, as long as they are willing to put up with their ramblings.

Whodunnit (ii): the murder of JFK

Thanks to a libris, I now have the four books I mentioned last blog. So let me provides some vital statistics. (All weights include index and footnotes, except for the Bugliosi which has its fns in a CD rom I didn’t get.)

In the black (pro-Warren) corner, Posner’s volume (1993), the veteran of the bunch, weighs in at 637 pp. His partner, the massive — think Andre the Giant — Bugliosi (2007) has 1632. In the white (anti-Warren) corner, the Talbot (2007) is a slim 417 pp, and the Douglas is a nearly as trim 510.

Before joining me in standing while Marilyn Monroe sings the national anthem, let me make a few observations. Posner, being published first can address none of the other books. Reviewing the other indexes though, I see Bugliosi mentions Posner several times, not generally complimentarily, but neither of his opponents, perhaps understandably since their publication dates were close to his. Talbot mentions Posner but not to rebut any points he made. Talbot says that Posner’s book became a best seller because it was favorably reviewed by the mainstream media since its conclusion let the same media “off the hook” for its complicity in the cover-up. (Any implications of his own book becoming a “bestseller,” as its softcover edition proclaims, are not drawn.) Douglas mentions neither Posner nor Bugliosi. The failure of Talbot and Douglas may be due to the fact to the close proximity of the publication dates of their books, but Bugliosi’s book stemmed from his having prosecuted Oswald in a 21-hour British television trial, broadcast over several days in several countries, in July 1986. (A condensed American version was shown on SHOW in November.) Gerry Spence was the defense attorney. The jury convicted Oswald, after six hours deliberation. This would seem to have warranted some mention.

Maybe it did in some later writings by Douglas and Talbot. I haven’t checked, but I am aware of an article in Talbot in “Slate” (11/6/13) where he places Douglas’s book atop a list of the seven “best books” about Kennedy’s killing. (His own is Number Six.) Neither Posner nor Bugliosi made the list but are dismissed as “hardcore lone gunmen” theorists.

I ought to say I am no impartial referee. I believed Oswald did it up until around the time of Oliver Stone’s movie on the subject. (Like most Americans, I had read none of the books on the subject.) Then I conceded it was as likely as not that other people were involved. Since then I have swung back to my original opinion.


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.