Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi
A REPORT, NOT A REVIEW
by K.I.N.G. Wenclas.
Famed former prosecutor Bugliosi has issued a mammoth book (1632 pages) about the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. In his Introduction he presents the book as the definitive word on the subject. He affirms the Warren Commission report, and claims to answer conspiracy theory questions to the extent that no credible debate on the subject will any longer be possible.
Well, maybe-- but in a cursory examination of the book while at a bookstore I found, in a brief time, a fair share of unanswered questions.
1.) While first claiming to answer all conspiracy questions, Bugliosi later remarks that he won't answer questions which "can't be answered." He gives as example the idea that America is run by semi-secret organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations.
Now, wait a minute. This isn't just any old conspiracy theory. It's THE conspiracy theory; the main one; granddaddy of them all. The most believed and in some ways the most credible conspiracy theory; at least the hardest to disprove.
To eliminate THE major conspiracy theory, Bugliosi ties it to flying saucers and aliens from outer space! Which enables him to dismiss the question in total, without examination. He erects a flimsy straw man and casually, with scarcely a breath-- with a handful of words-- blows it over.
This fundamental dishonesty discredits the book, especially because in the Introduction, Bugliosi makes a point of attacking another pro-Warren Commission author, Gerald Posner, for not being fair to the other (pro-conspiracy) side of the matter.
Bugliosi assumes for himself the posture of objectivity and fairness. Then, as I said, knocks over that credibility and fairness with a puff of air.
2.) A major, if not chief, role in "New World Order" conspiracy theories is played by the Federal Reserve Bank. Given for many years (I heard it often on Detroit radio shows) as a possible reason for JFK's assassination is the notion that Kennedy was about to substitute the use of Federal Reserve Notes (upon which we taxpayers pay interest to use) with United States Notes owned not by a private corporation, but by the government itself. In other words, by us; We the People. In his comprehensive 1632-page book, Bugliosi doesn't address this question. Has he never heard of it? Not likely. Not credible. Not possible.
The interesting parts of Bugliosi's book are those points he fails to address.
3.) The most fascinating theory I've read about the Kennedy assassination was put forward by Charles McCarry in his novel The Tears of Autumn. He pointed out that JFK was killed one month after the Kennedy-approved assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. Payback by the Ngo family? It's a logical possibility.
McCarry was a CIA agent at the time of the assassination. He'd been a CIA operative in Southeast Asia. His novel provides an absorbing look at what might've been the Agency's view of matters when the assassination occurred. Nowhere is McCarry's intelligent and thought-provoking novel mentioned in Bugliosi's book.
4.) The Head Shot. This is the most compelling sequence in Oliver Stone's movie, "JFK." Who can forget Kevin Costner's repetitive phrasing, "Back, and to the right," as the dramatic climax of the Zapruder film is shown?
Does Bugliosi fully answer this matter?
No. The most he can come up with is one example of heads remaining stationary when shot. But JFK's head didn't remain stationary. It snapped back. (This, as it was moving forward in space, in the car, as Oswald's bullet supposedly also moved forward, from behind.)
Bugliosi may be right on this question-- but his explanation is insufficient.
5.) The head shot is important because it's a major part of the physical evidence in the case, and Bugliosi uses the physical evidence to answer all other questions. You'll see, if you read the book, that time and again he closes discussion about matters by saying (I'm paraphrasing from memory) "Besides, all this is irrelevant because of the physical evidence, which is irrefutable." Bugliosi uses the physical evidence connecting Lee Harvey Oswald to the crime as a crutch. For him, it trumps all else.
6.) A huge problem with the book is Bugliosi's assertion that no one-- not the CIA, not the Soviets, not the mob-- would have hired Oswald as a professional assassin. Probably not. But in stating this, Bugliosi avoids a larger question. He behaves like a magician showing you an empty hand while his other hand is busy stuffing a rabbit into a hat.
What would a political assassin from today be like? Would he not likely be a psychologically disturbed individual programmed by psychological techniques or by drugs? This seems the most sophisticated way to operate: using an individual who DOES NOT KNOW who he's working for. It's the safest of all possible methods.
Did such ideas exist in 1963? Yes. This period, in fact, was the heyday of CIA testing of psychotropic drugs such as LSD on individuals. It was the height of internal government discussion of the uses of brainwashing-- the subject of the famous book and movie, "The Manchurian Candidate." (The movie came out in 1962.)
Bugliosi only briefly mentions the movie, and doesn't address its subject. (He's more concerned about an assassination movie, "Suddenly," which uses a hired professional killer as would-be assassin.)
Was Lee Harvey Oswald a "Manchurian Candidate"? This is a question Bugliosi doesn't ask or answer. Was there any possibility Oswald was brainwashed, whether in Russia, or when in the U.S. military? One thing Bugliosi does make clear is the enormous impact of the period of time Oswald spent in the brig while a soldier, subject to traumatic abuse. He came out a far more disturbed person. If a solution to the mystery of Oswald is to be found, it might be here.
7.) There's the problem of coincidence. Bugliosi affirms the presence of coincidence. And so, virtually everything in the case can be tied to the explanation of coincidence.
That Richard Nixon was in Dallas the day before the assassination was only a coincidence. That Oswald had been in the military, had been to the Soviet Union, had been involved with Cubans; that he had ties to so many players on the scene with possible motives was only coincidence. That JFK had embarrassed so many powerful individuals, had made so many enemies so swiftly as President (the mob; Jimmy Hoffa; segregationists; Khruschev; Castro; anti-Castro Cubans; the CIA; LBJ; etc.) was only coincidence. That shortly after the assassination Oswald was himself gunned down in what looked to all the world like a mob hit was, it turns out, mere accident: more coincidence.
Using coincidence to explain so much brings up the question of odds. Yes, Ruby's shooting of Oswald could've just happened, out of the blue, like a chance occurrence-- but what are the odds of that? What are the odds that two lone nuts acted against and successfully found their targets, through layers of protection, with no connection to each other or anyone else?
Multiply slim odds by slim odds and the probabilities only go down. To believe the Warren Commission report is to multiply coincidence by coincidence by coincidence. Its advocates live in a causeless universe of random bodies forever randomly bouncing around.
Conslusion: Bugliosi may be right in his arguments. Hard evidence is hard to refute. However, this is not the definitive work on the subject. Too many questions remain. Bugliosi's viewpoint is too narrow. He follows a line on the ground but not what surrounds it. As Shakespeare said in the play Hamlet, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."