Kennedy's Death, Revisited

A preventable death.

November 22 is the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas. A large number of publications in the American media, from print to TV documentaries, feature films and talk shows have been dedicated to the commemoration of this event. All these articles and productions discuss why and how the assassination happened. In the midst of this chorus of voices, one work stands out as meriting special attention—the book A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret of the Kennedy Assassination by New York Times journalist Philip Shenon, which was published several weeks ago. It immediately attracted attention. For example, the October 27 episode of CBS’s Face the Nation was almost entirely dedicated to the book. Some participants in the discussion attempted to place the assassination in the context of contemporary American politics.

Shenon’s book, like many others, tries to answer the question of whether the assassination was the work of a lone assassin in the face of Lee Harvey Oswald, or whether it was the plot of Cuban or Russian spies, the U.S. mafia, or some other force trying to rid itself of President Kennedy. Despite the thousands upon thousands of articles and books written on the subject, Shenon managed to unearth plenty of facts that had not been presented to the Warren Commission (investigating the murder of JFK on the orders of President Johnson) or to the public at large.

Even though this book does not ultimately answer the question of who killed JFK, it nonetheless answers another question: was his assassination preventable? The author is fully convinced that it was, if only the American secret agencies had done their job conscionably. The assassination could have been stopped had the information available to the secret agencies been shared with the FBI in Dallas, TX. It is astonishing that the facts about Oswald’s trip to Mexico had not been investigated or even brought to the attention of the Warren Commission. The leaders of the Cuban revolution felt very much ill at ease with the Kennedy brothers at the time. It is well-known at this point that the American covert agencies and the Kennedy brothers tried to murder Castro, which Lyndon Johnson frequently spoke about to his confidantes. One theory is that Castro himself decided to preempt an attack on his person and organized a mission to kill JFK.

As FBI Director Clarence Kelley, who succeeded Hoover in this position in 1972 after Hoover’s death, made clear in 1975, the Commission was not given access to a top secret letter, dated July 1964, in which Hoover wrote that Oswald himself said in the Cuban embassy in Mexico that he had been planning on killing JFK. Whether due to bureaucratic cover-ups or for other reasons that we can only guess at, as Kelley states, the FBI and CIA in Washington DC had enough information on Oswald to put his name on the Secret Service list of potential threats. Based on the facts, Kelley reaches the unambiguous conclusion that if the Dallas section of the FBI had had the information available at the time to the Washington-based FBI and CIA, there is no doubt that John Fitzgerald Kennedy would not have been assassinated on November 22, 1963—and history could have unfolded differently.

In addition to the Cuban trace in the assassination, there was also a Soviet one. The American authorities had known for a long time that Oswald held Marxist ideological convictions, sought asylum in the Soviet Union, and lived in the USSR for two years, where he married a Russian woman. Not long before the assassination, he met with Russian diplomats in Mexico, among whom were Russian spies, including Vladimir Kostikov, whom the FBI and CIA considered an expert on assassinations. However, both the U.S. government and covert agencies were skeptical about a Cuban or Soviet role in the murder of JFK. I also believe it is largely unlikely that the Soviet leadership could have been involved in the death of the American president. Such an involvement could have spelled the most serious consequences, which include the beginning of a third world war. At the time, revolutionary fanatics were no longer in the ranks of the Soviet leadership. Khrushchev had, for a few years already, proclaimed the peaceful coexistence of capitalism and socialism. This was one of the main reasons for the rift between the Soviet and Chinese communists.

It is highly unlikely that, having just gone through the Berlin and Cuban crises, the Soviet leaders would have risked new confrontations with the U.S., which could have been very problematic for Moscow. It is no accident that the Soviet version of the Kennedy murder was that he most likely fell victim to reactionary circles within the United States who could not forgive the President for leading domestic reformatory politics to alleviate poverty and guarantee minority rights, and negotiated with the Soviet Union on a wide range of issues, especially after signing an agreement to ban nuclear tests in three spheres. Even though for his short time as President Kennedy was considered by the Soviets a strong leader who strictly defended the interests of his country and the West against the USSR, he was also seen as a pragmatic politician, not inclined to adventurist steps.

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