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Historians and the JFK Assassination


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#1 John Simkin

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Posted 15 June 2005 - 02:17 PM

One of the interesting aspects of the JFK assassination is the shortage of established historians willing to write about the case. I can think of only two: Peter Dale Scott (University of California) and Michael Kurtz (Southeastern Louisiana University).

Scott wrote: Crime and Cover-Up: The CIA, the Mafia, and the Dallas-Watergate Connection (1977), Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1993) and Deep Politics II: Essays on Oswald, Mexico, and Cuba (1996),

Kurtz wrote Lee Harvey Oswald: A Reappraisal (1980) and The Kennedy Assassination From a Historian's Perspective (1982).

Donald Gibson is another candidate but he is officially a sociologist: Battling Wall Street: The Kennedy Presidency (1994) and The Kennedy Assassination Cover-up (1999). So also is Richard D. Mahoney (University of Massachusetts) but he is professor of international management). His book, Sons and Brothers, is worth reading on the assassination.

That is not say that historians have spent anytime writing about how Oswald was the lone gunman. I do not know of any academic historian who has done that. Historians just stay well clear of analysing the assassination. It is journalists who have done most of the writing on the subject. One of the problems about this is that JFK researchers are not taken as seriously by the academic world as they should be.

I came across a good quote by Voltaire that helps to explain the situation: “history is the lie that historians agree upon.”

#2 Christopher T. George

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Posted 15 June 2005 - 02:41 PM

Hi John

Isn't this a vicious circle? We have the same type of situation in Ripperology, in that most of the people who write about the Jack the Ripper case are not historians but journalists, crime writers, and former policemen. The one major exception would be Philip Sugden whose Complete History of Jack the Ripper is acknowledged to be one of the best books on the case. In the main though isn't it probably true that study of the JFK assassination, as with that of the Ripper case and the Lincoln assassination, is viewed by serious historians as the domain of faddists and buffs? A view that certainly keeps many such historians away.

Best regards

Chris George

Edited by Christopher T. George, 15 June 2005 - 02:42 PM.


#3 Tim Gratz

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 07:54 AM

John, I came across a quote that says that history is a "continuing argument".

And didn't Nixon have a famous (and probably true) quote that who wins depends on who writes the history (or to that effect)? And of course he worked hard to rehabilitate himself after his resignation but even though he had widespread respect at the time of his death I believe history will have the same verdict on him,

#4 Tim Gratz

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 07:58 AM

John:

It is interesting that, as I am sure you know, Kurtz had actually seen Oswald and Banister together. At least once, or was it twice?

Since not everyone has read Kurtz, would you be kind enough to acknowledge that in his book "The Crime of the Century" Kurtz states he believes the most likely scenario is that Castro did it, with the help of Trafficante. The same theory I had espoused even before I read his book.

I will acknowledge, of course, that you are a fine historian, and you consider that theory bunk.

Edited by Tim Gratz, 16 June 2005 - 08:00 AM.


#5 John Simkin

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 08:50 AM

Since not everyone has read Kurtz, would you be kind enough to acknowledge that in his book "The Crime of the Century" Kurtz states he believes the most likely scenario is that Castro did it, with the help of Trafficante.  The same theory I had espoused even before I read his book.

I will acknowledge, of course, that you are a fine historian, and you consider that theory bunk.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I will acknowledge two things.

(1) Once again we have another example of Tim trying to turn another thread into the “Castro did it” theory.

(2) I acknowledge that Kurtz did suggest that it was a possibility that the JFK assassination could have been organized by Fidel Castro. It is just one of many theories he looks at in his book. I have not attempted to disguise this on my website. I have quoted him on this on both my pages on Kurtz and the theory that Castro was behind the assassination. See the following links:

http://www.spartacus...nvestSoviet.htm

http://www.spartacus...uk/JFKkurtz.htm

For those interested in what Kurtz had to say on this matter here is a quotation from his book Crime of the Century:The Kennedy Assassination From a Historians Perspective (1982):

The CIA knew that the Cuban government employed assassins and that it had actually carried out an assassination in Mexico. On 19 March 1964, the intelligence agency learned that a "Cuban-American" who was somehow "involved in the assassination" crossed the border from Texas to Mexico on 23 November, stayed in Mexico for four days, and flew to Cuba on 27 November. The CIA also received information that on 22 November, a Cubana Airlines flight from Mexico City to Havana was delayed for five hours until a passenger arrived in a private aircraft. The individual boarded the Cubana flight, and it left for Havana shortly before 11:00 p.m.

These occurrences clearly arouse suspicions of an assassination plot engineered by the Cuban government under Fidel Castro. Various items of information gleaned from the recently declassified FBI and CIA assassination files reinforce those suspicions. On 24 November 1963, for example, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent an urgent telegram to the FBI legation in Madrid: "Spanish Intelligence possesses a report that attributes president's assassination to Castro and claims that Oswald was acting as Cuban agent." The CIA also received similar information from several sources. One claimed that the Chinese Communists and Castro had masterminded the assassination. Another source claimed that a "Miss T" heard Cubans talking about having the president killed. Yet another source in Spain told the CIA that local Cuban officials asserted that Oswald "had nothing to do with Kennedy's murder."


#6 Tim Gratz

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 09:00 AM

John, I am an innocent man.

I knew you would not allow the hijacking of your own thread! All I wanted to do was slip in a little point!

#7 Tim Gratz

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 10:28 AM

Another issue worth discussion is why so many historians, e.g. most of Kennedy's biographers, who are obviously intelligent persons, have adopted the Warren Commission lone nut scenario. Robert Dallek comes to mind because I just read his very brief adoption of the WC findings in his "JFK: An Unfinished Life."

#8 John Geraghty

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 05:45 PM

From reading Peter Dale Scott's 'Deep Poltics and the Death of JFK' I see that Noam Chomsky seems to have some sort of interest in the assassination, indirect though it may be. Chomsky argues that JFK was nor trying to pull out of vietnam and that the troops were there to stay, which is at odds with what PDS believes. From reading it I get the impression that they have discussed the matter before.

I know Chomsky is more of a social commentator than a historian, but its worth throwing in.

I suppose This thread vindicates what john is trying to say, as I have to stretch who we deem to be 'historians' to come up with a relevant example.

John

#9 Christopher T. George

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 05:58 PM

Another issue worth discussion is why so many historians, e.g. most of Kennedy's biographers, who are obviously intelligent persons, have adopted the Warren Commission lone nut scenario.  Robert Dallek comes to mind because I just read his very brief adoption of the WC findings in his "JFK: An Unfinished Life."

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hi Tim

Isn't that easier than going out on a limb and saying there was a conspiracy? In any case, I should doubt if many serious historians are going to come out and say there was a conspiracy if they did not have the proof to make such a statement. Therefore it is easier to accept the "official" line, isn't it? The other point is that most such historians lack the forensic skills or temperament to pursue the conspiracy angle.

All my best

Chris

Edited by Christopher T. George, 16 June 2005 - 06:00 PM.


#10 David Boylan

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Posted 16 June 2005 - 06:38 PM

Doesn't Wayne Smith believe there was a conspiracy?

http://www.spartacus...k/JFKsmithW.htm

And http://www.cuban-exi.../doc0027-1.html

Nice job of transcribing I must say...

Dave

Edited by David Boylan, 16 June 2005 - 06:45 PM.


#11 Tim Gratz

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Posted 17 June 2005 - 04:56 AM

Christopher George wrote:

Isn't that easier than going out on a limb and saying there was a conspiracy? In any case, I should doubt if many serious historians are going to come out and say there was a conspiracy if they did not have the proof to make such a statement. Therefore it is easier to accept the "official" line, isn't it? The other point is that most such historians lack the forensic skills or temperament to pursue the conspiracy angle.

Great point, Chris. I am sure that is a large part of it. However, how easy it is for an historian to adopt the "lone nut" position of the WC Report and ignore the fact that the last official entity of the U.S. government that investigated the murder found that there probably was a conspiracy (although it could not identify who the conspirators were). As far as I recall, Congress never officially adopted the findings of the WC, nor for that matter (if memory serves me) did Congress "adopt" or "endorse" the report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Nevertheless, I believe it can be said that the last finding of a branch of the U.S. government is that there was, "probably", a conspiracy.

I think it the fairest thing for a historian would be to report the findings of the House Select Committee on Assassinations as well as the WC. Moreover, unless the historian has studied the issue it would seem the historian ought not insert his opinion on the matter.

Unless the assassination is resolved, it will be interesting to see what the history books of the next century say about the assassination.

Does anyone know what the most popular high school or college textbooks say about the assassination?

Edited by Tim Gratz, 17 June 2005 - 04:57 AM.


#12 Tim Gratz

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Posted 17 June 2005 - 06:14 AM

Folks, I was all set to conclude that my friend John was guilty of intellectual dishonesty in not acknowledging my point about Kurtz's position on the assassination, and stating that the "Castro did it" theory was only one of several that Kurtz examined in his book, "The Crime of the Century".

Then I looked at things more carefully and discovered that John was basing HIS statement on the 1982 version of Kurtz's book, then called "The Kennedy Assassination From A Historian's Perspective" while I had the paperback 1993 version of the book, retitled "The Crime of the Century."

It is in the preface to the 1993 paperback version that Kurtz makes clear his opinion that "Fidel did it" with the help of Santo Trafficante, Jr. (the scenario I had concluded from my review of the literature and evidence but before reading his book).

In the version to which John refered, Kurtz set forth three theories of the conspiracy and stated: "All three [theories], especially that of the involvement of the Cuban government, are supported by some evidence." I can understand why John thought I had over-stated Kurtz's position.

But here is what Kurtz says in the Preface to the 1993 edition of his book (although the page number references are to the 1993 paperback version):

This new introduction serves both to bring the material covered in the first edition up to date and to expand on some of the topics that I did not cover in sufficient detail. . .Although I stated that the bulk of the evidence pointed to Fidel castro as the matermind behind the Kennedy assassination, I did not elaborate sufficiently on that conclusion. (ix)

I believe that Fidel Castro ordered the assassination of President Kennedy in retaliation for repeated assassination attempts against his own life during the Kennedy administration. (xlvi-xlvii). To accomplish this task, I believe that he turned to Santo Trafficante, whose reputation as one of the most violent and feared of all Mafia bosses in America had been well established. (l).

[After several pages of discussion on the reasons for and against the "Fidel did it scenario, Kurtz concludes that:] [the available evidence] persuade[s] me that the Castro-Trafficante conspiracy theory is by far the most credible of all Kennedy assassination theories. (liii)


Kurtz also states:

The movie JFK and many of the recently published books on the assassination have enlarged the list of suspects to include such persons as E. Howard Hunt and J. Edgar Hoover, such institutions as the Secret Service and the CIA, and even a sinister cabal of military intelligence operatives in the executive branch of government. Clearly, such theories can be dismissed as irresponsible . .. (x)

Kurtz believes that Trafficante recruited Rosselli into the scheme to kill Kennedy and Rosselli then recruited William Harvey to assist in the planning of the details. I do not think there is sufficient evidence to include Harvey in the scheme, even though he hated the Kennedys and was friendly with Rosselli. If there were rogue CIA agents involved I think it would be more likely Morales and/or Robertson, since they were still working with Rosselli in the summer and fall of 1963, while Harvey was in Rome.

Note also that if Trafficante was working at Castro's request, there is no reason to believe that he had necessarily communicated that to Rosselli, who was, apparently anyway, a patriotic American [granted an illegal immigrant] proud of the fact he was born on the Fourth of July.

I do not want to hijack this thread, despite John's statement, and so I have not summarized all of Kurtz's reasons to believe that Castro did it. But I think it important for members to note the strength of Kurtz's position that the Castro scenario is, in his words, "by far" the most credible. It should be noted that Kutz lives in New Orleans, witnessed the Garrison case, and for many years taught a course on the assassination.

Since John did not have access to the 1993 Preface, I understand why he quibbled with my point re Kurtz's strong position is that Castro probably did it.

Edited by Tim Gratz, 17 June 2005 - 06:22 AM.


#13 Tim Gratz

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Posted 18 June 2005 - 03:15 AM

Back to the treatment of the assassination in the history books. I reread Dallek's treatment. He talks about the Warren Commission only, never even mentioning the HSCA. He calls Posner's book "authoritative" but contends most Americans do not accept the findings of the WC because they were whipped into a frenzy by Stone's "JFK" movie.

He states Oswald fired three shots, the second hit Kennedy "in the back of the neck" and the third shot was the fatal shot. Never mentions which shot wounded Connally (presumably he thinks the second shot was the single bullet which exited the front of Kennedy's throat and wounded Connally).

Incredible!

I'll try to later post the statements in some of the other more recent biographies of JFK.

#14 John Simkin

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Posted 18 June 2005 - 06:36 AM

Folks, I was all set to conclude that my friend John was guilty of intellectual dishonesty in not acknowledging my point about Kurtz's position on the assassination, and stating that the "Castro did it" theory was only one of several that Kurtz examined in his book, "The Crime of the Century".

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


It is true I only have a copy of the original edition of The Crime of the Century. So Kurtz now buy's into the CIA theory that Castro did it. Could you quote from this preface how Kurtz explains how Castro organized the cover-up of the assassination. This includes removing and tampering with the evidence, destroying FBI and CIA files, controlling the way the American media reported the assassination, the Warren Report, smearing critics of the lone gunman theory, etc.

This is of course the same question that you always refuse to answer when you put forward the Castro/Soviet/Mafia did it theories. That is why it is your "intellectual dishonesty" that is the issue here.

#15 Tim Gratz

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Posted 18 June 2005 - 06:51 AM

John, it was only because you started this thread that I discovered why you did not know how strongly Kurtz endorses the Castro scenario.

In response to your above post:

Things are not always as they seem.

In another thread it was pointed out that Kenny O'Donnell helped assist in the fast removal of JFK's body from Dallas (if I remember the Garrison line from the "JFK movie: "It was more like a getaway. . ."). So if the cover-up was part of the assassination, then I guess Kenny did it. Not Fidel.

And Ron pointed out that it was O'Donnell that finally placed the luncheon at the Trade Mart, assuring the motorcade would go by the TSBD.

From the above two points, one could conclude that O'Donnell helped plan the assassination and jump start the cover-up.

But that is of course an absurd conclusion.

The simple answer is that LBJ wanted a lone gunman ("Phase Two" as Peter Dale Scott puts it) and the impetus for the cover-up was different (or may have been, at least) than the motive for the assassination. Moreover, LBJ may even have been blackmailed into the cover-up. You yourself have suggested as much. LBJ as patsy. And RFK could have been blackmailed as well.

If LHO was working for either the FBI or the CIA he was indeed the perfect patsy for outside conspiratorilists.

Like they say, it does not take a rocket scientist to formulate these scenarios.

Once you consider that the cover-up was not necessarily orchestrated by the assassins, the problem you suggest disappears.




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