Jump to content

David Kaiser: The Road to Dallas


Recommended Posts

  • 2 weeks later...
  • Replies 60
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

An article that appeared in Inside Higher Education

http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2008/03/19/mclemee

The Truth? I Can’t Handle the Truth!

By Scott McLemee

Harvard University Press has just issued a book promulgating a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.

Let’s put that sentence on the chalkboard and underscore the anthropologically interesting aspects of the situation, shall we? Harvard University Press has just issued a book promulgating a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.

Within the continuum of any given culture, there is what the structuralists used to call the combinatoire – the underlying grid of distinctions and exclusions, an implicit directory of what goes with what (and, just as important, what doesn’t). So the appearance of The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by David Kaiser counts, arguably, as something more than a piece of publishing news. That, too. But we may be talking here about something like a mutation in the cultural genome.

That said, the book’s argument does not exactly qualify as a paradigm shift. Kaiser, who is a professor of strategy and policy at the Naval War College and the author of two earlier books published by Harvard, argues that Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger as a result of machinations within “a complex network of relationships among mobsters, hit men, intelligence agents, Cuban exiles, and America’s Cold War foreign policy.” To make this case, Kaiser examines an enormous mass of documents that have been declassified since 1992. “Hundreds of books on the Kennedy assassination have appeared,” he writes, “but this is the first one written by a professional historian who has researched the available archives.” Perhaps, but it is also a variation on certain familiar themes.

For an academic to take a deep interest in JFK conspiracy theories is unusual but hardly unprecedented. One of the very first books in the genre was Six Seconds in Dallas: A Micro-Study of the Kennedy Assassination (1967), the work of a philosopher named Josiah Thompson, who later achieved tenure at Haverford College on the basis of his scholarly work concerning Soren Kierkegaard’s existentialist writings. In the mid-1970s, Thompson turned his back on academic life and became a private detective. As career changes go, it seems the stuff of daydreams.

Over the decade following Thompson’s pioneering “micro-study,” research into JFK conspiratology turned into an almost professionalized field of inquiry – even if those pursuing it tended to be amateurs, not to say hobbyists. By the late 1970s, eager new conspiracy theorists were warned by their elders not to try to master the entire discipline. Instead, they should choose some overlooked corner of the assassination (“who was Oswald’s landlady really?” perhaps) and become the recognized expert on it. Sound familiar?

“Publish or perish” seems to have kicked in as well. So I discovered in 1991 while working as an archival technician at the Library of Congress. The extent of the LC’s holdings can be overwhelming to confront – more than 500 miles of shelves, with books overflowing them and accumulating in the aisles. The stacks can induce an experience that feels rather like what Kant called “the mathematical sublime.” This is the feeling of being shaken by the sheer magnitude of a natural phenomenon that is far more enormous than anything you can quite wrap your mind around. Trying to imagine just how vast a galaxy must be, given that we fill just one small part of a single solar system, for example, gives a taste of the mathematical sublime.

By that standard, perhaps, the library stacks are not quite cosmically mindblowing. Still, it’s probably for the best that they are off limits to the public, which might otherwise wander them in a total daze.

After a while, you learn out the bookish sublime. But I blundered right into another version of it one day, thanks to an aisle located on one floor loaded with U.S. history titles. One end of the aisle was dominated by the original edition of the complete Warren Commission Report. This was for many years the mother lode of all debate and conjecture on the Kennedy assassination. It runs to 26 volumes, and there were two full sets. The spines told of heavy use.

They were an impressive sight. But more overwhelming was the next row of books – and the row after that, then the row after that. Volume after volume (running to the hundreds) lingered over the events of that day in November 1963, analyzing every aspect of the event you could imagine, and some you probably couldn’t. Overlooked suspects were named. Their means, motives, and opportunities were documented at length. The official account was refuted, again and again; and the theorists debunked one another, as well.

It was hard to take in, not just how prolific the conspiracy people were, but how thoroughly their attention had absorbed every possible detail from the record – extracting meanings from it, but diverse and contradictory meanings. Each fact fed several interpretations. Every interpretation generated suspicion. Which meant, in turn, more research and theorizing – more facts, and more analysis, and more suspicion. The question of who killed JFK, and why, was clearly inexhaustible. Or at least the passion for reopening the question was. It seemed bottomless, like an abyss.

This was scholarship, of a kind. But it tended not be cumulative. No synthesis could ever reconcile all of the arguments, or even most of them. (Only the intrepid reporters at The Onion have ever come close.) The conspiracy researchers formed a community, yet their theories were monads.

Later, I found out that Josiah Thompson had published a book about Soren Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous writings on faith and solitude at the very same time his Six Seconds in Dallas appeared. The title of his monograph was The Lonely Labyrinth – a really perfect description, too, of the world within those hundreds of JFK volumes.

How is it that the latest gallery within the labyrinth is a book published by Harvard University Press? Why did one of the country’s most distinguished scholarly publishers decide to contribute to a genre that has flourished mainly on the cultural margins for almost five decades?

This line of inquiry interested me a lot more than the one pursued by David Kaiser in The Road to Dallas. I mean no disrespect to the author. His previous works of scholarship – a macrohistorical account of European warfare and a study of American policy during the Vietnam conflict – have been well received by his colleagues. And The Road to Dallas is a sober book, with none of the fervid whirligigs of logic found in some other titles in the field, even by academics.

But it is a work of conspiracy theory, all the same. It follows some of the familiar protocols of the genre. Kaiser examines documents that were released in the wake of Oliver Stone’s “JFK” – a film he calls irresponsible, but important for creating pressure on the government to declassify thousands of records. And there is the standard “Cui bono?” clincher. Who benefited? For Stone, it was LBJ and the military-industrial complex. For Kaiser, the answer is equally clear: “The killing of President Kennedy, followed by the resignation less than a year later of Robert Kennedy as attorney general, seriously curtailed the government’s effort to clean up organized crime – as it was intended to do.”

But the idea that some new mass of evidence will solve the mystery once and for all is what has kept the whole conspiratological process going all these years. Finality is not the name of this game. New charges of concealment will always double back upon any supposed revelation. “The Central Intelligence Agency has nothing to do with Kennedy’s assassination,” wrotes Kaiser, despite its extensive involvement with both organized crime and its attempts to kill Fidel Castro (or at very least deprive him of the power associated with his beard). You can imagine how other conspiracy theorists, academic or otherwise, will pick over that argument – especially given that the author is a professor at the Naval War College.

So, again, how did Harvard University Press end up giving its imprimatur to a work embedded in this particular (and rather off-beat) discursive formation? It was once the case that JFK conspiracy books tended to be self-published, or sold by presses specializing in exotica. Certainly the vast majority of those from the 1970s and ‘80s that I saw on the shelves at the Library of Congress were. Commercial publishers have issued a few, given the niche market.

But it seemed as if some kind of threshold were being crossed when such a title was announced in the pages of The New York Review of Books, via an ad from Harvard. When a colleague pointed this out by e-mail, only one piece of digital shorthand seemed to apply: WTF?

Following a little sleuthing, I was directed to Kathleen McDermott. She is identified in the acknowledgments to The Road to Dallas as one of the editors at Harvard University Press who “embraced the idea and did a great deal to make the final product read more clearly.” We had some exchanges by phone and by e-mail last week, but I must confess to being more perplexed now than when I began.

What was the decision-making process behind acquiring this book like? Was there any concern about the idea of lending the press’s enormous cultural authority to a work of conspiracy theorizing? Did anyone there express reservations? Was there, perhaps, something in particular about the evidence or analysis that seemed to make publishing such a volume worth the risk?

They knew that a book on the JFK assassination might be controversial, McDermott told me by phone. “For that very reason, it was attractive and appealing,” she said. The press had signed him up for the book while he was still involved in the research and had not yet finished the manuscript. This struck me as a rather remarkable expression of confidence given the nature of the material. So I asked if it was simply a matter of him having credit, so to speak, given the favorable reception of Kaiser’s earlier scholarship.

“Partly it was a matter that we knew him,” said McDermott. “And partly it was because this is a topic that engages people so emotionally that to have a book like this come out from the press seemed worthwhile. People do like to read this kind of information. People live for these details, and we wanted to be able to present a detailed examination of the case.”

Between the lines of that answer, it sounded as if the potential market for such a book were a big factor. Now, I do try to be a realist. For a struggling academic press to turn out cookbooks and guides to state flowers seems like a reasonable price to pay, if it means good scholarly books are also in the catalog. But implicit in that trade-off, it seems, is the need for a kind of Chinese wall between the kinds of books. The process of accepting and publishing a scholarly work ought to take shape primarily (in the best of all possible worlds, exclusively) with reference to intellectual standards. If it sells outside the community of scholars, great. But a kind of stern lucidity about the distinction between kinds of books seems worth maintaining in principle, however difficult that may be in practice.

So I wondered aloud if McDermott’s mention of “people [who] like to read this kind of information” didn’t imply that the decision to publish The Road to Dallas was primarily market-driven. “Certainly we were aware of the possibility of reaching a wide audience,” she said. “That was not the sole reason, but part of a lot of connected reasons to do it.”

After hanging up the phone, I thought of an obvious topic to have discussed. What sort of peer review did the book have? How many scholars had vetted the manuscript? By any chance would it be possible for me to get look at the reviews they had written for the press? I sent her an email note posing these questions.

“Let me just reiterate,” McDermott responded, “that the book went through a standard acquisition process at the press. It was seen from first consideration as a serious history book by a serious historian.”

Fair enough! But to someone who doesn’t know the exact details of the standard acquisition process at Harvard University Press, that answer leaves unclear just how The Road to Dallas was peer-reviewed. So I wrote back to ask. In particular, I wanted to know just how many scholars had been asked to go over the book before it was approved for publication.

No answer came. I decided to wait until the start of the new week to ask again. And when still no response was forthcoming, something dawned on me. I’d prefer not to think it, but it can’t be helped: Evidently there are certain mysteries for which cynical speculation proves unavoidable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Translation: Monks, don't you dare leave the monastery or we will make fun of you in Latin of Our Very Own.

Reading this was like the Church trial of Gallileo. Three-sylable name calling, completely uncorrupted by facts or even vague familliarity with the issues. Thanks for posting. It does much to explain the todays level of political passivity by college students.

The yellow police tape of the mind spoke clearly to the American Middle Class: LOW STATUS KNOWLEDGE; EYEBROWS, COMMENCE THE WAVE. This is our Siberia of shrugs and sideways glances. This combined with a few Nation editors works far better than a prison camp.

Could Pavlov's dogs been conditioned more efficiently than America's universities? This non-review is certainly worthy of publication. In Volume XXXVVVVIIII (Spring) Studies In Condescension. (Reprinted Wilson Quarterly).

Edited by Nathaniel Heidenheimer
Link to comment
Share on other sites

An article that appeared in Inside Higher Education

http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2008/03/19/mclemee

The Truth? I Can’t Handle the Truth!

By Scott McLemee

Harvard University Press has just issued a book promulgating a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.

Let’s put that sentence on the chalkboard and underscore the anthropologically interesting aspects of the situation, shall we? Harvard University Press has just issued a book promulgating a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.

Within the continuum of any given culture, there is what the structuralists used to call the combinatoire – the underlying grid of distinctions and exclusions, an implicit directory of what goes with what (and, just as important, what doesn’t). So the appearance of The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by David Kaiser counts, arguably, as something more than a piece of publishing news. That, too. But we may be talking here about something like a mutation in the cultural genome.

That said, the book’s argument does not exactly qualify as a paradigm shift. Kaiser, who is a professor of strategy and policy at the Naval War College and the author of two earlier books published by Harvard, argues that Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger as a result of machinations within “a complex network of relationships among mobsters, hit men, intelligence agents, Cuban exiles, and America’s Cold War foreign policy.” To make this case, Kaiser examines an enormous mass of documents that have been declassified since 1992. “Hundreds of books on the Kennedy assassination have appeared,” he writes, “but this is the first one written by a professional historian who has researched the available archives.” Perhaps, but it is also a variation on certain familiar themes.

For an academic to take a deep interest in JFK conspiracy theories is unusual but hardly unprecedented. One of the very first books in the genre was Six Seconds in Dallas: A Micro-Study of the Kennedy Assassination (1967), the work of a philosopher named Josiah Thompson, who later achieved tenure at Haverford College on the basis of his scholarly work concerning Soren Kierkegaard’s existentialist writings. In the mid-1970s, Thompson turned his back on academic life and became a private detective. As career changes go, it seems the stuff of daydreams.

Over the decade following Thompson’s pioneering “micro-study,” research into JFK conspiratology turned into an almost professionalized field of inquiry – even if those pursuing it tended to be amateurs, not to say hobbyists. By the late 1970s, eager new conspiracy theorists were warned by their elders not to try to master the entire discipline. Instead, they should choose some overlooked corner of the assassination (“who was Oswald’s landlady really?” perhaps) and become the recognized expert on it. Sound familiar?

“Publish or perish” seems to have kicked in as well. So I discovered in 1991 while working as an archival technician at the Library of Congress. The extent of the LC’s holdings can be overwhelming to confront – more than 500 miles of shelves, with books overflowing them and accumulating in the aisles. The stacks can induce an experience that feels rather like what Kant called “the mathematical sublime.” This is the feeling of being shaken by the sheer magnitude of a natural phenomenon that is far more enormous than anything you can quite wrap your mind around. Trying to imagine just how vast a galaxy must be, given that we fill just one small part of a single solar system, for example, gives a taste of the mathematical sublime.

By that standard, perhaps, the library stacks are not quite cosmically mindblowing. Still, it’s probably for the best that they are off limits to the public, which might otherwise wander them in a total daze.

After a while, you learn out the bookish sublime. But I blundered right into another version of it one day, thanks to an aisle located on one floor loaded with U.S. history titles. One end of the aisle was dominated by the original edition of the complete Warren Commission Report. This was for many years the mother lode of all debate and conjecture on the Kennedy assassination. It runs to 26 volumes, and there were two full sets. The spines told of heavy use.

They were an impressive sight. But more overwhelming was the next row of books – and the row after that, then the row after that. Volume after volume (running to the hundreds) lingered over the events of that day in November 1963, analyzing every aspect of the event you could imagine, and some you probably couldn’t. Overlooked suspects were named. Their means, motives, and opportunities were documented at length. The official account was refuted, again and again; and the theorists debunked one another, as well.

It was hard to take in, not just how prolific the conspiracy people were, but how thoroughly their attention had absorbed every possible detail from the record – extracting meanings from it, but diverse and contradictory meanings. Each fact fed several interpretations. Every interpretation generated suspicion. Which meant, in turn, more research and theorizing – more facts, and more analysis, and more suspicion. The question of who killed JFK, and why, was clearly inexhaustible. Or at least the passion for reopening the question was. It seemed bottomless, like an abyss.

This was scholarship, of a kind. But it tended not be cumulative. No synthesis could ever reconcile all of the arguments, or even most of them. (Only the intrepid reporters at The Onion have ever come close.) The conspiracy researchers formed a community, yet their theories were monads.

Later, I found out that Josiah Thompson had published a book about Soren Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous writings on faith and solitude at the very same time his Six Seconds in Dallas appeared. The title of his monograph was The Lonely Labyrinth – a really perfect description, too, of the world within those hundreds of JFK volumes.

How is it that the latest gallery within the labyrinth is a book published by Harvard University Press? Why did one of the country’s most distinguished scholarly publishers decide to contribute to a genre that has flourished mainly on the cultural margins for almost five decades?

This line of inquiry interested me a lot more than the one pursued by David Kaiser in The Road to Dallas. I mean no disrespect to the author. His previous works of scholarship – a macrohistorical account of European warfare and a study of American policy during the Vietnam conflict – have been well received by his colleagues. And The Road to Dallas is a sober book, with none of the fervid whirligigs of logic found in some other titles in the field, even by academics.

But it is a work of conspiracy theory, all the same. It follows some of the familiar protocols of the genre. Kaiser examines documents that were released in the wake of Oliver Stone’s “JFK” – a film he calls irresponsible, but important for creating pressure on the government to declassify thousands of records. And there is the standard “Cui bono?” clincher. Who benefited? For Stone, it was LBJ and the military-industrial complex. For Kaiser, the answer is equally clear: “The killing of President Kennedy, followed by the resignation less than a year later of Robert Kennedy as attorney general, seriously curtailed the government’s effort to clean up organized crime – as it was intended to do.”

But the idea that some new mass of evidence will solve the mystery once and for all is what has kept the whole conspiratological process going all these years. Finality is not the name of this game. New charges of concealment will always double back upon any supposed revelation. “The Central Intelligence Agency has nothing to do with Kennedy’s assassination,” wrotes Kaiser, despite its extensive involvement with both organized crime and its attempts to kill Fidel Castro (or at very least deprive him of the power associated with his beard). You can imagine how other conspiracy theorists, academic or otherwise, will pick over that argument – especially given that the author is a professor at the Naval War College.

So, again, how did Harvard University Press end up giving its imprimatur to a work embedded in this particular (and rather off-beat) discursive formation? It was once the case that JFK conspiracy books tended to be self-published, or sold by presses specializing in exotica. Certainly the vast majority of those from the 1970s and ‘80s that I saw on the shelves at the Library of Congress were. Commercial publishers have issued a few, given the niche market.

But it seemed as if some kind of threshold were being crossed when such a title was announced in the pages of The New York Review of Books, via an ad from Harvard. When a colleague pointed this out by e-mail, only one piece of digital shorthand seemed to apply: WTF?

Following a little sleuthing, I was directed to Kathleen McDermott. She is identified in the acknowledgments to The Road to Dallas as one of the editors at Harvard University Press who “embraced the idea and did a great deal to make the final product read more clearly.” We had some exchanges by phone and by e-mail last week, but I must confess to being more perplexed now than when I began.

What was the decision-making process behind acquiring this book like? Was there any concern about the idea of lending the press’s enormous cultural authority to a work of conspiracy theorizing? Did anyone there express reservations? Was there, perhaps, something in particular about the evidence or analysis that seemed to make publishing such a volume worth the risk?

They knew that a book on the JFK assassination might be controversial, McDermott told me by phone. “For that very reason, it was attractive and appealing,” she said. The press had signed him up for the book while he was still involved in the research and had not yet finished the manuscript. This struck me as a rather remarkable expression of confidence given the nature of the material. So I asked if it was simply a matter of him having credit, so to speak, given the favorable reception of Kaiser’s earlier scholarship.

“Partly it was a matter that we knew him,” said McDermott. “And partly it was because this is a topic that engages people so emotionally that to have a book like this come out from the press seemed worthwhile. People do like to read this kind of information. People live for these details, and we wanted to be able to present a detailed examination of the case.”

Between the lines of that answer, it sounded as if the potential market for such a book were a big factor. Now, I do try to be a realist. For a struggling academic press to turn out cookbooks and guides to state flowers seems like a reasonable price to pay, if it means good scholarly books are also in the catalog. But implicit in that trade-off, it seems, is the need for a kind of Chinese wall between the kinds of books. The process of accepting and publishing a scholarly work ought to take shape primarily (in the best of all possible worlds, exclusively) with reference to intellectual standards. If it sells outside the community of scholars, great. But a kind of stern lucidity about the distinction between kinds of books seems worth maintaining in principle, however difficult that may be in practice.

So I wondered aloud if McDermott’s mention of “people [who] like to read this kind of information” didn’t imply that the decision to publish The Road to Dallas was primarily market-driven. “Certainly we were aware of the possibility of reaching a wide audience,” she said. “That was not the sole reason, but part of a lot of connected reasons to do it.”

After hanging up the phone, I thought of an obvious topic to have discussed. What sort of peer review did the book have? How many scholars had vetted the manuscript? By any chance would it be possible for me to get look at the reviews they had written for the press? I sent her an email note posing these questions.

“Let me just reiterate,” McDermott responded, “that the book went through a standard acquisition process at the press. It was seen from first consideration as a serious history book by a serious historian.”

Fair enough! But to someone who doesn’t know the exact details of the standard acquisition process at Harvard University Press, that answer leaves unclear just how The Road to Dallas was peer-reviewed. So I wrote back to ask. In particular, I wanted to know just how many scholars had been asked to go over the book before it was approved for publication.

No answer came. I decided to wait until the start of the new week to ask again. And when still no response was forthcoming, something dawned on me. I’d prefer not to think it, but it can’t be helped: Evidently there are certain mysteries for which cynical speculation proves unavoidable.

Geeze, You'd think the guy had commited a sin! :o

-Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That article, John, reminded me of a newspaper article I found in the FBI files on the Mary Ferrell site. It was a poll that broke down trust in the Warren Commission by education level. Never mind, implyeth the article about the poll, we academics and upper classmen reading this high-minded poll need not actually reconsider our trust in our government, because 43% of those with a college education still trust the Warren Report, while but 19% of those who failed to graduate high school, and by implication, don't really matter, are smart enough to share our insight. In other words, it is primarily the ignorant that fall for Mark Lane, and doubt the integrity of J. Edgar Hoover, Earl Warren, Allen Dulles, and John McCloy.

This reminds me of another poll reported in Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me. In that poll resistance to the Vietnam War was broken down by education level. Once again, by a margin of something like 2 to 1, support for the government's policies came from those who SHOULD have known better.

The thought occurs that having the resources to acquire an education, and gaining a higher education, more often than not leads to a naive trust that those running society are friendly, and noble, and deserving of trust. I think it's reasonable to extrapolate from this that, as often as not, the more people learn, the MORE IGNORANT to the workings of the real world they become.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

http://www.washingtondecoded.com/site/2008...to-nowhere.html

xxxx

Max Holland gives John MciAdams room to deny Oswald knew Ferrie, that the Clinton incident has been debunked and that the mob not behind the assassination. Well he got part of it right. Bk

Road to Nowhere

Despite its scholarly trappings,
The Road to Dallas
is a run-of-the-mill conspiracy book.

The Road to Dallas: The Assassination

of John F. Kennedy

By David Kaiser

Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 509 pp. $3

By John McAdams

At first glance, David Kaiser's book promises to be one of the more sensible volumes on the JFK assassination. Published by an esteemed press, it is written by a reputable, experienced historian. Kaiser, moreover, is one of the first from his profession to plumb the voluminous collection of once-secret documents assiduously collected, at some cost to the US taxpayer, by the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s.

In several respects, Kaiser does not disappoint. He cheerfully concedes that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president in Dealey Plaza, and accepts the single bullet explanation.[1] He supplies a solid account of Kennedy-era assassination plots against Fidel Castro (which originated under President Eisenhower), and he provides a workmanlike narrative of the Kennedy administration's campaign against organized crime. Unlike so many authors writing about the assassination, Kaiser is not in Camelot's thrall, and he does not whitewash any of the questionable actions of the Kennedy brothers.[2] Among other things, he describes the tactics of the Senate "Rackets" Committee, of which Robert Kennedy was the top staffer, as "reminiscent of" those used by the far more notorious House Un-American Activities Committee, as well as Joe McCarthy's Senate subcommittee on investigations.[3]

But not far into the book, Kaiser's judgment deserts him. He tries to make the case that the Kennedys' anti-Castro plots and crusade against organized crime climaxed in the president's assassination, and he hammers the facts until they fit this thesis. The result is a clanking, Rube Goldberg-style conspiracy contraption that falls of its own weight. Far from uncovering an "appalling and grisly conspiracy," as the book's catalog copy asserts, Kaiser merely recycles hoary claims that have been debunked for decades, while putting back into circulation innuendo and unproven allegations. Kaiser ignores very stubborn facts whenever they are inconvenient to his smoke-and-mirrors history.

Links Where There Are None

Kaiser has a penchant–one fatal to serious history–for the most unreliable evidence and the most implausible scenarios.

Take, for example, his attempt to link Oswald's murderer, Jack Ruby, to the Mafia in a way that might implicate Ruby in a conspiracy to kill JFK. Kaiser claims that in 1959, Ruby visited Santos Trafficante in Trescornia prison in Cuba not long after Castro's overthrow of the Batista dictatorship. If true, the encounter would seem to be highly significant, because it would tie Ruby to a high-level mobster soon to be involved in the CIA's efforts to eliminate Castro.

Kaiser correctly cites John Wilson-Hudson, a British journalist, as the source for this claim. But Wilson-Hudson could hardly be more unreliable as a source, and he is also the sole source for the alleged visit. Years before the assassination, one CIA document from 1959 labeled Wilson-Hudson as being "mentally unbalanced."[4] Another document, from 1963, reported that "altho[ugh] Wilson [is] intelligent, erratic behavior indicates mental unbalance"; in addition, he was deemed "violently anti-US."[5] Even the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which was all but determined to pin the assassination on the Mafia regardless of the evidence, treated Wilson-Hudson's claim gingerly. HSCA's final report refused to embrace Wilson-Hudson's allegation, most likely because a committee staffer reviewed the journalist's CIA file, which included other evaluations such as "believe on first returns from FBI check he [is] likely [to] be [a] psychopath."[6]

Yet for Kaiser, none of these red flags matter sufficiently. Wilson-Hudson's story is too pivotal to the conspiracy Kaiser is determined to construct, no matter how flimsy the foundation.

Another key piece of evidence Kaiser presents to implicate Ruby involves long-distance phone calls Ruby made to various mob-upped people around the country in the days immediately prior to the assassination. Ruby's contemporaneous explanation was that he was having trouble with the strippers' union, the mob-connected American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). The Warren Commission left it at that, but in the late 1970s, HSCA reopened the matter and it analyzed these calls in detail. Its investigators found that most of them could easily be accounted for by Ruby's problems with the AGVA, although HSCA did leave the door open for some of the calls having been suspicious.[7] Subsequently, author Gerald Posner investigated three calls that HSCA thought might be worrisome, but he only found that they, too, were related to Ruby's labor troubles.[8]

None of this bothers Kaiser, who prefers innuendo.[9] He somehow fails to notice that there were too many calls for them to be conspiratorial. Are we supposed to believe that six or eight hoodlums, from all over the country, were being directed to catch a plane to Dallas and show up in time to help cover-up the killing of Kennedy? Of course, Kaiser might say that only one or two of the calls were conspiratorial. Even so, he has to admit that a large number were exactly what Ruby and the people who received them said they were: appeals for help in dealing with the AVGA. And if most of the calls were, it's perfectly plausible that all of them were.

Stick Figures

The issue of the telephone calls also highlights one element that is particularly striking in Kaiser's book: the complete superficiality of the characters in it. Kaiser simply doesn't know, understand, or convey a realistic sense of the people he is writing about. To a man (and woman), they are cardboard-character figures, movable at will and whim for the purpose of concocting a conspiracy. Kaiser plays to every exhausted stereotype of the "mobster," "spook," or "right-winger."

When the House Select Committee analyzed the long-distance calls, it found that Ruby had been calling people he hardly knew, often after not having been in contact for years. What was telling, and poignant, was that Ruby utterly failed to muster any support. None of the people he talked to was willing to lift a finger, and others simply failed to return his call. If Kaiser understood Ruby, he would realize the salient point here is that no one responded to Ruby's pleas. Far from being a well-connected mobster, he was a poor schlub and wannabe who couldn't bring a smidgen of influence to bear on a mob-dominated union. Not having trouble with mob-connected unions . . . isn't that one of the perks of being an important mobster?

Kaiser's defective understanding of Ruby becomes even more apparent when he has Ruby stalking Oswald in the hours following the assassination. In real life, Ruby was an opportunistic vigilante, but in Kaiser-land, the clear implication is that Ruby was a single-minded mob assassin, waiting for the right moment to silence the "patsy." Ruby's fumbling and bungling of that supposed task, not to mention his own sworn statements, prove that Kaiser's scenario does not ring true. If Ruby really had such a critical assignment, he should have shot Oswald Friday night, when the chaotic scene at the Dallas police headquarters allowed Ruby, a compulsive gate-crasher, to gain easy entry. Surely it was vital to the conspirators to silence Oswald, the mob's fall guy, at the earliest possible opportunity. Instead of attending to serious business, Ruby gloried at being where the action was. He ran around claiming to be a translator for the Israeli press, shrewdly handed out his Carousel Club business card to out-of-town reporters, and he thoughtfully delivered sandwiches to the hard-working staff of KLIF radio.[10]

By the same token, Ruby was nonchalantly engaged in wiring money to one of his strippers on Sunday morning at the very time when Oswald was going to be transferred to the custody of the Dallas County sheriff at a moment's notice. Ruby barely sneaked into the police garage in time.

Some hitman.[11]

Tossing in Conspiracy Factoids

In keeping with the cast of his narrative, Kaiser repeatedly throws all manner of conspiracy "buff" lore into his account. It lends the book an appropriate ambiance.

Kaiser asserts, for example, that Oswald "did have contacts with both the FBI and the CIA in the months after his return from the Soviet Union–directly with the FBI, and indirectly with the CIA through the enigmatic George De Mohrenschildt . . . ."[12] Kaiser then goes on to quote De Mohrenschildt as telling the Warren Commission that a "G. Walter Moore" had talked with him about Oswald.[13] "G. Walter Moore" was actually J. Walton Moore, who headed the Dallas office of the CIA's Domestic Contact Service, as it was known in 1963. Much later, in 1977, De Mohrenschildt told author Edward J. Epstein a more embellished version of the same story: that an associate of Moore had actually "tasked" him with meeting Oswald.[14] That would suggest a much more active posture by the CIA toward Oswald.

Yet Kaiser should know better than to use any late-1970s testimony of De Mohrenschildt, because by then, he was certifiably committable. Suicidal, De Mohrenschildt would rave about how the "Jewish Mafia" and FBI were out to get him, and in 1976, he was actually confined in a Texas mental hospital for three months.[15] The weight of the evidence is also overwhelming that De Mohrenschildt was never tasked to meet Oswald. He encountered Oswald only during that brief period when the Oswalds were minor celebrities in Dallas's White Russian community.

Kaiser knows that CIA files show no effort to keep tabs on or debrief Oswald, for he admits that "no 1962-63 contact between De Mohrenschildt and [J. Walton] Moore has ever come to light." Nonetheless, Kaiser dismisses the lack of a paper trail, arguing that "Moore was apparently using standard CIA practice: anything not actually documented in the files could safely be denied."[16] In other words, J. Walton Moore was doing the lying here, according to Kaiser, rather than De Mohrenschildt, although only the latter had a proven record of unreliability.

As is typical with conspiracy authors, Kaiser never bothers to ask why Moore would lie about this. For more than a generation, conspiracists have claimed it is highly suspicious that the CIA did not debrief Oswald on his return from the USSR. But if keeping tabs on a former defector was obviously something that needed to be done and routine, why wouldn't Moore do it, and cheerfully document having done it?

Oswald

As Norman Mailer once wrote so memorably,

. . . Oswald was a secret agent. There is no doubt about that. The only matter unsettled is whether he was working for any service larger than the power centers in the privacy of his mind. At the least, we can be certain he was spying on the world in order to report to himself. For, by his own measure, he [was] one of the principalities of the universe.

Yet, in David Kaiser's hands, Oswald has no will of his own. He is an empty vessel, waiting to be infused with motives and actions that Kaiser wants to impute to him.

Kaiser believes, incredibly, that Oswald was not a leftist at all, but worked for the FBI in an attempt to "infiltrate" communist organizations "following in the footsteps of Herbert Philbrick."[18] As proof that Oswald's extensively documented connections to leftist organizations could not have been the result of genuine conviction, Kaiser asserts that Oswald "certainly could have been under no illusions as to the stature of the Communist Party of the United States of America in 1962."[19] In other words, Kaiser posits that Oswald recognized that communism in America was an exhausted political movement.

But was that truly Oswald's worldview? Anyone knowledgeable about Oswald's biography would agree that he was more than capable of spinning political fantasies.[20] Indeed, after his political awakening in the 1950s, during the Rosenbergs' trial, Oswald's life might be labeled an unending serial of political fantasies, all of which sprang from his cockeyed and vulgar understanding of the world around him.

Kaiser observes that Oswald was "trying to create a paper trail tying himself to the Communist Party USA and to the SWP [socialist Workers' Party]. His simultaneous courtship of both organizations – which he must have known were bitter enemies – is rather suspicious."[21] This will not ring true to anyone familiar with Oswald, who was an ideological naif, not some Jewish kid who grew up in the Bronx and attended the City College of New York in the 1930s, where he might have been tutored in the fine points of Marxist dialectics over lunchtime. Oswald was poorly educated, and what little education he had was in Southern schools where Marxism was not taught in any detail. He didn't interact with other Marxists or radicals.

Once, in August of 1963, he received a perfunctory letter from Arnold Johnson, the director of information for the American Communist Party. In a subsequent argument with his wife Marina about his political activism, Lee read aloud the letter saying "See this? . . . There are people who understand me and think I'm doing useful work. If he respects what I'm doing, then it's important. He's the Lenin of our country."[22] That communism, a powerful force in US intellectual and literary circles during the 1930s, was an all but spent political force by the 1960s, was something Oswald simply didn't want to comprehend.

The naïve and idiosyncratic nature of Oswald's ideological commitments is further evidence of their sincerity. Had some intelligence agency enrolled him in the "How to Look Like a Leftist" bootcamp, it's unlikely he would acted as if he were oblivious to the hatred between Stalinists and Trotskyites, or have written something like "The Atheian System," with its callow utopianism that bears only an idiosyncratic resemblance to standard Marxist doctrine.[23]

Why the FBI would need Oswald to infiltrate communist organizations—and do so merely by having Oswald write letters sucking up to officials a thousand miles away in New York—is a mystery that Kaiser cannot resolve for one reason: it did not happen. Kaiser admits these organizations were honeycombed with FBI informants who actually attended meetings. At one point, Kaiser claims that Oswald's "activities fit into a well-documented, broader effort by the FBI and independent right-wing groups to discredit left-wing organizations in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the South."[24] But unless Oswald was already slated to kill Kennedy, an exchange of letters between these organizations and an oddball in Dallas and New Orleans would not even register as blip on anyone's radar.

Kaiser has the same logical problem with respect to the radio debate on WDSU in New Orleans in August, 1963. He believes the whole thing was set up–with the witting cooperation of Oswald–to discredit and embarrass the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). But in the New Orleans radio market, there was scarcely any need to discredit an organization with a total membership of one, namely Oswald himself. Claiming that this was a plot to embarrass the FPCC nationally requires some evidence that the plotters knew that Oswald would soon shoot John F. Kennedy, and become infamous as the president's assassin.

The notion that Oswald was really a rightist is perhaps the most bizarre element in the entire book. For this to be true, Oswald had to have been engaged in a brilliant imposture that involved all of his writings, his public activities and statements, his conversations with White Russians, his conversations with Marina, down to his having a picture of Fidel Castro hanging in his apartment (not to mention that he read The Nation and Corliss Lamont's writings on Cuba)![25]

But if he was somehow recruited to play a leftist radical, as Kaiser postulates, at what point was he recruited? Even before he left home to join the Marines, Oswald was expressing communist political opinions to his friends. He told Palmer McBride, a fellow employee at the Pfisterer Dental Laboratory in late 1957 or early 1958 that (in McBride's words),

. . . President Eisenhower was exploiting the working people. [Oswald] then made a statement to the effect that he would like to kill President Eisenhower because he was exploiting the working class. This statement was not made in jest . . . . Lee Oswald was very serious about the virtues of Communism, and discussed those virtues at every opportunity. He would say that the capitalists were exploiting the working class and his central theme seemed to be that the workers in the world would one day rise up and throw off their chains.

In the same vein, William E. Wulf, who went to high school with Oswald, testified to the Warren Commission that Oswald on one occasion,

. . . started expounding the Communist doctrine and saying that he was highly interested in communism, that communism was the only way of life for the worker, et cetera, and then came out with a statement that he was looking for a Communist cell in town to join but he couldn't find any. He was a little dismayed at this, and he said that he couldn't find any that would show any interest in him as a Communist, and subsequently, after this conversation, my father came in and we were kind of arguing back and forth about the situation, and my father came in the room, heard what we were arguing on communism, and that this boy was loud-mouthed, boisterous, and my father asked him to leave the house and politely put him out of the house, and that is the last I have seen or spoken with Oswald.

In addition, of course, there is Oswald's famous 1956 letter to the Socialist Party of America, written three weeks before he turned 17 and joined the Marines, in which he asserted that "I am a Marxist, and have been studying socialist principles for well over fifteen months."[28] Are we really supposed to believe that Oswald was recruited as a teenager by some intelligence agency, and tasked with conducting an elaborate charade for purposes that were undefined and unimagined at the time?

Kaiser's portrayal of Oswald as something other than a self-styled leftist leads the author to make bizarre statements about some of Oswald's activities. Kaiser writes, for example, that "Why Oswald decided to go after [Edwin] Walker is not entirely clear."[29] Yet given Oswald's statements to his wife Marina and to George De Mohrenschildt, it's patently obvious why Oswald targeted a man he considered an up-and-coming American fascist. Kaiser doesn't seriously deny that Oswald shot at Walker, although he throws out yet another red herring by suggesting that Oswald might have had an accomplice.

To believe Kaiser one has to believe that all of Oswald's leftist activity was an elaborate pose, and/or an "infiltration" attempt directed toward the left. The accurate explanation is that Oswald was what he really appeared to be—a self-styled leftist and party of one, because no organization on the left was willing to embrace him.

Oswald and the Conspiracy in New Orleans

Misrepresenting Oswald's politics is only half of Kaiser's game; making Oswald fit some ill-defined conspiracy is the other necessary component. Kaiser is just as tendentious here as he is with respect to Jack Ruby.

À la New Orleans DA Jim Garrison, Kaiser tries to link Oswald to David Ferrie in New Orleans, initially via their mutual participation in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) while Oswald was still in high school. Kaiser notes that the HSCA turned up five witnesses who confirmed that Oswald was in Ferrie's unit.[30] What Kaiser fails to mention is that the HSCA witnesses also made it clear that Oswald was not any sort of gung-ho cadet (attending only a few meetings), and he didn't have any sort of special relationship with Ferrie. Yet Kaiser makes a point of asserting that Ferrie lied when he claimed not to know Oswald when questioned a few days after the assassination. But not recalling one cadet who was briefly in his unit 8 years earlier seems plausible enough. Not yet done, Kaiser points to the somewhat famous photo of Ferrie and Oswald together at a CAP picnic as evidence they knew each other. But the two are standing at opposite sides of a small crowd, and it's hardly clear that Ferrie would have personally interacted with Oswald at that picnic, and if he did, hardly obvious that he would remember it.

For Kaiser, of course, Ferrie represents a twofer, since he had "connections" (again, that indispensable word) to both anti-Castro Cubans and to local mobster Carlos Marcello. Kaiser appears not to know that Ferrie's connections with the anti-Castro movement had been severed well before the summer of 1963. A homosexual with a penchant for young boys, Ferrie's lifestyle was not particularly appreciated by the Catholic (sometimes devoutly Catholic) Cuban exiles. Kaiser treats Ferrie's "connection" to the exile community as still active during the summer of 1963.[31] As for Marcello, because Ferrie did investigative work for this hoodlum, in Kaiser's world that is sufficient, in and of itself, to establish a sinister link to the assassination. By this logic, Marcello's barber was equally "connected" to the conspiracy to kill the president. In any case, Kaiser doesn't actually bother to link Oswald with Ferrie in 1963—nor can he, although that would seem to be instrumental to his argument.

What's amazing about Kaiser's scholarship here is that while he clearly recognizes that Garrison's 1967-69 probe was a sham, he doesn't desist from marshaling some of Garrison's material. Kaiser implies, using logic that can only be called McCarthyite, that it's very significant that Oswald's employer in New Orleans, a businessman named William Reily, was a prominent anti-Communist and supporter of the Information Council of the Americas, a local anti-Communist propaganda organization. In reality, working for a conservative anti-communist running a business in New Orleans in 1963 was about as odd as finding a leftist in the English department of any given university today—unavoidable, in other words. Kaiser finds meaning in Oswald's brief employment at Reily's coffee packing plant, notwithstanding that there is no evidence Reily ever knew Oswald. He was a low-level employee, frequently missing from his post because he preferred to hang out at a parking garage next door, where he would sit and talk to a gun buff named Adrian Alba.

In one of the book's more regrettable sections, Kaiser gets suckered into part of Jim Garrison's deplorable case against Clay Shaw. The so-called "Clinton scenario" involved testimony by several individuals from Clinton, Louisiana, who claimed that Oswald, allegedly in the company of David Ferrie and Clay Shaw, was sighted in their town in late August/early September 1963. While there, Oswald reportedly visited a barber shop in nearby Jackson, inquired about a job at the local mental institution, and got into a voter registration line in Clinton before departing.[32] Kaiser is impressed with these Clinton eyewitnesses, and their testimony at Shaw's 1969 trial was consistent and coherent—indeed, suspiciously so.[33] The earliest statements made in 1967 by the most important of these witnesses are altogether different. Kaiser apparently is unaware of that, and he is also oblivious to the old news that the Clinton story has been discredited. He persists in using it despite acknowledging elsewhere that Garrison had a habit of fabricating "fantastic" accusations.[34]

In New Orleans, where Oswald resided for five months during 1963, Kaiser also tries to couple Oswald to the mob via his relationship with an uncle, Charles "Dutz" Murret. Murret was a bookmaker and he apparently had real Mafia connections. Kaiser, in an evidence-free piece of speculation, says that "Certainly it would have been easy enough for Murret to have passed it through the grapevine that his somewhat notorious nephew, the ex-Marine who had defected to Russia and returned with a Russian wife, was back in town."[35] It certainly would have been easy, but the point is, did Murret ever do anything of the kind?

Kaiser's cardboard-character approach to his historical subjects is on full display here. In reality, Murret held a very negative view of his nephew. He was put off by Oswald's failure to hold down a job to support his family (one child already, with another on the way), and that he was failing to teach English to his daughter June (preferring Russian). When Murret heard Oswald debate on behalf of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee on WDSU radio, with Lee defending the organization, he was not at all pleased.[36]

Presumably, Kaiser believes Murret's sworn testimony before the Warren Commission was a pack of lies, and that Murret happily volunteered up his nephew to kill President Kennedy. But Kaiser does not provide a scintilla of proof.

The Odio Episode

By now it should be manifest that while Kaiser claims to be the first historian to mine the assassination-related documents opened in the 1990s, most of his book consists of material recycled from 44 years of conspiracy books, despite source notes which overwhelmingly list archival documents. This is nowhere more true than in his account of the Odio incident, which is quite similar to the treatment this subject received in a deservedly obscure book entitled Oswald Talked, written by Ray and Mary La Fontaine.[37]

Sylvia Odio, a young Cuban exile living in Dallas, testified that three men came to her door one evening in late September 1963, soliciting funds for their anti-Castro activities. (And indeed, three men did). After the assassination, she was convinced that one of them was Lee Harvey Oswald. If it was Oswald, the encounter would tie him to anti-Castro activists, which for Kaiser constitutes proof that Oswald was involved in a conspiracy. The alleged Odio episode opens the book, later takes up an entire chapter, and is singled out by Kaiser as being the most important evidence of a conspiracy save for Ruby's murder of Oswald.[38]

Kaiser insists that investigators for both the Warren Commission and House Select Committee on Assassinations found Odio "highly credible."[39] This is an oversimplification, since the Warren Commission didn't believe she had really seen Oswald, and HSCA had a statement from her psychiatrist saying,

Let me say, consciously, I don't think she would want to lie, but to me, it's very conceivable that in the histrionic personality, the kind of personality that she had that where she would not lie, she could be–has a degree of suggestibility that she could believe something that did not really transpire.

There is no reason in the world to think that Odio consciously lied about Oswald's presence. But as Kaiser ought to know, there were scores of false "Oswald sightings" in the wake of the assassination. Well-meaning citizens earnestly swore, for example, that they had seen Oswald bring a rifle into an Irving, Texas sporting goods store so that a telescopic sight could be mounted on it.[41] (In fact, Oswald had purchased the rifle with the sight already installed). In Alice, Texas a total of 17 eyewitnesses came forward to report a fellow they were positive was Oswald had showed up in various locations prior to the assassination, sometimes with Marina in tow. (In fact, it could not possibly have been Oswald).[42] Each and every lead that came flooding into the FBI after the assassination was dutifully tracked by the bureau's field office in Dallas and dozens of other cities across the nation. The vast majority did not pan out, and only a handful were dealt with by the Warren Commission.

Could the Odio affair, like all the other eyewitness sightings, including those in Clinton, be just another mistake? That possibility is plausible enough, and becomes more plausible if one looks carefully at the circumstances. There is no evidence that corroborates Sylvia Odio's conviction that she saw Oswald.[43]

The Warren Commission determined that if Oswald visited Odio in Dallas, it almost certainly had to be on the evening of September 25. Oswald apparently got an employment check at a New Orleans post office on the morning of that day, and cashed it at a Winn-Dixie store by 1:00 PM.[44] (Kaiser posits that perhaps the check arrived a day earlier, or perhaps somebody else cashed it, but there is absolutely no evidence for that). After leaving New Orleans, Oswald either went to Dallas or Houston. But Kaiser ignores good evidence that Oswald called the Houston home of Horace Twiford, an official in the Texas Socialist Labor Party, on September 25.[45] In addition, how could Oswald be aboard a bus that left Houston at 2:35 AM, bound for Laredo, if he had been in Dallas that same evening?[46]

Not easily deterred, Kaiser is so intent on putting Oswald in Sylvia Odio's presence that he even attempts to shift their alleged encounter to October 3, after Oswald got back from Mexico City. Although Kaiser acknowledges that Odio moved around this time, he is apparently unaware Odio occupied her new residence no later than October 1. Given that it was such an unforgettable encounter, it strains credulity to believe that Odio did not manage to remember accurately where the alleged meeting took place when she told the FBI and Warren Commission about it. (Indeed, packing boxes filled the living room on the day the three men made their visit, Odio recalled).[47] But to make the facts fit his preferred thesis, Kaiser modestly suggests that he has noticed "what everyone has missed." Odio "could have been mistaken."[48]

Apart from everything else, the mere fact that Kaiser devotes so many words to the alleged Oswald-Odio encounter is a telling indicator of just how bent his whole approach to this subject truly is. By comparison, Oswald's proven attempt to assassinate General Edwin Walker in April 1963 is given short shrift, even though nothing is more revealing of Oswald's willingness to commit political murder than the Walker episode.

A Generic Conspiracy Book

One could go on ad nauseam about the mistakes in interpretation, outright errors, fallacies, and gaps in logic or fact which appear on virtually every page of The Road to Dallas. Such a list would be tedious to compile and boring to read, relieved only on occasion by a few outright howlers. Kaiser lends credence, for example, to Jim Garrison's notion that Melba Marcades, aka Rose Cheramie [sic], a prostitute and heroin addict with 51 arrests on her rap sheet, was beaten and thrown from a moving car after she acquired "foreknowledge" of the assassination from two dark-complected men.[49] (For readers not steeped in buff lore, Marcades's undignified exit from a car was the opening scene in Oliver Stone's film, JFK). This episode has been debunked repeatedly.[50]

Kaiser, for all his credentials, has produced a typical conspiracy book, indistinguishable from 300-400 others that are floating around out there. The inevitable failing of such books is they inexorably involve a cast of hundreds of witting and unwitting accomplices in their supposed conspiracy, and for good reason. Because they don't have anything like a compelling, rational case, conspiracists have no recourse but to grasp at every available straw. They will take one piece of evidence that arouses suspicion about an anti-Castro Cuban, and add to it another item that raises questions about some Mafia figure. Then they suggest that some unexplained event implicates the CIA, and another, the FBI. With a wink they will add a tenuous piece of evidence about a second anti-Castro Cuban, then give a nod to another Mafioso, and finally, throw in a couple of rich, anti-Communist businessmen for good measure. When all is said and done, the reader is left overwhelmed, and may even be moved to double-check his or her own whereabouts on November 22, 1963. All this spooky stuff must add up to something coherent.

Anyone expecting Kaiser to provide clarity about who killed JFK would be better advised to go find a game of three-card monte. Your odds of fingering the money card in that rigged game are much better than trying to extract any meaning from The Road to Dallas, and sense out of Kaiser's fervid imagination.

© 2008 by John McAdams

John McAdams is an associate professor of political science at Marquette University and webmaster of the
. He received his doctorate from Harvard University in 1981.

[1] It must be pointed out, nonetheless, that Kaiser also hedges his bet by stating, "If someone fired a [fourth] shot from the grassy knoll, he missed." Kaiser, Road to Dallas, 416.

[2] For the latest example of a whitewashed account, see David Talbot's Brothers.

[3] Kaiser, Road to Dallas, 22

4] Memorandum for the Record, Carl John Wilson-Hudson, 6 October 1959, Record Number 104-10182-10187, JFK Assassination Records Collection, National Archives (courtesy Mary Ferrell Foundation).

--JOHN WILSON aka JOHN WILSON-HUDSON, 3 December 1963,cument ID Number 1993.06.30.12:35:59:530530, JFK Assassination Records Collection, National Archives (courtesy Mary Ferrell Foundation)

Carlos – John Wilson-Hudson11 July 1978, Record Number 180-10143-10177, JFK Assassination Records Collection, National Archives (courtesy Mary Ferrell Foundation). [/b][/b][/b][/b][/b]Trafficante himself flatly denied the alleged visit ever took place. US House of Representatives, Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations 95th Congress, 2d Session (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1979), 154

[8] Gerald Posner, Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK (New York: Random House, 1993), 362-63.

The best work on Ruby remains a biography written more than 40 years ago by Garry Wills and Ovid Demaris, Jack Ruby: The Man Who Killed the Man Who Killed Kennedy (New York: New American Library, 1967). Kaiser's utter failure to present a believable alternative to the compelling account by Wills and Demaris is one of the outstanding deficiencies in Kaiser

12] Kaiser, Road to Dallas, 172

[13] George De Mohrenschildt Testimony, 9 H 235

[14] Edward J. Epstein, The Assassination Chronicles (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992),

[15] De Mohrenschildt eventually succeeded in taking his own life with a shotgun. George De Mohrenschildt Death Investigation, 29 March 1977

16] Kaiser, Road to Dallas, 176-77.

][17] Norman Mailer, Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery (New York: Random House, 1995), 352

18] Kaiser, Road to Dallas, 179

19] Ibid.=[20] The two outstanding works on Oswald are Priscilla Johnson McMillan, Marina and Lee (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), and Jean Davison, Oswald's Game (New York: W.W. Norton, 1983). =

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Road to Nowhere:

Professor McAdams, I believe, misses the boat completely when it comes to Odio. She is, in fact, extremely credible. The Warren Commission believed she'd told the truth, but that she'd been visited by someone other than Oswald. This "someone" turned out not to have even been in Dallas at the time. The HSCA believed that she'd been visited by Oswald.

As far as the Twifords, McAdams misses that Oswald had called them in an attempt to visit them. If he'd called them from a stop on the New Orleans to Houston bus, as conjectured, then he was trying to visit them in the middle of the night. As Oswald was notoriously frugal, and not accustomed to expensive cab rides, it defies belief that he would call up some total strangers in an attempt to visit them, pay for a cab ride to their home, miles from the bus depot, pay for a cab ride back, and then catch a bus out of town. It would be totally outside Oswald's character to attempt such a thing. As a result, one can reasonably assume he was not on the New Orleans to Houston bus, and was planning to have someone drop him off that night. This only adds to the likelihood he was traveling with someone else, and was at Odio's door, as asserted.

That McAdams attempts to dismiss the statements of Wilson-Hudson (who would have no motive to lie about Ruby--seeing as Ruby was a non-entity in 1959), De Mohrenschildt (who was considered more credible than Moore by the HSCA), and Odio, by insinuating that they are mentally ill, is particularly odious, in my opinion.

If one is to trust only statements by reputable sources about whom no one has ever said anything bad, we'd all be restricted to reading the diaries of pathological liars. I would hope a learned historian such as McAdams would know better than to cherry-pick his witnesses based on whether he agrees with their conclusions or not. I mean, J. Edgar Hoover lied repeatedly in his Warren Commission testimony, and was considered a dangerous egomaniac by half of Washington. Should we therefore dismiss EVERYTHING he ever said, or wrote? I think not.

Posted by: Pat Speer | 12 March 2008 at 12:45 AM

I don't know if Kaiser makes any reference to Curtis Craford (aka Larry Crafard), Ruby's handyman, who left Dallas in a hurry on Nov. 23, or Jean Aase (a friend of Lawrence Meyers), who claimed to me that she, too, left abruptly on Nov. 23, but I do. Check out my article "Creating A Patsy" that Prof. McAdams kindly added to his website (which also includes several other articles of mine, as well as many others). You can read it at:

http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/creatingapatsy or go to http://mcadams.posc.mu.home.htm and scroll down to "featured articles" and my name.

Edited by William Kelly
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I look forward to reading this book and will post a question afterwards.

I did however notice Professor McAdams review. For someone who is the webmaster of a Kennedy assaisnation site, you'd think he would know that Trafficante's first names was not Santos, but Santo. Just an observation :lol:

Edited by Scott Deitche
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Roman Modrowski, Chicago Sun-Times

March 23, 2008

There have been so many analyses, fantasies and theories devoted to the assassination of John F. Kennedy that anything purporting itself as a fresh perspective runs the risk of suffocation. Anything less than a smoking gun -- or two -- will cause many casual readers to shrug with the frustration that they've heard it all before.

The Road to Dallas (Belknap Press, 536 pages, $35), written by David Kaiser, tries to preempt that shrug by billing itself as the first book written on the subject by a professional historian who has pored over the volumes of recently declassified information.

Kaiser, a history professor at the Naval War College, not only reports on what he has researched, but at times he takes an active role in contacting pertinent subjects in the declassified material.

The result is a thorough recounting of facts interspersed with interpretations and opinions that carry the weight of someone who knows how to analyze history. The Road to Dallas is laboriously comprehensive at times and shockingly illuminating at others. It may not prove the conspiracy it suggests -- that while Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman he wasn't alone in planning the assassination -- but it provides unusual substance to its argument because of the nature of the material and the background of the author.

Kaiser isn't the first to suggest JFK was assassinated by a conspiracy of anti-Castro Cubans upset at Kennedy's failure to eliminate Fidel Castro and a Mafia enraged by the obsession of JFK's attorney general, his brother Robert Kennedy, to attack organized crime. But Kaiser may be the first to reach the depth of reporting the facts that support this theory.

The book is full of anecdotes that will make many wonder why these facts weren't reported before, or at least reported on a more mainstream level. It opens with three men visiting a Cuban woman -- Silvia Odio -- in Dallas in early October 1963. Odio testified that one of the men was Oswald, while the other two were believed to be American anti-Castro mercenaries Loran Hall and Lawrence Howard. Hall had spent time in a Cuban prison with Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante Jr., who owned several Havana casinos before Castro's rise to power. During their time in prison, Trafficante was visited by Jack Ruby.

The intermingling of key players in Kaiser's conspiracy theory, including Jimmy Hoffa and his alliance with the mob, allows him to connect the dots to effectively argue that Oswald did not act alone.

It was amazing to learn about the vast number of assassination plots and attempts against Castro that were conceived, encouraged or at least winked at by the U.S. government. Some of them were comical, such as a plan to employ exploding seashells and a poisoned diving suit. The incompetence of the endeavors was nearly as acute as the audacity.

Lyndon Johnson, as well as others, assumed Castro played a role in JFK's assassination.

The U.S. government's willingness to employ mob help to get rid of Castro while at the same time Robert Kennedy was trying to crack down on organized crime reflected the firewalls that existed between government agencies before 9/11.

Kaiser uncovered several quotes by people such as Hoffa calling for John Kennedy to be assassinated. Hoffa's mob associates relied on the money stolen from Hoffa's Teamsters Union, so many powerful and dangerous people suffered by RFK's personal quest to bring down Hoffa. The Kennedy administration was an enemy to many.

It would be hard to imagine anyone but Kennedy assassination scholars and historians not learning something new in Kaiser's book. For fans of Oliver Stone's movie "JFK" (1991) and JFK assassination junkies, the book is the latest -- and perhaps best -- view of the historic event.

http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/book...aiser23.article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Re the Chicagop Sun Times review:

The Road to Dallas (Belknap Press, 536 pages, $35), written by David Kaiser, tries to preempt that shrug by billing itself as the first book written on the subject by a professional historian who has pored over the volumes of recently declassified information.

Of course Michael Kurtz, a professional historian, has written two books on the assassination.

The book is full of anecdotes that will make many wonder why these facts weren't reported before, or at least reported on a more mainstream level. It opens with three men visiting a Cuban woman -- Silvia Odio -- in Dallas in early October 1963. Odio testified that one of the men was Oswald, while the other two were believed to be American anti-Castro mercenaries Loran Hall and Lawrence Howard. Hall had spent time in a Cuban prison with Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante Jr., who owned several Havana casinos before Castro's rise to power. During their time in prison, Trafficante was visited by Jack Ruby.

Of course there are errors most readers will recognize in the above. Even before the WR went to press the FBI had reports from Hall and Howard denying that they had visited Odio. Angelo Murgado told both Prof Joan Mellen and David Talbot that he visited Odio, accompanied by Bernardo DeTorres.

Kaiser uncovered several quotes by people such as Hoffa calling for John Kennedy to be assassinated. Hoffa's mob associates relied on the money stolen from Hoffa's Teamsters Union, so many powerful and dangerous people suffered by RFK's personal quest to bring down Hoffa. The Kennedy administration was an enemy to many.

I doubt that Mr. Kaiser "uncovered" new remarks by men such as Hoffa that JFK should be assassinated. While I of course agree with Kaiser's premise that the mob was involved (and in my opinion planned) the assassination, I disagree that LHO was the sole shooter and strongly doubt that he was a shooter at all. I am sure most on the Forum would strongly disagree that LHO was the sole shooter.

Finally, while I do plan on reading Prof. Kaiser's book, I seriously doubt it is the "best" book written on the assassination--a book proposing Oswald was the sole shooter? One wonders how many assasination books the reviewer has read.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All quoted text from McAdams' review posted by BK.

In several respects, Kaiser does not disappoint. He cheerfully concedes that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president in Dealey Plaza

Oswald shot no one that day. Did Kaiser actually study the evidence pertaining to this, or is he just happy to concede it on the grounds that it really doesn't matter as far demonstrating that a conspiracy took place? Either way, history, it's not.

Kaiser correctly cites John Wilson-Hudson, a British journalist, as the source for this claim. But Wilson-Hudson could hardly be more unreliable as a source, and he is also the sole source for the alleged visit. Years before the assassination, one CIA document from 1959 labeled Wilson-Hudson as being "mentally unbalanced."[4] Another document, from 1963, reported that "altho[ugh] Wilson [is] intelligent, erratic behavior indicates mental unbalance"; in addition, he was deemed "violently anti-US."[5] Even the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which was all but determined to pin the assassination on the Mafia regardless of the evidence, treated Wilson-Hudson's claim gingerly. HSCA's final report refused to embrace Wilson-Hudson's allegation, most likely because a committee staffer reviewed the journalist's CIA file, which included other evaluations such as "believe on first returns from FBI check he [is] likely [to] be [a] psychopath."[6]

Did everyone get the point here? It's kind of subtle, so you may have missed it. John Wilson was a nut. And no doubt, without friends, associates or colleagues.

But McAdams has missed informing his readers about another document which states that a reliable source was "of the opinion that Wilson was very probably an intelligence agent, since there was no apparent reason for his great interest in the Yugoslav colony in Santiago and since his large income was of questionable origin."

Nor does McAdams mention that this "violently anti-US" Brit was a correspondent for North American News Service, had been arrested and imprisoned in Cuba with three American soldier of fortune types, and upon release, passed on a lot of information on Communist activity in Latin America. (NARA Record Number: 104-10018-10095)

Another key piece of evidence Kaiser presents to implicate Ruby involves long-distance phone calls Ruby made to various mob-upped people around the country in the days immediately prior to the assassination. Ruby's contemporaneous explanation was that he was having trouble with the strippers' union, the mob-connected American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). The Warren Commission left it at that, but in the late 1970s, HSCA reopened the matter and it analyzed these calls in detail. Its investigators found that most of them could easily be accounted for by Ruby's problems with the AGVA, although HSCA did leave the door open for some of the calls having been suspicious.[7] Subsequently, author Gerald Posner investigated three calls that HSCA thought might be worrisome, but he only found that they, too, were related to Ruby's labor troubles.[8]

The facts of the matter are: Ruby didn't complain to AGVA regarding problems with rival owners. He informed on them to the DPD Special Services and; Ruby, like his competitors, was still holding amateur strip nights, so he had no cause to claim he was at any disadvantage from competitors on that score.

The issue of the telephone calls also highlights one element that is particularly striking in Kaiser's book: the complete superficiality of the characters in it. Kaiser simply doesn't know, understand, or convey a realistic sense of the people he is writing about. To a man (and woman), they are cardboard-character figures, movable at will and whim for the purpose of concocting a conspiracy. Kaiser plays to every exhausted stereotype of the "mobster," "spook," or "right-winger."

That may or may not be true of Kaiser, but it sure as hell is true of McAdams who has a label for any who disagree with him, and enjoys a bit of red-baiting while lumping all CTs into one piñata for convenient bashing.

By the same token, Ruby was nonchalantly engaged in wiring money to one of his strippers on Sunday morning at the very time when Oswald was going to be transferred to the custody of the Dallas County sheriff at a moment's notice. Ruby barely sneaked into the police garage in time.

The Carlins lied about needing it for rent. Their landlord told the FBI it had been up-to-date. Naturally (as you do in such serious matters), they were not charged with perjury, but returned for a second stint before the WC and given a chance to change the story. This time they said it was medicine and groceries. Perjury covering perjury. They ran a brothel and sold drugs. They were rolling in it. And the DPD knew it. They were told as much by her grandmother.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All quoted text from McAdams' review posted by BK.

The facts of the matter are: Ruby didn't complain to AGVA regarding problems with rival owners. He informed on them to the DPD Special Services and; Ruby, like his competitors, was still holding amateur strip nights, so he had no cause to claim he was at any disadvantage from competitors on that score.

The issue of the telephone calls also highlights one element that is particularly striking in Kaiser's book: the complete superficiality of the characters in it. Kaiser simply doesn't know, understand, or convey a realistic sense of the people he is writing about. To a man (and woman), they are cardboard-character figures, movable at will and whim for the purpose of concocting a conspiracy. Kaiser plays to every exhausted stereotype of the "mobster," "spook," or "right-winger."

That may or may not be true of Kaiser, but it sure as hell is true of McAdams who has a label for any who disagree with him, and enjoys a bit of red-baiting while lumping all CTs into one piñata for convenient bashing.

Well McAdam's assertion about AGAV troubles doesn't hold true if you look at some of the calls. Nofio Pecora, Marcello's guy, was not in any way involved in AGVA, nor was CHicago mobster Lenny Patrick.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have just finished David Kaiser's The Road To Dallas and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It must be remarked, however, that my knowledge of the JFK assassination "landscape" is limited to the three or four books I have read on the subject; I cannot say what kind of redundancies the more experienced researcher will encounter. For me, the details of such subjects as George de Mohrenschildt, the Mob, Ruby, and Oswalds whereabouts before the assassination, especially in Mexico, were fascinating. As for Mr Kaiser's thesis, that the Mob and anti-Castro exiles ordered the assassination and somehow duped Oswald into pulling the trigger, that part I found lacking but interesting. I don't think the evidence Mr Kaiser presents and how he ties it together is compelling enough to make me a believer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have just finished David Kaiser's The Road To Dallas and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It must be remarked, however, that my knowledge of the JFK assassination "landscape" is limited to the three or four books I have read on the subject; I cannot say what kind of redundancies the more experienced researcher will encounter. For me, the details of such subjects as George de Mohrenschildt, the Mob, Ruby, and Oswalds whereabouts before the assassination, especially in Mexico, were fascinating. As for Mr Kaiser's thesis, that the Mob and anti-Castro exiles ordered the assassination and somehow duped Oswald into pulling the trigger, that part I found lacking but interesting. I don't think the evidence Mr Kaiser presents and how he ties it together is compelling enough to make me a believer.

I am still reading the book and there is much to admire in the book. However, I have yet to get to the part where he argues that the Mob and anti-Castro exiles ordered the assassination.

Otto, have you any questions for David? He tells me he is willing to answer questions on the forum about the book.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share


×
×
  • Create New...