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Historians and the JFK Assassination


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It is true that not many historians have written pro-conspiracy JFK books. However, I am not aware of any historians writing books on the subject supporting the conclusions of the Warren Commission.

One notable pro-conspiracy book written by a historian is Gerald McKnights Breach of Trust (2005). Another is John Newmans Oswald and the CIA (2008). Of course we also have the well-respected, David Kaisers book, The Road to Dallas (2008). The recent biography of Kennedy by the highly rated historian in the UK, Peter Ling, takes a pro-conspiracy line over his death. In the past, most biographers have decided not to go into too much detail over the assassination. Maybe we are getting to the stage when this will change.

The truth is that most pro and anti JFK conspiracy books have been written by journalists. They vary in standard but the vast majority to do not deal with evidence in the same way as an historian. Journalists also tend to start off with a theory and then search round for evidence to support the theory. At the same time they ignore the evidence that suggests a different theory. Lawyers writing about the case have the same failing. An historian, on the other hand, is usually more flexible and should adapt his theory during his research. He should also comment on evidence that appears to be relevant but does not fully support his theory.

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I have to admit, John, that I've become quite skeptical about professional historians. Respected historians such as Caro and Dallek have chimed in on the assassination many times in recent years, and have always repeated the line that they've found nothing to suggest a conspiracy, blah blah blah. In the meantime, they skip over or miss so much that it's hard to see that they researched the case with an open mind.

While not a professional historian, I have, at times, attempted to thoroughly research a topic or event. I almost always find stuff ignored by the professionals. In the past few years, there have been a number of books and at least two major magazine articles in which Air Force One's flight back from Dallas has been described. And yet, none of the historians or journalists doing so has acknowledged the poor behavior of President Johnson on the plane. They present it as a some said he behaved badly, but others said he did not situation.

Here's what they miss.

Johnson's secretary made notes of Johnson's actions on the plane.

"1:40 P.M. Arrive Air Force One. Go into bedroom of plane to use phone. The President had talked to McGeorge Bundy via WH line before I got there. When I walked in, the President looked up and said 'Write this down as what has happened. I talked to the Attorney General...Asked him what we should do...where I should take the oath...here or there...said he would like to look into it...and would notify me whether we should take it here or not... McGeorge Bundy and Walter called me...thought we should come to Washington as soon as could. Told them I was waiting for the body and Mrs. Kennedy. The Attorney General interrupted the conversation to say that I ought to have a judicial officer administer the oath here.' Then I tried to get Waddy Bullion for the President...he was out of his office. Called Judge Sarah Hughes' office...they said she was not there. The President said that he'd talk to anyone in her office. He got on the phone and told the person at the other end that he needed someone to administer the oath...and to find her...and to get her to Love Field. Judge Hughes called in at 2:02--said she could get to the plane in ten minutes. The President left the bedroom in the plane--where above had taken place--and came into the stateroom to wait Mrs. Kennedy's arrival and to join Mrs. Johnson, J. Valenti, Cong. Thornberry, Cong, Brooks, Cong. Thomas, Rufus Yongblood and MF. Mrs. Kennedy arrived at 2:02 with the body. She was met by the President and Mrs. Johnson and comforted."

And here's what Johnson told the Warren Commission:

When we got to the airport, we proceeded to drive to the ramp leading into the plane, and we entered the plane. We were ushered into the private quarters of the President's plane. It didn't seem right for John Kennedy not to be there. I told someone that we preferred for Mrs. Kennedy to use these quarters. Shortly after we boarded the plane. I called Robert Kennedy, the President's brother and the Attorney General. I knew how grief-stricken he was, and I wanted to say something that would comfort him. Despite his shock, he discussed the practical problems at hand--problems of special urgency because we did not at that time have any information as to the motivation of the assassination or its possible implications. The Attorney General said that he would like to look into the matter of whether the oath of office as President should be administered to me immediately or after we returned to Washington, and that he would call back. I thereafter talked with McGeorge Bundy and Walter Jenkins, both of whom urged that the return to Washington should not be delayed. I told them I was waiting for Mrs. Kennedy and for the President's body to be placed on the plane, and would not return prior to that time. As I remember, our conversation was interrupted to allow the Attorney General to come back on the line. He said that the oath should be administered to me immediately, before taking off for Washington, and that it should be administered by a judicial officer of the United States. Shortly thereafter, the Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Katzenbach, dictated the form of oath to one of the secretaries aboard the plane. I thought of Sarah Hughes, an old friend who is judge of the U.S. district court in Dallas. We telephoned Judge Hughes' office. She was not there, but she returned the call in a few minutes and said she would be at the airplane in 10 minutes. I asked that arrangements be made to permit her to have access to the airplane. A few minutes later Mrs. Kennedy and the President's coffin arrived. Mrs. Johnson and I spoke to her. We tried to comfort her, but our words seemed inadequate. She went into the private quarters of the plane."

And here's what Johnson had to say in his 1971 memoirs, The Vantage Point:

"About 2:15 the moment arrived against which I had been steeling myself--and dreading to the depths of my being. Mrs. Kennedy was coming aboard with the President's body. Lady Bird and I went to the rear of the plane to meet her. I had not seen Mrs. Kennedy since morning, when we had gotten into our cars at the airport to begin the motorcade."

Well, first, notice that in Johnson's statement to the WC, he made it seem as though he hadn't used the Kennedy bedroom to make a series of phone calls--that he felt it improper. Now, this is shot down by Fehmer's notes. And it's also shot down by subsequent statements by Johnson aide Jack Valenti, in which he admitted Lady Bird spent most of the trip in the bedroom. But it's even worse than that. Johnson also makes it seem as though he first saw Mrs. Kennedy on the plane when he and Lady Bird went to the rear to greet her. This is not true. When Mrs. Kennedy arrived on the plane, she went to the bedroom only to find Johnson and Fehmer in there. She told this to William Manchester, who reported it in The Death of a President. Johnson supporters disputed it. But there's a BIG problem for historians trying to avoid admitting Johnson LIED about his actions on the plane. In her oral history performed for the Johnson Library, Marie Fehmer ADMITTED being caught in the bedroom by Mrs. Kennedy.

It seems probable then that Johnson not only systematically lied about being caught in the bedroom by Mrs. Kennedy, but that he developed this lie within minutes of its occurring, and encouraged others to promote this lie. Fehmer's notes, after all, were written on the plane. In large part these notes reflect word for word what Johnson told her to write down. And yet they reflect that Johnson left the bedroom before Mrs. Kennedy's arrival.

So, what's going on here? Well, it seems clear that Johnson was afraid people were gonna think he moved too fast in taking over what had been Mrs. Kennedy's bedroom for his private use, and thought it better to LIE about it and create a false history than to admit it as an embarrassing mistake. And that says a LOT about his character...a LOT that historians are still afraid to acknowledge...

Edited by Pat Speer
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Pat, Here’s some additional detail:

WEDNESDAY, JULY 21, 2010

Robert S. Strauss: In His Own Words

http://dailstrug.blogspot.com/2010/07/robert-s-strauss-in-his-own-words.html

How did Lyndon Johnson handle this shocking development?

Robert Strauss: He called my law partner, Irving Goldberg,
who was very close to Johnson and Mrs. Johnson. As a matter
of fact, I think he was their lawyer, and Irving had been on his
staff for a while. Johnson called him from the plane, and he
asked Irv, "What do I do about being sworn in? Should I do
it here or there or wait until I get to Washington?" And Irv
was wise enough to say, "You don't need to be sworn in.
You are president, but you ought to be sworn in in a very public
way, where the world will see you, see the power changing,
because they need to know there is continuity here." And
Johnson said, "I agree. Who should do it?" And Irv said,
"I'll get Barefoot." Barefoot Sanders had an Indian name,
but he had also just been appointed U.S. Attorney by
Johnson, "He'll locate Judge Sarah Hughes," who was also
a Johnson appointee. Luckily, they found the right people, and
that's how that all happened. Johnson said to him, "You get
out here for this swearing in," but when he got to the airport
they said, "Oh, you can't go in there." Irv was too shy, and he
didn't throw his weight around or say, "Call the plane, you'll
find out." So he just stayed out and went on back home.
That's the story. A day I'll never forget.

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  • 2 months later...

Expecting any "professional" historian to examine significant political events like the JFK assassination honestly is like expecting a high profile mainstream journalist to report on it honestly. Historians have been well trained to dismiss any doubts about an official narrative, any mention of widespread corruption, or indeed any questioning of authority, as "conspiracy theories."

If historians or journalists had done their jobs, there would have been no need for the Harold Weisbergs, Sylvia Meaghers, Vincent Salandrias and Mark Lanes of the world.

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  • 1 month later...

Although, what is cited is not about the Kennedy Assassination, although the book does cite Carl Oglesby's The Yankee & Cowboy War.

It was something else that I found in it that was real enlightening.

A few months ago, I purchased Law & History: The Evolution of the American Legal System - Anthony Chase - 1997 - The New Press;

It is, a very hard read unless you are well versed in reading Legal Journals, but at the end of the book, Chapter IV, the article

Wake Of The Flood, is noteworthy. I suppose one could call the piece an "analysis of global and nation state eco-political history,

with an analysis of what the, then future holds." Beginning with the FDR Administration to 1997;

It is definitely not, conspiracy literature, in any sense of the word. But it contains an analysis which I completely agree

with, of "where we are heading."

I believe the piece quoted here is from Dark Victory: The United States, Structural Adjustment & Global Poverty - Liz Dore & John Weeks - London Pluto Press 1994.

Crediting authorship, is difficult, because the footnote credit cites five different sources.....But I believe it is from Facism in the Plural; see below

At any rate, the passage reads.....Capitalist development in Latin America has not improved the living conditions of the vast majority of the continent's

population. On the contrary, only select groups have prospered, while nearly half live in poverty. For the "really revolutionary" form of capitalism, see

Alan Ryan, "Fascism in the Plural, London Review of Books (Sept. 21, 1995): "The collapse of the satellite Communist regimes of Eastern Europe

and the subsequent disintegration of the USSR were supposed to mark the triumph of the liberal democratic ideal and the market economy-- to be

'the end of history.' What we got instead was a revival of ultra-nationalism, racism and ethnic strife: German reunification celebrated by neo-Nazi

skinheads; Croatian independence marked by the rehabilitation of Nazi collaborators. French racial discord marked by Le Pen's increasingly

popular National Front; and in Russia, the arrival of Vladimir Zhirinovsky as something more than a bad joke. Many people have wondered

whether 1989 would turn out to be like 1919: what the death of old authoritarian governments brought to life is more Fascist than liberal"(p.3)

See also Hans Magnus Enzenberger, Civil Wars: From L.A. To Bosnia (New York: New Press, 1994).

To have been written 17 years ago, the scenario as of now worldwide, seems to, not only validate the writer's assertions, but that he

was speaking almost prophetically.

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Expecting any "professional" historian to examine significant political events like the JFK assassination honestly is like expecting a high profile mainstream journalist to report on it honestly. Historians have been well trained to dismiss any doubts about an official narrative, any mention of widespread corruption, or indeed any questioning of authority, as "conspiracy theories."

If historians or journalists had done their jobs, there would have been no need for the Harold Weisbergs, Sylvia Meaghers, Vincent Salandrias and Mark Lanes of the world.

I think you are being too harsh on historians. The problem was mainly about the failure of journalists to investigate the crime when it happened. Historians rarely speculate. They are only interested in the evidence that is available. That has enabled them to point out the failings of the original investigation but has not allowed them to provide details of who had him killed. The evidence is just not available for them to do that.

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But John, the evidence is available for them to easily conclude that Lee Harvey Oswald didn't do it, that the official narrative is unquestionably wrong. At this point, if they've studied the available record, they can't honestly defend the official story.

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But John, the evidence is available for them to easily conclude that Lee Harvey Oswald didn't do it, that the official narrative is unquestionably wrong. At this point, if they've studied the available record, they can't honestly defend the official story.

I don't think many of them do. I have just read Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy (2009) by Kathryn S. Olmstead. It has a very good chapter on the JFK assassination. Olmstead is a much respected historian who has written a great deal on the FBI and the CIA. She makes it clear that she she considers the Warren Report was a cover-up. However, she refuses to speculate on who actually killed JFK. As a historian, she just cannot do that. The cover-up was too successful.

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I haven't read that book yet, John. I'll pick it up when I get a chance. I think you raise a good point: When historians report events they should not speculate beyond what can be logically inferred. So while it is logical to conclude the official story is fatally flawed and that Lee Oswald more than likely was not involved as a shooter, it is not logical to conclude that the mob, the anti-Castro Cubans, the John Birchers, or the CIA did it. Moreover, at this late date the question "Who shot JFK?" is no longer relevant because it is no longer solvable. However, the realization that very powerful forces without our government manipulated elements within our government in order to not only perpetuate obstruction of justice, but to strip from us our right to intellectual freedom is what historians have failed to note with sufficient force, IMO.

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I think you're right, Greg. While the reluctance to speculate is understandable, the reluctance to report uncomfortable facts is inexcusable, and represents a mass failure of the press and Academia. Below is an example of what I'm talking about. The facts related on the following slide have long been available. But STILL haven't been presented to the public by a mainstream journalist or historian. It's as if they've decided, en mass, "Well, since we don't know who did it we shouldn't stir things up by pointing out that Senator Arlen Specter lied in 1964 and continued to lie until his death."

specterfailstheliedetect2.jpg

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  • 3 months later...

I haven't read that book yet, John. I'll pick it up when I get a chance. I think you raise a good point: When historians report events they should not speculate beyond what can be logically inferred. So while it is logical to conclude the official story is fatally flawed and that Lee Oswald more than likely was not involved as a shooter, it is not logical to conclude that the mob, the anti-Castro Cubans, the John Birchers, or the CIA did it. Moreover, at this late date the question "Who shot JFK?" is no longer relevant because it is no longer solvable. However, the realization that very powerful forces without our government manipulated elements within our government in order to not only perpetuate obstruction of justice, but to strip from us our right to intellectual freedom is what historians have failed to note with sufficient force, IMO.

Great points, Greg.

It is indeed, logical to conclude that Lee Oswald was not involved as a shooter, and further, that there were also shots from the front.

But as you say, evidence at the crime scene has long been destroyed, and those involved were very high in the government and industry and sadly, that part of the Coup is not solvable.

It must be made clear, however, that it does not need to be proven, as a conspiracy has.

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