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Ray Marcus: The Left and the Death of Kennedy

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This is a unique and fascinating essay about one of the early researchers, Ray Marcus, and his attempt at activism in the JFK case.  Something that, except for a few sporadic attempts, has all but disappeared from the scene.  Ray tried to recruit from some of the liberal intelligentsia of the day in order to find a big name to attract attention to the case.

Some of the responses he got are absolute gold, like I F Stone for instance.  But for me, the real stunner is Chomsky and his cabal at the end.  Read it and weep. This, in large part, explains what happened to the left in this country.




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From my book INTO THE NIGHTMARE: MY SEARCH FOR THE KILLERS OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY AND OFFICER J. D. TIPPIT: Later on November 22, [Bill] Alexander [one of Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade's top assistants] was agitating for a filing against Oswald by the DA’s office as a member of a communist conspiracy to kill the president. According to Manchester’s Death of a President, Alexander “prepared to charge Oswald with murdering the President ‘as part of an international Communist conspiracy.’” When I asked Alexander if he did advocate such a charge, he replied, “Yes, I did, directly due to the fact that we seized all that communist material and his correspondence with a guy named Stone nobody knew was a Communist at the time.”

Alexander identified this man as I. F. Stone (1907-89), the leftwing independent journalist who had been accused earlier in 1992, apparently falsely, of having been a Soviet agent. This charge was made by a KGB major general Stone may have known as an innocent press contact. Somewhat surprisingly given his iconoclastic reputation as an independent investigative journalist, Stone vigorously defended the Warren Commission against its critics in 1964. Like many others on the American left, he may have been felt threatened by the fact that a supposed leftist was charged with the crime and have been anxious to dissociate himself and others from Oswald by helping stigmatize him as an aberrant loner with no coherent political motive or agenda. No correspondence between Oswald and I. F. Stone has ever been entered into evidence in the assassination case.

On October 5, 1964, shortly after the publication of the Warren Report, Stone wrote in his publication I. F. Stone’s Weekly:

All my adult life as a newspaperman I have been fighting, in defense of the Left and of a sane politics, against conspiracy theories of history, character assassination, guilt by association and demonology. Now I see elements of the Left using these same tactics in the controversy over the Kennedy assassination and the Warren Commission Report. I believe the Commission has done a first-rate job, on a level that does our country proud and is worthy of so tragic an event. I regard the case against Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone killer of the President as conclusive. By the nature of the case, absolute certainty will never be attained, and those still convinced of Oswald’s innocence have a right to pursue the search for evidence which might exculpate him. But I want to suggest that this search be carried on in a sober manner and with full awareness of what is involved.

It is one thing to analyze discrepancies. It is quite another to write and speak in just that hysterical and defamatory way from which the Left has suffered in the last quarter century or more of political controversy. . . .

While Stone went on to attack such pioneering and iconoclastic assassination books as Joachim Joesten’s Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy? and Thomas Buchanan’s Who Killed Kennedy? as examples of the tendencies he deplored, it is clear that what made him most concerned about criticism of the Warren Report was that undermining its official conclusion would mean a possible reopening of McCarthyite witch hunting, or, as Stone put it, “conspiracy theories of history, character assassination, guilt by association and demonology.” The same anxiety is obvious in Richard Hofstadter’s highly influential essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” which also appeared around that time and seemed similarly motivated. Both authors wanted to maintain an unquestioning climate in which the Warren Commission and other elements of the U.S. government, at the end of their sham investigation in 1963-64, would exonerate the left in general from suspicion by conveniently placing all the blame on one lone nut (albeit a seemingly leftist nut) for the assassination.

Stone even took it upon himself to defend the dubious behavior of individual commission members. He denied a charge by British philosopher and historian Bertrand Russell that Gerald Ford was “an associate of the F.B.I.,” which turned out to be true, since it eventually became known that the future president was the FBI’s inside man on the commission, leaking its doings to Hoover and his minions. Stone seemed especially outraged by Lord Russell’s temerity in including in his attack on the probity of the commission the name of former CIA director Allen Dulles. Even though Stone admitted that he had criticized Dulles over the years, he insisted, “I would not impute to him or any other member of the Commission conduct so evil as to conspire with the secret services to protect the killers of a President.” This blank check to exonerate the agency Dulles formerly headed rang especially odd in light of Stone’s willingness to attack the CIA in other cases. With seemingly unconscious irony, he put in a box on the front page of his first issue after the assassination (on December 9, 1963, an issue headed, “We All Had A Finger on That Trigger”):

The Real Test of Our Morality

One way to demonstrate to the world in the wake of the President’s assassination that we are a civilized people would be to pass a law forbidding the CIA ever, directly or indirectly, to finance or plan the killing of a foreign leader we dislike.

I. F. Stone’s position on political assassinations, however, was more malleable than that statement would make it seem. When he was interviewed on camera by Ken Burns for his 1985 documentary Huey Long, about the U.S. senator and former Louisiana governor who was assassinated in 1935 under still-mysterious circumstances, Stone made this statement about Long: “I was very impressed with him. But it’s a terrible thing to say, I was really glad when they shot him. I don’t believe in terrorism or assassination, but he could have become an American dictator.”

Stone’s befuddled defense of the Warren Commission bore out the truth of what Lord Russell had written in his provocative article “16 Questions on the Assassination,” published in the independent American journal The Minority of One on September 6, 1964:

The methods adopted by the Commission have indeed been deplorable, but it is important to challenge the entire role of the Warren Commission. It stated that it would not conduct its own investigation, but rely instead on the existing governmental agencies -- the F.B.I., the Secret Service and the Dallas police. Confidence in the Warren Commission thus presupposes confidence in these three institutions. Why have so many liberals abandoned their own responsibility to a Commission whose circumstances they refuse to examine?

From factually unsupported finger-pointing at I. F. Stone in our 1992 interview, the disgraced former assistant DA Bill Alexander went on to describe other materials he said were found in Oswald’s possession that he considered reason to file a charge of conspiracy against the prisoner: “We picked it up, we had all the Communist literature. It had the right names and the right phone numbers, including the Russian embassy. What else are you supposed to think?” Where did they find the material?, I asked. “Oak Cliff,” he replied, referring to Oswald’s rooming house, adding, “I don’t know what they got out of Irving,” where other authorities said they found much more leftwing material among Oswald’s belongings at the Paine residence. When the Dallas sheriff’s and police departments first searched the Paine residence on November 22, they reported seizing file cabinets of information on alleged Cuban sympathizers from the garage, possibly evidence of Oswald’s infiltration activities (or information collected by Ruth Paine and her husband, Michael Paine, who was known to attend both left/liberal and rightwing political gatherings), but those files soon vanished from the evidence. Sheriff ’s Deputy Buddy Walthers reported that the local authorities confiscated, along with “Cuba for Freedom” literature, “a set of metal file cabinets containing records that appeared to be names and activities of Cuban sympathizers.” Deputy J. L. Oxford reported that they seized “about 7 metal boxes which contained pamphlets and literature from abroad.” My telephone interview with Alexander ended with him indicating that he’d be happy to talk again the following week, but when I called him then, he refused to meet with me or talk further.

Word about Alexander’s plan to charge Oswald as part of a communist conspiracy quickly made its way back to Washington on the day of the assassination. Manchester reports that since such an indictment “could have had grave repercussions abroad” (and domestically, with calls for retaliation against Cuba and the USSR), “when [U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, based in Dallas] Barefoot Sanders heard of it from the FBI he phoned [U.S. Deputy Attorney General in Washington] Nick Katzenbach, who persuaded two members of the Vice President’s Washington staff to have their Texas contacts kill it.” It became known later that Henry Wade received three telephone calls that day from President Johnson’s aide Cliff Carter (a prominent Texas fixer for LBJ who had traveled in the Dallas motorcade) urging the district attorney not to include the conspiracy charge in the filing against Oswald for murdering Kennedy. Wade confirmed in our interview that Carter had called him about the matter on November 22. Although Manchester reports that the indictment “had already been drawn up,” Wade claimed to me that he wasn’t sure whether Alexander was going to push that charge: “I think some of the press got the idea he probably [would], but they didn’t know Bill.” But Wade said Carter also urged him to correct that misapprehension by holding his own post-midnight press briefing after Oswald made his few remarks before the media on Friday night before being hustled away by the police.

“Apparently they [the Johnson Administration] were afraid that if we took a charge on Oswald, we were going to take one that led to a part of a Russian conspiracy, which was kind of silly,” Wade told me. “I mean, even if he was part of it, you don’t allege anything in an indictment that you can’t prove. You have to prove everything in a case. All a murder indictment says is that Lee Harvey Oswald killed John Fitzgerald Kennedy by shooting him with a gun. That’s all you gotta prove. From all the evidence that indicated if he had any connection with a foreign government, it was with Castro’s Cuba, because he had that literature all over his room out there he had rented and also out at his wife’s house. And I never saw any evidence that -- the only evidence you had about Russia, he lived over there two years or something. I don’t know whether they ever found out anything about as much.” . . .

Edited by Joseph McBride
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Not to derail this, Stone's decision and it's long range effect reminds me of Paul Robeson's decision to deny what he knew to be true about Soviet treatment of dissident Jews. 

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