Saturday, 08 January 2022 19:33

The Post and the 30th Anniversary of JFK

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The Washington Post continues to smear Oliver Stone thirty years after JFK was released, so Jim DiEugenio continues to inject evidence, scholarship, and truth into the discussion to expose the bias of the mainstream media and their continued participation in the cover-up of the JFK assassination.

On Sunday, May 19, 1991, the Washington Post published a feature story by George Lardner in its Outlook section. It was titled “On the Set: Dallas in Wonderland.” Lardner had visited the set of Oliver Stone’s film JFK while it was shooting in Dallas. His lengthy article pretty much gave a blast off to the long, sustained MSM preemptive strike against a film that the public would not see for seven months. This phenomenon was unprecedented in the history of cinema, before or since. And Lardner’s attack was total. He even wrote the following (shocking) sentence about the film’s major thesis: “There was no abrupt change in Vietnam policy after J.F. K.’s death.” (Click here for details)

On December 22, 2021, Ann Hornaday published a feature story in the Sunday Arts section of the Washington Post. It was titled, “JFK at 30.” The extended subtitle was “Oliver Stone and the lasting impact of America’s most dangerous movie.” Her article was softer in tone than Lardner’s superheated polemic. But as far as the film went, and the state of the JFK case today, there is not much difference in effect.

Perhaps the worst aspect is when Hornaday makes an attempt to somehow link the film to what happened at the January 6th insurrection. She says that JFK “did not invent alternative facts, deepfakes, or Deep State paranoia. But its form and content surely anticipated them and helped usher in an era when audiences would increasingly accept them as reality.”

Only someone wishing to ignore rightwing conspiracy movements could write such a statement. In 1991, when JFK was released, Rush Limbaugh’s radio show had been nationally syndicated for three years. A year later, in 1992, Limbaugh would launch a TV version of his show. Recognizing Limbaugh’s success, approximately four years after that, Roger Ailes convinced Rupert Murdoch to launch Fox News Channel. Limbaugh and Fox were used to attack scientific concepts like global warming, to defend Donald Trump after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and to spread 2020 election fraud allegations. It is this kind of propaganda—furthered by Fox imitators OAN and Newsmax—that led to the insurrection, which was planned and exacerbated—even while it was happening—by the Mercer family backed Parler online service. (Click here for details)

This false attribution angle is complemented by her comments about Stone’s portrait of President Kennedy, which she says, “has been called the mother of all counterfactuals.” Why? Because Stone thinks that Kennedy would have stopped the war in Vietnam, aggressively pursued civil rights, and curtailed the Cold War. If Kennedy pulling out of Vietnam is “counterfactual” one has to wonder why the following illustrious scholars also support that thesis: Gordon Goldstein, Howard Jones, David Kaiser, James Blight, and David Welch. And why did a man she uses to denigrate Stone, Tim Weiner, write this headline in the New York Times on December 23, 1997: “Kennedy had a Plan for Early Exit in Vietnam.” The reason Tim wrote that article was because the Assassination Records Review Board had just declassified scores of pages of documents from the May 1963 SecDef meeting in Hawaii. At that meeting, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was collecting Vietnam withdrawal schedules from the Pentagon, CIA, and State Department. Schedules he had requested months earlier.

As per Kennedy and civil rights, again, this is not at all counterfactual. President Kennedy did more for civil rights in three years than Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower did in three decades. This is simply a matter of historical record. It is also historical record that, after the tearing down of Jim Crow in the south, President Johnson altered Kennedy’s plans for the second stage of his program—with deleterious effect. (Click here for details)

Finally, Kennedy was trying for a détente with the USSR and a rapprochement with Fidel Castro at the time of his death. For the latter, Hornaday could have made reference to the people involved, like William Attwood and Jean Daniel. (Peter Kornbluh, Cigar Aficionado, September/October 1999) As per the USSR, she could have consulted another negative critic she uses, namely Tim Naftali. In Naftali’s book, One Hell of Gamble, he revealed a secret communication that was sent to the Kremlin through Kennedy family friend William Walton. That letter originated a week after the assassination with Robert Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy. It said that they did not buy the MSM story about Oswald alone killing JFK. They suspected a large rightwing domestic plot, but they knew that the new president, LBJ, was too close to big business to continue the détente that JFK and Nikita Khrushchev had begun. Therefore, Bobby would resign as Attorney General, gain electoral office, and then run for the presidency and that he would then continue it, which is what RFK did—and Jackie did not want him to do. (Naftali and Aleksandr Fursenko, pp. 345, 402; David Talbot, Brothers, pp. 30–34) She ended up being correct in her prognostication. If this happened as previously outlined, how is it counterfactual?

About the original release of Stones’ film, she says that Warner Brothers launched a “Free the Files” campaign which shrewdly detracted from a negative press. That campaign began the day the film was first shown. For at the end of the picture, a crawl was attached which said that the files of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA)—the last official inquiry into JFK’s murder—were classified until the year 2029. The public reaction to that information was electric. Capitol Hill was deluged with phone calls, faxes, and telegrams outraged that this secrecy could still be going on. To give just one example: when the chairman of the HSCA, Congressman Louis Stokes, saw the film with his daughter, she asked him: “Why did you do that Daddy?” Stokes ended up being one of the prime backers for the creation of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). The Board’s function was to do just that—attempt to declassify all of those still secret documents. According to ARRB employee Doug Horne, Stokes met privately with the five person panel and urged them to reinvestigate the medical evidence in the case. Since, according to Stokes, no one on his committee was satisfied with what they had done in that regard.

This leads us to the subject of the ARRB. Using Naftali as a source, Hornaday says that Donald Trump delayed the ultimate release of the still withheld ARRB files for three years. What happened was this. By law, everything was supposed to be released in October of 2017. President Trump had tweeted about how he was looking forward to doing just that. He was the only person who could delay that release. On the day it was supposed to occur, he did just that—he delayed it for a period of 6 months. When that interval was over, he then added another three years to the extension. One would think 3 1/2 years would be enough to sort through the files. Apparently, it was not, because, in October of 2021, President Biden delayed it for two more months. In December, he only released about 10% of what was still being withheld. The rest was postponed until October of next year. In other words, if all is finally released then, we will have waited almost five years beyond the legislated release date to see what was in these files. And what is the guarantee that Biden will not delay it further at that time?

Concerning what was in some of the previously released files, she says that Clay Shaw—who Jim Garrison prosecuted for conspiracy in the JFK case—had once worked with the CIA. The implication being that at the time of the assassination or afterwards, he had not. One of the ARRB declassified files revealed that Shaw had a covert security clearance—and it was valid in 1967. (William Davy, Let Justice de Done, p. 195). Through its CIA specialist, the ARRB also learned that the Agency had destroyed Shaw’s 201 file. (ARRB memorandum of November 14, 1996 by Manuel Legaspi) Since the Shaw case figures rather expansively in the 1991 film, and the defendant denied he had worked for the CIA, one would think that this would be relevant information for her article.

Quoting Tim Weiner, the former New York Times reporter says the thesis of the film is a lie, but yet many people believe it. Hornaday then mentions the whole Weiner/Max Holland mythology about Garrison’s case being initiated by a KGB planted story in an Italian newspaper. Since Garrison arrested Shaw before that story was printed, and was investigating Shaw for about three months prior to its publication—and there was no contact between the two entities prior to publication—the reader should find the logic of all this rather puzzling. (For a detailed explanation of how Holland duped The Daily Beast, click here) And as I have previously noted, for anyone to take Holland seriously after he produced one of the worst documentaries ever on the JFK case is simple MSM fruitiness. Holland’s program was so bad that even Warren Commission zealots decried it. (Click here for details)

Writing about Stone’s dark 1991 portrait of Lyndon Johnson, and consistent with an emerging pattern, Hornaday now goes to Mark Updegrove. Mark was the Director of the Lyndon Johnson Library and Museum for eight years and is president and CEO of the LBJ Foundation in Austin. Predictably, he says that Stone’s film was,

…seminal insofar as it legitimized wide-eyed conspiracy theory and set a great precedent in how far we could push film to depict history, or purport to depict history. And that was a dangerous and irresponsible precedent.

Everything in Stone’s JFK about the Vietnam War, and Johnson’s actions involving it, has proven to be accurate. For example, the scene where Johnson tells the Joint Chiefs, “You just get me elected and I’ll give you your damned war” was taken from the 1983 edition of Stanley Karnow’s book Vietnam: A History (p. 326)

The most recent scholarly work in the field is even more convincing in this regard. In 1962, Johnson was getting the true data on how poorly the war was proceeding, not the false numbers that showed it was going well. (John Newman, JFK and Vietnam, 2017 edition, p. 223) But in 1961, the vice president had visited Saigon and, in conjunction with the Pentagon, had suggested to President Diem that he request American combat troops to help fight the war. (Newman, pp. 73, 77) This is something Kennedy had not authorized and would never authorize. In Virtual JFK, the authors’ quote a 1964 tape in which Johnson literally says that he disagreed with Kennedy’s policies in Vietnam, especially his decision to withdraw in a losing situation. (Blight, pp. 305–10) A month after this, in March, LBJ authorized the drafting of NSAM 288. This planned a great militarization of the war, including a full scale air war against Hanoi. It meant that “the administration has rejected all thought of a graceful withdrawal.” (Fredrik Logevall, Choosing War, p. 129) What was left to enact NSAM 288 was a declaration of war. The Johnson administration was drafting just that—three months before congress passed the Tonkin Gulf resolution in August. (Edwin Moise, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War, pp. 26–27) As noted above by Blight, not only did Johnson know he was breaking with Kennedy’s policy, but he also took pains to conceal it. Again, Stone’s portrait of Johnson in relation to Vietnam was accurate. And has been both proven and bolstered by later document releases and research.

She also says that somehow the conspiratorial framework of the film, that is a plot between the CIA and Joint Chiefs, has been debunked. She does not say where or by who, but to name some prominent people in the critical community who subscribe to, or had subscribed to, this general concept: attorney Stanley Marks, attorney Vincent Salandria, author Doug Horne, author Jacob Hornberger, Professor John Newman, and myself. In the long version of JFK Revisited: Destiny Betrayed, Stone backs this up with more evidence. She also says that JFK Revisited does not prove that Allen Dulles was a part of the plot. One of the featured speakers in the film, David Talbot, does make that case in his book The Devil’s Chessboard. All she had to do was call him as she did Tim Wiener or Mark Updegrove. Evidently, she didn’t.

She never called the screenwriter of JFK Revisited either, even though I left her an email and asked her to do just that. If she had done so she could not have written that the documentary includes what Stone “insists” is new evidence. Since I was involved in researching the script, arranging the interviews and posing the questions, I could have told her just what was new, how it was new, and what it meant to the calculus of the case (e.g. in dealing with CE 399, the testimony of Commission witness Victoria Adams, and the ARRB sworn deposition of autopsy photographer John Stringer). Respectively, it means that there is no chain of custody for the magic bullet and the FBI lied about it; that Dorothy Garner, Adams’ supervisor, supported her testimony, which gave Lee Oswald a formidable alibi for the time of the shooting; and that Stringer did not take the photos of Kennedy’s brain in the National Archives. Which begs the questions: Who did and why? There is no ”insisting” about this. It is all new—made possible by the ARRB.

In 1991, George Lardner gave Oliver Stone a slap across the face with his open hand. In 2021, Ann Hornady gave him a backhand wrapped in a velvet glove. After Max Boot and this, it’s pretty clear that, thirty years after Stone’s film, The Washington Post cannot accept the facts—old or new—about what happened to President Kennedy.

Last modified on Wednesday, 12 January 2022 18:46
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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