It’s time for a rant. I try not to impose on your forbearance, but I need to talk. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not angry, or about to blow up… I just want to go on (and on) about something. So if the subject matter doesn’t interest you, just scroll down to the bottom where I bring up something completely different. If you do decide to read this, get comfortable.
Some of you know I was a history major, and I still love to make connections between the past and the present: how we learn or don’t; how we repeat mistakes but with a slightly different twist because we think we’ve learned; how we end up pretty much in the same place.
As you probably know, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of JFK’s Assassination, and everyone is already trotting out all the old conspiracy theories, certain that they have the answer to his murder. Did you know there are over 500 books related to the JFK Assassination? They can’t ALL be right, can they?
Well, before I go there, a personal digression, which might explain why I still think and care about this 50 years later. I grew up in Washington, DC, and when Kennedy came into office, it was like a lightning bolt struck the town. No longer was DC the sleepy southern unbearable-in-summer city; now it was going to be young, full of VIGAH (remember that?), artists, musicians, and sophisticated French food and fashion. To celebrate, my mother took me down to the inauguration in 1961. We staked out on Constitution Avenue, watched the parade and saw Jackie and Jack drive past in their limo. I remember feeling excited and hopeful about the future and this glamorous Presidential couple.
Less than three years later my mother and I were back in the same spot , this time watching the funeral cortege. I was older, sadder, and I’ll never forget the riderless horse with the stirrups on backwards. I felt cheated. Robbed. Personally.
Maybe that’s why I became so interested in the conspiracy theories. I read a lot of the books, but the ones that made sense all implicated three major perpetrators: Castro, the CIA, or the Mafia.
This one, which I read early on, said the CIA was the culprit and based their theory on photos of Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis dressed as “hobos” and/or “tramps” who were questioned by Dallas police and then released. (Amazing how many mistakes the Dallas police made back then… but that’s a conspiracy for another day)
JFK: THE CUBA FILES was written by a Cuban and I read it while I was in Cuba last winter. I found it to be well researched, and it convinced me that Castro had nothing to do with it.
Which leaves the Mafia… and that’s what Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartman’s ULTIMATE SACRIFICE and LEGACY OF SECRECY address. These are not new books, btw, and both are MUCH too long and repetitive. But they are convincing, not so much because they single out the Mafia as the culprits, but because they combine all three groups.
Essentially what these books say is this: Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante, and Johnny Roselli colluded to kill JFK because brother Bobby had been aggressively targeting them as Attorney General. However, the reason the subsequent Warren Commission whitewash and cover-up succeeded was because the Mafia had infiltrated a super secret Kennedy plan to stage a coup in Cuba. The authors document how the RFK had enlisted Juan Almedia, a high ranking Cuban government official who was disillusioned with Castro, to help carry out the coup; of course, the US would provide assistance afterwards.
The coup was planned for December 1st 1963, but, after the death of JFK on November 22, it was aborted. However, the Mafia was able to extort silence from RFK, Johnson, Hoover, and others by threatening to expose the coup, which, people feared would provoke a serious confrontation with the Soviets, not even a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Maybe even World War Three.
I won’t go into a lot of detail – you can read the books yourself. But I find their theory compelling for a bunch of reasons:
–Whatever theory you believe, there’s a list of people who are always mentioned as people who knew more than they’ve told about the assassination. Those people are both CIA, Mafia, and Cuban exiles.
— It’s been documented that the CIA and the Mafia worked together many times over the years … as far back as WW2 in Sicily, in Guatemala, Cuba, and other places.
— Several Cuban exiles (on the more liberal side) were to be involved in Kennedy’s coup plan, not to the extent they were during the Bay of Pigs, but still involved.
— Marcello was often quoted as saying any assassination needed a patsy to blame it on, like they did back in Sicily. Enter Lee Harvey Oswald.
— Lee Harvey Oswald was a sometime asset or employee of the CIA. (How did Stephen King, whom I love, get it so wrong?)
— Jack Ruby was a known Mob associate of Marcello and Rosselli.
— There were supposed to be attempts on JFK’s life in Chicago and Tampa during the weeks leading up to Dallas, but they didn’t happen for one reason or another. The same men were involved in all three attempts, including a French assassin close to the heroin trade, sharpshooter Mafia hit men, and possibly a Cuban exile.
It sure puts a different spin on Bobby Kennedy, doesn’t it? How would you like to carry around the guilt of knowing your behavior, in part, caused your brother’s death? And that you couldn’t do anything to avenge it? It’s almost the stuff of a Shakespeare tragedy. Btw, Robert Kennedy Junior, his son, concurs that the Mafia was behind JFK’s death and that RFK knew it. The authors go even further and implicate the Mob for Martin Luther King and ultimately RKF’s murders as well.
I think they have a pretty sound theory about JFK. Except for one thing— and here’s where Oliver Stone comes in. No, not his film JFK, but his recent Untold History of the United States, (on Showtime) which I highly recommend for anyone who wants a fascinating perspective on our history during the past 75 years. He paints Khrushchev as a peace-maker and a leader who took internal risks that we only are just discovering to keep the US and the USSR on an even keel. He knew the US would pulverize Russia if it came to war. So he tried his best to avoid it. His efforts were trumped only by Gorbachev thirty years later.
Stone delivers a persuasive argument, and I just wonder if anyone back then knew it. If so, perhaps the fear that we would end up in a nuclear war was exaggerated. We sure had an effective propaganda machine telling us that was the case. Then again, maybe the CIA and our foreign affairs leaders really didn’t know much about Khrushchev. Maybe they really did consider him our biggest threat. I wish there was a way to find out.
Maybe we will in 2017. That’s when the rest of the files on the JFK assassination are supposed to be released.
New Subject (for those who skipped the above)
Anyway, it just so happens my next book takes place largely in Cuba before the revolution and then twenty years afterwards. It’s called HAVANA LOST, and it will be out this spring. As a hybrid author (I just learned that’s what we’re called when we are both traditionally and self-published), I will be bringing it out myself. I want to do it “right,” and I thought some of you might be interested in my progress. As time allows, I plan to keep you informed. And also share some of my thoughts about writing, Cuba, Fidel, and the Mafia.
In the meantime, those of you who are even a little bit fascinated by Cuba should check out a series of blogs by author Jack Durish. He’s done an amazing job tracing the island’s history. You can find them right here.
And if you’ve made it this far, I owe you a beer. Or beverage of your choice. Thanks.