JFK Assassination


Good-Bye To All That

Dr. James R. Black
Dr. Grover B. Proctor, Jr.

Spectator Magazine, November 1995

For 20 years, Spectator contributor Grover B. Proctor, Jr. has relentlessly researched and investigated the 1963 assassination — and the coverup that ensued — of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and what he believes to be the coverup that's been sustained since that day in Dealey Plaza. The results of that investigation have appeared in Spectator on various occasions, the most recent report appearing in 1993 on the 30th anniversary of the assassination. In this report, Proctor and his research colleague relate how both government deception and the deficiencies of the private investigations have led them to the decision to end their own 20-year work in the case. And in the conclusion of their farewell, they examine how the assassination fits into the larger picture of America in the 20th Century.

The year is 1965....

A naive eighth-grader is reading the newly published paperback edition of the Warren Commission's Report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He manages to plow through the first 298 pages of the thick volume, but is pulled up short by the Commission's treatment of a peculiar incident involving alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

He reads that a "Leon Oswald" showed up in the company of two Cubans at the door of a woman named Silvia Odio, who was involved in the movement to overthrow Fidel Castro. Mrs. Odio testified that one of the Cubans told her Oswald was "kind of nuts" and that Oswald believed "Kennedy should have been assassinated after the Bay of Pigs." But even though Mrs. Odio positively identified Oswald after the assassination, even though her testimony was independently confirmed by her sister, and even though the Commission could find no reason to doubt her, the Warren Report nevertheless concluded that the story was without foundation; the incident simply never occurred.

The eighth-grader is disgusted and appalled. His whole conception of the political world begins to turn upside down, as he realizes for the first time that the government is lying to its own people.

The year moves to 1974....

The eighth-grader is now a college student, enthralled by the sordid downfall of a corrupt president as the Watergate investigation grinds to its conclusion. He and a graduate-student friend live in the same apartment building, and every evening they sit glued to the network news in the friend's living room, fascinated by the unfolding constitutional drama.

Meal-time and late-night discussions inevitably gravitate to the conspiracy being brought to light by the televised hearings -- and to the wider subject of political conspiracies in general, about which the grad student professes no knowledge.

One night the former eighth-grader offers a book to his naive friend, saying, "If you find Watergate interesting, wait 'til you read this!" It is a paperback copy of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's A Heritage of Stone, which concludes that the crime was plotted and executed by the CIA. The grad student considers the book with some puzzlement; until now, he had never given the assassination a second thought. Could there be a conspiracy here, as both his friend and the book suggest?

Between classes, papers, and watching the Watergate news, the grad student spends the next few weeks with a growing sense of fascination and dread. His whole conception of the political world, already disturbed by the high crimes and misdemeanors of a fallen president, is shaken to the core. Watergate had already convinced him that the government could lie to its own people. Now he is faced with the possibility that sometimes it also kills them.

And finally, the year becomes 1995....

The former eighth-grader and the former grad student sit at their computers -- separated by half a continent, but joined by the Internet and by twenty years of shared investigation. They have researched, lectured, authored, and been consulted as experts about the case; seen their bylines in local, regional, and national publications; had their motives both lionized and vilified; and given almost half of their lives to the Quixotic quest for truth.

Now, together, they are writing this one last article to say good-bye to all that.

They will study the Kennedy assassination no more.


Why So Fierce a Passion?

What is it about the death of JFK that engenders a passion so fierce that it has persisted for three decades? Some have suggested that assassination researchers are merely the "children of a thousand days," who still yearn for the glories of Camelot. But most of us realized long ago that JFK was no god, nor even a knight in shining armor; in fact, for the most part it was assassination researchers, and not mainstream historians, who uncovered the seemingly endless tales of stolen elections, Mafia collusion, and personal improprieties which have so sullied the aura of the Kennedy White House.

Others have characterized assassination researchers as "assassination buffs" -- fanatic hobbyists consumed by an inexplicable and somewhat macabre passion, akin to those who collect pictures of car wrecks or write books about chainsaw murderers. But if this is really what assassination research is all about, then it is a strange hobby indeed; for it is generally neither monetarily profitable nor creatively productive. On the contrary, it often consists largely of spending one's own time and money in prodigious quantities for the dubious privilege of wading through the lives of people whom you would cross the street to avoid in any other context.

What's worse, many of those people are still very much alive; and some of them are downright dangerous. More than one assassination researcher has uncovered what he thought was the hidden key to explaining JFK's death -- only to go to an early grave himself before his discovery could be shared with the world. Others have had their phones tapped, their cars tampered with, their homes broken into, and their families and friends intimidated. (If you find all this hard to believe, locate a library with a copy of Mark Lane's book A Citizen's Dissent, dust it off, and read of the harassment and intimidation he endured when he first publicly questioned the guilt of Lee Oswald.)

But then why have so many otherwise intelligent people allowed themselves to be consumed by this investigation for so many years? Our own motives, like those of most assassination researchers, were simple: first to understand what happened that day in Dallas, and then to share that understanding with others -- all in the hope of finally setting right a horrible wrong whose consequences haunt our nation, and the world, to this day.

Over the years we have seen our own research ignite the fires of curiosity in many others. And watching their reactions as they read their first book about the case, regardless of which one, has been like looking in a mirror.

First comes the initial shock and disbelief. ("I've never heard anything like this! Can it really be true?") Then comes mounting excitement at the discovery of a truly puzzling mystery. For us, as for so many others, this initial phase was like reading the ultimate crime novel, and we became fascinated with -- and almost drowned in -- the minutiae of the crime. How many shots were fired? Do the trajectories line up with the wounds? Was Oswald really on the sixth floor at all? Who was on the Grassy Knoll? Where did the "magic bullet" really come from? But this was a mystery in which the tragedy, the characters, and the plot were all too real, and whose last chapter did not unmask the villains or cart them off to jail.

As a result, the excitement of discovery was coupled with a growing indignation at governmental deception, targeted first of all at the Warren Commission Report itself. The gaping holes, inconsistencies, and deceptions to be found in every part of the Commission's investigation caused an anger to well up within us at how the American people had been duped. This, coupled with a firm belief in our own ability to get at the truth, pushed us to ferret out every possible detail of the crime and, with an almost evangelical fervor, to communicate our new-found knowledge to as many others as possible -- sometimes to the distress those who simply couldn't understand what we were so upset about, or who suspected avarice or sedition as our primary motives.

But even as all of this left us feeling betrayed by the system, paradoxically we were filled at the same time with an almost boundless optimism. If the research were continued long enough and handled well enough, we told ourselves, the ultimate solution could be within our grasp. Wrongs could be righted; the hidden guilty could be cast first into the light of day, and then into prison. "Murder will out," it is said, and in our naivete we saw ourselves as part of that inevitable process.


The Long Middle Years

But as months turned into years, and we began to build a coherent understanding of what really happened that day and how it fit into the bigger picture of history and politics, a resigned cynicism began to intrude. It became obvious that, despite what looked like incontrovertible evidence, and despite a continuing belief in an assassination conspiracy by an overwhelming majority of the American people, there would never be the kind of full-scale, no-holds-barred investigation which might finally bring the guilty parties to justice.

For example, just after the two of us met, a Senate committee began investigating abuses of power by the nation's intelligence community; and as part of that process, a sub-group looked into the part those abuses might have played in the Kennedy assassination. We were thrilled when that subcommittee, in the person of Republican Senator Richard Schweiker, said unequivocally, "The Warren Commission has collapsed like a house of cards. I believe that the Warren Commission was set up at the time to feed pabulum to the American people for reasons not yet known, and that one of the biggest cover-ups in the history of our country occurred at that time." Then, as if in answer to our most fervent wishes, the House of Representatives announced a couple of years later that it would appoint a select committee to re-open the investigation, with the goal of providing the Justice Department with sufficient evidence to bring the case to a conclusion.

But the vindication offered by Senator Schweiker's informed assessment, and the high expectations engendered by the convening of the House Select Committee, soon turned to a sour sense of betrayal and resignation. Reports from insiders in the House Committee suggested that the deck was once again being stacked against a full, fair, and complete investigation. And the banality of the Committee's final report can best be summarized by their conclusion that, while President Kennedy was "probably" assassinated as a result of a conspiracy (comprising persons unknown, or at least unnamed), the committee could not rule out the possibility of "coincidence" -- i.e., that two or more "lone nut" assassins, totally unknown to each other, decided independently to kill the President that day in Dealey Plaza.

It was this report, issued at the end of the 1970s, which laid the foundation for the JFK assassination industry in the 1980s. If the government was not going to tell the truth, it was reasoned, then independent researchers would have to redouble their efforts to uncover it. And so every November, near the anniversary of the assassination, bookstores would be inundated with a new crop of books, until it became nearly impossible even for those of us who were dedicated to the case to keep up with it all.

The initial euphoria which had united us in the early days was now replaced by a bunker mentality, heavily mixed with paranoia. Some researchers seemed interested not so much in uncovering new facts and generating new ideas for all to sift through, decipher, and evaluate, but rather in promulgating their own particular theories to the exclusion of all others. Serious infighting broke out among the researchers themselves, and cries of "deceit and deception" were directed not just at the villains who killed the president, or at the government officials who covered it up, but even at other investigators. And though some tried to ignore or deny it, the JFK assassination became, for a select few, a lucrative and jealously guarded business.

Of course, this was hardly the kind of thing to inspire confidence in the reading public, and ultimately it only served the interests of those who would deprecate all assassination research as the ravings of lunatics. To make matters even worse, assassination research has in fact been contaminated over the years by a level of craziness which threatens to make flying saucers look reasonable by comparison. Copies of the Zapruder film have surfaced which seem to show JFK being shot by his own driver. Rumors circulate that JFK was killed because he was about to reveal America's secret treaties with the space aliens. Castro was involved. NASA was involved. The KGB was behind it -- or, in another version, tried to stop it by ordering Oswald himself assassinated first.

Other theories suggest the fatal bullets were never found because they were made of ice; or perhaps they weren't really bullets at all, but darts shot from an umbrella. Lyndon Johnson ordered the hit because he wanted to be President. Richard Nixon supported it because he was still angry over the Cook County graveyard vote that cost him the presidency in 1960. Jackie went along with the coverup because she was jealous of Marilyn. The silliness goes on and on, fed by a witches' brew of official lies, covert disinformation, predatory hoaxers, and private insanity.

But wait. How does one distinguish anymore between serious theorizing and laughable impossibility? Even those who have followed the story from the beginning find it difficult to know where to draw the line, because the revelations of the past thirty years have all but erased the distinction between plausibility and kookiness.

After all, we still don't know for sure how many frames were originally in the Zapruder film, or how many "Oswalds" there were in Dallas that day, or what role they actually played in the assassination. We still don't know how many bullets were fired, or what happened to Kennedy's brain, or even who is really buried in Oswald's grave. The assassination has gone far beyond being merely a mystery wrapped in an enigma; it has become, to borrow an apt phrase from another context, a hall of mirrors with a quicksand floor.


Dallas in the Larger Picture

For those who study the Kennedy assassination long enough, there eventually comes a realization that there may never be any final resolution. Thirty years of investigation have shown that the tendrils shooting out from this case are curled around the seamiest aspects of modern American politics; and we have finally been forced to conclude that The Powers That Be, for reasons we can suspect but never fully comprehend, have decided that the truth must never see the light of day.

It is this final realization -- that the cover-up was as important a part of the national political fabric as the assassination itself -- which resonates with ultimate clarity. We are left with the growing sense that, beneath the surface of the body politic, some great presence lurks, deeply rooted and carefully hidden, and the Kennedy assassination is woven into it so tightly that its exposure might alter irrevocably the political world as we know it.

Scholars such as Peter Dale Scott, in his authoritative volume Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, tell us conclusively that the events of that day in November 1963 are the centerpiece of any mature understanding of the United States of America and its place in the last half of the twentieth century. His analysis shows clearly that the shadows of Dealey Plaza point backwards in time to many of the seminal events of the post-war era: the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis, the downing of Gary Powers' U-2 reconnaissance plane over the Soviet Union, the nuclear test-ban treaty, the debut of psychedelic drugs, CIA mind-control experiments, under-the-table deals with organized crime, and violent changes of regime in far-off places like Iran, Zaire, and Laos.

And more importantly, he asserts, they reach forward from Dealey Plaza to the crucial events of more recent times: Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, the war on drugs, FBI abuses against domestic dissidents, the violent deaths of other major political and cultural figures, and the unchecked growth of black-budget intelligence agencies and covert operations, both foreign and domestic.

It is no accident, then, that in the course of the many public and private investigations into the death of JFK we have learned much about how our government really operates. We have learned that the government lies -- not only to foreign enemies, and not only to the people it is sworn to serve and from whom it is supposed to derive its power, but even to itself. We have learned that the government is not above suppressing evidence, distorting facts, altering documents, and intimidating witnesses. We have come to suspect that when pressed too hard, it may even resort to murder.

But this is old news. In the America of 1963, only Communists and kooks dared to speak such truths in public; but after the events of the last thirty years, and after countless instances of government-sanctioned skullduggery and chicanery, few are surprised by such revelations -- and even fewer care. We have come to accept deception, manipulation, intimidation, and even assassination as the everyday tools of responsible government. And therein, perhaps, lies the ultimate tragedy of Dealey Plaza and everything that came after.

As Peter Dale Scott put it so well, the assassination of President Kennedy was not fundamentally an aberration at all; it was simply a routine technical adjustment of the machinery of government. Such things have happened before; they will happen again; indeed, they happen all the time. That day in Dallas the machinery was just a bit more visible than usual, the target a bit more important than usual, the cleanup perhaps a bit sloppier than usual. And so for once the mask of state slipped, and the face beneath was revealed -- but only to those who are not afraid to look.


Back To Square One

So what was the ultimate resolution to Silvia Odio's testimony about meeting a "Leon Oswald" two months before the assassination? As it turns out, the eight-grader's instincts were right. According to the book The Last Investigation by Gaeton Fonzi, a prominent and distinguished investigator for two Congressional probes into the Kennedy assassination, Mrs. Odio's testimony is the linchpin of the case. "One of the opinions I've come to," he says, "is that the issue of conspiracy is not contestable. It never was.... The evidence of a conspiracy was overwhelming.... Beyond all the other evidence indicating conspiracy... the Odio incident absolutely cries conspiracy. In fact, I have no hesitation in declaring the Kennedy assassination a conspiracy based strictly on Silvia Odio's consistently credible testimony and, more important, the fact that our investigation proved it true." (Want more? Read the book. It's as close to the insider's truth as we are ever likely to have. My full review of this book is published on this Website.)

Throughout the time we have been trying to unravel the conspiracy, people have asked us the same two questions over and over again: "Who killed Kennedy?" and, "Will the truth ever come out?" We have consistently refused to speculate publicly on the former question (and will not do so now, at the end), because no one's conjectures -- including ours -- are really worth very much. And the answer to the latter question is more interesting anyway.

Will the truth ever come out? Our reply for the last ten years has been, "Who says that it hasn't come out already?" The marketplace of ideas has been flooded with an enormous number of opposing and contradictory "solutions," some by well-meaning and hard-working researchers, and some which are obvious and blatant attempts at disinformation. Who is to say that, somewhere in that morass of opinion and deception, the real answer hasn't already been revealed? The problem is that we have no way of knowing, because the government and the press -- by abrogating their responsibilities -- have deprived us of the normal and official venues for discerning the truth.


Good-Bye To All That

And so the two of us are closing out this chapter in our own lives. We do so for many reasons -- some personal, and some related to the dismal state of the investigative community today. But mainly, we do so because there seems to be little else that we, or perhaps any other private citizen, can contribute to a final resolution of the case. How much more can be dug up about the magic bullet? Or about Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union? Or about the whereabouts of various CIA employees or Mafia hit men in the days and weeks leading up to the assassination?

More importantly, what good would it do anyway? It is no longer enough merely to discover the truth for our own satisfaction; one must also have the power to do something about it. And until there is a radical change of heart by the government and the media, neither we nor the rest of the assassination community have the power to do much of anything.

We will, of course, continue to hope that those remaining in the field will clean their respective houses, that the press will finally realize the enormity of the story they are ignoring, and -- ultimately -- that the American people will rise up in righteous indignation to demand that their employees in Washington tell them the truth. But we will not be holding our breath. If the intriguing, authoritative, and well-documented publications of such authors as Mark Lane, Anthony Summers, Gaeton Fonzi, Peter Dale Scott, David Lifton, and so many others have not brought us nearer to the goal, then it's hard to imagine what would.

There is, of course, always some small hope that one day the truth will be known and acknowledged. No doubt there are still documents and diaries and death-bed confessions which might still be uncovered, and which will round out more of the details and clarify some issues which are still obscure. But the truth of the matter is already known in general terms, and has been for years -- to no apparent effect.

Can we then say, "Case closed?" No, not quite. It would be more accurate to say, "Charges dropped for want of prosecution." There have been at least five official investigations into the death of JFK. One, an ill-fated effort by a lonely district attorney in New Orleans, was hooted off the national stage by near-unanimous contempt. The others were carefully choreographed dances, all of which predictably came to the same general conclusions: Yes, some government agencies showed an appalling lack of foresight; yes, there were instances of inexplicable incompetence, and astonishing errors of judgment; yes, witnesses were dying like flies, and evidence was disappearing by the truckload; yes (it was admitted only at the last, and with great reluctance) perhaps there were even a few rogue intelligence agents or Mafia thugs involved somewhere along the way.

But despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the bottom-line conclusions always remained the same: Poor old Lee Harvey Oswald, a troubled loser with unknowable motives, shot the President all by himself. Thus the government investigated itself, and found nothing worth pursuing; the media lap dogs ate it up; and the American people yawned and changed the channel.

And in the final analysis, that is where the responsibility ultimately lies: with the American people themselves. Indeed, it has been plausibly suggested that one reason the media and the government have not told the truth about the assassination is because, at root, the American people do not want to know it.

Yes, 87% believe there was a conspiracy, and many even suspect that their own government had a hand in it. But it is one thing to suspect; it is altogether something else to know. Suspicion is merely titillating; knowledge brings a responsibility to act. And when it comes to the Kennedy assassination (and a host of related issues as well) that responsibility is something which the American people, in all honesty, are simply not willing to accept.


     Dr. Grover B. Proctor, Jr. is a historian and former university Dean who is widely acknowledged as an expert on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He has published numerous articles, lectured extensively, and has frequently been consulted by print and broadcast media.
     While most of his work comprises analysis and interpretation of the assassination research phenomenon, he broke new ground in the investigation in the early 1980's with his work on Lee Harvey Oswald's alleged telephone call from the Dallas jail to a former military counterintelligence agent in Raleigh, N.C.
Dr. Grover B. Proctor, Jr.






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