Friday, November 3, 2017

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Case Closed

Christopher Owens reviews Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK - Gerald Posner






With El Presidente Trump promising (and then reneging) to release the remaining files on the JFK assassination still considered sensitive by the American National Archives, he has successfully managed to side step his recent argument with a war widow and place the assassination back into mainstream discussion.

I've been reading comments from people all over the world asking about the relevance of releasing such files, because it was such a long time ago. I cannot disagree more with such remarks. Yes, I'm aware governments routinely censor things for their own reasons (records of the US Fish and Wildlife Service regarding Bird Migration Schedules and Waterfowl from 1888-1924 were only declassified in 1998, for example), but I always think of the stirring speech Kevin Costner gives in Oliver Stone's 'JFK':

All these documents are yours -- the people's property -- you pay for it, but because the government considers you children who might be too disturbed to face this reality, because you might lynch those involved, you cannot see these documents for another 75 years. I'm in my 40s, so I'll have shuffled off this mortal coil by then, but I'm already telling my 8-year-old son to keep himself physically fit so that one glorious September morning in 2038 he can walk into the National Archives and find out what the CIA and the FBI knew. They may even push it back then. It may become a generational affair, with questions passed down from father to son, mother to daughter, in the manner of the ancient runic bards. Someday somewhere, someone might find out the damned Truth. Or we might just build ourselves a new Government like the Declaration of Independence says we should do when the old one ain't working -- maybe a little farther out West.

Although there's a fair bit of hot air evident, it still moves me to tears. And it's highly prevalent in this country (witness the Belfast war diaries of the First Gloucestershire Regiment, sealed for nearly 100 years). But this tactic is mainly associated with the JFK assassination (despite 99.9% of the files being declassified over 25 years ago).

In many ways, the assassination was a seismic event in American history, fascinating historians and researchers to this day. However, what the general public don't seem to consider is that the event was solved a long time ago.

First published in 1993, former lawyer Gerald Posner spawned no end of controversy with 'Case Closed.' Unlike the many, many, many books about the case before it (such as Mind Control, Oswald & JFK: Were We Controlled?), Posner laid out the argument that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he murdered JFK and Dallas police officer J.D Tippit.

In the wake of Stone's film, and the hype leading to the 30th anniversary of the event, this was out of left field. No one, certainly since the Warren Report, had ever taken such a stance in mainstream circles. And the various conspiracy oriented authors saw their book advances plummet in the wake of Posner topping bestseller lists.

But, upon closer examination, Case Closed stands up against the hype and proves to be a tight, concise summary of what happened on 22nd November 1963 and beyond.

One of the most remarkable chapters involves Yuriy Nosenko. A Russian defector held against his will and tortured by the CIA for three years (with approval from Robert Kennedy), his tale of being fed on less than $1 a day, forced to take LSD and held in solitary confinement is the real scandal of this case.

And why was he treated this way? Because he was one of the KGB officers involved in observing Oswald during his time in the Soviet Union. And his tale greatly differed from what the CIA wanted to believe. He states that it was decided fairly quickly that Oswald was not a secret agent, nor did he receive any training from the Russians. Really, he was an unstable loner.

The Oswald depicted in Case Closed is a sad, unlovable fanatic. Failed by his mother and failed by the authorities, he embraces Communism as the way to right the wrongs of the world, but only finds himself disillusioned with life in the Soviet Union and his refusal into Cuba would set off a chain of events that would go down in history.

This crops up time and time again. He burns bridges, fantasises about being a hunter of fascists, starts up a one man chapter of a pro Castro organisation and pretends it's a thriving group to everyone. The inevitable conclusion is the equivalent of watching a car crash in slow motion.

Posner's timeline of the assassination is clear, tight and reads like a thriller. Throughout, he debunks various allegations that have surfaced throughout the years (such as the notion of a gunman on the infamous "Grassy Knoll"). 

More forcefully, he explains why the autopsy was so inconclusive: because the pathologists were only given a few hours to work with (autopsies involving homicide victims have been known to take two days). Although Posner backs off from asking why this was the case, it has become well known in recent years that Kennedy suffered from Addison's disease and persistent gonorrhea. Something that the Kennedys obviously did not want to be public knowledge. 

So, inadvertently, the Kennedy clan helped with the assassination myth by limiting the scope of the autopsy.

Where Posner really hits the mark is when discussing New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's abuse of the American justice system that was the trial of Clay Shaw. Although depicted in Oliver Stone's movie as one man against a corrupt establishment, the real trial was a shocking linty of collusion and manipulation that would put the black propaganda team from Thiepval barracks to shame.

Bribery, intimidation, "truth serums", cover ups, blatant lies, death. All to put an innocent man on trial, only for a jury to throw the case out (after 50 odd minutes of deliberation) because it was felt the District Attorney had no case. It is a shocking indictment of the American legal system.

Garrison emerges as a power hungry sociopath who liked seeing his name in print. It is amusing when Posner reveals that Garrison once declared that organised crime did not exist in New Orleans, but was often seen dining with Carlos Marcello (well known as the city's mafia don) and had various charges against his associates dropped. So it seemed the investigator who supposedly solved the crime of the 20th century couldn't figure out who the local mob boss was!

More than this, Case Closed is a paean to quality investigation. Over the years, JFK researchers had gone from principled devotees determined to find the truth, to reckless money grabbers happy to accept any theory (no matter how outlandish) as it would form the basis of a new book (see David Lifton's Best Evidence, where he puts forward the idea that JFK's body was altered).

By sticking to proven facts, Case Closed clears up a lot of mystery and confusion surrounding the event and makes a compelling case for Oswald's guilt. Everything else looks silly by comparison.

Gerald Posner, 1993, Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK. Anchor Books, ISBN-13: 978-0751509243


Christopher Owens reviews for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.

Follow Christopher Owens on Twitter @MrOwens212



5 comments :

Ramon The Wolf said...

Not read Case Closed, but enjoyed the review. The conclusions regarding who was involved seem close to those of Norman Mailer in Oswald's Tale, published a couple of years later and heavily influenced by the Soviet archives.

Mailer says that, as a writer, he wants to sell his book and that the best way of doing so would be to unearth a conspiracy. However, he concludes that Oswald acted alone, noting that the only reason any conspirators would choose Oswald as the trigger man would be if they wanted him to miss.

Mailer ends with a discussion of why so many folk seem to believe in a conspiracy, despite the evidence to the contrary, and here he argues that human nature pushes us to believe in rational cause-and-effect explanations. Such world-views would be contradicted by the idea that the president of the United States of America, with all his power and security, could be knocked off by such a loser as Oswald. If this was the case, we would truly be living in a meaningless world. Which would be very uncomfortable for many of us.

Steve R said...

Great review, it also ties into an Australian documentary by a retired detective down here. In it, he showed Oswald fired the first shot, then the Secret Service agent in the car behind stood up to see where the shooter was. But he was carrying one of the first ever M16 rifles and was unfamiliar with it then. As he stood up the driver hit the accelerator and he had a negligent discharge... hitting JFK in the back of the head. The Secret Service quickly covered it up because they knew an investigation would discover a culture of booze and drugs. Hence why the men in dark suits stopped his autopsy, and flew the body away despite the law saying that the autopsy should be carried out in the state of the homicide. The detective even found the alleged agent who refused to discuss any aspect of the day. Oswald fired first, but was also the Patsy after the fact.

Christopher Owens said...

Ramon,

I read that Mailer book years ago but I seem to recall not thinking much of it. It was probably because I read Case Closed first and Mailer's book seemed a little 'after the fact.' Must go back to it now based on your comment. He's spot on about the reason for a conspiracy in this case, and echos similar sentiments by William Manchester (whose book The Death of a President is an account of that day as a member of his entourage.)

Steve,

Hate to break it to you but that's a rumour based on poor quality copies of the Zapruder film that had been bootlegged during the Garrison investigation. In those copies, it was alleged that a Secret Service agent could be seen shooting Kennedy. A look at a remastered version of the film shows no such thing.

Steve R said...

Christopher,

Fair enough, I was unaware of those rumours until you mentioned them. I will defer to your knowledge on this one, save to say that the detective was not implying a deliberate firing of the weapon by the secret service agent. I did take a look at the remastered Zapruder footage and curiously I could believe the shots could now come from the one direction. Odd. Still, hitting a moving target at that range with a bolt action in short order is excellent shooting (and I'm not backhandedly trying to imply conspiracy!)

Christopher Owens said...

Steve,

Yes. Part of the rumour was that it was accidental. However, no one in Dealey Plaza that day reported seeing anything of the sort so we can disregard it.

In terms of the accuracy of the shots, you've inadvertently touched upon something that people convinced of Oswald's innocence bring up. He was considered by some to be an average marksman while in the army. However, as we know, an average shooter in the army is still much better and more familiar with weaponry than the average person. Also, the rife was one that was used by hunters to shoot elephants, hence the bullets were thicker than your average bullet.