Fidel Castro is dead!, as our President-elect informed us via Twitter. Since the Cuban dictator is now front page news again, I’d like to revisit the rather serious, long-standing allegations that Castro and his intelligence agency, the G2, were responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. If regular folks in America tend to favor the theory put forward by Oliver Stone in his film, Washington insiders tend instead to favor the notion that, as Kennedy’s successor Lyndon Johnson put it, “Kennedy tried to get Castro, but Castro got him first.”
Contra Andy Nowicki, who did a podcast about this subject a few years ago, and who wrote a very good short story about Lee Harvey Oswald as the quintessential gamma male (to use Vox Day’s terminology from his socio-sexual hierarchy), I think JFK was done in by a conspiracy of some sort. I don’t have a theory as to who, how, or why, but there’s too much about the case that’s fishy, and anyone familiar with the media’s institutional policy of lying will recognize the same pattern in their coverage of the Kennedy murder.
My favorite example comes from the Washington Post and the New York Times, those twin beacons of journalistic integrity. In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations issued its Final Report on the JFK assassination, after a three year investigation. They concluded that there had been a conspiracy, based mostly on acoustical evidence which was alleged to confirm that there had been a shot fired from the infamous “grassy knoll.” In response to this finding, both newspapers issued, in all seriousness and on the same day, articles saying that the Committee had erred, and that just because there was someone else shooting at the President, at the same time and place as someone else, it didn’t necessarily mean that they were working together! “‘Two maniacs instead of one’ might be more like it,” said the Times. “[A] conspiracy between Lee Harvey Oswald and … a clone of the same man,” said the Post. managing to sound even more ridiculous than Milton William Cooper’s theory that the limo driver turned around and shot Kennedy with a .45.
The acoustics evidence has since been disputed, but allegations of conspiracy, of one sort or another, are perennial, and will likely stay that way, not only because of what Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style in American politics,” but because the Kennedy assassination was from day one treated as a political mess to be cleaned up, rather than as a homicide case to be investigated and prosecuted.
Lyndon Johnson immediately suspected the Soviets or the Cubans. These fears were stoked by reports that Oswald had visited both the Cuban and Russian embassies in Mexico City, only months before the assassination. At the Russian embassy, Oswald was alleged to have met with one of the KGB’s assassination specialists, Valeriy Kostikov. At the Cuban embassy, Oswald begged and pleaded for a visa to Cuba, claiming to be a friend and supporter of the Cuban revolution. To prove this, he brought newspaper clippings of press coverage of his activities as a one-man Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans.
The Russians thought that Oswald was either nuts or CIA. (Mark Hackard translated the recollections of one of the officers at the Russian consulate here.) The Cubans had similar suspicions, and denied him a visa. But after the assassination, and after Oswald himself had been killed by Jack Ruby, various witnesses began coming forward with stories of Oswald and Cubans in Mexico City, plotting to kill President Kennedy.
Johnson was convinced that it was a communist conspiracy. He was also convinced that if this fact emerged, it would mean not only a war, but the end of the Democratic party, which was perceived as “soft on communism.” Johnson’s good friend J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, put out a report only weeks after the assassination stating that Oswald was a lone assassin. When rumors of conspiracy persisted, Johnson convinced Chief Justice Earl Warren to head a Presidential Commission to investigate the murder by threatening him with the specter of nuclear war and “forty million deaths.” Warren allegedly was brought to tears before agreeing. Johnson later said that he told Warren what he had learned about Oswald in Mexico, and this was what had convinced him.
The allegations against Cuba are covered in depth in two books. Philip Shenon’s A Cruel and Shocking Act is a history of the Warren Commission, written with unprecedented access to not only declassified files but also interviews of Commission staffers. Shenon establishes that there was ample reason to investigate possible Cuban connections to the assassination, but that this was not done for the reasons stated above.
Brothers in Arms by Gus Russo and Stephen Molton takes the allegations further. The book grew out of Russo’s collaboration with German filmmaker Wilfried Huismann on a 2006 documentary, Rendezvous With Death. Huismann and Russo traveled to Mexico City and interviewed numerous witnesses, putting together a theory of a Cuban plot, in which Oswald was a willing participant, and of which Fidel Castro had foreknowledge.
Rendezvous With Death has never aired on American television, and received only a very limited DVD release in Europe. A poor quality version is available to view here.
The main argument for Castro’s guilt has always been that he had ample motive. JFK and his brother Robert were indisputably involved in efforts to kill Castro and overthrow his government (hence the title of Russo’s book, which is framed in terms of John and Robert Kennedy vs. Fidel and Raul Castro). Efforts by the U.S. to remove Castro from power began almost as soon as Castro seized power, during the Eisenhower presidency, and were continued and escalated under JFK. At the very moment of Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, a CIA representative was meeting with a Cuban double agent, Rolando Cubela, in order to give him a weapon with which he was to poison Fidel. The plan was put on hold because of Kennedy’s murder. (Russo and Molton allege that Cubela was actually a triple agent loyal to Fidel all along, and would not have carried it out anyway.)
The main argument against any plot by Castro is that it would have been suicidal to attack the United States in this way. Also, the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald was very visibly pro-Castro and pro-Communist made him a poor choice for an assassin if the Cubans had any intention of hiding their responsibility for the crime.
However, regardless of whether Cuban agents and the Castros were complicit in the murder or not, it is a fact of history that Lyndon Johnson and others thought they were, and reacted not by going to war with Cuba in retaliation, but by covering up the crime.
It should be noted that the evidence pointing towards Castro’s involvement is seen by other researchers as being a smokescreen, laid out in advance in order to provoke the cover-up that it did, indeed, provoke. Peter Dale Scott, in his book Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, says that there were two phases of the cover story. Phase one maintained that Oswald killed JFK in cooperation with the Cubans, while Phase two held that Oswald was a lone nut. In Scott’s view, the evidence pointing towards Phase one is fake, and was created in order to induce the authorities to perpetuate the Phase two story.
Thus debate rages on, with authors like Russo and Shenon arguing that Castro was behind the JFK assassination, while Scott, Oliver Stone, and most other “conspiracy buffs” hold that the conspiracy was actually anti-Castro in nature, designed to change American foreign policy and provoke an invasion of Cuba by framing both Oswald and Castro for the crime.
One’s view of the JFK assassination is often a result of one’s political orientation, with liberals tending to favor conspiratorial explanations and conservatives tending to favor the lone assassin theory. For example, Salon.com founder David Talbot has written several books accusing the CIA, while Bill O’Reilly promotes the lone gunman explanation in his Killing Kennedy. A similar division was seen during the House Select Committee on Assassinations, when all the Republicans on the committee voted for a finding of no conspiracy, while all the Democrats voted the other way.
Still, regardless of one’s politics, there can be no doubt that massive changes followed the Kennedy assassination, from the emergence of the leftist counterculture to the Vietnam war and the passage of the Hart-Celler Act (which JFK’s brother Ted had a heavy hand in), to name only a few. Many liberals like to lionize JFK, and some conspiracy theorists believe that American decline actually stems from the assassination, which they view as a coup d’etat. Oliver Stone’s film is based on this premise, and says that Americans have become “Hamlets in our time, children of a slain father-leader, whose killers still possess the throne.” It’s an effective poetic image, and one which brought about accusations of Fascism at the time.
Even Pat Buchanan, who I very much doubt was an admirer of the liberal, philandering President, wrote that November 22, 1963 was a great turning point in American history – perhaps the beginning of the end. Unfortunately for historians, professional and amateur alike, it has now become a cold case that remains unsolved, and speculations about Who Killed JFK have now taken their place beside the identity of Jack the Ripper and other historical unknowns. Whatever Fidel Castro may have known about the matter, he has now taken it with him to his grave.