Friday, October 26, 2012

Not just where the bodies are buried but how they got there

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, conspiracies, murders

I grew up during the Eisenhower years, and my parents were very much fans of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. During the 1960 campaign, they grew increasingly worried as John Kennedy's popularity grew, and of course I was carried along by their emotions. So much so, that when the election results were announced, I said about Kennedy, "I hope someone shoots him." The look on both my parents' faces was pure horror. My mother found her voice and said, "Oh, no, that would be much worse. Then Johnson would be President!" It was only much later that I found out what a twelve-year old could not be told in 1960, that LBJ was possibly the most vicious and corrupt politician in America at the time. However, I have never been one to delve into such things.

It comes as no surprise to me to read the accusations against LBJ in particular, found in Dead Wrong: Straight Facts on the Country's Most Controversial Cover-Ups by Richard Belzer and David Wayne. These authors implicate him as the one who ordered the "hit" on both JFK and his brother Bobby, and they list seven murders (including JFK's) that Billy Sol Estes claimed he could pin on LBJ's hired gun Mac Wallace, in a statement through his lawyer in 1984.

The killings of the Kennedy brothers are but two of ten murders investigated in the book. Two others are high profile and very well known: those of Marilyn Monroe and Martin Luther King. The authors implicate the mafia in Marilyn Monroe's death, and don't quite go so far as to implicate LBJ in King's death, but lean heavily on the fact that King was harassed by the FBI from December, 1963 (right after LBJ was sworn in) until his assassination in 1968.

The four cases mentioned above constitute over 60% of the content of the book. Of the other six, the only one I had heard of was the supposed suicide of Vince Foster. It came out at the time of Foster's death that the bullet that killed him did not come from the gun found with him, so I think most of America rightly concluded he was murdered. Yet the official story remains that Foster killed himself with the gun found at the scene. In his case, as in all ten, the authors' focus is on two things: establishing that the official story is impossible, and uncovering as much as possible about the cover-up that followed. In every case, the "officials" behind the "official story" must have been involved, if not in the actual murder, then in the cover-up that ensued.

Is all of this true? Much of it is plausible, usually more plausible than the official story. In every case, I judge that the authors have made their "impossibility" case. However, contrary to Sherlock Holmes's dictum, they have not always eliminated every impossible explanation. A few of the chapters end with a series of possible ways to point the finger, and while the authors have a preference, the case cannot be clearly made. It is often not even clear who was behind the cover-up, let alone the murder itself.

I confess I did not read every word of the book. The proverb for public speakers is, "Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them." In a book it isn't needed; readers can go back over what they might have missed. But, no, we find things being told three, four, or five times, so I found it sufficient to read the opening few pages of a chapter, and skim the rest for unfamiliar names or locations, to find the few extra facts that might pop up. To actually read every little bit would be quite tiresome!

A little spelunking around the Internet is sufficient to reveal that all these cases (but especially the Big Four) have ardent followings, and numerous competing explanations offered by literally thousands of folks. Considering that eight of the ten cases occurred, and were officially concluded, prior to the advent of personal computers or the Internet, it is most likely that enough documentary evidence has been destroyed that the truth of every one of these cases will go to the grave locked in the brains of the few people who knew it.

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