A historian takes us, once more, down the rabbit hole surrounding the events of November 22, 1963.
After 45 years and countless books devoted to the subject—including last-word, authoritative treatments like Gerald Posner’s Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK (1993) and Vincent Bugliosi’s recent Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (2007)—a surprisingly high percentage of the American public refuses to accept the Warren Commission’s conclusion that a lone gunman killed JFK. Kaiser (History/Naval War Coll.; American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War, 2000, etc.) agrees that Lee Harvey Oswald murdered the president, but the author depicts him as the simultaneous pawn of organized crime, defending itself against relentless prosecution by Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department, and of “the U.S. government–sponsored or tolerated anti-Castro movement,” dedicated to overthrowing or killing the dictator. Both of Kaiser’s plots center on formerly mob-friendly Cuba which, under Castro, became a communist thorn in the Kennedy administration’s side. Relying on raw data available to the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, materials released pursuant to 1992’s JFK Records Act, Soviet archives and the work of previous authors, Kaiser submits his professional historian credentials as a good reason to prefer his analysis over the investigations of his many predecessors. Why his qualifications trump those of, say, Posner or Bugliosi, attorneys well-accustomed to assembling and assessing evidence, Kaiser doesn’t venture. Still, the narrative’s level of detail, sober style, strict adherence to its double-track theory and plausible argument make it worthy of consideration. Kaiser’s scenario hangs together, but it depends on constructions—e.g., the veracity of anti-Castro activist and crucial witness Silvia Odio, the certainty that Oswald was a phony leftist—vigorously and just as reliably disputed elsewhere.
In the seemingly neverending arms race between the lone-assassin and the conspiracy theorists, Kaiser adds a serious piece of scholarship to the arsenal of those who believe Americans have yet to learn the whole truth about the assassination of JFK.