By Patrick Nolan
Patrick Nolan, author of CIA Rogues and the Killing of the Kennedys, will be one of the panelists presenting at “John F. Kennedy: An Inside Look at the Assassination of a President 50 Years Later” at The Mob Museum on November 7. He is a forensic historian who has dedicated his life to uncovering truths surrounding the John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy assassinations of the 1960s. The Museum’s November 7 event will mark the first public signing of the recently published book. He’s been a journalist, a television news producer and a professor at Hofstra University and St. John’s University.
Tickets for the event are $30 for non-members; Museum members will receive a 10 percent discount. To reserve a spot, click here.
Conventional wisdom holds that alleged assassins, Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan, were “nobodies” who wanted to be “somebodies.” This classic line, used by many in the media and in government circles, implies that conspiracy theorists are people who refuse to accept that a man so “small” (i.e, Oswald, Sirhan) could kill a man so “big” (JFK, RFK). They cannot accept the fact that a small cabal of intelligent – yet demented – men within their own government could be so ruthless and inhuman that they would embrace such diabolical plots.
Instead, these conventional “official line” writers believe that each assassination was carried out by a lone gunman. “Organized evil,” or the concept of a conspiracy, is just too much for some to contemplate. At the same time, there are other writers who believe that there is such a thing as organized evil in society, for example, the Mafia. But they refuse to accept the fact that rogue members of the CIA, the “good guys,” could have acted with such malevolence. Indeed, for many historians, the assassinations are enigmas wrapped in emotions (to paraphrase Winston Churchill).
And then there are those conspiracy critics, many in positions of power in the media, in publishing and in academia, who adamantly believe that advocating conspiracy theories is criminal because it will undermine the public’s belief in government. On the contrary, as students of history can affirm, seeking the truth in public records promotes openness and, in turn, strengthens our government.
And, of course, there are those in these same camps who know the truth – that CIA rogues and Mobsters killed JFK and RFK – but publicly deny such convictions saying to themselves, “We don’t want our enemies to know that sometimes we are as bad as they are.”
Other powerful nationally known writers have stated that discussing conspiracies increases paranoia in the country. One New York Times scribe wrote simplistically in 1975 that the search for a conspiracy “…obscures our necessary understanding, all of us, that in this life there is often tragedy without reason.”
The most common misconception of establishment pundits is the idea that the assassinations were carried out by individuals seeking fame, that is, “by a crazy person who wanted to make a name for himself.” If this were so, then why is it that one of the alleged assassins protested the charges against him, and the other insisted he could not recall what had happened? Lee Harvey Oswald admonished his brother Robert, “Don’t believe the so-called evidence against me.” And Sirhan B. Sirhan has spent the majority of his life behind bars while his attorneys have sought to have their client exonerated as a programmed pawn.
These two 1960s assassinations involved similar methods, hidden gunmen and innocent fall guys. The motive in each case was the continuation of the war against communism in Vietnam and Cuba and the suppression of civil rights protest marches at home by eliminating key leaders who stood in the way. Only Richard Helms and James Angleton, the CIA’s chief of counterintelligence, possessed the means of planning and executing this type of operation without drawing suspicion, albeit in part by relying on their closest officers, David Atlee Phillips, the head of CIA Latin American Affairs; E. Howard Hunt, sabotage expert, and other confidants and Mob allies. Helms and Angleton had two overriding motives: Accumulating power and self-preservation. But there were other motives. They maintained a zealous desire to vanquish Communism in all its forms both abroad and at home. This was the Red Scare generation – several years younger than “Red-baiting” Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin – they and their contemporaries produced the Black List as they hunted alleged Communists in the military, in government and in Hollywood. It was the McCarthyism of the 1950s that culminated in the assassinations of the 1960s. JFK and RFK chose to travel a different path. They confronted the rabid anti-Communism of their day. On issues of war and peace and civil rights, they listened to a different drummer and, because of this, they were cut down in their prime.
Critics of conspiracy theories like to postulate that people in general cannot accept the irrational. Yet the assassinations were not irrational by any means. Again, it is very difficult for many people to live with the hard, cold fact that individuals within their own government conspired to assassinate their leaders.
No one likes to believe that he has been lied to or, worse, that one has believed the lies. There are those whose egos cannot accept the fact that they were duped, while others, less astute than they, were not fooled. Consequently, many of these “official line” believers naïvely look away. They would rather believe the popular delusion that these assassinations were utterly senseless and tragic and have no explanation than to have to face the brutal facts. Others say to themselves, “If I was wrong about the assassination conspiracy, was I also wrong about other important aspects of my life?” They resolve this anxiety by dismissing out-of-hand opposing points of view. The “lone nut” theories were promulgated to cover up the true accounts of two incredible losses. Upon closer inspection, history has had to be rewritten.