I recommend the latter, which I will discuss here. Although the technical parts (the bullets, the autopsy, Oswald’s CIA handlers) are interesting and partly new, I will focus exclusively on the theory regarding the main culprits and their motive.
And I will discuss the larger work of James DiEugenio, who wrote the film—and probably interviewed the different contributors, although Stone appears to be doing it.
James DiEugenio has been investigating the Kennedy presidency and the Kennedy assassination from the time of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), which was largely a consequence of Oliver Stone’s Hollywood film JFK (1991). His first book was Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case (1992, newly edited in 2012).
In 1993, he founded Citizens for Truth about the Kennedy Assassination (CTKA), and co-edited Probe Magazine, now replaced by the website KennedysandKing.com.
In 1997, DiEugenio published a powerful two-part book-length article, “the Posthumous Assassination of JFK” (1997). It is still essential reading for anyone interested in the controversies surrounding Kennedy’s presidency and assassination, or puzzled by the unending stream of bizarre Kennedy lore.
This is the text you want to send to anyone telling you about the Kennedys’ mafia dealings and unrestrained sex life, their murder of Marilyn Monroe, or Bobby’s irresponsible assassination plots against Castro that backfired on his brother. These stories are so widespread, repeated in well-published and well-reviewed books, that millions of people assume them to be documented.
Writing on the occasion of the release of Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot, DiEugenio exposed their fraudulent nature and their true motivation: the obsession to “smother any legacy that might linger,” for “assassination is futile if a man’s ideas live on through others.”
This flow of defamation had started in the 70s, as a counter-fire to the Church Committee and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), and intensified in the 1990s after the ARRB. It never dried up.
Character assassination is only one part of the propaganda unleashed against the Kennedy legacy. Another part has consisted in distorting the historical record of Kennedy’s presidency, and particularly the radical but short-lived innovations of his foreign policy. DiEugenio writes in “Dodd and Dulles vs. Kennedy in Africa”(1999, modified 2016):
a clear strategy of those who wish to smother any search for the truth about President Kennedy’s assassination is to distort and deny his achievements in office. Hersh and his ilk have toiled to distort who Kennedy really was, where he was going, what the world would have been like if he had lived, and who and what he represented.
DiEugenio has provided insightful answers to these questions. A graduate in Contemporary American History, he is probably the best Kennedy historian among Warren Commission critics, and his work has opened the way for other revisionist historians like Monika Wiesak, author of the recent and excellent America’s Last President: What the World Lost When It Lost John F. Kennedy (read DiEugenio’s review here).
According to DiEugenio, there has been, in addition to the cover-up about Kennedy’s death, a “cover-up about Kennedy’s foreign policy,” so that even critics of the Warren Commission fairytale have largely failed to grasp the full extent of Kennedy’s changes from the foreign policy of his predecessors—dominated by the Dulles brothers; “by only chasing Vietnam and Cuba, to the neglect of everything else, we have missed the bigger picture.”
The bigger picture drawn by DiEugenio includes the Congo, Indonesia, Laos and the Middle East. DiEugenio’s most essential articles on these topics are:
- “Deconstructing JFK: A Coup d’État over Foreign Policy?” written for Covert-Operation magazine (2021)
- “Nasser, Kennedy, the Middle East, and Israel” (2020)
- “Introduction to JFK’s Foreign Policy: A Motive for Murder” (2014)
- “ Dodd and Dulles vs. Kennedy in Africa” (1999, modified 2016)
The three scholars who most contributed to DiEugenio’s understanding of the uniqueness of Kennedy’s foreign policy, and who are interviewed in the film JFK: Destiny Betrayed, are:
- Richard Mahoney, for JFK: Ordeal in Africa, Oxford University Press, 1983,
- Philip Muehlenbeck, for Betting on the Africans: John F. Kennedy’s Courting of African Nationalist Leaders, Oxford University Press, 2012,
- Robert Rakove, for Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World, Cambridge University Press, 2012 (read DiEugenio’s review).
Although he praises James Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable (2008), DiEugenio rejects his mythical portrayal of JFK as a Cold Warrior converted to peacemaking during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Despite the contrary impression he made during his televised debates with Nixon in 1960, Kennedy was never a Cold Warrior. The collection of statements published under the title The Strategy of Peacefor his presidential campaign proves it.
DiEugenio traces Kennedy’s general ideas on foreign policy back to 1951, when Kennedy toured the Middle East and Asia. His meeting in Saigon with Edmund Gullion, whom he later brought into his cabinet, had convinced him that sending American troops to Indochina was a grave mistake. He would never change his mind on that issue.
By 1957, Kennedy was formulating a radical—by U.S. standard—foreign policy for the Arab world, which he outlined in a speech on the Senate floor denouncing French colonial occupation of Algeria:
In these days, we can help fulfill a great and promising opportunity to show the world that a new nation, with an Arab heritage, can establish itself in the Western tradition and successfully withstand both the pull toward Arab feudalism and fanaticism and the pull toward communist authoritarianism.
Unlike his predecessors Truman and Eisenhower, and in defiance of the doctrine that prevailed in the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department, Kennedy accepted and welcomed a multipolar world, the only way, in his view, to overcome the dangerous bi-polarization of the Cold War.
Had he succeeded, he would have transformed the U.S. into something totally different from what it was starting to become since WWII, and has fully become since he died: an imperial bully feared but hated throughout the world. In “Deconstructing JFK: A Coup d’État over Foreign Policy?” DiEugenio makes the point that:
[Kennedy’s] speeches, correspondence and high-level meetings with emerging Third World leaders reveal his growing antipathy for colonialism, rejection of imperialism, toleration for the non-aligned movement—contrasting markedly with his predecessor—and promotion of nationalistic leaders, albeit ones that were considered to be “responsible” in their moderation.
The first foreign policy reversal that Kennedy made once in office was on the Congo. Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first democratically elected leader, was killed three days before Kennedy’s inauguration, victim of a coup supported by the CIA.
Jacques Lowe’s shot of JFK getting the news of Lumumba’s death on February 13th is, to DiEugenio, the picture that best symbolizes Kennedy’s personal commitment to support the national independence of Third world countries, and the ordeal of his struggle against the CIA’s machinery of assassination and regime change.
After U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarksjold was killed (likely murdered) in a plane crash in September 1961, Kennedy carried on his campaign for a free and independent Congo.
Lyndon Johnson destroyed this first attempt at a democracy in post-colonial Africa, and backed Josef Mobutu, who turned into a corrupted dictator and allowed his country to be utilized by outside imperial interests.
Kennedy rejected the “with us or against us” mentality of the foreign policy establishment, and this was also demonstrated by his support for Indonesia’s nationalist leader Sukarno, who co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement.
In 1958, Eisenhower had authorized the CIA’s attempt at overthrowing Sukarno, but when Kennedy assumed office, he reversed that policy, and helped Sukarno stabilize his country.
Less than a year after Kennedy’s death, the CIA was planning again covert action against Sukarno, which led to the killing of at least 500,000 people suspected of communist sympathy. Sukarno was placed under house arrest and CIA-backed Suharto ruled for three decades, turning his people into low-wage workers for foreign companies.
And then, of course, there is Cuba and Vietnam. The story of Kennedy’s resistance to the Pentagon and the CIA’s push for military confrontation and escalation in these countries has been told many times—most eloquently by James Douglass—, so that I do not need to tell it again.
Authors of the dominant school of JFK assassination research—and that includes those interviewed in Stone’s documentary—assume that Cuba and Vietnam are, in that order, the most important reasons why Kennedy was killed. DiEugenio agrees, but brings a larger spectrum of motives.
DiEugenio writes in “Nasser, Kennedy, the Middle East, and Israel”:
For decades, the critical community overlooked areas of Kennedy’s foreign policy outside of Vietnam and Cuba. KennedysandKing has attempted to correct that oversight in recent years. We have tried to educate our readers on issues like Kennedy’s policies in Congo, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, and Laos. We have also tried to show how, after his murder, those policies—as well as his policy toward Vietnam and his attempts at detente with Moscow and Havana—were also altered.
But there is still another area of the world about which Kennedy’s reformist foreign policy is overlooked. That area is the Middle East. This is odd since many commentators justifiably perceive that the Middle East is one of the most important areas on the globe.
He writes in his “Introduction to JFK’s Foreign Policy: A Motive for Murder”:
Why is the JFK case relevant today? Well, because the mess in the Middle East now dominates both our foreign policy and the headlines, much as the Cold War did several decades ago. And the roots of the current situation lie in Kennedy’s death, whereupon President Johnson began the long process which reversed his predecessor’s policy there.
In other words, the Middle East is the region of the world where Kennedy’s foreign policy and Johnson’s reversal of that foreign policy have had the most dramatic and most lasting consequences. What was at stake was America’s involvement in the conflict between Israel and the Arab world, and that meant, essentially, between Ben-Gurion and Nasser.
So DiEugenio acknowledges that: 1. LBJ completely reversed JFK’s foreign policy, and 2. the most consequential reversal was in the Middle East, for the longtime benefit of Israel and to the detriment of Egypt.
Yet he points, not to Johnson or Ben-Gurion, but to Allen Dulles as the most likely culprit for the Dallas coup. Does he document any evidence that Allen Dulles was interested in switching alliance from Egypt to Israel?
None whatsoever. It is true that the Eastern Establishment generally favored Saudi Arabia over Egypt, but it is not the case that they wanted a closer relationship with Israel. So what is unique about Johnson’s pro-Israel policy is that it was not a return to a pre-Kennedy policy, but something new altogether.
It was a radical break from all previous administrations. Recall Eisenhower’s resolute reaction to Israel’s invasion of the Sinai in 1956, and contrast it with what happened ten years later, when Johnson greenlighted Israel’s attack on Egypt and expansion, and covered up Israel’s false-flag attack on the USS Liberty designed to draw the U.S. into the war.
In his JFK and the Unspeakable, James Douglass has documented JFK’s deep commitment to prevent nuclear proliferation and even abolish weapons of mass destruction “before they abolish us” (Kennedy’s speech at the UN General Assembly, September 25, 1961). But Douglass makes no mention of JFK’s bitter confrontation with Ben-Gurion and Eshkol on that very issue.