46th anniversary of the assassination of JFK
Reviewed By David M. Kinchen
Huntingtonnews.net Book Critic
Editor's Note: This review is being published on the 46th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Nov. 22, 1963.
Military insider L. Fletcher Prouty published "JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy" in 1996. Prouty, whose character "Man X" was played by Donald Sutherland in Oliver Stone's 1991 movie "JFK," not only didn't believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman who killed Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, he says the assassination was engineered and carried out by a powerful cabal consisting of the Central Intelligence Agency and leaders of the military-industrial complex.
Prouty (1917-2001) was an adviser to Stone in the making of the movie, but his book soon disappeared from the shelves. It was published by the Carol Publishing Group, and copies have sold for as much as $100 on Amazon.com. Now comes the book, complete with photos, from Skyhorse Publishing in New York (416 pages, $14.95). The book includes the original introduction by Stone, who calls Air Force Lt. Col. (Ret) Prouty's book "The Secret History of the United States: 1943-1990."
Prouty, who was a Washington insider for nearly 20 years -- the last few of them as Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Kennedy -- has, to say the least, a highly unusual perspective to offer on the assassination and the events that led up to it.
As portrayed by Sutherland in the Oliver Stone film, he asks New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner) to ponder why Kennedy was killed, Prouty leaves no doubt where he stands. The president, he claims, had angered the military-industrial establishment with his procurement policies and his determination to withdraw from Vietnam, and had threatened to break the CIA into "a thousand pieces" after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. His death was in effect a coup d'etat that placed in the White House a very different man with a very different approach--one much more acceptable to what Prouty consistently calls "the power elite."
The movie and Prouty's book were attacked with great vehemence by critics and historians alike. Polls have shown that the 26-volume Warren Commission report on the assassination, published in 1964, is believed by very few. I didn't believe the official explanation for one second. I was supported by a fellow reporter named Earl Golz when I worked at The Milwaukee Sentinel from 1967 to 1976. Golz, a native of Waukegan, IL, left The Sentinel to report for the Dallas Morning News, where he wrote more than 180 stories about the assassination, many of which contradicted the "official" story.
I learned very recently that Golz, 76, now retired from the Austin (TX) American-Statesman, is in a nursing home in Austin, suffering from Parkinson's disease.
Whether or not you believe the Warren Commission report and its defenders, "JFK" is a book you should read. Call it revisionist history -- or the real story, stripped of the Beltway whitewash of "conventional wisdom" -- or the ravings of a conspiracy nut, this is a book with plenty of punch.
Harry Truman, who created the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947, later said it was a decision he regretted. Kennedy, who inherited the disastrous April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba from the Eisenhower administration, is on record as saying he wanted to break the agency "into a thousand pieces." He also intended to remove the fledgling military element and the CIA agents from Vietnam by 1965. Prouty demonstrates to my satisfaction that Kennedy was following the recommendations of the Oct. 2, 1963 McNamara-Taylor report in this decision.
As I read "JFK" I was reminded of another work of "revisionist" history that has gained wide acceptance, Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." Zinn's 1980 book has sold more than a million copies and has been used for high school and college history courses. Historian and political scientist Zinn writes from a populist point of view.
I don't know how Zinn feels about Prouty's book, but I have a feeling he probably agrees with many of the points outlined in the book, if only because Prouty departs from the conventional point of view. Prouty's behind-the-scenes look at how the CIA has shaped postwar U.S. foreign policy is fascinating, as are his questions about the security arrangements in Dallas, his knowledge of the extraordinary government movements at that time (every member of the Cabinet was out of the country when Kennedy was shot) and his perception that most of the press has joined in the cover-up ever since. The latter element makes sense to me, because the news media was an integral part of the military-industrial complex in the 1960s, when departing President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about it on Jan. 17, 1961. Even today, there's the case of General Electric, a major military contractor, owning the NBC network and its influential NBC News and MSNBC units.
Kudos to Skyhorse Publishing for republishing "JFK." Despite its flaws, it's an important book by a man who worked with many of the most powerful government insiders.