Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: Destiny Betrayed - JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case

Vincent Bugliosi in his End Notes for his book, Reclaiming History, calls Jim DiEugenio “a sincere conspiracy theorist.”  When reading DiEugenio’s second edition of his book, Destiny Betrayed, one is struck with just how little theory is involved.  It’s all a solid mix of history, fact, and proper historical context for the events that are to follow.  Jim DiEugenio said in a recent interview on Black Op Radio that he didn’t want to caught up in the minutia of details regarding the assassination in this new volume, but instead wanted to pursue an examination of how and why it happened and how it got covered up.  And that is what readers  will experience as they read this book.  

Destiny Betrayed begins in the Cold War shadow wars, a mix of skullduggery and dirty deeds where even the President is kept in the dark in regards to what is going on.  As DiEugenio shows, CIA Director Allen Dulles was attempting to dupe Kennedy into foreign policy and military actions he was not wanting to be a part of.  Dulles took the Central Intelligence Agency far from its original intent of intelligence gathering to a machiavellian, duplicitous outfit overthrowing democratically elected governments under the guise of combating communism, replacing them with controllable right-wing dictatorships, and for the most part, setting the stage for the profiteering of American corporations.  So manipulating Presidents for CIA objectives has become the modus operandi of the Agency that lasts to this day.  Meanwhile, the American public sleeps through these affairs being distracted with the communistic threat, the baby boom, pop culture, sports and so on.  The National Security State descends and much of American history becomes a secret locked away in warehouses.

As DiEugenio’s documents in the first part of his book, the leaders of the National Security State knew early on they had a problem with John Kennedy.  He wasn’t for war mongering, turning down attempts to pump troops into Vietnam and launch preemptive nuclear strikes.  Kennedy was not a believer in the Domino Theory.  The Bay of Pigs fiasco, well detailed in Destiny Betrayed, is a CIA run military op destined to fail so American troops could be called in it finish the job. Kennedy found out none of this till he ordered an inquiry into what happened and  the ever duplicitous Allen Dulles and other top CIA officials lost their jobs. 

The Pioneers Get All The Arrows
The star of the book is Jim Garrison.  His coming around from true believer in the Warren Report to a believer in conspiracy and pursuing a trial against an alleged conspirator is an compelling story.  He was flawed man, but a brave man who paid a terrible price for seeking the truth with his future career in politics destroyed.  The full weight of the federal government fell on his head like a ton of bricks.  His reputation was pillared by a hostile press, some of whom were government informants, who were to attack and expose his every move in the national media.  Kennedy bagman Walt Sheridan (former ONI, FBI, and NSA) was sent down to harass witnesses and later put together a slanderous, over the top attack on Garrison on NBC (which was so bad they had to let Garrison have an on-air rebuttal). And the attacks on his character raged from 1967 to this very day. (For example, Gerald Posner in his 1993 book named Garrison a child molester and Vince Bugliosi in his 2007 book labeled him, “symptomatically psychotic.”)  After the trial of Clay Shaw was over, and lost, Garrison was indicted twice and acquitted.  As you can see, charging headlong into the Status Quo is not for the faint of heart.

As Jim DiEugenio points out, in actuality, Jim Garrison’s attempt to prove conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination was flawed before it started.  Even his staff advised against it after lead witness David Ferrie died.  But Big Jim decided to press on. It didn’t help his cause much by trusting people that he should have left alone.  Men such as Bernardo Detorres, William Gurvich, and Gordon Novel. These men were not rubes–they were all experienced operatives and functioned as spies embedded within his investigative operatus, funneling information to Garrison’s chief tormentor, Walter Sheridan, and journalist/government shills such as Hugh Aynesworth and James Phelan.  DiEugenio documents in great detail how the FBI and CIA were formally engaged to see this Louisiana state trial of Clay Shaw fail.  

And this of course raises the biggest question of them all–if the Warren Report is correct and Lee Oswald is the only assassin, and there is no conspiracy, then why does the government, along with allies in the press, have to take these extreme measures to make sure a conspiracy verdict is not reached in a state trial?  The Justice Department sent down their lawyers to coach witnesses in how to answer questions at taxpayer expense, bug the District Attorney’s phones and transcribe everything said, plague his operation with informants, and have the DOJ successfully killed off subpoenas to top officials. It was a Federal government takedown from top to bottom.  If Garrison is wrong then why not let him fall on his own sword if their account of the President’s death is true?  What would they have to fear?

Plenty apparently.  It appears they overplayed their hand.

The Shaw Trial
Destiny Betrayed does a good job in describing the intricacies of the trial, the legal wrangling, and what Garrison could of done in hindsight.  Important witnesses either died or faded away; other witnesses were assaulted or intimidated into changing their stories by the Sheridan Machine.  Lots of witnesses were never called such as the 16 people Garrison had in regards to Clay Shaw’s Bertrand alias (something that he was never allowed to prove in court). 

While too intricate to go into here, there were some highlights.  One important incident was when autopsy physician Dr. Pierre Fink admitted that he, and the other two other physicians present at the Kennedy’s autopsy, were under control of another military authority, whose name he couldn’t remember.  Another was a screening of the Zapruder film that Garrison had to wrestle from Time-Life.  A film up to that point few had seen, and it was a shock for all witnesses present in the courtroom.  Too bad it took till 1975 before the general public got to see it on Geraldo Rivera’s TV show.  

The End
Jim DiEugenio paints a vibrant world of 1960's New Orleans, a place of clandestine activity, informants, intelligence operatives, down and outers, sexual adventurers, conspirators, Cubans, hookers, misfits, and suspicious entanglements.  It's quite a contrast to the worlds envisioned by the Warren Report defenders where everything suspicious is an illusion, where every contrary witness is wrong, and everything is conveniently explained.  Their selective harvesting of the details strips the soul out of how fascinating all of this is and how a conspiracy to murder a President could really take shape.  

Destiny Betrayed is fascinating work, well paced, expertly organized, and properly sourced.  New document releases from the ARRB and other sources bolster the narrative and explain who is telling the truth and who is not.  It’s the definitive book on Jim Garrison and how tantalizingly close he came to blowing the case wide open.

Available now in bookstores and online at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and in ebook format for the Kindle and iPad. 

ISBN-13: 9781620870563
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Publication date: 11/15/2012
Edition description: Second Edition
Edition number: 2
Pages: 496