Who killed JFK? Stone’s latest assassination documentary reveals more hidden secrets
Director Oliver Stone takes another look at the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in his latest documentary, 'JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass.' | AP and Altitude Films

I’ll tell you off the bat: I liked Oliver Stone’s new documentary, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass. President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination was a seminal tragic event shaping modern U.S. history and my own personal outlook, along with the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, Sept. 11th, and most recently, the Jan. 6th failed coup.

It’s impossible to overstate the relevance of this documentary. The same right-wing extremism that many, including Stone, believe was behind the Kennedy assassination (and coup) is driving the real-time coup by the Trump MAGA GOP today.

New evidence

Stone, who produced and directed the 1991 acclaimed and controversial film, JFK, updates our understanding of the assassination with new information from declassified records and information uncovered by an army of investigators and forensic experts over the past 30 years.

However, as far as I can tell, Stone doesn’t incorporate valuable information learned from Soviet and Cuban archives about the assassination. The meticulously documented JFK and the Unspeakable: Why he Died and Why it Matters , by James Douglass, contains much of this fascinating information.

Stone bases his documentary on information unearthed by the Church Committee hearings in 1975 that exposed the criminal misdeeds of the CIA dating back to the 1950s, the House Select Assassinations Committee, and the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) housed at the National Archives, established by the 1992 JFK Records Act.

Over 10,000 records were supposed to have been released by the AARB in December 2021, but only 1,500 documents, primarily duplicates of already declassified material, were divulged. President Joe Biden rescheduled release of the remaining materials for December 2022. The delay is further evidence of stonewalling by the CIA, FBI, and national security agencies, say researchers.

The documentary delves into the lone assassin theory upon which the entire Warren Commission Report rested and raises some fatal flaws. According to the report, Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots from the Texas Book Depository building in Dallas that day. Two of those shots hit Kennedy, including one which traveled through his body, exited his throat, defied physics, then blasted through Gov. John Connally seated in front of JFK, finally lodging in Connally’s thigh. Connally himself never bought the theory.

The Warren Commission rejected everything that contradicted or undermined their chosen narrative. But, as one legal expert said, a jury would never have convicted Oswald in a court of law based on what is now known.

Throughout, Stone describes critical evidence mysteriously destroyed (such as all the Pentagon files), altered, or ignored, including the famed Abraham Zapruder film, which documents the horrific murder. The missing pieces include:

– Eyewitnesses accounts of Oswald’s behavior in the Book Depository building immediately following the assassination;

– Sloppy and altered “chain of custody” documentation of a practically pristine bullet allegedly found on Kennedy’s stretcher at Parkland Hospital and buried related testimony by forensic experts;

– Testimony by a forensic expert who couldn’t find Oswald’s finger or palm prints on the gun he allegedly used;

– Oswald’s paraffin test, taken after the assassination by the police, a copy of which was possessed by Attorney Mark Lane, who briefly represented Oswald;

– Missing and altered evidence from JFK’s autopsy, including doctored photos contradicting what Parkland Hospital doctors and nurses observed;

– Missing or destroyed notes of forensic pathologists and FBI observers;

– Most alarming was the disappearance of Kennedy’s brain, a fact uncovered in 1965 by famed forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht;

– Information revealing Oswald’s relationship to the CIA and military intelligence dating to the 1950s, including his assignment as an undercover agent disguised as an American defector to the Soviet Union;

– Jack Ruby’s relationship with the CIA and FBI, which the documentary mentions in passing; How Ruby was able to be in a position to murder Oswald on live television, silencing him forever, is not explored.

In addition to all those previously downplayed items, the film details aborted JFK assassination plots in Chicago and Tampa earlier in November 1963 which reveal other possible opportunities to kill Kennedy. The plots had similar features, including accommodating triangular fire by a team of assassins and “patsies.”

Stone bares disagreements within the Warren Commission over its final report. For example, Sens. John Sherman Cooper and Richard Russell and Rep. Hale Boggs never agreed with the Commission’s findings. Russell wrote a dissenting opinion and expressed his disagreements in a recorded phone call with President Lyndon B. Johnson. President Gerald Ford confided in French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing his belief the assassination involved multiple shooters.

Snarky critics

Some critics and opinion makers dismiss JFK Revisited with snarky reviews, even though there are a lot of shortcomings in the documentary. They remain staunch defenders of the Warren Commission Report and portray Stone as obsessed with JFK’s assassination and as a looney left-wing fanatic.

More than one critic equates the documentary with QAnon conspiracy theories and mass disinformation. Ironically, if the documentary is correct, the assassination’s coverup is one of the most extraordinary acts of mass disinformation in U.S. history.

Max Boot is typical. He asks, “What happened to Stone,” once a great filmmaker? Stone can’t stop spreading lies, says Boot, citing the “magic bullet theory” even though countless researchers and forensic experts discredited it years ago. He and others blame Stone and his “toxic fantasies” for laying the basis for millions to be brainwashed by Trump’s “Big Lie” of a stolen election.

Another critic, Tim Weiner, declares Stone bases JFK Revisited on the “Big Lie” delusion that the Deep State (also behind the stolen election “Big Lie”), i.e., the CIA and military, were behind Kennedy’s murder. Weiner blames Russian disinformation for propagating this delusion but offers no proof or a refutation of anything the documentary presents.

Many critics deny a monstrous crime involving active and retired government and military officials could happen here, or that their government would lie to them. Similar denials prevent many from grasping the threat of fascism growing before our eyes right now.

Archival footage from the film

Who killed JFK and why?

The documentary doesn’t identify who pulled the trigger, even though it identifies many involved in the cover-up. And there are many who had and have a vested interest in seeing the truth doesn’t come out.

As for those responsible? Stone points in the direction of right-wing extremists and rogue elements in the CIA, military, other state security agencies, and their associates in the right-wing Cuban exile community. He omits detailed mention of the mafia, who researchers like Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartman see as the main assassination plotters.

As to why, the documentary begins with Kennedy’s commencement address at Georgetown University in 1963. The “peace speech,” perhaps JFK’s most important, is barely known. In it, the president presented a vision of U.S. foreign policy in a dramatically changed world shaped by rising socialism, anti-colonial movements, and newly independent states.

Kennedy called for ending the Cold War and arms race with the Soviet Union and for a détente and peaceful co-existence policy. This vision put Kennedy on a collision course with the Cold War establishment and especially the extreme right in the CIA, Pentagon, FBI, and even his own advisors, making bitter enemies in the process. They included CIA Director Allen Dulles, who later served on the Warren Commission.

Stone recounted the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba when Dulles expected Kennedy to approve U.S. military backing. Kennedy refused, and the attack turned into a debacle. JFK concluded the CIA had lied to him. Unbeknownst to JFK, the CIA also helped foment a failed military coup against French President Charles de Gaulle. Kennedy later told a French diplomat, “You have to understand I’m not in full control of my government,” and to another confidant, he said he would “splinter the CIA in a million pieces and scatter it to the wind.”

Kennedy also clashed with military generals by limiting U.S. engagement in Vietnam and ultimately ordering a withdrawal of all U.S. military forces. The military brass resisted his orders, which LBJ changed upon Kennedy’s death. The rest is history.

Kennedy was also seeking to normalize relations with Cuba (although this is complicated by administration plans to foment another coup revealed by Waldron and Hartman), Egypt under President Gamel Abdel Nasser, and Indonesia under President Sukarno, who led the country to independence and became a founder of the non-aligned movement.

The history of these events is documented elsewhere, including secret back-channel negotiations to establish détente with the Soviet Union and normalize relations with Cuba because Kennedy couldn’t trust his own State Department. For these reasons, both Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban leader Fidel Castro were horrified and distraught over the assassination. “Everything changes now,” Castro somberly said upon hearing the news.

Stone crams a lot, maybe too much, into JFK Revisited and cuts corners as a result, while ignoring some of the newer research. However, it contributes to the ongoing search for the truth into who killed Kennedy, why, and how they benefited. One day we’ll know the answers and have a national reckoning.


CONTRIBUTOR

John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He served as national chair of the Communist Party USA from 2014 to 2019. He is a regular writer for People's World, and active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, Pittsburgh, and Albuquerque and attended Antioch College. He currently lives in Chicago where he is an avid swimmer, cyclist, runner, and dabbler in guitar and occasional singer in a community chorus.

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