Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Mexican Mystery Tour

Recently, a few people have asked me about a new film, Rendezvous with Death, concerning the assassination of President John Kennedy. According to filmmaker Wilfried Huismann, Lee Harvey Oswald either volunteered or was recruited to help Cuban intelligence kill Kennedy. Seven weeks before the murder, Oswald went to Mexico City where he met a Cuban agent and was paid $6,500. The assassination investigation was short-circuited out of fear that the public would clamor for war when they learned Castro was behind the crime.

There is, of course, a big problem with that explanation: There is no evidence that Lee Oswald killed anybody.

The stories of Oswald in Mexico City are as baseless as every other aspect of the lone assassin fairytale. Supposedly, the Central Intelligence Agency photographed Oswald when he visited the Russian and Cuban embassies. But the photo of “Oswald” disclosed by the C.I.A. (left) looks nothing like Oswald. Supposedly, the C.I.A. intercepted and recorded Oswald’s telephone calls to the embassies. But after the assassination, when F.B.I. agents who had interrogated Oswald heard the Mexico City tapes, they unanimously agreed that the voice on the tapes was not Oswald’s.

The claim that Oswald was paid $6,500 came from a man identified only as “D” by the Warren Commission. “D” said that in September of 1963, he overheard a conversation in the Cuban embassy between two men, one “a tall, thin Negro with reddish hair, obviously dyed, who spoke rapidly in Spanish and English...” “D” identified the second man as Oswald. They were joined by a third man, a Cuban, who handed money to the Negro as Oswald listened to the Negro’s claim that he wanted “to kill the man”:

Oswald replied, “You’re not man enough, I can do it.” The Negro then said in Spanish, “I can’t go with you, I have a lot to do.” Oswald replied, “The people are waiting for me back there.” The Negro then gave Oswald $6,500 in large-denomination American bills, saying, “This isn’t much.” (Warren Report, pp. 307-308)

Mexican authorities, however, told the U.S. that “D” had admitted his story was a fabrication. Reportedly, “D” said that he had never seen Oswald anywhere and that his account was intended to facilitate his entry into the U.S. so he could participate in operations against Castro. He hoped his story would prompt the U.S. to “take action” against Castro.

“D” insisted that his retraction was coerced by the Mexicans. But the alleged date of his Oswald sighting, September 17 or 18, was ruled out by evidence that Oswald was in Louisiana on those dates. Besides, Oswald spoke English and Russian. How could he have had such a conversation in Spanish? And why would Castro’s agents meet Oswald at the consulate, which they would expect to be under surveillance? To further complicate matters, “D” turned out to be a Nicaraguan intelligence agent named Gilberto Alvarado Ugarte. In 1963, Nicaragua was under the thumb of Anastasio Somoza, who enjoyed the support of the U.S.

Although the Warren Commission rejected “D’s” account of Oswald and the Cubans, the Commission adopted a version of that same story involving Oswald and the Russians later in September. Credible eyewitness testimony indicated that Oswald was in Dallas at that time, not Mexico City; but the Warren Commission was undeterred. Oswald, it was said, may have met Valeriy Vladimirovich Kostikov, reportedly in charge of assassinations in the Western Hemisphere — which brings us to another absurdity from Huismann’s film. The investigation, it is claimed, was cut short because of concerns that if the public learned of Cuba’s role in the assassination, they would demand retaliation that could lead to war. Nevertheless, the Commission pondered the far more dangerous possibility of Russian involvement in the murder.

Some Cubans were certainly connected to the assassination, but they were anti-Castro Cubans, not pro-Castro Cubans. And there are still more problems with the Mexican Mystery Tour, but I won’t detail them here. I will simply close with a conversation between President Lyndon Baines Johnson and F.B.I. Director John Edgar Hoover on the very day of the assassination. Johnson asked if there was any new information about Oswald’s trip to Mexico, and Hoover replied:

No, that’s one angle that’s very confusing for this reason. We have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet Embassy using Oswald’s name. That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man’s [Oswald’s] voice, nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there is a second person who was at the Soviet Embassy down there

Really? Someone was impersonating Oswald? Whatever for?

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I'm a Zappatista!

Fascism should more properly be called
corporatism because it combines
the powers of business and state.
— Benito Mussolini

Yes, it’s true. Frank Zappa was an inventive and prolific musician; so I jumped at the chance to see a video of him from 1986, when he appeared on Crossfire to discuss censorship. You can watch the video, too, at:

(Note: For reasons which passeth my understanding, I haven't been able to directly link to that address. To find the video, go to for 1/10/2006 and scroll down the page to find the link and a picture of Zappa. Alternatively, copy this address and paste it into the address window.)

Zappa was chided when he expressed his concern that the country was heading toward a fascist theocracy. Unfortunately, he was right. Twenty years later, the United States is clearly fascist and leaning ever closer to theocracy.

I won’t attempt to summarize the program. Frank Zappa was perfectly capable of articulating his position, and you can make your own assessment. But I do want to comment about the show’s hosts. On the right, literally and figuratively, was Robert Novak, who replaced Patrick Buchanan. Novak left C.N.N. last fall in the ongoing controversy over his role in exposing Valerie Plame as a C.I.A. operative. He is now a special correspondent for FOX, where he continues to dissemble on the subject of Plamegate.

Tom Braden was on Crossfire representing the left. But, as is so often the case in programs such as Crossfire, he was not actually a leftist. He simply wasn’t as far right as Novak. Perhaps that is why Novak didn’t “out” Tom Braden! That’s right, Thomas Wardell Braden, the author of Eight is Enough, worked for the Agency. For a time, he was the head of the International Organizations Division which infiltrated academic and political groups in Europe. He also ran the C.I.A.’s covert cultural division and was a key figure in the C.I.A.’s domestic labor activities. His intelligence connections were described in The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters (1999), by Francis Stonor Saunders, and mentioned briefly by Laurence Zuckerman in a New York Times review of Stonor’s book:

In one of the book’s many amusing codas, Mr. Braden goes on in the 1980’s to become the leftist foil to Patrick Buchanan on the CNN program ‘Crossfire.’ (3/18/2000, p. A17)

Incidentally, Timothy Leary appeared on Crossfire in 1982. Braden concluded that Leary had led a “wasted life.” Leary later declared that the spectrum of views on Crossfire ran from the left-wing of the C.I.A. to the right-wing of the C.I.A. I agree, but then, I’m a Zappatista.