Politics Course: JFK - The Newly Released Files

Politics Course: JFK - The Newly Released Files

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On 3 November 2017, President Trump released thousands of records from the National Archives relating to the JFK Assassination – more will be released in April 2018. Is there anything more to be learned or is this just more fodder for conspiracy theorists? The answer is that while there is no ‘smoking gun’ per se, the documents reveal a great deal of detail about Lee Harvey Oswald’s contacts with Soviets and Cubans in Mexico City shortly before the assassination; how closely he was watched by both the CIA and FBI; and how both of these agencies failed to alert the Secret Service or the Dallas Police about Oswald.

In this politics course we will examine why Oswald was a major focus of the US intelligence forces, yet they seemed to lose interest in him when the President came to Dallas. This politics course will also examine the new documents and why they are profoundly embarrassing to both the CIA and the FBI. And, perhaps the public suspicion of a cover-up has stoked the conspiracy theories from day one. But, the conspiracy was not about who shot the President but about the incredible ineptitude of the government to prevent the assassination.

Nothing alters the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger. But, it is also clear that the CIA and FBI lied to the Warren Commission. And, the death of Oswald remains extremely suspect. When it comes to keeping Oswald quiet, it seems everyone had a motive: the FBI, the CIA, Fidel Castro, the KGB, and, Organised Crime. Oswald never had a chance of surviving for his trial!

Course Content

This politics course will cover the following content:

The New Documents

We start at the present with a review of the 2017 documents. What do they actually say and what will the 2018 release likely add to the bundle of information already in existence. To put this in context, we go back to that day in November 1963 when John Kennedy was shot in Dallas.

The Warren Commission and the beginning of the conspiracy

A central thesis of this course is that while the Warren Commission was essentially correct in its conclusion; its methodology was seriously flawed and the investigation was corrupted by Federal agencies interested in concealing their ineptitude as well as the Commission’s desire to dismiss any intimations of foreign influence – Cuba and the Soviet Union – that could force the US into a military confrontation. The orders from the White House were clear – Kennedy is dead and the US does not need a nuclear war.

How the concealment led to the theories

It should not be altogether surprising that the FBI and CIA lies almost immediately began to unravel. This, in turn, fueled an already suspicious public. The gaps in the official story were sufficiently obvious that outlandish theories became plausible.

Garrison and Oliver Stone

New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison was puzzled because so little focus was placed on the rather curious activities of Oswald in New Orleans. Oswald was a marginal character alternately working with anti-Castro Cubans who were financed by the CIA and was also the self-appointed regional chair of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which was pro-Castro. Garrison attempted an investigation which was hamstrung by the FBI at every turn; leading Garrison into wilder and wilder theories – so wild that he eventually became a casualty of the Federal cover-up. For better or worse, Garrison’s theories found new relevance in Oliver Stone’s film JFK, which to a new generation became the definitive assassination report.

The state of the record

The state of the record prior to the new release of documents reflects some old theories that have again come to light. An Australian theory promulgated by a former AFP officer that the fatal bullet was inadvertently fired by a Secret Service agent remains viable but has never caught public fancy. This is likely because it makes the assassination almost a trivial event and lacks the high drama of a conspiracy. There has also been renewed interest in the wild idea that Lyndon Johnson was involved – and, aided by Richard Nixon to boot! This is crazy stuff but it has some entertainment value.

Back to the present

We examine how the new documents show why it was logical, though dishonest, for the FBI and CIA to dissemble to the Warren Commission. It also brings us full circle to the assassination of Oswald. While there can be no doubt that Jack Ruby pulled the trigger; a theory put forward in this course is that if Ruby had not done it, then someone else would have had to. Oswald was, as Lyndon Johnson put it, ‘a curious character,’ and maybe he was just too curious to be allowed to live and testify. Oswald was a wild cannon and, had he implicated the Soviets or the KGB, would have placed the federal government in an untenable position. Besides, who was there to mourn for Oswald?

Intended Audience

This Politics course is open to anyone with an interest in US and Global politics and history. This Politics course has been developed to provide all members of our community with a unique insight into the JFK Assassination, the newly released documents and the world of US politics.

Delivery Style

This Politics course will be delivered as an interactive, instructor-led workshop followed by a Q&A with our US Politics' expert, Harry Melkonian, where you take control of the direction of the discussion.

Harry Melkonian is a freelance writer, educator, commentator and lawyer with a focus on US politics. He has conducted short courses on US politics in Sydney on topics ranging from current elections to historical issues including well-known events such as the Kennedy Assassination and Nixon and Watergate to less well-known American history such as When No One Was Elected – the Presidency and Vice Presidency 1974-1976. He has periodically appeared on the ABC and SBS as a commentator for Australian elections. Harry was previously a partner at the law firm White & Case in the US, and is licensed to practice law in the jurisdictions of New York, California, England and New South Wales. He is now an Honorary Associate at Macquarie Law School, specialising in US constitutional issues as well as media and defamation law.

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