A Film Review by Edward Curtin
Two of the greatest speeches ever delivered by an American president bookend this extraordinary documentary film. It opens with President John F. Kennedy giving the commencement speech at American University on June 10, 1963 and it closes with his civil rights speech to the American people the following day. It is a deft artistic touch that suggests the brevity of JFK’s heroic efforts for world peace and domestic racial equality and justice before he was assassinated in a public execution in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.
In the former anti-war speech, he called for the end to the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the halt to the arms race, and the abolishment of war and its weapons, especially nuclear. He said:
What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.
In the latter address to the American people, having just sent National Guard troops to the University of Alabama to make sure two black students were admitted despite the racist objections of Governor George Wallace, his words transcended the immediate issue at the university and called for the end to the immoral and illegal discrimination against African Americans in every area of the nation’s life. He said:
One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.
Having framed the documentary thus, Oliver Stone and the screenwriter James DiEugenio do a masterful job of explaining what really happened in the years of Kennedy’s short presidency, why he was such a great threat to the CIA and the military industrial complex, what really happened when they killed him, and how the Warren Commission, the CIA, and the corporate media have worked hand-in-hand to this day to cover up the truth. The current two-hour version of JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass will be followed in a month or so by a more detailed four-hour version.
The importance of this film is twofold: It establishes an updated historical record since the Assassination Records Review Board (AARB) was established as a result of Stone’s 1991 breakthrough film, JFK, which forced the release of previously hidden documents, and, more importantly, it emphatically shows why JFK’s assassination is crucial for understanding the United States today. For without a clear and unambiguous accounting of why he was killed and by whom (I do not mean the actual shooters), and who in the government and media has covered it up, we are doomed to repeat the past as this country has been doing ever since.
Because JFK Revisited assiduously documents the essential claims of Stone’s 1991 film and adds to it with the latest factual material released since the ARRB required the release of the previously secret documents, the film, like the JFK film before it, will be denounced by the same media/intelligence forces that slammed the earlier movie. Back then the bogus critiques claimed Stone’s imagination had gone wild and he distorted history, so now the best way for those critics to rip this evidence-filled documentary is to omit mentioning its contents and to continue calling him a conspiracy obsessed guy still intent on promoting his fantasies.
Once it was his “fictions” that were ridiculous; now it is his facts, despite his research colleague and screen writer James DiEugenio’s exhaustive confirmation of the facts that will be released later this year when the annotated script is published. JFK Revisited proves with facts that Stone was right in 1991. Even then, but little known, is that JFK was also accompanied by a book of the film that included copious research notes. But facts don’t seem to matter to Stone’s critics, then or now. They are too damning.
So let’s examine the documentary.
It opens with Kennedy speaking at American University and quickly switches to a montage of condensed news reports of the shooting in Dallas, Kennedy’s death, people’s reactions, Oswald’s arrest, his claim that he’s a “patsy,” Ruby’s killing of Oswald, JFK’s funeral, reports that Kennedy was shot from the front and the rear, the formation of the Warren Commission and the naming of its members, including most significantly the former Director of the CIA Allen Dulles whom Kennedy had fired, the Commission’s finding that Oswald alone killed the president, that there was no conspiracy, the Zapruder film, and NBC’s Chet Huntley saying that the assassination is thoroughly documented (in the Warren Commission Report) and it’s all there for anyone who would like to pursue it.
Huntley’s ironically false statement is followed by a jump cut to Oliver Stone in Dealey Plaza telling how it wasn’t all there at all, that The Warren Report was a sham, and how in the intervening years plenty of new information and evidence has been revealed by the Church Commission Hearings in 1975 that uncovered the CIA and FBI’s machinations in assassination plots at home and abroad; followed a decade later by the public showing of the Zapruder film and the subsequent House Select Committee on Assassinations’ (HSCA) finding that there was probably a conspiracy in Kennedy’s murder.
Although the Warren Report came under questioning during these years, the HSCA sealed half a million “dangerous records” until 2029. But as a result of Stone’s JFK film in 1991, the government was pressured to pass The John F. Kennedy Records Collection Act with its Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). The ARRB ordered the release of the secret documents within four years. Over two million pages were released and they are housed at the National Archives, although certain documents are still being withheld.
One could argue that the truth about the assassination was obvious from the start and that only elements within the U.S. government could have carried out this crime and covered it up. That only simple logic was needed to solve the crime because from the start the Warren Commission made no sense with its magic bullet explanation, and that only national security operatives could have withdrawn the president’s security protection, etc. That new documents are not needed. That arguing any of this is just a pseudo-debate and a waste of time.
There is cogency to that argument, but Stone prefers to take a different route and use the released records to bolster his argument and establish a cinematic record for future generations. He is making accessible in a two-hour movie a powerful historical lesson that should be seen by everyone; it is one absent from the history books students read in school.
That his enemies will try to dissuade the public from viewing the film is not surprising, for doing so with the supporting testimonies of so many experts and the presentation of the suppressed official documents make these critics look like fools, or simply the tools they are. For while this film relies on many documents forced out of the government’s own vaults and therefore hoists the critics with their own petard, it is also a reminder that the media is deeply infiltrated with CIA plants and assets, as has been shown by the revelations of Operation Mockingbird, a program that surely never ended but has only intensified today’s propaganda.
One glance at the headlines of reviews of this film since its release two months ago reveals the vituperative personal nature of the attacks on Stone, showing that the film’s evidentiary content is of no interest to the reviewers. Ad hominem attacks will suffice. Even the one review I read previous to writing this – sent to me by someone who considered it to be positive – was a sly piece of disinformation disguised as praise. The enemies of truth are not just vulgar morons but very sophisticated tricksters.
Let me break down the evidence presented in the film in order of appearance. First, the so-called three bullets and the magic bullet. Second, the alleged rifle and new evidence confirming that Lee Oswald was not on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Third, the autopsy, its faked photographs, and the pressure placed on the Parkland Hospital doctors to change what they saw with their own eyes. Fourth, Oswald’s history working with the CIA and FBI, his fake defection to the Soviet Union, the coverup of the intelligence agencies’ use of Oswald from start to finish, and the other plots to assassinate Kennedy in Chicago and Tampa that follow the same template as Oswald in Dallas. Fifth, why Kennedy was murdered.
None of these issues are analyzed in some half-assed theoretical way, but are supported by documentary facts – evidence, in other words. As Stone says, “Conspiracy theories are now conspiracy facts.” Nevertheless, those writers whose review headlines I mentioned prefer to call Stone “looney,” a “conspiracy quack,” etc. as they ignore the facts, new and old.
The Magic Bullet
The Warren Report claimed that since three empty shells were found on the floor of the sixth floor of The Texas Book Depository that only three bullets were fired, and from that spot. The FBI claimed that all three bullets hit inside the car, two hitting Kennedy and one Gov. Connolly. But evidence showed that one bullet missed the car, striking an underpass.
This forced the Commission into a dilemma, and so Arlen Specter, the future long-standing senator, conjured up the so-called Magic Bullet Theory, claiming that one bullet hit and passed through Kennedy only to hit Connolly, zigzagging absurdly and causing seven wounds. It was ridiculous but conveniently avoided admitting that there had to be more shots and therefore a conspiracy. The Magic bullet – CE 399 – was said to have been found in pristine condition on a stretcher in Parkland Hospital. This bullet was foundational to the Warren Commission’s case, but Stone shows with released documents that there was no chain of custody for this bullet and that lies were told about it. He further shows how this magically found pristine bullet could not have passed through two men and emerge like new.
The film immediately demolishes the Warren Commission’s basic premise.
The “Rifle” with No Oswald on the Sixth Floor
And then this: the film shows that the rifle Oswald is alleged to have used and ordered through the mail with its paper trail (he could have walked into a store and bought one without leaving evidence) does not look like the famous highly questionable photos of Oswald posing with a rifle in the back yard. But more importantly than various other anomalies concerning the rifle(s-?), such as the absence of Oswald’s hand prints, is the new evidence the film documents about Oswald’s non-presence on the sixth floor.
Researcher Barry Ernest went to the National Archives to find the original testimony of Victoria Adams who worked on the fourth floor and knew Oswald. He discovered that it was missing and that the Warren Commission had destroyed the tapes. So he went and found Adams, and what she told him contradicted the Commission’s findings. It was claimed that after shooting Kennedy, Oswald quickly went down the back stairs to the second floor lunch room. Adams told Ernest that immediately after the assassination she went down the back stairs from the fourth floor and saw no one. Ernest found corroborating evidence from two other women, Sandra Styles who accompanied Vicki Adams down the stairs and Vicki’s supervisor Dorothy Garner who saw them descend, to back Adams’ testimony, about which the Warren Commission lied. Further proof that Oswald could not have shot Kennedy from the sixth floor window since he wasn’t there.
The Head Wound and the Autopsy Coverup
With video testimonies from Doctors Perry, Clark, and Crenshaw from Parkland Hospital, Stone shows how the original testimonies placed the neck and head wounds to Kennedy coming from the front, but that pressure was applied to Perry to recant, which he did, only to later to admit his recantation was a lie and that the wound in Kennedy’s neck was an entrance wound.
Then with the autopsy, we learn how it was controlled not by forensic pathologists experienced in doing autopsies on gunshot victims, but by shadowy military and intelligence figures. We learn of another magic bullet that allegedly was found in Parkland Hospital where it was claimed it fell out of a back wound of the president. But this bullet later turns out to be The Magic Bullet after further legerdemain by Warren Commission member Gerald Ford.
This stuff is highly comical if it weren’t so sinister, and it is surely “unbelievable” as the eminent forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht tells the viewer. That one of the autopsy doctors burned his notes and another had his disappear might not be new knowledge, but to learn that two honest FBI agents who witnessed the autopsy and were not called as witnesses by the Warren Commission – James Sibert and Francis X. O’Neill, Jr. – were shown the autopsy photos in depositions taken by the Assassinations Record Review Board in 1997 and claimed that Kennedy’s head had been doctored to conceal his gaping rear head wound is startlingly new evidence.
As is the important diagram Sibert drew of a large head wound in the back of the head supporting a shot from the front.
As is the ARRB’s declassification of forty witnesses’ testimony that they saw a gaping hole in the back of the President’s head consistent with a shot from the front.
As is the White House photographer Robert Knudsen’s admission thirty-years later that the photos he took were after the head had been doctored to conceal the wound.
As is the evidence that the autopsy photos of JFK’s brain in the National archives are fakes.
Thus, the film emphatically shows that the new forensic evidence proves that there were multiple shooters and that Oswald, who was not on the sixth floor, was not one of them. Oswald, because he was killed by the F.B.I. affiliated Jack Ruby two days later, never had a trial, but if he did, in light of all we know now, he would never be convicted, yet the media, led by The New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, etc., have spent decades covering up the truth and claiming Oswald killed Kennedy, just as they have with their equally bogus claim that Sirhan Sirhan killed RFK. They can not be so ignorant not to know they are spouting absurdities, so one can only conclude they are lying to protect the killers. That they are accomplices after the fact.
Oswald the Patsy and his Connections to the CIA and FBI
This section contains much evidentiary information about Oswald that is in the 1991 film. That he was associated with David Ferrie, Guy Bannister, and Clay Shaw (alias Betrand), all of whom were FBI and CIA affiliated. That he was a provocateur playing multiple roles, one day an anti-Castro protester and the next day a Castro supporter. That he was trained as a Marine at a top secret Military base in Japan that ran U-2 spy flights run by the CIA over the Soviet Union. That his defection to the Soviet Union was likely a part of a CIA defector program. That after marrying a Russian wife, he was welcomed back into the U.S. by the government he “betrayed” and greeted upon his arrival by an intelligence asset who got him to Dallas to hook up with another CIA operative, George de Mohrenschildt.
Everything we learn about Oswald makes it clear he was working for the CIA and FBI while simultaneously being on their watch list for years. The CIA denials that this was true were lies. We learn that the ARRB had a hard time getting the CIA to hand over documents on Oswald, that both the FBI and CIA lifted flashes on Oswald in early October 1963 which allowed him access to the Dallas parade route without attention. We learn that the Secret Service destroyed their threat sheets for 1963, those being reports of JFK’s prior trips and threats associated with them.
Essentially, we learn again with documentation what was in the earlier film, JFK, and more; all of which proves that Oswald was being run by the CIA and that he was used as a patsy after the assassination. We see the similarities to the earlier plots on the President’s life in Chicago (see JFK and the Unspeakable by James W. Douglass re the Chicago plot) and Tampa that are eerily alike to that in Dallas. We learn everything essential, and yet this is just the two-hour version of the film.
Why Was Kennedy Killed, Who Benefited, and Who Had the Power to Cover it Up?
In the conclusion of the film, we are told all the things that Kennedy did that made him an arch-enemy of the CIA and the military. Kennedy, who was hated by the CIA even before the Bay of Pigs disaster, afterwards fired the CIA Director Allen Dulles and his subordinates and promised to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds after he realized that they tricked him with the Bay of Pigs.
In 1961, they also killed those Kennedy greatly admired and was working with on issues of decolonialization: Patrice Lumumba of the Congo and the Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld. Less than eleven months into office, JFK was faced with a savage enemy from within that he didn’t control. He told the French ambassador that he was in no way involved in the CIA’s attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle, his ally, and that he had no control over the CIA.
After JFK’s assassination, Allen Dulles told journalist Willie Morris that Kennedy “thought he was a god.” This from the man who had his henchmen kill with impunity and loved the Nazis with whom he worked and brought into the U.S. government (see David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard). In a document uncovered by the ARRB called the Northwoods Document, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended to Kennedy that he approve a false flag operation to start a war with Cuba by blowing up an empty plane over Cuba and blaming it on Castro and setting off bombs in American cities killing Americans for the same purpose. Of course, Kennedy refused, only intensifying their hatred of him. Then when he wouldn’t bomb Cuba during the missile crisis in October 1962, gave his American University speech the following June, sought reconciliation with the Soviet Union, and decided to withdraw from Vietnam, the die was cast: He had to die.
Who has benefited from his death?
The war manufacturers first and foremost, for they have been reaping their bloody profits ever since. The war against Vietnam was just the start, for the wars and alarms of war have never stopped.
And the CIA, working as the leading edge for the military around the world, continuing the Pax Americana for Wall St. and the power hungry millionaires and billionaires who hate democracy.
And of course, the media companies that are stenographers for the CIA, the politicians who pimp for them, and the vast interconnected power elites who cash in while playing innocent.
Finally, without having to explicitly say it, JFK Revisited makes it emphatically clear by presenting evidence that the criminals who committed this terrible crime, together with their media accomplices, were the only ones able to cover it up.
Of course, there is more to this powerful and important film than I have mentioned here, all carefully laid out and documented. Those who criticized Stone’s earlier movie and continue to hurl insults at him rather than consider the evidence he and DiEugenio present are the worst kind of anti-intellectual sycophants. If they were forced to dispute the content of this film step-by-step, that would simply expose their agendas, something they must keep hidden to safeguard their establishment credentials.
JFK Revisited ends with an important reminder from David Talbot that the truth of this film about an event that took place long ago is so essential to understand because of its contemporary relevance. It is not dead history. The “horror show” we are now experiencing has its roots in JFK’s public execution on the streets of Dallas, when the killers sent the most obvious message:
Obey or you will suffer the same fate.
The United States is still controlled by the forces that killed President Kennedy – the CIA and those who comprise the national security state that wage war at home and abroad in contradistinction to everything JFK was trying to accomplish. Their cowardly allies in the media are everywhere.
There is a reason why, as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. tells the viewer near the film’s end, that all across the world there are streets named and statues erected to honor President Kennedy: for people know that he was a brave man of peace and human reconciliation and that he died at the hands of scoundrels intent on stopping his work.
With JFK Revisited, Oliver Stone has truly honored this fallen hero. Like Jim Garrison in JFK, he offers this film as his closing statement to the jury, which is all of us. Here is the evidence. Consider it closely. Render your verdict.
By doing so, we may yet take back the country from the forces of evil.
Bravo to Stone and DiEugenio! They have created a tour de force.