Oswald’s Politics by Gary W. O’Brien (Trafford Pub., 2010) is one of a flurry of new books on the assassination of President Kennedy and one of the most important for a number of reasons.
Of all the political assassins in history, the accused assassin of President Kennedy Lee Harvey Oswald is the greatest enigma, except among those who perceive him as a psychologically disturbed homicidal maniac. For those who really want to understand what happened at Dealey Plaza however, it is important to diagnose Oswald more accurately, something that Gary O’Brian at least tries to do by taking him out of the psychological realm and putting him in the political arena, where he squarely belongs.
Some years ago, around the time of the first releases of the records under the JFK Act, I met a young law student, Mark Zaid, who over a few beers, agreed that there was a special need for the words of Lee Harvey Oswald to be put together in one place so as to make some sense of them and of him. Sort of a backwards extention of Mae Brussell’s “The Last Words of Lee Harvey Oswald.”
While Zaid and I never got around to putting together the complete works of Lee Harvey Oswald, Gary W. O’Brien has done that, or at least Oswald’s Greatest Hits, presenting just what is needed in the Appendices that take up more than half of the nearly 400 page book.
The first 138 pages comprise O’Brien’s analysis and summary of his take on Oswald’s politics, which correctly dismisses the Warren Commission’s haphazard and superficial profile of Oswald as a disenchanted loner and loser. Instead, O’Brien focuses on the political and some of the personal writings of Oswald, sometimes prolific, sometimes perceptive, and always with misspellings, said to be due to his dyslexia.
O’Brien is a Canadian who was born in Toronto and earned his PhD in political science from Carleton University. He has taught courses on the assassination of President Kennedy at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario and is the distinguished Clerk of the Candian Senate and Parliaments.
As laid out by O’Brien, “Despite its inconclusiveness, the physical evidence has biased students of the assassination into deductive reasoning about the man accused of murdering the president. Most are conditioned to analyze Lee Harvey Oswald from the perspective of either his involvement or non-involvement in the crime. There has been little attempt to set the physical evidence aside and examine him from the historical perspective, that is, what we reasonably know about Oswald before November 22, 1963. Such analysis is integral to any speculation about both his possible guilt or innocence and the most important question of all, which the physical evidence is unlikely ever to answer: why was JFK killed?”
So in setting aside the physical evidence, and the psychological speculations as to what motivated Oswald to do things, O’Brien is right in saying, “That Oswald was consumed by politics is beyond doubt,” and the closer we look in that direction the more we will understand what motivated him.
As O’Brien puts it, “Because the act (of assassination) was so beyond the pale in traditional leftist thinking, other motivations that had nothing to do with politics are at work, or else they had the wrong guy.”
Bingo! When first informed JFK was killed by a sniper while riding in a motorcade in downtown Dallas, most people thought it must have been a crazed, right wing, racist fanatic, so when the accused assassin emerged as Oswald – the leftest Cuban commie sympathaizer, it just didn’t make any sense. And a closer analysis of the hard and physical evidence indicates that Oswald was set up as the fall guy and Patsy, and therefore, all of the psycho analysis is not of the assassin, but of the Patsy.
“In the end,” writes O’Brien, “the Warren Commission could not think outside the box in terms of radical politics, and made no attempt to give a comprehensive analysis of his political essays or explain what precisely in either Marxist or other radical doctrines pointed to assassinating a world leader at the height of the Cold War. When it came down to essentials, Oswald was pegged as a lone-nut – mentally, socially and politically.”
As with the problem confronted by all those who perceive the accused assassin as a disturbed psycho, their primary fault lies in the assumption they were analyzing a murderer, when they were analyzing the designated fall guy and Patsy, and entirely different animal.
As described and rightfully discarded by O’Brien, “The Lone Nut Theory has essentially two main tenets of thought. First, Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin of the President and he acted alone. Second, and more important, the assassination was tragic and without reason. Not only was one of the most popular U.S. presidents killed at a crucial time in world affairs, but the crime was senseless. It was committed by a deranged person who acted irrationally. The theory laid down the template for concluding Oswald’s motives can be seen only through a psychobiographical prism.”
“At the request of Commission Chairman Earl Warren, who apparently wanted the report to have a historical as well as legal perspective, a professional historian, Alfred Goldberg from the Department of Defense, was brought on staff and started work at the end of February, 1964. Goldberg had been at the London headquarters of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe during World War II. He did graduate study in history at John Hopkins University and received his Ph.D. in 1956. The following year he published A History of the United States Air Force, 1907-1957. As a historian, undoubtedly he was aware of the psychohistorical approach. His primary responsibilities were to assist in writing the report and prepare a “Speculation and Rumor” appendix.”
Goldberg is extremely important, like the German also brought in to help write the Warren Report, not only because he is an official Department of Defense historian, but is also a tie in to 9/11, as the principal editor of the book on the 9/11 Attack on the Pentagon. I had the opportunity to talk with Goldberg on the telephone shortly before he retired, and he should be a principal character in Max Holland’s retro-revisionist portrait of the Warren Commission, currently being prepared for publication at a more mainstream press than Trafford. Goldberg’s contrabutions have never been adequately acknowledged or recognized, until now.
As explained by O’Brien, “Wesley Liebeler, who headed the third major area of study, called “Lee Harvey Oswald’s Background,” may have been exposed to psychobiography when he was managing editor of the University of Chicago Law Review. He, along with Albert Jenner, interviewed Oswald’s relatives and acquaintances in the hope of shedding light on motive. At some point it was agreed that a session with professional psychiatrists should be arranged to probe Oswald’s state of mind more deeply. In July 1964 the Warren staff and the commissioners met with three psychiatrists to discuss the problem of the use of psychological terminology to describe Oswald’s actions. The colloquium lasted an entire day. Liebeler wrote the first draft of the chapter on Oswald’s possible motives, but both Rankin and Norman Redlich, another Commission counsel; found it ‘too psychological.’ Goldberg had to re-write it.”
O’Brien correctly concludes that, “It is apparent that the portrait painted by the Commission of Oswald’s character was one-sided and biased. It showed no understanding or sympathy for Oswald the dissident or that his anger with society might have been ideological….It does not appear that the Warren Commission or its staff consulted with the political science community with respect to advice about Oswald’s political socialization or his political discourse….Oswald’s politics were more than more expressions of emotions.”
It is not unreasonable to assume, as O’Brien does, that the motives of Oswald, regardless of whether he is perceieved as the accused assassin or the Patsy, lay in his political writings. “The following is only interpretative,” O’Brien warns. “It does not offer ‘proof’ that Oswald killed JFK – that can only be done conclusively through the physical evidence left in Dealey Plaza – nor does it prove what his motives may have been. On this we can only speculate, but hopefully in a more realistic way than was done by the Warren Commission. Nor does it show that Oswald was the only one to have reason for murdering the president. Others may have had as well and may have been present in Dallas on November 22. What will be put forward is an ideological understanding of why Oswald may have wanted to shoot President Kennedy. Rather than being centered on deviant psychobehavioural factors, it is anchored to Lee’s ideas and conclusions about the political world he lived in.”
“John F. Kennedy was the head of state for the United States and its most visible representative. As he rode by the Texas School Book Depository on that day in November in an open limousine, Kennedy was also its most vulnerable one. Based on the normative evidence of political ideas, the president was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald for four inter-dependent reasons: (1) as revealed in his political writings, Lee detested the modern State; (2) his political vision was being overtaken by world events; (3) he did not believe there was any way to either overthrow or reform the modern State; and (4) factions of the political formation in which he was ideologically aligned sanctioned such tactics.”
“When Captain Fritz questioned him and said the president had been killed, Oswald, according to Fritz, replied, ‘people will forget that within a few days and there would be another president.’ Oswald felt the State was so unfeeling that grief for its fallen leader would be short-lived. He could not have been more wrong. ‘A man so filled with life even Death was caught off guard,’ as the folk-singer Phil Ochs described JFK, and when he died, will never be forgotten.”
So Oswald not only denied killing the President, he acknowledged in doing so, nothing significant would change, as the policies would continue under a new president, but I don’t think that it follows that Oswald was therefore attacking the man, but the state, as the Patsy he didn’t attack anybody.
Regardless, O’Brien falsly assumes that we are analysizing the assassin rather than the Patsy, so he says that, “While his ideas may have encouraged him to assassinate the president, they would have been without meaning if the tactics of the 1960s radicalism had forbade such acts. To understand the totality of his politics, it is incumbent to know where Lee Harvey Oswald really stood on the political continuum. As noted, it is clear that he can be defined as part of the New Left. But which part?”
To me, whether viewed as the assassin or Patsy, Oswald can be seen to be similar to his childhood hero, Herbert Phibrick, the fake commie double-agent provocateur, or other cover operational personalities – like Frank Forini Sturgis, Gerry Patrick Hemming, William Morgan and those of more recent eras like Bob Hardy of the Camden 28 fame and Ali Mohammad, the al Quada double-agent.
But according to O’Brien, “Lee Harvey Oswald was neither a Yippie nor a Weatherman but did belong to the ‘volunteerist’ strain of New Left thinking…In the end, he showed himself to be nothing more than a violent volunteerist who lost his sense of history which he once told Peter Gregory he loved so much, violated all tenants of democracy that philosophically he claimed to believe in, and broke his obligations to his children whom he cherished.”
But only if he killed the Presdient did he break his obligations to his children.
So therefore, I conclude, as said earlier, you have the wrong guy, and Oswald did not kill the President, and didn’t violate the tenants of democracy that he believed in, and didn’t break his obligations to his children whom he cherished, because he was, as he claimed, just the Patsy.
O’Brien takes his analysis one step further in saying, “We can also speculate about whether ideology was a factor in Oswald’s alleged killing of Officer Tippit and Jack Ruby’s very real murder of Oswald. We still don’t know why Tippit stopped a man who resembled Oswald on Tenth Street in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas….His dislike of the police as agents for the State was in keeping with his political views, and if his ‘volunteerism’ had already reached the point that he was prepared to shoot the State’s most powerful representative, he might not have hesitated to kill Tippit, one of its lesser representatives. That murder was carried out with a great deal of vengeance: Tippit was shot four times at very close range.”
Ruby too, according to O’Brien’s speculations, was motivated by ideology in killing Oswald, not only because of his mob connections, but “Ruby’s work as a courier to get mafia figures out of Castro prisons showed he had no love for the communist,…” like Oswald, and “If any officers helped Ruby enter the basement of the Dallas Police Department that Sunday morning, their motive may well have been ideological.”
In conclusion, O’Brien notes, “This has only been an interpretative essay of Oswald’s politics. Students of the Kennedy assassination can make up their own analysis….”
Well, thanks, and to me it’s pretty clear which part of the New Left Oswald was associated. Oswald was an ideologically motivated liberal leftist and avowed Marxist who got along impressively with right wing anti-communist White Russians and Cubans, and was an infiltrator, informant and agitating activist, who fits the profile of the covert operative personality profile (COPP), and acts on a need to know basis on behalf of a domestic intelligence network that itself operates on the basis of plausible deniability.