Sunday, March 23, 2008

Review of The Road to Dallas

From today's Chicago Sun-Times, a review of The Road to Dallas:

A treat for JFK theorists

Historian plows through new research

March 23, 2008

There have been so many analyses, fantasies and theories devoted to the assassination of John F. Kennedy that anything purporting itself as a fresh perspective runs the risk of suffocation. Anything less than a smoking gun -- or two -- will cause many casual readers to shrug with the frustration that they've heard it all before.

The Road to Dallas (Belknap Press, 536 pages, $35), written by David Kaiser, tries to preempt that shrug by billing itself as the first book written on the subject by a professional historian who has pored over the volumes of recently declassified information.

Kaiser, a history professor at the Naval War College, not only reports on what he has researched, but at times he takes an active role in contacting pertinent subjects in the declassified material.

The result is a thorough recounting of facts interspersed with interpretations and opinions that carry the weight of someone who knows how to analyze history. The Road to Dallas is laboriously comprehensive at times and shockingly illuminating at others. It may not prove the conspiracy it suggests -- that while Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman he wasn't alone in planning the assassination -- but it provides unusual substance to its argument because of the nature of the material and the background of the author.

Kaiser isn't the first to suggest JFK was assassinated by a conspiracy of anti-Castro Cubans upset at Kennedy's failure to eliminate Fidel Castro and a Mafia enraged by the obsession of JFK's attorney general, his brother Robert Kennedy, to attack organized crime. But Kaiser may be the first to reach the depth of reporting the facts that support this theory.

The book is full of anecdotes that will make many wonder why these facts weren't reported before, or at least reported on a more mainstream level. It opens with three men visiting a Cuban woman -- Silvia Odio -- in Dallas in early October 1963. Odio testified that one of the men was Oswald, while the other two were believed to be American anti-Castro mercenaries Loran Hall and Lawrence Howard. Hall had spent time in a Cuban prison with Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante Jr., who owned several Havana casinos before Castro's rise to power. During their time in prison, Trafficante was visited by Jack Ruby.

The intermingling of key players in Kaiser's conspiracy theory, including Jimmy Hoffa and his alliance with the mob, allows him to connect the dots to effectively argue that Oswald did not act alone.

It was amazing to learn about the vast number of assassination plots and attempts against Castro that were conceived, encouraged or at least winked at by the U.S. government. Some of them were comical, such as a plan to employ exploding seashells and a poisoned diving suit. The incompetence of the endeavors was nearly as acute as the audacity.

Lyndon Johnson, as well as others, assumed Castro played a role in JFK's assassination.

The U.S. government's willingness to employ mob help to get rid of Castro while at the same time Robert Kennedy was trying to crack down on organized crime reflected the firewalls that existed between government agencies before 9/11.

Kaiser uncovered several quotes by people such as Hoffa calling for John Kennedy to be assassinated. Hoffa's mob associates relied on the money stolen from Hoffa's Teamsters Union, so many powerful and dangerous people suffered by RFK's personal quest to bring down Hoffa. The Kennedy administration was an enemy to many.

It would be hard to imagine anyone but Kennedy assassination scholars and historians not learning something new in Kaiser's book. For fans of Oliver Stone's movie "JFK" (1991) and JFK assassination junkies, the book is the latest -- and perhaps best -- view of the historic event.

Roman Modrowski is an assistant sports editor for the Sun-Times


son of gaia said...

Professor Kaiser,

I haven't been able to obtain a copy of your book yet (but I'm still trying), however I have read several reviews and listened to interviews you've given about the subject.

It appears to me that, in 1962-63, a lethal meme was circulating informally through various social groupings in the United States - through the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, the Mob, right-wing extremists, and anti-Castro cuban exiles. That meme was: "someone ought to take that guy (JFK) out!". The commonality between these groups through which the meme was disseminated was virulent anti-Castro/anti-communist fanaticism - although pro-Castro persons with a delusional desire for retaliation for the Bay of Pigs invasion or the attempts to assassinate Castro or misguided American military/paramilitary action elsewhere in the world would have also been vulnerable to being infected with it.

Do you think that Oswald was simply the first of many carriers of the meme to find himself with a viable opportunity to act it out - or did Oswald have a unique capacity for actually doing it?

-Roy Harrold

Unknown said...

Dr. Kaiser,
I am half way through The Road to Dallas and must tell you that it is a tremendous work that I as a publsiher would have been honored to publish. To make sense of what dozens of other JFK Assassination works have managed to obscure is quite an achievement. I am preparing a review of your work that will be published in the editor's desk section of my company website in the "editor's desk" section that I publish. Hope to have it ready in the next ten days. Thank you. Robert L. Miller
Enigma Books

Anonymous said...

There are other views that merits serious attention and research

Also noteworthy is the Book

Anonymous said...

Having taught history for many years and having taken students to Dallas to interview eye witnesses to the assassination of JFK, I have the following question for Professor Kaiser: What did you make of the statements from prison in Illinois of Gerald Files and his "participation" in the event? I have enjoyed reading the Road to Dallas didn't see any reference to him in your book?

Anonymous said...

Professor Kaiser,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book and appreciated the reference to my article "Did David Ferrie Lie to the Secret Service?" and the 12-page list of long distance phone calls Ferrie appeared to have made (according to G. Wray Gill's secretary, who drew a line through all those calls made within Louisiana). What is also significant is the fact that when the phone bills were turned over to Garrison's office, the November, 1963 bill was missing!
Presumably, it was no longer available for the phone company by 1968. Clearly, Gill did not want Garrison to take note of Ferrie's calls during that most important month (a few calls made in November, including a collect call from Houston less than a week before the assassination, showed up on the December bill, however).

I don't agree that Oswald was involved in the assassination of JFK, as he would have realized that the death of Kennedy would only have made matters worse, given that LBJ, the Texas wheeler-dealer, would now be running the show. However, it is possible he was drawn into a plot to kill Connally, which I discuss in my article "Creating A Patsy" available at: I discuss Curtis Craford aka Larry Crafard, along with Jean Aase aka Jean West, at some length, relative to events in Dallas that fateful weekend. I interviewed both individuals.

Anonymous said...

In my letter, I made a "typo" in the following sentence, which should read: "Presumably, it was no longer available from the phone company by 1968." I'd sure like to get hold of that phone bill.

Anonymous said...

Professor Kaiser -

As an amateur student of the event for 20 years, I've read nearly every piece that's hit the bookshelves.

Your's is the only book that provides a cogent explanation of the Government's need to control the release of information to forstall war, the intelligence community's need to prevent disclosure of classified operations, and the mob's seething realization that they had nothing to lose by doing this - they were one the road to ruin without it.

I congratulate you. I believe it to be the first complete theory that is able to explain most of the evidence.

Here is the question: Do you think Marcello, were clever enough to come up with the outline on their own (which required accurate prediction of agency behaviors) or were the mafias's anti-castro operatives educated in covert sterategy as well as tactics?


David Kaiser said...

Dear Anon,

I certainly think Martino, Trafficante and Marcello came up with it on their own. I suspect they (particularly Martino) thought their extensive CIA contacts could turn out to be good insurance if an investigation got too close, but of course, it was a very long time before it ever did.
Thanks for your remarks.


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