J.F.K. and "JFK." (Historical Accuracy of Oliver Stone's Motion Picture) (Beat the Devil) (Column)

By Cockburn, Alexander | The Nation, January 6, 1992 | Go to article overview

J.F.K. and "JFK." (Historical Accuracy of Oliver Stone's Motion Picture) (Beat the Devil) (Column)


Cockburn, Alexander, The Nation


J.F.K. and JFK

Whether J.F.K. was killed by a lone assassin or by a conspiracy has as much to do with the subsequent contours of American politics as if he had tripped over one of Caroline's dolls and broken his neck in the White House nursery.

Of course many people think otherwise, reckoning that once it can be demonstrated that the Warren Commission was wrong and Oswald was not the lone killer, then we face the reality of a rightist conspiracy engineered to change the course of history. (The idea of Oswald as a leftist conspiracy of one or more has perhaps fortunately never had the popularity one might have expected.) This is the view taken by Oliver Stone, who has stated in interviews, such as one in Spin, that "Kennedy was really moving to end the cold war and sign a nuclear treaty with the Soviets; he would not have gone to war in Southeast Asia. He was starting a backdoor negotiation with Castro." Instead of which good things, there was "the first coup d'etat in America."

In JFK, Stone leaves no doubt about the coup's sponsors. A sequence in grainy black-and-white, presumably designed for extra verite, shows L.B.J. planning the assassination with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This is a $40 million equivalent of MacBird, though Stone's model is another Shakespeare play.

The core of this vision of history is put by Kevin Costner in his role as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison:

We have all become Hamlets in our country, children of a slain

father-leader whose killers still possess the throne. The ghost

of John Kennedy confronts us with the secret murder at the

heart of the American dream. He forces on us the appalling

question: Of what is our Constitution made? …

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