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Sunday, 19 July 2020 20:27

Oliver Stone amid the Trolls: Tom Fordy and The Telegraph

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With a new documentary and a new autobiography coming out, Oliver Stone is once again being met, in advance, by trolls intent on burying the truth of JFK’s foreign policy and his assassination. Jim DiEugenio exposes this plain hackery in examining the recent claims of Tom Fordy and Howie Carr.


Unless you are aware of the timely release of Oliver Stone’s autobiography, Chasing the Light, then you will be blindsided by the most recent attack article on the famous film director.

The Telegraph is a notoriously hard right newspaper, so much so that it is sometimes called The Torygraph. From 2018 to 2019, its popularity declined to the point that it withdrew from newspaper circulation audits. From 1980 to 2019, it has been estimated that the publication lost about 80% of its readership. It was fined in 2015 for emailing readers and urging them to vote conservative. The reason for this is, perhaps, because the publication has been owned by Conrad Black from 1986–2004 and the Barclay Brothers since 2004. Business has been so poor of late that the billionaire brothers have reportedly been looking for a buyer.

On July 15th, The Telegraph featured an article by one Tom Fordy. Fordy is essentially a writer on films. Yet The Telegraph billed his piece, “Why Oliver Stone’s JFK in the greatest lie Hollywood ever told.” The problem with that pompous and self-righteous title is this: Fordy has no grasp of the facts he is about to address. As we shall see, he is a Warren Commission shill who might as well be writing in 1967.

Yet in some cases, he is even worse than that. As everyone knows, the 1991 film JFK was based largely on Jim Garrison’s 1988 book On the Trail of the Assassins. That book was essentially Garrison’s memoir of his investigation into the murder of President Kennedy which he conducted through his position as DA of New Orleans Parish. Stone’s film was so cinematically powerful and its intellectual effect so shocking that it provoked the creation of a new agency of government: The Assassination Records Review Board. That board was in session from 1994–98 and declassified 2 million pages of previously redacted papers; 60,000 documents in all. It then declassified, on a timed-release schedule, thousands more.

How uninformed is Tom Fordy? He actually writes the following:

  1. George Bush established the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB)
  2. Which led to the release of more than 3,000 documents
  3. In 2017
  4. Though there were no major revelations

When you can write a sentence packed with four errors in it, that tells you how trustworthy Fordy is. Plus, this: The Telegraph has little or no fact checking apparatus.

George H. W. Bush did not establish the Board. He tried to sandbag that establishment. He let the clock run out on his appointments, so they could not be approved by Congress and begin their work of declassification. When Bill Clinton took office, he had to start the process all over. Therefore, it was he who actually established the Board and it began work in 1994.

As mentioned, the ARRB released about 60,000 documents containing 2 million pages in four years. In other words, about 20 times more than the number Fordy lists. But it’s even more than that, since there was a “timed-release” program that allowed other documents to be declassified after 1998.

The significance of the year 2017 is that this was when all the JFK documents were supposed to be finally declassified en toto. This meant no redactions at all. Fordy is so uninformed that he does not even understand the significance of what happened that year. Because, as he could have figured out from journalist Jeff Morley or archivist Rex Bradford, today there are still 15,000 pages still being withheld in whole or in part—in defiance of the JFK Act. That law stated that if there were any withholdings in place in 2017, there had to be a presidential explanation for doing so. Well, the government is withholding a lot of pages. There has been, to my knowledge, no presidential explanation for doing so. What is worse is that with hapless writers like Fordy, the public will never know that this is happening.

The idea that, amid all of those hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, none of them offered any major revelations, this is either pure ignorance or pigheaded bias. And it implies that either Fordy or one of his authorities actually read all those pages. To show just how false that assumption is and how misleading Fordy’s instantly obsolete article is, consider this: the author is apparently not familiar with the Lopez Report. This was the 300 page report prepared by Dan Hardway and Ed Lopez for the House Select Committee on Assassinations. That report had access to documents and CIA officials that no one ever had access to before. Clearly, Fordy never read it. In fact, from what he writes, he never even heard of it. It had been secret up to the coming of the ARRB. It was one of their prime objectives to have it declassified.

The so-called experts that Fordy summons on this issue are just as ignorant about that landmark report as he is. In fact, if one has read the Lopez Report, it is almost embarrassing to read what they say. Two non-entities in the field, Tom Stone and Michel Gagne, say that Oswald made mysterious visits to the Cuban and Soviet Embassies in Mexico City. They then add that perhaps someone he talked to while at those places influenced Oswald’s later actions. Tom Stone actually says, “If we could ever know who said what to Oswald in Mexico City, we’d have a solution to the case.” Stone teaches a class on the JFK case at SMU. Evidently, part of that curriculum does not consist of the Lopez Report. Because the main question one is left with after reading that report is this: Was Oswald ever in Mexico City? Why do we ask?

  1. The CIA had a number of cameras outside the Soviet and Cuban consulates. They should have captured Oswald entering and exiting those places ten times. In 57 years, the Agency has yet to produce even one picture of Oswald doing so.
  2. The Mexico City tapes capturing Oswald speaking, these are not his voice. The FBI agents in Dallas heard these CIA tapes. They were talking to Oswald at the time, they knew his voice, these tapes were not him.
  3. Virtually none of the people in the Cuban consulate who should have been able to ID Oswald were able to do so. This includes receptionist Sylvia Duran and diplomat Eusebio Azcue. Outside the consulate, student organizer Oscar Contreras also failed to identify him.
  4. The CIA had two undercover agents in the Cuban consulate. After the assassination, the CIA asked them if they had seen Oswald there. They said not they had not. This information was declassified in 2017.

Somehow Fordy did not read any of these declassified documents and neither did any of his “experts”. They do not indicate any kind of “solution to the case”. They create a puzzle about Mexico City that Fordy wants to avoid telling his readers about.

Ken Drinkwater has an advanced degree in philosophy. He is another of the “experts’ Fordy consulted. Drinkwater is also passing Fordy howlers, which he then prints. Drinkwater’s foot in mouth moment is when he says that Kennedy signed off on an attempted assassination of Fidel Castro. Again, this shows that neither Fordy nor Drinkwater ever read the declassified documents of the ARRB, because, in 1995, the Board issued an unredacted version of the CIA’s Inspector General Report on the plots to kill Fidel Castro. On several pages of that report, one will see the issue of presidential authorization of the Agency plots addressed. In every instance, the reply comes back in the negative. In other words, the CIA had no such presidential authorization from Kennedy or any other president, i. e. Dwight Eisenhower or Lyndon Johnson.

As noted, Fordy writes that there were no major revelations declassified by the Review Board. I would say that the two matters I mentioned above qualify as “major revelations”. And he and his “authorities” got them both wrong. You can have little doubt about why this is so. In a November 20, 2003, article at CNN.com, Tom Stone revealed he was in the Warren Report camp. At that time at least, he thought Oswald had shot Kennedy.

But that is in keeping with all the authorities that Fordy uses for his propaganda piece. For instance, he called up Don Carpenter for his views on Jim Garrison and Clay Shaw. Again, in writing his book on Shaw, Carpenter managed to avoid the ARRB documents on the subject. (Click here for details) His other authority on New Orleans is the late Patricia Lambert. Malcolm Blunt has recently discovered letters from Lambert to the CIA saying she was going to do all she could to explode Jim Garrison. And she needed their help on Shaw’s covert background. If she got any, it did not aid her book. (Click here for details)

But perhaps the worst example of Fordy stooping to a source in order to attack Stone’s film is his use of the late Vincent Bugliosi. Fordy actually writes that, in his chapter on JFK, Bugliosi dismantled the film’s claims “with convincing ferocity”. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at that statement. Although, with Fordy, I tend towards laughter.

This author wrote a book length review of Bugliosi’s elephantine Reclaiming History. Elephantine is putting it mildly. For when one adds in the material on the attached CD, that book clocks in at over 2,600 pages. I was one of the very few people who read all of them and took notes. One of the worst chapters in Bugliosi’s door stop of a book is the one on New Orleans and Jim Garrison. And that chapter is even worse in light of the declassified records of the ARRB. In my volume, I minutely examined the opening third of Stone’s film in light of that newly released record. Bugliosi questioned it all. Like Fordy, he takes a carpet-bombing approach to the film. In my book, I went through the first 16 scenes in the film. I described the action in each of those scenes. I then commented on the evidence we have today for what was presented. (See The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, pp. 190–93) As I concluded in my scene by scene by scene analysis, there is nothing in those first 16 tableaux that one can term an excessive use of dramatic license. In fact, in a couple of instances, in light of what we know today, Stone understated the case.

Bugliosi indulged himself in so much hyperbole and grandstanding that it is almost embarrassing to read his book today. Reclaiming History is an argument by length and invective. What Fordy used from Bugliosi is simply not supported by the factual record, for instance, on Oswald’s marksmanship. By the time Lee Harvey Oswald left the Marine Corps, he was not a good marksman. In fact, he was something of a joke at that time. This information comes from eyewitnesses who saw Oswald shoot. For example, Sherman Cooley said there was no way Oswald could have pulled off what the Commission said he did. (Henry Hurt, Reasonable Doubt, pp. 99–100)

Fordy then says that one of the marksmen that the Commission used actually improved on what the Warren Report says Oswald did. Again, do you laugh or cry? As has been exposed since the days of Sylvia Meagher and Mark Lane, the Commission knew that duplicating the shooting sequence in Dealey Plaza was going to be quite difficult. Therefore, they cheated on their tests. Their marksmen—and, unlike Oswald, they really were expert shots—did not fire from sixty feet up, but thirty feet. And they did not fire at a moving target, but at stationary targets. Therefore, the so-called tests were invalid from the beginning. (See Sylvia Meagher, Accessories After the Fact, pp.106–09; Mark Lane Rush to Judgment pp. 125–27)

When it comes to the presentation of Vietnam in the film, again the English professor chimes in. Tom Stone says he does not think it’s possible to know what Kennedy was going to do about Vietnam. At the beginning, Fordy writes about the long sequence with Donald Sutherland as Mr. X depicting the withdrawal from Vietnam as a piece of “hokum”. Again, Fordy has a big problem here. He is either ignorant of the ARRB work on this or he is ignoring it.

In 1997, the Review Board declassified the records of the May 1963 Sec/Def Conference. That meeting was one of a series that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara held on progress in Vietnam. This one was in Hawaii and all the representatives of departments from Saigon were in attendance: State, CIA, Pentagon etc. At that meeting, McNamara had alerted the attendees in advance to bring withdrawal schedules with them. McNamara then collected them and read them. He then turned around and said that the schedules were too slow. (See Probe Magazine, Volume 5 No. 3, p. 19) That batch of documents was so compelling that even the MSM was forced to admit that Kennedy had an early exit plan for Vietnam (e.g. The New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer). From the document release, it was clear that everyone in attendance knew that Kennedy was getting out of Indochina. That withdrawal would begin in December of 1963 with a pullout of a thousand men and be completed in 1965, when all advisors would be out. (ibid)

But Fordy, as he usually does, now gets worse. He writes that NSAM 273, which the film claims would give the military its war, by reversing Kennedy, was actually drafted before Kennedy’s assassination. What Fordy leaves out, and it is hard for him to claim ignorance, is this: NSAM 273 was not drafted by Kennedy. He never even saw it. It was drafted by National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy and it was then modified by President Johnson. (John Newman, JFK and Vietnam, 1992 edition, pp. 445–49) It was those modifications which allowed for direct American intervention and cross border raids, allowing for expansion into Cambodia and Laos. (DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination, p. 188, op. cit. Probe Magazine, p. 19)

But further, Fordy never mentions NSAM 288. That memorandum was signed in March of 1964. It contained a bombing list of sites in North Vietnam that numbered over 90 targets. That document was really a plan to carry the war to Hanoi, it was the design for a full scale war in Indochina. In other words, what Kennedy never even contemplated in three years, Johnson was now planning for in just three months. (DiEugenio, p. 189) Those plans were first activated five months later, after the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Fordy then continues by saying that Kennedy was late to civil rights. As I explained, in detail, in my four-part essay on this subject, this is a myth that the MSM has created to disguise the fact that JFK did more for civil rights in three years than FDR, Truman and Eisenhower did in nearly three decades. The truth is that Kennedy went to work on civil rights his first day in office. And the Kennedy program went down several paths until they were reasonably certain they could pass an omnibus bill. (Click here for details) He then says that Kennedy had ties with mobsters. This is another piece of malarkey that has come down the pike mainly through the horrendous book Double Cross. This has also been exposed. (Click here for details)

Gagne then adds that, unlike what is presented in the film, if one reads the Warren Report one can see that the Single Bullet Theory trajectory is really a straight line.  How Gagne can say this is so, based upon the Warren Report, is baffling, because that report misrepresents Kennedy’s back wound by placing it in neck. Like most of the stuff in this article, this is incomprehensible, because one of the major releases of the ARRB was the final draft of the report. That draft showed that Commissioner Gerald Ford had moved up the wound in Kennedy’s back to his neck. (Click here for details) Again, this made the Associated Press and NY Times. How could a bullet fired right to left, at a downward angle, into Kennedy’s back move up through soft tissue to exit his throat? And then move right to hit Connally on the extreme right of his scapula?  Ford himself knew that the Single Bullet Theory—that one bullet went through Kennedy and Connally making seven wounds and smashing two bones—was simply not tenable. So, he altered it. Because he knew it betrayed more than one sniper.

But perhaps the silliest part of this article is Gagne’s complaint that Oliver Stone did not “consult mainstream historians”. Thank God. If Oliver Stone had not found John Newman, he might never have known about Kennedy’s withdrawal plan. And if he had not depicted it in his film, the world might never have known about Johnson’s treachery. What is so impressive about what Newman and Stone did is that it influenced a whole fleet of modern historians who unearthed more about the withdrawal plan and other aspects of Kennedy’s reformist foreign policy (e.g. David Kaiser, Howard Jones, Robert Rakove, and Philip Muehlenbeck).

When one encounters a point of censorship this extreme, one is not practicing journalism. This is just plain hackery, performed to bamboozle the reader.


Addendum

There was an equally nutty article written a bit before Fordy’s fiasco. This was by rightwing talk radio shill Howie Carr. His column was printed on July 4th in The Boston Herald.

As everyone knows, as a result of the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis, a series of monuments and statues were torn down to reflect the public’s rage at the state of the race issue in America. Statues of historical figures like Columbus, Albert Pike, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E. Lee were defaced, toppled, or removed by government action. The vast majority of these were monuments to the Confederacy or their representatives. Most of the monuments were constructed during the Gilded Age. They accompanied the rise of Jim Crow in the south. And most all of them are located in the south. (Click here for details)

In other words, as many historians have written, they were constructed as a reminder to African Americans that, although the Confederacy had lost the war, they had won the peace. Which was true. The system that was allowed to spring up in the South—Jim Crow and tenant farming—was as close as the southern plantation owners could get to slavery after the Civil War amendments were passed.

As I, and many others, have written, this replacement system owed itself to the utter failure of Reconstruction. (Click here for details) The Republican Party controlled Reconstruction. The GOP had sprung up as an anti-slavery reaction, but generally their attitude toward the defeated Confederacy at the presidential level was grievously weak. Let us be plain:  The Confederate States of America had decided to split off from the USA and create its own nation, with its own government. Robert E. Lee made a conscious decision to stay loyal to the slave state of Virginia. Let us be plain again:  the war was about the slavery issue. The economy of the South, and its Power Elite, knew how valuable the peculiar institution was to them. The Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, had stated this in his famous Cornerstone Speech. He made that speech in March of 1861 in Savannah. He said “that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition,” to which the crowd applauded. He then went on to say that this was a scientifically proven fact. (Click here for details)

I could go on and on, but contrary to any kind of Lost Cause mythology, this is what the Civil War was about. That Ken Burns allowed the late Shelby Foote, a southern apologist if there ever was one, by far the most talking head time on his PBS series The Civil War was a disgrace. But it was this kind of cinematic blurring of history (e.g. Gone with the Wind), that has allowed—with few exceptions—the real horror of what the South was to escape both our media and our history books. The most remarkable example being the fact that Woodrow Wilson supplied the captions for D.W. Griffith’s smash hit cinema consecration of both the South and the Klan in Birth of a Nation.

In this author’s opinion, what should have happened after the Civil War was the following:

  1. The entire upper level of the Confederacy should have been arrested and placed on trial for treason and insurrection.
  2. The large plantations should have been divided up and given to the former slaves.
  3. An occupying army of at least 100,000 men should have been sent into the south and stayed there for 30–40 years.

These are not at all drastic, not considering what the Confederacy had done, which resulted in about 700,000 dead. (Click here for details) As it was, during Reconstruction, the Union never had more than 20,000 troops in the South. This is what allowed the former Confederate soldiers to organize the Klan, which then turned into the Redeemer Movement. When the Compromise of 1876 occurred, the last soldiers left the South. The Redeemers were in control. They won out, through terror and lynchings and other forms of intimidation and murder. If the three steps above had been taken, that would not have happened.

Carr is a leading rightwing author and talk radio host operating out of the New England area. Conservative talk has somehow convinced a vast stretch of Middle America and working-class America that their interests coincide with the Power Elite—the connecting point being the GOP. This is the same GOP that has practiced voter suppression to keep themselves in power by constricting the minority vote.

Howie’s column on the leveling of Confederate monuments pulled a neat trick. It managed not to mention one single Confederate. Not Lee. Not Jackson. Not Jeff Davis. Not Stephens. No Cornerstone Speech. I am not kidding. Don’t ask me how he did it, he did it. He also never mentioned Mr. Floyd. He also never mentioned all the demonstrations or the military deployed against the peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Park. (Click here for details)

But then what was Howie’s column about? Are you sitting down? Good. Howie said that in all this anger and fury at tearing down remnants of the past evils of American history, somebody forgot something: the Kennedys. Yep, this is how bad conservative talk radio has become. The first president and attorney general to take real action for the civil rights of African Americans should somehow be grouped with Robert E. Lee.

What does he base this upon? It’s the usual MSM, and rightwing BS bandied about by the likes of Sy Hersh—who he actually names in his article as a reference point.  Against all the recent scholarship in the field, he calls Kennedy a Cold Warrior and says he attempted to kill Fidel Castro, a deception I just dealt with.  He then repeats the Timothy Leary baloney about Mary Meyer giving JFK acid in the White House. This is more rubbish and I exposed it as such years ago. (The Assassinations, edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, pp. 341–42) In other words, Howie’s column is a litany of the conservative and politically motivated vendetta that is trotted out every time the reactionaries think: “Hey, things have gotten so bad that the public might be reminded of how much progress was made during the Kennedy presidency.” If you can believe it, Howie never mentions James Meredith at Ole Miss or Vivian Blaine at the University of Alabama. When Blaine was asked why she risked integrating that college with George Wallace and 900 state lawmen standing in her way, she said that she knew the Kennedys would protect her. Right after that event, JFK want on TV to deliver what many considered the greatest civil rights speech since Lincoln. Somehow Howie forgot that speech and the fact that Bobby Kennedy suggested his brother do it that night.

Sorry Howie, not buying your baloney. Most of us do remember. With sorrow and regret. (Click here for a video of that speech)

Last modified on Monday, 20 July 2020 23:13
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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