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Saturday, 06 June 2020 17:48

Stanley Marks and Murder Most Foul! — A Sequel to “The Kennedy / Dylan Sensation”

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Since Bob Dylan used the same title for his new song on the JFK assassination as the Stanley Marks’ 1967 book, Murder Most Foul!, Rob Couteau reviews this little known and hard to find book and surveys the life and work of its author.


Part I: A Murder Most Foul

In September 1967, Stanley Marks attempted to position himself at the forefront of a soon-to-be cresting wave of JFK assassination research when he released Murder Most Foul! This self-published paperback represents a full-frontal attack against the official story promulgated by the Warren Commission (WC) and its lackeys in the media, but it’s also much more than that.

Giving it a quick first glance, a contemporary reader might easily pass over the book. After more than sixty years of study and the release of millions of pages of government documents related to the assassination, a reexamination of the WC hardly seems necessary. Yet a more careful examination reveals that, in many ways, Marks was ahead of his time. While most of the Q&A’s comprising the first 136 pages of Murder Most Foul! serve to puncture holes in the Warren Commission Report and thus illustrate why it was a sham, there are also passages that go well beyond the usual framework of early WC critiques. Consider, for example, Q&A #46: “What is meant by ‘against the national interest’? The Warren Commission has never defined this undefinable phrase. However, after the publication of the Warren ‘Report,’ many commentators and historians interpret that phrase to mean that whenever a future president is murdered, his killers can escape capture and punishment if a future investigating committee decides their capture would be ‘against the national interest.’” Marks’ wry irony flourishes throughout, and this excerpt represents just one of many instances of the author’s trademark style of humor mixed with outrage, born from insight. And his reference to the “national interest” has been largely replaced by a term that we’ve seen with ever-increasing frequency over the last few decades: “National Security” with its concomitant erosion of civil rights; violation of human rights; and censoring of information that belongs in the hands of citizens.

Like other reputable texts on the assassination, MMF! did not arise sui generis. It’s likely that Marks was inspired to borrow his “juridical” approach from Mark Lane, whose first essay on the assassination took the form of an imaginary “legal brief” in defense of Lee Harvey Oswald. But Marks was also a stylistic innovator. Instead of a straight narrative that dissects events in the manner of a typical researcher, he shaped his investigation into a “question-and-answer book” composed of 975 queries and replies, most of them taking the form of quick, rapid fire, staccato bursts of ammunition, which hit their target with a no-nonsense precision. In a blunt statement of intention, in the Preface he says: “The contents of this book have been arranged in the manner of an attorney representing a client in a criminal court and in the manner that a district attorney would present his case against the alleged criminal” (the latter being the Warren Commission). This was a fitting role, since Marks was trained as an attorney. He boldly concludes: “It is the proposal of this book to reveal the attempts of the Warren Commission to befuddle, delude, and deceive the American people who sincerely desire the answer to the question, ‘Who murdered President John F. Kennedy?’”

Although the work of early researchers has been absorbed and superseded by that of subsequent authors, Marks still remains ahead of the curve when it comes to the larger picture that he paints at the conclusion of his book, which enters into a broader philosophical speculation regarding what will happen to the collective psyche of America as a result of the magic trick performed in Dealey Plaza in 1963. But first, Marks picks his way through the evidence and attempts to shock the reader into a new awareness—prosecutorial question by question—relieved only by a series of black comedic asides that remind one of the rants of a Mort Sahl or a Lenny Bruce; or that mimic the goofy stage whispers of a Groucho Marx. Perhaps he felt this was the only thing appropriate enough to level against an equally goofy “logic” exhibited by those seven wise men who formed the Commission. Therefore, he breathes fresh life into the manner in which we reassess the case. This is also reflected in the wry humor of his chapter headings. For example, chapter three: “Rifles, Rifles, Everywhere,” which refers to the different firearms that were first located in the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD), one of which would have served as a far more reliable weapon than the rusty Mannlicher-Carcano rifle supposedly owned by Oswald, which had undoubtedly been planted there. In Coup d’État! Three Murders that Changed the Course of History. President Kennedy, Reverend King, Senator R. F. Kennedy, a book Marks published in February 1970, he titles his second chapter: “The Fraudulent Autopsy, Or How to Lie in a Military Manner.” His humor is also displayed in chapter four of Coup d’État!, which bears the heading: “The Non-existing Paper Bag, Or How to Manufacture Evidence” (referring to a false claim that Oswald had slipped a rifle into a paper bag, then snuck it into work on the day of the assassination).

One of the most ironic statements to appear in the Warren Commission Report is: “In fairness to the alleged assassin and his family, the Commission … requested Walter E. Craig, president of the American Bar Association, to participate in the investigation and to advise the Commission whether in his opinion the proceedings conformed to the basic principles of American justice.” (My italics) This was reported in Esquire magazine in 1965 and is reproduced in other early assassination texts. In turn, Marks seizes upon the absurdity of the phrase and runs with it. In fact, an entire chapter of MMF is devoted to this topic: “The Commission & Basic Principles of American Justice!” There, Marks asks: “Did the Commission adhere to those principles?” Answer: “No. The Commission permitted outright hearsay; it permitted perjury.” He concludes: “How can the interpretation of the phrase: “Basic Principles of American Justice” be made in reference to the Commission? On both Moral and Legal plateaus, the Commission was a disgrace to ‘Basic Principles of American Justice.’”

In a recent post on the Education Forum, Jim DiEugenio remarks: “It’s one thing to attack the Warren Commission … but it’s another thing to try to explain what really happened.” This leads us to ask: did Marks go beyond a mere WC critique and enter into that more challenging arena of attempting to explain what actually happened (and why) on November 22? Bearing this in mind, I will highlight a few of the ways in which Marks does so in his unique manner, as well as place his work in the context of other books from the time. And unlike authors such as Sylvia Meagher or Harold Weisberg—who were unjustifiably critical of what District Attorney Garrison actually accomplished—Stanley not only appreciated Garrison’s efforts; he was also prescient in his analysis of how the Power Elite would attempt to foil the D.A.

In chapter seven, Marks issues a warning that even researchers today would be wise to heed: “How many ‘Hearings,’ ‘Witnesses,’ and Affidavits were produced? The FBI inundated the Commission with 25,000 reports; in fact, the FBI gave the Commission so many reports of its ‘investigations’ that the FBI created a ‘fog’ over the work of the Commission. It now seems to have been deliberate for, in a period of 9 months, no group of 14 lawyers could have read, digested, and analyzed each report to see what each report would have on an overall picture of the conspiracy.” Let’s put this “fog” into context by examining an interview published seven months after MMF first appeared, in the April 1968 NOLA Express.. Citing a source associated with the CIA, Mark Lane says that a number of false leads or “clues” were purposely left “scattered around Dealey Plaza like leaves on an autumn day.” The leaves led to “false sponsors” of the assassination. About a year later, in a May 1969 interview with a European publication, Jim Garrison spoke about the “distribution of an endless amount of irrelevant information to cause confusion in the minds of those who might attempt a serious inquiry.” In his first book about the assassination, A Heritage of Stone (1974), Garrison seems to be referencing Lane directly: “False sponsors are created by prior planning and by the planting of leads trailing away from the intelligence organization … At a more superficial level, an abundance of leads is planted by prior planning to provide a frame-up of the pre-selected scapegoat.”[1] And in the mid-Seventies, shortly before Gaeton Fonzi began his work as a researcher for the House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations, Fonzi was warned by Vince Salandria (a lawyer and an early WC critic) that they would attempt to bury him with such pointless minutia.

In chapter fourteen, Stanley takes CIA Director Dulles to task. He begins by quoting Dulles from an article that appeared in Look magazine in 1966: “If they found another assassin,” says Dulles, “let them name names and produce their evidence.” Marks replies: “This contemptuous statement directed at the American citizenry revealed the attitude of the Commission. The Commission did not praise the president; they gave him a funeral and used his shroud to conceal his murderers.” Taking a further dig at Dulles, Marks rhetorically asks: “Mr. Dulles, how can other assassins be named if material is NOT in the National Archives? Was there a conspiracy, Mr. Dulles? Of course there was!” At this point, the author offers a blunt appraisal of not only how the plot was covered up, but of why and how it happened: “The inception of the Conspiracy that murdered President Kennedy can be, and will be eventually, traced back to the disastrous ‘Bay of Pigs.’ The president relied upon the CIA, headed by Allen Dulles, whose information was one hundred percent wrong in the CIA’s assessment of Castro’s Cuba. Heads rolled but the CIA had many heads and the heads that remained never forgave President Kennedy […] Thus, in the wreckage of the ‘Bay of Pigs’ were parts and persons of the CIA apparatus who had directed that operation. The hatred of this apparatus for President Kennedy was to cease only when these forces fired four bullets into his body.”

That’s a pretty direct a view of what the author thinks really happened and one that goes beyond a superficial WC critique. Next, he introduces the subject of Kennedy’s foreign policy—according to Marks, the most probable reason he was killed: “With the relaxation of tensions between the U.S. and the USSR after President Kennedy’s confrontation with the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Batista—Cuban exile organization, with many members on the CIA payroll, decided that Kennedy must go.” Three years later, in A Heritage of Stone, Jim Garrison would extrapolate on this theme of JFK’s attempt to end the Cold War and how it may have led to his undoing. But Garrison was already drawing this connection a few years earlier, as can be seen by certain interviews he conducted, which we shall explore in a moment.

Although Marks couldn’t have known the full extent of the connection between various assassination attempts on De Gaulle and the Kennedy assassination, his instinct—coupled with his in-depth knowledge of European history—was already leading him in this direction: “As History has shown a conspiracy spreads rumors. The various assassination attempts upon President De Gaulle were always preceded by rumors and the French Agencies took care to track them down. Yet, in spite of this, De Gaulle narrowly escaped death when the attempted killers received word one hour before the attempt.” In fact, a figure linked to the numerous attempts on De Gaulle’s life was lurking in Fort Worth and Dallas at the same time that JFK visited those two cities during his final day on earth. As Henry Hurt explains in Reasonable Doubt (1987), a man claiming to be Jean Souètre, a French army deserter and member of the Organisation Armée Secrète (a right-wing French paramilitary group linked to attempts against De Gaulle) was apprehended by American officials in Dallas shortly after Kennedy’s murder and immediately expelled from the country.[2]

After ascending a scaffolding replete with such incongruous official “facts,” we then encounter a broader perspective. Chapter thirteen begins with four final Q&A’s. The first two sum up the principal thrust of the book: “What did the Warren Commission prove? That a Conspiracy murdered John F. Kennedy. What did the Commission believe? They believed that those who could read would not read; that those who could see would not see; that those who could talk would not talk; and those who would investigate would not investigate.” Marks then dispenses with his numbered Q&As and, for the next seventeen pages, shifts into straight narrative. The titles of these final chapters give the reader a no-hold-barred window into the author’s apoplectic indignation. For example, this one is fittingly dubbed: “The Rape of the American Conscience.” And he places the blame directly up on the Commissioners: “The members of the Commission did not achieve their status in the American social, economic, and political scale by being stupid; therefore one can only conclude that these seven had some understanding, whether spoken or implied, that this Nation of 195,000,000 souls would be torn asunder if the Commission reported to them that a Conspiracy had murdered President John F. Kennedy. Yet, these seven men place their honor upon a Report that would wilt in the noonday sun.” Thus, the Commissioners—who certainly weren’t “stupid” —must have assumed that the American people were. After quoting Harry S. Truman’s dictum, “The buck stops here,” Marks concludes: “That the Commission was negligent and slothful in its responsibility has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Murder Most Foul! title page

Marks raises a point that should be carefully considered, especially in light of what would follow over the next half century: “When … the critics are attacked on the basis of personality instead of the measure of their facts, then it is a sign that the criticism has been correctly established.” As we would later learn from a declassified CIA memo, it was the CIA itself that first floated the strategy of attacking WC critics as mere “conspiracy theorists.” The author then poses a chilling question: “To whom does the American public go to seek the truth?” The answer is even more horrifying: “It can now be said that the American people do not believe anything stated in the ‘Report.’ Due to this lack of belief, a cynicism has now gathered among the Citizenry that bodes ill for the Nation. A nation whose moral fiber has been torn and shattered cannot long live; for when the Nation’s spirit is destroyed, no Nation will live.” Stanley repeatedly emphasizes the fact that four principles enumerated in the Preamble to the Constitution—justice, domestic tranquility, promoting the general welfare, and securing liberty were blasphemously violated by the conspirators as well as the Commissioners (at least one of which—Allen Dulles—was one and the same). Therefore, the Commission’s message to the American people is that justice, domestic tranquility, promoting the general welfare, and securing liberty will now no longer be taken for granted. The author concludes: “People, in all nations, must stand for an ideal. The United States of America was not born on the idea that its President could be shot like a dog in the street and his murderers be ‘shielded from this day on’ because it would be ‘against the National Interests.’” This line clearly resembles one from Dylan’s own “Murder Most Foul” when he sings: “shot down like a dog in broad daylight.”

With the murder of an idealistic president comes the death of our own youthful idealism: “The Spirit has in this year of 1967 been replaced by cynicism of everything ‘American’ … The Youth … which a Nation must have to exist, had a feeling within them that the nation did not care for the future. There is no Spirit today. How can there be? A Congress that laughs at black children, brown children, white children being bitten by the rats of the slums? This is the Spirit of America? A Congress that passes a law which drafts only the poor, white or black?” Note how Stanley capitalizes both Nation and Youth, as if to highlight their equivalence and remind us that these are potentially sacred forces, crucial to society’s future well-being. Later on, he will also capitalize another term normally rendered in lower-case: Citizen.

The author includes several remarks that appear to be aimed directly at Ronald Reagan, a future president of the United States who was then governor of California (where Marks currently resided): “A Governor that destroys an educational system? A Governor who believes that only the youth who has parents with money should enter the Universities and Colleges of his state? A Governor that believes mental health can be cured with pills?” Such challenges remain with us now, not just in one state but across the entire nation: racial injustice; poverty; unequal educational opportunity; and mental illness problems that are addressed with government approved pill popping, which in various other publications Marks links directly to the stress caused by lack of economic opportunities and the widespread cynicism that engulfed America. At the same time, Agency-asset Timothy Leary encouraged young people to use streets drugs to “tune in, turn on, and drop out.” And he specifically instructed his acolytes to avoid politics: “The choice is between being rebellious and being religious. Don’t vote. Don’t politic. Don’t petition.”[3] For the Establishment, Woodstock was preferable to a half million protestors showing up at the National Mall. The result of all this was that by the late Sixties and early Seventies “sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll” became a new opiate of the masses. While South American youth were tortured and killed because of their political beliefs, North Americans were often “disappeared” on a purely psychological level, via drug abuse.

Marks would later make a direct reference to such matters in his study on monotheism, Jews, Judaism and the United States, where he warns: “Both the U.S. and the USSR have been using ‘mind-controlling’ drugs since 1970! However, various states have also been using such drugs to control “unruly” children (see S. J. Marks’ Through Distorted Mirrors, 1976).”[4] Thus, as early as the mid-1970s—decades before the widespread public indignation over the use of Ritalin to control schoolchildren—Marks was broaching the issue of the pharmaceutical industry’s abuse. (We’ll never know to what extent the market for psychotropic medication came as a result of a youth culture that had been encouraged to destroy their own psychic equilibrium with street drugs … as a true “Lost” Generation.) In the last book that Marks published, just three years before his death, he again took up this theme. If This be Treason (1996) is, in part, an exposé of the “Reagan-Bush administration’s involvement, through the CIA-Contra movement, in the distribution and sale of hard drugs to Afro and Latin American youths.” And although Marks doesn’t enter into the subject of LSD abuse in his early work, in Coup d’État! he employs the term as a metaphor to signify the illusions spun by the Warren Commission. Hence, Coup’s chapter five is titled: “LSD–Hallucinations and Charades.”

Very much in the spirit of Publilius Syrus (“The judge is condemned when the guilty is acquitted”), Marks concludes the penultimate chapter of MMF by addressing Allen Dulles; and, with a lovely touch, issues his own verdict against both Dulles and the Commission: “No, Mr. Dulles, it was not the responsibility of the American Citizen to find and name the assassins; that was your task. Your lack of responsibility to the task is the cause for your failure. You issued the “Report” under your name; you had at your disposal the entire operating machinery of the Government of the United States. We citizens have only what you and your fellow commissioners wrote. We read, we looked, we analyzed, we thought; and we, nearly 70% of us, now deliver a verdict on your work: The Warren Commission was a failure.”

The Postscript of MMF is graced by the title: “Jim Garrison, ‘St. George’ Versus the ‘Dragon’!” Unlike other researchers who were snookered by the mainstream media’s drumbeat assault upon Garrison (one that we now know was orchestrated by the CIA), Marks realized that Garrison, as St. George, was up against a State-sponsored dragon. The author begins with this statement: “By the time this book appears in print, the Kennedy Conspiracy may claim another victim; none other than Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans, whose ‘lance of truth’ has pierced vital organs of the Conspiracy That Murdered President Kennedy.” Was Marks correct? Yes, if we consider “character assassination.” On the final page of MMF, Marks makes a prediction that, sadly, comes to pass: “As the day for the [Clay Shaw] trial approaches, the greater the use of the media for the perpetration of the lie increases. If the forces behind the Conspiracy cannot destroy Mr. Garrison’s case, they may decide to destroy the man, either physically or by reputation.” Indeed, this proved to be the case: the powers-that-be went after Garrison’s reputation and attempted to sully it. As Gaeton Fonzi discusses in The Last Investigation, the Agency had long since perfected its craft of sullying and destroying the reputation of world leaders who refused to tow the line; and such black arts were applied even in the early 1950s. Character assassination would also prove to be a second, posthumous conspiracy launched against JFK. Regarding the media’s obsequious role in all this, Marks adds: “Various members of the mass communication media bribed witnesses, hid witnesses, issued fraudulent interviews … [and] produced nation-wide television programs which upheld the findings of the Warren Commission. How incredible! Why? The answer to ‘why’ can be found in the fact that many of the inactive and active participants of the Conspiracy will be found in the ranks of the government and the economic strata of our Nation.” Marks now introduces the crucial subject of the ruling economic elite, which exists one level above the CIA. This concept was rarely broached by assassination researchers until Fletcher Prouty published The Secret Team (1972). In a Preface to the second edition, Prouty says the Agency’s real task is to serve as a “willing tool of a higher level Secret Team … that usually includes … certain cells of the business and professional world.” This line of thought was further probed by Donald Gibson, who notes that the finger-pointing cannot stop at the level represented by the CIA or military intelligence, because above and beyond this there lurks an economic Power Elite (as it was dubbed by C. Wright Mills in a book by that same title, published in 1956).

Such concepts would certainly not have been alien to Marks. In his 1971 attack on the Nixon administration, Watch What We Do, Not What We Say! he includes a chapter titled “The Establishment” in which he sums it up nicely: “It can be said that not more than 8,000 persons … comprise the Establishment. They control every major decision, foreign and domestic, made in the nation. It is not a ‘conspiracy’ but a ‘meeting of the minds.’ They sincerely believe that ‘what is good for them is good for the country.’” “At the foreign policy level, the ‘Establishment’ works through the following four agencies: (1) the Council of Foreign Affairs; (2) the Committee for Economic Development; (3) The National Security Council; and (4) the CIA.” Much of the rest of this chapter is comprised of lists of other organizations, foundations, and corporations funded by Establishment forces and tasked with “the movement of policy directed by the Establishment.”[5] All this has a direct bearing on Dulles, who worked as a partner on the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell (along with his brother, John Foster Dulles), a firm that represented leading multinational corporations and interests such as those of the oligarchic Rockefellers. As a principal law partner there, Dulles was positioned at the apex of a visible pyramid of power. But above this first structure one can also imagine a second, inverted pyramid: one far less visible and inhabited by those éminence grises discussed here.[6] The Dulles brothers served as interlocutors between these two structures, via institutions such as Sullivan and Cromwell.

To jump ahead for a moment: although Marks was not familiar with the name “Operation Gladio” (which remained secret until 1990), he was aware of Clay Shaw’s involvement with the Centro Mondiale Commerciale (CMC) and with Permindex, organizations that both appear to have served as funding mechanisms in a global war on the left. In Coup d’État!, Marks discusses the connection between CMC and Permindex and the assassination attempts on De Gaulle. Therefore, by raising the issue of De Gaulle, Marks places Kennedy’s death into a broader perspective: the worldwide war on the left, sanctioned and manipulated by an economic elite. Marks was also aware of the CIA’s chicanery south of the border. Shortly after Chile’s Salvador Allende became the first Marxist president in Latin America (assuming office on November 30, 1970), Stanley published his critical attack on the Nixon presidency, Watch What We Do, Not What We Say! During a discussion on the dangers of the Agency, almost as an aside, he accurately predicts what will happen next in Chile; and he does so by tying the fate of that nation to Vietnam: “After the extermination of the Indo-Chinese nations as nations, the CIA will then proceed to ‘exterminate’ another nation–Chile. The Establishment’s propaganda is already being published with the same old trite and dreary slogans: ‘The Chileans pose a threat to our security.’ A nation that is more than 5,000 miles away from the territorial mainland of the United States, with no navy, army, or air force that cannot even drop leaflets on our mainland! Thus, with the CIA ‘protecting’ the people from ‘invasions’ and the FBI maintaining its ever-vigilant status over the ‘dissenters,’ the people calmly lockstep their way into a prison of their own making.”[7] Two years after this was published, on September 11, 1973 the Agency organized and staged the coup that would overthrow the democratically elected government of Allende and usher in a murderous right-wing dictator, General Pinochet, who dissolved all remnants of democracy and replaced them with a junta that ruled by fear, torture, and the “disappearance” of those who had the courage to resist. Stanley saw it coming, because his in-depth historical research had trained him to recognize broader historical patterns. On the penultimate page of MMF, Marks condenses everything discussed here regarding the economic forces behind the media’s manipulation into a remark: “To whom does the mass communication system owe its loyalty? To the people who have fought, are fighting, and will continue to fight for the ideas of the ‘freedom of the press’; or to its advertisers?”

In conclusion, Marks invokes a fellow lawyer and philosopher who served as the third American president and whose words Marks uses to plead his case. “Thomas Jefferson once said that the most important factor in a democracy is a free press; he did not say a ‘privileged’ press. The hideous activity of NBC, CBS, ABC, and other organs of the mass communication media can lead to a conclusion that certain members of that media know that President Kennedy was murdered by Conspirators and the Conspiracy must never be allowed to face the light of day.” Stanley ends on a note that continues to resonate, because what he calls the “light of day” has yet to emerge—for reasons we know all too well. We are still facing the same challenge.

In his second book about the assassination, Two Days of Infamy: November 22, 1963; September 28, 1964 (published in March 1969), Marks would briefly expand on these themes. “The citizens,” he says, are “living in a dream world concocted by the mass communications systems” which has convinced them that such a “secret could not be kept” despite the fact that the public usually remains in the dark unless the actual conspirators are apprehended. Although we may not be able to “name the assassins, “A Conspiracy has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But what was the purpose of the Conspiracy?”[8] Twenty-five years after he published MMF, Stanley would tie the strands of economics and media together in a single statement in his final book about the assassination, Yes, Americans, A Conspiracy Murdered JFK! (1992): “Many persons cannot understand the reason why the powerful newspapers and … television and radio chains have kept a constant drumbeat against the critics of the Warren Commission. The reason is quite simple–when the president was murdered the Power Structure shifted both economically and politically.”[9]

Part II: Footprints of the Bear: A Brief Biographical Sketch

One of the only clues I possessed about the identity of Stanley Marks was printed on the back cover of MMF: a note saying that he’d previously authored a book called The Bear that Walks Like a Man. A Diplomatic and Military Analysis of Soviet Russia. Once I ordered a copy, I discovered another clue on the acknowledgments page: a note to “my wife, Ethel, and my daughter, Roberta, for their encouragement and inspiration.” With this information, I was able to locate a record of Stanley in a 1940 Federal Census, where our biographical tale begins. Not long afterward, I successfully tracked down Stanley’s daughter, Roberta, who kindly provided enough information to fill in the gaps that, until then, had remained a mystery.

According to the census, Marks was born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1914, just three years before the birth of JFK. When he was four years old, his parents died from the 1918 influenza pandemic that infected a third of the world’s population. The names of his biological parents are not known. According to Roberta, after their death, Stanley was placed in the care his foster parents, Sarah and Samuel Markowitz, from whom he took his surname, later changing it to “Marks.” One of the few things Roberta knows about her father’s upbringing is that Stanley often said “he never had enough food. When you see pictures of him as a youth, he was bone-thin.” One is tempted to surmise that his privations and experience with hunger on Chicago’s hardscrabble streets may have helped to open his eyes to a certain political awareness—or at least, helped to mold him into a lifelong FDR New Dealer.

Shortly after his twenty-second birthday, Stanley married Ethel Milgrom, a nineteen-year-old Chicago native. Ethel would later “co-author” several of his books, although primarily she served as his editor, helping to polish Stanley’s sometimes awkward, strident prose.[10] After attending the University of Illinois in 1937, he graduated from the affiliated John Marshall Law School, which is still Chicago’s only public law school. Thanks to a yearbook posted on Ancestry, we have two professionally composed photos of Stanley. One is a traditional portrait, which captures a bespectacled young man bearing a bright-eyed, notably intellectual look. The other features full-length figures of eight young men and two young women in the midst of a debate, broadcast by a Chicago radio station. Stanley is positioned before an old-fashioned stand-up mic, dressed in a smartly tailored suit.

Marks graduated during a precarious moment in history; and perhaps this explains why a law school graduate was working as a salesman. The Great Depression was still in progress and would continue its devastation for another couple of years, until America’s entry into WWII, when the defense industry kicked into place. In March 1933, at the peak of the Depression, fifteen and a half million were unemployed–over a quarter of the work force. It was a time of raging debate about capitalism versus alternate political systems. As John Kenneth Galbraith later remarked in a paper on U.S.–Soviet relations, “The Great Depression, when it came, suggested an intractable weakness in capitalism.”[11] Galbraith adds that a fear of its collapse may have served to energize those more dictatorial, right-wing elements that believed the only way to prop it up was to curtail civil rights. But in order to preserve the system, FDR made accommodations to the left rather than take a dictatorial turn to the right. In the midst of this whirligig of change, Stanley’s political allegiances were cast.  

Yearbook photo, 1937. SJM third from left.

Stanley and his wife were sharing a household with Ethel’s father, Joe Milgrom, who had immigrated to the U.S. from Poland in 1913; and Ethel’s mother, Eva Wolovoy, who arrived from Russia that same year. What the census doesn’t mention is that, by 1939, Stanley had begun research on what would eventually become a 340-page book about Soviet Russia; so one cannot help but wonder how his views may have been enriched by conversations with Ethel’s mother, a native of Kiev. One of the remarkable things about this accomplishment is that he put the finishing touches on this tome while employed at a wholesale company that manufactured billboards. This fact is noted in The Billboard, the well-known music industry magazine. Its March 13, 1943 edition features a piece that contains some crucial biographical data:

Salesman Author Making Plans for Second Book Soon

Stanley J. Marks, sales representative of Gardner & Company here, is the author of a book that has received creditable mention by reviewers. The Gardner firm manufactures sales boards.

The title of the book is The Bear That Walks Like a Man and is published by Dorrance & Company, Philadelphia. Marks says he spent four years in research and study of the foreign policy of Soviet Russia as a preparation for writing the book, which deals with the strength of the Red Army, its organization, tactics, and strategy. Marks is also known as an aviator and commentator on foreign and national affairs.

Among those who have recently reviewed the book are Sterling North, of the Chicago Daily News, A. C. Spectorsky, of the Chicago Sun, and the book reviewers of the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Times.

The publishers report that present sales are encouraging.

Marks is working on a second book which deals with military science as practiced by the United States Army.

According to the Bear’s inside dust jacket, “the author discusses the tragedies that have resulted from the policy of isolating Russia from normal intercourse with the rest of the world.” Bringing a Russian “Bear” into a normalized channel of communication—and no longer insisting upon its isolation—would prove to be one of the most important efforts made by President Kennedy. Soviet Premier Khrushchev even spelled it out for JFK in a telegram delivered October 26, 1962 in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Khrushchev bluntly stated: “Let us normalize relations.” In his book, Marks issues a clear warning against isolationism: “There has been a growing tendency among the Anglo-Saxon nations to treat the Soviet and Chinese people as poor relations.”[12]

What led this intelligent, well-adapted member of society—a lawyer, to boot—to fall prey to the allure of JFK assassination research? Was it the same unwavering belief in justice that compelled so many others to step into a void that should have been filled by some earnest, government sponsored mission? If we can judge anything from the idealism that drives the narrative of the Bear, a good guess might be an unmitigated passion for truth, and a steadfast belief in the value of its importance. However, there may have been additional factors at play; for, as we shall see, Stanley was himself victimized by the government’s encroachment on the civil rights of its citizens. And the event that triggered this was the publication of his first book.

The Bear was copyrighted in 1943, a couple of months before the author’s twenty-ninth birthday. Shortly afterward, copies were circulated among journalists in the mainstream press. One of the first reviews it received appeared in the February 28, 1943 edition of the Democrat and Chronicle Sunday Magazine (Rochester, NY). It’s a glowing and lengthy treatment, featured prominently between a review of an H. L. Menken’s memoir and a review of William Saroyan’s latest novel. But Stanley receives more column space than either of these celebrated authors. Titled “A Forceful Espousal of Russia’s Cause,” it opens: “With a partisan enthusiasm which first affronts and then convinces his reader, Stanley J. Marks uses his diplomatic and military analysis of Soviet Russia … to show that had the Western democracies not isolated the USSR there needn’t have been a world alliance of heavily armed forces to chase Hitler and Tojo back to their lairs.” In a telling summation that foreshadows why Stanley would soon get into trouble, the reviewer adds: “In no less fulsome manner does Marks praise everything Russian, its strategy, its fighting qualities, its armed forces, its economic power, and above all its diplomacy, which at all times protected Russia against the ‘inevitable’ day when Hitler threw the might of his triumphing army against the Soviet’s strength.”

One month later, on March 28, the Chicago Tribune featured a major review by the highly accomplished Harvard graduate John Cudahy, a World War I veteran who served in the American Infantry against the Bolsheviks in Russian’s Civil War. He later authored a book critical of U.S. involvement in Russia: Archangel–the American war with Russia. Cudahy’s credentials were impressive; he served under FDR as ambassador to Poland, Ireland, and Belgium; and as minister to Luxembourg. By 1941, Cudahy had published five other books. That same year, Life magazine commissioned him to interview Hitler. Although Cudahy’s review is mainly a summary of the book, he adds: “It is a detailed recitation of Soviet past grievances against the Democratic Powers–all the more painful for being irrefutably true.” Gaining the attention of a reviewer of Cudahy’s status in a major newspaper was no small accomplishment.

The following week, the Hartford Courant published an essay titled “New Facts about Russia.” The reviewer opens by stating: “Stanley J. Marks’ leaning toward communistic philosophy is apparent” (a remark that, in itself, would have been enough to bring Stanley to the attention of the FBI), but then adds, “but this in no way detracts from the value of the book. His diplomatic and military analysis of Soviet Russia may not tell the whole truth, but then the whole truth is impossible at this stage of the game, and he does acquaint the reader with a great deal of fact with which the American public is unacquainted.” Thus, despite certain caveats, the author continued to be received favorably. I was able to trace notices, reviews, or full-scale essays in over twenty mainstream papers and one journal. The only negative piece appeared in the form of a one-line dismissal in the predictably conservative Foreign Affairs journal, which merely states: “An only moderately successful summary of recent diplomatic history and an analysis of the Soviet’s military strength.” Yet, even here, the reviewer felt compelled to include the adjective “successful.” A first-time author could not have asked for a better reception for his thankless labor. Even the professional journal of the U.S. Army, The Command and General Staff School Military Review (April 1943), notes that Stanley’s book had been added to their library. What made Stanley’s accomplishment all the more noteworthy is that his publisher, Dorrance, was a vanity press. And, even more exceptional, his contract with Dorrance indicates that it was the publisher, and not the author, who footed the printing bill. When I recently contacted an executive at Dorrance and explained the terms of the contract, his reaction of surprise confirmed for me that this arrangement was highly unusual.

Perhaps as a result of such success, Stanley decided to leave his job as a sales rep and instead pursue a teaching career at the Abraham Lincoln School, which opened in Chicago in the spring of 1943. The venue was a perfect fit for a man of his beliefs. It was founded by William Patterson, an African American civil rights activist, who sought to establish a “nonpartisan school for workers, writers, and their sympathizers” that would assist African Americans who were migrating from the South, to work in Chicago’s factories.[13] Artists and writers such as Rockwell Kent, Howard Fast, and Paul Robeson lent their support; and Chicago-based authors such as Nelson Algren and Richard Wright were invited to lecture there. As we shall see, all this would lead to the kind of attention that was guaranteed to drive another nail into the author’s vocational coffin.

Marks also became engaged in a brief career as a reviewer and essayist for the Chicago Defender, a widely celebrated African American newspaper. Politically speaking, the Defender was another perfect fit. Founded in 1905 by a young African American named Robert Abbott, the Defender gradually rose in prominence to become one of the most important periodicals for African Americans in America, and it would play a vital role in the Civil Rights Movement. During the Second World War, the editors of the Defender and other Black press leaders promoted the “Double V Campaign”: a proposed “Dual Victory” over both foreign and domestic “enemies” who remained opposed to racial equality and justice for all. Double V baseball games, “victory gardens,” and dances were organized by African American communities; and Double V clubs staged protests, met with Congressmen, and pressured businesses to halt discriminatory hiring practices. As a result, J. Edgar Hoover—who considered such acts to be “treasonous”—almost convinced Roosevelt to allow him to prosecute Black press leaders under the Sedition Act.

The Defender articles give us a direct glimpse into both the author’s philosophy as well as the larger issues that engulfed the nation in the early Forties. For example, in a review published on May 8, 1943, Stanley begins with a fiery summation of two titles, Germany’s Master Plan by Borkin and Welsh; and The Coming Showdown by C. Dreher: “A detailed picture of the methods by which various business and industrial interests in this country either sold out for were ‘duped’ by the Axis cartel system into slowing down U.S. war production is given in these two volumes.” He also discusses topics such as “how American business was tied hand and foot to I. G. Farben” With his banking ties to Nazi and Fascist business interests, Allen Dulles would not have been thrilled to read about this. As David Talbot discusses in his Dulles biography, The Devil’s Chessboard, “the Dulles brothers had helped launder Nazi funds during the war,” and Allen’s wartime position as Swiss Director of the OSS helped him to do so.[14] Nor would Senator Prescott Bush care to be reminded of such embarrassing contretemps. As the Guardian newspaper reported decades later, the father of President H. W. Bush was a “director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany”; and “his company’s assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act.”   

Two years later, on April 15, 1945, a notice appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, sourced from an AP dispatch. Under the heading “Army Writer at Camp Hood,” we read: “Pvt. Stanley J. Marks, author of ‘The Bear That Walks Like a Man’ and a 750-page ‘History of the U.S. Army and Military Science,’ is in training at the Tank Destroyer Replacement Training Center, Camp Hood.” By now, it’s clear that Stanley’s research on this history text was being commissioned by the Army, since another article states that the War Department has given its permission for the book to be published after the war. Similar articles appeared on this same day in several other Texan papers, such as the Kilgore News Herald (“Colonels Don’t Tell This Private Much,” the implication being that Stanley knows more about military-science history than his superiors); Victoria Advocate (“Army Private is Army Authority”); and the Taylor Daily Press (“This Rookie ‘Knows it All’”). Four days later, the Llano News in Llano, Texas, featured an in-depth piece on Marks: “Camp Hood Man Authority on Military Tactics.” Besides mentioning his new 750-page tome, it adds that while Stanley was researching his book on Russia he received assistance from none other than Secretary of State Cordell Hull, who gave Stanley direct access to State Department files. Hull was the longest-serving Secretary of State in U.S. history, under FDR. Seven months after this article appeared, Hull received a Nobel for his central role in establishing the UN. Roosevelt even called Hull “The Father of the United Nations.” The Llano article also provides one of the best extant sources of data on Marks’ professional life:

The Tank Destroyer Replacement Training Center is now training one new soldier who has a distinct advantage over fellow-trainees during classes in Army history, tactics, and administration.

He is Pvt. Stanley J. Marks, 31-year-old-Chicagoan and also author of the best-selling “The Bear That Walks Like a Man” and a 750-page “History of the U.S. Army and Military Science.”

Marks spent three years putting together his “Bear,” a book about the diplomatic and military career of Soviet Russia, gathering much of his material from the files of the State Department, opened to him by Secretary Hull, and the vast military library of the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Reprints of the book are still selling three years after publication and a chapter on the Red Army was reprinted by a national digest.

His history of the Army has been published in part and the War Department has given permission to print it as a whole after the war. The book includes chapters on the military arms and tactics of other nations as well as the United States, and sections on sea power, logistics, and military administration. It took two years to write.

Marks attended the University of Chicago, was graduated from the University of Illinois, and also John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

His varied career has included service as personnel manager for a Chicago company employing 800 persons, teaching military science at the Abraham Lincoln School in Chicago, writing for the Chicago Sun and Daily News, and serving occasionally as a commentator for the Columbia Broadcasting System. His hobbies include piloting his own plane and reading from a library of 5,000 volumes, on mainly military and political subjects, that he has accumulated.

For a time he worked for an aircraft company, writing technical manuals illustrated with “explosion” drawings of famous warplanes and cargo aircraft. The manuals are used by the Army and Navy in the field. He thinks there will be great opportunity for writers in this field after the war. During the last three national political campaigns, Marks was on the Democratic National Committee, engaged in writing publicity.[15]

After all this glowing media attention, the author seems to vanish from public view from 1945 to 1966. I began to wonder if he’d been blacklisted; for this period overlaps with the witch hunts of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the Forties, as well as the subsequent plague known as McCarthyism in the Fifties (1950-54). When I shared my suspicion with my colleague Jim Lampos, a local historian who’s conducted extensive research on post-WWII politics, he found the answer in less than a minute: “Stanley’s name turns up in a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing in 1944, and it cites his book on Russia.”[16] A search at Internet Archive unearthed a document titled Investigation of Un-American Propaganda Activities in the United States (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1944) in which Marks’ name appears on three separate pages.[17] His “crimes” include working as an instructor at the progressive Abraham Lincoln School; composing “articles for labor papers”; and “having written favorably about the Soviet Union.” The HUAC report even includes an entire chapter on the Abraham Lincoln School (pp. 292-309), and it notes that the school “makes a special effort to cater to members of trade unions.”

HUAC’s investigation was neatly prepared by an obliging exposé published on October 12, 1943 in the Chicago Tribune. Under a glaring banner, “Red Teachers on Faculty of Lincoln School,” a reporter breathlessly intones that the school “represents one of the most ambitious attempts yet made by the internationalists allied with advocates of communism to train a large corps of expert propagandists to further their attacks against the American republic.” A subsequent search for material on the Lincoln Brigades yielded a 1948 publication prepared by the California State Legislature: the Fourth Report of the Senate Fact-Finding Committee On Un-American Activities, in which Stanley’s name again appears, in a section titled “Communist Front Organizations.” Under the subsection “Abraham Lincoln School,” we read: “This Communist institution was established in the early part of 1943.”[18] (The same 1948 report that blacklisted Stanley includes nine pages on author Dalton Trumbo’s “Communist” record. (Author of Johnny Got His Gun, Trumbo was one of the “Hollywood Ten” who refused to testify before HUAC.) During this period, Ronald Reagan, then president of the Screen Actors Guild, was secretly cooperating with the FBI as an informant, handing over names of fellow actors whom he deemed to be “Communist sympathizers.” By then, HUAC’s Hollywood hearings were in full swing and getting plenty of press coverage. As Marilyn Monroe’s husband, the playwright Arthur Miller, remarked, what better way to get news coverage than to talk about “Commie” movie-star celebrities? Two years later, on September 2, 1950, an article linking Stanley’s school to the Red Scare appeared in Billboard, the very magazine that had once given his Bear such a boost. In an article titled, “Subversive Groups–Duck ‘Em,” it features a list of “Communist” organizations. At the very top of the list, we read: “Abraham Lincoln School, Chicago.” By this time, the Bureau had opened files on the school and its members. The National Security Agency (NSA) also had an eye on the school. In a June 3, 1953 memorandum, “Affiliation or Association with Organizations Having Interests in Conflict with Those of the United States,” the Abraham Lincoln School is sandwiched between a listing of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the Action Committee to Free Spain Now.

This same Billboard features an article about how Brigadier General David Sarnoff positioned had himself at the head of a frontline attack against those dirty, filthy Commies (“U.S. Media Can Lick Red Lie”). How nimbly–and predictably–the actors assume their proper role on stage! In 1929, Sarnoff became president of RCA, which later became the “technological base of the National Security Agency (NSA).”[19] He also organized NBC, in 1926. A good friend of Allen Dulles (as this cozy Cold Warrior correspondence demonstrates so well),[20] he frequently served as a CIA tool. David and his brother Robert (the latter was NBC’s longest serving president) stood at the forefront of media attacks against Jim Garrison.

In any case, by the mid-Forties Marks’ final footprints appear all the more ominous because, suddenly, he disappears from view. The political tide was changing, and the blacklistings of HUAC would eventually morph into McCarthyism. Thus, Stanley’s life mirrors in microcosm what was happening all across a broader political spectrum. He was caught in a vise between an old liberal FDR guard and an increasingly powerful right-wing, the latter embodied by the likes of the Dulles brothers; Hoover; the whole Eisenhower / Nixon clique; and the burgeoning force of a clandestine intelligence community. Although he was blacklisted by such overly zealous forces in 1944, he may have simultaneously been benefitting from his contacts within the Democratic Party throughout 1945, when his status in the military may have seemed secure. After all, how many Army privates have any contact with figures such as Secretary Hull? And how many receive the sort of media attention that Stanley garnered—despite being slandered by HUAC?

The House Un-American Activities Committee was originally founded in 1938 and continued its uniquely un-American existence until 1969, at which point it became known as the House Committee on Internal Security. By the early Sixties, however, the effects of the blacklist were beginning to wane. One incident that played a significant part in this sea change occurred in December 1960, when a newly elected President Kennedy crossed an American Legion picket line to view the film Spartacus. The movie featured a screenplay by Trumbo and is based on an eponymously titled novel by Howard Fast, another blacklisted author. (As a result of being blacklisted, Fast was forced to self-publish Spartacus, which underwent seven printings and sold 48,000 copies before being reissued by a major publisher.) According to social activist Danny Goldberg, author of In Search of the Lost Chord, “The new president effectively ended the blacklist that had excluded hundreds of left-wing writers, actors, and directors from working in Hollywood films and network television, thereby creating the space for a more rebellious and diverse mass audience.”[21]

After Marks was given the honor of being labeled “un-American,” the trail grows thin and peters out. We know that he served under General MacArthur only because he makes note of it on several of his later book covers. One says he was stationed in the Armed Forces, “SoWesPac T.O. under General MacArthur.” SoWesPac refers to the South West Pacific theatre, a principal battleground after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. “T.O.” stands for the Territories of Papua and New Guinea. MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander, South West Pacific Area, in 1942 (the Territories comprised one of the seven principal regions of SoWesPac). Since the Fort-Worth article from April 1945 is very detailed and includes all sorts of biographical data but says nothing about the author serving under MacArthur, it’s probable that he arrived in the Pacific after April. And according to the back cover his If This be Treason, he was “honorably discharged in 1946.” Some of these questions were answered when I finally received my first call from Roberta. She did recall Stanley speaking on several occasions about MacArthur and she verified that, while he was in the service, he’d been stationed in the Philippines. “He used to joke … because I don’t think he saw any actual warfare there. Instead, they put him in the publicity office. He wrote and edited a staff newspaper.” The day after we spoke, Roberta forwarded an artist’s sketch of Stanley that was originally composed in the Philippines, dated 1945.

Shortly before her twenty-first birthday, in 1963 Roberta moved to LA. Her father visited during a business trip just a couple of weeks after the president’s assassination. Roberta recalls his reaction: “He was very depressed. We were all depressed. It was such a traumatic time. There was an overall heaviness and gloom. Everyone was heartbroken; it was devastating. And anyone who was a normal person would be depressed. Like most people, my father felt the election of Kennedy was like a breath of fresh air. Someone younger, to move the country forward. My impression is that he was totally enchanted by JFK.”

Artist’s sketch of Stanley J. Marks, Philippines, 1945.

Once Roberta’s parent’s realized that their only child wasn’t returning home, they decided to join her. In December 1964, Ethel briefly remained in Chicago to tie up loose ends while Stanley flew to LA. He resurfaced in the public arena when his first ad for Murder Most Foul! appeared in a December 1, 1967 edition of the Los Angeles Free Press: an underground paper that was affectionately referred to as the “Freep.” Although he would never again receive the kind of high-profile accolades sparked by his first book, the publication of MMF did not go unnoticed. Ever aware of the need for publicity, the inside cover features reviewers’ blurbs from ten different periodicals. The following year, on January 12, 1968, The Berkeley Barb (another widely read “hippie” paper, known for its combination of psychedelia and radical politics), featured a half-page review. In the spirit of the times, the reviewer uses the term “mind-blowing”; compares MMF to William Manchester’s Death of a President (referring to the latter text as an “epic rationalization that Oswald killed Kennedy”); and ends with a suggestion: “read Marks’ book and toss and turn the rest of the night.” Hoping to kick-start MMF, Stanley placed ads in three subsequent editions of the Freep, all the way into February 1968. One is tempted to speculate that Dylan or one of his associates may have become aware of MMF as a result of scanning through such popular countercultural papers.

In March 1969 (about a year after the assassination of Dr. King, and fifteen months after the murder of Bobby Kennedy), Stanley published Two Days of Infamy: November 22, 1963; September 28, 1964, the latter “date of infamy” being the day the WC released its report. In this text, he was already using the term “conspirators” when referring to the assassins of these leaders. And he adds: “History has proven that once assassination has become the weapon to change the government, that style and form of government preceding the assassination falls beneath the hard-nailed boots of the assassins […] The tragedy of the Warren Commission is that they helped set those boots on the Road to the Destruction of American Democracy.[22] This represents relatively early point in time reach such a conclusion. One of the ways he arrived at this was to do precisely what Jim Garrison always recommended: study the reoccurring patterns. In February 1970, he published Coup d’État!, his third assassination-related title. That same month, the Freep hosted an article titled: “Assassination Story Slowly Disintegrates,” which is based largely on Stanley’s latest book. The story focuses on how Dallas Police Chief Curry, who had publically supported the WC, was now admitting that he’d given a press conference shortly after the assassination during which he’d stated that no fingerprints or palm prints of Oswald had ever been found, and that there weren’t any witnesses who could place Oswald “at the same sixth-floor window prior, during, or after the president’s murder.” The article claims that Curry was now admitting all this because “Curry had obtained information that his testimony given under oath before the Warren Commission in 1964 was to be published in a forthcoming book, Coup d’État! written by Stanley J. Marks.” As if providing a hermetic foreshadowing of the Dylan / Marks connection that will emerge decades later, an ad for D.A. Pennebaker’s Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back is displayed right below the article’s closing paragraph.

And as early as 1970, Marks was already discussing Kennedy’s foreign policy in places other than Vietnam, Cuba, or the USSR. In the second paragraph of Coup d’État!, he writes: “The reasons for his murder can be traced to his conduct of his internal and external program. His ideas for a Test Ban on the use of Atomic Weapons, his groping and initial steps toward Red China, his attempt to secure a détente with the Soviet Union, and even his slight seemingly step to bring some small normalization between Cuba and the United States met with tremendous opposition. Opposition came not from the great majority of the people but from the military, economic, and fascist groups.” How many researchers in 1970 even thought about Kennedy’s China policy? A bright light was later shone on this topic by an adviser to President Kennedy, Roger Hilsman, who had served in the OSS as a guerrilla leader in the Pacific theatre. In a 1983 interview, Hilsman said that, as far back as 1961, JFK had informed him that he wanted to move toward a diplomatic recognition of Red China.

Part III: The Usurpation of Humanism by Terrorism

In June 1968, during the closing moments of the California Democratic Primary and shortly before Robert Kennedy was slain in the Ambassador Hotel, Mark Lane was being interviewed by a TV station in Washington. When asked why RFK had not spoken out against the findings of the Warren Commission, Lane claimed that Senator Kennedy had sent several of his “emissaries” to discreetly meet with Jim Garrison. He added that when Garrison asked them why Kennedy wasn’t publically speaking out against the Warren Commission Report, “Each emissary answered with the same phrase: He [Robert Kennedy] knows that there are guns between him and the White House.”

I recently discovered an even more startling interview conducted with Jim Garrison by Art Kevin of WHJ radio, in Los Angeles. It appears to be preserved in only two places: the first document I chanced upon was a July 3, 1968 edition of the Great Speckled Bird, an underground paper from Atlanta, which features an abridged version of Garrison’s remarks. A subsequent search unearthed what appears to an unabridged transcript published in a Liberation News Service dispatch on June 25, 1968, under the heading: “Garrison says any leader who speaks out effectively against the war will be assassinated.” And Garrison affirms the statement attributed to him a few days before by Mark Lane:

Kevin begins by asking, “Is that a true statement by Mark Lane?” Garrison replies: “Yes. That’s essentially true; the only thing is, I would use different words in a few senses. For example, ‘emissaries.’ We had mutual friends that came down to visit from time to time, and, as a result, I finally came to understand Senator Kennedy’s silence. He was silent, it became apparent, because he realized the power that lay behind the forces that killed his brother.” Garrison adds that these mutual friends had visited separately, not together. “One of them did … when I brought up the question of [Kennedy’s] continued silence, point it out that [there] were these forces still active in America, the same forces that killed his brother—that Bobby Kennedy, as he put it—was very much aware that there were many guns between him and the White House. And the way he put it, I think it was Bobby Kennedy’s quotation—from him.” Then Garrison goes a big step further. What follows may represent the first time that the district attorney publically proposed a link between the murders of JFK, MLK, and RFK, when he says that Senator Kennedy “knew of this force in America which is disposing of any individuals who are opposed to the Vietnam war, our involvement with the Vietnam war, or any sort of involvement in the Cold War.” Garrison draws a clear, unambiguous connection between the assassinations and the opposition to the Vietnam War and the Cold War mentality. This would be further expanded upon in A Heritage of Stone. And what he means by the word disposing will be made clear in a moment.

Kevin then asks what he fittingly calls a $64 question: “Are you prepared to say that the same elements responsible for the death of John F. Kennedy were responsible for the deaths of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and perhaps even Martin Luther King?” Garrison answers with six unambiguous words: “Well, you can remove the perhaps.” What follows is an affirmation of this dire reality as well as an insightful remark regarding the principal motivation behind President Kennedy’s desire to lead our nation: “I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that the same forces removed everyone. Every one of these men were humanists. They were concerned about the human race. They were not racist in the slightest way; and above all, they were opposed to the evolution of America into an imperialist empire-seeking warfare state. Which it has become, I’m afraid. And now there aren’t too many, now there aren’t too many leaders left to talk out loud against the war in Vietnam. They’re eliminating them, one by one. Always a ‘lone’ assassin.”

Garrison puts a final touch on this “bigger picture” perspective when he’s asked if the truth is ever going to emerge–either in regard to the Shaw case or the assassinations as a whole. In response, he widens his lens to include a panoramic view: “The truth was not as difficult to come across, [or] for us to find, as it is to communicate.” Garrison was already aware that the American media was functioning simply to censor, suppress, and malign him. He continues: “We know the truth, I think quite precisely, but to communicate it is almost impossible because of the steady brainwashing now from the administration, [and] from some organs of the press … The truth is, to put it simply … it begins with the time … that Jack Kennedy was stopping the Cold War and getting ready to dismantle the CIA. By then, the CIA was too powerful to dismantle, and it dismantled him, instead.” He concludes by condemning the Agency’s role in the assassination of Dr. King: “Any leader in this country who speaks out effectively against the war in Asia or against the continuation of the Cold War machine or against the continued development of power by the military war complex, will be assassinated. And it will be announced that it was by a lone assassin […] And if you became a successful political leader and you spoke out effectively against the war in Vietnam, they’d kill you, too. But it would be announced that it was a lone assassin and evidence would be produced and most of the people in the country would never be allowed to see any of the details.” Garrison therefore makes a clear connection between the recurring pattern and the question of “why,” which can be answered only by obtaining this broader view garnered by a more holistic vantage point. (For the complete interview: see pp. 13 / 14 / 15 / 16.)

* * *

As can be gleaned from his titles on religion, history, and politics, Marks was a highly cultured autodidact. He was certainly aware of the Shakespearian reference to the term “murder most foul.” It’s also likely that he’d seen Walter Lippmann’s article, “Murder Most Foul,” published on November 26, 1963 (in MMF, Marks quotes from a 1938 Lippmann piece). Lippmann was one of the most famous journalists in America. He was also closely associated with Operation Mockingbird, the CIA’s propaganda machine. While Lippmann publically supported the findings of the WC, privately, he told a friend that JFK had probably been killed as the result of a conspiracy. In this same “Murder Most Foul” article (in which Lippmann places all the blame on Oswald), he states: “But I do have much hope in the healing arts of Lyndon Johnson.”[23] Johnson, the very man who nearly tore the country in two over a bloodbath he imposed on a small country 8,568 away, named Vietnam. And as usual, the media played its part in this deviant act.

On December 4, 1963, after a congressman read the text of Lippmann’s “Murder Most Foul” deception into the Congressional Record, this was followed by another article that was also made part of the official record: a piece by Joseph Alsop, a man whom many consider to be a Master of Ceremonies for the Economic Elite. Donald Gibson calls Alsop “one of the country’s best-known columnists and one of the most important promoters of Establishment policies.” (Alsop was also “owned” by Operation Mockingbird.) For decades, Alsop possessed an unerring manner of appearing on the chessboard at just the right time. And this includes his conversation with LBJ on November 25, when he convinced Johnson to form not an “investigative body” but one that would produce “a public report on the death of the president.”[24] This was the seed for what later became the Warren Commission. In any case, on November 27, Alsop penned a fabrication printed by the New York Herald Tribune in which he had the gall to claim that “false friends” of President Kennedy as well as “false friends” of Vice President Johnson “did everything in their power to poison the Kennedy–Johnson relationship,” adding: “It is a tribute to the character of both men that the attempt always failed.”[25] Fiction, indeed; for there was never any love lost between these two adversaries. (Were Jacqueline Kennedy and RFK to be considered “false friends” of the president? Each reserved some of their finest venom for LBJ.) Clearly, the purpose of this piece read into the record was to endorse once again President Johnson and the decisions he would make that would soon rend the nation asunder.

* * *

One of the principal contributions that Bob Dylan has made by releasing his song, “Murder Most Foul,” is to remind his listeners that what occurred in Dealey Plaza is akin to a magic trick. But lest we forget, Part One of Jim Garrison’s first book about the assassination, A Heritage of Stone, was titled “Illusion.” (“Our invisible government begins and ends with deception.”)[26] The district attorney was already referring to this illusion when, in his 1969 European interview, he said: “The problem is essentially one of perceiving reality, and the American people thus far have been unable to obtain a clear view of reality with regard to the assassination of President Kennedy and with regard to American foreign policy.” He also reminds us that we must ask: What is the purpose of this magic? At the moment he was being interviewed in 1969, the war machine was grossing “eighty-billion dollars a year in America.” The “resource wars” conducted in subsequent decades in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq continued in the same vein (adding to the till the profits of stolen oil and precious mineral rights); and the reasons for Kennedy’s removal can be seen just as clearly when we analyze the foreign policy agenda of most of the presidents who have followed in his wake. And instead of benefitting from rapacious profit, Kennedy’s foreign policy views were driven not only by idealism but by humanism. Recall what Garrison said earlier about the leading figures who were felled by the Sixties assassinations: “Every one of these men were humanists.” In opposition to this humanist sensibility, Garrison would posit a thinly veiled inhumanity that came to characterize the American government and the jingoistic war hawks who were in charge of its operation. He arrives at this simply by following the money trail.

In conclusion, I would like to tie these remarks about humanism into the literary fabric woven by Marks. Beginning in 1972, the Markses collaborated on several texts about the intersecting topics of secular and religious history. To view this in proper context, one should bear in mind that the Seventies had hosted the publication of many woolly-eyed books about New Age spirituality, many of which conveniently provided divertissement from more pressing political problems. As if to effect a counterpoint, Marks began to publish works on the history of religion that never neglected to present his subject in a political dimension. To cite a few examples, Three Days of Judgment (1981), a play, “takes the reader from the desert of Sinai to the present where the CIA … became involved in the Vatican politics of selecting the last three Popes.” The final page of this text even reproduces a declassified CIA memo. And in Judaism Looks at Christianity, his opening gambit reads: “Pauline Christianity and Soviet Communism are two scorpions locked in a nuclear a bottle of their own making! Each knowing that both die regardless of which one uses its stinger first, for the convulsions of the dying will destroy the one who struck first.”[27] Marks also reserves some of his sharpest invective for the “Christian” Fundamentalist poseurs and their rhetoric, which was being channeled from the Reagan White House. But just as his writings about religion were political, his political books feature exposés on the abuse of spirituality. On the opening page of A Year in the Lives of the Damned! Reagan, Reaganism, 1986, he nails it in a single sentence when he bemoans a president who “fully accepts the Fundamentalist Scripture which states that since no human being will live after ‘Armageddon,’ the present generation has no need for education, employment, medicine, clothing, food, and shelter.” In this text from 1988, he offers us a direct glimpse into his political philosophy and allegiance. First he quotes from FDR’s 1937 Inaugural Address: “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished … The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” Marks concludes: “The goal set forth by President Roosevelt was converted under Reaganism to ‘Suffer, little children, suffer!’” thus “convert[ing] the American Dream into the American Nightmare.”  

One of the Markses’ volumes on religion, Through Distorted Mirrors, received high praise from both Arnold Toynbee and Herbert Marcuse. In Toynbee’s blurb, which is printed on the back cover, he calls the work a “remarkable tour de force.” This is followed by that of Marcuse: “This book is not a history book, nor a religious book […] Rather, it is one that deals with Man’s Humanity toward Man and, at the same time, dealing with Man’s inhumanity toward Man. A book that will stimulate and aggravate the reader.”[28] A belief in what man is capable of; of what narrow-mindedness he might fall victim to; and of how change must come through visions that inspire as well as through rhetoric that provokes are all things that were also shared by the Kennedy brothers and Sixties leaders such as Dr. King. And so, it’s perhaps no coincidence that Garrison chose that word when he attempted to explain what was driving John Kennedy and why this humanist approach posed a threat to the dark forces that finally swarmed round and closed in.

Just as Murder Most Foul! is more than just a dry, factual chronicle of Warren Commission misdeeds, the biography of Stanley Marks transcends the author’s personal idiosyncrasies and, instead, reflects larger, macro political currents that comprise our twentieth-century zeitgeist. For one can easily see that, in many ways, Stanley’s story is a story of our times. An orphaned first-generation American who graduated from law school during the Great Depression, he furthered his education by accumulating a 5,000 book library, conducted research with the approval of a Secretary of State, published a widely reviewed bestseller, taught at a remarkably avant-garde school, composed essays for an African American newspaper that played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement, served under General MacArthur, and was rewarded for such efforts by being blacklisted by HUAC. He later settled in LA and, undaunted, proceeded to publish at least twenty-two other books. On March 28, 1979, Murder Most Foul! was included in the Library of Congress’s The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy: A Chronological Bibliography. On the same day, the House of Representatives’ Select Subcommittee on Assassinations issued a report that cites five assassination-related titles authored by Marks.[29]

The books Murder Most Foul! and Coup d’État! also came to the attention of two other prominent researchers. In the May 1, 1972 edition of his mimeographed “Truth Letter,” former Newsweek correspondent Joachim Joesten (who authored one of the best early books about the assassination) paid Stanley a compliment of sorts. After chancing upon an essay written by a right-wing John Birch Society member who concludes that JFK was killed by a government-sponsored assassination, Joesten remarks: “To my knowledge, nobody but Jim Garrison (and an obscure West Coast writer named Stanley J. Marks) has ever endorsed before my unswerving contention that the murder of John F. Kennedy was nothing short of a camouflaged coup d’état.” But as we saw earlier, with the March 1969 appearance of Two Days of Infamy and the February 1970 publication of Coup d’État!, Marks had gone a step further, because he was one of the first to conclude that there was a connection between all three assassinations. And by the end of 1970, Marks authored A Time to Die, A Time to Cry: “A three-act play concerning the three murders that changed the course of history.” The play is indexed in Tom Miller’s bibliographical guide, The Assassination Please Almanac (1977). And, in a later edition of his Forgive My Grief series, Penn Jones enthusiastically cites both Two Days of Infamy and Watch What We Do … Not What We Say!

Stanley Marks and Ethel Milgrom, circa 1936.

Six months after his eighty-fifth birthday, Marks passed away in Los Angeles in 1999. Ethel died three years later. Over the last twenty years, their work has fallen into obscurity. With the release of Dylan’s “Murder Most Foul,” interest in the Markses may soon be reawakened. After just one week, Dylan’s song rose in popularity to become the number one download in the Rock Digital Song Sales chart (with 10,000 purchases). And in less than a month, there were an additional 220,000 hits on the official Youtube “Murder Most Foul” channel. This has resulted in renewed interest about the assassination as well as reviving curiosity about the 1967 publication of Murder Most Foul! On April 2, the Forward newspaper featured an article about the song “MMF,” which briefly mentions the possibility of a connection to Stanley’s book. This represents the first time in seventy-five years that Marks’ name has again been featured in the mainstream press. The author, Seth Rogovoy, concludes: “It is likely that Dylan read the book; he has a long history of writing songs inspired by his reading.” Although I don’t believe it’s possible to prove conclusively that Dylan was aware of Marks’ book, we can at least make an educated guess; and the place to look is indeed his past history of songwriting techniques and processes. Dylan is known to be a voracious reader and researcher. As one example, he haunts library archives and reads firsthand accounts and newspaper stories from the Civil War era. Not only does he research deeply; it does it by himself. Therefore, it’s likely that he absorbed as much as he possibly could in preparation for this song (and the results illustrate this). He’s also known to have a particular love of memorabilia from the 1940s – l960s, including paperbacks, magazines, and newspapers, which he collects. This makes it likely that he may have seen one of the many ads for MMF in the underground press, or one of the articles that covered Stanley’s assassination titles. It’s also an established fact that Dylan not only knows his Shakespeare; the marginalia of his early manuscripts contain numerous notes about the Bard. Therefore, it’s possible that just seeing the title of Marks’ book may have set off a creative spark that triggered the song itself. And while Marks is more of a polemicist than Dylan ever was (since the singer instead relies on poetic expression), with this particular song Dylan certainly shares Marks’ visceral rage. “MMF” is by far the most polemical of his songs, with “Masters of War” coming in a close second. Although his lyrics are usually clear in terms of narrative, they do possess an artful manner of defying a singular, set interpretation. Yet, atypically, the polemical “MMF” features some rather direct statements. Lastly, the Q&A format of Marks’ MMF may have appealed to Dylan for a number of reasons. Often, his song lyrics are composed like a collage, with scraps of information coming from here and there, then juxtaposed in a manner that results in a surreal contrast of elements. The Q&A format of MMF provides a list of information that could easy be skimmed, allowing an artist to select various tidbits and then reassemble them into a new vision. 

Epilogue
A letter from Roberta Marks to Rob Couteau, May 27, 2020:

“Finished reading the first draft of your essay late yesterday. Damn fine piece.

Unlike a lot of my dad’s writing, I could understand what you were saying. Strangely, what has interested me the most is Garrison. I need to get hold of the Kennedy film. I actually cannot believe I am saying this. I have to admit seeing my dad through your eyes has made me want to pick up MMF and take a look at it more carefully. And it is very apparent to me now, how forward thinking my dad was. But much of what my dad said about the future was so depressing I tuned him out. Who wants to hear this when you are in your 20’s with your whole life in front of you? Now in my 70’s, seeing what the world, and especially America has become, it saddens me to say he was right. In a way, I am glad that he and my mother are no longer alive during these horrifying times with our totally corrupt government.”

Part One: The Dylan/Kennedy Sensation, by James DiEugenio


Special thanks to Roberta Marks for kindly providing many valuable tips as I attempted to unravel the sometimes-confusing threads of her father’s intriguing life. Roberta also shared many wonderful stories, photos, and documents.

[1] Jim Garrison, A Heritage of Stone (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1970), p. 90.

[2] See Henry Hurt, Reasonable Doubt (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1987), “The French Connection,” pp. 414-419. According to Hurt, it’s unclear whether this was actually Souètre or one of his OAS colleagues: an equally dangerous deserter named Michel Roux, who was known to be present in Fort Worth on November 22. (Souètre often used Roux’s name as an alias).

[3] “Leary’s rap was such an affront to the radical community that at one point … the editors of the Berkeley Barb urged antiwar activists to demonstrate against the acid guru.” Martin A. Lee; Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1992), pp. 159, 166-167.

[4] Jews, Judaism, and the United States or the Impact of Judaism upon the American People, by Stanley J. and Ethel M. Marks (San Marino, CA: Bureau of International Affairs, 1990), f. 2, p. 199.

[5] Stanley and Ethel Marks, Watch What We Do, Not What We Say! (Los Angeles: Bureau of International Affairs, 1971), pp. 164, 172-173.

[6] The “pyramid model” discussed here came to light during an Italian Senate investigation into Propaganda Due (P2), a Masonic lodge whose members were linked to Gladio’s terrorist operations in Europe. Philip Willan, Puppetmasters: The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy (Lincoln, NE: Author’s Choice Books, 1991), pp. 49, 55. (See my interview with Willan on K&K here)

[7] Stanley and Ethel Marks, Watch What We Do, Not What We Say!, p. 157.

[8] Two Days of Infamy: November 22, 1963; September 28, 1964 (Los Angeles: Bureau of International Affairs, March 1969), p. 159, 161.

[9] Stanley and Ethel Marks, Yes, Americans, A Conspiracy Murdered JFK! (San Marino, CA: Bureau of International Affairs, June 1992), p. 15.

[10] Roberta Marks believes that Stanley’s work would have been better received if he’d sought outside editorial assistance, since her mother was by no means a professional editor. But when she suggested this to her father, he simply brushed the idea aside. She agreed that his need to maintain complete control over his final product was probably the main motivating factor behind establishing his own imprint.

[11] John Kenneth Galbraith, “The United States and the Soviet Union: Change and the Vested Interest in Tension.” (Unpublished typescript, circa 1987-89, deposited at jfklibrary.org), p. 6.

[12] The Bear That Walks Like a Man: A Diplomatic and Military Analysis of Soviet Russia (Dorrance and Company, 1943), p. 338.

[13] Ian Rocksborough-Smith, Black Public History in Chicago: Civil Rights Activism from World War II into the Cold War (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2018) pp. 31-40.

[14] David Talbot, The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (New York: HarperCollins, 2015), p. 162.

[15] Stanley’s contacts within the Democratic National Committee may have helped to bring the Bear to the attention of the media.

[16] A local historian whose books normally focus on the Revolutionary War period, Lampos is also author of a study on the 1973 Chilean coup, Chile’s Legal Revolution (1984), originally a thesis sponsored by the noted British sociologist Ralph Miliband. I’m also heavily indebted to Lampos for his insights concerning Dylan’s creative process, explored at the conclusion of this essay.

[17] Investigation of Un-American Propaganda Activities in the United States, App. Part IX pages 261-1048 (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1944). Marks is cited on pp. 296, 297, and 303.

[18] Fourth Report of the Senate Fact-Finding Committee On Un-American Activities: Communist Front Organizations. (The California Senate, Sacramento, CA, 1948), p. 95.

[19] Mal Jay Hyman, Burying the Lead (Walterville, OR: Trine Day, 2008), p. 68.

[20] The Sarnoff–Dulles correspondence from 1957 remains partially redacted after sixty-three years. See “Letter To (Sanitized) From Allen W. Dulles,” cia.gov/library/readingroom/document/cia-rdp80r01731r000700010018-9.

[21] Danny Goldberg, In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea, (Brooklyn, NY: Akashic Books, 2017), p. 66.

[22] Two Days of Infamy, p. 158.

[23] Walter Lippmann, “Murder Most Foul,” New York Herald Tribune, November 26, 1963. The term “cold war” gained wider traction with the publication of Lippmann’s book, The Cold War (New York: Harper & Row, 1947).

[24] Donald Gibson, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up (Huntington, NY: 2000), pp. 58, 62.

[25] Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the United States Congress (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1963), p. A7396.

[26] Jim Garrison, A Heritage of Stone, p. 90.

[27] Stanley J. and Ethel Marks, Judaism Looks at Christianity, 7 B.C.E.–1986, (San Marino, CA: Bureau of International Affairs, 1986), p. iv.

[28] One of the reasons Toynbee may have felt compelled to offer Marks such a powerful endorsement is that, right after Marks discusses Toynbee’s 1939 anti-Semitic remark–that the Jew is but a “fossil” of history–he then encourages the reader to accept Toynbee’s 1959 apology for making such a short-sighted statement, adding: “One need only read Toynbee’s ten volumes of history to understand how dramatically he had shifted his position 180 degrees between 1939 and 1959. He should be honored for having the courage to do so.” See Stanley and Ethel Marks, Through Distorted Mirrors! The Impact of Monotheism–One God–Upon Modern World Civilization, by Stanley (Los Angeles: Bureau of International Affairs, 1972), p. 18-19.

[29] The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy: A Chronological Bibliography, Library Congress, March 28, 1979, p. 770. Appendix to Hearings, Select Subcommittee on Assassinations, March 28, 1979, volume 12, p. 695.

Last modified on Sunday, 07 June 2020 02:53
Rob Couteau

Positive reviews of Rob Couteau's literary works have appeared in Midwest Book Review, Publishers Weekly Booklife, and Barney Rosset's Evergreen Review. His interviews include conversations with Ray Bradbury, Last Exit to Brooklyn author Hubert Selby, LSD discoverer Albert Hofmann, Simon & Schuster editor Michael Korda, Picasso's model and muse Sylvette David, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Justin Kaplan. His current research is focused on Operation Gladio and JFK's numerous foreign policy innovations.

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