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Saturday, 05 December 2020 21:29

The Stanley Marks Revival: The Prophecies of Murder Most Foul! and Two Days of Infamy

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Rob Couteau continues his rediscovery and revitalization of the long-forgotten works of Stanley Marks by announcing the reprinting of Murder Most Foul! and Two Days of Infamy and exploring here the prophecies and prescience of Marks in these two works.


Thanks to the help and encouragement of Stanley Marks’ daughter, Roberta, Murder Most Foul! and Two Days of Infamy are now coming back into print for the first time since the late 1960s. That is right: Fifty year later. The timing seems apt. Throughout his oeuvre, Marks warned time and again of the growing threat of fascism in America, pointing repeatedly to figures like Allen Dulles, J. Edgar Hoover, and Ronald Reagan: all handmaidens in the march toward the right wing that continued in the decades after the assassination.[1] And now, in the incarnation of the forty-fifth president of the United States, we have a figure who doesn’t even bother to disguise his naked grab for power, and the phrase “coup d’état” is being spoken openly, even in the mainstream media.

Stanley Marks circa 1934, Chicago. When he was only four years old, Stanley lost both his parents to the influenza pandemic of 1918, which infected a third of the world’s population. Stanley’s daughter, Roberta, recalls her father saying that “he never had enough food. When you see pictures of him as a youth, he was bone-thin and skinny. That is, until he married my mother, whose cooking he adored.” Stanley’s privations and experience with hunger on Chicago’s hardscrabble streets may have helped to open his eyes to a certain political awareness and helped to mold him into a lifelong FDR New Dealer.

So much of where we are today is foreshadowed in the writing of Mr. Marks: in particular, the fueling of racism and xenophobia, the attempted erosion of civil rights, and the empowerment of the oligarchy and its principal tool of control, the police state. Speaking directly to the readers of a future generation, in 1969 Marks wrote:

The balance of this small volume now attempts to enter the “dark world” that is slowly, oh, so slowly, being lit, although full light may take until the year 2038—if the “basic principles of American justice” have the strength to remain as principles guiding this long-suffering nation.

This still remains a big “if”—as the nation continues to suffer while awaiting a firmer grounding in those “basic principles.”

II

Shortly after reading Murder Most Foul!, in his essay “The Kennedy / Dylan Sensation,” Jim DiEugenio wrote that Marks’ early “condemnation” of the Warren Report in 1967 “is a far cry from, say, Josiah Thompson, who at the end of his book [Six Seconds in Dallas; also published in 1967] said he was not really sure that the evidence he adduced justified a conspiracy.”

It wasn’t until many months later that either of us realized just how astute a remark that really was. For, in Stanley’s second JFK-assassination book, Two Days of Infamy: November 22, 1963; September 28, 1964 (which neither of us had read yet, due to its rarity), Stanley writes:

As will be shown, the Warren Commission proved the innocence of Lee Harvey Oswald, but his innocence can only be found if the person reading the “Report” will read the testimony in the “Hearings” or the evidence in the National Archives.

Thus, a defense lawyer on Oswald’s behalf, because of the prestige associated with the seven commissioners, would be reduced to assume the burden that his client, Oswald, was innocent “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The author of Six Seconds In Dallas fell into this trap, for he wrote that although he believed there was more than one assassin, Oswald had to be guilty because he could not prove he was innocent! Hence, the burden of proof, as they say in law, shifted from the prosecution––the Commission––to the shoulders of Oswald. This, of course, is contrary to every principle of Anglo-American jurisprudence upon which this nation is founded.

Now, more than fifty years after the publication of both Murder Most Foul! (September 1967) and Two Days of Infamy (March 1969), one is left to wonder to what extent Marks was aware of his own gift of prescience. And we should add that, in this March 1969 text, he was already using the term “conspirators” when referring to the assassins of the Kennedys and King. He states unequivocally: “All three were murdered as the end result of three interrelated conspiracies,” adding: “History has shown that an invisible coup d’état occurred when President Kennedy was murdered.” In 1972, after the author Joachim Joesten learned of Stanley’s work, he credited him with being one of the first Americans who dared to use the word “coup” in this context: “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.

Private Stan Marks at the army base library, circa 1945. By his late twenties Marks had accumulated a private collection of over 5,000 books.

Stanley’s work was accomplished in the early days, well before the release of millions of pages of documents that were pried from government archives as a result of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act (effective October 26, 1992). That legislative act led to the creation of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). The ARRB made it possible for an author such as Gerald McKnight to create a classic tome on the Warren Commission deception, Breach of Trust (2005), with its in-depth look behind the scenes of the WC drama. But in reading through Stanley’s work, published decades earlier—although it lacks many of the details that would emerge only later—one is struck by how much in parallel his conclusions are with those of contemporary scholars such as McKnight, James Douglass (JFK and the Unspeakable; 2008), Jim DiEugenio (Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition; 2012), and Lisa Pease, whose book A Lie Too Big to Fail (2018) deals with the RFK case.

Marks followed Two Days of Infamy with Coup d’État! Three Murders That Changed the Course of History. President Kennedy, Reverend King, Senator R. F. Kennedy (February 1970). And then, perhaps inspired by the release of Oliver Stone’s film on JFK, in his seventieth-eight year, Marks released his last assassination-related title, Yes, Americans, A Conspiracy Murdered JFK! This appeared in June 1992: just a few months before the Assassination Records Collection Act became effective. Thus, the year 1992 marks a milestone not only in JFK research, thanks to the ARRB, but in the passing of an intellectual torch from the old guard to the new.[2] One also cannot help but wonder what conclusions Stanley may have drawn if he had access to such voluminous records earlier in his life. He died seven years later, in 1999.

Dust jacket of the first edition of Two Days of Infamy (March 1969). Marks inscribed the copy: “To my daughter Bobbie, the apple in my orchard and the filament in the bulb of her parent’s life. With Love, Daddy.” An ad for the book appeared in the July 11, 1969 edition of the Los Angeles Free Press (a popular Sixties counterculture newspaper) and included the caption: “Now available at bookstores with courage.”

While Murder Most Foul! remains his most seminal work, as well as the most avant-garde in terms of stylistic approach, his subsequent texts continue to expand upon many of the points first raised in that book, as well as introducing fresh ideas and perspectives to the case. Therefore, it’s important to view Murder Most Foul! in the context of Marks’ complete oeuvre. For example, picking up on a theme first introduced in MMF—that is, the collective cynicism born as a result of the lies published in the Warren Commission Report, which would eventually accumulate like a growing poison in the national psyche—in Two Days of Infamy he writes:

Perhaps it was the cynicism, inherent in citizens of all nations, that convinced the American citizenry that the “Report” issued by the Warren Commission was supported by rotten timbers incapable of supporting the truth. The suspicion increased in the same ratio and in the same speed as smog increased with the density of automobiles on a Los Angeles freeway. The American people were becoming deeply convinced that the Commission had perpetrated a gigantic, gruesome hoax the like of which concealed a conspiracy that reached into the very gut of American government and society. Today, that hoax, that whitewash feared by the people has been exposed to the light of day, for the citizenry were, and are, absolutely right in their assessment of the Warren Commission. There now exists overwhelming evidence, provable in a court of law, that the Warren Commission, either willfully or negligently, concealed the conspiracy that murdered President John F. Kennedy. This deed was committed by the Commission in “the interests of national security.”

Later on, Marks returns to the subject of perfidy committed in the name of “national security.” And he adds that, even if Oswald was “part and parcel of the conspiracy,” he represents no more than a “piece of string [tied] around the conspiracy package.” He concludes:

The dilemma faced by the Commission resulted in a solution based not on fact or on law, but on a phrase: “in the interests of national security.” The Commission published a series of deliberate lies, not to protect the “national interests” of the American people, but to protect those interests that had interests contrary to the interests of the president of the United States, who had the interests of all the American people whom he represented.

That being the dilemma, it would have been far better for the Commission to have proclaimed the conspiracy even though it be directly connected to the right-wing fascist elements in the United States than have this nation live a lie.

Thus, it was “‘in the interests of national security’ that the Commission was under an obligation to destroy any testimony regarding the possibility of shots not coming from the Book Depository.”

This is just one example of a far-reaching, “bigger picture” perspective that Marks should be remembered for. And now, decades after these remarks first appeared, we have the latest personification of an attempt to overthrow an election in America in the figure of President Trump, whose circus-like legal actions are merely the endpoint of a line first drawn on November 22, 1963.

It’s also tempting to reinterpret Marks’ phrase “not to protect the ‘national interests’ of the American people, but to protect those interests that had interests contrary to the interests of the president of the United States”. Did Stanley mean that JFK’s interests included the fates of those nations that were struggling to reject the yoke of neocolonialist domination, much to the chagrin of multinational corporate, oligarchic interests that had billions of dollars to lose if Kennedy was allowed to live? As far as this reactionary group was concerned, it would be out of character to make an exception for John Kennedy, when far less threatening figures were being gunned down during the global war on the left that transpired, often in a clandestine manner from 1945 to 1990 and still continues—with far less fanfare—to this day.

Stanley with his daughter Roberta at Union Pier, Michigan, circa 1950.

Marks adds to cynicism another deadly poison: loss of faith in the media, because of its betrayal. Back in 1967, Marks was already noting that there was no way of knowing “how many agents of the CIA now work for various organizations in the mass communication media” (MMF). In Two Days of Infamy, he again picks up this theme, adding: “The investigators of the ‘Report’ have presented the result of their investigations to the public; but the silence of the press lords to further an investigation of the Commission’s allegations has led to a further decline of the general public’s faith in all forms of mass communication.”

Again, keep in mind that this statement was published in March of 1969. Since then, we have seen a snowballing––and then an avalanche––of mistrust in what we now refer to as the MSN; and this has occurred on both sides of the aisle, left and right. But Marks goes on to blame not only the MSN and the Warren Commission, but the critics themselves for what followed. He refers to the first generation of researchers when he says:

The critics’ primary failure was their repeated implication that the murder of President Kennedy could not be solved unless, at the same time, they proved a conspiracy. The critics have constantly proclaimed that unless the Zapruder film, the X-Rays, and other photographic evidence was released from the National Archives, no solution could be obtained. Their demands obscure the main issue: “Was Lee Harvey Oswald the ‘sole and exclusive assassin of President Kennedy’ as charged by the Warren Commission?”

The film, X-rays, and other photographic evidence is not the prime evidence in securing an affirmative or negative answer. That evidence is secondary.

The prosecution, in this case the Warren Commission, must affirmatively prove three elements: (1) Lee Harvey Oswald was at the 6th floor S.E. corner window at the time the shots were fired; (2) those bullets which caused the death of President Kennedy came from a weapon he used at that time and (3) the rifle allegedly used was a functional operating lethal weapon from which those bullets were discharged.

As we witness time and again in his assassination-related publications, no matter how far afield Marks goes to explore “bigger picture” implications, as a trained attorney, he always circles round and returns to the case at hand. Thus, two of his principal concerns are to show why Oswald could not have been convicted of being a “sole assassin” in any law court that followed the basic principles of American justice; and to prove this with specific facts, on a nuts-and-bolts legal level:

In a court of law those three elements must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the evidence in the possession of the Warren Commission. Each of the three must be proved; not just one, or two, but all three.

Thus, if Oswald was not at the S.E. corner window at the exact time those three bullets were fired, he could not be found “guilty” even though the remaining two elements be proved in the affirmative.

If element (2) be proved in the affirmative but element (1) in the negative, then a trial judge would rule Oswald “not guilty.” If element (3) was proved affirmatively, the trial judge would still rule Oswald “not guilty” if (1) or (2) not be proven by the evidence given in court. Further, if (2) be proven but (3) proves that the rifle could not discharge those bullets because it was defective and incapable of firing bullets through its barrel, then Oswald would be found “not guilty.” A consensus does not operate in a criminal courtroom.

Peppered throughout the text are examples of straightforward forensic evidence that any lawyer worth his salt would present to demonstrate his case against the WC conclusions. “Any attorney defending Oswald on the charge of being the ‘sole and exclusive assassin’ of President Kennedy would have an easy task to obtain a ‘not guilty’ verdict with the testimony of the physicians and federal agents that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that President Kennedy was struck in the back by a bullet striking him from an angle of fire between 45 and 60 degrees. This proved that such an angle of fire could only come from a window of the Dal-Tex Building or the County Building but not from the 6th floor of the Book Depository. Oswald was innocent.” And it is the presentation of such clear evidence that allows Marks to then expound on the risible nature of the Commission’s groundless theories:

In spite of the testimony of the physicians and the federal agencies, the Commission decided to confuse the people by outdoing Baron Munchhausen—a paragon among liars. The Commission therefore proceeded to “produce” a “Tale of Bullet No. 399.” This “bullet,” sayeth the Commission Barons, first entered the president’s back, hesitated a moment, reversed itself, flew up his back, made a 90 degree turn, turned downward into the back of his neck, went through his neck, made another angle turn, entered the governor’s body, “tumbled” through the wrist, entered his rib cage, and came to rest when the “tumbling” lacked inertia, in his thigh! The leading Baron aide was a man by the name of Specter.

Even after decades of rehashing the magic bullet fiasco in the voluminous assassination literature, Marks’s version leaves one with the impression of a fresh and lively spin.

III

Just as he does in Murder Most Foul!, by the end of Two Days of Infamy, Marks turns much of his ire on commissioner and former CIA Director Allen Dulles and for good reason. Like a prosecuting attorney delivering a summation through the use of rhetorical device, Marks’ refrain, echoed repeatedly in an imaginary courtroom, is the incredulous: “No conspiracy, Mr. Dulles?” And at one point, with a slight change in modulation, he adds: “The same Dallas police also testified that although Tippit’s clipboard was attached to his dashboard they never looked at it or read it! Do you believe that, Mr. Dulles?” (My italics.) Such passages also exemplify Marks’ lively, provocative, arch yet charming humor: a hallmark of the author’s writing that serves as a counterpoint to the sometimes strident, rage-fueled cadences that mark his discourse with an undertone of righteous indignation.

Marks’ disdain for Dulles may be traced back to an article that appeared in Look magazine in July 1966, in which Dulles remarks: “If they found another assassin, let them name names and produce their evidence.” Stanley first quotes this in MMF, where he follows it with the remark: “This contemptuous statement directed at the American citizenry revealed the attitude of the Commission.” In Two Days of Infamy, he further qualifies it as “The most contemptuous statement ever issued by a member of any governmental commission investigating the murder of the head of his government.” But Marks cites this quote not merely to inform us of its existence, but to take up Dulles’ challenge. Indeed, the deeper one reads into Marks’ work, the more easily one can imagine that the impetus to produce such tomes grew directly from the outrage spawned by this outrageous declaration. After citing one example after another in which the Commission is caught with its pants down––or, perhaps more fittingly, called out for being an Emperor without any clothing––Marks rests his case by stating:

The author has produced the evidence; it was the duty of Mr. Dulles and his commissioners to name the names of the assassins and the conspirators.

That failure is theirs, not the responsibility of the American citizen.

But Marks finds no solace in reaching this conclusion. Rather, he reminds us of a terrible truth:

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. Both right and left favor no democratic spirit in the people. The cold of Siberia and the gas ovens of the concentration camps have proved it.

The tragedy of the Warren Commission is that they helped set those boots on the road to the destruction of American democracy.

And how could so many have fallen prey to such a deceit? In part, this turning of a blind eye to the possibility of a conspiracy occurred because the citizens of the United States are “living in a dream world concocted by the mass communication systems.”

One should also note that not all the ire falls upon Dulles. That other intractable head of so-called intelligence, J. Edgar Hoover, is the subject of so much justifiable vitriol that Marks was certain to have had a file opened on him by the FBI as a result. He lambasts Hoover for declaring just five months after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy that “Justice is incidental to law and order,” and adds:

Mr. Hoover’s belief in “law and order” is on the exact same level as Hitler’s “law and order”; Stalin’s “law and order”; Mussolini’s “law and order”; Tojo’s “law and order”; Batista’s “law and order”; the Greek Colonel’s “law and order, 1968 version”; and so forth. Mr. Hoover’s basic philosophy is identical with the philosophy of any other “police state” objective.

In 1943 Marks published a dozen essays in the Chicago Defender, one of the most celebrated African American newspapers in America. The illustration above features Marks’ weekly column, “War and Warfare.” The Defender played a key role in encouraging Blacks to leave the South and join “The Great Migration” North, to work in Chicago’s factories. During WWII it 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, thus incurring the wrath of J. Edgar Hoover, who tried to convince President Roosevelt to prosecute its editors for treason. Although Hoover was forced to back down, he opened files on the Defender and kept it under surveillance. Stanley’s publications eventually led to his blacklisting by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

But Marks also views Hoover as something of a foxy figure. Since the Bureau’s memoranda and reports on the assassination were often as truthful as they were deceitful, and since the official FBI assassination report often contradicts the Warren Commission Report, Marks speculates that Hoover was attempting to have it both ways: protecting himself and the Bureau no matter what the final outcome. Indeed, Hoover’s performance was rather sly and of the type that only an attorney could truly appreciate. For example, speaking of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle supposedly owned and used by Oswald for the assassination, Marks highlights Hoover’s brilliant use of legalese:

In the official FBI Reports, Vol. 1 to 5, there is no statement by the Bureau that that rifle given to them was ever “used” by any rifleman. The FBI constantly referred to this rifle as being “owned” by Lee Oswald; never did they state that he “used” it for any purpose. How can a rifle discharge three bullets when the rifle has never been used?

Note that fine line between truth and deceit: whether or not this rifle was really “owned” by Oswald, the Bureau nonetheless betrays the Commission by refusing to take that extra step of stating that it was “used” by him.

Marks attempts to summarize this paradox of the Bureau’s seemingly shifting, alternating allegiances in the following manner:

The federal agency that is the paradox, the Chinese puzzle, in the entire investigation is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As has been stated in previous chapters, that Bureau overwhelmed the Commission with evidence that proved Oswald innocent in both murders. What is the puzzle is the fact although the Bureau time and time again warned the Commission that its “conclusions” would not stand the scrutiny of the light of day, that agency then turned right around and conducted itself in a manner implying they had something to hide––to conceal their possible involvement in the assassination. The Bureau was involved in suppressing the same evidence they had originally uncovered and exposed to the world! […]

The Bureau’s conduct can only lead to a conclusion that the Bureau was operating on both sides of the fence, in the slim hope that any investigation of the “Report” would not be undertaken by a serious investigator of that “Report.” “Heads or tails,” the FBI could prove that they had given evidence, or uncovered evidence, disproving the Commission’s accusation that Oswald was the “sole and exclusive killer of President Kennedy.” What is perplexing is Mr. Hoover’s defense of the Commission in the face of that evidence and his various statements, which were obtuse or contradictory, that did nothing to add to the honor of the FBI.

Appearing beside William Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner, the #1 bestseller, and Rosemary’s Baby listed at #6, Murder Most Foul! somehow managed to get a brief mention in the mainstream press despite being a self-published text. The reviewer, Donald Stanley, ran a feature column with the San Francisco Examiner, and the review appeared in the December 24, 1967, edition, about three months after the publication of Murder Most Foul! This may have been the last time Marks was mentioned in any major media until recently.

IV

Marks’ phrase “two days of infamy” refers to the date of JFK’s murder and, ten months later, to the release of the Warren Commission Report. By grafting FDR’s “infamy” term onto these more recent dates of iniquity, the author is reminding us of the rage and indignation that rise up within many who lived through both the attack on Pearl Harbor and the coup d’état of November 22, 1963. This outrage extends beyond the personal figure of JFK and the experience of his loss. For, as Marks warns in the first chapter of Two Days: “A nation can be destroyed if its leaders can be murdered with impunity.” As a result of the Warren Commission hoax perpetrated by those ignoble seven commissioners, “The truth was never ascertained; the evidence never evaluated; and the truth uncovered was covered. Never was so much done by so many that produced so little.” Later on, with typical Marksian aplomb and incisiveness, he adds:

The historical verdict of the Warren Commission is that the Commission proclaimed a precedent whereby it is now permissible for the president of the United States to be murdered by men who believe that the vice president, who becomes the president upon the death of the president, would be more amenable to the philosophies of the murderers.

*   *   *

As we were putting the final touches onto the new edition of Murder Most Foul!, Roberta Marks went through an old box in her garage that contained some of her father’s papers. Lo and behold, she unearthed a precious––and curious––document. Just a few years after Robert Kennedy’s death, Stanley Marks had received an unexpected request. On March 12, 1973, the JFK Library wrote Marks a letter requesting information on how to purchase a copy of Murder Most Foul! for their collection. And from this we may surmise that RFK’s trusted colleague, Dave Powers, who served as JFK’s personal assistant and whom RFK later placed in charge of assembling materials for the official JFK Library, would probably have been familiar with at least the title of Marks’ book.

How to explain such an interest in this little-known work?

The John F. Kennedy Library contacted Marks with a request to purchase a copy of Murder Most Foul! for their collection.

Thanks to Vincent Palamara’s Survivor’s Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy, I recently learned that Powers had long maintained a skeptic’s view of the Warren Commission Report. In discussing the possibility of Secret Service involvement in the conspiracy, in Survivor’s Guilt Vince writes that, in 1996, ARRB Director Tom Samoluk informed him that Dave Powers “agreed with your take on the Secret Service.” If Powers held this belief, it might explain why this unusual purchase of Murder Most Foul! was authorized for the JFK Library.

A photo of this letter addressed to Marks, composed on U.S. General Services Administration stationery, is reproduced here and in the new edition of MMF.

Purchase info for Two Days of Infamy here.

Purchase info for Murder Most Foul! here.


[1] In Two Days of Infamy, Stanley writes of Governor Ronald Reagan: “If it be morally correct for the Czech students to defy Stalinism, should not it be morally correct to defy Reaganism?”

[2] One could also argue that since Destiny Betrayed was first published in 1992 and then completely rewritten a decade later, it serves as a symbolic bridge between the Old World of JFK research and the New.

(Special thanks to Al Rossi.)

Last modified on Saturday, 12 December 2020 20:24
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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