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Reviewed by Leonard William Smuts for Readers' Favorite
Volume two of the Walter Herbst investigation into the assassination of American President John F Kennedy delves further into the murky agendas of extremist politics, the military and security services. It Did Not Start With JFK probes a growing list of conspirators who wanted the President out of the way. Their motives were many and are dissected in clinical fashion, backed by evidence gathered over nearly three decades. Whereas volume one concentrated on the lengthy build-up to the political background of the conspiracy, volume two explores the Cold War period that preceded the election of JFK – an event itself now mired by accusations of vote rigging. The arms race during the immediate post-World War II era was overshadowed by the threat of nuclear annihilation. The US military establishment favored a tough nuclear stance, regardless of the potential outcome, while Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy did not. This was seen as a sign of a weakness in the face of the growing communist threat. A substantial part of the book is devoted to the enigmatic figure of the alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald – his Marxist leanings, unstable personality, service in the Marine Corps, and his “defection” to the Soviet Union in 1959 before returning in 1962. The question arises as to who Lee Harvey Oswald actually was - spy, double agent, plant, political dissident or patsy?
Once again Walter Herbst has researched this topic in depth, as evidenced by a long list of sources. It Did Not Start With JFK uncovers new pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. An example that intrigued me was the downing of an American U-2 spy plane over Russia, strategically timed to create an international incident and sufficient to short-circuit the impending arms limitation negotiations with the Soviets. The evidence concerning Lee Harvey Oswald is equally revealing and contradicts the official portrayal of Oswald as a communist who acted alone. Herbst thinks otherwise and introduces the astonishing possibility that Oswald was exposed to mind-altering drugs. Oswald’s seemingly contradictory political affiliations are explored in detail, along with fake documents and timelines that do not add up. In this respect Herbst goes much further than other writers and asks new and searching questions. The extent of the extreme right wing desire to control American politics is a recurring theme. The usual suspects such as organized crime, religious groupings, and the Cuban issue are also revisited. The book includes photographs of the main protagonists, as well as some interesting documents. It is rounded off with an excellent list of acronyms and an index. Volume three is keenly awaited.