It Did Not Start With JFK: Volume Two

The Decades of Events That Led To The Assassination of John F Kennedy

Non-Fiction - Historical
327 Pages
Reviewed on 01/26/2022
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    Book Review

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.

Grant Leishman

It Did Not Start With JFK by Walter Herbst is a fascinating account of what was happening in the highest echelons of the American government and intelligence agencies in the years following World War II and leading up to the event that shocked the world – the assassination of an American president. Of specific interest to the author is the effect, not just of the ousting of the Cuban leader, Fulgencio Batista by Fidel Castro and his band of revolutionaries, but the horror and fear that Castro’s slow lean toward Communism had on the intelligence agencies of the United States, particularly the CIA. The author clearly identifies who he considers to be the many main players in the events that would ultimately lead to the assassination of the president in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963. Much more than the events of those few days, though, the author goes to great lengths to explore who Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby were and why they were motivated to get involved in what the author believes was a right-wing plot to eliminate a president whose views were diametrically opposed to many of those in both the intelligence community and the armed forces of the time. In the telling of this tale, the author will rip the blinders off an intelligence community and a military that, in many ways, had gone rogue and done so without the knowledge of the American public.

It Did Not Start With JFK is an absolutely riveting read, especially for history buffs but also for anyone who has wondered about the who and why of the JFK assassination. As a non-American, I was shocked and stunned by the absolutely rogue and cavalier manner in which the CIA effectively conducted their own government in America during this period. It was increasingly clear that intense right-wing elements within the intelligence organs of the US were a law unto themselves. Stopping communism at whatever cost was the creed of the CIA and no elected official or law was going to stand in their way. The author’s belief that famous events such as the highly-publicized failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion and the downing of Gary Power’s U-2 spy plane were actually orchestrated and planned by America’s own intelligence organ, the CIA, begins to explain the depths of lawlessness and unaccountability the organization had descended to. A new president, with his brother, as his Attorney General, who was going to not only negotiate with the Russians but also crush organized crime (the allies and partners of the CIA), was undoubtedly seen as an existential threat to that organization’s power and autonomy. He had to be eliminated and when the ballot box failed to do so, the next obvious step was to assassinate him. This book is both eye-opening, clearly deeply researched, and something all aficionados of both history and democracy need to read.

Tammy Ruggles

It Did Not Start With JFK: Volume Two: The Decades of Events That Led to the Assassination of John F Kennedy, by Walter Herbst, is the provocative second volume of the examination of the JFK assassination. This time around, the author dives even deeper into the role that Lee Harvey Oswald and right-wing forces played in the time leading up to, and following, Kennedy's murder. Herbst brings up points that may have been overlooked, forgotten, or buried, such as the attorney Oswald requested but never heard from was the only lawyer in America whose client had wanted to overthrow the United States government. Perhaps even more intriguing, because it was broadcast across American TV airwaves, was President Eisenhower's dire warning of a military-industrial complex trying to infiltrate the nation. The author explains how the Cold War was a time for right-wing military leaders to push an endless cycle of war out of greed and domination. There were a few generals who refused to go along, and others, perhaps Kennedy being one of them.

This amazing exploration of events, key players, and powers on the world stage at the time gives insight and perspective that has been missing in most analyses of the Kennedy assassination. Well-researched and documented, Herbst's views may seem like conspiracy theories to some, but what if his ideas are true? Students of history, the curious, and those wanting to get to the truth of the assassination will find this book a valuable resource. The detailed profile of Oswald sheds more light on his character, ideology, and motivations. Sometimes to get to the truth of the matter, the right questions need to be asked, and this is what Herbst does best: His questions come from different angles, and he isn't afraid to ask the hard ones. With the mind of an investigator and the heart of a truth-seeker, he plumbs world politics, the military, social forces, business, to get closer to what really happened. When you reach the end, you will be certain of one thing: The JFK assassination was just one cog in a vast conspiracy and had to happen. For a meticulous probe into the JFK assassination, Oswald, and the military-industrial complex, It Did Not Start With JFK: Volume Two by Walter Herbst is a completely satisfying read.