Reclaiming History made me laugh; out loud. Not when author Vincent Bugliosi was attempting to be humorous by making one of his numerous sneering, sarcastic remarks at the expense of those who dare to believe that John F. Kennedy's murder was the result of conspiracy. But when he was being sincere. A few pages into his lengthy introduction, Bugliosi writes, "...the [Warren] Commission's conduct throughout the investigation clearly shows that its members only had one objective, to discover the truth of what happened." Ludicrous! In the face of the massive documentary record we now have at our disposal proving the exact opposite to be true, it is completely ridiculous for Bugliosi to make that statement in this millennium. But he does say it, and he apparently expects us to take his word for it. This type of attitude, "I'm right because I say I am and my saying so proves it" can be seen throughout his tedious 1600 page tome. It is neither entertaining nor enlightening.
[For those who are truly interested in how the commission operated and why it arrived at the conclusions it did, the authoritative work was written by respected historian Gerald D. McKnight; Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why - a book that Bugliosi lists in his bibliography but either did not read or failed to comprehend]
But Bugliosi makes clear from the outset, indeed from his presumptuous title, that apologising for the Warren Commission is not the only purpose of his book. Its primary intention is to silence the critics or, as he likes to call them, "conspiracy buffs." Bugliosi writes that "the majority" of conspiracy theorists, "knowingly mislead their readers by lies, omissions and deliberately distorting the official record." He also claims that when confronted with contradictory evidence, the critics resort to one of two tactics, either "twist, warp and distort the evidence" or "simply ignore it." These are strong and in some cases true words. But the exact same charges can be fairly levelled at Bugliosi himself. For example, Bugliosi states in his introduction that conspiracy theorists have been erroneously claiming for years that no one has ever duplicated the shooting feat the Warren Commission attributed to Oswald, and implies that critics have perpetuated this supposed falsehood by ignoring evidence found in the Warren Commission volumes. "On page 446 of volume 3," he writes, "we learn that way back in 1964, one 'Specialist Miller' of the U.S. Army, using Oswald's own Mannlicher Carcano rifle, not only duplicated what Oswald did, but improved on Oswald's time." Nothing Bugliosi is alleging here is in any way acquainted with the facts.
Firstly, the tests to which he is referring have been covered countless times by numerous critics including Mark Lane in his 1966 book, Rush to Judgment and Sylvia Meagher in her acclaimed 1967 work, Accessories After the Fact. And secondly, the "duplication" was achieved by drastically altering the firing conditions and using riflemen far superior to Oswald - who was teased by his fellow marines due to his inability to qualify with his rifle. For the Army test, three rifleman, all rated as "Masters" by the National Rifle Association, fired at three stationary targets, rather than a moving one, from a tower thirty feet lower than the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. For confirmation of Oswald's ability to pull off the assassination, this test was about as much use as a chocolate teapot. And Bugliosi's treatment of this issue conclusively demonstrates that when faced with evidence he does not like, he is ready to do exactly what he says the critics are prone to do, "simply ignore it."
Nonetheless, in his childish and unscholarly way, Bugliosi continues to hurl insults at the conspiracy believers. "Waiting for the conspiracy theorists to tell the truth," he says, "is a little like leaving the front-porch light on for Jimmy Hoffa." And, "The conspiracy theorists are so brazen that they tell lies...about verifiable, documentary evidence." For the most part, Bugliosi sees no need to make a distinction between the responsible critic and the outlandish theorist, preferring instead to tar all with the same brush. He appears to relish in making sweeping, derogatory generalizations such as, "Ninety-nine percent of the conspiracy community are not, of course, writers and authors. These conspiracy 'buffs' are obsessed...and actually attend conspiracy-oriented conventions...most of them are as kooky as a three-dollar bill..." It is obvious that Bugliosi needs to paint a negative picture of the JFK research community as a whole in order to make his own theory more palatable. He no doubt believes that his disrespectful, acerbic manner appears clever or witty but his bile-spewing tactics reveal how little faith he has in his own conclusion. As the old saying goes; an empty can rattles the most.
Bugliosi's ego would never let him admit it, but Reclaiming History spectacularly fails to live up to its intention of settling the controversy. It fails because, despite Bugliosi's assurances that his only master and mistress "are the facts and objectivity," he commits the exact same sins of which he accuses the conspiracy theorists - and adds a few more. He consistently fills his narrative with hypothetical instances in place of actual evidence and expects the reader to take his word for it. His book is practically brimming over with phrases such as "must have," "reason to believe," "most likely" and "probably." This over-use of the hypothetical may be standard practice in a court room, but it is not how history should be written. Far from sticking to the facts, Reclaiming History is far and away the most factually inept, theory driven and speculative book ever written on the Kennedy assassination.show more
by Martin Hay