In the book Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, David Talbot makes the point that many of the people at the centre of the Kennedy assassination made reference to the “they” who had killed JFK, not the “he”. It seems that Bobby and Jackie Kennedy (below), President Lyndon Johnson and others all made the assumption that JFK’s murder was the result of conspiracy, rather than simply one lunatic’s act. Whether they agreed on who was involved in the conspiracy is another matter.
Now, this could be simply paranoia on the part of the Kennedys, or simply the assumption that because they were at the centre of power in America, there must be large forces acting against them – the “unspeakable”, as James Douglass puts it, borrowing from Thomas Merton. There is an imbalance in the idea that the world’s most powerful man can be taken down by one lone fringe-dweller, and perhaps the thought that JFK was undone by these large forces restores some dignity to his death (while at the same time of course making it more sinister a crime).
But there is no doubt the Kennedys were increasingly under siege. I say “they” because of the closeness between JFK and Bobby, the attorney general, and the fact that they were fighting together, as Talbot points out, on multiple fronts, not the least being against their own military. Talbot’s book goes through the usual history and conspiracy theory, but focuses more on Bobby and his role as protector of his older brother (when JFK was alive) and his frantic search for clues after JFK’s death, all the while realising that time was of the essence because he would be marginalised in a Johnson administration.
As to who the “they” were, fingers point in all sorts of directions. It seems Bobby’s first suspects were the mafia, with whom he had battled, and who, it seems, had talked overtly of assassination. But then there is the CIA and the anti-Castro Cubans, all of whom were increasingly incensed by JFK’s peaceful overtures to the communists, both across the Caribbean and across the Atlantic. It could well have been a combination of all three. The Russians and Castro are often talked about, but that seems like an outside chance. Talbot (above) makes all sorts of interesting connections, including the fact that Bobby’s digging into the mafia led him to discover his own father’s connections to organised crime. It is also interesting to see Howard Hunt’s name turn up, since he, two administrations later, is in the midst of the Watergate scandal.