The Demon in Jim Garrison

The Demon in Jim Garrison

Max Holland

Did the popular belief that the CIA was involved in the Kennedy assassination grow from a seed planted by the Soviet KGB?

Share:
Read Time:
1m 38sec

On March 1, 1967, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison arrested a prominent local businessman named Clay Shaw and charged him with masterminding the crime of the century: the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was a bizarre and groundless accusation by a supremely ambitious prosecutor, but Shaw was not its only victim. This terrible miscarriage of justice was to have immense, if largely unappreciated, consequences for the political culture of the United States.

Of all the legacies of the 1960s, none has been more unambiguously negative than the American public’s corrosive cynicism toward the federal government. Although that attitude is commonly traced to the disillusioning experiences of Vietnam and Watergate, its genesis lies in the aftermath of JFK´s assassination. Well before antiwar protests were common, lingering dissatisfaction with the official verdict that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone broadened into a widespread conviction that the federal government was incompetent or suppressing the truth or, in the worst case, covering up its own complicity in the assassination. Today, national polls consistently show that a vast majority of Americans (upward of 75 percent) do not accept that Oswald alone killed President Kennedy. Many also believe that a co-conspirator lurked in Washington, with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) always the prime suspect. No individual was more responsible for fomenting these beliefs than Shaw´s nemesis, Jim Garrison. There were other critics of the Warren Commission´s official report on the assassination, but none had the authority of a duly elected law enforcement official; none could match the flamboyant Garrison´s skill in casting himself as the archetypal lone hero battling for the truth; and none was more adept at manipulating the zeitgeist of the 1960s. His audacity and lack of scruple were breathtaking, though camouflaged by lean good looks that made Garrison appear like a prosecutor ordered up by central casting. Not since Senator Joseph McCarthy had America seen such a cunning demagogue.  

More From This Issue