Regarding the NSA scandal--what one might call the surveillance conspiracy--Jimmy Carter recently said in Der Spiegel (July 17, 2013) that "America has no functioning democracy at this moment." He has also praised Snowden's courage, hoping it would give the United States a salutary shakeup. When did the tipping point occur? When did democracy's downhill slide begin? According to Joseph McBride, playing journalistic and scholarly tour guide as he takes us Into the Nightmare, it began with the successful killing of JFK--and of Officer J.D. Tippit as well--on November 22, 1963, gaining momentum with a seemingly well-orchestrated coverup in the wake. Luckily, Professor McBride accomplishes an astonishing feat in offering his reinterpretation, one that profits from his three decades of diligent research on the topic and his interdisciplinary and encyclopedic ability to remember and arrange.
If you think Professor McBride is one of those crazy conspiracy theorists, be sure to read his chapter on the CIA's campaign, memos and all, to throw doubt on any who might come to question the Oswald-only version of the assassination, who might instead argue that there were a number of killers, e.g. Grassy Knoll marksmen as well. It is possible you will recognize, as you read the CIA memo, tag lines that hang out in your own or a friend's mind, the prefab objections to conspiracy theorists. On the other hand, Watergate, Iran/Contra, NSA may float to the surface of your mind and you may have to admit that conspiracies do happen. If they can happen from the governmental side, why not from the side of the assassins? Or were the two sides one and the same?
Some players include the CIA, the anti-Castro Cubans, big oil and the mafia: LBJ and even the elder Bush (Chapter 10) would have a fair amount to explain as well. The doubts regarding such players are by no means wildly raised, but very carefully, very systematically. "Paranoid" is one of the buzzwords the CIA had suggested for its campaign against conspiracy theorists: It is right there in the memo that McBride documents. But the McBride book gives not only evidence that confirms its theories but also that which disconfirms: good research.
I refer, in this case, to the evidence bearing on the Warren Commission report's "lone nut" version of the killings, with Oswald having been responsible for not only Kennedy's death and Governor Connally's injury--including using just one bullet that got them both, no less--but also for Officer Tippit's death en route to Oswald's own attempted escape. This book is, henceforth, a must-read for any with an ongoing interest in what remains an open case. That it does remain an open case is proven by the simple fact that the Warren Commission report, with Oswald as the "lone nut," has been later contradicted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations report, which finally concedes that two shooters must have been active.
McBride himself points out unique contributions as he goes along, the biggest one being his new and telling research on the J.D. Tippit death, research that begins to link Tippit with Ruby and the mafia, big oil, and the extreme right wing. It must be remembered as well, which McBride demonstrates, that, should LBJ have been involved in the JFK assassination, which is not proven, although there is documentation of his involvement in the coverup, he profited enormously from reversing JFK's intentions to gradually withdraw from Vietnam, since he owned substantial stock in Kellogg, Brown & Root, which had been absorbed in 1962 into Halliburton, both of which enjoyed a pile of non-competitive contracts for the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. With the death of JFK, LBJ also ducked a scandal about his own finances which would have burst upon the scene any minute. Oddly enough, then, solving the Tippit death accurately, rather than throwing that one on Oswald as well--who cried out when being led off "I'm just a patsy!"--is crucial.
Finally, McBride fashions this book of non-fiction, this history, as a Bildungsroman. The "Bildung" or education of an idealistic youth he tells in all its idiosyncracy: The author began as an ardent believer in Catholicism, America, and its free media, with two journalists for parents; he gradually lost that bloom of innocence, resisting along the way, and acquired the wound of experience; he tells the story so vividly that it becomes the American journey itself. Luckily, the wound does not prevent his own dogged progress, patriotic even or especially in its deeply skeptical approach. Blood, however, stains the pages. Without not only McBride's wakeup call but also the many other calls that are right now sounding, both about a political shadow government and even (cf. Catherine Austin Fitts) a financial shadow system as well, and without our actively heeding those calls, there will be, at home and abroad, more blood to come. Hannah Arendt has said (University of Chicago, lecture series, early `70's) that Americans at the founding wanted to be free from governing and concern with government rather than free to exert themselves in self-governing. This is a luxury we can no longer afford, perhaps could never afford. May it soon be said again, in a voice not of innocence but of experience, that America has a functioning democracy.