WEIRDLAND: Stanley Marks' JFK book Murder Most Foul!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Stanley Marks' JFK book Murder Most Foul!

This book features two volumes in one: Stanley J. Marks' Murder Most Foul! (1967) and Rob Couteau's biographical essay that surveys the life and work of this author of a forgotten classic. It also includes an in-depth examination of Murder Most Foul! that shows how and why it was so far ahead of its time and that places it in the context of other researchers, past and present. Couteau shares his detective work in unraveling the clues of Marks' Zelig-like biography, which touches on so many pivotal moments in 20th-century cultural and political history. This groundbreaking biography was also produced with the help of Marks' only child, Roberta Marks. JFK scholar Jim DiEugenio calls Couteau's work "important," "first-rate," and "a wonderful homage" to "one of the most important critics of the Warren Report ever ... and an unsung hero in the JFK case. Stanley Marks was rocket miles ahead of everyone. He really understood the big picture early. And not just on the JFK case." DiEugenio is the foremost scholar on the Kennedy assassination, author of Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case, and scriptwriter for Oliver Stone's documentary in the works, JFK: Destiny Betrayed (2020). With the release of Bob Dylan's ballad, "Murder Most Foul" this spring, which may have been influenced by Marks' book, interest in the author has been reawakened, largely as a result of Couteau's article on Marks. More than fifty years after the publication of Murder Most Foul! the text still resonates with a prescient vision. A fearless author who was blacklisted by HUAC, Stanley Marks was one of the first American researchers to draw a direct connection between the murders of JFK, RFK and MLK. In 1973, the JFK Library contacted Marks with a request to purchase Murder Most Foul! for their collection. In 1979, the House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on Assassinations cited five of Marks' assassination-related titles (including Murder Most Foul!) in its report. Marks published nineteen books on politics and religion, one of which received accolades from Arnold Toynbee and Herbert Marcuse. His first book, a bestseller titled The Bear that Walks Like a Man: A Diplomatic and Military Analysis of Soviet Russia (1943), was reviewed in over thirty mainstream newspapers and received glowing praise from John Cudahy, President Roosevelt's former ambassador to Poland and Belgium. Source:

Stanley Marks’ wry irony flourishes throughout MMF, and there are many instances of the author’s trademark style of humor mixed with outrage, born from insight. And his reference to the “national interest” has been largely replaced by a term that we’ve seen with ever-increasing frequency over the last few decades: “National Security” with its concomitant erosion of civil rights; violation of human rights; and censoring of information that belongs in the hands of citizens. Although the work of early researchers has been absorbed and superseded by that of subsequent authors, Marks still remains ahead of the curve when it comes to the larger picture that he paints at the conclusion of his book, which enters into a broader philosophical speculation regarding what will happen to the collective psyche of America as a result of the assassination in Dealey Plaza in 1963. He titles his second chapter: “The Fraudulent Autopsy, Or How to Lie in a Military Manner.” His humor is also displayed in chapter four Coup d’État!, which bears the heading: “The Non-existing Paper Bag, Or How to Manufacture Evidence” (referring to a false claim that Oswald had slipped a rifle into a paper bag, then snuck it into work on the day of the assassination). In chapter seven, Marks issues a warning that even researchers today would be wise to heed: “How many ‘Hearings,’ ‘Witnesses,’ and Affidavits were produced? The FBI inundated the Commission with 25,000 reports; in fact, the FBI gave the Commission so many reports of its ‘investigations’ that the FBI created a ‘fog’ over the work of the Commission. It now seems to have been deliberate for, in a period of 9 months, no group of 14 lawyers could have read, digested, and analyzed each report to see what each report would have on an overall picture of the conspiracy.” In chapter fourteen, Stanley takes CIA Director Dulles to task. He begins by quoting Dulles from an article that appeared in Look magazine in 1966: “If they found another assassin,” says Dulles, “let them name names and produce their evidence.” Marks replies: “This contemptuous statement directed at the American citizenry revealed the attitude of the Commission. The Commission did not praise the president; they gave him a funeral and used his shroud to conceal his murderers.” Taking a further dig at Dulles, Marks rhetorically asks: “Mr. Dulles, how can other assassins be named if material is NOT in the National Archives? Was there a conspiracy, Mr. Dulles? Of course there was!” 

Next, he introduces the subject of Kennedy’s foreign policy—according to Marks, the most probable reason he was killed: “With the relaxation of tensions between the U.S. and the USSR after President Kennedy’s confrontation with the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Batista Cuban exile organization, with many members on the CIA payroll, decided that Kennedy must go.” Three years later, in A Heritage of Stone, Jim Garrison would extrapolate on this theme of JFK’s attempt to end the Cold War and how it may have led to his undoing. Although Marks couldn’t have known the full extent of the connection between various assassination attempts on De Gaulle and the Kennedy assassination, his instinct—coupled with his in-depth knowledge of European history—was already leading him in this direction: “As History has shown a conspiracy spreads rumors. The various assassination attempts upon President De Gaulle were always preceded by rumors and the French Agencies took care to track them down. Yet, in spite of this, De Gaulle narrowly escaped death when the attempted killers received word one hour before the attempt.” In fact, a figure linked to the numerous attempts on De Gaulle’s life was lurking in Fort Worth and Dallas at the same time that JFK visited those two cities during his final day on earth. As Henry Hurt explains in Reasonable Doubt (1987), a man claiming to be Jean Souètre, a French army deserter and member of the Organisation Armée Secrète (a right-wing French paramilitary group) was apprehended by American officials in Dallas shortly after Kennedy’s murder and immediately expelled from the country. In the chapter “The Rape of the American Conscience,” Marks places the blame directly up on the Commissioners: “The members of the Commission did not achieve their status in the American social, economic, and political scale by being stupid; therefore one can only conclude that these seven had some understanding, whether spoken or implied, that this Nation of 195,000,000 souls would be torn asunder if the Commission reported to them that a Conspiracy had murdered President John F. Kennedy. Yet, these seven men place their honor upon a Report that would wilt in the noonday sun.” Thus, the Commissioners—who certainly weren’t “stupid”—must have assumed that the American people were. After quoting Harry S. Truman’s dictum, “The buck stops here,” Marks concludes: “That the Commission was negligent and slothful in its responsibility has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.” repeatedly emphasizes the fact that four principles enumerated in the Preamble to the Constitution—justice, domestic tranquility, promoting the general welfare, and securing liberty were blasphemously violated by the conspirators as well as the Commissioners. The author concludes: “People, in all nations, must stand for an ideal. The United States of America was not born on the idea that its President could be shot like a dog in the street and his murderers be ‘shielded from this day on’ because it would be ‘against the National Interests.’” This line clearly resembles one from Dylan’s own “Murder Most Foul” when he sings: “shot down like a dog in broad daylight.”

With the murder of an idealistic president comes the death of our own youthful idealism: “The Spirit has in this year of 1967 been replaced by cynicism of everything ‘American’ … The Youth … which a Nation must have to exist, had a feeling within them that the nation did not care for the future. There is no Spirit today. How can there be? A Congress that passes a law which drafts only the poor, white or black? This is the Spirit of America?” Note how Stanley capitalizes both Nation and Youth, as if to highlight their equivalence and remind us that these are potentially sacred forces, crucial to society’s future well-being. Later on, he will also capitalize another term normally rendered in lower-case: Citizen. The author includes several remarks that appear to be aimed directly at Ronald Reagan, a future president of the United States who was then governor of California (where Marks currently resided): “A Governor that destroys an educational system? A Governor who believes that only the youth who has parents with money should enter the Universities and Colleges of his state? A Governor that believes mental health can be cured with pills?” Such challenges remain with us now, not just in one state but across the entire nation: racial injustice; poverty; unequal educational opportunity; and mental illness problems that are addressed with government approved pill popping, which in various other publications Marks links directly to the stress caused by lack of economic opportunities and the widespread cynicism that engulfed America. At the same time, Timothy Leary encouraged young people to use streets drugs to “tune in, turn on, and drop out.” And he specifically instructed his acolytes to avoid politics: “The choice is between being rebellious and being religious. Don’t vote. Don’t be politic. Don’t petition.” For the Establishment, Woodstock was preferable to a half million protestors showing up at the National Mall. The result of all this was that by the late Sixties and early Seventies “sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll” became a new opiate of the masses. Marks would later make a direct reference to such matters in his study on monotheism, Jews, Judaism and the United States, where he warns: “Both the U.S. and the USSR have been using ‘mind-controlling’ drugs since 1970! However, various states have also been using such drugs to control “unruly” children (see S. J. Marks’ Through Distorted Mirrors, 1976).” Thus, as early as the mid-1970s—decades before the widespread public indignation over the use of Ritalin to control schoolchildren—Marks was broaching the issue of the pharmaceutical industry’s abuse. We’ll never know to what extent the market for psychotropic medication came as a result of a youth culture that had been encouraged to destroy their own psychic equilibrium with street drugs… as a true “Lost” Generation. 

Very much in the spirit of Publilius Syrus (“The judge is condemned when the guilty is acquitted”), Marks concludes the penultimate chapter of MMF by addressing Allen Dulles; and, with a lovely touch, issues his own verdict against both Dulles and the Commission: “No, Mr. Dulles, it was not the responsibility of the American Citizen to find and name the assassins; that was your task. Your lack of responsibility to the task is the cause for your failure. You had at your disposal the entire operating machinery of the Government of the United States. We citizens have only what you and your fellow commissioners wrote. We read, we looked, we analyzed, we thought; and we, nearly 70% of us, now deliver a verdict on your work: The Warren Commission was a failure.” The Postscript of MMF is graced by the title: “Jim Garrison, ‘St. George’ Versus the ‘Dragon’!” Unlike other researchers who were snookered by the mainstream media’s drumbeat assault upon Garrison (we now know was orchestrated by the CIA), Marks realized that Garrison, as St. George, was up against a State-sponsored dragon. The author states: “By the time this book appears in print, the Kennedy Conspiracy may claim another victim; none other than Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans, whose ‘lance of truth’ has pierced vital organs of the Conspiracy That Murdered President Kennedy.” On the final page of MMF, Marks makes a prediction that, sadly, comes to pass: “As the day for the Clay Shaw trial approaches, the greater the use of the media for the perpetration of the lie increases. If the forces behind the Conspiracy cannot destroy Mr. Garrison’s case, they may decide to destroy the man, either physically or by reputation.” Indeed, this proved to be the case: the powers-that-be went after Garrison’s reputation and attempted to sully it. 

As Gaeton Fonzi discusses in The Last Investigation, the Agency had long since perfected its craft of sullying and destroying the reputation of world leaders who refused to tow the line. Character assassination would also prove to be a second, posthumous conspiracy launched against JFK. Regarding the media’s obsequious role in all this, Marks adds: “Various members of the mass communication media bribed witnesses, hid witnesses, issued fraudulent interviews… and produced nation-wide television programs which upheld the findings of the Warren Commission. How incredible! Why? The answer to ‘why’ can be found in the fact that many of the active and inactive participants of the Conspiracy will be found in the ranks of the government and the economic strata of our Nation.” Marks now introduces the crucial subject of the ruling economic elite, which exists one level above the CIA. This concept was rarely broached by assassination researchers until Fletcher Prouty published The Secret Team (1972). Marks includes a chapter titled “The Establishment” in which he sums it up nicely: “It can be said that not more than 8,000 persons comprise the Establishment. They control every major decision, foreign and domestic, made in the nation. It is not a ‘conspiracy’ but a ‘meeting of the minds.’ They sincerely believe that ‘what is good for them is good for the country. At the foreign policy level, the ‘Establishment’ works through the following four agencies: (1) the Council of Foreign Affairs; (2) the Committee for Economic Development; (3) The National Security Council; and (4) the CIA.” Much of the rest of this chapter is comprised of lists of other organizations, foundations, and corporations funded by Establishment forces and tasked with “the movement of policy directed by the Establishment.” All this has a direct bearing on Dulles, who worked as a partner on the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell (along with his brother, John Foster Dulles), a firm that represented leading multinational corporations and interests such as those of the oligarchic Rockefellers. As a principal law partner there, Dulles was positioned at the apex of a visible pyramid of power. But above this first structure one can also imagine a second, inverted pyramid: one far less visible and inhabited by those éminence grises. The Dulles brothers served as interlocutors between these two structures, via institutions such as Sullivan and Cromwell. During a discussion on the dangers of the Agency, almost as an aside, he accurately predicts what will happen next in Chile; and he does so by tying the fate of that nation to Vietnam: “After the extermination of the Indo-Chinese nations as nations, the CIA will then proceed to ‘exterminate’ another nation–Chile. The Establishment’s propaganda is already being published with the same old trite and dreary slogans: ‘The Chileans pose a threat to our security.’ A nation that is more than 5,000 miles away from the territorial mainland of the United States, with no navy, army, or air force that cannot even drop leaflets on our mainland! Thus, with the CIA ‘protecting’ the people from ‘invasions’ and the FBI maintaining its ever-vigilant status over the ‘dissenters,’ the people calmly lockstep their way into a prison of their own making.” What follows is an affirmation of this dire reality as well as an insightful remark regarding the principal motivation behind President Kennedy’s desire to lead our nation: “I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that the same forces removed everyone. Every one of these men were humanists. They were concerned about the human race. And above all, they were opposed to the evolution of America into an imperialist empire-seeking warfare state. Which it has become, I’m afraid. They’re eliminating them, one by one. Always a ‘lone’ assassin.”

On the penultimate page of MMF, Marks asks: “To whom does the mass communication system owe its loyalty? To the people who have fought, are fighting, and will continue to fight for the ideas of the ‘freedom of the press’; or to its advertisers?” In conclusion, Marks invokes a fellow lawyer and philosopher who served as the third American president and whose words Marks uses to plead his case. “Thomas Jefferson once said that the most important factor in a democracy is a free press; he did not say a ‘privileged’ press. The hideous activity of NBC, CBS, ABC, and other organs of the mass communication media can lead to a conclusion that certain members of that media know that President Kennedy was murdered by Conspirators and the Conspiracy must never be allowed to face the light of day.” Stanley ends on a note that continues to resonate, because what he calls the “light of day” has yet to emerge—for reasons we know all too well. We are still facing the same challenge. According to the census, Marks was born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1914, just three years before the birth of JFK. When he was four years old, his parents died from the 1918 influenza pandemic that infected a third of the world’s population. According to his daughter Roberta, after their death, Stanley was placed in the care of his foster parents, Sarah and Samuel Markowitz, from whom he took his surname, later changing it to “Marks.” One of the few things Roberta knows about her father’s upbringing is that Stanley often said “he never had enough food. When you see pictures of him as a youth, he was bone-thin.” One is tempted to surmise that his privations and experience on Chicago’s hardscrabble streets may have helped to mold him into a lifelong FDR New Dealer. Shortly after his twenty-second birthday, Stanley married Ethel Milgrom, a nineteen-year-old Chicago native. Ethel would served as his editor, helping to polish Stanley’s sometimes awkward, strident prose. After attending the University of Illinois in 1937, he graduated from the affiliated John Marshall Law School, which is still Chicago’s only public law school. Marks graduated during a precarious moment in history; and perhaps this explains why a law school graduate was working as a salesman. In 1969, the war machine was grossing “eighty-billion dollars a year in America.” The “resource wars” conducted in subsequent decades in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq continued in the same vein and the reasons for Kennedy’s removal can be seen just as clearly when we analyze the foreign policy agenda of most of the presidents who have followed in his wake. 

And instead of benefitting from rapacious profit, Kennedy’s foreign policy views were driven not only by idealism but by humanism. One of the Marks’ volumes on religion, Through Distorted Mirrors, received high praise from both Arnold Toynbee and Herbert Marcuse. In Toynbee’s blurb, which is printed on the back cover, he calls the work a “remarkable tour de force.” This is followed by that of Marcuse: “This book is not a history book, nor a religious book. Rather, it is one that deals with Man’s Humanity toward Man and, at the same time, dealing with Man’s inhumanity toward Man. A book that will stimulate and aggravate the reader.” A belief in what man is capable of; of what narrow-mindedness he might fall victim to; and of how change must come through visions that inspire as well as through rhetoric that provokes are all things that were also shared by the Kennedy brothers. Stanley’s story is a story of our times. An orphaned first-generation American who graduated from law school during the Great Depression, he furthered his education by accumulating a 5,000 book library, conducted research with the approval of a Secretary of State, taught at a remarkably avant-garde school, served under General MacArthur, and was rewarded for such efforts by being blacklisted by HUAC. He later settled in LA and, undaunted, proceeded to publish at least twenty-two other books. On March 28, 1979, Murder Most Foul! was included in the Library of Congress. On the same day, the House of Representatives’ Select Subcommittee on Assassinations issued a report that cites five assassination-related titles authored by Marks. Former Newsweek correspondent Joachim Joesten  remarked: “To my knowledge, nobody but Jim Garrison (and an obscure West Coast writer named Stanley J. Marks) has ever endorsed before my unswerving contention that the murder of John F. Kennedy was nothing short of a camouflaged coup d’état.” “MMF” is by far the most polemical of Dylan's songs, with “Masters of War” coming in a close second. Although his lyrics are usually clear in terms of narrative, they do possess an artful manner of defying a singular interpretation. Yet, atypically, the polemical “MMF” features some rather direct statements. More early JFK investigative books: The Grassy Knoll (1965) by Harold Feldman, Lee Harvey Oswald and the American Dream (1967) by Paul Sites, How Kennedy Was Killed; The Full Appalling Story (1968) by Joachim Joesten, Investigation of a Homicide: The Murder of John F. Kennedy (1969) by Judith Whitson Bonner, Plodding Toward Terror: A Personal Look At The Jack Ruby Case (1974) by Ralph M. Pabst, History's Verdict; The Acquittal Of Lee Harvey Oswald (1975) by Ross F. Ralston,  Aiming For The Jugular In New Orleans (1976) by William H. Davis, etc. Source:

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