Book Reviews: 'The Road to Dallas' by D. Kaiser and 'Brothers in Arms' by G. Russo and S. Molton

By Tim Naftali,
who is co-author of "Khrushchev's Cold War" and director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
Thursday, January 15, 2009


The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

By David Kaiser

Belknap/Harvard Univ. 509 pp. $35


The Kennedys, the Castros, and the Politics of Murder

By Gus Russo and Stephen Molton

Bloomsbury. 545 pp. $32.50

This month marks the 50th anniversary of one of those rare historical events that reshape the world. The Cuban revolution led to a superpower nuclear standoff, a deepening of Sino-Soviet tension, a reinvigoration of revolution throughout the developing world and, according to these two books, the murder of an American president. "Brothers in Arms," by Gus Russo and Stephen Molton, and "The Road to Dallas," by David Kaiser, reach diametrically opposed conclusions as to why and how Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, but they share the thesis that the shooting sprang from the U.S. conflict with Fidel Castro.

Russo is an investigative reporter who has worked for PBS's "Frontline" and written books about organized crime; his co-author, Molton, is a novelist and screenwriter. They contend that, in retaliation for plots against Fidel, the Castro regime employed Oswald to kill Kennedy.

Kaiser is a professor at the Naval War College and a professional historian. He argues that, contrary to Oswald's public pronouncements -- of which there were surprisingly many for an aspiring assassin -- Oswald was actually an opponent of Castro used by mob leaders who wanted Castro and Kennedy dead.

Both books accept the Warren Commission's finding that Oswald was the lone gunman, but they proceed from the assumption that someone or some group must have been behind him. While better than most of the crate-load of conspiracy books that since 1963 have argued that there were shooters on grassy knolls and byzantine plots involving nearly every major American political figure of the time, neither "Brothers in Arms" nor "The Road to Dallas" is persuasive.

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