The murder of Robert Kennedy, allegedly by a lone, crazy Palestinian gunman, has always taken second place in the popular imagination to the death of his brother in Dallas. Conspiracy theories circle around both murders like vultures and this extraordinary book and the accompanying TV documentary bring together a range of material accumulated over many years which suggests that there were two gunmen and that the Los Angeles Police Department was either incompetent in its investigations or corrupt.
The evidence for this assertion has been building through a series of investigations but the icing on the cake is a live cassette recording of the event which when analysed with modern technologies indicates that more shots were fired – and more rapidly – than any single gunman could have managed. It also seems likely from the evidence that Robert Kennedy was shot from behind and at close quarters at the same time as Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted assassin, was in front of him.
Robert Kennedy had so many enemies from his time as Attorney General and before that it is hard to point the finger at any group. Mafia gang bosses, Cubans, white supremacists and pro Vietnam War politicians detested the idea of him becoming president and feared what a radical administration led by Bobby Kennedy might propose. However, the overwhelming conclusion is that his murder and the subsequent cover-up needed state involvement and the finger points at the CIA, possibly working with, or on behalf of, organised crime.
The comparisons with the murder of John Kennedy are remarkable. The use of a ‘patsy’ assailant who would subsequently be unable to testify in one case by being dead and in the other by some kind of mental breakdown, the choice of a location where the CIA had good links with the police department and the state government, the rush to conclude that there was a lone assassin and the subsequent cover-up all seem to be significant elements in both stories.
It is an unpleasant story because both of the Kennedy brothers seemed to be offering a new kind of government in the USA confronting the gangsters, supporting civil rights and addressing poverty and deprivation. Somewhere along the line the shadowy people who pull the strings in modern states decided that was enough and that should make us all uneasy.
One of the positives of the novel is that it presents the evidence without sensationalism and doesn’t jump to conclusions. It is also well-structured, leading the reader deeper into the events while keeping the broader picture in mind. And, it is not afraid to leave questions unanswered at the end.
It’s a book about the past but it should also make us reflect on the present. It is easy to rubbish any conspiracy theory and we all laugh at fake moon landings but we should be careful. Knowledge and power are closely linked as the anti-European campaign to leave the EU demonstrated. Newspaper magnates, right-wing politicians and international finance controlled the narrative of the debate, ignored electoral regulations on finance and published lies about immigration, refugees and budgets. Of course, it wasn’t a conspiracy just the will of the people, or was it? Perhaps, one day, some brave journalists will find out more.
(I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, Thistle Publishing. The book was published in May 2018)