JFK--- The Final Chapter


Bill Gasarch

c 1995 by Bill Gasarch


Carl Stickel: Carl is in his 30's and
dressed informally. Carl is generally frenetic
and talks quickly, though understandably.

Steve Gordon:
Steve is in his 50's, and is a typical snobbish academic.
He smokes a pipe and wears a
tweed jacket.  
He won't light his pipe, just draw 
on it from time to time.
Steve's speech will be slow and meticulous.
This will contrast with Carl's speech.

Russian 1: He speaks with a mild Russian accent.
He knows what is going on.

Russian 2: He speaks with a mild Russian accent.
He is in the dark about what is going on.


The first scene takes place in a room in the basement
of the Kremlin.  
There should be a door on the stage and the next
room over should be visible to the audience.
The first room has a table and 2 chairs.
The table and chairs should be light and movable
since the characters will carry them into the next room
The next room has a file cabinet.

The second scene takes place in a different room in
the Kremlin, next to the room in 
the first scene.
The people in the second room have been  listening in on
the first scene with some electronic device.


The present.


[As the scene begins, Carl and Steve are
sitting at the table.]

STEVE: I wonder what's keeping the Russians?
They are supposed to let us in.

CARL: We could pick the lock
and read the documents before they get here.

STEVE: I'd rather not do that.

CARL: Aren't you curious about the documents?
They may reveal the truth about the JFK assassination!

STEVE: Right now I'm more curious to know why the 
Russians picked US to disclose these documents to.

CARL: Could it be that I am THE leading authority on the 
assassination of John F. Kennedy?

You may be THE leading conspiracy theorist, which is very
different from being THE leading authority.

CARL: I've read more about the assassination than anyone else
in the world.

Have you read the articles on it by Russian historians---articles
available only in Russian?

CARL: Have you? 

STEVE: Yes---I had to for my senior thesis.

CARL: I heard that your senior thesis forced the rule
limiting senior theses to 400 pages.

STEVE: That's the usual rumor. Like most rumors, it's interesting but
false.  Yes, my senior thesis was an elegant 674-page analysis of 
the Russian view of the JFK assassination.  And, yes,
after I handed it in they instituted the 400-page limit. However,
the notion that these two events are linked is pure

CARL: Gee, I suppose there is no reason to link those two events.
Lets get back to your question.  Why do you think they invited us?

Let's go over the facts.  The Russians invite you, Carl Stickel, 
conspiracy theorist, and me, Steve Gordon, bland, objective historian,
to look at newly discovered documents 
that are relevant to the Kennedy assassination.
These facts don't fit together.

I doubt the Russians know anything important.
The only real link is that Lee Harvey Oswald defected to Russia
and stayed there for a few years.  But that's well known.

STEVE: Do any of your fellow conspiracy theorists think there is a link
between the Soviet Union and the Kennedy assassination?

CARL: Well, some looney-tunes, right-wing, so-called historians
thought that some of the Soviet Union's hard-line Communists
arranged the assassination with the explicit approval of the Kremlin.
But their theory was based on ideology, not evidence.

STEVE: Unlike your first book, which claims that Richard Nixon hired the 
Mafia to kill both Kennedys and Marilyn Monroe.

CARL: I admit that book was flawed, but I did lay the basic
groundwork for my later theories.  To get back to YOUR original question---
Perhaps the Russians want the truth to come out---and hence
want two well-known, respected historians to look at the documents.

Actually, I'm respected and you're well known.  That does not make us
``two well-known, respected historians.''

CARL: Okay Steve, why do YOU think they chose us?

STEVE: There are three factors.
One: Either the documents are true, or they're not.
Two: Either the documents are important, or they're not.
Three: Either they think we'll be believed, or they don't.
These factors lead to eight possibilities.
For example, it might be the case that the material is true and important
AND they think we won't be believed---thus
further hiding the truth.

CARL: That sounds like a wackier conspiracy theory than I've ever had!

STEVE: I gave it only as an example.  It may be wacky and also true, 
which is better than being wacky and false---like your last book.

CARL: Ah! Although my last book SEEMED to be false based on mere facts, 
it actually contained a greater truth.

STEVE: Carl, don't give me that ``greater-truth bullsh--, uh philosophy.''
You claimed that a leading anti-abortion activist made his daughter 
get an abortion since a pregnancy would have caused a scandal. When looked
at carefully, the facts DO NOT establish that.

CARL: I did show that he is the KIND OF GUY who would do that. 

STEVE: The ethics of what you did are questionable at best!  

CARL: I admit it was sneaky, but not unethical.
It was perfect! I persuaded his daughter to claim
she was pregnant, and I got his reactions on video tape.

STEVE: Carl, I saw the complete video tape, not
the edited version you released to the media.  The parents were full of
angst and confusion. They were trying to figure out
what was best for their daughter.  

CARL: Okay, so I might have stretched the truth a bit.  But I
had a point to make and---

STEVE: [Cutting him off] And you were going to make it whether
it was true or not.  Carl, a good historian starts with the
QUESTION and then gathers evidence.  He does not start with the 
ANSWER and then seek evidence that supports it.
Consider my book on the history of religion in politics.
That was scholarly, complete, and---

CARL: [Completing the sentence] boring!

STEVE: Boring? I think not! I introduced the public--- 

CARL: [Cutting him off] All fourteen of them who read it.

STEVE: I introduced the public to a healthier way
of looking at religion and politics NOW by looking at it
THEN. Although I admit sales were not good.

CARL: That's because your book, all 2000 pages of it, had no point
of view.  If you had argued that the religious right is WRONG, then 
of course I would have liked it.  If you had argued that the 
religious right is RIGHT, then of course I would have disliked it---but
I would have read it and argued against it.

STEVE: You didn't read it? Then how do you know what's in it?

CARL: I read a book review which said your book lacked a point of view.

STEVE: The point was that the religious right has a right to have
its voice heard.

CARL: What about the separation of church and state?

STEVE: You should read my book before arguing about its conclusion.

CARL: I'm not going to wade through 2000 pages, no matter what
the conclusion is.

STEVE: The point is that my book is
factual and well researched, unlike your books.

CARL: And how many of MY books have YOU read?

STEVE: When I was told that we were the two historians allowed to investigate 
these archives, I spent a week reading virtually all of your writings.

CARL: Including those outside of history?

STEVE: Well, I didn't read your master's thesis in math. 
Computational algebraic topology was never my cup of tea.

CARL: Well, I'm impressed that you know the TOPIC of my master's thesis.

STEVE: A good historian is always thorough.

CARL: What did you think of my writings in history?

STEVE: Your logic is excellent, but your basic assumptions are wrong!
Hence your historical writings will never amount to much.

CARL: You're saying that because I'm an outsider.  Great discoveries are 
always made by outsiders, since those inside are too rigid.  This applies 
to history as well as the more obvious examples of physics and mathematics.

STEVE: If you knew more history of science, and history of history,
you'd know that was wrong.  Outsiders can and do help, but both outsiders 
and insiders have their place in all fields of endeavor.

CARL: You'd love to preserve the status quo, wouldn't you? You were born 
to a white, upper-middle-class family and have always had what you wanted: 
money, job security, and a distinguished chair in `The History of History.'

STEVE: Carl, I admire your rise from poverty to success.  But our initial 
upbringings do not make  our opinions ON HISTORY more or less valid.
If we debated what it's like to grow up poor, I would defer to your superior 
experience.  If we debate what it's like to go to grad school in history, 
then you should defer to my superior experience.  But we are debating ... 
what are we debating anyway?

CARL: We are debating my writings.

STEVE: Oh, yes. Your assumptions are faulty.  Your book HOOVER: HIT MAN
is an excellent example of what's good and bad about your research.  
Chapter one, establishing that J. Edgar Hoover was a racist, was well 
documented.  Chapter two, establishing that Hoover considered 
Martin Luther King a threat to this country, was based on solid evidence.
Chapter three, establishing that Hoover PERSONALLY pulled the trigger to  
kill Martin Luther King, is provably false!

CARL: But my book was far more interesting than any of your books.

STEVE: Interest is not the same as truth.  How many of MY books
have YOU read?

CARL:	I tried to get through your book on the Panama Canal,
but I made it only to page 100.  You didn't even make the
obvious point that America acted immorally in obtaining the canal.

STEVE: My point was not whether America acted badly or not.  My point was that
different historians have interpreted that event in vastly different ways.
For example, the Russian historians used to be very critical of how America
obtained the Panama Canal, but the reason they were so critical was---

CARL: [Cutting him off] because that the taking of the canal 
was an immoral act of gumball diplomacy!

STEVE: I think you mean `gunboat diplomacy.'

CARL: No, I mean `gumball diplomacy.' America just took the people's rights 
and chewed them up like a gumball.

STEVE: I don't care what your opinion of the Panama Canal is. I don't 
even care if the way we obtained it WAS immoral or not.  I only care about 
what historians from different eras say about it. This tells us much about 
those eras.  The Russian historians were critical INDEPENDENT of the truth.
They were critical because the Kremlin told them to be critical.

CARL: Where was that in your book?

STEVE: Around page 1200 or so.  What was more interesting was how American
historians viewed it.  From the late 1970s 'til now, they viewed America as 
acting badly.  But during the 1950s, they thought America acted well.
This shows something about how America has changed.

CARL: Yes, it shows that back in the 1950s every historian was
owned---lock, stock, and barrel---by the establishment. This caused
conformity of thought and stifled intellectual discussion.

STEVE: The best example of conformity of thought that I've ever
seen was in your seminar. Students had to agree with you,
or they were shouted down.

CARL: That's not true! The student who thought that Marilyn Monroe
was not killed by Richard Nixon was not shouted down.

STEVE: That's only because that student thought Bob Dole's father
killed Marilyn Monroe.  I should rephrase my objection--- Students had
to conform to your general view of history, or they were shouted down.

CARL: But my general view of history is correct.
So what's wrong with conforming to it?

STEVE: Your general view of history is simplistic.
You should read more in the way of bland, objective history.
For starters, you should finish reading my book on the Panama Canal.

CARL: It's over 3000 pages! I could put it on my night table---to read 
when I want to sleep. 

STEVE: I needed all those pages to make my point.

CARL: I doubt anyone is awake at the end to get your point.

STEVE: You clearly have not read my books. Have you read any of my articles?

CARL: I did like your article on  different views of the JFK assassination. 
It was fun reading MY point of view as interpreted by YOU.

STEVE:  I never mentioned your work.

CARL: You never mentioned me explicitly, but you wrote ... what was
that? ...,
``Some conspiracy theorists think that the rich and powerful control
every facet of our lives in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.''
That's clearly a simplistic analysis of my work.

STEVE: Actually, I was thinking of far better historians
than you.  Historians who deal with facts.

CARL: But mere facts cannot convey the underlying truth.  The Kennedy 
assassination is a good example of that.  The mere facts don't lead to 
the obvious truth that the CIA was responsible for the death of John F. Kennedy.

STEVE: In your first book you blamed Richard Nixon. In your second book 
you blamed the FBI. How do we know that you won't change your mind again?

CARL: Because this time I have the real truth.  The CIA clearly
had it in for JFK. They had means, motive, and opportunity.

STEVE: That's absurd.  But I'm appalled with your research for a different 
reason.  Your distrust of the CIA IS warranted.  But you dig up evidence, 
no matter how weak, to support that distrust.  This appalls me, because an 
HONEST history of the CIA would be far more effective.  You could see when 
they did good work, when they did bad work. Such a book might even help them.

CARL: Help the CIA! You're just a tool of the establishment.

STEVE: If that's the case, then how come your books give you fame and fortune 
while mine gather dust in libraries?

CARL: All that means is that the public has an appetite for the truth, which 
is never the way the government presents it.

STEVE: Your books are published by mainstream, establishment companies,
while mine are published by small hand-to-mouth academic presses.
I find it ironic that the establishment makes gobs of money publishing books 
that unfairly criticize ... the establishment.
[Russian 1 enters.]

RUSSIAN 1: Sorry to keep you waiting.  Here is the key to the other room.

STEVE: Thank you.

CARL: Why were you late?

RUSSIAN 1: I'm only 10 minutes late.  You have the key. I will leave you to 
get on with your work.
[Gives key to Carl who opens the door.]

CARL: Hey, wait! That room has no table or chairs!

RUSSIAN 1: Bring in the table and chairs from the waiting room.

STEVE: Is this how you treat guests?

RUSSIAN 1: This is far better than we treat our own historians.

CARL: How's that?

RUSSIAN 1: At least you get chairs and a table. Usually they sit on the floor.
I leave you to explore our archives.
[Russian 1 leaves. Carl and Steve move table and chairs to
the room with the file cabinet.]

STEVE: [Goes to file cabinet and begins rummaging through it.]
This one looks as though it's dated at about
the right time. The outside says November 1963.

Hmmm, does it look authentic?

STEVE: Let's see.  The handwriting is authentic.  It's over the seal, hmmm, 
YES, this is the official KGB seal. It's authentic.
[Looks at another] Hmmm, looks as if these are all authentic.

CARL: Good, let's open the first one.

STEVE: Hmmm, official documents, some boring stuff, some forms. 
This looks important!!

CARL: What is it?

STEVE: It's a memo from the KGB to the Kremlin--- but it's dated
Nov 22, 1963---

CARL AND STEVE: The day Kennedy was shot!

STEVE: It also says to send a copy to Lyndon Johnson!

CARL: Why would a KGB memo be sent to anyone in the American
government? And why Lyndon Johnson? Ah! Maybe the KGB had evidence that
the CIA had a hand in the assassination, and wanted to give that evidence 
to Johnson directly! No, that would blow my theory that Johnson was involved
in the cover-up.  Maybe uh... 

STEVE: Be quiet and let me translate this. ``From KGB to Kremlin.
We have information on the Kennedy assassination that we should share with 
the Americans.  If they find out WITHOUT us telling them, it could mean war.  
During one of Kennedy's anti-communist speeches''---

CARL: [Cutting him off] They can't take Kennedy's anti-communist
speeches seriously.  They were just to placate the right wing of his party.

STEVE: You believe that only because it fits into your world view.
Now be quiet and let me continue.  ``During one of Kennedy's anti-communist 
speeches, Khrushchev got angry and said he wished Kennedy would just go away.
Zibrinski mistook this for a command to have Kennedy assassinated.  Since he 
did not want this traced back to the Kremlin, or even to the KGB, he went 
outside normal channels.  He recruited Lee Harvey Oswald  for the job.''
WHAT? We all thought Lee Harvey Oswald was just a nut case, or a loner or a 
patsy, or maybe even brainwashed, but NEVER that he was hired by
the KGB! [Continues to read document]
``As you know, Oswald succeeded one hour ago.''

CARL: This CAN'T be true!  A radical faction of the KGB is responsible, 
and the mainline KGB helped hide the truth.  This is unbelievable!
In fact, I don't believe it! Keep reading.

STEVE: This document was written very shortly after the event!
``We should hand all the information  to Lyndon Johnson.
He should appoint a commission that will conclude 
that Oswald acted alone.  There may be some questions, but we'll avoid war.''

CARL: None of this makes sense!  This contradicts how the world works!

STEVE: It may contradict YOUR VIEW of the world.
But what's important is that we're uncovering the truth!

CARL: The report says they were considering sharing the information.
Did they do so?

STEVE: Let's continue looking.  Ah! Here is one dated
a few days later with the same insignia! I'll translate.
``Kremlin to KGB: Tell Lyndon Johnson everything. Terminate Oswald.''

CARL: Wow! Jack Ruby, Oswald's assassin,  was a KGB agent! Or was he? 
It says only that they assigned a KGB agent to kill Oswald. For all we know, 
maybe Jack Ruby acted alone and had nothing to do with the KGB.
I'm still not sure I believe any of this.

STEVE: Here is a note from Lyndon Johnson. ``From Washington to Kremlin:
We agree---the truth should not come out.  We'll take care of Oswald.''

CARL: I wonder if Jack Ruby was KGB, CIA, or both? Or maybe he really was 
just a nut case who got to Oswald first, sparing both the KGB and the CIA
the trouble.

STEVE: The answer is here someplace.  We could spend a month in these 
archives and then publish a fully documented, honest book.  
It wouldn't fit into anyone's ideology, but it would be the truth, 
so I'd be happy.  The book will be more HONEST  than your work
and more INTERESTING than my work.

CARL: It will be more interesting than your work.  And, in fact, it DOES 
make sense! The truth about the assassination shows how the establishment 
hides the truth from the masses.  The only real change is that at the time 
the Soviet Union was part of the establishment.

STEVE: Won't your fans call you a cop-out, since you won't be
blaming just the American establishment this time?

CARL: This book makes EVERYONE look bad---and, since my fans are cynical,
Generation-X types, I'll be fine.

STEVE: I think the people involved come out looking good.
They avoided war.

CARL: I thought you were a fan of the truth?

STEVE: I like knowing the truth about the past.
But I understand the need for politicians to lie about the present.

CARL: Do you also support Richard Nixon's lying about Watergate? 
Ronald Reagan's lying about Iran-Contra-gate?
George Bush's lying about Iran-Contra-gate?
Gerald Ford's lying about ... whatever it was that he lied about?

STEVE: Funny how you mention only Republican presidents.

CARL: I'll add that Lyndon Johnson lied about Vietnam.

STEVE: Can we stop arguing and work on this book?  

CARL: Okay. The book's theme will be that the establishment
is bigger than people think it is. The establishment includes not
just America, but also some of its traditional so-called enemies.  

STEVE: That's totally unwarranted. Whats important 
is the truth and people's reactions to it.

CARL: What kind of theme is that?

STEVE: There are three important aspects worthy of investigation. 
One: how people will react to this information.  Your reaction alone is 
probably worth a paper. Two: why the information is coming out now. And three, 
which I consider very important: why they chose us as the historians to 
disclose it to.  I feel that the answer to THAT question will have profound 
ramifications for understanding this crucial era in Russian history.

CARL: I can't believe this! You want to turn this controversial
and engaging book into a 1000-page treatise.

STEVE: 1000 pages wouldn't do it justice, because...

[Scene fades out]


[The Russians are listening to the conversation between Carl and Steve
with some electronic device.]

RUSSIAN 1: Good, they are planning to write a book together.

RUSSIAN 2: Did the Americans find the correct documents?

RUSSIAN 1: Yes.  They now know the truth about the JFK assassination.

RUSSIAN 2: Why did our superiors want them to learn  the truth? 

RUSSIAN 1: They didn't tell me directly.  But I overheard one of
them say that the truth would probably come out eventually, 
and that it's better to tell them ourselves.  

RUSSIAN 2: Tell them?!! What about telling us?!!  I'm glad the truth is coming 
out, but wouldn't it have been useful for our own policymakers to know this 
material a long time ago?

RUSSIAN 1: I agree.  In the bad old days the Kremlin believed their own lies, 
which proved dangerous.  That was one of the reasons for the collapse!
There is an old Russian saying,
``Lying to your neighbor is bad for your neighbor, but lying to yourself
is bad for yourself.''

RUSSIAN 2: If the truth stayed hidden for so long, why reveal it NOW?

RUSSIAN 1: This is the perfect time.  The USSR has collapsed, so the old 
guard cannot prevent the truth from coming out.  Nobody in power
needs to hide the truth.  By contrast, America is a stable
country--- some of their secrets will never come out---unless
unless they are in the KGB archives.
[He laughs.]

RUSSIAN 2: I see why the truth should come out.  But why pick these two?  
Is it because they will be believed?  Steve Gordon, a bland, objective 
historian,  would be believed---but Carl Stickel would not. Is it because 
Stickel is well known?

RUSSIAN 1: Our superiors gave me a list of all American historians who have 
written an article on the JFK assassination.  They told me to study the list 
and then pick two names. They did not give me any criteria---they are used 
to the old days when you just passed down orders mindlessly.  I looked over 
the list and realized that it did not matter who investigated. So I put all 
the names into a hat, and picked out two at random.  That's the truth.