My brother is into conspiracy theory documentaries, so I’ve watched my fair share. Dark Legacy: George Bush and the Murder of John F. Kennedy is like many of these documentaries: it takes enormous leaps from scant evidence, and selectively presents only the facts that bolster its case. Certainly, you come out of it wondering… what if this were true? But while it raises some interesting questions, any documentary which instantly brands people as “Nazis” and “devils” does not deserve to be taken without massive heaps of salt.
Are there some things that don’t add up about the assassination of JFK? Of course there are. Dark Legacy walks through the standard evidence pretty briskly, only stopping to dwell, as Oliver Stone’s JFK does, on the gruesome seconds of the Zapruder footage. “Back and to the left. Back and to the left. Back and to the left.”
Dark Legacy’s main originality, as far as I can tell, is connecting the usual Kennedy / CIA assassin conspiracies with the Bush family conspiracy theories, trying to link the first Bush president, George H.W. Bush, to the assassination of JFK through a CIA-run anti-Castro program, Operation Zapata. The main piece of evidence is a very inexplicit memo from FBI Director Herbert Hoover, which names a George Bush at the CIA as being a leader of this program. According to the documentary, the former President George Bush has said the memo refers to another George Bush. Does the documentary investigate other George Bushes who might’ve been working for the CIA at the time? No. Does it ask if there are other reasons George Bush may have wanted to keep a CIA connection at that time secret? No.
The doc presents some compelling links between Nixon, Bush, Howard Hunt, Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald etc. But the problem with building a case out of a web of connections is that any two random people on Earth are only separated by six degrees. I could probably connect Nelson Mandela to the assassination of JFK if I tried hard enough.
This documentary is not for the squeamish. Although it presents itself as a counterfactual “what would JFK want if he were alive today,” I doubt JFK would want to see his own autopsy photo again and again. And if you are at all squeamish about tenuous leaps in logic – for example, assuming that because someone runs in the same social circles as someone else, they would engage in a criminal conspiracy together – this movie is also a turn-off.
If you’re already a conspiracy theorist, Dark Legacy will not likely be presenting anything new to you. However, even with its comical Terry Gilliam-esque animations, it does spin quite a yarn. I was rarely bored while watching it, and only confused when it presented a speculation and then immediately incorporated it as a fact.
Let me present my own speculation: if you like these sort of documentaries, you’ll probably like this one just fine. There are some technical problems with archival footage being at the wrong aspect ratio, and some footage having digital tearing. And, based on the credits to the film, I’m pretty sure the filmmaker did not secure the rights to the very expensive music used in the film. (“I know you’re workin’ for the CIA…”)
But if you’re down the rabbit hole, that’s not going to matter. Dark Legacy will be catnip. Partisans of Nixon and the Bush family would do well to stay away, unless they are lawyers viewing the doc for a potential slander case.