In all the years following the Jonestown Tragedy, no one but me has ever even suggested that it may not have been Peoples Temple who killed the congressman. I’ve not only suggested it – I’ve claimed it.
But to have now surfaced proof with the chance to revise, not simply revisit history, is a landmark breakthrough that goes well beyond me, as was always the intent.
We shall now proceed to examine that proof, as well as to weave it into the largely-hidden context of that time.
As always, any breakthrough on this subject is still tempered with sorrow; yet given a scenario that so boggles the mind both then and now, any clarity might still be counted as a gift.
This Claim Shall Prevail
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a copy of the Zapruder film in your own home, so you could piece together the assassination of John F. Kennedy for yourself, to see how many shots there were and where they came from?
At least with the Kennedy assassination, we’ve had lingering public doubt. Tracks covered, disappearing evidence, shrouded in rationales that few believe. Enough was revealed to be sure of what we didn’t know, so at least we’ve known enough to question.
By contrast, there was little public disclosure with the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan beyond, “They did it!,” “they” of course being Peoples Temple. Horror, shock, and the death of the “presumptive assassins” precluded any real inquiry.
Yet with this assassination, we finally have the equivalent of the Zapruder film and more – and astoundingly, right in people’s homes! Through the recent explosion of Jonestown-inspired media, combined with our modern DVD’s and DVR’s and TV specials, thousands of people now do have “smoking guns” regarding Ryan’s death that they never had for Kennedy’s.
They just haven’t been told yet where to look or what to look for. I am now about to do that.
This claim shall prevail.
What Constitutes Proof
There are many ways to prove allegations. There is direct proof, like fingerprints on a gun or a surveillance photograph at an ATM machine. “Grade A Proof,” sometimes called “a smoking gun.”
Then there is circumstantial proof, like everything seeming to incriminate a certain suspect. There is testimonial proof, such as an eyewitness identification or a recollection of a conversation. There is written proof, such as a trail of e-mails.
We say something is “proven” when someone is convicted by a jury of their peers, but even that can be subject to error. It is a judgment based upon available evidence. Sometimes we are not sure what indisputable proof is. Sometimes we don’t even think that proof matters.
Other matters are never tried, just left to the court of public opinion. Media hype, chaos, no trace of other culprits, the deep dark jungle. Everyone knows they did it, who else would do it, they were all crazy weren’t they. Isn’t it obvious?
Or the real winner, what the congressional committee told me personally: “Why bother to blow up the film to identify the assassins? [Everyone knows that] All the principals are dead.”
I do understand that there were several parties from Peoples Temple gunning for the congressman that day. Ujara (Don Sly) wielded a knife, Larry Layton toted a handgun, vigilantes confirmed the kill. Jim Jones was crazed, and furious that the congressman had come at all.
Besides, Jones killed kids so he could have killed anyone. Guilty. Case closed.
But as even formerly avid viewers of Murder, She Wrote can attest: There may be several suspects, but only one of them got the job done. As often as not, someone who stationed themselves in a darkened room with secret motives and a front of respectability to protect.
To date, no one but me has even suggested that it was not Peoples Temple who killed the congressman. I base my claim after having viewed film footage all the way back in 1979 that I myself believed was later confiscated.
It should be noted that prior to the first anniversary – when I saw the NBC assassination film footage on WPIX-NY 10 o’clock News (perhaps its only airing) – I too believed that our own people had killed the congressman. I had believed it for a whole year. I reversed course solely based on that film footage.
As I spelled out in “Peoples Temple Was NOT a Cult of Assassins,” I viewed that deadly footage alongside a non-People Temple Army veteran who identified the “squad diamond” attack formation. Chris Kice, wife of accused assassin Tom Kice, was also there. She peered at the screen and said, “I don’t see Tom. None of those men are Tom.”
My previous article includes many facts and one damning document which created a circumstantial case. That document, the U.S. government’s own log confirming that the CIA was into Jonestown at 3 a.m. that very morning, infers that the CIA may well have been responsible for the assassination just hours before, especially since no one else, Guyanese or American, was able to get into the area until after dawn.
Yet even I realized that any “Grade A Proof” would probably never re-surface. I just pursued it out of conscience. I felt I owed it to the dead and I did not want to live in a land of lies.
But proof? I did not expect direct evidence, such as the film footage now in hand. Not likely. Well, until now.
What Happened to the Primary Evidence at the Time?
When a crime is filmed on site, that has to count as primary evidence, “Grade A Proof.” It would seem inexplicable that such evidence would not have been scrutinized and on-site witnesses, as well as surviving members of Peoples Temple, asked to identify the killers.
As Ron Javers, a reporter on site standing next to NBC cameraman Bob Brown, reported following the tragedy: “Bob Brown…. kept filming what was happening, even as the attackers advanced on him with their guns. He was incredibly tenacious.”
Indeed, that is what I saw that night on WPIX-NY. Brown’s filming did not go into “snow” until one of the attackers came right up onto Brown’s camera lens and killed him.
I was so alarmed at seeing a professional military hit and with no one identifiable from Peoples Temple, that I arranged an interview with the congressional investigating committee in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1980 to demand that they blow up the footage of the faces and either identify or rule out the killers as having been from Jonestown.
Yet even after admitting that yes, they had the film, they dismissed me with, “Why do that? All of the principals are dead.” When I asked who the government eyewitness was, I was told that it was former Temple member and defector Jim Cobb. When I asked how could he identify eight men come towards him with guns when he was fleeing in the other direction, I was told, “He said he had good eyesight.”
Actually it was worse. Cobb told the FBI that he had first fled “fifty yards”(!!) before he “looked back and observed” killings at “point blank range.” “Point blank range” equals “fifty yards”??? Was this “good eyesight” Superman vision?
But didn’t anyone else identify any specific person shooting any specific person? Categorical answer: No.
Re-emergence of Evidence Believed to Have Been Confiscated
As is well known, there has been a burst of new publicity about the Jonestown Tragedy in just the last few years. Much has been re-hashed, not really re-examined, but survivors have nevertheless been grateful for a new chance to address old wounds.
What was not expected by anyone – including me – was the re-emergence of the assassination film footage. Now, however, at least the first few seconds of that footage has publicly resurfaced.
I can use those few seconds of film footage to now prove that it wasn’t Peoples Temple who killed the congressman. This newly-resurfaced evidence will be dispositive.
What Proof Will Be Offered
This crime (namely and specifically, the assassination) was never reviewed in a court of law or even public hearings. Nevertheless, given the massive publicity, the involvement of the FBI and the lack of challenges, it is widely considered “settled.”
Thus claiming that “It was never investigated in the first place,” however true (!!), does not remove the burden of a high bar to have it reviewed now. Like if it wasn’t this culprit, where is the photo of “the real culprit” to hold up against the accused? That’s a high bar.
But I have that. I have it and much more. And if you want to go there first, by all means. It’s at “Eyewitness Identifications?”
You will still have questions. Because there is nothing about this subject that is “flat.” Like the bank was robbed, who robbed the bank, you got the wrong culprit, here’s the guy who did it. This subject is more convoluted than that. But let us finally put primary evidence first:
There is that direct proof, yes – matching the real culprits against the accused. There is also deductive proof – like if the vehicle used in the attack was not from Jonestown (indeed, as we will prove, it was a vehicle never sold anywhere – not even properly “a tractor”!) then its occupants could not have been from Jonestown either. That in itself is surely “beyond reasonable doubt.”
Then there is logistical proof. Key to that is reconstruction of the crime scene. (Wasn‘t that done? No. Never!) The graphic physical layout of where everyone was and what they did, the sequence of events, the timing, and where “all the pieces on the chessboard” moved during those few horrifying minutes.
Nor has anyone ever examined what the assassins did prior to charging forwards. The perfectly-executed and coordinated military maneuvers. Even those few seconds now available reveal trained professional assassins, hardly “ad hoc vigilante cult crazies.” No one could have done this without practice, coordination, and pre-planning to the nth degree.
I am decoding all of that. I have set up five pictorial sections with “The Vehicle Used in the Attack,” “Logistics: Prelude to a Frame,” “Logistics: Military Execution,” “Logistics: Post-Ops Scenario” and “Eyewitness Identifications?”
However, in recognition of the complexities, emotions and entrenched views surrounding Jonestown, we will now provide a backdrop to those demonstrations step-by-step; as well as begin to address what questions will inevitably arise.
Backdrop of News Reports of the Time
There were eyewitness reports from the Port Kaituma killings that never pointed to Peoples Temple in the first place. It was clearly a professional hit, executed silently, methodically, brutally. Beyond the capabilities of ad hoc vigilantes from Jonestown:
The religious zealots struck silently…. They murdered methodically. Nobody said anything, they just opened fire. …..Witnesses described the massacre as carefully planned and mercilessly executed.. Three policemen showed up but were disarmed… Someone shot out the left tire of the airplane. People walking through with guns…. They were not running or anything – walking, just walking. (Seattle Times, November 20, 1978)
The vehicle which brought the assassins was reported to have sped away after the shots, while the gunmen were reported to have fled into the bush. So the vehicle was apparently no means of transport to or from any community.
Not only were “three policemen … disarmed,” but another reporter appealed for help to “soldiers with M-16’s who refused to intervene.” Why was that? Surely it wasn’t penniless ad hoc vigilantes who had the power to wave a magic wand and make the Guyanese police and military disappear.
Jackie Speier, Ryan’s aide on site, noticed the oddity that Richard Dwyer, reputed CIA agent planted in the State Department, fell face up rather than face down – she speculated so as to be recognized and spared! Were the killers from Jonestown rather than government vintage, that would make no sense.
A chief forensic expert involved in the autopsies stateside who examined the bodies confirmed that the congressman was killed with dum-dum bullets (which shatter upon impact so as to be untraceable), which the community had no capacity to manufacture.
News reports stated that Annie Moore, a Temple nurse, was also killed by a dum-dum bullet that was speculated to have come from the same gun as killed the congressman. So unless the dum-dum bullets came from Jonestown (most unlikely!), was Annie shot by non-Temple killers who were first killed the congressman, then came to Jonestown later that night?
We do have the official U.S. government log confirming that the CIA was radioed directly from on site at Jonestown to confirm the deaths at 3:29 a.m. that very morning. In a remote locale that no one else got into the area at all until after dawn; and even at that, not into Jonestown.
Other coverage revealed that Stanley Clayton, who had escaped the ordeal, told the Matthews Ridge Grand Jury that a group of men had entered Jonestown with shouts “forty five minutes after the community fell silent”(!); and that some time later he heard several shots.
Meanwhile, Ms. Moore’s body was embalmed prior to autopsy, making identification of a poisoning agent impossible. She could have been poisoned in the death ritual, then shot with a dum-dum bullet from “unknown assassins” from Port Kaituma, and no one would even know.
Jim Jones was reported to have been shot through the left side of his head, but he was right-handed.
Much less “the great injections fiasco.” The operative words there are “contaminated crime scene” – not something normally done by the dead people!!
There were pieces here, there, everywhere, that were never examined or questioned. The above examples barely scratch the surface of investigations that should have been, but were never done.
So we need to step back and realize that we may have more questions than answers, even shy of any proof we might call “dispositive.” Questions and challenges: Few. Answers: None.
Also note that everyone but the CIA visitors were barred from Jonestown for two days – even, apparently, the Army Medevac team! The bodies were left to rot in a black-out of time that spoke of a clandestine military operation far more than of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Eyewitness Identifications of the Gunmen?
I suppose that the public long since assumed that the Port Kaituma killers were positively identified. The truth is the opposite. There were no viable eyewitness identifications.
Yes, of course there were men from Jonestown put on “the assassins list” who had been at the airstrip both prior and following the killings. Yet any assumptions that it was they who committed the assassination were not only misleading, but demonstrably false:
As we shall prove, unknown gunmen disembarked from a tractor-trailer that could not have come from Jonestown (or, I repeat, from anywhere! Not a farm vehicle!!) and began shooting. And who claimed that they looked into those faces as they were advancing for the kill?
Not even defectors who knew Temple members by sight claimed that. Ex-Temple member and “government eyewitness” Jim Cobb (note: the only eyewitness claiming to have identified “Peoples Temple killers” in any specific killing) admitted fleeing for his life in the other direction! Cobb is also on film saying that “his back was turned” when the shooting began so he did not see any vehicle approaching. He said he also “did not hear any vehicle approach” because of the sound of the plane‘s engines revving up.! Then he saw victims fall and he first fled fifty yards away before (allegedly) observing specific shooters “at point blank range”!!
And the FBI report has Cobb reporting that “while the tractor and trailer were at a distance, he was able to identify certain individuals as being hitmen for Peoples Temple”!
Anyone can check the “Eyewitness Identifications?” section to verify that in fact, Mr. Cobb could not have seen anyone he claimed to have seen killing anyone. That’s verified using on-site film.
Or check the whole 417-page fiasco produced by the FBI full of so-called eyewitness identifications and floods of names. Everyone saw someone. They saw this one on the truck, they saw that one on the tractor, they saw that one on the trailer. In fact, the same names keep repeating like a bad meal in redux. They just never saw any of those people they “eyewitness-identified” killing anyone!!
Yes, they saw the ones they mentioned. Yes, they may have seen shooting, at least fleetingly. Many eyewitnesses even said that the gunmen shot from the tractor or shot from the trailer (or from “the truck” or from “the wagon”) and did not even know that anyone had disembarked! Yet they could give specific names?? That kind of mess qualifies as a legal investigation of the assassination of a U.S. Congressman?
No one but Cobb even claimed to see any specific Peoples Temple shooter close up shooting any specific person. Nor did the FBI ask. Nor did anyone ask. Not ever.
And if you think I am implying unquestioning mass blanket misidentifications of assassins of a U.S. Congressman on the part of the FBI, know that I am not “implying” it – I am claiming it. I’ve proven it in “Eyewitness Identifications?”
Meanwhile, Edith Parks, a Jonestown defector at the airstrip, a woman of practical intelligent common sense, said in the TV special Biography of the Jonestown tractor parked at the side of the airfield: “It drove up. It didn’t worry me because I knew the ones on it. But here [meaning the attack vehicle] the men were hid. Then they stood up and started shooting…”
Wait a minute. Wasn’t that supposed to be just one vehicle – “the Jonestown tractor”? Not one vehicle with people you knew that wasn’t a threat and then a few minutes later, a vehicle with (unknown) concealed assassins that was?! What was Mrs. Parks’ “But here…”? Another “sighting”? Not that tractor, the Jonestown tractor over by the side of the field – men were sticking right up visibly from that vehicle – we knew those guys, we could recognize them. But no, this new sighting; the “here,” wasn’t the same. “Here” was whatever vehicle concealed the gunmen whose were “hid.“
But how could the driver be concealed? “Real” tractors feature the driver sticking right up into the open. That’s the first thing you see. And you don’t say “hid” if the driver is in plain sight!
What Mrs. Parks described as “hid” would hardly qualify as eyewitness identification of assassins – to the contrary. Much less verify that the vehicle in which “the men were hid” was the same Jonestown tractor. Yet given that the driver, at least, was very visible in the real Jonestown tractor (as filmed just minutes prior to the attack! – see picture 4 in “The Vehicle Used in the Attack,” well as numerous photos in “Eyewitness Identifications?”), identification of the vehicle itself, not just its occupants, comes into question.
There is even another confirmation of “hid.” One eyewitness at least (in context, it appears to have been a newsman) told the FBI he saw three strangers from an unidentified vehicle “with canvas over the top” inquiring who were the Peoples Temple people and on what plane were they departing?
But no one even asked a single follow-up question.
Instead, most eyewitnesses claimed that the tractor driver was Stanley Gieg, a fair-skinned, blond-haired young man. But the only gunman in front of the long tractor-trailer (surely best candidate for “the driver”) was a dark-skinned black man. Nor was he any of the accused black men either. Not by sight, not by photographs, not by description by “eyewitnesses” themselves of those individuals!
In fact no one matches. And that’s no “guess,” either. The lead assassin, shown right there on film, was about seven feet tall and dressed head to toe in green-camouflage military khakis and……. no one even noticed??? But no one reviewed the NBC film. And no one showed it to survivors. And of course that would have verified or discounted the “eyewitness identifications.” Namely, discounted them.
Instead, there was no questioning. A U.S. Congressman was assassinated and they don’t even question??
No trace of even minimal cross-examination in the FBI report. Like, “You say such-and-such man was shooting. When did you first see and recognize that man?” Then you find out they saw that person earlier on a Temple vehicle. “Well, how do you know this was the same man? Was he the same height, the same race, dressed the same way?” And then you would get, well, I didn’t exactly see their faces, it wasn’t close up, I ducked down, or I fled, or he looked like a man I saw earlier. “And you didn’t see that who you had earlier identified as a blond white-skinned driver was now suddenly a dark-skinned black man? And you completely missed a seven-foot giant dressed head to toe in green military camouflage?”
Had the community survived and this were ever charged, it would never have gone to trial. Just take the FBI report as “the evidence,” and you don’t even pass a preliminary hearing. There is not a single eyewitness statement that would have survived any questions!
I wonder if Mrs. Parks was told that the Jonestown tractor she saw by the side of the airstrip with the driver at rest and in plain sight, was supposed to be the exact same tractor that transported hidden assassins in a murderous rage (and in military dress, to boot!,) just what? A few minutes later?
Does that make a bit of sense? Of course not. But Mrs. Parks’ comments were just “tip of the iceberg,” at that.
Could All Those Eyewitnesses Really Have Been Wrong?
Yes. But not just “could have been.” Provably were.
It’s even worse. The eyewitnesses claimed they did identify shooters, and the same names come up again and again. So that “makes their case,” right? No, not at all. It damns their case.
So am I saying that no one saw anyone? Of course not. They saw a lot of people! They saw them before, they saw them after. There is just not one single credible eyewitness identification during. And there are reasons for that. No one ever laid out the logistics before now.
There were in fact unfavorable logistics for eyewitness ID’s, even for defectors (the newsmen could not identify anyone from Peoples Temple) as the film footage reveals. Namely, a bulk of the defectors were already on the plane and the others facing the plane about to board with their backs to the oncoming assassins. Then anyone left standing after the rapid, brutal burst of gunfire, fled in the other direction! Away from the real Jonestown tractor-tractor still parked on the edge of the airstrip and away from the fleeing assassins!
No one accurately eyewitnessed anyone except for NBC Bob Brown’s camera. He filmed the killers who did it, not men seen prior to (and/or after) the shootings. Moreover, as the film footage from NBC now confirms, the gunmen were indeed crouched down in hiding before they emerged on cue – that “cue” being a highly-sophisticated, perfectly-executed-and-timed diversionary maneuver. (See “Logistics: Military Execution.”)
Thus no one even saw them until they disembarked, with people then fleeing, not peering into the faces of their attackers! Moreover, the lead assassin was already shooting on his first step forward and being rifles, not handguns, the shooters’ faces were blocked by the rifles’ sights!
Everyone in the congressman’s party fell to the ground or fled. Eyewitness identifications, anyone? I don’t think so. Well, unless maybe you survived for the walk-through following the attack and were looking up while terrified, maybe hiding behind a wheel hoping not to be noticed. (Not too likely at that, as the planes wheels were shot out by the assassins.)
The only viable eyewitness was Bob Brown’s camera, and Ron Javers, the newsman who was by his side, wrote Brown was “incredibly tenacious,” filming up until he himself was shot.
And that’s what we saw on WPIX-NY November 17, 1979. Right up to Brown’s camera lens. That’s why Chris Kice could look at the screen and say of her husband, “I don’t see Tom. None of those men are Tom.”
Eyewitness Identifications of the Vehicle Used in the Attack?
Nor was the vehicle that transported the assassinations identified. Not by anyone. For the record:
Of the five newsmen on site who survived:
Steven Sung identified the wrong vehicle.
Ron Javers just said they opened fire with no mention of a vehicle.
Tim Reiterman correctly noted that “the tractor-trailer pulled up” but then went on to add that it was the same tractor-trailer “that had been seen earlier at the mission,” which it was not. Then again, the real tractor-trailer was indeed close by at the time, and who knows what Mr. Reiterman saw? He never said he saw the vehicle driving to the staging point. No one did.
Bob Flick neither identified any shooter nor the vehicle they disembarked from, but seemed to clairvoyantly surmise that those stone-silent men had to be “American”: “They were all Americans, white Americans, black Americans…”
Charles Krause of the Washington Post of the approaching gunmen: “I didn’t bother to look.”
That’s 0 for 5 from trained newsmen. And should they have been more observant while being variously shot at, wounded and/or fleeing for their lives? Likely not. But then we are also left with the reality that there were no eyewitness identifications. Not of the gunmen, not of the vehicle, either one.
The Land of Mismatches
I didn’t create the pandemonium of that scene, but I will finally straighten it out:
There were two vehicles. There were two sets of shooters and/or wannabe shooters. There were no viable eyewitnesses, except for government eyewitness Jim Cobb, who by his own account was “on the opposite side of the plane” and then fled into the bush.
There were two locales, and when the men on the truck (or the tractor-trailer, or both, this is unclear) returned to Jonestown (locale #1) to “claim credit for” the killings (a la “We did it!“) there was no film footage of the tractor-trailer at Port Kaituma (locale #2) to confirm that they could not have done it.
Everything that could be mismatched, was.
Yet we do know one thing – that people cannot be two places at the same time, nor on two vehicles at the same time, especially if the vehicles are different to a provable certainty (as we will establish here). The vehicle from which the real assassins disembarked, which is now on publicly-released film, was not a Jonestown vehicle, which shall be proven.
Therefore, wherever people were at the time, whatever they intended, whatever they saw, whatever they reported, even whatever they claimed credit for….. There was only one set of shooters who killed the congressman and it is impossible that they were from Peoples Temple.
Vehicle Mismatch Ignored from 1978 Until Now
Let’s start with the account of Steven Sung, a reporter on site who was shot, as a paradigm for how non-critically this has been handled from that day until now:
This will make it shockingly obvious that no one has ever even attempted to investigate the assassination.
When Stanley Nelson interviewed Steven Sung in his recent film, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, he provided Mr. Sung with a child’s toy airplane and a toy truck. Mr. Sung specifically talked about “a six wheel drive dump truck.” That vehicle, all six sets of wheels visible was filmed at the airstrip just the day before. It was a huge vehicle unmistakably different than the tractor-trailer, the type vehicle used in the attack.
In Nelson’s film, Mr. Sung proceeded to manipulate these child’s toys into a circle to demonstrate that the Temple dump truck had circled around the plane with Temple men on it. Then he said, while scooping his hand into the back of the toy as if to reveal a secret discovery, “But we didn’t realize that there were gunmen hidden in the back of the truck.”
And why was he sure that there were “gunmen in the back of the truck”? Simple. Why, shooting then broke out! And did he see the shooters? Well, apparently not. He just assumed that the shooting came from Temple men who had been in the truck. Case closed.
We cannot fault Mr. Sung. He was wounded and in the panic did not see that the shooters had emerged from a tractor-trailer, not the truck at all. But what of the film director? All of three seconds later, Mr. Nelson unveiled the actual NBC film footage of the time showing the gunmen disembarking from not a truck at all, but a tractor-trailer!! (Well, apparently. Not even a real “tractor,” at that.)
Are people visually challenged? A film director doesn’t notice the obvious himself, unthinkingly demolishes a story he just had told all of three seconds earlier, then puts it in a nationally-released film seen by thousands of people in theatres, as well as TV and onto DVD.
And not just Mr. Nelson, but no one anywhere spots the difference?!
Now it is right there IN PLAIN SIGHT and still no one looks?
And what about then? These were supposed to be Temple shooters, yet all the Temple men “eyewitness-identified” were from either the Temple tractor-trailer or the Temple truck seen earlier, not from the vehicle which launched the attack.
Indeed, there was not just one vehicle mismatch at issue, namely between the truck and the tractor-trailer. There were two, given that upon closer examination, the vehicle used in the attack did not even come from Jonestown.
How can we be sure of that? Now we get to the next factor which is dispositive.
The Tractor-Trailer Used in the Attack
Note from the attached NBC film footage, that the deadly attack was launched from a tractor-trailer which shows up in clear detail. Still photos have been extracted from that footage – such as picture 5 in “The Vehicle Used in the Attack.”
I then researched what make and model tractors were at Jonestown. Understand, such equipment was imported for long-time use. This was a remote jungle with items like tractors procured at great effort and expense. You didn’t casually switch out equipment like turning in a used car.
The search narrowed itself down. First I discovered a picture of a tractor at Jonestown from an old PR brochure, as reprinted here (picture 2 in “The Vehicle Used in the Attack.”) I was then told that the main tractor at Jonestown was a Massey Ferguson 178. Indeed, googling that make and model showed up a match to the picture in the brochure (picture 1). Note “178” and “Massey Ferguson” clearly marked.
But was that the tractor used to transport people, luggage, equipment back and forth between the community and the airstrip? More pointedly, was it the vehicle used to do so for the congressman’s party that day?
I scoured the additional NBC footage to see if it was indeed the Massey Ferguson 178 tractor ferrying back and forth between the airstrip and the community. This film was more degraded than the footage commonly shown, perhaps considered “unimportant” (just a vehicle shuttling to the airstrip?), thus poorly preserved. Nevertheless, this resulted in a positive match (picture 3 in “The Vehicle Used in the Attack” and/or page 1 of “Eyewitness Identifications?”). You’ll note the following:
- The characteristic front grid etched by a wide metal frame that looks like a backward “L,” just in front of the front tire.
- The Massey Ferguson insignias on the front and side, protruding headlights, and open engine on the side.
- The steering wheel visibly elevated. The elevated steering wheel is clearly visible in pictures 1, 2 & 3 in “The Vehicle Used in the Attack” –just look for the black circle in the driver’s hands.
- The exhaust pipe sticking up from the front right side, thicker on the bottom, thinner on the top.
- The metal panel extending from the inside back fender straight down to the floorboard. Note the wide opening in front of that metal swath down, marking the driver’s inset – where the driver stepped in to sit.
That’s what Massey Ferguson tractors of that day looked like.
Picture 4 shows the exact same Massey Ferguson 178 tractor from Jonestown filmed mere minutes before the congressman’s would-be departure. It is visibly, identifiably the same tractor as filmed in picture 3.
Last, which is the shocker, was identification of the vehicle used in the attack (picture 5). Would it be the same Massey Ferguson 178? A different tractor? If so, a tractor that also existed at Jonestown? A reporter on site said that the tractor had come back. So was that the same tractor that “came back” or a different one?
The result of retrieving that tractor from the assassination film footage is both shocking and dispositive. The vehicle bringing the assassins looks much like the Massey Ferguson 178 at first glance. In fact, if you were just to look at the front end, like you see the vehicle driving towards you, you’d think, o.k., it’s back again, the same vehicle. You’d be fooled.
You’d see the protruding headlights, the characteristic front grid, the open engine on the side and the large metal backwards “L” just in front of the front wheel. “Same vehicle,” you would think.
A closer look reveals that it was not the same vehicle at all.
Why This Is Grade A Proof
We already have enough “Grade A proof” to discredit that the 417-page FBI on eyewitness identifications. But even more evidence supports the impossibility that the assassins were from Peoples Temple.
Namely, the tractor used in the attack against Congressman Leo Ryan was not only not a Jonestown tractor, but was not a tractor known anywhere. You can look in any tractor catalog from then, now, any time, and you will not find such a vehicle.
It was a “designer tractor” so to speak. One of a kind. Custom-modified, undoubtedly at some expense and for specific purpose, but not available that way from any manufacturer.
Why would that be? Simple. A tractor is an open vehicle. Every tractor has an open inset, a cutaway where the driver steps in. That shows up clearly in the first four pictures of the Massey Ferguson 178: (1) from the internet; (2) from an old PR brochure about the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project; (3) from the Port Kaituma airstrip when the congressman’s party arrived; and 4) filmed at the airstrip just prior to the attack.
Three of the pictures (2, 3 &4 in “The Vehicle Used in the Attack”), those taken on site at Jonestown and Port Kaituma respectively, feature a driver seated in the tractor. You can see his entire body down to his feet touching the floorboard. All tractors are like that.
Well, except for the tractor used in the attack (picture 5.). That had no driver’s inset at all. Just solid red metal from the front of the vehicle to the back. No inset, no cutaway, no opening, just solid bright red metal covering where the inset should have been, then moving right into the fender over the back tire.
Now, if it were simply some other vehicle used as transport back and forth to the airstrip, we might say ok., so “the killers from Jonestown” used a different vehicle for the attack than had been at the airstrip previously. But no. This is a “tractor” that should have existed nowhere!!
Incidentally, lest anyone query if maybe the driver’s inset was blocked by the angle at which it was filmed: The vehicle was filmed in direct sunlight, broadside and at rest. Optimal.
Also note that the front and back right wheels are peeking forwards from the front and back left wheels. This marks the tractor as facing slightly forwards, marking the area where the driver’s inset should be more visible, not less.
(For comparison, note that in picture 3, the tractor is already into a left hand turn and the driver’s inset is way visible.)
Next note the unbroken sweep of metal in front of the back wheel of the tractor. The back fender is open to the camera, but instead of being sliced off like a piece of cake as on the real Jonestown tractor, it moves forward with no breaks.
Next note the absence of a visible steering wheel on this vehicle. In pictures 1, 2 and 3, the steering wheel is elevated and visible. In picture 5, there is no steering wheel visible nor the elevated red metal that would be sticking through the steering wheel as is clear in pictures 1 & 2.
Instead the contour slants down. How we can be sure, even with this degraded film, is that the background is green vegetation and the downwards slant is clearly bordered by green (vegetation,) not red (metal).
Again note: Picture 1, steering wheel visible; picture 2, steering wheel visible; picture 3, steering wheel visible; picture 5, no steering wheel.
Next note the floorboard: In pictures 1, 2 & 3, the floorboard is a single fairly thin piece of metal with only space beneath it down to the ground. In picture 5, however, the bottom section of the tractor extends thickly from the front wheel to the back with no thinning or differentiation. The contours are neither single nor flat, but look like an open scissors. It’s a different construction.
Obviously, the combination of no driver’s inset, no steering wheel and no open floorboard suggests that the driver did not want to be seen! We wonder why.
Was this just some “funny-looking” tractor from a “screwy” federal agency that just happened to hate Congressman Leo Ryan? That will be addressed shortly. For now, we can establish a new baseline for any future queries: That it was NOT Peoples Temple who assassinated the congressman. It could not have been. If it was not our vehicle, it was not our men and not our assassination.
We have already established in “Eyewitness Identifications?” that the assassins were not from Peoples Temple anyway. This is reinforced by wrong vehicle identification as well. Moreover, since this “tractor” should have been no one’s vehicle (i.e., not a tractor of any known manufacture), then any possibility of “mistaken identity?” gets scratched as well. It’s not like they were driving a Cadillac instead of a Chevy and maybe Jonestown had a Cadillac too. This “tractor” was not even a farm vehicle – it was custom-designed for military use.
Since this vehicle was partly (namely, the front end) a “look-alike” tractor, the Massey Ferguson 178, to deceive the onlooker into a false snap “identification“; and partly (namely, the back end) its frame rebuilt for some suspect reason (i.e., modified for an assassination, not a new way to plough corn!); then we must consider an intended frame. Namely, the framing of Peoples Temple for the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan.
A Damning Document Clinches the Prime Suspect
With frame-ups, we not only want to prove who didn’t do it, but who did. Take the most famous of disputed assassinations – that of John F. Kennedy. Whether Lee Harvey Oswald was “a lone gunman” at all, we still could never confirm whether the planners, much less the assassins were Russian, Cuban, the Mafia, Naval Intelligence, the CIA…..
We have no such multiple-choice dilemma with the assassination of Leo Ryan. The alternate culprit is clear: the CIA. We already alluded to a U.S. government log showing CIA presence in Jonestown in the middle of that very night, reprinted here. We are also about to detail the known enmities between Leo Ryan and the CIA, and Peoples Temple and the CIA both.
Regarding the government log, it is more than suggestive; it is dispositive. Note that at 3:29 a.m., the log records a radio call on NOIWON, a CIA radio band, reporting from on site that everyone at Jonestown was dead. That not even in daylight, but in the dark, when no inspection, much less search could be made.
Not only was no one else into Jonestown that night, but no one could get in at all! – even the Guyanese Defense Force did not get into the area until past dawn – and not even into Jonestown, but just Port Kaituma, the location of the airstrip.
As the government log records, even the Army Medevac team did not arrive in Guyana until 7:55 a.m.. Yet even they did not check just five miles down the road to see whether nearly a thousand people were alive or dead??!! That’s almost beyond belief unless they were barred from doing so.
But no wonder. Consider that it likely took about one hour to get the congressman’s party from Georgetown to Jonestown by plane. Yet according to the U.S. government’s own log, it took sixteen hours for medical help to arrive!
What could possibly cause a sixteen-hour delay of medical help for the wounded, moreover part of a congressional delegation for which one might expect quicker, not slower help? Third world inefficiency? This wasn’t under Guyanese control. It was under American control. It was under CIA control. It was under pre-planned CIA control. Obviously, no one accidentally clandestinely stumbled into the rain forest in the middle of the night. (This disturbing timeline will be examined in “Logistics: Post-Ops Scenario.”)
In addition, the Guyanese coroner was kept out for two days while the entire world was awaiting a body count, much less news of survivors. Precious few did escape from Jonestown, but if they reported that everyone was dead (again, in the dark at best), why did it take two days to let anyone five miles down the road to check?
Nor were the CIA hires in Jonestown at 3:29 a.m. for any reason relating to a humanitarian catastrophe. Were that so, why then did they not assist at Port Kaituma where people were wounded? They did not even make their presence known.
But then again, why would anyone come to the assistance of people they might have just shot??!!
And why was the American government fine with their hires arriving at the death scene at Jonestown rather than with the injured at Port Kaituma if they cared about anyone’s life??
Apparently they didn’t. But what may be understandably unclear to the reader is why the CIA targeted both Leo Ryan and Peoples Temple. That was hardly covered in the press.
Peoples Temple Framed for the Assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan?
Every crime has three elements: motive, means and opportunity. The opportunity (presence at the airstrip) and the means (the modified “tractor” and trained military assassins) may still not lead the reader to motive for a frame without some missing steps filled in.
We will now establish motive:
In the media-generated perception, Peoples Temple was just “a cult,” Jim Jones was “a cult leader,” and Congressman Ryan was leading an investigation of “the cult.”
Cult, cult, cult. That was “it.” Had any hint of CIA involvement, much less their killing of the congressman hit the airwaves (which of course it didn’t), it would have been discounted as “just paranoia” by “cultists.”
So let’s ground the assassination into the real circumstances of the time:
As Peoples Temple well knew at the time, and Ryan’s aides knew as well, Jim Jones and Leo Ryan, respectively, were both on the CIA’s “enemies list,” so to speak. The Ryan camp and the Jones camp never compared notes nor was it brought to public attention. But it is a matter of record as to why:
Why They Wanted Ryan: Leo Ryan was co-author of a sea change in CIA accountability: the Hughes-Ryan Amendment of 1974 mandating that the CIA report all covert activities to Congress.
Why They Wanted Jones: Jim Jones was a rising star of the far left in the States by the time Peoples Temple emigrated to Guyana. He was a flamboyant progressive/socialist/communist – depending on the venue – attracted a constellation of activists, and was acclaimed by local and state officials for an array of humanitarian works.
Jones had also made a highly-publicized trip to Cuba to visit exiled Black Panther leader Huey Newton, and was welcomed by Eric Gairy, then-Prime Minister of socialist Grenada. The community was planning to re-relocate to the then-USSR had the tragedy not intervened; TASS, the Soviet news service, had visited Jonestown and given it a glowing review.
As Joseph Mazor, a key figure working against the Temple said publicly in tragedy’s wake, “It was considered that Jim Jones would become a major political force in the Caribbean within five years.”
In Washington’s eyes, then, who was Jim Jones? A new Castro in the Caribbean, but “an American Castro” with sway over the black and progressive communities in the States? And on his way to the USSR in the middle of the Cold War, to boot? Sounds “safe,” doesn’t it?
Oh, but weren’t the feds upset that Peoples Temple was a cult? No. I would say that they were thrilled that Peoples Temples was a cult as it made their job of destroying a political threat that much the easier by repeated smears to set the stage.
Cult, cult, cult. All the press ever aired, and fed as a steady diet to Leo Ryan. By the time they got done, there weren’t even dead people. There were dead cultists.
Conversely, Leo Ryan could be painted as “the hero who died trying to rescue the cultists,” instead of a CIA nemesis assassinated by his own government!
As for Ryan and Jones, they would have been shocked had each discovered that the other was also targeted by the CIA. What was fostered instead was bitter personal enmity, with Ryan pushing to “return Tim Stoen’s son” and Jones willing to risk everything, including the lives of his flock to prevent that, on the premise that if his own biological child (as he was) could be snatched, then no one in the community was safe from the likes of mercenary attacks and kidnappings.
Ghastly counter-measures of course, like mass suicide threats – no argument on that!! That was not an “option” – it should have never been on the table at all. Not only for moral reasons, but for pragmatic ones: If you are defenseless in a remote jungle and you think they are out to get you, the last thing you should do is threaten to off yourselves!
Meanwhile, Jones never did the research on Ryan. Ryan, likewise, whatever his briefing about “Jim Jones, cult leader,” he never did the research on “Jim Jones, black-power communist threat.”
The congressman was used, deceived and set up. He was groomed as the champion, the leader, the vanguard. But that role was just bait to lead him to his own death.
The rank-and-file of Concerned Relatives was also used and deceived. Their vulnerabilities, their fears, using them to promote lies, half-truths and smears. Making them feel like “it was all about them,” when it was really all about using them to destroy others.
Jones, for his part, fell right into the frame, and the community’s own gun happy vigilantes made the deception complete. No one in Jonestown had any reason to suspect that the killers were not us.
Confused? Don’t be. There’s probably a manual somewhere about “standard operating procedures” where you never reveal who you are or your real intent, you befriend people you need to use, you destroy people you said you would save, you play people’s needs, fears, vulnerabilities, weaknesses to your own strengths.
Apparently, you also have no conscience about writing off a thousand people you never even met as “collateral damage” – men, women, the elderly, children, babies and all. Mostly black and poor to boot.
“Small sacrifices.” They had threatened to kill themselves anyway, so if they died, then however it happened, you’re covered. If they don’t do it themselves, then you take some “necessary action” and claim whatever you want.
Yet amidst all the twists of deception and camouflage, the frame worked. Moreover, once trauma and grief kicked in, there was only silence in lieu of questions.
“The official story”? Fine. Makes no sense? Makes no difference!
Ironically, however, this very scenario had been projected in a letter from Jonestown to the U.S. Congress appealing for help at an earlier time.
Note first that contrary to press reports, Jonestown wanted visitors. Indeed, they had international visitors with glowing reports in the guest book, which of course was confiscated by the feds post-tragedy. I personally authored invitations to Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
The community felt endangered, trapped, and possibly barred from leaving, i.e. not just barred from leaving by Jim Jones, but barred from a re-expatriation by roadblocks on an international stage. So appeals to Congress were not uncommon:
All that has been done is to get people to believe in society… Our people had been so alienated. All they can see in this is a set-up, a classic scenario: first muddy our name… whip up attacks in the press, and then: by the time you reach the classic ending, the frame-ups, the “kill,” no one even cares. …And they think that the press has already done its job with slander and smears, and so no-one will care about the frame-ups.
That would come to describe it! Yet who saw it at the time? At Jonestown, Ryan was portrayed as (in Jones’ own words) “a fascist congressman calling the shots.” The establishment’s guy. “Why would they kill their own guy?” Not even on the radar.
Jones knew nothing of the Congressman Ryan who was a thorn in the side of the CIA. Ryan, in turn, thought his role was just as the champion of frightened relatives and had no idea that enemies were setting him up for the kill.
The CIA played both sides like the strings of a violin. This was a perfect double set-up. It also not only cost hundreds of lives but the truth itself became a casualty of war.
Everyone assumed that Ryan was killed by cult crazies and it was never pursued any further. And the people of Jonestown died being wrongly, megalomaniacally, psychopathically cajoled by Jim Jones to take on a burden of guilt (i.e., for the assassination) that was not theirs to bear collectively (my God, especially not the children!) even if individuals from the group had done it, much less if it were a frame!!
And I mourn that forever. But does that mean that the truth should still never see the light of day?
Do those who killed a U.S. Congressman, with a thousand men, women, children and elderly being just “collateral damage,” get a free pass just because everyone hates what Jim Jones did? Does a congressman just get assassinated, likely by his own government, and then when you discover that it wasn’t “the cult crazies,” it’s a big “so what”?
By my way of thinking, that would be a weird brand of justice. By my way of thinking, that would just be living in a land of lies.
Nor was it a big “so what” to the people who sent the assassins either! To the contrary. They could frame eight young men, but they still had the thousand “other” people to worry about. This frame would have to be protected.
We’ll weave that unsavory scenario back in once we establish the details surrounding the means of this crime, as well as its logistics.
Why Modify the Attack Vehicle?
The means are not just “the tractor” alone, but a camouflage, a giveaway and a deception.
The camouflage was achieved through modifying the back end of the vehicle used in the attack. Why was it modified? If the assassins wanted their vehicle to be mistaken for the Jonestown tractor, why make any modifications at all?
That’s an easy speculation. They would want the approaching vehicle to be “recognized” as the Massey Ferguson 178 from Jonestown. Certainly the front end of the vehicle is “look-alike” and that would be what the viewer would see first and the brain would “recognize” it.
But the gunmen would hardly want to be recognized themselves! Their presence would need to be camouflaged. Tractors are open vehicles. Any driver of a “real” tractor would have his upper body, face and head sticking up into the air for anyone to see. But what if he was a stranger who could not risk being identified as such?
They needed cover, anonymity, before launching their horrifying surprise attack. And for a double layer of reasons: They not only required not being recognized, but also to be not recognized as not being from Peoples Temple.
“I don’t recognize that guy” would be risky enough. What would have been even worse is, “Say, that’s guy’s not from Jonestown!” Because then the assassins would not be from Jonestown, i.e. Peoples Temple did not commit the assassination.
Moreover the lack of driver’s inset, the lack of any visible steering wheel plus an enclosed floorboard, are three design modifications all geared towards camouflage – namely, that the driver would not be seen upon approach to the attack point.
In like manner, the gunmen who disembarked from the trailer were crouched down before they stood up to disembark. Thus no one saw any gunman prior to the attack – not the tractor driver, not the trailer occupants.
Again, the elements were deception, surprise, anonymity, maneuverability, escape.
What else does that sparse few seconds of film reveal?
If They Were NOT Military, Why Did They Look and Act Like Military?
The giveaway is that this was clearly a military operation. We can see that now that we have frame-by-frame extractions from the original film footage. (See “Logistics: Military Execution” for demonstrations.)
The evidence printed in “The Vehicle Used in the Attack” rules out the attack vehicle as coming from Jonestown. The evidence printed in “Eyewitness Identifications?” rules out anyone from Jonestown as “an assassin.”
This already cuts the plausibility of “Peoples Temple killers” to approaching zero. The logistical analysis begins to addresses the next obvious question: “If not Peoples Temple, then who?”
As we will see, the answer to that is, “Professional assassins. Very professional assassins.”
First notice the obvious on page 11 of “Eyewitness Identifications?”: How the seven-foot-tall lead assassin, especially, is dressed. He’s in head-to-toe green-camouflage military khakis! And you know that’s true, not just some photographic “bleed” from green vegetation into his form, because both the guy on his right and the guy on his left are wearing clearly-visible white shirts.
Note as well: Every alleged assassin in the FBI report is reported to have worn civilian, not military clothing. Yet the lead assassin was in green military camouflage and the lead gunmen in front of the vehicle was in tan military khakis, which no one noted at all. Moreover, no one at Jonestown as anywhere near seven feet tall and the tallest (I believe just two at 6’5”) were never even implicated.
Yet this terrifying “giant” was literally “dressed to kill” in military gear!! There is no way that he would have been missed by eyewitnesses were they focusing in his direction when he led the charge.
Surely someone would have told the FBI. For even the Temple defectors who claimed they “saw everyone,” who did they see from Peoples Temple who was a seven-foot-giant dressed head to toe in military green? Joe Wilson? Bob Kice? Tom Kice?
Or how about……. no one???
Because this is the way it goes: You don’t have to “speculate” or weave “conspiracy theories” when it’s IN PLAIN SIGHT. All you have to do is look!! And when you look and nothing matches, then maybe the “conspiracy theorists” become people who try to turn the black man back into a white man, or lop a foot off of a measurable height, not the person who simply announces, “The Emperor had no new clothes!”
Now even if anyone insists that that lead assassin “somehow had to be from Jonestown,” on what basis would they be disregarding the obvious? The myth that Jonestown was somehow a paramilitary camp? And is that why both the American and Guyanese authorities found all of 39 small weapons at Jonestown in tragedy’s wake? That was “the arsenal” to defend a community of 1200 people?
Yes, a church that had been unerringly non-violent (going back twenty-five years in the States) was now imploding and a tiny handful went violent. Jim Jones himself had snapped severely. But still, it would have to be half-cocked vigilantes, yes?
Do you know what kind of training it took for this attack? Because this is what they did. They waited until the plane’s engine had begun revving up to mask the sound of their approach, as both eyewitnesses and the footage itself confirm. No one either saw nor heard them progress from “point a” (where the real Jonestown tractor-trailer was parked at the edge of the airstrip) to “point b” (the staging point of the attack) at all.
Risky to start with. What if the congressman had already boarded? How could they be sure which way the plane would be parked for boarding? (Indeed, the tread marks on the film footage reveal that the plane had circled around.) What kind of military expertise did it take to count on being able to ride in with a swift, brutal assault and clear right out?
Yet with all the split-second time pressure and having to locate and kill their main target for certain up to his very face (namely, the congressman), they still had the presence of mind (and the exact aim!) to shoot out the tires of the plane to disable it from taking off!
Moreover, they did all this in complete silence! Perfect coordination, perfect execution, not a single word uttered by any one of them. They knew exactly what they were doing and at split-second speed.
The film footage itself proves the astounding feat of military coordination in disembarking for the attack; and if they were not as rapid as they were brutal, why in the world did not one single eyewitness see “the unmissable one”? “The Not-So-Jolly Green Giant”? What kind of brutal one-man dominance did it take to have people scatter so instantaneously that they didn’t even notice that the lead assassin was seven feet tall and dressed head-to-toe in military green??
Well, this wasn’t a sniper attack. No shooting from a distance or a hidden location. It was a hands-on brutal, dominant, commanding, fiercely-intimidating kill. What if someone had pulled a gun on him? You’d better have someone so commanding that people just clear away in terror. As they did. So much so that everyone missed a seemingly unmissable “giant” IN PLAIN SIGHT!
But look at the frame-by-frame play-throughs in “Logistics: Military Execution” to begin to grasp the planning and skill of this surgical strike. The gunman who has stepped way out in front fires the first shot. But it is not fired at anyone!
Obviously, it was not meant to be fired at anyone. It was meant to divert attention to the victims’ left so the assassins could begin amassing on the victims’ right for their forward charge. Like a pickpocket’s routine with their accomplice. The accomplice bumps into you on the left so the pickpocket can steal you blind on the right.
In fact, his timing is A-1 perfect. At the first shot, the soldiers begin to disembark. Then the front gunman edges over further to his left, lifts up his rifle and holds it for a timed few seconds. Then he fires the second shot heralding the forward charge of the killers.
Then look at the disembarkation. It is exactly as my late great friend, Army veteran Al Morrison told me: a squad diamond formation. This was a rapid, sophisticated, perfectly practiced and timed four-step to fall in formation while they were also landing down from a platform onto a hard surface, immediately veering right, adjusting their rifle sites and charging straight forward full speed ahead! Look at the last nanosecond of film footage. That gunman has landed on his feet and is already charging forward shooting straight ahead.
There is no way that he could do that safely unless the gunmen behind him would be fanning out into a “V” – the squad diamond. Otherwise they would be shooting into each other’s backs or blocking each other’s shots.
Specifically they are headed into a triangle, which is the three lead soldiers of a squad diamond. That would be one soldier in front, with a second soldier flanking him on his left, a third soldier flanking him on his right, with both the second and third slightly behind the first.
The lead gunman of the formation must also establish its center or it is out of balance. But he is the soldier who will be in the middle, not furthest from the trailer. So the disembarkation has to be planned, with the soldiers disembarking in reverse order. (The aerodynamics are spelled out in “Logistics: Military Execution.”)
These gunmen were also working against two directional deficits: They have to land down on the ground from an elevated platform and not lose time nor speed in the process. They also have to make a hard right turn to face the congressman’s party.
They must meanwhile also adjust their rifle sites while they are both jumping down and veering right. Especially the lead gunman who will be firing the first shot. They are about to take the congressman’s party by surprise and begin killing people. There is no margin for error.
That’s a bit of a four-second feat!! But that speed and efficiency of a trained military operation is exactly what this film footage reveals: The maneuvers of these soldiers:
And this was (allegedly) trained and practiced in Jonestown?? The very idea that those half-cocked vigilantes could even think this through, much less fall into formation without missing a beat is ludicrous! In the larger context of hard evidence, it may be but “frosting on the cake”; but even taken alone, it rules Jonestown shooters out.
But that is exactly what is depicted in those few seconds of film footage. And if and when the government archives are opened (and assuming that the footage has been kept intact – a big assumption!), I guarantee you that a squad diamond is what we will see.
So they looked like military. They acted like military. So what is our only likely conclusion??
Why Was Jonestown Falsely Portrayed As a Paramilitary Camp?
Jonestown wasn’t a paramilitary camp at all, despite the last day’s outbreaks of violence in shocking contrast to church history. Despite the alarming reports of suicide rehearsals and Jim Jones’ bravado of hollow threats, there were no rehearsals of attacking anyone else. Never. It really was not our way.
So why did Deborah Layton declare under oath that Jonestown was “swarming with armed guards” and tell the press that there were “two rows of khaki-uniformed armed guards with access to 200-300 rifles”? By the time the Concerned Relatives got done smearing a peaceful community with no rebuttals allowed, the public believed that Jonestown was a paramilitary camp!
Was the intent to line up Jonestown for either a military invasion or a frame? Our people were already trapped by a mad leader and the confinement of a remote jungle. For what purpose were they being further endangered by falsely portraying them as a paramilitary camp?
They were in no position to either attack, nor defend themselves militarily against, anyone. Whatever upset people felt about being trapped by their own leader, that reality cut both ways: They were also defenseless against attack! In a remote jungle with no way to even fend off mercenaries, threats of which were escalating.
And what of Joseph Mazor, key player for the Concerned Relatives, coming right into Jonestown two months prior to the tragedy and telling the entire community (according to departing defectors, note, right in the FBI report!) that “Concerned Relatives had enough bazookas to blow them all up!”?
You paint people as “violent,” then you threaten violence against them, you even do it in public newspapers and as recorded in State Department logs with impunity (as did Timothy Stoen,) and you’re supposed to be “the good guys”?
Who Had Access to the Jonestown Vehicle to Quasi-Duplicate It?
The deception was the “look-alike” aspect of the vehicle as it approached the attack point.
Remember that the front end of the vehicle looked quite like the Massey Ferguson 178 tractor at Jonestown. But how was it known what tractors the community had or what would deceive the onlooker into a misidentification?
Well, back to one Joseph Mazor. (See “Logistics: Prelude to a Frame.”) He was brought into Jonestown just two months prior to the tragedy, in mid-September 1978. Mazor, an ex-con with a lengthy criminal record (for fraud, impersonation, bad checks, i.e. con artist crimes) had mysteriously been granted a private investigator’s license by the State of California just in time to investigate Peoples Temple in the Spring of 1977.
One of our members had discovered that Mazor was also given an Interpol ID. Moreover, his first “investigation” entailed going around to pricey PR firms determining the best ways to smear the church. An all-purpose, quite sinister man.
Mazor used his conning skills to ingratiate himself first to Temple attorneys and then to Jones with (probably false) confessions of leading a snipers’ attack against Jonestown a year earlier, blowing it up into threats of mass extermination which panicked a paranoid Jones over the top.
Then there were the grandiose (albeit non-existent) plans for making a commercial film, and enticing promises to nail Tim Stoen – a former Temple loyalist who became the leader of Concerned Relatives – which Jones desperately wanted to do.
So Mazor, our new-found friend, the seediest card in the deck, was brought into Jonestown by our own attorneys in September 1978. The phony baloney promises would never materialize, so the visit served no useful purpose but to knee-jerk Jim Jones even further towards cliff’s edge, or – as he wrote into in an internal message on October 15, 1978 – “what the little detective [i.e., Mazor] said they would do if they didn’t see smiling faces.” And what was that? That they would “kidnap the children and kill the adults”!
But of course Mazor was given the grand tour. And no one would be banning cameras – indeed, Jonestown was a place they wanted to show off. And after all, Mazor was volunteering to make a film as recounted in a transcript of an interview between Mazor and our attorneys, Mark Lane and Charles Garry.
The point is, that duplication/imitation of Jonestown equipment was made easy. And since Mazor was not there for any purpose he had stated, he must have come for some purpose. Even defectors expressed that there were suspicious of him because they thought he was “also working for Jones.”
“Double agent”? That does not make for a bad joke. Perhaps it is time to coin the term “triple agent.” My claim is that his real employers were people who did not even care whether the people of Jonestown lived or died, but that they clearly preferred the latter.
In this context, it should also be noted that it was Mazor who was on TV within days following the tragedy to announce that “It was considered that Jim Jones would become a major political force in the Caribbean within five years.”
This was very strange. The bodies were barely cold on the ground. “Everyone knew” that it was the crazy cultists who had done in the congressman and then done in themselves. No one had mentioned politics. Why was this man bantering about intelligence assessments?
Peoples Temple and the Cold War
Here is where we recount the back stories – not surmisals, but what actually happened leading up to the frame.
The U.S. government was hardly indifferent to Peoples Temple. There were tons of mysterious, seemingly untraceable harassments, both in the States and Guyana which I partly detailed in my book Snake Dance: Unravelling the Mysteries of Jonestown.
The anonymous phone harassments allegedly from Peoples Temple were so pervasive, they virtually spilled over past the hour of death! An anonymous call was placed to the son of key Ryan aide (who was himself an aide) threatening his life within hours following the congressman’s death – too early to even provide confirmation! His wife picked up the phone and heard, “Your husband just had his meal ticket’s head blown off and he (your husband) might be next.” I detailed the call in “Snake Dance” and describe how it was an apparent attempt to paint Peoples Temple as killers, not only in Guyana but at home in the States.
(Note also that that anonymous death threat was made even before the MEDEVAC team arrived at Port Kaituma to attend to the wounded and dead.)
Kathy Hunter, a reporter who Concerned Relatives leader Timothy Stoen wished to turn against the Temple, had been set up to visit Guyana, only to meet up with a suspected CIA escort and be mysteriously bombarded with bomb threats, phony fire drills and anonymous phone threats that prevented her from getting to Jonestown at all! The whole horror show was blamed on Peoples Temple, of course. When she arrived home, there were more anonymous phone threats and she even reported that men (“anonymous black men,” naturally) broke into her home and forced alcohol down her throat while muttering obscene threats.
There were also duplicate press smears – same wording, same month – printed in foreign countries thousands of miles apart: one in the Soviet Union where the CIA would obviously want to damage our image; and one in Toronto, known to be home to a large immigrant population from Guyana.
Was it a tiny contingent of “disgruntled ex-members” who got that done? How, pray tell? And does anyone have any idea how many paid personnel were required to accomplish all of the above plus more?
There were also outsiders, never members of Peoples Temple, dedicated to destroying people they had not even met. A blackmail attempt was made against a high-profile activist who supported Peoples Temple, to try to coerce a denunciation of the church under threat of being jailed by the feds on trumped-up charges. The government even had the Post Office put an illegal hold on Social Security checks legally forwarded overseas.
Meanwhile, our burgeoning political stance in a Third World could hardly be ignored. There was the highly-publicized trip of Jones to visit Black Panther exile Huey Newton in Cuba. There were visits to the community by the Soviet news service TASS, and plans to re-relocate to the USSR.
Moreover, the Cold Warrior credentials of the anti-Temple leaders were impeccable. Deanna Mertle (a/k/a Jeannie Mills) had been with the John Birch Society. Her husband Elmer Mertle (a/k/a “Al Mills”) had worked at Standard Oil with one David Conn, an outsider (i.e., never a church member) who was however spearheading the anti-Temple campaign and whom Temple spies had caught identifying himself as a Treasury Department agent. Tellingly, it was the Mills who volunteered chapter to the IRS why Peoples Temple should have its church tax exemption revoked.
But Timothy Stoen, the Temple’s top attorney who had morphed into its bitterest enemy, was probably the plum. A news article was discovered about Stoen’s field trip over the wall into East Berlin (see Snake Dance) along with retrieval of his anti-communist field notes. And if there is one thing Jim Jones was, it was a loud and noisy self-declared communist!
With Jones’ clout escalating in the Bay Area prior to his exile, and ties with both Cuba and the USSR sought once in Guyana, the CIA could hardly have been indifferent. Indeed, that is what Joseph Mazor’s telling comment would seem to have been about.
Leo Ryan and the CIA
They were hardly indifferent to Congressman Leo Ryan either. Witness the Hughes-Ryan Amendment of 1974 requiring the CIA to disclose covert operations to Congress. Indeed, an ultimate irony may be that Ryan’s own assassination was exactly the kind of black ops that the CIA would have been required to report!
So aware was the CIA that Ryan’s aides would suspect them of having ordered the assassination, that within weeks following the tragedy, a reporter from a stateside newspaper, The Chicago Defender, got the ear of key Ryan aide Joseph Holsinger with the disinformation that Phillip Blakey, the mild-mannered Brit who ferried supplies into Jonestown was “really a CIA recruiter for mercenaries for the CIA in Angola in 1975.”
Coincidentally, the Angolan escapade was the subject of a Ryan campaign against CIA misdeeds!!
This resulted in a useless, specious, unprovable lawsuit by the Ryan children against the United States government for the assassination of Ryan based upon an alleged “CIA operative” in Peoples Temple ranks, namely one blameless Phillip Blakey.
We also cannot fail to note that the disinformation about Blakey also ensured that the people who cared the most, namely Ryan’s family and aides, would never investigate the real CIA for the assassination.
Apparently the CIA sometimes does their tasks of cover-ups, disinformation, misdirection, diversion and false accusations well. Wasn’t it unfortunate that they did not train their assassins to confiscate cameras. Then maybe they would have gotten away with it forever.
Tellingly, although Ryan’s relatives were flooded post-tragedy with “Jim Jones was CIA and that’s why he ordered the hit on the congressman,” all Leo Ryan heard about pre-tragedy was “cult.” No mention of dangerous communist Jim Jones in the Third World, Jones’ trip to Cuba, the planned re-relocation to the then-USSR. No. Just heart wrenching personal tales.
One of these tales, in fact the essential lead-in, was timed to bring Leo Ryan in at exactly the right moment to meet up with the aggrieved defectors in common cause:
Namely, one Bob Houston, Temple member, died in a mysterious freak accident which was never prosecuted or resolved. Bob, an experienced motorman, somehow fell between train cars and was instantly killed. By chance, Sam and Nadyne Houston, Bob’s parents, were close long-time friends of Congressman Leo Ryan.
This apparent murder was blamed on Peoples Temple without a shred of evidence. Moreover, the Houstons had two granddaughters at Jonestown, Bob’s children under the custody of their mother, and from there on in, Ryan described the Houston girls as being “held.”
Politics was not highlighted for the congressman at all. Not pre-tragedy that is. Post-tragedy a different matter. Everyone close to Leo Ryan knew the enmity between him and the CIA. Everyone close to Leo Ryan knew that the CIA would be the natural suspects.
Thus the agenda suddenly shifted. Whereas the congressman was courted pre-tragedy with “heart wrenching personal tales,” the tack with the congressman’s aides post-tragedy was “Jonestown was infiltrated with CIA agents.”
While the rest of the world was fine with “the cult did it,” the enmity between Ryan and the CIA was so well-known, that the aides had to be diverted with disinformation. Indeed, the person targeted for this fabricated tale, the person who earmarked a wholly blameless person as “the Peoples Temple CIA agent,” was Joseph Holsinger, chief Ryan aide.
So it began with the anonymous death threat phoned to Mr. Holsinger’s son Will. That was the very night of the tragedy! Anyone in Peoples Temple stateside was in hiding, in shock and grieving. No one even knew that there was a “Joe Holsinger,” much less that he had a son, where the son lived, his phone number, etc.
Thus did the cover-up, dirty tricks and disinformation continue straight on through the tragedy and past, complete with enhanced personnel: “Peoples Temple was the real CIA.” “Peoples Temple has a hit squad.” “Peoples Temple might still be phoning you anonymously in the middle of the night threatening to kill you.”
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
And that’s what high-powered government agencies apparently do to cover their own foul tracks in the wake of a congressional assassination that they themselves committed. Infuriating yes, but no real surprise.
Killing Two Birds with One Stone
The CIA did not want Congressman Ryan to pursue his investigations of them. They also did not want Jim Jones to either remain in Guyana where he might become (as per Mazor) “a major political force in the Caribbean within five years,” or to relocate yet again to the then-Soviet Union as champions of racial and economic equality, communist ideology and, to boot, with an acclaimed following in the States.
In fact, had the community survived, a scouting trip had been planned to the Soviet Union to look into banking and into land. It was scheduled for December 1978, just a month after the tragedy happened instead.
Meanwhile, complaints were voiced from within Jonestown that the Guyanese government was blocking a mass exodus so the community might be forced to remain where it was. Nor was it just wild speculation that Jim Jones might go over the cliff and lead a mass suicide of his own.
Ah, but the genius of “two for the price of one”: Kill Leo Ryan in a foreign country, out of public view and shielded from investigation, a corrupt third world country that you could easily “buy,” moreover in a remote jungle locale and with everyone blaming the cult crazies for the act.
“Killing two birds with one stone.” Ryan and Jones. And the thousand “other” people? “Collateral damage.”
So Who Did It?
Remember that guilty parties act differently than other parties in the wake of catastrophe. While others are awash in tears, for them the scene simply progresses into a clean-up/cover-up operation. Nor do we have to infer who did that. We have the official record of who was there:
Since we have the government log confirming that the CIA was in Jonestown 3 a.m. that very morning, when even the Army MEDEVAC plane did not arrive until after 8 a.m.;
Since no one was allowed into Jonestown for two days;
Since even the Guyanese coroner was kept out for two days while the bodies rotted in the tropical sun;
Since inexplicably hundreds of bodies were reported to have been injected in the exact same spot between the shoulder blades;
Since no one but the CIA knew that the late-night visitors were there or how they got there, much less what they had done (namely, the assassination?);
Since nevertheless, they seemed to have the capacity to cordon off Jonestown from entry;
Since that CIA personnel never even walked down the road to offer medical assistance at the airstrip;
Since even medical help for the congressman’s party at Port Kaituma was inexplicably delayed for sixteen hours;
Since this was not even treated like a humanitarian catastrophe, but rather like a clandestine military operation;
Is there any doubt by now who committed the assassination and then moved on to “secure” Jonestown? But how did that frame impact the larger scenario?
Protecting the Frame
Frames mandate conspiracy. Yet usually just one person is framed and it’s confined to maybe a corrupt police department. For something bigger, maybe a D.A. Something still bigger, I suppose the Justice Department, but even at that “locally,” i.e., within the United States.
Framing a group of expatriated Americans, moreover for the assassination of a United States congressman in a foreign country, infers a whole unexplored megalith of pre-coordination.
Cooperation of the host country for a start with carrots and/or sticks. You must also protect them because they have knowingly allowed Americans, including a United States Congressman, to be killed on their soil.
And what of jurisdiction and extradition, assuming that you plan on letting these people live? A big assumption, in that they were trapped in the jungle, with no escape route, no communications, militarily defenseless and had threatened mass suicide before. You could do whatever you want and then call it whatever you want; and after all, their being dead would “solve a lot of problems”:
Not to mention that the frame sticks!! Against eight innocent men—“wannabe assassins,” perhaps – but who didn’t do it. Then the real culprits walk away because look, “the assassins are dead.”
But what if the community had lived? Big trouble. Don’t want that. Then you’ve got a thousand enraged fanatics trapped between the United States which would not want them back and Guyana, which would not allow them to stay.
Anyone who thinks that the CIA was not relieved at the mass deaths hasn’t even begun to think this through. When a government kills its own and frames it on innocents, rescuing the framees does not come to mind!
The community was trapped defenseless in a remote jungle with not so much as a phone. “Sitting ducks.” Under what rationale would they have just been left to go on their way? Would it be o.k., let’s everyone just walk down to the police station and we’ll sort it out? Or what about everyone just stay where you are, continue life as usual and we’ll get the legal system to work for you? How about “a fair trial”?
How about mass suicide? They hoped for mass suicide. That would “solve everything.”
And yes, of course killing children at Jonestown had to be the worst of terrible options. Not even “an option” – an inviolable taboo – an anathema. But anyone who thinks that the purpose of this visit was to “liberate” the people of Jonestown and that the assassination of a United States congressman was just another evil notch in Jim Jones’ belt of horrors hasn’t thought it through either.
Moreover, the CIA had no guarantee that the Temple would so readily “fall into the frame” (as they did), much less that the mad leader would really off his entire group (as he did). Because whatever the rhetoric, we had never actually killed anyone; and a mass suicide was unprecedented.
Nor can you count on clinching a deadly plot based on what others may or may not do. You clinch it based upon your own contingency plans. A main contingency being, of course, that it was by no means certain that Jonestown would fall into the frame. The vigilantes from Jonestown (and in the States, toting guns had never been our way) would not necessarily have been right there right then or assume that the assassins were us.
Let’s say that vigilantes had not been there or that whoever from Peoples Temple was at the airstrip at the time of the killings realized that it was not us. Less likely? No. At least as likely, even more so.
Given that likely scenario for advance planners, what ramifications could they virtually count on?:
Had the vigilantes not claimed, “We did it!!”;
Had the community not “bought into the frame”;
Had the community survived and contested the frame;
…then there would have been hell to pay for years to come!!!
Thus that Jonestown’s vigilantes “fell right into the frame,” with mass death to follow had to be, from the CIA’s perspective, “luck,” “desirable” by their own moral compass, not something diabolical to be prevented.
For indeed, had they not been so “lucky,” a terrible dilemma would await: Not just a frame to prosecute, but what to do with a thousand people with neither home nor country and predictably fanatical and enraged.
The CIA would want to avoid a cause celebre in the States at all costs. Likewise, they would want to avoid a cause celebre in the Third World. They would also want to avoid a trial at all costs!!
They also could not have necessarily “counted on” something as historically unprecedented as a mass suicide to cover their tracks. What if a certain portion of people survived or it didn’t happen at all? Or they realized that they had been framed? What then?
An additional endangerment: A mass suicide threat had previously been made to the Guyanese government to sway the child custody suit (Stoen v. Jones). That left the community as sitting ducks, with the press progressively painting the community as homicidal and suicidal both.
The reality is that they could have done anything they wanted in the remote rain forest and then called it whatever they wanted to, with impunity.
Of course, no one wants to hear that because of what Jim Jones in fact did. And I hear all those people loud and clear.
So we presume that Jim Jones’ “Either we do it or they do it” was delusional, fabricated, paranoid, with no basis in reality. And yes, he had become terminally ill, over-medicated, megalomaniacal, dangerously paranoid and a threat to his own people. But was “Either we do it or they do it” wholly a paranoid ploy?
After all, they had already killed the congressman, moved in to take control and their liability was the community remaining alive!!
So are we saying that Jim Jones was diabolical; however, the people who sent the assassins were “good”? That Jim Jones wanted to kill his own people but that the CIA wanted to save them?
Or rather were we looking at bad, worse, unthinkable or taboo as the “options”?
From the lead-in to my former website, www.jonestown.com:
“The people of Jonestown were caught in a vice, between a deteriorating leader on the one side and mad-dog intelligence agencies on the other….”
In fact, had they lived and the frame was exposed, the Ryan camp would have loudly cried out that “the CIA did it.” There were those cries anyway!
So the post-tragedy part of protecting the frame was disinformation – the lies that were fed to Ryan aide Joseph Holsinger about one blameless Phillip Blakey being a so-called CIA agent planted in Peoples Temple.
All told, speculating that there was “no plan to protect the frame” defies logic. We may just never know what the on-site contingencies were to be.
People hate this. They think there is some clear-cut scenario where good triumphs over evil, it’s just that Jim Jones was “Al Quaeda” and everyone died.
Yet this community appeared to be in peril whatever they did do or whatever they didn’t do. Commit an assassination (peril) or not commit an assassination (peril); off themselves (peril) or not off themselves (peril).
So what should have been done at Jonestown, even if panicked perceptions were of “no way out”? Take life? No. Don’t take anyone’s life. There are always choices and killing children should never have been one of them, whatever the threat.
Moreover, when you twist the powers of life and death to your own will as did Jim Jones, you take responsibility not only for death, but for every felled heart and crushed spirit amongst the living that you’ve destroyed in the process. Don’t ever do it. Don’t commit that blasphemy against other human beings and against God.
Let them do whatever they would have done to protect the frame. Damn them for writing off the lives of those precious people as “collateral damage” in the first place, but if our people were to perish, let their blood have been on the CIA’s hands, not ours.
For we now have evidence that there indeed was a frame, and that the face of diabolical had two sides, not just one. There were indeed real enemies even closer at hand than feared by Jim Jones. As mentioned but bears repeating, Jones did not even know the enmity of the CIA for Congressman Ryan or suspect a frame.
This cloaked truth is an especially brutal one, laced with “What ifs?” that no one can address without pain. But at least one more mystery is now untangled from out of that tragic night.
There is just one more twist to un-do before deciphering the “Jim Jones ordered….” scenario:
Tragic Confusion of a Set-Up with an Anticipated Retaliatory Strike
“There was more than enough blame to go around” does not even begin to cut it. Jim Jones was responsible for the deaths at Jonestown. The CIA was responsible for the airstrip killings and may well have caused deaths at Jonestown had the community survived. They also had a key role in provoking the mass deaths.
This was also laced with confusion and camouflage:
Frequenters of the theatre know the heartbreak of Romeo offing himself because the messenger arrived too late to tell him that Juliet was not dead, just in a drug-induced sleep. Or Hamlet stabbing through a curtain at, he believed, his wicked uncle and instead killing his girlfriend’s father, Polonius.
Frequenters of opera know Rigoletto’s torment at believing he was stabbing an enemy, only to discover that he had killed his own precious daughter Gilda. Or Tosca being deceived into believing that her lover was shot with blanks to ensure their get-away, only to discover his bullet-riddled body and then throw herself off a cliff.
These were tragedies happening in two’s and three’s, not a thousand innocents perishing in a convoluted scenario that has defied deciphering to this day.
The additional tragic twist here was that not only Jim Jones, but everyone at Jonestown believed that their own had killed the congressman.
For anyone unfamiliar with the sequences of events as recorded on the final tape, the death process begins with the close proximity of “The congressman has been murdered” to “Bring us some medication” in anticipation of a brutal retaliatory strike. That is accompanied by “You don’t know what you’ve done,” “I wish I could call it back,” “They won’t let us get by with this,” and “[if] anyone is left [alive] they’ll torture our seniors and children.”
Whatever we might say about a paranoid, overreactive, megalomaniacal leader knee-jerking his own people into mass death, the immediate provocationfor the deaths was still the belief that a strike against the community was imminent – a strike in retaliation to a massacre that the community itself had committed.
Except that Peoples Temple did not commit that massacre. They were set up to take the fall, which was tragically facilitated by the community a) appearing to have done it; b) claiming credit for it; and c) extinguishing itself. No investigation, no trial, no doubt.
This was far worse than crossed signals. They may have died anyway via a post-airstrip-massacre invasion designed to cover the assassins‘ tracks. But they may not have, or a portion might have survived or all bets were off.
Yet would the mass suicide have been called for anyway without being preceded by the airstrip massacre for which the community assumed blame? Some would claim “yes,” but those same people might reject any proof of a frame – whatever the evidence (now) of their own eyes!
Therein lies the most diabolical of twists: If someone is predisposed to do a horrifying thing like off his own people – whatever the circumstances, however dire, however life-threatening, however inescapable…. then there is still a plan in place which would involve killing children.
For surely, mixing vats of poison takes time, personnel, mind-set, planning… You haven’t just gone along day by day by day and nothing was planned and then suddenly a ghastly massacre and you say oh, there’s the cue for mass suicide.
Everyone knows that it wasn’t like that. This had been discussed many times. We might call it “the enemy from within.”
Yet what of “the enemy from without” — a real deadly enemy that convinced perhaps not just Jim Jones, but the community that they could be militarily attacked? Look at it from the perspective of the now-confirmed deadly enemy, the CIA:
They knew that there was this predisposition in someone, Jim Jones, whom they want to both “off” and to use him as a patsy for the killing of the congressman. They calculated that if they just pushed and lied and smeared, bad press, false affidavits, trumped-up lawsuits, congressional investigations.… that they might push this man and these people over the brink.
And they thought that was a good thing to do, a good thing to happen. That it would be “lucky.” Because it would give them a perfect cover, no one would investigate, even the value of lives lost would be cheapened because the community had been smeared as cultists and robots and brainwashed….
That would hardly render the CIA innocent!! To the contrary!!
Yet then anything that happened – it would be “all Jim Jones’ fault.” And the whole world would believe it. And no one would ever look elsewhere because it was a one-villain scenario and that villain was dead.
And everyone would believe that that’s the whole story for going on thirty years. Then suddenly, deflecting any aspect or portion of the guilt may seem to be an anathema. And maybe you say, keep those tractor pictures away from me, keep the photos of the assassins away from me because “I know what happened.” Even though photos this explicit and damning don’t lie and clearly, no one (well, except for whoever hired the assassins, of course) “knew what happened.”
I guess it’s like the modern phenomenon of DNA evidence. Someone is jailed for decades for a crime they didn’t commit, then they are freed by DNA evidence. And the media is quick to record the freed man’s relief. But what of the family members of the person who was slain? It’s like “un-doing justice,” innocence or guilt to the side. Now they don’t even know who is left to hate. So the news may not be welcome at all.
Here that much the more, as exoneration of one crime, namely the killing of the congressman, does not exonerate the other, namely the killing of the people of Jonestown. It just extends the range of guilty parties, now to include the real assassins of the congressman, the CIA who sent them and some cold cruel “intelligence assessment” which looked upon those precious souls as “collateral damage.”
So people need to be patient and let this settle in. If anyone has a problem with more than one element being “evil” – well, evidence doesn’t disappear just because we want to disregard it. This was a tragic symbiosis. That is now proven by evidence which is real, verified, indisputable, undeniable. All anyone has to do is LOOK.
Yet since “Peoples Temple assassins” was what was believed that night by everyone including Jim Jones, let’s see if we can decipher how that happened. Let’s now take a closer look at the other side of this, “Jim Jones ordered….”
People Say Jim Jones Sent Killers to the Airstrip to Kill the Congressman
Jim Jones denied seven times on the final tape that he sent killers to the airstrip:
1) “I didn’t order the shooting”;
2) “I don’t know who shot the congressman.”;
3) “I can’t control these people [who did].”;
4) “I waited against all evidence… I tried to prevent all this from happening.”;
5) “I wish I could call it back.”;
6) “I never wanted to kill anybody.”;
7) “How many are dead? Oh, God Almighty, God help them…”
Yet shy of voice printing to confirm or deny his intent, let’s leave this open and assume that he lied, lied, lied, lied, lied, lied and lied.
Understand, the order for mass deaths at Jonestown was not determined by whether or not he ordered the assassination, but rather his belief that it was our people who committed the assassination, leaving the community open to a brutal retaliatory strike.
But for now, let’s postulate the worst case scenario, that he personally ordered the killings:
First, Larry Layton. Whether or not Jim Jones ordered Larry to kill the congressman, he wasn’t coordinating with any assassin who disembarked from that trailer.
Why is that certain? Easy. The assassins shot out the tires of the plane so that it would not lift off so as to trap the congressman on the ground for the kill. Larry’s plan was the opposite – that the plane lift off and the congressman be shot once they were in the air. People with opposite plans are not coordinating with each other, are they?!
Now let’s say that Jim Jones sent a group of young men with rifles (not Larry Layton, separate from Layton) to the airstrip with orders to kill the congressman. They get there, they station themselves somewhere on the airstrip, they take aim and fire.
Well, we already know where the “somewhere” was. We even showed the approximate angle to and distance from the would-be departing plane in “Eyewitness Identifications?” It was at the edge of the airstrip under the wing flap of a smaller plane being held in reserve. The cameraman held that real tractor-trailer in his lens continuously for a minute and a half and it was going nowhere and doing nothing.
The Peoples Temple men not only didn’t shoot, but they couldn’t shoot. There are only two angles from which they could have shot. One would be from an elevation – like “the school book depository” or some such? But there were no buildings at the airstrip so that gets ruled out.
The only alternate line of fire would be from the far right of the congressman’s party. But this would place them nearly parallel to the targets. It would impose a geometrically-prohibitive line of fire for any Temple shooter.
Nor could they fire from the opposite side of the congressman’s party (i.e., the other side of the plane,) putting them directly in the line of fire of the approaching assassins!
But let’s say they’re excited because they see gunfire all around. They see a tractor-trailer that mimics the real one from Jonestown. They think that maybe they are Temple gunmen because it is all happening so quickly; and great, someone got close enough to fire the fatal shots. But all they actually see is that the congressman goes down.
Meanwhile, they did not see the faces of the gunmen. They had no angle to do that. Since the gunmen were in hiding prior to disembarkation, and then advanced at point-blank range, only the people being shot at would be able to view their faces. Then (as shown in panel 7 of “Eyewitness Identifications?”) the assassins fled in the other direction out of the sight of everyone!
The would-be killers from Jonestown would not have even had to approach the plane. They just see the congressman go down, blood splattered all over the tarmac, “mission accomplished,” they have a psychotic adrenalin rush, they drive back to Jonestown and report noisily that it was they who were the (stone-silent) killers who got the job done. “We did it!!”
Or maybe worse. Maybe they ran over, or drove over, to see it close up first hand. Even worse indeed. Then they get “eyewitness-identified.”
What About That “Confession”?
So they “confessed,” yes? And didn’t everyone at Jonestown, including Jim Jones, believe the “confession”? (Or the bragging. Reportedly it was more like ghoulish bragging.)
Apparently “yes” and “yes.” “Confession” on the part of some, anyway. In a private debriefing reportedly done by a single fanatical person – hardly in front of the whole community or even Jim Jones. Another disastrously tragic misstep.
Yet as we have already detailed, we get a clear “no” as to whether anyone but the people being shot at could have seen the faces of the approaching gunmen. (With even that much cast into doubt, as revealed in “Eyewitness Identifications?”)
So the Temple men on the Temple vehicles may have also believed that it was “us,” with tragic consequences.
As a child I lived near the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. At game time there were always cheers going up – loud thunderous cheers. You’d think that everyone in the stadium was claiming credit for the home run. “We did it! Whoopee! The Yankees won!” Then you get a detailed description of the balls, the strikes, the hit, the run.
And that may be what that “confession” was worth as well. Not because they didn’t say it or mean it or weren’t fired up with “We did it!” The “confessions” are no side point, no. Those gun-happy wannabes played their own supporting role in knee-jerking an entire community into death. (Namely, the proximity of “The congressman has been murdered” and “Bring us some ‘medication’” on the final tape.) But their reported “confession” is not, and never was PROOF.
So why were they so readily believed?
Reverse Friendly Fire?
Obviously panic factored in, which lets down one’s guard. Fanaticism factored in as well, which does not permit alternate views. But also consider the psychology of whatever the people of Jonestown were led to believe:
Take “friendly fire,” the military’s most dreaded form of mistaken identity. Friendly fire of course, is when you think that friends are enemies and you shoot them. Let’s say you feel sure (however mistakenly) and you think that it’s a cold calculation based upon visual evidence. If you are shooting from the air, let’s say, that can happen.
But if you are on the ground expecting an imminent attack (the scenario Jim Jones projected onto the community at the end), more likely your wrong assessment is made because you are panicked because you feel surrounded and threatened.
In any case, you’ve made a dreadful mistake that costs lives.
“Reverse friendly fire” would be when you think that enemies are friends and that they are doing the shooting for you. Like you think that you’re “Battalion B” and you see what you think is “Battalion A” already getting the job done.
Because it’s your territory. And it looks like the Jonestown tractor-trailer. And you never saw outsiders on that look-alike vehicle before. And Jim Jones had been ranting about “a fascist congressman calling the shots.” And he’s in a rage against the congressman now. Battle lines have been drawn. The congressman is our enemy. Who else would shoot him? Who else would even have a motive?
And so the report comes in of the killings, explicit, gory, along with “We did it!!”; and how would you even suspect that it was NOT Peoples Temple who fired the shots?
You wouldn’t. Everyone presumes and assumes and no one questions because why would you? Every fiber of your being expects, affirms, confirms “We did it!!”
There are Two Types of Psychopathic Behavior –
Is One Really Better Than the Other?
But there are still many, no doubt, that are disturbed by these findings for emotional reasons. Like does making one set of people guilty make another set of people innocent?
More pointedly, let’s stop now for a moment to address those people who feel (however short-sightedly) that this is an attempt to clear Jim Jones’ name. Jim Jones was emotionally, mentally deranged by the end. He was also terminally ill with a lung fungus (according to Bay Area physician Carlton Goodlett who visited Jonestown a few months earlier), daily high fevers, rants and rages, out-of-control meds, even hallucinations as reported by one of his sons.
It wasn’t that he didn’t care – he “cared” to the point of crushing peoples’ wills and very bodies to oblivion. It was the deadly megalomaniacal embrace of “I’m you, you’re me, we all rise or sink together” – except that he was bitter, paranoid, ill, suicidally depressed and that’s what got projected onto everyone else.
Telling children that “We have to stand by our own people”? Children had to give their lives to stand by violent assassins, WHOEVER they were??
Then in the other corner were “the brave defectors.” Well, maybe (despite sustaining grave losses of their own) both brave and blind. Their handlers, some of whom they undoubtedly never even met, didn’t care less who lived or died so long as they could off the congressman, pin it on the crazy cultists, off Jim Jones the dangerous communist, and as for the thousand “other” people, whatever their fate, they were just “collateral damage.”
Jim Jones cared desperately about the fate of his own people, to the point of killing them rather than have them “fall into the hands of the enemy.” The CIA cared NOT AT ALL about the same people, to the point of undoubted relief at the mass deaths. “Saved them the trouble.” Then no one will contest that “the crazy cultists killed the congressman” and no one will even be alive for an investigation to happen.
Could This Have Happened in Isolation?
Peoples Temple didn’t kill the congressman. The CIA did it. But is that “it”? Are we saying that the CIA just somehow got wind of the congressman’s involvement with the Concerned Relatives and stepped in at the last minute to kill him themselves so they could be rid of an enemy while “the crazy cultists” would be left shouldering the blame? That and nothing more?
Or is this no longer about “Was there a conspiracy?,” but rather about “What was the extent of the conspiracy?”
Where Do We Go From Here?
I’m not naïve about the blocks againstlooking further; I just suspect that those blocks, especially in light of this newly-uncovered “smoking gun,” are not evidentiary. They are more societal, psychological, and with respect to taboo. I.e., you don’t give any pass, even if it’s there to be given, to a man responsible for killing children.
Yet the assassination of the congressman by the CIA, not Peoples Temple, becomes a Pandora’s Box. Once you see that, you have to consider a wider conspiracy, as well as negative forces (on both sides) that were symbiotic, each edging towards destruction, rather than some absolute of evil versus good.
Yet the public has been long-since deflected from any real examination: “Never mind how the catastrophe happened. We all know who did it. Isn’t that enough?”
No, my friends, it’s not “enough.” Looking at evidence is all that is “enough.” This is “The Emperor Had No New Clothes.” Will someone please just look?
When viewed as the hard-and-fast evidence that it is, we achieve a new level of both comprehension and historical accuracy. “Conspiracy theories”? No. Documented evidence? Yes. And whatever we may superimpose upon it, evidence is still evidence.
How about follow-up? Dicier still. Even taking the congressional assassination alone: If only a story being true, verified and “Grade A Proof” meant that it would lead to any appropriate follow-up. Especially nearly three decades later and with a long since shell-shocked audience.
Here we have a story that has been dissed, dismissed, ignored, ridiculed and smeared. It also comes attached to a person (namely, me!) who has been maligned just for investigating.
Yet sometimes stories take on a life of their own. And notwithstanding that there were hundreds of dead bodies on the ground aside from the congressman’s, should it ever “not matter,” or “be too late” to set the record straight on a congressional assassination?
Isn’t it rather horrendous that a United States Congressman was assassinated, likely it seems by his own government, and that that was never even investigated? Is there any acceptability in the seams of history gaping open that far without being sewn up?
Where might we go from here? Any constructive suggestions would be welcome.