WAS THERE A C.I.A. CONSPIRACY TO DESTROY JONESTOWN?
The rumors persist. For twenty years, rumors that no one can ever trace to the source, nor produce a single document, a single witness, a shred of evidence. "Jim Jones was C.I.A." "Jonestown was a C.I.A. mind control experiment." "Jonestown was MK Ultra." "The assassins from Jonestown were like Manchurian candidates."
When rumors persist and persist and there is no basis, no evidence, no documents, no witnesses..... Does it get you wondering? Who planted the rumors out there? Have you ever been given even ONE source?
As is detailed in "SNAKE DANCE: Unravelling the Mysteries of Jonestown," these stories were spread as part of an ongoing disinformation campaign. Why was such a campaign even needed? Both media and government had succeeded in claiming that "insane cult leader" covered this situation quite nicely. Why make anything up, when this story already served so well?
There was just one serious loose end. Understand, the C.I.A. had a major problem regarding the assassination. Congressman Leo Ryan was so passionately anti-C.I.A., that his aides and family immediately thought that the C.I.A. had killed him. And as likely as not, they did.
Yet the assassins were supposed to be from Jonestown, not the C.I.A. There was only one "solution." Turn Jim Jones into the C.I.A. No longer enough to methodically detach the monster from the real world, much less realpolitik, he must now be linked with the suspect intelligence agency. An agency Jim Jones would undoubtedly rather have had his eyes gouged out than join.
Joseph Holsinger, a Ryan aide, was making noises to look into the C.I.A. So was Jackie Speier, the aide who accompanied the Congressman to Jonestown, who specifically suspected Richard Dwyer. Patricia Ryan, a Ryan daughter, became so enmeshed in the C.I.A. stories, that she turned into an anti-cult activist, sporting wild charges allegedly linking Jim Jones with the C.I.A.
Disinformation hell was born, complete with Dracula Jones and demons of the deep. That the stories were devious, illogical, easily disproved, unimaginably "perfect," mattered not. People were vulnerable. They wanted answers.
The disinformation stories hinged on two lies: 1) Jonestown was a violent place with a violent leader, who "ordered" the assassination as a logical extension of "hundreds of guns" and "hit squads"; 2) Whatever brave anti-C.I.A. crusader Leo Ryan had been against, Jim Jones was for.
The tales about a violent place with a violent leader were based upon lies by defector Deborah Layton about "hundreds of guns" in Jonestown. In point of fact, both Guyanese and American authorities discovered all of thirty-nine small weapons at Jonestown, mostly .22 caliber – barely enough to defend 1,200 people against the natural hazards of the jungle. Peoples Temple had been historically non-violent for twenty-five years, including life at Jonestown. Its small smattering of weapons was only brought in after the community had already been attacked by mercenaries in September, 1977. The community was virtually defenseless.
Yet the premise of violence was considered "already proven," in that both media and government went with the "Jim Jones ordered…" story straight down the line, evidence not even entering in. There was no need to "prove" what you have already persuaded the whole world to believe. The jungle was thousands of miles away. No one would touch disassembling the story with a ten-foot pole.
Violent intent thus "proven," no one even NOTICED that NBC’s Bob Brown’s filming of the assassination on site at the airstrip, revealed a highly trained team of professional assassins, or questioned whether the attack was even within the capability of anyone living at Jonestown.
The question now became merely, could this extremely violent, "brainwashed" group of people have been orchestrated by the C.I.A.? The shadowy disinformation mongerers concocted the perfect tale to personify "Yes."
First, who was "the C.I.A. plant" within Jonestown? Well, that was charged to Philip Blakey, who "recruited mercenaries for the C.I.A. in the 1975 Angolan Civil War." Wow. It took me years to track down why, of all C.I.A. misdeeds, they chose that. It turns out that Leo Ryan’s original crusade against the C.I.A. was the expose, through newsman Daniel Schorr, of the C.I.A. recruiting mercenaries for the 1975 Angolan Civil War!
As for Philip Blakey, he first came to Peoples Temple as a British teenager, to marry Deborah Layton. He was one of the first settlers at Jonestown, who ferried supplies up and down river. He was continually both visible and indispensable. This was a bizarre and preposterous choice of "C.I.A. plant," but his inaccessibility as a foreigner, his having been the former brother-in-law of Larry Layton (who went off as a lone vigilante with a gun), and his role as captain of the Temple boat (which was used to concoct completely baseless "rumors of the escape of Jim Jones") were undoubtedly factors that led to an otherwise arbitrary choice of Philip.
It was also undoubtedly thought that if the Ryan family and aides were fed something as inflammatory as involvement in the 1975 Angolan Civil War, Leo Ryan’s first crusade, they would be so horrified, they would fall for it hook-line-and-sinker, and never look anywhere else. This proved true.
The second "hook" into Ryan’s various anti-C.I.A. crusades, was the C.I.A.’s notorious MK Ultra project – a sinister mind control experiment. No one ever even noticed that the main source pushing this disinformation was the Cult Awareness Network, featuring Louis Jolyon West, long suspected to be in on the MK Ultra program!!!
One only has to glance at the cover of SNAKE DANCE, a collage of smiling photos from Jonestown, to see how preposterous this disinformation was. There was never any evidence, much less proof for this charge, and had the newspapers only been willing to print the materials in RAVE REVIEWS, materials that all went through my own hands, the MK Ultra mess would never have taken hold.
Yet the Ryan family wound up pressing a suit against the federal government with all those wild, false charges: Philip Blakey, MK Ultra, mind control experiment, "Manchurian candidates," and the like. Naturally, it was an impossible suit to press, its premises having been designed by dead-end specialists to go nowhere.
THE REAL STORY
Yet we are still left with a probing question: Was there a C.I.A. connection to Jonestown? Why, after all, would such false, convoluted stories be invented, were there not something at stake to protect?
Within Peoples Temple, there was always suspicion of intelligence agency involvement in the high-powered campaign to destroy the church. Those suspicions may have indeed created "paranoia," but the bases for the suspicions were all too real:
PLANTS, PROVOCATEURS, GOVERNMENT HANDLERS
Up until the Spring of 1977, Peoples Temple was a church highly-acclaimed for humanitarian service. Then a fierce smear campaign burst on the scene, in the Murdoch and Hearst presses in San Francisco. It pursued the church relentlessly, with smears, innuendoes, insinuations, and unsubstantiated charges accusing the church of fraud, coercion, irregular notarizations, misuse of government funds, break-ins, intimidation, to implications of murder! All investigations that were whipped up were later dropped for lack of evidence. Every attempt to rebut the charges in the press was met with a refusal to print a word.
These attacks were not launched by amateurs. No "disgruntled ex-member" had the resources, funding or connections to launch a relentless, one-sided campaign, which also included the foreign press, especially cities known to have large concentrations of Guyanese immigrants, like London and Toronto. Intensive lobbying campaigns in both Washington and Georgetown (the Guyanese capital) ensued.
Who would have the power and clout to do this? The tiny but influential group had three components: disgruntled ex-members, without power, resources or funding; government plants in the group who later "defected"; non-member government-based "handlers."
The smear campaign, first line of attack, was launched by a couple named Elmer and Deanna Mertle, who changed their names to Jeannie and Al Mills for publicity purposes. They were veterans of the far-right-wing John Birch Society, having claimed a political conversion to the left when they joined the church.
It turned out that there was no "conversion" at all. It was discovered that they had been coordinating all along with a man named David Conn, who admitted to the Berkeley Barb in the Fall of 1977 that he had been "investigating Peoples Temple all the (six) years his friends the Mertles were members." David Conn also tried to bribe/blackmail Native American leader Dennis Banks into denouncing Jim Jones publicly, under threat of being extradited back to a South Dakota jail. Although Banks, a man with nineteen children, feared he could be killed in jail, he swore out an affidavit and went public with the tale. In his affidavit, he also swore that Conn had bragged of his ties with the Treasury Department.
David Conn and his ex-wife Donna, had also bragged of "high priority Treasury Department numbers" in secretly taped conversations. Indeed, in just the second smear against Peoples Temple, the I.R.S. tax code was quote chapter and verse, as to what it would take to remove the federal tax exemption of a church. Their specific grievance was listed as political – that the church was secretly involved in politics.
It is likely that the Mertle/Mills and Conn were F.B.I. agents, common enough for infiltrators of left-wing groups by J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO in the 60’s and early 70’s. Jim Jones was swiftly gaining a reputation as a political dissident, setting up Peoples Temple as a public forum for a whole host of leaders and causes on the left.
But the Mills and Conn were only the kernel of a more menacing group of personnel. Joseph Mazor, whom the Temple discovered was an agent of Interpol, through a document authored by a known Interpol agent, Louis B. Sims, told the Berkeley Barb that it was he who hired the expensive P.R. firm of Russom, Lowry & Leeper, to launch the smear campaign against Peoples Temple, as confirmed with one of their account executives, Bob Kenney. Mazor refused to disclose his source of funding, but said that they were "not present not past members of Peoples Temple," i.e. an outside government source.
Mazor had also been mysteriously granted a State investigator’s license (including bonding) in May, 1977, "just in time to investigate Peoples Temple," even though he sported a recent prison record for fraud and bogus checks. A letter from the State of California claimed that high-level recommendations had overridden their normal strictures against bonding a convicted forger.
It was also Joseph Mazor who claimed to have led the mercenary raid into Jonestown in September, 1977, claiming that his original assignment had been to kidnap children and then "kill all the adults," i.e. mass extermination.
Just days following the tragedy, Mazor was paraded across the t.v. screen, claiming that "It was considered that Jim Jones would become a major political force in the Caribbean within five years." Was this his motive for involvement all along? And what of the known planned move to the then-Soviet Union? Would that have lessened the concerns? Undoubtedly not. But the key here is that these concerns were now international.
Indeed, the concerns were very international, beyond the province of the F.B.I. and into the province of the C.I.A. In fact, this was turned into an international matter nearly as soon as it began. In the Fall of 1977, just a month or two after the original smear in Murdoch’s New West magazine, duplicate smears appeared in newspapers thousands of miles apart, in the Toronto Star, where there was known to be a large concentration of Guyanese immigrants, and in the New Times weekly in the Soviet Union, with the interest of discreditation in a camp we wanted as "friends." The headline of one was "Profits of a Prophet" and the other, "A Prophet Heads South With Profit," with the corresponding texts similar. This was an expression never used in any other press coverage. The articles appeared within two weeks of each other, and could not have originated from any standard U.S. news service.
From there on in, scores of "dirty tricks" pursued Peoples Temple at every turn: anonymous threatening phone calls falsely blamed on the church, phony break-ins, even physical attacks on individuals. A reporter, Kathy Hunter, was lured to Guyana by a phony call claiming to be the Prime Minister, then when she arrived, she was taken in hand by one Pat Small, a woman thought to be C.I.A. by the Guyanese government. The rest was a series of bomb threats and fire alarms, disruptions of the Guyanese Parliament, and finally a government invitation to leave. All the press in the U.S. blamed Peoples Temple, although the church had nothing to do with it.
The person coaching reporter Kathy Hunter through this entire fiasco was one Timothy O. Stoen. Stoen had been the church’s top attorney, strategist and close confidante and friend of Jim Jones. It was Stoen who appeared to be a classic agent provocateur, compliments of the U.S. government, during his years in Peoples Temple, pushing terrorist ideas as extreme as building bomb factories and poisoning the water supply of Washington, D.C. Thank God no one followed through.
Stoen came to Peoples Temple claiming to be from the far left, but later information surfaced that he was really a far right wing ideologue who had run spying missions to East Berlin in the early sixties.
Stoen was in a favored position in the church, had no personal grievance to force his departure, and no relatives left in the church. Yet upon leaving, he falsely claimed paternity of Jim Jones’ own son, John Victor, by his wife, Grace Stoen. Scores of people had known for years the truth of the child’s paternity, which had been repeatedly admitted and discussed by both Timothy and Grace Stoen.
Stoen set up lobbying offices in Washington to push his false causes, and shuttled back and forth between Washington and Guyana. The source of his funding (being out of work, and having lived "communally" in Peoples Temple) has been undisclosed to this day, though Stoen was discovered to have secret accounts in countries where the church had never done any banking.
Stoen’s false vendetta was pushed ferociously through the courts, and shortly after the Stoen’s attorney came to Guyana to file court papers, a mercenary raid on Jonestown ensued. Thereafter, Stoen lodged repeated mercenary threats, even being recorded in a Ukiah Daily Journal editorial, and the State Department log in Georgetown, Guyana. This documentation appears in "SNAKE DANCE."
Just days before the tragedy at Jonestown, Stoen told a Temple member that he had "vowed to destroy Jonestown" and that he was "counting on Jim [Jones] to overreact."
Stoen also used the false paternity claim to lure Congressman Leo Ryan to Jonestown, to his death. The Congressman’s aid had been secured as early as a whole year before the tragedy when, on November 18, 1977, Ryan unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Justice Department to force the child’s return to the States. The Congressman arrived in Guyana long after the matter had already been decided in Jones’ favor in the Guyanese courts, yet he wrote the San Francisco Temple that he was indeed going to Jonestown to "retrieve Tim Stoen’s son."
Stoen knew this was a "non-issue," cruelly pushed to destabilize Jim Jones personally, to justify military threats against a peaceful community, and to force the disbandment of Jonestown. Yet he augmented his campaign by soliciting false affidavits from two spiteful young women, Yulanda Crawford and Deborah Layton, to brand Jonestown as "a concentration camp" and provoke a Congressional investigation he knew he could not fairly win.
This extreme, false, and dangerous vendetta went yet one step further. Why was it Leo Ryan who was targeted for the deadly mission overseas? Look at Ryan’s record. He was the most vocal anti-C.I.A. critic in the entire U.S. Congress at the time! Leo Ryan and the C.I.A. had an ongoing hatefest. There would have been no one more tempting for the C.I.A. to target for death than Congressman Ryan.
AN UNSOLVED ASSASSINATION
The killing of the Congressman at the airstrip had all the earmarks of a professional military hit. How do we know? The eyewitness journalists who wrote of the assassination described it as "silent, calm, brutal, carefully planned and mercilessly executed’" by well-trained killers.
There were never any reliable eyewitness identifications of the assassins. The official government eyewitness, Jim Cobb, admitted to the press that he never even had the shooters in his line of vision! The final tape at Jonestown repeatedly denied any knowledge of the identity of the Congressman’s assassins, and probing further, it said of the people who brought the report from the airstrip, "They saw it happen, and ran into the bush…" In other words, the people from Jonestown were not the shooters, but witnesses. And given the layout of the airstrip, they would have been looking at the shooters’ backs, not their faces. To this day, the assassins have not been identified.
Other complicating, unexplained factors involve that the shooters came from a second vehicle that had suddenly barrelled on in, and that dum-dum bullets were used in the assassination. The killers were so expert, that they easily disarmed Guyanese police on site, shot out the tires of the plane, and calmly walked through the wounded killing them.
The film taken by an NBC newsman on site also survived. It shows a sophisticated military formation called a "diamond" perfectly and professionally executed. Jonestown was not a paramilitary camp in any way, shape or form. Contrary to the lies about "hundreds of guns," the authorities discovered only the thirty-nine small weapons in tragedy’s wake. There was no military training whatsoever in Jonestown. There was no capability to pull off this professional "hit." So we must consider the most logical suspect for the killing of the Congressman: the C.I.A.
Nor were these the only murders. In February, 1980, the notorious Mills announced publicly to a group of Marin College students, that they wanted OFF the anti-Temple circuit and were "anxious to build a normal life." A mere five days later, they were found dead in their Berkeley home. The police described the killings as "professional," using dum-dum bullets and leaving no traceable clues. There were no signs of forced entry or burglary, and the police surmised the killings were done by "someone they knew." These killings, and their highly suspicious timing, have remained unsolved to this day.
Shortly later on, the Guyanese Ambassador to the United States, Lawrence Mann, and his young wife Paula, a survivor from Jonestown, were found murdered, along with their infant child. Relatives who had seen him just the night before, said "nothing was wrong." Yet the murders were portrayed as a "murder/suicide" from distress over Jonestown. Ambassador Mann had never been a member of the Jonestown community at all. Why was this family really massacred? What did they know that could not come out? And who did these murders?
This and other information surrounding the Jonestown Tragedy is so suspect and inflammatory, surely it is long overdue to investigate putting the blame for numerous deaths where it appears to belong: at the feet of the C.I.A.
AFTERMATH AT JONESTOWN RAISES MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
The suicides at Jonestown were a psychologically complex and tragic episode, analyzed at length in another piece on this site, "Jonestown: The Human Story" (HUMAN STORY). There is no doubt that Jim Jones was destabilized, as well as gravely ill by the end, that he personally believed a military force would be closing in, and that most believed him when they took the plunge towards death. On the final tape made at Jonestown, there is mostly support of Jim Jones. One dissenter, Christine Miller, is listened to carefully and at length, but others do not take her side. Since the tape was so heavily spliced, and the world only looked to damn Jim Jones, opposition would be in tact were it there, and support left out.
Incomprehensible though it may seem, and the horrifying anathema of suicide, it is likely that support really was high. People loved their homegrown community, felt persecuted, and were fiercely intent to stay. Whatever their qualms, Stoen, Ryan, and their media circus were hardly viewed as "rescuers" to all but the tiniest few.
What we cannot tell from the tape however, is what actually happened in the death process beyond that it began with poisonings. Disturbing facts later emerged from the Guyanese coroner, Leslie Mootoo, and others on the scene. If we believe even half the claims, hundreds of bodies were forcibly injected from behind while trying to escape, shot with guns or arrows, and generally leaving a far more gruesome mess than would happen from poisonings alone.
Is this how it really happened? If it was not, who had an interest is making it appear that way, and what personnel were in Jonestown in the hours following the deaths, who could have disturbed the death scene?
First, the receiving doctors in the United States were completely dismayed at the negligence and botching of even the alarmingly few autopsies (seven) that were performed. One of those doctors, Rudiger Breitenecker, complained that not a single body was even tested for cyanide poisoning, that the bodies autopsied were embalmed before being shipped to the States, and that they were told to look for needle marks which they never found.
Nevertheless, these were the claims of coroner Leslie Mootoo, according to Freedom Magazine: "Many died from injections of cyanide. After 32 hours of nonstop work in stifling heat… in Mootoo’s words, ‘We gave up.’ By that time, 187 bodies killed by injections had been examined by Mootoo and his team. Victims had been injected in portions of their bodies they could not have reached themselves, such as between the shoulder blades or in the back of the upper arm. ‘Those who were injecting them knew what they were doing’ [i..e. medically] Mootoo said."
The horrifying thought conveyed in that quote, suggesting that half of Jonestown was like a Nazi security force who forcibly killed the other half, does not even meet tests of logic or reason. This was a peaceful, non-violent community, moreover, with a limited medical staff, and security staff with no military training and (according to interviews) uncomfortable around guns. Although the final tape could certainly qualify as emotionally coercive, there is no suggestion of being physically coercive.
The last person to leave the scene alive, Stanley Clayton, told the coroner’s jury in Matthews Ridge (an adjoining town) that when he left, only 100-200 people were still alive, and that although the scene was gruesome, it was peaceful, with Marceline Jones hugging people saying "I’ll see you in your next life." Indeed, there was an explicit final letter left at Jonestown (see FINAL WITNESS), which is specific about people passing on in a peaceful, if grief-laden procession.
So who was it who desecrated the bodies at Jonestown in such a gruesome manner? First, what might be the motive? One motive is clear: Make Jim Jones look like a brutal murderer of his own people, to bolster the claim that he had "ordered" the assassination of the Congressman. That would deflect investigation of the facts, much less consideration of a frame. Surely Jim Jones was responsible for everything. Case closed.
Who was responsible for the desecration? Who arrived at Jonestown before the coroner; before, indeed, anyone else arrived "officially"? Had forces arrived clandestinely, and if so, who were they, and how much time did they have to make the scene appear as they wanted?
The answer to these two questions appears to be, respectively, "Yes" and "A lot of time." First, the tragedy happened the night of Saturday, November 18th. The first team brought in "officially" was the Guyanese Defense Force, along with survivors from Jonestown brought back to identify bodies. That did not happen until Monday morning, November 20th. For the entire day of Sunday, November 19th, presumably no one was at Jonestown at all.
Yet two completely separate sources confirm that U.S. Special Forces (Green Berets) were in Jonestown within five or six hours. The first was a source from within the U.S. military, one Charles Huff from the U.S. Army Special Forces in Panama. According to FREEDOM Magazine, he was "one of the Green Berets who were the first American troops on the scene following the massacre." He said they were into Jonestown within about five hours. Indeed, Clayton told the coroner’s jury of the community falling completely silent following the deaths for 45 minutes, and that then, suddenly, there was a chorus of shouts, as well as gunfire. The source of the sounds and the gunfire, has never been identified.
Huff elaborated that "’We saw many bullet wounds as well as wounds from crossbow bolts." Huff noted that those with fatal bullet or bolt wounds appeared to have been running towards the jungle that surrounded Jonestown. Huff said that the adults who had not been shot had been killed by injections between the shoulder blades." Then enigmatically, "The killers escaped before the arrival of Huff and his team." Huff also claims that of the troops early into Jonestown, sixteen of them later "committed suicide." Given that only two Peoples Temple survivors committed suicide in the wake of the tragedy, sixteen "suicides" amongst trained combat personnel defies believability. But sixteen "suspicious deaths" is indeed a high figure, which compels investigation.
Who desecrated the bodies? Nearly no one "escaped" from Jonestown except for the tiny handful of people who ran into the jungle, and who were surely not responsible for any carnage. How could one not suspect that it was the Green Beret force itself who inflicted the purported damage?
An unexpected confirmation of U.S. troops clandestinely on site just showed up recently in a Russian book called "The Jonestown Carnage: A CIA Crime" printed by Progress Press in Moscow. Their claim was that "At about 18.00 [that’s 6 p.m. on November 18th], several S-141 military transport planes took off from military bases in Panama and Dover [Delaware] and headed for Guyana. The estimated time of flight was 3 hours 40 minutes. … Two hours later, without notifying the local authorities in the area of Venezuela where the Americans had their private missions (which served as a front for C.I.A. secret operations), three helicopters took off in the direction of Jonestown, which was 1 hour 10 minutes away."
What is startling in the Russian account, is that both their account and the American account of the arrival of Green Berets, designate the country of origin as Panama. The two independent reports tally with each other perfectly.
Equally ominous, the A & E special this past November, called "Jonestown: Mystery of a Massacre" revealed that the deaths at Jonestown were originally confirmed via a CIA radio channel, NOIWON, at 3:29 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, November 19th. The producer speculated that Richard Dwyer, the alleged C.I.A. plant in the State Department who had accompanied the Congressman to Jonestown, was the only one on site who could have made this call. But now we can see that it could have just as easily been made by U.S. Green Berets already on site, and undoubtedly under the control of the C.I.A.
What were Green Berets doing at Jonestown in the middle of the night? The C-141 MEDEVAC plane to assist the survivors of the airport shooting, according to official State Department records, did not even arrive at Georgetown from Charleston, SC until 7:55 a.m.! The Green Berets, meanwhile, were flown in immediately, before the situation at Jonestown had even been officially ascertained. They arrived in the middle of the night, but not to assist medically – rather for secret, classified work specifically at Jonestown, leaving the injured at an airstrip only seven miles away, completely unattended. Meanwhile, the MEDEVAC plane shows up on the official State Department log, but the Green Berets do not.
Was there any real concern for the people of Jonestown – their deaths, rapid evacuation of the bodies, possible survivors? Medical personnel such as the Guyanese coroner, were not sent into Jonestown for two more days! This bizarre reversal of priorities, involving moreover clandestine forces under separate command, is unsettling if not appalling, and requires investigation. Even the fact that confirmation of the suicides was received at 3:29 a.m. on the morning of the 19th, yet the incoming MEDEVAC personnel were not sent to investigate the death of over 900 people a mere seven miles away, implies not just lack of coordination between open and secret military commands, but utter disregard for human life.
Lastly, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty (also uncovered by Freedom Magazine), claimed that "The Joint Chiefs of Staff had prepared air shipments of hundreds of body bags. … Within hours, they began to shuttle them down to Georgetown, the main city. They couldn’t possibly have done that without prior knowledge that it was going to happen. It shows that there was prior planning."
What was there prior planning for? If the desecration was indeed deliberate by an invading military, what would have been done to the people of Jonestown had they still been alive when the military arrived? This author has never condoned suicide. It is nevertheless clear that the situation faced by the people of Jonestown was terrifying that night, even if they had simply waited for the military to arrive.
DOES IT ADD UP TO A C.I.A. CONSPIRACY?
None of these many, many factors singly, may constitute "proof" of a C.I.A. conspiracy to first smear Jonestown, persecute it through government and the press, frame the killing of the Congressman on its people, then brutally cover it up in a mass of desecrated bodies and spliced tapes. But there are too many pieces to possibly ignore!
It is long overdue to hold public hearings, a measure that was never taken. It is time for Washington to realize that the true assassins of the Congressman likely went free, as did the government agency who sent them there. America finally deserves the truth. It is the intention of the authors of this site to press forward with that investigation.
A Reconstruction of the Events of November 18, 1978
At Jonestown, Guyana
Where Did the Killers Come From?
Any Eyewitness Identifications?
Amateurs or "A Professional Hit"?
Did Jim Jones Order the Assassination?
How Do We Know It Was a Frame?
What About the Gunfire at Jonestown?
Was It Really Suicide?
Who Got In First, and What Did They Do?
The Great Autopsy Disaster
"Jim Jones ordered the killing of the Congressman and then he ordered the death of his own people." That’s what you were told. Is it what really happened? Shy of the notorious body count, much of what was printed stemmed from supposition, hearsay, planted stories, and facts which do not pass scrutiny. The press believed it simply printed "the available information," but was that by accident or design?
All the details one would expect from such a catastrophe, like forensics, autopsies, eyewitness identifications, and surviving documentation in the form of tapes, letters, and films, were omitted, botched, distorted or destroyed. The public was given commentary rather than source material, editorials rather than evidence.
This piece reveals, clarifies and organizes the known documentary evidence into a real living chronology, and conversely, shows up the gaps where evidence should have been revealed, explored and analyzed.
We know that the Congressman and his party departed for the Port Kaituma airstrip at about 4:00 p.m. on the afternoon of November 18, 1978. They were transported in the Temple truck with a minimum of personnel, just two or three young men. They disembarked at the airstrip, some seven miles outside of Jonestown, where two small aircraft were waiting.
The departing party included the Congressman, an aide, journalists, a small group of visiting relatives, a small group of "defectors," and one additional person, Larry Layton, a depressed loner (mother died days earlier, sister "star witness" for the government) who was falsely claiming "defection." Those who drove the party to the airstrip had said their good-byes and were now standing at a distance across the way.
WHERE DID THE KILLERS COME FROM?
As per eyewitness journalists’ accounts, a second vehicle had suddenly barreled on in from the side of the Temple truck, a tractor-trailer they "assumed" had also come from Jonestown, although no such vehicle had accompanied them when they first arrived.
"When the dump truck and tractor…suddenly appeared on the side of the small landing strip in Port Kaituma Saturday at about 4:15 p.m., the 16 disaffected members of the Peoples Temple who had decided to leave…said there was going to be trouble." (Spokane Spokesman-Review, November 20, 1978.)
The shooters charged forwards, faces towards the departing party, backs towards the Temple members who had not yet returned to Jonestown. The people who returned to Jonestown to report the shootings never saw the shooters’ faces, nor did they provide a single name. Indeed, it was reiterated again and again on the final tape made at Jonestown that Jim Jones not only did not "order" the killings,’ but he had no idea who had fired the shots!
ANY EYEWITNESS IDENTIFICATIONS?
Nor were there any viable eyewitness identifications from those who were attacked – partly due to unfamiliarity on the part of non-Temple visitors, partly the element of surprise, party the reflexive reality that people either immediately fell face down or fled for their lives!
This writer went to the Congressional committee (under the House Foreign Relations Committee) in Washington, DC after viewing the original assassination film on t.v. at the first anniversary. Prior to that time, I had no concrete reason to suspect it was not men from Jonestown who had killed the Congressman, but the film showed "a professional (and very brutal) hit" way beyond the capacities of the community. The "official government eyewitness," the Congressional investigating committee told me, was Jim Cobb, an ex-member who had smeared the church, and was now suing for millions of dollars based upon spurious charges. As recorded in an interview of this writer on January 4, 1980 with Thomas Smeeton and George Berdes, aides for that committee:
Ms. Efrein. Well, you start with the question of whether someone who is fleeing for his own life can properly identify eight people coming towards him with guns. That is a logical question.
Mr. Smeeton. Jim Cob said he has good eyesight.
Further investigation revealed that Cobb had bragged to the press that the reason he was able to escape uninjured was that "I was on the opposite side of the trailer carrying the gunman…" (The Courier, Tyler, Texas, November 21, 1978), i.e. he never even had the shooters in his line of vision!
The Congressional committee also adamantly refused to blow the film up so as to properly identify (or rule out "identifications" of) the assassins:
Ms. Efrein. I would like to know if the committee has examined the film clip from the Port Kaituma airport. [NOTE: This was why I had come – because upon viewing the complete, original film on t.v. at the first anniversary, it was clearly a professional military formation used to kill the Congressman, executed with perfect precision, requiring professional training.]
Have you had a military expert examine the film clip? I believe a military expert should…determine if standard military maneuvers were involved in the assassination of Congressman Ryan.
Mr. Berdes. [diversion 1:] How does that figure into the report?
Ms. Efrein. …because if the members of Jonestown had no such standard training in U.S. Army standard military maneuvers, it is highly unlikely that those were the people doing the assassination.
Mr. Berdes. [diversion 2:] Where in our report does it suggest directly or indirectly that such "standard military procedures" were used?
Ms. Efrein. It doesn’t suggest it. What I am saying—
Mr. Berdes. Why is that a factor in suggesting a military expert ought to examine the film clip? Have you seen the film clip?
Ms. Efrein. Yes, I have. .. I was with someone with years of experience in the military who saw the film clip on TV with me.
Mr. Berdes. [diversion 3:] Would you care to mention that person’s name, please?
Ms. Efrein. I don’t care to without checking with him first. [NOTE: There was ongoing harassment and surveillance that I did not want inflicted on others.]
…Mr. Berdes. I am trying to establish why you believe a military expert was required to examine the film clip. You allude to a reference that say something about standard military procedures. I have no recollection whatsoever of that reference being included in our report.
…Ms. Efrein. I was with a military veteran when I viewed the film clip, who identified for me the standard U.S. Army military formation by which the attackers approached their victims at the Port Kaituma aristrip. He made it very clear to me that this was not something which could spontaneously be done by amateurs…
Mr. Berdes. Do I deduce logically what you are saying in effect, is because the people…who did the shooting…used that tactic, and since Peoples Temple. to your knowledge, was not such a military organization, ergo the Peoples Temple was not responsible for the shooting at the airstrip?
Ms. Efrein. I think that makes the situation highly suspicious.
Mr. Smeeton. [diversion 4:} Getting back to your source…a former member of the Temple?
Ms. Efrein. No, never a member. …
Ms. Berdes. A moment earlier you indicated you knew virtually everyone who died at Jonestown.
Ms. Efrein. By and large.
Mr. Berdes. In viewing the film strips which you just referred to a moment ago, did you recognize any of the people in that film strip?
Ms. Efrein. The faces were indiscernible. It should be blown up and I don’t understand why anyone should have any reservation about doing this.
Mr. Berdes. [diversion 5:] Our purpose in meeting with you is to ask you questions to establish the claim that you have made in your letter. I have yet to hear that claim satisfied.…
…Ms. Efrein. When there is a situation of concealment…of evidence, because the Justice Department would not provide you, by your own report, with all of the film clips… It is in your report… It says here, "The committee, therefore, formally requested the untelevised footage which the Justice Department refused to supply on the grounds that ‘secrecy provisions’ of Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure limit the extent of information and evidence that may be disclosed at this time." [NOTE: With regards to who assassinated the Congressman? Evidence regarding who assassinated the Congressman was withheld from the Congressional committee?]
Mr. Berdes. The material in question was subsequently provided to us.
Ms. Efrein. Following the issuance of your report? [i.e. all wrapped up and major evidence still on the way?] …Does the committee feel that there is reason why the film should not be blown up, given the fact that this involves the murder of a U.S. Congressman and there is no mention in your report of the names of the accused? (!!!!)
Mr. Smeeton: [diversion 6:] We shouldn’t exclude that as having been done. [diversion 7:] This is outside the purview of this particular investigation. The Justice Department is continuing to review all of the information germane to this case…
…Ms. Efrein. …you have some of the film clip in your possession, in your committee’s records? This seems apparent from your report… it is [also] apparent it is a matter of public domain in effect; I saw it on t.v…. Do you feel that if there were an interest in pursuing that, that would be within the domain of this committee since you do have that in your possession?
Mr. Berdes. [diversion 8:] I remind you once more of what I said at the outset that the purpose of this committee’s investigation was limited by its jurisdiction and was directed at chiefly international related aspects of the entire incident. [i.e. the "whitewash" committee.] It does not and never will have a prosecuting purpose. That is the proper responsibility of the Department of Justice… why had you not considered [approaching]… the Department of Justice.
Ms. Efrein. Because I have substantial doubts as to who did the killing at the airport, and I have no feeling of security that the Justice Department or some branches of the U.S. government were not involved in the matter. [Bingo!!] I feel that the proper course of inquiry is through Congress. Note, for instance, in the case of the Kennedy assassination, it was pursued through Congress… I would like to know what options there are, but I feel that this is the proper starting point.
Mr. Berdes. [diversion 9:] We would be delighted to pursue the contention that you are making, but I am afraid we don’t have the kind of compelling evidence that you indicated would be forthcoming to do so.
(and so on with teeth-pulling exercise.)
The aides assured me that the transcript of my interview would be "distributed." Some days later, with some alarm, I received a "transcript" in badly-butchered English, then on calling, learned it was "only available on request." When I attempted to send the corrected transcripts out to the 34 members of the Committee, 32 of the 34 return receipts came back unstamped and unsigned.
AMATEURS OR "A PROFESSIONAL HIT"?
The assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan was the work of professionally trained assassins. Bob Flick, an NBC field producer on site, described the killers as follows in The Charlotte Observer, November 20, 1978: "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."
The very description of "silent" assassins defies credulity had the shooters been from Jonestown. If that were true, it would have been an ad hoc group of enraged young men shouting and yelling, and barking commands at each other, in a chaotic and untrained fashion. Indeed, one of the Ryan children, Christopher, complained to the San Francisco Chronicle, " ‘We were concerned about news reports quoting Peoples Temple members as saying the attack was a casual, spur-of-the-moment thing… We believe the attack was a planned exectution. We believe that the nature and extent of my father’s wounds show he was targeted for death.’ "
The community did, apparently, have a scattering of hotheads, but with no discipline, training, much less approval of military schemes to back them up. Certainly there was zero chance that anyone from Jonestown would have been "silent" as they perfectly executed a professional military formation! The suggestion that anyone from Jonestown did the killings was preposterous then and preposterous now. It never happened. The military and forensic evidence all points to a frame, but the public never saw that evidence. It was simply told "Jim Jones ordered… Case closed."
Steven Sung, an NBC technician who was wounded in the shootings, said specifically that " ‘the assailants picked and chose their targets… They pushed some people aside…so they wouldn’t be hit…it was definitely their intention to shoot the congressman.’ " (The Herald, Durham, N.C., November 21, 1978.)
Military experts who viewed the assassination film made on site by Bob Brown, an NBC photojournalist on site, identified the shooters’ perfectly-executed military formation as a "squad diamond," the product of standard military training. The bullets that killed the Congressman were dum-dum bullets, only available to military, the police, and experienced killers:
"Miss Moore [Annie Moore, at Jonestown] was killed by a dum-dum bullet, a round projectile made to expand on contact. It was so forceful on impact that it blew half her face off, according to the sources. They said she was shot with the same kind of bullet as those that killed Congressman Leo J. Ryan of California at the Port Kaituma airstrip and that it possibly came from the same gun." (New York Times, December 12, 1978.)
What was buried beneath the headlines is that no one from Jonestown had the equipment, training, disposition, or know-how to do these highly professional killings! Although the community had been falsely smeared as an "armed camp" by ex-member C.I.A.-connected Timothy Stoen, and the press widely publicized lies about "hundreds of guns" by defector Deborah Layton, the reality was that both Guyanese and American authorities discovered only thirty-nine small weapons, mostly .22 caliber – barely enough to defend 1,200 people against the natural hazards of the jungle:
First the lies: "Debbie Layton Blakey… said she never saw an automatic weapon at Jonestown. But she did say she saw 200 to 300 rifles, some with scopes, and about 25 handguns and many rounds of ammunition." (San Francisco Examiner, December 10, 1978).
Then the truth: "Also found in the fields, huts and dormitories were 17 shotguns, 14 rifles, seven pistols and a flare gun…" (= 39 guns) (Spokane Spokesman-Review, November 21, 1978.) "federal investigators have traced 38 of the 40 guns recovered at the Peoples Temple mission… One source said most of the guns traced were shotguns and .22 caliber weapons of various types…" (San Francisco Examiner, December 10, 1978)
There was no military training and there were no dum-dum bullets. Security was done mostly by young men (teenage and early twenties) who had not yet been assigned to a permanent project at the community, including Jim Jones’ own teenage sons, who told the press that although they occasionally handled guns, they had no training in what to do with them. (Note: They had no motive to protect Jim Jones, because they had become hostile to him.):
"It was just talk… I mean we were non-violent. My father brought us up that way." (Tim Jones to San Francisco Examiner, November 22, 1978.)
"Security was to make sure the rats and possums didn’t get to the chickens. I don’t know nothing about any guns." (Jim Jones, Jr. to San Francisco Examiner, December 10, 1978.)
"I held a gun. We were told to. Why, I don’t know. We were told to hold it… Often we didn’t know the point. It was to scare some people and to make others feel more secure." (Stephan Jones to San Francisco Examiner, December 10, 1978.)
Then why was the non-violent community of Jonestown smeared as "an armed camp"? The reasons become obvious: 1) to justify violence against the community; and 2) to lay the pathway for a frame. Was the assassination the first instance of violence at Jonestown? No. There was violence a whole year earlier, in September, 1977, and not by the community but against it, in the form of a mercenary attack:
"Moments before yesterday’s press conference, Garry [Charles Garry, Temple attorney] said he had received a telephone call from a church member in Guyana who reported the second attempt in four days had just been made on Jones’ life. Garry…said three persons visited the 900-acre mission four days ago…[i.e. strangers, an unusual occurrence, there were many friendly, known visitors] and when they left, shots were fired at Jones." (San Francisco Examiner, September 9, 1977.)
In addition, Chuck Kirkendoll, a Temple member living at Jonestown at time, attested under oath:
"In September, 1977, for about seven days, shots were fired into Jonestown from out of the jungle. Myself and about fifteen others from the security team were stationed at the front entrance and various point around Jonestown with guns. Several of these people did fire at those firing from the jungle, and I witnessed this.
"The first day during this period, I was doing electrical work around jim Jones’ cottage and a shot was fired into the cottage while Jim Jones was inside. Marceline Jones was also in the cottage at that time, and ran out shouting for security to come. She said the bullet had whizzed right in front of Jim’s face. [Note: Marceline Jones verified that personally at a meeting in San Francisco October 3, 1978.]
"Myself and several others on the security team examined the bullet hole where the bullet had gone through a wall of the cottage, and where the bullet was lodged in a door frame. We recovered the bullet. It had come from a 3030 Winchester, a type of rifle we did not have in Jonestown. The identification of the bullet came from Doug Sanders, an Army veteran, who lived in Jonestown and was a head of security."
More chilling still, was the timing of the attack: right on the heels of the Stoens’ attorney’s visit to Jonestown to serve papers for a child custody suit, in which Tim Stoen falsely claimed paternity for Jim Jones’ own son. The message was clear: Give up the child or violence will ensue. (Indeed, that was the "cause celebre" used to lure Leo Ryan to his death.)
From then on in, mercenary threats were continual, even being reported in newspaper editorials (Ukiah Daily Journal, April 13, 1978) and State Department logs (October 3, 1978, Georgetown, Guyana. See "Snake Dance," DOCUMENTS section.).
Peoples Temple had moved to Guyana to build in peace, and this rude shock of military threats reverberated through to the end. From then on in, the community had to fight not only for its reputation, but for its survival. Its pleas for help were, moreover, drowned out by Stoen’s campaign of turntable lies:
Jonestown was a community established as a role model for racial and economic equality – in no way a paramilitary camp, and set against 25 years of unerring non-violence. Yet Jonestown was now routinely painted as ‘an armed camp," even as "terrorists," to justify the ongoing threats against it. That was part of why there was such panic at the end. It was a community of families, full of the aged and small children, that was geographically tr-apped, militarily defenseless, and so remote and isolated that there was not even a phone to alert the outside world or call in help.
It was always clear that killers, very professional killers, were opposing the community, not from it!! Yet by the time of tragedy, the group had been so repeatedly smeared as "violent," that no investigation of violence coming from the outside was ever pursued.
What was also never explored was who had the real motive for killing Leo Ryan, the most anti-C.I.A. Congressman of his day. (See "Did the Cl.A. Have a Conspiracy to Destroy Jonestown?," also on this site.) Much less that far-left-wing, racially integrated, smeared and persecuted Jonestown was on the endangered list as well! Surely active plans to relocate to the then-Soviet Union during the Cold War put Peoples Temple, as much as Leo Ryan, square on the list of C.I.A. nemeses!
So why not kill one and frame it on the other, "killing two birds with one stone," so to speak?
DID JIM JONES ORDER THE ASSASSINATION?
There is considerable documentary evidence that he did not order the assassination. First is the final tape made at Jonestown. It is absolutely the voice of Jim Jones, although the tape was heavily cut and spliced. It is only 45 minutes long, at times choppily excerpted. Some longish portions are recorded straight through, but also breaks, splices, and weird echoey "music" in the background dubbed in. Nevertheless, it is clearly Jim Jones, the voice not dubbed in any way, the text is all contextual, and clearly what he would have said.
The record is unmistakably clear. Jim Jones did not even know who fired the shots!! We know this from repeated denials on the final tape – not only denials, but anguish, panic and horror that it had happened at all, especially at the hands of (what he believed to be) his own: "I don’t know who killed the Congressman… I don’t know who fired the shots… I never wanted to kill anybody… I wish I could call it back… You don’t know what you’ve done (to the unidentified killers)…"
Moreover, his anguish and panic at the assassination is clear: "How many are dead? Oh, God Almighty, God help them…" The anguish, the horror, the panic, the not wanting it to have happened, were all too clear.
What is less clear from the tape alone is why he believed his own people had fired the shots. By way of background, this writer had been handling correspondence in San Francisco up until the time of tragedy, and it was clear that the level of both panic (at the ongoing mercenary threats), and the level of despair that only smears, not help, would be forthcoming, were both escalating at Jonestown. And it was believed that the end result could be a frame. From a letter to the President of the United States, the entire Congress, and selected members of the State Department in March, 1978:
"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…"
Moreover, Peoples Temple had not only been historically and unerringly non-violent, but was widely praised as model citizens – Police Chief Charles Gain was even a guest at the Testimonial Dinner at the Temple in October, 1976. Note that Jim Jones’ first response to the smear campaign in the summer of ’77, as published in Peoples Forum, the church’s newspaper, was as follows:
"I know some of you are wanting to fight, but that’s exactly what the system wants – they want to use us as sacrificial lambs, as a scapegoat. Don’t fall into this trap by yielding to violence, no matter what kind of lies are told on us or how many.
"Peoples Temple has helped practically every political prisoner in the United States, We’ve reached out to everyone who is oppressed, and that’s what is bothering them. We’ve organized poor people and given them a voice. The system doesn’t mind corporate power for the ruling elite, but for the first time we’ve given some corporate power to the little man and that’s an unforgivable sin. And that’s the whole problem in a nutshell."
The first paragraph of the above quote is self-explanatory. The second paragraph was a reality which was completely blocked from the public view. But we must include it when we approach the subject of "Did Jim Jones order the killing of Congressman Ryan or was he framed?," because this was not just a "killing" – it was a political assassination of the most anti-C.I.A. Congressman in Washington.
The evidence, in any case, is clear that Jim Jones had no motive to kill the Congressman over his assessment of Jonestown, for the Congressman was clearly (which finally even major networks admitted after twenty years) impressed. And Jim Jones certainly had no motive to kill the Congressman based upon his anti-C.I.A. political orientation – to the contrary!! Jonestown, a successful, acclaimed interracial socialist cooperative with ex-patriated Americans in the Third World, was itself a thorn to the C.I.A., combined with its far-left wing and minority base in the States. Jim Jones’ visit to Huey Newton (the exiled Black Panther Party Leader) in Cuba, as published in the church’s newspaper Peoples Forum, a positive cause for alarm. Its active plans to re-relocate to the then-Soviet Union during the Cold War all the more so! Anyone who might have thought that Jim Jones was on any side but anti-C.I.A. has not looked at the facts.
Moreover, we had always suspected Timothy Stoen, our ex-member top attorney who left to spearhead the anti-Temple campaign, as being a C.I.A. infiltrator, in part because of the discovery of his field notes from anti-communist spy missions into East Berlin in the early sixties, a background he had denied and concealed.
Although the public was never shown the political side at all, it was obviously uppermost in the minds of those at Jonestown, Jim Jones himself having feared a "frame-up" as the end result of the anti-Temple attacks. Why then, did Jim Jones not immediately suspect "the obvious" – that the Congressman had been led to his death at Jonestown by C.I.A.-trained assassins, to then have the killing framed on Jonestown?
The irony was that many factors to close in at the last, were more quirks of fate than of deliberate design. The assassination caused a panic that the military would closing in against a community of helpless families. That was a real fear, based in a history of deadly threats under far less provocation. But how the assassination itself happened, and at the hands of whom, was not something that could be deduced – it had to be witnessed. Not a chosen witness, jus a quirk of fate who happened to be there.
The airstrip was seven miles away, with its being "an accident" who was on hand to see it, and the quality of their observations, omissions, and assumptions; and locked into white-hot crisis, there was neither time nor means to launch an investigation! It was the way it seemed, tragic consequences and all.
What made Temple shooters plausible was that there were two ‘loose cannons" who had already snapped: The Congressman’s visit was inherently volatile. The community was happy with its life, but angry about ongoing military threats, and now the media circus, moreover with ringleaders like ex-member Jim Cobb (alleged "government eyewitness") leading the Congressman in. The Congressman himself was openly championing Stoen, who was falsely claiming paternity of Jones’ own son, accompanied by continual threats to remove the child by force. Under these pressures, two members had "snapped":
"Ujara" (Don Sly), an ex-Marine who had admitted to having fantasies as a hit man, had put a knife to the Congressman’s throat and was stopped. Now Larry Layton, a severely depressed loner (his mother had just died of cancer; his sister was "star government witness"), had apparently gone off to the airstrip with a gun.
Jim Jones said on the final tape of Larry, "I didn’t plan this…" and "Now I see what he was trying to tell me," a reference to an approach by the disturbed young man that he did not realize would result in gunfire. Confronted with a) Ujara’s knife attack; and b) Larry off to the airstrip with a gun, Temple shooters, even from a group with a 25-year history of unerring violence, suddenly seemed plausible.
Moreover, the reality was that a well Jim Jones, prone to thorough investigations by temperament, or in a community not so heavily under siege, nor in immediate crisis, might have indeed suspected a frame, and looked for justice instead of doom. But now his own were out of control (Ujara, then Larry), making doom seem all the more vivid. The community already felt endangered enough to plan re-relocation, when it had done no harm to anyone – to the contrary, was building a constructive, acclaimed way of life. What if its members were now culpable for murder?
Plus Jim Jones, the community’s pulse, was himself terminally ill. He was running fevers of 103 degrees daily for weeks before the Congressman arrived. A visiting M.D. and Temple friend, publisher Carlton Goodlett, visited and told Jones he would die if he did not get to hospital. But he could not go for fear of leaving the community vulnerable to a new mercenary attack (one had already happened in September, 1977.) From church attorney Charles Garry, quoting Goodlett:
" ‘Jim Jones had been sick for a long time, been running fevers between 101 and 105, 105-1/2,’ Garry said, ‘Dr. Goodlett told me that he’d literally been burning his brain.’ "
Everything, it seemed, was going wrong at the last. Then the assassination happened. And who reported it? Apparently (according to a Jonestown survivor), Tom and Bob Kice, one of a tiny handful of people who had required monitoring for their fascination with guns across the years. (All guns in the church had been confiscated in the States.) They had apparently gone to the airport (perhaps after seeing Ujara’s knife attack) looking for trouble.
Then they came back and reported a dead Congressman. Jim Jones jumped to "the next step," assuming that "all hell had broken loose" amongst his own, and even though he said on the tape of the eyewitness reports, "They dropped their guns and ran into the bush" ("the bush" with its heavy cover hardly allowing for i.d.’s!!) He thought no one had to "draw him a diagram," but in fact a diagram would have been instructive:
The Congressman and his party were about to board the planes. Across the way, the Temple truck was still there with the two or three young men who had transported the departing party to the airstrip. Then a tractor-trailer pulled up along the side, and the shooters disembarked and charged forwards. For the Congressman’s party, the shooters were charging towards their faces. But the Temple eyewitnesses only saw the shooters’ backs!
From such a volatile mix are frames made, and the tragic consequences.
There is also another piece of evidence which only surfaced recently through an independent FOIA researcher, Brian Csuk, a final, handwritten letter found at Jonestown by one Richard Martin from the State Department. (The letter is reprinted in full in "FINAL WITNESS" on this site.) In this heartfelt plea for comprehension from the world, the writer is explicit that "Jim Jones did not order anyone to attack or kill anyone. It was done by individuals who had too much of seeing people try to destroy this movement…"
And that is what the community believed when they took their lives – that it was their own who had brought the impending doom of military invasion upon them.
There were other aspects of Jim Jones’ reaction to all this, however, which after over a year of escalating siege conditions, threats, and illness had finally snapped:
One was that in the States, Peoples Temple members were model law abiders and eager to curry favor from the same establishment they opposed. Stateside was also a climate where one could negotiate with the legal system. Peoples Temple was every judge’s best friend, taking on rehabilitations with great success. Certainly, a physical attack on a visitor would have been an anathema. There would be fury if, let’s say, the attack had come about because the visitor was transparently racist, yes. But to put the lives of the entire church on the line over any violent action of a single member would have been unthinkable.
Yet it was often a non-negotiable point of honor that Jim Jones would stand by his own. It was indeed, those very qualities of loyalty and courage ("I will never let you down") that people loved in that man that when pushed to the extreme, helped seal their doom. But he never had to do it before in a death trap. There were negotiations, maneuvering, a fluid larger culture through which to bob and weave, not a geographically remote death trap.
What happened in Guyana at the end, Jim Jones’ adamance to not turn Ujara in for the knife attack against the Congressman, was a measure of prolonged siege which virtually produced a mentality of war. From the final tape: "I’m not letting them take Ujara. Will you let them take Ujara?"
Then Ujara, it turned out, was the lesser of the crimes committed. Now there were the airstrip killings. Did Jim Jones approve of those killings? Not at all! He was anguished, panicked and horrified! From the tape:
"I didn’t order the shooting";
"I don’t know who shot the Congressman";
"I can’t control these people (who did)";
"I waited against all evidence… I tried to prevent all this from happening";
"I wish I could call it back";
"I never wanted to kill anybody";
"How many are dead? Oh, God Almighty, God help them…"
More volatile still, were the injunctions to stand by their own, even though some had (or so it appeared) lashed out in violence:
"I didn’t want to kill anybody…[But] I’m going to put my lot with you. If one of my people does something, it’s me. I can say, I don’t have to take the blame for this. But I don’t live that way… No. No. …I cannot live that way. I’ve lived for all and I’ll die for all. I’m standing with those people. They’re a part of me. I can reject them, but no, no, no, no, no, no. I never detach myself from any of your troubles. I’ve always taken your troubles right on my shoulders. And I’m not going to quit doing that now… I didn’t [shoot or order the shooting]. But my people did. They’re my people. And they’ve been provoked too much. …I don’t know who fired the shot. I don’t know who killed the Congressman. As far as I’m concerned, I killed him… We can’t separate ourselves from our own people."
This was a very dangerous "ethic," to be sure. However one might admire that stand when taken personally, it was now hundreds of little children and senior citizens that were in the line of fire. So why did it not snap apart, with those critical lines between guilty/not guilty, guilty adults/innocent children, drawn? In the States, it could have been, likely would have been.
But the aftermath of the assassination was inherently much more dangerous than any Stateside situation would have been. Nothing on the tape suggests that Jones anticipated authorities coming in and saying, "We’ve come for Ujara," but rather that the whole community would be made to pay. These were people who had already been attacked in broad daylight when they were peaceably going about their daily business. Now it was on the heels of an assassination, going into the middle of the night. How much greater the peril!
And there was Jim Jones exhorting them, "They’ll be parachuting in. They’ll shoot some of our innocent babies. …We can’t take any longer to endanger our children and seniors. …Before we had a choice. Now we have no choice. Either we do it, or they do it… Lay down your lives in dignity…"
Jim Jones most surely did NOT order the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan. What he did do was to organize the ensuing panic and fear into the last unity, solidarity, and bravery against an oppressor those people would ever know. One can grieve the course that was taken forever, but in determining its motive, we must speak to belief. He believed (and many at Jonestown surely believed) that if they did not do this, they were about to wiped out.
This was a psychologically complex chain of events that regrettably, the world has never even looked at, much less understood. But where it might start is with the myth of "Jim Jones ordered the assassination of Congressman Ryan." He didn’t.
HOW DO WE KNOW IT WAS A FRAME?
First, we clearly have an unsolved crime. We already know that this was way beyond the capability of anyone living in Jonestown, while by contrast, key elements of the crime implicated professional C.I.A.-directed assassins: the motive (both Leo Ryan and Jim Jones were C.I.A. nemeses – what better than to kill one and frame it on the other?), the method (calm, silent, brutal, professional military formation), the means (dum-dum bullets), and the opportunity (vehicle suddenly barreled in from the side, in an area surrounded by dense forest, into which the shooters then ducked).
We have dissected why a frame was not suspected from the inside. Why the question of a frame was never broached from the outside was not because there was not evidence or cause, but rather because it was precluded, prior to any investigation, with "Jim Jones ordered…" Media all across the world, acting as parrots rather than journalists, merely repeated the litany without question.
Next, the public did not even realize that there were no evidentiary hearings, or any public hearings relating to the assassination at all. Indeed, there were no public hearings about anything, including the deaths at Jonestown, and those were held privately, not publicly, resulting only in a summary report by the investigating committee under the auspices of the House Foreign Relations Committee. When this writer went to Washington to query the committee about their failure to review the assassination film, she was told that the assassination was not even covered by the investigating committee, but rather under the auspices of the Justice Department, which never published its findings at all! All the House Committee considered to be its "mandate" was the State Department’s role in the tragedy, and all that came out of it was a "scolding" to the State Department to have not done more to stop "the terrible Jim Jones."
Furthermore, not only was this matter never investigated, but evidence was tampered with. The film taken on site by NBC cameraman Bob Brown, was so deliberately lopped off before the shooting began (the original assassination film shown on t.v. showed the men charging forward shooting, then kicking bodies, and shooting at point blank range), that by now the program directors at NBC Burbank, who had original custody of their own reporter’s film, are not even aware than any more complete film existed, for it was not preserved by their own network!!! I.e., if were merely the gruesomeness of this film which knocked it out of public view, the original network would still have it, simply restrict its access. Note also that news reports at the time did cite Bob Brown as running film until the shooters charged up right up to his face
"Bob Brown stayed on his feet, and kept filming what was happening, even as the attackers advanced on him with their guns. He was incredibly tenacious… Then I saw one of the attackers stick a shotgun right into Brown’s face, inches away, if that." (Ron Javers, a reporter on site, quoted in The Herald, Mt. Prospect, IL, November 20, 1978, AP).
There are many additional reasons to suspect a frame:
Jonestown was lined up in advance to take the fall, with false affidavits and news stories claiming "an armed camp," which was completely untrue.
Timothy Stoen, far-right-wing zealot who lured the Congressman to Jonestown under false pretenses: 1) knew that Ryan would not find the deplorable conditions he had been told of, and could not risk his brinigng a true report back to the States (Ryan in fact said, "This is one of the greatest social experiments of the 20th century"); 2) Stoen had deliberately targeted the most anti-C.I.A. Congressman in the House to walk into a death trap; and 3) he did not miss a beat with "grief" over his (allegedly) "lost son," but instead went immediately to the press with false stories about a mythical "Peoples Temple hit squad"!!
The latter was one of the most suspicious events in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. Within just hours of the assassination, a young aide of Congressman Ryan in the Bay Area, Will Holsinger, who had reportedly only been on Ryan’s payroll for two months, received anonymous phoned death threats "a few hours after the first radio report of the Guyana shootings," telling him, "Your husband’s meal ticket had his head blown off and he (your husband) could be next." (San Francisco Chronicle, November 21, 1978).
But that story was not even plausible: Everyone at the church headquarters in San Francisco was in shock and disbelief. Even if anyone had been cruel enough to make such a call (and no one was), no one even knew who this aide was!! Yet it is also clear that such a call had to be lined up in advance, with personnel, scripts, phone numbers, and waiting for the assassination to happen!
Moreover, it was not the first such "dirty trick" to be falsely blamed on Peoples Temple. The entire anti-Temple campaign had been littered with them -- anonymous phone threats, hoax bomb and fire threats, break-in by masked men, hoax "VIP trips" to poison vulnerable reporters, threats to burn down the home of relatives of a resident of Jonestown, even implications of homicide. In every case, not only was the Temple blamed, but the result of such actions to the Temple’s detriment. The press, of course, routinely skimmed over the word "anonymous," making a "defense" near-impossible.
But in this one case, the most potent case, the death threats phoned to the home of Will Holsinger, I was personally on the scene in San Francisco, surrounded by shocked and grieved people, making the Temple "alibi" air tight. No one in the Temple even knew who this aide was! It was Stoen, who had courted the Congressman, who had access to such people, not the shocked and newly-bereaved people at the church.
Did Stoen personally know that the assassination was coming down? There is plentiful cause for suspicion. He knew perfectly well that Jonestown was not a "concentration camp," so any honest investigation would not go his way. And he told a Temple spy just a week earlier, that he had "vowed the destroy Jonestown" and that he was "counting on Jim (Jones) to overreact." Overreact to what??? A mere Congressional visit, however unwanted? Or an assassination?
WHAT ABOUT THE GUNFIRE AT JONESTOWN?
We now need to weave the assassination into the larger matrix of events that night:
What happened at Jonestown was not just suicide, as incredible as that alone was to a disbelieving world. That at least (without condoning that choice) may have been a relatively peaceful process (i.e. no brutalization of one another), and there is certainly evidence that speaks to that point. But the brutal shooting of anyone at Jonestown (i.e. not just at the airstrip) would necessarily color the entire scenario differently. If this was a community that would brutalize its own, surely it would not hesitate to kill an outsider, namely the Congressman.
The point here is that there was motive to make the deaths at Jonestown, not just the airport assassination, look as brutal and bloody as possible.
Indeed, the scenario discovered when the world was finally let in (everyone, including medical aid, was kept out for two whole days, as will be detailed), was designed to persuade the public, authorities, and anyone who might investigate, that Jim Jones and the community were brutal murderers of their own, so that a) no one would discover who really killed the Congressman, thus the frame was protected; and b) no one would defend (much less martyr) such a model for racial and economic equality in the States, instead condemning them as "a bizarre violent cult."
This latter point is readily missed if one peruses just public records, rather than internal records from the church. Peoples Temple was attacked because it was feared. No one talked about a "cult" before government plant ex-members and non-member government handlers painted the group that way in the press. What Peoples Temple was known as was in fact an oasis of interracial socialism in the larger capitalist society. Now, in a "conservative" climate, that may seem of little import. But back then were different times.
This was pre-Reagan. Progressive politics still had influence in the States. It was still a time of viable black militant organizations, such as the Black Panthers. And Peoples Temple in the States had become a forum for every left-wing cause that came down the line, welcoming communist Angela Davis, Daniel Ellsberg of "Pentagon papers" fame, activist actress Jane Fonda. Black Panther party’s Eldridge Cleaver, the American Indian Movement leader Dennis Banks, Laura Allende, sister of the slain Chilean leader, refugees from South Africa, Soviet visitors, and so many more. Jim Jones wanted a revolution for the inner cities (albeit non-violent). He wanted a revolution for America. He was considered "a dangerous man with a dangerous cause."
The left-wing and minority communities in the States were Peoples Temple natural base of support; indeed, the church had been highly acclaimed from every quarter prior to its departing to Guyana and the subsequent smears in the press. A group martyred for its stand for racial and economic equality could indeed become a "cause celebre."
Thus was there motive to manufacture evidence of brutal gunfire, forcible injections, even crossbow wounds (i.e. the concoction claimed discovered by the Guyanese coroner after the C.I.A. had had Jonestown to itself for two days, a point yet to be clarified). But it was also the very process of "overkill" that left forensic clues linking the methods used in the airstrip killings to the (few, selective) gunshot killings at Jonestown, suggesting that neither the gunfire at the airstrip nor at Jonestown was the work of the community’s residents.
Understand, first, that very few bodies were confirmed shot. It was Jim Jones, close aides Annie Moore and Maria Katsaris, and possibly Marceline Jones. None of these bodies were found in The Pavilion, the common area where the suicides had occurred. They were found in Jim Jones’ own quarters some distance away. Why the bulk of the community died by poison, and these few would have elected to die by brutal gunfire (much less rifle fire, much more difficult to control at point-blank range, especially by totally unskilled shooters) was inexplicable, nor was it ever challenged. Indeed, the two ‘final letters" that were found, one authored by Ms. Moore, and other most likely by Marceline Jones, were of such a gentle, somber nature, that the mismatch of that spirit to brutal gunfire is all the more questionable.
The specific forensic link between the killings at the Port Kaituma airstrip and the gunshot killings at Jonestown can be found, specifically, in the shooting of Annie Moore, a young nurse who was caring for Jones medically towards the end. She was shot with a dum-dum bullet just like the Congressman, leading to speculation that the bullets may have come from the same gun!:
"Miss Moore was killed by a dum-dum bullet… the same kind of bullet…that killed Congessman Ryan… and.. possibly came from the same gun… police are concentrating on marching up rounds from a bolt-action .30-caliber rifle…found in Jonestown." (New York Times, December 12, 1978.)
The key point here is not whether it was exactly the same gun per se, but that dum-dum bullets did not exist at Jonestown, marking both the killing of the Congressman and the killing of Ms. Moore and the few others at Jonestown by gunfire, as having been perpetrated by outside forces – Ryan in causing his death, Moore more likely as a post-death desecration, the motive, means and personnel for which will become apparent.
There are two means by which to deduce the extreme unlikelihood that Ms. Moore’s brutal head wound was inflicted by either herself or her friends, one in a reconstruction of the mindset of the tiny handful left at the end (see later section, "Was It Really Suicide?"), the other in the forensic evidence.
It is clear, first of all, that Annie Moore’s death was willing. The note she left (the only one found and publicized within days for the tragedy) was a paean of praise to the community and leader she loved. So any story of her head being at a strange angle because she was forcibly murdered or ducking a bullet is not true. She was, moreover, a gentle soul, into nursing, not gun play. She could not have shot herself at that angle at all, especially with a rifle. And if a friend had wielded the gun, her head would have been straight ahead.
Yet it was reported that the angle at which she was shot was suspicious: as though she had partially turned her head towards the shooter: "Police believe she was shot from behind by someone she had partially turned to speak to when the gun was fired." (New York Times, December 12, 1978.)
The only explanation that makes sense, as gruesome as that would have been, is shooting by an outside invader after death, perhaps with the body face down and head turned to the side. A head of a dead body cannot be propped up for shooting.
Why would anyone commit such a gruesome desecration of an already-dead body? The answer becomes obvious in context: to make it appear as if she had been brutally murdered by her own, namely "brutal mass murderer, Jim Jones." Who would question his culpability in the killing of the Congressman if this is what he did to his own? Desecrating the bodies at Jonestown after death, however gruesome, was no real "mystery." In the context of protecting a frame, it made perfect sense.
Annie Moore’s body was also one of the very few "autopsied," but the procedures used were negligent to the point of useless. (See section on "The Great Autopsy Disaster.") No one extracted either blood or urine to test for any poisoning agent from any of the over 900 bodies, and all the "autopsied" bodies were embalmed prior to shipping them back to the States! The civilians receiving doctors in the U.S. were so dismayed at the botching of the autopsies that no one ever even considered any underlying motive for the negligence: If, indeed, the bodies that were shot were also found to be poisoned, any moron could deduce cover-up. Already dead people cannot shoot themselves, so who would take a dead body and do such a thing, and why.
Where would one even point the finger of blame? Was it the coroner’s negligence? He wasn’t even let in to Jonestown for two full days! By the time he arrived, he found bodies massively decomposed in the tropical sun, and (he claimed) such an overwhelming number of desecrations (mostly needle marks – the shootings having been selective), that his job was rendered overwhelming before it had even begun. We would need to go one step further back and determine why he was kept out for two days, by whom, and who had been there in his stead.
The seemingly insurmountable problems surrounding the autopsies, note, does not mean, however, that "we can never know the truth." We can deduce that the bullet through Annie Moore’s head was not inflicted by either herself or anyone at Jonestown. It was physically impossible for her to shoot herself at that angle, and no one of the tiny group left would have subjected her to such a gruesome end when a more peaceful method was possible.
In addition, there was the testimony to the Matthews Ridge coroners’ jury (an adjoining town) of Stanley Clayton, the last person known to leave Jonestown alive:
"Clayton said he had not run into the bush until all but 100 to 200 persons had died… He [Jim Jones] kept telling them, I love you, I love you. It is nothing but a deep sleep… Jones’ wife, Marceline, also walked among the followers, Clayton said, hugging them and saying, ‘I’ll see you in your next life." (sourced to New York Times.)
The New York Times also reported on December 12, 1978, that "relying on the testimony of young Stanley Clayton, they also believe that the security men voluntarily put down their weapons and accepted poison at the end of the death ritual."
I.e., this was a process completed without brutalization of one another. A built-in clincher for the truthfulness of this testimony is that Clayton was escaping. He could have said any foul thing about the community or Jim Jones. But instead he said this – the exact opposite of what the establishment wanted the public to believe!
It is clear, certainly, that the community’s deaths did not include brutal gunfire. And did Clayton speak of gunfire? Yes, he did – but not during the suicide process at all – rather when "the community had fallen completely silent for about 30-45 minutes"! Then he "heard what sounded like a chorus of cheers, a lot of voices" and a short while later on, "six gunshots." Since there were only a few bodies found shot, it seems not only likely, but virtually inescapable, that these were the shots fired at those bodies – bodies that were already dead.
But what outsiders were there to desecrate the bodies in death’s wake? Well, we know from an official Joint Chiefs of Staff log (courtesy of independent FOIA researcher Jim Hougan)that news of the deaths was radioed in at 3:29 a.m. from on site at Jonestown , on a C.I.A. radio channel, NOIWON, identified on the log as "CIA 191138Z." It was circulated as "an internal J-3 document" and "regraded UNCLASSIFIED" on January 31, 1979 under the signature of Philip D. Shutler, Lieutenant General, USMC, Director for Operations from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Since Jonestown was hardly "Grand Central Station" that night (a little Army, a little Navy, a little Air Force…), then whatever desecrations were done to those bodies, only C.I.A. agents and C.I.A.-connected military personnel could have been there to do it. Indeed, a source uncovered by FREEDOM Magazine claimed to have been with a unit of Green Berets who were first into the community in the middle of the night: (See "Who Was There First, and What Did They Do?")
Was FREEDOM Magazine in fact talking directly with a guilty party? Possibly even a member of the team of professional assassins who killed the Congressman? We may never know. But hopefully, America will finally grasp the logic of two plus two. Those troops were surely not on a "rescue mission"! Indeed, they kept everyone else out for two whole days – even the MEDVAC plane who came for the dead and injured at the airstrip just down the road, even the Guyanese military, even the Guyanese coroner.
The likelihood of post-death desecration is also a powerful clue as to whether the people of Jonestown indeed had reason to fear a slaughter had they not taken their own lives. No one with benevolent intentions would make the deaths appear like brutal murder had they not brutal motives. Personally, if I had had my head blasted off after I was already dead, I quaver to think what would have happened had the shooter come upon me when I was still alive!
And yes, the motive: Once the world branded Jim Jones as "brutal murderer of his own peoplepeople," no one questioned who killed the Congressman. But now with the truth revealed, even at this late date, even the previously misled could not but suspect a frame, since if the facts really "spoke for themselves," and there was nothing to cover up, the bodies would have obviously been let alone and the coroner, Red Cross, MEDEVAC planes, or other humane assistance quickly brought in!
WAS IT REALLY SUICIDE?
This is one question which stops most researchers in their tracks. It defies credulity. How could such a large group have gone to their deaths willingly? And how could that willingness have possibly included children?
These factors are addressed, if not resolved, in numerous pieces on www.jonestown.com. notably "Jonestown: The Human Story." As that piece details, it was a complex weave of emotions, psychology, politics, and even pragmatism, encompassing a history of threats against the community, one actual attack, fear of an impending slaughter, compounded by adverse logistics which included geographic entrapment, extreme isolation, and complete lack of military defense. These were people who felt so besieged that they were actively planning re-relocation to the then-Soviet Union during the Cold War -- a move planned in tandem with the Soviet Embassy, but obviously of grave concern to the American one!
Unbeknownst to the world, Jonestown was in fact a beautiful community garnished in praise, as RAVE REVIEWS on www.jonestown.com reveals. It was the result of tremendous effort, love, and a unique vision of a more humane future world that motivated these pioneers. The very fact that they were going to abandon all that to make yet another relocation overseas speaks to a genuine fear of being destroyed The real backdrop of that night was that:
1) They had already been attacked from out of the jungle when they were peaceably going about their own business (see excerpt of news clipping below); and 2) just weeks prior to the Congressional visit, arch-enemy Joseph Mazor, came to the community to announce that the original intent of the mercenaries was "mass extermination." I learned of this directly from attorney Mark Lane when he visited the San Francisco Temple in early October, 1978. Lane’s credibility has been tarnished, but his story was told in the presence of Marceline Jones, who was present at the attack itself, and who was also in Jonestown during the Mazor visit. Lane’s repetition of the tale appeared in The San Francisco Examiner on October, 4, 1978:
"Attacks on the colony have been financed with large sums of money ‘laundered through banks in neutral countries’… included in the efforts was a trans-jungle trek [reference to six-day siege in September, 1977] by a party of 20 men armed with rocekts launchers and small arms… he declined to name the leader of the group [i.e. Joseph Mazor], whom he characterized as an employee of Interpol, the international police coordination agency." (Note: Customs harassment was also initiated by Interpol, as recorded on page 25 of the report of the House Committee on Foreign Relations. See "Snake Dance," DOCUMENTS section.)
"He said the leader gave him a full statement because ‘he said he felt misused.’ The group had been sent to fire on the colony’s generator building, darkening the compound, after cutting their way through the supposed barbed wire and minefields around the community. After darkening the area, Lane said, they had planned to ‘free the children’ from the supposed evil influences of the colony.
"When they discovered there were no minefields nor barbed wire, Lane said, they contented themselves with sniping at the compound for six days. Lane related that the patrol leader was amazed to be invited to visit the colony and stayed there for several days." (Note: This was not a capricious "invitation." Mazor said he would expose Tim Stoen as a C.I.A. agent, an ephemeral "carrot" into which the Temple leadership unfortunately bit.)
Lane had personally played Mazor’s taped confession to a small gathering in the Temple, of which I was one. Lane relayed that Mazor had also said that his orders included "freeing the children," and then "killing all the adults," i.e. mass extermination.
There is no doubt that Jim Jones knew that whatever variations might appear in his story, that Mazor was a dangerous man. (He had already confessed to The Berkeley Barb that he had spearheaded the smear campaign using an expensive P.R. firm in San Francisco. See "Jonestown" The Truth," also on this site.) Reference to Mazor also showed up in a message broadcast by Jones to the community of Jonestown on October 16, 1978, a single month prior to the tragedy:
"It’s more serious than some people want to see. We have several enemies. We had enemies that sent that little man who was here – the detective [obvious reference to Mazor, P.I., who visited in September, 1978] – and he told us all. It’s all written up in affidavits under penalty of perjury. What he was going to do if he had not seen that our faces looked happy [i.e. threat to kidnap children and kill adults.] And he saw no guards and saw no barbed wire. Fortunately, he saw no television things look at him [one lie spread about the community was closed circuit t.v.] And he saw determined people that looked to him like they were voluntarily circling our community to be free. That caused him, and this is a testimony from the mouth of the detective himself, that caused him to withdraw…"
Thus was the threat to life well-established as reality at Jonestown. And that attack had been when people were just peaceably going about their business. Now it was on the heels of the assassination of a Congressman, heading into the middle of the night, with the expectation of a military invasion all too real!
Yes, there were factors of fanaticism, to "make a stand to the death," which this author has detailed in "Jonestown: The Human Story," also on this website. This was never shown to the world as "a stand," however, in response to very real persecution, but rather as one-sided, irrational "paranoia." The reality was more that of an escalating symbiosis, perhaps like taking a car weaving down the road and deliberately pushing it over a cliff.
A press release from Guyana on April 18, 1978, just seven months prior to the tragedy, spoke of "the willingness to die" and "to resist persecution and harassment even if it means death." It was unspecified in the release what that "resistance" might entail, though it specifically evaded suicide:
"Finally we would like to address ourselves to a point…about some statement supposedly issued by Peoples Temple… to the effect that we prefer to resist this harassment and persecution even if it means death. [Note: I believe that was a mass suicide threat made to the Guyanese government to force their intercession in the child custody suit. The community felt that if Jim Jones’ own child could be dragged away, the entire community was endangered. It "worked," but bore bitter fruit, even in public relations.] Those who are lying and slandering…are trying to use this against us. We are not surprised. However…any person of integrity or courage could have no trouble understanding such a position…
"Dr. Martin Luther King…told his Freedom Riders: ‘We must develop the courage of dying for a cause.’ …we, likewise, affirm that before we will submit quietly to the interminable plotting and persecution of this politically motivated conspiracy, we will resist actively, putting our lives on the line, if it comes to that… Patrick Henry captured it when he said, simply: ‘Give me liberty, or give me death.’"
"It is not our purpose to die; we believe deeply in the celebration of life. It is the intention of Jim Jones, and always has been, to light candles rather than curse the darkness… but under these outrageous attacks, we have decided to defend the integrity of our community and our pledge to do this. We are confident that people of principle understand our position. We make no apologies for it."
Interspersed in the position statement is also why such a "freedom fighter" stand was taken:
"Our community is a dramatic expression of our deep desire to build a meaningful future for mankind through cooperation and sharing and eradication of class division…Our contribution has been recognized by many, many people who have come to visit this democratic cooperative…The chairman of the Guyanese Livestock Corporation…called this project the purest egalitarian society he had ever seen [in fact, many Guyanese Cabinet ministers visited – see "RAVE REVIEWS," also on this site]…Just this week 35 educators visited us unannounced… They were overwhelmed…Our medical department is known far and wide for its excellent services…Young people here are finding productive new lives, free from the pitfalls of inner city environment…We are tired of seeing people and organizations that are trying to develop a constructive [life]…being harassed unmercifully, lied about, falsely accused of crimes and, in many cases, brought down…"
The stand is clear, as is its passion and why (the magnificent breakaway from conditions of inner cities in the States), even though the "option" of death by suicide is omitted. Also omitted are details of the underlying state of siege, which certainly included a trapped community with no possibility of military defense. That leaves the open question of were they safe that night against a military invasion, a question the world never even considered at all.
In purely logistic terms, the stand taken in the April 18, 1978 press release was pure bravado, in that this defenseless community of 1,000 men, women, children and the elderly had no way to defend itself. Militarily defenseless, geographically trapped, and so remote and isolated there was not even a phone to alert the outside world and call in help, the community could be squashed like a mosquito if the full weight of American military force (i.e., as opposed to a mere scattering of mercenaries) were brought to bear.
These were people who had given all to build their new lives, and were by and large ecstatic at their good fortune. (See "RAVE REVIEWS.") They vowed never to be dragged back. And the pressures had escalated by the time of the tragedy, seven months after this statement was issued. Now a Congressman would invade, lured to Jonestown under false pretenses by arch-enemy Stoen, along with a media circus, and ex-members who had smeared the community in the press. Then the airstrip attack, for a community inherently and historically peaceful – an enormous, paralyzing shock! This was a community of humanitarians, not criminals.
It was factors such as these that make our original questions at least approachable: "How could such a large group have gone to their deaths willingly? And how could that willingness have possibly included children?"
Of course, the deadliest factor by far was not the community’s "willingness to die, putting our lives on the line, if it comes to that…," but the panic, uncertainty and fear regarding a military attack in the wake of the assassination. Whether the community was in fact facing a slaughter that night may never be known shy of confessions by invaders, their military command and/or spymasters who sent them in. It is clear, however, even from factors as the framing of the community, the immediate on-site presence of the C.I.A., the political cause celebre it could have become, and the highly suspicious aftermath, that their fears were well-founded.
Moreover, whatever dangers the people of Jonestown faced that night, high-powered operatives went to a great deal of planning and calculation to ensure that that is what they would believe. The trip of anti-Temple government agent Mazor to Jonestown mere weeks before the tragedy (secured under the false promise to expose Stoen as C.I.A) seemed more likely a chance to "case the joint," while cruelly threatening "mass extinction" on the part of the mercenary cabal. It was part of a tapestry of clues the public never knew of, including the taped confession of Mazor that this author heard with her own ears, claiming credit for having led the raid.
The community may have, in fact, been even more endangered than they feared! Jones on the final tape was panicked about the Guyanese Defense Force making a (presumed) retaliatory strike following the assassination. What if he knew that it was a frame, and that C.I.A.-directed American troops would be the first ones in (which, as we will see, was the case!!!)?
If this real underlying backdrop of military endangerment had been revealed, perhaps history would not have been left with this shocking gap. But Peoples Temple had been so widely painted as "the aggressor" rather than "the victim," that no one even questioned who committed the assassination! It is frankly astounding that a Congressman was assassinated and no one ever investigated, but shamefully, the entire scenario was so drowned in lauding villains as heroes, that no one even considered who the Congressman’s real enemies were!!
Moreover, the public was never told that persecution against the group was not based in their being "a bizarre cult," much less "a bizarre violent cult," but rather in their status as a political movement. Or that the same culprit, Mazor, who had deliberately pushed Jones’ paranoia over the cliff, was on t.v. within days of the tragedy announcing that "It was considered that Jim Jones would become a major political force in the Caribbean within five years." Or that "loyalty to the death" for these people was not a mindless, robotic response to a crazed leader but, for them, loyalty to a cause, a new way of life of their own making, which they chose and wanted.
Many had vowed not to be forced back to the inner cities in the States under any circumstances. The reality was that the community was blanketed in rave reviews from visiting educators, doctors, Guyanese cabinet ministers, and even relatives of residents, but these raves were systematically blocked from the press in favor of unsubstantiated smears.
And yes, of course fanaticism was factored in! To prefer death to forced re-patriation (or worse – these people would not have been allowed to just return and become a cause celebre) was a fanatical stand, yes, but one hardly has to resort to a "brainwashing" explanation to see it: This stand was for a new, different, and better way of life -- what people have fought and died for throughout the history of Mankind. (See "Suicide: The Final Taboo," also on this website.)
This rich backdrop now unmasked, where is the documentary evidence that was happened at Jonestown that night was indeed suicide?
There is considerable documentary evidence. First is the final tape made at Jonestown. It is absolutely the voice of Jim Jones, although the tape is heavily cut and spliced. It is only 45 minutes of an obviously longer process, with some longish portions recorded straight through, but also obvious breaks, and weird echoey "music" which could not have been in the original version. Nevertheless, it is clearly Jim Jones, the voice not dubbed in any way, and recognizably what he would have said.
First, Jones’ anguish and panic at the assassination is apparent throughout: "I don’t know who killed the Congressman… I never wanted to kill anybody… I wish I could call it back… You don’t know what you’ve done (to the unidentified killers)…" He did not know who fired the shots because the witnesses only saw the shooters’ backs; but he does proclaim what will happen if they do not act: "They’ll be parachuting in here… They’ll torture our seniors, they’ll torture our children, we cannot have this… We cannot take any longer to endanger the lives of our children and seniors… Before we had a choice. Now we have no choice. Either we do it or they do it…"
This was clearly point no. 1 for the people at Jonestown. Die at their own hand, under their own control, or die at the hands of brutal invaders. Moreover, the tape is full of "morale boosters" like "Die in dignity!" and "We’ll set an example forever," and "We were born before our time."
No one even listened to that tape, much less analyzed what was said. Suicide in relative unity, to avert a brutal slaughter, was not on the agenda of the media or its handlers. It did not mesh with the "Jim Jones ordered…" or rather, "Jim Jones brutal mass murderer ordered…" So it never even surfaced in the news.
But in this context, what can be seen about the reality of suicide? Well, directly after Jonestown said, "The Congressman’s been murdered," he says, "Bring the vats [of poison]"! The causal relationship is obvious. Then there is much coaxing (on the part of many, not only Jim Jones), and comments like "I would rather see them lying there like that than… (reference to giving oneself over to invaders)," so obviously people were already lying there dead.
There is not a shadow of a doubt from that tape that what happened was suicide.
There were also people who were there when the process began, but left the community before it ended: namely Stanley Clayton, who escaped, and Tim Carter and Mike Prokes, the latter two of whom were sent on the hopeless, impossible "mission" of delivering a million dollars in cash to the Soviet Embassy in Georgetown.
Clayton’s testimony is the more far-reaching, in that he hid in the jungle until the process was already complete, indeed entered the community later on in the night. In an undated article entitled "Survivor Heard Cheers After Temple Death Rite" (do dead people cheer?), reported from Matthews Ridge, Guyana (a town in the general vicinity of Jonestown) and sourced to The New York Times, Clayton told the coroner’s jury there that "he had not run into the bush until all but 100 to 200 persons had died." He reported that "He [Jim Jones] kept telling them, ‘I love you, I love you. It is nothing but a deep sleep.." and that "Jones’s wife, Marceline, also walked among the followers…hugging them and saying, ‘I’ll see you in your next life.’"
The New York Times reported on December 12, 1978 that "relying on the testimony of young Stanley Clayton, they [the authorities] also believe that the security men voluntarily put down their weapons and accepted poison at the end of the death ritual."
Stanley Clayton also appeared on A & E’s "Mystery of a Massacre" on the 20th anniversary of the Jonestown Tragedy recently in November, 1998, speaking of the suicides, so this is a valid source. Doubly valid, in that Clayton was escaping. He could have said any foul thing about the community, including charges of brutalization of one another, but instead he said this. That the suicide process happened, it was completed, and whatever the trauma (which undoubtedly was extreme), without brutalization of one another.
(The Clayton testimony will be returned to in the section, "Who Got in First, and What Did They Do?")
The two others, Timothy Carter and Michael Prokes, both spoke of the suicides, Prokes before his own death by suicides several months following the tragedy, and Carter relatively recently on A & E’s "Mystery of a Massacre." Mike Prokes was so traumatized with guilt at leaving the dying community, that he issued press statements before shooting himself through the head, proclaiming his "solidarity with my black brothers and sisters."
An additional, poignant testimony surfaced as late as the (recent) 20th anniversary, through the files of an independent FOIA researcher, Brian Csuk, in the form of a handwritten "final letter," retrieved by Richard Martin, a Consular officer with the State Department on site at Jonestown, and distributed by James L. Ward, also of the State Department on March 27, 1979. I have entitled it "FINAL WITNESS," also on this website.
The letter was notable not only for its humanity, compassion, and prayers for a better world, but in its description of a process which had obviously ended, except for a tiny few also about to die.
The final letter writes of:
"Hugging and kissing and tears and silence and joy in a long line. Touches and whispered words as this silent line passes. Determination, purpose. A proud people. Only last night, their voices raised in unison, a voice of affirmation, and today, a different sort of affirmation, a dimension of that same victory of the human spirit." The writer entreated, "May the world find a way to a new birth of social justice. If there is any way that our lives can ever help that take place, we will have not lived in vain."
What a different view than the world was ever led to believe! It was a commentary that never found a voice in the raucous media circus which ensued.
The world may never understand the "why" of what happened at Jonestown. Not because there is not evidence – there is: the final letter, the press release of April 18, 1978, and other records. The world may never understand because whatever the reasons, it transgressed the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, even in crisis and prolonged state of siege, resulting in the deaths of children. But the world should care about the many component factors that caused that deadly impasse. So as to never repeat them again.
At the least, there is not a shadow of doubt that what did happen was suicide. After the suicides, in their wake? Huge questions. But none at all that the suicides did happen and came to completion without brutalization of one another in the process.
WHO GOT IN FIRST, AND WHAT DID THEY DO?
What happened just after the tragedy is critical in piecing together what happened at the time. This had all the earmarks of a "cover-up" which went way beyond the notorious body count. If this were simply a horrible tragedy, with nothing to hide, no frames, no clandestine military operations, no evidence or unrevealed truths to conceal, it would have been handled like every major tragedy in modern history: Send in the Red Cross, MEDEVAC planes, coroners, police, and/or other forms of humanitarian assistance.
But there was no humanitarian assistance for Jonestown – to the contrary. Every normal protocol for disaster relief was massively violated.
From outward appearances, chaos prevailed for days following the tragedy. Although information about those killed and injured at the airstrip was known within hours, it was days before the world even knew how many people died at Jonestown, "how many" meaning not an exact count, but "how many" to the nearest several hundredseveral hundred!
On November 21, 1978 (reporting news of the 20th, two days after the tragedy), the Chicago Tribune reported "383" dead at Jonestown, even giving a breakdown of "163 women, 82 children, and 138 men." Shirley Field-Ridley, the Guyanese information minister, was reported in the same article speculating that "the whereabouts of the remaining 500 to 700 was not known, but they apparently fled into the surrounding jungle…"
By November 25, 1978, the San Francisco Examiner reported "Toll Rises to 910" with the subtitle "500 More than First Count." (What "first count"? How can you miss 500 bodies?)
The airstrip and the community were but seven miles away. The airstrip scene was horrifying, but the scene at Jonestown all the more, with hundreds, not tens of people involved. Yet the official record is of apparent, inexplicable… neglect, with no one even counting, much less identifying the bodies for days, or searching for what they projected were hundreds of survivors. There was even a drive to have the bodies buried on site, so that no American families would be able to receive their loved ones on American soil for proper burial.
In reality, the mystery of the massively-wrong body count was a moot point, or to be more plain, a lie, because only a tiny handful had escaped, and Stanley Clayton, at least, had walked to Port Kaituma, where he was picked up the next day, and it was known that there were virtually no survivors. If there were huge numbers of survivors, obviously some would have reached Port Kaituma, some would be shouting for help, plus you can’t silence children even you are fearful of being found. Many would have obviously caught the eye of the invading C.I.A. – "hundreds of survivors" would have surely attracted attention!!
"Neglect" was a fa�ade, easily perpetrated for a remote community thousands of miles away. Was the reality actually worse than neglect, with humanitarian aid being deliberately kept out? What was really happening at Jonestown while the world revulsed in horror? Was there really "nobody there" to check out the catastrophe, as the press reports implied?
Why was the airstrip scene tended to immediately, efficiently, and with full news coverage, while the body count from Jonestown was still 500 people off? Surely this was not a mere matter of counting bodies. In any disaster of this magnitude, medical and humanitarian assistance would be swarming everywhere to assess the damage and clear the area as rapidly as possible. Why not at Jonestown? And was that lack the doing of the Guyanese or Americans?
The reality was that American military came in immediately, clandestinely, under C.I.A. direction, and kept everyone else out, including humanitarian and medical aid.
The unconscionable truth was that the bodies at Jonestown were left to rot in the tropical sun for two whole days before the coroner was even let in to assess the damage. Although a MEDEVAC plane was sped from Charleston, SC to pick up the dead and injured at the airstrip the morning of November 19th, no one checked just seven miles down the road to see what had happened at Jonestown. What was behind this bizarre failure to speed aid into the community?
Now we have the documents to confirm that it was the C.I.A. that was behind it! As already noted from the Joint Chiefs of Staff communications log, from entries made on November 19th, news of the suicides was reported at 3:29 a.m. from on site at Jonestown , on a C.I.A. radio channel, NOIWON. The log also included notations regarding the requisition of and arrival of a MEDEVAC plane:
"Sunday, November 19, 0304: C-141 MEDEVAC departed Charleston, SC. …0755: C-141 MEDEVAC landed at Georgetown with pathologist. (communication reference: AMEMB 191450Z.)"
Why was no help sped in to Jonestown? Relatives in the States might well have felt that the bodies of black people from the inner cities mattered little compared with the fate of a Congressman. Such cynicism cannot be discounted. But compared to the handling of virtually every other publicized disaster into the world, whatever the race or station of the victims, this was so suspiciously negligent, that we must look further.
There are no explanations for this inexcusable lapse that could be called "innocent." And since help sped to Port Kaituma never arrived at Jonestown, and conversely, personnel dispatched to Jonestown never arrived at Port Kaituma, we can even deduce that a reason the airstrip scene and the suicides at Jonestown, although just seven miles apart, were handled so differently, is that they were under separate military command, the airstrip killings being handled by "normal" military channels, the deaths at Jonestown strictly by the C.I.A.
Note that the radio message on site from Jonestown, on NOIWON, identified in the official Joint Chiefs of Staff log as a C.I.A. radio channel was the earliest documentary evidence of entry in Jonestown. Note that the exact contents of the C.I.A. radio message and its author are not revealed in the Joint Chiefs documents, nor the back-up personnel on site at Jonestown at the time. Who was there at 3:29 a.m. in the wee hours of that terrible night to radio in the report? And if the C.I.A. or any military personnel were into Jonestown within just hours of the cataclysm, why were all other official personnel, including the coroner, kept out until midday November 20th?
Note also that there is no record of anyone but the C.I.A on site at Jonestown from the wee hours of the morning of November 19th through midday November 20th. Jonestown was obviously not "Grand Central Station" that night – a little Army, a little Air Force, a little Navy… The C.I.A. having radioed in the report, anyone into Jonestown that night was obviously under C.I.A. command!
What was the C.I.A. even doing there??? First, they must have already been in the area (and we cannot rule out one likely possibility: "as part of the assassination team"!). Jonestown was in a remote locale, and the weather was so stormy that night, it was 6 a.m. before anyone even arrived at the airstrip, and they were Guyanese. The message from Jonestown was radioed in at 3:29 a.m., two and a half hours earlier! Ron Javers, a San Francisco reporter injured on site, times the arrival of the Guyanese even later:
"We took watches during the stormy night… The heavy tropical storm made movement difficult and uncomfortable… At 8:30 a.m., the first batch of Guyanese troops arrived at Port Kaituma." (The Herald, Mt. Prospect, IL, November 20, 1978.) [Note: No Americans arrived at all before the MEDEVAC plane later on on November 19th.]
The next question is who from the C.I.A. was reporting the suicides at Jonestown in the middle of the night? One lone C.I.A. operative from the State Department (namely Richard Dwyer), as some have suggested? Dwyer was caught on videotape at the airstrip just before the assassination, and in fact reported wounded at the airstrip:
"Nine of the ten wounded were evacuated from Port Kaituma Sunday afternoon by a U.S. Air Force C-141… The remaining wounded person, U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Dwyer, was reported in ‘ambulatory’ condition and remaining at Port Kaituma." (Chicago Sun-Times, November 20, 1978.)
Has anyone else surfaced who claimed to be into Jonestown as early as that very night? Now arrives the suspicious tale of one "Charles Huff." This was a man alleged to have contacted FREEDOM Magazine in 1995 with a tale of being sent into Jonestown with a contingent of seven Green Berets (U.S. Special Forces) allegedly all the way from Panama within hours – foreign country, remote locale, atrocious weather conditions – yet all neatly arrived at Jonestown within mere hours!
This alleged "first man into Jonestown" obviously raises more questions than it answers. No one would have sent a mere seven soldiers all the way from Panama, and logistics would have tended to prohibit such a rapid arrival (remote locale, heavy storm, no on-site assessment). Nor could they have landed a plane at Jonestown, for there was no airstrip to land on, nor did they arrive at Port Kaituma. They would have had to fly into another airstrip entirely, perhaps a C.I.A. base reputed by a Russian source to have been located in Venezuela, to then fly into Jonestown not by plane, but by helicopter. The attached description from a Russian book, "The Jonestown Carnage: A C.I.A. Crime," may or may not be accurate (the book is interspersed with hard facts and pure speculation), but it is offered as one scenario which may account for how troops were brought in:
"At…about 18:00 [6 p.m.], several S-141 military transport planes took off from U.S. military bases in Panama and Dover (Delaware) [note: where the bodies were to be shipped] and headed for Guyana. The estimated time of flight was 3 hours 40 minutes. The task force was to be landed outside Port Kaituma. Two hours later, without notifying the local authorities in the area of Venezuela where the Americans had their private missions (which served as a front for CIA secret operations), three helicopters took off in the direction of Jonestown, which was 1 hour 10 minutes away." ("The Jonestown Carnage: A CIA Crime," Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1987.)
Of interest is that the main sources for the book are claimed to be Soviet Embassy personnel from Georgetown at the time (not named), and much of the material is authentic, but generally unpublished, P.R. materials from Peoples Temple files, lending credence to its sourcing. It is also curious that the time cited to get from Panama to Jonestown (3 hours 40 minutes plus 1 hour 10 minutes) equals 4 hours 50 minutes, nearly exactly the "five hours" travel time claimed by "Charles Huff."
Now, if "Charles Huff" was indeed on site at the appointed hour, 3:29 a.m., one question, at least, would be cleared up: That the radioed message almost certainly came not just from "a C.I.A. agent in the field," but from C.I.A.-directed military in the field, an even more nefarious scenario.
As for "the story" provided by "Charles Huff," claiming mass murder by violent means, it is at right angles with all other evidence. It is a suspicious story, with no documentation or verification, but its very emergence should call for either an investigation of "the story" (as it is the only claim of military into the area that night); and/or how and why such disinformation is still being floated to throw investigators off track.
For the record, this is how FREEDOM excerpted the letter it claimed to receive:
"I was assigned with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces, Panama. On November 18, 1978, we were alerted by the State Department [Note: not recorded on the Joint Chiefs of Staff log along with other such requests] to "rescue" [parentheses added] American citizens in Guyana.
"All the information we knew was that a U.S. Representative Leo Ryan and his staff were killed or wounded and American lives were in danger. [Note: This alleged contingent did not wind up at the airstrip at all, even to check if people there were dead or alive.] Within five hours of the request [made on "November 18th," marking their arrival at 5:00 a.m. or earlier] of the U.S. embassy in Georgetown, Guyana, and the State Department we were ‘on site’ in Jonestown.
"For the next 30 days we stayed to return the compound back to the Guyanese government. [Note: There was ‘no one there,’ according to a survivor brought back in on the 20th to identify bodies.]…
"…We saw many bullet wounds as well as wounds from crossbow arrows. There were injection marks between the shoulder blades of adults and in the tongues of small children…[Note: Five insider sources dispute this scenario.]
"…Sixteen American personnel committed suicide upon their return to Panama and other places. Three were murdered. [Note: Only two Temple survivors committed suicide. Numerous people were murdered, but related to the cover-up.] One year later, those of us still alive were recalled from the Nicaragua Civil War [Note: hotbed of C.I.A. activity!], to hear a CIA briefing [and this man was not C.I.A.?], on all the events which led up to Jonestown." ["Led up to…"? Why?]
Mr. Huff then goes on to identify himself as a soldier, not only in C.I.A.-directed Nicaragua, but in El Salvador, and all the way through "Somalia and the Persian Gulf," both in the 90’s, i.e. a career military man under the direction of the C.I.A..
FREEDOM then adds, that "After sending the letter, Mr. Huff telephoned and provided more detail about the incident." Those details are reported as follows:
"His group of seven Green Berets were the first American troops on the scene, soon joined by other American forces.
"Those with fatal bullet wounds or arrow wounds had been running toward the jungles surrounding Jonestown. [Note: Even people who "escaped" Jonestown never claimed to have been pursued.] His group found more than 30 people killed by bullets or cross-bow arrows. [Note: or created those wounds.] The adults who had not been shot had been killed by injections between their shoulder blades… [Note: No one Stanley Clayton or any other eyewitness saw…]
"Mr. Huff reported that the murderers escaped before the arrival of American soldiers…" [Note: "Murderers"? Much less "escaped"? Certainly not from Jonestown – their number is entirely accounted for.]
It is clear from the text of FREEDOM’s story from one "Charles Huff" that at the least, there are operatives still at large spreading disinformation to throw investigators off track. And from a man with an admitted r�sum� of not only Jonestown, but "Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, [and] the invasion of Panama"!!!! The meat of the "story," i.e. brutal mass murder, is a tissue of lies, with the only likely source the C.I.A. itself.
If there was really "nothing to hide" in the death scene following the tragedy, who would even go to all this trouble??? And as late as 1995???
Moreover, the story about a "rescue mission" is bogus on its face, since all humane assistance was barred for two days after their arrival!! But if "Charles Huff" (who apparently was never met face-to-face, nor presented identification papers) was indeed into Jonestown, was he there on some other, unspecified non-humanitarian mission? Those troops indeed had unlimited, undisturbed freedom to do whatever they liked with the bodies at Jonestown for the entirety of the daylight hours on Sunday, November 19th. They were surely up to no good, because if they weren’t, real assistance would have been sped to the site!
How significant would confirmation of the presence of C.I.A.-directed military at Jonestown that night be in determining what really happened then, as well as the following day? We know now that every normal and humane protocol for disaster relief was violated, specifically in deference to the C.I.A. And with the claims of "Charles Huff" about ‘mass murder" being transparently false, we may have a potent key to decipher cover-up. But cover-up of what, and why?
The most likely speculation, is cover-up for the true assassins of the Congressman, by framing the community of Jonestown for the killings at the airstrip. Understand, it is 100% suspicious in and of itself that C.I.A.-directed military was the first to arrive, and moreover kept all humane aid out. That showed not concern for the dead, but a political motive to orchestrate the death scene to C.I.A. requirements.
Were the community still alive when they arrived, it might be an easier task, even at this late date, to uncover the intentions, mission, and contingency plans of the arriving military. A monkey wrench in the works is surely that the people of Jonestown had, in effect, "framed themselves" then meted out their anticipated "punishment," rendering it difficult to determine what the intention of the arriving military was supposed to have been had they found the residents of the community still alive.
Had they planned to kill them? To arrest them? To turn the community into a detention camp?
That they might have intended specific arrests and/or detention of the entire populace loses credence in that were this the intent, it could have been done by "normal" military units, not the C.I.A., and openly, not clandestinely. This was understand, very clandestine: A survivor brought into Jonestown on November 20th for the purpose of identifying bodies, claimed to have come back into Jonestown before anyone else arrived, and found no one there. I.e., the C.I.A.-directed military had been there, but clandestinely, and were now gone. What had they been doing that was more important than bringing in humane relief? And why did it necessitate keeping everyone else out?
There is one conspicuous answer to that question, at least, and that is that whatever brutal injuries were claimed (gunshot wounds, needle marks, arrow wounds) was done to the community as a post-death desecration.
Look at what was claimed of the bodies found at Jonestown. Every scrap of evidence confirmed that the suicide process did take place and that, whatever the panic and chaos, it happened without brutalization. Yet by the time the Guyanese coroner got in, (he claimed that) the bodies were found to be massively desecrated: forcibly injected in difficult-to-reach areas of the body, and many with gunshot wounds of an exceptionally brutal tape, like heads blasted off with dum-dum bullets at point-blank range:
"…according to Dr. C. Leslie Mootoo, then chief medical examiner of Guyana, the overwhelming majority of the death at Jonestown were murders, not suicides…Dr. Mootoo…told Freedom that many had died from injections of cyanide. After 32 hours of nonstop work in the stifling heat,… ‘We gave up.’ …By that time, 187 bodies killed by injections had been examined by Mootoo and his team…Victims had been injected in portions of their bodies they could not have reached themselves, such as between the shoulder blades… (FREEDOM, 1995.)
There are many reasons for not taking this story at its word: 1) We already previously debunked the story of the "murder" of Annie Moore by gunfire. Surely what the coroner found was not "as left by the people of Jonestown," but the result of what the invading military made it appear to be. But this was even worse: As we will see in "The Great Autopsy Disaster," 2) this coroner was so incompetent that, by accident or design, out of over 900 bodies, he produced not one single viable autopsy!!! Thus do we have two strikes against learning the truth from Leslie Mootoo.
But that still does not rule out that 1) his claims, if true, about the conditions of the bodies, combined with 2) a complete lack of autopsies, are both suspicious – a) because if the bodies were in fact found in that condition, the finger points to invading military with suspect motives; and b) because the lack of autopsies, whether by accident or design, covered up how those alleged desecrations happened. (E.g., if a body were found to be both poisoned and shot, any moron could deduce foul play!)
The very fact that the coroner’s claims are "backed up" by a disinformation source from a C.I.A.-directed military, raises even more questions -- about the obliteration of any real evidence in favor of lies, to throw investigators off track. The Huff story, in particular, is so elaborate and detailed, that who would go to all that trouble, and why???
Note that the magazine "Charles Huff’s" approached, FREEDOM, for those readers unaware, is published by The Church of Scientology, a group with its own history of bouts with the I.R.S. and the F.B.I., and its aggressive pursuit of Freedom of Information Act requests to expose governmental wrongdoing. Twenty years past now, and still counting, they successfully requisitioned 39,000 pages of F.B.I. files about the tragedy (albeit mostly "heavily redacted" and useless) through FOIA requests, and is perhaps the only group that will not drop Jonestown research, hence a target to throw off track with disinformation.
And skeletons could yet emerge, which require some explanation. As a backdrop, another testimony that should be taken into account is that of Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, who claimed through the Joint Chiefs of Staff office that "the body bags were all ready in advance." (FREEDOM did print Prouty’s picture, so at least we are assured that that man exists.) According to FREEDOM, Prouty claims:
"The Joint Chiefs of Staff had prepared air shipments of hundreds of body bags. They didn’t normally keep that many in any one place. Within hours, they began to shuttle them down to Georgetown, the main city." [Note: This fact, if true, also adds suspicion into the brew, as if the body bags were shipped right away, why did they deliberately allow the bodies to rot in the tropical sun before even allowing the coroner in?] "They couldn’t possibly have done that without prior knowledge that it was going to happen. It shows there was prior planning… The JCS wouldn’t have moved at all on their own," he said, "They didn’t give a damn about Jonestown."
If Prouty’s claims are true, then what was planned on was mass death, whether the residents of Jonestown did it to themselves or not! Was Jim Jones’ impassioned plea to his own on tape, "Now we have no choice. Either we do it or they do it." really the ravings of a madman? Or was it based upon the deadly pressures to date, threats upon threats, an outright threat of "mass extinction," and now the killings at the airstrip done by the C.I.A., to then be "finished off" with a slaughter at Jonestown?
Even if one were to argue that "well, they did it to themselves," why would the government have body bags all ready to go? That equals counting on mass death to happen! Who in high positions of power was making such a calculation? And if the community had not died at its own hand, what was in store for them? Even had Stoen gone directly to a player in the Pentagon (Stoen was the only one with lobbying access who was touting such a fantastical possibility), would they have cynically readied body bags for a mass suicide (an unprecedented event that no one would believe, much less act upon, in advance), while the Congressman just went on his merry way into Jonestown under Stoen’s direction? However one’s brain is twisted into this, the intent turns out nefarious!
Or was it rather something more "logical": The planned assassination of the Congressman, used as the provocation for the deaths at Jonestown. You, the military, the C.I.A. do it, and then (since Jonestown was already falsely portrayed as "an armed camp"), you frame it on Jim Jones. When (as you are already counting on), the people wind up dead (suicide if you are "lucky," slaughter if you are not), you say they followed through on a "a bizarre murder/suicide ritual," and meanwhile, the body bags are already in place.
And if they do not suicide out? How exactly does one protect such a frame? A thousand people, very politically volatile people for the minority and left-wing communities in the United States? People already targeted as "dangerous revolutionaries." Do you let them just live on and go back to the States to mount their defense against the frame? Or do you kill them off and say it was "suicide"?
This was remote, dense jungle. Look how easy it was to keep everyone but the C.I.A. out for two whole days. Had there been a mass murder on the part of the C.I.A. instead of a mass suicide by the residents, who would know? They could do anything, then call it anything.
This was not unthinkable, indeed their hand was tipped in many ways, including sole C.I.A. access to the community, even though the airstrip killings, just seven miles away, were handled in a totally separate manner. Even though it was the scene of a Congressional assassination, there was no C.I.A., no Green Berets. No American soldiers at all. That was reserved solely for Jonestown.
And be it true that Green Berets were the first in, and the death process was indeed complete, why then massive violation of every normal protocol for disaster relief? No Red Cross, MEDEVAC planes, even Guyanese Defense Force personnel to scout the area for survivors? As late as three days after the tragedy, it was discovered that the original count was 500 off! If they had really believed that account, the moral obligation would have been to send in a large number of troops to find those 500 "missing" people!
Nowhere in the history of modern world has a disaster been handled this way. Bodies left to rot in the tropical sun for days, rendering identifications near-impossible. The MEDEVAC plane had long since come for the dead and injured at Port Kaituma airstrip early on the 19th, but no one even checked on Jonestown, just seven miles down the road.
Conversely, what did the Green Berets spend those two days in Jonestown doing? What they did not attend to was the most rudimentary, humane job of counting the bodies, determining who in the community was dead or missing, much less halting post-mortem deterioration.
There is also a powerful testimony to factor in: that of Stanley Clayton, last known person to leave Jonestown alive, to the Matthews Ridge (adjoining town) coroners’ jury. In an undated article entitled, "Survivor Heard Cheers After Temple Death Rite," he said that he left when there were only 100-200 people left alive, that the process was proceeding without any brutalization (like gunshot or forcible injections), and that finally, the community had fallen completely silent for "30-45 minutes." Then, he said, there was suddenly a loud chorus of cheers! Slightly later on, six gunshots. Can dead people cheer? Can they shoot themselves?
The night had already fallen silent. What was this: un-silent night?
Surely the scenario depicted in the recently publicized "final letter" was not one of brutality or gunshot blasts. Nor of the many ("hundreds" were claimed) forcible injections the Guyanese coroner claimed. It is humanly unthinkable that any military force, especially an American one with dead American civilians, would spend its time shooting and injecting dead bodies rather than either counting them, halting deterioration, or preparing them for return to their loved ones in the States. Yet no other explanation accounts for what happened that night and the following day.
It remains a chapter of shame that none of this has ever been investigated. Any real human beings coming upon that scene would have given better care and concern for a deceased dog. The world may not understand why it happened, but surely it can understand that much.
THE GREAT AUTOPSY DISASTER
There was already so much horror. Why would anyone take a body that was already dead, and desecrate it with the likes of gunshot wounds, forcible injections, even crossbow wounds?
First, we cannot be sure of the credibility of the sources. (Note: This is a choice of suspicious people requiring investigation and/or a suspicious story requiring investigation. The common thread is "requiring investigation.") There are two sources claiming such injuries: one is "Charles Huff," Green Beret, alleged "first man into Jonestown." His story, that he arrived before midnight, to find everyone "brutally murdered," including hundreds of forcible injections, but that "the killers had already fled," is a priori non-credible, rendering both the person and the story suspicious and requiring of investigation. The Joint Chiefs of Staff After-Action Report log, confirming the C.I.A. radio channel call on site from Jonestown, confirms that he was there under C.I.A. direction; and he surely did not find "mass murder."
The second source, coroner Leslie Mootoo, claiming not only "hundreds" of forcible injections, but specifically afflicted in hard-to-inject locations by trained medical personnel, even if accurate, was not done by anyone at Jonestown: From "The Cult Awareness Network," published by the Church of Scientology:
"Dr. C. Leslie Mootoo, then chief medical examiner of Guyana determined…that some of them had died from injections in portions of their bodies they could not have reached themselves. ‘Those who injected them knew what they were doing.’ "
Even people who fled into the jungle claimed no one pursued them, and Stanley Clayton, who was escaping, claimed the process, however traumatic, was not one of brutalization. Moreover, there was no plausiblity for the tiny handful of medical personnel at Jonestown having either the means or motivation to persecute the bulk of the community (or anyone in the community) in that manner.
A survivor brought in to identify the bodies, also not until November 20th, claimed to have seen "some" injected bodies, but the deterioration in the tropical sun itself caused so much bloating and disfiguration, that it is hard to assess, even minus the "contaminated crime scene" created by the C.I.A.’s sole control for two days.
What was the story on the autopsies? According to multiple American sources, an unparalleled disaster on the part of both the Guyanese coroner and the American government! Many of the critics inferred that it should have been the U.S. government’s responsibility to perform autopsies, thus blaming American authorities for lapses that were in fact the doing of the Guyanese coroner. (An American pathologist, Dr. Lynn Crook, claimed to be on site within three days –it is uncertain in what official capacity-. He was interviewed by The Black Panther within a month after the tragedy, and did nothing more useful than whip up the false specter of "C.I.A. MK Ultra mind control experiment" for the vulnerable and paranoid black community to read. Note: That disinformation story is debunked in "Did the C.I.A. Have a Conspiracy to Destroy Jonestown," also on this website.)
One can certainly look at the political motivations for such negligence. Be that as it may, and whosoever’s responsibility it may have properly been, the end result was still that out of over 900 bodies, not a single viable autopsy was performed:
"The head of the National Assn. of Medical Examiners says the U.S. government ‘badly botched’ the initial probe into the Guyana suicides and he has called for a new system of investigating mass deaths abroad.
"Dr. William Q. Sturner, Rhode Island’s chief medical examiner, said the follow-up to the deaths at the Peoples Temple was chaotic because the Justice Department said it lacked jurisdiction to conduct autopsies on victims.
" ‘Family members will never know how their loved ones died and will be nagged for years by unanswered questions,’ Sturner said.
"…Among the government’s errors, he said, included inserting embalming fluids before obtaining body fluids for analyses, inaccurately counting the dead, and transporting the bodies to an outpost far away from most of the victims’ families – Dover, Del." (Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1978.)
"[in] the post-mortem examinations carried out…at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware by a team of specialists from the Armed Forces institute of Pathology… Dr. Rudiger Breitenecker, a civilian member of the team, said in an interview that the cause of death of the five cult members who were not shot may never be known because of the state of decomposition of the bodies.
" ‘We were working with all the handicaps,’ Dr. Breitenecker said. ‘The bodies were so seriously decomposed that you could not tell whether they were black or white, and the examination was aggravated by subsequent embalming."
"…Forensic pathologists examine blood, urine and other tissues for evidence of drugs and chemical substances. However, in the case of the seven bodies that were autopsied last week, Dr. Brietenecker said there was no blood or urine and the stomach contents had been drained or destroyed by decomposition or the needles with which the embalming fluis had been injected.
"Dr. Breitenecker said he was unhappy that a diagnosis of cyanide poisoning was not established in the early stages of the investigation.
"All someone had to do was drain a little urine or blood through a needle, and not even do an autopsy,’ he said, ‘If it was worth the expense of several million dollars to fly the bodies back, maybe it would have been worth a needle to establish what happened." (The New York Times, December 19,1978.)
"Six leading medical examiners said in interviews that they recognized the logistical…difficulties involved in the gruesome task of identifying bodies…but it was clear…that the Government had no established procedure for medical investigation of such situations…
"Of the several ways the situation could have been handled, certainly the one chosen was the most unsatisfactory,’ said Dr. Sidney B. Weinberg, Medical Examiner for Suffolk County, N.Y.
"The medical examiners described as ‘inept,’ ‘incompetent,’ ‘embarrassing’ and ‘doing it backwards’ what they contended was the Government’s failure to meet a basic social and legal responsibility to determine the manner and cause of death of the cult members.
"They criticized among other things, the failure thus far [note: article is dated December 3, three weeks after the tragedy] to perform autopsies and the embalming of bodies before collection of samples for toxicological tests.
"Dr. Weinberg and other medical examiners said the Government should have sent a team of specialists in forensic medicine to Guyana immediately to collect samples for toxicological tests, to take photographs of the scene, to do autopsies, and to conduct as orderly an investigation as possible under the circumstance [i.e. none of that was done.]
"…Dr. Leslie I. Lukash, Medical Examiner for Nassau County, n.Y., said that autopsies would be the most important step… ‘Without autopsies,’ Dr. Lukash said, ‘Everything is presumptive about the cause and manner of death.
"Dr. [Cyril] Wecht, Medical Examiner for Allegheny County, (Pittsburgh) contended that even in the absence of a specific Federal law, the United States could have proceeded with the autopsies.
"Dr. Lukash, addressing himself to the same point said, ‘If they wanted to do the autopsies, they’d do them.’ "…(The New York Times, December 3, 1978.)
Obviously, all of these various medical examiners were horrified that not a single blood or urine sample was extracted to test for any poisoning agent in any body. No one may have cared, because there was enough anecdotal evidence to confirm death by poisoning. But no one even considered the need to reconstruct what had happened, which such medical negligence ruled out:
Was this coroner simply negligent beyond the pall? To the point of not performing a single viable autopsy on any of over 900 bodies? Or were there reasons to deliberately let the bodies rot, or to botch, even skip autopsies?
There were at least two reasons why the discrepancies between how the people of Jonestown actually died, and the conditions the coroner claimed, precluded performing autopsies: The most simple tests for poisoning agents could not have been run: Why? First, if any body was found to be both poisoned and shot, it would immediately point to desecration, tampering, and cover-up. People already poisoned cannot shoot themselves. A person already shot could not subsequently take poison.
The second is that any body found to be poisoned through stomach contents, and also injected, would also be verified as desecrated, tampered with, for intent of misdirection or cover-up. Moreover, if bodies were injected with poison, there would be evidence in the bloodstream – if not, the injections were not done for the purpose of death, but for post-death desecration. And if there was indeed poison in the bloodstream, and also poison in the stomach contents, a) were the poisoning agents the same? and b) why would a body already dead from poison be injected with a second poison after death?
We could never get the answers from the Guyanese coroner, Leslie Mootoo, of course, because that coroner, upon being presented with over 900 dead bodies, did not perform a single viable autopsy! Welcome to "The Great Autopsy Disaster"!
The very few (seven) bodies selected for autopsy included three with gunshots (Jim Jones, Maria Katsaris and Annie Moore), two of them (Katsaris and Moore) with very vocal parents who persistently queried the proceedings. Rebecca Moore, the sister who survived Annie Moore, writes:
"We requested autopsies for Annie and Carolyn [Carolyn Layton, her other sister]. But they were useless because the bodies were embalmed. Not a single sample of blood or urine, yet the easiest thing!"
By never testing for poisoning, the assumption was that Jim Jones, Annie Moore and Maria Katsaris died by gunshot. The more likely scenario (as has been constructed) is that they died by poisoning, and then were shot. Obviously, confirming that those bodies had been poisoned would only raise sinister questions about the actions of invaders, not cleared questions up!
Meanwhile, the seven "autopsied" bodies had been embalmed prior to shipping back to the States! There was no opportunity to monitor or cross-check the suspect work. There were not even proper death certificates. This was a job that was botched totally.
Nevertheless, the shootings, if not the injection marks, were confirmed. So we still have the question, "Why"?
We need to first go back to the Clayton account of the community having fallen completely silent for about 40 minutes. Then, suddenly, there were cheers and shouts, and still later, six gunshots. It is clear (shy of "shots into the air") that those gunshots were directed at Jim Jones personally, and the people with him in his quarters a distance away from the main death scene at The Pavillion. But why?
There are few possible explanations. One is that macho-style, the troops came in and were relieved that everyone was already dead, hence "no further action" was needed, such as "containment of violent assassins" (or whatever they had been told), much less "doing away with" the community." It was also known that the community had made a previous suicide threat; indeed Timothy Stoen had said just days earlier that he was "counting on Jim to overreact" to the Congressional visit. So as bizarre as it sounds, the reaction of "cheering" may not have been total surprise. If no people were left alive, there were also no people to have to frame in the face of confirmed alibis and a noisy political cause celebre, much less kill off.
Then after the cheering, perhaps they discovered Jones and his small entourage in a separate cottage and just decided to "shoot the son-of-a-bitch," along with the few bodies lying close by. The very fact that no humanitarian assistance was allowed in for two days, in itself confirms the brutal intent of the invaders.
That rendition of the shootings, although under C.I.A.military command for political reasons, does not make the shootings of those bodies in itself politically motivated, although the scenario as a whole was a political set-up.
But there is also another, more crafty explanation. It turns out that suicide provided enough horror for the world to turn against Jim Jones and his followers, defusing any possible investigation of what really happened, especially when "the explanation" of "brainwashing" was pounded into the public. No one needed any compounding factor of brutal murder within Jonestown tossed into what happened, to be convinced to blame Jim Jones for all the carnage -- assassination, suicides, and all.
But it is unlikely that could be counted on in advance. Undoubtedly, being all too aware of Peoples Temple’s base in the States, which was the left-wing and black communities, it was feared that suicide could create "martyrs" of people who had "died for their cause" – namely, racial and economic equality. It was possible, even, that the bodies were left to deteriorate past identification, rather than promptly shipped them back for proper burial, to forestall a wave of eulogies that would question what had really happened overseas. Even the locale selected for the returning bodies, Dover Air Force Base, on the East Coast in Delaware rather than the West Coast, the home of most who had died, made any monitoring of the post-mortem process prohibitive.
Certainly, a proliferation of disinformation was spread to throw the left-wing and minority communities so completely off track, that the myth to this day is that Jonestown, rather than being a magnificent vanguard community, was instead under C.I.A. control, doing who knows what, from "slave labor" to ‘mind control." Then who would care if the people died, much less call for justice? (See "Did the C.I.A. Have a Conspiracy to Destroy Jonestown?", also on this website.)
Brutalization of the bodies, massive desecration of bodies, would be harrowing to comprehend in any context, but that does not mean it did not make sense. It was the perfect thing to do to protect the frame of the people of Jonestown for the murder of the Congressman. If people at Jonestown not just died, but were brutalized by their own in the process, then no one would ever question Jim Jones’ responsibility for the murder of the Congressman. Surely someone who would do this to his own, would not hesitate to kill an outsider.
Indeed, descriptions of "an orgy of suicide and murder" abounded. No one would give those people the dignity of will, of choice, of solidarity, of pride. The "final letter" finally surfacing from State Department files twenty years later, is full of the dignity of will, of choice, of solidarity, of pride, but so engrained is "the Jonestown myth" in the mind of the world, it seems a disturbingly surreal counterpoint to the originally surreal, but now widely accepted, myth of how the deaths at Jonestown happened.
Ultimately, the government puppetmasters did not care what history said of it, so long as Jim Jones was blamed for everything, and no one investigated anything. They didn’t want suicide if it would make the people of Jonestown martyrs for their cause. They did want suicide if that confirmed "brainwashing.’ They didn’t want murder if the finger could be pointed at an invading military. They did want murder if it made Jim Jones out to be so brutal as to kill his own, that no one would ever investigate the murder of the Congressman.
Ultimately, they were quite happy with "disinformation mud": murder, suicide, whatever. Just blame Jim Jones. And the world did. Thus was the core and substance of The Jonestown Tragedy, for all its notoriety, never investigated.
Un-Silent Night, how do such tales persist? Why was truth never installed in their place? Has the public become so prey to sensationalism that it has lost its capacity to think? Un-Silent Night, can the truth ever be heard? It can be spoken. But will it be heard?
I would never in a million years prescribe suiciding out in a group involving children – whatever the military pressures, whatever the way of life at stake, whatever the stand against the powerful mega-reactionary forces of both government and press. Better to stand there and be slaughtered, praying that some precious souls might survive. Let it happen at their hand, not at one’s own.
But I also understand the statement on the final tape made at Jonestown, "We are not taking their lives. They are not taking our lives. We just want peace. We’re a thousand people who don’t like the way the world is." These were peaceful, loving people. Their entire purpose was a build a better world, not to destroy. And their fears of an impending slaughter were all too real.
When the real scenario is unmasked, so are the real questions: Why was a peaceful, productive community turned into a war zone? Who smeared them into oblivion, for every hidden, suspect motive, then moved to seal their doom? Why was every liar and villain extolled as a "hero," while brave, innocent people were thrown onto the trash heap of history?
What happened at Jonestown that night was tragic, painful, and costly beyond belief. But all the more so in that their true plight was never even acknowledged, much less explored.
Now, finally, the true picture, the real schemes and designs emerge. The voices speak. It is never too late to give history the real story. No one listened then. Is anyone listening now? Listen, please, to "Un-Silent Night."
Laurie Efrein Kahalas,