The 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination is quickly approaching on November 22nd. And we’ve already been subjected to panel discussions, new books, letters to editors defending the Warren Commission, letters to editors condemning the Warren Commission, and a spate of films yet to come. The divide between those who believe Lee Harvey Oswald solely responsible and those who believe that a conspiracy resulted in the death of JFK has never been more gaping. But this is a good time to step back and look at how far we’ve come since 1963, which claims/theories from both sides have been rendered null and void and which have stood the test of time.
First, we need to accept the fact that nearly all is theory and speculation about this tragic event. Regardless of how many times the late Arlen Specter tried to convince us that the lone bullet theory is now lone bullet fact, he was wrong. It is still just a theory. Just like the theories that involve the Mafia, Cuban freedom fighters, the CIA, Lyndon Johnson. They are all just that: speculation, at best, informed speculation.
Lee Harvey Oswald never went to trial. As then Dallas police chief Jesse Curry once told the Dallas Morning News, ““We don't have any proof that Oswald fired the rifle, and never did. Nobody's yet been able to put him in that building with a gun in his hand.” The Warren Commission was not a substitute for a trial by jury. It was comprised of government officials, some of whom had their own agendas. We will never know how that trial might have turned out. Too many questions remain unanswered, and too many claims on both sides of the controversy just don’t hold water.
Let’s get another thing straight: conspiracies do exist. Regardless of how many journalists, both veterans and those still wet-behind-the-ears, make fun of conspiracy theorists, people conspire every day to break the law. Yes, sometimes such theories are out there on the fringe. But history shows that they do happen, even within the government. As a primer for those who have forgotten that character assassination is no argument at all, let’s remember Watergate and Iran-Contra. They were criminal conspiracies. People went to prison. Those who talk of “tin foil hats” to mock conspiracy theorists need to return to being legitimate journalists and quit acting like kids on playgrounds calling people names. If you want to refute a claim, do it with facts.
A trio of blog posts can only scratch the surface, but I hope they can give a hint of the vast spider-web that surrounds the JFK assassination today. So, to get started, here are Five Things We Know Now That We Didn’t Know Then:
1) Whether Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole person responsible for John Kennedy’s death or whether he was, as he phrased it, “a patsy,” the cornerstone of the Warren Commission findings was laid on November 25, 1963 by Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach in a memo, which surfaced in the 1970s, written to LBJ aide Bill Moyers: “The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial.”
This was the same day as JFK’s funeral. Oswald was barely cold. No true investigation had really gotten off the ground. And yet, here we have the conclusions that will be drawn by the Warren Commission all laid out. Although Warren Commission apologists try to talk their way out of this memo, it’s nearly impossible to explain away Katzenbach’s statement, made within 72 hours of the assassination. A fair and objective reading of the memo shows that, for whatever reason, Katzenbach either knew that Oswald was guilty or was willing to accept that conclusion, without an investigation. And that is the question. How could anyone be so certain that Oswald alone was guilty before any investigation had really begun?
[That's curious... wonder what else might be?]