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This essay about a 50 year old murder is written for all those who, like me, have not thought about that crime in any detail (the few of us!) and strives to present as broad a perspective as possible in a summary form. My belief is that looking at any historical event and asking questions about what really happened can add enormously to anyone’s knowledge of history, and how people interact with events to form it. I am no expert in any facet of what I write about, and have no new information about the events covered. Yet I maintain that looking, and asking questions, will reveal much to almost any enquirer.
It was 50 years ago today (22 November 1963, actually) that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was murdered in Dallas while on a campaign tour for the 1964 US Presidential election. ‘Explanations’ abound as to how and why it happened and who was involved: it is the world’s most popular unsolved crime. I was a teenager when it happened, and the main thing I remember is the huge size of the newspaper headlines. Lately a lot of books on the murder have come my way, and I in turn have begun to think about what could have happened. Some interesting considerations arise from investigating what we know about those distant events, including how we create history, not record it.
John F Kennedy is famous for being the person who almost single handedly prevented a nuclear war with the Soviet Union that would have stopped the rest of us from happening. Why was he murdered?
It was a different world to today, the 60s. You need to understand what was going on, in America and elsewhere, to see just why some people might have acted as they did. It was a time of almost civil war in the USA, in France and in Ireland. The threat of the nuclear bomb was very real. Many people were frightened at what was happening. There were many vested interests who may have been involved in the murder. But it is essential to start to investigate with this complex background always in mind.
• Civil Rights Martin Luther King Jr, probably America’s greatest orator, led the March on Washington 27 August 1963 and gave his “I have a dream” speech. This influenced anti discrimination legislation in 1964 and 1965 and later. It also led to the formation of groups to champion the rights of women, Mexicans and Spanish Americans, and gay and lesbian people. America was seen by many in the 1960s as a nation where a white, Protestant plutocracy had usurped the rights of many minority groups and this usurpation was stridently and actively challenged. King received the Nobel Peace Prize 14 November 1964 but was investigated by the FBI as a communist (and as anything else the FBI could pin on him to discredit his role as an activist). King spoke out against the war in Vietnam 15 April 1967, and called for a protest march on Washington 13 January 1968. He was murdered 04 April 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee supposedly by James Earl Ray. Ray, like Oswald, claimed he was a patsy, that FBI operatives had killed King and that he was recruited as a cover for them. He was given counsel to make a guilty plea to avoid the death sentence and unsuccessfully tried to change it later. It seems certain the FBI and other security groups in government saw King as a threat. There are parallels in the way the two murders, of King and JFK, were carried out. One could well be the key to the other.
• Cold war A term coined by George Orwell, the rivalry of the two superpowers USA and USSR for political dominance involved two large scale wars, the Korean war of 1950-53 and the Vietnam war 1955-75, the red scare in the US prosecuted by Senator Joseph McCarthy 1950-56, political and military action against communist Cuba including the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and the missile crisis of 1962, political and terrorist action against governments in South America in the 50s through to the 70s, the arms race involving stockpiling of nuclear weapons, the space race, and a massive escalation of mutual espionage, including increases in the budget and powers of the CIA. It is doubtful if the political differences between communism and capitalism which were much publicised were entirely a component of the cold war, which was probably waged to secure economic control of strategic markets, justified by appeals to political idealism and popular paranoia against ‘reds’. President Kennedy, although initially a supporter of McCarthy and a strong anti communist, had modified his views considerably, and was searching for an end to the Cold War and a rapprochement with Premier Khrushchev at the time of his death. He was also looking at a reduction in the role (and the budget) of the CIA. The strong anti communist stance that had seen this expansion into a ‘cold war’ had meant political and financial aggrandisement to many in the administration and military, who opposed his decisions.
• Vietnam war The war in Vietnam killed almost 4 million Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians (the former Indochinese), and over 50,000 American soldiers in the years 1955-1975, as the USA fought to stop Communist governments taking over the country. In many ways it was a continuation of the Korean War. Both Korea and Vietnam were left divided into weaker north and south nations. During the same period America was to fight to stop the election of Communist governments in South America. The legitimacy of a democratic country preventing the peoples of a nation in Asia or South America electing the government they wanted is questionable. The war turned into an American aerial assault using defoliants and other chemical weapons as well as conventional bombs against an undetectable guerrilla army. Both sides were convicted of war crimes including massacres and use of torture. As well as the phenomenal expense to the USA, the war was very unpopular, as many of the drafted men were the love and peace children of the hippie era. Over one third of the US population came to oppose the war, and President Johnson, who overruled a decision of murdered President Kennedy to withdraw troops, and instead increased troops and armaments to Vietnam, became very unpopular.
• Youth culture Present at the March on Washington in August 1963 led by Martin Luther King Jr were two high profile members of the pop culture, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. The President, JFK, and his wife Jackie, had high credibility with young people. Throughout the 60s an unprecedented number of teenagers had developed radically different approaches to their parents on many issues, such as politics, drug use, belief in corruption within government, use of power. They wanted a different world than the one the previous generation had so mismanaged, and they were numerous enough, affluent and articulate to almost get it. The Pill furthered the cause of feminism, Malcolm X was assassinated in New York but the Black Power movement continued, the Beatles dominated pop culture and pop music charts and helped revolutionise pop music. Young people moved into music production and became extremely influential. After 10 years of bloody clashes between police and students and other protesters, the Woodstock Festival was held in New York state in 1969 and attempted to show the world what hippie culture based on peace and love was like. A massive amount of drugs was released from South American sources, many prominent figures in the hippie revolution and pop music scene died as a result, and the movements became commercialised and less idealistic, morphing into the posturings of Punk and Rap.
• Organised crime It really was organised. Territories and activities were staked out, and those in charge put in a fair bit of work with police officers and politicians to make sure things ran smoothly. Murderers and thieves and other law breakers mixed closely with politicians and members of government administration, who were as corrupt (of course it is all different now). One of the most corrupt was Jimmy Hoffa, head of the Teamsters Union, who had made himself and his associates millionaires by appropriating Union funds and running housing swindles. Hoffa was a close associate of Lyndon Baines Johnson, Vice President under JFK. The Kennedys may have planned to impeach Johnson for his corruption and dishonesty in handling public funds. Hoffa was a close associate of J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, who was always more interested in stopping the spread of communism than stopping organised crime. Hoffa was also an associate of several Mafia leaders for whom he acted as banker. Robert Kennedy planned to impeach Hoffa. The Kennedy brothers wanted to make their mark, but they made dangerous enemies. On 05 June 1968, when Robert Kennedy gained primacy for the next Democrat candidate for the coming Presidential election, he was murdered, allegedly by anti Israel Sirhan Sirhan, though there is some evidence that another gun fired the fatal shot.
This is the background to consider when trying to understand basic questions about the murder of JFK. Powerful criminals associating with government, popular rage for and against civil rights for minority groups, political rivalry with the USSR, hostility towards people in their teens who were creating their own alternative culture, and a war in Asia nobody wanted. Many people felt passionately about these issues. For and against the Bomb, those rebelling against the older generations through pop music and drug consumption, hoping to create a better world, and older people who thought it all should be banned. Pro and anti Vietnam, pro and anti Communist. Many were confused about what they were protesting about, linking withdrawal from Vietnam or drug taking with Communism. Should the USA take a militant stand or try to find a way to stop the Cold War? Was that pro Communist? Nobody knew much about organised crime.
One feature of the John F Kennedy murder is that there were other victims, then and later, who may have been connected to that murder or have been sources of information about it. Jerry Kroth’s book Conspiracy in Camelot (below) lists 84 names of people connected to the JFK murder in some way, of whom cause of death was identifiable in 78 cases. These included 29 murders, 19 accidental deaths, 13 suicides, only 17 deaths from natural causes. The deaths really did occur and are incontrovertible. Does Kroth go too far? “Three pieces or groups of data have been presented thus far to suggest that a conspiracy is a justifiable conclusion: (1) There is physical evidence suggestive of a frontal shot to the President; (2) The causes of death of over 78 individuals connected with JFK or the assassination are statistically anomalous; and (3) A startling sum of eleven deaths are clustered about two sets of government hearings on the Kennedy assassination in the mid-1970s”. (Jerry Kroth Conspiracy in Camelot p.102)
Firstly, there are the deaths of the more prominent figures:
•Marilyn Monroe lover of JFK and RFK discarded by RFK, threatened to tell all, murdered by Mafia so as to implicate RFK 04 August 1962
•John Fitzgerald Kennedy, perhaps feared by conservative factions and FBI to be now pro Communist, shot to death 22 November 1963
•Lee Harvey Oswald, linked as a double agent with the CIA, shot to death by gangster and FBI contact Jack Ruby 24 November 1963
•Malcolm X, influential leader of militant African Americans, was shot to death by killers organised by FBI agent John Ali 21 February 1965
•Jack Ruby, Mafia and FBI contact, associate of Dallas police force, died of pulmonary embolism just prior to a retrial 03 January 1967
•Martin Luther King Jr, African American minister and leader, shot to death by James Earl Ray, who accused the FBI, 04 April 1968
•Bobby Kennedy, militant prosecutor of organised crime figures, was shot to death by Sirhan Sirhan and perhaps another 05 June 1968
•Edward M Kennedy injured in plane crash 19 June 1964, involved in a driving fatality, withdrew Presidential nomination 18 July 1969
•Jimmy Hoffa, Teamsters Union President, convicted of bribery and fraud, and disappeared presumed murdered 30 July 1975
Jerry Kroth in his book mentions 84 associated deaths of more minor figures, including the following:
•Karyn Kupcinet friend of Jack Ruby, may have warned of JFK assassination, strangled to death 28 November 1963
•Maurice Baker, Dallas policeman, friend of Jack Ruby, shot himself to death with shotgun 03 December 1963
•William Hunter newsman interviewed Jack Ruby shot through the heart by a policeman 23 April 1964
•Gary Underhill former CIA operative said the CIA was involved in the JFK murder, shot in the head and killed 08 May 1964
•Jim Koethe friend of Jack Ruby about to publish a book on the JFK murder, killed by an intruder (karate chop) 21 September 1964
•Mary Mayer, mistress of JFK and wife of CIA operative, shot to death 12 October 1964
•Rose Cherami, associate of Jack Ruby, reported a Mafia hit on JFK, run over second time and killed 04 September1965
•Dorothy Kilgallen gossip columnist investigated by FBI, interviewed Jack Ruby, suicide or induced barbiturate OD 08 November 1965
•James Worrell saw a man not Oswald leave the Book Depository after the killing, lost control of motorbike and killed 06 November 1966
•David Ferrie associate of Oswald, about to give evidence, died of a brain haemorrhage leaving a suicide note 22 February 1967.
The details here are not the important part, but the overall pattern. How likely would it be that so many prominent people and witnesses in an investigation should die in a violent way? If a friend of yours died violently and several other people you knew then also died violently, would you be satisfied it was all a coincidence? Anti conspiracy debunkers dispute instances, and rightly so, for lists like Kroth’s have grown to enormous and meaningless length. But how can you explain the pattern of so many violent deaths connected to the murder?
Note Jack Ruby’s death. Readers of Agatha Christie will know how a murderer can kill through injecting air in an empty syringe into a victim’s artery. Apparently it can look like a pulmonary embolism. Note James Worrell’s death. Readers of Ian Fleming will know of the effects a foreign substance can have in a petrol tank. Machine can suddenly stall at high speed. I hasten to add there is absolutely no evidence of either of these events happening. How could there be? They are only mentioned in crime fiction. But I believe that any explanation that cannot or does not account for this pattern of killings will be false or misleading about the contemporary situation.
•JFK believed to be making rapprochement with Khrushchev. Did this make JFK look pro Communist?
•JFK believed ready to pull out of Vietnam. Did this disturb the military establishment?
•JFK believed ready to break up CIA. Would they have struck back to prevent it?
•RFK leaning on Jimmy Hoffa, Mafia employee and friend of FBI as well as other Mafia members. Would Mafia retaliate?
•JFK about to expose criminal career of LBJ and drop him as Vice President. Would Johnson have colluded in a crime?
•JFK drafted Civil Rights Bill 11 June 1963 and spoke on television condemning racial violence in Alabama. Did this antagonise racists?
“Into this context arrived Kennedy, who talked the conventional Cold War–Soviet menace talk when he had to before the election, but who, after the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and the subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis, went off the rails as far as the military- industrial complex was concerned. He did a deal with Khrushchev and promised to leave Cuba alone; he began trying to wind down the CIA’s army of anti-Castro Cubans; he signed the Test Ban Treaty; he was preparing to allow the Italian Communist Party into a coalition government in Italy, something the CIA had worked to prevent since 1945, spending hundreds of millions of dollars and utterly corrupting Italian society in the process; he was planning to cut US defence spending abroad to reduce the US balance of payments deficit; and he wanted to begin pulling the US out of Vietnam. These are not the actions of a Cold War Warrior. The Cuban Missile Crisis had scared the politicians involved in it.” (Robin Ramsay Who Shot JFK)
These could be motives and don’t have to be based on fact: belief in them as probabilities would be enough. One of the peculiarities of the JFK murder is that it is alleged to be motiveless, a chance shot from a deranged killer, Oswald. This would probably be the only time in history when a politician was killed by this kind of assassin. Politicians usually have a lot of enemies. JFK did, and his policies were making more. A conspiracy is almost always the cause of a political killing. And JFK was surrounded by a lot of Doctor Strangeloves.
Kennedy was also the most charismatic President the USA has had and one of its greatest orators. He, along with Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, is among the most quoted of Presidents. Whether it was merely rhetoric or not, JFK stirred Americans as few have. There were many who admired him, and many who hated him. He voiced many new ideas coming to prominence in the 60s. It was to be a fatal oratory for him. He said: “If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity”. Somebody disagreed.
Broadly speaking, there appear to be two schools of opinion on the murder. The first upholds the findings of the Warren Commission, that there was a single gunman involved, Lee Harvey Oswald, acting from unknown motives, and that his bullet hit two people, JFK and Texas Governor John Connally. Although made by a group of legal counsel, the Commission’s finding was not a legal conviction of Oswald and does not mean he was guilty of the crime: two subsequent committees found the Warren Commission’s conclusions erroneous (though one wavered).
The other opinion is that several assassins were involved, that Kennedy was hit by two bullets, and that there was a conspiracy of some kind to murder the President. Both schools of thought find irrefutable errors in each others’ arguments and they are both probably right in doing so, as I thought many arguments on either side faulty.
Kroth and Sabato give instances that imply that the Johnson administration, the FBI and CIA, and the Warren Commission, all withheld, altered and destroyed evidence about the murder of JFK. If true, this is the real conspiracy that occurred. In my opinion this would make these groups of people accessories after the fact in a murder, and thus themselves guilty in that murder. To stifle a murder investigation is to collude with the murderer.
People who advocate that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone, deranged murderer who killed JFK for no discernible reason are correctly following the available evidence, but that evidence may have been tampered with to enforce the making of that conclusion. These are claims to be considered.
A look on the web reveals that there are thousands of websites on the murder, many giving information in extraordinary detail, and some requiring considerable prior knowledge to even understand what is being talked about. I found that opinions were held very strongly, and the exchange of views was at times verging on the abusive.
Although I didn’t see evidence for all of it on the web, there seems to me to be several opinions one could hold on the murder:
• The lone gunman theory, he being Oswald, motive unknown
• The lone gunman theory, a person unknown, possibly a hired killer, with Oswald as the patsy
• Two lone gunmen, in separately organised attacks, perhaps one firing to demonstrate, or as a decoy, one firing to kill
• Gunman (men) unknown, but the matter covered up to avoid public alarm by the administration/CIA/FBI/Secret Service
• Gunmen unknown, but the matter covered up to hide examination of the affairs of LBJ or other parties, possibly corrupt
• A plot by Fidel Castro or anti Castro forces
• A plot by the CIA
• A plot by the Mafia
• A plot by the FBI
• A plot involving two of the above four groups, acting together or separately, known or unknown to one another.
One legal point occurred to me concerning Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald did not stand trial, and the evidence against him was not examined by a court of law. Therefore the murder of JFK is still legally an unsolved crime. To say that Oswald is the killer is legally slander and is actionable at law should any surviving member of Oswald’s family want to so proceed.
Fuelling the conspiracy theories are some other ‘conspiracies’ now known to be real but with no known connection to the JFK murder:
•An alliance between CIA operatives and Mafia members to oust Fidel Castro from Cuba (Mafia had owned ‘nationalised’ casinos there)
•Warnings by Dwight D Eisenhower that figures in the ‘military/industrial complex’ were running the war in Vietnam
•RFK’s campaign against organised crime which could have led to his murder by Mafia hitmen and perhaps solidified opposition to JFK.
1. Why a public killing, an assassination, while JFK was on election tour and crowds of people about? It would seem a more likely ploy to embarrass him out of office by revealing his instances of sexual misconduct, which were also breaches of security. That tactic worked with John Profumo in Britain 05 June 1963, Edward Kennedy in 1969 and almost worked with Bill Clinton in 1996. That would have put JFK out of office and neutralised his policies effectively. Or would these revelations have been accepted by the 60s free love generation? Why not incapacitate him or murder him through his medications, or with drugs, as Marilyn Monroe allegedly was, or get a vote of no confidence based on his ill health? JFK lied about his precarious state of health when he joined the Navy, and again when he ran for President. These acts made him a security risk and his concealment was highly unprofessional to say the least. Would stories of his battle with pain only have bought him sympathy?
2. Was the murder, and the professionalism with which it was carried out, a contract killing organised by the Mafia? Yet there are good reasons why the Mafia would not initiate such a killing. They were under considerable harassment from RFK, the Attorney General, and such a killing would have played into his hands. He could have asked for special powers and an increased budget to prosecute the war against crime, and very likely got it, had the murder been linked to the Mafia. The actual killers could have been Mafia members hired for a price to do the job.
3. Would the killing have originated with the CIA? Such a killing made the CIA look bad, as they should have intercepted any conspiracy to murder the President. That was their job, or one of them, and they had a considerable budget with which to do it. John A McCone was newly appointed by JFK as CIA Chief and unlikely to destroy his patron. However, there were elements in the CIA who resented JFK’s change of opinion on Cuba, notably in the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion, and these, along with anti Castro forces, may have been willing to create an incident, such as a rifle shot attributed to a pro Cuban, anti Castro gunman, to demonstrate to Kennedy that Cuba was still a volatile area and needed a more aggressive stance. It could be related that there is some evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald had some kind of double role on the fringes of the CIA, and may have been intended to fire such a warning shot. If it existed, this plot could have inspired an actual murder plot by another group, such as the FBI, using the alleged anti Castro gunman as the patsy.
4. What about the FBI? At first sight such a killing also made the FBI look bad, as they should have been aware of such an attempt and stopped it. At the head of the FBI was J Edgar Hoover, Director since the FBI’s formation in 1935 and now approaching 70 years old and considered senile by some. Hoover had a mania about Communism, and directed his Bureau’s activities largely to collecting information about those with what he conceived of as ‘red’ sympathies, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Hoover was as rabid as Senator Joseph McCarthy. JFK’s policies of accord with Russia may have looked pro Communistic to him. Hoover was known to Mafia figures, and associated with Jimmy Hoffa, Teamsters Union leader, a known member of the underworld. It is conceivable that Hoover might have been unhinged enough to initiate a campaign of elimination of figures he perceived as Communist threats to the USA. His usual method was to accumulate discreditable information then virtually blackmail those figurers into inactivity. Would JFK have been reckless enough to shrug off this approach?
5. What about LBJ? After the killing the chief beneficiary was Lyndon Johnson. He had an unsavoury reputation of corruption behind him, and was about to be dismissed as Vice President by Kennedy, but now was the actual President of the USA. He was a friend of Hoover, and apparently knew of the murder before it happened. Immediately he knew it had, he seems to have given instructions to the Dallas Police to arrest Oswald, and to shoot him if he resisted arrest. When the police failed to shoot then Ruby was called in (who was known to police) to do the job. The Police went looking for Oswald even before the murder, allegedly because he had not shown up for work that morning at the Book Repository building, hardly a crime. And Oswald was there according to other staff members. Johnson also organised the Warren Commission, pre-empting RFK as Attorney General from investigating the case. The Warren Commission seems to have been convened to find Oswald the sole killer involved, and did so. This quashed any further investigation, Johnson thought.
6. Was there more than one group involved? More than one assassination attempt? A warning shot by one group taken advantage of to perpetrate a real killing? An assassination then a cover up from a third group?
7. Was Oswald the killer? Oswald never stood trial, so we’ll never know for sure. But it strikes me a good defence attorney could have got the case against him thrown out of court. You say he was seen in the Book Depository cafeteria one minute, possibly less, after the President was murdered? Surely that constitutes an alibi? We have Oswald’s record as a sharpshooter in the Marines, and it is poor. Are you saying this man ran up five flights of stairs, picked up a rifle, took aim, fired three shots two of which hit the target (something Oswald had never managed before), left his rifle and the ejected shell cases behind, and ran down five flights of stairs, all in five minutes? Is there reasonable doubt, members of the jury, that this was possible? You say this man erected a barricade of cartons at his place of work to conceal his activities. Wouldn’t the firing of three shots have revealed what those activities were? Why the barricade then? You say that one bullet hit not just one but two people, the second person twice. How many other instances of such a multiple wounding do you know of? How do you explain that one bullet, probably with full metal casing, made these wounds, yet the effective shot was a bullet of another type, an explosive bullet that blew most of the President’s head into widely scattered fragments, a totally different wound from the others? Lastly, you say this man left evidence that incriminated him at the scene of the crime, and went downstairs and drank a coke in the cafeteria then went home. Are you suggesting he wanted to be charged with murder? I think Oswald would have been released on the reasonable doubt proviso. He would never have had a sentence passed for the crime of murder. So he had to die.
8. Why was Oswald the only suspect? After all, he had no motive. Why were no groups who opposed JFK’s policies investigated? Who else on the scene had a gun? Did the police check? The police went looking for Oswald at the start of the investigation. They should normally have talked to witnesses, looked at trajectories, searched buildings, cordoned off the area, interviewed those in the procession, then searched them. They seemed to know who Oswald was. He on his part seemed to expect arrest. The taxi home from place of employment went past his house so Oswald could check it out before alighting. He avoided shooting by going to a public theatre and crying ‘I am not resisting arrest’ when approached by police. Oswald was in the 2nd story lunchroom at 12.15pm on the day of the murder, then seen again 12.31pm. He is alleged to have run up to the 6th floor, shot the President, then run down again. He did not know when the President would be passing, and could not have known he was 5 minutes behind schedule. Due 12.25pm, arrived 12.30pm. At the time he was arrested the trajectory of the bullets that hit the President were not known, yet the police found a convenient “sniper’s nest” at the Book Repository and never looked anywhere else. The crime looks to have been pre solved. Was Oswald briefed as the sniper who would fire a warning shot and miss, to be arrested on that minor charge then released?
9. Was there a cover up? Minutes after the murder the President’s limousine was taken to his hotel and his body removed for medical attention. A man, unidentified but claiming to be a member of the Secret Service, then ordered hotel staff to wash and clean the car’s interior. Even in the days of Sherlock Holmes it was known that no-one should interfere with the scene of a crime, yet here, minutes after one had occurred, evidence vital to an investigation was being removed. In particular, removal of the pattern of blood dispersion contained the only clear evidence of from where the fatal shots had originated. Other alterations are alleged. It is claimed that two different autopsies showed two different wounds, and that one of these was of another corpse, photographed so as to mislead the investigation as to the nature of the fatal shot. When I looked at websites I found no examination had apparently been made of the people surrounding JFK in the cavalcade, yet some of them had guns. Instead, police activities were all focused on apprehending Oswald. Other places on the President’s route from which a shot could have been fired were not examined. This is tantamount to saying that after the murder of a President the responsible authorities did not investigate the crime, and have never done so since. What does this imply? Instead, all effort has been focused on incriminating Oswald or clearing his name. But what if Oswald were a red herring?
10. Will the murder ever be solved? Saving a likely confession (not a crazy one) probably not, as most evidence has vanished or perhaps is still concealed. The murderer I believe needs to fit these considerations: • Be connected to some at least of the other killings associated with the Kennedy murder • Have had knowledge of the position of security forces around the President • Shown to have objected to some of JFK’s policies on strong ideological grounds and protested to him about them • Have had ability and connections to commit a murder, and to have done so before and after the JFK murder • Have had prestige and connections to arrange a cover up of the murder by the LBJ administration. I think the JFK murder is part of a group of murders arising out of the Cold War, and definitely the subject of a cover up by subsequent administrations. I think it was the way Senator Joseph McCarthy would have liked to act against convicted reds.
One of the interesting things about the murder is the degree it involves government figures and organisations and connects them with criminals. It could show that the US government was/is not democratic but a power elite associating with criminals to profit from the economic potential of the country and its position of power. The gap between voter and elected representative has become too wide. So why vote? You don’t? Was JFK the Last Democrat (last democrat)?
It could also show that the office of US President was/is a figurehead position, not one of real authority, and that JFK fatally did not understand this. The times were troubled. But the murdered President showed unusual ability in dealing with his problems. His death left the way for a morass of disasters: Vietnam, Civil Rights killings, continuation of the Cold War, Watergate, war in Iraq, a long list. The killing is a tragedy that marks the end of an age of political innocence for most Americans. What was lost was trust in their leaders. Just as the murder of John Lennon in 1980 was the final end of ‘flower power’ and the hope young people could change the world.
1. Libra by Don DeLillo (Viking 1988) The imagined story of Lee Harvey Oswald brings the world of the Cold War, and its manifestation in opposition to Castro’s takeover in Cuba, to plausible life. Oswald is shown as an intelligent man who remained a pawn of his CIA contacts, and one whose true beliefs were not certain even to himself. Suggests the killing may have been accidental, a warning shot that actually hit the target. A great book.
2. American Tabloid by James Ellroy (Knopf 1995) Without explaining a thing about the murder of JFK Ellroy explains how it happened. Read it again: no plausible explanation of how the murder was carried out (I’ve yet to read one that wasn’t as labyrinthine as a Byzantine crown toppling) but a picture of self interest, paranoia, callousness and cruelty that lets you see how the situation arose. And the fatal gap between reality and image (note the title). Begins well with a concise depiction of the Kennedy milieu but meanders badly on Cuban/CIA collusion.
3. Conspiracy in Camelot by Jerry Kroth (Algora 2003) An excellent review of evidence and conspiracy theories. Not as impartial as it appears, as Kroth believes the murder was the result of a conspiracy. However, he reviews all the theories. He is unable to come to any clear cut conclusion. He suggests that those with a theory may sometimes have a hidden agenda. The book includes a chapter of short psychological sketches of the main characters, and attempts to look at what the murder means and has meant to the American people.
4. Who Shot JFK? by Robin Ramsay (Pocket Essentials 2007) This is a short guide (about 150 pages) to the alarming amount of literature and theories on the murder of JFK. Organised along themes, it occasionally got me confused in its attempts to fit new revelations into the scheme of existing theories. Probably a good place to start if you intend to read deeply into opinions on who was responsible. It is not a clear, simple explanation of what is definitely known. Opts for the LBJ as killer theory.
5. The Kennedy Half Century by Larry J Sabato (Bloomsbury 2013) Beautifully written and totally engrossing for much of its 700 pages, this is a consideration of Kennedy’s election to the Presidency, years in office, the ’63 election campaign, the murder, the investigations and theories, and the legacy of JFK that the next eight Presidents have had to deal with. Sabato is fair in his evaluation of conspiracy theories, yet doesn’t decide anything without evidence. As he shows how evidence has been destroyed, is still withheld, or has been altered, he is forced into the unsolvable crime position, though he tends to blame the CIA.
©2013 Original material copyright Phillip Kay. Images and other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.