Friday, November 22, 2013

Oswald acted alone

This I believe.

Like many others, I have played amateur detective in this fifty-year national obsession, more than most but much less than others.  And the more I have learned, the less convinced I am that there was an actual conspiracy.  Here's why...

The vast majority -- 98% -- of all of the documents collected by the Warren Commission have been declassified.  This occurred in 1997 and was prompted by questions raised in Oliver Stone's film 'JFK', which many Americans believe is more accurate than it actually is.  Two things stood out to me from this new data...

-- The "magic  bullet" is flattened on the tail and along one side ("compressed laterally" as the Wiki describes; fourth graf up from the bottom), thus not so magic as its reputation has long suggested.  More on the single bullet theory here if you want it.

-- Oswald was scored a 'sharpshooter' while a Marine in 1956, and a 'marksman' in 1959.  Do you know the distance at which a military sniper must qualify for those ratings with shots within the target?

200 yards.

Do you know how far away Kennedy was from the 6th floor of the Texas school book depository?

Between approximately 189 feet, or 63 yards (neck shot) and roughly 80 yards (head shot).

(Lots of people throw cold water on the postulate that Oswald was a crack shot, for whatever that may be worth to you.)


Oswald undoubtedly had conversations -- deranged rants is probably a better descriptor -- with people about killing Kennedy.  Did he have conversations about killing Kennedy with the Russian government, or the CIA in Mexico City, or people loosely associated with the Cuban government or anti-Castro Cubans in this country, or elements of organized crime?  Perhaps.  Was he a patsy, as he claimed?  I doubt it.  Useful idiot?  This fits better to me.

Sidebar: When I lived in St Pete, Florida in 1992, I researched the Tampa gangster of Cuban descent, Santo Trafficante, who seemed as if he might be the link between the nebulous "parties with motive" most often mentioned... along with the CIA and the military/generals/MIC.  I had a personal connection for this interest: my wife's older brother -- born in Cuba like her, and emigrated to the US in 1961 as a teenager with the rest of her family -- had been shot to death by Tampa police in 1976 while running guns for some disjointed segments of the Mafia (essentially petty hoodlums who knew mobsters) and we were caught up with pursuing clues about that.  Nothing significant came of it.

Despite whatever "encouragement" he might have received, did Oswald act alone when he shot the president?  Almost certainly.  And I would not have said that even five years ago, mostly on the basis of an afternoon-long conversation at a Beaumont crawfish boil with Zack Shelton, the retired FBI agent who runs this website.

There's a lot there, much of it probably new to the average conspiracy theorist, so don't go in without a full glass and maybe something to eat.

The subscription channel Reelz has a series running this month called "JFK: The Smoking Gun" and it's fun, particularly if you like the various medical forensics angles like the dispute over the autopsy photos and Kennedy's missing brain and things like that.

And if you have a spare hour-and-a-half, watch Executive Action, the 1973 flick with Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Will Geer, and several other character actors you'll recognize.  It follows the line that the CIA did it, and that is the only conspiracy theory that hasn't been properly debunked.

But the Warren Commission's conclusion is based on things that can no longer be reasonably disputed, namely...

-- The shots which killed Kennedy -- and wounded Texas Governor John Connally -- were fired from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository building.

-- They were fired from a rifle owned by Lee Harvey Oswald; Oswald worked in the school book depository, and carried with him to work on the day of the assassination a wrapped package he described as "curtain rods".

-- Oswald's fingerprints and palmprints were found on boxes in the location of the shooting (the TXSBD sixth-floor window) and his palmprint was found on the barrel of the rifle.

Conspiracy theorists are good at raising doubts about various portions of the Warren Commission account, but are also fairly poor at suggesting plausible alternatives to it.

I'm of the mind that a bonafide conspiracy exists today only in a few feverish minds (lots of people have reasonable enough doubts, but that just wouldn't be enough to acquit Oswald in a trial -- and away we go with the Ruby conspiracy theory).  And the main reason I can't ride in that car any more is that, if anyone actually had inside, verifiable information that there was a conspiracy of any kind... they would have cashed in by spilling the beans in a million-dollar tell-all book years ago.

People crave conspiracy theories and where one does not exist, one will be fabricated. Just look what happened with CBS and Benghazi.

Update: Socratic Gadfly, from the comments, has the best conspiracy theories.


Gadfly said...

Having lived in the Metroplex for years, and having been at Dealey Plaza even on one Nov. 22, it's fun watching the conspiracy nuts, especially when they try to "evangelize" each other as to why their theory is right and the other guy's is wrong.

Second, having won some shooting medals in high school, I know that I could have hit an unmoving target at that range without even using a scope, no sweat, and probably hit one moving as slow as the presidential limo, again, without a scope. In three dimensions, not just the two-dimensional length along the ground from the depository to the street, it's still 100 yards at most, or so.

Third, there have been 4 presidential assassinations in history. Lincoln by Booth, Garfield by Guiteau, McKinley by Czolgosz and JFK by Oswald. Booth was the only other assassin killed pre-trial, and after Oswald, the most conspiracy thinking has arisen about him.

Why? My theory is similarly troubled times, and a degree of presidential popularity (Lincoln's certainly on the rise with the wrapping up of the war) fueled the idea that only a conspiracy could have done this. (Well, technically, Booth had a conspiracy of his would be fellow assassins, who failed, but I mean, conspiracy as in GOP Radicals or Jeff Davis.)

Fourth, I've trumped the conspiracy nuts.

PDiddie said...

"it's fun watching the conspiracy nuts, especially when they try to evangelize each other as to why their theory is right and the other guy's is wrong."

Right. The one about the Secret Service agent in the trail car discharging his automatic rifle accidentally, causing the head wound... from the rear, when so many conspiracy theorists call that an exit wound.

I love Oliver Stone, especially "Untold History of the United States", but he seems closed-minded about the the evidence that has emerged since he made JFK.

Dr. J said...

My entire life I believed in conspiracy. Then about 5 years ago I visited the 6th Floor Museum. (A morbid space at best.) Such a haunting came over my body when I stepped into that space, that I can't really describe it. Except to say they should close that Museum and raise the building because something evil still lives there. When you look out from the snipers perch, you realize that a child with a BB gun could make those shots. There's a great documentary: Here you will learn about Oswald's first attempt to shoot someone in Texas and so much more chilling evidence against him. Check it out.

Gadfly said...

Dr. J, you raise the other issue. He'd already tried to kill Gen. Walker and damn near succeeded.