I was 16 years old when John F Kennedy was assassinated. Like just about everyone else, I assumed Lee Harvey Oswald did the deed because the US government, FBI, CIA and Secret Service all said he did. Yet, even at sixteen, I smelled some kind of rat when Jack Ruby shot Oswald on national TV and in a police station. It seemed more like a movie script than real life.
Over the next few decades all kinds of theories abounded about who killed JFK and why? Some said the Cubans got him out of revenge for hanging them out to dry at Bay of Pigs. Others claimed the CIA iced him because he had plans to smash the Agency into a million bits. A third theory involved the White House, Texas oilmen and the military, but more of that later. The one I favoured, however, was the Mob scenario. It seemed to make the most sense to my young, impressionable mind. According to that particular conspiracy theory, the Mob were hell bent on stopping Attorney-General Bobby Kennedy in his tracks before he could use the Justice Department to crack down even harder on organized crime. At a time when J Edgar Hoover and the FBI refused to acknowledge even the existence of the Mafia, Bobby was all over them like one of their own cheap suits. He was especially severe on Teamster’s Union President Jimmy Hoffa, and if he nailed him, then many millions of teamsters pension funds would no longer be available to the crime families.
President John F Kennedy
The Mob bosses knew, however, that if they knocked off the Attorney-General, his brother would use all his power as President to avenge him. But if they killed the president, Bobby would no longer have a job. After all, Lyndon Johnson was Vice-President, and he utterly detested both Kennedys. He also knew that moves were afoot to remove him from the Vice-Presidency. Once he got the top job, therefore, it would only be a matter of time before he showed Bobby the door. The problem with this theory was a glaring one. The Mob were just not capable of handling the cover-up. Whoever killed Kennedy would need the power and resources to initiate a number of operations, and the only people able to do that were the government, the military, and law enforcement agencies such as the CIA, FBI and the Secret Service. Individuals from all these structures would be needed if an assasination plan and successful cover-up were to be implemented. The following steps would be essential:
- Redirect the President’s motorcade into the ‘killing zone’.
- Ensure that the mandatory extra security people were not present.
- Bungle the police investigation.
- Bungle the autopsy.
- Plant and remove evidence as required.
- Set up a ‘patsy’ (Oswald).
- Silence him before he could incriminate anyone.
- Falsify testimony gathered for the Warren Commission Report.
The Mob could never do all this. Neither could the Cubans, of course, even though both groups desperately wanted him dead for their own reasons. But why then would the establishment want him out of the way? What possible motive could they have for killing the President of the United States? Boiled down to basics, the answer is simple enough. Money. Lots of it. America’s very existence revolved around a war economy. It still does. Kennedy had already demonstrated that he would never go to war with Cuba, and the joint chiefs hated him for it. They considered him soft. He was also working on defusing the Cold War with the Soviet Union. And that was a massive money-spinner. But the straw that broke the camel’s back, the one that got him killed, was his public promise that, in his second term as president, he would see the US withdraw from the Vietnam conflict completely. America on a war footing was worth hundreds of billions of dollars to big business, yet here he was promising peace, peace with Cuba, peace with the Soviets and peace in South-East Asia. He simply had to go. Significantly, one of LBJ’s first acts as his successor was to greatly increase America’s involvement in Vietnam.
Lyndon Johnson being sworn in aboard Air Force 1
Whenever any discussion comes up about an assassination conspiracy, sooner or later a certain hoary old chestnut is bound to surface: ‘If it was a conspiracy involving all these people, surely someone would have spilled the beans by now. After all, it has been over fifty years. Someone would have talked.’ On the surface, that sounds like a reasonable assumption, but we are talking about a ‘military ambush’ here, a covert military operation in which three factors predominated. First of all, individuals trained and conditioned to follow orders do just that, without question. If, (as happened), a police captain of 30 years’ experience is told by a superior to interrogate Oswald for twelve hours without a lawyer being present, without a stenographer being present, and without taking notes of any kind, then he does so. He is following orders, even though he must know that anything his prisoner says in those twelve hours will be inadmissible in a courtroom. No lawyer, no stenographer, no notes, no point in even talking to the man. If someone of rank tells a lower rank to let the president’s limmo travel with the top down, then it travels with the top down. If a surgeon is told by the chief surgeon not to bother with autopsy notes, then he does as he is told or finds another job. This kind of thing happened in dozens of instances in Dallas that day.
The second factor: Only a handful of people at the very top ever know the whole plan. Everyone else in a major conspiracy is only involved in their little piece of it. Unless one of the principals has a sudden change of heart, we can only surmise the overall plan and take educated guesses at who might be responsible and why. Back on December 31, 1963, nine days after the shooting, Lyndon Johnson told his long-time mistress (one of them, anyway), a woman named Madeleine Brown, that JFK was killed by ‘Dallas, TX, oil executives, and renegade intelligence agents’. He later told his chief of staff Marvin Watson that ‘the CIA was involved’ as well. The Russians believed Texan oilmen had Kennedy killed. The Cubans thought so too. Nixon himself was quoted as saying, ‘Both Johnson and I wanted to be president, but the only difference was I wouldn’t kill for it.’ Even Barry Goldwater told people in 1973 that he was convinced LBJ was behind the killing. On the very eve of the assassination, the Vice-President was literally within hours of being charged with corruption by the Senate. A committee was investigating him over kickbacks and shady dealings that had seen him pocket millions. His sudden elevation to the presidency the next day ended the enquiry into his illegal activities. Examine his thoroughly corrupt past and you will find he was accused (back in 1948) of involvement in at least one murder, possibly two. The man had no scruples and ruthlessly went after whatever he wanted.
President & Vice-President
Factor three: As the years roll by, the chances of anyone learning the whole story never increase – they diminish. Why? For several reasons really. Because people die. Witnesses die. Some are even eliminated if necessary. Everybody involved gets older, more cautious, more timid. Their memories begin to fade or start playing tricks on them. Investigators tire of chasing shadows, of reaching the same dead-ends. The masterminds at the top are even more insulated than ever. They become untouchable. Time is their friend, not their enemy. Almost as if to ensure the truth never surfaces, anyone attempting to dig too deep for it is promptly labeled a ‘conspiracy freak’, a tag that not only damages the individual’s credibility, but emboldens those under investigation to gleefully thumb their noses at questions, refusing to treat them seriously. The days of killing troublesome investigators are long gone. These days, it is much easier (and more effective) to destroy their credibility, their reputations.
Jack Ruby murdering Lee Harvey Oswald in the Dallas Police Station
Oliver Stone’s movie JFK (1991), has been hauled over the coals for years. By its very nature it is compelled to speculate, to draw conclusions, to surmise. But that does not mean it falsifies what we already know. All the evidence presented in the movie is authentic enough. He just draws conclusions from that evidence. It is these conclusions that attract the most flack, because he accuses the nation’s iconic institutions – the FBI, CIA, the Secret Service and the White House – of conspiracy to murder. He even states openly that the two men to profit most from the assassination were the incumbant president at the time, Lyndon Johnson, and his successor Richard Nixon. And Americans took umbrage at those words. The mere fact that Johnson knew about the conspirator’s intentions proves his involvement at some level. Why did he not take steps to halt it or at least warn the president? Because he was a party of the plot. History books will tell you that he got the vice-presidential nod from Kennedy because he brought the South with him, but the real reason is far more sinister. He had all kinds of proof (supplied by his close pal, J Edgar Hoover), of JFK’s rampant womanising, and he threatened to make it all public if he was not named on the ticket as VP. Kennedy was only 43. He was scarcely going to die in office, he told Bobby. So he bowed to the blackmail threat and Johnson suddenly found himself a heartbeat away from the White House.
For a conspiracy to take place a solitary requirement is necessary; the involvement of two or more persons. The Warren Commission categorically stated that Lee Harvey Oswald, by personally firing all three shots, acted alone in killing the President. There was no conspiracy, the report said. For that conclusion to be true, Oswald had to have been able to fire all three shots in just 5.6 seconds. The Zapruder film accurately demonstrated the time frame involved. Expert marksmen, some of the army’s best shooters, were physically unable to fire three shots in that time using the rifle Oswald supposedly used to kill the president. The best they could do was about 7 seconds, but that was without taking aim at all. Consequently, they could not hit their targets at all. According to the Commission, Oswald scored three hits out of three, including a fatal head shot. Not possible. There had to be another shooter, and that made the assassination a conspiracy.
It has since been ascertained that no fewer than six shots were fired that day:
Shot 1: Missed the car completely.
Shot 2: Hit JFK in the throat from the front.
Shot 3: Hit him in the back.
Shot 4: Missed him and hit Governor Connally in the back.
Shot 5: Missed the car and hit James Teague standing near the underpass.
Shot 6: Hit JFK in the head from the front, causing him to lurch back and to the left.
Prosecutor Jim Garrison ascertained there were three teams involved in the assassination:
Team 1: A shooter and radioman, were on the 6th floor of the Book Depository.
Team 2: A shooter and radioman were on the lower floor of the DAL-TEX Building.
Team 3: A shooter and lookout were behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll.
There were also men stationed in the Elm Street crowd as lookouts and signallers, their job being to give the ‘green light’ or an ‘abort’ signal to the shooters. Perhaps, as many as 12 people in all were directly involved.
Oswald holding the rifle. Experts say the photo was ‘doctored’.
And where was Oswald at this time? The shooting took place at 12.30pm. At 12.15pm he was seen by a secretary named Carol Arnold in the second floor lunchroom eating his lunch. Bearing in mind that the presidential motorcade was about 10 minutes behind schedule, and that he had no way of knowing that, it is scarcely believable that he would be having lunch four floors beneath his designated shooting nest when the motorcade might appear at any moment! At 12.20pm Bonnie Ray Williams was on the 6th floor finishing his lunch – and saw nobody. He finished eating and walked downstairs. Just before 12.30pm, Arnold Rowlands (and others) glanced up at the 6th floor and saw two men at the open windows. Less than 90 seconds after the shooting, Patrolman Marrion Baker, accompanied by one of Oswald’s bosses, saw Oswald, still in the 2nd floor lunchroom.
According to the Warren Commission, Oswald fired three shots from the 6th floor window, all three of which were hits, and all of them fired from his bolt-action rifle inside 5.6 seconds, a physical impossibility. He then left three cartridges lying side by side on the floor, before crossing to the other side of the loft and hiding the weapon among some cartons. He then raced down five flights of stairs, supposedly passing Victoria Adams and Sandra Styles on the way. They testified they were also coming down those stairs at the same time, but did not see him. He got to the 2nd floor lunchroom just as Patrolman Marrion Baker saw him. Baker said he looked cool and calm, and definitely not out of breath in any way. Yet, if we believe the Warren Commission Report, he should have been gasping for air, because all this is supposed to have happened within 90 seconds of the shootings, if the report is to be believed. If Oswald was indeed the shooter, then we would expect him to leave the building by the nearest exit, and as fast as he could, before the police sealed it off. But he didn’t. Instead, he stopped at a vending machine on the 2nd floor and purchased a Coke. Then he casually walked past a Mrs Reid on the ground floor, before strolling out the farthest door, the main door in fact, and into a crowd of policemen about to enter the building. These are not the actions of a man who has just assassinated the President of the United States.
Oswald then hurried home, donned a jacket, put a .38 in his pocket, and headed outside. A car rolled by, honked its horn twice, then drove off. A signal perhaps? It was 1.04pm according to a witness. Between 1.10 and 1.15pm Officer Tippitt was gunned down in the street a mile away. Did Oswald cover that mile in 6 to 11 minutes, shoot the man, and then reverse direction and walk 3/5 of a mile to the Texas Theatre? The Warren Commission Report says he did. Two witnesses to Tippitt’s murder refused to identify Oswald as his killer, yet neither was asked to attend a line-up, not then, not ever. An Officer Poe attended the murder scene and put his initials on the shell casings near Tippit’s body. The Warren Commission later showed him shell casings, supposedly from Oswald’s gun, telling him they were the same ones he had found next to the dead officer’s body, but Poe’s initials were not on them. These were different shells, he said.
At 12.44pm, just fourteen minutes after the assassination, Dallas police put out a description of the president’s assassin. It matched Oswald’s size and build. In the course of that day, the Dallas police would apprehend over a dozen individuals near the grassy knoll and at the railway lines. A lot of these individuals flashed Secret Service credentials and were let go at once, yet the Secret Service swore all its agents in Dallas were accounted for, and none had been near Dealy Plaza or the knoll at any time, before or after the shooting. Those men apprehended who did not have SS credentials were taken downtown, interviewed, then released without any notes taken of the interviews. Don’t forget, we are dealing with the assassination of the president here. How could this happen unless it was allowed to happen? Within minutes of Oswald entering the Texas Theatre (without purchasing a ticket), thirty policemen in patrol cars descended on the building. The cashier had called them to report a patron refusing to pay his 75 cents for a ticket! Suddenly, the Dallas Police Force has become ultra-efficient. A large crowd gathered outside the cinema and jeered Oswald as he was loaded into a police car and taken downtown. By next morning he had been charged with killing the President. Later that morning, strip club owner Jack Ruby, an acquaintance of most of the Dallas police who frequented his club, was allowed into the station cellar as Oswald was being led through. He did not want Jackie Kennedy to have to face the ordeal of testifying at Oswald’s trial, he claimed later, so he shot Lee Oswald to death in front of the whole world.
At the conclusion of JFK, Jim Garrison quotes Nazi leader Adolf Hitler: ‘The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.’ It is difficult today to understand why so many people believed Oswald acted alone. He certainly knew of the plot, even expected to be involved in it, so he was never squeaky clean. But he had no idea (at first) that he was to be the fall guy. By the time it dawned on him (sometime during his sojourn in the Dallas lock-up), his fate had already been sealed. In fact, it was sealed from the very beginning. He just didn’t know it. There are 51 CIA documents relating to Oswald and Ruby. In the ‘interests of national security’ they are locked away until 2038. Will they then be released to the public? My guess? Probably not.