November 22, 1963. Death of a president. Birth of an industry.
There have been an estimated 40,000 books (seriously — this is an actual New York Times estimate) written about John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 2,000 of which deal with the assassination 50 years ago today. And in those 2,000 books, there are about half that many conspiracy theories.
I’m a bit of a low-level follower of the Kennedy assassination. I say low-level, because compared to people who have spent five decades obsessing over the event, I’m a minor leaguer. But I think I have a better-than-average knowledge of the assassination, and I feel quite confident that I can reveal here today, for all 12 readers of this blog, the definitive answer to the question Who Killed Kennedy?
Are you ready? Brace yourself, because here it comes.
The killer of John Fitzgerald Kennedy was … Lee Harvey Oswald.
Shocking, isn’t it?
Oh, there was a time when I was quite convinced that it had to be a conspiracy. I wasn’t sure who was behind it, or why, or how they did it, but it just HAD to be more than one pathetic nobody with a cheap rifle. I mean, three shots in eight seconds? One bullet went through both Kennedy AND Texas governor John Connelly? The way Kennedy’s head snapped backwards after getting hit in the back of the head? What are the odds that one guy could do so much damage without any help?
Well, as it turns out, the odds were pretty good. Despite assassination skeptics pointing the finger are everyone except (I hope) Jackie Kennedy (the newest theory, and I swear I am not making this up, is that a Secret Service agent accidentally killed Kennedy in the panic after the first shots were fired), there is still not one genuinely compelling case built around anyone but Oswald.
Was it the CIA? I’ve read accounts of those who believe the CIA was involved who say that literally hundreds of people know of the CIA plot — yet no one has stepped forward and confessed. And if you were the CIA and wanted to kill Kennedy, surely you could do it a lot more covert (and certain) than shooting him in the head in full few of hundreds of witnesses.
Was it the military? Again, after 50 years, no confessions, no slip ups from anyone. Why would the military recruit a loose cannon like Oswald to commit the crime? And there is no doubt at all that Oswald fired the fatal shots.
Could it have been the Cubans? That theory has fallen from favour of late because, again, not one single real shred of evidence exists to link the Cubans (either anti-Castro or pro-Castro, depending on which conspiracy you buy into) to the crime.
The Mafia? A better bet, I suppose. But the Mafia leaks like a sponge now, and again, no one has fessed up. And the Mafia may have been bloodthirsty, but they weren’t stupid. Killing a president would have been very bad for business.
Sorry, conspiracy buffs. The mere fact that there are dozens of conspiracy theories out there, all of which hang by the thinnest of threads, indicates that the Warren Commission report that Oswald acted alone was correct. He owned the gun that fired the bullets that killed the president. His prints were on the gun. He was in the book depository. He killed a cop after the assassination. He was a Marine-trained marksman. (Many years ago, I read a book called Case Closed, by Gerald Posner. In Case Closed, Posner examines every assassination, and simply destroys them all. I’ve never read a book that so completely changed my way of thinking. If you’re a conspiracy buff, read Case Closed.)
I know it seems hard to believe that Oswald could have done it. A lot of people simply don’t want to believe that something so horrible could happen so randomly. Many don’t want to believe that fate — or fluke, if you like — could be so cruel.
But as the saying goes — shit happens. Shit like the killing of the most important man in the world by one of the least important. No conspiracy. No helpers.