Dallas, Texas. November 22, 1963,12:30pm.
The hugely-popular 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and his wife Jacqueline, were touring the city in the final motorcade before the upcoming ’64 election. As the car turned down Elm Street, it slowly passed the waving crowds by the School Book Depository Building in Dealey Plaza.
What happened next is probably one of the most controversial and most often-debated pieces of modern political history.
According to the 1964 Warren Commission, three shots were then fired from the Depository Building, one fatally wounding the President, and another wounding the adjacent Governor of Texas. Half an hour later, Lee Harvey Oswald, a mysterious ex-marine who had spent several years in the Soviet Union was immediately arrested, and subsequently charged with the assassination.
Two days later, while in the custody of the police and declaring himself a ‘patsy’, Oswald was himself assassinated by Jack Ruby, a two-bit nightclub owner, who himself then died several years later of cancer before a proper trial could take place.
Almost immediately afterwards, alternative conspiracy theories began questioning almost every aspect of this report, and in some cases, for very good reasons. Now as many as 80% of Americans disbelieve the official account.
One of the reasons this incident remains one of the foremost conspiracy hotbeds is the secretive and often incompetent manner with which the US government handled the official reports. The first, by the Warren Commission, conducted the entire investigation in almost total secrecy. Its documents were then classified as non-releasable for 75 years for ‘national security’ purposes, lending weight to suspicion that something more underhand was going on.
The 1966 Freedom of Information Act forced this classification down to 25 years, and as such, many of the files have now been released. The report has since been heavily criticised for their employed techniques, important omissions, and lack of cooperation from certain important players – namely the intelligence bureaus. The eminent English academic Bertrand Russell wrote a scathing article on the Warren Report in 1964, asking sixteen fundamental questions on the assassination which the Commission had failed to answer, including:
Why were all the members of the Warren Commission closely connected with the U.S. Government?
If the Government is so certain of its case, why has it conducted all its inquiries in the strictest secrecy?
If, as we are told, Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin, where is the issue of national security?
The most bizarre complication of the ‘National Security’ rhetoric in this whole saga is that whilst Oswald was in the Soviet Union, he publicly defected and even potentially leaked military secrets. Yet on his request to return to the USA several years later – with his new Russian bride Marina – he was granted a new passport and several hundred dollars for travelling expenses. Surely an odd way to treat the all-important National Security suspect at the apex of the Cold War? Many more oddities cloak Oswald’s true past. Even today, Oswald’s tax returns are still classified documents, begging the question: why would a mere lone “madman’s” tax returns need to remain top secret? This has only spawned yet more controversy, and as the late, great comedian Bill Hicks put it in 1994;
“I love talking about the Kennedy assassination because it’s a great example of a totalitarian government’s ability to manage information and thus keep us in the dark.”
As such, several follow-up reports have since been demanded. Interestingly, the most recent US government report, the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that the Warren Commission Report had been flawed. It went on to suggest that a fourth shot had been fired by another unknown assassin, probably from a hidden vantage point on the now infamous ‘Grassy Knoll’. Although the evidence for the fourth shot has since been contested by the National Academy of Science, bizarrely, the US government has not deemed it relevant to investigate who that potential other conspirator might be.
Like a game of Cluedo, the range of potential conspirators put forward by theorists are many; from the KGB, to mysterious international elites, the Mafia to the CIA, Fidel Castro to the US Military, and so on. The most prevalent theory details a conspiracy by Lyndon B. Johnson (the understudy Democratic candidate who succeeded as President following the assassination) Richard Nixon (LBJ’s Vice, then President himself), E. Howard Hunt (a corrupt CIA operative) and J. Edgar Hoover (the infamous head of the FBI).
The theory stipulates that JFK had plans to break up the power of the CIA, pull out of Vietnam and had more diplomatic tendencies towards the Soviet Union and Cuba (JFK has unfairly been blamed for the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion). This supposedly enraged a clandestine right-wing elite – with acute business interests in the war – so much so, that they decided to act for self-elected reasons of ‘national security’ and staged a coup d’etat.
Theorists point towards JFK’s famous speech ‘The President and the Media’ as evidence of his knowledge about such elusive ‘men behind the curtain’, and as outlining his plans to neutralise such groups. Others say he was merely alluding to Communist Russia – not entirely unfamiliar territory to US Presidents during the Cold War. However, to support their case, the theorists cite Jack Ruby’s brief televised interview in which he stated:
“Everything pertaining to what’s happening has never come to the surface. The world will never know the true facts of what occurred, my motives. The people who had so much to gain, and had such an ulterior motive for putting me in the position I’m in, will never let the true facts come above board to the world.”
Reporter: “Are these people in very high positions Jack?” “
The confessions of a conspiracy, or the ramblings of a mad man?
Dallas Deputy Sheriff Al Maddox claimed that Ruby had told him that it was a conspiracy and that Ruby believed that the government had ‘injected him’ with cancer cells to silence him, although on his death bed Jack repealed and wrote, ‘there was no conspiracy. There was just me.’
What seems to be certain is that the assassination could not have been orchestrated by a single lone assassin, as fundamentally, the type of sniper rifle that Oswald was accused of using could not fire three shots in six seconds. One of the most circulated videos on the assassination is the supposed ‘standing-down’ of the President’s bodyguards as his car enters Dealey Plaza, thus bizarrely allowing an entirely unobstructed shot.
Recently, new indirect evidence has come to light in a 2006 BBC Newsnight investigation concerning the similarly-infamous assassination of JFK’s brother, Robert Kennedy, whilst he was challenging Richard Nixon for the presidency in 1968 on a strong anti-war platform. The official version is that the assassination was carried out by another ‘crazed lone gunman’, Sirhan Sirhan the 24-year old Palestinian was later arrested and charged on the basis of having an ‘incriminating notebook’ in his apartment (he’s still in jail and repeatedly denied parole). However, under hypnosis Sirhan Sirhan had no recollection of the killing
The new evidence – a video recording – shows three CIA agents in the hotel RFK was assassinated in, immediately before, and after the shooting. All of the agents have been named, and were part of a secret anti-Castro operation in Miami called JMWAVE in the 1960s. One of the CIA agents, David Morales – the head of JMWAVE Operations – is quoted as saying;
“I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard.”
This has sparked a second wind from the conspiracy theorists, and as such a new documentary about the JFK assassination by broadcaster Alex Jones has just been released. This comes on the back of the last mainstream instance of the conspiracy in popular culture; the 1991 Oliver Stone film ‘JFK‘. It captures the work of Jim Garrison, the only US district attorney to ever compile a full investigation and court appearance challenging the Warren Commission, including its ‘magic bullet’ theory (the official theory that one bullet reversed direction several times, causing no less than seven injuries), the supposed ‘echoes’ (bullet ‘echoes’ caused JFK’s head to turn several times), as well as the editing and rewriting of witnesses statements.
For me, researching into this conspiracy has illuminated the many problems with the nature of how we get our information these days. The primary source of information is often the internet, which is not exactly hard evidence either way, and it is often riddled with at best suppositions-as-facts, or at worst total fabrications. Likewise, digital images can easily be faked. The only way to get anywhere is to meticulously cross-reference, and trust ‘credible sources’. But when the establishment itself is convicted of foul-play, what sources can you really consider as ‘credible’?
What is needed is more hard evidence. Fortunately there are many people pursuing such causes, and in 2017, more of the JFK files – such as the aforementioned Oswald tax return, are scheduled to be released.
My view is that there appears to be so many inconsistencies in the official reports that there must have been some form of foul-play by a syndicate of corrupt parties within the highest levels of the US government. If the government was involved, it thus has two options: forge the 2017 documents and deny any involvement forever, or, come clean.
Although accepting responsibility 50 years on may seem like a simple act, the implications would be vast: it’d hugely undermine the entire US political system and security services (rightfully), they’d also have to accept that a fascist coup d’etat was staged in their own country at the very moment they were forcibly ‘promoting democracy’ worldwide, and it’d also add a lot more credibility to conspiracy theorists in general – namely those who are calling for a new investigation into 9/11.
However, as it almost seems that as truth will out in the end, the current US strategy seems to be to let it slowly trickle out – to mitigate an instantaneous national shock. In twenty years or so, when everybody involved with the assassination is long gone, involvement from whatever organisations and groups may finally be publicly admitted, but with the addendum that, ‘hey, but we’re a totally different bunch now.’