Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, yet after all of these years, there are still many questions about his death. Did Oswald act alone? How could one man fire three bullets from the bolt-action rifle in such a short time when no other marksman has been able to duplicate that feat? How could the so-called “magic” bullet do so much damage and not be fragmented or even misshapen? Why did so many observers turn to the grassy knoll following the shots? Why did those in front of the rail yard hit the ground, convinced that shots were fired from behind them? Who were the people behind the fence in the rail yard? How could a portion of Kennedy’s skull fly backwards from a shot that entered the back of his skull? How was a visitor to the Dallas Police station allowed to shoot and kill Oswald?
The Warren Commission that investigated the assassination did not have answers to many of the questions, and many of the answers it did have stretched credulity. Is it any wonder that so many people still question the Commission’s conclusions so many years later?
As a senior in high school, I was sitting in math class when Kennedy was shot. When the teacher announced the news, I reacted badly because I thought he was joking. After learning that he wasn’t, I followed the unfolding story as closely as I could. I read most of the reports and books that were spawned by the assassination, including the report by Warren Commission. The most interesting of them was Rush To Judgment by Mark Lane. Lane detailed much of the key testimony from the Warren Commission. He pointed out the flaws in the Commission’s conclusions. More interestingly, he detailed testimony of witnesses who were not interviewed. And he chronicled the overwhelming number of suspicious deaths of witnesses and others involved in the months following the assassinations.
Some of the information in the book may have been flawed, but it convinced me that there is far more to the story than we were told.
In the ensuing years, there have been many attempts to debunk any and every conspiracy theory. Forensic scientists have tried to explain the “magic” bullet. They have tried to explain the contradiction that is the Zapruder film and the questions surrounding Kennedy’s autopsy. Government authorities have dismissed Oswald’s and Ruby’s mafia ties. They have dismissed Oswald’s apparent ties to the CIA. They have dismissed Oswald’s denial of guilt. They never fully explained Ruby’s motives.
There have been numerous official investigations into the assassination over the years. A number of those involved, such as former Senator and presidential candidate, Gary Hart, were unconvinced that Oswald acted alone. Indeed, Hart who served as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Agencies said that the Warren Commission failed to follow numerous leads; that the Warren Commission failed to fully investigate the CIA-Mafia connection.The Warren Commission’s failure to do so is nothing less than astounding.
To understand why, you have to realize that, just a few years before Kennedy’s election, Fidel Castro led a revolution to overthrow the Cuban dictator and to rid the island of the mafia which had long controlled Cuba’s casino business and other criminal enterprises. The mafia was determined to get their island back. At the same time, the CIA was threatened by a communist government so close to our shores. There was a belief that communism was like a spreading plague that would infect every capitalistic government…the so-called “Domino” theory.
Moreover, the CIA, under Allen Dulles, had a long history of orchestrating coups to remove world leaders it considered a threat. The CIA had conducted several attempts on Castro’s life that involved the mafia. Yet the Warren investigation essentially ignored the connections between Oswald and the CIA, the connections between Ruby and Oswald, and the connections between Ruby, Oswald and the mafia. The failure to do so left a lot of gaps in the Warren Report…especially since JFK’s policies had made powerful enemies within the CIA, the mafia, even the military.
Following the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy had developed a relationship with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. This made him unpopular with both the CIA and US military leaders. Kennedy had also extended an olive branch to Castro. (At the time of his assassination, an envoy from Kennedy was meeting with Castro.) Further, the mafia felt betrayed when JFK and his brother, Robert, embarked on an initiative to destroy organized crime. As a result, Carlos Marcello, the Louisiana mafia boss who controlled much of the crime in the Southeast, made several threats against JFK. He later took credit for having Kennedy killed while serving time in prison.
Add to this Gary Hart’s revelations that, while his Senate committee was investigating the assassination, two of the key witnesses from the mafia were murdered and there is even more reason to suspect a conspiracy. Indeed, Hart told the Huffington Post, “You don’t have to be a genius to believe that they knew something about the coincidence of events — Cuba, Mafia, CIA and Kennedy — that somebody didn’t want that out in the public 12 years later.”
We likely will never know the whole story of the Kennedy assassination. And, unfortunately, we’ll never know what the world would be like had JFK and RFK been allowed to finish their service to our country and to live out their lives. I, for one, believe that the world would be a much better place. In his short time as president, JFK inspired many young people to service. He inspired us to literally reach for the moon. And he reassured our faith in government by leading us through the Cuban missile, working to end the Cold War and beginning the process to end racial discrimination.
Ironically, the failures of the Warren Commission and the government agencies investigating his death, have caused many who were alive at that time to distrust the government. That’s one legacy that Kennedy and his family would abhor.