Lee Harvey was a friend of mine
He used to take me fishin' all the time
He used to throw the ball to me
When I was just a kid
They say he shot the President
I don't think he did
-- song "Lee Harvey" by M. Henderson
As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, there is a glut of documentary programming on television in the United States this week about that fateful day in Dallas. After catching parts of two programs last night, Peter Jennings Reporting -- The Kennedy Assassination: Beyond The Conspiracy and Frontline: Who was Lee Harvey Oswald? , it was refreshing to see several hours of detailed interviews and analysis devoted to the premise that Lee Harvey Oswald did act alone.
Now I suppose I should be very clear about my personal and ideological preferences on the subject. I tend to believe that Oswald acted alone... it wasn't the CIA, or Lyndon Johnson, or Texas Oil Men, or the Pentagon, or the Cubans, or the Soviets, or the Mob, or what-have-you. I know that lone gunman theories are not particularly glamorous, especially when it comes to explaining the martyrdom of a man who became hero to a generation. Lee Harvey, however, was a nut -- the kind of person they now talk about blowing up buildings in Oklahoma, bringing guns to high school in Colorado, or having explosives in his bedroom in California. He also was a nut with sharpshooter skills taught to him by the U.S. Marines. Very dangerous.
If, through some stretch of the imagination, it did prove to be a conspiracy, I would say it was the Mob. Certainly favors were granted to get Kennedy elected in certain key districts in Chicago during a VERY close election, and they were repaid by a Mafia manhunt from Bobby Kennedy. That an assassination would follow is a typical bit of Mafia logic; kill the boss of the rival gang and get them off your back.
We can talk specifics all day and all night, but, I think the ultimate reasons for a lone gunman are twofold. First, I don't think there can be any real dispute that Lee Harvey was there with a gun. The Warren Commission found that. The House Select Committee on Assassinations found that. His fingerprints were on the boxes in the sniper's nest at the Book Depository, and on the rifle found nearby. The final head shot was made at only 88 yards, when his Marine training made him expert at shooting up to about 210 yards. Experts both foreign (including the KGB) and domestic have shown that he could make the shots in the time allotted. He killed a Dallas police officer after the fact -- hardly the actions of an innocent man.
The only remaining question then is was there anyone else doing the shooting? Was it, as Oliver Stone suggests in JFK, a professional execution? I think part of the answer has to be no, because after 40 years of EXHAUSTIVE trying, there is no conclusive smoking gun. Get conspiracy theorists in the room, and you'll get nearly as many shooters and organizations behind the assassination as you have people. After multiple government scandals, the end of the Cold War, and the defection of many high level operatives in the Mafia, no one has come forward with any physical evidence to substantiate a second shooter. Can such a conspiracy really remain hidden so well for so long? Wouldn't someone have to talk by now?
Now, what can you say about Oliver Stone's JFK? Well, it evidently plays fast and loose with the truth, according to nearly everyone except Oliver Stone. It takes a case, brought by New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (and let us remember how "incorruptable" New Orleans law enforcment is -- Warner Brothers once gave Jim Garrison a bribe to get the Grateful Dead out of jail), and uses it as a platform for every major conspiracy theory developed since the assassination. It does so, interleaving real footage and made-for-movie footage and interleaving hard fact and fiction in a way that heightens drama. Mr. Stone may believe it to be the truth, but it is not, by any stretch of imagination, up to documentary standards. If it was a newpaper story, it would closer to a National Enquirer article in terms of its factual standards than, say, the New York Times. I should add, however, that I have never seen the film all the way through -- the fact that Mr. Stone attempted offer it to schools for free as "truth" sickens me too much to watch it.
No, for me the most compelling evidence related to Lee Harvey Oswald is the testimony of his brother. His brother essentially says that if he had a single doubt about his brother pulling the trigger and felt that Lee Harvey was actually innocent, he would be out there screaming it from the rooftops. He isn't.
There also were two tragedies in Dallas that weekend. That Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy, everyone knows. What most people forget is that Lee Harvey Oswald was held without specific charge and intensively questioned for over 48 hours without benefit of having a lawyer present at all. It just shows yet again that the U.S. Constitution goes out the window whenever the chips are really down.
on 2003-11-21 at 7:23 a.m.
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