Tuesday 22 November 2011

Welcome to Dallas, Mr. Kennedy

I was sitting in a Grade 9 history class back in 1981.  My teacher was drawing stick figures on the blackboard (I didn't say he taught art) with arrows pointing up, down, forwards, backwards and diagonally.  He was rhyming off names, dates, facts and figures.  My eyes were glued to the blackboard; my ears were trained on his every word.  I was hooked:  Who shot President John F. Kennedy? 

Photo courtesy http://images.veer.com.

Most of us can remember what we were doing and where we were on September 11, 2001 when the terrorist attacks took place in New York City and Washington D.C.?  Well, for my parents' generation, most people could recount their whereabouts on November 22, 1963 when the President was shot in Dallas, Texas.  And in the coming years, there would be multiple books written about the assassination, two official investigations (1964 and 1978) and many conspiracy theories.

Photo of President Kennedy & Jacqueline Kennedy in limousine at time of first shot courtesy http://socy.berty.com.

Why was Kennedy's death a conspiracy? If you look at the cases of the other assissinated Presidents, each case seemed to be open and shut. When Abraham Lincoln was killed, many witnesses in Ford's theatre saw John Wilkes Booth shoot the President. When James Garfield was shot at a Washington D.C. railroad station, again, many witnesses saw it take place. Similarly, when William McKinley was killed in Buffalo at the Pan-American Exposition, many witnesses watched it happen. However, when John F. Kennedy was killed riding in his motorcade past Dealey Plaza in Dallas, no one actually saw Lee Harvey Oswald pull the trigger. He was allegedly hidden in a window on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, but no one could be sure.

Photo of Texas School Book Depository (sixth floor) courtesy http://02JFKsnipernest.jpg.

From the moment I sat in that history class, I would devour every book I could get my hands on about the assassination. For at least 10 years straight, I lived, ate and breathed the topic. I couldn't get enough of the mystery.  The more I read, the more convinced I was that the official Warren Report, which claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, shooting the President from the Texas School Book Depository, was false.  The Warren Report was a hastily prepared document that pinned the blame exclusively on Oswald.  Much of the information was irrelevant including Jack Ruby's mother's dental records.  (Read Rush to Judgement by Mark Lane.)

The first book I bought on the topic was Best Evidence by David S. Lifton, a thick paperback full of information and photographs. It presented all of the circumstantial evidence as well as all of the theories formulated about the case. Critics claimed that the President's wounds were not consistent with the number of shots fired that day. Those who supported the Warren Report claimed that there were three shots fired, one going through both Kennedy's neck and Governor Connelly's back, chest wrist and thigh and then exiting in pristine condition; the other hitting Kennedy in the back of his skull. The third bullet did not hit anyone but ricocheted off of the curb.  Critics maintained that such a bullet would be battered.  They claimed that there must have been a fourth bullet.  However, Oswald would have not been able to fire off four bullets that quickly; therefore, there must have been a second shooter.  Also, the President's wounds were not consistent with the location of the sniper's nest at the Texas School Book Depository. Apparently, immediately after the shots were fired, many spectators ran towards the grassy knoll where they saw smoke rising into the air, consistent with a rifle being fired.   The grassy knoll was ahead of the motorcade rather than behind it like the Book Depository.  Some witnesses claimed that the President's head was knocked backwards, not forwards, with the first shot.  Critics maintained that there must have been a second shooter positioned behind the fence by the grassy knoll.

Photo of the grassy knoll across from Dealey Plaza courtesy http://jfkmurdersolved.com.

We do know that John F. Kennedy had made a lot of enemies in his 1000 days as President and in the six months leading up to his November 1963 Dallas visit, he had had 400 death threats.  Who would have the power and the means and the motive to commit an assassination?

Photo of full page ad in The Dallas Morning News dated November 22 courtesy http://jfkadhate.jpg.

Some point the finger at the Mafia.  Within two days of the assassination, as Oswald was being transported from the Dallas Jail to another jail, he was shot by Jack Ruby.  Although Ruby claimed that he committed the murder to spare Mrs. Kennedy the trauma of testifying at the trial, he did not seem like the altruistic type, given the fact that he ran a strip club and had connections to the Mafia.  Rather, it seemed like Oswald was being silenced so that the real killer could be protected.  Why would the Mafia want to eliminate J.F.K.?  There is some evidence suggesting that Mafioso Sam Giancana tampered with votes in Chicago, Illinois during the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon election, which was a nail-biter, to guarantee Kennedy the presidency.  However, once in office John's brother, Robert, went after the Mafia.  Were Ruby's actions the result of a hit ordered by the mob?  We may never know since some of the documents pertaining to J.F.K.'s assassination are sealed until the year 2033.  (Read Mafia Kingfish:  Carlos Marcello and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy by John H. Davis.)

Photo of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald at the Dallas Jail courtesy http://images.arcadja.com.

Another theory states that the C.I.A. orchestrated the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  The President seemed to have done a 180 degree turn regarding Cuba while in office.  He originally approved the Bay of Pigs invasion in attempt to overthrow Communist leader Fidel Castro, only to back away once the invaders were met with much resistance.  Not only were C.I.A. officials disappointed about this retreat but also Mafia leaders who wanted to get their Cuban casinos back.  John F. Kennedy might also have upset the C.I.A. when he announced that he would withdraw 1000 troops from Vietnam and get out completely by 1965.  (Read Coup d'Etat:  The CIA and the Assassination of JFK by Michael Canfiled and Alan Weberman.)

Photo courtesy http://peacebuttons.info.

Many rightwingers did not like Kennedy and Texas was full of rightwingers.  The President was a champion of civil rights and had signed bills promoting this cause to the consternation of those who wanted to keep the racist Jim Crow laws.  Furthermore, Kennedy's running mate, Lyndon B. Johnson, who was from Texas, was never his first choice and it was rumoured he would be dropped from the ticket in the 1964 re-election campaign.  (Read Death of a President by William Manchester.)

Photo of Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in as President aboard Air Force One courtesy http://ph.cdn.photos.upi.com.

With the revision of history, however, came the theories that stated J.F.K. really was killed by lone assassin Harvey Lee Oswald afterall.  My husband by this point had become interested in the subject and he read a lot of information online about this theory.  (Read Case Closed by Gerald Posner.)  However, I remained unconvinced.  If the case was so transparent, why hadn't the American government unsealed all of the files for public scrutiny? 

Photo of Lee Harvey Oswald holding the alleged murder weapon courtesy http://cache.gawker.com.

Now we are approaching the 50th anniversary of the assassination.  We still do not know who killed President John F. Kennedy.  Many of the witnesses who watched the parade on that sunny day, including Abraham Zapruder who filmed it with an old black and white camera on a tripod, have since passed away.  We may never know who committed the crime.  But there will always be doubt in my mind that Oswald acted alone.  And it all started with stick figures drawn on a blackboard by a teacher who knew how to bring history to life.  Thank you, Dr. Cooke!

Photo courtesy www.freemasoninformation.com.

1 comment:

  1. You should read Vincent Bugliosi and Gerald Posner's books on the assassination.