As I have delved into this I am not so much interested in the multiple phantom shooters laying down crossfire in Dealey Plaza, or the loser that gets lucky with two out of three shots, to an interest in how both sides, conspiracy and non, arrive at their conclusions. Both sides run down the same rabbit trails seeing different things, or missing them entirely. For me, the truth must lie somewhere in the middle.
Ultimately, we all see what we want to see as Vince Bugliosi does in Reclaiming History, where he accuses Nellie Connelly of having a faulty memory of the shooting sequence. Never mind that the Zapruder film verifies her testimony and that of her husband, John. To their dying day, both said that all three shots hit their targets—Kennedy first, then Connelly, then Kennedy last. In the mind of the Bugliosi’s out there, that first shot has to miss no matter what, because after all, that shot may indicate another shooter. That is the bullet that bounced off the curb at Commerce Street wounding James Tague on thee cheek. And never mind the bullet is passing 18 feet over Kennedy’s head, a sure sign that Oswald did not have the rifle pointing at his intended victim. Nowhere close. Surely, a dubious start for the former marine on his mission of infamy. But why? We’ll never know. Here, the conspiratorialist can lay claim to a second shooter. Of course it is laughable to assume a second gunman is going to be a bad a shot as Oswald is alleged to be. In ballistic terms it is a hell of a miss.
So herein lies the dilemma. The witnesses closest to the action have three shots fired at them and they know it as keenly as those close to death know it. But there is that other bullet that strikes the curb. Who do you believe? How do we resolve it?
The conspiracy believer says there is another unnamed shooter. The Warren Commission believer opts to ignore the witness testimony and go with the errant shot, bringing in the dubious Magic Bullet scenario—the bullet that does double duty wounding both Kennedy and Connelly.
And neither scenario is any good, leaving one with a sense of unfinished business. It is to accept one and deny the other, even when it is burning a hole in your head. And no, I don’t have an answer. I’ll post it if I ever do.
The conspiracy crowd tends to treat Oswald as the “innocent” patsy framed for the crime. As much as I love Jim Mars book Crossfire, he never addresses Oswald’s guilt when he lies to the police numerous times denying even the simple things, or his attempt to kill a police officer in the movie theater. All of these are the actions of a mind with a murderous intent. Also, Oswald’s path and timeline goes put him on a collision course with slain policeman Tippit, though the conspiratorialist believes him to be framed for this crime. Mars does not even suggest that Oswald may have been an accomplice to the crimes.
On the other hand, the Lone Nut crowd, offended at the notion of a conspiracy—will not have any sub conspiracies for side dishes either. In their worldview Oswald is an outsider incapable of fitting in, yet there is plenty of evidence to point him being just the opposite. He did join the Marines after all, hardly an anti social act. He was in the Civil Air Patrol as teenager. Pictures of him in Minsk show him laughing and enjoying himself at parties with the lovely Marina.
The sticky part is Oswald’s motivation to do the crime. He is not like Sirhan Sirhan with a notebook full of Robert Kennedy tirades. Oswald never speaks ill of Kennedy to anybody. Even his widow Marina says, to this very day, that Lee loved Kennedy. She now thinks he is innocent of the crime, and says that other groups were using him. Disappointedly, she will not say who those groups are but in our heart of hearts we know. The usual suspects. Just pick one out of the hat. The Cubans, the CIA, or the Mob. They all have more motivation to kill the President than Oswald ever did and everybody knows that.
Mind reading. The Warren Commission apologist’s notion of Oswald’s motivation is easily explainable once you try mind reading. A practice they are not embarrassed to practice. They place themselves in Oswald’s tormented psyche filled with delusions of grandeur, awful childhood memories, and constant failure at life. Norman Mailer claims to know Oswald, a man he never met, because he had studied his character in absolute detail and knows what his motivations are—delusions of greatness and fame, of course. It works for them like the crazy Magic Bullet does zig-zagging through space and time. If they would bend a little bit and bring Silvia Odio to the party they would have a more solid footing for motivation to kill Kennedy. But they cannot because Oswald is doing the unexpected. He is associating with an anti Castro group when he is pro Castro. Besides being a social butterfly. Speculation works here for them like the second shooter does for the conspiracy buff. It is still not tidy.
I guess I am not much of a conspiracy theorist. I’ve broken too many cardinal rules, two of which are Oswald being guilty and the cannon of the faith, the Grassy Knoll. I know, people heard shooting from there, they saw smoke, they smelled gun smoke. The angle is still off. A diversionary shooter maybe? What is his name? It probably does not matter because all that remains after the smoke clears (sorry) is the dilemma. The dilemma of so many witnesses (I’ve read over fifty) that experienced something that did not happen. And if it did, you have another shooter as lousy as Oswald is. How is that for a professional hit?
I guess I am not much of a “lone nut” theorist either. Oswald is more than he seems to be. He speaks Russian so well he can fool the locals with his regional accent, but flunks his language test before he gets there. He crafts an alias for himself, an Alek Hiddell. Then when he is arrested he has the alias ID card in his wallet along with another one with his real name on it. Dumb. When the police question him if he uses this alias he lies and says no. Even dumber. When he arrives in New Orleans and opens up a pro Castro support group, he is the only member. Then he goes about trying to help out anti Castro Cuban factions in town. He is fronting, obviously. But for whom? Whoever they are, they are not going to be admitting anything any time soon. Some have suggested he was playing “secret agent man” all by himself. That makes about as much sense as anything else making the rounds.
Richard Helms, former CIA director, and one of the foxes guarding the hen house, once said, “No one will ever know who or what Lee Harvey Oswald represented.” Except Helms of course, the ultimate insider and doer of dastardly deeds. Or, maybe he was revealing a tiny truth to us. That the Insiders did not really understand who Oswald was or how he slipped through. Whatever. It all lies buried in the ground now. They are all dead.
So I am wandering out in the no man’s land of this event. I want to believe in a conspiracy in the death of John Kennedy as much I want to believe in whatever crashed at Roswell came from intelligent life from outer space. We cannot have either. Evidence for both, if they happened the way the witnesses said, is locked up in a government warehouse along with the Ark that Indiana Jones found. And what an accurate metaphor that is for the current condition of the National Security State with its labyrinth of secrets.