An Introduction to JFK Conspiracy Theories

by Pat Anders

Since November 22 will mark the 30th anniversary of the slaying of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the nation is only weeks away from a media-sponsored wave of nostalgia that could eclipse even 1987's rerun of the summer of love. The cottage industry that endlessly theorizes about the "truth" behind Kennedy's death will battle the stodgy "Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone" establishment on a scale not seen since the 1991 release of the controversial film JFK.

So what's the big deal? Kennedy's murder is important because it branded the consciousness of the Bill Clinton/Oliver Stone generation so deeply that we can expect it to disappear into the realm of historical trivia only when that generation is itself trundled off to the nursing homes. Everyone loves a mystery. Despite volumes of evidence and reams of writing speculating on who really killed the President, only two things are certain. Kennedy was definitely killed in Dallas by a high-powered rifle. His probable assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was definitely killed by Jack Ruby in the Dallas jail two days later.

Lee Harvey Oswald was a riddle wrapped in an enigma shrouded in mystery if ever there was one. Evidence of varying reliability has linked Oswald to virtually every group that had a reason to want Kennedy dead. In the years before Kennedy's death, Oswald worked as a radar operator at U-2 spy plane bases, defected to the Soviet Union and married the niece of a KGB colonel. On returning to the US, Oswald propagandized for Castro's Cuba out of a New Orleans building he shared with an ex--FBI agent trying to overthrow Castro. In the fall of 1963, Oswald moved to Dallas where he had FBI contacts, got a job in a Texas Book Depository and was accused of killing the president.

Questions abound. How did such a singular man just happen to get a job working at one of the best sniping points in Dallas, through which the President's open car motorcade just happened to pass? Why did this lone nut just happen to have ties to violent, subversive groups like the Cuban revolutionaries, the K.G.B. and F.B.I.? Wasn't it convenient that the future Mrs. Onassis was spared the anguish of a trial when Oswald was silenced the next day by Jack Ruby, a dachshund-toting strip-club owner with long-standing ties to the Mafia? And what was Richard Nixon doing in Dallas the morning of November 22?

Official answers to these questions can be found in the report of the Warren Commission set up by President Johnson. The Warren Report, completed in September, 1964, is quite ordered and readable for a government document summarizing such a convoluted event. The report makes it clear that the unstable Oswald did indeed commit the murder alone, out of misguided communist ideals and perverse desire to achieve fame in the only way he could imagine. It's only when one looks into the 26 volumes of evidence taken to research the one-volume report, as well as evidence and leads that were ignored, that problems with the commission's view arise.

Examining the evidence the Warren Report is based upon leads to the conclusion that, at best, the Commission took great liberties in smoothingover contradictions in the information and failed to follow up on evidence suggesting that Oswald had confederates. As evidence came in, the Commission went with what it belie

Famous defects in the Warren report include the Commission's gloss-over of the shots most witnesses reported hearing from in front of the motorcade as "echoes", and that according to the Report, one of Oswald's bullets must have caused seven wounds to Kennedy and Gov. John Connally before being found as good as new on Connally's hospital stretcher. A few more obscure examples follow:

There are literally hundreds more oversights like those above contained in the Warren Report. The job of catching them has been done well by authors Mark Lane, Jim Garrison and others. The sheer volume of strange coincidences and connections has led some parties to suggest their own answers to questions posed by the Kennedy case. For every powerful group or figure with something to gain from Kennedy's death, there is a theorist ready to explain how that group arranged the murder. Of course, some of the explanations hold water better than others. The following are theories that have stood the test of time to become the staples of Kennedy assassination lore.


THE CUBANS

This explanation has been offered by columnist Jack Anderson, among others. It has two variants. The fashionable revisionist version tells us that Kennedy was killed by right-wing Cuban exiles in America who felt that the President had sold them out. Kennedy's refusal to allow U.S. forces to participate in the exile army's Bay of Pigs invasion, which was instigated and financed by the CIA, left the exiles easy meat for Castro's air force. Thousands of the emigres were killed or imprisoned by the Castro regime, and those escaping or left in America were quite upset. Also, in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis it was widely believed Kennedy guaranteed the Russians that Cuba would be left unmolested in return for a withdrawal of Soviet missiles from the island. Again, the Cuban exiles were not consulted.

Realistic Cuban exiles could see the writing on the wall in 1963 and may have wanted revenge. So these desperate men, no strangers to violence, had Kennedy assassinated, and left Oswald, who was somehow duped into following them, as the patsy. This is probably the weakest theory. While the exiles had the means and reason to kill Kennedy, and little to lose, it seems impossible that they could have escaped the police, covered up their role, and arranged for Ruby to silence Oswald. The Cuban exile community was so riddled with CIA infiltrators in the '60s that any plot would likely have been noticed by U.S. intelligence. The idea of Cuban exiles acting under CIA guidance is rather more interesting, but that's another story.

The more common theory is that Fidel Castro had Kennedy murdered in reprisal for numerous attempts on his own life by the Mafia and Cuban counterrevolutionaries, both of whom were acting at the behest of Kennedy's CIA The Bay of Pigs and Cuban missile crisis only strengthened Castro's belief that he was in a kill-or-be-killed si

Realistic Cuban exiles could see the writing on the wall in 1963 and may have wanted revenge. So these desperate men, no strangers to violence, had Kennedy assassinated, and left Oswald, who was somehow duped into following them, as the patsy. This is probably the weakest theory. While the exiles had the means and reason to kill Kennedy, and little to lose, it seems impossible that they could have escaped the police, covered up their role, and arranged for Ruby to silence Oswald. The Cuban exile community was so riddled with CIA infiltrators in the '60s that any plot would likely have been noticed by U.S. intelligence. The idea of Cuban exiles acting under CIA guidance is rather more interesting, but that's another story.

The more common theory is that Fidel Castro had Kennedy murdered in reprisal for numerous attempts on his own life by the Mafia and Cuban counterrevolutionaries, both of whom were acting at the behest of Kennedy's CIA The Bay of Pigs and Cuban missile crisis only strengthened Castro's belief that he was in a kill-or-be-killed si


THE K.G.B.

Also known as the Reader's Digest Theory, this theory is most favored by right-wing conspiracy theorists. Leon Trotsky Oswald spent two years in Russia, married a K.G.B. colonel's niece, and came back to put an end to the President at a time when the cold war was at its most frigid. How could Soviet intelligence not have had a hand in the killing? Obviously Oswald was a K.G.B. fifth columnist, sent to do what he could for the cause, and when it became necessary for Kennedy to die, Oswald served his purpose.

The question mark for this theory is motive. Kennedy had embarrassed the Soviets in the big Cuban showdown the year before, but their geopolitical situation was, if anything, stronger in 1963 than in the previous year. Kennedy had removed missiles aimed at Russia from the Turkish border as a concession, and also had taken a hands-off posture toward Cuba. By all accounts Soviet premier Kruschev liked Kennedy and could expect no softer treatment from Johnson or possible Republican successors like Barry Goldwater.

This version of events offers the most interesting explanation for the Warren Commission coverup. Presumably President Johnson, on learning of Russian involvement, ordered the Commission not to overturn that stone. If it were learned that the K.G.B. controlled Oswald, the American public would demand war. The Democrats, afraid to appear soft on communism during an election year, would be forced to start World War III. A variation of the K.G.B. explanation was offered by Professor Revilo Oliver, whose account merited 123 pages of space in the Warren Report. Oliver explained that the international communist conspiracy killed Kennedy because he was not serving it as efficiently as he had promised. Kennedy was behind schedule in delivering America to communism and was eliminated when the conspiracy learned that he planned to "turn American". Oliver concluded by noting sorrowfully that while Kennedy, a communist tool, was the object of national grief, not a tear was shed in this country over the sad end of Adolf Hitler.


THE MAFIA

This theory requires a deeper look into the policies of Kennedy and his Attorney General and brother, Robert. The Kennedys took a much more aggressive stance against organized crime than previous presidents. Robert Kennedy had earned the enmity of Teamster's Union boss Jimmy Hoffa, as well as other mafia members, during his probes and racketeering prosecutions.

The mob also had a Cuban connection. Before the Castro revolution, U.S. mobsters had a lucrative stake in the Hanava casinos and were doing whatever they could to get it back. Mafia families funnelled money to the Cuban exiles, knowing their payback would come with Castro deposed. It's rumored that the CIA employed mob hitmen to do away with Castro. La Cosa Nostra was understandably irritated at the shabby treatment they received in return from the Kennedys. If rumors that JFK shared a mistress with mobster Sam Giancana are true, perhaps jealousy had something to do with Kennedy's death.

Whatever the facts, it's clear that the mafia had the desire and the resources to fell Kennedy, and with him, his troublesome Attorney General. And in Jack Ruby, the Dallas strip-joint owner with ties to the mob in Chicago, New Orleans and Dallas, they even had means to cover up their involvement. Partially. It's doubtful the mob could have influenced the Warren Commission and its F.B.I. investigators. And how did they get Lee Harvey Oswald to participate in the first place? Even if they duped Oswald and silenced him thereafter, it's hard to imagine that a group as corrupt as the organized crime syndicate could have kept this secret for 30 years without a rapid wholesale slaughter of everyone connected to the killing, including Ruby. The consequences of discovery would surely give the lowest mob thug pause to think, much less the top men, who still had things easy in those days and, like the Russians, much more to lose than to gain.


U.S. GOVERNMENT

This sleek, elegant theory is the choice of all discriminating conspiracy hepcats, both because of the hoopla surrounding Oliver Stone's film JFK and because it's such a grand theory, explaining away all contradiction while accommodating maximum paranoia. It also has the advantage of being so shocking and implausible that it just might be true.

The most probable story is that a CIA faction decided to do away with Kennedy for one of three reasons: a) that he gave away Cuba, a country on which the Agency had worked so hard and in whose struggle the renegades had become personally involved; b) to prevent him from doing the same with Vietnam; or c) as a response to a wave of firings Kennedy had ordered in the Bay of Pigs aftermath, starting with CIA director Allen Dulles (who, by the way, served on the Warren Commission), and out of fear that Kennedy was going to eviscerate the intelligence establishment for misleading him about Cuba. In response to the charge that it would be incredible that a government branch could pull off anything as efficiently as the Kennedy assassination and coverup, it should be remembered that the CIA of 1963 was an entirely different animal from what it is today. The men carrying this out were veterans of the World War II O.S.S. These same men smuggled Nazis out of Europe against incredible odds, a far cry from the modern CIA's college boy recruiters who can't deal with student protest on the Carolina campus.

This faction, operating with ease in their home waters, rounded up a team of shooters from the Cubans, Mafia or some other disgruntled group. Oswald is added as a fall guy for the public. As the day approached, sympathizers in the Secret Service or Dallas police were given their instructions and the operation went off without a hitch. Ruby was tricked into shooting Oswald, and the actual assassins are chopped up and buried by the roadside in Mexico.

The CIA theory, unlike the others, has a satisfying explanation for the Warren Commission's bungling. First, the interconnected government intelligence agencies which supplied the Commission with most of its information were in good position to mislead their bosses and to destroy evidence and witnesses. Second, even if the government higher-ups learned of the Agency's involvement, they would hide it from the public for fear that the reaction might cast down the political-business elite from which they came. Finally, for the truly apocalyptic-minded, maybe L.B.J., Earl Warren and the whole military industrial complex were in on the secret from the beginning. Yes, Virginia, there really is a global organization that runs everything and keeps people like you from leading a decent life. Of course, this super-conspiracy would be powerful enough to arrange car accidents for Jim Garrison, Oliver Stone and this writer, but just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.


THE ZERO GAME

It's a curious fact of American history that, since 1840, every President elected in a year ending in zero has died in office. The sole exception is Ronald Reagan, and John Hinckley certainly made a credible effort in his case. Suppose these deaths aren't coincidence. That's the view of Lyndon Larouche and some writers of the right-wing fringe, people who write letters to the editor of the Spotlight and believe the John Birch Society is moderate. The usual argument is that the deaths are arranged, for mystic numerological reasons, or simply to toy with the people of the last free country on earth. The culprits might be the forces of Freemasonry, Zionist bankers, the Vatican, the British crown, whoever the individual writer fears most. The eccentricities of the far right are a subject for further research. Those who would like to know more can pick up a copy of Spotlight, available at a machine outside the Franklin St. post office in Chapel Hill. And take out an insurance policy on the President in eight years.


THE ANTI-GREENS

My favorite theory, suggested by California oxygen-therapy advocate Waves Forest, ties together all the political assassinations of the '60s with “arranged” deaths like Jimi Hendrix. It's hard to do it justice in a paragraph, but here goes. The Kennedys, King et al. were murdered by a conspiracy whose object is to lower world oxygen levels. Since the industrial revolution, atmospheric oxygen levels have been steadily dropping. The decrease has meant a resurgence of anaerobic (non-oxygen breathing) microorganisms, like the tetanus virus, which had been going extinct in prehistory as world oxygen levels rose. The advent of humanity, whose deforestation and fossil-fuel burning have reduced atmospheric oxygen, was a boon to the bacteria as oxygen levels dropped. Microbes flourish best in the oxygen-poor urban centers where most of the world's political power is concentrated. The microbes have parasitically influenced the brains of the business-political establishment. Now every time a progressive politician or culture figure arises who might change the status quo, i.e. slow down the race to denude the earth, the establishment perceives that figure as a threat. An assassination is arranged. The point of Forest's parable is that the de-greening of the earth can only benefit anaerobic organisms in the long run, so they must be in on it.

Former North Carolina State Spelling Bee Champion Pat Anders graduated from UNC Law School last May. An unemployed attorney, Anders lives with his parents in Burlington.

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