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Who Killed JFK?

November 2, 2013

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It was this guy.

Really it was.   It was Lee Harvey Oswald.  Not the FBI, not the CIA, not the KGB, not Fidel Castro, not the Mafia and not Lyndon Johnson.  It was Lee Harvey Oswald, a lonely desperate man with a grotesquely inflated sense of historical destiny.

You know, they’ve done some computer modelling of Dealey Plaza.  They’ve traced the trajectories of the bullets backwards from their points of impact and they all seem to converge on an upper story of the book depository.  Don’t trust computers?  Fair enough.  Here’s some more low tech. reasoning.  Two people in the car are hit and the front windshield is left intact.  You can’t hit JFK from the grassy knoll without hitting Jackie who is next to him.  You can’t hit JFK or Governor Connally from the overpass in front of the car without shattering the windshield.  And you can’t fire from the left of the car because there’s a line of people watching the procession – some of whom you’d hit.  The only position from which you could hit JFK and Connally without shattering the front windshield is an elevated position to the rear of the car.

Was Oswald part of a larger conspiracy?  Seems unlikely.  Oswald’s own brother described Lee’s true politics as contrarian.   He said that if Lee had grown up in the Warsaw Pact he would have been a pro-Western dissident.   All his life Lee Osward needed to feel different from (and better than) everyone else.  Being a voluble Marxist in the US army did something to fulfil this need – but when he pushed this transgressive instinct to the point of defection, he suddenly found himself a Marxist in the Soviet Union – which didn’t make him feel different or special at all.   The KGB quickly decided that he could not be trusted in any security context and gave him an ordinary dull life and job – the very thing he’d asked for.  Not what he really wanted.  Unfortunately (for Oswald),  in spycraft, the concept of a world-famous secret agent is in fact an oxymoron.  And Oswald always craved celebrity.

Back in the USA, he courted notoriety in the form of solidarity with Castro’s Cuba.  Probably had he escaped from Dallas, he’d have tried to make it to Havana in the hope of being hailed as a hero.  Castro of course would have seen no strategic advantage in sheltering Kennedy’s slayer and probably would have just trussed him up in a sack and dumped him outside Guantanamo Bay.

Why do we need conspiracies?  Yet again?  Why don’t we like Osward the hubristic contrarian as an explanation?  Well some have argued that we need something bigger as a cause to justify the scale of the tragedy.  Well, possibly.  Personally, I think that conspiracy theories are very comforting.  They have a way of reducing everything that’s wrong with the world to a very small and manageable cast of characters.  If, for example, the Vietnam War can be pinned on a palace coup, then only the slightest of counter-factual tweakings might produce a more benign trajectory of events.  By looking at conspiracies rather than larger contexts we save ourselves a deal of difficult explanatory work.

There are things in everyone’s life that haven’t turned out quite as we all would have liked.  There are difficult interwoven multi-causal explanations for the messy and unsatisfactory realities we inhabit.  And then again there’s the chance to shout “conspiracy!”.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/biographies/oswald/interview-gerald-posner/

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    I’m reaching the point where I now have a little stock of anniversaries that I can use to take a day off and reblog pre-existing opinions. Obviously, I’m looking forward to an old age where I never have to come up with an original opinion ever again. Having, in middle age, set myself a punitive blogging regime, the reward of my lazy senility will be that I only have to steer my wizened claw across a mouse pad to access a pre-existing opinionated blog in or order to illustrate my response to any issue whatsoever. I am building up a data bank of answers to every conceivable question – in other words. With each passing year, I’ll have to write fewer and fewer new blogs. By the time I hit my seventies – I think I’ll probably be reblogging more than blogging. I’m only working myself relatively hard now so that I can indolent later in life.

    Anyhow, today is the 51st anniversary of the Kennedy assassination – a good day to reblog my instinctual distaste for conspiracy theories.

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