Monday, June 27, 2011

JFK Assassination

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When president John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated on November , 16, the nation was shocked. JFK was a highly thought of president and his death brought many mixed emotions. The assassination of JFK is perhaps the most controversial case in American history. Many find it hard to believe that a lone gunman killed President Kennedy. Most believe that there was a conspiracy and that there is more to the story that what the government would like the public to know. Almost immediately following the assassination, numerous theories surfaced which contradicted the official government version of the case that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president (Lifton). Although some are farfetched, many of these theories have valid arguments which cannot be ignored. Even though the incident took place four decades ago, the fascination with the assassination has not dwindled one bit. To even attempt to understand why there has been so much controversy concerning JFK’s assassination, one must first become acquainted not only with the inconsistencies of the official version of the case, but also be aware of the changing political and social cultures over the decades.

The official government version presented by the Warren Commission Report was that Lee Harvey Oswald took three shots from the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository of which two hit and consequently killed president Kennedy. While public opinion does not support this theory, the government continues to insist that this is indeed what took place. One main argument made by skeptics is that they find it hard to believe that Oswald’s shots would find their target nearly 00 feet away and especially given that he used substandard equipment. Another thing that often puzzles conspiracy theorists is that there does not seem to be any clear-cut motive for why Lee Harvey Oswald would kill JFK (Marrs).

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There are several eyewitness accounts of the incident that contradict the lone gunman theory. Several people claim that some of the shots came from the front of the limousine. Specifically, they say these shots came from the grassy knolls located on the right side of Elm Street. Another piece of evidence that contradicts the official report is the fact that there is testimony from several Parkland and Bethesda medical personnel, as well as federal agents that there was a large wound in the back of the President’s head which suggests that the shot actually came from the front and not Oswald’s alleged rear position. Further evidence that Kennedy was shot from the front is provided in the Zapruder films. The Zapruder film was a short film made by a local spectator named Abraham Zapruder during the incident. The film shows Kennedy’s head jerking backwards and to the left in reaction to the initial shot (Marrs).

One popular theory that discounts the official version claims that either the FBI and/or CIA were behind the assassination. According to those that support this version, Kennedy was viewed as a threat to the “national security” of the United States by these agencies. Some believed that Kennedy had betrayed the CIA and the anti-Castro Cubans during the Bay of Pigs invasion by not providing the full weight of air support, which resulted in many invaders being killed. In addition, the CIA was bitterly disappointed that Kennedy had come to an agreement with the Soviets over Cuba (Marrs).

Another popular theory was that the Mafia was involved. One of the reasons that they could have conspired to kill Kennedy was the President’s brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, had been using his legal powers to act vigorously against some of the larger and more influential Mafia bosses. Eliminating President Kennedy would have resulted in a new government and therefore Robert Kennedy would be replaced. On November 4, 16 just days following the Kennedy Assassination, Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald while he was being transferred to a city prison. Many would later point to Ruby’s alleged Mafia links as further proof that the Mafia was behind the assassination (Lifton). These and many other theories spread as new information surfaced and public awareness was raised through the publication of books about the assassination, not to mention the increasing use of the internet to exchange information and theories.

In 176, the U.S. Senate ordered a fresh inquiry into the assassination of President Kennedy. People who had been involved in the original Warren Commission investigations were asked to make fresh statements. The FBI and CIA were required to release more of their documents on Oswald. Most important of all, pieces of evidence such as photos and sound recordings were subjected to scientific analysis using the most up-to-date methods and equipment. The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) completed their investigation in 17 and came to the conclusion that, although Oswald had fired three shots at Kennedy and one of those had killed the president, a fourth shot was fired from the grassy knoll and it was more likely than not that JFK was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy (Marrs).

It is important to note that the HSCA investigation was set up as a direct result of the assassinations of two other major political figures Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy, the President’s brother. The American public questioned why so many key political figures were being assassinated. At the time there was also an increasing amount of corruption and scandal within the government. This alarmed the public who had completely trusted the government before. The Watergate Scandal in 174 involving President Nixon had clearly shown that the government could not be trusted. Because Nixon had abused his authority and power to his advantage, the public saw this as an indication that even government officials were prone to sleaze and scandal. Even those that had believed the Warren Commission’s findings of the case were now more receptive in accepting that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy.

There are several factors that contribute to the continuing fascination with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Initially, it could have been attributed to the inability of a nation in mourning to be unable to accept and wanting to make sense of the sudden death of such a popular and charismatic president. Then, as the political and social cultures evolved over the decades, the public was not as trusting of government. With new technology and the ready exchange of information and ideas, it is not uncommon nowadays for the public to question government actions and for conspiracy theories to spread.

Works Cited

Lifton, David S. Best Evidence. New York Macmillan Publishing Co. 180.

Marrs, Jim. Crossfire The Plot That Killed Kennedy. New York Carroll and Graff Publishers, 18.

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