Thursday, November 22, is the 44th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, an event that many Americans are still sorting out. Ever since the 1963 tragedy in Dallas, large numbers of us have doubted the official explanation that a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, shot the president from the window of the Texas School Book Depository in Dealey Plaza.
Countless books, TV shows and the popular film "JFK" have convinced people that the assassination was a conspiracy. In his recent book Reclaiming History, Vincent Bugliosi takes on the conspiracy myths and arguments. He finds them all lacking credibility and proof.
As a former Los Angeles District Attorney, Bugliosi looks at the facts and evidence from the standpoint of whether a conspiracy could be proved in court. Most often he finds that the various plots are constructed out of such faulty material that it doesn't take a very big wolf to blow the house down. Some of the conspiracy buffs flat-out lied or misrepresented the facts, and then their "facts" were accepted by the public and the next conspiracy writer.
Depending on who you believe, Kennedy's murder was planned and executed by the CIA, the FBI, gangsters and shady characters from New Orleans, right-wing Cubans, left-wing Cubans, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, the Secret Service, the KGB and an assortment of others.
Oliver Stone's movie "JFK" presents most of these notions. But you're entering Wonderland if you believe the CIA, working with the Mafia and a gang of angry Cubans, enlisted a gay New Orleans businessman to pull it off, with the blessing of LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover. Buy this, and we have choice ocean-front property in Great Cacapon to sell you.
Buglioso lists more than 25 major flaws in Stone's "JFK," a movie that many younger people take as gospel. Some of these are basic facts, like overstating the connections between people and understating the number of witnesses who saw Oswald shoot a Dallas police officer after the assassination. The film even misquotes what Jack Ruby, Oswald's slayer, told the Warren Commission.
The only conspiracy door that Buglioso leaves open a crack involves right-wing Cubans, who were angry with Kennedy over the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Oswald, usually seen as a Communist, did seem to have weird associations with these people, though nothing solid has ever surfaced. It could simply be that they added to his political confusion and fired him up.
Americans have never been able to accept that a creepy loner like Oswald could shoot down John Kennedy unless he had very powerful people helping him.
But the simple fact is that Oswald owned the murder weapon and took it to the Book Depository that day. His own wife believed he did it, and who would know him best? All these years of conspiracy theories have never proved anything else.