Jack Ohman editorial cartoons and blog

The Kennedy assassination: a brief addenda ...

Published: Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 - 7:00 pm

The reader response to my piece on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy surprised me. Mostly positive, and I expected a lot more “You’re part of the conspiracy yourself” mail. Nope.

There are a few things I wanted to add to the piece here.

First, again, I have absolutely no doubt about the following things:

1. Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots, and he was the sole gunman.

2. Oswald had demonstrated previous murderous intent when he attempted to kill Major Gen. Edwin Walker earlier in 1963, which is an established fact in the case.

3. Oswald had written an anarchist tract which called for the abolition of the U.S. system of government.

4. On the day of the shooting, Oswald left his wedding ring and virtually all his money with his wife, who had rejected his entreaties to reunite during a separation. He took a package carrying his rifle to the Texas School Book Depository that was linked to him by fiber evidence.

5. I personally view the assassination as essentially a murder/suicide attempt.

6. I cannot rule out the possibility to the hundredth decimal place that Oswald was in some sort of bizarre contact with people with whom he discussed the assassination, and that those people may have encouraged him. I don’t think anyone can. Lyndon Johnson even stated this after his presidency.

7. Later investigations of the Kennedy assassination, most prominently the House Select Committee on Assassinations, came to the conclusion there was a fourth shot based on acoustical evidence. New technology has determined that conclusion to be wrong. The HSCA also said there was a conspiracy, but they were unable to determine what it was. If they were unable to do that, I am unsure how sound a conclusion that would be.

8. Oswald killed Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit, and attempted to shoot Officer N.M. McDonald when he was apprehended.

9. Various claims about the motions of the president’s head during the shooting are, in short, based on assumptions by untrained observers. Kennedy’s head moved slightly forward at Zapruder film frame 314, and then, yes, it went backward and to the left, which was a convulsion.

10. Many of the most prominent names in the conspiracy world are also obsessed with aliens and 9/11. Some of the critics, particularly those of the 1960s and 1970s were sincere, smart and well-intentioned people who performed a valuable role in re-examining the case. They shouldn’t be ridiculed. The debate needed to occur.

Now, having said all that, there was a definite conspiracy of sorts which didn’t involve Oswald’s plan to kill the president.

1. The Warren Commission was guilty of not examining evidence to make sure that the assassination didn’t ignite World War III with the Soviet Union.

You could see why they might have wanted to do that.

The Warren Commission didn’t say there wasn’t a conspiracy; they said there was no credible evidence to suggest one. There was FBI contact with Oswald prior to the assassination, and evidence was destroyed. There may well have been CIA contact with Oswald that, I believe, had nothing to do with the assassination, just bureaucratic CYA. I acknowledge that the full release of the CIA records in 2017 may show contact with Oswald, but I doubt it will be meaningful.

2. The fundamental physical conclusions of the Warren Commission were sound, including Commission Exhibit 399, the so-called “magic bullet,” which turned out to be an ordinary bullet.

3. While the autopsy on the president was not great, and notes were burned, I think there were two reasons:

a. The Kennedy family didn’t want it to be publicized that the president was, in fact, suffering from Addison’s disease.

b. The notes were burned by Dr. J.J. Humes because he felt they were “ghoulish,” as they were covered in blood.

Theories such as the alteration of the Zapruder film, the alteration of President Kennedy’s wounds during the autopsy, the planting of bullets at Parkland Hospital (in the movie JFK, Oliver Stone portayed Jack Ruby as doing just that), and anything involving Lyndon Johnson are ridiculous. There are memes floating out in the culture about the assassination which are now impossible to extinguish: “magic bullet,” “Oswald was a poor shot,” and “the rifle bolt couldn’t be worked that fast” come immediately to mind.

Finally, the notion that Jack Ruby, a highly eccentric, volatile speed addict beset by paranoia, would be entrusted to do anything by the mob is laughable. Claims made by Carlos Marcello to a cellmate claiming he had Kennedy killed fall under the category of, “Do you think Carlos Marcello ever lied or bragged before this?”

Friday, November 22, 2013, should be a day of quiet contemplation. President Kennedy’s life, triumphal and flawed, is worth remembering.

Oswald’s really isn’t.

Read more articles by Jack Ohman



Editorial Cartoonist Jack Ohman

Jack Ohman Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award, the national SPJ Award, the National Headliner Award, the Overseas Press Club Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. He has written and illustrated 10 books, many of them about fly fishing. Jack has three grown children.

Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com.

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