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Kennedy Assassination Theories

Despite the passage of more than forty years, the circumstances of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy continue to be the subject of rancorous public debates in the United States. At the heart of these theories on the Kennedy assassination is the question of how many people were involved in executing the slaying of one of America’s most beloved presidents. On the one hand are those who accept and defend the official government conclusion that a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, acting on his own deranged impulses, was responsible for the President’s death. This position was first presented by the commission, overseen by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, in the months following the assassination.

On the other hand, there are those who insist that Oswald, perhaps in collaboration with other shooters, had been involved in a broader conspiracy of some sort to bring down Kennedy. Promptly after the Warren Commission report was issued and repeatedly in ensuing years, articles and books have appeared challenging the investigational techniques and conclusions of the Commission and offering alternative accounts of the assassination. Kennedy Assassination TheoriesOne should note that this second camp is itself marked by several internal divisions over who were the driving forces behind the conspiracy, with diverse authors claiming involvement by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Mafia, anti-Castro Cubans angry over Kennedy’s role in the bungled Bay of Pigs invasion, pro-Castro Cubans retaliating for the Bay of Pigs and efforts against the Castro regime, and various other potential masterminds.

Over the years since 1963, supporters of both the lone gunman and the broader conspiracy positions have regularly disputed fundamental features of the assassination. Those who challenge the notion that Oswald, acting on his own motivations, was solely responsible for the assassination argue, among other things, that the various government investigations into the circumstances surrounding Kennedy’s death have been seriously flawed. For instance, Snyder and Snyder declare that:

The FBI investigation of the assassination was bungled. The autopsy was bungled. The Warren Commission … was misdirected by the FBI, which reported only evidence supporting Director Hoover’s preconceived theory of the case. … As a result, the 1964 Warren Report was bungled.

Thus, the authors claim, among other things, that the official government conclusion about the assassination emerged in part because of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s decision, within hours of Oswald’s arrest, that Oswald had committed the crime alone, and because the rank-and-file within the FBI had been eager to show that the powerful head of their agency was correct. The authors also suggest that various flaws have marked various other official and non-official investigations that support the finding that Oswald acted alone.

By contrast, skeptics of the conspiracy positions such as Gerlich maintain that the widespread rejections of the official government conclusion regarding the assassination stems are based less on careful assessments of the evidence in question than on a variety of factors that helped to create an atmosphere of intense uncertainty and suspicion at the time of Kennedy’s murder. These factors include: the heated Cold War with the Soviet Union; “spy hysteria” resulting from the “head-to-head intellectual combat” between U.S. and Soviet agents; the perception that the United States was losing the Space War with the Soviets; and the disastrous attempt to invade Castro’s Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Many also suggest that the popularity of the conspiracy theories might derive from a widespread reluctance within the American public to accept that a single person could have been responsible for such an enormous crime against a popular president who was at the time theoretically the most powerful person on Earth.

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