Historiography topic: Assassination of JFK
In November 22 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated; two bullets got him, one in the head and another in the neck. Lee Harvey Oswald was the main suspect for the assassination and a commission to investigate the matter concluded that Oswald was acting alone. However, two days after the assassination, a night club owner, Jack Ruby, shot dead Oswald on live television. Killing the main suspect only meant one thing; that the death of the key suspect denied Americans a fair criminal justice process that would have brought closure for a public trial. This historical event continues to be a very memorable one and until today, different scholars continue to debate on the different conspiracies behind the assassination. Most of these debates centre on the conspiracy theories on whether Oswald acted alone or he was just a cover up. This essay examines the three most popular theories for this historical event in a clear and objective manner.
One key argument regarding identifying the person who killed the president is that the then US government did all it could to cover up the truth thereby denying the majority of Americans the truth behind the assassination. This argument was proposed by Michael Krutz, a professor of history and the author of two different publications on the matter: The JFK Assassination Debate, and the Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination From a Historian’s Perspective. According to Kurtz, the historical event is characterized by different interesting aspects all that are intended to hide the truth (72). These aspects include the use and misuse of Evidence by the US government, poor interpretation and analysis of the evidence, and the manner in which the evidence was obtained.
Further, Kurtz suggested that there are several perspectives that led to the scholar to present the argument that the federal government was covering up the truth. These include the obfuscation of facts and evidence by the US government and its different agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the President Commission investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the House Select Committee that investigated the matter. Further, other perspectives that justify the argument include the actual events on Dallas in the days of the assassination and the reasons for the little or no scholarly research on the assassination.
In one instance, when the new president Lyndon Johnson took over, he appointed the President Commission that was headed by Warren to investigate the assassination. At that time majority of Americans believed that the findings of the commission would help provide clarity and closure on the events that surrounded J.F. Kennedy’s murder. However, when the Warren Commission Report was published in 1964, Americans could not help but wonder about the existence of an assassination conspiracy (Kurtz 129). This was mainly because of the findings of the report that suggested different things that raised questions regarding the role of the government in the assassination. For example, the report claimed that the president’s two bullet shots came from two different directions; one from behind and another from above. As the public later could tell, the post-mortem revelation was only one of the things that the government used to divert attention from the actual assassins and cover up evidence.
Another way in which the federal government attempted to cover up the truth in the president’s assassination according to Kurtz is the role of the FBI in hiding some facts about the case. According to Kurtz, the FBI together with President’s Kennedy’s family refused to allow all the case evidence and facts to be made public. By hiding the truth and some facts, the FBI played a critical role in hiding the truth and this raises questions on the intentions of the US government to cover up the truth behind Kennedy’s assassinations from all the levels of government.
Another point that Kurtz puts across to solidify his theory that the US government was systemically covering up the truth and evidence is the little or no scholarly research investigating or exploring the events surrounding the assassination (189). According to Kurtz, since the assassination, happened, he was yet to find any conclusive scholarly research on the assassination. For instance, Kurtz said that after scrutinizing and analysing different publications and scholarly research on about the assassination, he was yet to find any informative piece of information mainly because a lot of information and evidence on the matter has never been made public. Based on this argument, Kurtz suggests that it was the intention of the government all along to hide the truth and deny Americans the answers to their questions.
Another conspiracy theory surrounding President J. F. Kennedy’s assassination is that the Soviet Union used Oswald to assassinate the American president. This argument was suggested by Robert Holmes, the author of the book, A Spy Like No Other, that talks about the cold war, and the deaths of Stalin and Kennedy. According to Holmes, while some people did not believe that Oswald was the one who shot the president, he was definitely more or less involved in the shooting as all evidence pointed towards him. First, he was found in possession of a firearm at the scene of crime and if he was acting alone, he would have not killed a policeman shortly after killing the president. Second, there were claims that Oswald was a communist and the only way to get a visa to the USSR was by assassinating the 35th president of the USA (Holmes 102).
According to Holmes, anyone would have killed the president as he had many enemies both within and outside the US. However, the only enemy that had links with Oswald, the main suspect was the KGB officers that were working for the Soviet Union at that time. Holmes argued that the Russian government might not have been involved in the assassination but its KGB officers could have been working together with Oswald to murder the president. In his book, Holmes talks about the Cuba Missile Crisis of 1962 when the USSR attacked Cuba at the height of the Cold War. Due to the US superiority and expertise in bombs as well as missiles during the Cold War, the Cuban missile attack failed and the Soviet Union was forced to withdraw from Cuba.
According to Holmes, the failed Cuba Missile attack was a humiliation to the USSR, particularly the hardline Stalinists, the KGB officers (143). Some of the KGB officers were too humiliated with the failed missile attack that they would do anything to redeem themselves. As a result, some KGB officers conspired behind the then Soviet Union government to take revenge for the failed missile attack by assassinating Kennedy. According to Holmes, when the missile attack failed, Kennedy and the then Soviet Union Prime minister Nikita Khrushchev were moving on from the incidence but some KGB officers were not happy with the Soviet’s premier move.
One Soviet spy that would have planned the assassination was Ivan Serov, an agent of terror that worked in the Stalin government to oversee the murder and displacement of hundreds of thousands in the USSR. Serov was also the head of KGB since 1954 and in 1959, he was the head of the Soviet intelligence. Two of Serov’s allies were Vladimir Kryuchkov, a person who led an attempted coup to oust Mikhail Gorbachev and Yuri Andropov, who was the head of KGB between 1982 and 1984. According to Holmes, these three were possibly the masterminds behind Kennedy’s assassination since they considered Kennedy an enemy (98). The three according to Holmes approached Oswald, who had lived in the USSR before and wanted to return there and so killing the president would have granted him a visa to the Soviet Union. Another fact that ties the three KGB officers to Kennedy’s assassination was the senior positions that they held during the time of the incidence. All of them had power to control the then powerful KGB and according to Holmes, Kryuchkov would be the one responsible in making sure that Oswald did his part.
Another conspiracy theory behind J. F. Kennedy’s assassination is the argument that nobody can tell what really happened as no one has all the information needed to make a conclusion. This is the argument published by Larry Sabato, the author of the book The Kennedy Half Century. According to Sabato, there has been a lot of contradictory information and assumptions that surrounding the assassination of President J. F. Kennedy. Most of this information is not conclusive and even most experts who have honestly researched about the incident in attempts to find answers are yet to successfully put the puzzles together (Sabato 316).
According to Sabato, most of the honest experts are still in the dark regarding what really happened. Sabato goes on to give an example of Jerry Dealey, who has been researching about assassinations all his life; while Dealey knows in details on what happened that November 22 1963, he admits to still not know what happened or who really killed the president. The shortcomings of the government bodies in investigating the incidence as well as the refusal by the government to disclose all the information is what will continue to puzzle researchers.
The reason as to why most researchers are still confused about what really happened and the reason why the assassin was never found was because of two different parties. According to Sabato, both the President Commission investigating the murder and the House Select Committee that was mandated to investigate the incidence did a poor job in finding answers. For instance, the President Commission is said to have ignored many important facts, failed to interview key witnesses and left out important information that would have helped put the pieces together. In addition, the Warren led President Commission was obviously flawed as the commission went on to conclude that Oswald killed the president and that he was acting alone (Sabato 278).
According to Sabato, while the evidence does not necessarily suggest that there was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy, the federal government bodies that were investigating the incidence including the President Commission should have delved deeper into the facts surrounding the case. Some of these facts that were obviously left out by the commission were Oswald’s trip to Mexico, and the meeting with the Soviet personnel. Because of the poorly done investigation, most Americans rejected the popular story that Oswald killed the president and that he acted alone. Based on these facts, Sabato suggested that a lot of pertinent information on the incidence is still not available and as a result, no one can tell how the assassination really happened.
In conclusion, the assassination of J. F. Kennedy back in 1963 is an important historical event that still attracts research. So much conspiracy surrounds the main events and what happened. In this essay, three conspiracy theories have been discussed: that the then US government did all it could to cover up the truth thereby denying the majority of Americans the truth behind the assassination, that the Soviet Union planned and executed the assassination with the help of Oswald and, the conspiracy theory that no one can tell what really happened as no one has all the information. This essay has highlighted the history of the assassination by highlighting scholarly opinion regarding the events surrounding the assassination. From the three theories of the three scholars, one fact stands out; that President J. F. Kennedy was assassinated and that Oswald was found at the scene of crime in possession of a rifle. However, it is still not clear how the suspect acted and what could have been the motive behind his purported actions. Much more research and availability of facts could help in providing answers to the incidence.