Almost 50 years after the publication of the Warren Commission Report, I still cannot understand what Lee Harvey Oswald’s motive would have been in assassinating President Kennedy. The official version of events is that he was a confused, disgruntled, little man who sought fame and glory by assassinating a famous, powerful, and admired president of the United States.
But there are obvious problems with that official version.
After he was taken into custody, Oswald denied having shot the president or anyone else. If he sought fame and glory by killing the president, why would he deny having done it? Wouldn’t he instead be openly bragging about the fact that he had just killed the president?
Of course, it might be said that he wanted fame and glory and, at the same time, to outsmart the government by successfully avoiding conviction for the crime. But it would seem that those two things are at least a bit inconsistent.
Moreover, in planning to shoot the president, Oswald left quite an easy trail leading to himself. Why would he do that, if he was going to try to beat the rap? Why use a rifle that he had supposedly purchased by mail and, therefore, that could easily be traced to him? Why not instead walk into a gun store and buy a brand new rifle for cash, which would have left no paper trail leading to him? Remember: in Texas in 1963, there were no background checks when one purchased a gun.
In fact, Oswald’s defense was not simply a denial that he had committed the crime. He went further than that. In the hours between his arrest and his murder at the hands of Jack Ruby, he claimed that he had been set up — framed. That’s what he meant when he told the press that he was “a patsy.” What could he possibly have had in mind? What would have been his strategy, assuming he had in fact assassinated Kennedy and planned to escape the rap?
After all, a simple denial of having committed the offense would have been the normal route. In so doing, he would have been saying in effect, “I didn’t do this. I don’t know who did it. All I know is that I didn’t do it.” By claiming he had been set up, he was saying, “Not only did I not do this, I know who did do it, and they’re trying to make it look like I did it.” That obviously would have meant that at his trial, Oswald not only would have been claiming he had nothing to do with the killing but also would have been pointing the finger at some other person or group of people.
For the past half-century since the Kennedy assassination, there have been two lines of “legitimate” discourse within American mainstream circles. The first is: Oswald was a lone-nut assassin. The second is: Oswald conspired with others to assassinate John Kennedy. Each of those positions is considered to be respectable, credible, and legitimate even if people disagree with it.
What one will rarely find within mainstream circles, however, are the following questions: Is it possible that Oswald was innocent? Is it possible that he was neither a lone-nut assassin nor a conspirator in the assassination? Is it possible that he was what he said he was — “a patsy”? Is it possible that someone else committed the crime, framed Oswald, and then had him killed so that he could never deny it or reveal who it was who had set him up to take the fall?
As the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination approaches in 2013, those are questions that the American people are unlikely to encounter in the mainstream press. For once someone begins to contemplate the possibility that Oswald was innocent, he begins peering into an abyss — one that points in the direction of the U.S. national-security state — the set of institutions, including the CIA and the military, whose responsibility since 1947 has been to protect national security.
Those who hold that Oswald was involved in the crime, either as a lone nut or as a conspirator, have always pointed to the large amount of evidence incriminating him. There was the assassin’s nest on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, where Oswald worked. There were the three rifle cartridges found on the floor near the sniper’s nest. There was Oswald’s supposed murder of police officer J.D. Tippitt soon after Kennedy’s assassination. There was his supposed devotion to communism, Cuba, and the Soviet Union.
But there is a big problem with all that evidence, a problem with which the mainstream press has never grappled. That problem is that when a person is framed for a crime he didn’t commit, to be successful the framers must make the evidence of guilt point convincingly to the person who is being framed. That’s the whole point of a frame-up — to make it look as though an innocent person has committed the crime.
We all know that people have been framed for crimes they didn’t commit. The most successful frame-ups are those where the false evidence of guilt is so convincing that the person being framed cannot successfully defend against the frame. Of course, Oswald never got a chance to present his defense or defend his allegation of having been set up, owing to his murder by Jack Ruby.
So how does one distinguish between a person’s actual commission of a crime and a frame-up of an innocent person? Sometimes it’s impossible to do so. Other times, however, there are anomalies that are simply inconsistent with the guilt of the accused but that are consistent with a frame-up.
And that’s part of the problem in the case of Oswald. There are anomalies that are consistent with a frame-up and inconsistent with his being guilty.
For example, after Oswald was taken into custody, he was given a paraffin test to determine whether he had fired a rifle that day. The test revealed no gun-powder residue on his cheek.
Or consider Oswald’s demeanor when confronted by a police officer on the second floor of the Texas School Book Depository less than 90 seconds after the shooting. He was as cool as a cucumber, showing no nervousness whatsoever. Moreover, he was not out of breath from having rushed from the sixth floor to the second floor. And he certainly showed no inclination to take credit for having shot the president.
There were no fingerprints found on the rifle. The only print that was found was a print of Oswald’s palm under the rifle stock, which was discovered under rather suspicious circumstances days after the assassination.
Assuming that Oswald shot the president, what would have been his primary objective once he had killed the president, if he planned to claim he didn’t do it? Wouldn’t his primary objective have been to get off that sixth floor as fast as he could?
Why then would he have taken the time to hide the rifle? What possible purpose would that have served? The assassin’s nest was there, out in the open. The same holds true for the rifle cartridges on the floor. So what good would it have done to hide the rifle? Surely, Oswald would have known that a complete search would be made of the entire sixth floor. Why delay an escape to do something that served no purpose whatsoever?
Thus, hiding the rifle is another one of those anomalies that are inconsistent with Oswald’s guilt and consistent with a frame-up. If Oswald was going to leave the assassin’s nest intact and leave the spent cartridges on the floor, why not simply leave the rifle there too and make a quick escape? Or if he was going to hide the rifle, why not also take the time to dismantle the assassin’s nest and hide the spent cartridges?
On the other hand, hiding the rifle makes total sense if there were people framing Oswald. It would have been too risky for framers to have brought the gun into the building on the morning of the assassination, when people might have seen them. The framers would necessarily have brought the gun into the building the night before the assassination and, to avoid its being discovered, would have hidden it from view.
Let’s assume what U.S. officials and the mainstream press will never allow themselves to contemplate: Let’s assume for a moment that Oswald was, in fact, innocent and that he was, in fact, what he alleged to be — “a patsy.” To whom could he possibly have been referring when he said he had been set up?
Could it have been personal friends? Not likely, given that he had few if any close friends. How about fellow employees at the School Book Depository? Not likely, given the difficulty he obviously would have had in making such a theory stick. What would have been their motive?
How about the Cubans and the Soviets, given his supposed connections to communism, Cuba, and the Soviet Union? That’s, of course, a possibility — that the Soviets and the Cubans were the ones he was referring to when he suggested he had been set up. But how would the Soviets and Cubans have planned to falsify the president’s autopsy, which would have been a critical step in concealing that shots had been fired from the front?
If we consider, however, that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t the devoted communist he portrayed himself as, but was instead a devoted ex-Marine who had been recruited by Navy intelligence or the CIA or some other intelligence branch of the U.S. government to serve as a government mole during the Cold War, a subject we explored in part six of this series, then there is only one likely possibility: assuming Oswald was, in fact, innocent, he was pointing his finger at the U.S. national-security state, for whom he had been working.
If Oswald was a patsy …
It’s not difficult to understand why the Warren Commission felt compelled to accept on blind faith and trust the denials by the CIA and the FBI that Oswald worked as an intelligence operative for the U.S. government. If it were established that the denials were false, where would that have left the Warren Commission? It would have left them with a U.S. intelligence agent who had assassinated the president, one who was denying his guilt and was pointing to those with whom he worked as the true assassins. It would have also destroyed the national-security cover story, by which Oswald’s connections to communism, Cuba, and the Soviet Union were being used to suggest a conspiracy to kill Kennedy involving him and the Soviets that would inevitably have led to nuclear war.
It would have meant, again, peering into an abyss. It would have meant accusing the national-security state, not just a group of rogue agents, of having assassinated the president. And what if the accusation had proven true? Then what? How does one indict an entire large section of the government? And such an accusation, which would almost certainly have been denied, would have meant an out-and-out war between the Warren Commission, on the one side, and on the other the CIA, military, and other parts of the national-security state, a war that itself would have been considered a grave threat to national security, especially at the height of the Cold War.
Thus, there was never a reasonable possibility that such an accusation or investigation would ever occur. The assassination was done. Nothing could bring Kennedy back to life. Any investigation that challenged the word of the CIA, the FBI, and the military or that suggested the possibility that the national-security state had assassinated Kennedy and framed Oswald would have been perceived as a grave threat to national security and, indeed, to the future existence of the United States. The evidence convincingly pointed to Oswald. Better to let sleeping dogs lie.
The mainstream press and U.S. officials have long subscribed to what might be called the “inconceivable doctrine” — that it is simply inconceivable that the U.S. national-security state, especially the CIA and the military, would ever effect a regime-change operation within the United States.
Oh sure, they’ll say, the CIA and the military will do those sorts of things to leaders in foreign countries. They’ll assassinate them, as they have tried repeatedly to do to Fidel Castro. They’ll initiate coups in which they oust democratically elected leaders from office and install pro-U.S. leaders in their stead, as they did in Guatemala and Iran. But to the mainstream, it is absolutely inconceivable that they would ever do such things here in the United States.
What the mainstream often fails to appreciate, however, is the driving force of the national-security state, which is the protection of national security. Nothing matters more. Protecting national security is the raison d’être of the national-security state. Ever since its founding in 1947, the national-security state — especially the military and the CIA — has stood above American society like a godlike guardian — indeed, stood over the entire world — searching carefully and relentlessly for threats to U.S. national security — and upon finding them, doing whatever was necessary to eliminate them.
Assassinations, coups, drug experiments, spying on Americans, maintaining secret files on Americans, extortion, the use of moles to infiltrate and destroy communist organizations, communist witch hunts, terrorism against communist states, invasions, partnerships with former Nazis and the Mafia, regime-change operations, embargoes, and sanctions — nothing has ever stood in the way of protecting national security. The CIA and the military have always done whatever was necessary, no matter how unsavory, to protect “national security.”
Obvious questions arise, however — questions that the mainstream press has never been able to bring itself to ask: What would the U.S. national-security state do if confronted by a president whose actions posed the gravest threat to national security in the nation’s history, one that threatened the very existence of the nation? Would it let the nation go down, or would it do what was necessary to protect national security?
This article was originally published in the November 2012 edition of Future of Freedom.