Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has joined the ranks of skeptics and “conspiracy theorists” who believe that a lone gunman was not solely responsible for the assassination of his uncle, President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy said his father, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, believed the Warren Commission Report was a “shoddy piece of craftsmanship”
“The evidence at this point I think is very, very convincing that it was not a lone gunman,” he said, but he did not elaborate on what he believed may have happened.
John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, while riding in a motorcade through Dallas.
Robert F. Kennedy, while celebrating his victory in the California Democratic presidential primary, was shot and killed on June 5, 1968, at a Los Angeles hotel. He was supposedly the victim of another “lone nut.”
RFK’s assassination and the circumstances surrounding it have spawned almost as many conspiracy theories as his brother’s murder five years earlier.
And RFK Jr.’s remarks, coming early in a year that will mark the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, will no doubt provide rhetorical fodder for the legions of critics of the Warren Commission Report.
That report concluded that the 35th president of the United States was hit from the rear by two of three shots fired by a deranged 24-year-old former Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald. According to the report, the first bullet hit JFK in the back, exited through his neck, and went on to inflict multiple injuries on Texas Governor John Connally. The second bullet missed the presidential limousine, ricocheted off the curb and grazed a bystander. The third bullet hit the president in the head, killing him.
What has made many question the Warren Commission’s credibility is the fact that it was largely controlled by former CIA director Allen Dulles. President Kennedy had ousted Dulles as director of the CIA in 1961, after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Kennedy had also reportedly voiced his intention “to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”
From the moment of its release in 1964, the Warren Report became a target of criticism, owing largely to such difficulties as its “single-bullet theory,” which appeared to twist the laws of physics.
As Mark Lane, a pioneer in JFK assassination research, noted, “The only way you can believe the Report is not to have read it.”
Another reason to doubt the report’s conclusions is Oswald’s apparent connections to the U.S. intelligence community, an important detail not mentioned in the report’s 889 pages. After all, if Oswald was a low-level intelligence agent, as a large body of evidence suggests, is it reasonable to believe he was the “lone-nut” assassin of Warren Commission legend?
But even if Oswald was the gunman and was able to get off two miraculously accurate shots, he did not have the power to withdraw the police motorcycle escorts, or to order the Secret Service to stand down, or to alter the testimony of funeral-home staff who received the body. The Warren Commission never explained these systemic breakdowns that left the president vulnerable and the chain of evidence questionable.
And it should also be mentioned that a U.S. House of Representatives select committee concluded in 1978, after a two-year investigation, that JFK was probably a victim of an elaborate conspiracy (not a “lone nut).
Who could have been part of such a conspiracy?
Theories abound. Some finger the Mafia, while others blame rogue anti-Castro Cubans, or the CIA, or the FBI, or the Pentagon, or Asian drug lords, or eccentric Texas oil barons, or even then-vice-president Lyndon Johnson. Others have posited scenarios involving a combination of some or all of these groups.
The Kennedy administration had certainly ruffled a lot of feathers in its thousand days. Indeed, JFK’s apparent turn to peace may have been the reason why he was gunned down.
At first glance, JFK was an unlikely candidate for peacenik martyrdom.
In 1960, Kennedy campaigned to the right of Richard Nixon, warning of “a missile gap” that had left the nation vulnerable to a Russian nuclear attack.
He entered the White House a committed cold warrior, declaring the time to be an “hour of maximum danger” for freedom. America, he said, would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” A primary beneficiary of the Kennedy administration was the military-industrial complex, as spending on both conventional and nuclear forces increased sharply from 1961 to 1963.
However, after clashing with his Joint Chiefs over a number of issues and witnessing the apparent treachery of the CIA regarding the Bay of Pigs invasion, Kennedy developed a mistrust of his national-security managers.
The Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war, had a profound effect on JFK, and he emerged from it a changed man, determined to end the Cold War peacefully.
In June 1963, JFK delivered a speech at American University in which he called for the total abolishment of nuclear weapons. A few months later, his administration signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty with the Soviets.
He also began having private correspondences with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, which enraged the CIA, and he was seeking a rapprochement with Cuba’s dictator Fidel Castro, which further incensed the agency.
That order, if implemented, would have disrupted many “national-security” operations that had been going on in Southeast Asia since the end of the Second World War. Interestingly, just days after JFK’s death, Lyndon Johnson signed National Security Action Memorandum 273 reversing JFK’s withdrawal plan. The rest, as they say, is history.