Thirty four years on, and I share the huge fascination of the American public with the great mystery of who killed our 35th President, and why.
Each anniversary has seen a wealth of views from the media: everything from interviews with Oliver Stone, who created the movie "JFK" and freely admits he created a good but unprovable myth, to Dan Rather of CBS who solemnly supports Posner's lone-killer "Case Closed" theory and who presents it as probable fact.
And I share everyone else's frustration that it seems impossible to know for sure, when expert witnesses contradict each other and when some earnest onlookers at Dealey Plaza turn out to be publicity-hungry charlatans.
It does seem a tad worrying, though, doesn't it: that with all the evidence that exists, there's no conclusive answer? One thing it does do for me is to help solidify an opposition to the Death Penalty. No, I have no problem with the justice of the "eye for an eye" principle. But I do have a problem with lack of certainty of knowledge, for death is irreversible.
If we can't be sure of who killed JFK, a murder committed on film with dozens of eyewitnesses, how can we ever be so sure of any other murderer that we can safely and justifiably terminate his life?
On balance, it does seem to me that of the various possibilities, the official lone-killer version is the least likely. Yes, it could be that an unstable little man could have decided at the last moment to take a pot-shot at Kennedy, for no particular reason. Alas, there are plenty of motiveless murders.
But that leaves so many unanswered questions, that for me it doesn't wash. The count of shots fired and the location of the bullets simply doesn't allow even a fine marksman time to do it. The momentum of the fatal shot clearly moved Kennedy's head back, not forward. Several expert medical witnesses swore that the back of his skull had been removed, not the front; yet the autopsy photographs showed the back of his head intact except for an entry wound.
And so on; the multiple inconsistencies shout out, to me, that there was more than one shooter and that the government concealed pertinent facts so as to promote the lone-killer theory from the very first. I cannot tell which of the many conspiracy theories is the correct one, though I find Oliver Stone's very credible; but I do think that the government lied, and still does.
That's a question that I love asking, about great historical events. What if, in March of 1939, Chamberlain had not committed the crass folly of announcing out of the blue that Britain would perform the impossible by guaranteeing the integrity of Poland? What if, in July 1941, Roosevelt had not prohibited the export of oil and iron to Japan and seized her cash assets? What if, in 1916, Wilson's government had kept its nose right out of European affairs, just as Jefferson and Washington recommended, and let the "Great Powers" settle their own bloody squabble by themselves?
Millions of human lives would have been saved, and the whole course of subsequent history would have been different; and not least, the obscene growth of the government industry here this century would have been far slower.
But - what if Kennedy had lived? How would more recent history have unfolded?
It does seem clear that, having once faced the awesome responsibility of flexing his finger on the nuclear trigger over Cuba, JFK had changed his formerly aggressive arms-racing posture in favor of more peaceful coexistence with the Soviets. He had ordered withdrawal from Vietnam; so we might well have been spared the deception and agony of the Vietnam War. It may well also be that the arms race, which has left the world with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, no longer under even half-stable control, would have progressed much more slowly if at all. These are very, very substantial benefits that the human race has been denied by the killers in Dealey Plaza.
Domestically, however, I'm not sure that things would have been all that different. Yes, less spending on the military would have been good, but I've seen nothing to say that any member of the Kennedy Clan would have returned the money thus saved to its owners, us taxpayers - any more than Clinton is doing today. Instead, I fear he would have spent it on other kinds of government intervention; the disastrous "War on Poverty", in other words, would have gone forward under JFK roughly as it did under LBJ. The veteran of the Cuban Missile Crisis may have sobered up in his foreign policy, but his domestic one was as rabidly, drunkenly Tax 'n Spend as that of any other Pol before or since.
The murder of an attractive, articulate and courageous leader like JFK has unfortunately blinded us to his many inherent faults; it's put him on a pedestal as if he could have done no wrong. That's the Big Myth that has come out of the assassination, and it's high time it was punctured; and not, as by one current author, just by titillating us with tales of sexual peccadillos.
One way to do so is to consider his less distinguished younger brother, Edward. I have noticed just one thing Ted has done to benefit the people, all these years he has spent in D.C.: he led the struggle to end the government-enforced airline cartel and so re-introduced competitively priced air travel.
That's a major achievement, and millions have gained from it. But otherwise? - Ted Kennedy is just a big-spending socialist. On virtually every issue, he ends up on the side of Big Government, and therefore against the American individual. And so too, regrettably, would his elder brother, had he lived.
|© Copyright Jim Davies 1999|
Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.
The above is Edition # 232
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