The following is the text of an op-ed I wrote in 2013 for the "Debate Club," a feature of the US News and World Report website. The occasion was the fiftieth anniversary of the JFK assassination. USNWR invited me and four others to answer their question – the title you see below.
Was JFK's Assassination a Conspiracy?
Only someone unfamiliar with the evidence would sincerely ask, “Was there a conspiracy to assassinate JFK?” It is easily demonstrable – no thanks to the media.
For all its virtues, the American media has been regrettably complacent, even hostile, in its treatment of both the assassination and independent research into that crime. And so the issue has a serious public relations problem; when researchers are acknowledged today it is usually derisive. “These people should be ridiculed, even shunned,” the New York Times Book Review sneered in 2007. “It’s time we marginalized Kennedy conspiracy theorists the way we’ve marginalized smokers.”
I beg to differ. Independent analysis of the official evidence by “these people” has clearly demonstrated the fact of conspiracy.
The present discussion sets aside the question of culpability; it is restricted to the evidence of Dealey Plaza, where the assassination took place. What that evidence shows is incontestable. As Vincent Salandria observed, “Dealey Plaza reeked of conspiracy.”
In its Report, the Warren Commission placed a gunman on the sixth floor of a building along JFK’s motorcade route through Dallas. Such a gunman would have been behind the presidential limousine when the shots were fired. Yet of the 121 Dealey Plaza witnesses whose statements appear in the Commission’s published evidence, 51, by one count, said gunshots came from the right front – that is, from the infamous grassy knoll. Only 32 thought shots came from the building, while 38 had no opinion.
Former Kennedy aide Kenneth O’Donnell, who rode in the ill-fated Dallas motorcade, said he heard two shots from the grassy knoll. He did not tell that to the Warren Commission, but later conceded, “I testified the way they wanted me to.”
The 8mm Zapruder film of the assassination unambiguously shows JFK’s head and upper body slammed back and to the left – obviously, from a bullet coming from the right front. This is elementary physics.
There is much more than this, of course, all of it a matter of record: Dealey Plaza witnesses who saw unidentified armed men in the vicinity. Witnesses whose observations suggest a radio-coordinated hit team. Three Dallas cops who encountered fake Secret Service agents, and one who testified to meeting a hysterical woman screaming, “They’re shooting the president from the bushes!”
It all demonstrates conspiracy – the how of it. The question of culpability, the who and the why, remains; it is all that really matters. It is where the conversation begins. We should expect, even demand, that our media lead the way.
Conspiracy in JFK’s death is a historic fact. To debate whether there was one perpetuates the erroneous notion that there is something to debate.
Even after half a century the assassination is not irrelevant. Nor is it too late to act. An early critic named Maggie Field once said that finding the truth about the murder of JFK was of utmost importance. “Until we can get to the bottom of the Kennedy assassination, this country is going to remain a sick country,” she said. “No matter what we do. Because we cannot live with that crime. We just can’t.”