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Who Really Killed JFK?

Nehemiah Horowitz

Fifty years ago this week, John F. Kennedy was assassinated by lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald. Or was he? Since that fateful day, conspiracy theorists have pointed to any number of players who wanted the president dead. Fifty years later, are we any closer to the truth?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

“This must be the product of a great conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy of infamy so black that, when it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men.”


Those words were spoken, not by some inflamed purveyor of paranoia about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but over a decade earlier, in 1951, by Senator Joseph McCarthy ofWisconsin, referring to an international Communist conspiracy that he claimed was subverting American policymaking.

McCarthy’s accusation is telling, if only because it demonstrates that conspiracy theorizing did not begin with the Kennedy assassination. Rather, the event occurred in a society already steeped in paranoia from the Cold War between theUnited Statesand theSoviet Union. Indeed, Cold War tensions reached their most perilous height in October 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, whenKennedy,America’s 35th president, faced down Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in a confrontation that nearly ended in nuclear catastrophe.

The trip to Texas a year later, which had been planned to organize support for the upcoming 1964 reelection campaign, had seen signs of trouble ahead. Kennedy himself was well aware of the existence of extremist elements inDallas.

“The Southwest hate capital of Dixie,” as it was sometimes called, had been the scene of a physically threatening demonstration against United Nations ambassador Adlai Stevenson on October 24. On November 22, the day of the Kennedy assassination, the Dallas Morning News ran a full-page ad from the far-right John Birch Society accusing Kennedy of being soft on Communism. The president dismissed it, presaging the tragedy that would befall him later that day: “If somebody wants to shoot me from a window with a rifle, nobody can stop it, so why worry about it?” The president, wanting the crowds lining the motorcade to have a better look at him, ordered the protective bubble removed from his car.

It’s not surprising, then, that the idea that John Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy arose almost from the moment that the shots rang out on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, inDealeyPlazainDallasand the motorcade picked up speed to rush the mortally wounded president toParklandHospital.

“The possibility that the shooting was a far-ranging conspiracy” that “had not yet run its course,” was “in the thoughts of everyone,” recalled Rufus Youngblood, the Secret Service agent who flung his body as a shield over Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, riding in a car behind the president’s.

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