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THE WARREN COMMISSION REPORT TURNS 60 THIS YEAR

Updated: Mar 14

...And it is widely regarded as a work of fiction.




I was only five years old, but I clearly remember the handsome Massachusetts Irishman being our President and the horrible November day that shocked the American citizenry to its core. Everyone wondered aloud-- who did it? Was it those evil Communists (Russian, Chinese, or Cuban) or maybe the Mafia? Or might it have been a "false flag" right-wing conspiracy to bring suspicion upon the commies to justify a war against them? (There were even a few barely audible whispers of an American government conspiracy... the kind of coup d'etat associated with tin-horn Banana Republics, not civilized democracies like ours.) We were soon relieved to learn that a suspect was in custody... but then, less that 48 hours after his arrest, 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald was shot dead in the Dallas police station by a local strip joint owner named Jack Ruby.


The prime suspect in the Crime of the Century would therefore never get his day in court to answer the charges and, we assume, vigorously defend himself with the aid of competent legal counsel... and so, under the sacred American legal principle of "innocent until proven guilty," Oswald technically went to his eternal slumber an innocent man.


So NOW what?


Lyndon Baines Johnson, suddenly America's new President, differed greatly from his predecessor in demeanor and bearing... and yet Johnson's innate political acumen was at least the equal of Kennedy's. Accordingly, Johnson understood that the American people-- individually and collectively-- desperately needed what we've come to call "closure" in order to heal and move forward. But with a legitimate criminal trial now impossible, such a sense of finality would have to come from a serious (if ad hoc) board of inquiry, a "blue ribbon" panel of seven highly respected public figures-- a pair each of congressmen and senators, one from each party; two trusted veterans of Washington officialdom across multiple Presidencies; and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Earl Warren.


And thus was born the Warren Commission-- this septet of stone-solid men along with an army of lawyers and staffers. In the interests of brevity, let us skip to the ending, the two most significant of the Warren Commission's stated conclusions: 1.) Lee Harvey Oswald acted completely alone in the murder of President Kennedy; and 2.) Oswald only had time to fire three shots from a bolt-action rifle, and therefore (of course) only three shots were fired. The Warren Commission thus put itself in a precarious position, because it follows logically that if EITHER of these conclusions is proved false, then the JFK assassination MUST have been the product of a conspiracy.


Six decades after the Warren Commission's report was presented, the majority of Americans doubt its findings and therefore believe that Kennedy's assassination involved a conspiracy, and for reasons that cannot be easily dismissed. To wit:


THE KATZENBACH MEMO


Right after Jack Ruby shot Oswald dead on national TV, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach penned a memo to the Johnson Administration suggesting that an official inquiry should be empaneled, with the specific purpose of accomplishing the following:


"The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial."


In other words, The Warren Commission would NOT be an impartial investigation that followed the facts wherever they led, but rather an exercise in circular reasoning and cherry-picking evidence to support a predetermined conclusion. With this directive in mind, it seems obvious to many critics that the Commission actively pursued witnesses and evidence that supported its narrative, and ignored or excluded those that didn't.


THE "MAGIC BULLET" THEORY


Firing three shots from a bolt-action rifle requires that the second and third cartridges be chambered by manually cycling the bolt. Oswald, therefore, could only have fired a maximum of three shots in the relevant time span. However, it was quickly discovered on the day of the shooting that one shot had missed completely, struck a curb, and chipped loose a piece of concrete that struck car salesman James T. Tague in the cheek, causing a minor wound. This left the Warren Commission with some tricky 'splaining to do-- in order to remain consistent with their predetermined conclusions, they had to account for President Kennedy's AND Governor Connally's wounds-- eight, in total-- with only two bullets. Thus was born from the fertile brow of Warren Commission Assistant Counsel Arlen Specter what has been dubbed The Magic Bullet Theory. Oliver Stone's 1991 "JFK" movie handled this issue in memorable fashion--



And finally, we have something I more or less pieced together after a long and deep dive into the available records combined with my experience as a deer hunter--


THE BLOODY WINDSHIELD


As a direct logical extension of the Warren Commission's "Lone Gunman Theory," all of the shots would have to have been fired from behind President Kennedy's limousine. Aside from the Texas Live Oak tree that would've largely obscured the target from Oswald (this species doesn't drop its leaves until March) there is this testimony from Secret Service Agent Sam Kinney, the driver of the hulking Secret Service vehicle immediately behind the Presidential limo that was code-named "halfback" and informally dubbed "the Queen Mary" for its enormous wheelbase.


A review of the infamous Zapruder Film shows the Queen Mary (with its Secret Service driver and NINE passengers) barely four feet behind JFK's limo just prior to the shots being fired... pretty darn close, as traffic goes. Now, deer hunters like me are well familiar with the distinction between entrance and exit wounds caused by high-powered rifles, and the often gruesome details associated with the latter, including a cone-shaped expulsion of blood and tissue directly away from the shooter. And because Agent Kinney reported that the exterior of the Queen Mary's windshield was thusly splattered, we might reasonably conclude that at least one of the shots struck JFK in the front of his head and exited through its rear. (BTW, this notion was shared by most of the trauma doctors at Parkland Hospital. See "WHAT THE DOCTORS SAW.") It is hard to imagine any scenario in which a shot from behind, as posited by the Warren Commission report and required in order to support its conclusions, could have produced what appeared to be an exit wound on the back of Kennedy's skull and a backward spray of blood and tissue; indeed, according to the Warren Commission theory, the blood should have been on the inside of the Presidential limo's windshield... and there is no report or testimony of that.


* * * * * * *


There is more... so much more to this... newly-released evidence and testimony; de-classified documents; new books and movies. And yet with the passage of decades comes also the passage of human witnesses, or at least their memories. It is therefore unlikely that we, the American people, will ever know the whole truth about this great crime.


Although the whispers of conspiracies began even before our 35th POTUS was declared dead, Americans were generally unaccustomed to questioning governmental officialdom in the early 1960's. But then came the Pentagon Papers, which revealed volumes of deliberate government lies in support of continued fighting in Vietnam, followed soon thereafter by the Watergate Scandal. Both diminished our faith in official narratives, fostered widespread cynicism, and made us increasingly curious, in retrospect, about what really happened in Dallas that day.


The American public's newfound cynicism about their government led to multiple congressional investigations-- the Rockefeller Commission, which exposed the CIA's covert program for assassinations of foreign leaders; the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, a.k.a. the Church Committee; and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which concluded that a conspiracy in the JFK shooting was "likely." After Oliver Stone's "JFK" movie rekindled interest in conspiracy theories, Congress in 1994 created the Assassinations Records Review Board. Thanks to the diligent efforts of these bodies-- often in the face of suspiciously stiff resistance from the CIA-- we know a lot more about the JFK assassination than we did in 1963.


If this topic is of interest to you, here are three podcasts that delve deeply into the available evidence:


JFK and the Enduring Secret-- https://podcastjfk.com/

Who killed JFK? (Rob Reiner & Soledad O'Brien) https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/who-killed-jfk/id1714611578


There are also hundreds of books on this topic. My personal favorite (so far) is JFK AND THE UNSPEAKABLE by James W. Douglass. If you take this recommendation, I suggest also reading THE DEVIL'S CHESSBOARD by David Talbot as a companion piece.




NOTES:


An anomalously large number of potential witnesses or just plain nosy people seem to have committed suicide or otherwise woken up dead one morning well short of the average American life expectancy, taking valuable information about the JFK assassination to their graves. Among them-- Dorothy Kilgallen, a NYC socialite-journalist who was about to go public with the results of her exclusive Jack Ruby interview, found dead in her bed holding (upside-down) a book she had already read with her reading glasses way out of reach; Mary Pinchot Meyer, JFK's last (and CIA-connected) mistress who had kept a detailed diary; Dallas police officer Roger Craig, whose testimony conflicted sharply with the official narrative; George DeMorenschildt, alleged CIA operative and Oswald's "handler," death by bullet to the brain the day he was called to testify to the House Select Committee on Assassinations; known gangster (and alleged CIA hit-man) "Handsome" Johnny Roselli, discovered chopped up in an oil drum floating off the coast of Miami right before his fourth scheduled interview with the Senate Committee on Assassinations; and Lieutenant Commander William B. Pitzer, USN-Retired, who was a Bethesda Naval Hospital photographer and believed to have surreptitiously filmed via CCTV the "autopsy," dead by a highly dubious suicide. These are just a few; HERE is a spreadsheet of 147 suspicious deaths of people related to the JFK assassination.


In a sense, the JFK assassination case might be considered the gift that keeps on giving, even if it is never actually delivered. It is highly unlikely-- and less likely with each passing decade-- that America's most prominent cold case will ever be resolved; however, the mere study of its seemingly infinite particulars is, if nothing else, an incredibly engaging and oddly satisfying intellectual exercise. By employing what I like to call the Five Pillars of Forensics-- Facts, Logic, Objectivity, Science, and Statistics-- we can draw plenty of useful conclusions not only about this specific case but also about America's post World War II history in general.


Come to think of it, we could take the aforementioned "Facts, Logic, Objectivity, Science, and Statistics" and make a cool acronym-- Mental F.L.O.S.S.

FACTS-- know your stuff and study the details, like names, dates, ages, titles, and that bit about Texas Live Oaks keeping their leaves until springtime;

LOGIC-- know how to stack and combine facts to draw valid and useful conclusions;

OBJECTIVITY-- be fair- and open-minded; rather than work toward a particular conclusion, let the facts lead you wherever they seem anxious to take you.

SCIENCE-- all observable phenomena follow the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, and their various sub-disciplines. The better you understand these laws, the better you'll understand things like how high-powered rifles work and why bullets tend not to abruptly change direction in mid-flight;

STATISTICS-- understanding rudimentary statistics (and the closely-related field of probability) helps you understand how some explanations might be technically possible and yet too overwhelmingly improbable to consider.


A working familiarity with the Scientific Method itself is most helpful.


And finally, a lot of people have (allegedly) paid with their lives for publicly positing less than I've written here. If what I've hinted at in this essay is true, I really hope that they're not still bumping off witnesses and loudmouths. For the record, I have no suicidal inclinations, and my brakes work just fine.












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