For decades, John F. Kennedy’s assassination was shrouded in paranoia and mystery. Even after documents from the investigation began to be parceled out by the National Archives, which will drop the final files this week, conspiracy theorists insisted that we weren’t getting the whole story and that somebody, somewhere, had to be behind the murder of a President.
But who? Discarding the theories involving aliens and pyramids or even a second gunman (which forensic science and simulations ruled out), there are some suspects for whom one may be able to at least assemble a credible theory. Although in many cases, “credible,” as we’ll see, doesn’t mean “likely.” Especially when half the supposed suspects think somebody else did it. Let’s discuss some of these theories and why they just don’t fly.
- The KGB: Pretty QED, right? Lee Harvey Oswald’s sympathies towards Cuba were fairly well-known, and in fact, he may have even discussed his plans with Russian agents, something the CIA was overly eager to hide. But like any action, you have to ask the simple question “Why?” It wasn’t like Lyndon B. Johnson was a Communist sympathizer. Why risk starting a nuclear war for benefits that are, at best, unclear?
- The CIA: To be fair, we know the CIA is dirty, due to revelations various illegal operations it engaged in around the Kennedy era and beyond. And even Lyndon Johnson supposedly thought maybe the CIA had something to do with it. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the CIA knew about Oswald. But if the CIA wanted Kennedy out of the way, why not simply ruin him? Kennedy was hiding his medical history, his extramarital affairs, and even more that would disgrace any sitting President. Why go to all the trouble when mailing a photo or two would do the trick?
- The Mafia: If you want a guy whacked, you call the Mob, right? Not helping matters is that the CIA has admitted to working with the Mafia in the past. Supposedly, the Mafia was upset with how Kennedy handled Cuba, and the fact that Robert F. Kennedy went after the Mafia didn’t help matters. But again, what benefit was there to killing the President? What did the Mafia gain? If the Mafia was going to assassinate any politician in 1963, it would be John L. McClellan, who a month before the assassination ran the Valachi hearings, which dragged the American Mafia out of the shadows. They had bigger concerns than the President and his brother.
- The Military: This theory hinges around the Vietnam conflict. The military wanted war, the military-industrial complex wanted the tax dollars paying for war would put in their coffers, and Kennedy proved with the Cuban Missile Crisis that he was this soft Harvard boy. Thus, he had to go. The first glaring problem with this theory is that American involvement in Vietnam dated back to well before Kennedy got near the White House. The second is that Kennedy had absolutely no problem with sending men and material to Vietnam and even publicly defended the “domino theory” that justified the war on national television. Vietnam was a problem that Kennedy inherited, really, and while he may not have wanted war, it seems more like wishful thinking that he could have prevented the conflict.