Conspiracy theories which never hatched

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By Jim Flynn

A skeptic is someone inclined to doubt accepted conclusions. Concerning the endless saga of the President Kennedy assassination we’ve always been skeptical, but for not for the usual reasons.

Recently Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins released the contents of a safe left behind by Henry Wade, the DA who prosecuted Jack Ruby, who shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who killed President Kennedy back in 1963.

News out of Dallas about the Kennedy assassination activates our skepticism lobe. In this case the curator of the assassination site museum said former Sheriff Wade thought all his papers had been moved to his home after he retired. However, office staffers say successive DAs have been told the unopened safe contained confidential information never to be spoken about.

Scripps Howard News Service fluffed off the contents of the Dallas DA’s safe as stuff which might be of interest to the UFO museum in Roswell, New Mexico. Scripps was quick to conclude the new find contained only unimportant forgotten objects.

Capping off hundreds of books, articles and movies, Vincent Bugliosi, the former Los Angeles District Attorney, who prosecuted many high profile crimes, has written what deserves to be the last word about the Kennedy assassination, the killing of Oswald, and the death of Ruby. His 1,600-page book, plus 1,000 pages of reference notes, is called Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

It’s enough information to wear out a set of eyeglasses in one reading.

After prosecuting every question as if he were trying a murder case, Bugliosi concluded the facts are what they are, and conspiracy theories don’t hold water.

Our skepticism about the Kennedy assassination is not concerned with conspiracy theories. We’ve been more taken by the not funny comedy of errors which surrounded the case – lost records, missing body parts, un-interviewed witnesses, and Keystone Kops investigations.

Our skepticism began when successor President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed the Warren Commission to investigate the Kennedy assassination. Using his legendary arm-twisting prowess, Johnson convinced the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Earl Warren, that he should head up the official investigation.

That decision precluded there would never be a trial which might reach the highest court. In other words, for the good of the nation, the fix was in before anyone knew whether anything needed to be fixed.

Ever since the City of Dallas discovered oil in the exurbs, they’ve done ordinary things in their own peculiar way. We have yet to hear a believable story about how Jack Ruby, a strip joint proprietor with low level underworld connections had unchallenged access to Dallas police headquarters with a loaded gun and brass knuckles in his pockets.

The city apparently had an unwritten don’t ask-don’t tell policy for good ole boys.

The shooting scene was set in the Dallas police garage. Local police and sheriff’s personnel were ushering the alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald through a mob of reporters and onlookers, waving a rifle as if they had just solved the crime of the century. Only a tribe of dumbbells would have dismissed the possibility of a shooter in the crowd.

Out of nowhere Ruby just walked up to Oswald and popped him – bang, bang! We remember particularly the bewildered looks on the faces of the police. “Gee whiz, who’d want to shoot the guy who just killed the president, after we already caught him?”

Why did Ruby rub out Oswald in a police garage, with TV cameras rolling? Ruby said he was emotionally overcome with patriotism. He said bad guy Oswald had killed his favorite president. Ruby’s justification was appropriate to the low-budget movie scene in which he had been a momentary star.

Lee Harvey Oswald fit the makeup of a long list of obsessed loners who became assassins, including Sirhan Sirhan, who killed Robert Kennedy only five years after his brother was assassinated. Yet close to a thousand books and articles have challenged the lone assassin theory.

Die-hard conspiracy theorists have suggested the Kennedy assassination was a plot involving the Mafia, the FBI, Fidel Castro, the CIA, Texas oil millionaires, and Jimmy Hoffa (who disappeared in 1975 and left no forwarding address). Those who are still obsessed with their theories had better hurry. Many of the key figures are dead. Survivors have entered their age of forgetfulness.

If someone offers up a death-bed conspiracy confession, we’d suggest Mr. Bugliosi be invited to make a pre-mortem cross-examination. Dead men may tell no lies, but some have been known to float a whopper on their way out – just for a last laugh.

Jim Flynn was formerly a corporate counsel, served in military intelligence during the Korean War, and once aspired to be a newspaper columnist.