Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Who killed Kennedy... and why does it matter?

John F. Kennedy
Cover of John F. Kennedy
The 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination is coming up in the fall.  I will be teaching a 50th anniversary "Whodunit" course at my university.  I will be using a relatively recent book that claims the CIA was behind the assassination: "JFK and the Unspeakable" by peace-advocate James W. Douglass (2008)

But, in fact, I am a strong adherent to Vincent Bugliosi's view that Oswald acted alone.  Having read much of Bugliosi's 2007 "Reclaiming History"
I find it hard to come to a different conclusion.  My goal in the course is to be the "guide at the side," and permit my students to explore all the possibilities, anticipating that they too will come round to Bugliosi's view.

If Bugliosi is right, then why does it matter?  I see two very important reasons:

1.  Kennedy inspired in my generation a new-found interest in public service.  His killing shattered that aspiration in many young hearts.  The decline in respect for public officials and confidence in government in the US had been more or less continuous since November 22, 1963.  The subsequent assassinations of RFK and MLK; the war in Vietnam; Watergate... and so forth.  If Jack Kennedy was killed by a lone nut and not the government, and if this view could become widely accepted, it might help stimulate at least the start of a reversal of the cynicism of the past half century... maybe.

2.  And it will help focus us on the fact that the greatest terrorist threat today is the lone gunman, and consequently our counter terrorism efforts should be most heavily focused on the type of policing that will best anticipate and prevent such travesties in the future.  (See my next post of the Fort Hood shooter's latest courtroom antics.)

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