On November 22, 1963, a deranged Lee Harvey Oswald, alone and unaided, assassinated President Kennedy and murdered police officer J.D. Tippit. That is...moreOn November 22, 1963, a deranged Lee Harvey Oswald, alone and unaided, assassinated President Kennedy and murdered police officer J.D. Tippit. That is Gerald Posner's thesis. It is one that is very, very difficult to refute even with fifty years worth of conspiracy theorizing. I personally do consider the case closed. But why did Oswald do it? Posner relates the story of a troubled and unstable childhood overseen by a mother overly permissive, exculpating (to the degree that she would later defend Oswald's beating of his wife to the Warren Commission) and self-centered, who viewed her children as burdens to her. When the courts attempted to do something about Oswald's long-term truancy his mother simply responded by taking her child and leaving the state. It would be one of the dozens of changes of residency the young Oswald would experience. This deadly mixture of lovelessness and permissiveness resulted in a very angry young man who would act out by pummeling his mother and physically threatening his brother, his brother's wife and later his own wife. In order to escape his unstable mother and in order to emulate his older brother he entered the Marines. It was this same need to escape and the additional narcissistic need to stand out that first attracted him to Communism and later Trotskyism. He defected to Russia where his infatuation with Soviet Communism came to a crashing halt. He then attempted to prove his importance to himself and to the world through a commitment to political activism and his new-found hero, Fidel Castro. On April 10, 1963 he attempted to assassinate a right-wing major general, Edwin Walker. The bullet narrowly missed his head. Disappointed, he later lost himself in plans to hijack a plane and defect to Cuba. Rebuffed by the Mexico City Cuban Consulate because of his obvious instability, he returned home dejected. Unfortuitously, he found a job in Dallas at the Texas Schoolbook Depository (a stroke of luck no conspirator could have foreseen) and on the spur of the moment decided to assassinate President Kennedy upon discovering that the motorcade route would take him through Dealey Plaza. While Posner does not spell it out (I consider it a central weakness of the book that the author does not attempt to go further in psychologically analyzing his subject), one can surmise that Oswald assassinated President Kennedy in order to become an important revolutionary and to find a place for himself in the history books.
"Case Closed" is two books in one. An illuminating biography of Lee Oswald and a critique of those writers who argue that the assassination was the result of a conspiracy. In this latter aspect the author completely fails. The most convincing pro-conspiracy writers by far are Harold Weisberg, Sylvia Meagher and Howard Roffman. The first two come in for only superficial criticism and the latter is not even mentioned in the entire book! Rather than tackle the major critiques of the Warren Commission conclusions he goes after only easy targets like the nutty Jim Marrs and paranoid Jim Garrison. Take his handling of the murder of police officer J.D. Tippit. A classic conspiracy argument is that Oswald could not have gotten to the scene of the crime in the time necessary to have perpetrated the murder. Citizen T.F. Bowley was the only witness to look at his watch when he came upon the body. It was 1:10. Oswald's landlady testified that Oswald left his apartment a few minutes after one. Yet Posner writes "Could Oswald have physically been at the Tippit scene by 1:15, the time of the shooting?... [he] left [his apartment] before 1:00"! Posner writes that the bullet used in the Walker shooting had been confirmed as coming from Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano by neutron activation analysis. Yet he does not mention that there was a spectrographic analysis that is often interpreted as having come to a different conclusion! Or that General Walker (who believed Oswald had been his assailant) was adamant that the bullet tested by NAA was not the one found in his apartment. He mentions the fact that Oswald tested as a sharp-shooter in the Marines but does not mention that this is the lowest passable score possible. Posner has written numerous books on a great variety of topics; he is not a specialist. All of this may thus suggest that he was a bit shaky on some of the issues of this complex case and that he was unprepared to handle the more serious critics of the Warren Commission and focused only on light-weights. This book will likely not convince those who believe there was a conspiracy. This is unfortunate. A much stronger debunking of the pro-conspiracy writers is Larry Sturdivan's "The JFK Myths: A Scientific Investigation of the Kennedy Assassination," which is strongly recommended for anyone interested in this case.
In conclusion, the book is worth reading. It is informative and very well-written but only half of it is successful. (less)
"Oedipus the King, "Prometheus Bound" and "The Bacchae" are among the very highest works of world literature. Except for William Shakespeare, no other...more"Oedipus the King, "Prometheus Bound" and "The Bacchae" are among the very highest works of world literature. Except for William Shakespeare, no other playwright, not even Ibsen or Racine, approaches Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus, at their very best, for their wisdom, truth and formalistic mastery. I have been studying these 33 plays for over a dozen years in various translations and I feel that this edition - edited by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore - is the best complete set of translations currently available. It is marred, however, by its lack of footnotes and supplementary material. Sophocles is clearly the star of this collection. Subtle and profound.(less)
"The JFK Myths" is a scientific analysis of the evidence in the JFK assassination. As such it is a very different type of book than Gerald Posner's "C...more"The JFK Myths" is a scientific analysis of the evidence in the JFK assassination. As such it is a very different type of book than Gerald Posner's "Case Closed." One here will learn little about the psychology and motive of the participants but it is without a doubt, in its marshaling of evidence, a more convincing book than the vast majority of other books with a non-conspiracy thesis. No one reading "The JFK Myths" with an open mind can conclude other than that there was only one single gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, who acted alone and unaided.
So why do so many people believe that there was a conspiracy in the assassination of President Kennedy? While there are a fair share of loons attracted to this case the questions most ask are legitimate. How could a bullet have gone through both Kennedy and Connally and come out only slightly deformed? Why did certain witnesses believe that the shots came from the grassy knoll? Why did the President's head move violently back and to the left instead of forward when it was hit? Sturdivan convincingly answers all of these questions and more.
The author takes us through the importance of understanding velocity and density when discussing bullet deformation. As the single bullet went through JFK and Connally it tumbled and lost velocity so that by the time it hit Connally's rib it was moving at a decreased speed capable of shattering bone but only slightly deforming the bullet. By the time it hit the wrist it had even less velocity. Sturdivan also takes on the myth that a bullet has the energy needed to violently push back a person's head. He discusses the experiments which prove JFK's head movement was neuro-muscular in nature.
Sturdivan argues that a close study of the Zapruder film locates the three shots at frames Z-152/53. 221/222. and 312. He does this on the basis of a jiggle analysis of the film and the recognition that there is a five to six frame lapse between the time of the shots and Zapruder's startled reactions. Contrary to conspiracy narratives that postulate a much shorter timeframe, the assassin had almost nine seconds to aim and fire twice after the first shot. The large jiggle that begins at Z-190 has often been used as evidence of a shot by a second assassin since Oswald's view from the Texas Schoolbook Despository at the time was blocked by a tree but Sturdivan convincingly argues that a reaction at 190 would have to have originated from a shot fired a few frames earlier. Neither JFK or Connally show any reaction to a bullet at that time. The jiggle at 190 is thus a tracking error caused by the fact that the limousine just then disappears behind the signpost. A first missed shot at Z-152/153 fits in perfectly with the reactions and testimony of Connally and Rosemary Willis, the little girl in the red dress. The bulge in Governor Connally's lapel at frame-224 also corresponds to a shot at 221-222 because a bulge in clothing would peak two frames *after* the bullet hit.
The most interesting part of the book for me was the author's defense of the original autopsy pathologists' location of the fatal wound of entrance four inches below where the entrance wound was placed by the Clark Panel (1968), the Rockefeller Commission (1975) and the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel (1978). He believes that their error was based on a misinterpretation of the X-rays and the erroneous belief that the point of exit would extend from a straight line from the point of entrance. Rather, Sturdivan argues that the bullet entered lower in the back of the skull and then underwent a curved trajectory where it burst out in pieces higher up the front side of the skull. Pieces of the bullet fragments then hit the windshield while one fragment left the car to slightly injure citizen Jim Tague.
One of my criticisms of Gerald Posner's "Case Closed" is that Posner has a habit of only going after the kookier conspiracy theorists like Jim Garrison or Jim Marrs. Sturdivan, on the other hand, seems much more familiar with the more convincing conspiracy arguments and disproves them one by one. Heard the one that says the bullet fragments tested by the HSCA did not match the weight of the fragments as originally measured during the time of the Warren Commission? Sturdivan has, too, and discusses it. What about that impossible theory postulated by Harold Weisberg and Cyril Wecht that JFK was hit in the head by a frangible bullet at the same exact time as he was hit in the back of the head? That's covered, too. With the single exception of Vincent Bugliosi's "Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy," Larry M. Sturdivan's "The JFK Myths: A Scientific Investigation of the Kennedy Assassination" is the best book on the topic that I have read. Once you have finished reading it you will be certain that the mysteries of this case have been resolved. (less)