If one accepts that there was a conspiracy, then the floodgates of possibilities are opened to all sorts of theories. Since the assassination there have been so many trying to convince us of their account, which however implausible, will show us all exactly what happened. Thank goodness for their insight!
Such theories include the suggestion made by Bonar Menninger in his book, "Mortal Error" that the head shot was as a result of a tragic accident. Apparently, as the first shots rang out from the Sixth Floor, one of the secret service agents in the follow up car, urgently grabbed his rifle, stood up, and as he turned to take aim towards the Book Depository, allowed his gun to go off. By a tragic turn of fate, the President’s head just happened to be in the line of fire at the time, and so this poor unfortunate agent was responsible.
Written like this, the theory seems totally ridiculous, but an entire book was published to support this theory. As with most of these "off-the-wall" theories, this one conveniently ignored most of the evidence that didn’t fit well with their suggested sequence of events. This is relatively easy to do of course, for the uninitiated reader can be none the wiser as to the omissions.
Many theories concentrate on one particular aspect of the assassination, aiming to explain such things as the sequence of events in Dallas, the involvement of the Mafia, the short-comings of the Warren Commission, etc. Most suffer from being incomplete and again, failing to address key elements of the evidence that might complicate their story, although just now and then, they do add something to the wealth of knowledge.
More plausible and better researched theories seem to home in on much the same sort of ideas. Most seem to believe that Government agencies, such as the CIA were responsible, perhaps not directly but indirectly through occasional agents and associates. Links with the Mafia, the potential to cover up, the wide-ranging influence of the organisation and its motives, always seem to point the conspiracy theorists to the CIA. The Garrison investigation threw up a direct CIA link through Clay Shaw and the various activities in New Orleans.
Most surprising of all was the selection of Allen Dulles, the former head of the CIA, as a key member of the Warren Commission. Throughout his term in office, John Kennedy had struggled with the CIA as his strategies and policies clashed with theirs. In particular, he differed greatly with them over the approach to Cuba. They fell out over the Bay of Pigs invasion, when the CIA conveniently held Kennedy responsible for abandoning CIA agents to their fates on the beaches at the Bay of Pigs as their attempted invasion failed under superior Cuban forces. Although the President was later exonerated when the CIA’s own report was published, it was common understanding within the CIA that it was Kennedy’s fault.
They also did not see eye to eye on the various attempts at Castro’s life and when Kennedy’s orders for the CIA to cease and desist from insurgent activities in Cuba went unheeded, things finally came to a head and he dismissed Allen Dulles from the post as Director of the CIA. So, to include Dulles in the seven key member team of the Warren Commission was a comment in itself by the new president.
Involvement of the FBI is hard to deny, at least in the post-assassination processes. The director of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover, was a close personal friend of Lyndon Johnson, but quite the opposite for the Kennedy brothers; Robert Kennedy being Attorney General and Hoover's boss. Hoover disliked the Kennedys and often bailed them out of trouble during their dalliances with the likes of Marilyn Monroe. He disliked their liberal attitudes and there is no doubt the Kennedys tried in vain to clip Hoover’s wings, indeed going as far as to try to force him to retire.
Hoover was a key man of the time. Nothing went on in the United States without him knowing of it, or indeed approving it. His associations with the Mafia and organised crime in general, and his relationship with his deputy, Clyde Tolson, are now well understood, and he never stopped short of using the network of FBI agents as his own ‘secret police force’. Prior to the Warren Commission’s investigation starting, the FBI conducted their own investigation, and provided their report to the Warren Commission to inform their evidence taking. It is self-evident that the FBI report showed the Warren Commission exactly what they were to determine.
Coup de tat
Coup de tat has always seemed such an emotive term to use in connection with US politics. After all, a coup de tat is for ‘banana’ republics and not for one of the world’s largest and most prestigious democracies. However, given its meaning it can be seen as an appropriate term.
Let us assume that conspiracy is accepted, then one must assume that prior thought and planning would have happened and the whole thing would have been motivated in some way. Consequently, the conspirators would have considered two major questions; who would they end up with instead of Kennedy as president, and what would happen to them.?
They would have needed to know that the new president would be favourable to their cause, and would not seek to bring them to justice. They would have needed to know that their interests would have been served in the longer term by the assassination and that the new regime would look favourably upon them. They might even want to know these things in advance.
There is no meaningful evidence that Johnson knew of the assassination beforehand, but it is almost certain that he would have been well aware of everything, almost as soon as it happened. Some even claim to see a little twinkle in his eye as he looked across at an associate as if to say "we did it" in one of the key photographs of him being sworn in aboard Air Force 1 just hours after Kennedy was pronounced dead, Jacqueline standing next to him in her blood-stained suit.
Johnson could well have been a very formidable enemy for those who crossed him, and if he had viewed Kennedy’s assassination as an affront to US justice or to him, he could well have held an in-depth investigation prepared to uncover the truth, come what may. On the other hand he could well have been as determined to make sure the truth was concealed for the good of the stability of the country. Many claimed that the Warren Commission did cover up the truth, although for the best of intentions.
Whatever Johnson’s role in the assassination or its subsequent investigation, there is no doubt the course of history was changed by Kennedy’s assassination. Johnson was a very different president to Kennedy and many of his key policies would have been conducted differently under Kennedy, most notably the Vietnam War which became one of Johnson's most compelling legacies.