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No conspiracy required

Nov 22, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Poor planning and practices made it easy for Oswald to kill President Kennedy

It has been 50 years to the day since the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was shot to death.

Perhaps you've heard.

To say that the anniversary of Kennedy's assassination has received some media attention this fall is like saying Seattle gets some rain.

This coverage has been everywhere.

It's understandable, especially if you are a television executive or a book publisher. The assassination of Kennedy was nothing less than the crime of the century. The shock of it, the impact, the disbelief reverberated strongly through the nation for more than a decade -- socially, politically and emotionally -- and it has not abated completely even today.

Troubling in the temporary super-revival of media coverage this fall has been the attention paid to the conspiracy theories that have followed the JFK killing from the start. These ideas have been debunked through increasingly sophisticated scientific analysis and, most importantly, by simple common sense.

Until this year, that is, when every crackpot scheme that years ago had been discounted thoroughly has been given a fresh hearing.

Simultaneous to that, however, has been a new batch of technically marvelous scientific research that has allowed hyper-realistic simulations of the assassination through the use of computer-generated imagery and the most advanced knowledge of ballistics ever brought to bear on any crime.

And every credible study by every credible examiner reaches the same basic conclusion: A 24-year-old malcontent named Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president from the window of a book warehouse early in the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963 -- 50 years ago on a Friday afternoon.

Yes, it seems hard to believe, especially when framed within today's security climate surrounding the president of the United States. How could one young man with so little going for him take down the most powerful man in the world? It is a fair question, and it is that question that continues to fuel the beliefs of some elaborate conspiracy theorists. Oswald couldn't have done it alone, they claim.

Of course he could have. And the best evidence shows that he did.

Consider the blunders that made it possible. Against advice, Kennedy traveled to a city where dislike for him was known to be as high as anywhere in the nation. An election year was about to begin, and political tensions were high in Dallas. Remember that Kennedy had been elected by an almost impossibly thin majority over Richard Nixon in 1960 in an election rivaling the 2000 Bush-Gore race in its razor-thin margin. So, Kennedy was a divisive figure in his time, and perhaps nowhere more so than Dallas.

The parade route for the presidential motorcade that Friday was published again and again in local newspapers, down to the minute. Vantage points for getting a good look at the motorcade also were suggested and published -- including in the upper floors of nearby buildings.

Crowd control that day was so poor that onlookers were permitted to crowd into the streets, creating a narrow pathway for the motorcade to travel. That, in turn, required the cars to slow down and travel much more slowly than had been anticipated.

The awkward sharp left-hand turn into Dealey Plaza required even more slowing. This was the point, of course, where Oswald, from his sniper's nest six stories above the ground, drew his deadly bead on the president's head.

Furthermore, a decision was made earlier in the day not to place a transparent fiberglass "bubble" over the open passenger compartment of the president's convertible. Contrary to popular belief, the bubble was not bulletproof, but rather a protection against the weather. Still, in the midday sun of Dallas, it very likely would have interfered with the clear view that Oswald had and would have made the shot more difficult.

Oswald had been a U.S. Marine, but although he was not a sharpshooter by Marine standards, he was a qualified marksman who had experience with rifles and was more than capable of executing the shots.

Half a century after it happened, the nation clearly retains a fascination, perhaps even obsession, with the broad-daylight, living-color, captured-on-film assassination of its vibrant young present.

Amid all of the newly resurrected conspiracy nonsense, the actual crime, based on overwhelming evidence and logic, remains endlessly fascinating in and of itself. No conspiracy theories required.

As for the question of how a nobody like Oswald could have killed the biggest somebody in the world, the answer is tragic but obvious. Because we made it so easy for him.

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