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Why Would Oswald Have Done It?


With the approaching 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, it would be appropriate to ask an important question: Why would Oswald have done it? Why would he have assassinated President Kennedy?

As I see it, there are four possible scenarios, only one of which, in my opinion, makes any sense.  Let’s break down and analyze each one.

1. Oswald was a lone nut, a little man, a nothing, a loser who assassinated a great man, a popular man, a successful man, a powerful man, in order to garner ever-lasting glory and fame. This scenario is, of course, the most popular among proponents of the Warren Report.

But there is a big problem with this particular scenario: Oswald denied doing it, which is a rather strange way to garner glory and fame as Kennedy’s assassin. Wouldn’t you think that if he wanted to garner glory and fame he would have stuck around the assassination site and openly admitted what he had done? Instead, he departs from the site and then, after his arrest, denies any role in the assassination.

That raises a variation of the lone-nut theory. I suppose Warren Report proponents could say that Oswald wanted to garner glory and fame for killing Kennedy and then outwit the authorities by getting acquitted of the crime. The theory, I suppose, would be that he could implicitly claim glory and fame for having killed the president because everyone would think he had done it while, at the same time, having the personal satisfaction of having gotten away with the crime.

But there is a big problem with that scenario: Oswald left a clear trail to his guilt. If his intention was to kill Kennedy and then get away with it, why purchase the rifle by mail order and then leave it there at the site of the assassination? In Texas at that time, a person could walk into any gun store and purchase a rifle without any restrictions or background checks. If Oswald’s intention was to outwit the authorities, why not go that route instead of using a rifle that could easily be traced to him? Indeed, why leave his palm print on the rifle? For that matter, why use a junk rifle like the Italian-made Mannlicher-Carcano rifle rather than a much more accurate rifle that could have been easily purchased in a gun store?

2. Oswald was a devout communist who killed Kennedy for ideological reasons. This, it seems, is the second-most popular theory of the Warren Report proponents. They point to Oswald’s purported defection to the Soviet Union, his pamphleteering in favor of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, his correspondence with the U.S. Communist Party, his purported trips to Mexico City, and the pro-Marxist sentiments that he openly espoused.

However, there is a big problem with this scenario: If you believe what the CIA, the Pentagon, and the extreme right-wing was saying about Kennedy, he (Kennedy) was the best president an avowed communist could ever want. Why kill him? Don’t forget, after all, that as part of the deal to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy had assured Castro and the Soviets that the U.S. would not invade Cuba. He also ordered the CIA to shut down its training camps for Cuban exiles. His Peace Speech at American University called for an end to the Cold War. He entered into the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviets. He proposed that the Soviets and Americans join forces in moon exploration. He was pulling out of Vietnam. Kennedy was clearly moving America into a world of peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union and Cuba. Indeed, Kennedy was at war with his own national-security establishment, i.e., the military and the CIA, over matters relating to the Cold War, the Soviet Union, and Cuba.

So, why in the world would an avowed communist want to get rid of Kennedy, especially since it would be the vice president, Lyndon Johnson, who would be succeeding him in office? It would not have been difficult to recognize that Johnson’s outlook on the Cold War, the Soviet Union, and Cuba was entirely different from Kennedy’s and that it mirrored that of the national-security establishment.

3. Oswald was part of a conspiracy to kill the president and was simply serving as an agent of that conspiracy when he assassinated Kennedy.

There is, however, a big problem with this scenario: Oswald’s statements after his arrest.

In a conspiracy of this importance, the conspirators would have had the following central rule: If you’re caught, keep your mouth shut. Say nothing. Wait until an attorney, which we will arrange, shows up to represent you.

That’s not what Oswald did. He started jabbering away with two main points: I didn’t do it and I’m being framed by others. Now, when you think about this, it’s a very strange thing for a purported conspirator to do. On being told by Oswald that he was “a patsy” (i.e., someone who was being framed), wouldn’t interrogators ask the logical question: Who do you think is framing you? Then, when they went to arrest those people, wouldn’t the co-conspirators be likely to say that Oswald’s denial was false and that he too was part of the conspiracy? Wouldn’t it be much more logical for a conspirator to keep his mouth shut or, alternatively, to simply deny he did it rather than go one step further and point the authorities in the direction of his co-conspirators?

4. Oswald was what he said he was — “a patsy,” a person who was innocent of the crime and who was being framed by others for it. The fascinating aspect to this scenario is that it’s the only one in which all the pieces to the Kennedy assassination fall into place. No more strangeness. No more anomalies. Everything becomes logical and consistent.

Under this scenario, we no longer have a communist Marine (or a Marine communist, if you prefer). We instead have an intelligence operative recruited from the Marines, one whose job is to infiltrate the Soviet Union with the mission of gathering information on domestic conditions in that highly secretive society at the height of the Cold War. Later, his job would have been to associate with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, with the aim of destroying its credibility and influence, which is exactly what the FBI and the CIA were trying to do. It would also explain Oswald’s associations with a host of intelligence-related figures, such as Guy Bannister, David Atlee Phillips, and George de Mohrenschildt. It would also explain why Oswald denied any participation in the assassination and instead suggested that he was being framed by others for the crime. It would also make sense as to why there was such an easily traceable trail to him, such as with the mail-order purchase of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. It would also make sense as to why Oswald would have been reluctant to break his cover in the immediate aftermath of the assassination. It would also make sense as to why it would have been necessary to place Kennedy’s autopsy in the hands of the military, which could be counted on to publish a false and fraudulent autopsy report and swear everyone to secrecy, on grounds of national security. It would also explain why it would have been necessary to kill Oswald before he decided to disclose who he really was. It would also make sense as to why national-security state officials, especially those in the CIA, would steadfastly insist on all records relating to the Kennedy assassination be kept secret from the American people for 75 years. Indeed, it would explain why the CIA continues to this very day to keep secret its files relating to its connections to the DRE, the New Orleans Cuban exile group with which Oswald had some highly unusual interactions.

For 50 years, the American people have been expected to buy into the first three possibilities, despite the fact that they simply make no sense at all under close scrutiny and also raise all sorts of mysteries, anomalies, contradictions, and inconsistencies. But as the national-security state has been forced to disgorge records and lift its secrecy requirements surrounding the Kennedy assassination during the past 50 years, it has become increasingly clear that it’s only scenario #4 that makes any sense.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.