Sunday, November 10, 2013

With Friends Like Lee Harvey Oswald...

There are times when you think you know a person, but you later discover you never really knew that person at all.

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Oswald had a death wish. He had a crappy job with few prospects, had a marriage on the outs, and had more than his share of psychological problems. Mix those in with easy gun access and ample opportunity and you get a presidential assassin.

On the Saturday morning after Kennedy was killed, I was sitting in my small apartment in Norman when a Secret Service agent and the local chief of police arrived and took me some 20 miles down I-35 to Oklahoma City for questioning. As we drove, I began telling them about how I met Oswald, the evenings driving around Fort Worth, the Dallas Russians and how a college kid got caught up with an accused assassin. After they escorted me into a nondescript conference room in a downtown building, the agents homed in on the question of the day, which, of course, has lingered over the past 50 years: Did I think Oswald worked alone or was part of a larger conspiracy? I told them simply that, if I were organizing a conspiracy, he would have been the last person I would recruit. He was too difficult and unreliable.

Over the years, despite public-opinion polls, many others have agreed. The opening of formerly secret archives in Russia indicate that the K.G.B. didn’t want to recruit Oswald. Cuban intelligence officers, a K.G.B. agent or two, Mafia bosses and even C.I.A. officers (including, supposedly, members of Nixon’s “plumbers” team) have somehow been tied to Oswald’s actions that day, but it’s difficult to understand how these conspiracy theories would have worked. Oswald, after all, fled the Texas School Book Depository by Dallas’s notably unreliable public-transportation system.

Nobody wanted Oswald, but he figured he would make a mark on history anyway and die a martyr to whatever nutball cause he believed in. He did make a mark on history but was no martyr.

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