The Second Oswald: The Case for a Conspiracy Theory


by Edward Jay Epstein
Viking, 224 pp., $5.00


by Harold Weisberg
Harold Weisberg (Hyattstown, Md.), 208 pp., $4.95 (paper)

Earl Warren
Earl Warren; drawing by David Levine

In one of Victor Serge’s last works, The Case of Comrade Tulayev, written over fifteen years ago, the Russian equivalent of the Oswald story is set forth. An alienated young man, unhappy with the many aspects of his life in the Soviet Union—the food, his room, his job, etc.—acquires a gun, and manages to shoot Commissar Tulayev one night when he is getting out of a car. An extensive investigation sets in, followed by an extensive purge. Millions of people are arrested and made to confess to being part of a vast conspiracy against the government. The actual assassin is, of course, never suspected, since no one can imagine him as a conspirator. He continues to lead his alienated unhappy life, while the government uncovers the great plot.

In contrast, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, a solution emerged within hours: one lonely alienated man had done the deed all by himself. The investigation by the Dallas Police and the FBI then proceeded to buttress this view, and to accumulate all sorts of details about the lone assassin, some false (like the murder map), some trivial (like his early school records), some suggestive (like the bag he carried into the Book Depository), some convincing (like the presence of his rifle and the three shells). From its origins in Dallas on the night of November 22, 1963, the career of the theory of a single conspirator indicates that this was the sort of explanation most congenial to the investigators and the public (although the strange investigation of Joe Molina, a clerk in the Book Depository, from 2 A.M. November 23 until the end of that day, mainly for his activities in a slightly left-wing veterans’ organization, suggests a conspiratorial interpretation was then under consideration).

THE WARREN COMMISSION, after many months of supposed labor and search, came out with an anticlimatic conclusion, practically the same as that reached by the FBI in its report of December 9, 1963, except for details as to how it happened. The Commission, clothed in the imposing dignity of its august members, declared its conviction that one lone alienated assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, had indeed carried out the crime.

The ready acceptance of this by then expected finding by the press and the public—except for a few critics—suggests that the American public got the kind of explanation it wanted, and perhaps deserved. For almost everyone the points that suggested a conspiratorial explanation were either disposed of by the “careful” work of the Warren Commission and the FBI, or by a faith that had grown up about the Report. Some of the early critical questions suggesting a conspiratorial explanation (raised by Buchanan, Joesten, Sauvage, Bertrand Russell, Trevor-Roper, etc.) were shown to be based on misinformation or misunderstandings, the result mainly of what the Dallas Police had said, or what had appeared in newspaper accounts and interviews. Other questions, based…

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