The Kennedy Assassination: Three Essential Books

Peter Cannon -- November 12th, 2013

9781468307559In History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Investigation into the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Howard P. Willens, a lawyer who served on the Warren Commission, provides a straightforward account of the proceedings that serves as a rebuttal to those critics who claim that the committee gave into pressure not to seek and tell the truth. Willens makes a strong case that he and the other lawyers worked hard to do the best job they could, despite the lack of full cooperation from the FBI and CIA, each of whom had reason to withhold evidence. Willens stands by the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone shooter and there was no credible evidence of a conspiracy.

9780805094206_p0_v2_s600Philip Shenon in effect expands on Willens in A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination. Besides exploring the conflicts, rivalries, and misbehavior among the members of the Warren Commission, Shenon goes into far more depth than Willens to reveal the full extent of FBI and CIA obstruction. In particular, he has unearthed new information about Oswald during the five days he spent in Mexico City in late September and early October 1963, when he tried unsuccessfully to obtain travel visas from the Cuban and Soviet consulates. According to several people in the know, Oswald had an affair with an employee at the Cuban consulate, Sylvia Duran, and attended a “twist” party in the company of two other Americans. Might anti-American Cubans at the party have urged him to kill Kennedy in retaliation for the CIA’s attempts to kill Castro? Duran, who’s still alive, denies that she met with Oswald outside the Cuban consulate. As Shenon reluctantly concedes, none of these allegations poses a serious challenge to the basic findings of the Warren Commission.

marina_and_leeFor anyone who wants to understand how and why Oswald shot the president without help or encouragement from anyone else, I recommend Marina and Lee: The Tormented Love and Fatal Obsession Behind Lee Harvey Oswald’s Assassination of John F. Kennedy by Priscilla Johnson McMillan. This detailed, psychological portrait of Oswald, based largely on interviews with his widow, Marina, wasn’t well received when it was first published in 1977, when skepticism was running high about our government, but today only diehard conspiracy believers will find its arguments unpersuasive.

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