Notes of a Fallen Catholic and Fallen JFK Conspiracy Buff

On a personal level, the assasination of John F Kennedy was much more devastating than 9/11.

Kennedy was (male) Irish catholic and so was I.

At the time, the country believed Kennedy saved the world by getting Khruschev “to blink,” during the Cuban missle crisis.

And so did I.

The country believed at the time that a chicken neck communist punk with a mail order rifle shot our handsome Johnny as he rode in a motorcade on that sunny day in Dallas.

And so did I.

Now 50 years after JFK was whacked,  a deluge of books and TV specials are raining down on us like bullets in Dealy Plaza on a sunny afternoon.

During the late 60s and 70s I succumed to the lures of Buffdom–as in conspiracy buff. In the late 70s I was Director of the SDS spawned “Free School,” the Center for Participant Education at Florida State Unversity in Tallahassee.

At one forum, titled “Who Killed JFK”  myself along  with  former CIA couple Ernie and Madeline Rehder, (Madeline worked as an assistant to Phillip “Inside the Company” Agee in Uruguay) expounded on the latest revelations as two obvious FBI agents taped and photographed us.

Would we be the next ones to die a mysterious death?, we joked later over drinks.

My career as a “buff” peaked in the late 70s when Tallahassee Democrat culture writer Brian Richardson, impressed with the gaggle of “Who Kiled JFK” programs and speakers, like Mark Lane and Carl Oglesby, we were bringing to FSU, invited moi and former  CPE Director Neal Friedman to watch the made-for-TV “Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald,” which aired over two nights on ABC.

A couple of days later Friedman and I were the front page story along with photos and the headline “Warren Commissision Experts critique ABC program.” I was so moved I almost went to the library to actually read the whole Warren Report and the 26 vols of hearings and evidence.

Now on the silver anniversary of that traumatic event, and speaking as a former buff, but alas one who still hasn’t read all 26 vols, but who has read a great amount of the literature, pro and con, I remain convinced that although Oswald was probably involved and may even have fired from his ancient manlicher Carcano (I once asked the notorious Marion Hammer of NRA fame if Oswald did it, she replied, “Not with that gun”) at Kennedy, Connolly or both, there was indeed a grassy knoll shooter and most probably a high level conspiracy involving the CIA and the mafia and maybe even that bi-polar “polecat” Lyndon as Water Mattheaus Richared Russell in Oliver Stones’ masterpiece of reality based paranoia, “JFK”.

Yes, Stone threw everything but the kitchen sink at Warren and forgot that it wasn’t only Lyndon who didn’t want a real investigation, but neither did the Kennedys. It was the Kennedy entourage that prevented Dallas ‘ Earl Rose from conducting a legal autopsy and Kennedy physician Admiral Burke who interferred with the  already botched autopsy at Bethesda, conducted by “academics” who had done few autopsies and didn’t know until JFK was six feet under, that a tracheotomy was done at Parkland earlier.

Almost nobody who mattered wanted an honest investigation for obvious reasons. A true investigation would have revealed that JFK was trysting with mafia moll Judy Exner. Not to mention  Bobby’s perceived duplicity in prosecuting mafia chiefs, while sanctioning the CIA to whack Castro using mobsters like Johnny Rosseli. A real investigation would have revealed a rat’s nests of duplicity and murder from top to bottom.

As is always the case the no-conspiracy buffs are back in the news with their usual patronizing comments about the inability of the America people to  admit a “loser” like Oswald could “alter history.”

The most ludicrous example perhaps being James Reston Jr his column which appeared in the USA Today for Nov 17. After scolding the American people for psychologically hunkering down behind conspiracy theories, Reston postulates that JFK was killed by Oswald but by accident . Oswald was actually shooting at Connally!

I know my friend Alex Cockburn was  more or less a Warren guy, but still I would loved to have read his take on the spate of books and specials on the assassination. Most of all I wish he were alive to joke about Jim Lehrer’s silly  book, “Top Down.” I imagine Alex might have suggested a sequel called, “Flat Tire,” in which the limo gets a flat and, well, history is changed forever.

You would never know from the no-conspiracy scolds that Robert Kennedy Jr recently revealed that RFK, like LBJ, never believed the Warren conclusions. “A shoddy piece of work,” Bobby called it according to Kennedy the junior.

For the no-conspiracy theorists the JFK story begins and ends with Warren. The Garrison investigation, flawed as it was but on the right trail, or the more important 1978 House Select Committee on Assasinations, which tied a lot of loose ends together but like Warren was hampered by CIA and FBI, barely exists in the coldest of cold.

Jack McCarthy is a writer in Tallahassee, Florida. He can be reached at


Jack McCarthy is a writer in Tallahassee, Florida. He can be reached at