Cui Bono, Redux
Despite the fact that he has presented no evidence establishing Oswald's guilt, Reitzes nonetheless feels the need to pontificate upon his motivation. To say that he is on shaky ground here would be a vast understatement. After all, people who knew Oswald testified that he was an admirer of President Kennedy who bore him no malice. No doubt fully aware of this fact, Reitzes has little choice but to suggest that Oswald was “mentally unstable”. He writes: “The Warren Commission heard testimony and examined psychological evaluations from his teen years suggesting he was a greatly troubled individual.” Indeed Oswald did have a difficult childhood, during which a spell of truancy led to his being remanded at an institution named Youth House for psychiatric evaluation. However, as the Warren Commission reported, “Contrary to reports that appeared after the assassination, the psychiatric examination did not indicate that Lee Oswald was a potential assassin, potentially dangerous, that 'his outlook on life had strongly paranoid overtones' or that he should be institutionalized.” (WR379)
Essentially, Oswald was a lonely, withdrawn child who suffered from neglect. As social worker, Evelyn Siegel, reported, she saw “a rather pleasant, appealing quality about this emotionally starved, affectionless youngster which grows as one speaks to him.” She concluded that Lee “just felt that his mother never gave a damn for him.” (Ibid, 380) Years later as a grown man in the Soviet Union, following a feigned suicide attempt, Oswald spent three days in a psychiatric ward for observation. One report concluded that he was “not dangerous to other people” and another describes him as being “of clear mind” with “no sign of psychotic phenomena.” (18H464 & 468) If Oswald's troubled childhood left him “mentally unstable” the Soviet psychiatrists did not pick up on it. Nor did the United States Marine Corps. As legendary critic Sylvia Meagher noted, “The Marine Corps medical records on Oswald for 1956-1959 consistently show no sign of emotional problems, mental abnormality, or psychosis.” (Meagher, Accessories After the Fact, p. 244)
Reitzes attempts to resurrect the notion of Oswald as a “radically leftist...Castro idolater” which is not something most researchers take seriously today. Although Oswald frequently told anyone that would listen that he was a communist or a Marxist, his behaviour indicated otherwise. The fact of the matter is that Oswald never joined any communist or Marxist organization, even when living in the Soviet Union, and all of his known contacts and acquaintances were right-wingers and anti-Castroites. In the summer of 1963 when Oswald started his own make-believe chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans—which, as previously noted, was at the same time the CIA was running a campaign against the FPCC—it only ended up embarrassing the organization when Oswald was publicly revealed as a former resident of the Soviet Union. Once he had discredited the FPCC in New Orleans by effectively linking the organization with Russian communism, Oswald moved on. For these reasons, and many more, most serious researchers now believe that Oswald's self-professed Marxism was a cover and that he was, in fact, some type of intelligence asset. A thorough discussion of this subject is beyond the scope of this critique so interested readers are referred to the books Conspiracy? by Anthony Summers, Destiny Betrayed (second edition) by Jim DiEugenio, and Oswald and the CIA by John Newman.
Continuing his skewed, hackneyed portrait, Reitzes claims that Oswald had a “history of violence”. When considering that particular deceleration, readers should bear in mind that Reitzes is describing a U.S. Marine who only ever got in one fight during his entire adult life. As it happens, Oswald was considered so timid by his fellow Marines that they nicknamed him “Ozzie Rabbit”. One Marine, Daniel Powers, testified that in his opinion Oswald “was the meek mild individual that a person felt if he had something, that he wouldn't really fight to keep it. He would take the easy way out to avoid conflict.” (8H270) Nevertheless, in support of this supposed “history of violence”, Reitzes offers “the time he [Oswald] threatened his sister-in-law with a knife as a teen”, and alleges that “numerous witnesses...testified about the physical abuse he directed at his wife.” The first of Reitzes' two examples is barely worthy of discussion. It refers to the time a 13-year-old Oswald flashed a pocket knife at his brother's wife. That was the extent of it. It was silly kids stuff and no one was hurt. The second example is more complex.
Contrary to the impression Reitzes attempts to convey, there was actually only one witness who claimed to have first hand knowledge of Oswald hitting his wife, Marina, and he never “testified” to that fact. The witness was Alex Kleinlerer who appears to have taken an instant dislike to Oswald and gave an uncorroborated statement claiming that he once saw him slap Marina around the face. (11H120) The only other person who would claim personal knowledge of such matters was Marina herself who, to say the least, has credibility issues. As Warren Commission lawyer Norman Redlich noted in a once secret memo, “...Marina Oswald has repeatedly lied to the [Secret] Service, the FBI, and this Commission on matters which are of vital concern to the people of this country and the world.” (11HSCA126) Indeed, Marina gave so many conflicting stories that investigators for the HSCA prepared a report titled Marina Oswald Porter's Statements of a Contradictory Nature which totalled over 30 pages.
Physical abuse was one of the many subjects on which Marina gave conflicting accounts. During one of her appearances before the Commission she said that her husband had been a “good family man” and described only one occasion on which he had hit her after she had written a letter to a former boyfriend saying she wished she had married him instead. (1H32-33) Later, she changed her mind and claimed that Lee was “not a good husband” and had “beat” her “on many occasions.” (5H594) In all likelihood, neither of these accounts is quite true. Although Marina attempted to paint herself as a devoted housewife who suffered at the hands of her abusive husband, as Norman Redlich suggested, “...there is a strong probability that Marina Oswald is in fact a very different person—cold, calculating, avaricious, scornful of generosity, and capable of an extreme lack of sympathy in personal relationships.” (11HSCA126) There is testimony that suggests Marina delighted in tormenting and embarrassing Lee in front of others. Jeanne DeMohrenschildt remarked that when friends were giving Marina the things that Lee could not afford, she “was throwing it into his face.” (9H309) Mrs. DeMohrenschildt also noted that “...she ribbed him even in front of us...if I would ever speak to my husband that way we would not last long.” (Ibid, 311-12) “I'm not a quiet woman myself”, Marina testified as she confessed to provoking Lee. (5H598) More importantly, Lee Oswald was himself observed covered in scratches inflicted by his wife (12HSCA129) who admitted that she would hit him and throw objects at him. (5H598) “...he is not a strong man”, Marina said, “and when I collect all my forces and want to do something very badly I am stronger than he is.” (5H389) It is clear that the Oswalds had a tumultuous and, at times, violent relationship. It also seems apparent that neither party was entirely blameless.
Although in her earliest interviews Marina could name no acts of violence by her dead husband, on December 5, 1964, she threw the FBI a bone and claimed that Lee had told her he had taken a shot at right-wing zealot, General Edwin Walker on April 10, 1963. (23H391) Of course, Marina came out with this story during the two month period that she was being held at the Inn of Six Flags in Arlington, Texas, in which she was repeatedly interrogated by the Secret Service and FBI and threatened with deportation. (see 1H79 & 410) Nevertheless, Reitzes claims that there is “documentary evidence” to support Marina's story. He does not detail precisely what that “documentary evidence” is but when we check his citation—pages 688-697 of Bugliosi's book—we see that it consists of an unsigned, undated note that does not mention General Walker and a few photographs of Walker's house that were found in the garage of Michael and Ruth Paine. Not exactly overwhelming stuff.
The truth is that in the eight months the Dallas police investigated the attempt on Walker's life, Oswald was never considered a suspect. The mutilated bullet that was recovered from Walker's home was described by police as being 30.06 steel-jacketed and not 6.5 mm copper-jacketed like the bullets fired from “Oswald's” rifle. (Dallas Morning News, April 11, 1963 & 24H40) Additionally, eyewitness Walter Kirk Coleman told police that almost immediately after the shot was fired, he saw two men getting into two different cars in the nearby church parking lot. One of these men bent over the front seat of his car “as if putting something in the back floorboard.” The other man got into a light green or blue Ford and “took off in a hurry”. (24H41) Oswald could not drive and did not own a car and Coleman later told the FBI that “neither man resembled Oswald and that he had never seen anyone in or around the Walker residence or the church before or after April 10, 1963, who resembled Lee Harvey Oswald.” (26H438)
Also on the subject of violence, Reitzes writes that “The commission heard testimony that Oswald...believed that societal change could only be brought about by violent means”. This he again sources to Bugliosi (p. 937) who quotes from an interview Michael Paine gave to HSCA investigators in 1978 claiming that it was “Oswald's belief that the only way the injustices in society could be corrected was through a violent revolution.” The first thing of note here is that this hearsay claim was made in 1978—14 years after the Warren Commission shut up shop. So Reitzes' claim that the Commission heard such testimony is false. The bigger problem, however, is that in 1964, when Paine testified to the Commission, he specifically stated that Oswald “didn't mention advocating violence or didn't say anything in regard to violence...” (2H411) Paine's latter day claims can only be regarded as either faulty recollection or a deliberate attempt to mislead. Either way, this type of cherry-picking—ignoring earlier, sworn testimony in favour of later claims more friendly to the author's thesis—is par for the course with Bugliosi and Reitzes.
Still relying on Bugliosi (p. 938-39), Reitzes tells us that Oswald “aspired to greatness, though greatness had thus far eluded him”. In this regard, Bugliosi quotes Marina as stating that her husband “wanted in any way, whether good or bad, to do something that would make him outstanding, that he would be known in history.” He also quotes Texan lawyer Max Clark who knew Oswald very briefly and said that it was his “general impression” that Oswald “wanted to become famous or infamous” and “seemed to think he was destined to go down in history someway or other.” From this I presume we are meant to conclude that killing Kennedy was Oswald's way of getting the recognition he so desired. But such reasoning makes little sense in light of the fact that Oswald protested at every available opportunity that not only was he innocent but that he was a fall guy; a “patsy”. Are we really to believe that Oswald decided to kill the President just so that he could achieve a place in the history books as somebody's dupe? As just a pawn in someone else's scheme? Why would he not want to take credit for his “great deed”? Bugliosi struggles mightily with this question. He weakly suggests that Oswald's “conduct after the shooting” shows that he wanted to escape and then “disclose his identity on his own terms and at a time and place he, not the authorities, chose, such as in Cuba or Russia.” But Oswald's movements after the assassination suggest no such thing. When he returned to his rooming house he did not pick up his passport or pack a bag or do anything that suggested he was planning on leaving the country. Not only that but, once he was in custody, Oswald would have had to have known that he was not going to get away and that there was going to be no opportunity to dictate his own terms or choose his own place in which to confess. Right then and there, with the spotlight of the world's media shining directly on him, would have been the perfect time and place for Oswald to get recognition if he so desired it. Instead he denied shooting Kennedy quite literally to his dying breath.