Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Johnson's Folly: The Warren Commission

At this time in November of 1963 the country was reeling from the loss of a president. He was assassinated a week earlier and the people wanted to know the how and why. New President Lyndon Johnson was under a lot of pressure from all levels of government and civilian life to find some answers. The accused man from the killing had been killed himself just a few days earlier and with him when any information they could get about his involvement. Johnson did what he thought was best. He created an investigating committee to determine what really happened in the assassination of JFK. It has become one of the most controversial commissions of all time and it's inaccurate findings are still put forth as the truth today.
Using an executive order, Johnson created the Warren Commission on November 29, 1963. Its goal was to investigate the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The commission got its name from the chairman Chief Justice Earl Warren. Along with Warren, a panel of six government officials carried out the investigation. Of these only future president Gerald Ford is still alive. Also working with the commission was a future senator by the name of Arlen Specter. After a 10 month investigation, the commission published a 900 page report on September 27, 1964. The complete findings of that report are still not completely known and the parts that are have caused controversy ever since.
The findings of the Warren Commission have given us the phrases "lone gunman" and "magic bullet." Their conclusion as a group was that Lee Harvey Oswald, who never stood trial or was convicted of any crime, killed the president by shooting three shots from a sixth floor window in Dallas. And, in the government's mind, the case was closed. Many people over the years have tried to reopen the case with little success. Many have tried to prove the theories put forth by the commission with very limited success as well. Yet the government, especially Arlen Specter, take the commission's findings as rock solid proof. But with the amount of evidence to the contrary, how can the government still support it? We will not know the whole story till 2039 when the complete files are released. Maybe then this can be put behind us. And just maybe we can learn a lesson at the same time.
Government commissions of this type are common. A similar committee was constructed after the 9-11 attacks and their findings were published and regarded as goals for a change in national security. But we should not put all of our faith in these types of commissions. Especially when they are set up specifically by a sitting president. The Warren Commission contained many Washington insiders as well as a former CIA director. These men were hand-picked by Johnson and probably gave him just the results he wanted to hear. In our own time, President Bush has created the "Iraq Study Group." This committee of insiders is suppose to gather information about the war and make recommendations for change. But I have a feeling the findings will not change much in Iraq. Much like the Warren Commission, their findings will state the "party line" and the course will not change.

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