We have long believed in the radical, minority-held idea that President John F. Kennedy (whose assassination, and the subsequent events, form some of our earliest memories) was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, and that nobody put Oswald up to it; he was just a loser with a lot of screwy modalities of thinking. His love for Cuba, and his unrequited love for the Soviet Union, don’t make the case that he was under their control; he always seemed too flaky to be trusted with anything, let alone anything big. Indeed, we’ve often speculated that numbers of KGB and Interior Ministry drones must have soiled themselves when they learned that the guy they’d gotten well and truly sick of during his two years under their scrutiny, had turned up and assassinated the President.
Journalist Peter Savodnik followed Oswald’s trail around Russia and the Ukraine, and talked to people who knew him during his short-lived defection.
Oswald’s Russian foray was a failure, of course. Two-and-a-half years after turning up in Minsk, he and his wife, Marina, and their baby, June, left the Soviet Union. He had hoped to join the revolution, but there was no revolution to join. Long before he arrived, it had been snuffed out by the Gulag, the purges, the war. It had been eclipsed by a new craving for stability and single-family apartments and television sets. He returned to the U.S. in June 1962 more alienated than he had ever been. Seventeen months later, he murdered John F. Kennedy—a national trauma whose 50th anniversary we mark next month.
Today, when we talk about Lee Harvey Oswald, he is usually portrayed as a cog in the detective story surrounding Kennedy’s assassination. … We seem mostly uninterested in the meaning of Oswald and much more concerned with the supposedly dark and clandestine forces behind him.
But a closer look at Oswald’s life—his history, his personality, the relationships he forged, the fragmented political tracts he wrote—makes it abundantly clear that he was capable of killing the president all by himself. ….
[Oswald’s Soviet-period friends and neighbors] offered a powerful window into Oswald’s world. Almost all of them were convinced that the man they had known did not kill President Kennedy, but, taken together, their recollections point to an underlying fury, a logic and cadence that lead, almost ineluctably, to Dealey Plaza, Nov. 22, 1963.
It’s an interesting essay, as you might expect from a writer who uses “ineluctably” confidently and correctly, so we recommend that you Read The Whole Thing™. It’s got quite a few more interesting details, extracted from Savodnik’s new book on Oswald in the USSR, and the excerpt above appears to be the conclusion Savodnik reached. (The book is called The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union). It is one of the last new sets of facts likely to be revealed about Oswald, unless or until the KGB opens their archives, which seems unlikely.
He has interesting points about how the KGB maintained Oswald (as it did other defectors) in a loose surveillance “dome” called a kolpak, with layers of informants and agents keeping him on ice while giving him the illusion of liberty. In time, Oswald became disillusioned with Soviet communism and sought new enthusiasms, just as he became disillusioned with everything in his short, miserable life before and afterwards, and always fell for some new, usually left-wing, idea. After the assassination, his Soviet-era friends got visited:
KGB agents tracked down everyone who had been a part of Oswald’s world, interrogated them, repossessed letters and photographs and issued a very important directive: For the next 25 years, these former Oswald friends were told, you are not to utter the words “Lee Harvey Oswald.” When Sergei Skop, one of Oswald’s co-workers at the factory, asked the KGB what would happen in 25 years, he was informed: “We’ll discuss that then.”
Gotta love a secret policeman with a sense of humor. We think. (“In Soviet Union, joke tells you.”) Anyway, here’s an Oswald that followers of Alex Jones might find implausible, but that comports with every fact and document known about the man: a miserable, sometimes irrational loser, that even the KGB wanted gone from their country. We’ve ordered the book.
In other Oswald news — he always crops up around the anniversary of his act of regicide, the great trauma of the spoilt Baby Boomer generation, and the anniversary coming up is the Silver Jubilee of his Kennedy murder — various effects and artifacts of his, including an Iver Johnson revolver (paging Ian…) are going to be auctioned next Thursday 24 Oct 13. There’s also what appears to be an M3 fighting knife in a homemade sheath, and his wedding ring, which he left behind when he set out to kill the President, and turned up only recently in the estate of a Texas lawyer. Whether the attorney had come into it by fair means or foul is unclear.
The Daily Mail (UK) has a page with some photographs of the artifacts. RR Auction, the auction house, is auctioning a total of 30 Oswald-related items, and 260 other Kennedy- or Kennedy-assassination-related artifacts.
There will always be a market for artifacts of famous criminals, but given our current societal attitudes towards law and celebrity (in which the latter gets you a pass on breaking the former) we find Oswald fandom disturbing. Bid if you want, it’s a free country, but we can’t imagine wanting anything that ever belonged to the only Marine they ever regretted teaching to shoot. We shan’t be bidding.