1994.01 Rudolf Augstein on Gerald Posner

I wrote this shortly after the article appeared, so late 1993 or early 1994.

Translation (mine) of Rudolf Augstein's 1993 article in Der Spiegel on Gerald Posner's book Case Closed, with commentary (also mine).

The Spiegel text is in italics; I've numbered the sentences for easier reference. My comments are in normal type.

[Title] "Herostratus in Dallas: on the new book by Gerald Posner on the murder of John F. Kennedy [Der Spiegel, 44/1993, 182-184]

Herostratus is better known in German than in English because of the eponymous Herostrat, which means somebody who does something bad just for the notoriety, as Herostratus did. Thus we do know Herostratus's motivation, but Augstein says in a couple of places (5, 34) that we don't. At the same time, he says Oswald was in fact concerned about his place in history (33), which fits the Herostrat analogy. Why, then, has Augstein invented this contradictory question about Herostratus's motive, when the very reason why we hear about Herostratus at all is because we know that glory was his motive?

I think Augstein added this false interpretation of the myth to make the analogy seem more interesting. "Oswald did it for the glory" is not a very interesting thesis, especially when you've made no attempt to prove that he did it. If you add, "But we don't really know why he did it," it sounds as if there is yet another mystery to solve, a deeper level of motivation that is worth thinking about.

This is consistent with Augstein's general tactic in this article: diversion. The only question that Augstein should logically be concerned with is whether Oswald did it, that is, why Augstein believes that Posner has proved that he did it. This, however, is exactly the one that Augstein wants to avoid, and does avoid.

The Herostratus analogy is diversionary because if we are thinking about why Oswald did it, we have already accepted that he did it, which is exactly where Augstein wants us. The more he can get us to think about motive, the less we will think about the real question of guilt. Hence the idea that even though we know the motive--in both Herostratus's and Oswald's case--we don't really know it. If Augstein succeeds, he will have us chewing this vacuous notion over forever, without realizing that in doing so we are tacitly accepting the false premise that Oswald did it.

[Caption to photo] Attack on president Kennedy in November 1963 in Dallas: The sniper only had 15 seconds.

[Box] John F. Kennedy's murderer, or murderers, are still at large. Dozens of conspiracy theorists all over the world have believed and claimed this for almost 30 years. Flaws in the investigation and contradictory testimony of eyewitnesses, as well as much fantasy, have strengthened their conviction that the assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas could not possibly have been the act of one person. But this is exactly what the Warren Commission, named after its chairman, Supreme Court chief justice Earl Warren, and charged with investigating the crime, claims. For the Commission it was clear that Lee Harvey Oswald, who was arrested soon after the shooting and shortly thereafter murdered himself, was the lone assassin. But can Oswald have shot as rapidly as the Commission claimed?

The ambiguity of Mörder (singular or plural) allows some room for doubt, but it is quickly dispelled by the phrase "much fantasy," used to describe the conspiracy theories. The much greater fantasy required to believe the Warren Report, which is what the conspiracy theories are based on, is not mentioned. The other two things said to have fueled conspiracy theories are inconsequential, because criminal investigations often involve contradictory testimony (which is why we have trials), and though I have translated Ermittlungspannen by "flaws," the German word means more "breakdown." A Panne is what happens when your car breaks down. It is an accident. The German, too, could have been Ermittlungsfehler (investigative errors) or something like that, which would have been more accurate. So we have "breakdowns," which can happen any time, and "contradictions," which are always around, and "fantasy," which remains the operative word in this characterization of conspiracy theories.

By the end of the paragraph, the brief hint of objectivity and accuracy at the beginning, referring to the possibility of more than one killer, has been relegated to the realm of "fantasy," and the Warren Report is not seriously challenged. On the contrary, the last sentence effectively shuts off any further challenge to its veracity by reducing the myriad important questions raised by it to one irrelevant and misleading one: Could Oswald have shot fast enough? Augstein goes into this in the article in detail, too, but the issue is totally false, as anyone who has read the critics must know, and it is fair to assume that Augstein has read the critics. The question is not how fast it is possible to work the bolt and fire off the shots (cf. the illustration on p. 183, presented as if this were of key importance), in 6 seconds, since this clearly is possible, but if it is possible to do this in 6 seconds at 80 meters using a misaligned telescopic sight following a moving target through the leafy (still in November in Dallas) branches of a large tree.

Augstein mentions none of these circumstances, nor the--one would think decisive--point, established by the Warren Commission itself, that even expert FBI marksman were not able to duplicate Oswald's feat under much less strenuous conditions.

(1) No murder in the 20th century has stirred up as much attention and speculation as the murder of the American president John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Novermber 22, 1963, not even the murder of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914.

The analogy with Ferdinand is quite false, as Augstein must realize, because although that event was the catalyst for World War I, there is no question at all about who did it or why. We may have an unintended hint at the truth here, though, since the Vietnam War, as I and many other critics believe, was a direct result of the assassination. Being an optimist (beneath the cynicism necessary to make sense of articles like this), I tend to suspect that even the liars, like Augstein, find ways, consciously or unconsciously, to let the truth out. He could have made a much more appropriate analogy with the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, as well as with the more recent and also unsolved murders in his own country of Alfred Herrhausen, president of the Deutsche Bank, Detlef Rohwedder, the first administrator of the Treuhand (in charge of selling off state properties in the former GDR), and Rainer Barschel, a politician whose supposed suicide even the German press has questioned.

(2) Still today, the majority of people interested in Kennedy's death probably believe that the official version, which issued from the thorough investigation by the Warren Commission, was guided more by a desire to cloud the truth than to discover it.

Here we have the slightest nod to critics who say the WC not only bungled the job but did so intentionally to hide the truth. If logic and common sense and journalistic integrity had been Augstein's guides, he would have at least pointed out the enormous implications of this suspicion, which explain why the murder of Kennedy (as opposed to that of Ferdinand, for example) has aroused so much "attention and speculation." Younger or less informed German readers have to understand these implications in order to understand why Posner's book has received such favorable attention in the media generally, as well as in this article.

Augstein must know, too, since it is common knowledge, according to many polls, that it is not only the majority of "people interested in Kennedy's death," but the majority (around 80%) of the population--in other words, about 200 million people in the US alone--who believe the Warren Report is a pack of lies. If "interested people" means assassination researchers, the percentage is higher still. Augstein puts it in a way that is not, strictly speaking, a lie, but it leads the trusting reader to assume that only a small number of people disbelieve the Warren Report, which is entirely untrue.

The word "probably" is misleading, too, since this information has been confirmed by many polls. Augstein is injecting a notion of doubt here where there is no call for it. Most Americans doubt the Warren Report, but no one doubts the accuracy of the polls (as polls go), which is the only possible interpretation of the word "probably" here. Obviously, polls are not infallible and can also be misleading, but in this case the poll results are clear, consistent and as far as I know universally accepted, even in the mainstream press. What Augstein is saying, then, is that this commonly known fact is "probable." By analogy, if all the polls say Germans like beer, Augstein would say: "The majority of Germans interested in this question probably like beer." Now, a pedantic epistemologist bent on questioning the absolute truth of any statistical finding might say such a thing, but a journalist would not. This shows us that Augstein's purpose is not journalistic but propagandistic. Consider the different effect a simple statement of this commonly known fact would have, without Augstein's camouflage:

Most Americans believe that the Warren Report tried to hide the truth rather than discover it.

(3) The FBI, the CIA, the Mafia, J. Edgar Hoover, and even then vice-president Johnson have all been suspected of having something to do with the murder. Obvious contradictions in the official testimony of doctors and policemen and other abstruse phenomena have led to a hopeless tangle of questions.

"Abstruse" is a strange, and misleading, word to describe "obvious contradictions." The word means "difficult to understand," in reference to subject matter that is inherently difficult. But there is nothing inherently difficult about any of the questions that the doctors and policemen testified about. They simply said they saw different things, and we are not talking about things that are hard to see, like ghosts or UFOs or the inner workings of the atom, or hard to understand (abstruse). If the first policemen on the scene saw and held, and reported having seen and held, a Mauser (cf. 18) in the book depository right after the shooting, and later everybody said it was a Mannlicher-Carcano, this is an obvious contradiction, but it is not an Abstrusit„t. It is not hard to understand. It means somebody is lying.

The same is true of all the "obvious contradictions." Policemen who know guns can tell Mausers from Mannlicher-Carcanos, doctors can use a tape measure properly to measure the position of wounds, tell an entrance from an exit wound, read X-rays, and agree on whether or not there is a fist-sized hole in the back of a person's head or not. If they do not agree on such simple observations, it's not because anything is "abstruse" but because somebody is lying. By using the word "abstruse," Augstein skirts the essential point--that some people are lying--and implies that the real difficulty lies in the subject matter itself, which is somehow "abstruse," that is, highly complex and unknowable, which is untrue. Even today, all the mysteries could be solved by a proper investigation (e.g., exhuming the body would still tell us where the holes are in the skull).

This innuendo that the truth is unknowable is reinforced by the phrase "unentwirrbaren Knäuel," literally "undisentangleable ball (of yarn, etc.)," which I've translated as "hopeless tangle." Why does Augstein want us to believe the truth is unknowable? Because, in my opinion, he doesn't want us to know it.

The reference to contradictions in the "official testimony of doctors," furthermore, conveniently omits several crucial facts. First, many of the contradictions are self-contradictions, in the case of the autopsy doctors in Bethesda, which has always been a powerful indication that they were (and still are) lying.

Secondly, the rest of the contradictions are between the autopsy doctors and the doctors in Dallas, but the doctors (and nurses) in Dallas overwhelmingly agree among themselves. This involves the crucial issues of the throat wound and the head wound, either one of which, if any of the Dallas doctors had been listened to, would have been sufficient to demolish the Warren Report.

Third, obviously because the Dallas doctors contradicted the autopsy doctors, the Commission chose to ignore them. They were not even called to testify. So the "official" testimony of "doctors" can refer only to the autopsy doctors. Again, consider the difference between saying "the doctors contradicted each other," which is how the innocent reader will interpret Augstein, and saying: "The autopsy doctors contradicted themselves and the Dallas doctors, although the latter agreed amongst themselves." Here Augstein is clearly misrepresenting the facts.

(4) Or so seemed, until a book called Case Closed by Gerald Posner appeared recently. Posner is an ex-Wall Street lawyer, not a trained historian, but he could not have done a more thorough and logical job of research. He comes to a startlingly simple conclusion: Lee Harvey Oswald did it--the one who was the suspect from the beginning, the one whose statement after he was arrested was not recorded by the local police and who was shot two days later under mysterious circumstances by night club owner Jack Ruby in the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters, right before the eyes of Big Brother, the TV cameras.

The first sentence assumes that Posner has changed people's minds about the Warren Report, but the only example Augstein adduces for this himself (cf. 32). We know that the book was played up in the mainstream press, but we don't know--at least I don't--if it has changed anybody's mind but Augstein's about anything.

Nor does Augstein offer the slightest support of his luminous praise of Posner's work. The rest of the paragraph contains nothing that could be so construed. It refers only to basic known facts, offered presumably as background for the reader, but have nothing to do with Posner's specific contribution.

The reference to the television cameras as the eyes of "Big Brother" is interesting. In 1984, Big Brother is the bad guy who uses the media to control and manipulate. Why does a journalist of Augstein's stature use this expression to characterize his profession?

Earlier in the sentence Augstein says Ruby shot Oswald "under mysterious circumstances." What mysterious circumstances? One man walked up to another man who was being escorted under guard through the basement of a police station and shot him in the stomach. What is mysterious about that? Security in the basement wasn't tight enough, Ruby was known to the police as a friend, and he was (critics say) tipped off. Augstein says all of this is "mysterious" because it happened on live TV, as if the TV cameras could prevent such a thing. The expression "Big Brother," who sees and hears everything, dramatizes this non-point.

The purpose is again to deflect our attention away from the real question (How did Ruby get into the basement at the right time?) by substituting for it a non-question--one that in fact has no substance at all. To avoid answering "How did it happen?" Augstein asks, "How did it happen on TV," a question that is not only irrelevant but absurd.

There is another way of understanding Augstein's use of the expression "Big Brother." There is no hint of irony, here. I think we can take this as a straightforward admission that Big Brother exists, and that mainstream journalists (like himself) are part of his apparatus. We might take it as a confession, too, following my theory that liars, like many unapprehended criminals, secretly want to get caught.

(5) The cover jacket blurb is a little exaggerated. Posner shows us how, but not why, Oswald shot the president. He considers the possibility that Kennedy would not have been shot in Dallas if Oswald's wife Marina, whom he had brought with him from Russia, had been a little nicer to her husband on the evening before the murder. Concerning Oswald's motive, even Posner can only offer speculation, not certainty. We still don't know, either, what drove a man named Herostratus to set the temple of Artemis in Ephesus on fire.

Up to this point, Augstein has told us nothing to justify his praise of Posner, since he has told us nothing that Posner has done to add to the credibility of the Warren Report. Now, however, Augstein changes the subject from the primary issue of whether Oswald did it to why he did it. In this process, of course, the first question becomes a foregone conclusion. This is Augstein's main intention, as the title already announces.

I've translated Klappentext as "jacket blurb," but the version I have (2nd edition, paperback) has no jacket. It does have a number of quoted endorsements on the covers and on the front page. None of these are obviously what Augstein is referring to, however, and there is no German translation, so he can't be referring to that.

But whatever he is referring to, it is irrelevant. It serves only as an excuse to introduce this red herring of "Why did he do it?" before the real question ("Did he do it?") is even addressed, much less answered. Unless the first question is answered, the questions Augstein is diddling with here ("Was Lee upset because Marina didn't fuck him the night before?") are merely fluff and nonsense.

This becomes even more apparent when we realize, as I've said, that the whole point of the Herostratus story is that we do know his motive, which, we thought, is why Augstein is making the analogy. Here, however, he says we don't know Herostratus's motive "either." In addition to what I've said above, I think this contradiction shows that Augstein is not serious enough about his thesis to have thought it out properly, as one might well expect of a contrived argument whose primary purpose is diversionary. We have, then, not only propaganda, but sloppy propaganda.

(6) The American public could still be expected to accept a possibly partly crazy single assassin before they would accept the possibility of a conspiracy, which would have had to include more than one person, and an infrastructure.

"Possibly partly crazy" sounds just as awkward in German as it does in English. This also has a diversionary effect. Our attention is diverted from the sentence as a whole, which is nonsensical and/or misleading, to this phrase, which actually just sounds awkward, and means Oswald may have been a little crazy. Our attention is again on the false issue of Oswald's motivation, now on whether or not he was crazy (and how crazy). What the sentence as a whole is contrasting, though, is the notion of conspiracy (more than one shooter) versus a lone gunman--not a lone nut gunman, just a lone gunman. The question of motivation is not relevant.

Let's reconstruct the sentence, omitting the distracting phrase:

The American public could still be expected to accept a single assassin before they would accept the possibility of a conspiracy, which would have had to include more than one person, and an infrastructure.

Let's analyze further. What is the meaning of the word "still" (immer noch) here? In both languages it can be chronological or contrastive, but only the contrastive meaning is possible here, following 5. I'll also omit the last part of the sentence, for clarity's sake, since it merely gives us definition of "conspiracy" (a point I'll come back to). Thus we have:

Despite the fact that we don't know Oswald's motive, the American public could be expected to accept a single assassin before they would accept the possibility of a conspiracy.

But since the question of Oswald's motive is no more relevant than the question of the motive of a conspiracy, which is not mentioned at all, let's be fair and add it:

Despite the fact that we don't know what Oswald's motive might have been, and nor do we know what the motive of a conspiracy might have been, the American public could be expected to accept a single assassin before they would accept the possibility of a conspiracy.

If Augstein bothered to ask the question, there are plenty of motives for a conspiracy, first and foremost JFK's Vietnam withdrawal plan, and speculation about this would have been far more interesting than speculation about the Oswalds' love life. But let us drop both irrelevant points:

The American public could be expected to accept a single assassin before they would accept the possibility of a conspiracy.

Now the sentence has revealed itself to be completely enigmatic. Who is doing the expecting? What is the basis of the expectation? Whoever and whatever, the expectation is baseless, since the American public has always believed there was a conspiracy. Let us include this fact, which even Augstein could not deny:

The American public could be expected to accept a single assassin before they would accept the possibility of a conspiracy, even though they believe it was a conspiracy.

We have arrived, finally, at what is in fact an accurate assessment of the ongoing situation, especially if we supply the agent of the expecting:

The perpetrators (Big Brother) could expect the American public to accept the hogwash about a single assassin, even though they don't believe it.

Augstein's definition of conspiracy as requiring an "infra-structure," like the reference to Big Brother, is revealing. A conspiracy is a plan by two or more people to do something bad or illegal, but the normal definition does not include the notion of an "infrastructure." If a team of Mafiosi, Cuban exiles, or renegade CIA agents got together for the shooting, that is not necessarily an infrastructure, either. If you have the CIA behind the coup, however, doing exactly what they have been doing all over the world for the past half-century, and more importantly, running the coverup by controlling the phoney government investigations as well as the mainstream press and anybody else who might be in a position to blow the lid off, then, of course, you do have an infrastructure, and I suppose we can thank Augstein for confirming this for us.

(7) It is well known that the new president, Johnson, was not interested in a conspiracy theory, and he may have directly or indirectly pushed the formally independent Warren Commission to hasty obedience. It suppressed facts and emphasized unimportant evidence.

I believe there is direct evidence of Johnson's direct pressure, in which case "may have" misrepresents the facts.

The second sentence is true, of course, and says all we need to know about the Warren Commission. The interesting thing is that Augstein is able to tell this much of the damning truth, and then blithely ignore it. Suppose a police department did what Augstein admits the WC did? What kind of police department would this be? What would we think of someone who nevertheless defends such a police department and calls its investigation "thorough" (cf. 2)?

Augstein knows, because he says so here, that the Warren Commission was itself a conspiracy, by any definition. Did they plan (and do) something bad or illegal? Certainly suppressing and misrepresenting evidence is bad and illegal. Does Augstein believe the crime itself was not a conspiracy, but the Warren Commission was? This would be too illogical, even for him: if Oswald did it, there would have been no reason to suppress and disguise the evidence.

We are seeing here, I think, is just another example of Augstein mixing lies and truth--standard practice for propagandists--and doing a poor job of it.

(8) But it was not Posner's intention to expose the difficulties of the police, the doctors, or the self-imposed difficulties of the Warren Commission. He wanted, in view of all the possible and impossible conspiracy theories, to find out who really shot Kennedy, surely beginning with the suspicion that it was indeed Oswald, although Posner, naturally, cannot shed much light on his multifaceted personality.

In the previous paragraph, Augstein as much as admits that the WC was a criminal conspiracy of the highest order, and everyone knows that the autopsy doctors and the Dallas police (not all of them) lied, but here he refers to these lies as "difficulties." In the case of the WC, they are "self-imposed difficulties." Self-imposed lies, then: they decided they had to lie, and did so. This is most likely the truth, but it is discernible in Augstein's mumbo-jumbo only after decryption.

The second sentence is glaringly schizophrenic:

Posner wanted to find out who really shot Kennedy, but he could not shed any light on Oswald's personality [simplified].

This is more than a non-sequitur. There is method in this madness. It is a classic example of begging the question--using as a proven argument (Oswald's guilt) the very point he is trying to prove. Oswald's personality is of zero interest unless he is guilty, so by assuming it is important, Augstein assumes he is guilty--the very point he (and Posner) want to prove.

(9) Two issues play an important role in the continuing discussion. First, can a mediocre single shooter have fired the three shots, of which the first missed, the second went through Kennedy and severely wounded the governor of Texas, John Connally, and the third killed the president?

(10) Secondly, didn't the fatal shot come not from behind, from the 6th floor of a schoolbook warehouse, that is, from Oswald, but from the right front, which would explain the horrible wound in the back of the head?

In 9 and 10 Augstein seems to be getting down to the substance of whatever it is Posner has enlightened him about. But of the two questions mentioned here, in the rest of the article he only discusses the first. No further mention is made of the head wound. Augstein knows, however, that the WC and the autopsy doctors went to great lengths to suppress the crucial evidence of the large exit wound in the back of the head, which all of the Dallas doctors described in detail. He knows that the autopsy doctors still deny the existence of this wound, and that the Warren Report is still the official position of the United States government. Yet he accepts the position of the critics in referring to the "horrible wound in the back of the head," which in itself destroys the single bullet theory, the WC's credibility, Posner's credibility, and Augstein's credibility. This is like the admission above that the WC suppressed and misrepresented evidence. You simply cannot have that, or a "horrible wound in the back of the head," and accept the Warren Report, Posner's defense of it, or Augstein's encomium to Posner.

[Caption to illustration from Posner book] Sketch of repeat action: Plenty of time

This is laughable--as if the mechanics of the bolt action were important (see comment above, Box).

(11) Posner answers the first question with the help of the most famous amateur film in the world, made by a tailor, Abraham Zapruder. This silent film does not show the first shot, which missed, but the second, which severely wounded Connally and Kennedy, and the third, fatal shot.

(12) Posner uses modern methods of computer analysis to show how the second bullet, which went through Kennedy, entered Connally three times, until its force was spent and it lodged in Connally's left thigh. For Posner it is not like the magic bullet in "Freisch�tz" [an opera in which a hunter makes a pact with the devil for magic bullets to impress his fianc‚e, not realizing that the devil has predestined the last bullet for her], which an evil force deflects and causes to zigzag this way and that.

There is nothing new here, just a recapitulation of the Warren Report. Augstein is saying: "Posner is right because he used a computer, and therefore the WC was right." Very convincing.

[Sub-head] Oswald left his wedding ring at home

This highlights Posner's suggestion that Oswald did it because he had a fight with Marina (cf. 5).

(13) He describes the speed of the fully jacketed projectile, which penetrated Connally's right shoulder, was slightly deflected by a rib and began to tumble, so that there were three entrance wounds in Connally's body and only two exit wounds. The "magic bullet," very slightly deformed, fell out of the body in the hospital elevator, and could thus be identified.

(14) Posner makes this almost unbelievable story plausible for the first time. Question: Could this Lee Harvey Oswald have been the shooter?

In 13, we are still waiting for Augstein to tell us how Posner answers the "first question" (Could Oswald have fired all the shots?), since he says he does in 11. But all we get is more of the Warren Report, no explanation at all as to why it should be "almost unbelievable" (I'd like to know what the "almost" means, especially after Augstein's admission in 7, which should reduce the WC's credibility to zero), and no explanation as to why Augstein now finds this same story believable. Does he now believe, thanks to Posner, that bullets can change direction repeatedly, not only inside bodies ("deflection") but also in mid-air, as the single-bullet theory requires, and that they can go through two bodies from a distance of 80 meters, breaking several bones, and emerge only "very slightly deformed"?

Posner would be brilliant indeed if he could convince anybody of this, but Augstein just says Posner convinced him, period. Then we segue to a totally unrelated question, presented here as if it were a perfectly logical transition: Oswald's marksmanship. This has nothing to do with the questions about what the bullets supposedly did after they left the gun.

(15) Oswald served in the Marines from Oct. 26, 1956, until Sept. 11, 1959. He was not an expert shot, but qualified as a sharpshooter, the second-highest ranking.

(16) With the weapon that he had ordered by mail from Chicago, and his ability, he was able to get off the three shots easily--provided he kept his nerve. That he did; he is generally described as being a cool type. The first shot seems to have missed only because it was deflected by the branch of a tree.

(17) Oswald used a World War II Mannlicher-Carcano, which he had fitted with a telescopic sight with four-power magnification. With the rifle supported on two boxes piled on top of each other, using a sling to steady his hand, he followed Kennedy's car through the telescopic sight for 15 seconds. At a distance of 85 meters, but through the sight only 21 or 22 meters, his victim moved toward the third, fatal shot.

(18) 15 seconds, then, for the sharpshooter. After the first, failed shot he had at least three seconds to work the bolt action, removing the empty shell and making room for the next 6.5 mm bullet. Then he pushed the bolt forward and down again. This entire so-called "repeat action" can be done in less than a second. (I almost went crazy back then, sitting in my office working on my Kennedy story, which was supposed to appear two days later, when I suddenly heard the reports of a 7.65 Mauser and a policeman named Tippit having been shot.

(19) Oswald still had enough time, five more seconds, to hit Kennedy again. Exactly where he was standing or sitting can only be reconstructed. In those days it was hard to believe anything anymore. He left the three empty shells on the floor and walked calmly out the main door of the book depository, while the police secured the rear door.

I am not going to comment on 15-19 in detail. There is plenty to comment on, but it has already been done, at great length, in the critical literature. This is all straight out of the Warren Report, and all irrelevant to Augstein's presumed intention of telling us what Posner's contribution is. How does Posner make an "almost unbelievable" story believable? We are not told. Instead, we are given a bad summary of the unbelievable story, omitting all the information that makes it unbelievable.

(20) One must say that this most important question--whether a good shot was able to get off the three shots--could not have been so convincingly answered without the Zapruder film. The autopsy reports contain significant contradictions.

These two sentences are so schizoid that they defy analysis. Let's start with the first proposition. The "most important question" is certainly not how fast the gun can be fired (cf. above, Box), nor even how fast it could have been fired accurately under those conditions (80 meters, moving target, misaligned sight, tree in the way). That is one question, but even if the feat were possible, it would answer none of the more important questions raised by the physical, i.e., ballistic and medical, evidence.

But Augstein has not told us how Posner answers even this question. We have only heard the standard WC line.

The reference to the Zapruder film is completely obscure. The Zapruder film convinces most people, I think, that the Warren Report is bullshit. Now Augstein says, with no explanation, that the Zapruder film convinces him that it is correct. Or is he referring to what Posner does with the film?

The final sentence is equally obscure. First, the less informed reader will not know what "contradictions" Augstein is referring to. The autopsy reports contain contradictions in themselves, and also contradict the Dallas doctors. But how do these contradictions relate to Augstein's "most important question," namely, Could Oswald have gotten the shots off (accurately) in the time allowed? They don't. Nevertheless, Augstein goes on the next few paragraphs to discuss various things related to the autopsy, completely abandoning the "most important question."

(21) At Parkland Hospital, the closest hospital able to deal with such wounds, the doctors understandably were more concerned with saving the president's life than with describing the wounds precisely. Jackie Kennedy was nearby, and Johnson, now president, was just as understandably anxious to get back to Washington.

Here we learn that Johnson, and primarily Jackie, were the source of the pressure to have the autopsy in Washington. I don't think there is any evidence for this, especially in Jackie's case.

More importantly, note the false transition from the previous paragraph, where he mentions the contradictions in the autopsy report. Now he presents the Dallas doctors as if they were also subject to that criticism, that their reports were also careless and full of internal contradictions, which they were not. Of course it was not the Dallas doctors' job to describe the wounds, but they were and still are much more willing and able to describe them than the autopsy doctors were and are.

(22) If Johnson was not behind it himself, and no one assumes that anymore, he couldn't have know anything about a "conspiracy," and couldn't exclude it, either. A priest hurried through the swinging door and assured everyone, not quite correctly, that last rites could be administered even "an hour or two" after death.

These two sentences have no discernible relation to either what follows or precedes.

(23) But even after the body was moved to Bethesda Naval Hospital, there was not enough time to conduct an autopsy deserving of the name. The doctors only had three hours. Jackie and the Attorney-General, "Bobby" Kennedy, were pressing them to hurry. Cyril Wecht, a doctor from Pennsylvania trained in forensic pathology, called this autopsy "a piece of crap."

First we have Jackie and Johnson blamed for having the autopsy in Bethesda, and now we have Jackie and Bobby blamed for the failure to do it properly. Is this Augstein's own conspiracy theory, or Posner's?

(24) A thorough autopsy was not allowed to take place, so the doctors could contribute nothing to the speculation, which arose immediately, that there must have a shot from the front, that is, not from Oswald.

The word "allowed" is the same in German (durfte). Again an interesting passive, like "expected" above (cf. 6). Who did not allow it? Jackie and Bobby? That is apparently what Augstein and Posner want us to think, but it cannot be what they think. They know that the autopsy room was full of military brass, who were not taking orders from Jackie or Bobby.

I'm going to spare myself the dubious pleasure of commenting on the rest of this. Suffice it to say that it is all pure Warren Report, with no indication of anything at all that Posner has contributed. In 32, Augstein says he is now convinced there was no conspiracy, but not once in this entire three-page article does he mention anything that Posner said that changes the Warren Report, for Augstein, from "almost believable" to convincing. Either this is a totally irrational leap of faith, or it is dishonest. In fact, it is dishonest in either case, since to make an irrational leap of faith and try to pass it off as reasoned consideration is also dishonest.

(25) Lee Harvey Oswald knew the risk he was taking. He left 170 dollars and his wedding ring, which he never took off otherwise, with his Russian wife Marina. That was almost all his cash. He only had 13 dollars with him when he was arrested. With a lot of luck, that would have gotten him to Mexico by Greyhound bus.

[Sub-head] He was concerned about his place in history

(26) But the city of Dallas was buzzing like a beehive. Oswald's behavior attract the attention of Officer Tippit. He stopped him. Oswald reached for his revolver immediately and shot the policeman. From that moment on, Oswald had no chance to escape. He was highly suspicious and was arrested in a movie theater, probably also beaten. He failed in his attempt to shoot another one of the policemen trying to arrest him.

[Caption to photo] Attack on Oswald: Shot in front of live TV cameras

(27) His interrogation at police headquarters brought no results, nor was it recorded, because there was no tape recorder. Furthermore, interrogation under pressure was not allowed in Texas. The suspect could get off too easily by retracting his confession.

(28) Lee Harvey Oswald's hour of greatness was drawing near. He was to be escorted on foot and in full view of the curious public to the sheriff's office. Authorized and unauthorized people could make their way into the basement and look. A man stepped forward and shot Oswald in the stomach, in front of the running TV cameras. The astonished face of the accompanying policeman is one of the most famous TV images ever.

(29) The murderer was a more than dubious local character, a night club owner named Jack Ruby. Since his motives could have been either a pretext or real, Ruby brought the conspiracy theory to the boiling point. Hardly anyone still believed that Oswald was the only perpetrator.

(30) Ruby put the Warren Commission in the worst dilemma. Oswald was involved with the FBI over a long period, up until shortly before his death, because of his Cuba activities. He warned the FBI in writing not to bother his wife Marina anymore. The letter was destroyed. Ruby probably also had dealings with the FBI, perhaps as an undercover agent. The possibility that he knew Oswald cannot be excluded.

(31) The enraged J. Edgar Hoover could have been called to testify before the Warren Commission, but a prominent member of the Commission, former CIA head Allen Dulles, explained to his colleagues that if it were necessary, even he would lie under oath, though "not to the president, of course." So Hoover was not called.

(32) Jack Ruby went to prison, in a kind of honorable detention, but died before he had served out his sentence. The highest priority was and still is to keep the conspiracy buffs, who were still romping around up until the appearance of Posner's book, in check. The title "Case Closed" explains and justifies itself. No conspiracy. I too must see that now. [My emphasis.]

(33) The question that remains is why Oswald killed Kennedy. Two Marines who knew him well give us a plausible clue. Kerry Thornley heard him say that in ten thousand years people would still look in their history books and say, "Yes, this man was ahead of his time." Oswald was in fact concerned about his place in history.

(34) Herostratus of Ephesus may have thought similarly in 356 BC, although we know nothing more of his motives or fate. He and Oswald were no doubt kindred spirits.