It's the anniversary of the JFK assassination. It's one of American history's most celebrated mysteries--for better or worse--and an entire industry has grown trying to "prove" one theory over another. Of course, this many decades later, it will be impossible to verify pretty much any sort of information until 1) documents become declassified as time goes on, or 2) we get a particularly well-timed deathbed confession. In the meantime, here's a look at the leading conspiracies as to who could have killed Jack Kennedy:
The Cubans: For those who don't remember, or at least slept through the last two weeks of senior history class, relations between the United States and Cuba have been (shall we say) less than cordial for the last, oh, 50 years or so. The Kennedy years were the most violent: the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, combined with the Cuban Missile Crisis, made Cuba public enemy number...well, probably four, after the Commies, Red China, and the fluoridaters. Plus the CIA had made sort of a cottage industry out of failing to assassinate Fidel Castro. So it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to imagine ol' Redbeard McCigarchomp deciding to return the favor. Conspiracy Believability Ranking: 4 out of 5 Grassy Knolls. Cuba was basically one big island called The Institute For Assassinating John F. Kennedy.
LBJ: Lyndon Johnson was an enigma. A big, greasy, hambone of an enigma. He was equal parts compassionate and stubborn. LBJ and JFK never really liked each other very much; Jack Kennedy's brother Robert downright hated the guy. And given his uncouth and brash manner--in direct conflict with the Boston suave Trio of Jack, Bob, and Ted--it's not surprising to see why. While it's unlikely that Johnson would go so far as to actually kill Kennedy, he was more than willing to commit voter fraud to get elected, so who knows? Conspiracy Believability Ranking: 1 out of 5 Grassy Knolls. Lyndon Baines Johnson was a very successful, very headstrong man, but his biggest targets were pushovers and he was stymied by his greatest enemies. The Texas Republican Party and Barry Goldwater? Easy. The Vietcong and inflation? Not so much. He didn't have it in him.
The CIA: Having just been thrown under the bus by Kennedy due to the Bay of Pigs fiasco, they were understandably quite cross with the Kennedy administration.Kennedy himself was shocked at the department's autonomy, ostensibly because of plausible deniability but probably just a good old-fashioned case of coyboying up the joint. He cleaned house and, in the process, put a lot of noses out of joint. Conspiracy Believability Ranking: 3 out of 5 Grassy Knolls. The CIA is literally an agency that specializes in assassinating heads of state. The only question is if they were any better off than before; the CIA is not known for emotional revenge killing, but for cold, calculated measures.
The Mafia: It's not exactly a secret that the election officials of Cook County, Illinois were more than happy to provide a certain level of electoral assistance to get JFK to win that state (and thus the Presidency) in 1960. This is Chicago, of course, so there's only one organization that had the power to pull such a thing off, and it wasn't the Boy Scouts. Then, after he was elected, now-attorney general Robert Kennedy went after the mafia (and their associated unions) with a passion unparalleled. Sam Giancana, the boss of Chicago, was particularly resentful. It's not entirely unjustified that the Mafia was having a bit of buyer's remorse. Conspiracy Believability Ranking: 5 out of 5 Grassy Knolls. Double-crossing the mob is never a good idea. The son of a bootlegger should have known better.
The Russkies: This was at the height of the cold war. All of the issues with Cuba , Korea, and the then-first-rumblings of Vietnam were really all just proxy wars with Big Red. Knocking off the head of the greatest democracy in the world would have a hugely destabilizing effect on the nation, and give the Russians the chance to move in clandestinely And after the public shaming of the Cuban Missile Crisis, there was a major score to settle. Conspiracy Believability Ranking: 4 out of 5 Grassy Knolls. The Soviets had the means, the reason, and the opportunity to kill Kennedy, but, in the end, why bother? It's not like Nixon, Goldwater, Romney, Johnson, or Wallace was any better.
Right-Wing Fanatics: The early 60's were a strange time. The decade was known for the hippies and the counterculture, but it's often forgotten that the right wing was having a field day long before that. Whether it was the John Birch society, the Daughters of the American Revolution, or the resurgent Klan, or any number of other organizations, they permeated society as a philosophically (and occasionally physically) violent reaction to the spread of communism. They saw in Kennedy a toppler of the social culture, a naive idealist unwittingly selling out to the Soviets, and a backdoor socialist. Conspiracy Believability Ranking: 2 out of 5 Grassy Knolls. Oh, they had the rage, all right, but the right couldn't organize a church bake sale at a revival, let alone an assassination.
Military-Industrial Complex: Having had a bit of a slump--they made out like bandits during World War II and spread the icing on the cake like butter during Korea--and weren't too happy that the hot war just turned cold. Kennedy, looking to reap some peace dividends for his social policies, was more than willing to engage in diplomacy in Vietnam rather than send troops; they knew (quite rightly) that Johnson felt differently. Conspiracy Believability Ranking: 2 out of 5 Grassy Knolls. Yeah, there's boatloads of profit to be made, and it's not unheard of for corporations to turn to rampant violence (see: South America). However, you didn't exactly need a crystal ball to realize that the next thirty years were going to be full of proxy wars in the Third World. It wasn't worth it.
Mr. X: This was an age before the internet, before 24-hour news broadcasts, before Twitter. The Kennedy family's history was full of all sorts of hidden machinations and deal-making, as is the case with so many bluebloods in New England. Here, fifty years later, we're still learning about stuff that they did. So any number of people may have felt crossed by Camelot; it could be J. Edgar Hoover, who felt his power slipping; it could have been angry Dominican Republicans, upset that the CIA had assassinated their leader; it could have been Jackie, tired of Jack's chronic infidelities. Or it could be someone we will never know. Conspiracy Believability Ranking: 2 out of 5 Grassy Knolls. Too many wild cards here to really get a good take, but single one-off enemies probably didn't have the resources to pull it off. Now, joining up with some of the others on this list...
Oswald Acted Alone: Oh, please. Conspiracy Believability Ranking: 0 out of 5 Grassy Knolls.