ConspiracyIt is unfortunately true, as Garry Wills says...


September 06, 1993


It is unfortunately true, as Garry Wills says (Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 27), that many people believe what they want to believe, regardless of evidence.

But this is an argument that cuts two ways. Mr. Wills shows a willingness to believe the government's official version of the John F. Kennedy assassination, despite the mounting evidence that the Warren Commission's report is seriously flawed.

He forgets that that report's conclusion -- that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin -- is itself only a theory, untested in any court of law.

This circumstance alone should entitle assassination researchers (dubbed "conspiratorialists" by Mr. Wills) their day in the court of public opinion.

On the other hand, at least one conspiracy theory has been tested in court.

The guardians of the media all came down hard on Oliver Stone's "JFK" film because of the many "licenses" the director took with his dramatization of Jim Garrison's 1967 prosecution.

Such defenders of the "lone nut" theory tried to make their readers forget that, although the jury acquitted defendant Clay Shaw, they also agreed Mr. Garrison had proved there indeed had been a conspiracy.

One reason that the newly-released government records will not prove anything one way or the other has little to do with Mr. Wills' central contention.

If, as several facts seem to suggest, some conspiratorialists may have been rogue elements within the government itself (possibly including the recently de-sanctified J. Edgar Hoover, chief provider of the information on which the Warren Commission relied), such people were no more likely to keep records than was Hitler with his Final Solution. (As Pirandello would say, the absence of a document proves little.)

On NBC's "Now" show the other day a Kennedy assassination researcher angrily stalked off the set when Tom Brokaw appeared to contradict Marina Oswald's impassioned defense of her late husband. The researcher, Larry Howard, said Mr. Brokaw should "get his facts straight." Garry Will should do no less.

Gordon C. Cyr


Not Logical

Your Aug. 23 editorial about Rodney Solomon and his sentencing, while it uses solid and reasonable arguments, misses enough points to make the reaching of useful conclusions rather difficult.

First, of course, is the observation that Solomon will not be able to do it again. This is a familiar argument, often used by proponents of the death penalty, but it is a dangerous one.

It gives the impression we are punishing somebody for something he has not done. Then, if it is the only effective way to prevent crime, why don't we expand its applications? Why don't we put the juveniles behind bars for life? They usually start small and end up big-time criminals.

And what about the drunk drivers? They are just as dangerous behind the wheel as criminals, and they are the most common repeat offenders. The cost, of course, would be exorbitant.

Coming back to Solomon, exactly what part of his crime would he not do again? The carjacking, the murder or both?

We were so outraged by the way Pam Basu was killed that our reactions were entirely dictated by emotions rather than logic.

We reacted as if every carjacking would result in a brutal murder, and we missed the point that the only premeditated crime was the carjacking. In fact if Pam Basu was simply shot to death, we would pay to it as much attention as to the little child who plays in the street and gets killed in the cross-fire.

And it is doubtful that Congress would pick up the problem, and if it did, they would still be deliberating.

And yet when our governor, mindful about what can happen in a carjacking attempt, suggested stiff penalties for carjacking (not murder) he was turned down. So much for our abilities to see this (or any problem) in its entirety and act accordingly.

We suggest easy and obvious solutions like building new prisons, and we miss the point that when projected against public safety, the new prisons would be good only if we use them for criminals before they commit a crime, which is of course absurd.

It is high time that we treat our problems more efficiently. This will happen the day we can say, "Solomon was given life without parole, not because we do not want him to do it again, but because we do not want anybody to do it the first time."

Peter C. Sotiriou


City Living

In regard to the Aug. 22 story about Charles Village, I wonder if perhaps the reporter did not ask about the quality of neighborhood schools -- or rather whether she did not hear answers that supported her article.

As an 11-year resident of Charles Village, who is reluctantly considering relocation because of poor schools, I am curious about how those families interviewed face this issue, and about how neighborhood activists are addressing this vital aspect of city living.

Barbara Z. Krupnick


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