The Warren Commission (II)
(Editorial from The Nation, 2 November 1964, page 290)
At the time the Warren Commission was appointed, The Nation took
the position that it would stoutly resist the temptation to enter the ranks of
the rapidly expanding army of amateur “private eyes” and miscellaneous
free-lance James Bonds who were even then busy as beavers mass-producing
conspiracies among unnamed “oil millionaires” and offering each day a new
theory of President Kennedy’s assassination. We said then (December
28, 1963) that we would not add to the confusion and uncertainty—unless of
course we were able to present some new and verifiable facts—nor would we draw
any conclusions until an official version of the facts was available. At the
same time, we urged that public concern should not abate merely because the
Warren Commission had been appointed, and advised that its work be kept under
close scrutiny. We also said that we would make an independent assessment of the
commission’s report when it was issued (see article
by Herbert L. Packer, p. 295).
We have had no occasion to regret these decisions. On January 27, we ran an article by Harold Feldman, raising certain questions about the FBI’s interest in Oswald. In the same issue we devoted a second editorial to the Warren Commission, expressing our confidence in the staff and the commission and insisting, as we had done previously, that the Chief Justice’s integrity in the matter was not to be questioned. At the same time we pointed out that the questions raised about the role of the FBI were addressed to the commission and called for specific findings. The commission did not accept at face value assurances that Oswald had never been an informer for the FBI or any kind of agent for the CIA; it checked the personnel records of both agencies to verify these assurances. This is precisely the kind of specific finding that was needed and the only kind that would be acceptable to a deeply concerned world public.
More recently (September 14), and in anticipation of publication of the commission’s report, we ran an article by Maurice Rosenberg of the Columbia Law School which dealt with an aspect of the commission’s work that would not be affected by the report itself.
In our view, then, the commission did its work well; the report is an admirable document, and the Chief Justice, his associates and the staff merit the praise they have received. The report should terminate the wilder speculations and more irresponsible rumor-mongering, but it will not do so. We have had occasion to experience, with more sadness than surprise, the depth and pervasiveness of the will to believe (notably among Left-of-Center groups) that the President’s assassination was the result of a sinister conspiracy—the names of the conspirators to be filled in as need, fancy and bias dictate. Of course there are weaknesses and uncertainties in the report, and it may well be that facts still to be uncovered will throw fresh light on this or that aspect of the Dallas tragedy. But on the essential points, we share Mr. Packer’s conclusions. On some of the larger implications—the background factors—we have reread with satisfaction Reece McGee’s “The Roots of the Agony” (December 21, 1963) and Richard Condon’s reflections on a kindred theme (December 28, 1963).
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