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Wednesday, April 22, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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It's Time To Exhume Jfk's Body And Get At The Truth

LAST year, pathologists testing the claim of a lone book, theorizing President Zachary Taylor had been poisoned more than 100 years ago, exhumed his body and put the hypothesis to rest. More recently, Louisiana Gov. Huey Long's assumed assassin, his personal physician, was exhumed to shed light on whether it was he who killed the Kingfisher or perhaps Long's bodyguards, who fired three dozen shots to snuff out the armed doctor.

Now, with a congressional resolution calling for the release of all government documents involving the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the announcement from CIA Director William Gates that his agency will do so of its own accord, the time has come to apply the same physical analysis to the conspiracy theories surrounding the JFK assassination, the subject of dozens of books and several movies.

Particularly in light of revelations this month from Dallas Dr. Charles A. Crenshaw, who was in Trauma Room 1 at Parkland Hospital during the brief attempt to revive the brain-dead president, the right side of his head obliterated from the scalp back, and the last doctor to view Kennedy before the body was whisked out of the hospital at gunpoint by the Secret Service - in violation of Texas law requiring autopsies in homicide cases - to a waiting Air Force One carrying the soon-to-be President Lyndon Johnson.

Dr. Crenshaw's affirmation - the first public disclosure by any of the Dallas doctors - that from his trained eye as a trauma surgeon he felt it was obvious Kennedy was shot at least twice from the front provides another cornerstone for the massive edifice of fact contradicting the conclusion of the Warren Commission that JFK was shot from the rear by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone. Dr. Crenshaw also casts doubt on official autopsy photographs taken at Bethesda Naval Hospital, believing the pictures - or possibly even the president's body - may have been doctored to support the lone-gun theory.

What could be learned by exhuming JFK, a prospect some would think ghastly? Would there be CIA fingerprints inside the coffin, or Fidel Castro's calling card? Hardly. But the process could shed light on the single most pervasive notion in almost all of the conspiracy theories, a view shared by 77 of 107 witnesses in Dealey Plaza that day who specified a source of the shots: that JFK was killed by bullets fired from in front of the motorcade from a fence behind the grassy knoll, accounting for Kennedy's vicious head snap, back and to the left, as seen clearly in Abraham Zapruder's film of the tragedy.

Exhuming the body of JFK might provide answers to such mysteries, exposed by author David Lifton in "Best Evidence," as why the president's body was wrapped in sheets when it was placed inside a copper coffin at Parkland, but in a rubber body bag and ordinary shipping casket on arrival at Bethesda, ahead of the official entourage. Or why Parkland doctors said a simple tracheostomy of JFK's neck was the only surgery performed in Dallas, but two FBI agents reported Bethesda doctors, upon the arrival of the body in the autopsy suite, discussing the "extensive surgery" that had already been done to the top and back of the president's head. Dr. Crenshaw states that official autopsy photographs are "incorrect" in that a huge exit wound in the back of Kennedy's head had disappeared by the time the picture was taken.

Or why the left hemisphere of Kennedy's brain, which was still in Kennedy's head and would have been analyzed in Dallas for bullet fragments and cross-sected for bullet paths, was removed at Bethesda with no record of any analysis. The brain has been missing from the National Archives since 1976.

Is it possible that JFK's body was altered to hide something, to erase evidence of a second, or third shooter? Or are such theories simply fantasies cooked up in the absence of fact? Without looking at the body again, such questions likely won't be answered - certainly not by documents and counter documents released by those most professional at keeping secrets.

Gates' promise that the CIA will tell all gives little hope to conspiracy theorists, who would consider suspect anything the CIA released willingly after so many years of stonewalling all truth-seekers on grounds of "national security." Indeed, it has been the non-cooperation of the CIA and other intelligence agencies at every turn that has produced a state of national insecurity over the whole JFK affair and an unhealthy, pervasive mistrust of the "government of the people" by its very own citizens.

Recent polls indicate an overwhelming majority of Americans don't buy the Warren Commission's solo gunman theory. The leading view is that Oswald's admitted role as a "patsy" was orchestrated not by the Soviets or Cubans, but by an elite or renegade intelligence group acting in concert with organized crime, together capable of pulling off and then covering up the crime of the century in the full light of the national media.

With all due respect to the Kennedy family, Americans deserve a second opinion on the medical evidence of their president's assassination. Exhuming the skeletal remains for a new post-mortem, under authority of a special prosecutor, could finally blow the lid off the case and either confirm the Warren Commission's conclusions or expose the unthinkable truth of a modern coup d'etat in America.

Luke Hill is Seattle bureau chief for United Press International. Ken Sobrero is an independent researcher into the Kennedy killing.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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