1,687 of 1,785 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2008
In James W. Douglass' outstanding new book, "JFK and the Unspeakable," the author explains the title in his introduction. Coined by spiritual writer Thomas Merton, The Unspeakable refers to "an evil whose depth and deceit seemed to go beyond the capacity of words to describe." Regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Unspeakable succeeded due to deniability by the nation's citizens of the horrifying truth of the event and to plausible deniability by the government agencies responsible for the murder. (Vincent Bugliosi's recent fictional paperweight is a perfect example of the plausible deniability that allows the Unspeakable to thrive.)
Many excellent books have proven that the assassination of JFK was the result of a conspiracy. Douglass verifies the certainty of the conspiracy and, as the subtitle of the book states, explains "Why He Died and Why It Matters." He scrutinizes the historical facts surrounding the assassination, from the creation of the CIA to the gradual obliteration of the freedoms upon which this nation was founded.
This book is primarily the story of John F. Kennedy who changes from a Cold Warrior to an altruistic leader willing to risk his life to ensure that the world's children will not become victims of a nuclear catastrophe. Equal time is spent on JFK's presidency as on the assassination but one of the many rewards of this book is the author's capacity to show the relationship between his policies and his death. And the book is a tragedy because it gradually becomes obvious that each step he makes toward peace steadily increases the hatred of his enemies who will eventually betray him.
It is also the story of the designated patsy, Lee Harvey Oswald. Moved around the country like a pawn by government agencies (as was the second "Oswald"), he was being set up as the scapegoat. Enter some despicable characters, including David Atlee Philips, James Hosty and, of course, Michael and Ruth Paine. Simultaneously, the Soviet Union was being set up as the evil empire behind the assassination, along with its satellite Cuba.
Douglass credibly illustrates the origin of the Crime of the Century. During President Truman's administration, the CIA was empowered to be a paramilitary organization with unlimited powers. Truman's successor, President Eisenhower, fell out of favor with the CIA when he planned a summit meeting with Soviet Premier Khrushchev. This was cancelled after a U.S. spy plane crashed in Russia. Eisenhower had reportedly ordered such flights cancelled and had his suspicions about who had ruined his peace plan. He subsequently issued his warning about the "military industrial complex" in his farewell address. But he didn't defy "this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry." He left that task to his successor, JFK.
The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba was planned by the CIA to regain control of the island and to re-open the casinos for organized crime. President Kennedy refused to provide air support for the Cuban brigade because he knew that he had been lied to by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and by the CIA; the invasion had been designed to fail without U.S. support but they hadn't told this to JFK who refused to fall into their trap. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK once again enraged the CIA and the Joint Chiefs by resisting their tremendous pressure on him to take military action which would have led to nuclear war.
Following that crisis, JFK became intent on ending the Cold War by establishing a peaceful relationship with the Soviet Union. However, many CIA and Pentagon personnel believed that it was better to be "dead than red" and that it was preferable to destroy civilization rather than let the Communists rule. They also knew that war generated billions of dollars into the arms industry. As a result, they would repeatedly subvert the President's policies and isolate him within his own government. Enter some more despicable characters: Richard Bissell, Charles Cabell, Henry Cabot Lodge, Lyman Lemnitzer, Curtis LeMay and perhaps the most contemptible of all, Allen Dulles. Ironically, JFK learned to trust Khrushchev more than people within his own government.
At American University on June 10, 1963, JFK spoke about his desire for world peace. He communicated his resolve to form a new relationship with Khrushchev. He spoke about the necessity of a pursuit toward disarmament. He related his intentions to establish a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. He acknowledged his country's past faults and recognized the Russian people as wanting peace as much as the American people. "And we are all mortal," he stated. Though this extremely important speech was ignored in the United States, it was disseminated throughout the Soviet Union, per order of Khrushchev, who was prepared to respond favorably to JFK's peace initiative. The speech also certified JFK's death warrant. With so many powerful enemies opposing his policies and hating him, JFK didn't have a chance as he was being maneuvered into the crossfire in Dallas.
President Kennedy was aware of the power of his enemies and he knew the dangers facing him. But he persevered and mandated that all U.S. personnel would be withdrawn from Vietnam; he was determined to never send in combat troops even if this meant defeat. He also refused to intervene militarily in Laos. He exchanged private letters with Khrushchev, which infuriated the CIA, and secretly initiated plans to attain rapproachement with Cuba, which further incensed the Agency. Cuba's Fidel Castro, whom the CIA hated as intensely as it hated Kennedy, was equally eager to begin an American-Cuba dialogue. In fact, Castro was meeting with a JFK representative when the President was murdered. JFK died a martyr and the forces of evil that killed him also killed his vision of peace.
Lyndon Johnson, the CIA's ally, assumed the presidency. He cancelled talks with Khrushchev and refused Castro's pleas to continue the dialogue. He reversed JFK's withdrawal plan from Vietnam as well as his plan to neutralize Laos. The military industrial complex took control of the country. The policy of plausible deniability led the way to assassinations of foreign leaders, the overthrowing of foreign governments and horrors committed all over the globe. If JFK had not been murdered, we would not have had the prolongation of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the purported War on Terror and the steady moral deterioration of America. Interestingly, one month after JFK's assassination, President Truman wrote an article for The Washington Post cautioning about the threat of the CIA taking over America.
The author meticulously examines the evidence and draws conclusions which ring with unassailable truth: (1) The CIA coordinated and implemented he assassination of President Kennedy, an act of treason which destroyed democracy in the U.S. (2) The Warren Commission was created to propagate lies to conceal the truth from the American people. (3)There has been a continued cover-up by successive administrations and their stooges in the mass media. (4)The murder of JFK is directly related to the current domination of the American people by powerful oppressors within a shadow government that will continue to insist that only sustained war can keep the country safe from its enemies, never admitting that they themselves are the supreme evil.
This is an exceptional book that will be used by future historians to determine the truth about the assassination and how it changed America. And it will also be used to honor John F. Kennedy as a courageous president who believed in doing God's work on earth. In doing so, he came into conflict with the Unspeakable and his life was extinguished.
215 of 225 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2009
(Possible Spoiler Alert for 2nd Part)
In more than 37 years spent as a researcher into the JFK assassination, and having read more than four dozen books, this is the first time I have ever written a review. The reasons mainly boil down to one: with each book I always found some manner of untied up loose string, or defect that rendered my judgment tentative. I simply didn't feel it worth the time, or energy to invest in writing something I didn't accept completely.
I confess I was also very skeptical of Douglass' book to start. I worried he'd go over the same well-trod ground as others, merely regurgitate many of the same issue with no new insights, while repeating most of the mistakes.
I am happy to report I was wrong on all counts. When I finished Douglass' book I had the sense (that I had received from few others) that this 46 year mystery and all the attendant, ambiguating "Operation Mockingbird" tricks, pseudo-evidence and propaganda that engulfed it,were finally finally unravelled. And not only unravelled, but the new story woven into a credible and coherent narrative. More importantly, using a key criterion (how much it dovetailed with the other most serious books I have read), I score it a '10'.
Here, I want to digress and say the best accompanying book one can have to read along with this book is Military Science Professor John Newman's: 'Oswald and CIA'. Important because while Douglass makes the coherent anecdotal case for Lee Harvey Oswald being an intelligence operative, Newman proves it using his insights, and vast troves of FOIA -released documents. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that one cannot fully appreciate Douglass' achievement here, without first reading Newman's book.
Okay, why have I never done a review of Newman's? Probably because, while worthwhile, I beheld one or more reviews that already said pretty much what I would have. There was nothing new to add.
In reading the book, I strongly advise people not to immediately skip to the end and Douglass' assassination scenario. I believe it is much more important to first: read his Introduction (and the basis for the definition of the "unspeakable" predicated on Thomas Merton's insights) then the Chronology of Events: 1961-63 and then the first three chapters: 1) A Cold Warrior Turns, 2) Kennedy, Castro and the CIA, and 3) JFK and Vietnam. These comprise 134 pages, but every page is essential to the overall picture Douglass is portraying.
The reason for the first two is to get into the context in which the author is placing his book. Without the context, it will be difficult to appreciate what he puts forth as relevant. People will become too impatient for the "meat" and neglect the "veggies".
The first three chapters proper lay the moral perspective for how and in what deep ways JFK altered his stance from being a cold-warrior ab initio. What threads and dynamics turned him? These are critical to grasp, if one is to understand who had the means, motive and opportunity to kill him.
In (2) the most important aspect that Douglass brings to light is the now well-documented rapprochement which JFK initiated with Castro via the latter's aide-de-camp, Rene Vallejo. Peter Kornbluh, of the National Archives, has done yeoman work in making the series of events known, via a book as well as NA documents - and terrific articles in The Baltimore Sun wherein I first became aware of it. It is essential more people know about it to understand how it may well have been the key and final "nail" in JFK's coffin, after his withdrawal of air cover for the Playa de Cochinos debacle (finally fessed up and owned by the CIA itself in its secret report on the events, made public some ten years ago), his reluctance to use aggressive force (invasion, bombing) during the October, 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (I lived in Miami at the time), and his NSAM-263 to remove all personnel from VietNam by 1965.
Another reason the Cuban-CIA link is so meaningful to me is personal. Many of the same CIA-trained elements that were causing problems for Kennedy ca. 1961-63 (via Operation Mongoose, etc.) re-emerged years later in the right-extremist group "Alpha 66" - which also was responsible for the worst act of terrorism in the hemisphere before 9/11. That, of course, was the bombing of the Cubana Airlines Flight 455 over BARBADOS on Oct. 6, 1976 - resulting in the deaths of all 73 on board.
I saw the plane explode then break up in the sea while swimming at Paradise Beach, Barbados, with my nieces- visiting in Barbados at the time from Trinidad. To this day, they still have terrible nightmares driven by those grotesque images - and they are now all grown women. My wife, who worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital as a radiographer at the time, was there when the hundreds of body parts were brought in.
Anyway, there is still an immediacy there, and the pain and horror from that bright, clear skies day remains with me, and why I still have trouble understanding why people (trapped in denial and the "unspeakable") are more attuned to blaming the "left" for assorted horrors than the extremists of the Right. (Just look at the recent faux outrage that erupted when the Right's terrorists were being noted by the Justice Dept. for extensive scrutiny. Weeks after the Dept. relented an abortion provider was murdered- then people were shot at- 1 killed- in the Holocaust museum by another loonie)
But I digress. Once the potential reader has covered the chapters above, it is okay to plow full steam ahead with the rest. You will be especially impressed with how the various narratives, interviews are intertwined and integrated to make the connections that need to be made.
Among these, the interviews with Thomas Arthur Vallee's sister is critical - along with other documents Douglass has - to show how an early assassination attempt was originally scheduled for Nov. 2, 1963 in Chicago - the same day the Diems were to be offed in Vietnam. As fortune transpired, an operative named "Lee" phoned in to Chicago FBI HQ and gave the heads up, whereby the hit was thwarted. Also thwarted, was the effort to trot out the first patsy or scapegoat, who was to be Thomas Arthur Vallee, another former Marine like Oswald. In any case, it all became academic as plans to go to the football game at Soldier Field were cancelled.
Douglass makes the excellent case that it was none other than Lee Oswald who alerted the feds in Chi-town, but in so doing he placed himself in the cross-hairs, as the next patsy- but now in Big D. One omission I am having trouble processing is that there was no mention by Douglass of the next attempt on JFK's life in Miami, on Nov. 18. I lived in Miami and to all intents, the motorcade went off uneventfully. However, years later undercover FBI tape recordings (of a Joseph Milteer) were released of the plan to shoot Kennedy from a tall office bldg. Some of these recordings were presented in the A&E Special: 'The Men Who Killed Kennedy' - but I have not seen or heard of this program since last shown in 2002.
The other most critical interview is that with Sgt. Robert Vinson, who on Nov. 22 was tring to get home to Colorado Springs. He took a bus to Andrews AFB in Washington, DC, and got on a C-54 (the first available flight to "the vicinity" of COS is what he wanted, and was informed it was about to depart for Lowry AFB near Denver.
What Vinson recalled most about this particular flight, is that it had no crew chief or manifest. (Usually the crew chief always asked him to sign a manifest). The flight itself didn't land at Lowry, but in Dallas, as Vinson made out the skyline. Vinson noted a lot of dust blew up as the craft landed near the Trinity River.
Two men boarded, just after 3:30 p.m. central time, one a "Latino", 6' or 6'1" weighing 180-190 lbs. and wearing a mustache, the other 5'7" to 5'9" and Caucasian, 150-160 lbs. Only later, when press photos materialized and circulated in newspapers, did Vinson realize the latter guy was the spitting image of Lee Harvey Oswald.
I don't wish to give any more of the Vinson narrative away here -especially as it connects to other critical segments, but suffice it to say many researchers (including me) had always suspected an Oswald double may have been employed to paint the necessary patsy. The process itself is known in CIA lingo as "sheep dipping". While the patsy was being marched through Dallas Police HQ, one of the actual mechanics - an Oswald lookalike, was making his getaway from the airfield near the Trinity River.
Needless to say, when the authorities found Vinson had been on this flight (by mistake), they put the guy through the wringer. Including making him work as a covert operative to keep him under close scrutiny, and on a short leash in case he might have tempted to blab.
Now, some aspects of the latter part of the book, nailing down the time frames and personnel for the assassination, that I found credible and compelling:
1) No where is any mention made of "James Files" or the Files claimed-evidence that he was the Grassy Knoll shooter. It is clear from this that Douglass is either leery of the evidence put forth, or of the credibility of Files. This discloses a caution that is redeeming, especially for many new readers to the literature- who might at first balk at "Oswald doubles" and earlier patsies set up for earlier assassination attempts.
2) There is no attention whatever to the claimed "Murchison Party" - ostensibly held the night before to "sign all parties onto the deed". The Murchison party, at the home of oil tycoon Clint Murchison, has figured prominently in the online research community and also certain books (e.g. 'Killing the Truth', By H.L. Livingstone)
3) There is no attempt to pinpoint the number or timing of the shots, or diagnose the magic bullet and its "evidence" or the autopsy photos, or the x-ray images. Again, this is heartening and discloses that Douglass is only content to deal with he believes is most credible and which backs up other facets of his presentation, and propositions.
4) The personal notes and effects that showed Lee "loved and respected JFK", totally dovetail with interviews Marina Oswald gave for the 30th anniversary, which I still have on tape. In one particularly intense altercation with Tom Brokaw, she makes clear that the Warrenites twisted her arm (and testimony) in not so subtle ways, threatening deportation if she refused to play ball.
In toto, when read right through, this book is absolutely terrifying. It reveals the unspeakable still in our midst, especially amongst those who would still defend the Warren Commission's version of history, despite the fact it is now essentially consigned to the dustbin. Douglass - as well as Newman, cited earlier- give numerous examples of outright fraudulent or manipulated evidence.
In short, this is the best book I have ever read on this topic. For the first time it powerfully shows the moral force and character in Kennedy, even - following the past ten years or more- numerous cowards have sought to make their names and profits off the stories circulating about a dead man, who can no longer defend himself.
None of this is "Kennedy worship" it is important to grasp, since as author Michael Parenti (The Dirty Truth) has noted, the error of all who claim it is that they typically conflate the low political value of the victim with the high political value of the assassination".
Thereby effectively deflating the widely held perception amongst media mavens that people so worshipped JFK and "Camelot" it was unfathomable he could be offed by a lone loser....WRONG.
What we, including Douglass, want - is for the nation to finally face this tragic event without pretense for the first time. NO denials, no subterfuge, no deflections.
We do so not to try and "run from reality" but to face it. As Michael Parenti notes (op. cit. p. 186), we are citizens who are effectively:
"raising grave questions about the nature of state power in what is supposed to be a democracy."
It is more than past time those questions got answered, and Douglass' book is an excellent start.
381 of 416 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2008
Along with over ten years of meticulous research and one hundred pages of footnotes (worth reading), this book has soul. For those tempted to despair that our national leaders are not capable of turning our nation toward peace, this book tells us how it has already happened. John F. Kennedy was taking stands for peace that risked his life as well as his presidency and it seems that the nation hardly noticed. For those who are willing to engage in hard-headed thinking and research, this book will belie the ho-hum assumption that we will never know why Kennedy was killed nor who is responsible. We can know and we need to know as citizens. If you can read only one book on the life of JFK, this is it.
574 of 653 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2008
We are all jurors in an ongoing trial to find the truth of John Kennedy's murder. Most of us have fallen asleep; some left the chamber, and others don't even care anymore. But a few, a very small few, have been paying attention for the last 45 years as arguments for the prosecution of Lee Harvey Oswald, headed up by government lawyers and their lackeys have been constantly countered by a volunteer and unpaid defense team for the truth made up of laymen, clergymen, historians, teachers, researchers, republicans, democrats, non-affiliates of all ages shapes and sizes. It has been a bewildering experience to have been patted on the head and told to go to sleep by the Warren Commission only to be rudely awakened by a garrulous DA from Louisiana, followed then by a government report which said, well, there might have been two, but go on back to sleep. Dazed and confused we began to leave the room but were called back in by Oliver Stone who told us to take a look at his evidence of Oswald's innocence. We were intrigued, but an impish Gerald Posner convinced Dick Cavett and other icons of American mainstream media that Stone's myth was just that and the case was indeed closed: Oswald did it. But Stone had garnered enough interest to cause Congress to form the ARRB- under George Bush Sr, no less. It took Bill Clinton half his presidency to get the thing going, but we watched with bated breath as the Assassinations Records Review Board began pulling from the FBI, CIA, and the rest of the alphabet bits and pieces of information that left gaping holes in the official story. Most of us didn't believe it anyway, but a few, a small few did notice that there seemed to have been two brains pulled from John Kennedy's head during the so-called autopsy. In fact so many moles began popping up it was difficult for the gatekeepers to bop them in the head fast enough. Distracted as we were by 911 and the war on terror, and the revelation that our government has the capacity to pull off an Operation Northwoods, as the ARRB found out, we continued to keep half an eyeball on the story, those of us who were paying attention. But then just as we were ready to reach a verdict of no true bill, Peter Jennings pops in to save the day for the prosecution. Disregarding all prior logic, evidence and common sense he lulled us back to comfortable numbness as he proved through computer generation, laser beams and some small degree of witch-craft that yes, indeed that was some magic bullet. Nevertheless, while almost dozing off again we heard rumblings of another defense witness about to enter the courtroom. He was David Talbot, an almost Main stream media type who was arguing that John and Robert Kennedy were possibly victims of powerful forces in our own government who wanted and needed them gone. But before he could present his full case a boisterous and bellicose advocate of Governmental Righteousness threw on to the floor, almost breaking it, an objection, claiming his stake in the case with a tome of such immense size and weight that no one, at first, dared to read it or question its obvious Buglisosian authority. When it was finally opened, the muse of Arlen Spector saundered forth speaking in only a language that he could understand. Talk shows raved about Vince's masterpiece; gatekeepers swooned, and the prosecution let out a huge and foul-smelling sigh of relief as they said, There! That ought to put this damn thing to rest finally! Everyone began to pack up and leave, most never having read briefs by Scott, Gerald McKnight, Larry Hancock, etc., defense advocates who had built their arguments on the works of Vince Salandria, Marrs, Howard Roffman, Sheim, Weisberg, etc., and the thousands of pages of released and obscure documents. But just as the courtroom almost emptied, looking like a Senate Chamber with a wobbling old man named Byrd trying to make a point, in comes a Jesuit priest. I'm no Catholic, I thought, as I was getting up to leave with the two or three other jurors who had sat through the whole case so far, trying to pay attention, but this guy seems to know his stuff. He's talking about everything we have already heard but putting it all into context. His summation is actually making sense- reason, logic, truth, honesty, footnotes, primary source interviews, follow-up questions, giving the benefit of the doubt to all sides. I sat back down. As James Douglass presented his case, scales fell from my eyes. Oswald was innocent. I look around. Is anybody there?
Kitty Hawk, NC
58 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2009
Well, Does Douglass give us the name of the man whose finger was on the trigger? I think not. The beauty of the Oswald Theory was that it gave us a name. But by now the Oswald Theory is full of holes. Oswald would have to have been Mighty Mouse--here, there, and everywhere--for the Oswald Theory to hold up.
Douglass does not just point to those holes. He does two things that I have not seen done elsewhere in the literature. He gives us a coherent, persuasively well documented account of a change--an evolutionary process--that JFK underwent in the course of his thousand days as President. Secondly, he tracks Oswald's career from Marine to person-having-a- remarkable-complex-of-relationships-with-the-CIA-and-the-FBI. The details of this relationship are documented in mundane bits of data stretching over many years. These relationships have many reciprocal aspects: they display not simply Oswald's interest in these organizations, but these organizations' interest in Oswald. Because the network has many seemingly contradictory strands, the tendency of lay observers has been to accept official statements that the whole network is simply a sort of tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury--and signifying nothing. The reciprocity and mutuality in the relationships is, as Douglass shows, what gives the lie to the official theory.
"Theory" has, itself, a bad odor for many an American who has become discouraged and demoralized by seemingly irresolvable theoretical conflicts. So we find Americans dismissing evolution as "merely a theory." Likewise with global warming. But for those of us who believe theories can be confirmed, this book can provide a moment of discovery. In disconfirming the thesis "Oswald did it," James Douglass elaborates and confirms "the unspeakable"--a theory maybe no more than one American in a thousand is willing to consider: that our government killed Kennedy. To be sure, it's not all that global and fuzzy. It's not "the government did it," but specific agencies and named individuals within the government. Having read the book, and having long held a position on Kennedy's death that was incompatible with Douglass's, I am convinced that Douglass got it right. - T. B. O'Neill
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2010
I am an attorney at law and I believe in facts and evidence.
I have read many brillant books on the JFK" assassination; but
now, there comes the one that puts all pieces and loose ends finally
together and combines it with the recently disclosed government files.
This marvellous author, Professor of theology, James W. Douglass, puts the obvious facts, the
overwhelming evidence, masterfully and meticulously together. The
evidence presented, which coincides with so many other researcher's
evidence and witness reports, carefully combines it, so that now, for
the first time, we can finally see the clear and ugly picture
appearing in the puzzle:
Oswald was in fact innocent, the CIA killed the President of the
United States of America. The next President, Lyndon B. Johnson,
together with the FBI's powerful Edgar E. Hoover, and the CIA, the
murder agency itself, covered it up, out of own interest. Evicence was
falsified, witnesses and co-conspirators killed, commission members
and witnesses threatened to silence.
This book is a rare and brilliant masterpiece.
Thank you James W. Douglas.
The case « JFK « is closed but the long path for the American people
to learn and finally accept the atrocious truth about this crime of
the century has just begun.
James W. Douglass is a couragous man because he will go through hell; they will try to destroy his character, his reputation, as they did in the recent years with so many critics of the official Government version of the JFK assassination.
Witnesses were silenced, killed, commission members were threatened, evidence destroyed and falsified. James W. Douglass is a real brave citizen, accurate in his analysis and incorruptable. We, who read his masterpiece, now know the truth.
43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2008
Ever since establishment of the CIA, that entity has carried on a foreign policy of it's own creation and, as Douglass meticulously documents, one that promotes conflict around the world in the interest of the military-industral-media establishment. Circumstanial as the evidence of conspiracy in the murder of Kennedy may be, its shere volume shatters the attempts made to cover-up the crime. Scholarship evidencing the reasons why "the powers that be" wanted Kenndy taken out is most convincing. This extreme act of betrayal and treason - and secrecy in government in general - is a cancer that will continue to haunt the nation and undermine its future, until such time it is properly addressed. This book is a critically important contribution to the history of our watch.
51 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2008
In the vein of David Talbot, David Lifton, and Catholic "Just War" Theology, the author develops a thesis so terrible, it is "unspeakable."
Interweaving the history and theology, he takes us into the abyss of why the military industrial intelligencia decided that JFK had to "go." He also cogently analyzes the telling (and sometimes excessive) clues left behind.
101 of 121 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2008
I had just turned 13 the month before the startling news was broadcast into my 8th grade classroom: President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas and had been rushed to the hospital. It was followed by the bulletin that the President was dead. Lorenzo, my fellow classmate, an Italian Catholic, burst into tears. I sat quietly thinking: at least we got that Papist out of the White House! The anti-Catholic indoctrination I received from my church and parents never allowed me to see JFK as a person, only a symbol of a false religion to reject. Oh, and he was a Democrat as well!
Had I known the JFK that Jim Douglass reveals in his new book, I would have had more reasons to dismiss him: a President engaging in peacemaking activities with the Premier of the godless Communists, Nikita Khrushchev, passing letters back and forth that even members of his Cabinet were unaware! A US President secretly arranging for face-to-face consultations with Fidel Castro to resume normal diplomatic relations with a communist Cuba! The man who issued the secret National Security Action Memorandum 263 ordering the removal of 1,000 US Military advisors from Vietnam by the end of 1963 and ALL US Troops by the end of 1965. Under the guise of "peacemaking" President John F. Kennedy was urging "capitulation" to the Soviets in the Cold War - at least from my junior high school analysis.
Jim Douglass describes JFK's "turning" - his movement toward peace rather than "victory" after the almost catastrophic "Cuban Missile Crisis" the year before in 1962. While the world was on the brink of nuclear devastation, I had practiced the "duck and cover" technique at school in the event the Ruskies dropped "the big one". My own personal "turning" toward peace began five years later when I had to register for the military draft when I turned 18 in the fall of 1968. Fortunately I was no longer dependent on getting political perspective from US News and World Report (The Commies are killing our missionaries in Vietnam!) nor my theology from my evangelical/fundamentalist church (Jesus' call to "Love your enemies" was trumped by St. Paul's admonition to the Christians in Rome: "Let every soul obey the governing authorities").
Having been issued a uniform and rifle for the compulsory ROTC class when I registered for my college freshman year, I had an epiphany on the rifle range when I realized that even though the targets were circular, they were, in reality, the bodies of the "Viet Cong". Under no reading of Jesus' teaching could I justify pulling the trigger so I registered as a conscientious objector. I had begun my own turning. Little did I know that one year later, I would be marching on the local Wheaton, IL draft board arm-in-arm with a Catholic priest! Another year later would find me taking some courses with that priest at the nearby Catholic Maryknoll Seminary. Soon I would discover Jim Douglass' The Non-Violent Cross after I had left behind my anti-Catholic upbringing and was open to hearing the "Gospel" through a new lens. My own turning toward peace.
Why would a legendary peace theologian get caught up in conspiracy theory? That was my first question when I received an invitation to attend a Pax Christi retreat 5 or 6 years ago led by Jim Douglass. I'd read virtually all his excellent books, followed his campaign against the Trident and the White Train delivering nuclear weapons to those submarines, and had met him at several conferences on peacemaking. When he and his wife Shelly moved to Birmingham to form a Catholic Worker House, I anticipated seeing more of him because I was only four or five hours away in southwest Georgia. However, soon after they arrived, our family moved to Minnesota. Now here was a chance to re-connect with this insightful theologian-activist. But his retreat topic was on the connections between the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, Martin King and Malcolm X! He talked about how American deals with its prophets - in similar fashion to the way the Romans dealt with the notorious Galilean troublemaker during the administration of Pilate and Felix. At the time, Jim was only beginning the long research project that has led to this first of what promises to be a trilogy of books on the killings of prophets and peacemakers in the 60s in America.
Research indeed! JFK and the Unspeakable has close to 100 pages of small-print footnotes to document and explain his sources about the JFK most of us did not know. However, a small but powerful force within the government, namely the CIA, the FBI, the Joint Chiefs of the military, and even some of his own Cabinet and advisors, came to feel the need to remove him as a danger to an American strategy of global domination. Kennedy, recognizing that the use of nuclear weapons against the Soviets would leave an estimated 140 million dead, decided you could not "win" the Cold War. The others in that military-industrial-intelligence complex felt that with "only" a few million Americans killed if America struck with a first-strike, we could "win". The window for such an advantage in the nuclear arsenal and delivery systems would narrow and begin to close after 1964, leading some to conclude that the obstacle that the President embodied would have to be removed before the end of 1963.
The "unspeakable" in the title comes from Trappist monk/peacemaker Thomas Merton's book, Raids on the Unspeakable. It is a term he used to describe the confluence of evil within systems like governments, corporations, and other power centers. Walter Wink uses the term "the Domination System". St. Paul referred to "the Principalities and Powers". President Eisenhower coined the phrase "the Military Industrial Complex". Catholic Worker Dorothy Day talked about "this filthy, rotten system. The "unspeakable" that conspired (breathed together) against JFK (and later his brother as well) was the manifestation of the national security state that insisted on total allegiance to both its ideology and methodology. Kennedy ran for office as a Cold Warrior. Only his glimpse into the abyss that was the Cuban Missile Crisis allowed him to see how close that system pushed toward a nuclear holocaust.
Kennedy was truly saved by his enemy - Nikita Khrushchev. The irony this book discloses that all three antagonists, Castro, Kennedy, and Khrushchev, all had struggled for peaceful co-existence in opposition to their own advisors. Each leader was trapped within national systems that had a vested interest in keeping the conflict going rather than risking a negotiated resolution.
Through extensive interviews and research, Douglass paints a compelling portrait of the supposed assassin/"patsy", Lee Harvey Oswald. While the Warren Commission (conveniently controlled by ex-CIA Chief, Allen Dulles) failed to interview numerous witnesses that might challenge the "lone gunman" theory, Douglass sought out the stories that convincingly (to me) argued for at least one or more "Oswald" doubles. Douglass argues that the CIA hoped to pin blame for the assassination of the US President on both Cuba and the Soviets, urging the new President, Lyndon Johnson to "retaliate" with their desired preemptive nuclear strike.
It was the successful cover-up orchestrated by the Warren Commission Report that led to the subsequent assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, followed by Kennedy's brother, Bobby is the argument Douglass puts forth. JFK and the Unspeakable is the first of a trilogy of books attempting to unmask or at least begin to demystify this force of evil that has so captivated our national soul.
Besides attempting to portray John Kennedy's courage in his "turning", Douglass also wants to steel his readers who are committed to peacemaking to be realistic about the challenges we face. If the "unspeakable" is willing to kill a sitting President, what should we expect if we attempt to follow Jesus down that same road? The Kennedy that Douglass portrays is less overtly religious than Martin King in his last days ("I only want to do God's will."). JFK "looked into the abyss" and chose his path of change or turning when he decided that the fate of the world's children were at stake if these nukes were ever used again. Kennedy realized that even just the atmospheric testing of these weapons imperiled the health of all humanity with the radioactive fallout.
But Kennedy's religious tradition also spoke to him clearly - especially through the powerful words of the initiator of Vatican II, Pope John XXIII with his final masterpiece, Pacem in Terris. The impact of this work so moved Nikita Khrushchev that he is reported to have kept a medallion given to him by this beloved pontiff on his desk in the Kremlin as a way to irritate some of his own Politburo advisors. Kennedy's own commencement speech given at American University five months before his death certainly owed some of its power and insight to the recently deceased pope who died two weeks prior to that June 1963 address. In that speech which ironically was carried more widely over the radio to Soviet citizens (and ignored by most US media), Kennedy cautioned Americans not to demonize the other side. His words, "... not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats. No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue.", could (and should) be readily applied today to Ahmadinejad's Iran.
The book also raises a very disturbing portrait of how this National Security State imperils our democracy. The idea of a group of secretive men (although there are probably some women in the mix today) deciding who can be or remain President exposes the figure-head nature of the power of that office. The collusion of un-elected agents, military officers, wealthy business elites, "diplomats" and others plotting behind the scenes to replace the elected head-of-state is not just something that happens in Third World nations. Was what happened in November 1963 in Dallas really a coup-d'etat?
Back in the mid-70s, William Stringfellow raised questions about the compatibility between democracy and the apparatus of a National Security State. Stringfellow, drawing on the insights of Biblical prophets and the writings of Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel, called the allegiance demanded of citizens by this obsession with "security" during the Cold War by its Biblical name: idolatry. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet empire, cold warriors searched about for new adversaries so they could continue to justify our dependence on and subservience to the military industrial complex out of fear. Terrorism conveniently became the new whipping boy and the anticipated "peace dividend" disappeared.
While Douglass' JFK story harkens back to the Cold War, the idolatry of the National Security State is as strong as ever - and its practitioners stand ready to remove or marginalize any who stand in its way. How else could one explain the almost universal condemnation of former-President Jimmy Carter's sit-down with the leadership of Hamas and Syria this Spring? Or the annual rite of genuflecting before the power of AIPAC by both Democrats and Republicans - each vying to out-do the other in pandering to the Israeli state, ignoring and neglecting the cries for justice emanating from behind the 26' tall "security barrier", the new Berlin Wall that Carter has identified as apartheid?
This book is sobering, disturbing -but ultimately hopeful as well. If even such a stout Cold Warrior as John Fitzgerald Kennedy could decide to "turn toward peace" -albeit at a terrible price - can we too break the shackles of fear and greed and begin that same turning ourselves? As Jim Douglass reminded a friend of mine: who is the real "hero", the prime mover of this story? It is God - God working through JFK, Khrushchev, and others who had the courage to take risks for peace. "After all," Douglass reminded him, "the nuclear holocaust didn't happen!"
We must open ourselves to recognize the common humanity we share, as "we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal." When we recognize and act on this, we join hands with the Creator and work together to build a world of peace. One place to start is exposing, unmasking, naming the truth behind this system. Exposing it to the light. It might put us in its target but only by escaping its clutches can we truly be free and healed of that primal urge to dominate.
37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2008
There may be only five or six books dealing with John Kennedy's assassination which not only provide a complete review of the event or new insights, but are also extremely well written. This book belongs on the top shelf with them.
This brilliant history does not so much tell the reader which antagonists were against Kennedy, it allows a recognition by the reader of forces building independent of our democracy yet ostensibly within it.
While some familiar witness testimony is covered again, this narrative might even have been better had these not been included. The reader's knowledge of Kennedy's shooting provides the answer--the relationships within intelligence agencies, the State Department, and foreign governments provide a vivid equation which the reader himself creates. A remarkably unique book.