Outstanding nonfiction examines plot to kill JFK

jfk_unspeakable.jpgThere is no scorn like that heaped upon those who dare suggest that the official explanation for the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy is worthless.

For decades now, the mainstream media have derided as a tinfoil-hat nut anyone who questions the 1964 Warren Report’s “lone gunman” thesis, despite the fact that the U.S. House of Representatives 15 years later determined that Kennedy most likely was the victim of a deadly conspiracy.

Congress reached this disturbing conclusion three decades ago, yet pursued it no further, a reticence echoed in the Barack Obama administration’s utter lack of enthusiasm for investigating, let alone prosecuting, the previous administration’s wholesale trampling of the U.S. Constitution.

There’s a good reason for this hesitation, according to James W. Douglass, who penned JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters (Orbis Books, 2008). Backed by extensive research, Douglass argues eloquently that Kennedy was slain as a warning to future presidents and members of Congress not to challenge what President Dwight Eisenhower labeled the “military-industrial complex.” Think of it as a murderous melding of vested mutual interests between those on the warrior right who favor might-makes-right foreign policies and their business underwriters who profit handsomely from providing the hardware and outsourced support services to implement and sustain these policies.

Kennedy’s so-called crimes in the eyes of this longstanding cabal, Douglass contends, were thwarting top military officers who urged a first nuclear strike on the Soviet Union and opposing the CIA’s expansion of conflict in Vietnam. There were also the president’s transgressions of not backing up the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, of withdrawing defense contracts in 1962 from U.S. steel companies that reneged on their promises not to raise prices, and of the 1963 treaty with the Soviet Union to ban atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.

Kennedy’s worst sin? Secretly reaching out to Russian leader Nikita Kruschev to explore ways to make peace between the post World War II superpowers. Douglass shows how a series of letters between the men humanized the “enemy” for each side, a highly subversive act for those who peddle and exploit hate and fear, both in this country and abroad. The cold warriors who ordered (and still run) the U.S. intelligence community and their corporate allies would not stand for a president actually using the power of his office to reign in their war-making activities and curb their profits. Peace? Absolutely out of the question!

“Those who designed the plot to kill Kennedy were familiar the inner sanctum of our national security state,” Douglass writes.  “Their attempt to scapegoat the Soviets for the president’s murder reflected one side of a secret struggle between JFK and his military leaders over a preemptive strike against the Soviet Union. The assassins’ purpose seems to have encompassed not only killing a president determined to make peace with the enemy but also using his murder as the impetus for a possible nuclear first strike against that same enemy.”

There’s a familiar ring to exploiting a national tragedy to propel pre-emptive strikes against an enemy that had nothing to with the calamity. Its contemporary counterpart was the Bush administration’s post Sept. 11, 2001 modus operandi. The bloody debacle in Iraq is one of the reasons that Douglass’s take on the Kennedy murder is essential reading. This book helps us recognize and understand the darker side of our nation’s past, present, and likely future course. The pointless loss of life, enormous tax-payer burden, and pitting of American against American are all the poisonous effects of the endless-war profit cycle.

Douglass calls this “the unspeakable,” and argues compellingly that it corrodes this nation’s very soul. He does not hesitate to pose difficult questions that our national dialogue since the end of World War II has avoided even asking, let alone answering. One of the toughest: Can the United States be a military and financial empire and still be a representative democracy?

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One Response to “Outstanding nonfiction examines plot to kill JFK”

  1. […]  writes in JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters (Orbis Books, 2008).d. […]

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