Sunday, December 20, 2009

Currently reading: JFK and the Unspeakable

In November 1963 when US President John F Kennedy was assassinated I was 8 years old. As a teenager in the late 1960's I read Mark Lane's book Rush to Judgment, which was the first book to raise fundamental doubts about the official line on the assassination of the US President. Lane raised deeply troubling questions about the conclusions of the Warren Commission and suggested that there was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy.

There are a myriad of books that have continued in the tradition of Mark Lane to ask unnerving questions about the assassination, as well make links between the assassination of JFK, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

There is no better book on the assassination of JFK than the one I am currently reading. In JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters James. W. Douglass, distinguished theologian and peace activist, shows how Kennedy's multiple battles with the military, corporate and industrial and intelligence establishments created the circumstances that resulted in his assassination. Douglass reveals a President whose pursuit of peace following the Cuban military crises, put him increasingly at odds with the military, intelligence and political establishment.

Douglass documents how Kennedy sought to break with the Cold War mindset and challenge the power of the military and intelligence establishments that had deliberately deceived the US President. Douglass shows how the intelligence and the military tried to entrap trap him into initiating armed and nuclear conflict in the Bay of Pigs, Cuba, Laos, Berlin and Vietnam. Kennedy resisted them.

Drawing on an amazing array of sources, including recently released Presidential documents and papers, Douglass shows how a series of profound Kennedy decisions resulted in him being seen as a traitor to the US cold war agenda by the military and intelligence establishment. These actions included initiating direct communication with Soviet President Khrushchev, establishing talks with Fidel Castro to normalize relations with Cuba, signing official Presidential orders to withdraw troops from Vietnam, plans to end nuclear weapons through a Test Ban Treaty and continual rejection of the military's request to use nuclear and other weapons during crises in Cuba, Vietnam, Laos and Berlin. Citing recently released documents Douglas argues that only weeks before his assassination Kennedy had signed a Presidential order authorizing the withdrawal of US forces from Vietnam by 1965.

Douglass believes that it was these decisions that motivated the forces that assassinated Kennedy.

Douglass makes much of a speech Kennedy gave in June 1963 at American University where he spoke with empathy and compassion about the Soviet people, recognizing their common humanity. In that speech Kennedy rejected the cold war ideology that the Soviets were the enemy saying:

"...we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal."

More reviews of the book can be found here and one by film director Oliver Stone here in which he writes:
"Why does it matter? The death of JFK remains a critical turning point in our history. Those who caused his death were targeting not just a man but a vision -- a vision of peace. There is no calculating the consequences of his death for this country and for the world. Those consequences endure. To a large extent, the fate of our country and the future of the planet continue to be controlled by the shadowy forces of what Douglass calls "the Unspeakable." Only by unmasking these forces and confronting the truth about our history can we restore the promise of democracy and lay claim to Kennedy's vision of peace.
Douglas's profound book has deeply unnerving resonances today, as the very military, intelligence and pro war establishments that Douglass claims did JFK in are even more powerful in the USA.

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