JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters

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Simon and Schuster, Oct 19, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 560 pages
2 Reviews
The acclaimed book Oliver Stone called “the best account I have read of this tragedy and its significance,” JFK and the Unspeakable details not just how the conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy was carried out, but WHY it was done…and why it still matters today.

At the height of the Cold War, JFK risked committing the greatest crime in human history: starting a nuclear war. Horrified by the specter of nuclear annihilation, Kennedy gradually turned away from his long-held Cold Warrior beliefs and toward a policy of lasting peace. But to the military and intelligence agencies in the United States, who were committed to winning the Cold War at any cost, Kennedy’s change of heart was a direct threat to their power and influence. Once these dark “Unspeakable” forces recognized that Kennedy’s interests were in direct opposition to their own, they tagged him as a dangerous traitor, plotted his assassination, and orchestrated the subsequent cover-up.

Douglass takes readers into the Oval Office during the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, along on the strange journey of Lee Harvey Oswald and his shadowy handlers, and to the winding road in Dallas where an ambush awaited the President’s motorcade. As Douglass convincingly documents, at every step along the way these forces of the Unspeakable were present, moving people like pawns on a chessboard to promote a dangerous and deadly agenda.

JFK and the Unspeakable shot up to the top of the bestseller charts when Oliver Stone first brought it to the world’s attention on Bill Maher’s show. Since then, it has been lauded by Mark Lane (author of Rush to Judgment, who calls it “an exciting work with the drama of a first-rate thriller”), John Perkins (author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, who proclaims it is “arguably the most important book yet written about an American president), and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who calls it “a very well-documented and convincing portrait…I urge all Americans to read this book and come to their own conclusions.”
 

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This is an important book. There is a long and beautifully written passage in which the sinking of PT 109 is retold, with focus on Kennedy's nearly drowning as he swam for hours to seek contact with other PT boats in the area. He is alone in the vast Pacific as currents are dragging him out to open sea. Then, he discovers that a large ocean current gyre has brought him back to where he started. During the long night, Kennedy faces death as only a warrior in war can. Douglass recounts Thomas Merton's letter writing campaign to get people to think about the consequences of nuclear war prior to the presidency of JFK. He suggests that if Kennedy moves towards greatness as one capable of comprehending the danger, he is likely to get assassinated - at least a year before JFK is. This is a thread that Douglass takes up. He focuses on the story of the secret communication between Kennedy and Khruschev that JFK initiated as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both leaders know that the military in either country would see them as traitors for engaging in this dialogue, but they both realize that there is a higher calling in preventing nuclear war. This leads to the first nuclear test ban treaties and the other treaties and negotiations that are the legacy of pulling back from the brink. For Kennedy, this journey culminates in a speech he gave on peace and on ending war at Liberty University just a few months before Dallas. For Douglass, Kennedy's movement away from war and towards peace were what got him killed. He spent some time with the question of who or what Oswald was, but frankly, I thought it was refreshing that you could get by without who pulled the trigger in this one work. The question of why was entertained at length and with thoroughness. Merton coined the term, "unspeakable" to depict the dark side of both military and economic power which has no morals and which is ruthless enough that no dark thing is too dark. Thus, it isn't about a particular conspiracy but about a state of mind that derives from the lust for power based on war, even nuclear war. There are some people who would kill for power and some would kill many. Douglass speculates about the courage of Kennedy in the face of the knowledge or the instinct that he was facing his own end if he took the departure towards peace and this, I found truly a poignant thing to contemplate. For me, Douglass made the case well enough that he deserves to be considered at length. I think he has written an important book. If you read nothing else about JFK, I would recommend this. 

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Let me make sure I understand the premise...
JFK, the guy who ran on a platform that Ike was weak on defense, the guy that oversaw the largest buildup in US military power in history, the guy that
invaded Cuba, the guy that almost launched WW3, the guy that started the Vietnam war, THAT'S the guy that they killed because we was *too peaceful*?
Yeah, ok.
And what of this conspiracy? This is a group so powerful and smart they've managed to keep the secret for 50 years, but the heir apparent they put in power immediately cuts military funding and goes on public record stating that they had been fooled by those very people repeatedly overestimating Soviet capabilities? But they *don't* bump him off?
Yeah, ok.
I don't know where the idea that Kennedy was peace loving got started, but it's wrong. He started more wars and built more missiles than Reagan. And Reagan ended up being the guy that dismantled the entire nuclear arsenal, who saw that coming?
 

Contents

A Cold Warrior Turns
1
Kennedy Castro and the CIA
55
JFK and Vietnam
93
Marked Out for Assassination
135
Saigon and Chicago
174
Washington and Dallas
220
Afterword
381
Notes
396
Index
497
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

James W. Douglass, a scholar and peace activist, is the author of many books, including JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, widely acclaimed as one of the most important books ever written on the subject. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

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