Saturday, December 12, 2009

"These people are crazy"

When I first learned that yet another book about President John F. Kennedy's assassination was published, I thought, "So what else is new?" However, once learning of the book's theme, I began to tie in the recent years of unnecessary warfare, Kennedy's death, and that monstrosity of which Gen. Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation, the military-industrial complex.

The book is entitled JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters. Following are excerpts from Edward Curtin's review:
• • •

It’s not often that the intersection of history and contemporary events pose such a startling and chilling lesson as does the contemplation of the murder of JFK on November 22, 1963 juxtaposed with the situations faced by President Obama today. So far, at least, Obama’s behavior has mirrored Johnson’s, not Kennedy’s, as he has escalated the war in Afghanistan by 34,000. One can’t but help think that the thought of JFK’s fate might not be far from his mind as he contemplates his next move in Afghanistan.

Douglass presents a very compelling argument that Kennedy was killed by “unspeakable” (the Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s term) forces within the U.S. national security state because of his conversion from a cold warrior into a man of peace. He argues, using a wealth of newly uncovered information, that JFK had become a major threat to the burgeoning military-industrial complex and had to be eliminated through a conspiracy planned by the CIA – “the CIA’s fingerprints are all over the crime and the events leading up to it” – not by a crazed individual, the Mafia, or disgruntled anti-Castro Cubans, though some of these may have been used in the execution of the plot. ...

First, Kennedy, who took office in January 1961 as somewhat of a Cold Warrior, was quickly set up by the CIA to take the blame for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961. The CIA and generals wanted to oust Castro, and in pursuit of that goal, trained a force of Cuban exiles to invade Cuba. Kennedy refused to go along and the invasion was roundly defeated. The CIA, military, and Cuban exiles bitterly blamed Kennedy. But it was all a sham.

Though Douglass doesn’t mention it, and few Americans know it, classified documents uncovered in 2000 revealed that the CIA had discovered that the Soviets had learned of the date of the invasion more than a week in advance, had informed Castro, but – and here is a startling fact that should make people’s hair stand on end – never told the President. The CIA knew the invasion was doomed before the fact but went ahead with it anyway. Why? So they could and did afterwards blame JFK for the failure. This treachery set the stage for events to come. ...

The stage was now set for events to follow as JFK, in opposition to nearly all his advisers, consistently opposed the use of force in U.S. foreign policy. In 1961, despite the Joint Chief’s demand to put troops into Laos, Kennedy bluntly insisted otherwise as he ordered Averell Harriman, his representative at the Geneva Conference, “Did you understand? I want a negotiated settlement in Laos. I don’t want to put troops in.”

Also in 1961, he refused to concede to the insistence of his top generals to give them permission to use nuclear weapons in Berlin and Southeast Asia. Walking out of a meeting with top military advisors, Kennedy threw his hands in the air and said, “These people are crazy.”

He refused to bomb and invade Cuba as the military wished during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Afterwards he told his friend John Kenneth Galbraith that “I never had the slightest intention of doing so.” Then in June 1963 he gave an incredible speech at American University in which he called for the total abolishment of nuclear weapons, the end of the Cold War and the “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war,” and movement toward “general and complete disarmament.”

A few months later he signed a Limited Test Ban Treaty with Nikita Khrushchev. In October 1963 he signed National Security Action Memorandum 263 calling for the withdrawal of 1,000 U. S. military troops from Vietnam by the end of the year and a total withdrawal by the end of 1965. ...

These clear refusals to go to war and his decision to engage in private, back-channel communications with Cold War enemies marked Kennedy as an enemy of the national security state. They were on a collision course. As Douglass and others have pointed out, every move Kennedy made was anti-war. This, Douglass argues, was because JFK, a war hero, had been deeply affected by the horror of war and was severely shaken by how close the world had come to destruction during the Cuban missile crisis. Throughout his life he had been touched by death and had come to appreciate the fragility of life. Once in the Presidency, Kennedy underwent a deep metanoia, a spiritual transformation, from Cold Warrior to peace maker.

He came to see the generals who advised him as devoid of the tragic sense of life and as hell-bent on war. And he was well aware that his growing resistance to war had put him on a dangerous collision course with those generals and the CIA.

Read complete review here.


Here is another excellent review, by James DiEugenio, of the Douglass book on JFK.
JFK and the Unspeakable

I should inform the reader at the outset: this is not just a book about JFK's assassination. I would estimate that the book is 2/3 about Kennedy's presidency and 1/3 about his assassination. And I didn't mind that at all, because Douglass almost seamlessly knits together descriptions of several of Kennedy's policies with an analysis of how those policies were both monitored and resisted, most significantly in Cuba and Vietnam. This is one of the things that makes the book enlightening and worthy of understanding.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Had JFK lived he would have loved the movie, Dr. Strangelove also known as How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. During this era 1961-1963, Time or Newsweek magazine had a picture of President Kennedy as he sat at his desk on the telephone with this caption "Too liberal to fight". War is a two-edged sword, it provides job security for generals and munitions makers and also serves to control the world's population. If they are lying in a six foot grave, they cannot disrupt the normal order on how business is done.