James W. Douglass has distilled more than a decade of work into his exceptional new book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why he died & why it matters. Why should the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas 45 years ago matter to us today?
The Unspeakable is not primarily about how Kennedy was killed. Polls show three out of four Americans reject the Warren Commission's lone-assassin theory and believe there was a conspiracy. This book offers extensive evidence that the conspiracy was organized by the CIA in the service of a political coup d'etat. A number of the book's 2,041 endnotes offer meticulous and compelling evidence to support this view.
But if that were the book's focus, it would not be the inspiring and hopeful book that it is.
Instead, the book deals with deeper truths: why would Kennedy be "marked for assassination"? That was the fear of Trappist monk Thomas Merton, which he expressed almost two years before JFK's murder. Jim Douglass guides us into Thomas Merton's wider perspective to understand why Kennedy would be killed.
The book's preface outlines the answer: "Once again, anything goes in a fight against evil [in 1963, Communism; today, Terrorism]: preemptive attacks, torture, undermining governments, assassinations, whatever it takes to gain the end of victory over an enemy portrayed as irredeemably evil. Yet the redemptive means John Kennedy turned to... was dialogue with the enemy.
"That reconciling method of dialogue... [is still] regarded as heretical in our dominant political theology. As a result, seeking truth in our opponents instead of victory over them can lead, as it did in the case of Kennedy, to one's isolation and death as a traitor."
John Kennedy was killed because he was seen as a traitor by our national security elites.
The Cuban missile crisis is the book's most striking example of John Kennedy's refusal to acquiesce to their Cold War worldview. In 1962 the world stood at the brink of an all-out nuclear exchange over Russian missiles in Cuba. And U.S. military leaders were pushing Kennedy to initiate a first-strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.
A year before the crisis started, Nikita Khrushchev sent a confidential letter to Kennedy, beginning the first of a private and personal exchange of 21 secret letters between the two. (That first letter was 26 pages!) It was Kennedy's -- and Khrushchev's -- willingness to stand up to their own militaries that saved us from nuclear holocaust.
This personal correspondence surely helped each leader to see the humanity of the other. And when the crisis reached its most dangerous moment, they helped each other to save the world from the tens or hundreds of millions of deaths nuclear war would have caused.
Why this matters now should be as plain as today's headlines. On May 15, President Bush labeled any American political leader who would dialogue with our enemies an appeaser, as one who endangers our national security. True to his word, in 2003, when Iran sent the U.S. an extensive proposal for dialogue, he refused even to acknowledge it.
We still live in a spiritual and political climate in America where such behavior is not seen for what it is: as the greatest danger to our national security and to world peace.
The book argues that by entering into the Unspeakable, the profound darkness of past and current U.S. government crimes, we can overcome our own denial of that darkness and reach a more profound understanding of the changes we must work for in today's world.
As Jim Douglass writes of the view JFK was turning toward and why he was killed: "When the enemy is seen as human, everything changes."
Seattle activist Bert Sacks traveled to Iraq nine times in violation of U.S. sanctions. In turn he sued the government with a case that went up to the U.S. Supreme Court. He still has not paid any fine.