JFK and the Unspeakable
by James W. Douglass
First of all I have to say that I was somewhat reluctant to even add this book to my list, just because if you’re even partly convinced by its contents you have to wonder if your name will end up on some sort of list just by talking about it. Of course just the fact that I purchased it would probably already have earned me a place on such a list, so what the hell. . .
I’ve read many accounts of this event and from pretty much the very beginning have been convinced that the official story doesn’t hold up. All it really takes is watching the video to see that it came from in front of him. And surprisingly, Douglass doesn’t even address the “magic bullet,” which is damning enough of the official account in its own right.
However, what this book did so well (and differently from all the others I have read) was to weave all of the mysterious inconsistencies and loose threads into a coherent and convincing narrative. Even something like Peter Dale Scott’s Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, though perhaps more exhaustively researched, still does not present a single scenario in such a comprehensive format.
The result is mostly depressing and scary, but also gratifying in the way it describes JFK as that all-too-rare thing: a leader with the brains to know the right course of action and the courage to pursue it. Some of the most moving parts of the book are the different foreign leaders’ thoughts on Kennedy; indeed his greatest “enemies” (Kruschev, Castro, Sukarno, Diem, etc.) were often the most effusive in their praise. And reading their reactions to his death and what it would mean for the Cold War was heartbreaking.
I would have given the book a perfect 5 but for Douglass’s writing style which became quite grating by the end. On the one hand, I’m glad he appears to have dumbed it down a little in order to create a more impactful narrative. But on the other hand he was maddeningly repetitive at times, especially with the regurgitation of entire speeches or quotes, as if he couldn’t depend on the reader to remember what he was referring to. Also, his narrative choice of the last chapter was perplexing at best, where he interspersed the dissection of events immediately surrounding “the event” with repetitive descriptions of JFK’s ongoing pursuance of peace with Russia. Not only could those latter things have been said much more effectively in a prior chapter, but they served to completely interrupt the momentum of a very compelling analysis.
Ultimately, this is an important book. It makes a convincing argument that JFK was taking dramatic steps to end the Cold War, which threatened the newly established and already hyperactive military-industrial complex, which responded by neutralizing the threat. The take away message is that our country is run by the organization-that-must-not-be-named and any effort to change those circumstances will probably fail. Really makes me wish Truman hadn’t been so dense as to create it in the first place. . .