JFK and the Unspeakable, by James Douglass: A Review
A few months ago, activist theologian James Douglass published his long-awaited Gandhi and the Unspeakable: His Final Experiment in Truth. Douglass explained the genesis of the book in a lecture given last year at Marquette University. His publisher had actually contracted him to write about the Malcolm X and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King assassinations. But during the course of his research, he realized that it would be better to examine the murder of Mohandas Gandhi first, because an understanding of his death could lay the foundation for further delving into the motive forces behind political violence.
Douglass refers to these motive forces as the “Unspeakable.” Roughly put, the Unspeakable describes the conflict between the powerlust and expansion manifested by the national security state, and the global need for peace. The Unspeakable entails the commitment of leaders to foster peace, despite the conscious knowledge that they could pay for that pacifism with their lives.
Douglass first expounded on this premise in his 2008 book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters. This volume offers very little in terms of new information about the JFK assassination, although its presentation of known facts is quite impressive in itself. The true strength of JFK and the Unspeakable is the clarity it offers of the time, the situation and the stakes.
JFK and the Unspeakable covers disparate issues in a coherent way, among them: the logistics of the assassination in Dallas, and the aborted assassination attempt planned in Chicago during the first week of November 1963; the strategy of rapprochement taken by JFK, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, and Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro; the secret diplomacy these three leaders engaged in to bypass warmongering hardliners in the Pentagon and the Kremlin; the numerous attempts by US Intel to undermine Kennedy’s peace efforts in Cuba and Vietnam; and the abject hatred that military, intelligence and financial elites had toward the President and his policies, which titans of myriad industries–especially steel and oil–saw as anti-business.
Most important, Douglass gives us a deeper understanding of Kennedy’s thinking, and why it drove him to seek rapprochement; to stand up to the Washington, Wall Street and Langley insiders who stupidly thought that nuclear war was winnable; and to seek peace with the leaders that these insiders had come to demonize. The President’s reasoning was partly spiritual/moral. As a theologian, Douglass goes into great detail about this. At the same time, Kennedy also had very pragmatic concerns. Conservative estimates of the first-strike strategy advocated by some cold-war hawks projected 750,000,000 dead. That’s five times the death toll of World War II.
The stakes were that high.
Kennedy’s death in large part made the Vietnam war possible. Yet, Douglass makes a compelling argument that Jack’s life played a critical role in keeping us away from a nuclear Stone Age.
JFK and the Unspeakable is an absolute must-read--not just for conspiracy researchers and historians, but for everyone who gives a damn about anything. Especially now, as the drums of war beat their cadences in such places as Iran and Syria, Douglass’ observations offer us sage insight into the persistence and the self-destructive nihilism of the national security state.