BOOKS: JFK and the Unspeakable, James W. Douglass

There is a new book out that is receiving rave reveiws from eminent theologians,and the likes of experieced Cold War observers like Daniel Ellsberg and Marcus Raskin. The book is called JFK and the Unspeakable and it is by a Catholic activist named James W. Douglass

It is not merely an “assassiaton” book. It is the most important book about Cold War history and how it effects us today that I have ever read.

The author uses the writings of Thomas Merton-- in particular his wrtings to famous americans in letters about the ethical issues of the Cold War-- as a structural divice to enhance the framing of the issue discussed in the book. These include many letters that point to a radically new interpretation of the Bay of Pigs, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the world has ever come to nuclear destruction.

This is not the CMC that you learned in High School This book is loaded with new detatails from documents only recently declassified as a result of the Congresseionally mandated NRRB process that began in 1994 and continued until 2005. Shcholars are only just now analyzing this new information.

JFK and the Unspeakable
Why He Died and Why It Matters
by James W. Douglass

Advance Praise for JFK and the Unspeakable

"JFK and the Unspeakable is an exceptional achievement. Douglass has made the strongest case so far in the JFK assassination literature as to the Who and the Why of Dallas. The conjunction of unrestrained elements in cold war America—defense industry elites, Pentagon planners, and the heads of the intelligence community—were the forces that led inexorably to Dallas and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”–Gerald McKnight, author, Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why

“With penetrating insight and unswerving integrity, Douglass probes the fundamental truths about JFK’s assassination. If, he contends, humanity permits those truths to slip into history ignored and undefined it does so at its own peril. By far the most important book yet written on the subject.” --Gaeton Fonzi, former Staff Investigator, US House Select Committee on Assassinations

“Douglass presents, brilliantly, an unfamiliar yet thoroughly convincing account of a series of creditable decisions of John F. Kennedy—at odds with his initial Cold War stance—that earned him the secret distrust and hatred of hard-liners among the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA. Did this suspicion and rage lead directly to his murder by agents of these institutions, as Douglass concludes? Many readers who are not yet convinced of this ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ by Douglass’s prosecutorial indictment will find themselves, perhaps—like myself—for the first time, compelled to call for an authoritative criminal investigation. Recent events give all the more urgency to learning what such an inquiry can teach us about how, by whom, and in whose interests this country is run.” --Daniel Ellsberg, author, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

“For forty years Jim Douglass has been our leading North American Catholic theologian of peace. But this monumental work on the witness of JFK is something deeper still. Douglass is trying to get us to connect the dots between our ‘citizen denial,’ the government’s ‘plausible deniability,’ and the Unspeakable. This book has the potential to change our narrative about our country, and our lives as citizens and disciples. May we have ears to hear these truths, hearts able to bear their burden, and hands willing to build a new story.”—Ched Myers, author, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus

“This book’s story of JFK and the ‘unspeakable’ is a stunning mix of political thriller and meticulous scholarship. Even as it points persuasively to rogue powers at work in the U.S. military-industrial complex, it also witnesses to the power of spirit, inspiring prophetic voices like Thomas Merton’s, turning a president like John Kennedy toward peace, thus also enabling readers to see into the current deep structure of U.S. war and empire. Douglass’s book offers a goldmine of information and is indispensable for building prophetic spirit and hope.”—Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary

Here is a review of the book from National Catholic Reporter


Also interesting that we rarely hear of this comment. The first I heard of it was as quoted here in James W. Douglass’ incredible book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.

On December 22, 1963, one month to the day after JFK’s assassintion,
Former President Truman published a very carefully worded article in the
Washington Post warning the American people about the danger of the CIA
taking over the government. He wrote:

“I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and
operations of our Central Intelligence Agency–CIA…for some time I
have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original
assignment. It has become an operational and at time a policy-making
arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have
compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas. We have grown up
as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to
maintain a free and open society. THere is something about the CIA
has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historica position
and I feel that we need to correct it” (note 678, Chapter 6)

Trumans’s warning, with its ominous post-assassination timing, was greeted
by total silence (note 679) Had it been noticed and heeded the , the
contraversial ex-president might have been accused more justly this time
of trying to abolish the CIA, since he did indeed want to abolish its covert
activities. Ptesident Harry Truman had himself established the CIA in
1947, but not he thought, to do what he saw it doing in the fall of 1963.

He restated his radical critique of the CIA in a letter writeen six months
later (note 680, Chapter 6). The managing editor of Look magazine had
sent Truman the latest Look featuring a piece on the CIA. Truman wrote

“Thank you for the copy of Look with the article on the Central Intelligence
Agency. It is, I regret to say, not true to the facts in many respects. The
CIA was set up by me for the sole purposse of getting all the available
information to the president. It was not inteneded to operate as an
international agency engaged in strange activities” (note 681, Chapter 6)
(pp.332-333, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters)

"It has become an operational and at times a policy-making
arm of the Government. " Well Douglass book is full of examples of this
generalization by Truman.

In the 1990s, a Detroit newspaper carried a front page article where a Congressman expressed his concern that 70% of the American people think the CIA killed President Kennedy. He wanted to do something about that.

No, I’m not trying to portray John or Robert Kennedy as saints. President Kennedy did want to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces. He had good reason to. Information he received was distorted and cetain things were already in motion when he entered office.

I suggest that those who read this book also read Trauma Room One written by a Doctor Charles Crenshaw who examined the President at Parkland Memorial Hospital. He had seen gunshot wounds before. After examining the President, he concluded Kennedy had been struck from the front.


I have not read Trauma Room One but plan on it. Especially after reading THIS in JFK and the Unspeakable about how the CIA used JAMA, the presigious Journal of the American Medical Association medical journal to discredit the book and its author.

Look at the depths! (sorry for the bad typing, it came out that way)


Along similar lines see this interesting comment about another such professional journal, and its use in disinformation, and the scattering of dissenting opinions about the JFK autopsy. Until reading this I hadawlays thought Phi Slamma JAMA was an allusion to an old center for the Hous.
Rockets. Apparently its origins date to another Mute Yale Collective, this group of fervent youthfull ideologues being designed for premeds who dreamed of one day trading in reconstructive autopsies:

In April 1992, Crenshaw same out with his book JFK: Conspiracy of Silence which revealed what he had seen of President Kennedy’s
wounds, contradicting the Warren Report. The book rose to number one on the NYT best-seller list. Crenshaw was then attacked in
print by the director of the FBI’s Dallas office, who claimed "the documentation does not show that the doctor was involved in any way,"
and by a former Warren Commsssion attorney, who said the press should demand “fulll financial disclusure [of Crenshaw] because
hundreds of thousands and millions have been made of the assassination.” Then, to his surprise, Crenshaw was denounced by the
prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

In in its may 27, 1992, issue, JAMA published two article suggsting Dr. Crenshaw was not even in Trauma Room One with President
Kennedy. JAMA’s editor promoted the articles by a New York press conference that revieved massive press coverage. Dr. Cren-
shaw submitted to JAMA a series of articles and letters responding to the charge that he was a liar. He pointed out that in testimony
before the Warren Commission five different doctors and nurses had specifically mentioned seeing him working with them to revive
the president. They made it clear Crenshaw had been in Trauma Room One, doing exactly what he said he did in Conspiracy of Silence.

All of Dr. Crenshaw’s written efforts to set the record straight on JAMA’s pages were rejected by the editor. Crenshaw then sued the
journal. In 1994, therough court -ordered mediation, JAMA agreed to pay Dr. Crenshaw and his co-author Gary Shaw, a sum of money.
JAMA also agreed to publish their rebuttal article, which eventually appeared in an abbreviated version. Then JAMA published still another
piece attacking Crenshaw, Shaw and their book (p. 311, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He DIed and Why It Matters)

One has to be careful not to read events in the light of a myth.
That is little doubt that Kennedy signed off on the “removal” of Diem, which was the event that led to our deep involvement in Vietnam. That followed from several years of demonization of the Vietnamese leader by US reporters, especially from the New York Times, which employed Black Legend vocabulary in an effort to prove that Diem, the Catholic, was persecuting the Buddhists. People later very much wanted to believe that Kennedy was about to pull our forces out of Vietnam because of what happened later. Given that western journalists, such as Halberstam, depended heavily on Vietnamese stringers, it is just as likely that the Vietcong was feeding misinformation to the press which was passing that along uncritically to their editors. The simple fact is that Catholics, once keenly aware of the natural of communism, are now just as prone to accept a revisionist notion of the Cold War as liberals in the academies, and to make McCarthyism a mere delusion. This despite the fact that it is undeniable now that the CP had agents everywhere in the New Deal Government, including, of course, Alger Hiss.

Douglass, Elsberg, Raskin: all men who think the wrong side won the Cold War.

And the NC Reporter, the house organ for ‘Catholics’ that would like to over throw the Papacy.

Wouldn’t read this if you paid me: the hard left revising history to make themselves look less like shills for a failed ideology.

I think the reason conspiracy theories are so popular is its a lot more comforting to accept them than to think one nut with a gun can change the course of history.

Just the opposite is true. The media have FOR THE LAST TWENTY FIVE YEARS erred in the direction of blaming everything on JFK, as they did around the time of the JFK movie media fiasco.

There they claimed that it was ridiculous, that JFK was going to get out of Vietnam.

Problem: every history book since then has concluded that that is exactly what JFK was going to do, but still no retraction from Newsweek after their FRONT PAGE attack of JFK six months before it came out.

The historian Howard Jones, Professor of History at Alambama U. in his Oxford University Press published book Death of A Genration, even said in his introduction, that when he started out his book he was going to prove that JFK was going to pull out of Vietnam was a myth.

On the way to the podium, he tripped over something. Evidence. He then wrote a book showing that JFK was indeed going to pull out of Vietnam.

The simple fact is that Catholics, once keenly aware of the natural of communism, are now just as prone to accept a revisionist notion of the Cold War as liberals in the academies, and to make McCarthyism a mere delusion.---------------------------
I should hope that Catholics, just like many of other faiths might be partial to examining the historical record rather than simply judging a complex historical event on the basis of who screams
"communist" or “terrorist” the loudest.

The Washington Daily News, Wednesday, October 2, 1963, p.3


‘Arrogant’ CIA Disobeys Orders in Viet Nam

SAIGON, Oct.2 - The story of the Central Intelligence Agency’s role in South Viet Nam is a dismal chronicle of bureaucratic arrogance, obstinate disregard of orders, and unrestrained thirst for power.

Twice the CIA flatly refused to carry out instructions from Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, according to a high United States source here.

In one of these instances the CIA frustrated a plan of action Mr. Lodge brought with him from Washington because the agency disagreed with it.

This led to a dramatic confrontation between Mr. Lodge and John Richardson, chief of the huge CIA apparatus here. Mr. Lodge failed to move Mr. Richardson, and the dispute was bucked back to Washington. Secretary of State Dean Rusk and CIA Chief John A. McCone were unable to resolve the conflict, and the matter is now reported to be awaiting settlement by President Kennedy.

It is one of the developments expected to be covered in Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s report to Mr. Kennedy.

Others Critical, Too

Other American agencies here are incredibly bitter about the CIA.

“If the United States ever experiences a ‘Seven Days in May’ it will come from the CIA, and not from the Pentagon,” one U.S. official commented caustically.

(“Seven Days in May” is a fictional account of an attempted military coup to take over the U.S. Government.)

CIA “spooks” (a universal term for secret agents here) have penetrated every branch of the American community in Saigon, until non-spook Americans here almost seem to be suffering a CIA psychosis.

An American field officer with a distinguished combat career speaks angrily about “that man at headquarters in Saigon wearing a colonel’s uniform.” He means the man is a CIA agent, and he can’t understand what he is doing at U.S. military headquarters here, unless it is spying on other Americans.

Another American officer, talking about the CIA, acidly commented: “You’d think they’d have learned something from Cuba but apparently they didn’t.”

Few Know CIA Strength

Few people other than Mr. Richardson and his close aides know the actual CIA strength here, but a widely used figure is 600. Many are clandestine agents known only to a few of their fellow spooks.

Even Mr. Richardson is a man about whom it is difficult to learn much in Saigon. He is said to be a former OSS officer, and to have served with distinction in the CIA in the Philippines.

A surprising number of the spooks are known to be involved in their ghostly trade and some make no secret of it.

"There are a number of spooks in the U.S. Information Service, in the U.S. Operations mission, in every aspect of American official and commercial life here, " one official - presumably a non-spook - said.

“They represent a tremendous power and total unaccountability to anyone,” he added.

Coupled with the ubiquitous secret police of Ngo Dinh Nhu, a surfeit of spooks has given Saigon an oppressive police state atmosphere.

The Nhu-Richardson relationship is a subject of lively speculation. The CIA continues to pay the special forces which conducted brutal raids on Buddhist temples last Aug. 21, altho in fairness it should be pointed out that the CIA is paying these goons for the war against communist guerillas, not Buddhist bonzes (priests).

Hand Over Millions

Nevertheless, on the first of every month, the CIA dutifully hands over a quarter million American dollars to pay these special forces.

Whatever else it buys, it doesn’t buy any solid information on what the special forces are up to. The Aug. 21 raids caught top U.S. officials here and in Washington flat-footed.

Nhu ordered the special forces to crush the Buddhist priests, but the CIA wasn’t let in on the secret. (Some CIA button men now say they warned their superiors what was coming up, but in any event the warning of harsh repression was never passed to top officials here or in Washington.)

Consequently, Washington reacted unsurely to the crisis. Top officials here and at home were outraged at the news the CIA was paying the temple raiders, but the CIA continued the payments.

It may not be a direct subsidy for a religious war against the country’s Buddhist majority, but it comes close to that.

And for every State Department aide here who will tell you, “Dammit, the CIA is supposed to gather information, not make policy, but policy-making is what they’re doing here,” there are military officers who scream over the way the spooks dabble in military operations.

A Typical Example

For example, highly trained trail watchers are an important part of the effort to end Viet Cong infiltration from across the Laos and Cambodia borders. But if the trailer watchers spot incoming Viet Congs, they report it to the CIA in Saigon, and in the fullness of time, the spooks may tell the military.

One very high American official here, a man who has spent much of his life in the service of democracy, likened the CIA’s growth to a malignancy, and added he was not sure even the White House could control it any longer.

I think it is actually a lot easier and more comforting to accept the lone gunman theory than to recognize the overwhelming evidence of a cover up by the establishment.

The Kennedy assassination has been one of the most investigated events in history. No evidence of conspiracy has been found, yet conspiracy theories continue to abound. And this latest book, by someone active in the peace movement, appears to be yet another conspiracy theory, and yet another attempt to rewrite history. The author has an agenda to pursue.

A more objective look at the Cuban Missile Crisis might be Michael Dobbs’ One Minute to Midnight, subtitled Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro On The Brink Of Nuclear War. I haven’t read it yet, but the book is sitting in the other room waiting for me.

History is fascinating enough without trying to impose one’s personal agendas upon its actors.

Hello JimG,

Eyewitnesses saw President Kennedy’s wounds. He was hit from the front. Doctor Charles Crenshaw was in Trauma Room One and examined the President along with others in attendance. Even though the Journal of the American Medical Association accused him of a fabrication, he took them to court, and proved his case.


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