Using recently released documents and interviews with witnesses no longer afraid of being killed Catholic peace activist James Douglass has written a fascinating examination of JFK and his death called JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters. (Full disclosure: I’ve never trusted the single assassin theory).
In a nutshell Kennedy was killed by the CIA because he changed from a Cold Warrior to a peace advocate. The Bay of Pigs shattered his confidence in the CIA. The Cuban Missile Crisis made him very afraid of nuclear holocaust. Viet Nam was unwinnable. So he began looking for another way…and this made him a target of the CIA and the military-industrial complex.
Douglass tells a tale of JFK’s journey to peace and how it was blocked by his own advsiers but was pursued by Krushchev. Documents show that Kennedy and Krushchev had a back channel communication channel facilitated by Pope John. Castro was also seeking a similar channel to work with JFK. Kennedy also worked out a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviets that was very popular with the common man in the US. At the same time his Joint Chiefs of Staff were pushing for a first strike against Russia as the only solution to the Cold War. They reassured Kennedy there would be only 30 million US casualties. (JFK walked out of that meeting, shaking his head in disbelief). Kennedy had also issued orders to begin withdrawing 1000 US advisers from Viet Nam by the end of 1963. Kennedy was messing with the CIA and their plans…he had to go.
Also in the book the author shows how the CIA manipulated Oswald to be the patsy and to make it look like the USSR was responsible for JFK’s death in the hopes that LBJ would retaliate. The Oswald legend never made sense to me and the explanation offered in the book seems possible.
Douglass also uses the writings of contemplative monk Thomas Merton as a unifying theme for the book. Merton wrote of Unspeakable Acts and he also wrote that JFK’s turn towards peace made him a marked man. (A sidebar regarding Merton, not in this book: Merton became an outspoken peace advocate against the Viet Nam war and died under suspicious circimstances in 1968 while on a peace mission in Thailand).
Krushchev was looking forward to 6 more years of working with Kennedy to de-escalate the Cold War. One of the final lines of the book is a quote of Jacqueline Kennedy to Krushchev’s personal representative at the funeral:
My husband’s dead. Now peace is up to you.
Oh, what could have been…I gotta go.