Joseph Bauers/Voices: JFK, the unspeakable and me

Joseph Bauers/Voices: JFK, the unspeakable and me


One month to the day after President John F. Kennedy was murdered, former President Harry Truman published a commentary in the Washington Post. It was a scathing critique of the Central Intelligence Agency, an entity he had created in 1947. Truman thought it had far exceeded its original mandate and had become "an operational and at times policy-making arm of the government." He was appalled and called for its reining in.

I'm not sure how many people actually saw the essay and contemplated its meaning. It was pulled after appearing only in the morning edition, and besides, the whole nation was focused on the Kennedy tragedy. But those who did pay attention could not help but notice the timing. Although Truman did not mention the assassination, one could infer a connection.

I became aware of the essay through Ray McGovern, a retired CIA analyst who mentioned it in an interview. He also spoke of a book — "JFK and the Unspeakable," by James W. Douglass — and said it was by far the best thing he had read on the Kennedy assassination. McGovern, 78, now, is one of those people who speaks with a certain authenticity.

My curiosity was piqued. I was not even old enough to vote when Kennedy was killed, but the story of his death had fascinated me. Within hours of the event, authorities had the alleged assassin in custody, and within two days, that accused murderer was himself murdered by a supposed patriot grieving the loss of the president, and vowing, we were told, to protect Jacqueline Kennedy from having to testify in a trial.

The whole story seemed wrapped up in a neat package. But sometimes what is put before you loses luster after a while. In this case, some saw the luster fade before the rest of us might have. Almost immediately, they scoffed at this easy explanation. Books appeared, most of which offered speculation of a conspiracy. I read a number of those books and found some a bit over-the-top, but others more thought provoking than sensational.

Lyndon Johnson appointed a blue-ribbon commission to investigate the crime and to dispel the rumors that were running wild. I bought a copy of their work — the Warren Report — and found it, at first perusal, impressive. It had all sorts of illustrations, and it appeared to answer the more sensational rumors point-by-point.

But people with more time on their hands than I started poring over this tome, and they were not impressed. When the Zapruder film of the assassination became public, all hell broke loose on the conspiracy front. The film clearly showed the president falling back violently, the right rear side of his head exploding. Firearms and forensic experts disputed that such a shot could have come from the alleged sniper's nest behind the president.

Immediately, one of the commission leaders, ex-CIA chief Allen Dulles, used a formerly neutral term in a most provocative way. These critiques, said Dulles, were merely "conspiracy theories." The pejorative slant he gave the term has remained to this day.

Those supporting "conspiracy theories" are often scorned as wearers of the tin foil hat, another phrase designed to demean any who don't accept the prescribed narrative. But sometimes we need to give credit to those who look at what is put before them and say, "Now, wait a minute ..."

James Douglass is such a person. He spent 12 years of his life researching and writing "JFK and the Unspeakable." And in doing so, he revealed information that heretofore had not been known. He pointed out the why as much as the how of the assassination.

Did you know, for example, that President Kennedy, who came into office as a staunch cold warrior, was so distraught by the near nuclear collision with the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis that he vowed to find a way to peace? Did you know that he and his supposed enemy, Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev, had engaged in a back-channel correspondence plotting how they might work together toward an incremental disarmament? Did you know that both men feared their own military and intelligence communities as the greatest obstacles to peace?

Why might the Kennedy assassination be relevant today? "The Unspeakable" Douglass refers to is still with us — on steroids. It is the "void ... an abyss of lies and deception" fostered by a deep state — the CIA and the military/industrial profiteers prime components — that reigns over all of us and that wreaks havoc in endless war around the world.

The government we think we elect is a roster of political hacks beholden to it. Kennedy's willingness to take on that evil force marked him for assassination, and his assassins were funded by their unwitting accomplices, the American taxpayers.

Joseph Bauers is a writer in Champaign (