It's hard to imagine a book about the death of a beloved president at the hands of "the unspeakable" as inspiring, but Douglass' book courageously acknowledges the likeliest scenario, and by facing the dark implications, shows us a way toward redemption. In many ways, JFK and the Unspeakable is a spiritual book. It seems so old-fashioned to speak about "evil," and yet it may be that our unwillingness to use this term and face the darkness head-on is why evil seems to have snuggled up with us and moved in next door.
Douglass introduces three main "characters" in this book: John F. Kennedy, the Unspeakable and you, the reader.
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Kennedy's story in this book is a tale of transformation, from cold warrior to peacemaker. His moment of epiphany came during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the world stood on the brink of nuclear war. The transcripts of Kennedy's interactions with the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the book is over 500 pages, 100 of which are footnotes and references) show how he resisted war and how angry the generals were—even after he dodged the bullet and the missiles were removed from Cuba.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian foreign ministry released documents showing the cables between Kennedy and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev during the crisis. A message sent by the president's brother Robert F. Kennedy to Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin put it bluntly: "If the situation continues much longer, the President is not sure that the military will not overthrow him and seize power."
Premier Khrushchev, having similar misgivings about plunging the world into nuclear holocaust, agreed to pull the missiles out of Cuba, and the crisis evaporated. In exchange, President Kennedy made a verbal promise to remove our missiles from Turkey within six months, which came to pass.
In a significant sense, both Kennedy and Khrushchev had what we might term today near-death experiences. In returning from the brink of massive destruction, both of them dedicated themselves to doing whatever they could to end the Cold War. For Kennedy, it was the thought of all those children who would never grow up to live a full life had he pushed the button. His generals, on the other hand, were perfectly willing to gamble the lives of millions of Americans and millions more Russians on a first strike that they believed would immobilize the Soviet Union.
Kennedy and Khrushchev communicated often during the last year of Kennedy's life. They often spoke about having more in common with one another than with their generals. Kennedy initiated three policy changes that put him at odds with his generals, with most of his party leaders and most definitely with the military industrial complex. He sought a nuclear test ban treaty as a way to slow, if not stop, the Cold War escalation; he opened secret lines of communication to Fidel Castro, with an eye toward rapprochement with the Cuban communist regime; and he made firm plans to end the Vietnam War before it started.
All of this—and the resistance Kennedy got from nearly all quarters—is well-documented in Douglass' book. It may well be that had Kennedy lived, the Vietnam War Memorial we are all so familiar with wouldn't exist today, and those who died would have lived full and fulfilling lives. Those who still suffer from PTSD would likewise have been able to focus on healthier pursuits. And the culture wars that have divided America might never have happened. Take, for example, when Kennedy appeared in Salt Lake City—even then a conservative bastion—and proposed a nuclear test ban. The audience, largely Mormon, gave him a standing ovation that lasted for minutes.
Enter the other main character in this immorality play: the Unspeakable. If Douglass is right, and elements in our own government were responsible for the assassination—you will have to read the book to make your own conclusions—John F. Kennedy's transformation from war maker to peacemaker was stopped dead in its tracks. In regards to Vietnam, according to Stanley Karnow's 1983 book Vietnam: A History, Lyndon Johnson reassured the Joint Chiefs in December 1963, a month after succeeding to the office, "Just let me get elected, then you can have your war."