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Why Was JFK Murdered? - Interview with James W. Douglass

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Why Was JFK Murdered?

A transcript of the Lew Rockwell Show episode 150 with James W. Douglass

Listen to the podcast.

ANNOUNCER: This is the Lew Rockwell Show.

ROCKWELL: Well, how wonderful to have with us this morning Professor Jim Douglass. Jim taught religion at the University of Hawaii. He and his wife, Shelley, are the founders of the Catholic Worker House in Birmingham, Alabama.

But today we're going to talk to him about his extremely important book, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.

Now, Jim, you were close to Thomas Merton, influenced by Thomas Merton, and part of this title comes from Merton. Would you explain that to us?

DOUGLASS: Yes, Lew. Thomas Merton wrote a book called Raids on the Unspeakable, a series of essays. He talked about the unspeakable as a kind of power and a kind of reality that went almost beyond the power of speech. It was suggested for him by the nuclear arms race, by the Vietnam War, and by the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Malcolm and Martin and RFK. It was a kind of evil where we don't want to go. That might be one way of coming up with what he meant by the unspeakable.

ROCKWELL: Well, Jim Douglass, thank goodness you have gone where maybe others have feared to go. And all the people that I've talk to – and I've read, myself, a good amount of Kennedy revisionism, but I was extremely impressed by all you've done. And the people I've talked to who are the real experts tell me this is the best book and the most important book ever written on the Kennedy assassination. So not only do you go over why, clearly, this was a conspiracy, it just wasn't a typical lone nut who appears from time to time in American history and is of great use to the power elite, but you show us why he was killed, why this is so important, and why we should all be concerned about it, not simply a historical event we can forget about, but why it continues to have impact on the nature of American society, of the wars that the government fights, what's happening in terms of the police state here at home, and why it affects every person here today listening to this show.

DOUGLASS: Yes, I really appreciate your emphasizing the whys, because all I hoped to do was to tell the story of the why. I, of course, included the plot, but the only reason I did that was to fill in the picture. My point is not, and I did not write an analysis of the Kennedy assassination. It was to tell the story of JFK, and of all of us, for that matter. It was representing everyone in this country and, because of the nature of the conflict, in some sense, everybody in the world. We're talking about weapons that could destroy the world. And that story, and of his turning – I use that word advisedly. It comes from the Hebrew Scriptures – his turning away from that kind of destructive power, towards peace, that's the "why" of his assassination.

ROCKWELL: You know, we hear, for example, about his speech where he said he was going to undo the CIA as an organization. Was that part of it, I mean, in terms of what the CIA did then, what it does today, what the Pentagon does, the Military-Industrial Complex?

DOUGLASS: He underwent a break with the CIA relatively early in his administration at the Bay of Pigs because he understood – he was not a stupid man. He was a very shrewd person. (Laughing) And he understood that he was being manipulated and set up at the Bay of Pigs so that he would have to call in the U.S. troops to win against Castro, and the CIA lied to him to set him up, they lied about the conditions of the uprisings that they told him were going to occur in Cuba and all this kind of thing. And the whole Bay of Pigs invasion had been organized during the Eisenhower administration. But when Kennedy realized afterwards the extent to which he had been lied and set up, he said, I want to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind. And he very deliberately did take steps to impair the CIA from doing that in the future. He fired the man in charge, Allen Dulles, who had been the cold warrior up to that point, and fired his main subordinates who had set him up in the Bay of Pigs. And then, of course, after his assassination, who does Lyndon Johnson, his successor, appoint for the so-called Warren Commission as the major influence within it, but Allen Dulles. He should have been considered, rightly, as the main suspect in the assassination rather than appointed to investigate it. That's the fox investigating the murder in the hen house.

ROCKWELL: Can you look at the Kennedy assassination as a coup d'etat?

DOUGLASS: Yes. But it's a very subtle coup d'etat in that the propaganda is so enormous and the transition is done so fluidly into an administration under Lyndon Johnson, that is reversing all of Kennedy's main decision. That happens with so little disruption. I mean, Kennedy's main advisors don't all surrender and say this is a coup d'etat or anything like that. Everybody sort of surrenders. This is Cold War thinking. This is the mission to the Powers That Be, if you want to put it in biblical terms. And so, although it is, in fact, a coupe d'etat in terms of the power – and the way Kennedy was moving, he had become so isolated, and even his closest – well, most of his closest advisers were so subordinate to the Powers That Be that it was not seen as anything like that.

ROCKWELL: Did Robert Kennedy see it as a murder by the Powers That Be, and is that why he himself was murdered?

DOUGLASS: Yes, he did. But he could not, as one individual – even though he was attorney general of the United States, he could not see a way to do anything in the extreme isolation that he and his brother together had been before the assassination. But now it was Robert Kennedy alone. He, on the very day of the assassination, within an hour, he was suspecting – well, within minutes – (Laughing) – he was suspecting it was the CIA. And he actually confronted people in the CIA that afternoon, asking them about their role in the assassination. But this was all kept very much under the visibility of anyone. And he did not come out with that view. He said to his friends that he would wait until he became president himself. That was a very tragic and fatal decision. He needed to speak up long before that. And, of course, he was never given that opportunity. And he was assassinated 15 minutes after he took the turn by winning the California primary toward becoming president of the United States.

ROCKWELL: Isn't there some new work that's just come out from Britain and elsewhere showing that the CIA was involved in the Robert Kennedy assassination?

DOUGLASS: Yes. There has been accumulating evidence over the years. There's now acoustic analysis showing that Sirhan Sirhan was not alone or even may not even have been a primary source of the shot killing Robert Kennedy. Even from the beginning, the autopsy by Thomas Noguchi, the best coroner in Los Angeles, showed that the shots that killed Robert Kennedy were from behind him and right up against his head, while Sirhan Sirhan was not in that position. He could not possibly have fired the shots that killed Robert Kennedy.

ROCKWELL: You know, from the polls, and it seems to me from just general knowledge of the American people, it seems like some substantial minority, maybe a minority of Americans who are interested in this subject don't believe the government. They don't believe the Warren Commission. They don't believe the official story that's thrown at us with such ferocity every time the subject is discussed. And this recent Bugliosi book, obviously, a pack of lies.

DOUGLASS: Yes, very much. It's actually a majority of people who don't believe the Warren Commission. So it needs to be set out in a clear fashion. That's what I tried to do. That is, as I said before, not to analyze the assassination, which would have taken thousands of pages, but simply to tell the story of why it happened and, to some degree, how it happened. But, yes, I think people who are reasonable, who know anything about this, even from day one – (Laughing) – or day three, especially, when Oswald is taken care of by Jack Ruby, people were saying, what, this doesn't make sense, unless it's something being done and coordinated very closely. And that's, of course, what was happening. So the propaganda is massive and it continues to be that way. So one of the biggest questions, I think, is not only what happened to JFK, but why is there such massive propaganda to keep us from understanding it almost 50 years after the event? That's a critical question.

ROCKWELL: But do you think there was really a radical change since the death of JFK? I mean, are things really worse than they were during World War II or World War I or the Spanish-American War or the Civil War or in Mexico, or do you think that it's actually significantly worse now? Is the propaganda worse? Is the control and the size of the Military-Industrial Complex significantly worse?

DOUGLASS: I think in both it's significantly worse and it's significantly better. That sounds like a contradiction, perhaps it is, but its intension is the polarity that goes in, in terms of – I mean, as a people, we, of course, have consciousness in different ways. And I think that because of the JFK assassination, at that point, we reach a critical juncture, and either we understand what's going on in relation especially perhaps to Eisenhower's warning about the Military-Industrial Complex, or we go into deeper and deeper waters. And I think systematically we have gone into deeper and deeper waters. On the other hand, there's a certain degree of enlightenment that's gone on. And I'm, by no means, the only person – in fact, I'm very, very much of a latecomer to understanding the Kennedy assassination. And if you see things through that prism, a lot of things become far clearer. So I think we both become more hopeful in terms of understanding things. And on the other hand, systematically, because we haven't done anything about it in a significant way, we've gotten into deeper and deeper waters. But if we can understand what happened to JFK and those others who got assassinated in the direct wake of his death, it's going to give us a prism and an understanding of turning, of moving in the direction that King, especially, as the greatest profit of non-violence in our history, gave us. We have a road that we can walk that's very hopeful even while we're in the deepest kind of mud you can imagine. (Laughing).

ROCKWELL: I remember at the time finding it very interesting and, I must say, hardly inexplicable that King took such a drop in the media adulation when he came out against the Vietnam War, gave that great speech at the Riverside Church.

DOUGLASS: Yes, one year to the day before his assassination. But how many people make that connection even though even the assassination itself made the connection? But you're pointing out very rightly, Lew, that from the day that he took that stand, Martin Luther King was persona non grata in the White House, in the State Department, in the whole complex of power where he had been a kind of co-worker in a sense before that because of the way in which he had opened up so many things and the way in which he was committed to reversing the courses that were destroying us in this country. But when he took on the Military-Industrial Complex and Lyndon Johnson, in particular, who, at that point, had surrendered to – knowing what had happened to his predecessor, when Martin Luther King took that step, that was the end of his life right there.

ROCKWELL: You think that Johnson simply surrendered or was he actually part of the assassination plot?

DOUGLASS: It's very hard to say. And I don't say anything, for example, in the JFK book that I can't prove. Everything has end notes. As you know, there are a hundred pages of end notes and explanatory ones and all that. I can't prove what Johnson's closest knowledge of the assassination was. I think he had pre knowledge. And I think that he was not a major player in it. That's my opinion. But I don't say all that kind of stuff in the book because I can't prove it. So I put only things in that I can prove. It's very clear that he was responsible for the cover up, but his motivation for doing that was surrendering to forces that he felt he could not deal with, namely the Central Intelligence Agency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Military-Industrial Complex. So I know that much. I think he had pre knowledge and I think he simply surrendered. But he may have had more than that and he may have been more deliberately involved in the assassination than I say. But it's not good to say things you can't defend.

ROCKWELL: No, no. And tell us a little bit more about who you think killed Martin Luther King.

DOUGLASS: Same forces. Exactly the same forces, except that I think, in the case of Martin Luther King, rather than the CIA taking quite so much the lead, I think the FBI had more of the lead in that domestic environment. I mean, in the case of Kennedy, of course, he's president of the United States. Robert Kennedy was on his way towards becoming president of the United States. Those are CIA assassinations. In the case of Martin Luther King and, for that matter, Malcolm X, these are more in the domestic realm from their standpoint, so that's where J. Edgar Hoover comes in. And he was more primarily, and the FBI more primarily involved in the apparatus of the King and Malcolm X assassinations. That can be established by evidence.

ROCKWELL: Are you suspicious that there have been, how shall I say, convenient deaths or assassinations by these same forces since then?

DOUGLASS: Of course. But, you know, you can spend the rest of your life – (Laughing) – you know, following up every inconvenient death. So I can't go into all of those cubby holes and I can't go into all those corners, so I try to tell the story of the main participant and what I can do in my life time. I'm not going to have enough years – (Laughing) – to go into everything and everybody who has been killed by the Powers That Be. And they're not only in this country. They're in other countries as well. This goes far beyond the United States of America. So this is a perennial struggle in history. It's not unique to this country. But since we happen to have more nuclear power and weapons than anyone else in the history of the world, it would be very, very surprising if it wasn't taking place here. And it did take place here. It does take place here. And John F. Kennedy and, for that matter, Martin Luther King are the primary examples of it.

ROCKWELL: I was struck that you said that we have much reason to hope, as well as, of course, much reason to worry.

DOUGLASS: We do. We do.

ROCKWELL: Because, for example, there's just much more, thanks to the Internet, vastly more knowledge about the sorts of things that you're talking about. This is where your book is being promoted and people are learning about it.

DOUGLASS: That's true. That's true.

ROCKWELL: We have, on one hand, the U.S. state and the empire is by far the biggest, richest, most powerful government –


ROCKWELL: – ever in the history of the world by many magnitudes. On the other hand, there's much more dissent. Much more knowledge is available than when we just had to depend on the official media who, seem to me, always lie. I mean, maybe they tell the truth once in a while, but pretty much they're about like the Soviet media, only maybe more slavish.

DOUGLASS: That's right. But let's just for a moment go to the heart of darkness, which is the JFK assassination here, and say that that is hopeful. Now, why would one say that that is hopeful? Because precisely because of the "why." Why did Kennedy die? He died because he was turning towards peace. That can be established. It's in all kinds of documents, and I've cited hundreds of them, and there are tens of thousands behind the hundreds I've cited. He turned toward peace, so that's the reason why he's assassinated. What if he had not turned toward peace? Of course, he wouldn't have been assassinated because that's the critical issue right there. If he had not turned toward peace, if he had not, in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis, turned toward his enemy, Nikita Khrushchev, and said, I need your help, and had Khrushchev, for that matter, had not turned toward his enemy and said, yes, now we need to let Kennedy know that we want to help him – he said that to Gromyko, who was standing beside him, his foreign minister. Had that not happened, you and I wouldn't be talking about this right now, nor would anyone else be doing much talking. We'd be in a nuclear wasteland. That is hopeful. Had John F. Kennedy not gone up against the Powers That Be in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis and turned with his enemy towards peace, there would be no hope for anything right now. That is hopeful.

ROCKWELL: Well, that is hopeful, Jim Douglass. Hearts can change. Minds can change.

And I want to thank you for the work you've done all your life, and especially for this extraordinary book you've written, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.

I want to urge everybody listening to this podcast, buy this book, read this book, share it with others. It can change the world.

DOUGLASS: Thank you, Lew. It's been a great discussion.

ROCKWELL: Thank you, Jim.

ANNOUNCER: You've been listening to the Lew Rockwell Show, produced by LewRockwell.com, the best-read Libertarian website in the world. And thanks for listening.

Podcast date, May 13, 2010

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