"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You...


Buried in the November 23rd Seattle Times (page A14) was a brief story about the anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy. 45 years ago President Kennedy was assassinated in what many (except the government's Warren Commission Report) have called a conspiracy. I'm not sure what a properly conducted survey of Americans who were around at the time of the assassination would find, but my informal survey of people who were around at the time of the assassination found that an overwhelming majority of these people believe that the evidence points to some sort of conspiracy; that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the "lone gunman".

Our government still holds to the official findings of the Warren Commission report that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman who shot the President as his motorcade made its way through Dallas, Texas on that November day in 1963. The problem is that there is a substantial body of evidence (that also existed at the time of the Warren Commission) that points to a complex conspiracy involving a mind boggling number of people both inside and outside of our government, which not only conspired to kill the President of the United States, but created a sacrificial lamb of sorts to remove any focus on anything other than a lone assassin.

Of course, you might immediately pass off the conspiracy theory as just a bunch of crackpots who wear aluminum foil under their hats, and there are a few of those hovering around the fringes. But there are also quite a few solid people who have done extensive (and objective) research on the subject. One of those people is James Douglass, who wrote JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters.

Understanding any conspiracy requires much more than just facts pertaining to who did what and when. It requires a context, a broad understanding of the circumstances surrounding the incident, or the setting. Jim's book does just that; it not only presents objective evidence based on research and personal interviews, but it also presents a firmly constructed context, the beginnings of which can be traced back to the post World War II growth of the Military Industrial Complex, and which was cemented by the fateful signing (by President Truman) of National Security Council Directive NSC 10/2 on June 18, 1948 (creating the National Security State).

NSC 10/2 gave the Central Intelligence Agency (that had been created by Truman to correlate and evaluate intelligence) the doctrine of "plausible deniability" that has allowed the CIA the authority to not only conduct assassinations and overthrow governments, but more importantly, to cover up their actions and deny any involvement. Not exactly what you would call transparency in government. And, if you consider this concept in a total historical context, you can see it deeply embedded in much of our governments actions to this very day (in the Global War on Terror).

"The Unspeakable" in Jim's book is a term coined by the writer and Trappist monk, Thomas Merton; a term created to describe an evil so deep and insidious as to be beyond description - an evil that winds itself around and through the very fabric of our government and society. To quote Merton, "It is the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said; the void that gets into the language of public and official declarations at the very moment when they are pronounced, and makes them ring dead with the hollowness of the abyss. It is the void out of which Eichmann drew the punctilious exactitude of his obedience" (Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable, p. 4).

In a Cold War context The Unspeakable was that "void" in the doctrine of "plausible deniability" that allowed any covert action (no matter how ghastly) in order to promote U.S. interests and maintain our dominance in the arms race with the Soviet Union. Is this all sounding familiar, even in the post Cold War era? Pre-emptive war (government overthrow), torture, massive government surveillance??? Yes Virginia, "The Unspeakable is alive and well. You can rest assured that it never died; it's only grown stronger.

If I could present you with just one reason that you should read Jim Douglass' book, it would be one word - TRUTH. Jim believes, "that truth is the most powerful force on earth" (Introduction, p. XIX). He proposes that through compassion - our response to suffering - we can hear with our hearts and minds, thereby seeing some part of the truth, and "In living out the truth, we are liberated from the Unspeakable." But it is so hard for us, living in a culture of denial of so many truths, to bring ourselves to even sneak a peak at it, let alone embrace it.

President-elect Obama faces a National Security State much like the one Kennedy faced over four decades before. Rather than a Cold War with the Soviet Union, he faces an endless War On Terror. Fortunately for the United States, the Soviet Union imploded first in the race to outspend each other in the nuclear arms race. However, in the current war we are on our own, spending astronomical sums to protect ourselves from the phantom menace. The question is, when will our nation implode?

President-elect Obama faces a grim but critical choice - go with the flow and continue the failed policies that have increased hatred of the United States and created a fertile breeding ground for terrorism, or buck the system (not a popular choice among the executives of major weapons makers like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing) and create a new direction in foreign policy that will demonstrate the compassion of our nation, and earn the respect of the rest of the world while reducing the risk of terrorism. The latter choice will require a phenonemal inner strength; it will require him to face difficult truths.

Presidents throughout history have made countless speeches, and if one measures them against their actions, there have been few of any substance at all.
In his inaugural address, John Fitzgerald Kennedy asked both his "fellow Americans" and "fellow citizens of the world" to "ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country." He then asked both to "ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you." Kennedy lived up to his inaugural speech, facing many difficult truths and sacrificing greatly on many levels for his country and the world.

With so much on the line, should we ask any less of the next president?



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