“What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.
Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.
For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
-John F. Kennedy, American University Commencement Address, June 10, 1963, (1)
At many points, this book reads like a political suspense novel – well paced with high stakes, but it was by no means a fun or easy read, mostly because the reader doesn’t have the psychological exit of fiction.
Robert Ellsberg of Orbis Books, who published JFK and the Unspeakable, passed on the manuscript at first because of both its length (over 500 pages) and its subject matter. But changed his mind after getting positive feedback from several historians and analysts he’d passed it to.
Much of the book is based on intriguing sources such as declassified government documents obtained via the Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, including secret correspondence between Kennedy and Khrushchev from 1961 – 1963, transcripts of Kennedy’s secret recordings of his meetings with his Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCOS) and other national security advisors during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and KGB documents regarding Kennedy’s assassination that were unexpectedly handed over to President Clinton by Boris Yeltsin.
It is dense in terms of information and sources and it is also wrenching. At times, I had to put the book down for a while because it was just too overwhelming, even for a reader who lost her naivete long ago about the U.S. political class in general and foreign policy in particular.
The book elicits a profound respect for the moral courage demonstrated by both President Kennedy and his Cold War counterpart, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, at moments when so much hung in the balance. The bond these two men developed as a consequence of their taking humanity to the brink and the terror they both felt from looking into the abyss led to a mutual desire to negotiate an end to the Cold War and work toward disarmament.
It is a story of great promise that we all know ends in tragedy. This book underscores both the promise and the tragedy of what might have been.
Although I find the assassination itself compelling and necessary to understand, I actually found the story of Kennedy’s turn from a Cold Warrior to an advocate of peace to be even more intriguing and will focus my review on that aspect of the book.
The Kennedy-Khrushchev-Castro Détente
Interestingly enough, Kennedy’s first impression of Premier Khrushchev during their meeting in Vienna in 1961 where they agreed upon a neutral government for Laos was unfavorable. Reportedly, Khrushchev sat stone faced in response to Kennedy’s stated concerns about the human costs of a possible nuclear war between their respective nations.
Kennedy would be forced to revise that opinion when Khrushchev initiated a secret back channel correspondence with him in September of 1961 – a correspondence that the premier felt he had to keep hidden from the Kremlin and the Soviet military establishment due to hardliners in his government who would view such a project as alarming and weak. Kennedy would eventually learn that the very same dynamics were going on in his own government. By 1963, he would have to bypass his own State Department to continue his correspondence with Khrushchev.
Khrushchev’s first letter, which was 26 pages long, expressed regret at their inability to connect at the Vienna meeting, most likely due to distrust, which prevented them from working on more mutually beneficial goals.
The Premier likened their situation with “Noah’s Ark where both the ‘clean’ and the ‘unclean’ found sanctuary. But regardless of who lists himself with the ‘clean’ and who is considered to be ‘unclean,’ they are all equally interested in one thing and that is that the Ark should successfully continue its cruise. And we have no other alternative; either we should live in peace and cooperation so that the Ark maintains its buoyancy, or else it sinks.”
Kennedy responded with a lengthy and receptive letter of his own in which he agreed with Khrushchev’s analogy about their problem: “I like very much your analogy of Noah’s Ark, with both the ‘clean’ and the ‘unclean’ determined that it stay afloat. Whatever our differences, our collaboration to keep the peace is as urgent – if not more urgent – than our collaboration to win the last world war.”
Thus began a delicate but crucial exchange between sworn enemies in a mythical battle for the world.
By October of 1961, Khrushchev had intuited enough about Kennedy to suspect that the crisis at the Berlin Wall was brought about by elements of the U.S. government without Kennedy’s knowledge or approval. When Kennedy became aware of the intense standoff between American and Soviet tanks at the Wall, he immediately utilized the back channel established with Khrushchev to work out a withdrawal plan. This turn of events would prove prophetic in averting future crises.
The road toward peace the two leaders had embarked on, however, was littered with compromises and regressions. Both leaders had to deal with hardliners in their respective governments and Kennedy had to make compromises and throw an occasional bone to the Cold War hawks around him.
In March of 1962, Kennedy made a statement during an interview with the Saturday Evening Post that “Khrushchev must not be certain that, where its vital interests are threatened, the United States will never strike first. In some circumstances, we might have to take the initiative.” Khrushchev interpreted this as a first-strike threat, which resulted in a Soviet military alert. When Kennedy’s press secretary tried to reassure Khrushchev during a visit to Moscow a couple of months later, the leader was not convinced and began to reexamine his military position. Placing missiles in Cuba would have the two-fold purpose of deterring the invasion of an ally and providing parity with the U.S. installation of nuclear missiles in Turkey which was on the USSR’s borders.
By October, a full-blown crisis had emerged that threatened a nuclear holocaust.
The best insight into President Kennedy’s reaction and concerns during the darkest moment of the Cuban Missile crisis, when Soviet ships were approaching Cuba and nuclear war seemed imminent, come from Robert Kennedy: “His hand went up to his face and covered his mouth. He opened and closed his fist. His face seemed drawn, his eyes pained, almost gray. We stared at each other across the table. For a few fleeting seconds, it was almost as though no one else was there and he was no longer the president.” Robert goes on to explain that what most haunted the President was the fate of all the children who’d had no say in what was happening and would have no chance to grow up and make something of the world.
The miracle that ended the tension was Khrushchev’s order for Soviet ships to stop dead in the water before breaching the U.S. blockade, thereby providing more time for negotiation. The crisis ended when, after a visit from Robert Kennedy to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin that included Kennedy’s message that the President’s military advisors were pressing for escalation and that things could spiral out of the President’s control, Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles. In exchange, Kennedy made a secret promise to remove U.S. nuclear missiles from Turkey on the Soviet Union’s border. Kennedy upheld his promise of removal of the missiles within six months and never gloated about Khrushchev’s “retreat.”
There is some debate about the extent of the spiraling threat that Robert Kennedy conveyed, but Nikita Khrushchev believed, as stated in his memoirs, that Kennedy feared the real possibility of a military overthrow.
When asked by journalist Norman Cousins in December of 1962 how it felt to have his finger so close to the nuclear trigger during the Missile Crisis, Khrushchev said:
“The Chinese say I was scared. Of course I was scared. It would have been insane not to have been scared. I was frightened about what could happen to my country – or your country and all the other countries that would be devastated by a nuclear war. If being frightened meant that I helped avert such insanity then I’m glad I was frightened. One of the problems in the world today is that not enough people are sufficiently frightened by the danger of nuclear war.”
Despite the halting progress being made by Kennedy and Khrushchev, by 1963 they had reached an impasse on terms of a nuclear test ban treaty over the number of inspections that would be allowed. The Soviets feared inspections were an opportunity for espionage and had reluctantly agreed to three. The Kennedy administration soon realized that Congress would not approve any treaty that required less than eight. Kennedy, however, sensed that most of the American public had drawn the same conclusion that he and Khrushchev had from the Cuban Missile Crisis, that of a need to turn toward peaceful co-existence, disarmament, and cooperation in whatever areas were possible.
As will be discussed later, Kennedy was becoming increasingly aware of numerous factions in his own government that would undermine his peace policies. Partly in an effort to do an end run around these obstructionists, he enlisted advisor Theodore Sorenson to write an ambitious speech that would outline a vision of peaceful co-existence and disarmament. That speech was his American University Address quoted above in which he insisted that peace was possible if broken down into manageable and concrete steps, acknowledged the shared humanity of the Soviet people despite political differences, and encouraged Americans to self-reflect on their own attitudes that could impede progress toward peace.
Kennedy had gotten word to the Soviets ahead of time that he would be giving a significant speech. The Soviet Unions’ response to the speech was described as follows:
“The full text of the speech was published in the Soviet press. Still more striking was the fact that it was heard as well as read throughout the USSR. After fifteen years of almost uninterrupted jamming of Western broadcasts, by means of a network of over three thousand transmitters and at an annual cost of several hundred million dollars, the Soviets jammed only one paragraph of the speech when relayed by the Voice of America in Russian, then did not jam any of it upon rebroadcast – and then suddenly stopped jamming all Western broadcasts. Equally suddenly they agreed in Vienna to the principle of inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency to make certain that Agency’s reactors were used for peaceful purposes. And equally suddenly the outlook for some kind of test-ban agreement turned from hopeless to hopeful.”
Furthermore, “Khrushchev was deeply moved. He told test-ban negotiator Averell Harriman that Kennedy had given ‘the greatest speech by any American President since Roosevelt.’” He proposed to Kennedy the consideration of a treaty that would ban nuclear testing in the air, space and water, obviating the need for inspections, as well as a non-aggression pact between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
In the U.S., however, the speech was largely ignored or greeted with skepticism.
Around this same time, Kennedy was contemplating a rapprochement with Castro in which he would acknowledge the revolution and Castro’s government in exchange for a promise to not sponsor any more revolutions in the western hemisphere. Castro was prodded by Khrushchev to take the risk of trusting Kennedy enough to consider a dialogue with him. A back channel of communication was being established by November in the form of Norman Cousins who, during a days-long interview of Castro, discussed with him the possibilities of a negotiated peace with Kennedy on November 19, 1963. Castro’s response, after a several minutes of reflection, was incisive and prescient in terms of truly understanding Kennedy’s predicament:
“I believe Kennedy is sincere. I also believe that today the expression of this sincerity could have political significance…I haven’t forgotten that Kennedy centered his electoral campaign against Nixon on the theme of firmness toward Cuba. I have not forgotten the Machiavellian tactics and the equivocation, the attempts at invasion, the pressures, the blackmail, the organization of counterrevolution, the blockade and, above everything, all the retaliatory measures which were imposed before, long before there was the pretext and alibi of Communism. But I feel that he inherited a difficult situation; I don’t think a President of the United States is ever really free, and I believe Kennedy is at present feeling the impact of this lack of freedom. I also believe he now understands the extent to which he has been misled, especially, for example, on Cuban reaction at the time of the attempted Bay of Pigs invasion.”
Another peace emissary, Jean Daniel, was present a few days later when a stunned Castro received the news of Kennedy’s assassination and lamented: “Everything is changed. Everything is going to change.”
Kennedy’s reluctance with respect to military engagement in Vietnam and his eventual desire to get out was rooted in an anti-colonialist streak, but even more by a trip to Vietnam he took with his brother Robert in 1951, during which they spoke to Edmund Gullion, an official at the U.S. Consulate. Gullion told them: “In twenty years there will be no more colonies. We’re going nowhere out here. The French have lost. If we come in here and do the same thing, we will lose, too, for the same reason. There’s no will or support for this kind of war back in Paris. The homefront is lost. The same thing would happen to us.” Kennedy never forgot Gullion’s words, but he was in a conundrum as to how to prevent a deeper military engagement in light of his increasing understanding that such a view was further isolating him from the influential hardliners who wanted to escalate the Cold War at every opportunity, as well as a CIA that had no problem defying and undermining his orders, particularly after the Bay of Pigs incident in April of 1961 when the CIA realized they could not manipulate the president into an invasion of Cuba. As pressure was mounting on the issue, Kennedy’s friend Larry Newman said he told him in October of 1963, “This war in Vietnam – it’s never off my mind, it haunts me day and night.” By November, Kennedy told Malcom Kilduff that Vietnam was “not worth one more American life…After I come back from Texas, that’s going to change.” He said essentially the same thing to a few others, including Senator Mike Mansfield. He documented his decision with National Security Action Memorandum 263, which called for pulling out 1,000 American servicemen from Vietnam by the end of 1963 and all of them by the end of 1965.
Cold War Mythology and the CIA
The creation of our current national security apparatus, including the CIA, can be traced back to the National Security Act (NSA) signed by President Harry Truman in 1947 designed to “contain” the Soviet Union, which Truman and his staunchly anti-Communist advisors had decided was going to be the next enemy after WWII. Truman later lamented in a Washington Post piece after Kennedy’s assassination that the CIA had essentially turned into an unaccountable Frankenstein that it was never meant to be, explaining that it was only intended to be a source of intelligence gathering to enable the president to make informed decisions, and it was not meant to conduct covert operations. Although this is somewhat disingenuous on Truman’s part as his Secretary of State George Marshall had warned him at the time of the potential unaccountability and abuse of the agencies being created by this legislation, stating that it especially granted the CIA powers that were “almost unlimited.” The particularly egregious sentence cited by most critics of the NSA of 1947 is one that allows a president to direct the CIA to “perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security….” (2)
Another point against Truman in the creation of the CIA Frankenstein and the Cold War mythology that allowed it to operate is that, as historian Peter Kuznick points out, had Truman not replaced Henry Wallace as FDR’s vice president, there’s a good chance there may not have been a Cold War as Truman, a political neophyte, overturned FDR’s more balanced approach to his Allied partners and took a more bellicose stance against the Soviet Union. This likely could have been avoided if Truman had understood Soviet defense interests better or been willing to listen to advisors who did. The Soviets had been invaded twice in thirty years and saw the death of over 20 million of its citizens and the devastation of much of its county in beating back the Nazis. Both FDR and Wallace had a more nuanced understanding of the situation, but Truman refused to listen to Wallace’s views and instead went along with the extreme anti-Communist ideology of some of his other advisors. (3)
Perhaps Truman realized some of his mistakes in hindsight.
In any event, by the time Kennedy took office, the Cold War mentality and the reach and unaccountability of the CIA had risen to ominous levels. It didn’t take Kennedy long to realize what he was dealing with.
According to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., during the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Kennedy told him: “It’s a hell of a way to learn things, but I have learned one thing from this business – that is, that we will have to deal with the CIA…no one has dealt with the CIA.” He had also commented to others that he wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” Consequently, Kennedy signed National Security Action Memorandums 55 and 57 stripping the CIA of authority to conduct military type operations and affirming that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were the president’s principal military advisors during peace and wartime. He also forced director Allen Dulles, the deputy director and the deputy director general to resign.
By this time, military leaders and national security advisors had acquired an extremely militant stance and pressured Kennedy to escalate the Cold War numerous times. These instances included a 1961 meeting in which the President walked out in disgust at suggestions of a nuclear first strike on the Soviet Union. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, transcripts reveal that he was constantly being pressured to bomb and invade Cuba with the potential catastrophic consequences dismissed. In 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff presented him with the Operation Northwoods plan, which included potential false flag operations by the CIA intended to whip the American public into a frenzy to invade Cuba. Calls for a nuclear first strike on the Soviets continued periodically, including one meeting where his advisors casually discussed the estimated deaths of 130 million Soviets and up to 30 million Americans from reprisals. Kennedy somehow withstood the pressure and nixed all of these nefarious plans.
One has to wonder where this destructive, almost theological, belief system that infected the minds of our government’s military advisors and national security apparatus came from. After World War II, a pathological mythology emerged, perhaps from being drunk on our victory over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, that we were exceptional, that we were the white knights fighting to liberate the world from evil and the latest evil foe that must be vanquished regardless of the costs, was now Communism. Unfortunately, this mythology was facilitated by a post-WWII president who was seduced by extremist advisors and refused wiser counsel.
This white knight mythology is perhaps best personified by James Angleton who oversaw a CIA assassination unit and rationalized his actions with an obsessive belief that we were “engaged in a battle of light against darkness.”
Moreover, to this way of thinking, a negotiated end to the Cold War represented surrender and any advocate of such was a traitor.
The Assassination and Cover-up
I won’t go into the labyrinthine story of Lee Harvey Oswald but other evidence very strongly suggests that Oswald could not have fired the fatal shot that blew out the back of Kennedy’s skull, which was the exit route of a bullet that entered through Kennedy’s throat.
The two most persuasive items indicating that Oswald was not the lone shooter (if a shooter at all) and the implementation of a cover-up are the issues surrounding the glaring lack of security for the president on that fateful day and the autopsy. What follows is a quick and dirty summation of the most interesting points for this part of the book.
Lack of Security
In 1961, Kennedy hired the first African-American Secret Service Agent, Abraham Bolden. Bolden quickly became aware of the dislike and outright hostility that other Agents harbored toward Kennedy, including churlish comments that they would “get out of the way” if he were shot at. They also made it clear that they resented Kennedy bringing a “nigger” into their circle. Bolden began to wonder if the Secret Service could be trusted to carry out its duties to the president. When he received no satisfaction after reporting the issue to his superiors, he voluntarily returned to the Chicago branch office.
On the day of the assassination, other agents admitted that Emory Roberts, the Special Agent in Charge of the follow-up car, ordered them to stand down after Kennedy had been hit with the first shot. One agent, Clint Hill, defied the order and can be seen racing to the trunk of Kennedy’s limo though it is too late to help him.
This leads to a plethora of questions: 1) why were the agents riding in the car behind the president where they would be able to provide no cover for him, 2) why were there no motorcycle escorts beside the president’s limo as was normal, 3) why was a dogleg turn forcing the open vehicle to slow well below mandated speed in an area where there were a multitude of hiding places for a potential assassin approved – especially, when an assassination plan with similar features was thwarted by the FBI in Chicago three weeks before, and 4) why were the Dallas Police Department and the local County Sheriff virtually missing in action in terms of providing security?
The answer is that the Secret Service was involved in all of these decisions. Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry ordered his officers to terminate their supervision of Kennedy’s motorcade and the crowd one block short of the assassination site. Years later, Curry explained that “The Dallas Police Department carefully carried out the security plans which were laid out by Mr. [Winston G.] Lawson, the Secret Service representative from Washington, DC.”
Furthermore, witnesses on the grassy knoll area reportedly saw several men who flashed what appeared to be Secret Service badges but did not act in a way that would be expected of such agents – for example, they did not run to assist the president after the shooting or cordon off a crime scene or take statements from potential witnesses. Instead, they took any photographic or recorded evidence the witnesses may have had and then ran them off the area.
One of these witnesses was a Dallas police officer, Joe Marshall Smith, who reported smelling gunpowder in the area right after the shooting but was rebuffed by a man showing Secret Service credentials. Smith learned later that there were no Secret Service agents stationed there and the men flashing such credentials were imposters.
A CIA memorandum released in 1973 stated that its Technical Services Division had furnished the Secret Service with security documents over the years, despite the fact that the Secret Service is part of the Treasury Department.
Doctor Charles Crenshaw was one of the first doctors in the Trauma Room of Parkland Hospital and confirmed that he saw a bullet entry wound in the president’s throat. He also confirmed that the right rear of the president’s brain was gone, which was also consistent with an entry wound from the front.
These facts were confirmed by 21 of the 22 medical staff present at Parkland that day, based on their original statements. Many of the medical staff, however, either retracted their statements or did not press official contradictions to what they witnessed due to fear and intimidation. One of the other doctors present that day, Malcolm Perry, changed his statement after being threatened by Secret Service agents. One of those agents, Elmer Moore, admitted years later that “he had been ordered to tell Dr. Perry to change his testimony [acting] on orders from Washington and Mr. Kelly of the Secret Service headquarters.”
As Dr. Crenshaw later explained, after coming forward in 1992: “I believe there was a common denominator in our silence – a fearful perception that to come forward with what we believed to be the medical truth would be asking for trouble…I was as afraid of the men in suits as I was of the men who had assassinated the President…I reasoned that anyone who would go so far as to eliminate the President of the United States would surely not hesitate to kill a doctor.”
After the doctors declared the president dead, the Secret Service took possession of the body. Dallas Coroner Earl Rose attempted to stop them, citing Texas law requiring him to perform the autopsy, but the Secret Service insisted on taking the body and Naval Commander James Humes was placed in charge of the autopsy team at Bethesda Hospital. One of his assistants, Lt. Col. Pierre Finck, testified that the autopsy was performed “in strict obedience to military commands” and was viewed by several members of the national security agencies.
A young hospital corpsman who also assisted, James Jenkins, confirmed the autopsy doctors obeyed military commands, including orders not to probe the throat wound. “They could control Humes, Boswell, and Finck because they were military…I think they were controlled. So were we. We were all military, we could be controlled. And if we weren’t controlled, we could be punished and that kept us away from the public.
“I was 19 or 20 years old, and all at once I understood that my country was not much better than a third world country. From that point on in time, I have had no trust, no respect for the government.”
Even J. Edgar Hoover seemed dismayed when he uncovered evidence that the FBI was being manipulated to cover up the truth of the assassination and commented to an associate: “Everyone thinks I’m so powerful, but when it comes to the CIA, there’s nothing I can do.”
According to Lyndon Johnson’s taped conversations, the morning after the assassination he received two telephone briefings, first from CIA director John McCone and then from Hoover. What Hoover told Johnson implicated deception by the CIA in terms of what McCone had just told him with respect to a key aspect of the assassination. Apparently, Hoover decided to let the new president draw his own conclusions and make his own decisions about the situation.
In terms of a suspected whitewash by the Warren Commission, it is worth noting that Allen Dulles headed up the Commission. Yes, that Allen Dulles – the cowboy head of the CIA that Kennedy had booted out.
The further one gets into the evidence, the more difficult it is to deny that the military and CIA’s dirty fingerprints seem to be all over the place.
As a source of comparison to another “authoritative” book about the assassination that came after the 1992 Records Act, I read Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann, which was published a few years before this book. It utilizes some of the same documentation to make the case of the same players’ involvement in JFK’s assassination: the CIA, elements of the military, Cuban exiles and the Mafia who all had an axe to grind with both Kennedy brothers, with the latter two parties working frequently with the CIA in its Cold War machinations, including projects involving assassinations, gun running and coup attempts. However, Waldron and Hartmann believe that the Mafia was the driving force behind the assassination and used the CIA and other government agencies to cover up the assassination due to their not wanting to reveal their latest Castro assassination plan known as the C-day Plan set for December 1, 1963, which they claim the Kennedys had approved. But this contradicts information in Douglass’s book that Kennedy, as he told journalist Tad Szulc in late 1961, was “under great pressure from the Intelligence Community to have Castro killed, but that he himself violently opposed [political assassinations] on the grounds that for moral reasons the United States should never be party to political assassinations.”
There is also evidence that Kennedy worked behind the scenes in an unsuccessful attempt to save South Vietnamese President Diem and his brother from the assassination that the U.S. intelligence apparatus, along with rogue ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge (an appointment his brother Robert warned against and the president later regretted), had set in motion without his authorization. When a telegram arrived in the middle of a White House meeting informing Kennedy that Diem and his brother had been murdered, though it was publicly called a suicide, General Maxwell Taylor described his reaction as follows: “Kennedy leaped to his feet and rushed from the room with a look of shock and dismay on his face which I had never seen before. He had always insisted that Diem must never suffer more than exile and had been led to believe or had persuaded himself that a change in government could be carried out without bloodshed.” Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. concurred, “[Kennedy was] somber and shaken.”
It simply doesn’t make sense that a president who had such a visceral aversion to assassination would approve the C-Day Plan, especially when he had emissaries working behind the scenes to get Castro to negotiate a peace deal and with no reason to suspect that Castro would not ultimately be receptive.
It also strains credulity that the Mafia was powerful enough to manipulate the intelligence and national security apparatus of the United States to do its bidding – a case of the tail wagging the dog. It is much more logical to assume that the relationship the Mafia had to the intelligence community in connection with JFK’s assassination was essentially the same as its past relationship in various projects – one of subordinate participation due to common interests, usually of a financial or strategic nature.
In my estimation, Douglass makes the best case of the two hefty books I’ve read and the documentaries I’ve watched, about which parties were likely responsible for John Kennedy’s assassination in terms of motive, means and opportunity.
I will close with the words of Nikita Khrushchev’s son, Sergei, on the implications of Kennedy being cut down in the autumn of 1963: “I am convinced that if history had allowed them another six years, they would have brought the cold war to a close before the end of the 1960’s. I say this with good reason, because in 1963 my father made an official announcement to a session of the USSR Defense Council that he intended to sharply reduce Soviet armed forces from 2.5 million men to half a million and to stop the production of tanks and other offensive weapons.
He thought that 200 to 300 intercontinental nuclear missiles made an attack on the Soviet Union impossible, while the money freed up by reducing the size of the army would be put to better use in agriculture and housing construction.
But fate decreed otherwise, and the window of opportunity, barely cracked open, closed at once. In 1963 President Kennedy was killed, and a year later, my father was removed from power. The cold war continued for another quarter of a century.”
- John Kennedy’s American University Commencement Address, June 10, 1963, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrspHo8uvmg
- “The Life and Times of the CIA” by Chalmers Johnson; TomDispatch, 7/24/2007. http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174824/%20chalmers_johnson_agency_of_rogue
- “How America Became an Empire” by Jim DiEugenio; Consortium News, 1/1/2013. http://consortiumnews.com/2013/01/01/how-america-became-an-empire/