Over the weekend, I finished reading a really interesting book on the JFK assassination, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglass, a Catholic theologian. Its theme is that there was a high-level conspiracy involving the CIA, military-industrial complex, and FBI in Kennedy’s assassination.
Even if one is skeptical about the conspiracy, the book is fascinating in the way it details what Kennedy was doing to end the Cold War, over the severe opposition of the CIA, Pentagon, and military industrial complex. Amidst suspicions that Kennedy’s actions bordered on treason, Kennedy was engaged in secret, personal communications with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, planned to withdraw all troops from Vietnam after the 1964 elections, and was even making secret personal contacts with Fidel Castro.
Here’s what Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, says about the book:
Douglass presents, brilliantly, an unfamiliar yet thoroughly convincing account of a series of creditable decisions of John F. Kennedy — at odds with his initial Cold War stance — that earned him the secret distrust and hatred of hard-liners among the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA. Did this suspicion and rage lead directly to his murder by agents of these institutions, as Douglass concludes? Many readers who are not yet convinced of this “beyond reasonable doubt” by Douglass’s prosecutorial indictment will find themselves, perhaps — like myself — for the first time, compelled to call for an authoritative criminal investigation. Recent events give all the more urgency to learning what such an inquiry can teach us about how, by whom, and in whose interests this country is run.
Among the many issues raised by Douglass is one that I’ve wondered about for years — the indifference that the U.S. government manifested toward Lee Harvey Oswald on his return from the Soviet Union.
Do you remember how U.S. officials reacted toward John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban? They arrested him, tortured him, disrobed him and displayed him naked, brought him back, prosecuted him for treason, secured a guilty plea, and got him sentenced to 20 years in jail.
That reaction to Lindh, of course, was totally predictable. Yet, when you compare what Lindh did to what Oswald did, Lindh’s actions dwindle to relative insignificance. After all, don’t forget that Lindh was in Afghanistan fighting in that country’s civil war long before the U.S. government even thought about invading the country. When the U.S. government invaded after the 9/11 attacks, Lindh just happened to find himself on the side that the U.S. was opposing.
Now, compare that to what Oswald did. He was a Marine who was stationed at U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan from which the U-2 spy plane was being flown. Oswald had a “Crypto” security clearance, which was a higher security clearance than “Top Secret.”
Retiring early from the Marine Corps, Oswald moved to the Soviet Union, walked into the U.S. Embassy, announced that he was a Marxist, declared his intention to give up his U.S. citizenship, and stated that he intended to tell the Soviets everything he knew.
Now, imagine if a former Marine walked into the wilds of Pakistan today and announced that he was going to give all the top-secret information he had about U.S. drones to Osama bin Laden. Imagine what the U.S. government would do to him if they caught him.
Indeed, look at how they’ve treated American citizen Jose Padilla, who they’ve accused of conspiring with the terrorists against America — indefinite detention as an “enemy combatant,” torture, sensory deprivation, and denial of trial by jury and due process of law.
Yet, guess what happened to Oswald when he returned to the U.S. Nothing! That’s right — nothing! No grand jury indictment, not even a grand-jury summons to force him to testify under oath as to what classified information he had given the Soviets. This is especially odd given that by this time U-2 pilot Gary Powers had been shot down over the Soviet Union. Wouldn’t you think that U.S. officials would want to know if Oswald had given the Soviets some information that facilitated that shoot-down and, if so, prosecute him to the full extent of the law?
Does this make any sense? Why wouldn’t they have treated Oswald in the same manner they treated Lindh or Padilla, especially given that the Soviet communist threat to our nation during the Cold War was much bigger than the terrorist threat today?
Of course, if Oswald was instead a deep-cover operative planted in the Soviet Union by the CIA or U.S. military intelligence, as Douglass posits, it would stand to reason why U.S. officials wouldn’t treat him like Lindh and Padilla on his return from the Soviet Union.