Transcript of JFK and the Unspeakable discussion with Jim Douglass, Oliver Stone and Lisa Pease, moderated by Robert Ellsberg
Transcript by PottersvilleUSA.com.
Feel free to republish with attribution to PottersvilleUSA.com.
A panel discussion with author James W. Douglass (JFK AND THE UNSPEAKABLE: WHY HE DIED AND WHY IT MATTERS)
With filmmaker Oliver Stone (JFK) and noted JFK researcher Lisa Pease.
Moderated by Robert Ellsberg.
Recorded live on November 8, 2010 (the 50th anniversary of the election of JFK) at the Saban Theatre, Los Angeles.
On YouTube in 5 parts:
EPISODE 1 (of 5) [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUovOtDBYJk]:
[Moderator is introduced]
Ellsberg > “It was 50 years ago this week that John F. Kennedy was elected as president. It's almost 47 years ago this month since he was assassinated. At this point polls show still that a majority of American people do not believe the official narrative of his death, that he was the victim of a lone nut. But believe that there was a conspiracy of some kind.
We're here to discuss a book this evening by Jim Douglass: JFK and the Unspeakable: Why he Died and Why it Matters, that has been acclaimed by many scholars and critics as one of the most important contributions to this question every published. I'm proud to have been the publisher of the original hardback edition of the book. I'm the publisher of Orbis books; we published the book in 2008. And I have to say even I was a little nervous about undertaking this book, wondering whether to pursue the question of conspiracy takes you down some kind of rabbit hole and you never emerge with your wits entirely intact afterward.
But when I read the book I thought it was not only one of the most important books, or the most important book I ever had the prospect of publishing, but really one of the most strikingly original and impressive books that I have ever read. It's a book that is courageous. It takes us no only into the dark corners of American history, but offers a really riveting and inspiring picture of the costs of peace making, the challenges of peace making, with a very relevant contemporary message.
I'm gonna be here moderating a panel of three guests tonight who include the author Jim Douglass, who has been really a personal hero of mine, since I read his first book “The Non Violent Cross” when I was in high school many years ago. I was proud to have published a previous book of his “The Non Violent Coming of God.” He's the author of other books including “The Resistance of Contemplation.” He and his wife Shelly are founders of Mary's House, a Catholic worker's house in Birmingham Alabama, and he has dedicated his life to the pursuit of peace and I think made no greater contribution really than this extraordinary book which is the first in a trilogy I hope of books that will explore the political assassinations of the 1960s.
Our second guest is Lisa Pease who is the co-author and co-editor of “The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X.” This was a wonderful compendium of some of the best essays that have appeared in the now defunct journal Probe magazine. She has spent nearly 20 years researching American history, particularly the cold war period of the last century and is one of the real experts in doing the grunt work and investigating the conspiracy to kill JFK. I know that Jim Douglass makes great use of her research in his own work. She writes for ConsortiumNews.com, a website where she published a review of Jim Douglass' book a year ago in which she called it “the single best book every written on why Kennedy was killed, who did it, and why it still matters.”
Our third panelist has won three Oscars directing the films “Born on the Forth of July,” “Platoon,” and for writing “Midnight Express.” He was also nominated for an Oscar for directing “JFK” and co-writing “Nixon.” He has directed five documentaries including: “Looking for Fidel,” “Commandante: Persona Non-Grata,” “South of the Border,” and the upcoming twelve-hour untold “History of the United States” series for Showtime. I should note that we are in Mr. Stone's debt on a couple of levels. For one thing as a result of public pressure after the release of his film JFK, congress passed the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Election Act which mandated the gathering and opening of all records concerned with his death. The release of these records lead to the Assassination Records Review Board which has surfaced all kinds of information, including a lot of the information that Jim Douglass made use of in researching his book. But also such things as the discovery of Operation Northwoods in Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's papers. Operation Northwoods was an extraordinary plan to persuade the US to go to war against Cuba by staging a series of terrorist attacks that would result in the deaths of Americans and Cubans and blame that on the Cuban government.
On a personal level I would like to thank Mr. Stone for this evening because he had a lot to do with calling attention to this significant book which has sold about 25,000 copies all without the benefit of a single mainstream press review, all through internet, word of mouth, and word going out on the importance of this book. But it has not been covered in any mainstream newspaper, no television whatsoever.
A year ago Mr. Stone went on the Bill Mahr show and brought a copy of the book with him and waved it around for fifteen seconds and said “this is a book every American should read” and he followed that up with a review in The Huffington Post where he said that this is “the rare book that can, in helping us understand history can also help us change it,” resulting in the sale of about an additional 15,000 copies of the book in the next two months, and the interest of Simon and Schuster who then acquired the paperback rights to the book you see this evening. So I want to thank him for all he has done in keeping alive the interest in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and also for helping to bring attention to this book this evening that brought us all together now.
So I'd like to now invite our three panelists to invite me onstage.
[Panelists come onstage to applause.]
Ellsberg > For anyone wondering this is Oliver Stone, Lisa Pease and Jim Douglass.
[?] person even said [motioning to Douglass] “he even looks like a conspiracy theorist.” So I don't know what that said about these [motioning to Pease and Stone] [?].
I'd like to start by asking Oliver Stone. It's now as I said 50 years since Kennedy was elected, 47 years since he was assassinated. You've done so much to stimulate people's interest in the conspiracy which many people believe in. Why do you believe it is still important after all this time for us to get to the truth of Kennedy's death?
Stone > I'd have to say, thank you Robert for the introduction by the way, I'm really proud to be here with James and Lisa. [To audience] Thank you for coming.
Ellsberg > Make sure you speak right into the microphone.
Stone > Ok. It's not that big a room. But it's nice to be here. And you're asking a very fundemental question. Why is it important? The movie was almost twenty or some years ago. And the details that I put forth at that time are important to me and important to some of you and the overarching question of the movie was always 'why'? What is the motive to kill Kennedy? Who benefits? And that is the classic political question and that's always been my greatest concern—the motivation. And going back to those days I remember vividly not only talking to Jim Garrison and many of the survivors of the Dealey Plaza, the people who, I probably know a lot more witnesses in Dealey Plaza than anybody, except maybe for a few policemen who are still left.
But to me the question came to me from Fletcher Prouty. You know Fletcher, as you know, was one of the top people in the Pentagon, who worked very closely with the CIA as what they called the focal point officer. And he worked on missions and training for the CIA and from the Air Force point of view he provided them with what they needed. So he knew the workings intimately. He knew Allen Dulles very well, as well as his brother John Foster, he spent time with him. And he used to always say he'd been all over the world, trained Tibetan exiles in Colorado to jump into China, stuff like that, and in World War 2 he'd been aligned with a lot of initiatives. He'd been all over the world and knew the world intimately and he was always sophisticated about it and he said “I got out of the Pentagon in 1963; the whole changed. His stories in the movie, it's a blend of the [?] character as well as a character he met called Richard Nagel, who'se another interesting character.
But Fletcher always used to say “why”? Why was Kennedy killed? He would always get on three things. He would say “Cuba, he was breaking up the ice with Cuba. He was breaking up the ice with Vietnam.” And he knew intimately the subject matter because he knew Victor Krulak like all the people who [?]. He actually says that he wrote the McNamara report from November 63 that came out, the one that was written in Hawaii. He used to write the stuff in the Pentagon when the guys were meeting over in Hawaii. But anyway, he know all the official, all the NSAM talk. He knew what went on in the halls of power. And he always felt that Vietnam, Cuba and, above all, the bigger issue of the Soviet Union—which is where Kennedy made his biggest moves—were where the eyeball should go. And he always used to say to me “Oliver the [?] is for suckers. By which he meant the [?], if you go down the Lee Harvey Oswald path you'll never get out of it. 'Cause it's just made to get your head stuck in it, a pot of glue. You'll never get outta there. [?] is for suckers. I love that line. I used it in the movie. Stick to the basics. Look at the big picture.
And I think that's what Mr. James Douglass has done. He's written a book, beautifully written, beautiful prose, almost poetry at times, where he actually not only goes into all the things, the plots, he's much more up to date than we were. But he goes into 'why'? The geographic and political strategy and what resulted. And he understands the pain and the loss to this country. Because was the first guy since Roosevelt to really start to question the cold war. I'm working on now the long twelve-hour television documentary for Showtime and for abroad […] it's called “The Untold History of the United States.” I'm not giving up on getting on this thing again. But we're going into the whole picture of the 20th century not just Kennedy and it's a small but very crucial part, John F. Kennedy's contribution that he saw a world that was completely gone awry since World War 2 and he was trying to, because he had a good memory of Roosevelt and he was trying to return the world to some restoration of sanity. And as James pointed out in this book, 1963 is a pivotal year, pivotal year. So much happens. And he was snuffed out. And for those reasons it's crucially important that [?] because after Kennedy we drifted more and more except for a few feintswith Nixon, a few feints with Carter, and a few feints with Clinton and so forth we have not really restored the sanity that he was used to exist in US foreign policy, and domestic policy.
So for those reasons I think this book is crucially important. I hope you've all read it. I hope you read it again. I think it's a bible for those people who care about our country. I'm shocked and stunned the mainstream press has ignored the book. It's depressing. And it's true and it's the way we are as a country. We deserve what we get. And if our education levels are this rate we're up shit's creek.
Ellsberg > Well thank you. What else is there to say?
EPISODE 2 (of 5) [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQ6ZC...eature=related]:
Ellsberg > Lisa you're someone who has been studying this for so many years and you wrote an amazing review of the book. What struck you as new, as somebody who's really researched this story?
Pease > In the large and the small, on a large scale the book was new to me because it was the first one that combined a real perspective of the historical context with some specific details about the CIA's manipulation of Oswald in the assassination plot to kill Kennedy. And usually we get one or the other. I've never seen a book that married them so beautifully together. Another thing that was new to the book was it didn't try to prove conspiracy. It just accepted that this is what happened and it told the important part of the story and it didn't wander into these dark little corners—how many shots were fired, what angle—who cares? That doesn't tell me anything about the world I live in today. But if the CIA killed Kennedy, and the press has been covering that up for the last 50 years, that tells us a lot about America and the challenges we face and what our role has to be moving forward in terms of standing up to that and being a witness, as James would say, to the unspeakable.
In the specifics, the things that I really like about that book, the PT109 incident. I knew Kennedy was a hero, I knew he saved his troops. I had no idea how horrific it was, and Jim describes in great detail to ordeal that Kennedy had to undergo, how he almost died several times during this incident. And I think that really changes a person if you face death at that level it gives you tremendous power and courage. And that's the courage he had to draw on when he was facing down his generals and practically his entire joint chiefs of staff during the Cuban Missile Crisis when they all just wanted to blow the Soviet Union off the face of the planet with nuclear weapons. What other president would have had the courage to do that other than one who had kind of died already? That gave him the courage to stand up.
Another thing that was new to this book was the fact that Kennedy also had this secret correspondence with Kruschev. I knew he had a back channel during the Cuban Missile Crisis but I didn't realize they'd actually been exchanging letters for some time before that, that were smuggled back and forth by [?] and other people and that was just fascinating to me. And Kruschev was a little bit of a poet actually reading those parts. The talk about how even though we have our political disagreements we both inhabit the same arc and it's important that the arc's journey continue. I thought that was a very powerful message that needs repeating and exposure.
Another incident in the book that I found fascinating and I had not ever considered before was Jim's take on the Buddhist crisis. There was an event that happened in 1963 that changed the course of the war and brought a lot of discredit to Diem's government as if it wasn't already in trouble. Jim makes a case that the CIA might have even instigated the particular event which is even more sinister given that Kennedy was trying to walk a delicate line and not pull combat troops into Vietnam but not pull out before the election for fear that: 1-He wouldn't get reelected, and 2- Whoever did would then come in and escalate the war in Vietnam. And Kennedy felt that if could at least get reelected then he would have to power to pull us out of Vietnam altogether. So that was important and that particular incident I thought was so interesting and I've never seen that anywhere else.
A couple of other things. The key to understanding the whole picture I think, and Jim does this very well, is the juxtaposition of what was going on during the CIA's plot to overthrow Diem, which Kennedy kind of waffled on but never fully supported—certainly never supported the assassination which is what happened. At that same time there was a plot to kill Kennedy. Not the one in Dallas, the plot in Chicago to kill him earlier in November. And at that time then [?] had gone to the secret service and kind of blown the whistle on the plot. A couple of shooters were picked up; a couple others got away. The two that were picked up we were never given their names; the records were destroyed illegally when they were requested. They're not preserved according to the laws of our country. And no one got punished for that. What a surprise. But the thing that Jim brings to that again is he puts those two things side by side and says if Diem was killed and Kennedy was killed right after then the story becomes well Kennedy killed Diem and then Kennedy himself was killed and he had it coming. And I thought that was a very interesting and important point. That was kind of, these things are not planned separately. There's kind of a story planned together. And if you think of what happened in November later, then the story became Kennedy was trying to kill Castro and then Kennedy was killed and Kennedy got what he deserved even though that wasn't the case. And in my purse, I showed Jim just before out talk, one of the last pages of the CIA's report right after the assassination was—this was a secret report they'd written for themselves internally, it was a damage control report—who knows what? What's already been released? What can we say to the congress? What can we keep hidden. And in that report they basically say “can we claim we had executive authority for the Castro assassination plot and they say 'not in this case'” and that's right there in their own files. And you don't read that in the mainstream history of this but you will read things like that in Jim's book.
People often ask me, 'cause I've been studying this case forever and they say “what's the best book on the case?” and I used to tell them you've got to read these five books 'cause this one's got this part of the story and this tells this background and this one tells the history. And now I can just say read Jim's book because it's all there. Everything you need to know, all the important parts, it's all there and it's clear. And what Jim gives us that I've never seen another author give is, he gives us a language framework for discussing the case that is new.
He shapes it in this moral context that we all must be witnesses to the unspeakable, the unspeakable being the forces that pressed for death and destruction as opposed to the creative forces for life and peace and moving ahead. And that by denying this part of history we're joining hands with the unspeakable. And that when we stand up and say “it was a conspiracy, this is what happened, this is our history, by reclaiming that we can confront the unspeakable ourselves and help bring the world towards peace. And that's so important.
Ellsberg > Thank you Lisa. I think for the benefit of the people who haven't read the book yet we should step back a little bit and maybe if I could invite Jim to comment a little bit more on the meaning of the important subtitle of the book which is so important: “Why he died and why it matters.” He's smiling because I came up with the subtitle. And we tried a lot of different subtitles but it was actually in a marketing meeting I was actually trying to describe what this book is really about and it's why he died and why it matters and we came up with that and thought that really kind of says it all. But by answering those questions in a way it tells really what you're trying to do, what's the original on this book and maybe you could comment on that, expand on what Oliver was saying, the question why he died.
Douglass > I went for a walk this afternoon to think about that and you know there are two sides of that and the sides that Lisa and Oliver already [invest?] and can invest and I'll be perfectly honest in saying in greater detail and in greater depth than myself. I'm calling on Lisa Pease, Jim DeEugenio, Oliver Stone's work and hundreds of other people, some of whom are out here in this audience, and just trying to put it together. But I've been asked what have I learned about the “why” here and the thing that's astounded me most about the “why” is not the plot, as sophisticated and as horrendous and as evil as that is, it's the underside of the “why” and that's what I was thinking about this afternoon, and especially because of today, and tonight in particular being the 50th anniversary of JFK's election.
So John Kennedy has astounded me. Why he died involves his choosing as the most powerful person in the world, and up to that point probably in the history of the world in terms of his office. How did he come to the point where he could choose to confront the unspeakable as he did repeatedly through his presidency to the point where he would knowingly, as I'm sure he did, give his life? You know that's the kind of power that I can hardly conceive of being willing in the context of that to confront it in terms of a resistant position, which I know a little bit about in terms of being a resistor to various war efforts. You do that in the Oval Office?! C'mon now. That's a fairy tale. Oliver can't tell that much of a fairy tale about Kennedy. I mean nobody can. That somebody would have the capacity to turn, as President of the United States, to the point where he's willing to give his life—that's the “why” for me?
So where does that come from? I think Lisa was suggesting part of where it comes from 'cause the man was very close, he had a raven on his shoulder his whole life. He was near death. His favorite poem was “I have a rendezvous with death.” He was constantly talking about death in a very comfortable way if you can call it. And in the last months of his life he was saying goodbye to people. He knew what was coming. As a very realistic analysis of what happens if you're in the White House and you decide to take a stand against the Pentagon and the CIA. You know what's coming.
And then Merton, Thomas Merton, he has this analysis of Kennedy, which is a very negative analysis one year into his presidency. Thomas Merton said that Kennedy was too superficial to really deal with the needs of his office. But Merton goes on to say in a profoundly prophetic way that if Kennedy were to turn to the point that is needed for a President of the United States at the height of the Cold War, a point where there's depth of humanity, self-[?], compassion, that becomes universal, that if he could do that, Merton says by a miracle, he would be marked out for assassination. And that could be said to be a prophesy but it is an exact description of the story as I understood it, as I came to learn more and more about it because in the depths of the Cuban Missile Crisis Kennedy broke through into that especially by his sense of what would happen to the children of the world, Robert Kennedy described that conversation with him, thru Kennedy's sense of what was gonna happen to the children of the world if he didn't appeal to his enemy as he did and join with his enemy as he did and, together with his enemy, work during the last thirteen months of his presidency towards a disarmed world—that's what marked him out for assassination. That's the “why” that is most significant to me. And that I think explains the reason why we're still sitting in this room rather than a nuclear waste.”
EPISODE 3 (of 5) [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFKV4...eature=related]:
Ellsberg > Many people in the military establishment did not think that was his finest hour and in fact were very unhappy with the way he concluded the Cuban Missile Crisis. And of course there are leftest critics, Noam Chomsky for instance, who don't believe the government would have had incentive to kill Kennedy because he believes he didn't fundamentally differ from LBJ. But could you say a little more, maybe even refer to that amazing story about Kennedy's comments about “Seven Days in May” and how that provided a kind of almost a prophesy, a blueprint for what happened to him.
Douglass > Well that happened, that conversation that Kennedy had about “Seven Days in May” the novel, that described a military coup toward a President of the United States, that was very famous during Kennedy's administration. He was asked one day what he thought about it and, he was out sailing with some friends, and he said he hadn't read it so like that he read it, and amazingly fast reader, and then he said to his friends “yes it could happen.” He said “first of all if you had a young president”--this is John Kennedy saying this, the youngest president in the history of the United States. “And if he had a Bay of Pigs”; he's saying this after the Bay of Pigs. He said “there would be some questioning about his capacity to be President of the United States.” He said “then if there was a second Bay of Pigs, a second conflict with his military power and his, basically his national security state, then” he said “there would be a lot of questioning by his military people and a certain shakiness in the whole situation.” And then he said “if there were a third Bay of Pigs” he said “yeah, it could certainly happen, it could certainly happen.” And then he said “but not on my watch, not on my watch the Navy phrase.”
Well of course, yes, Kennedy had a Bay of Pigs, was a young president. His second Bay of Pigs would have been the Cuban Missile Crisis where he was constantly and persistently and overwhelmingly beset with the order, if you hear the joint chiefs of staff and Kennedy on tape, to go in there and attack. Take out those missiles. Attack Cuba. He refused. And when he resolved the situation with Kruschev, basically promising never to invade Cuba, and also pulling back missiles from Turkey, the joint chiefs of staff were infuriated when they went into the office with him and came out and LeMay said “we've been had, we should go in and bomb them right now.” And then Bay of Pigs after Bay of Pigs after Bay of Pigs came after that where Kennedy is in conflict, over the American University address, over the signing of the nuclear test ban treaty, over beginning to negotiate secretly with Fidel Castro, over National Security Memorandum 263 where he begins to withdraw our troops from Vietnam. Conflict after conflict after conflict. And over Indonesia, which Lisa Pease has written about very eloquently where he basically allies himself with Sukarno and begins to signal his support for third world nationalism. There are all kinds of conflicts between Kennedy and the military industrial complex.
Ellsberg > Jim talks about the doctrine of plausible deniability and how that relates to the assassination of Kennedy [?] the kind of apparatus that was in place to commit assassinations.
Pease > Yes, absolutely. In fact when Eisenhower came to power he made two huge mistakes in my opinion. He appointed Allen Dulles head of the CIA and his brother John Foster Dulles head of the State Department. So you had two brothers running both our overt and our covert foreign policy. The more I read about this the more I think we should call it the 'Dulles administration' instead of the 'Eisenhower administration.' And during that time they changed everything about this country without any democratically elected oversight. And they started running coup plots and they threw out the leader of Iran who had been democratically elected, he was a nationalist, but his big sin—guess what he nationalized the oil industry there. So we had to go in and throw him out so that the British-American interests could go in and get that oil. How'd that work out for us? Not so good. Fifty years later we might have to go to war there again. It's crazy. It was a short term thinking and they thought if we could just throw out this leader and get our new guy in. And they denied reality, they did it in Guatemala, they did it in Iraq in a coup that's almost never talked about also in 1963 they threw out a person that lead Saddam Hussein's party to power and ultimately Saddam himself. It was the way they did things. The CIA had all kinds of shields built in. It was a covert network and I've argued that, some people say the CIA's just built to support the establishment, I would argue the CIA was the establishment. The only sense that was created was cents and dollars and the Eastern establishment and the rich oil men, it's the people who could afford to go out and fund their own operations. And since they were using their own money no one had any particular oversight and they just trusted them all to be patriotic and do what's good for America. As that became formalized over the next few years with the CIA you would think somebody would try to put some controls in place but in fact controls seemed to be flying off. Whenever it was suggested during Eisenhower's time Eisenhower was forced by his some of his advisors who said 'the CIA is running wild they're doing their own thing all the time' and he actually sent a letter to the ambassadors saying 'you know what although you have authority for most things the CIA can do whatever they want in your country.'
Kennedy sent the opposite letter. He said the ambassadors are running these countries not the CIA. And I thought that was an interesting shift. And after the Bay of Pigs of course when Kennedy dethroned Allen Dulles and John Foster by then was dead Robert Kennedy actually went to the State Department and said 'are there any other Dulles' here cause if there are they're out.' And they found Eleanor Dulles, she was in the State Department so she got the boot, this little 60 year old lady. But the Kennedy's were done, they wanted a big change. They didn't want that kind of foreign policy. Kennedy was proposing foreign aid to Indonesia, like building roads and sending grain, not sending weapons and military. And in Vietnam as you [Douglass] and others have described Kennedy was asking the military, trying to think more creatively, asking 'what can we do besides attacking them' to try and win their support? And they couldn't think of anything else that's their world that's all they know. And you know what they say a guy who uses a hammer everything looks like a hammer [nail] and if you're a plumber everything looks like a plunger. And if you're a military guy everything looks like a bomb. And that was the only solutions they could come up with so Kennedy then became to them the same as Sukarno or Castro or anything else, he was an impediment the progress of their actions abroad. And by removing Allen Dulles it was almost like removing the Godfather from the mafia. It's hard to imagine you could do that and not have some consequences.
Ellsberg > He came back didn't he in the story.
Pease > Yes he did. In fact you know where he spent November 22nd and several days after? At “the farm” according to his diary. And I assume since he's not a country boy that he was referring to the CIA's training facility back East.
Douglass > The Dulles Commission.
Pease > Yes the Warren Commission of course. In fact Nacrooma over Umgatta [sp?] the leader, some journalist was talking to him “what do you think about the Warren Commission”? And he flipped it open and he pointed to Allen Dulles' name and he said “whitewash.” They know. They know. Everybody outside this country knows what happened. It's only in America that we can't seem to come to terms with it because it's not our mythology. We're the good the righteous the land of the free the home of the brave. This is a story that runs counter to that mythology and people protect that mythology mentally by shutting themselves off to the truth.
Stone > I agree with everything that Lisa has said it's very perceptive. Vietnam and of course everything that followed from Vietnam. You know we won. We won Vietnam. That's the truth; Chomsky is right. We trashed whatever although militarily perhaps we were neutralized and removed we achieved the objective which carried thru which is to trash a country and destabilize it politically, and destroy its resources so that no other country in that region would challenge the United States in there basically. And I think it had tremendous effect on all the South American dictators that followed. And certainly it gave will power to the Shah of Iran, it gave everybody more confidence in the United States. Again people were claiming that the United States in the short term would be pulling out. But in reality the knew the United States was [there?] And Reagan of course used the Vietnam excuse for ten fifteen years with Bush senior who of course used it again with Iraq. So Vietnam is unfortunately haunting us with Obama. Same, ridiculous thing he said last year about “Afghanistan has nothing to do with Vietnam.” I was surprised at how willfully uneducated he's behaving. Seems to me he didn't take a lesson in Vietnam. He really avoided it perhaps because of pressures. But it's also, these people in Afghanistan, what's his name, the generals, they all make a big deal about—they studied it in depth—and say this has nothing to do with Vietnam. They go out of their way, and it's very funny to me, denying what is obviously, [to Pease] it's plausible deniability, it's denying what's so evident. It's like denying the big pimple on your face like it's not there anymore.
Ellsberg > Lisa, your review, they ran with a headline that said “if there is one book I wish Preisdent Obama would read over the holidays it is “JFK and the Unspeakable.” What is the lesson there that you want to point him to.
Pease > Yes. Part of it, Jim makes clear in the book, is that Kennedy lived in a bubble not of his creation. That the advisers, the only information he could get was what people were willing to give him. And Kennedy figured that out. He had an early lesson in that 'cause he had the Bay of Pigs. And he learned right away who not to trust. He knew right away the CIA had been lying to him like crazy. And so he started finding ways around them, which very much threatened them. Obama I think still trusts the CIA. He left Robert Gates, former CIA Director, now he's running the military. Kennedy had tried to separate those two things for a reason, take the CIA out of military operations. And it's funny that Obama kinda helped to remarry them again. Obama needs to understand the pressures he's facing and that he can choose differently. That's the real lesson, is that there is another way. Kennedy saw it and he knew the cost and he was willing to put his life on the line. And [to Douglass] I totally agree. He knew he might die. He knew he might be killed at any moment. But he had to do it. It was the right thing to do and he really believed in what he was doing. And he kept saying to people: “We can imagine another way, peace is possible, this is not some pipe dream, this is not some intangible fantasy peace is possible and we have to start planning for it like you plan for any goal in your life. You set steps, I'm gonna to do this then this then this then this, and you set steps towards peace and then you follow them. And Kennedy was adamant about that. And Obama came to us with that kind of leadership, peace would be possible. But Obama is either timid, afraid, unable—I don't know—maybe it's because he really wants to live to see his children grow up. Granted not everybody wants to die. I understand that. You shouldn't have to be a martyr to become president. That's a horrible reality that we're living in right now. And I fault all of in in a way for out [?] denial of the truths that might help empower people. 'Cause if we as a country had faced the truth about the death of Kennedy right away, if we had said the Warren Commission is a sham, if the press had told what people were coming forward and saying. The initial, the first paper in Dallas said there were six to eight shots fired. I saw the headline. That was the official story then. And then of course quickly it became well three shots because anything more than that would have meant a conspiracy. So the facts had to change to fit the story they were trying to tell, not the other way around. So again, every time someone goes “oh, conspiracy theorist” they're actually enabling this denial that allows more people to be killed, that puts Obama at risk, that makes peace impossible. And when we start to say “look, conspiracies happen, here's what happened, here's what we know, and we have to tell the truth about it, I'm not afraid of that,” then we enable that peace to become possible.
EPISODE 4 (of 5) [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7pf6...eature=related]:
Douglass > My way into this question is not John F. Kennedy, it's Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King. And that's because King's assassination changed my life. It was my Baptism. Because I was at the University of Hawaii when it happened teaching a class and my students burned their draft cards inspired by studying King. When he died they wanted to commit their lives against the war in Vietnam and they wound up going to jail for an amount of time ranging from six months to two years. So because of Martin Luther King's assassination I'm a Catholic worker today and I'm not at the University of Hawaii or any other University. That was the end of my academic career when I joined the Hawaii resistance, with their community. So trying to understand Dr. King's assassination by trying to understand your birth your Baptism your source, just meant well as soon as I began to understand that a little bit because of attending the only trial ever held over his assassination and going in to meeting the witnesses and understanding the nature of the government, this is a verdict in a trial, a wrongful death lawsuit that, again, we don't have the media to cover these events, nobody knows to this day that in terms of the larger picture that King was assassinated according to trail verdict by US government agencies.
So, learning that, what about JFK? So then comes the question what about JFK? And my denial up until then was total. I had made no connections with the John Kennedy assassination until the mid ninety’s. This is a supposedly educated person. And I was already investigating, trying to understand, Martin Luther King's assassination. But I could not avoid it. I am a very very late comer. These friends and a number of you [to audience] are decades ahead of me. So I'm just trying to catch up a little bit.
But the John F. Kennedy assassination and my insensitivity to it for three decades is to me a perfect example of how poorly for example peace community people people, peace movement people are in knowing, and I know a number of other folks who are like me in that community—with all that is revealed by people like these two [Pease, Stone] or Jim DiEugenio or a number of you out there, Paul Schrade, David Talbot, I mean there are all kinds of people who have brought this information to light and I was not making a connection with it until—early resistance.
Stone > Don't forget about Mark Lane.
Pease > Yes.
Douglass > See Mark Lane.
Stone > Mark Lane was one of the first, and actually really a very courageous man in light of the danger to his career. He's still alive. He contacted us tonight.
Ellsberg > And endorsed Jim's book: “Once in a great while a book comes along that both records history and makes it. An exciting work with the drama of a first rate thriller.” That was Mark Lane who wrote “Rush to Judgement.”
Douglass > This book would not have been written without Mark Lane.
Ellsberg > No, and many others. I'd like to invite some questions from the audience. And you can direct those to anyone here on the stage. In the back, yes?
Audience member 1 > I'm Jim DiEugenio.
Ellsberg > Ah.
Jim DiEugenio > [I have a couple of cards of questions I want to ask you guys?] First of all, there was a debate in the Obama administration about [?] and the book they were passing around was Gordon Goldstein's book “Lessons in Disaster” which was posthumously published. It was gonna be McGeorge Bundy's look back at Vietnam. In retrospect it was McNamara's look back at Vietnam. Bundy died before the book was published and then Goldstein published it. And it's a really astonishing book because Bundy didn't remember most of the stuff that happened. And when he looked back he said “God is this really that stupid?” And he had nothing but admiration for what Kennedy had done. And then he reread “The Best and the Brightest” which is the mainstream press view of Vietnam. And he said “completely wrong, you got it completely wrong 'cause you [missed who?] JFK really was. And after he read the [classified record?] he said “No, Kennedy would never have gone into Vietnam.” And by the way this is touched upon in that book, the James White book, “Virtual JFK,” where Kennedy deliberately cut McBundy out of the loop 'cause he knew it was [?], him McNamara and McBundy on a phone call, and JFK and McNamara talked about getting out of Vietnam and McBundy doesn't know what they're talking about. He goes “we have to find a way to get out of Vietnam, the sooner the better”--McNamara says that right on tape recording. Alright.
DiEugenio > So my other comment though is more a question. Now Oliver and Fletcher Prouty and John Newman took a literal pasting in the press when this movie came out. And I really believe it was over that particular issue because Oliver had the good sense to put that in there and make that the keystone of his movie. That Vietnam would not have happened if Kennedy had lived. That is probably one of the reasons he was murdered. Ok?
Today, I don't know if you know this; you probably do, today there's a bookshelf of books based upon this: the Blight book [James G.*Blight] , the Howard Jones book, his book [Douglass], David Kaiser's book, there's about seven books now on this. Now [to Stone] did anybody ever give you any credit for accomplishing what you did? Because if you wouldn't have done that that shelf of books wouldn't be there! Ok?
Stone > No. I owe these insights to Fletcher Prouty. John Newman followed in a way 'cause we helped John into this and John did the follow up research. John Newman is a military intelligence, very [spry?] man. Not the greatest writer in the world. Though he wrote two books: “JFK and Cuba” and “JFK and Vietnam” if I'm correct.
DiEugenio > “Oswald and the CIA.”
Stone > Say it again.
DiEugenio > “Oswald and the CIA” and “JFK and Vietnam.”
Stone > Those two books are really quite monumentally researched, really very very accurate, but it was, I couldn't get thru them. Fletcher Prouty's work, we wrote footnotes for the movie, and we put them out, wonderful press like this [motions to Douglass sarcastically], and unfortunately they were ignored. And it was like we made it up. And it was really frustrating. And we fought. We did fight. But we couldn't really get much traction 'cause we had the Hollywood curse on us. Of course we had simplified; we had to, to make is a dramatic structure of three hours and ten minutes. And of course liberties were taken but my gosh we had so many footnotes in there. I said at the time “there's a 150-200 things we've raised and you bring up problems with two or three or four things that were wrong. We did get things wrong. But why do you concentrate on the things the four things were wrong and you're ignoring all these hundreds of things that we did that were right?
It reminded me of what you [Pease] said just recently. You know the mindset is still there. Nothing has changed. The concept of “conspiracy theoorist”--if we hear that one more time, I just hate that word. You know, I mean this poor guy from Wikileaks, Assange, I know someone who's been with him a while. It's an unbelievable repetition again. Same shit where they go after him. First of all they don't even acknowledge that he's released so much dynamite. Nothing, there's no smoking gun but just a case of the brutality of war, the madness of this situation in Iraq. And he lays it on the line and puts it right out there and boom. They go after him for what? For paranoia. For, a couple of people in his organization mistrusting him. And for a rape charge that suddenly has appeared out of nowhere, based on, the man be a womanizer, there's no question he likes women. That's hardly the same thing, and the girl retracted her statement but by the time she's retracted it it's disappeared I mean the news is the news and it moves on. So all of a sudden the emphasis, the spotlight's on the messenger not the message, and Julian is the guy who's getting it. But what he's saying is outrageous. And the smart thing about Julian is of course he kept the goods and still has the goods online. And that's where the government cannot kill him, 'cause the moment they kill him it's gonna be radioactive.
DiEugenio > I think one of the reasons they went after you so bitterly is 'cause all these quality books have been written on this subject, like Halberstam's book and [Karna's?] book, etc. Ok? But, and even the Pentagon papers, 'cause Fletcher did a lot of his work for the Pentagon papers. But somehow everybody missed this thing. Everybody missed this thing for decades! You know then you put it there on the screen so vividly and memorably. So not just the mainstream press, but the academia, the academic press went after you. You know?
Stone > Oh yeah. And don't forget the AMA. The American Medical Association. I'm a big fan of Cyril Wecht by the way who I think Cyril is great. And Doug Horne. Doug Horne is incredible. That character that came out of this assassination review board. Doug Horne wrote five volumes, put his life into this last few years and it's called what James? What's it called? That Doug Horne did?
DiEugenio > “Inside the [ARRB?]”
Stone > “Inside the [ARRB?]”--yeah. There's a tremendous amount of information and it is up, based on the latest evidence. By the way when John Connelly died I said “let's dig the bullet out of his wrist.” Nobody reported that because it's so simple. You can just take a sample from his wrist and see if it's the same bullet
Ellsberg > Quickly [to Pease] did you want to add something?
Pease > Yeah I just wanted to talk about the press and the attacks and why there's media silence. I would encourage you all to go home, go to Carl Bernstein's site, you know of the famous Woodward and Bernstein Watergate reporting team, go to his articles and please pull one down called “The CIA and the Media” that he wrote for Rolling Stone back in October of 1977. In the wake of the Church Committee hearings and the Pike Committee hearings, in the early days of the HSCA. He was connecting the dots. Because wow, the CIA has major relationships with the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC, CBS, NBC. I'm sure now we could add CNN. You know, Fox News—who knows? [ ] But it's really important because if you don't understand that the rest of it doesn't make sense. Why don't people get it? Well, because there are people planted in the media who will repeat things like this and call somebody a “conspiracy theorist” and then others pick it up and echo it.
There was a study called the Ash Experiment or whatever where this guy had shown people these lines of different heights and he would have these test subjects line up in a room and they'd all say which one on this side matches the one of these three on the other. And what the test participant didn't know is that everybody else was not part of the experiment. They where all there to mislead him. So of course they'd have seven people and the test subject was the seventh in line and they'd say “oh yeah it's line 1, line 1, line 1,” and the subject said “line 1.” Well after two or three they'd start answering wrong. And a good third of the people would repeat the wrong answer. And questioned afterward some of them said I even knew I was giving the wrong answer but I was afraid to go up against the group. And that's what happens in the media.
When you get a couple of leading lies, Walter Pincus, this or that, putting out a word it takes a lot of guts and courage that most journalists don't have to go up against them and say “you're wrong and I'm right.” We all know what happened with Gary Webb who did that, when he tried to expose some Iran-Contra connections here in Los Angeles, a drug ring that was helping fund the Contra operations. The mainstream press went after him. I actually sent Gary Webb an article that Walter Pincus was the first one to attack him. And I sent him a copy of an article headlined by Pincus that said how “How [He] Traveled Abroad on CIA Subsidy” by Walter Pincus back in 1967. And Gary Webb later told me he thought I was setting him up, that couldn't be true, that was too good to be true. He went to his newspaper's own archives and found that was indeed a true story.
EPISODE 5 (of 5) [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbK8H...eature=related]:
[Conversation ongoing when segment starts.]
Stone w Pease agreeing > And she rand it she indexed it and she's got all these [J?] notes and she actually put it up on a bulletin board and she actually studied it and she came up with all the inconsistencies and she wrote a letter--
[Cross talk with audience member]
Stone > What?
[Cross talk with audience member and Pease]
Pease > A book, “Accessories After the Fact.”
Stone > Which is really unbelievable. [?] was really one of the first ones to really go thru the deconstruction process
Ellsberg > You had a question here in the front.
Audience member > I can talk about any subject on a radio show [?]. Anytime I would talk about the Kennedy assassination the next day [?] nobody cares. [?] so I can testify as I'm sure Jim can and some other people that that stuff is all true. So my question for the three of you is why 50 years later and 47 years later this is still happening? 'Cause mostly everybody is dead. The records are there. And if the records show it was Lee Harvey Oswald why don't they just release them? So why is this continuing to happen? Why do people think they have to hide this? Jim?
Douglass > That is THE question. Because it applies to all of us. All of us.
Pease > 'Cause it would reveal sources and methods.
Douglass > Yeah. You know we don't want to go there. We don't want to go there. And if, no matter what profession you're in, or what background you are in this country if you go there, and of course you [audience member] know what happens in your profession 'cause you are a media person, I mean this is a question that comes home to me personally—why on earth am I writing this book? I am the least competent person on earth to write this story. I'm not a historian.
Someone off screen > That's to your advantage.
Douglass > I'm not any of the things you're supposed to be to do this. But, the more basic question, why hasn't it been written dozens of time before this? This is the elephant in the room in terms of our history. Why hasn't Bernstein written this? Why hasn't Hersh written this? You know you could go down the list of key investigative reporters; they should have done this 30 years ago. Maybe not 30 years ago but at least 20 years ago. You know. This has been out there a long time. But as soon as they do this or start to do it the lose all access. These people are in the beltway. They're in the beltway. They have access to power. And you can't write a Bernstein book unless you can get inside all kinds of sources that are immediately dried up if you start becoming, quote, “a conspiracy theorist,” which means a decent investigative reporter is what it means. On a hot topic, and a topic that doesn't get any less hot 47 years later. That's the problem. And if you're an academic you're marginalized as soon as you start coming out on this subject. And you could go down the list as to what happens to you in this society if you start following the truth on JFK or Martin Luther King for that matter. Or Robert Kennedy.
And this is LA, so Robert Kennedy in big letters: RFK, RFK. What happens to you in LA when you go after the truth of RFK?
Pease > I'm gonna find out. And I live near the police department.
Douglass > This woman [Pease] is the biggest expert in the world on the subject of what happened to RFK. I say that without qualification.
Pease > Wow. Thank you. That's really generous.
Ellsberg > The New York Times which did not review Jim's book did run a cover story on Vincent Bugliosi's thousand page defense of the Warren Commission in which it said “after this book has been published all conspiracy theorists should be shunned like smokers or people who believe in UFO abductions.
[Unintelligible question from audience member]
Ellsberg > It's so that no one, to be called not just wrong politically or what but insane, crazy, marginalized in that way is a powerful control, not just on scholars but on insiders from the Kennedy administration over all these years who have never dared to want to jeopardize their credibility by talking about what they know.
I want to just allow a few other, there are many other, there was a gentleman over here.
Audience member > One question I have is for Mr. Stone. Have you considered doing any follow up to JFK, even a documentary that might focus the state of the research as of today?
Stone > It's not that I would shy away from it it's just, I suppose it was a big wound in my life. It was, I never quite recovered from that moment because the, I was, having done the Vietnam war movies before that I was, there was quite a bit of positive feeling about it. Then after that I became a figure of controversy for years. And it still haunts me. Even when I did a Chavez South American documentary, a small documentary, I got pretty beat up for that one too. So, you know, you gotta take your licks. I'm not averse to it. And maybe you're right maybe I should think about it.
Audience member > I don't mean to interrupt you but it seems we have one government contingent that says no conspiracy. We have a second government contingent that says there was a conspiracy. And we're left hanging out here coming up on the 50th anniversary of JFK's death. [?]
Stone > Yes, I just feel like I, as I said earlier in my opening statement, I'm dealing with this in a much larger way 'cause I don't think it's only about Kennedy. I think it's about a mental state we're in since, basically, since World War 2. And I think, as she [Pease] said the Eisenhower administration has much much to pay for. And, a lot of the dirt on Eisenhower has not come out yet.
So we're dealing with a big issue in this documentary and I hope we can, John Kennedy plays a huge role but it's not the only role. It's happened before.
Ellsberg > I'm afraid that our time here is limited and there are so many people that have questions and I was told we only have time for another question. But Jim will be here for a little bit longer and will be autographing books afterwards and there will be the opportunity to talk a little bit more. I don't know how to do this in a fair way 'cause there are just hands all over the place so I'm just gonna say the second row here, this gentleman.
Audience member > You're suggesting that the CIA is really running the country. Not the White House. And yet, look at the Iraq war, wasn't it the CIA that basically said there were no weapons of mass destruction? And the White House insisted on war. Isn't there something inconsistent in that?
Pease > There are different factions in the CIA. There are people on the analyst side who can be very honest and say “look this is what we see this is what we know.” And there are people on the covert action side who have a completely different agenda. And I'm not gonna say the CIA got us into Iraq or something. I don't know that. I don't necessarily believe that. But I do think a lot of lies that were told. And there is the mentality, as Oliver just said, that has gone way beyond the CIA. I mean there are factions of neocons. And one of the things that happened in the eighties is that intelligence got decentralized. 'Cause a lot of people got laid off in the wake of the Church Committee and Pike Committee and those hearings and they went into private practice. And they started working for Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, some of these other places. And they're running operations that are completely unaccountable that aren't necessarily coming from the government but are still affecting us and drawing the government into their actions. Judith Miller, with all her reporting in the New York Times—who did she work for? Her stories were total BS! And yet the Times put them out and they led us right into the war in Iraq. I don't know if she was a CIA agent. Maybe she was working for the embassy. Maybe she was working for Goldman Sachs. I don't know. Maybe Halliburton. I don't know. But it wasn't us, that I do know.
Ellsberg > I wish we had time to listen to everyone's questions but we have limited time here. I want to thank all of you, especially Oliver Stone and Lisa Pease for joining us this evening, Jim Douglass still one of my heroes. And his book is for sale here. Thank you very much for coming out this evening.