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Reflections on Jack Kennedy

By       Message Stephen Lendman     Permalink
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Reflections on Jack Kennedy - by Stephen Lendman

Though much about his background and public service warrants criticism, he also deserves praise rarely given properly, this article offering some and the writer's personal reflections on his commencement address to my June 14, 1956 graduating class, a message not heard now by US leaders - erudite, incisive and timely. More on it below.

Some Background

Had an assassin not taken his life, his health surely would have, some around him saying "from a medical standpoint, (he) was a mess." Indeed so, having been hospitalized more than three dozen times in his life and given last rites on three occasions.

At age 2 years, 9 months, he nearly died of scarlet fever. He contracted measles, whooping cough and chicken pox the same year, and as a child, was susceptible to upper respiratory infections and bronchitis. In 1935, he suffered jaundice, had a history of sports-related injuries because of his weak physique, and his mother remembered him as "a very, very sick little boy." In the 1930s, he began taking steroids for colitis, later developing complications, including a duodenal ulcer, back pain, digestive trouble, and underactive adrenal glands known as Addison's disease.

He had a host of other problems as well, including a bout of malaria as a naval officer in the Pacific. At age 43, the 1960 presidential campaign exhausted him because he overdid it for a man of his health and stamina. In 1947, his Addisonism was diagnosed, at the time told he had one year to live, and was given his last rites shortly afterward. Yet as senator and president, his health problems were hidden, an observer calling it "one of the most cleverly laid smoke screens ever put down around a politician('s)" physical well-being.

His Assassination

Much about it has been written and speculated, some of the best from James Douglas in his 2008 book titled, "JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters," debunking mainstream myths and much more. From a wealth of information he uncovered, he showed how threatening Kennedy was to the military-industrial complex and had to go, "the CIA's fingerprints....all over the crime and the events leading up to it."

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The notion of a lone gunman is ludicrous, the evidence clearly implicating a national security state coup against one of its own deemed unreliable. Though to some degree a cold warrior, he changed, was chastened by the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and refused another. He also fired CIA Director Allen Dulles, his assistant General Charles Cabell, and once said he wanted "to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds," reason enough to kill him.

Worst of all was his growing opposition to imperial wars, specifically in Southeast Asia. Though he initially sent troops and advisors, he changed, in 1961 opposing advice to send more to Laos, telling Averell Harriman, his Geneva Conference representative: "Did you understand? I want a negotiated settlement in Laos. I don't want to put troops in."

The same year, he opposed using nuclear weapons in Berlin and Southeast Asia and once called Pentagon generals "crazy" for suggesting them, perhaps with Curtis LeMay (1906 - 1990) in mind, a zealot who wanted to nuke the Soviets while we had the edge, even at the cost of a few US cities.

Kennedy also wouldn't attack or invade Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis, saying throughout it he "never had the slightest intention of doing so."

He swung to peace, away from war, telling an American University audience in 1963 that nuclear weapons should be abolished, the Cold War ended, followed by a "general and complete disarmament," and America no longer using its might to force Pax Americana on the world. Shortly afterward he signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty with the Soviets, and in October 1963 (about a month before his assassination), he signed National Security Action Memorandum 263, calling for removing 1,000 US troops from Vietnam by year's end and the remainder by December 1965.

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Douglas wrote how, as president, he underwent a spiritual transformation from cold warrior to peacemaker, knowing it put him at odds with the Pentagon, CIA, most members of Congress, and nearly all of his advisors. As a result, he understood his vulnerability, perhaps by coup or assassination, a condition he nonetheless accepted and paid for with his life.

Besides turning toward peace and more, he also signed Executive Order (EO) 11110 on June 4, 1963 to:

-- amend EO 10289 (dated September 17, 1951) designating and empowering the Treasury to perform certain "functions of the President without the approval, ratification, or other action of the President;" and

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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