Here's an excellent review and synopsis of JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters:
JFK and the Unspeakable (Vietnam)
Douglass sources Richard Mahoney's extraordinary JFK:Ordeal in Africa, one of the finest books ever written on President Kennedy's foreign policy. To fill in the Kennedy-Castro back channel of 1963 he uses In the Eye of the Storm by Carlos Lechuga and William Attwood's The Twilight Struggle. On Kennedy and Vietnam the author utilizes Anne Blair's Lodge in Vietnam, Ellen Hammer's A Death in November, and Zalin Grant's Facing the Phoenix. And these works allow Douglass to show us how men like Henry Cabot Lodge and Lucien Conein did not just obstruct, but actually subverted President Kennedy's wishes in Saigon...
The leading conservative mounting the effort to dethrone Diem was Henry Cabot Lodge. Kennedy had planned to recall Ambassador Nolting and appoint Edmund Gullion to the position. And, as readers of the Mahoney book will know, Gullion was much more in tune with Kennedy's thinking on Third World nationalism. He had actually tutored him on the subject in 1951 when Congressman Kennedy first visited Saigon. But Secretary of State Dean Rusk overruled this appointment, and suggested Lodge for the job. Lodge lobbied hard for the position because he wanted to use it as a springboard for a run for the presidency in 1964.
Many, including myself, have maintained that if there was a black-hatted villain in the drama of Saigon and the Nhu brothers in 1963, it was Lodge. Douglass makes an excellent case for that thesis here. Before moving to Saigon, Lodge consulted with, of all people, Time-Life publisher Henry Luce. He went to him for advice on what his approach to Diem should be. (p. 163) Kennedy's foe Luce advised Lodge not to negotiate with Diem. Referring him to the work of a journalist in his employ, he told Lodge to engage Diem in a "game of chicken". What this meant was that unless Diem capitulated on every point of contention between the two governments, support would be withdrawn. The ultimate endgame would be that there would be nothing to prop up his rule. And this is what Lodge did. With disastrous results.
From the time of the August cable, Lodge plotted with CIA officer Lucien Conein to encourage the coup and to undermine Diem by ignoring him. Even though, as Douglass makes clear, this is contrary to what JFK wanted. Kennedy grew so frustrated with Lodge that he sent his friend Torby McDonald on a secret mission to tell Diem that he must get rid of his brother Nhu. (p. 167)
It was Lodge who got John McCone to withdraw CIA station chief John Richardson who was sympathetic to Diem. Lodge wanted McCone to replace him with Ed Lansdale. Why? Because Lansdale was more experienced in changing governments. Richardson was withdrawn but no immediate replacement was named. So in September of 1963, this essentially left Lodge and Conein in charge of the CIA's interaction with the generals. And it was Conein who had been handling this assignment from the beginning, even before Lodge got on the scene. Around this time, stories began to emanate from Saigon by journalists Richard Starnes and Arthur Krock about the CIA being a power that was accountable to no one.
It was Lodge, along with establishment journalist Joe Alsop -- who would later help convince Johnson to create the Warren Commission -- who began the stories about Diem negotiating a secret treaty with Ho Chi Minh. (p. 191) This disclosure -- looked upon as capitulation-- further encouraged the efforts by the military for a coup. In September, Kennedy accidentally discovered that the CIA had cut off the Commodity Import Program for South Vietnam. He was taken aback. He knew this would do two things: 1.) It would send the South Vietnamese economy into a tailspin, and 2.) It would further encourage the generals because it would convey the message the USA was abandoning Diem. (p. 195)
On October 24th, the conspirators told Conein the coup was imminent. JFK told Lodge he wanted to be able to stop the coup at the last minute. (Conein later testified that he was getting conflicting cables from Washington: the State Department was telling him to proceed, the Kennedys were telling him to stop.) At this time Diem told Lodge he wanted Kennedy to know he was ready to carry out his wishes. (p. 202) But Lodge did not relay this crucial message to Kennedy until after the coup began.
The rest of Douglass' work here confirms what was only suggested in the Church Committee Report. Clearly, Conein and Lodge had sided with the generals to the ultimate degree. And, like Lenin with the Romanov family, the generals had decided that Diem and his brother had to be terminated. Lodge and Conein helped the coup plotters to facilitate the final bloody outcome. In turn, by using the Alsop-Lodge story about the Diem/Ho negotiations, the CIA egged on the murderous denouement. (p. 209) Not knowing Lodge was subverting Kennedy's actual wishes, Diem kept calling the ambassador even after the coup began. This allowed Lodge to supply his true location to Conein after the brothers had fled the bombed presidential castle. So when the brothers walked out of the Catholic Church they had taken refuge in, they thought the truck that awaited them was escorting them to the airport. But with the help of their two American allies, the generals had arranged for the truck themselves. And the unsuspecting Nhu brothers walked into the hands of their murderers.
Kennedy was so distraught by this outcome he decided to recall Lodge and fire him. He had arranged to do this on November 24th. Instead, President Johnson called the ambassador back with a different message: the US must not lose in Vietnam. (p. 375)...
JFK and the Unspeakable (Oswald)
Douglass mentions the Nags Head, North Carolina military program which launched American soldiers into Russia as infiltrators. Near the end of the book (p. 365), with Oswald in jail about to be killed by Jack Ruby, Douglass returns to that military program with Oswald's famous thwarted phone call to Raleigh, North Carolina: the spy left out in the cold attempting to contact his handlers for information as how to proceed. But not realizing that his attempted call will now guarantee his execution...
Falls Church adjoins Langley, which was then the new headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency, a prized project of Allen Dulles. It was from Falls Church that Ruth Paine journeyed to New Orleans to pick up Marina Oswald, who she had been introduced to by George DeMohrenschildt. After she picked Marina up, she deposited her in her home in Irving, Texas. Thereby separating Marina from Lee at the time of the assassination.
Some later discoveries made Ruth's itinerary in September quite interesting. It turned out that John Hoke, Sylvia's husband, also worked for AID. And her sister Sylvia worked directly for the CIA itself. By the time of Ruth's visit, Sylvia had been employed by the Agency for eight years. In regards to this interestingly timed visit to her sister, Jim Garrison asked Ruth some pointed questions when she appeared before a grand jury in 1968. He first asked her if she knew her sister had a file that was classified at that time in the National Archives. Ruth replied she did not. In fact, she was not aware of any classification matter at all. When the DA asked her if she had any idea why it was being kept secret, Ruth replied that she didn't. Then Garrison asked Ruth if she knew which government agency Sylvia worked for. The uninquiring Ruth said she did not know. (p. 171) This is the same woman who was seen at the National Archives pouring through her files in 1976, when the House Select Committee was gearing up.
When Marina Oswald was called before the same grand jury, a citizen asked her if she still associated with Ruth Paine. Marina replied that she didn't. When asked why not, Marina stated that it was upon the advice of the Secret Service. She then elaborated on this by explaining that they had told her it would look bad if the public found out the "connection between me and Ruth and CIA." An assistant DA then asked, "In other words, you were left with the distinct impression that she was in some way connected with the CIA?" Marina replied simply, "Yes."...
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