On consecutive days in June 1963, John F. Kennedy delivered two of the most dangerous speeches ever delivered by a U.S. president.
The first speech was delivered on June 10 at American University. It has become known as the “Peace Speech.” In that speech, the president called for a dramatic shift in the foreign policy of the United States. The speech called for an end to the Cold War and for peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union.
It is impossible today to overstate how radical — and how dangerous — that speech was. It flew in the face of the anti-communist mindset that had come to characterize Americans conservatives, the Pentagon, and the CIA. It also threatened the existence of the entire Cold War apparatus, which Kennedy’s predecessor, President Eisenhower, had called the “military-industrial complex.”
Before World War II was even over, U.S. military officials were planning strategy against their wartime partner and ally, the Soviet Union.
In all previous wars, the large standing army that had been raised to wage the war was dismantled in keeping with America’s traditional and historical antipathy toward big standing military establishments.
The U.S. military establishment that arose to fight World War II was determined not to let that happen once the war was over. In fact, when they built the Pentagon in Virginia during World War II, the enormous size of the facility demonstrated that they were planning to make the military establishment a permanent part of America’s governmental structure.
As the war wound down, U.S. officials wasted no time in converting their partner and ally, the Soviet Union, into a new official enemy of the United States, one that supposedly posed at least as much danger to the United States as Nazi Germany, if not more so.
Additionally, after combining with communism to defeat Nazism, U.S. officials launched what became known as the anti-communist crusade as part of their “Cold War” against the Soviet Union. Americans were told that they were in imminent danger of having the United States taken over and overrun by communists.
In 1947, the CIA was called into existence. It was an intelligence agency that would, thanks to some nebulous phraseology the someone had slipped into the National Security Act of 1947, ultimately wield powers that far exceeded intelligence gathering, including things like coups, assassinations, and regime-change operations in foreign countries.
The term “national security” became an established part of the American lexicon and would become the two most important words of the American people for the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st century.
These two apparatuses — the military-industrial complex and the CIA — would become known as the “national security state” and would later be joined by the NSA. Together, they would become the most powerful part of the federal government, one that Congress, the Supreme Court, and even presidents would defer to.
But not John F. Kennedy. While he came into office as a standard cold warrior, by the time he was assassinated he had not only rid himself of that mindset, he was doing his best to bring an end to the entire Cold War and the anti-communist crusade.
Kennedy’s transformation began with the Bay of Pigs, where the CIA had seduced him into supporting an invasion and regime-change operation against a country that had never attacked or invaded the United States. The CIA’s rationale for the invasion was that America could not survive with a communist “outpost” 90 miles away from American shores.
While Kennedy publicly took responsibility for the disaster at the Bay of Pigs, he vowed to tear the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds. At the same time, he fired the much-revered head of the CIA, Allen Dulles, along with his two top assistants. Adding insult to injury, he put his brother Bobby in the position as an informal monitor of the CIA.
Needless to say, none of this endeared him to the CIA.
As time went on, Kennedy also lost confidence in the military component of the national-security state, especially after the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended that he initiate a first-strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union and after they recommended Operation Northwoods, which entailed fraudulent terrorist attacks as a pretense to attack Cuba.
But it was the Cuban Missile Crisis that seared Kennedy into deciding to move America in a different direction — one that threatened the very existence (and never-ending expansion) of the national-security apparatus that had come into existence some 18 years before.
His Peace Speech at American University threw down the gauntlet to the national-security establishment. Rejecting one of the central tenets of the national-security state and the anti-communist crusade, JFK called on the American people to view the people of the Soviet Union has just regular human beings who happened to believe in a different political and economic philosophy — a people with whom Americans could peacefully coexist.
That was followed by a decision to withdraw troops from Vietnam, the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, and, most dangerous of all, secret personal negotiations with the Soviet Union and Cuba — negotiations that deliberately left the Pentagon and the CIA out of the loop. In fact, at the moment he was assassinated, a personal emissary of Kennedy was meeting with Fidel Castro in the an attempt to end the Cold War and restore normal relations with Cuba.
The next day — June 11— Kennedy poured fuel on the fire by delivering a speech on national television condemning segregation, supporting the civil-rights movement, and calling for a civil rights act.
Why was that dangerous? Because the American right wing and the national-security establishment were convinced that the civil-rights movement, including Martin Luther King, was a secret spearhead of the worldwide communist conspiracy to take over America,
Don’t forget, after all, that that was the purported justification that the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, used to spy on King, wiretap his telephone conversations, and blackmail him into committing suicide. Hoover was convinced that King had connections to a member of the U.S. Communist Party and that he was acting on behalf of the Soviet Union.
So, in the eyes of the conservative movement and the national-security establishment, Kennedy was not only naively disarming America and placing the nation in the position of being taken over by the communists, he was also aligning himself what what the national-security establishment was convinced were active agents of the Soviet Union and the worldwide communist conspiracy.
On the morning of his assassination, Kennedy was shown an advertisement in the Dallas Morning News stating that he was wanted for treason for his actions. Upon seeing the ad and knowing that much of the right-wing anticommunist movement was based in Dallas, Kennedy remarked to his wife Jacqueline, “We are headed into nut country.”
But the people he considered to be nuts didn’t consider themselves to be nuts. They were deadly serious. They really did believe in their anti-communist crusade. They really did believe that there was a worldwide communist conspiracy that was run out of Moscow. They really did believe that the U.S. Communist Party posed a grave threat to the United States. They really did believe that Cuba was a dagger pointed at the United States. They really did believe that the dominoes were going to fall in Southeast Asia. They really did believe that Martin Luther King and the civil-rights movement were being directed by Soviet officials.
Most important of all, they really did believe that Kennedy had betrayed America and was now taking steps that would result in a communist takeover of the United States. As such, they really did believe that Kennedy posed a grave threat not only to “national security” but also to the entire national-security establishment and to its never-ending expansion, including money and power, that would take place in the decades following the assassination.
That’s why Kennedy’s two back-to-back speeches in June 1963 were so dangerous. In fact, they cost him his life. See the following books, which I highly recommend:
The Kennedy Autopsy by Jacob Hornberger
Regime Change: The JFK Assassination by Jacob Hornberger (which contains an extensive list of additional books and online articles, with links, that I recommend)
JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglass