American Conspiracies by Jesse Ventura – A Review

It takes remarkable personal courage to come out against the mean, to write about unpopular ideas, to talk about probable conspiracies – and so it can’t be said that Jesse Ventura doesn’t have guts. But let it be known that he’s got a very good head on his shoulders too.

American Conspiracies: Lies, Lies, and More Dirty Lies That the Government Tells Us
By Jesse Ventura, with Dick Russell.
Published by Skyhorse Publishing, 2010
A review by Liam Scheff

People prefer to be lied to ably, than be told the truth, boldly. We prefer a colorful and clever story to a documentary filled with sharp and damning evidence; we prefer gossip to investigation. Human kind delights in metaphor when facts get in the way of our passions and pursuits. We embrace ambiguity when hard choice is available to us; we cling to images of pasts that never were while a beleaguered present cries out for attention.

We are, in short, a fictional species. A species that loves fiction, and makes fiction out of reality.

Is it any wonder, then, that our basest acts and desires are pushed away and under, into drama, poetry, and fiction; that we grasp at empty gossip about celebrity delinquency while the house-beams of our nation are being torn asunder, and chopped into fuel for a bonfire of our precious civil liberties?

Ask yourself which is more newsworthy – a politician’s sexual trysts, or his betrayal of the U.S. Constitution by sell-out or bloated bill? A golfer’s drug and sex compulsions, or his golf score? The suicide of a disgraced banker, or the wholesale theft of the American banking system? The secret amours and heartache of a First Lady, or the death of American industry, sold to slave labor in Asia, bought back at Best Buy to decorate our meaning-deprived lives?

We love stories far more than we love reality. But it goes deeper than that; we also despise the truth-tellers who push our tolerances too far, and we love to hang the gadfly for whom the search for truth is more important than the crowd’s approval. History shows us that unrepentant truth-tellers meet their fates by the side of the road, in a ditch or on a pike or cross. Whistle blowers disappear in car accidents in their backyards, poisonings with suspicious aftershave in their hotel rooms, airplanes that disappear in bad weather, and unexplained coronary events while in deep sleep.

What Is Conspiracy?

From the Latin for ‘spirare,’ and ‘con,’ or ‘to breathe’ ‘with,’ we get the smaller idea: we breath the words of possibility together. We plan, we stir our imaginations into designs. We then make the leap from thought to matter, by invoking movement, creating action.

Do people conspire on the large scale? We know they do. We’ve seen it in business, finance and politics, in an endless, repeating loop. We’ve witnessed one (or two (or three)) ‘assisted’ elections at the presidential level since 2000. Lower offices regularly go to the best-financed and best-lawyered.

Outside of the U.S. is a world plagued by topsy-turvy elections, bordering on coups and governmental take-overs. How often do you find a pattern of Western interest in these places? Dig into this history and you’ll find the sticky fingers of intelligence agencies, U.S., British and Soviet, pulling strings and enabling puppet players. And before there was the 20th Century, there was all of history.

How many Caesars were killed by their retinues, stolen from office by their own Praetorian guards; how many consuls deposed by the will not of the people, but of the blade, (doing the bidding of the few and powerful)?

Page through the political diary of Europe, from Medieval to modernity, from Charlemagne to Henry V, from Elizabeth to Victoria, from Walpole to Disraeli to Churchill to Blair, and how many court intrigues, public revolts, rebellions, betrayals, coups both failed and achieved are the tally of what we call “history?”

Walk through yesterday, the smoke-stained iron and steel of the 20th Century, piled high with the bodies of hundreds of millions of Europeans, who fell victim to what we may consider the human penchant to wage war in search of utopias, in service of the lies and dreams of that same ‘few and powerful.’

Do human beings do bad things? The obvious answer should haunt us, but we deflect it quickly when we speak of those we need to trust. “Necessary illusions,” said the linguist Noam Chomsky. “Maya,” said the Upanishads – illusion. And so we live in illusion – in stories. We wrap the troubling truths of our species’ nature in soft fiction, we re-characterize, we change the names to protect the guilty – to protect ourselves from the responsibility of facing our dark places. And we re-create reality (in books and film) and soften the ugliness just enough to make it forgivable, or distant.

And so, let it be acknowledged: It takes remarkable personal courage to come out against the mean, to write about unpopular ideas, to talk about probable conspiracies – and so it can’t be said that Jesse Ventura doesn’t have guts. But let it be known that he’s got a very good head on his shoulders too.

“Conspiracy Theorist.”

The former governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, will be called this and more for his new book, “American Conspiracies.” The book takes apart a fictional vision of ‘America the exception,’ the ‘shining city on the hill,’ (oh, would that it were so), and puts it in context of an actual history of our country.

From Lincoln to Kennedy, MLK to Malcolm X to RFK, from the CIA and Nixon to the CIA and cocaine, from the Federal Reserve and a betrayed Constitution, to Goldman Sachs and A.I.G. and a betraying Congress, the book moves through a long political century in our America, following the money and fingering the institutions whose power is beyond a citizen’s protest or vote to overturn; beyond media to report, beyond pundits to cite or assess or reason.

Why do ‘lone nut assassins’ always have three names? So we’ll remember them, says Ventura. But did you know that in addition to John Wilkes Booth, eight individuals (including one woman) were tried and convicted in the plot against the 16th president? It seems we’ve been forgetting the conspirators for 150 years.

From Lincoln, Ventura moves to an attempted industrialist’s coup against President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, and introduces the reader to General Smedley Butler, whose “War is a Racket” is a firebrand’s manifesto, sure to be enjoyed by all who read it for its snarling savaging of corruption.

From 1933 on to 1962, a successful coup: President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, when his motorcade slowed on its route – altered so that the car would roll slowly through an area beneath taller buildings and a grassy hill (an area that would allow a triangulation of fire). Kennedy was killed, according to the official explanation, by one lone-nut assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, a former marine who had defected to Russia, but was allowed re-entry into the US with his new Russian wife without complaint or constraint by U.S. authorities. He was a man with CIA and FBI contacts, involved in contradictory brands of pro and anti-communist propaganda, who had a bizarre habit of turning up in several countries at the same time (suggesting that his name was used by more than one agent).

Oswald denied committing the act of firing upon the president; he was lucid and clear as he identified himself as “a patsy.” Oswald was himself assassinated two days after being arrested, despite being in police custody. While handcuffed and being paraded through a large group of Dallas police officers in the station’s underground garage, he was shot at close range by a mafia bag-man, Jack Ruby, who somehow managed to get into the building, unchecked, with a handgun, at just the right time. Ruby, far from a rational individual, gave conflicting testimony as to his motives, but would later say that he was part of a larger plot, though he did not reveal details to the press. He would die of an embolism secondary to an invasive cancer a little over three years later, at the same hospital where both Kennedy and Oswald were pronounced dead. Years later, Ruby’s brother would tell an interviewer that Jack hadn’t intended to kill Oswald, but that he “just wanted to hurt him” – by shooting him in the stomach. Sound plausible?

Oswald is identified by the U.S. Government and official sources as the assassin of JFK, though he never had a trial, and a majority of files on Oswald remain hidden from public viewing by our government intelligence agencies.

If it was not Oswald, then who could have killed John F. Kennedy, and why? Ventura refers to the well-documented evidence: Kennedy was retooling Vietnam policy, with an emphasis to ending that particular CIA adventure; in fact, he said publicly that he wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds.” He also stepped hard on the Federal Reserve, minting money based on actual silver (instead of on a promise of future-repayment), robbing the Fed of its primacy as perpetual lender to the American people.

And what is the Federal Reserve, and why have two presidents who challenged international banking interests been killed? (And others attempted?) Ventura covers the creation and function of the Fed with a clarity and simplicity that evades the writers of the Wall Street Journal – it’s one of the briefest but most informative explanations of the Fed, and the various monetary failures and scandals (up through our present debacle) that I’ve seen.

The book moves through events in the CIA ’60s, into the Reagan-Bush era October Surprise, Savings and Loan Crisis and CIA Contra-cocaine trade, and ends with the current banking crisis, after stopping to rest on Sept 11, 2001.

The 9/11 conspiracy is the most well-known in the world today. (The attacks on U.S. buildings with hijacked airplanes was a conspiracy according to both the mainstream and its critics). The official version states that nineteen Middle-Eastern (mostly Saudi Arabian) hijackers flew four planes into three buildings and one field in two states and the Capitol (New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.). In New York, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were hit by one plane each; Building Seven of the WTC was not; all three buildings collapsed while exploding or imploding at free-fall speed into low-lying piles of rubble and billowing clouds of atomized concrete and metal, which filled the air for weeks and blanketed surrounding areas.

One hijacker’s passport was found, somehow intact, on the ground beneath the vaporized tower, the rest were known, somehow, within hours of the events, and their profiles circulated. It has been reported by mainstream sources that at least three of the presumed hijackers have shown up after the events of 9/11 in other countries, working at their day jobs, with no ties to terrorism, and have asked to be taken off the list of 9/11 terrorists. Telephone calls were made from airplanes that later were shown practically incapable of transmitting cell phone signals as were apparently received by some recipients on the ground; some official cell-phone stories have been changed since 2001.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the team given the authority to rationalize or investigate the technical failure of the buildings in New York which fell or exploded at free-fall speed, have given reports that are roundly considered incomplete at best, or outright obfuscation and pre-determined whitewash at worst. The metal wreckage from the towers was immediately shipped to China and India, where it was melted down, and was never examined as forensic evidence. Researchers have offered evidence that an explosive called nano-thermite was present in the dust and rubble coating lower Manhattan, but neither the authorities or mainstream media have investigated this finding.

The list of inconsistencies, strange evidence, conflicting reports, and suspicious intelligence activity stretch out like a grand highway beneath the events of 9/11, and yet, questioning the official story is streng verboten among liberty-loving conservatives and democrats alike. If the reality of 9/11 involves either infiltration by a foreign agency or outright betrayal by a small group of industrialists who either permitted or facilitated any aspect of the events of that bloody day…

Well, this is where I’m supposed to write, “You’d think we’d want to know.” But too much truth is not what we’re after, when an able lie meets our needs more effectively. “You can bet we really don’t want to know,” is the honest answer. Knowing this, Ventura can bet on some bad press and a volume of hate mail, and internet libel. It takes a brave man to pierce the veil.


American Conspiracies” is well-organized, honest, provocative and worth reading. It takes up fourteen topics in fourteen succinct, well-informed chapters. Numbered references are organized in an easy-to-use endnotes. The Governor’s personal experiences and anecdotes are lively and instructive. Quotes and references are searchable at the book’s end.

Ventura opens each chapter with three points: “The Incident,” “The Official Word,” and “My Take,” and ends with a question: “What Should We Do Now?”

His answers tend to go to the following: Think critically, understand history, and talk about it. Don’t be swayed or crushed by taunts of “conspiracy theorist.” Talk openly and press for legal change where change is available, because you love your country and you want it to survive with a functional Constitution, a more honest banking system, and opportunity for citizens to feel both liberated and inspired to achieve their dreams in our troubled nation.


The written presentation favors a streamlined approach, which helps the material move at a pace, but a few shortcuts cause some problems for the reader/researcher. Of note, quotes are not attributed properly in the paragraphs in which they appear; quoted sentences are dropped into the text without introduction or sourcing on the page. However, the quotes are numbered and are correctly referenced in the endnotes. Leaving all attribution to the endnotes is a strange choice, where a short introduction, (i.e. “According to [Source, Date],”) would better serve the writer and reader. And despite having a thorough endnotes section, the book has no index. To make this a better book for researchers, I would ask the editors to mend these oversights in the next edition.

This is a popular tome; it is for the most part not based on original investigations, but on the published work of other expert researchers. As mentioned, ample sources are given and the cited works listed. If “American Conspiracies” occasionally acts as a Reader’s Digest version of a great many serious (and sometimes hard-to-find) investigative works, then it does so well – it moves through the overarching ideas and covers important evidence sufficiently, and with interesting, appropriate, gut-level, logical and fair questions. The former Governor relates personal experiences in political office, including briefings and debriefings by the CIA, and being tailed by U.S. operatives while meeting Fidel Castro and asking him about the JFK assassination. His insights are valuable and have weight, and he’s brave to share them.

The book is written in a manner so as to replicate the speech of Jesse Ventura – who employs a colloquial language that is not quite universal; that is, prepare to meet Minnesota. The text often rang in my head with the pronounced accent of the writer – that cuddly Minnesota accent with its deep vowels and loopy umlauts. Ventura presents a great bit of contrapuntalism in a human being – this six foot four two hundred sixty pound Navy demolitions man, body-building wrestling/Governor with a roly-poly accent, is an original creation, to be sure.

In Sum: I like this book a great deal, and regard Jesse Ventura with an increased level of respect – for his courage, his intellectual integrity, and for the strength, clarity and organization of his thinking in the work. I would also like to credit his co-writer, Dick Russell for his contributions, which are not possible to quantify in a joint project (but given his by-line on the cover, ought to be substantial). It is their second collaboration, so I’ll guess that it’s been fruitful for both.

Jacket-cover review: Kick ass, Governor. A darned good book.



  1. Lovely, engaging review. The book sounds like one to have in your library. Perhaps every non fiction book should have a The Incident,” “The Official Word,” “My Take,” and “What Should We Do Now?” format.

  2. I’m impressed that Ventura would do this. The establishment and left-gatekeepers are always ready to marginalize people who believe there is something covert going on that goes deeper than what is reported. Since I was introduced very early (many years ago) to covert activities of the CIA by a film by Phil Agee (On Company Business), I have come to know that most of what happens in the world that is important is hidden for years and, even if it becomes public, is marginalized, usually forever.

    About 15 or 20 years ago, the missing diary pages from John Wilkes Booth’s diary – which had information about the organizing conspirator – was found in the collection of William Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War. It implicated Stanton as the organizer. Of course it was immediately declared a forgery and everyone forgot about it. But this was the missing piece. Stanton was suspected at the time, but nothing was ever proven. He had all the access – and the motive, as he was an arch racist – and the ability to organize the murder.

    In the same way, for JFK, no one except for William Prouty has suggested who the organizer of the assassination – a huge undertaking – might have been. It was Edward G Lansdale, who had been the CIA’s and DOD’s organizer of counterinsurgencies for decades. Imagine organizing the Vietnam counterinsurgency, Operation Phoenix, the strategic hamlets, the buying of politicians. The JFK assassination was a cake-walk in comparison.

    This book is so important I’ll pick up a copy. It is a breakthrough, he is breaking conspiracy theory into the mainstream. Ordinary people will begin to understand that what happens to them doesn’t just happen, it is organized and choreographed.

    I’ll give you a more modern example, you might know about some of these folks from NYC. There is going to be a meeting at Harvard on Thursday to discuss what people are now calling the “Cradle To Prison Pipeline” – the fact that the education system and the legal system is now driving one of every three black children eventually to prison, an amazing statistic in itself. The fact that this is now part and parcel in American society – and that it is a sociological construct – is an amazing revelation in itself. But I’m pretty sure the organizers of this meeting and this movement to destroy the “pipeline” don’t know that the reason for the construct is economic globalization – the flight of industry out of the US.

    Said more bluntly, if there are no more jobs because they are now being done for a dollar a day in China, then what are you going to do with millions of uppity black people whose parents and/or grandparents used to be employed? What better way to tear apart the fabric of black communities than to pass specious drug laws and create zero-tolerance school rules that route a vast swath of black males into prison for a decade or two? All started by Tricky Dick, and developed and fine-tuned by each succeeding President concerned with Law and Order and Welfare Reform.

    • Right on,such pablam as we are fed.The doers are to busy trying to succeed in this increasing sea of redtape and wealth redistribution (strange that the ones that are capable of helping change-think that their party is on the level) Who is John Galt and where is Guy Fawkes?

  3. Beautiful review and musings- not just about the book, but also about humanity in general. Very thought provoking too. So, it all boils down to maya?..

  4. A quick comment about Mr. Campbell’s last paragraph. The prison system is quickly becoming a private sector big business system. It is hugely profitable. We learned a few years ago from a case in (I think) Pennsylvania, where two judges were accused of investing in their own juvenile prison system, getting local contracts to send kids there, and then making sure the kids got sent there when those same kids appeared in their courts. And as Mr. Campbell mentioned, the story soon vanished, probably forever.

    If it was suggested that blacks, or anyone else is being sent to prison in droves as part of a conspiracy, I would readily have to agree. It seems intentional. The motive seems clear. Profit.

    Big business has been able to circumvent laws and government oversight more and more as time goes by. Those Monsanto GM crops were a health hazard, many pointed it out, many mentioned that there was not enough research conducted to determine the safety of introducing such a product in to our environment, but rather than the FDA seriously looking in to it all, they let it happen. Why? Probably a lot of bribes, probably a lot of politicians and lobbiests in the right places with their own personal interests at stake making sure there wasn’t too much scrutiny.

    But as the original post pointed out, we know, but we don’t really want to know. We seem to sort of accept that there is a butt-load of conspiracies and corruption, but much like the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal, we like to think it’s just a few bad apples and not the whole system. It really is pretty scary to take it all in, to understand and then accept that the problems in the world were intentionally caused by the same people we elect as our leaders and representatives. We believe that what they do, is a reflection on us, because we believe we put them in to office or position by our votes. And we believe that our votes, and those in the countries that are our bestest friends in the whole wide world, are all sacred and properly cast and counted, but it’s all those other countries where real fraud takes place. Not here. Maybe a little, sure, but certainly it isn’t all corrupt…is it? It’s still the best system in the world, right? It’s not how people think. It’s what they want to believe. Or rather, don’t want to believe.

    Just an example. The Japanese waterboarded prisoners during World War II, and at the War Crimes Trials, those involved were sentenced to death. But today when we do it, and you compare it to the Japanese, we are conditioned to believe that Hitler and the Nazi’s and Japan and their bombing of Pearl Harbor made them extra evil, on a level nobody today can even begin to grasp, thus we cannot compare our waterboarding to their waterboarding. It’s just….different… We’re not like them. You don’t understand… we have to waterboard the terrorists…because…

    People will tell themselves whatever they have to in order to avoid a reality that not acceptable to them. Or is just too damn scary.

    President Woodrow Wilson: Agreed to bankers demand to create a Federal Reserve System in exchange for money and votes to get elected.

    President Roosevelt: Had forknowledge of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, wanted to get America in to the war in Europe, did nothing to stop attack.

    President Johnson: May not have been directly involved in the plot to assassinate Kennedy, but clearly did nothing to help the investigation and most obviously benefitted from his death. Also covered up Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Additionally, authorized Operation Ajax, the CIA/British plot to overthrow the democratically elected leader of Iran.

    President Nixon: Watergate scandal, secret bombings in Cambodia.

    Presdent Ford: Was part of the Warren Commission that “investigated” the Kennedy Assassination.

    President Reagan: Iran/Contra scandal.

    President Bush (Senior): Lied about events in Kuwait to get us in to a war against Iraq. Daughter of a Kuwaiti ambassador posed as an eye witness nurse in a Kuwaiti hospital, describing evil Iraqi’s taking newborns out of incubators and throwing them on the floor so as to steal the incubators. Never happened.

    President Clinton: Whitewater scandal, possible corruption. Pardoned known criminals with big connections. Some believe he took us in to Boznia and fired cruise missiles in to Afghanistan to “wag the dog” regarding the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

    Shrub. AKA George the Lesser. AKA President George Dubya Bush: Lied about Iraq. Lied about Afghanistan. Lied about Saddam Hussein. Said Mission Accomplished! Basically he lied. Often and poorly, yet to great effect.

    Obama: One year and half his campaign promises are clearly not going to be fulfilled. Guantanamo still open for business. Wars are being surged, not ended. Bailouts of banks and industries. TARP loans. Lots of corruption created the economic crisis yet nobody prosecuted? Not even one bad apple?

    These are just a few of our last presidents and some of the shit they engaged in. And not even close to everything either. Just some quickies. Looks like a pattern to me. Looks like a lot of conspiracy stuff and corruption. Yet nobody wants to see it, hear about it, discuss it.

    Jessie was on “The View” the other day. It’s exactly the kind of interview you’d expect from Main Stream Media. Talk over him. Never give him much chance to discuss any one thing in detail. They booted Rosie for this stuff, that should have told ya something. But I am still glad Jessie is out there trying to keep this stuff alive. Because if we don’t question our government and its actions, we deserve what we get from them.

  5. This is an excellent review of Ventura’s book, as it has enticed me to read the book!
    There is a well-documented new book on JFK by James Douglass called “JFK and the Unspeakable.” It corroborates much of what Ventura seems to be saying as to the causes of JFK’s assassination. The book traces his change from a rather conservative rich-boy politician to the martyred hero he became by courageously taking on the military, the CIA, J. Edgar Hoover, etc. There is a clip on You Tube now that interviews LBJ’s long-time mistress in which she describes a party that took place in Dallas the night before JFK’s assassination at which LBJ, Hoover, E. Howard Hunt and other oil-magnates were present. She claims that LBJ said, “After tomorrow I won’t have to put up with the Kennedy boys any longer” (not exact words)

    The “cui bono” principle (who benefits?)is a good one in trying to understand who is the real culprit in a political assassination. In this regard, the information in the book about Lincoln’s assassination was a revelation to me. Again, nothing much has been made generally known about this assassination other than John Wilkes Booth killed the President and may have been involved in a conspiracy. The actions of the prime beneficiary, Andrew Johnson, seem to at least raise suspicion of his involvement. He arranges for a military trial for Booth when that would be unconstitutional since Booth wasn’t in the military. It is easier to rig a military tribunal as was apparently done since there were numerous unfair legal procedures, e.g., exculpating evidence excluded, defense attorney not given time to prepare, trial began in only 3 days, prisoners were hooded, etc. Why was Booth’s diary excluded from the trial? The 18 pages missing from it were found later and implicated Lincoln’s Secretary of War, William Stanton. It looks like a “palace coup” to put the blame on Booth, making sure he would not be able to testify in a trial to reveal embarrassing facts by killing him as he tried to escape from a barn that the capturing party had set on fire (shades of Ruby killing Oswald)

    Speculation as to the motivation of these “palace conspirators” is most intriguing.
    Lincoln’s actions in using “greenbacks” to help finance the Civil War instead of capitulating to the robber bankers infuriated the private bankers. His actions were reversed when Johnson became president. Douglass in his book also points out that Kennedy in his day had also planned making changes in the private Federal Reserve system. Two other assassinated presidents besides Lincoln and Kennedy, i.e. Garfield and Harding (the latter suspected of being poisoned)had also been critical of the “bankers trust.”

    Yes, the masses always prefer to be lied to rather than confront unpleasant facts, especially when the tele constantly tells them that any such facts are only “conspiracy theories.” Here is the way that master criminal Adolph Hitler describes in “Mein Kampf” how easy it was for him to deceive the German masses: “It would never come into [the minds of the masses] to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.” And the murderous cabal in our government also know that the “Big Lie” usually works.

  6. I wouldn’t trust gummint to take my dog for a walk.

    Maybe Jesse can pry the locks on some doors.

  7. Count on the Prison Guard’s union to always favor escalating the war on drugs. Humans invented morality to persuade others. For themselves, gain is the only virtue. What is remarkable is the number of them that believe government ever has good or honest motives. It is an extortion racket run by moral slobs (and on the national level, a counterfeiting racket as well). All told, an amazing and entertaining planet.

  8. Its good to see more and more people finding out the thruth. My sister thinks Ive lost the plot. I think Ive found it. Must get that book.

    • Thank you, ‘livenletlive,’

      I like your metaphor…

      Here’s to finding the plot.

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