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.
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.