In October, 1962 the world came the closest ever to all out nuclear war, but few living today have any remote familiarity with the events.
But a blog on the topic, commemorating the Cuban Missile Crisis of 50 years ago, when the U.S. came within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear war and our whole civilization stood on a precipice - is well worth the investment of time. Especially for the benefit of all those tens of millions who didn't live through it.
Though dimwit Joe Scarborough this morning insisted to guest Caroline Kennedy that : “Those guys (generals) never would have started a war”, Caroline reminded him otherwise. And, btw, for those that want all the details of what went down day by day, get hold of: ‘The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis’, by Ernest R. May and Philip K. Zelikow (1997, President and Fellows of Harvard College).Therein, on p. 347, for ’10:00 A.M. Oct. 24” the diligent reader (not necessarily Dumbo Scarborough) will read:
“At the same time the quarantine became effective, the Strategic Air Command moved from the general Defense Condition 3 to Defense Condition 2, the level just below general war. In addition to ICBMs and submarine-based ballistic missiles, every available bomber – more than 1,400 aircraft- went on alert. Scores of bombers, each loaded with several nuclear weapons and carrying folders for pre-assigned targets in the Soviet Union, were kept continuously in the air around the clock with shifts- refueled by aerial tankers, taking turns hovering over Northern Canada and the Mediterranean Sea. The Soviet government was presumed to be aware of these developments.”
Meanwhile, in North Miami, where I was a junior at Monsignor Edward Pace High School, the Principal, Brother Leo, arrived in our classroom at about the same time, notifying us of suspension of classes:
“Boys, we are dismissing school right now. Please go home and make whatever preparations you need to with your families. Let us hope and pray we have a world to come back to when this is all over.”
This was stunning because Bro. Leo was usually never at a loss for words. His terse dismissal and measured, grave tone emphasized the seriousness of the situation. We packed our books, not knowing when or if we’d return, and began to file quietly out of the classroom. At home, my mom was already there, arranging for us all to go to nearby St. Monica’s Church for the stations of the Rosary. At least, if we were all to be blown to smithereens, we’d all hopefully end up in the same place – in her mind.
None of this is hype or bull, but LIVED history, as opposed to read history. Living in Miami as the 13 days of the crisis unfolded my brothers and I saw the Nike missile carriers being drawn through the streets of Miami. Even the strip joints and peep flicks on NW 79th St had been shuttered.
Yet today, many – especially on the detached from reality Right – refuse to ‘give Jack his jacket’ and acknowledge an eternal debt to Jack Kennedy for basically saving us from a nuclear holocaust. But this is a basic defect and quirk of the human brain, which appears to easily process positive accomplishment but misses or fails to appreciate ‘negative accomplishment’ i.e. in doing something, making a CHOICE which averts a certain catastrophe.
Thus, Barack Obama gets no credit from the Right’s ditto heads for saving us from a second Great Depression by injecting hundreds of billions into a financial system that had suffered the equivalent of a cardiac arrest. Had he not acted to get that $800+ billion stimulus we’d likely see breadlines blocks long in every city and a 19% unemployment as opposed to 7.8%. Similarly, JFK gets no credit for saving us from a nuclear war.
WHY, you may ask, does JFK merit such credit? Even before the full book of the released tapes documenting JFK's War Room response to the Cuban Missile Crisis was published, at least a number of major newspapers provided a heads up. We learned, for example, that Kennedy refused to bomb or invade Cuba as he was urged to do by his Joint Chiefs, especially Air Force General Curtis LeMay , who actually compared JFK to Neville Chamberlain, and referred to his actions as “appeasement”. According to one of the first major mainstream news releases after the tapes in the WH situation room were released (The Baltimore Sun, Oct. 26, 1996, 'Bomb Cuba!Le May Urged JFK', p. 2A):
"Tapes of secretly recorded White House conversations released this week show that President John F. Kennedy's military advisers strongly pressured him to bomb and invade Cuba during the missile crisis 34 years ago this month. Indeed, they forecast that war would occur whether he invaded Cuba or not.
Blasting Kennedy's cautious approach, the Air Force Chief, Gen. Curtis LeMay, told the President at a White House meeting on Oct. 19, 1962, "This is almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich......
Through those days Kennedy was fending off strong pressure for an attack on Cuba from congressional and military leaders such as LeMay, who told him, 'We don't have any choice but direct military action...I see no other solution...'"
On p. 183 of the 'Kennedy Tapes' book, one sees LeMay saying that "we have got to do more than take out the missiles" and he demands a massive air strike as well. By Oct. 1992, when Robert McNamara was interviewed on 'Today' he observes that only ex post facto did the Kennedy situation room and Pentagon learn that all 93 odd IRBMs in Cuba were already armed with single megaton warheads, and had JFK followed LeMay's directives all hell would have broken loose.
Here's how that would have played out: At the first hint of U.S. attack planes picked up on Cuban radar most or all of the 93 IRBMs would have been launched. The targets would mainly have been U.S. east coast cities: Miami, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, but a number of the missiles would have struck interior cities including Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Chicago and possibly Milwaukee.
Even as those missiles were in flight, the Kennedy White House would have been forced to go to Defcon 1, or full war condition, even as the Soviets - also now acknowledging what was happening (realizing Cuba's missile luanch would make them a target), launched their own missiles. In the space of about 30 minutes, as McNamara pointed out, some 7,500 missiles would have been in the air headed for targets in the USA and USSR. Since most warheads at that time were in the 5-10 megaton range, the full nuclear exchange - lasting maybe an hour would have resulted in possibly 300 million dead and massive clouds of radiation polluting the rest of the planet via the trades and other winds. Within a year, plausibly most humans would be dead or dying - if not of radiation sickness then from lack of food crops due to nuclear winter - with billions of tons of dust in the atmosphere blotting out sunlight.
THIS is the alternative world that never occurred, but which would have, had Kennedy knuckled under to Le May and his fellow Joint Chiefs. That some blow dried moron pundits today still have the nerve to say Kennedy "never accomplished anything" boggles my mind, and makes me want to smack them all upside the head.
To put all this in even bolder context and perspective, let's bear in mind the character of the man JFK had to face down. A guy who already had a major boner for war with Cuba and Castro and had for at least three years. Thus, LeMay and fellow Joint Chief Lyman Lemnitzer were also behind the odious plans for "Operation Northwoods", as revealed in James Bamford's 2001 book, Body of Secrets, Doubleday Books, p. 82. This was described by Bamford as (ibid):
“maybe the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government"
This treacherous campaign of terror was to include the sinking of refugee boats (carrying Cuban refugees) on the high seas, as well as the killing of innocent citizens on American cities’ streets, plus random bombings carried out in Washington, DC, Miami and other places. The objective? To deliberately incite a war with Castro's Cuba. One can easily see from both the October, 1962 exchanges and also the Northwoods information, that the JCS and especially LeMay - had a major 'Jones' for starting a war.
These things need to be known! Today, 50 years later, our news and journalism machinery is much worse, more putrefied and weakened (by corporate ownership) and not up to the task of exposing truth, facts. Its mandate instead is a faux objectivity which seeks to give two sides equal credence and space - never mind there is really only one side to the story.
What needs to stand out, above all the din of the blow dried bimbos and himbos, is that one man - one president- stood tall and faced down monumental pressure from his military chiefs 50 years ago. In doing so, he provided a courageous template for all true leaders to act and think! I wonder how many voters are processing all this as they actually consider Mitt Romney who's all but promised a new war with Iran, as well as Syria - which I suppose is one reason he insists on $2 trillion more for the Pentagon.
Another aspect that ought to give pro-Romney voters pause, is the fact he's hired on as an advisor Gen. Tommy Franks. Yes, the spitting image clone of Curtis LeMay who once loudly proclaimed: "My God can beat your God!" to the Muslim world.
What would Romney have done in a situation similar to the one JFK faced and similar pressure from military chiefs? I shudder to think!