Writing about my old Fidelista pal Bob Kaffke got me wanting to learn more about the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. So I checked out Thirteen Days, Robert Kennedy’s memoir of the period. I just have to share this scene with you…
JFK has just found out the Russians are placing missiles with atomic warheads all over Cuba. Right away, he calls a meeting of his staff. What are we going to do about it?
The military guys, led by General Curtis LeMay, want an immediate surprise attack, followed by an invasion. Blast every one of those suckers before they have a chance to arm the missiles, but we’ll inevitably miss some so we’ll have to follow up by invading the country.
The other side, led by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, favors a total blockade of Cuba. Keep out everybody, Russian ships, Russian submarines, merchant ships – everybody until the Russians back off or until something else happens. It’s a first step. Let’s avoid an all-out war if we can.
Here’s what Robert Kennedy says as he thinks over the possibilities, and I quote,
“…I could not accept the idea that the United States would rain bombs on Cuba, killing thousands and thousands of civilians in a surprise attack. Maybe the alternatives were not very palatable, but I simply did not see how we could accept that course of action for our country…
“Whatever military reasons he (Dean Acheson) and others could marshal, they were nevertheless, in the last analysis, advocating a surprise attack by a very large nation against a very small one. This, I said, could not be undertaken by the U.S. if we were to maintain our moral position at home and around the globe. Our struggle against Communism throughout the world was far more than physical survival – it had as its essence our heritage and our ideals, and these we must not destroy.”
Just burns me up to think how we have squandered that moral position. Squandered it!