A couple of posts down, I spoke about Joe Williams, a reporter who happens to be a friend to this blog. (He wrote the book advertised to your right.) His recent interview with Oliver Stone
is worth your attention, especially this part:
Q • When did JFK get off the bus of headlong empire building and become a peacemaker?
A • The turning point was the October ’62 missile crisis. But you have to remember he had been to Vietnam on a fact-finding mission in the ’50s, and he made very brave statements in the Senate about Vietnam and about the Algerian War and about the Third World’s hostility toward white colonists. But when you become president, it’s a different ballgame. Like Obama, he got sucked into this monstrous military-industrial complex. It drives me crazy that people don’t understand how our generals and these Dr. Strangelove characters wanted to wipe out the Soviet Union. Kennedy ended up resisting them. He fired the most sacred cow in Washington, Allen Dulles of the CIA, he refused to invade Laos and even when the Russians put up the Berlin Wall, he said, “A wall is far better than a war.”
In a future post, we may talk at greater length about the generals -- in particular, Curtis Lemay -- who wanted to wage nuclear war on the Soviet Union. In 2000, when the film Thirteen Days
accurately depicted Lemay's billigerence during the Cuban missile crisis, Phil Strub -- the Pentagon-Hollywood liaison -- tried to get the movie deep-sixed for its "revisionism." This, despite the fact that Lemay's dialogue in that movie derives from things which the real man provably said.
For more on that incident (and similar episodes), go here
The great untold tale of the 1960s -- the key fact which they never teach you in school -- can be simply stated: For a brief period in the early 1960s, the United States had a first-strike capability. Everything that happened then should be seen through that prism.
This was the era of the changeover from strategic bombing to ICBMs. Although the Soviets launched the first ICBM, we quickly sped ahead of them. They did not have a solid-fuel rocket capable of carrying large h-bombs until 1967. We developed that capability much earlier. (The Soviet R7, a liquid fueled rocket developed in the 1950s, required 20 hours of preparation before launch, and had other problems.)
This "first strike" window explains why the Russians put intermediate range missiles in Cuba. Those missiles gave the Soviets a way to strike back; without that deterrent, they were sitting ducks (should Lemay have his way). A surprisingly good account of the true origin of the missile crisis may be found here
In 1961, JFK attended a meeting in which he was apprised of the fact that a first strike window would soon open. We had (or would soon have) ICBMs capable of reaching their targets in less than an hour; they did not, and would not have that capability for some years. Of course, an American strike would have murdered millions of people. As Kennedy walked away from this meeting, he told Dean Rusk: "And we call ourselves the human race."
James Galbraith and Heather Purcell have produced an extremely important essay
about this little-known history:
But beginning in 1957 the U.S. military did prepare plans for a preemptive nuclear strike against the U.S.S.R, based on our growing lead in land-based missiles, And top military and intelligence leaders presented an assessment of those plans to President John F. Kennedy in July of 1961. At that time, some high Air Force and CIA leaders apparently believed that a window of outright ballistic missile superiority, perhaps sufficient for a successful first strike, would be open in late 1963.
The United States had beaten the USSR to an operational ICBM and enjoyed clear, and growing, numerical advantage. We were far ahead, and our military planners knew it.
Kennedy was quickly convinced of this truth, which was further confirmed as new satellites brought back new information. Later in 1961, a National Intelligence Estimate came through showing only 4 Soviet ICBMs in place, all of them on low alert at a test site called Plesetsk. By fall, Defense Undersecretary Roswell Gilpatric was to acknowledge in a public speech that US forces (with 185 ICBMs and over 3,400 deliverable warheads at that time) were vastly superior to those of the Russians.
During the missile crisis, Robert Kennedy told Soviet ambassador Dobrynin that the American military might soon stage a coup and launch a war.
Here's another important fact they don't tell you in school. JFK did not merely propose sending a man to the moon -- he issued NSAM 271, calling for a joint US-USSR
lunar mission. (See here
.) Such a joint mission would inevitably have led to the sharing of information about American ICBM technology.
For some reason, most people don't understand that the rockets that put monkeys and men into space were close kin to the rockets designed to plant a nuke in a Soviet military facility. For example, the Saturn I rockets (which sent American satellites into orbit) was a modified version of the Jupiter missiles we had placed in Turkey. (The Jupiters -- a terrible, instantly obsolete weapon system -- were removed after the missile crisis as part of a secret agreement with the Russians.)
So we know that in the fall of 1963, American hawks wanted to launch a first strike against they USSR. They knew that they would never again have such an opportunity. Of course, they needed a plausible casus belli
Need I say the rest...?