A lesson America seems not to have learned
A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
For nearly two weeks, 13 days to be exact, the USA held its breath. Load noises shook us. Everyone watched the skies while convoys of military trucks with troops and war fighting materiel moved, day and night, east and south. Mobile radar units were hastily assembled on Florida beaches and the shorelines of other southeastern and Gulf Coast states. Mobile missile batteries were hastily set-up, laid in, and manned -- ready for whatever was coming from the south.
US Military Reserve Units were placed on alert -- as was the National Guard.
And then -- we waited ... and prayed ... and waited.
A U-2 spy plane had taken photos over Cuba that, upon being analyzed on October 15th, 1962, showed, unmistakably, that the Soviet Union was building medium-range missile sites on that island just 90 miles off our southern shore.
One week later, our young President, John F. Kennedy, went before the people of the nation, indeed, the world, and announced he was ordering a naval “quarantine” of Cuba the intent of which was to bring to a halt Soviet ships transporting offensive weapons to that island.
President Kennedy left no doubt that America was prepared to go to war -- right then -- to stop what he said was a: “clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace.”
Living, as I was at that time, just a few short miles from one of the Soviet Unions major-city targets along the US eastern seaboard, and having been trained by the US Army for handling irradiated refugees from a targeted city, I already knew the horror to expect. (For those of you who do not know, believe me, the horror is beyond anything you can imagine.)
In the evenings, every eye was focused on TV screens -- at 6:30 PM -- to get the latest news. We watched film of US aircraft flying low over soviet ships headed for Cuba with long tubular objects covered by tarps lashed to their upper decks. There was no doubt what those "tubes" were. We could only guess at what was below decks. We watched as those ships did not change course but continued their determined trek to Cuba.
We knew a flotilla of US warships were setting up a cordon around Cuba and if those soviet ships did not turn back they would be stopped. If they offered resistance they would be blown out of the water. And there WOULD be war -- nuclear war.
What is not commonly known is -- there was a near military coup in the US over this crisis. The military wanted, badly, to invade Cuba. Kennedy said no -- and would not budge. Some say the US actually came closer to a coup in which the President was removed from power by the US military than we did an attack by the Soviets. President Kennedy actually fired Joint Chiefs Chairman General Lyman Lemnitzer when he continued to push for a Cuban Invasion. For the most part, the public had no knowledge of the drama playing out behind the scenes between the Pentagon and the White House.
There are those today who believe the assassination of Kennedy was pay back for the bungled Bay of Pigs invasion, the foiled plans of the military and intelligence communities, and especially the refusal to invade during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Robert Kennedy, the President's brother, in behind the scenes negotiations with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader at the time, made sure Khrushchev knew about the possible coup to remove his brother John from office. Khrushchev knew that a president backed by the military would insure war with America and that was the last thing Khrushchev wanted.
A deal was quickly struck. The Soviets would remove the missiles in Cuba and the US would not invade Cuba and would remove some missiles in Turkey.
Many believe, as do I, that it was this recklessness on the part of Khrushchev that cost him his job soon afterwards.
Here's one of the lessons America should have learned from this near fatal confrontation. The Soviets had come to believe that Kennedy was a weak President. Khrushchev, with his missiles in Cuba, sought to tweak the tiger's whiskers. He had no intention of sparking a war. His intention was to enhance his own image back home.
It backfired. Khrushchev lost his job and Kennedy MAY have lost his life.
America can never afford to appear weak. EVER. As President Reagan said -- we have never been attacked because we were too strong.
Unfortunately, we have a President in power today who is projecting the unmistakable signal of a weak President. All one has to do is look around the world at the mischief the lack of strong leadership from the US President during the last four years has allowed.
The old expression: "When the cat's away, the mice will play" is certainly apropos. Today the big cat has slunk away and the rats are on the loose.
I offer this today for you to consider as we approach election day. America, indeed, the world, must have strong leadership. A weak US President is an invitation to disaster. Remember the Carter administration? Well, now the Obama administration has been added to that list.
America's enemies are on the rise. We need a President with steel in his spine who will go toe to toe with them and not blink. We do NOT need a "flexible" President. Flexibility gets you "rolled!"
Remember this when you go to the polls November 6th.
J. D. Longstreet
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