I was where souls are before they are born. Living souls on this Earth were edging closer to their own demise, 50 years ago today, the worst moments of the Cuban Missile Crisis were well under way, and I’m two years away from any existence at all.
It’s weird to think of yourself as possibly annihilated by atomic bombs even before you have taken your first breath, but that is where the world was a half century ago, so many of us here, now, were not then, and but for two men who knew when to blink, none of what we call reality now would have ever come to pass.
I am not wholly on the side of the U.S. on this one, for if you put missiles in Turkey that can hit Moscow in 15 minutes, how is it so far fetched to realize that Russia could do the same in Cuba? And I will never sway from my belief that if the U.S. had more encouraged ties with Castro when he made that New York visit, Khrushchev would have never been a friend to Fidel. The U.S. made an enemy where none needed to be and gave a strategic gem to the U.S.S.R. I will never understand why the States gave up such a close island to the one country they wanted nothing to do with. It was irresponsible. It was ludicrous. And I don’t know who to blame for it more, Eisenhower or Nixon. One wonders if Ike had got his butt off the golf course long enough to talk with Castro himself, instead of allowing Tricky Dick to handle the visit, Ike might have not labelled Fidel a “Communist” like Dick did and we’d all be better off for it. It doesn’t seem quite fair to lay the blame for so much at Nixon’s feet, but jeepers, where ever he showed up, bad crap happened…whatyagonnado?
I’ve recently listened to unclassified tapes that were made during the Ex-Com meetings in the Whitehouse in those harried 13 days, and I must say, the tension in Kennedy’s voice is palpable. He asks questions of his advisors and they answer in short, facts-only staccato sentences, everyone realizing that all roads, as they first investigated them, were leading down the path to mutual destruction and world end. I gather Special Assistant and Family Friend to the President, Kenny O’Donnell, asked Bobby what plans were being put in place for their families should the Whitehouse Staff be evacuated with the President in a time of attack. Bobby outlined that there would be ID cards issued to the family members and that they would all meet up at a pre-arranged military base, then hesitated, and added (paraphrased), “Well, you know, that’s all just for morale. They [Cuban missiles after being shot] will arrive in Washington DC in just five minutes.”
I continue to try, yet I cannot fathom, what those men were going through in those 13 days and nights, those protracted and torturous moments and minutes, knowing full well as Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, said, this sunset might be the last they ever see. One can say that in the hypothetical but does it actually sink in, I wonder? Maybe Kennedy’s and Khrushchev’s men were the only people on the face of the earth who had it sink in, and for that, we are all very lucky.
One could surely slough off this anniversary, saying, hey, that was forever-ago, it has nothing to do with our 21 century reality now…but one wonders…
With Iran now as the world’s looming threat and with Putin ever attempting to close the Iron Curtain yet again, could we be facing another 13 days, but this time, because of technology, what was 13 days now shrinks to 13 minutes, and if so, can humans make reasonable decisions and think to “blink” in that small amount of time, so 50 years from now our grandchildren can say our generation made as wise a decision to avoid mutual assured destruction?
Khrushchev, although a Communist dictator, had the cultural and moral upbringing of Old World Europeans and knew the value of life. Can we say the same for the Muslim extremists of this world, who believe that to fight their “Infidels” and die trying is the highest honour? And do we want such fanatics in possession of the atomic bomb, who think this Life is worth destroying for the next? Obama said in the last debate that the “clock is ticking” for Ahmadinejad and no President accepts Iran obtaining the bomb on his watch. But negotiations with Iran have been ongoing for over a year now, and yes, sanctions have been and are continuing to be severe against Iran, their currency half the value of what it was worth in that time period. But when is enough, enough, and when do Middle Eastern dictators ever listen to anything but brute force? I am not a war monger but I can honestly say that my patience is spent on fanatics like Mahmoud, and if we know the locations of Iran’s centrifuges we should send a strike force to bomb them into oblivion, now, before they even get at all close to creating the ingredients needed for the A-bomb.
I imagine what’s stalling this action by the U.S. is a global unwillingness to “go there” with Iran just yet, but I don’t think we can assume Middle Eastern Muslim fanatics like Ahmadinejad are as reasonable and as trustworthy as Old World European dictators like Khrushchev.
Maybe this 50th anniversary of the Missile Crisis is coming at the right time, to remind the leaders of today that the 13 days of Old could well become the 13 minutes of Now, and 50 years in or not, time is always of the essence and Life is always worth preserving and protecting.