Washington Post Foreign Service
October 11, 2002

JFK Aides Say Bush Is Wrong On Crisis

                   By Kevin Sullivan
                   Friday; Page A29

                   HAVANA, Oct. 10 -- Two top
                   advisers to President John F.
                   Kennedy said President Bush is
                   misreading history when he cites
                   Kennedy's actions in the 1962
                   Cuban Missile Crisis to justify a
                   preemptive military strike against

                   "I would flunk him in history," said
                   Arthur Schlesinger Jr., one of
                   several Kennedy administration
                   figures who are here to join
                   President Fidel Castro and key
                   former Soviet officials at a
                   three-day conference marking the
                   40th anniversary of what is often
                   called the world's closest brush with
                   nuclear war.

                   In an address Monday, Bush cited
                   a speech by Kennedy during the
                   October 1962 crisis over the Soviet
                   Union's installation of nuclear
                   missiles in Cuba. Bush portrayed it
                   as an endorsement of the idea of
                   attacking potentially lethal enemies
                   even if they have not attacked first.

                   "It's taken totally out of context,"
                   said Theodore Sorensen, who
                   wrote the words Bush cited and is
                   also here in the Cuban capital. "It
                   was not intended to justify a
                   preemptive strike, because JFK
                   had specifically ruled out a
                   preemptive strike."

                   Schlesinger and Sorensen, both of whom voiced opposition to a preemptive
                   attack against Iraq, said that Kennedy never endorsed a first-strike policy at
                   any time during the crisis and was, as Schlesinger said, "determined to exhaust
                   all peaceful remedies before resorting to military action."

                   "I think the whole shift from containment and deterrence, which is why we
                   won the Cold War, to preventive war is most alarming," Schlesinger said.
                   "That's the doctrine invoked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. FDR called
                   that a day that will live in infamy, and the Bush doctrine is perpetuating that

                   The missile crisis conference, which begins Friday, has been organized by the
                   Cuban government and the National Security Archive, a research organization
                   at George Washington University that specializes in the declassification of
                   foreign policy documents.

                   "This couldn't be more important or more timely in focusing the national and
                   international debate over U.S. intentions toward Iraq," said Peter Kornbluh,
                   who runs the archive's Cuba project. "There is no doubt that the conference
                   will hold lessons for President Bush's doctrine of preemptive strikes."

                   Thousands of previously top-secret U.S., Soviet and Cuban government and
                   military documents have been declassified in recent years, adding enormously
                   to historians' understanding of the Cold War crisis.

                   Among the documents to be discussed is a detailed chronology of the crisis,
                   compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence
                   organizations and declassified by President Clinton on the last day of his
                   presidency. The 58-page document, to be released by the National Security
                   Archive at the conference, provides new details about another issue that has
                   been hotly debated since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks: intelligence

                   The document details how U.S. intelligence underestimated the Soviet Union's
                   intention to station offensive weapons in Cuba as late as August 1962, even
                   after Soviet ships carrying equipment and personnel to Cuba had been

                   The conference is also intended to dispel many popular myths about the
                   historic showdown between Kennedy and the Soviet leader, Nikita
                   Krushchev, Kornbluh said. Many, including Schlesinger and Robert F.
                   Kennedy, have portrayed President Kennedy's actions as a model of carefully
                   controlled crisis management that systematically defused the situation.

                   But documents declassified in Washington, Moscow, Havana and other
                   capitals in recent years have provided a more nuanced reading of history.
                   Many people, including Robert S. McNamara, the U.S. secretary of defense
                   during the missile crisis and the highest-ranking former U.S. official at the
                   conference, now say the crisis was not solved as neatly as had been
                   previously believed.

                   "I now conclude that, however astutely the crisis may have been managed,
                   luck also played a significant role in the avoidance of nuclear war by a hair's
                   breadth," McNamara wrote in a statement to be released here on Friday.

                   McNamara would not comment directly on Bush's policy on Iraq, but he said
                   tonight that Kennedy's strategy in 1962 "was not preemption. It was the
                   reverse of preemption."

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