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
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
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
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
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
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
"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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