U.S. newspapers this fall will devote countless column inches and network TV will set aside endless hours to revisiting the most perilous month in the history of the republic, if not of the world.
Nikita Khrushchev's decision to secretly install nuclear-armed intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba began to form in his mind sometime earlier, perhaps in April of 1961.
Then it was that the new young U.S. President John F. Kennedy put a brigade of Cubans ashore to become the vanguard of a guerrilla army to overthrow Fidel Castro's regime.
The Bay of Pigs became a metaphor for feckless folly and failure.
Khrushchev had ordered an army of tanks into Budapest to crush the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and watched, astonished, as a U.S. president recoiled at using his power to expunge a Soviet base camp 90 miles from America's shores.
In June, Kennedy met Khrushchev in Vienna and was orally mauled. In August, Khrushchev tested Kennedy again, building a wall to sever East Berlin and seal off the Soviet sector. Berliners seeking to escape were shot.
Kennedy ordered a one-year call-up of the reserves.
Moscow then broke a moratorium on atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, exploding a 57-megaton monster bomb in the Arctic.
By mid-October 1962, Soviet missiles were in Cuba. Their 1,500-mile target radius put Washington, D.C., in range.
The Air Force chief of staff was Gen. Curtis LeMay, former head of Strategic Air Command, who boasted of his B-29 fleet in the Pacific war, "We torched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo that night of March 9-10 than went up in vapor in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined."
LeMay wanted to bomb and invade Cuba, even after Khrushchev pulled his rockets out. When Mao Zedong denounced Khrushchev's climb-down, calling America "a paper tiger," Khrushchev is said to have reminded Mao, "This paper tiger has nuclear teeth."
Mao reportedly indicated a willingness to lose 300 million Chinese in a nuclear war if that war would finish off the United States.
These were grave times and dangerous men. What prompts this recitation of what our world was like 50 years ago is the latest cover story in The Weekly Standard, "The Most Dangerous Man in the World."
The cover photo is of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's "man with a mission," who is said to be seeking an atom bomb and who "loathes the United States more than Stalin, Mao, Tojo and Hitler combined." If this "supreme leader gets nuclear weapons, it will be a miracle if he does not stupidly lead his country into war."
Thrust of the 5,000-word article: Be afraid. Be very afraid of this man.
But what exactly are we to fear? And what is the imperative for war now on Iran, for which this piece beats the drum?
Khamenei has declared that nuclear weapons are immoral and Iran will never acquire them. Is Islamic Iran's supreme religious leader lying through his teeth? Where is the proof? Where is the hard evidence?
Sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies stated unanimously in 2007 and reaffirmed in 2011 their conviction that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program. In the Standard piece, John Sawyer, head of the British Intelligence Service MI-6, "flatly stated in July that we have two years left before the Iranians can build a weapon."
And if we should fear this most dangerous man in the world, why do not the Iraqis, Turks, Azerbaijanis and Pakistanis, his neighbors, seem to fear him? The Paks, with scores of nukes, seem less nervous about Iran than democratic India, with whom they have fought several wars.
Before now it has been Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was the incarnation of Hitler. But Ahmadinejad's eight years in office are up next summer, and he is reportedly going back to teaching.
For all his bellicosity, how many wars did Ahmadinejad fight?
When was the last time Iran started any war?
On Al-Quds Day, Wednesday, an annual event since the 1979 revolution, Khamenei reportedly said he was confidant "the fake Zionist (regime) will disappear from the landscape of geography."
Yes, and Nikita Khrushchev said, "We will bury you," and, "Your grandchildren will live under communism." And we buried him, and his grandchildren saw the end to communism.
The author of the "Most Dangerous Man," Reuel Marc Gerecht, says that should Israel attack Iran, Iranians "will probably take their revenge through terrorism" or opt for "playing dead and railing against Israel in the court of world opinion."
Would Adolf Hitler or Hideki Tojo, pre-emptively attacked, respond with acts of reprisal untraceable to them, or denunciations of their attacker in the "court of world opinion," or by playing possum?
Our fathers crushed fascism in four years and outlasted for half a century the evil empires of Stalin and Mao that had murdered millions. And we should be fearful of an ayatollah?
What happened to the America we grew up in, the America of Truman, Ike, JFK and Reagan?
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