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This Week in History—JFK Surrenders to Khrushchev During Cuban Missile Crisis

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

"The biggest defeat in our nation's history!" bellowed Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay while whacking his fist on his desk upon learning the details of the deal President Kennedy cut with Nikita Khrushchev regarding the missiles. 


'Aaw come on, Humberto!' Some amigos retort. 'Gen. LeMay was a serious war-monger and NUTCASE!—the model for Gen. Ripper in Dr Strangelove!  Are you saying we shoulda started a worldwide nuclear war with tens of millions incinerated to liberate a two-bit Caribbean island of barely 7 million people?!' 

Nothing of the sort. In fact, the choice at the time was never between nuclear war and surrendering Cuba along with U.S. national security. This was amply recognized by some of LeMay’s fellow Joint Chiefs of Staff, by a diverse array of Republican Party leaders of the time, and even by a few cold-warrior Democrats—though you’d never guess it from the 60 year Democrat-Media-Hollywood juggernaut of pro-Kennedy propaganda.

Let’s do this. Let’s bypass LeMay, “circle-back,” and look at what many of his “less Gen. Ripper-like” colleagues and contemporaries were saying at the time about Kennedy’s “resolution” to the Cuban Missile Crisis:

Joint Chiefs of Staff Generals Curtis LeMay and Maxwell Taylor (a Kennedy favorite) represented opposite poles of the military establishment of the time. Well: 

"We missed the big boat," complained Gen. Maxwell Taylor after learning of Kennedy’s deal.

"We've been had!" yelled then Navy chief George Anderson upon hearing on October 28, 1962, how JFK "solved" the missile crisis. Adm. Anderson was the man in charge of the very "blockade" against Cuba.


Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, represented different poles of the Republican Party. Yet both agreed: 

"We locked Castro's communism into Latin America and threw away the key to its removal," growled Barry Goldwater about the JFK’s Missile Crisis “solution.”

"Kennedy pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory,” wrote Richard Nixon. "Then gave the Soviet squatters rights in our backyard." 

"It's a public relations fable that Khrushchev quailed before Kennedy," wrote Defense establishment stalwart Gen. Alexander Haig, who served as Asst. National Security Advisor to Kissinger during Nixon’s term and as Secretary of Defense under Reagan. "The legend of the eyeball to eyeball confrontation invented by Kennedy's men paid a handsome political dividend. But the Kennedy-Khrushchev deal was a deplorable error resulting in political havoc and human suffering through the Americas."

Even Democratic luminary Dean Acheson despaired: "This nation lacks leadership," he grumbled about the famous “Ex-Comm meetings” so glorified in Thirteen Days. "The meetings were repetitive and without direction. Most members of Kennedy's team had no military or diplomatic experience whatsoever. The sessions were a waste of time."

But not for the Soviets. "We ended up getting exactly what we'd wanted all along," snickered Nikita Khrushchev in his diaries, “security for Fidel Castro’s regime and American missiles removed from Turkey and Italy. Until today the U.S. has complied with her promise not to interfere with Castro and not to allow anyone else to interfere with Castro. After Kennedy's death, his successor Lyndon Johnson assured us that he would keep the promise not to invade Cuba." 


In fact, according to Khrushchev’s own son Sergei, his father prepared to yank the missiles before any “bullying” by Kennedy. “What!?” Khrushchev gasped on Oct. 28th 1962, as recalled by Sergei. “Is he (Fidel Castro) proposing that we start a nuclear war? That we launch missiles from Cuba?” 


“Yesterday the Cubans shot down a plane (U-2 with) without (Soviet) permission. Today they’re preparing a nuclear attack…..But that is insane!..Remove them (our missiles) as soon as possible! Before it’s too late. Before something terrible happens!” commanded the Soviet premier. 

So much for the gallant Knights of Camelot forcing the Russians’ retreat during the Cuban missile crisis. Apparently, the Castro brothers and Che Guevara’s genocidal lust is what prompted the Butcher of Budapest to yank the missiles from their reach. 

In his diaries, Khrushchev snickers further: "It would have been ridiculous for us to go to war over Cuba–for a country 8,000 miles away. For us, war was unthinkable." So much for the threat that so rattled the Knights of Camelot and inspired such cinematic and literary epics of drama and derring-do by their court scribes and court cinematographers.

Considering the U.S. nuclear superiority over the Soviets at the time of the (so-called) Missile Crisis (5,000 nuclear warheads for us, 300 for them) it's hard to imagine a President Nixon — much less Reagan — quaking in front of Khrushchev's transparent ruse a la Kennedy. 


What the situation called for was some mature and low-key “Brinksmanship,” of the type President Eisenhower used to end the Korean War and keep us out of any more during his terms. And (as President in 1962) his top understudy (former Vice President Nixon) would have been just the man to employ it against Khrushchev.

Of course, had Nixon been president since 1960, there would have been no Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962—in fact, there’d been no Castro regime since April of 1961.) 

In any case, the genuine threat in Oct. 1962 came — not from Moscow — but from the Castros and Che. “If the missiles had remained, we would have fired them against the very heart of the U.S., including New York. The victory of socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims.” (Che Guevara to Sam Russell of The London Daily Worker, November 1962.)

“Of course I knew the missiles were nuclear-armed,” responded Fidel Castro to Robert McNamara during a meeting in 1992. “That’s precisely why I urged Khrushchev to launch them. And of course Cuba would have been utterly destroyed in the exchange.” 

"Many concessions were made by the Americans about which not a word has been said," snickered Fidel Castro as late as 1968. "Perhaps one day they'll be made public."

"We can't say anything public about this agreement. It would be too much of a political embarrassment for us." That's Robert F. Kennedy to Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin when closing the deal that ended the so-called crisis.


Castro's regime was granted new status. Let's call it MAP, or Mutually-Assured-Protection. Here’s the exact wording from Khrushchev when gleefully agreeing to Kennedy’s terms:

“You (JFK) in your turn gave (to Khrushchev) the assurances that the so-called 'quarantine' would be promptly removed and that no invasion of Cuba would be made, not only by the U.S. but by other countries of the Western hemisphere either.”

Cuban freedom-fighters working from south Florida were suddenly rounded up for "violating U.S. Neutrality laws." Some of these bewildered men were jailed, others "quarantined," prevented from leaving Dade County. The Coast Guard in Florida got 12 new boats and seven new planes to make sure Castro remained unmolested.

JFK's Missile crisis “solution” also pledged that he immediately pull the rug out from under Cuba's in-house freedom fighters. Raul Castro himself admitted that at the time of the Missile Crisis his troops and their Soviet advisors were up against 179 different "bands of bandits" as he labeled the thousands of Cuban anti-Communist rebels then battling savagely and virtually alone in Cuba's countryside, with small arms shipments from their compatriots in south Florida as their only lifeline.

Kennedy's deal with Khrushchev cut this lifeline. Think about it: here's the U.S. Coast Guard and Border Patrol working 'round the clock arresting Hispanics in the U.S. who are desperate to return to their native country!


It's a tribute to the power of Castroite mythology that, even with all this information a matter of public record for over half a century the academic/media mantra (gloat, actually) still had Castro, "defying ten U.S. Presidents!"

Nothing of the sort. Instead he’d been protected by them.


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