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Russian Roulette With Nuclear War via RSN

By Noam Chomsky, Guardian UK

16 October 12

 

President Kennedy is often lauded for managing the crisis. The reality is he took stunning risks to impose American hegemony

 

he world stood still 50 years ago during the last week of October, from the moment when it learned that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba until the crisis was officially ended – though, unknown to the public, only officially.

The image of the world standing still is due to Sheldon Stern, former historian at the John F Kennedy Presidential Library, who published the authoritative version of the tapes of the ExComm meetings where Kennedy, and a close circle of advisers, debated how to respond to the crisis. The meetings were secretly recorded by the president, which might bear on the fact that his stand throughout the recorded sessions is relatively temperate, as compared to other participants who were unaware that they were speaking to history. Stern has just published an accessible and accurate review of this critically important documentary record, finally declassified in the 1990s. I will keep to that here. “Never before or since,” he concludes, “has the survival of human civilization been at stake in a few short weeks of dangerous deliberations,” culminating in the Week the World Stood Still.

[...]

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war several times, and the sources of the conflict remain. Both have refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty, along with Israel, and have received US support for development of their nuclear weapons programs – until today, in the case of India, now a US ally. War threats in the Middle East, which might become reality very soon, once again escalate the dangers.

In 1962, war was avoided by Khrushchev’s willingness to accept Kennedy’s hegemonic demands. But we can hardly count on such sanity forever. It’s a near miracle that nuclear war has so far been avoided. There is more reason than ever to attend to the warning of Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, almost 60 years ago, that we must face a choice that is “stark and dreadful and inescapable”:

Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?

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