JFK illumination

With a week to go to the 50th anniversary of his murder, the JFK season has well and truly begun on television.
Tonight’s contributions from British Channel 4 tv (via More 4) have been decidedly mixed.
Kennedy’s Nuclear Nightmare gave greater reference to the views and experiences of the Russians’ and Cubans’ participants in the crisis and introduced new material to the world of popular television (I think, although my control, is the US movie “Thirteen Days”) –
– that the Russians never intended to breach the quarantine once it was introduced; (and the attempt shown in the movie is a fiction)
– that the Russians had issued a nuclear torpedo and came close to using it, having sanctioned their sub commander to use it without reference back to Moscow.
Other big conclusions – not emphasised enough elsewhere –
– that the Russians had “battlefield” nuclear weapons in Cuba already, ready for use against Americans invading against Cuba;
– that an exchange of nuclear weapons (in which the Americans would have destroyed 70 Russian cities whilst the Russians would have sought to destroy New York, Chicago and L.A.) would have thrown enough material into the atmosphere to start a nuclear winter;
– that Kennedy saw (against the advice of all his military advisors) that the world would little understand not trading the obsolete Jupiter missiles in Turkey for a nuclear-free Cuba to avoid a nuclear war; (something Air Force General LeMay called a huge surrender).
I saw a card in a bookshop today saying the Americans could always be trusted to find the right solution – after they’d exhausted all the alternatives. Unfair we know (ever heard the British boast of losing all the vital battles in any war except the last one), but it seems to me that here, the problem was worked out by JFK, as suggested by the movie “Thirteen Days”. (Like the movie, the documentary struggles with the detail of how the climbdowns were executed.)
The film ended with plaintiff appeals from all that with risks of nuclear exchange elsewhere in the world today, getting rid of all nuclear weapons is the only way forward.

Less worthy was the next programme, the mistitled Lost Kennedy Home Movies. Boke provoking and sycophantic; but in parts illuminating, so just, but only just, worth watching, but dear oh dear – now I understand what “the Wedding Crashers” was trying to say; and now I understand why Nixon held such a grudge.


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