At this time which marks the 51st anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, let’s reflect on some of the things he said. The following are either direct quotes, or are quotes reportedly said by reputable sources that were there when he said them. They are all quotes from the play Project Unspeakable. The annotated version of the script (available on request) has the citations for each quote. (They may be collapsed, shortened or slightly re-arranged.)
One summer weekend in 1962, while out sailing with friends, Kennedy was asked what he thought of Seven Days in May, a best-selling novel that described a military take-over in the United States. He said: “It’s possible. It could happen in this country, but the conditions would have to be just right. If, for example, the country had a young President, and he had a Bay of Pigs, there would be a certain uneasiness. Maybe the military would do a little criticizing behind his back, but this would be written off as the usual military dissatisfaction with civilian control. Then if there were another Bay of Pigs, the reaction of the country would be, “is he too young and inexperienced?” The military would almost feel that it was their patriotic obligation to stand ready to preserve the integrity of the nation. Then, if there were a third Bay of Pigs, it could happen. But it won’t happen on my watch”.
During the first (actual) Bay of Pigs, a CIA-planned attack on Cuba that Kennedy inherited when he became President, he said, “We’re not going to plunge into an irresponsible action just because a fanatical fringe in this country puts so-called national pride above national reason”.
And following the Bay of Pigs, “I want to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds”.
So, there’s one Bay of Pigs. JFK had initiated a secret dialogue with Nikita Khrushchev, the Premier of the Soviet Union, with whom the U.S. was fighting the Cold War. This correspondence must be kept wholly private, not to be hinted at in public statements, much less disclosed to the press, to give us a chance to address each other in frank, realistic and fundamental terms. I like very much your analogy of Noah’s Ark. Therefore, I am trying to penetrate our ideological differences in order to find some bridge across the gulf on which we could bring our minds together and find some way in which to protect the peace of the world.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union had a very dangerous nuclear face-off, JFK’s brother and Attorney General, Robert, approached the Soviets saying, “The President is in a grave situation. We are under very severe stress. We are under pressure from our military to use force against Cuba. That is why the President is appealing directly to Chairman Khrushchev for his help in liquidating this conflict. If the situation continues much longer, the President is not sure that the military will not overthrow him and seize power.”
Is JFK’s response to the Cuban Missile Crisis not a second Bay of Pigs?
Then, on June 10, 1963, at a commencement address at American University, Kennedy publicly challenged the very underpinnings of the Cold War.
“I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn. We are devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combat ignorance, poverty, and disease. Let us not be blind to our differences – but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved.”
Those not yet convinced that JFK had indeed committed this so-called “third” Bay of Pigs, consider this:
“We can’t embrace every tinhorn dictator who tells us he’s anti-Communist while he’s sitting on the necks of his own people. And the United States government is not the representative of private business. Do you know in Chile the American copper companies control about 80% of all the foreign exchange? We wouldn’t stand for that here. And there’s no reason they should stand for it. There’s a revolution going on down there, and I want to be on right side of it. Hell, we are on the right side. But we have to let them know it, that things have changed”.
On this anniversary of his assassination, let’s consider one other quote:
“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie –deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”