Thirteen Days (2000 – PG13) Drama. President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) deals with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. Ken O’Donnell: Kevin Costner. Robert Kennedy: Steven Culp. Robert McNamara: Dylan Baker. Adlai Stevenson: Michael Fairman. Dean Rusk: Henry Strozier. — TV Guide June 19 2004. Aired KPIX channel 5 (CBS), 8:00PM PDT.
We caught this TV dramatization of the Cuban Crisis last week after dinner. While it may never bump “60 Minutes” for top spot, I found the historical backdrop consistent my own recollection of those events, and not propagandized to either glorify or grind an axe against a sitting president, administration, party or policy.
I was a 19-year old enlisted man attached to a U.S. Army HAWK missile battalion when we were suddenly deployed to the beaches of Key West to set up antiaircraft defenses against Castro and the Soviets. My own understanding of the events compelling this action were shaped as much by newspaper and television coverage as anyone else’s, but the sense of immediacy and urgency from participating was very much first-hand.
So I was captivated by the dramatization which showed how Kennedy and the White House team faced down not only Khrushchev and the Kremlin, but (to some extent) the archetype crazies on our own home front – both the Dr. Strangelove types and the hand-wringing appeasers. General Curtis LeMay was quite scary, and demonstrated once again that the purely military solution is so often dangerous and short-sighted. There is no doubt our world was on the brink of thermonuclear war.
One could not help think, “Ah, but Cuba is not Iraq”, and so it isn’t. President John F. Kennedy consummately faced down a clear and immediate threat that was within days of being able to launch a five-minute thermonuclear attack upon most parts of the lower 48 states. While firmly guiding the generals to a strong but measured and monitored military counteroffensive, Kennedy also presented overwhelming evidence and documentation of the Soviet missile presence in Cuba to the world, the United Nations, the American people and all of its elected representatives.
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