The President has access to the nuclear launch codes and the power of life and death over the Earth. Would you trust Mitt Romney with that power?
I was born in 1948 just two years after the United States became the first, and to date only nation, to drop the atomic bomb in anger. The nuclear genie was loose on Earth and the Cold War was just getting started. During the duck and cover and back-yard fallout shelter era, the monthly test of the air raid warning siren reminded us of how perilous existence was. The shadow of Armageddon may seem less real, less immediate, now. Even so we trust the President of the United States with keys to the underworld, the power of life and death over the entire world.
On October 14, 1960 a U-2 reconnaissance plane photographed new missile sites being constructed in Cuba. Three days later some were verified as SS-5 Intermediate Range Ballistic (nuclear) Missiles with the capacity to destroy Washington DC and most of the eastern seaboard with 15 minutes or less of warning. We were in grave danger and the famous 3AM phone call from the 2008 Democratic Primary ad would have been irrelevant. By the time the call had been made no one would have been left to answer.
There was no outburst of hysteria. The administration, we later learned that Bobby Kennedy actually took the point, worked the problem militarily and diplomatically for a full week before it went public and after there was a plan with assets were in place. Then on October 22 we learned that our nation was a blink away from WWIII when President Kennedy explained the Cuban Missile Crisis to us on national television. That night U.S. Military forces went to DEFCON 3, one step below all out war, the first and only time this has ever been acknowledged. (Although it has said to have happened on 9-11.)
An hour after the television speech the President signed an order interdicting military weapons from Cuba with the stated purpose to stop and search Soviet ships in route to Cuba we suspected were carrying additional missiles. We would take all appropriate actions to stop any further delivery. We were prepared to sink Soviet ships if necessary.
Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev replied that he would consider a blockade, which we called a quarantine, an act of war. President Kennedy continued under pressure to bomb the launch sites before they became operational. Fidel Castro wrote an open letter encouraging Russia to “attack” the US if we bombed Cuba. We understood this as a call for an all out nuclear attack.
On October 24 Soviet ships carrying questionable cargo began to slow down or reverse course except for two, a Lebanese freighter and a tanker. It was a mixed signal. We held our breath as the ships closed with our Navy. Were the Soviets that stupid or stubborn? Was this the “big one?”
To our amazement and our Navies' embarrassment their tanker ran the blockade and escaped. We let it go because it wasn't likely to be carrying weapons but it showed that they were willing to test our resolve. It also showed a potential weakness on our part that they might try to exploit and put even more pressure on the President to “act decisively.” Then came the freighter. We held our breath and waited.
Impending doom was punctuated by repeated window rattling sonic booms as our jets disbursed taking up defensive and offensive positions. (The regulation prohibiting sonic booms was relaxed during the emergency.) We ducked and covered and yes we prayed that our leaders would find a way to bring us through the crisis.
Nuclear Armageddon was one misstep, one misspoken word, one inadvertent action away. The US and the USSR controlled approximately 35,000 thermonuclear devises. It was said that we could destroy life on Earth 6 times over. It was said that we could crack the Earth which was probably an exaggeration but we didn't know.
There is more to the story but in the end the freighter turned out not to be carrying weapons and was let through. The Soviets blinked. An agreement was reached for the Cuban missiles to be withdrawn in return for our withdrawing our own Jupiter missiles in Turkey which we later learned had been the precipitating cause. The USSR had protested our missiles and in part their Cuban missiles were a tit-for-tat response. The bottom line is that by a measured response and cool negotiation the problem was solved. On October 28 Khruschev announced that their missiles would be withdrawn. We were told that the our “outdated” Jupiter missiles were also being withdrawn.
We dodged the bullet. Diplomacy prevailed. Face was saved. The world was saved. Al Gore "created the Internet". Markos created Daily Kos and here we are, but in a another plane of the mulitiverse an unstable bully shot first and, along with the rest of us, had only had 15 minutes left to think. On that Earth, in that plane, rats and roaches rule because I've read that they are very radiation resistant.
The United States currently has an arsenal of 5,113 nuclear warheads; more than enough to destroy the world. The President has the launch codes and authority to use them. Do you trust Mitt Romney, a demonstrability unstable person lost to reality, who still thinks Russia is our biggest enemy; a man with the hubris to shoot off his mouth for political gain without the facts even as our nation is under fire, with the power to destroy the world? Really?