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Monday, December 10, 2007

Dana Perino and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Over forty years ago, a stand-off between the world's two superpowers over Soviet nuclear missile bases on the island of Cuba threatened to plunge the world into a nuclear war.
When one does not learn history and learn the valuable lessons that history has to teach, it is quite likely that history will repeat itself.

When Tony Snow left the position of White House Press Secretary, Snow was 52 and he was replaced with Dana Perino, age 35. At the time she made a statement saying "He leaves very big shoes to fill, and I'm only a size 6."

It was more than shoe size, it was age and experience and knowledge that made those shoes difficult to fill.

One such example has been shown in recent reports showing that Dana Perino admitted she didn't know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was, and although she is smart, savvy and knowledgeable about many topics, history, especially nuclear missile history does not seem to be one of them.

At the time Ms. Perino replaced Snow, some had asked if she had the experience to do so, that question is highlighted with this latest report.

Dana Perino was born in May of 1972, a decade after the Cuban Missile crisis, and even though age should not be a factor in qualifications for the job of White House Press Secretary, knowledge of our history should be.

Especially a time that terrified millions of citizens of this country for fear that any day might be their last day on earth, which is how many descriptions of those days have been reported by those that lived through it.

Soviet General and Army Chief of Operations, Anatoly Gribkov- "Nuclear catastrophe was hanging by a thread ... and we weren't counting days or hours, but minutes."

The Cuban Missile crisis was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. The United States armed forces were at their highest state of readiness ever and Soviet field commanders in Cuba were prepared to use battlefield nuclear weapons to defend the island if it was invaded. Luckily, thanks to two men, President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev, war was averted.

In 1962, the Soviet Union was behind the United States in the arms race. Soviet missiles were not powerful enough to be launched against the U.s. but U.S. missiles were capable of striking the entire Soviet Union.

In late April 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev thought of a plan to place intermediate-range missiles in Cuba. Deployment in Cuba would double the Soviet strategic arsenal and provide a deterrent to another U.S. attack against the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro was looking for a way to defend his island from an attack by the U.S. Since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, Castro felt a second attack was inevitable.

Castro approved of Khrushchev's plan to place missiles on the island. In the summer of 1962 the Soviet Union worked quickly and secretly to build its missile installations in Cuba.

The United states became concerned on October 15, 1962, when reconnaissance photos showed Soviet missiles under construction in Cuba.

Kennedy then imposed a naval quarantine around Cuba and on October 22, 1962, he announced to the American public the discovery of the missile installations.

Tensions built on both sides, letters were sent between the leaders, and the U.S. guaranteed not to invade Cuba, and two weeks after Kennedy had learned of the Russian missile installations in Cuba, tensions finally began to ease and Khrushchev announced that he would dismantle the installations and return the missiles to the Soviet Union, expressing his trust that the United States would not invade Cuba.

Those two weeks saw the American public terrified to the point of building bomb shelters, having school drills to teach children to hide under their desks should a nuclear bomb drop, Civil Defense started stocking any basements in buildings that had them, with canned foods, water, and medical supplies adequate for about 2-weeks of "survival."

The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest we ever came to nuclear war and is not just a random piece of history and it something that everyone should learn about, especially someone that holds the position of White House Press Secretary.

There is no doubt that Ms. Perino is doing some studying of history right about now, as well she should, especially with tensions rising with Russia, present day, and the fact that she is the public face of the White House.

Personally, I like Dana Perino and we all make mistakes but this one was a real "make me cringe moment".