Tuesday September 23, 2008
The Big Red Dog is Wanted Dead or Alive
Two days later, for the same article, I watched Thirteen Days, the 2000 account of the Cuban Missile Crisis starring Kevin Costner as Kenny O'Donnell, JFK's special assistant, and Bruce Greenwood in an understated and suggestive turn as our first telegenic president. (I should add that, for all the faults of the film, Timothy Bottoms did a fine job as Bush in DC 9/11.)
So it's early in the crisis and the joint chiefs are recommending bombing Cuba back to the stone age. Even former Secretary of State Dean Acheson is recommending same with a foreknowledge of consquences that is truly frightening: We warn, we strike, they strike back in Berlin, NATO kicks in. “Hopefully,” he says, “cooler heads prevail.” On the third day, General Curtis Le May gets into the act with this rationale:
“The big red dog is diggin' in our backyard and we are justified in shooting him...”
Afterwards, JFK and his advisors, who are looking for the alternative, which, of course, turns out to be the quarantine or blockade of Cuba, joke about the general's language — the reduction to homey metaphor of an act that might end the world — and I realized, for the zillionth time, that for the last eight years we've had the General Le Mays not only running things but giving rationales for our actions: “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” etc. We've had no real leadership. We've had no one demanding more evidence and looking for alternatives. We've had no cooler heads. We've rushed in where angels fear to tread. Hell, the General Le Mays of the Bush administration have been the cooler heads.
So, as bad as things are, and they're pretty bad, thank God we didn't have Bush and his team in place in October 1962.