The Charlotte News

Tuesday, October 26, 1937


Site Ed. Note:

You can work it out by Fractions or by simple Rule of Three
But the way of Tweedle-dum is not the way of Tweedle-dee.
You can twist it, you can turn it, you can plait it till you drop,
But the way of Pilly-Winky's not the way of Winkie-Pop!

…At the two-yard peg she faced round, and said, "A pawn goes two squares in its first move, you know. So you'll go VERY quickly through the Third Square--by railway, I should think--and you'll find yourself in the Fourth Square in no time. Well, THAT square belongs to Tweedledum and Tweedledee--the Fifth is mostly water--the Sixth belongs to Humpty Dumpty--But you make no remark?’

‘I--I didn't know I had to make one--just then,’ Alice faltered out.

'You SHOULD have said, "It's extremely kind of you to tell me all this"--however, we'll suppose it said--the Seventh Square is all forest--however, one of the Knights will show you the way--and in the Eighth Square we shall be Queens together, and it's all feasting and fun!' Alice got up and curtseyed, and sat down again.

At the next peg the Queen turned again, and this time she said, 'Speak in French when you can't think of the English for a thing--turn out your toes as you walk--and remember who you are!' She did not wait for Alice to curtsey this time, but walked on quickly to the next peg, where she turned for a moment to say 'good-bye,' and then hurried on to the last.

How it happened, Alice never knew, but exactly as she came to the last peg, she was gone. Whether she vanished into the air, or whether she ran quickly into the wood ('and she CAN run very fast!' thought Alice), there was no way of guessing, but she was gone, and Alice began to remember that she was a Pawn, and that it would soon be time for her to move…

…But this did not seem likely to happen. She went on and on, a long way, but wherever the road divided there were sure to be two finger-posts pointing the same way, one marked 'TO TWEEDLEDUM'S HOUSE' and the other 'TO THE HOUSE OF TWEEDLEDEE.'

'I do believe,' said Alice at last, 'that they live in the same house! I wonder I never thought of that before--But I can't stay there long. I'll just call and say "how d'you do?" and ask them the way out of the wood. If I could only get to the Eighth Square before it gets dark!' So she wandered on, talking to herself as she went, till, on turning a sharp corner, she came upon two fat little men, so suddenly that she could not help starting back, but in another moment she recovered herself, feeling sure that they must be.

At the morning meeting of EXCOMM, several matters were discussed. John McCone indicated he had stood down a CIA unilateral operation to place fifty people on Cuba by submarine, as it was inappropriate for CIA to undertake such an action on its own. The President agreed with this action and ordered the matter be studied further. He suggested that Operation Mongoose, (that special operation aimed at the overthrow of Fidel Castro), be reconstituted as a subcommittee of EXCOMM and that its aims be modified to study only post-Castro issues.

Here, while unexpressed, the President appeared to be anticipating that the negotiations to get rid of the missiles would entail a non-invasion pledge, or that an invasion would become necessary anyway if diplomacy failed to work out an acceptable agreement; and thus his knowledge of the objectives of Mongoose meant that its present goal under its Phase II, in which an invasion after deliberate provocation was recommended, either was moot or would need to be scrubbed permanently.

Secretary McNamara gave a report on the first ship boarded on the quarantine line, a Lebanese ship, the Marucla, which had been loaded in a Soviet port. The ship had been searched in the early morning, no offending cargo discovered, and so allowed to pass. (The boarding of the ship was accomplished from the destroyers Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. and Pierce.) There would be no further intercepts of any ships this date, as none were approaching the line; the Graznyy was now moving again but was nowhere near the line.

A decision on whether to embargo fuel was delayed pending the outcome of talks at the U. N.

The President ordered that daylight low-level reconnaissance was to continue, but the nighttime flights with flares dropped over IRBM sites, as requested by McNamara, would not yet proceed until the outcome of the talks. Leaflets, including aerial photographs of the missile sites, would be dropped by air on Cuba.

Secretary Rusk praised the performance of Ambassador Stevenson at the U. N. the previous day.

Rusk indicated that the talks at the U. N. would be aimed at getting an agreement whereby the missile sites would be dismantled under U. N. observation, the Soviets would not import further offensive weapons, and the quarantine would remain until the U. N. could begin monitoring Soviet sea and air traffic into Cuba.

There was further discussion of the merits and demerits of establishing a nuclear-free zone in Latin America in exchange for removal of the missiles. Rusk indicated there would likely need be an exception for the Panama Canal Zone where we stored missiles during shipment overseas, as well as in Puerto Rico. General Taylor said that the Joint Chiefs had no hard position on the matter, but there was concern that it would cause a defense problem in Panama and with our submarine defense program, and would divert attention from the real issue, the Soviet missiles.

Rusk indicated, in response to inquiry by the President, that we were committed not to invade Cuba, to align with a proposal by Brazil that such assurances be provided multilaterally in exchange for the nuclear-free zone in Latin America. Rusk pointed to our agreement under the 1945 U. N. Charter and the 1947 Rio Treaty which bound us to this promise of non-invasion, except under circumstances of self-defense where there was direct threat of military action.

The President insisted that, while negotiations were ongoing at the U. N., all work on the missile sites must cease, with daily verification of that fact.

Ambassador Stevenson indicated that an initial period of 24-48 hours would be desirable to allow the talks to begin, and if some reasonable agreement appeared workable, a longer period following that initial period, during which no construction on the sites would continue. It would be impossible, however, he added, to verify during the talks whether the missiles in place were still operational. He believed that the Soviets would demand in exchange for removal of the missiles a pledge not to invade Cuba and removal of our missiles in Turkey.

The President stated his belief that there were only two avenues by which the missiles could be removed: invasion or trade. Quarantine alone would not suffice.

The President indicated, after listening around the conference table to opinions, that there appeared little support for Ambassador Stevenson’s plan of longer talks beyond the initial period of 24-48 hours, as it would be difficult to obtain pre-talk conditions, and, further, if negotiations were to break down in New York over the longer period, then we would have fewer options than at present regarding invasion, the invasion becoming more difficult daily as work continued on the sites, with the potential for loss of life becoming commensurately greater in the event of invasion.

During the day, John Scali, a reporter for ABC News, sent a message indicating he had been approached by a Soviet Embassy emissary, Aleksander Fromin, with a proposal that if the U.S. were to agree not to invade Cuba, then the Soviets were prepared to remove the missiles.

Also, a long seven-page letter from Premier Khrushchev arrived, indicating his willingness to agree to the proposed talks with U Thant at the U. N. to try to structure a deal. He appeared willing to agree, describing the conditions as "reasonable", that during talks there would be no transport of arms into Cuba and no "piratical" action within the quarantine area by the United States. If the United States agreed not to invade Cuba, then the question of all arms in Cuba would "appear different". While stopping short of a formal quid pro quo, this letter, combined with the Fromin "back-channel" offer, provided hopeful indications that the Crisis was easing.

The President had no intention of invading Cuba anyway, unless Cuba posed a direct threat militarily to the United States or to our allies. Thus, such a deal appeared acceptable.

In the evening, after receipt of this news, President Kennedy had a trunk call with Prime Minister Macmillan of Great Britain. In it, he laid forth the good news that the pressure on the quarantine was relaxed, that there were no Soviet ships approaching the line, and that the Soviets had agreed tentatively to talks conducted by U Thant at the U. N., during which time there would be no further shipping in the quarantine area. He also indicated that there appeared to be an agreement available by which the missiles would be removed from Cuba in exchange for an agreement not to invade Cuba at any time in the future. This proposal appeared to the United States generally acceptable, but it was still informal and not yet clear whether it was a definite proposal; further word on that probably would come by the following day. But, while these talks proceeded at the U. N., as Macmillan insisted, there would need to be assurances provided that all work on the missile sites cease and that the missiles now operational would be stood down. Kennedy agreed. There was also, the President told the Prime Minister, a possibility that the missiles would be removed only in exchange for removal of U. S. missiles in Turkey and possibly Greece. Macmillan interjected that Great Britain would be willing to give up its 60 missiles also in any such exchange arrangement, and the President indicated he would keep that in mind during negotiations if it were a necessary bargaining tool.

The President, in this conversation, sounded relaxed, even cheerful, as it was clearly a day, with the quarantine stress having subsided, and a deal appearing imminent, that the Crisis appeared passing as ships in the night, without volley over the bows.

But, what appeared in the night to be gifts of peace, showed by morning light instead as having been a Trojan Horse. Another letter was received from the Kremlin with an added condition regarding removal of the missiles in Turkey. This condition, the second letter insisted, was to be made part of the U. N. negotiations; it would therefore now become problematic. While there had already been discussion of this possibility since nearly the beginning of the Crisis the previous week, this demand was added to the original letter, and the question thus naturally arose as to whether yet further conditions might be added, now or later, namely having to do with Berlin. Andrei Gromyko had been quoted in the press from Berlin just the previous day as demanding all Western troops leave the city, in which event it could be quickly overrun by Soviet troops. Renewed tensions thus would arise on Saturday morning as the Crisis proceeded into its twelfth day.

Among some of the more rhetorical passages from Khrushchev’s first letter of October 26 were the following:

You are a military man and, I hope, will understand me. Let us take for example a simple cannon. What sort of means is this: offensive or defensive? A cannon is a defensive means if it is set up to defend boundaries or a fortified area. But if one concentrates artillery, and adds to it the necessary number of troops, then the same cannons do become an offensive means, because they prepare and clear the way for infantry to attack. The same happens with missile-nuclear weapons as well, with any type of this weapon.

… Without people, any means however powerful cannot be offensive.

…We, however, want to live and do not at all want to destroy your country. We want something quite different: To compete with your country on a peaceful basis. We quarrel with you, we have differences on ideological questions. But our view of the world consists in this, that ideological questions, as well as economic problems, should be solved not by military means, they must be solved on the basis of peaceful competition, i.e., as this is understood in capitalist society, on the basis of competition.

…You have now proclaimed piratical measures, which were employed in the Middle Ages, when ships proceeding in international waters were attacked, and you have called this "a quarantine" around Cuba. Our vessels, apparently, will soon enter the zone which your Navy is patrolling. I assure you that these vessels, now bound for Cuba, are carrying the most innocent peaceful cargoes. Do you really think that we only occupy ourselves with the carriage of so-called offensive weapons, atomic and hydrogen bombs? Although perhaps your military people imagine that these (cargoes) are some sort of special type of weapon, I assure you that they are the most ordinary peaceful products.

…I assure you that on those ships, which are bound for Cuba, there are no weapons at all. The weapons which were necessary for the defense of Cuba are already there. I do not want to say that there were not any shipments of weapons at all. No, there were such shipments. But now Cuba has already received the necessary means of defense.

…If you stop the vessels, then, as you yourself know, that would be piracy. If we started to do that with regard to your ships, then you would also be as indignant as we and the whole world now are…

Then he finally got to the heart of the letter’s proposals:

Let us normalize relations. We have received an appeal from the Acting Secretary General of the UN, U Thant, with his proposals. I have already answered him. His proposals come to this, that our side should not transport armaments of any kind to Cuba during a certain period of time, while negotiations are being conducted--and we are ready to enter such negotiations--and the other side should not undertake any sort of piratical actions against vessels engaged in navigation on the high seas. I consider these proposals reasonable. This would be a way out of the situation which has been created, which would give the peoples the possibility of breathing calmly. You have asked what happened, what evoked the delivery of weapons to Cuba? You have spoken about this to our Minister of Foreign Affairs. I will tell you frankly, Mr. President, what evoked it.

We were very grieved by the fact--I spoke about it in Vienna--that a landing took place, that an attack on Cuba was committed, as a result of which many Cubans perished. You yourself told me then that this had been a mistake. I respected that explanation. You repeated it to me several times, pointing out that not everybody occupying a high position would acknowledge his mistakes as you had done. I value such frankness. For my part, I told you that we too possess no less courage; we also acknowledged those mistakes which had been committed during the history of our state, and not only acknowledged, but sharply condemned them.

… If assurances were given by the President and the Government of the United States that the USA itself would not participate in an attack on Cuba and would restrain others from actions of this sort, if you would recall your fleet, this would immediately change everything. I am not speaking for Fidel Castro, but I think that he and the Government of Cuba, evidently, would declare demobilization and would appeal to the people to get down to peaceful labor. Then, too, the question of armaments would disappear, since, if there is no threat, then armaments are a burden for every people. Then too, the question of the destruction, not only of the armaments which you call offensive, but of all other armaments as well, would look different.

…Let us therefore show statesmanlike wisdom. I propose: We, for our part, will declare that our ships, bound for Cuba, will not carry any kind of armaments. You would declare that the United States will not invade Cuba with its forces and will not support any sort of forces which might intend to carry out an invasion of Cuba. Then the necessity for the presence of our military specialists in Cuba would disappear.

The letter then concluded with more ominous sounding language, utilizing the rope metaphor to describe the potential for dire consequences should the United States refuse the proposal and continue with the quarantine:

…If, however, you have not lost your self-control and sensibly conceive what this might lead to, then, Mr. President, we and you ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war, because the more the two of us pull, the tighter that knot will be tied. And a moment may come when that knot will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the strength to untie it, and then it will be necessary to cut that knot, and what that would mean is not for me to explain to you, because you yourself understand perfectly of what terrible forces our countries dispose.

Consequently, if there is no intention to tighten that knot and thereby to doom the world to the catastrophe of thermonuclear war, then let us not only relax the forces pulling on the ends of the rope, let us take measures to untie that knot. We are ready for this.

We welcome all forces which stand on positions of peace. Consequently, I expressed gratitude to Mr. Bertrand Russell, too, who manifests alarm and concern for the fate of the world, and I readily responded to the appeal of the Acting Secretary General of the UN, U Thant…

The second letter, received on Saturday morning, stated the additional demand regarding removal of missiles in Turkey and that this condition be made a part of an agreement entered under the aegis of the United Nations:

I therefore make this proposal: We are willing to remove from Cuba the means which you regard as offensive. We are willing to carry this out and to make this pledge in the United Nations. Your representatives will make a declaration to the effect that the United States, for its part, considering the uneasiness and anxiety of the Soviet State, will remove its analogous means from Turkey. Let us reach agreement as to the period of time needed by you and by us to bring this about. And, after that, persons entrusted by the United Nations Security Council could inspect on the spot the fulfillment of the pledges made. Of course, the permission of the Governments of Cuba and Turkey is necessary for the entry into those countries of these representatives and for the inspection of the fulfillment of the pledge made by each side. Of course it would be best if these representatives enjoyed the confidence of the Security Council as well as yours and mine--both the United States and the Soviet Union--and also that of Turkey and Cuba. I do not think it would be difficult to select people who would enjoy the trust and respect of all parties concerned.

We, in making this pledge, in order to give satisfaction and hope of the peoples of Cuba and Turkey and to strengthen their confidences in their security, will make a statement within the framework of the Security Council to the effect that the Soviet Government gives a solemn promise to respect the inviolability of the borders and sovereignty of Turkey, not to interfere in its internal affairs, not to invade Turkey, not to make available our territory as a bridgehead for such an invasion, and that it would also restrain those who contemplate committing aggression against Turkey, either from the territory of the Soviet Union or from the territory of Turkey's other neighboring states.

The United States Government will make a similar statement within the framework of the Security Council regarding Cuba. It will declare that the United States will respect the inviolability of Cuba's borders and its sovereignty, will pledge not to interfere in its internal affairs, not to invade Cuba itself or make its territory available as a bridgehead for such an invasion, and will also restrain those who might contemplate committing aggression against Cuba, either from the territory of the United States or from the territory of Cuba's other neighboring states.

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro sent a letter to Nikita Khrushchev on October 26, first indicating his belief that either an air strike on the missile sites, or, of lesser probability, an invasion, was likely within 24-72 hours.

The letter contained this apocalyptic passage, which decades later Castro would assure he was prepared to carry into action in the event of invasion, that course which the Joint Chiefs strongly had favored during the initial pre-public stages of the crisis the previous week:

…[I]f they [the American "imperialists"] manage to carry out an invasion of Cuba--a brutal act in violation of universal and moral law--then that would be the moment to eliminate this danger forever, in an act of the most legitimate self-defense. However harsh and terrible the solution, there would be no other.

Thus, it is a fair conclusion that had President Kennedy listened to the assertions of the Joint Chiefs and accepted them on face, as he had essentially in the Bay of Pigs invasion in April, 1961, and signed the invasion order, then most of us, if not all, would never have been able to discern what hit us or why.

It would have come in the dead of night and there would have been no tomorrow. And the entire world, including the island of Cuba, would, over time and the drift of radiation by air and sea, have become a ruined, poisonous place, unfit for human habitation.

The President had learned his lesson after the Bay of Pigs, to listen to all of the advice available, and then to his own good judgment, before rendering a decision which could affect life on earth for the rest of time.

For now, this night, Friday, October 26, 1962, all seemed to be going well, better than at any other time by far since the beginning on October 16. Yet, still there remained the central problem: there were about 50 missiles, some operational, the rest proceeding steadily toward becoming operational, aimed at the United States from 90 miles away, missiles which took five minutes from launch to arrive.

Portions of the newspaper coverage of the date's events are here.

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