Monday, January 16, 2017

From John Kennedy's Address to the Nation, October 22, 1962*

Good evening, my fellow citizens: This Government,

as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance
of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba.
Within the past week, unmistakable evidence
has established the fact that a series of offensive missile
sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned
island. The purpose of these bases can be none other
than to provide a nuclear strike capability against
the Western Hemisphere. Upon receiving the first
preliminary hard information of this nature last
Tuesday morning at 9 A.M.,
I directed that our surveillance be stepped up.
And having now confirmed and completed our evaluation
of the evidence and our decision on a course of action,
this Government feels obliged to report
this new crisis to you in fullest detail.
The characteristics of these new missile
sites indicate two distinct types
of installations. Several of them include medium
range ballistic missiles, capable of carrying
a nuclear warhead for a distance of more than a thousand
nautical miles. Each of these missiles, in short,
is capable of striking Washington, D. C.,
the Panama Canal, Cape Canaveral, Mexico
City,or any other city in the southeastern
part of the United States, in Central America,
or in the Caribbean area. Additional sites
not yet completed appear to be designed
for intermediate range ballistic missiles –
capable of traveling more than twice as far -- and thus
capable of  striking most of the major cities
in the Western Hemisphere, ranging as far north
as Hudson Bay, Canada, and as far south
as Lima, Peru. In addition, jet bombers,
capable of carrying nuclear weapons, are now
being uncrated and assembled in Cuba, while
the necessary air bases are being prepared.
This urgent transformation of Cuba
into an important strategic base -- by the presence
of these large, long-range, and clearly offensive
weapons of sudden mass destruction – constitutes
an explicit threat to the peace and security of all
the Americas, in flagrant  defiance of the Rio Pact
of 1947, the traditions of this nation
and hemisphere, the joint resolution of the 87th Congress,
the Charter of the United Nations, and my own
public warnings to the Soviets on September fourth
and thirteenth. This action also contradicts
the repeated assurances of Soviet spokesmen, both publicly
and privately delivered, that the arms buildup
in Cuba would retain its original defensive
character, and that the Soviet Union had
no need or desire to station strategic
missiles. on the territory of any other nation.
The size of this undertaking makes clear
that it has been planned for some months.

Yet, only last month, after I
had made clear the distinction between any
introduction of ground-to-ground missiles and the existence
of defensive antiaircraft missiles, the Soviet
Government publicly stated on September eleven
that, and I quote, "the armaments and military equipment
sent to Cuba are designed exclusively for defensive
purposes," that there is, and I quote the Soviet Government,
"there is no need for the Soviet Government
to shift its weapons for a retaliatory blow to any
other country, for instance Cuba," and that,
and I quote their government, "the Soviet Union has
so powerful rockets to carry these nuclear warheads
that there is no need to search for sites
for them beyond the boundaries of the Soviet Union."
That statement was false. Only last
Thursday, as evidence of this rapid offensive buildup
was already in my hand, Soviet Foreign Minister
1Gromyko told me in my office that he was instructed
to make it clear once again, as he said his
government had already done, that Soviet assistance
to Cuba, and I quote, "pursued solely the purpose
of contributing to the defense capabilities of Cuba," that,
I quote him, "training by Soviet specialists of Cuban
Nationals in handling defensive armaments was by no
means offensive, and if it were otherwise," Mr. Gromyko
went on, "the Soviet Government would never become
involved in rendering such assistance." That
statement also was false. Neither the United
States of America nor the world community
of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive
threats on the part of any nation, large
or small. We no longer live in a world where only
the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient
challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum
peril. Nuclear weapons are so destructive
and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially
increased possibility of their use or any sudden
change in their deployment may well be regarded
as a definite threat to peace. For many years,
both the Soviet Union and the United States,
recognizing this fact, have deployed strategic nuclear
weapons with great care,never upsetting
the precarious status quo which insured that these
weapons would not be used in the absence of some
vital challenge. Our own strategic missiles
have never been transferred to the territory of any other
nation under a cloak of secrecy and deception; and our history –
unlike that of the Soviets since the end of World
War II -- demonstrates that we have no
desire to dominate or conquer any other
nation or impose our system upon
its people. Nevertheless, American citizens have become
adjusted to living daily on the bull's-eye of Soviet
missiles located inside the U.S.S.R.
or in submarines.  In that sense, missiles in Cuba
add to an already clear and present danger
although it should be noted the nations of Latin
America have never previously been subjected
to a potential nuclear threat. But this secret,
swift, extraordinary buildup of Communist missiles –
in an area well known to have a special and historical
relationship to the United States and the nations of the Western
Hemisphere, in violation of Soviet assurances, and in defiance
of American and hemispheric policy -- this sudden, clandestine

decision to station strategic weapons for the first
time outside of Soviet soil -- is a deliberately
provocative and unjustified change in the status quo
which cannot be accepted by this country,  if our courage and our commitments
are ever to be trusted again by either friend
or foe. The 1930's taught us a clear
lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go
unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war.
This nation is opposed to war. We are also
True to our word. Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be
to prevent the use of these missiles against this
or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal
or elimination from the Western Hemisphere. Our policy has been one
of patience and restraint, as befits a peaceful and powerful
nation which leads a worldwide alliance. We
have been determined not to be diverted from our central
concerns by mere irritants and fanatics.
But now further action is required,
and it is under way; and these actions
may only be the beginning. We will not
prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide
nuclear war in which even the fruits
of victory would be ashes in our mouth; but neither will
we shrink from that risk at any time
it must be faced.

Acting, therefore, in the defense
of our own security and of the entire Western Hemisphere,
and under the authority entrusted to me by the Constitution
as endorsed by the Resolution of the Congress, I have directed
that the following initial steps be taken immediately:

First: To halt this offensive buildup a strict
quarantine on all offensive military equipment
under shipment to Cuba is being initiated.
All ships of any kind bound for Cuba
from whatever nation or port will, if found
to contain cargoes of offensive weapons,
be turned back. This quarantine will
be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo
and carriers. We are not at this time, however, denying
the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted to do
in their Berlin blockade of 1948.

Second: I have directed the continued
and increased close surveillance of Cuba and its military
buildup. The foreign ministers of the OAS,
in their communiqué' of October 6,
rejected secrecy on such matters in this hemisphere.
Should these offensive military preparations
continue, thus increasing the threat to the hemisphere,
further action will be justified. I have
directed the Armed Forces to prepare for any
eventualities; and I trust that in the interest of both
the Cuban people and the Soviet technicians at the sites,
the hazards to all concerned of continuing this threat
will be recognized.

Third: It shall be
the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear
missile launched from Cuba against any
nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet
Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response
upon the Soviet Union.

Fourth: As a necessary
military precaution, I have reinforced our base at Guantanamo,
evacuated today the dependents of our personnel there,
and ordered additional military units to be
on a standby alert basis.

Fifth: We are calling
tonight for an immediate meeting of the Organ of Consultation
under the Organization of American States, to consider this threat
to hemispheric security and to invoke articles six
and eight of the Rio Treaty in support of all
necessary action. The United Nations Charter
allows for regional security arrangements, and the nations
of this hemisphere decided long ago
against the military presence of outside powers.
Our other allies around the world have also
been alerted.

Sixth: Under the Charter of the United
Nations, we are asking tonight that an emergency meeting
of the Security Council be convoked without
delay to take action against this latest
Soviet threat to world peace. Our resolution
will call for the prompt dismantling and withdrawal of all
offensive weapons in Cuba, under the supervision
of U.N. observers, before the quarantine
can be lifted.

Seventh and finally: I call upon Chairman
Khrushchev to halt and eliminate this clandestine,
reckless, and provocative threat to world peace
and to stable relations between our two nations.
I call upon him further to abandon this course
of world domination, and to join in an historic effort
to end the perilous arms race and to transform the history of man.
He has an opportunity now to move the world
back from the abyss of destruction by returning to his government's
own words that it had no need to station
missiles outside its own territory, and withdrawing
these weapons from Cuba by refraining from any action
which will widen or deepen the present crisis, and then
by participating  in a search for peaceful and permanent solutions.

This nation is prepared to present its case
against the Soviet threat to peace, and our own
proposals for a peaceful world, at any time
and in any forum – in the OAS, in the United
Nations, or in any other meeting that could be useful –
without limiting our freedom of action. We have
in the past made strenuous efforts to limit the spread
of nuclear weapons. We have proposed the elimination
of all arms and military bases in a fair
and effective disarmament treaty. We are prepared to discuss
new proposals for the removal of tensions on both sides,
including the possibilities of a genuinely independent Cuba,
free to determine its own destiny. We have
no wish to war with the Soviet Union -- for we
are a peaceful people who desire to live in peace
with all other peoples. But it is difficult
to settle or even discuss these problems in an atmosphere
of intimidation. That is why this latest Soviet
threat -- or any other threat  which is made
either independently or in response to our actions
this week—must and will be met with determination.
Any hostile move anywhere in the world
against the safety and freedom of peoples to whom
we are committed, including in particular the brave people
of West Berlin, will be met by whatever action
is needed.

Finally, I want to say a few
words to the captive people of Cuba, to whom
this speech is being directly carried by special
radio facilities. I speak to you as a friend,
as one who knows of your deep attachment to your fatherland,
as one who shares your aspirations for liberty
and justice for all. And I have watched and the American
people have watched with deep sorrow how
your nationalist revolution was betrayed -- and how your
fatherland fell under foreign domination. Now
your leaders are no longer Cuban leaders inspired
by Cuban ideals. They are puppets and agents
of an international conspiracy which has turned Cuba
against your friends and neighbors in the Americas, and turned
it into the first Latin American country
to become a target for nuclear war -- the first
Latin American country to have these weapons
on its soil. These new weapons are not in your interest.
They contribute nothing to your peace and well-being.
They can only undermine it. But this country has
no wish to cause you to suffer or to impose any system
upon you. We know that your lives and land are being
used as pawns by those who deny your freedom.
Many times in the past, the Cuban people
have risen to throw out tyrants who destroyed their liberty.
And I have no doubt that most Cubans
today look forward to the time when they will be truly
free – free from foreign domination, free
to choose their own leaders, free to select
their own system, free to own their own
land, free to speak and write and worship
without fear or degradation. And then shall Cuba be welcomed
back to the society of free nations and to the associations
of this hemisphere.

My fellow citizens, let no one
doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort
on which we have set out. No one can foresee
precisely what course it will take or what costs
or casualties will be incurred. Many months
of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead –
months in which both our patience and our will
will be tested, months in which many threats
and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest
danger of all would be to do nothing.
The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards,
as all paths are; but it is the one most consistent
with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around
the world. The cost of freedom is always high,
but Americans have always paid it. And one path
we shall never choose, and that is the path
of surrender or submission. Our goal is not the victory
of might, but the vindication of right; not peace at the expense
of freedom, but both peace and freedom,
here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around
the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.
Thank you and good night.

*This is a versification of the actual text of the address with, I hope, only minor errors. This is an example of presidential discourse in an era when facts were assumed to exist.

No comments:

Post a Comment