In Part 6, JFK: To the Brink, Oliver Stone Sheds New Light on Cuban Missile Crisis
“Before closing my eyes, and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngo Dinh Diem to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organise in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism.” Thich Quang Duc June 11, 1963 Last words before self-immolation in Saigon.
The images and charged text are dense and rich in Oliver Stone’s Untold History Part 6, JFK: To the Brink, and thus require multiple viewings. I’m well studied in this period (1960-1963), but had to view episode 6 three times and take some notes, as Stone synthesizes and re-interprets some of the highly complex issues of John Kennedy’s short presidency. By the summer of 1963, JFK’s thinking had changed, he was a man reborn, and sought detente with the Soviet Union with a new-found sincerity and a commitment to peace.
I was surprised by how many new things I learned, and thought to myself, ‘Oliver must have been digging hard through some archives’ to come up with an original take on such thoroughly examined topics as The Cuban Missile Crisis, our growing commitment to Vietnam, the creation of the Berlin Wall, and even a newly emerging legacy of Nikita Khruschev. This makes me want to read Khruschev Remembers, his memoirs written after he was ousted from power.
As far as Cuba goes, I have heard of Operation Mongoose, headed up by Edward Lansdale, but have never encountered Operation Ortsac, which looks like it was a rehearsal for an invasion of Cuba. An invasion of Cuba (a second Bay of Pigs) was cited as one of the reasons why Khruschev decided to deploy nuclear warheads to the island of Cuba. Actually, and this is something new to me, Stone points out several times (during episode 6), that 5,000 deliverable Soviet bombs were already in place in Cuba during late October of 1963.
Had the US invaded Cuba, a devastating nuclear war would have begun immediately! And also pointed out, was the reality that relations between JFK and the Pentagon were highly tense, if not completely hostile, with war nut Curtis Le May heading the pack of wolves.
Kennedy worked more effectively with his brother Bobby and even with Nikita to iron out a deal, behind closed doors, I might add. Removing the Jupiter missiles from Turkey is the basis for saving the world, actually. Moreover, the miraculous, peaceful agreement forged by the two leaders of the Communist East and the Democratic West guaranteed their own demise.
That is, there’s a cause and effect (as Stone describes it) between a viable reconciliation of The Cuban Missile Crisis and the (perceived as necessary) ousting of Nikita Khruschev from power, and then the tragic assassination of JFK in Dallas (another manifestation of brutal retaliation), really just a little over a year after the denouement of the Missile Crisis, which nearly resulted in a nuclear war.
Some fighting did take place, which I just learned of last night. I’ll buy this connection; the vituperative full page ad published in The Dallas Morning News (11/22/1963) references (what’s perceived by the Far Right as) JFK’s traitorous appeasement of the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis. What comes after JFK was a nightmarish return to the darker days of Cold War blunders and the miscalculations of Domino Theory logic. In one word, it’s: VIETNAM!