The First 9-11

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

George Santayana.

I know that I continue to be amazed at the hidden benefits of surviving so many years. I watched the televised debates between the Democratic and Republican candidates for President last evening. The moderator asked “what was the lesson of the Iraq War?”.

Both answered. I drifted into a quiet corner of my mind and found myself curled beneath a desk, practicing for the moment that the evil enemy dropped a bomb.

This is truly a memory for those of us that grew up during the “cold war”.  Oh, the Yankee’s were surely winning the pennant every year and each fall we were instructed to say an extra prayer for our boys at Notre Dame, but we lived in the shadow of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our fathers and uncles had returned from WWII. The horror of the impending A Bomb dropping here in DC was part of every day.

Some folks resorted to digging up their back yards and installing personal bomb shelters. Stories abounded in local papers about the new way to protect your loved ones.


Then came “Camelot” and dashing young President Kennedy. He challenged us to take part in the new era for America. He dared to dream of putting a man on the moon. He filled our heart with hope. The fears of the fifties seemed to diminish.

Then September 11th, 1962 . . .

Nikita Kruschev told John Kennedy that Russia had no need to install missiles in Cuba and had no plans to do so. Of course, during that meeting Kennedy had photographic proof that the Russians had begun installation of nine missile sites in Cuba. In the war room at the White House, it was “game on”.

As a teen, I did not have the understanding of world affairs that I have today. My knowledge of Cuba was limited to the hero’s welcome given Castro in New York after he overthrew Batista. We heard stories of the battles won by this revolutionary leader and his compatriot Che Guevara. His dispute with America and turning to the Soviets was not the stuff offered up to high school students.

Our nation went head to head with the Soviets. We blockaded Cuba and threatened to sink any ship that attempted to run the blockade. We were on the brink of a nuclear war. I will never forget the terror that was palpable in classrooms, supermarkets and side streets. It was the topic of hushed conversations in every household.

It is very easy to look back now and see how it happened. There was no looking back as it occured. The only memory imbedded in young minds was the picture of the mushroom cloud, the admonition to look away from a bomb blast and the sinking feeling that the world might end any day.

The crisis was ended.

Our relations with Cuba remain along the isolationistic vein. Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush have all failed to resolve the differences and open doors to a new relationship with Cuba.

I thought of that when one candidate chided the other for his apparent willingness to open dialogue with other nations.

Then I thought back to “what lesson’s have we learned in Iraq?”.

I don’t see that we have learned much from Iraq. I think we have only demonstrated that we have failed to remember the past.

Iraq only proves that we did not learn much from Viet Nam.

The attacks on the world trade center only proved we did not learn much from Kruschev.

The failure of the financial system only proves we did not learn much from the mess other deregulation has caused.

As for me, I learned that you can change the names and re-arrange the faces, but nothing offered in any campaign has much of a relationship with what may follow. (I think I remember Lydon Johnson decrying Barry Goldwater’s threat to defoliate the jungles in Viet Nam, only to use napalm like it was water after winning the election.)

One thing that we just can’t seem to figure out….it is one world and we have to find away to share the space.

We might even have to take a long look at the “two party” system. It never seems to offer the best and more often than not..voters feel that they are left supporting the lessor of two evils.

I will never believe that the best we have include a war hero that is a bit beyond his prime, a less than two year govenor that has to be kept from public scrutiny, a senator that has spent his limited time on the national stage doing nothing other than running for president and another senator that has been happy putting in his twenty odd years without ruffling many feathers.

September 11,1962 our brightest hope sat and listened as a dictator lied to his face. It was the day that the lines were drawn between democracy and all those guys who don’t rule like we do. It was the day that our policies of removing those we don’t like, supporting dictators that were on our payroll, attempting to control the world events through covert actions came head to head with a powerful nation that did not fear us.

The world has never been the same. We may have won the stand off, although the jury remains out. We may have publicly forced the Soviets hand, but behind the scenes deals show that we also backed down.

Our troubles today are easily traced to our reluctance to admit that we only truly rule the USA and we do not have right nor the ability to control the actions of every other nation. Other nations do not hate us because we wear lipstick or watch MTV. We are not appreciated because we tend to occupy other countries and shoot missiles into neighborhoods. Bad fashion, bad morals, and bad music can be tolerated.

Death and destruction will never pave the way to peace.

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