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Rumsfeld Draws Lessons From Cuban Missile Crisis to Today

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the United States must move on all fronts -- diplomatic, economic, military -- to make sure there's no repeat of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but this time with a terrorist state. "President Bush is determined to do just that," he said.

Rumsfeld used a Pentagon news conference to draw parallels between the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and the situation facing America today.

Rumsfeld said President Kennedy "pre-empted" the Soviet Union's placement of offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba in 1961. Kennedy placed a naval blockade around the communist nation and stopped Soviet ships carrying the weapons.

"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," Kennedy said Oct. 21, 1962, in a speech to the American public. "We no longer live in a world where the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril."

Rumsfeld said the crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Eventually, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev backed down.

But what was also illuminating was U.S. intelligence estimates. Six months before the missile crisis, the United States had believed the Soviets would not place missiles or troops in Cuba.

"The missile shipments to Cuba took the U.S. completely by surprise," Rumsfeld said. "There was a failure to appreciate that even with the best intelligence, we will not have, we have not had, we cannot have everything that is necessary to provide for perfect protection of our country."

U.S. leaders cannot know everything that is going on in the world as it happens, he said. "The only time that we'll have perfect evidence that a terrorist regime has deliverable weapons of mass destruction may be after they've used those weapons."

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