Kennedy’s speech announcing an attack on Cuba (1962)

This speech announcing an American attack on the Soviet missile bases in Cuba was drafted for John F. Kennedy in October 1962 but never delivered. It was made public in 2012, the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis:

My fellow Americans,

“With a heavy heart, and in necessary fulfilment of my oath of office, I have ordered — and the United States Air Force has now carried out — military operations with conventional weapons only, to remove a major nuclear weapons build-up from the soil of Cuba. This action has been taken under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations and in fulfilment of the requirements of the national safety. Further military action has been authorised to ensure that this threat is fully removed and not restored…

There have been unconfirmed rumours of offensive installations in Cuba for some weeks, but it is only within the last week that we have had unmistakable and certain evidence of the character and magnitude of the Communist offensive deployment… [Soviet missile bases in Cuba are] capable of devastating most of the United States mainland, most of Latin America and most of Canada. In addition, a large number of medium-range jet bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons were being uncrated on Cuba, while appropriate air bases were being prepared.

The presence in Cuba of these large, long-range and clearly offensive weapons of sudden destruction constituted a threat to the peace and security of this hemisphere – in naked and deliberate defiance of the Rio Pact of 1947, the traditions of this nation and hemisphere, the Joint Resolution of the 87th Congress and my own warnings to the communists on September 4th and 13th. This action also contradicted the repeated assurances of Soviet and Cuban spokesmen, both publicly and privately delivered, that the arms build-up in Cuba would retain its original defensive character…

The United States of America need not and cannot tolerate defiance, deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. Nuclear weapons are so destructive, and ballistic missiles are so swift, that a sudden shift in the nature of their threat can be deeply dangerous — especially when the trigger appears to be in the hands of a violent and unstable revolutionary leader. For many years, both the Soviet Union and the United States have deployed such weapons around the world with great care, never upsetting the precarious status quo which balanced off the use of those weapons in the absence of some vital challenge. These deployments are not comparable…

But this sudden and extraordinary build-up of communist missiles in an area well known to have a special and historical relationship to the United States, in contradiction to all previous Soviet practice… was a provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which could not be accepted by this country if our courage and our commitments are ever to be believed in the future.

If the 1930’s taught us any lesson at all, it was that aggressive conduct, if allowed to grow unchecked and unchallenged, will ultimately lead to war. This nation is opposed to war — but it is true to its word… The size, speed, and secrecy of the deployment, the bare-faced falsehoods surrounding it, and the newly revealed character of the conspirators involved made it plain that no appeal, no warning, no offer would shift them from their course. Prolonged delay would have meant enormously increased danger, and immediate warning would have greatly enlarged the loss of life on all sides. It became my duty to act.

The tragedy here self evidently is in the loss of innocent lives on all sides. For the United States government, I hereby accept responsibility for this action and pledge that all appropriate efforts will be made, on request, to assist the families of these innocent victims. Neither Cubans nor Russians, as individuals, can be held accountable for the extraordinary and irresponsible conspiracy which has required this action. This was Communist militarism in action – neither more nor less…

Now, what of the future?

First, I ask that the American people remain calm and self-confident and go about their business. There will be no major war; the strength and determination of your defences are an answer against that.

Second, the military blockade of Cuba will continue until other effective assurances can be obtained against any repetition of this conspiracy…

Third, I have directed our military forces to continue and increase their close surveillance of Cuba [and] to take further military action, if necessary, against offensive capabilities; and finally, to regard any missile that might possibly remain and be launched from Cuba as an attack by the Soviet Union, requiring a massive retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.

Fourth, as a military precaution, I have reinforced our base at Guantanamo, evacuated the dependents of our personnel there and ordered additional military units to stand by on an alert basis.

Fifth, I am asking Soviet Chairman Khrushchev to meet with me at the earliest opportunity with respect to the prevention of any further conspiracies which may strain the relations between our two countries. We do not wish to war with the Soviet Union; we are a peaceful people who desire to live in peace with all other peoples. I am prepared to discuss with the Soviet Chairman how both of us might remove existing tensions instead of creating new ones…”