February 16, 2001
The Global Security Institute had a smooth transition of leadership in the wake of founder Senator Alan Cranston’s death on New Year’s Eve. The Board of Directors elected Jonathan Granoff as GSI President, and Kim Cranston, Senator Cranston’s son, as Chairman of the Board. Pat Patterson now serves as the new President of the Board, and Colette Penne Cranston has joined the Board of Directors. In the absence of Senator Cranston’s physical presence, the Board and Staff of GSI are rededicated to his legacy of effective action.
On February 6th, the GSI worked with the producers of Thirteen Days to host an exclusive screening of the critically acclaimed dramatization of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in the Library of Congress theatre. The screening was arranged in cooperation with the Lawyers Alliance for World Security and Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT), co-chairs of the House of Representatives Bipartisan Task Force on Non-proliferation.
The packed, bipartisan audience of more than 500 guests included 16 Members of Congress, 2 foreign ambassadors, and staff from the offices of 126 Representatives and 26 Senators, including House and Senate leadership. Representatives from 21 government agencies and departments and Congressional Committees, and 23 organizations and educational institutions, were in attendance along with several journalists and columnists. Audience members took with them 15 boxes of GSI Annual Reports, LAWS White Papers on CTBT and NMD, MPI’s Naked Nuclear Emperor, and other nuclear abolition advocacy literature.
The screening was followed by a panel discussion and reception with Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense; Graham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; and Roald Sagdeev, former Science Advisor to President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Thirteen Days Demonstrates Imperative of Nuclear Weapon Abolition
Secretary McNamara, who helped guide President Kennedy through the crisis, reflected on his memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis and his views on the ongoing nuclear threat.
“In the end we avoided nuclear war by a hair’s breadth,” McNamara said. “And it didn’t have a damn thing to do with the so-called best and the brightest. The basic thrust of [the movie] is absolutely correct. We came that close to nuclear war. It was luck that prevented us from blundering into it. And the conclusion you should come to is that the indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will lead to destruction of nations.”
A Lesson for Modern Times
McNamara and other experts warned that the film has serious lessons for today’s leaders, and applauded President Bush’s campaign commitment to take the U.S. nuclear arsenal off hair-trigger alert and to make deep reductions in nuclear stockpiles. They cautioned that such vital threat-reducing steps are incompatible, however, with the new administration’s plans for a national missile defense, which is internationally destabilizing.
“The proposed national missile defense plans have serious flaws and can never be reliably tested,” remarked Global Security Institute CEO Jonathan Granoff. “The question is not whether we can build it, but whether we should. Missile defense, regardless of its technical merits, will stimulate an arms race with China, provoking India and Pakistan to follow suit. It provides no defense against a suitcase bomb or a tugboat in New York Harbor. It does not help move us toward a world that removes the unacceptable risk that nuclear weapons pose.”
By contrast, de-alerting nuclear weapons would provide a safety zone for any future crises. Congressman Ed Markey commented: “During the campaign, candidate Bush declared his interest in a mutual U.S.-Russia initiative to take our nuclear weapons off of hair-trigger alert. In 1962 we had 13 days. In this new era we may only have 13 minutes. President Bush should follow through on de-alerting as the way to find the time human beings need to make wise decisions about weapons of mass destruction.”
The Media Take Note
In her column on February 8th, Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory wrote about the attention being given to Thirteen Days, and referenced the Library of Congress screening. On Thursday, February 22, Robert McNamara and Peter Almond, the movie’s producer, appeared on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer to talk about the film and its contemporary importance.
Thirteen Days was the first film screened by President Bush in the White House theater. It was also the movie selection for the House Democrats on the bus ride returning from their annual retreat.
The Global Security Institute, with Ted Sorenson, is sponsoring screenings of Thirteen Days for the diplomatic corps of the United Nations on March 7th and in July. Please contact GSI if you would like to attend.