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"Acheson and de Gaulle," Part whatever

One of my earliest blog entries expressed skepticism at the Acheson-de Gaulle anecdote, then reference by Zbigniew Brzezinski:

At the end of the briefing, Acheson said to de Gaulle, "I would now like to show you the evidence, the photographs that we have of Soviet missiles armed with nuclear weapons." The French president responded, "I do not wish to see the photographs. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me. Please tell him that France stands with America."

Needless to say, I responded in predictable, eye-rolling fashion when John Kerry reprised it during the debate with Bush. Eric Fetterman, however, has dug deeper:

I[t] was one of John Kerry's most effective moments at last week's presidential debate -- in fact, it's been a Democratic staple throughout the debate over the war in Iraq, used by people like Joe Biden and Zbigniew Brzezinski as a telling example from history that holds President Bush up to ridicule. But is it true? Not quite. And the full version scores against Kerry.

Here's how Kerry told it last Thursday:

"We can remember when President Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis sent his secretary of state to Paris to meet with [French President Charles] DeGaulle. And in the middle of the discussion, to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, he said, 'Here, let me show you the photos.' And DeGaulle waved them off and said, 'No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me.' " In comparison, asked Kerry, "How many leaders in the world today would respond to us, as a result of what we've done, in that way?"

Problem is, that's not what DeGaulle did.

In the fall of 1962, when CIA reconnaisance planes had discovered evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, President John Kennedy decided to take unilateral, pre-emptive action: He decreed a naval blockade of Cuba, with ships given orders to confront and board any vessel trying to enter Fidel Castro's territorial waters.

JFK then sent Dean Acheson -- who'd been Harry Truman's secretary of state, not his own-- to Paris to show the French leader the evidence. DeGaulle's first question: "Are you here to consult me, or to inform me?"

Acheson's reply: "To inform." Meaning that Kennedy was prepared to take action, whether or not DeGaulle approved. (And Acheson says in his autobiography that DeGaulle would have opposed such action had he been asked his opinion.)

Heh, as a sideline, I note the Cynical Nation post directly above the original de Gaulle post is the one in which I officially pronounce the Kerry campaign dead. Oops.