While we digest the news coming out of the VI Party Congress, Larry Wilkerson has provided us with a fascinating commentary on the Bay of Pigs invasion, the 50th anniversary of which was marked several days ago. - LL
In my graduate class at the College of William and Mary two weeks ago, one of my student teams presented to our seminar, “Case Studies in Power”, its analysis of the U.S. “covert” operation to invade Cuba in 1961, usually referred to by the name of the location where the heart of the invasion was attempted, the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos). “Covert” because almost everyone remotely involved, including the Cuban-American community in Dade County, Florida and Fidel Castro and his army and militia on Cuba, knew the invasion was pending. They did not know the exact date or time or the exact location. But, like the CIA on 10 September 2001 with respect to the next-day attacks by al Qa’ida, they all knew the attacks were being planned, trained for, and would likely happen.
Because of this extensive foreknowledge, plus several other important reasons, the members of the presentation team had no answer to the question looming in every seminar member’s mind as the presentation closed: why on earth did President Kennedy order the invasion in the first place?
That important question is given even more depth when one considers how articulate Kennedy would become after the Cuban Missile Crisis, just a year and a half later, with respect to the U.S.-Cuba relationship. His understanding of that complicated relationship becomes so profound that one must assume that some of it, at least, predated his arrival in the Oval Office and thus was a part of his thinking at the time of his decision to execute the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.
How profound was JFK’s appreciation of the relationship? Here is what JFK said to an “unofficial” envoy, French journalist Jean Daniel, who was going to Cuba in late 1963 to meet with Castro:
I believe that there is no country in the world, including all the African regions, including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime….I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will go even further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement withthe first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.
If JFK knew these fundamental truths about the history of the U.S.-Cuba relationship, then he should never have made the fateful decision he made to launchthe Bay of Pigs invasion. If for no other reason, Kennedy would have known that the supposition of the CIA leadership, that the Cuban people would rise up massively and assist the rather small invasion force in overthrowing Castro, was not only unlikely, it was preposterous.
How do we reconcile such an understanding as Kennedy must have had with his decision to approve the invasion?
(A billboard in Cuba which reads, "What barbarians. They have liberated a terrorist”. The billboard pre-dates Posada's April 2011 acquittal, and is more likely in reference to a 2004 pardon he received for the attempted assassination of Fidel Castro. The pardon was granted by former Panamanian president, Mireya Moscoso under pressure from the United States.)
Several nights ago (6 April), I watched “Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up” at the West End Cinema in Washington. Six months ago, Saul Landau, the filmmaker, had given me an earlier rough-cut version on DVD that I had watched, but I was not prepared for the final version with all of the added footage gained by Saul’s recent sojourn in Cuba itself and the slap-in-the-face showing on the large screen.
But the added footage from the island and the bigger screen were not all that made the final version more electrifying. It was, all in all, the pro-Cuba aspect of the film that stunned me.
And it was clear that this pro-Cuba aspect was not conjured by the filmmaker but by history. Perhaps, I told myself, I knew much of this history, intellectually, academically. But I had never seen it so graphically put before me, in such a tight, cinematic package that seemed to leap off the screen almost in synch with the beating of my pulse.
The backdrop of the film was the U.S.-Cuba relationship from the 1959 revolution to the present. That relationship was portrayed quite accurately, leaving no doubt why Theodore Roosevelt referred to the island as “that infernal little Cuban Republic” even though TR pre-dated the revolution by a generation-plus. That is chiefly because the one-sided nature of U.S. policy has been the same from 1823 to the present. TR’s remark demonstrated well before the Cuban revolution, well before the dictator Fulgencio Batista, well before the U.S. mob took over Havana, well before Fidel Castro shouted “¡Bastante!” from the Sierra Maestra, well before Jesse Helms displayed his latent racism toward Cubans, just how badly the U.S. had treated its island neighbor since the beginning of our republic. So badly, in fact, that the portrayal of it, however evanescently, by a master filmmaker made one want to weep for his country and its policies. I doubt there was a single person in the audience that night who felt any differently, except perhaps the several Cubans who were present who, indeed, probably wept for el coloso del norte as well but for different reasons.
And then there was the main point, the point embodied in the film’s title.
An April 5th Reuters report headlined HAVANA carried this message: “’Repsol YPF expects to have a Chinese-built drilling rig in Cuban waters by the end of the summer and start drilling immediately into a prospective undersea oil field that looks like it could be a big one,’ a geologist for the Spanish oil company said on Monday.”
The report went on to inform readers of this reality: “After Repsol finishes with the Scarabeo 9 [the drilling rig], which is capable of drilling in 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) of water, the rig will be handed over to Malaysia's Petronas to drill in its Cuban offshore leases, then to ONGC Videsh, which is a unit of ONGC, for its Cuba exploration. ‘Venezuela's PDVSA may also be in line to get the rig for its Cuban blocks, where areas of great potential have been found,’ PDVSA senior basin analyst Jose Noya told reporters at the conference.”
As indicated, Repsol is a Spanish company, working through a consortium including Norway, Italy, Singapore (where the drilling rig is being prepared for its long ocean transit) and others to drill for oil in waters just a short distance off the coast of Florida.
That the largest economy in the world is not involved, moreover that it is doing all it can to hinder the “consortium of the willing” through its draconian embargo on Cuba—and clearly failing to do so—defies the human imagination and begs for laments of ignorance, stupidity, and craven surrender to the tiny special interest group—the hardcore Cuban-American lobby—that has long since outlived any benefit to the United States it might have once offered. In fact, that special interest group today constitutes a clear and present danger to the real security interests of the United States.
Though the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) continues to predict that Cuban waters will produce only some five billion barrels, other experts say differently—some going as high as 20 billion and more (and one wonders why all these various oil companies and their countries would be so determined to drill if the USGS forecasts are accurate?). Moreover, these experts contend that the quality of the oil might well be as high as that of Texas light sweet crude or Libyan oil of similar characteristics, i.e., oil that is not heavily laden with sulphur or other elements that make it very difficult and costly to refine and limit its uses. In short, if the 20B barrel estimates are correct and the quality of the oil turns out to be light and sweet, the U.S. will be missing out on a colossal resource development just off its coast at a time when the potential for $4-5 per gallon gasoline threatens to derail whatever economic recovery is underway.
Jorge Piñón, whose business experience spans time with Royal Dutch Shell, Amoco, British Petroleum and other oil giants, recently wrote: “The Deepwater Horizon incident experience taught the United States very important hands-on lessons on how to manage such a catastrophe, lessons which would benefit us in the future by sharing them with neighbors.”
One of those neighbors to whom Mr. Piñón refers is Cuba. He writes: “Obviously, the establishment of working relations between the U.S., Cuba, and The Bahamas in marine environmental protection would assist enormously in the contingency planning and cooperation necessary to an early and truly effective response to an oil spill.”
Of course, the creation of such working relations between Washington and Havana is not so obvious to all of Washington’s decision-makers, particularly that tiny group of hardcore Cuban-Americans in Dade County, Florida and elsewhere. But as Cuba prepares to drill in an offshore area proximate to Florida—and to do so at depths exceeding the depth of the Deepwater Horizon well—it should be.
Recent earthquakes in Haiti and Japan not only highlight the unprecedented nature of such natural events as the world’s population heads for 7 billion and is increasingly concentrated near the oceans, such events also underscore dramatically the need for international cooperation in responding to their aftermath. Yet the U.S. insists on dealing with Cuba as it has for the past fifty-plus years of failure: embargo, embargo, embargo. It is as if the ghost of Jesse Helms, never a man whose photo was on the piano of any reasonable person, still gripped Washington in its incomprehensible vise.
From Sunface13's photostream
I’ve just been apprised of new developments with regard to the Cuban Five. Here is the gist:
According to a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the U.S. Government violated the Smith-Mundt Act, by funding activities to influence public opinion with regard to the Cuban Five, thus influencing the jury pool and calling into question their convictions. It has long been known that the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) paid supposedly independent journalists to write stories about Cuba and the Cuban Five in the Miami press during the period when the government arrested and prosecuted the Cuban Five. If the U.S. government was secretly paying supposedly independent journalists to place stories supportive of the government's prosecution of the Cuban Five, it is highly plausible that they would have affected the jury pool as well as the sitting jury in the case of the Cuban Five. This raises very serious concerns.
from paul down under photostream
Having visited with a handful of members of Congress over the past few months to discuss our failed Cuba policy, I am once again struck by how little this issue matters to most Americans.
This lack of concern aids and abets those opposed to any change.
What happens in the Congress is simple. One of the hard line members—we all know this tiny group—calls on a new, an undecided or a wavering member, and says, “Hey, what’s important to you?” After being given an answer, the hardliner continues: “How about if I promise to vote with you on that issue if you vote with me on keeping the embargo?” (And more often than not, you can bet they’ll receive a Political Action Committee donation or two.)
Voila! The new member is no longer undecided or wavering. The new member has a position.
This is the degree of challenge the United States must confront if we want to change a failed U.S. Cuba policy into one that has some reasonable chance to succeed. It is quite a challenge.
Among the wider public, it’s the same. Approach a citizen about whether it’s time to lift the embargo and more than 60% will agree that it’s time. But then you get a shrug of the shoulders and a “Why worry about Cuba when there’s unemployment, a housing crisis, rip-off investment banks, oil spills, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and a host of other challenges that are more important?”
Luis Posada Carriles
Photo credit: Globovision.com
From my time at the State Department (2001-2005), first as a policy planner and later as Secretary PowellÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chief of staff, I came to understand some of the politics of the U.S. terrorism list (State Sponsors of TerrorismÃ¢â‚¬â€see the Export Administration Act of 1979).
These politics existed prior to 9/11 and took on, understandably, a decidedly more aggressive tone afterward.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“One manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s freedom fighter is another manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s terroristÃ¢â‚¬Â and vice versaÃ¢â‚¬â€so well laid out in modern terms by Welsh journalist Phil Rees in his Dining With Terrorists: Meetings with the WorldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Most Wanted MilitantsÃ¢â‚¬â€is operable here but not fully explanatory.
I found that, with regard to the United States, one has to dig deeper to discover the motivation behind that formulation. And the motivation is not, for example, that Ronald Reagan thought the Contras the descendants of the patriots of the American Revolution and Hezbollah the spawn of the devil (and we know today that he chose to deal with both).
The motivation, more often than not, is wrapped up in the traditional paraphernalia of politicsÃ¢â‚¬â€money, power, influence, and greed. That it occasionally touches U.S. national security interests is a stunning thing because it almost always does so serendipitously and not by intent.
While it may seem to the average American quite unnerving that the U.S, composes lists that have considerable impact on hosts of other peoples but very little to do with the publicly stated purpose of those lists, it is nonetheless true.
One example with respect to the terrorism list that immediately comes to mind is Cuba.
I selected Cuba because Cuba is an especially egregious example. In fact, if it were the case that Cuba maintained such a terrorist list, Cuba would have more legitimate right to place the United States on that list than the United States has to place Cuba on one.
Simply stated, we, or those whom we have paid and supported, have killed far more Cubans through actions clearly meeting the definition of terrorist actions than the Cubans have killed through similar means.
So why is Cuba on the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism?
First, because the infinitesimally small group of Cuban-Americans who hate Field Castro and all that he represents, want Cuba to be on the list. Their arrogance, money and consequent political pull is such that no one dares defy them in meaningful ways.
Second, because we want to hide our own perfidy and, as Dick Cheney and Karl Rove taught us so well, the best way to do that is to accuse others of what you are doing.
Third, because no one really cares about Cuba and so all manner of heinous activities are possible in that environment of apathy. If power loves a vacuum so does perfidy.
The truth is that Cuba has not sponsored a terrorist activity in over 20 years, if, strictly speaking, it ever did.
Draconian government, dictatorial policies that impoverish the many and enrich the few, holding prisoners for political reasons, and ignoring the abject economic circumstances of a vast number of its farmers and workers, all indict CubaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s leadership.
To be balanced, exporting medical care of the highest caliber to impoverished peoples is also a characteristic of the Cuban government, and for that praise is due. Also for raising the literacy of the Cuban people to an unprecedented level of around 99%.
But no terrorism.
On the other hand, the U.S. continues to either dither over, or indirectly protect, terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles. Carriles was involved in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner (Cubana Flight 455) which killed more than 70 people. In addition, he is strongly suspected of involvement in the hotel bombings in Havana in 1997 that resulted in the death of at least one individual.
This is how we disguise our own crimes by railing at others. And we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just rail, we put them on lists. After all, we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t possibly be condoning terrorism if the Cubans against whom weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re acting are terrorists. As Stephen Colbert has termed it, this Ã¢â‚¬Å“truthinessÃ¢â‚¬Â is our new guidepost. If our gut tells us itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s OK, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s OK.
And the terrorist list is another arrow in the quiver of the tiny group in Florida that wants U.S. Cuba policy frozen forever in its current failure mode. The strategy there is, simply, pile on every draconian measure imaginable and hold the fort. Let no one intrude. In particular, do not let common sense, decency, and U.S. national interests come into play.
What of the apathy quotient?
Colin Powell used to tell me that it was amazing what you could accomplish if you didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care who got the credit. The tiny group of Cuban-Americans with Cuba policy in its iron grip has turned that laudable principle on its head.
It is amazing what you can get away with if no one cares.
That should be the sign hanging above the offices of Ileana Ross-Lehtinen, Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Robert Menendez, and a host of other Cuban-American zealots.
Perhaps one of the most enlightening statements I ever heard issue from the lips of Ricardo AlarcÃƒÂ³n, the head of CubaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s National Assembly, was when, late one evening in a protocol house outside Havana, he sipped a scotch, looked at me, and said that he knew Ã¢â‚¬Å“how wily and smart those Cuban-Americans in Florida are. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He knewÃ¢â‚¬Â, he repeated for emphasis. He knew, he said, because Ã¢â‚¬Å“After all, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re Cubans.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Year after year, the U.S. Department of State continues to place Cuba on its terrorist list, making a mockery of the list and the country that keeps it.
Most ardent Cuba watchers probably read Dan EriksonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s book The Cuba Wars when it first came out in 2008. Beset by many other commitments, I only got around to reading it after Dan gave me a copy a month or so ago when I appeared on a Cuba panel he hosted at the Inter-American Dialogue where Dan is a Senior Associate. In between The Iraq Papers (an excellent compilation of documents related to the 2003 invasion of Iraq) and Joseph StiglitzÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Freefall, I squeezed in DanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s superb narrative about modern U.S.-Cuba relations.
As I read, I was well-pleased with the bookÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s balance, i.e., calling a spade a spade whether the cards were in the Cuban dictatorshipÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hand or in WashingtonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s. Or, too frequently in the hands of those who virtually own U.S. Cuba policy, the tiny but powerful Miami/Dade County crowd.
There are at least these three groups sitting around this poker table and a passive fourth, the bulk of the American people, observing the play on occasion but most often oblivious to the entire game. A fifth group, the eleven million people of Cuba, have the patience of Job and probably, for the most part, donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like poker.
One of the spokesmen whom Dan calls upon to illustrate what this poker game does to the real people in Cuba is Arturo Lopez-Levy, a member of the small Jewish community in Cuba who finally gave up on the Castros and came to the U.S. and whom Dan interviewed on the campus of the University of Denver.
In the course of that interview, Lopez-Levy illustrated dramatically what I mean by Ã¢â‚¬Å“balanceÃ¢â‚¬Â and by the analogy of the poker game.
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Dan and Lopez-Levy together for example:
Lopez-LevyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sense of betrayal extended to both sides of the Straits of Florida. Ã¢â‚¬ËœThese people in both places put their interests before the pragmatic necessities of solving the problems of the country. And I think the problems of the country are the problems of the Cuban people.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Like I do, Lopez-Levy seems to believe that none of the players in the poker game care about anything but the game. There is no interest whatsoever in the Cuban peopleÃ¢â‚¬â€lots of high-toned rhetoric addressed to them and about them but no substantive concern whatsoever. If there were such concern, the game would have ended long agoÃ¢â‚¬â€at the end of the Cold War, for example, when Cuba stopped exporting revolution and began to export low-cost and high-quality medical care for poor people.
Perhaps the most surprising indicator of this insidious nature of the poker game occurs in another spot in DanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s book. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s when he quotes from RaÃƒÂºl CastroÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s speech on July 26, 2007, his last major address to the Cuban people before he was elevated to the presidency. RaÃƒÂºl is looking forward to the 2008 presidential election in the United States and he says:
"[T]he elections will also have taken place in the United States and the mandate of the current president of that country [George W. Bush] will have concluded along with his erratic and dangerous administration.Ã¢â‚¬Â (As a member of that administration, I can confirm RaulÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s characterization of it, whether one wants to talk wars of aggression, torture, failure to enforce the law, ignoring the Constitution, or sheer criminal activity.)
RaÃƒÂºl goes on to make an offer related to the poker game. As Dan describes it, quoting from the speech, Ã¢â‚¬Å“He reasserted the Cuban governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwillingness to discuss on an equal footing the prolonged dispute with the government of the United States, convinced that this is the only way to solve the ever more complex and dangerous problems of the world.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â
Quite an offer to, if not end, at least suspend the poker game and get down to real business, the standard of living of the Cuba people.
Unfortunately to date, the lackluster response from the Obama administration has left that offer flailing in the wings as, on stage, the poker game continuesÃ¢â‚¬â€with Ileana and Mario and Lincoln and a few others of the tiny group that owns U.S. Cuba policy claiming they hold all the aces, hearts, spades, clubs and diamondsÃ¢â‚¬â€and from time to time a fifth or a sixth of the devil knows what suit that they magically conjure from their sleeves.
Dan sums it this way in his Afterword: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It remains an open question whether RaÃƒÂºl Castro and Barack Obama will be able to heal the tormented relationship between their countries.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Cuban peopleÃ¢â‚¬â€far and away the most important aspect of this Ã¢â‚¬Å“tormented relationshipÃ¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬â€are waiting for the answer to that question.
I simply cannot get away from YoaniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s SanchezÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s denunciation of the U.S. embargo on Cuba and from the stranglehold a few citizens, largely from Dade County in Florida, have on American foreign policy. First, YoaniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s extraordinary courage haunts me, a soldier of 31 years who has witnessed some fairly incredible acts of courage. Second, the Cuban-Americans who have created this stranglehold fascinate me, for there seems on the surface no apparent reason for them to be clinging to a policy that should have died along with the Soviet Union.
I went back to this part of YoaniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s denunciation:
I believe that these economic restrictions Ã¢Ë†â€™ an Ã¢â‚¬Å“embargoÃ¢â‚¬Â to some and a Ã¢â‚¬Å“blockadeÃ¢â‚¬Â to others Ã¢Ë†â€™ represent a blunder in American policy toward Cuba. Far from suffocating the ruling class of the Island, these trade restrictions create material difficulties for the population and feed the radicalization of the ideological discourse inside Cuba. The embargo has been an argument to justify the unproductive and inefficient state-run economy, including the total ruin of various sectors. Worse than that, it has been used to support the maxim, Ã¢â‚¬Å“in a country under siege, dissent is treason,Ã¢â‚¬Â which contributes to the lack of freedoms for my fellow citizens. In its nearly 50 years, the Ã¢â‚¬Å“blockadeÃ¢â‚¬Â has done nothing to limit the material arsenal of our authorities, not one of them has ceased to enjoy their privileges.
If we closely examine key parts of YoaniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s statement, we see that Yoani believes the embargo actually strengthens the hand of CubaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dictators and their rule. Moreover, the embargo severely constrains the Cuban economy, Ã¢â‚¬Å“including the total ruin of various sectors.Ã¢â‚¬Â It also punishes the largely innocent Cuban people. Finally, the embargo makes possible the perks that the elite who suppress the rest nonetheless enjoy.
Here, now, comes a glimmering of understanding with respect to the second half of my opening statement, i.e., my fascination with the tiny group of Americans who hold U.S. Cuba policy by the throat. Why do they do it?
The members of Congress among this tiny group do it to perpetuate the rule of the CastrosÃ¢â‚¬â€and whatever dictator they hope replaces them. Only through such a continuation will they be able to keep the money flowing that powers their political campaigns because, for the most part, they are single-issue folks among their constituents and if the single issue dies, their political prospects do as well. Of course, they can appear to expand their issue baseÃ¢â‚¬â€as one of the current candidates for the Senate in Florida, Marco Rubio, is doingÃ¢â‚¬â€by jumping on the Rush Limbaugh/Joseph McCarthy bandwagon of the politics of fear. But most Americans are smart enough to see through such falsehoods. These folks are basically single-issue folks. In short, if the embargo were to go away these members of Congress know it would be only a matter of time before the dictatorship would go away and they do not want that to happen because it would mean that they too would go away.
If we consult the January 2010 report put out by the New America FoundationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Should Americans Be Free To Visit Cuba?Ã¢â‚¬Â, we find this prediction: Ã¢â‚¬Å“When the travel ban is lifted and large numbers of Americans arrive, the impact will be explosive.Ã¢â‚¬Â (Incidentally, Colin Powell said almost the exact same thing to me on several occasions.)
I agree and I believe that Yoani Sanchez would agree. I know the tiny group of hardcore elements does not agree. The reason is that in such an explosion its reign over U.S. Cuba policy would be destroyed.
As to the economy and keeping it constrained, I probably donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need to say much there, as we all understand how the economics of sugar, nickel, and rum (ahhh, 17-year-old Havana Club!), and tobacco (think those lovely Havana cigars!), and other such crops and commodities work. Of course, there are some business people in the U.S. who want to lift the embargo because it would profit their particular line of business; on the other hand, there are those business people in the U.S. for whom Cuba might be a competitor, so they provide money to the coffers of the hardcore types in Congress as well. This is all very understandable. This is capitalism.
Punishing the Cuban people is a bit more difficult to decipher until we consider the general lack of concern on the part of the United States when it comes to Cuba. No one thinks of the Cuban people, is the truth of it. And certainly not the hardcore supporters of the U.S. embargo. What they want is power, plain and simple. The Cuban people are simply not a part of their calculations. Those of us who do, on occasion, think of the Cuban people are often too busy with other crises to let that thought prompt us to much action on their behalf. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very understandable as well because it is such a reflection of basic human nature. Therefore, the hardcore types most often have a clear field of action featuring no substantive opposition and, clearly and importantly, no real money to match theirs.
Finally, there is the case of the perks. Fidel, RaÃƒÂºl, Ricardo, et al, and their privilegesÃ¢â‚¬â€not unlike the privileges of the elite in China, Vietnam, North Korea, or Burma. Or, for that matter, the royal family in Saudi Arabia, the Mubarak clan in Egypt or, if we want to admit the bald-faced truth, the Karzai brothers in Afghanistan.
Why on earth would maintaining these perks be an objective of the hardcore types in America?
Sorry, folks, I just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have an answer to that one. I simply put it in the box with all the rest of my Ã¢â‚¬Å“inexplicablesÃ¢â‚¬Â when it comes to these hardcore, Joe McCarthy types. I suppose that they believe that such privileges are acceptable collateral damage.
I wonder how Yoani sees it?
This is how CubaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s foremost blogger, Yoani Sanchez, recently answered a question about the U.S. embargo on Cuba:
I believe that these economic restrictions Ã¢Ë†â€™ an Ã¢â‚¬Å“embargoÃ¢â‚¬Â to some and a Ã¢â‚¬Å“blockadeÃ¢â‚¬Â to others Ã¢Ë†â€™ represent a blunder in American policy toward Cuba. Far from suffocating the ruling class of the Island, these trade restrictions create material difficulties for the population and feed the radicalization of the ideological discourse inside Cuba. The embargo has been an argument to justify the unproductive and inefficient state-run economy, including the total ruin of various sectors. Worse than that, it has been used to support the maxim, Ã¢â‚¬Å“in a country under siege, dissent is treason,Ã¢â‚¬Â which contributes to the lack of freedoms for my fellow citizens. In its nearly 50 years, the Ã¢â‚¬Å“blockadeÃ¢â‚¬Â has done nothing to limit the material arsenal of our authorities, not one of them has ceased to enjoy their privileges. An example is the issue of Internet access. They have always blamed the restrictions on Internet access on the fact that the United States has not allowed Cuba to connect to its underwater cable. The victims of these restrictions are ordinary Cubans; we have had to postpone our enjoyment of the World Wide Web, while the police, the censors and the official media seize the few kilobytes of access available to the whole country. When Barack Obama authorized American telecommunications companies to negotiate with their Cuban counterparts, this alibi for limiting the use of the Internet fell apart. Unfortunately, the government of Raul Castro has ignored his proposal and we continue to be the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Island of the Disconnected.Ã¢â‚¬Â But on this issue, at least, it is obvious to all that the responsibility does not rest entirely on external forces, but also on internal political will.
YoaniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s answer is as superb a condemnation of U.S. Cuba policy as I have read anywhere. It is eloquent, precise and, best of all, from a Cuban living in Cuba and not in Miami. And it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let the Cuban regime off the hook either.
But I want to concentrate on one small part of her superb statementÃ¢â‚¬â€the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Island of the Disconnected.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Islands make haunting metaphors, even sometimes sublime ones. I think immediately of John DonneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s meditation Ã¢â‚¬Å“No man is an islandÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â, or HemingwayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“Islands in the StreamÃ¢â‚¬Â (later the title of a Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers song that was petty good). YoaniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s concept of Ã¢â‚¬Å“disconnectednessÃ¢â‚¬Â seems highly relevant to islands as well, echoing DonneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s elegant protest that humans are not disconnected from other humans.
Physically, as an island, Cuba has no choice about a certain amount of disconnection; but as a country of more than eleven million souls, it must find ways to connect. It has done that with Europe, Latin America, Asia, indeed all of the world. Except for el coloso del norte, the giant of the north, us.
With us, its connections are tenuous, tortured, heavily codified, off-and-on, and always extremely limited. This is principally because of men such as the now-deceased Jessie Helms, the still-alive Dan Burton, and a host of minor wannabes of both genders named Lincoln, Mario, Ileana, Debbie, et al. These latter are of course all Cuban-Americans who pay or draw big bucks to maintain CubaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s disconnectedness.
For letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face it squarely: on the one hand, a very small percentage of Americans cares stronglyÃ¢â‚¬â€for some reason I find unfathomableÃ¢â‚¬â€about the embargo on Cuba. So strongly that they are willing to pony up money by the barrel loads.
On the other hand, the vast majority of Americans are too concerned about jobs, failing banks, disappearing pensions, and a miserable economy to have anything left for Cuba, or if they do have anything left, they do not feel strongly enough to pony up any real money.
So, the tiny group of Americans with the money bribes the rest of their congressional colleagues to keep the embargo in place, while the great majority of Americans has other, more pressing concerns and doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to be bothered.
This is todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s post-Cold War stark reality. It is the reason for CubaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s disconnection from the great power 90 miles to its north.
Oh yes, even post-Cold War the tiny group of Americans with the money conjures up national security bogeymenÃ¢â‚¬â€like John BoltonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s accusations of CubaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s having a biological weapons program. Or Cuban spies in our midst (about all those spies are doing is trying to keep some hardcore members of the tiny group from perpetrating terrorists acts on Cuban soil or in Cuban airspace). Or they use words such as the ones Bush and Cheney used about Iraq: freedom, democracy, libertyÃ¢â‚¬â€all the while they labor away to ensure that China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other less-than-free states are treated well. Like Cheney and Bush, most of them really donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give a hang for the concepts they pretend to treasure.
And these conjured things do not change the stark reality one iota.
But Yoani Sanchez could. If we gave her about a million helpers per year, she could.
If AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s peopleÃ¢â‚¬â€the best diplomats for freedom on earthÃ¢â‚¬â€were allowed to travel freely to Cuba, Yoani Sanchez would be unstoppable.
Perhaps thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the true reason why the hardcore tiny group of Cuban-Americans with money doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to give up. If the eleven million souls of Cuba became connected with the 300 million souls of America, the tiny little group would have no power left.
Yoani, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re coming.