Sunday, January 20, 2008

Book Review: Superpower principles - U.S. Terrorism Against Cuba

     Occasionally you'll hear some story about Cuba or Fidel Castro in the news, generally portraying the country as a wasteland and the man as a ruthless dictator. You may have also heard presidential candidates talk about Cuba, how they support the U.S. embargo against the country (which has been condemned each year for over a decade by the United Nations and also the WTO, where the European Union brought charges against the United States for the illegal embargo in 1997) which if we listen to the official line is imposed to help bring about "democratic" change in the country.
     Why is the United States government so hostile towards Cuba? The book Superpower Principles: U.S. Terrorism Against Cuba is a great collection of essays by people like Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, William Blum, Michael Parenti, and more which help explain this phenomenon. The "Cuban threat" began in January of 1959 when Fidel Castro and his guerrilla forces overthrew General Batista's U.S.-backed dictatorship. Michael Parenti explains what angered the U.S. government
    In June 1959, some five months after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the Havana government promulgated an agrarian reform law that provided for state appropriation of large private landholdings. Under this law, U.S. sugar corporations eventually lost about 1,666,000 acres of choice land and many millions of dollars in future cash-crop exports. The following year, President Dwight Eisenhower, citing Havana's "hostility" towards the United States, cut Cuba's sugar quota by about 95 percent, in effect imposing a total boycott on publicly produced Cuban sugar. Three months later, in October 1959, the Cuban government nationalized all banks and large commerical and industrial enterprises, including the many that belonged to US firms [Cuba offered to reimburse those who previously owned land or property that was nationalized, according to whatever value they had placed it at on the previous year's tax return. This was rejected.--Delta].
    Cuba's move away from the free-market system domination by US firms and toward a not-for-profit socialist economy caused it to become the target of an unremitting series of attacks perpetuated by the US national security state. These attacks included U.S.-sponsored sabotage, espionage, terrorism, trade sanctions, embargo, and outright invasion. The purpose behind this aggression was to undermine the Revolution and deliver Cuba safely back to the tender mercies of global capitalism.
    The U.S. policy toward Cuba has been consistent with its longstanding policy of trying to subvert any country that pursues an alternative path in the use of its land, labor, capital, markets, and natural resources. Any country or political movement that emphasizes self-development, egalitarian human services, and public ownership is condemned as an enemy of the USA and targeted for sanctions or other forms of attack. In contrast, the countries deemed "friendly towards America" and "pro-West" are those that leave themselves at the disposal of large U.S. investors on terms that are totally favorable to the moneyed corporate interests.
    Of course, this is not what U.S. rulers tell the people of North America. As early as July 1960, the White House charged that Cuba was "hostile" to the United States (despite the Cuban government's repeated overtures for normal friendly relations). The Castro government, in Eisenhower's words, was "dominated by international communism". Cuba was a threat to the "stability" of the hemisphere and to the survival of American democracy, we heard. U.S. officials repeatedly charged that the island government was a cruel dictatorship and that the United States had no choice but to try "restoring" Cuban liberty.
     U.S. rulers never explained why they were so suddenly concerned about the freedoms of the Cuban people. In the two decades before the Revolution, successive administrations in Washington manifested no opposition to the brutally repressive autocracy headed by General Fulgencio Batista. Quite the contrary, they sent him military aid, did a vigorous business with him, and treated him well in every other way. The significant but outspoken difference between Castro and Batista was that Batista, a comprador ruler, left Cuba wide open to U.S. capital penetration. In contrast, Castro and his revolutionary movement did away with the private corporate control of the economy, nationalized U.S. holdings, and renovated the class structure toward a more collectivized and egalitarian mode. That is what made Fidel Castro so insufferable in Washington--and still does.
     Needless to say, the U.S. method of mistreatment ahs been applied to other countries besides Cuba. Numerous potentially dissident regimes that have asked for friendly relations have been met with abuse and aggression from Washington: Vietnam, Chile (under Allende), Mozambique, Angola, Cambodia, Nicaragua (under the Sandinistas), Panama (under Torrijo), Grenada (under the New Jewel Movement), Yugoslavia (under Milosevic), Haiti (under Aristide), Venezuela (under Chavez), and numerous others. The U.S. modus operandi is:
  
  • to heap criticism on the targeted government for imprisoning the butchers, assassins, terrorists, and torturers of the previous U.S.-backed reactionary regime;
      
  • denounce the revolutionary or reformist government as "totalitarian" for failing to immediate institute Western-style, electoral politics;
      
  • launch ad hominem attacks upon the leader, labeling him as fanatical, brutal, repressive, genocidal,power hungry, or even mentally imbalanced;
      
  • harass, destabilize, and impose economic sanctions to cripple its economy;
      
  • attack it with surrogate forces, trained, equipped, and financed by the CIA and led by members of the former regime, or even with regular U.S. armed forces.


  •      The book goes into many aspects of U.S.-Cuban relations, and offers important historical background to understand why the media and government act the way they do towards Cuba. It also goes into some detail about the plight of the Cuban Five. The Cuban Five are a group of five Cubans who infiltrated anti-Cuban terrorists groups that are located in Miami and who operate with the consent of the CIA. They used this information to warn the Cuban governments of future attacks, which were often involved with planting bombs in tour buses, hotels, and other attacks with the intent of hurting Cuba's vital tourism industry. After doing this for over a year, the Cuban government met with the FBI and handed over all the evidence that the Cuban Five had gathered and asked the U.S. government to take action against the terrorists. But instead of acting against the terrorists, the United States arrested the Cuban Five. The Five were tried in Miami, the most unlikely place in the world for Cubans to get a fair trial. At the end of the day many of the Cuban Five were sentenced to life in prison with the only crime actually committed being identification fraud. However, the government accused them (and the biased jury convicted) on conspiracy to commit espionage, which there was no evidence available suggesting this. The trial has been criticized by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, among others.

         Leonard Weinglass, an attorney for the Cuban Five,writes
    The Five were not prosecuted because they violated American law, but because their work exposed those who were. By infiltrating the terror network that is allowed to exist in Florida they demonstrated the hypocrisy of America's claimed opposition to terrorism.



        I recommend this book to anyone who wants more insight on U.S.-Cuban relations or the Cuban Five. Also, if you become outraged at the treatment of Cuba you could participate in the boycott of Bacardi (which also makes Grey Goose vodka, by the way). Bacardi is a private company whose owning family is strongly anti-Cuban, has funded the groups that carry out terrorist attacks against the island, and was strongly influential with the U.S. government in making the embargo harsher in 1996 (the lobbyist for Bacardi actually wrote part of a bill that was passed in 1999 as well).

         Cuba isn't a perfect place and there are certainly mistakes that have been made (some admitted by the leadership itself). But the United States supporting an illegal and immoral embargo, backing terrorist acts against the Cuban people, rejecting public opinion in the U.S. (most of which wants normal relations, even among the business community), and imprisoning Cuban anti-terrorist heroes is not the way to bring about democratic change (which of course the U.S. is unwilling to do anyway). If anyone wants to talk about issues relating to Cuba, please bring it up in the comments.

    10 comments:

    SH said...

    Good post. Thank you. I did not know about Bacardi, not that I drink vodka anyway (yeah I know, very unRussian of me :-) ). This is the stuff most of Americans don't know about. Terrorism is terrorism, no matter who does it and for what reason. It is something we should reject. And when it's done by our government with our tax dollars we must speak out against it.

    Delta said...

    Thanks sh, nice to hear from you! I just learned about Bacardi's activities a couple of weeks ago myself and stopped buying their Rum in response.

    I think the biggest problem that the American citizenry has is a lack of historical perspective. Knowing the history of your own government's actions makes it a lot easier to evaluate whether you should take the claim that they are fighting "a war on terror" or "for democracy" with a little salt or not. How can we get this type of information into the mainstream? I don't know, but I think it's worth trying to figure out.

    Mookie said...

    In such cases, it's a matter of compartmentalized minds. Somewhere in their minds, people often do indeed have the notion that economic sanctions != democracy or freedom. But if the Big Men want to harass another country, especially in the cause and name of "freedom" and "democracy", then the previous definitions are overwritten by the latter, quoted versions.

    Preventing this process of selective ignorance is part of the solution. At least, that's the way I see it.

    Delta said...

    That may also have something to do with it as well Mookie. However, it seems to me that the average American doesn't know anything about the U.S. overthrow of Iran's democracy, Guatemala's democracy, Chile's democracy, etc.

    != <---- what type of programming do you do? or is this symbolic logic syntax as well?

    SH said...

    Whether the people don't know what's going on (which is probably true for a majority of people anywhere) or they do know but somehow manage to avoid thinking about it for whatever reason, it's pretty clear that the solution in both cases would be to educate people on the facts, to present them with ways to think about these problems and to help them understand that the power to change things is in their hands. People feel powerless and marginalized and that's why they ignore the politics and history and avoid involvement. So perhaps the best we can do is to talk to people (in whichever media) and try to explain things the way we know and see them. I wish we could come up with more powerful ways to reach larger number of people with information.

    In the mean time we should support independent media as much as we can. Places like Democracy Now, emerging The Real News and other independent sources of information are in the forefront of education of our society on important issues.

    Blogging is still only reaching a small fraction of population and as someone pointed out recently, most of the blogs are not real conversations, they are mostly monologues to groups of the like-minded people.

    Maybe there is a need for a bit of a different format. I was thinking about it today. Maybe we need a blog-like software that would allow visitors to post on a more or less the same terms as the "owner" of the blog-thingy. So that comments and options of the visitors are not just hidden somewhere a few clicks away but featured prominently together with main posts. I don't know. This is an idea in progress... Any thoughts?

    P.S. Nice to see both of you, Delta and Mookie. I am sorry I haven't been blogging lately. I keep trying to come back to it but something always happens. Or maybe I'm just good at making excuses. ;-)

    Mookie said...

    Yes, people can lack knowledge of the outside world and past historical actions of their government, which would hinder their ability to make comparisons between rhetoric and action. Suppose, though, that new information was outright rejected, denied ("history does not matter"), or filed away in separate folders, hidden from other knowledge. That is to say, what you and I attribute as the source of the problem are not mutually exclusive ideas. Indeed, education is of prime important, but not just about facts. If a person does not have the mental equipment to properly make use of this information, either because of their adherence to authority or mind-numbing patriotism/consumerism -- which all happen to distort or hinder understanding, then there is practically no difference between them and someone just plain ignorant of the facts.

    I guess my first comment did appear a bit antagonistic. Pardon me.

    I use Java.

    if (person == ignorant || person == ill-equipped)
    {
    knowledgeRetained = false;
    }

    sh,

    Nice to see you around as well. I can relate to your lack of desire to blog. I'm sure you have plenty of thoughts, some even worthy of a post, but...

    At least, that's how it happens with me. Maybe when comments pick up, we'll become more interested.

    Thank you, delta, for helping to keep us active.

    Delta said...

    sh,

    People feel powerless and marginalized and that's why they ignore the politics and history and avoid involvement

    I agree that this is probably the heart of the matter. It's not that people don't care about politics, it's that they seem in many cases to not care whether or not they are informed because their decisions won't make a difference anyway. They can plainly see that there is little difference in their daily lives between having a Democrat or Republican in office so they make the natural conclusion that it doesn't matter. And if we restrict ourselves to these two possibilities, in some ways this sort of thinking is understandable, if not correct.

    n the mean time we should support independent media as much as we can. Places like Democracy Now, emerging The Real News and other independent sources of information are in the forefront of education of our society on important issues.

    I said the exact same thing a couple of weeks on another blog, so I agree wholeheartedly. I ordered a Democracy Now! mug last month to support what they do, and hope to contribute more to them in the future.

    Maybe we need a blog-like software that would allow visitors to post on a more or less the same terms as the "owner" of the blog-thingy. So that comments and options of the visitors are not just hidden somewhere a few clicks away but featured prominently together with main posts. I don't know. This is an idea in progress... Any thoughts?

    I think that sort of thing would be nice. Are you thinking of something along the lines of the Daily Kos website? Users can post 'diaries', although these do not generally get the same focus as the ones that are listed by the owner and his employees.

    And I think you're just good at making excuses =) It's nice to see you around though.

    mookie,

    Nah, I didn't take your comment as antagonistic, and I think the reason that you state is an important factor as well. What do you use Java for? I program in Fortran and Python, mostly for scientific calculations, but occasionally to develop GUI applications to make my personal computer more convenient for my fiancee and I to use.

    And you're welcome about keeping you active! I enjoy the discussion, even if we are all very like-minded to some degree ;)

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