Cuba & Us (The U.S.)
David & Goliath - or - our ripening tropical fruit
G. Franco Gonzalez
Ever since I was a very little kid, actually I believe I was around six or seven or so, I can remember being extremely curious about the world I lived in.
Published on LatinoLA: November 25, 2002
I was always so frustrated when people blew off my questions as if it did not matter.
To this day, I can still feel that burning in my heart, my soul, my conscious when I ask? the only question that seems to be? taboo.
Why is it this way? What caused these effects? Who was responsible?
Especially today, it seems we are living in a time where it actually feels, dare I say, wrong to question, and to dig for answers. To do research.
Imagine that. America, the ?Great Democracy?, and sometimes it feels as if you are un-American if you question the messages and rhetoric that comes at us through our airwaves.
Well, needless to say, I became passionate about History and specifically, about Foreign Policy and international affairs. It has been a passion for me to learn why it was that families like mine, so hard working and filled with pride for their original homelands, chose to leave their country and come here. What happened? And why by the millions?
And why are we still coming? I love America. I am a Latino- American. I have studied and served my country, please don?t get me wrong.
However, I know I must not be the only one who wonders why and what caused this mass migration.
So, lets start somewhere. Pick a country? Ah yes, Havana?Cuba, let's begin there.
Cuba and the United States have quite a curious, indeed, a ?unique? status in international relations. There is no similar case of such a sustained assault by one power against another ? in this case the greatest superpower against a poor, Third World country ? for 40 years of terror and economic warfare.
In fact, the striking fanaticism of this aggression goes back a long, long time. From the first days of the American Revolution the eyes of the founding fathers were on Cuba. They were quite out and open about it. Indeed, it was John Quincy Adams, when he was secretary of state, who said our taking Cuba is ?of transcendent importance? to the political and commercial future of the United States. Others said that the future of the world depended on our taking Cuba. There is ample documentation of this. It was a matter ?of transcendent importance? from the beginning of U.S. history, and it remains so. The need to possess Cuba is the oldest issue in U.S. foreign policy.
The U.S. sanctions against Cuba are the harshest in the world, yes even compared to the immoral and illegal sanctions against the civilians of Iraq. There was a small item in the New York Times back in 2000 that said that Congress was passing legislation to allow U.S. exporters to send food and medicine to Cuba. It explained that this was at the urging of U.S. farmers.
Now, here we go with linguistic gymnastics folks! You see, ?Farmers? is a euphemism that means ?U.S. Multi-National Agribusiness? ? it sounds nicer when you call them ?farmers?. And it?s true that U.S. agribusiness wants to get back into this market. The article did NOT point out that the restriction against the sale and export of food and medicines is in gross violation of international humanitarian law. It?s been condemned by almost every relevant body. Even the normally quite compliant Organization of American States, which rarely stands up against the boss, did condemn this as illegal and unacceptable.
U.S. policy vis-?-vis Cuba is unique in a variety of respects, first of all because of the sustained attacks, and secondly because the U.S. is totally isolated in the world ? in fact, 100 percent isolated, because the one state that reflexively has to vote with the United States at the UN, Israel, also openly violates the embargo, contrary to its vote. Hmm?
The U.S. government is also isolated from its own population. Indeed, according to the most recent polls, about two-thirds of the population in the United States is opposed to the embargo. They don?t take polls in the business world, but there is fairly strong evidence that major sectors of the business world, major corporations, are strongly opposed to the embargo. So the isolation of the U.S. government is another unusual element ? yes?
The government is isolated from its own population, from the major decision-makers in this society, which largely control the government (big-business), and from international opinion, but is still fanatically committed to this policy, which goes right back to the roots of the American republic.
In 1997 at the World Trade Organization (WTO) when the European Union brought charges against the United States for blatant, flagrant violation of WTO rules in the embargo, the US rejected its jurisdiction, which is not surprising, because it rejects the jurisdiction of international bodies generally. But the reasons were interesting: It rejected its jurisdiction on the grounds of a national security reservation.
The national security of the United States of America was threatened by the existence of Cuba, and therefore the US had to reject WTO jurisdiction. Actually, the US did not make that position official, because it would have subjected itself to international ridicule, but that was the position, and it was publicly stated repeatedly. It?s a national security issue; we therefore cannot consider WTO jurisdiction.
You will be pleased to know that the Pentagon recently downgraded the threat of Cuban conquest of the United States. It?s still there, but it?s not as serious as it was. The reason, they explained, is the deterioration of the ?awesome Cuban military forces? after the end of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union stopped supplying them. So we can rest a little bit easier.
This elicited no ridicule when it was publicly announced, at least here. I?m sure it did elsewhere; you might recall the response of the Mexican ambassador when John F. Kennedy was trying to organize collective security in defense against Cuba back in the early ?60s in Mexico: the ambassador said he would regretfully have to decline because if he were to tell Mexicans that Cuba was a threat to their national security, 40 million Mexicans would die ? laughing!
This hysteria and fanaticism is indeed unusual and interesting, and it deserves inquiry and thought. Where does it come from? The historical depth partly explains it, but there?s more to it than that in our present world. A good framework within which to think of it is what has now become the leading thesis in intellectual discourse, in serious journals especially. It?s what?s called the ?new humanism,? which was proclaimed by Clinton and Blair and various acolytes with great awe and solemnity.
You see, according to this thesis, we?re entering a glorious new era, a new millennium. It actually began about 12 years ago when two, enlightened countries, as they call themselves, were freed from the shackles of the Cold War and were therefore able to rededicate themselves with full vigor to their historic mission of bringing justice and freedom to the suffering people of the world and protecting human rights everywhere, by force if necessary ? something they were prevented from doing during the Cold War interruption.
That renewal of the saintly mission is quite explicit; it?s not left to the imagination. Clinton gave a major speech at the Norfolk Air Station on April 1, 1999, explaining why we have to bomb everybody in sight in the Balkans. He was introduced by the secretary of defense, William Cohen, who opened his remarks by reminding the audience of some of the dramatic words that had opened the last century. He cited Theodore Roosevelt, later to be president, who said that ?unless you?re willing to fight for great ideals, those ideals will vanish.? And just as Theodore Roosevelt opened the century with those stirring words, William Clinton, his successor, was closing the century with the same stand.
That was an interesting introduction for anyone who had taken a course in American history, that is, a real course. Theodore Roosevelt, as they would have learned, was one of the most extraordinary racist, raving lunatics of contemporary history. He was greatly admired by Hitler, and for good reason. His writings are shocking to read. He won his fame through participation in the US invasion of Cuba. By 1898 Cuba had essentially liberated itself from Spain after a long struggle, but the US wasn?t having any of that, so it invaded to prevent the independence struggle from succeeding. Cuba was quickly turned into what two Harvard professors, the editors of the recent Kennedy Tapes, call a ?virtual colony? of the United States, as it remained up until 1959. It?s an accurate description. Cuba was turned into a ?virtual colony? after the invasion, which was described as a humanitarian intervention, incidentally.
At that time, too, the US was quite isolated. The US government was isolated, of course, from the Cuban people, but it was also isolated from the American population, who were foolish enough to believe the propaganda and were overwhelmingly in favor of ?Cuba Libre?, not understanding that that was the last thing in the minds of their leaders ? or, from another point of view, the first thing in their minds, because they had to prevent it.
The (noble) ideals that Roosevelt was fighting for were in fact those, in part: to prevent independence through humanitarian intervention. However, at the time he actually spoke, in 1901 or so, the values that we had to uphold by force were being demonstrated far more dramatically elsewhere than in Cuba, namely in the conquest of the Philippines. That was one of the most murderous colonial wars in history, in which hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were slaughtered. The press recognized that it was a massive slaughter, but advised that we must continue to kill ?the natives in English fashion,? until they come to ?respect our arms? and ultimately to respect our good intentions. You know, slaughter them until they realize we are doing it for their own good. This was also a so-called humanitarian intervention.
--Fruits of Conquest--
There were a couple of problems. President McKinley did say that we can?t claim at this point to have the consent of the Filipinos, but that?s unimportant because we have the consent of our [consciences] in performing this great act of humanity, and after all, that?s what counts. A small number of people opposed the war pretty strongly ? Mark Twain for example, who was silenced for 90 years, and whose anti-imperialist essays just came out back in 1992. But McKinley pointed out that ?it is not a good time for the liberator to submit important questions concerning liberty and government to the liberated while they are engaged in shooting down their rescuers.? So we had to wait until they stopped shooting down their rescuers so that we can then explain to them the issues of liberty. Those were the values that were being upheld, with hundreds of thousands of corpses and tremendous destruction in the early part of the 1900s, and those are the values we are now told we have to fight for and uphold, as the current inheritor of Theodore Roosevelt?s values proclaims.
We must understand, it takes a good deal of faith in the US doctrinal system to pronounce those words and expect people not to be outraged, and apparently that faith is merited. No outrage was recorded, to many historians? knowledge, except in the usual marginal circles. That period was a turning point in modern history, certainly in US history, hence in world history. Up until that time, since the Revolution, the United States had been engaged in its primary task, namely, as one leading diplomatic historian put it in 1969, the task of ?felling trees and Indians and of rounding out their natural boundaries.? One of the salutary effects of the activism of the 1960s is that not only a leading historian but even a jingoist lunatic could not pronounce those words today. Nobody would write that now. They might think it, but they would know not to say it.
So, after ?felling trees and Indians and rounding out [our] natural boundaries,? it was necessary to turn to new worlds to conquer. In 1888 Secretary of State James Blaine announced the next conquests. He said, there are three places of value enough to be taken quickly: Hawaii, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. A few years later, the US minister in Hawaii informed Washington that ?the Hawaiian pear is now fully ripe,? ready to be plucked, and the US plucked it, taking Hawaii away from its people by combination of overwhelming force and guile. That was one. The minister was in fact repeating the words of John Quincy Adams 70 years earlier, who had described Cuba as not yet a ?ripe fruit,? but had said it will become a ripe fruit, and when it does become a ripe fruit it will fall into our hands ?by the laws of political gravitation.? That was around 1820.
The problem throughout the 19th century was the British deterrent. In the 1960s and ?70s and ?80s it was the Russian deterrent. But the great enemy in the 19th century, the enemy that had to be brought to its feet, as was pointed out over and over, was Britain. That?s why Canada and Cuba are still a different color on the map. And that deterrent set limits on the liberating zeal of the revolutionaries and their inheritors. But Adams pointed out quite correctly, as did Thomas Jefferson and others, that over time the balance of forces would change, the British deterrent would not be that effective, and the US would be able to take over Cuba, as it must do because of its transcendent importance to the United States, by the laws of political gravitation, meaning of course, by force. That happened in 1898. The United States invaded Cuba to prevent the ultimate threat, namely its liberation from Spain. Puerto Rico was taken over in the same year, and the Philippines came along as an extra bonus. It hadn?t been contemplated, but it turned out to be a ripe fruit, too, fertilized by plenty of corpses.
--Welcome to true history--
These events were all related in planning. Actually the biggest fruit of all by a huge order was China. For 2,000 years China had been one of the most important countries in the world, a leading commercial and industrial power, but by the 19th century that had changed. By the end of the century the European powers and Japan were busy carving China up, and the United States wanted to get into the act as a rising power. The China trade was a great myth from the early days of New England: the New England merchants were going to make money from the China trade. In order to exploit the China trade and take our proper role in carving up China, it was necessary to turn the Caribbean and the Pacific into ?American Lakes,? as planners put it. That meant taking Cuba, controlling the Caribbean, stealing what was called Panama from Colombia (another one of Theodore Roosevelt?s achievements), building the canal, taking over Hawaii, taking over the Philippines as another base for trade with China, and in fact effectively turning those two seas, the Caribbean and the Pacific, into American lakes, as they remain today.
Every one of these 1898 actions and what followed was connected in some fashion or another, usually quite explicitly, to this long-term objective. This includes the so-called Theodore Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which formally established the US right to rule the Caribbean. The repeated invasions of Nicaragua, Woodrow Wilson?s very bloody invasions of the Dominican Republic and Haiti ? particularly ugly in Haiti because it was also suffused by extreme racism (Haiti will never recover from that and in fact may not be inhabitable in a couple of decades) ? and many other actions in that region were all part of the new humanism, which we?re now reviving.
Probably the major achievement was in Venezuela, where in 1920 Woodrow Wilson succeeded in kicking out the British enemy, at that time weakened by the First World War. Venezuela was extremely important. The world was shifting to an oil-based economy at the time. North America, mainly the US, was by far the major producer of oil, and remained so until about 1970, but Venezuela was an important oil resource, one of the biggest in the world ? in fact, the biggest single exporter until 1970, and still the biggest exporter to the United States. So kicking the British out of there was very important. Venezuela also had other resources, such as iron, and US corporations enriched themselves in Venezuela for decades ? and still do ? while the US supported a series of murderous dictators to KEEP THE PEOPLE IN LINE.
The ?Kennedy tapes,? the secret tapes of the Cuban missile crisis, are not all that revealing since almost everything in there had already come out in one way or another, but they do reveal a few new things. One of the new things is an explanation of one of the reasons the Kennedy brothers, Robert and John F., were concerned about missiles in Cuba. They were concerned that they might be a deterrent to a US invasion of Venezuela, which they thought might be necessary because the situation there was getting out of hand. Missiles in Cuba might deter an invasion. Noting that, John F. Kennedy said that the Bay of Pigs was right. We?re going to have to make sure we win; we can?t face any such deterrent to our benevolence in the region. After the missile crisis, contrary to what?s often said, the US made no pledge not to invade Cuba. It stepped up the terrorism, and of course the embargo was already in place and imposed more harshly, and so matters have essentially remained.
--Don Castro?s Threat--
As I mentioned, Cuba was a virtual colony of the United States until January 1959; it didn?t take long before the wheels started turning again. By mid-1959 ? we now have a lot of declassified records from that period, so the picture is pretty complete ? the Eisenhower administration had determined informally to re-conquer Cuba. By October 1959 planes based in Florida were already bombing Cuba. The US claimed not to be able to do anything about it, and has remained ?helpless? throughout the most recent acts of terrorism, which are traceable to CIA-trained operatives, as usual.
In March 1960 the Eisenhower administration secretly made a formal decision to conquer Cuba, but with a proviso: it had to be done in such a way that the US hand would not be evident. The reason for that was because they knew it would blow up Latin America if it were obvious that the US had retaken Cuba. Furthermore, they had polls indicating that in Cuba itself there was a high level of optimism and strong support for the revolution; there would obviously be plenty of resistance. They had to overthrow the government, but in such a way that the US hand would not be evident.
Shortly after that, the Kennedy administration came in. They were very much oriented towards Latin America; just before taking office Kennedy had established a Latin American mission to review the affairs of the continent. It was headed by historian Arthur Schlessinger. His report is now declassified. He informed President Kennedy of the results of the mission with regard to Cuba. The problem in Cuba, he said, is ?the spread of the Castro idea of taking matters into one?s own hands.? He said, that is an idea that has a great deal of appeal throughout Latin America, where ?the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes ? [and] the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living.? And that, fellow Latinos, is a problem. That is the threat of Castro. That?s correct. In fact, if you read through the record of internal planning over the years, that has always been the threat. The Cold War is a public pretext. Take a look at the record; in case after case, it?s exactly this. Cuba is what was called a ?virus? that might infect others who might be stimulated by ?the Castro idea of taking matters into [their] own hands? and believing that they too might have a decent living.
It?s not that Russia was not mentioned. Russia is mentioned in the Schlessinger report. He says, in the background, Russia is offering itself as ?the model for achieving modernization in a single generation,? and is offering aid and development loans. So there was a Russian threat. We are instructed vigorously that when we inspect the new humanism, we?re not supposed to look at those musty old stories about the Cold War, when we were blocked by the Russians from doing wonderful things. It?s very important not to look, because the institutions have remained unchanged, the planning remains unchanged, the decisions are unchanged, and the policies are unchanged. It?s far better to ensure that people don?t know about them.
The Kennedy administration took over, and so matters continued up until the end of the Cold War. It?s not that nothing changed at the end of the Cold War; it did. The main thing that changed was that there no longer was a Soviet deterrent. That meant that the US was much more free than before, along with its loyal attack dog, the British. So the US and UK are now much more free to use force than they were when there was a deterrent. That was recognized right away. But new pretexts are needed. You can no longer say that everything we do is against the Russians.
The Berlin Wall fell in November 1989. That ended the Cold War as far as any sane person was concerned. In October 1989, a month before, the first edition of the Bush Administration had released a secret national security directive, now public, in which it called for support for our great friend Saddam Hussein and other comparable figures in the Middle East in defense against the Russians.
Folks, that was October 1989.
In March 1990 ? that?s four months after the fall of the Berlin Wall ? the White House had to make its annual presentation to Congress calling for a huge military budget, which was the same as in all earlier years, except for the pretexts. Now it wasn?t because the Russians are coming, because obviously the Russians aren?t coming, it was because of what they called the ?technological sophistication? of Third World powers. With regard to the Middle East, instructions had been changed from October ? then, it was: ?the Russians are coming.? In March, it was: our intervention forces have to be aimed at the Middle East as before, where the threat to our interests ?could not be laid at the Kremlin?s door,? contrary to the lies of the last 40 years. Case by case, the pretext changed, the policies remained ? but were now without restraints.
That was immediately obvious in Latin America. A month after the fall of the Berlin Wall the US invaded Panama, killing a couple of hundred or maybe a couple of thousand people, destroying poor neighborhoods, reinstating a regime of bankers and narcotraffickers ? drug peddling and money laundering shot way up, as congressional research bureaus soon advised ? and so on. That?s normal, a footnote to history, but there were two differences: one difference is that the pretexts were different. This was the first intervention since the beginning of the Cold War that was not undertaken to defend ourselves from the Russians.
This time, it was to defend ourselves from those terrible Hispanic narcotraffickers. Secondly, the US recognized right away that it was much freer to invade without any concern that somebody, the Russians, might react somewhere in the world, as former Undersecretary of State Abrams happily pointed out.
The same was true with regard to the Third World generally. The Third World could now be disregarded. There?s no more room for non-alignment. So forget about the Third World and their interests; you don?t have to make a pretense of concern for them. That?s been very evident in policy since.
With regard to Cuba, it?s about the same. Right after the fall of the Soviet Union, the embargo against Cuba became far harsher, under a liberal initiative, incidentally: it was a Toricelli-Clinton initiative. And the pretexts were now different. Before, it was that the Cubans were a tentacle of the Soviet beast about to strangle us; now it was suddenly our love of democracy that made us oppose Cuba.
The US does support a [certain kind of democracy]. The kind of democracy it supports was described rather frankly by a leading scholar who dealt with the democratic initiatives of the Reagan administration in the 1980s and who writes from an insider?s point of view because he was in the State Department working on ?democracy enhancement? projects: Thomas Carothers. He points out that though the Reagan administration, which he thinks was very sincere, undermined democracy everywhere, it nevertheless was interested in a certain kind of democracy ? what he calls ?top-down? forms of democracy that leave ?traditional structures of power? in place, namely those with which the US has long had good relations. As long as democracy has that form, it?s no problem.
The real problem of Cuba remains what it has always been. It remains the threat of ?the Castro idea of taking matters into [your] own hands,? which continues to be a stimulus to poor and underprivileged people who can?t get it driven through their heads that they have no right to seek opportunities for a decent living. And Cuba, unfortunately, keeps making that clear, for example, by sending doctors all over the world at a rate way beyond any other country despite its current straits, which are severe, and by maintaining, unimaginably, a health system that is a deep embarrassment to the United States. Because of concerns such as these, and because of the fanaticism that goes way back in American history, the US government, for the moment, at least, is continuing the hysterical attack, and will do so until it is deterred.
And though foreign deterrents, which weren?t that effective, don?t exist anymore, the ultimate deterrent is where it always was, right at home. Two-thirds of the population oppose the embargo even without any discussion. Imagine what would happen if the issues were discussed in a serious and honest way ? that leaves enormous opportunities for that deterrent to be exercised.
Although, with the success the US government has had in instituting a constant state of fear and of a constant hunt for ?terrorists? it is more probable that the situation in Cuba could go through some changes.
Since we are so pre-occupied in blasting and slaughtering everything in sight in the Middle East, one country at a time, so as to exploit the tremendous leverage and opportunity created when those insane people destroyed the World Trade Center, Cuba, once again has slipped onto the back burner.
There are more profitable adventures to take advantage of now.
Will you be surprised if, after we are done plundering the resources in the Middle East, if Cuba again becomes a ?threat by sympathizing with terrorist nations??
Sounds like the type of fertilizer that would finally cause this tropical fruit to ripen, yes?
"You have an awesome opportunity here. But, you will never truly understand your life without understanding the history that brought you here. A history written in blood, repression, strength and hope. We made it here, many did not and will not. Don't waste your time or their sacrifice."
G. Franco Gonzalez:
The Gonzalez family emmigrated to the US from Mexico in 1975. Franco is a business owner, foreign affairs student and teacher, father of 10 year old Olivia and is active in the fight against illiteracy in our communities. [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org]