Posted 5 years ago on Dec. 20, 2014, 8:52 a.m. EST by flip
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i edited this since it was too long - "The establishment of diplomatic ties between the US and Cuba has been widely hailed as an event of historic importance. Correspondent John Lee Anderson, who has written perceptively about the region, sums up a general reaction among liberal intellectuals when he writes, in the New Yorker, that:
Barack Obama has shown that he can act as a statesman of historic heft. And so, at this moment, has Raúl Castro. For Cubans, this moment will be emotionally cathartic as well as historically transformational. Their relationship with their wealthy, powerful northern American neighbor has remained frozen in the nineteen-sixties for fifty years. To a surreal degree, their destinies have been frozen as well. For Americans, this is important, too. Peace with Cuba takes us momentarily back to that golden time when the United States was a beloved nation throughout the world, when a young and handsome J.F.K. was in office—before Vietnam, before Allende, before Iraq and all the other miseries—and allows us to feel proud about ourselves for finally doing the right thing.”
The past is not quite as idyllic as it is portrayed in the persisting Camelot image. JFK was not “before Vietnam” – or even before Allende and Iraq, but let us put that aside. In Vietnam, when JFK entered office the brutality of the Diem regime that the US had imposed had finally elicited domestic resistance that it could not control. Kennedy was therefore confronted by what he called an “assault from the inside,” “internal aggression” in the interesting phrase favored by his UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson.
Kennedy therefore at once escalated the US intervention to outright aggression, ordering the US Air Force to bomb South Vietnam (under South Vietnamese markings, which deceived no one), authorizing napalm and chemical warfare to destroy crops and livestock, and launching programs to drive peasants into virtual concentration camps to “protect them” from the guerrillas whom Washington knew they were mostly supporting.................................
The story elsewhere was also not quite as idyllic as in the Camelot legends. One of the most consequential of Kennedy’s decisions was in 1962, when he effectively shifted the mission of the Latin American military from “hemispheric defense” – a holdover from World War II – to “internal security,” a euphemism for war against the domestic enemy, the population. The results were described by Charles Maechling, who led US counterinsurgency and internal defense planning from 1961 to 1966. Kennedy’s decision, he wrote, shifted US policy from toleration “of the rapacity and cruelty of the Latin American military” to “direct complicity” in their crimes, to US support for “the methods of Heinrich Himmler’s extermination squads.” Those who do not prefer what international relations specialist Michael Glennon called “intentional ignorance” can easily fill in the details................................
Kennedy’s actions were true to his words. He launched a murderous terrorist campaign designed to bring “the terrors of the earth” to Cuba — historian and Kennedy adviser Arthur Schlesinger’s phrase, referring to the project assigned by the president to his brother Robert Kennedy as his highest priority. Apart from killing thousands of people along with large-scale destruction, the terrors of the earth were a major factor in bringing the world to the brink of a terminal nuclear war, as recent scholarship reveals. The administration resumed the terrorist attacks as soon as the missile crisis subsided...............................
There is now much debate about whether Cuba should be removed from the list of states supporting terrorism. It can only bring to mind the words of Tacitus that “crime once exposed had no refuge but in audacity.” Except that it is not exposed, thanks to the “treason of the intellectuals.”
On taking office after the assassination, President Johnson relaxed the terrorism, which however continued through the 1990s. But he was not about to allow Cuba to survive in peace. He explained to Senator Fulbright that though “I’m not getting into any Bay of Pigs deal,” he wanted advice about “what we ought to do to pinch their nuts more than we’re doing.” Commenting, Latin America historian Lars Schoultz observes that “Nut-pinching has been U.S. policy ever since.” Some, to be sure, have felt that such delicate means are not enough, for example, Nixon cabinet member Alexander Haig, who asked the president to “just give me the word and I’ll turn that f— island into a parking lot.” His eloquence captured vividly the long-standing frustration of US leaders about “That infernal little Cuban republic,” Cuba historian Louis Pérez writes that the US intervention, hailed at home as a humanitarian intervention to liberate Cuba, achieved its actual objectives: “A Cuban war of liberation was transformed into a U.S. war of conquest,” the “Spanish-American war” in imperial nomenclature, designed to obscure the Cuban victory that was quickly aborted by the invasion. The outcome relieved American anxieties about “what was anathema to all North American policymakers since Thomas Jefferson – Cuban independence.”
How things have changed in two centuries.
There have been tentative efforts to improve relations in the past 50 years, reviewed in detail by William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh in their recent comprehensive study, Back Channel to Cuba. Whether we should feel “proud about ourselves” for the steps that Obama has taken may be debated, but they are “the right thing,” even though the crushing embargo remains in place in defiance of the entire world (Israel excepted) and tourism is still barred. In his address to the nation announcing the new policy, the president made it clear that in other respects too, the punishment of Cuba for refusing to bend to US will and violence will continue, repeating pretexts that are too ludicrous for comment.
Worthy of attention, however, are the president’s words, such as the following:
Proudly, the United States has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba through these five decades. We’ve done so primarily through policies that aim to isolate the island, preventing the most basic travel and commerce that Americans can enjoy anyplace else. And though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people … Today, I’m being honest with you. We can never erase the history between us.
One has to admire the stunning audacity of this pronouncement, which again recalls the words of Tacitus. Obama is surely not unaware of the actual history, which includes not only the murderous terrorist war and scandalous economic embargo, but also military occupation of Southeastern Cuba for over a century, including its major port, despite requests by the government since independence to return what was stolen at gunpoint – a policy justified only by the fanatic commitment to block Cuba’s economic development. By comparison, Putin’s illegal takeover of Crimea looks almost benign. Dedication to revenge against the impudent Cubans who resist US domination has been so extreme that it has even overruled the wishes of powerful segments of the business community for normalization – pharmaceuticals, agribusiness, energy – an unusual development in US foreign policy. Washington’s cruel and vindictive policies have virtually isolated the US in the hemisphere and elicited contempt and ridicule throughout the world. Washington and its acolytes like to pretend that they have been “isolating” Cuba, as Obama intoned, but the record shows clearly that it is the US that is being isolated, probably the primary reason for the partial change of course.........................Were the policies a failure? That depends on what the goal was. The answer is quite clear in the documentary record. The Cuban threat was the familiar one that runs through Cold War history, with many predecessors. It was spelled out clearly by the incoming Kennedy administration. The primary concern was that Cuba might be a “virus” that would “spread contagion,” to borrow Kissinger’s terms for the standard theme, referring to Allende’s Chile. That was recognized at once.
Intending to focus attention on Latin America, before taking office Kennedy established a Latin American Mission, headed by Arthur Schlesinger, who reported its conclusions to the incoming president. The Mission warned of the susceptibility of Latin Americans to “the Castro idea of taking matters into one’s own hands,” a serious danger, as Schlesinger later elaborated, when “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.” Schlesinger was reiterating the laments of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who complained to President Eisenhower about the dangers posed by domestic “Communists,” who are able “to get control of mass movements,” an unfair advantage that we “have no capacity to duplicate.” The reason is that “the poor people are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich.” It is hard to convince backward and ignorant people to follow our principle that the rich should plunder the poor......................