Is Cuba Evil?

by Michael I. Niman ArtVoice 5/23/02

Earlier this month, the Bush administration added Cuba , Libya and Syria to its official enemies list, dubbed the “Axis of Evil” by Bush and a compliant press corps.  United States Undersecretary of State John Bolton specifically singled out Cuba , arguing that the island nation posed an “underplayed” threat to the U.S. , and that the Bush administration would soon “take action” against Cuba .  According to Bolton , Cuba sponsors terror, and states that sponsor terror “can expect to become our targets.”  

It’s as if the great Cold Warrior, Eisenhower era Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, had risen from the dead to resume control of the State Department.  We’re right back in the thick of the Cold War – with the younger Bush gunning to finish off Fidel Castro and the revolution that eluded destruction during forty years of successive American administrations.  But before our marines storm the tourist-ravaged beaches of Varadero, or shell Hhhh Havana ’s campy Vedado district, we have to ask, is Cuba really a threat?  Or is the real threat a “War on Terrorism” that’s run amok?

Evil Guests

The U.S. State Department, who during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, listed Cuba as a supporter of state-sponsored terrorism, provides a number of reasons for the designation.  First, they argue, Castro’s government provides a safe haven for terrorists – in particular, members of the Spanish Basque ETA terrorist front.  The Council on Foreign Relations points out, however, that what the State Department fails to mention in their official report, is that it was the former Spanish Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, who asked Cuba to support his nation’s peace accords with the ETA by taking in the Basque fugitives.  The current Spanish government still supports that move and has made no attempt to extradite the Basques.

The State Department also argues that Cuba is sheltering at least eight American fugitives who face a variety of charges back in the U.S.   Cuba and the U.S. , however, don’t have an extradition treaty.  The reason for this lies, not with the Cuban government, who is eager to extradite suspected anti-Castro terrorists living in the U.S. , but with a host of right-wing Cuban-American political activists and members of Congress who have opposed establishing such a treaty with Cuba . 

Another reason for the “terrorist” designation, according to The State Department, is the fact that two of Colombia ’s revolutionary groups, FARC and ELN, maintain diplomatic offices in Cuba .  What the State Department doesn’t mention, however, is the fact that both groups also maintain offices in many European Union and Latin American countries.  Furthermore, the Columbian government, the United Nations and the European Union have all praised Cuba for its role in facilitating peace talks between the rebels and the Columbian government.

Carter in the Land of Evil

In 1998, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. intelligence community reported that Cuba did not pose any threat to U.S. national security – with the obvious implication being that they did not sponsor terrorism.  The State Department, however, under pressure from the right-wing anti-Castro Cuban-American political lobby, kept Cuba on their official terrorist list none-the-less.

Fast-forward to May of 2002.  The Bush administration launched their recent harangue against Cuba On the eve of former president Jimmy Carter’s historic trip to the island.  Before leaving, Carter contacted the State Department, the White House and U.S. intelligence agencies to ask for more details.  Exactly what kind of terrorist threat did his would-be hosts present?  The answer, according to Carter, was “none.”  Carter became more specific with his questions.  Was Cuba supplying technology or information to other states that could be used in terrorist activities?   Were they transferring technology that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction?  Each time, the answer was no.

The current U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, for his part, initially repeated Undersecretary Bolton’s allegations about Cuba ’s threat to the U.S.   He later backpedaled, however, arguing that the State Department never specifically accused Cuba of having or making weapons of mass destruction, but simply of having the capability to make them.  This is sort of like issuing an arrest warrant for someone because they have a credit card, and hence, the capability of buying a gun and committing a crime.  Cuba ’s “evil” capability rests with its booming biotechnology industry – an industry the Cubans developed in response to the U.S. embargo, which prohibited Cuba from buying U.S. medicines.

Over the years, Cuba ’s medical research sector grew to become one of the world’s leading research powerhouses in the field of tropical medicine.  With most profit-driven pharmaceutical companies focusing their research on medicines such as Viagra and Botox, destined for an affluent market in developed countries, the door was wide open for Cuba to fill a void and focus on diseases that were ravaging poorer countries where potential profits were minimal.  According to Carter, who praised Cuba for providing life-saving medicines to some of the world’s poorest countries, Cuba may be “unique in having emphasized health needs instead of profit” as a “driving force.”  Organizations ranging from the United Nations to the World Bank have praised Cuba for its success in delivering health care both at home and abroad.

Evil Medicines & Rouge States

The U.S. State Department, however, specifically lists Cuba ’s success in the health care field, as it’s rationale for listing the island nation as a terrorist threat.  According to John Bolton, “ Cuba has provided duel-use biotechnology to other rouge states.”

Here’s where things get quite funky.  Bolton is correct.  If life-saving medical technology now falls within the Bushspeak lexicon as “duel-use” terrorist technology, Cuba has in fact provided such technology to a rogue state.  That rogue state, however, is the U.S.   Cuba is now not only training economically disadvantaged American medical students, with the understanding that they return to the U.S. and work in impoverished communities, but is also engaging in cooperative research projects with American scientists.

While there are no documented cases of Cuban-sponsored terrorist acts conducted against the U.S. , Cuba has provided documentation supporting their claim that the U.S. has been sponsoring terrorist attacks, often launched from American soil, against them for four decades. This little known war against Cuba ’s civilian economic infrastructure began shortly after Cuba ’s 1959 revolution and has, according to Cuba , claimed 3,500 Cuban lives.  In 1960 U.S. based planes began dropping firebombs on Cuban cane fields, sugar mills and sugar warehouses, in an effort to cripple Cuba’s sugar industry, and hence, their economy.  Three Americans died and two others were captured by the Cubans when their planes crashed or where shot down over Cuba .  In the ensuing years, similar terrorist raids, referred to as “commando” raids by the State Department, targeted Cuban oil refineries, chemical plants and railroad bridges, in much the same way U.S. bombers attacked similar targets during the war against Serbia .  Declassified C.I.A. documents refer to this terrorist campaign as “Operation Mongoose.”

During this time, the C.I.A. created a Cuba operations office in Miami , and funded it to the tune of over $50 million per year.  While Miami-based terrorists attacked Cuban fishing and merchant marine vessels, the C.I.A. arranged for a Japanese freighter to collide with a Cuba-bound East German ship, destroying its cargo of 42 British built transit busses in 1964.  According to information provided by former U.S. intelligence agents and various records made public under the Freedom of Information Act, began launching biological warfare attacks against Cuba during the same time period. 

According to William Blum, a former State Department official turned author, the U.S. introduced a turkey virus to the island in 1962, killing thousands of birds and damaging Cuba ’s turkey industry.  In 1971, the U.S. allegedly unleashed an African Swine Fever epidemic forcing Cuba to destroy 500,000 pigs.  In 1981, during the Reagan presidency, Cuba was hit with a suspicious dengue fever epidemic, which quickly spread across the island, infecting over 300,000 people and killing 158, most of whom were children.  Blum reports that a Cuban-American operative later admitted to taking part in a biological attack on the island launched from Florida preceding the dengue outbreak.  More recently, Cuba complained to the United Nations Biological Weapons Convention in Geneva about a U.S, State Department crop duster caught spraying a substance they argue contained the Thrips Palmi potato bug while flying over their Matanzas province in 1996.

Cuba ’s Evil One

Just as anti-American terrorism now has a human face in Osama bin Laden, the terrorist war against Cuba is also replete with personalities.  Most prominent among them is the Cuban expatriate Luis Posada Carriles, recognized throughout Latin America for masterminding the 1976 bombing of an Air Cubana flight that killed 73 people.  Posada is also responsible for bombing the Copacabana, Chateau and Triton hotels in Havana in 1997.  In a 1998 interview with the New York Times, Posada, a former Firestone employee who was trained by the U.S. Army in explosives and demolition at Fort Benning , Georgia , described the string of hotel bombings as his proudest accomplishment.

Posada explained to The Times, “The C.I.A. taught us everything – everything.”  He went on to specify how “they taught us explosives, how to kill, trained us in acts of sabotage… ‘Acciones de sabotaje’ was the term they used to classify this type of operation.”  According to declassified documents obtained by The Times, the C.I.A. was not only aware of Posada’s activities – they micromanaged him, directing him to “establish a training camp for guerrilla ops against Castro.” 

After the 1976 Air Cubana bombing, Venezuelan police arrested Posada and charged him with the crime.  In 1985, however, Posada, aided by a prominent Cuban-American organization with ties to the Reagan administration, escaped from jail.  Despite his fugitive status as an escaped terrorist, the U.S. government hired Posada as an operative assisting Lt. Col. Oliver North with the Reagan administration’s “Contra” terrorist campaign against Nicaragua .  Posada is currently once again in jail, this time in Panama , where he was charged with conspiring to kill Fidel Castro, along with 2,000 Panamanian students, as he spoke at the University of Panama .

A True Network of Evil

Posada is literally just one of an army of anti-Cuban terrorists the U.S. supported during its four decades of hostility against its Caribbean neighbor.  In many ways, this network, with contacts now scattered throughout Latin America , resembles the anti-western al Qaida terrorist network.  Both have been relentless and brutal in their targeting of civilians – and both have claimed thousands of victims.  While there is debate, however, about whether al Qaida is a state-sponsored terrorist organization, there is no debate about the anti-Cuban terrorist network, with its extensive and well-documented connections to successive U.S. governments. 

Hence, it’s ironic that the Bush regime today accuses Cuba of complicity in the very sort of crime our government has been perpetuating against Cuba for decades.  It’s sort of like a Wal Mart commercial talking about how well Wal Mart treats its workers, and how many American-made products they sell.  It is a direct frontal attack against reality.

This recent propaganda attack against Cuba is nothing new.  It’s reminiscent, in fact, of a much more sinister plan cooked up by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962.  According to ABC News, that covert plan, dubbed “Operation Northwoods,” would have had the U.S. launch terrorist attacks against itself, and then blame them on Cuba .  The ensuing public outrage would provide the necessary backdrop for an otherwise politically untenable full-scale invasion of Cuba .  The plan was nixed by President Kennedy.

Given the background of over forty years of propaganda and terrorist attacks against Cuba , the Bush clan’s recent rhetorical actions against Cuba must be taken seriously. Most dangerous is the specter of the Bush regime using such propaganda to justify launching yet one more attack against Cuba, this time targeting their world renounced pharmaceutical industry – an industry responsible for providing life-saving treatments and medicines to impoverished peoples the world over.  And if the Bush regime does launch a massive terrorist raid against Cuba , no doubt they’ll ply us with their tired old Orwellian logic, that it’s all just a part of their greater “War on Terrorism.”   Let’s not let this happen.


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