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Year 501

The Conquest Continues


By Noam Chomsky

Chapter Six

A "Ripe Fruit"

When new bottles replace the old, the taste of the wine may change, though for victims of the "savage injustice" of the conquerors, it rarely loses its bitterness. Nor does it matter much, for the most part, whose hand wields the rod. Sometimes it does. During the American revolution, Francis Jennings writes, most of the indigenous population "were eventually driven by events to fight for their `ancient protector and friend' the king of England," recognizing what lay ahead if the rebels won. Much the same was true of the black population, their awareness heightened by the British emancipation proclamation of 1775 offering to free "all indentured servants, Negroes or others...able and willing to bear arms," while condemnation of the slave trade was deleted from the Declaration of Independence "in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia" (Thomas Jefferson). Even employees were considered chattel by the rebels. Local committees opposed granting them permission to enlist in George Washington's army because "all Apprentices and servants are the Property of their masters and mistresses, and every mode of depriving such masters and mistresses of their Property is a Violation of the Rights of mankind, contrary to the...Continental Congress, and an offence against the Peace of the good People of this State" (Pennsylvania); an indication of "how Patriot employers may have felt about the Revolutionary fervor of their employees," Richard Morris observes.

As well as Samuel Johnson, enslaved people could notice that "we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes," including those who urged their slaves to "be content with their situation, and expect a better condition in the next world," Federal Judge Leon Higginbotham comments. Among the huge mass of refugees fleeing rebel terror, including many "boat people" whose misery has never entered standard history, were thousands of blacks who fled "to freedom in Great Britain, the West Indies, Canada, and, eventually, Africa" (Ira Berlin). The indigenous population well understood what Alexander Hamilton had in mind when he wrote, in the Federalist Papers, that "the savage tribes on our Western frontier ought to be regarded as our natural enemies," and the natural allies of the Europeans, "because they have most to fear from us, and most to hope from them." Their worst fears were soon to be confirmed.1

Latin America provides the richest evidence of the persistence of dominant foreign policy themes, which fall within the broader framework of the world conquest. One of the most grave of Latin America's many problems since the overthrow of Spanish rule was foreseen by the Liberator, Simón Bolívar, in 1822: "There is at the head of this great continent a very powerful country, very rich, very warlike, and capable of anything." "In England," Piero Gleijeses observes, "Bolívar saw a protector; in the United States, a menace." Naturally so, given the geopolitical realities.2

Britain had its own reasons for containing the aggressive upstart across the seas. With regard to the Caribbean, Foreign Minister George Canning pointed out in 1822 that "the possession by the United States of both shores of the channel through which our Jamaica trade must pass, would...amount to a suspension of that trade, and to a consequent total ruin." As discussed earlier, the Jacksonian Democrats intended not only to strangle and control England, but far more: to "place all other nations at our feet" and "control the commerce of the world."3

The United States did not look forward to the independence of the Spanish colonies. "In the Congressional debates of the period," Gleijeses notes, "there was much more enthusiasm for the cause of the Greeks than that of the Spanish Americans." One reason was that Latin Americans "were of dubious whiteness," at best "from degraded Spanish stock," unlike the Greeks, who were assigned a special role as the Aryan giants who created civilization in the version of history constructed by European racist scholarship.4 Yet another reason was that, unlike the Founding Fathers, Bolívar freed his slaves, revealing himself to be a rotten apple that might spoil the barrel.

A broader issue was brought forth by the major intellectual reviews of the day. They concluded that "South America will be to North America...what Asia and Africa are to Europe" -- our Third World. This perception retains its vitality through the 20th century. Commenting on Secretary of State James Baker's efforts to enhance "regional problem-sharing," Times correspondent Barbara Crossette notes "the realization in the United States and throughout the hemisphere that European and Asian trading blocs can be best tackled by a large free-trade area in this part of the world" -- the "realization" by sectors that count, by Times standards; others have their reservations about the design constructed in the interests of the masters. The World Bank is also less sanguine about the prospects. A 1992 report concludes that the US will gain more from free trade agreements than Latin America, apart from Mexico and Brazil -- meaning, those elements in Mexico and Brazil linked to international capital; and that the region would do better with a customs union on the model of the European Community with a common external tariff, excluding the US, something definitely not in the cards.5

In the 19th century, the British deterrent prevented US dominance of the hemisphere. But the conception of "our confederacy" as "the nest, from which all America, North and South, is to be peopled" (Thomas Jefferson) was firmly implanted, along with his corollary that it is best for Spain to rule until "our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece."6

There were internal conflicts over the matter. American merchants "were eager to contribute to the cause of freedom -- as long as the rebels were able to pay, preferably cash," Gleijeses notes. And the well-established tradition of piracy provided a reservoir of American ship owners and seamen (British too) who were happy to offer their services as privateers to attack Spanish shipping, though extension of their terrorist vocation to American vessels led to much moral outrage and a government crackdown. Apart from England, liberated Haiti also provided assistance to the cause of independence, but on the condition that slaves be freed. Haiti too was a dangerous rotten apple, punished for independence in a manner to which we return in chapter 8.

The concept of Panamericanism advanced by Bolívar was diametrically opposed to that of the Monroe Doctrine at the same time. A British official wrote in 1916 that while Bolívar originated the idea of Panamericanism, he "did not contemplate the consummation of his policy under the aegis of the United States." In the end, it was "Monroe's victory and Bolívar's defeat," Gleijeses comments.

The status of Cuba was of particular significance, a striking illustration of the resilience of traditional themes. The US was firmly opposed to the independence of Cuba, "strategically situated and rich in sugar and slaves" (Gleijeses). Jefferson advised President Madison to offer Napoleon a free hand in Spanish America in return for the gift of Cuba to the United States. The US should not go to war for Cuba, he wrote to President Monroe in 1823, "but the first war on other accounts will give it to us, or the Island will give itself to us, when able to do so." Secretary of State John Quincy Adams described Cuba as "an object of transcendent importance to the commercial and political interests of our Union." He too urged Spanish sovereignty until Cuba would fall into US hands by "the laws of political...gravitation," a "ripe fruit" for harvest. Support for Spanish rule was near universal in the Executive branch and Congress; European powers, Colombia, and Mexico were approached for assistance in the endeavor of blocking the liberation of Cuba. A prime concern was the democratic tendencies in the Cuban independence movement, which advocated abolition of slavery and equal rights for all. There was again a threat that "the rot would spread," even to our own shores.7

By the end of the 19th century, the US was powerful enough to ignore the British deterrent and conquer Cuba, just in time to prevent the success of the indigenous liberation struggle. Standard doctrines justified relegating Cuba to virtual colonial status. Cubans were "ignorant niggers, half-breeds, and dagoes," the New York press observed; "a lot of degenerates...no more capable of self-government than the savages of Africa," the military command added. The US imposed the rule of the white propertied classes, who had no weird notions about democracy, freedom, and equal rights, and were thus not degenerates. The "ripe fruit" was converted to a US plantation, terminating the prospects for successful independent development.8

With US economic and political domination of the region well established a generation later, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated his "Good Neighbor Policy"; market forces are the most efficient device of control, if they suffice. First, however, it was necessary to overturn the government of Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín, which would be a threat to US "commercial and export interests in Cuba," Ambassador Sumner Welles advised. The ranking expert on Latin America, Welles was particularly disturbed that workers had taken over sugar mills and set up what he called a "soviet government" in them. There can be "no confidence either in the policies nor stability of this regime," he informed Secretary of State Cordell Hull, who told the press that the US would "welcome any government representing the will of the people of the Republic and capable of maintaining law and order throughout the island" -- not the Grau government. Welles conceded that law and order were being maintained, but this appearance of stability was only "the quiet of panic," he explained. It was a situation of "passive anarchy," State Department adviser Adolf Berle added, another term that perhaps finds its place alongside of "logical illogicality."

FDR told the press that Grau was backed only by "his local army" of 1500 men "and a bunch of students," a government lacking any legitimacy. Welles's replacement, Jefferson Caffery, testified later as to the "unpopularity with all the better classes in the country of the de facto [Grau] government," which was "supported only by the army and ignorant masses." When the US-backed Mendieta government that replaced Grau had problems subduing the population, Caffery explained further that "in numbers, the ignorant masses of Cuba reach a very high figure."

Roosevelt's refusal to recognize the Grau government "meant in effect an economic strangulation of the island," David Green points out, "since the United States would not negotiate a new sugar purchase agreement with a government it did not recognize," and the dependent economy could not survive without one. Army Chief of Staff Fulgencio Batista understood the message, and threw his support to opposition leader Carlos Mendieta, who replaced Grau and was immediately recognized by Washington. Relations were readjusted, with the result that Cuba became more fully incorporated "within the protective system of the United States," a member of the US Tariff Commission noted. The US retained effective control over Cuban affairs, keeping its highly stratified and repressive internal social system intact along with the dominant role of foreign enterprise.9

The Batista dictatorship that took over a few years later served US "commercial and export interests in Cuba" admirably, thus enjoying full support.

Castro's overthrow of the dictatorship in January 1959 soon elicited US hostility, and a return to the traditional path. By late 1959, the CIA and the State Department concluded that Castro had to be overthrown. One reason, State Department liberals explained, was that "our business interests in Cuba have been seriously affected." A second was the rotten apple effect: "The United States cannot hope to encourage and support sound economic policies in other Latin American countries and promote necessary private investments in Latin America if it is or appears to be simultaneously cooperating with the Castro program," the State Department concluded in November 1959. But one condition was added: "in view of Castro's strong though diminishing support in Cuba, it is of great importance, however, that the United States government not openly take actions which would cause the United States to be blamed for his failure or downfall."

As for Castro's support, public opinion studies provided to the White House (April 1960) concluded that most Cubans were optimistic about the future and supported Castro, while only 7 percent expressed concern about Communism and only 2 percent about failure to hold elections. Soviet presence was nil. In the United States, Jules Benjamin observes, "The liberals, like the conservatives, saw Castro as a threat to the hemisphere, but without the world communist conspiracy component."

By October 1959, planes based in Florida were carrying out strafing and bombing attacks against Cuban territory. In December, CIA subversion was stepped up, including supply of arms to guerrilla bands and sabotage of sugar mills and other economic targets. In March 1960, the Eisenhower Administration formally adopted a plan to overthrow Castro in favor of a regime "more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S." -- the two conditions being equivalent -- emphasizing again that this must be done "in such a manner as to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention."

Sabotage, terror, and aggression were escalated further by the Kennedy Administration, along with the kind of economic warfare that no small country can long endure. Cuban reliance on the US as an export market and for imports had, of course, been overwhelming, and could hardly be replaced without great cost. The New Frontiersmen were obsessed with Cuba from the first moments. During the presidential campaign of 1960, Kennedy had accused Eisenhower and Nixon of threatening US security by allowing "the Iron Curtain...90 miles off the coast of the United States." "We were hysterical about Castro at the time of the Bay of Pigs [April 1961] and thereafter," Defense Secretary Robert McNamara later testified to the Church Committee. A few days before the decision to invade Cuba, Arthur Schlesinger advised the President that "the game would be up through a good deal of Latin America" if the US were to tolerate "another Cuba"; or this one, JFK determined. Much of Kennedy's Latin American policy was inspired by the fear that the virus would infect others and limit US hegemony in the region.

At the first cabinet meeting after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the atmosphere was "almost savage," Chester Bowles noted privately: "there was an almost frantic reaction for an action program." The President's public posture was no less militant: "the complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history. Only the strong...can possibly survive," he told the country. Kennedy broke all diplomatic, commercial, and financial ties with Cuba, a terrible blow to the Cuban economy, given the dependency that had been established under US suzerainty. He succeeded in isolating Cuba diplomatically, but efforts to organize collective action against it in 1961 were unsuccessful, perhaps because of a problem noted by a Mexican diplomat: "If we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing." Fortunately, the educated classes in the United States were capable of a more sober evaluation of the threat posed to the survival of the Free World.10

Theoretically, medicines and some food were exempt from the embargo, but food and medical aid were denied after Cyclone Flora caused death and destruction in October 1963. Standard procedure, incidentally. Consider Carter's refusal to allow aid to any West Indian country struck by the August 1980 hurricane unless Grenada was excluded (West Indians refused, and received no aid). Or the US reaction when Nicaragua was fortuitously devastated by a hurricane in October 1988. Washington could scarcely conceal its glee over the welcome prospects of widespread starvation and vast ecological damage, and naturally refused aid, even to the demolished Atlantic Coast area with longstanding links to the US and deep resentment against the Sandinistas; its people too must starve in the ruins of their shacks, to satisfy our blood-lust. US allies timidly followed orders, justifying their cowardice with the usual hypocrisy. To demonstrate that its malice is truly bipartisan, Washington reacted in much the same way when a tidal wave wiped out fishing villages leaving hundreds dead and missing in September 1992. The New York Times headline reads: "U.S. Sends Nicaragua Aid As Sea's Toll Rises to 116." "Foreign governments, including the United States, responded with immediate help today for the survivors," the Times excuse for a reporter wrote, while Washington announced "that it was making $5 million available immediately as a result of the disaster." Such nobility. Only in the small print at the end do we discover that the $5 million is being diverted from scheduled aid that had been withheld -- but not, Congress was assured, from the over $100 million aid package that the Administration had suspended because the Nicaraguan government is not yet sufficiently subservient to its wishes. The humanitarian donation amounts to an impressive $25,000.11

Any weapon, however cruel, may be used against the perpetrators of the crime of independence. And, crucially, the awed self-adulation must never falter. "It was a narrow escape," Mark Twain wrote: "If the sheep had been created first, man would have been a plagiarism."12

The Kennedy Administration also sought to impose a cultural quarantine to block the free flow of ideas and information to the Latin American countries, fearing the rotten apple effect. In March 1963, JFK met with seven Central American presidents who agreed "To develop and put into immediate effect common measures to restrict the movement of subversive nationals to and from Cuba, and the flow of materials, propaganda and funds from that country." The unwillingness of Latin American governments to emulate US controls on travel and cultural interchange always greatly troubled the Kennedy liberals, as did their legal systems, requiring evidence for crimes by alleged "subversives," and their excessive liberalism generally.13

Immediately after the Bay of Pigs failure, Kennedy initiated a program of international terrorism to overthrow the regime, reaching quite remarkable dimensions. These atrocities are largely dismissed in the West, apart from some notice of the assassination attempts, one of them implemented on the very day of the Kennedy assassination. The terrorist operations were formally called off by Lyndon Johnson. They continued, however, and were escalated by Nixon. Subsequent actions are attributed to renegades beyond CIA control, whether accurately or not, we do not know; one high-level Pentagon official of the Kennedy-Johnson Administrations, Roswell Gilpatric, has expressed his doubts. The Carter Administration, with the support of US courts, condoned hijacking of Cuban ships in violation of the anti-hijacking convention that Castro was respecting. The Reaganites rejected Cuban initiatives for diplomatic settlement and imposed new sanctions on the most outlandish pretexts, often lying outright, a record reviewed by Wayne Smith, who resigned as head of the US Interests Section in Havana in protest.14

From the Cuban perspective, the Kennedy terror seemed to be a prelude to invasion. The CIA concluded in September 1962 -- before Russian missiles were detected in mid-October -- that "the main purpose of the present [Soviet] military buildup in Cuba is to strengthen the Communist regime there against what the Cubans and Soviets conceive to be a danger that the US may attempt by one means or another to overthrow it." In early October, the State Department confirmed this judgment, as did a later State Department study. How realistic these fears were, we may only speculate.

Of interest, in this connection, is Robert McNamara's reaction to the late Andrei Gromyko's allegation that Soviet missiles were sent to Cuba "to strengthen the defensive capability of Cuba -- that is all." In response, McNamara acknowledged that "If I had been a Cuban or Soviet official, I believe I would have shared the judgment you expressed that a U.S. invasion was probable" (a judgment that he says was inaccurate). The probability of nuclear war after a US invasion was "99 percent," McNamara added. Such an invasion was frighteningly close after JFK dismissed Khrushchev's offer of mutual withdrawal of missiles from Cuba and Turkey (the latter obsolete, already ordered withdrawn). Indeed, Cuba itself might have initiated nuclear war when a US terrorist (Mongoose) team blew up a factory, killing 400 people according to Castro, at one of the most tense moments of the crisis, when the Cubans may have had their fingers on the button.15

The March 1960 plan to overthrow Castro in favor of a regime "more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S." remains in force in 1992 as the US pursues its venerable task of preventing Cuban independence, with 170 years of experience behind it. Also in force is the Eisenhower directive that the crime should be perpetrated "in such a manner as to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention."Accordingly, the ideological institutions must suppress the record of aggression, campaigns of terror, economic strangulation, and the other devices employed by the Lord of the hemisphere in its dedication to "the true interests of the Cuban people."

That dictate has been followed with loyalty perhaps beyond the norm. In respected scholarship, US terrorism against Cuba has been excised from the record in a display of servility that would impress the most dedicated totalitarian. In the media, Cuba's plight is regularly attributed to the demon Castro and "Cuban socialism" alone. Castro bears full responsibility for the "poverty, isolation and humbling dependence" on the USSR, the New York Times editors inform us, concluding triumphantly that "the Cuban dictator has painted himself into his own corner," without any help from us. That is true by virtue of doctrinal necessity, the ultimate authority. The editors conclude that we should not intervene directly as some "U.S. cold warriors" propose: "Fidel Castro's reign deserves to end in home-grown failure, not martyrdom." Taking their stand at the dovish extreme, the editors advise that we should continue to stand aside, watching in silence as we have been doing for 30 years, so the naive reader would learn from this (quite typical) version of history, crafted to satisfy the demands of authority.

News reports commonly observe the same conventions. Cuba is a basket case, Times Caribbean correspondent Howard French reports, "a Communist oddity in an increasingly free-market world," "a Communist dead end" struggling vainly against "economic realities." These "realities," we are to understand, are the failures of sterile Communist doctrine, unaffected by US terror and economic warfare. The former is passed over in silence. The latter is mentioned, but only as posing a tactical question: we must decide whether the embargo should be tightened, or simply maintained on the assumption that the "economic realities" alone will work "inexorably to bring about a dramatic transformation." Any opinion outside this spectrum is another "oddity," not to be sampled by a responsible journalist operating in the free market of ideas.

Boston Globe Latin America specialist Pamela Constable adopts the same conventions. Reviewing Miami Herald correspondent Andres Oppenheimer's Castro's Final Hour, she opens by explaining that he "is far from a rabid anticommunist, but his credentials as a seasoned journalistic observer of Latin America make his [book], a relentless exposure of the cynical, obsessive workings of Fidel Castro's aging socialist regime, all the more persuasive." He portrays Cuba "as a classic, decaying dictatorship, ruled by a man whose ideals have long succumbed to the hard logic of power," "clinging to a failed system with determined but fatal defiance." In "hilarious and tragic detail," Oppenheimer shows how "life for average Cubans has become a gantlet of woes and absurdities," which she recounts with much amusement. "Oppenheimer leaves little room for doubt that like other messianic tyrants, Castro has sown the seeds of his own destruction." The words "United States" do not appear; there is no hint of any US contribution to the "hilarious" trials of the average Cubans, or to the "failed system" or Castro's mad course of self-destruction. The "hard logic of power" is simply a fact of nature, evoking none of the passion aroused by Castro's evil nature. The norms are universal; Cuba is just a special case. Surveying the terrible decline of Nicaragua after the US-backed government took over, Constable writes that "Two problems underlie the disaster gripping this poor, tropical nation": "lingering hostility" between the Sandinistas and the right, and corruption. Could the rampages of a terrorist superpower have had some marginal effect on the "collapsed socialist economy" and US efforts to recreate the glories that preceded? The idea cannot be expressed, probably even thought, at the dissident extreme of the commissar culture.

The same book is reviewed in the New York Times by Clifford Krauss. Again, Cuba's plight is attributed to the crimes and lunacies of the demon alone. The US does receive an oblique mention, in one phrase: Castro (not Cuba) "has survived a host of calamities: the missile crisis, the trade embargo, the Mariel exodus, repeated harvest shortfalls and endless rationing." That concludes the US role. Oppenheimer is praised for describing Cuba's travail "with insight and wit" -- odd, how amusing it is to watch our victims suffer -- but more importantly, for having unearthed hitherto undreamt-of iniquity. Insatiable in his quest for power and love of violence, Castro sent "experienced officers" to train Nicaraguans to resist the terrorist army the US dispatched from its Honduran bases with orders to attack "soft targets" such as health clinics and agricultural cooperatives (with explicit approval of the State Department and left-liberal opinion, in the latter case). The monster even considered retaliation "in case the United States under Ronald Reagan invaded Nicaragua," and he was "far more involved than we knew" in supplying the army of Panama "in anticipation of the United States invasion."

But for those who believe that there are limits to what the criminal mind might contemplate, there is still more. "With Cuban soldiers in Angola to support the Marxist Government, Mr. Castro made himself an obstacle to a negotiated settlement of that country's civil war in the 1980's." Connoisseurs who miss Pravda in the good old days will recognize this as the Times spin on Cuba's support for the government recognized by virtually everyone apart from the US, and its success in repelling US-backed South African aggression, thus setting the stage for a negotiated settlement, which Washington at once disrupted by continuing its support for its terrorist clients to ensure that the war, which had already cost hundreds of thousands of lives and destroyed the country, will leave the remains in the hands of South Africa and Western investors.16

Whatever one may think of Cuba, such performances provide an enlightening "exposure of the cynical, obsessive workings" of a propaganda system of mechanical predictability, run by an intellectual class of truly awe-inspiring moral cowardice. Matters have changed little since the days when the New York Times editors, 60 years ago, hailed our magnificent record in the Caribbean region, where we were acting with "the best motives in the world" as Marines pursued the "elusive bandit Sandino" with the cheers of Nicaraguans ringing in their ears, contrary to the whining of the "professional `liberals'" -- though it was unfortunate, the editors felt, that the clash "comes just at a time when the Department of State is breathing grace, mercy and peace for the whole world." In Cuba, we were able "to save the Cubans from themselves and instruct them in self-government," granting them "independence qualified only by the protective Platt amendment" -- which "protected" US corporations and their local allies. "Cuba is very near at hand," the editors proceed, "to refute" the charge of "the menace of American imperialism." We were "summoned" by the Cuban people who have, finally, "mastered the secret of stability" under our kind tutelage. And while "our commercial interests have not suffered in the island," "we have prospered together with a free Cuban people," so "no one speaks of American imperialism in Cuba."17

Commentators affect great anguish over Castro's crimes and abuses. Would that it were believable. Demonstrably, for most it is utterly cynical pretense. The conclusion is established conclusively by comparison of the hysterical outrage over Castro's human rights violations and the evasion or outright suppression of vastly worse atrocities right next door, at the very same time, by US clients, acting with US advice and support. History has been kind enough to provide some dramatic test cases to prove the point.18

The professed concern for "the true interests of the Cuban people" and for "democracy" need not detain us. Concern for the "true interests" of US business, in contrast, is real enough. The same is true of the concerns over public opinion in Cuba and Latin America. Kennedy knew what he was doing when he sought to block travel and communication. The fears are understandable in the light of the Cuban public opinion polls cited earlier, or the reaction to its Agrarian Reform Law of May 1959, acclaimed by one UN organization as "an example to follow" in all Latin America. Or by the conclusion of the World Health Organization's representative in Cuba in 1980 that "there is no question that Cuba has the best health statistics in Latin America," with the health organization "of a very much developed country" despite its poverty. Or by a UNICEF report on the "State of the World's Children 1990," reviewed in a Peruvian Church journal, which lists a series of Latin American countries as among those with the highest infant mortality rates in the world, though Costa Rica and Chile have low rates for the region, and "Cuba is the only country on a par with developed nations." Or by the interest in Brazil and other Latin American countries in Cuban biotechnology, unusual if not unique for a small and poor country. Or by the kind of discussion we can read in the Australian press, safely remote, reviewing the efforts to achieve the "historic strategic objective" of restoring Cuba "to Washington's sphere of influence":

That Cuba has survived at all under these circumstances is an achievement in itself. That it registered the highest per capita increase in gross social product (wages and social benefits) of any economy in Latin America -- and almost double that of the next highest country -- over the period 1981-1990 is quite remarkable. Moreover, despite the economic difficulties, the average Cuban is still better fed, housed, educated and provided for medically than other Latin Americans, and -- again atypically -- the Cuban Government has sought to spread the burden of the new austerity measures equally among its people.

Worse yet, such perceptions are hardly unusual in the region itself, a product of direct experience and relative freedom from the rigid doctrinal requirements that constrain US orthodoxy and its European camp-followers. They are commonly articulated by leading figures. To select one poignant example, Father Ignacio Ellacuría, the rector of the Jesuit university of El Salvador (UCA), wrote in a Latin American Church journal in November 1989 that for all its abuses, "the Cuban model has achieved the best satisfaction of basic needs in all of Latin America in a relatively short time," while "Latin America's actual situation points out prophetically the capitalist system's intrinsic malice and the ideological falsehood of the semblance of democracy that accompanies, legitimates, and cloaks it."

It was for expressing such thoughts that he was assassinated by US-trained elite troops as the article appeared, and buried deep beneath shrouds of silence by those who feigned great indignation here.19

As in numerous other cases, it is not Castro's crimes that disturb the rulers of the hemisphere, who cheerfully support the Suhartos and Saddam Husseins and Gramajos, or look the other way, as long as they "fulfill their main function." Rather, it is the elements of success that arouse fear and anger and the call for vengeance, a fact that must be suppressed by ideologists -- not an easy task, given the overwhelming evidence confirming this elementary principle of the intellectual culture.

In the 1980s, the US extended its economic warfare, barring industrial products containing any Cuban nickel, a major Cuban export. Those not affected by political Alzheimer's might recall the US Treasury Department order of April 1988 barring import of Nicaraguan coffee processed in a third country if it is not "sufficiently transformed to lose its Nicaraguan identity" -- recalling the language of the Third Reich, a Boston Globe editor observed. The US prohibited a Swedish medical supply company from providing equipment to Cuba because one component is manufactured in the US. Aid to the former Soviet Union was conditioned on its suspension of aid to Cuba. Gorbachev's announcement that such aid would be canceled was greeted with banner headlines: "Baker Hails Move," "Soviets Remove Obstacle to U.S. Economic Aid," "The Cuban-Soviet Connection: 31-Year Irritant to the U.S." At last, the grievous injury to us may be relieved.

In early 1991, the US resumed Caribbean military maneuvers, including rehearsal of a Cuba invasion, a standard technique of intimidation. In mid-1991, the embargo was tightened further, cutting remittances from Cuban-Americans, among other measures. In April 1992, gearing up for the election, President Bush barred ships that go to Cuba from US ports. New laws proposed by congressional liberals, cynically entitled the Cuban Democracy Act, would extend the embargo to US subsidiaries abroad, allowing seizure of cargo of ships that had landed in Cuba if they enter US territorial waters. The ferocity of the hatred for Cuban independence is extreme, and scarcely wavers across the narrow mainstream spectrum.20

There has never been any effort to conceal the fact that the disappearance of the Soviet deterrent (like the removal of the British deterrent a century earlier) and the decline of East bloc economic relations with Cuba merely facilitates Washington's efforts to achieve its longstanding aims through economic warfare or other means. Candor is entirely in order: only the most devilish anti-American, after all, could question our right to act as suits our fancy. If, say, we choose to invade some defenseless country to capture one of our agents who no longer follows orders, and then try him for crimes committed while on our payroll, who could question the majesty of our system of justice? True, the UN did, but our veto took care of that childish tantrum. Even the Supreme Court has since accorded the US the right to kidnap alleged criminals abroad to bring them to justice here. Not for us the qualms of Adolf Hitler, who returned a German emigré abducted by Himmler's gangsters from Switzerland in 1937 after the Swiss government protested, appealing to basic principles of international law.21

In a typical commentary on Cuba's happy plight, the editors of the Washington Post urged that the US seize the opportunity to crush Castro: "For his great antagonist, the United States, to give relief and legitimacy to this used-up relic at this late hour would be to break faith with the Cuban people -- and with all the other democrats in the hemisphere." Pursuing the same logic, the editors, through the 1980s, called upon the US to coerce Nicaragua until it was restored to the "Central American mode" of the Guatemalan and Salvadoran terror states, observing their admirable "regional standards"; and scoffed at Gorbachev's "New Thinking" because he had not yet offered the US a free hand to achieve its objectives by the means condemned by the World Court (in a judgment that discredited the Court, the press and liberal commentators concluded). The Post speaks for the people of Cuba just as the State Department did in the Eisenhower-Kennedy years; as William McKinley spoke for "the vast majority of the population" of the Philippines who "welcome our sovereignty" and whom he was "protecting...against the designing minority" while slaughtering them by the hundreds of thousands; and as his proconsul Leonard Wood spoke for the decent (i.e., wealthy European) people of Cuba who favored US domination or annexation and had to be protected from the "degenerates."22 The US has never been short of good will for the suffering people of the world who have to be protected from the machinations of evil-doers. As for the Post's love of democracy, charity dictates silence. Its peers scarcely differ.

The Cuban record demonstrates with great clarity that the Cold War framework has been scarcely more than a pretext to conceal the standard refusal to tolerate Third World independence, whatever its political coloration. Traditional policies remain beyond serious challenge within the mainstream. The most obvious questions are ruled illegitimate, if not unthinkable. We can anticipate, then, efforts of the usual kind to ensure that the "ripe fruit" drops into the hands of its rightful owners, or is plucked more vigorously from the tree.

A cautious policy would be to tighten the stranglehold, resorting to economic and ideological warfare to punish the population while intimidating others to refrain from interfering. As suffering increases, it can be assumed, so will protest, repression, more unrest, etc., in the predictable cycle. At some stage, internal collapse will reach the point where the Marines can be sent in cost-free to "liberate" the island once again, restoring the old order while the faithful chant odes to our grand leaders and their righteousness. Transitory tactical concerns might accelerate the process, if a need is felt to arouse jingoist passions. But it is unlikely that Washington will veer far from the policies outlined in the Bush Administration National Security Policy Review already cited (p. 94).

 


1 Jennings, "The Indians' Revolution"; Berlin, "The revolution in black life"; both in Young, American Revolution. Morris, American Revolution, 72. Higginbotham, In the Matter of Color. Hamilton, cited by Vine Deloria, in Lobel, Less than Perfect. See references of n. 32, ch. 1.

2 Gleijeses, "The Limits of Sympathy: the United States and the Independence of Spanish America," ms., Johns Hopkins, 1991.

3 Lawrence Kaplan, Diplomatic History, Summer 1992; see ch. 1.2.

4 See Bernal, Black Athena.

5 North American Review, April 12, 1821, cited by Gleijeses. Crossette, NYT, Jan. 18; Stephen Fidler, FT, Jan. 29, 1992.

6 Jefferson cited by van Alstyne, Rising American Empire, 81.

7 Gleijeses, "Limits of Sympathy." Drinnon, White Savage, 158. Also PI, 12f., 71f., and sources cited.

8 Ibid.

9 Green, Containment, 13-18. On the Good Neighbor Policy and its backgrounds, see LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions; Krenn, US Policy. See also Salisbury, Anti-Imperialism. 

10 Benjamin, US and Origins, 186ff. Paterson, in Paterson, Kennedy's Quest; Mexican diplomat quoted in Leacock, Requiem, 33.

11 NI, 177, 101. Shirley Christian, NYT, Sept. 4, 1992.

12 "Patriotic America," 1903; Zwick, Mark Twain's Weapons, 161.

13 Envío, Jesuit Central American University (UCA), Managua, Jan.-Feb. 1992; NI, 176f., 67-8; PI. 22f.

14 For a review of terrorist operations, see Blum, CIA. Nixon, Garthoff, Détente, 76n. See McClintock, Instruments, for recent discussion, including Gilpatric interview. Also Garthoff, Reflections and Smith, Closest of Enemies, for accounts from well-informed US government sources.

15 Paterson, op. cit.; Martin Tolchin, NYT, Jan. 15, 1992. Garthoff, Reflections, 17.

16 On scholarly discipline, see, among others, NI, App. V.2 (on Walter Laqueur), and several articles in George, Western. NYT editorial, Sept. 8, 1991. French, NYT, April 19; Constable, BG, July 15, Oct. 26; Krauss, NYT Book Review, Aug. 30, 1992. See ch. 3.5.

17 See DD, 280-1.

18 For a particularly shameful example, see NI, App. I.1. On the general pattern, see PEHR, MC, and a voluminous further literature. On media coverage of Cuba, see Platt, Tropical Gulag.

19 Env Stavrianos, Global Rift, 747; Latinamerica press, April 5, 1990; Morris Morley and Chris McGillion, Sydney Morning Herald, Jan. 7, 1992. Ellacuría, "Utopia and Prophecy in Latin America" (1989), in Hassett & Lacey, Towards a Society.

20 Smith, Closest of Enemies; Gillian Gunn, Current History, Feb. 1992. Thomas Friedman, NYT, Sept. 12, 1991. Michael Kranish, BG, April 19; NYT, April 19, 1992. Nicaraguan coffee, NI, 98.

21 Detlev Vagts, "Reconsidering the Invasion of Panama," Reconstruction, vol. 1.2, 1990. See DD, ch. 5.

22 WP weekly, Jan. 20-26, 1992; Post, see DD, 103, 141; NI, for more extensive review of Times-Post dogmas. Benjamin, US and Origins, 59; PI, 72.

 


1. The Great Work of Subjugation and Conquest ] 2. The Contours of World Order ] 4. Democracy and the Market ] 3. North-South/East-West ] 5. Human Rights: The Pragmatic Criterion ] [ 6. A "Ripe Fruit" ] 7. World Orders Old and New: Latin America ] 8. The Tragedy of Haiti ] 9. The Burden of Responsibility ] 10. Murdering History ] 11. The Third World at Home ]


 ] Table of Contents ] PART I : Old Wine, New Bottles ] PART II : High Principles ] PART III : Persistent Themes ] Part IV : Memories ] Bibliography ] Glossary ]


 
 
 

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