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Cuban Embargo Turns 50: A Thorn In Whose Side?

February 17, 2012   ·   0 Comments

Source: NYTX

Cuba

By Michael M’Gehee:

Last week, on the day the American embargo on Cuba turned fifty years old, the New York Times ran a story on the anniversary where the narrowness of debate was limited to what “supporters” and “critics” say.

Supporters say it is a justified measure against a repressive Communist government that has never stopped being a thorn in Washington’s side. Critics call it a failed policy that has hurt ordinary Cubans instead of the government.

All acknowledge that it has not accomplished its core mission of toppling Fidel Castro or his brother and successor, Raúl.

It’s hard to distinguish the difference between the two. “All” oppose and have the “core mission of toppling” the government, and both see the embargo as a failure. That these are the only two sides to be presented are very instructive to anyone who wants to understand how the propaganda system works.

The idea that the U.S. has a noble and moralistic stance against “repressive” governments is accepted as fact, despite that even at the time the embargo was imposed the U.S. was propping up repressive governments that received no “justified measure against” them, most notably the Bautista regime that Castro and his men overthrew with the popular support of the Cuban people. And since then little has changed as we can tell be Washington policy towards Honduras, Bolivia and Venezuela (not to mention the rest of the world).

In eight months we will be coming upon the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s worth pointing out that there is no “Turkey Missile Crisis.” The crisis doesn’t begin with what led up to missiles being placed on the island (or why), but when the U.S. was deterred. That’s the real crisis, and an important lesson for all to learn. There is also no celebrating, or idolizing of Kruschev and Castro as saviors—though they deserve it much more than Kennedy. But history doesn’t tell the story that way. The story it tells us is that the U.S. was the “good guy” staring down the “bad guys” who threatened us with nuclear missiles, just as the embargo was a “justified measure against a repressive Communist government that … [a]ll acknowledge [had a] core mission of toppling” the government.

The reality was Kruschev was motivated simply to get U.S. nukes out of Turkey, which were aimed at Moscow. He sent a letter to Kennedy saying as much: remove the nukes from Turkey and they would remove the nukes from Cuba. And considering all that Cuba had endured up to that point (the embargo, the failed “Bay of Pigs invasion,” the Mongoose terrorist operations, and another invasion in the works) it was reasonable for them to offer their island as a base to deter the U.S.

Notice the Russians didn’t respond to the nukes in Turkey with a political spectacle threatening nuclear war, or a naval blockade, or attacking U.S. subs in international waters. Yet when U.S. leaders do this, and more, to others for the crime of deterring us we admire and celebrate them.

It is no coincidence that even after 9/11 the U.S. Treasury Department allocated more resources to enforcing the embargo on Cuba than to freezing the assets of terrorists. American policymakers have long considered Cuba as “being a thorn in Washington’s side,” and a threat in that its successful defiance of centuries of colonialism and imperialism may spread to other countries. In 1964 the CIA informed the White House that “Cuba’s experiment with almost total state socialism is being watched closely by other nations in the hemisphere and any appearance of success there could have an extensive impact on the statist trend elsewhere in the area.” This is what the Times means when they write that “American strategic concerns” included “keeping Fidel Castro from exporting revolution throughout Latin America.”

In November of 2006 USA Today reported that “Concern about leftist victories in Latin America has prompted President Bush to quietly grant a waiver that allows the United States to resume training militaries from 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries,” and that the “military training ban was originally designed to pressure countries into exempting U.S. soldiers from war crimes trials.” The imperial hubris of punishing those who do not give us immunity was put aside because as U.S. Southern Command spokesman, Jose Ruiz, explained, China “has approached every country in our area of responsibility.”

Here lies the “thorn in Washington’s side”: Cuba has resisted being a subordinate to Washington, and has pushed for regional independence, or so-called “exporting revolution throughout Latin America.” When the U.S. sees the Western hemisphere as its “area of responsibility,” and a tiny island 90 miles south of Miami resists, then such defiance has to be punished.

The belief that the U.S. is motivated to “press for greater freedoms on the island” should not be taken as meaning cultural, economic, or political freedoms for the general population. If the U.S. wanted Cubans to have “greater freedoms” one of the first things it would do is to shut down the CIA-supported terrorist operations in Miami, Florida. And the U.S. government would free the Cuban 5.

Rather, when talking about “greater freedoms” it should be clear that what is really being discussed is “greater freedoms” for American businesses to exploit the country as it once did, because as the Times deceptively notes: “With just 90 miles of sea between Florida and Cuba, the United States would be a natural No. 1 trade partner and source of tourism.”

Before there was Las Vegas there was Havana, and that’s what Washington wants. It wants Cuba to revert back to its submissive role, but Cuba doesn’t want that. It sees its “greater freedoms” as being freed from such an oppressive role, and while the Times does acknowledge that “Every fall, a vast majority of nations back a resolution condemning the embargo,” (the last vote was 186 to 2) it simply does not provide space to comment on this. The resistance to the yanqui empire is conveniently missing, and all readers can see is an American policy that while presented as noble has failed. That the policy was never noble, but imperial, is not even given a hearing between the “supporters” and “critics” of the embargo, and considering that the New York Times is a doctrinal bulwark for the American political and economic establishment this is not at all surprising.

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