vendredi 26 avril 2013

Cuba policy: Fruitless, stupid, mean and cruel

In their 54-year-old effort to bring down Cuba’s  revolutionary government and restore obedience in our Caribbean neighbor, U.S.  officials have compiled a spectacular record of failure, overshadowed only by  the determination to persist in their pursuit of wrongheaded polices, further  damaging U.S. interests.

In the 1990s, Washington began to define terrorism as the  new peril on the security horizon. President Clinton deemed it reasonable to  make informal arrangements with other countries, even Cuba, trying to achieve  anti-terrorist goals.

Indeed, Cuban intelligence agencies fed antiterrorist data  to the FBI because they assumed the Bureau shared the same dread as their U.S.  counterparts about the death and chaos that would result from allowing  terrorists to pursue their goals. But, in September 1998, the FBI Bureau Chef  in Miami perpetrated an act of security illogic. He ordered his FBI agents to  arrest the Cuban intelligence agents who had supplied the Bureau with important  data about terrorists operating in Florida.

Havana had sent these men to south Florida to penetrate and  stop violent Cuban exile groups whose members had planted bombs in Cuban  tourist hotels and clubs, killing a tourist and wounding scores of others. U.S.  authorities knew of the activities the Cuban agents pursued for six years, and  did not act against them because the U.S. government did not see these agents  as a threat to U.S. security. They were not seeking classified or strategic U.S.  documents, but rather focused on spying on rightwing Cuban terrorists in U.S.  soil. Indeed, the Cuban agents pointed the Bureau in the direction of hidden  arms caches in Miami and an explosive-laden boat docked on the Miami River.

In June 1998, when relations between Cuba and the U.S. had  begun to improve, Havana shared with the Justice Department even more  information obtained by its agents. But, Clinton also confronted Congressional  investigations related to his comportment with Monica Lewinsky. This helped  lead to disarray inside the Justice department. During July and August 1998,  right wing Cuban American Members of Congress began pressuring Washington to  arrest the known Cuban agents. The extremist exiles feared that anti-terrorist  cooperation between the two countries might lead to the arrest of the exile  terrorists, also their friends and colleagues, and even contribute to a  normalization of relations. But Attorney General Janet Reno planned to run for  high office in Florida and did not want to antagonize organized Cuban voters in  Florida, so she allowed the change in policy to take place.

The right wing exiles exercised enough influence to get  Héctor Pesquera appointed as the new Bureau chief in south Florida. Pesquera, a  rightwing Puerto Rican with a mediocre FBI record, but close ties to violent  Cuban exiles, destroyed the country-to-country cooperative effort. Within a  week of his appointment, he ordered the arrest of the Cuban informants – five  of the Cuban agents refused to either flee to Cuba or arrange for a plea  bargain. So, the FBI allowed Miami-based exile terrorists to continue plotting  violence against the island. The powerful members of the Cuban settler colony  in Miami used the power of the U.S. federal police to prosecute Cuban  anti-terrorist agents (punish Cuba) and in the process torpedo possible  rapprochement between the neighbors; and also destroy joint anti-terrorism  operations. By manipulating U.S. government institutions, the Cuban enclave’s elite  superseded the larger needs of the American people by replacing anti-terrorism  with their own narrow interests.

The Justice Department charged two of the Five Cuban agents  with murder, or conspiracy to shoot down two Cuban exile planes (both pilots and  co-pilots died) that entered Cuban air space in February 1996. At the time the  pilots of the three exile planes announced publicly their intention to go into  Cuban air space, making known the date and time of the flights.

The Cuban agents, however, got charged with conspiracy to  spy despite the fact that the U.S. government formally and by consent received  the results of their spy work on terrorism in south Florida! General James  Clapper, then director of the [LINK=]National  Geospatial-Intelligence Agency[/LINK] and now director of the  Defense Intelligence Agency, testified at their trial that he saw no evidence  to conclude the Cuban agents were seeking classified or strategic U.S. documents  or plans. They did not conspire to commit espionage. The U.S. mass media  continues to incorrectly refer to them as “convicted spies.”

The Cuban Five (now four since René Gónzalez was freed on  parole, but must remain in the United States until the end of his probation  period), located in different US prisons for almost 15 years, became victims of  vengeance, inspired by Miami-based right wing Cuban exiles, combined with a  strong dash of meanness and cruelty, which continues long after the Cuban men  survived long months of solitary confinement. The Justice Department has  systematically denied these men basic privileges enjoyed by other  inmates.

The most recent example of heartlessness occurred on April  7, when activist-actor Danny Glover traveled from his home in San Francisco by  air and then rented a car to Victorville, California, where Gerardo Hernandez  survives in the Federal Maximum Security Prison. After visiting Gerardo nine  times, Danny assumed he would undergo the usual passage – fill out the form, go  through x-ray machine, get patted-down, and then get escorted into the Visitor  Room. But the desk guard at the prison said Danny’s visit had not been  authorized (after nine previous visits) and he could not see Gerardo. A  supervisor affirmed the desk guard’s statement. Meanness and malice!

For 14 plus years the U.S. government had also refused to  grant a visa to Gerardo’s wife (“a threat to U.S. security”). During that time  she has not been able to visit him. It’s not just the anti-Castro lobby that  pushes this petty, vengeful policy. Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder run  the federal prisons.

What’s wrong with the basic sense of humanity of those who  make such decisions? Imagine if Cuba responded with equal cruelty to Alan  Gross, the man convicted in Cuba for carrying out U.S. subversion for USAID. U.S.  government officials would scream as would the media. But Cuba did not respond  to this inhumanity by carrying out inhumane acts. Gross, confined in a Cuban  military hospital cell, receives adequate medical care and frequent visits. He  has access to the telephone and communicates with his family who also visit  him. Gross promoted a policy of “regime change” in Cuba while Gerardo’s  findings promoted U.S. security.

Washington has forced 52 plus years of broken relations on  Cuba, combined with a tough embargo to punish Cuba’s people. Indeed, U.S. presidents  have tried to dislodge Cuba’s government in every way short of direct military  invasion. Fruitless, stupid, mean and cruel policies simply do not work  in our national interest!

Saul Landau’s FIDEL and WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE  STAND UP are available on DVD from Nelson Valdés is  Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexic

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