HOME Cuba Update for April 2008
By Barbara West, member of Let Cuba Live and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (published in the Opinion section of the Brunswick Times Record on 3/19/08).
In Washington there has been much talk of military action against Iran. Some commentators have mentioned that it appears that the Bush regime has decided on a policy of war, but the reasons keep changing.
At first the claim was that Iran was sending "foreign fighters" to Iraq, "interfering" with the US occupation. When no such foreign fighters could be found, Iran was alleged to be supplying sophisticated roadside bombs and other arms to those resisting the occupation.
When the arms could not be clearly traced to Iran, we heard allegations that Iran was training the Iraqi military, both in Iran and in Iraq, even directing Shiite attacks on US troops. At this point the Bush administration actually claimed that Iran is responsible for Shiite resistance to occupation, and would be attacked unless that resistance stopped.
Then there was the controversy over the Iranian nuclear program. A US investigation concluded that Iran was not developing nuclear weapons, but the policy of war did not change.
Hotheads in Washington are tenaciously clinging to a war policy while shifting the rationale for it. But no one should conclude that such a procedure is an innovation of Bush or is confined to US policy in the Middle East. The 49-year-long policy of attempting "regime change" in Cuba has been carried out in bipartisan fashion by ten US presidents, Democrats and Republicans alike.
Certainly different administrations have used different methods. Some have attempted to assassinate Fidel Castro, while others have concentrated on the economic squeeze and the ban against US citizens traveling to Cuba. But the notion that Cuba is a sovereign nation that we should negotiate with and trade with has never been part of the calculations.
As early as 1960 the US oil companies refused to process in their Havana refineries the crude oil that Cuba had purchased at favorable prices from the Soviet Union. When the Cuban government took over the refineries, and offered to pay the oil companies the value on which their tax assessments had been based, Washington claimed that the properties had been "confiscated" and for that reason Cuban assets in US banks were frozen.
In 1962 the Kennedy administration brought us to the brink of nuclear war over the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. When the missiles were withdrawn, the immediate threat of war subsided but the demonization of the Cuban revolutionary government continued.
When the United States broke its contract to buy sugar from Cuba and took other hostile economic measures, Cuba began an extensive set of trade relations with the USSR and the eastern European countries. In Washington, the State Department and the Defense Department claimed that Cuba was merely a pawn in the Cold War and had allied itself with the USSR in that conflict with the intention of harming the US.
When the idea of Cuba posing a military threat to the US proved impossible to justify, Cuba was accused of "exporting revolution" throughout Latin America. After the death of Che Guevara Cuba no longer offered military assistance to rebels in our hemisphere, but the policy of economic war and attempts to roll back the revolution in Cuba did not change.
When Cuban troops were requested by the government of Angola to defend against invading troops from apartheid South Africa, Washington claimed that Cuba's presence in Africa was the basis for its implacable hostility to Cuba. With the decisive defeat of South Africa, the Cuban troops returned home, but the policy toward Cuba did not change.
More recently, the very presence of Fidel Castro in the government became the primary rationale for US policy. It was said that as long as he remained in power, Washington would take no steps toward normalizing relations. When his health led him to turn the reins over to the Vice President, his brother Raul, that was an orderly and constitutional succession according to the Cuban constitution and laws. But now the presence of Raul became the "obstacle" to normal relations.
When Fidel officially retired from his posts in government, the first and immediate statements from Washington were to assert that US policy would not change.
Each time Cuba satisfies one of Washington's conditions, the US moves the goalposts and invents another reason why the blockade must continue. Justification for Cuba policy has changed frequently during the past 49 years, but the policy in its basic outlines has not.
Given this history I fear that, with all the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates assuring us of their hostility to Iran, we can expect to hear the drumbeats of war no matter what the Iranian government may do.
The source of the imperial policy toward both Iran and Cuba, and toward many othe nations as well, is the assumption that "US interests" trump the right of other nations to determine their own course. (And "US interests" for too long has meant the interests of multinational corporations and financial institutions.) It is long past time for the US government to develop a foreign policy that respects the sovereignty of other nations.