“We must continue to stand with the brave people of Cuba, who for nearly half a century have endured tyrannies and repression.”
President G.W. Bush,
Summit of the Americas,
Monterrey, January 12, 2004
Thanks to the Bush bravado, a new office pool game in Washington national security circles emerged. Organizers take bets on which country the United States will next invade. The inventors of this new boredom-cutting exercise still seek a name for their amusement: “Jeopardy” and “Survivor” are taken. How about: “Who’s Next?”
In December 2003, Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi narrowed the possibilities by removing his nation from competition when he eschewed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons ambitions and invited UN inspectors to Tripoli. Office bets now range from Syria and Iran in the Middle East to North Korea in the Far East, to Cuba, ninety miles south of Key West.
These “rogue nations” share the characteristic of having refused to fall into line behind Washington’s dictates. Using “rogue” to describe disobedience plays well at home. It allows the Administration to convert lies into axioms. For example, Washington labels Havana “terrorist,” despite the fact that the United States has launched thousands of terrorist missions against Cuba and has no evidence of Cuba initiating any retaliatory terrorist acts.
Between Spring 1961 and Fall 1962, the CIA dispatched hundreds of agents to Cuba to assassinate, blow up and burn property and cause mayhem. Terrorism against Cuba continued sporadically for decades — well into the 1990s — under the guise that somehow this would help the United States restore democracy to the island.
In 1952, the US supported General Fulgencio Batista after he staged his electoral coup and removed democracy from the island’s political structure. But serious national security mavens rarely ruffle their aggressive feathers with facts. By repeating cliches about US motives being noble and democratic while Presidents authorize illegal wars and overthrows of foreign governments, the Administration induces the mass media to follow the line whatever it is; at least temporarily.
Indeed, as Harold Innis once phrased it, American imperialism itself “has been made plausible and attractive in part by the insistence that it is not imperialistic.”
Iranians and North Korean have learned the hard way about US behaviour. In 1953 the CIA knocked over a democratic in Iran and installed a pro-US ruler. Iranians revolted in 1979, tossing out The Shah, but not the hot memories of how his secret police had treated them. They took US CIA and State Department officials as hostages for more than a year.
North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, after US-backed South Korea had made aggressive incursions into North Korea. US intervention in that war cost the North Koreans more than 2 million lives.
In 2002, President Bush placed Iran and North Korea with Iraq on his “axis of evil” list. He threatened both countries with pre-emptive nuclear strikes should US security demand it. Logically, both countries developed a nuclear weapons program as the only deterrent possible against the world’s mightiest nuclear power.
The pro Israel lobby, which has pushed for US action against Iran and Syria, rejoiced when Bush signed the Syria Accountability Act in December. Iranian reformists complicated the political situation in that country by diluting the power of the fundamentalist mullahs, who also took a very strong anti-US line. And the December 26 earthquake in Bam that devastated that area certainly closed the window on military action. Given the weekly body count Bush encounters in Iraq, experts tend to disparage reports of invasions of any Middle East countries for the time being.
Cuba aalso appears on the “rogue” list. The Bush family owes the anti-Castro mafia in south Florida for its help in electing brother Jeb Governor. W himself got both vital money and strong arm support in Florida in 2000.
Past presidents have accepted Pentagon estimates and discounted an invasion of Cuba as too costly. Indeed, whenever friends would play Chicken Little over Cuba, I would remind them that the consequences of a US military attack on Cuba would far over shadow any successes that an aggressor could hope to achieve.
But in the age of “full spectral dominance,” the catch phrase from the 2002 White House National Security Plan, certain Administration heavies have made a case that the time has come to remove the 45 year old Cuban thorn in the side of the American empire. On January 6, the oratorical point man for this offensive, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter American Affairs Roger Noriega, warned Cuba to stop destabilizing democratic Latin America and cautioned the governments of Argentina, Venezuela and even Brazil not to get close to Cuba or else. Noriega said that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made his neighbors “very nervous when it comes to defending their institutional democracies.” Never mind that the United States has invaded or intervened covertly in almost every Latin American country and overthrown dozens of elected governments, the voice of the ever servile Secretary of State Colin Powell validated Noriega’s remarks.
“I’ve been in senior national security positions on and off over the last 17 years. And through that whole period of time, Cuba has been trying to do everything it could to destabilize parts of the region,” hesaid on January 8. This remarkable statement comes from a man who remembers how in 1965 US troops destabilized democracy in the Dominican Republic, destabilized Nicaragua in the 1980s through a decade long covert war and upset the entire Caribbean when in 1983 US troops invaded the tiny island republic of Grenada because they could.
Powell has apologized for the US destabilization of Chile (1970-73), but through the decades of the 1970s and 1980s, Washington supported the most brutal military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala and El Salvador. In 1990 US troops invaded Panama to arrest one man, General Noriega, an agent of the CIA and DEA.
Armed with empty and righteous rhetoric, Washington’s neo-con chicken hawks now sculpt a new axis of evil in Latin America (Cuba-Venezuela-Argentina). Some career national security staffers worry that the Bushies might actually try to provoke a conflict with Cuba or Venezuela in this hemisphere after the 2004 elections, of course.
“Before Bush,” a former National Security staffer confided, “we understood that the post Vietnam War rule was in place: we don’t fight anyone who can fight back. Then the neo-cons and their soldier of God partners seemed to infest the policy community. These characters, few if any have military experience appear unconcerned with the consequences of starting a conflagration process with Cuba.”
In their new book, Richard Perle and David Frum, leading chicken hawk neo-cons, discuss leaders like Fidel Castro and state that “when it is in our power and in our interest, we should toss dictators aside with no more compunction than a police sharpshooter feels when he takes down a hostage taker”
Another of the mouth warriors, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, has repeatedly accused Cuba of providing “dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states.” In early January Bolton called Cuba a “rogue state” and voiced his concern that Cuba would share “such technology with other despised nations.”
Bolton’s neo con credentials include Senator Jesse Helms’ March 2001 endorsement at his confirmation hearing as “the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, or what the Bible describes as the final battle between good and evil” Just as Bush cited the potential of the Iraqi regime to unleash its weapons of mass destruction as the principal reason for going to war last March, Bolton now repeats similar charges against Cuba, which the Bush administration labels as a terrorist state.
In October, House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL), warned Bush that Cuba was forging an “axis of evil” with Venezuela. National security officials leaked to a U.S. News & World Report journalist (Oct 6, 2003) material to “prove” that Castro’s friend, President Chavez, was using Cuba as his model and had invited Islamic terrorists to train in camps in Venezuela. Chavez dismissed the report as absurd. Another national security-induced media story?
In what the White House called “Entering the Final Phase of Cuba’s Inevitable Transition to Democracy” — don’t laugh — Bolton’s ugly charges morphed into dangerous deeds. In January the US canceled the regularly scheduled migration talks with Cuba, months after the President established a new Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba to hasten a “peaceful transition to a representative democracy and a free market economy — ending decades of an oppressive dictatorship.”
In addition, the White House used its power to overturn the will of Congress, which had voted to lift the travel ban to Cuba. Bush ordered the Homeland Security Department to harass travelers to the island and fine those traveling without licenses.
Such degrees of bellicosity go beyond the White House’s pandering to the anti-Castro lobby. Words and deeds combined tend to accumulate and then roll down the metaphorical hill in the avalanche effect.
As the national security staffer said, in resignation, “these people [the Bushies] are capable of anything.” Perhaps Cubans, as potential victims, could at least contribute to the national security betting game by providing it with a name — something like “Don’t Come Without an Invitation” or “We Can Make a Deal.”
SAUL LANDAU is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University. For Landau’s writing in Spanish visit: www.rprogreso.com. His new book, PRE-EMPTIVE EMPIRE: A GUIDE TO BUSH S KINGDOM, has just been published by Pluto Press. He can be reached at: email@example.com