One day after the 24-gun battleship USS Maine exploded in Havana Bay, killing 268 U.S. sailors, the February 16, 1898 headline on William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal blared: THE WARSHIP MAINE WAS SPLIT IN TWO BY AN ENEMY’S SECRET INFERNAL MACHINE. The “enemy” was Spain-occupier of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.
The Maine was in Havana Harbor in 1898 on a purportedly friendly mission. “Yet,” writes author Tom Miller, “the visit was neither spontaneous nor altruistic; the United States had been eyeing Cuba for almost a century.”
American newspapers, especially those run by Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, jumped on the Maine explosion as the ideal justification to drum up public support for a war of imperialism. When Hearst sent artist Frederick Remington to Cuba to supply pictures, he reported that he could not find a war. “You furnish the pictures,” Heart famously replied, “and I’ll furnish the war.” Within two months and despite Spain’s willingness to negotiate for peace, the Spanish-American War has commenced.
Spain was easily defeated, the legend of Teddy Roosevelt manufactured, and the Cubans exchanged one colonial ruler for another. Today’s perception of Cuba has little to do with the fabricated heroics of one of the faces carved on Mount Rushmore (TR said: “Democracy has justified itself by keeping for the white race the best portions of the earth’s surface.”) Since 1959, it’s all about Fidel Castro.
The Cuban Revolution, the ensuing U.S. blockade, and seminal events like the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis have all been documented-in varying degrees of veracity-elsewhere. We know much less about the lower intensity U.S. assaults on Cuba.
The Cuba Project, a.k.a. “Operation Mongoose,” was initiated by the Kennedy administration in 1962 with the stated objective of helping the “Cubans overthrow the Communist regime from within Cuba and institute a new government with which the United States can live in peace.”
“What has happened is a level of international terrorism that as far as I know has no counterpart, apart from direct aggression,” says Noam Chomsky. “It’s included attacking civilian installations, bombing hotels, sinking fishing vessels, destroying petrochemical installations, poisoning crops and livestock, on quite a significant scale, assassination attempts, actual murders, bombing airplanes, bombing of Cuban missions abroad, etc. It’s a massive terrorist attack.”
The U.S. aggression toward Cuba since 1959 denied the world a chance to witness what that revolution may have become. “The world will never know what kind of society Cuba could have produced if left alone,” says William Blum.
But, in reality, Cuba has never stood a chance. As far back as the American Revolution, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams announced that U.S control of Cuba was “of transcendent importance.”
“The need to possess Cuba is the oldest issue in U.S. foreign policy,” Chomsky concludes.
Postscript: The event that set all this into motion, the alleged bombing of the Maine, was investigated by Admiral Hyman Rickover of the U.S. Navy in 1976. Rickover and his team of experts concluded that the explosion was probably caused by “spontaneous combustion inside the ship’s coal bins,” a problem common to ships of that era.
MICKEY Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.