Dissidents Make Noise–Oops, News

U.S. government hypocrisy has grown so pervasive over the last decades that it provokes yawns and glazed looks. Senators denounce government interference in health care while partaking in their own top of the line government health insurance that they designed – at taxpayer expense. Secretary of State Clinton demanded Pakistani leaders remove terrorists from their streets while self-proclaimed anti-Castro terrorists parade down Miami’s thoroughfares – as freedom fighters, of course.

Duplicity in language coincides with stupidity of policy. In Afghanistan (which costs a million dollars per year per soldier to keep Hamid Karzai in the president business), U.S. and NATO troops pursue a vague anti-terror mission in which they have caused immense death and destruction — with few or no results. “Send more troops to fight for the Karzai government,” scream John McCain and his ilk, while Karzai vies for a place in the Guinness Book of Records for corruption. He retains legitimacy among those who benefit directly from his theft – and the U.S. government.

Hypocrisy repeated at top levels – Goebbels called it the “big lie” – tends to make journalists weary and turn them into stenographers who no longer seek to reveal the dishonesty of official-speak.

Consider press coverage of two alleged human rights cases. Last year, Saudi religious police arrested an American woman “for sitting with a male colleague at a Starbucks coffee shop in Riyadh.” The woman was beaten, “strip-searched, threatened and forced to sign false confessions.” (Independent, February 8, 2008)

The State Department ignored this and similar stories as Saudi internal matters. But State Department officials got their knickers in an instant twist over their favorite Cuban blogger, Yoani Sanchez.

En route to a demonstration in Havana “against violence,” Yoani told the Havana Reuters correspondent that three non uniformed men had grabbed her and two companions and thrown them into a car. She said nothing about being “beaten.” Reynaldo Escobar, Sánchez’ husband, “told El Nuevo Herald she’s walking with a crutch and taking medicines for a backache, the result of being thrown head-first into a car and punched in the back by the three men in plainclothes who detained her for 20 minutes.”

Shortly after her Reuters interview, Yoanni told AP the men had brutally beaten her with such professionalism that they left nary a visible mark on her skin. “No blood, but black and blues, punches, pulled hairs, blows to the head, kidneys, knee and chest,” Yoani’s husband told El Nuevo Herald. “In sum, professional violence.” Yoani posted no photos on her blog of the “professional beating,” strange for someone whose blog contains lots of photos. (Nov. 6, 2009)

Unlike the response to Saudi (our ally) mistreatment of women, the U.S. government “strongly deplores the assault” on Yoani. The State Department “expressed to the Cuban government our deep concern . . . and we are following up with inquiries . . . regarding their personal well-being and access to medical care.” (Miami Herald November 14)

Neither the media nor the U.S. government explained why Cubans would rally against violence abroad. Non-government sources on the island could not figure out the object of the demonstration. Some demonstrators, however, held “Sumate” signs. (The name of the Venezuelan group that led anti-Chavez campaigns in 2004 and the name adopted by the Bolivian opposition to Evo Morales)

The Yoani incident brought new attention to this “courageous journalist,” especially in Miami. Her blogs report the basic street whine in Havana, but offer no prescriptions for changing inefficient or unjust procedures; nor does she attempt to understand, much less analyze, the causes for the malfunctions that beset daily life in Cuba. She has perfected internet complaining, practically converting it into an art form.

Anti-Castro Cubans and journalists throughout the western press adore her and festoon her with awards and prizes (John Moors Cabot in New York and Ortega y Gassett in Spain). The fan club, however, does not include other “dissidents.” Representatives of Martha Beatriz Roque, a less cyber-savvy dissident now in second place among the female “Disidencia,” told the Miami Herald her diabetes cause her serious problems. Two weeks into a hunger strike, she has fortunately not lost a critical amount of weight.

Roque and Sanchez are battling for headlines in Miami papers, radio and TV. The Martha Beatriz faction has criticized Yoani, who receives more attention in Washington, where the money comes from. Washington policy, immune to facts and consistency, has caused suffering, denying Cubans goods, and credit; yet it condemns Cuba’s government and accepts Yoani’s contradictory claims and righteously demands Cuba respect human rights – while debating the fate of prisoners it holds (some without charges) in its Guantanamo base on Cuban territory. Boring old hypocrisy again!

SAUL LANDAU is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by Counterpunch/AK. His films are available on dvd from roundworldproductions@gmail.com


SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.