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Autumn of the Driveler

Some world leaders mature as they head into the sunset: Jimmy Carter often makes more sense in his eighties than he did as president nearly four decades ago. Others spare the world their midnight thoughts, not always voluntarily. Ronald Reagan succumbed to Alzheimers; Ariel Sharon is still animate, albeit effectively dead to the world. Alas, Fidel Castro just broke an arm and a kneecap when he tripped on that fateful concrete step six years ago. Would that he had bitten off his tongue and thus spared his erstwhile admirers, myself included, the sound of this once great revolutionary plunging into kookdom.

If President Raúl Castro wants to defend Cuba’s record on human rights, all he needs to do point to the fact that his brother has not been deposed from his formal position as First Secretary of the Communist Party, and carted off to an isolation ward in the Casa de Dementes, Havana’s psychiatric hospital. Instead he has unstinted access to the state radio and the newspaper Granma.

In both of these media Castro, now 84, has spouted a steady stream of drivel.

Memorable among these forays intonutdom was his outburst of conspiracism on the sixth anniversary of the Trade Center/Pentagon attacks with the whole slab of nonsense read out by a Cuban television presenter.

Castro claimed that the Pentagon was hit by a rocket, not a plane, because no traces were found of its passengers. “Only a projectile could have created the geometrically round orifice created by the alleged airplane,” according to Fidel. “We were deceived as well as the rest of the planet’s inhabitants.” All nonsense of course. There were remains of the passengers on the plane that hit the Pentagon, in the form of teeth and other bits traced through DNA. Hundreds of people saw the plane — people who know the difference between a plane and a cruise missile. The wreckage of the plane was hauled out from the site.

It’s logical that maximum leaders like Castro are conspiracists by disposition. Since they are control freaks, the random and the accidental are alien to their frame of reference. If it happened, it happened for a reason. And if a bad thing happened, it was very probably a conspiracy.

More recently, in early August of this year Castro touted to his audience in Cuba and across the world his sympathy with one of the standard mantras of nutdom, which is the belief that the world is run by the Bilderberg Club.

The 84-year-old former Cuban president published an article on August 18, spread across three of the eight pages of the Communist Party newspaper Granma, quoting in extenso from the Lithuanian-born writer Daniel Estulin’s ‘The Secrets of the Bilderberg Club,’ (2006) alleging the Bilderbergers control everything, which must mean that they pack a lot in to the three-day session the Club holds each year as its sole public activity. Of course they probably skype each other a lot too and rot out their brains plotting and planning on their cell phones.

Followers of the Alex Jones (Radio ) Show, a sanctuary of conspiracism, no doubt remember Estulin’s claim in 2007 that he had “received information from sources inside the U.S. intelligence community which suggests that people from the highest levels of the U.S. government are considering an assassination attempt against Congressman Ron Paul because they are threatened by his burgeoning popularity.” The bits of Estulin’s book reverently quoted by Castro, who called Estulin honest and well informed, retread some of the doctrines of Lyndon LaRouche, one of the most lurid conspiracists in political history, (though I do have affectionate memories of LaRouche’s claim in 1984 in a ad running on the CBS network that former vice president Walter Mondale, then running against Ronald Reagan for the Oval Office, was an “agent of influence” of the Soviet Intelligence services. At the time LaRouchies were in close contact with the Reagan White House.)

On the evidence of his quotes from Estulin, Castro is much taken by Estulin’s view that members of the Marxist Frankfurt School such as Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, who fled to the US from the Nazis before World War Two, had been recruited by the Rockefellers to popularize rock music to “control the masses” by seducing them from the fight for civil rights and social justice. According to Estulin, reverently quoted by Castro, ‘The man charged with ensuring that the Americans liked the Beatles was Walter Lippmann himself.’

So Fidel Castro believes that the Beatles were invented by the Rockefellers, and that Walter Lippmann, the pundit who drafted President Wilson’s Fourteen Points in 1918, crowned his literary/political career in 1968 by sending John Lennon the lyrics for “Revolution”, with its demobilizing message: “You say you want a revolution /Well, you know /We all want to change the world /… But when you talk about destruction /Don’t you know that you can count me out.” (In fact I seem to remember that Lennon actually wrote the song as an answer to my friends Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn, who as members of New Left Review and the Fourth International had suggested to Lennon that the Beatles pony up some dough to finance the revolutionary cause.)

And now Castro’s latest outing into political asininity has been to give an interview to Jeffrey Goldberg, of the Atlantic, allowing the man Castro cordially describes as “a great journalist” to cite Castro as saying that the Cuban economic model has been a disaster.

Goldberg is an appalling journalist, whose most notable achievement was to run an enormous piece in the New Yorker in the run-up to the attack on Iraq in 2003, which was one of the most effective exercises in disinformation designed to stoke up the Congress and public opinion in favor of the war. The piece was billed as containing disclosures of “Saddam Hussein’s possible ties to al Qaeda.”

This was at a moment when the FBI and CIA had just shot down the war party’s claim of a meeting between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague before the 9/11 attacks. Goldberg saved the day for the Bush crowd. At the core of his rambling, 16,000-word article was an interview in the Kurdish-held Iraqi town of Sulaimaniya with Mohammed Mansour Shahab, who offered the eager Goldberg a wealth of detail about his activities as a link between Osama bin Laden and the Iraqis, shuttling arms and other equipment.

The piece was gratefully seized upon by the Administration as proof of The Link. The coup de grâce to Goldberg’s credibility came on February 9, 2003 in the London Observer, administered by Jason Burke, its chief reporter. Burke visited the same prison in Sulaimaniya, talked to Shahab and established beyond doubt that Goldberg’s great source is a clumsy liar, not even knowing the physical appearance of Kandahar, whither he had claimed to have journeyed to deal with bin Laden; and confecting his fantasies in the hope of a shorter prison sentence. Needless to say, Burke’s demolition was not picked up in the U.S. press, nor has the New Yorker ever apologized for Goldberg’s story, certainly as pernicious as anything offered by Judy Miller in the New York Times.

Since Castro has been sounding tremendous alarums about a possible attack on Iran, it’s bizarre to find him lofting Goldberg, a former member of the Israeli Defense Force, to the journalistic pantheon and taking pains to paint his fellow 9/11 conspiracist, president Ahmadinejad of Iran, as an anti-Semite.

Some on the left see Castro’s deprecating remarks about the failure of the Cuban economic model as part of a tactical maneuver to help his brother institute the “reforms” that will see somewhere between half a million and million Cubans lose their jobs. I see it as a spectacularly foolish misjudgement by Castro, who told Goldberg “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore” and later said he was misinterpreted and that he meant the exact opposite, which is obvious nonsense.

Then Castro took Goldberg to – of all disgusting things – a dolphin exhibition. Lock the old fool up I say, free the dolphins and turn the exhibition into a theme park for all the CIA’s efforts to kill Castro, including booby-trapping a coral reef. The ironies of history: the CIA failed, and here’s Castro taking up the task, methodically assassinating his reputation, week after week.

Body Parts, Bio-Piracy and Israel’s National Forensic Institute

Our latest newsletter, now available to subscribers, features an extraordinary special report by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Since 1996, she has been involved in active field research on the global traffic in human organs, following the movement of bodies, body parts, transplant doctors, their patients, brokers, and kidney sellers, and the practices of organ and tissue harvesting in several countries – from Brazil, to Israel to the United States.

In our newsletter Scheper-Hughes describes the tissue, skin, bone and organ harvesting conducted for many years at Israel’s National Institute of Forensic Medicine, under the aegis of its former director and current chief pathologist, Dr. Yehuda Hiss. Long before Donald Boström leveled allegations of organ-harvesting from Palestinians in the Swedish tabloid, Aftonbladet, in August 2009, causing furious accusations of “blood libel,” Scheper-Hughes had already interviewed Dr. Hiss and had on tape the interview that forms part of her report here.

Scheper-Hughes says her purpose is to refute the controversial official statements of the Ministry of Health and the IDF that while there may have been irregularities at the National Forensic Institute, they have long since ended. To this day, she says, they have failed to acknowledge, punish, or rectify various medical human rights abuses, past and present at the National Forensic Institute. While many of the allegations are widely known, the testimony by Israeli state pathologist and IDF (reserve) Lt. Col. Chen Kugel has never been published in English and his allegations are known only within Israel. Dr. Scheper-Hughes invited Dr. Kugel to speak publicly on this topic in the U.S. on May 6, 2010.

There are two lawsuits ongoing in Israel at the present moment concerning the Forensic Institute and Dr. Hiss. One concerns alleged abuses against the dead bodies of Israeli citizens. The other concerns Rachel Corrie, a U.S. citizen who was killed in Gaza in 2003 while protesting the demolition of houses. Scheper-Hughes cites transcripts of court proceedings showing disturbing irregularities in Corrie’s autopsy conducted by Dr Hiss. Scheper-Hughes’ article, I should also mention, takes care to note Dr. Kugel’s description of his former mentor, Dr. Hiss, as a man who saw himself as willing to take great personal and professional risks “to serve a noble end… to help the war-wounded victims of terrorist attacks,” with his actions “as something sublime, or even heroic, as a modern-day Robin Hood.”

I urge you to subscribe now!

ALEXANDER COCKBURN can be reached at alexandercockburn@asis.com.

More articles by:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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