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Almost fifty years after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the university professor tuned in to his i-Pod radio. A news bulletin interrupted “It’s Make Believe Ballroom Time” to announce an El Paso jury had acquitted Luis Posada Carriles, well-known terrorist, on 9 counts of lying on his immigration application.
The University of Miami scholar shrugged at the news. Although Posada in some circles was known as the Hemisphere’s Osama bin Laden, the professor and colleagues focused on their research agenda. None even asked if some of the Posada trial “observers” (who looked like extras on the Sopranos) might have intimidated the Texas jury; or even wondered why the government presented evidence that Posada bombed an airliner with 73 people on board (all died) and then charged him only with lying.
The academics daunting challenge was figuring out new ways to get taxpayers’ money as Republicans slash precious services.
The professors understood that few academicians have received millions in grants for their scholarly invention: the concept of “strengthening the civil society in Cuba.” Until now they had finessed the very meaning of Cuban civil society by using that phrase as a euphemism for those who took orders and money from US Interests Section officials in Havana. That’s the State Department’s working definition of civil society. Who in Washington cares Cuba’s civil society has developed over centuries. That’s the past and not helpful for US policy.
Indeed, Washington would like to erase that past in which it unsuccessfully (key word) tried everything short of a direct armed invasion of the island to dislodge the disobedient Castro brothers: after the Bay of Pigs, it tightened the ad hoc embargo and eventually made into law. It waged psychological war, and backed wholesale terrorist attacks and assassination attempts.
As scholars plotted to get government grants, in Little Havana, some semi-retired assassins returned from their visits to proctologists to hail the acquitted hero and also fabled FBI and CIA informer (on his fellow plotters). None seemed to care about declassified CIA and FBI cables showing Posada ratted out his fellow bombers. No one’s perfect. They also praised his lawyer who prolonged the trial into an 11-week affair and thus earned his fee on which he can now retire.
In recent decades, however, State Department strategy has manufactured – with the scholars’ help – a civil society despite the fact that one already existed, except in the minds of State Department bureaucrats. Magical unrealism? The few academics who coined the notion have since grown accustomed to better life styles coincident with receiving large government grants and donations from a noted booze company.
The history and development of Cuban society certainly merits study, but the scholars and their grant-givers have little or no interest in the real Cuba. The money-making research agenda in the handful of universities and research centers, gets determined by goals of US policy, which have for fifty two years centered around the destruction of the Cuban revolution.
The academics’ objective — note the word – was to tap into the government’s desires (and its Treasury) to have invented leaders for the newly-invented “civil society.” The US government never had an interest in the real Cuba and since there’s little grant money or donations from rum producers available for studying the real Cuba, the finest (meaning largest grant recipients) Cuba scholars produce the equivalent of sci fi works and label them “scholarship.”
The scholars’ inventiveness doesn’t preclude other areas of endeavor. In decades past entrepreneurs have concocted independent associations for doctors, libraries that depend on US money and supply and contain few books and even free trade unions. AFL-CIO leaders fully supported them even though they had no dues-paying members. A group of “independent journalists” organized by US diplomats in Havana wrote stories the US government helped them publish. Coincidentally, all their filings contained negative judgments of Cuba’s system and government. In 2003, when some of these “journalists” got busted for receiving money, goods and services from a foreign government (US), Nestor Baguer, one of the more coherent writers in the group, revealed himself as a Cuban state security agent. At the trial of some of his erstwhile colleagues, the Cuban prosecutor used documents provided by Baguer and other moles to prove the accused had received services from US diplomats in Havana.
These entrepreneurial members of the academic community devised their version of what the US government would like Cuba to look like – now and in the future. This Cuba bears no relation to reality, but it does provide a way to spend taxpayers’ money as miraculously, Congress enacts legislation to authorize these expenditures while cutting teachers and closing clinics. The scholars also attract anti-Castro companies to donate money to these daydreaming projects.
One Cuban scholar produced the ultimate reverie: Fernando Henrique Cardoso refers to that “poof moment – Jorge I. Dominguez’ vivid phrase – when the current regime will no longer exist.” Several self-proclaimed “leading” Cuba scholars in the US even contributed to a book that begins with that premise. (http://marifeliperez-stable.com/books/) That a-historical moment has no preconditions, institutions, history, context or real live humans. As grade school kids say: “shit happens.”
No scholar living in Cuba gets invited to these “forecasting” sessions. These exclusive professors have converted poof dreams into profits; moreover; they remain oblivious to the Miami mobs cheering the triumphant return of Luis Posada Carriles — whom FBI agents affectionately call that “rat-fink, old fart, bomber.”
Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP opens at San Francisco’s Brava Theater on April 16.
Nelson Valdes is Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico