On July 1, President Barack Obama announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, following a pointless, 54-year estrangement from that small, island nation. The president had said in December that relations between the two nations would be re-established, and with today’s announcement of the re-opening of embassies in each nation’s capital, a long and fruitless effort by the United States comes to an end.
When President Dwight D. Eisenhower severed ties with Cuba in 1961, it was shortly after the young revolutionary Fidel Castro overthrew the brutal, U.S.-supported regime of Fulgencio Batista. The era of McCarthyism, that ugly period in U.S. history when Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was accusing everyone from prominent diplomats to housekeeping staff of being a communist, was still fresh in the mind of all politicians, and no president, especially not a Republican, could countenance the ascendance of communist rule where a non-communist one had previously been, regardless of how far from democracy, and how astoundingly brutal to its own people, that government had been.
So with the popular Communist government now installed, Mr. Eisenhower did what has been done so often since by his successors to nations around the world; he severed ties with Cuba, and issued heavy sanctions that did nothing to negatively impact the government, but that caused untold suffering to the people.
While any thinking person on the planet knows ending the Cuban embargo is the right thing to do, several of Mr. Obama’s various opponents in the Republican Party are reacting as might be expected. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, one of the multitudinous people seeking the Republican presidential nomination, made this irrelevant comment: “It’s unacceptable and a slap in the face of a close ally that the United States will have an embassy in Havana before one in Jerusalem.” This, of course, is in reference to apartheid Israel’s desire to make Jerusalem its capital, a move not recognized by the international community. However, since Mr. Cruz received at least $106,054.00 in campaign contributions from various Israeli lobby groups between 2008 and 2014, his statement certainly indicates that he knows where his bread is buttered.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, another clown in the seemingly endless GOP (Generally Opposed to Progress) nominating circus, has stated that he will oppose confirming an ambassador to Cuba, until such time that Cuba secures “greater political freedoms for the Cuban people.”
Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, supportive of the move, weighed in with her own pearls of wisdom. “Reopening embassies lays the foundation for a new, more productive relationship with Cuba that can support and advance key American priorities — including human rights….”
Her counterpart, however, House Speak Speaker John Boehner, toed the old party line. Said he: “[R]elations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until Cubans enjoy freedom — and not one second sooner.”
Such pretty talk about political freedoms and the ‘key American priority’ of human rights! When one looks at U.S. reality, one quickly recognizes that all this posturing is, in reality, simply playing to the extreme right, which has never quite surrendered the idea of Communism as the big bad wolf, huffing and puffing and trying to blow down the house of the revered, saintly and mostly fictional, U.S. democracy.
Let’s look at a few facts:
Perhaps these august U.S. officials want Cubans to have the same political freedoms as do citizens of Israel, where everyone has political freedom, as long as they are not of African or Arab descent; are not married to an African or Arab; do not criticize Israel on social media, and do not support any activity that in any way is seen as critical of the Israeli government.
The U.S. doesn’t care about the political freedoms of the Palestinian people; in fact, it finances their oppression.
Time and time again the U.S. has destabilized and/or overthrown democratically-elected governments in a variety of nations, if the voters selected a leader who leaned too far to the left. The U.S.-puppet replacement in nearly every case has been a cruel, murderous dictator. The following is a partial list of countries whose governments the U.S. has so victimized in just the last 35 years: Afghanistan; Turkey; Poland; Nicaragua; Cambodia; Angola; Philippines; Iraq; Venezuela; Palestine; Somalia; Iran; Libya; Syria.
In many cases, the elected leaders of these nations saw that benefiting their citizens was not to be achieved by following U.S. corporate dictates. With any threat to the almighty dollar, the U.S. screams ‘communist oppression’, and rushes in to save the people from themselves. The cost in innocent lives numbers in the millions.
So why, today, is Cuba such a flashpoint? Many in the all-important Cuban voting bloc in Florida still harbor animosity toward Castro and his revolution, but that population is aging, and younger Floridians of Cuban descent are not quite so obsessed with continuing to punish their parents’ homeland. But criticism of normalization of relations with Cuba has a history of wide publication on the evening news, and this has not been a good couple of weeks for the myriad Republicans hoping to take back the White House in 2016.
On June 25, the Supreme Court ruled that using premium tax credits to assist qualifying persons under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was, in fact, constitutional. This was bad news indeed for Republicans who saw what was probably their last chance to gut the act, and thereby throw millions of people off of insurance plans, but win the hearts and minds of their radical right-wing base. So they can vow to repeal the act if one of them should become president, but GOP candidates have been saying for decades that they would undo Row v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, and for some bizarre reason, their constituents still expect this to happen.
The Court was busy in the last few days of the month. The day after it disappointed conservative Republicans everywhere by not ending ‘Obamacare’, it added insult to injury when it declared that same-sex couples had the same right to marry as their heterosexual counterparts. If government-provided health care wasn’t the death knell for the United States of America, we were all darkly told, marriage equality certainly would be.
So, what is the far right to do? The media and political pundits everywhere proclaimed two major victories for Mr. Obama. How this peculiar notion of the passage of bills or the endorsement by the Supreme Court of positions held by any one person can be seen as a victory for that person ever came about is a mystery to this writer. Reducing governance, and issues that impact the daily and very personal lives of individuals, to a competition between opposing parties does not seem consistent with high-minded words about freedom and human rights.
But that is the political reality of the U.S. So with Mr. Obama having somehow achieved these two ‘victories’, both of which are widely supported by the U.S. citizenry, why not try to criticize something else he is doing? If the criticism sticks, well, then the ‘victory’ goes to the Republicans.
With the two recent court decisions, and Mr. Obama’s re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, the victories do not belong to him, but to the millions of people whose lives in the U.S. and Cuba will be positively impacted. Society as it is known today will not end; one need only look to Canada for an example, a country that has long had friendly relations with Cuba, where marriage equality has been the law of the land for a decade, and where government-provided health care far exceeds what is currently available in the U.S.
So the political pandering will continue, as will life as it is generally known. But for many, this week represents a positive turning point, and for no one impacted will it be a detriment.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).