Sunday, March 09, 2008

George Will's Bigoted Attack on Cubans

George Will's latest column in The Washington Post is arguably the most insulting to Cubans ever penned by a reputable conservative. The title ("Think Twice About Ending the Embargo") gives no hint of its bias, or, rather, it leads us to suppose that there is no bias except the justifiable one against the Castro regime. Indeed, Will is biased against Castro, but not because he is a tyrant but because he is a Cuban. Friends and foes of Castro alike, even Cubans who lived before Castro -- hundreds of years before -- are condemned by Will for Cuba's fate.

Will makes one trite but true observation in his column: economic liberalization in Communist China did not lead to greater political freedom. But from that premise he concludes not that it wouldn't work in Cuba, but that nothing could work or has ever worked in Cuba because of the flawed character of its people and their unfitness for self-government.

Will's conclusions are flawed because his knowledge of Cuban history is flawed. He contends, for example, that Cuban-Americans "demanded the imposition" of the trade embargo in 1961. The few Cubans who were in the U.S. at that time were not in a position to "demand" anything of Kennedy, not even to hold him to his commitments in respect to the Bay of Pigs. It was U.S. corporations whose property had been seized by the Castro regime without compensation that demanded it; the same companies, which, having long ago written off those losses or passed them on to the American consumer, aspire now to underwrite the very regime that had cheated them. If you are against the embargo, however, it is convenient to have Cuban-Americans as the bogeymen since you can attack them as revanchists without the necessity of explaining what benefit would accrue to the U.S. or the Cuban people by wiping the slate clean and allowing the Castros to sell back to Americans the properties stolen from them as well as those stolen from Cuban citizens (the latter outnumbering the former by a factor of 100).

For one who supposedly supports the embargo, there is very little about it that George Will seems to like. He thinks it is outdated and irrelevant: "The embargo was imposed when Cuba was a salient of Soviet values and interests in this hemisphere. Today, Cuba is a sad, threadbare geopolitical irrelevancy." He thinks it is counterproductive and has benefited Castro: "Far from threatening Castro's regime, the embargo has enabled Castro to exploit Cubans' debilitating mentality of taking comfort from victimhood -- the habit, more than a century old, of blaming problems on others, first on Spain and then on the United States."

It is Will who knows nothing about geopolitics or Cuban history. To say that Communist Cuba is a "threadbare geopolitical irrelevancy" at a time when its Venezuelan surrogate and patron has already co-opted most of South America and now threatens the peace of the region -- there has been no internecine war there in 70 years -- shows that Will, like President Bush, regards Latin America itself as "a geopolitical irrelevancy," not just Cuba. The truth is that a conflict in South America would be the greatest geopolitical challenge that this country would ever have to face, the equal of ten thousand Iraqs; and if disengaging from the Iraq War seems almost impossible for the U.S. without forfeiting its "victory" and condemning Iraqis to slavery then extricating itself from a trans-continental war in this hemisphere, which it would be oblige to join under all existing treaties and covenants, won't even be an option without forfeiting not just American prestige but American freedom.

As for the embargo benefiting Castro, it must be a very peculiar "benefit" that the recipient so greatly resents and is obsessed with overthrowing. Since the Cuban people have no participation in the Cuban economy except as beasts of burden, the effects of lifting the embargo would benefit only Cuba's capitalists, that is, the Castro brothers and their henchmen in the military who control all aspects (and assets) of Cuba's closed economy.

Now we come to the most offensive part of Will's column, his contention that Cubans are beset by a "debilitating mentality" and "take comfort from victimhood," specifically, "the habit, more than a century old, of blaming problems on others, first on Spain and then on the United States." Apparently, George Will believes that Cubans should have accepted Spanish tyranny with good grace and American tutelage with gratitude. What right do we have to be free or independent? We are, after all, not Anglo-Saxons. Our history and political culture, Will believes, should reconcile us to slavery. Instead, Cubans insist on regarding foreign domination and its attendant calamities as "problems" and on blaming those who inflicted them upon us.

At the same time, Cubans are also to blame, according to Will, for "Cuba [having] negligible democratic traditions, and no living experience with a culture of pluralism and persuasion." First, this is not true. The Cuban Republic (1902-1958) in 56 years elected 10 constitutional presidents and no Cuban was ever executed or imprisoned for his political beliefs before 1959. Yes, Cuban democratic traditions were fragile (thanks to the Platt Amendment and other usurpations) but they would certainly have become more robust if Eisenhower's State Department and The New York Times had not installed Fidel Castro in power and Kennedy and his "best and brightest" agreed to make the U.S. the guarantor of Communism on the island. But, there I go, again, acting like a typical Cuban and blaming others for fucking up my country.