Friday, January 02, 2015

No, Christian, There Is No Santa Castro

Annotating a recent comment by Christian C.:

"The U.S. funded and armed Batista’s forces (despite publicly calling for elections and asking him to resign) until it became clear that his regime was untenable, ultimately recognizing the revolutionary government as the 26th of July Movement moved closer to victory on a wave of popular support." Christian C.

[The U.S. did not "fund and arm Batista's forces." On the contrary, it declared an arms embargo against the Batista government, the first time in history that it had ever done so against a friendly country and ally. All Cubans knew immediately what this meant. Before the arms embargo, Castro's forces had sustained what he rightly called "the Revolution's greatest defeat" — the failure of the March 1958 General Strike. Intended as a show of support for the revolutionary forces, less than 5% of Cuban workers participated. In the November 1958 elections to choose a replacement for Batista, more than 50 percent of the electorate went to the polls, though warned by the rebels that anyone who voted for either the government or the opposition candidates would be shot. So, yes, support for the 26th of July Movement did increase dramatically from 5% in March 1958 to nearly 50% of the population by November 1958 because of the U.S. arms embargo. There is no other explanation, since during that time the Castro forces saw no action and took no territory; but, well-ensconced in their mountain coverts, busied themselves executing local peasants as "spies" and entertaining visiting media with stories of epic battles that were never fought but were dutifully reported (Castro's revolution was undoubtedly the first to be concocted by and conducted in the media). With only 184 "battlefield" casualties sustained by both sides during the entire process, the Cuban Revolution was never anything but an operetta revolution, which if Batista had bombed the Sierra Maestra mountains could have been over in 24 hours. But the U.S. threatened to withdraw diplomatic recognition if he did, thereby in effect becoming (for the first but not the last time) the guarantors of Castro's revolution.  By December 1958, the U.S. was no longer content to let the rebels "win" the Revolution since it didn't appear that they could despite being bankrolled by rich Cubans (such as the Bacardís) and U.S. corporations doing business in Cuba (at the request of the Eisenhower administration). Therefore, the American ambassador, Earl T. Smith, was instructed by the State Department to inform Batista that his government would no longer be recognized after January 1, 1959, nor that of Cuba's president-elect Andrés Rivero Aguero, who was scheduled to take office on February 24, 1959. The U.S. thus paved the way for the triumph of Fidel Castro's Revolution. It was then that Castro's forces, unopposed, finally began their 700-mile triumphal march from Oriente to Havana. In Cuba's real Revolutionary War (1895), the rebel army, under General Antonio Maceo, had traversed the same distance fighting the Spanish forces every inch of the way in hundreds of battles. In 1898, the U.S. intervened militarily to co-opt Cuba's victory and thwart its independence. It again intervened 60 years later, this time diplomatically, to assure Castro's victory and end Cuba's independence. The U.S. did not "ultimately recogniz[e] the revolutionary government as the 26th of July Movement moved closer to victory on a wave of popular support." The U.S. evicted Batista and assured (as the active, not the passive agent) the victory of the 26th of July Movement. The Cuban people were attentive to its prompts, as was usual then. The "wave of popular support" followed in the wake of the "victory" (as is always the case with all revolutions). 

It is undeniable and obvious [is it really?] that the vast majority of the Cuban people supported Castro when he initially came to power [so why didn't Castro hold elections at the supposed apex of his popularity?]. Much of your delusions about Cuba stem from this fundamental misunderstanding about the revolution’s origins [what a big coincidence, so do yours!]. Cuban exiles [you speak as if you were not one of us] like to conveniently ignore this fact [what fact? Castro's untested "popularity?"], but will usually admit to being supportive of the revolution at first if they’re being honest [which Castro was not being when he declared that the object of his revolution was to restore democracy, which might have been the reason that many Cubans initially supported him and consider that support to have been an "honest mistake"]. This includes some of the the most fiercely anti-Castro exiles (like Luis Posada Carriles) who’d go on to join the CIA-directed counterrevolution [when Posada Carriles was a terrorist for the 26th of July Movement, he was hailed as a hero; when he entered the service of the counter-revolution, he was decried as a terrorist. Anything wrong here? I guess that what determines whether you are a terrorist or not is the master you serve].

Other than members of the Batista regime and its depraved cadre of benefactors [as I just said, it was Castro who had the "cadre of benefactors"], the bill of goods Castro initially promised were to the benefit of most Cubans and, indeed, desperately desired by them ["bill of goods" is a fine description; it means a fraudulent offer, which Castro's certainly was] . He came into power on the tails of a broad-based opposition movement [which he quickly narrowed to one man (himself) by killing, imprisoning and exiling most of the anti-Batista opposition, including many of his initial supporters], vowing to assert Cuban independence, restore democracy, and promote a more just society to masses of enthusiastic revelers [lies, lies, lies. How can you credit support which is based on lies?]. The disillusionment and successive waves of immigration to the U.S. only begin after the revolution takes a radical turn and Castro comes clean about his Marxist intentions [Castro killing more Cubans in 1959 than died by natural causes didn't affect his popularity, I suppose, or cause doubts to be raised about his motives? Cuban were that deluded!] . And of course, the whole thing is proven a farce after he trades the U.S. with the U.S.S.R. as Cuba’s imperial master [Jackpot! You are restored to sanity. Congratulations! I had almost given up hope. However, at the risk of sounding a bit picky, the U.S. as "imperial master" never used Cubans as cannon fodder nor contributed to their enslavement, so this change of "imperial masters" was hardly a fair exchange].

Castro reportedly said: “to have stated a radical program would have resulted in aligning against the Revolution all the most reactionary forces, which were then divided. It would have caused the formation of a solid front among the North American imperialists, Batista, and the ruling classes.” He even likened himself to Lincoln, who concealed his abolitionism as a strategy to avoid being defeated by the overwhelming fear people had towards that radical idea [Lincoln was never a sincere abolitionist, but an opportunist who issued the Emancipation Proclamation (which in effect freed no slaves) to obtain a cheap propaganda victory after a series of stunning defeats on the battlefield. Even after nominally embracing abolition, Lincoln still advocated the "repatriation" of slaves to Africa as the "final solution" to America's "race problem." In fact, he told General Benjamin Butler that he even favored the transportation of African-Americans to "the garbage dump of Cuba" where slavery still existed!!! This suggestion caused Martí to reassess his opinion of Lincoln]. Castro's lies, on the other hand, weren't noble.

At any other point in Cuban history the discontent with the regime that grew in the 1960’s would have likely consolidated into a formidable domestic opposition movement [it did, in the Escambray Mountains, where ten times as many rebels amassed against Castro as had against Batista, and they would have defeated Castro, too, if Castro had been Batista (Castro had no problem bombing his opponents) and if the U.S. had not betrayed them, as it has all Cuban rebels with the exception of Castro]  and brought down the government [you mean regime], but the world was in the midst of the Cold War [all the more reason to have acted decisively against Castro]. The U.S. actively courted Cuban exiles and appropriated the struggle against Castro [actually, Cubans would have been quite happy to see any other country "appropriate" the anti-Castro struggle, but, unfortunately, only the U.S. did and very half-heartedly at that], using them as pawns for America's own Cold War objectives [like the Soviets used Castro's subjects as "pawns for  (their) Cold War objectives," right?] (This, of course, isn't the first time in Cuban history that something like this has happened). [Actually, it was the first time that a Cuban  leader had invited a foreign power (the USSR) to colonize his country; previously, the colonizers had invited themselves. When the first happens, it is treason (think of Quisling). When the latter happens, it is an unprovoked act of aggression for which the invader is responsible. Big difference].

After the Bay of Pigs debacle, President Kennedy, one of history’s most fanatically [and ineffectively] anti-Castro presidents, intensified the fight against Castro by launching Operation Mongoose, a covert program that allowed him to save face in the event that they were caught [yes, "save face" as at the Bay of Pigs, or is that just a euphemism for betraying anti-Castro Cubans?]. This consolidated covert CIA-directed paramilitary efforts to overthrow Castro that begun during the Eisenhower administration into a multifaceted government-wide operation. Most Cubans involved in the anti-Castro opposition were channeled into the CIA’s multimillion dollar covert war [what other choice had they? To accept Castro? And does the fact that the CIA spent millions to topple Castro more objectionable than the fact that the Soviet Union spent billions to avert the collapse of the regime?].

Shockingly, covert operations continued in the midst of the missile crisis [when Castro was doing his worst (best?) to blow up the world, very shockingly]. Your obsession with the Kennedy-Kruschev [I have the same difficulty spelling Khrushchev] Pact as the source of the problem is completely unfounded and a historical [the U.S. pledged not to invade Cuba in exchange for the removal of Soviet missiles, in effect establishing a perverse protectorate over the Castro regime]. This was a non-binding pledge [which the U.S. has respected as if it were codified law]. The Kennedy administration actually established a legal rationale that they maintained the right to invade Cuba and proceeded with the covert program, which imagined the U.S. military aiding CIA-trained exile front groups after they linked with imaginary [so the Escambray rebels were "imaginary?"] anti-Castro forces on the island and took back Cuba.

Operation Mongoose inevitably failed because exile front groups were repeatedly constrained by limited CIA directives, which called for pointless small-scale attacks [exactly, "pointless small-scale attacks" but no INVASION]. Even if those harebrained covert sabotage attacks had been successful, they were being carried out under the auspices of what most Cubans saw as the enemy of Cuban independence [No, Cubans then, today and always will regard Fidel Castro as the principal enemy of Cuban independence, and it is thanks to his monumental role in crushing it that other actors almost as blameworthy will never get the credit that they richly deserve]. After Kennedy was assassinated [by Castro, as LBJ always believed], Operation Mongoose was called off by LBJ despite AG Robert Kennedy's insistence that it continue [maybe LBJ thought that he would be assassinated by Castro, too?].

In addition to the ample evidence provided by the Bay of Pigs debacle [I'm glad you didn't use "fiasco"], the regime had captured exiles and retrieved evidence from downed planes and seized vessels with U.S. markings, for example. He used this as proof to demonstrate to the Cuban people and the world that Cuba was under siege by the U.S. and the revolution needed to move in a radical direction in order to preserve Cuban independence [so if Castro had never been opposed by the U.S. or Cuban exiles he would never have had the "proof" that he supposedly "needed to move in a radical direction?" Surely, you don't believe this? You are not that gullible, and neither are the Cuban people. When Castro announced ex cathedra that he "was and would always be a Marxist-Leninist," Cubans never again believed a word he said].

This comment by Christian C. originally appeared in the Will Cuba Ever Be Free Again? comment thread.

8 comments:

Vana said...

Manuel:

Wow! You told him, indeed though he claims to be Cuban, Christian does not consider himself an exile, perhaps he's not.

Vana said...

Manuel:

Just heard that the US imposed more sanctions on North Korea for the Sony hack, for a hack! While giving the castros a pass for the ship full of arms detained in Panama, unfuckingunbelievable!!

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Vana:

Using my powers of deductive reasoning — which are on a par with Sherlock Holmes' — I have concluded that Christian C. is not a Cuban but is married to a Cuban and considers her family in Cuba his own. This is commendable. I only censure foreigners who aggravate the suffering of our countrymen, not those who try to mitigate it.

His knowledge of Cuba is outstanding in some respects and deplorable in others. He knows what a well-informed foreigner with family ties to Cuba would know about the island. He doesn't know and will never know what Cubans really think about Castro and his Revolution. This is one subject which his Cuban relatives will never discuss openly in his presence.

Finally, his mind is not yet closed on Cuba. He can still be influenced for the better, and, also, I'm afraid, for the worse.

Vana said...

Manuel:

Let us hope he learns something from you and is influenced for the better, because my friend Sherlock Holmes should have been named Manuel.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Vana:

He knows where to go to learn the truth about Cuba, which is almost as good as knowing the truth.

Vana said...

Manuel:

All we can do now is keep our fingers crossed.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Vana:

As the Talmud teaches, “He who saves a single life, saves the world entire," which is interpreted to mean that as long as one good person exists, good still exists in the world, and, therefore, there is still hope for humanity.

I believe that there is still hope for Christian C., too. His conclusions about Cuba are almost always right, but not the premises on which he bases them. I could well say, "All's well that ends well," but conclusions that are sustained by errors are as weak and vulnerable as the errors themselves. Truth must have truth as its foundation and no other.

And so, if he still cares to know the truth, I will continue to bombard him with it.

Christian C. said...

"The U.S. did not "fund and arm Batista's forces.…”

It armed Batista’s forces up until the arms embargo, after which the U.S. continued to clandestinely back Batista in every other way possible. The arms embargo was a symbolic blow that had no practical implications as Batista easily continued purchasing arms from other countries. The U.S merely wanted to be seen as a neutral actor in Cuba’s "civil war" after having supplied Batista with the means to murder and oppress the opposition.

By 1958, Castro’s political positions were ambiguous (indeed, nearly identical to what was promised by other Cuban leaders who had come to power on the tails of revolutionary movements; a platform Batista himself endorsed at one point), and the Batista regime was completely untenable. The U.S. hedged its bets, believing that in the event Castro prevailed he would, as precedent indicated, ultimately bring stability and protect the role of American interests in Cuba. Those who fell victim to Castro’s shrewd political calculations collectively contributed to his rise: the U.S. government, American corporations, Herbert Matthews, elements of the private sector, the moderate Batista opposition, and most importantly, the Cuban people. The Cuban Revolution was more a public relations victory than a military triumph.

You acknowledge the fact that Cubans supported the 26th of July Movement after its victory (“victory”?) and that many Cubans supported him based on false pretenses, but stop short of accepting that this support encompassed a majority of the island’s population in spite of the overwhelming evidence. Why is the fact that the majority of Cubans initially supported him so inconceivable?

Fidel came into power making a strong case for what every Cuban desired — sovereignty, democracy, and justice — after it had been cruelly abrogated by Batista. The nation was reeling from the repression, economic recession, and corruption wrought by the Batista regime and Castro promised to unite them in a path to national redemption. Fidel was also buoyed by the messianic narrative of the revolution that swept Cuba’s vast media landscape (before it was nationalized). This catapulted him above the rest of the anti-Batista opposition, which ultimately united in support of his revolutionary program.

Support for the revolution was powerfully demonstrated in hours-long rallies attended by masses of Cubans of all backgrounds and in all provinces — by some estimates, some of the largest mass rallies in the history of the Western hemisphere — which Fidel saw as a form of “direct democracy” (he would address the million+ attendees as “the General National Assembly of the People.”).

To accept that he was initially supported by the people does not diminish or justify his crimes. History provides us with many examples of charismatic dictators who were able to successfully consolidate totalitarian states by deceiving the people through demagoguery, stoking nationalistic fervor, politicizing everything under the sun, and uniting them against a foreign enemy— Hitler in Nazi Germany and Mao in Communist China, for example. Totalitarianism is unachievable without that initial process of mass mobilization. Do Cubans possess some superhuman trait that renders them immune to duplicity?

P.S. — You should ask me about my Cuban bona fides instead of speculating. I’m a Hialeah-born Cuban-American. My maternal grandparents were Batista-era exiles, and my paternal grandparents were Castro-era exiles. My paternal grandfather was involved in the anti-Castro insurgency and held as a political prisoner. On my mom's side, my great great great grandfather was a major general in Cuba’s 10 Years War and is honored with a marble statue and park in his native Holguín, check him out —> http://www.ecured.cu/index.php/Julio_Grave_de_Peralta

Now put that in your pipe & smoke it.
I’ll respond to some of your other points in a subsequent post..