Sunday, January 4, 2009

Charge of the Rough Riders (tm)

Sinking of the USS Maine - precursor to the Spanish American War
Terrorist Attack on US
Iraqi Tanks Entering Kuwait
Communist Attack on Korea
Communist Attack on Vietnam
Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor

Sinking of the USS Maine

It's fitting to note on this, the 50 year anniversary of Castro's revolution in Cuba, that President-elect Barack Obama apparently plans to continue on with our now 47 year old embargo on that country.

In response to the 50th anniversary celebrations, the Bush White House released this statement: "Many political dissidents are in jail. The economy is suffering and not free. And the United States will continue to try to seek the freedom of the people of Cuba, and support them."

Yes, it's true, many political dissidents are in jail. Of course, more are in jail - or just dead - in China, but rest assured that the Chinese will still be supplying stuffed gorillas that sing "Wild Thing" for you and yours this Valentine's Day - and for only $9.99!

The Cuban economy is suffering, but then they have been through just a few hurricanes this year. Oh, and there's that pesky embargo (which is somewhat the opposite of free economy) that prevents American companies from trading with Cuba, just 90 miles off US shores, instead forcing them to procure food, medicine, etc, at far higher prices elsewhere. That embargo has "resulted in a serious reduction in the trade of legitimate medical supplies and food donations, to the detriment of the Cuban people." It is also against international law, which bans the use of food to exert "political or economic pressure." But we're supporting them!

The embargo-causing problem with Cuba, as we all know, isn't the humanitarian abuses (which I recognize and protest) or their struggling economy. The problem is that last bit about their economy not being free. That is, not free for US companies to exploit. So when the country is devastated by hurricanes Bechtel can't be sent in on a preordained contract to rebuild, GE can't be brought in to privatize the power grid, and Blackwater can't be contracted to provide police forces. The economy which provided those corporations with the massive wealth that they have isn't free, either, of course. Most of the jobs provided to them are secured without any contractual bidding, and when they screw up - as they have from Iraq to New Orleans - their contracts still get paid.

The US position on this was established well before the embargo of 1962, though. In 1898 - when Cuba's revolution against Spain was coming to a head - Cuba accounted for 10% of our total export economy, having nearly doubled in only three years. Businessmen, anxious to ensure that the country remained the exploding market that it was, pushed the US government to intervene. Then, as with our embargo, we acted under the guise of seeking Cuban freedom. The USS Maine was sent to show America's interest. It mysteriously exploded. This caused a public outcry which enabled the Spanish-American war and, consequently, America's control over Puerto Rico and Guam - unlike Puerto Rico and Guam, however, the Cubans were allowed to enter into free elections for their leaders. Naturally, free trade with Cuba was also secured.

(Then, as in now, there were some who saw past the outrage of a possible attack on America. Bolton Hall, the treasurer of the American Longshoremen's Union, said this:
"If there is a war, you will furnish the corpses and the taxes, and others will get the glory. Speculators will make money out of it - that is, out of you. Men will get high prices for inferior supplies, leaky boats, for shoddy clothes and pasteboard shoes, and you will have to pay the bill, and the only satisfaction you will get is the privilege of hating your Spanish fellow-workmen, who are really your brothers and who have had as little to do with the wrongs of Cuba as you have."
. . . which might as easily translate into:
"If there is a war, you will furnish the corpses and the taxes, and others will get the glory. Speculators will make money out of it - that is, out of you. Men will get high prices for inferior supplies, lawless private 'security', for shoddy powergrids and pasteboard hospitals, and you will have to pay the bill, and the only satisfaction you will get is the privilege of hating your Muslim fellow-workmen, who are really your brothers and who have had as little to do with the wrongs of the Middle-East as you have."
Then, as in now, America went to war.)

Cuba became a free nation in 1902 - with the provision that the United States could still intervene whenever it felt like it, which it did only 4 years later. For 57 years it suffered political turmoil, until Castro's revolution. Of course once Castro took over Washington reacted famously - since it is our right to overthrow any government of any country, if said government does not serve our best interest.

And we continue to react, by supporting the Cuban people with starvation and disease.

2 comments:

Sean said...

I have promised myself not to be critical of Obama until he actually becomes president. But his choice of Larry Summers and Paul Volcker (first brought to my attention at The Tarpeian Rock, where (I admit) I dismissed the author's concerns too lightly), his recognition of our "special relationship" with Israel, and his decision to continue the Cuban embargo are worrisome.

But there is hope.

Change.gov has issued a second round of "open for questions" in which the American public can put questions to the incoming administration - and rank those questions. Some high ranking questions on foreign policy include "do you have any plans to make US foreign aid to Israel contingent on whether or not Israel truly begins withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and West Bank, dismantling settlements, and stops using US taxpayer money to fund their campaign?" and "when are you going to end the embargo against Cuba?" On economics "why has president-elect Obama selected Timothy Geitner, Larry Summers and Bob Rubin to advise him, and set future economic policy when it is, and was this teams policies and advice, that caused the current economic decline of the US economy?" (Although, I admit that this question hasn't received nearly the attention that others have).

The final chapter of Noam Chomsky's Profits Over People is called "Hoardes of Vigilantes." It is so called because this is what some in the business sector have come to call the meddlesome masses who dare to try and restrict their riches with pesky things like legislation and popular outcry at excess deregulation. The hoardes of vigilantes - i.e., us - have managed to put a stop to things in the past. I can only hope that we can continue to do it now.

Also, this article is cool.

Hectocotylus said...

"Investigative journalist Allan Nairn reveals Admiral Dennis Blair played a critical role in backing the Indonesian occupation of East Timor during the 1990s. At the height of a wave of ruthless attacks on Timorese that killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands, Blair personally informed top Indonesian general, Wiranto, of unwavering US support. He continued to support the Indonesian military until international outcry forced the Clinton administration to withdraw its military and diplomatic backing."

"Blair will be nominated for the post of Director of National Intelligence in the Obama administration."