Dear Ambassador Power:
I recently read your statement decrying the UN General Assembly’s election of Venezuela to the UN Security Council. This statement, so obviously laden with hypocrisy, necessitated this response.
You premise your opposition to Venezuela’s ascendancy to the Security Council on your claim that “From ISIL and Ebola to Mali and the Central African Republic, the Security Council must meet its responsibilities by uniting to meet common threats.” If these are the prerequisites for sitting on the Security Council, Venezuela has a much greater claim for this seat than the U.S., and this is so obvious that it hardly warrants pointing out. Let’s take the Ebola issue first. As even The New York Times agrees, it is little Cuba (another country you decry) which is leading the fight against Ebola in Africa. Indeed, The New York Times describes Cuba as the “boldest contributor” to this effort and criticizes the U.S. for its diplomatic estrangement from Cuba.
Venezuela is decidedly not estranged from Cuba, and indeed is providing it with critical support to aid Cuba in its medical internationalism, including in the fight against Ebola in Africa and cholera in Haiti. And, accordingly, the UN has commended both Cuba and Venezuela for their role in the fight against Ebola. Indeed, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola recently stated:
I urge countries in the region and around the world to follow the lead of Cuba and Venezuela, who have set a commendable example with their rapid response in support of efforts to contain Ebola.
By this measure, then, Venezuela should be quite welcome on the Security Council.
In terms of ISIL, or ISIS as some call it, Venezuela has no blame for that problem. Of course, that cannot be said of the U.S. which has been aiding Islamic extremists in the region for decades, from the Mujahideen in Afghanistan (which gave rise to Bin Laden and Al Qaida) to the very radical elements in Syria who have morphed into ISIL. And, of course, the U.S.’s multiple military forays into Iraq — none of which you ever opposed, Ms. Power — have also helped bring ISIS to prominence there. So again, on that score, Venezuela has a much greater claim to a Security Council seat than the U.S.
And what about Mali? Again, it is the U.S. which has helped destabilize Mali through the aerial bombardment of Libya, which brought chaos to both countries in the process. Of course, you personally supported the U.S.-led destruction of Libya so you should be painfully aware of the U.S.’s role in unleashing the anarchy which now haunts Libya and Mali. Venezuela, on the other hand, opposed the U.S.’s lawless assault on Libya, thereby showing again its right to be on the Security Council.
Indeed, while you state quite correctly that “[t]he UN Charter makes clear that candidates for membership on the Security Council should be contributors to the maintenance of international peace and security and support the other purposes of the UN, including promoting universal respect for human rights,” the U.S. is unique in its undermining of all of these goals. It is the U.S. — through its ceaseless wars in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslovia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Vietnam, to name but a few — which has been the greatest force of unleashing chaos and undermining peace, security and human rights across the globe for the past six decades or so. As Noam Chomsky has recently opined — citing an international poll in which the U.S. was ranked by far “the biggest threat to world peace today” — the U.S. is indeed “a leading terrorist state.”
Meanwhile, Venezuela has played a key role in brokering peace in Colombia, and has been a leader in uniting the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean into new and innovative economic and political formations (such as ALBA) which allow these countries to settle their disputes peacefully, and to confront mutual challenges, such as Ebola. It is indeed because of such productive leadership that, as you note in your statement, Venezuela ran unopposed by any of its Latin American neighbors for the Security Council seat.
What’s more, as Chomsky again points out, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez led “the historic liberation of Latin America” from centuries-long subjugation by Spain and then the U.S. I would submit that it is Venezuela’s leadership in that regard which in fact motivates your opposition to Venezuela’s seat on the Security Council, and not any feigned concern about world peace or human rights.
Cuba has been on the U.S. State Department’s list of countries that according to Washington supports terrorism since 1982, despite lack of evidence that the Caribbean country has been supplying arms or other support to extremists.
In a statement before the United Nations, Cuba denounced the United States for its use of the term “terrorism” saying they manipulate the term for political purposes.
Tanieris Dieguez, the third secretary of the permanent mission of Cuba, Wednesday said that it was absurd that Cuba remains on the U.S. list of countries that support terrorism, referring to the report published April 30 by the State Department naming Cuba a “State Sponsor of Terrorism.” Dieguez statements were published Wednesday by the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina.
The list was created by the State Department in 1979, and is meant to apply to countries that it considers as having “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism,” according to their website. It includes providing administrative and arms exports, as well as other foreign assistance to terrorist bodies. The penalties for the countries on the list are strong sanctions.
Cuba has been on the list since March 1, 1982. The other countries on the list are Iran, Sudan and Syria.
In a forum of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly – the primary U.N. forum for considering legal questions – Dieguez said Washington keeps Cuba on the list to justify the harsh economic, commercial and financial sanctions imposed on the island, despite the lack of evidence that the government is aiding extremist organizations.
The main focus of the assembly was the elimination of international terrorism, where Dieguez rejected “the manipulation of such a sensitive issue.”
The Cuban diplomat also reminded the U.N. that Cuba has been hosting Colombia’s current peace negotiations since 2012, showing support for the peace process. She also reaffirmed Cuba’s backing the adoption of a general convention on terrorism, and a UN sponsored world conference on the topic to attempt to find coordinated global solutions to the problem.
Cuban citizens had hoped that the U.S. would not keep the island on the “State Sponsor of Terrorim” list this year – a decision that is evaluated and made yearly – because it “fails to meet the statutory criteria for being removed,” say U.S. officials.
Bible thumping and carpet bombing
The really interesting thing about the Junior Senator from Texas is the fact that he demonstrates that anyone who wants it badly enough can become president. It is, of course, something for which there is a precedent, when voters elected an inexperienced and largely unknown Barack Obama. Cruz shares Obama’s lack of preparation for the highest office while he is also something of a throwback to fellow Texan George W. Bush’s tradition of anti-intellectualism and lack of curiosity about how the rest of the world interacts with the United States. This is particularly unfortunate as Cruz, a conventional Republican conservative on all social issues, ironically has chosen to identify differences in foreign policy to distinguish himself from the rest of the Republican pack.
Cruz might rightly be seen by some as a nightmarish incarnation of a narrow minded conservative Christian vision of what the United States is all about, aggressively embracing a world view based on ignorance coupled with the license granted by God endowed “American exceptionalism” from sea to shining sea. His father is an Evangelical preacher and the son has successfully absorbed much of both the blinkered notions of right and wrong as well as the Elmer Gantry style, but that is not to suggest that he is stupid. By all accounts Cruz, a graduate of Princeton and of Harvard Law School, is extremely intelligent and by some accounts endowed with both extraordinary cunning and ambition. He is possessed of excellent political instincts when it comes to appealing to the constituencies in the GOP that he believes to be essential to his success.
Washington has seen presidents who were truly religious in the past but it has rarely experienced the Cruz mixture of demagoguery combined with a Biblically infused sense of righteousness which admits to no error. His Manichean sense of good and evil is constantly on display, but he is most on fire when he is speaking to his fellow conservative Christians, most recently at the gathering of the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Iowa. Cruz was one of a number of GOP speakers, which included potential presidential hopefuls Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan, who were received tepidly while Cruz was greeted with cheering and a standing ovation before launching into his most recent theme, blaming the White House for not pressuring foreign governments to protect their Christian minorities. The enthusiastic reception was not surprising as Cruz is, after all, the “real thing” speaking “their language” fluently and the Evangelicals know it.
Cruz is intelligent enough to realize that what he is peddling is a type of narrative designed to make himself electable. What he actually believes is somewhat irrelevant except that if he is an actual zealot he might well be immune to viewpoints that run counter to his biases, dangerous in a president. A year ago Cruz grandstanded in leading the GOP dissidents’ attempt to shut down the government over the issue of Obamacare, a move that the party leadership regarded as a major “tactical error.” He was widely condemned for his performance in the media and within his own party but he made points with the constituency he was courting, the Tea Partiers.
The disturbing thing about Cruz is that his foreign policy statements are awash in what must be a willful disregard of reality, but, as with the threatened government shutdown, he apparently knows what will sell with the Bible thumping America first crowd that he is primarily targeting. His latest leitmotif which he has been hammering relentlessly is the worldwide persecution of Christians, with the clear implication that it is uniquely a Muslim problem. It is also a line that is being pursued by the Israeli government and American Jewish groups, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is somehow a protector of Christianity. He opposes negotiations with Iran, for example, because a Christian pastor is in prison there. That several other Americans are also being held by the government in Tehran, including a former US Marine, appears to be of secondary importance and US broader regional interests do not enter into the discussion at all.
As part of his strategy to outflank his competition in the GOP, Cruz is shameless in his promotion of Israel and its interests. He did so recently by telling an audience of beleaguered Middle Eastern Christians that they had “no greater ally than Israel,” a statement so palpably out of sync with the actual experiences of those in the audience that he was booed of the stage. His response: “Those who hate Israel hate America.” Countering conservative critics of his performance Cruz subsequently wrote that “… the only time at least some of these writers seem to care about persecuted Christians is when it furthers an anti-Israel narrative for them.”
Cruz will, of course, find Israel haters wherever he looks as it constitutes a convenient way to dismiss critics without affording them a hearing. He will never concede that Israel discriminates against its Christian minority in spite of the considerable evidence that it does so. That Israel chooses to describe itself as a Jewish State, a designation that Cruz enthusiastically supports, does not ring any bells for him though he is quick to pounce on Iran for calling itself the Islamic Republic.
This willful blindness derives from the fact that Israel is central to Cruz’s foreign policy thinking. He has visited the country three times since becoming Senator. In Des Moines last week he spoke about Israel and he has referred to it from the Senate floor literally thousands of times, according to the Congressional Record. His private Senate office features a large framed photo of himself with Netanyahu. Nearly every speech Cruz makes sooner or later comes around to the issue of “standing for Israel” even when there is no logical reason to make that connection. At the recent Values Voters Summit in Washington he brought the cheering crowd to its feet by shouting “We stand for life. We stand for marriage. We stand for Israel.”
To be sure, part of the Cruz strategy comes from his recognition that no Republican can become a presidential candidate without the endorsement of Israel’s supporters. Cruz has met privately with the leaders of Jewish organizations, including Bill Kristol, editor of the neocon Weekly Standard and founder or board member of the multitude of pro-Israel alphabet soup organizations that seem to spring up spontaneously. The Weekly Standard has, not surprisingly, promoted the Cruz candidacy. Cruz also has his eye on Jewish money. He is seeking the support of Las Vegas casino mega-billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who could single handedly fund his campaign if he should choose to do so, as well as with other potential donors.
Cruz, who apparently believes he has learned something from the Vietnam and Iraq fiascos, describes his foreign policy in simple terms: have a clearly defined objective, use overwhelming force, and then get out. If viewed at face value, the formula is an antidote for prolonged and unsuccessful nation building, which would be good, but it has to be taken in the context of Cruz’s other pronouncements. He describes the world as being “on fire” and his rhetoric is uniformly belligerent. He sees “overwhelming” military intervention by the US as a God given right whenever the policy makers in Washington feel threatened and he also regards the military option as a first resort without any regard for what is going on in the country that is the target. Making a mess and leaving it is a recipe for international anarchy.
In a recent speech Cruz denounced the Administration for talking with Iranian representatives at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York. He characterized the event as “swilling chardonnay with the Iranian government.” That the United States has very compelling interests to be working with Iran both on ISIS and on nuclear proliferation apparently escaped Cruz’s grasp, so he was left with little more than a cheap shot joke to explain his unwillingness to negotiate with a government that he and Israel have repeatedly demonized.
Regarding Russia, Cruz has called for an expansion of NATO and more sanctions without any explanation of what the strategy might be or any curiosity about where increasing pressure on Moscow might lead. As a Cuban American he is inevitably hostile towards the government in Havana. Regarding Iran, Cruz supports harsher sanctions even though it would mean an end to negotiations over that country’s nuclear program.
Cruz’s foreign policy vision has been reported to be finding a “sweet spot” between the nation building of the Democrats and the reflexive belligerency of some Republican Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham who have not apparently realized that the country is weary of war. In reality however, Cruz veers strongly towards McCain-like solutions, accepting military interventions while eschewing the occupation and rebuilding bits only because they are too expensive and prone to misadventure to entertain. Sadly, like other GOP hawks, Cruz does not recognize that Washington has caused many if not most international problems, that foreign nations actually have interests that should be respected or at least considered, that military solutions are rarely sustainable, and that inextricably linking the United States to a rogue nation like Israel might not actually be good policy. But such considerations count for little when a man with a mission is on his way to become President of the United States.
MOSCOW – Ekaterina Blinova – 38 years ago, on October 6, 1976, Cubana Airlines Flight 455 was downed by terrorists, only now known to be CIA operatives; experts further claim it was not the only case when CIA was sponsoring terrorists.
“The US Government, being consistent with its stated commitment to fight terrorism, should act without double standards against those who, from US soil, have carried out terrorist acts against Cuba,” said Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Barbados Lisette Perez, as cited by the Barbados Advocate, during the ceremony of commemorating the victims at the Cubana Monument at Paynes Bay, Barbados.
The sudden explosion of two bombs onboard Cubana Flight 455, traveling between Havana and Panama, led to the plane’s crash, killing all 73 passengers and five crew members.
“For the past three months, Dr. Castro’s opponents in the US have waged a terrorist campaign in the Caribbean against those who break bread with the Cuban leader,” the Guardian wrote on October 8, 1976, reporting on the tragic accident. The media source noted that a previous attempt to place explosives on the plane was carried out in July, 1976, when a suitcase bomb exploded just before it was loaded onto the plane. In the same month the “office of a Trinidad airline was bombed in Barbados and a mysterious fire in Guyana destroyed a large quantity of Cuban-supplied fishing equipment,” the Guardian wrote.
According to the media outlet, the terror acts were presumably conducted by right-wing Cuban exiles and were aimed at states with political and economic ties with Cuba. Four suspects, Luis Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch, Freddy Lugo and Hernan Ricardo Lozano were arrested. In August 1985, Bosch was acquitted because of the lack of evidence, while Posada fled from prison under mysterious circumstances on the eve of the announcement of his verdict. Both Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch later ended up in the US.
Remarkably, in May 2005 the National Security Archive, an independent non-profit organization at George Washington University, released declassified CIA and FBI documents, indicating Cuban exile Luis Posada was a former CIA agent and a mastermind of the terror attack on Cubana Airlines flight 455. It was also revealed Posada was linked to a series of bombing in Barbados in 1976. Additional CIA records confirmed Posada indeed served as an agent in the 1960s and early 1970s and worked as an informant until June 1976. Posada was on a payroll, “receiving approximately $300.00 per month from CIA,” according to the FBI’s Memorandum, written on July 14, 1966. In that period, Posada was involved in military activities directed against Fidel Castro. Particularly, under the guidance of the US intelligence services he organized a military base in the Dominican Republic, drawing in fighters from different anti-Castro organizations.
According to the declassified CIA report, dated June 21, 1976, the US intelligence service was informed by Posada, allegedly, that Orlando Bosch, the leader of extremist Cuban exile group was planning to place two bombs on a board of a Cubana Airlines Flight, traveling between Havana and Panama. The US security agency did not inform the authorities of Barbados, which in 1970s granted Cuba stopover rights for its passenger planes flying to Africa, nor did they warned Havana about the preplanned terrorist act.
Furthermore, in July of 1990, US President George H.W. Bush pardoned Orlando Bosch of all American charges and rejected an extradition request to those seeking to arrest Bosch for his terrorist activities. Interestingly enough, the Cuban terrorist was exempted from charges at the request of Jeb Bush, a Potential 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate. Washington had also refused to extradite Luis Posada to Venezuela, under the pretext that he could face torture and mistreatment there.
The National Security Archive cited Peter Kornbluh, the Director of the Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project, who warned in 2005 that Posada’s presence in the US “poses a direct challenge to the Bush administration’s terrorism policy.” Although Bush claimed that no nation should shelter terrorists, surprisingly, the White House provided asylum to the murderers responsible for terrorist crimes against peaceful civilians.
Experts assert that the policy is mutable when Washington and its intelligence services use their own terrorists in order to threaten and undermine “disagreeable regimes.” For instance, political analysts point to the fact that ISIL fighters were trained in NATO camps located in Jordan and Turkey. The assistance, provided by the US to the so-called “Syrian opposition,” was aimed to oust Syria’s President al-Assad. In fact the Islamic State “was actually an integrated part of the ‘opposition movement’ supported, trained and financed by the West and its regional allies,” notes Andre Vltchek, an investigative journalist. Former CIA analyst Kenneth M. Pollack confirms that the US was carrying out military training of anti-Assad rebels in Jordan and Turkey in his article “An Army to Defeat Assad,” published in August 2014 in Foreign Affairs magazine. Some experts insist that the IS plot is a pretext for a large-scale military operation against Syria and Bashar al-Assad.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. (Photo: Gerald Ford Library)
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger ordered a series of secret contingency plans that included airstrikes and mining of Cuban harbors in the aftermath of Fidel Castro’s decision to send Cuban forces into Angola in late 1975, according to declassified documents made public today for the first time. “If we decide to use military power it must succeed. There should be no halfway measures,” Kissinger instructed General George Brown of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a high-level meeting of national security officials on March 24, 1976, that included then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “I think we are going to have to smash Castro,” Kissinger told President Ford. “We probably can’t do it before the [1976 presidential] elections.” “I agree,” the president responded.
The story of Kissinger’s Cuban contingency planning was published today in a new book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana, co-authored by American University professor William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh who directs the National Security Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project. Research for the book, which reveals the surprising and untold history of bilateral efforts towards rapprochement and reconciliation, draws on hundreds of formerly secret records obtained by the authors. The documents detailing Kissinger’s Cuban contingency planning in 1976 were obtained by Kornbluh through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.
According to the book, Kissinger’s consideration of open hostilities with Cuba came after a protracted effort of secret diplomatic talks to normalize relations — including furtive meetings between U.S. and Cuban emissaries at La Guardia airport and an unprecedented three-hour negotiating session at the five-star Pierre Hotel in New York City. Cuba’s efforts at supporting the anti-colonial struggle in Africa, the authors write, “was the type of threat to U.S. interests that Kissinger had hoped the prospect of better relations would mitigate.”
The book describes Kissinger as “apoplectic” with Castro — in oval office meetings Kissinger referred to the Cuban leader as a “pipsqueak” — for Cuba’s decision to deploy thousands of soldiers to Angola to assist the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party of António Agostinho Neto against attacks from insurgent groups that were supported covertly by the United States and apartheid regime of South Africa. Concerned that Castro would eventually broaden his military incursion beyond Angola, Kissinger counseled Ford that they would have to “crack the Cubans.” “If they move into Namibia or Rhodesia, I would be in favor of clobbering them,” Kissinger told the president, according to a March 15, 1976, Oval Office memorandum of conversation.
In the March 24 meeting with an elite national security team known as the Washington Special Actions Group, Kissinger expanded on the domino scenario. “If the Cubans destroy Rhodesia then Namibia is next and then there is South Africa,” Kissinger argued. To permit the “Cubans as the shock troops of the revolution” in Africa, he argued, was unacceptable and could cause racial tensions in the “Caribbean with the Cubans appealing to disaffected minorities and could then spillover into South America and even into our own country.”
Moreover, the lack of a U.S. response to the global exercise of military power by a small Caribbean island nation, Kissinger feared, would be seen as American weakness. “If there is a perception overseas that we are so weakened by our internal debate [over Vietnam] so that it looks like we can’t do anything about a country of eight million people, then in three or four years we are going to have a real crisis.”
Drafted secretly by the Washington Special Actions Group in April 1976, the contingency plans outlined punitive options that ranged from economic and political sanctions to acts of war such as mining Cuba’s harbors, a naval quarantine, and strategic airstrikes “to destroy selected Cuban military and military-related targets.” The contingency planners warned Kissinger, however, that any act of aggression could trigger a superpower confrontation. Unlike the 1962 missile crisis, stated one planning paper, “a new Cuban crisis would not necessarily lead to a Soviet retreat.”
Indeed, “a Cuban/Soviet response could escalate in areas that would maximize US casualties and thus provoke stronger response,” Kissinger’s national security advisers warned. “The circumstances that could lead the United States to select a military option against Cuba should be serious enough to warrant further action in preparation for general war.”
Back Channel to Cuba was released today at a press conference at the Pierre Hotel, the site of the first official secret meeting to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba in July 1975. The authors suggested that the history of such talks, and the lessons they hold, remain especially relevant at a time when both President Obama and President Raul Castro have publicly declared the urgency of moving beyond the legacy of perpetual hostility in U.S.-Cuban relations.
Document 1: Memorandum of Conversation, February 25, 1976
During a conversation with President Ford in the Oval Office, Secretary of State Kissinger raises the issue of Cuba’s military incursion into Angola, implying that Latin American nations are concerned about a “race war” because of Cuba’s efforts in Africa. “I think we are going to have to smash Castro. We probably can’t do it before the elections.” The president responds, “I agree.”
Document 2: Memorandum of Conversation, March 15, 1976
In another Oval Office conversation, Kissinger raises the Cuban military involvement in Africa and expresses concern that Castro may deploy troops elsewhere in the region. “I think sooner or later we have to crack the Cubans … I think we have to humiliate them.” He continues to argue that, “If they move into Namibia or Rhodesia, I would be in favor of clobbering them. That would create a furor … but I think we might have to demand they get out of Africa.” When President Ford asks, “what if they don’t?” Kissinger responds, “I think we could blockade.”
Document 3: Washington Special Actions Group Meeting, Cuba, March 24, 1976
Kissinger convenes The Washington Special Actions Group-a small elite team of national security officials-on March 24 to discuss a range of options and capabilities to move against Cuba. “We want to get planning started in the political, economic and military fields so that we can see what we can do if we want to move against Cuba,” he explains. “In the military field there is an invasion or blockade.” Kissinger shares his domino theory of Cuban military involvement in the region. “If the Cubans destroy Rhodesia then Namibia is next and then there is South Africa. It might only take five years,” Kissinger argues. In discussing military options, he states, “if we decide to use military power it must succeed. There should be no halfway measures – we get no reward for using military power in moderation.” Kissinger orders the group to secretly draw up plans for retaliation if Cuban troops go beyond Angola.
Document 4: Cuban Contingency Plan Summary, (ca. April 1976)
This document is a summary of the Cuban Contingency survey considering the possible U.S. reactions to continued Cuban and USSR “Angola style” intervention. The summary notes that the U.S. is already engaging in some efforts to dissuade further intervention through “public warnings, signals to the USSR, changes in our African policy and some measures designed to isolate Castro.” While any U.S. response will affect U.S.-Soviet relations, “It is easier to bring pressure on Cuba, as the closer and weaker partner in a tightly interwoven relationship, than on the Soviet Union.”
Document 5: Cuban Contingency Plan Paper 1, (ca. April 1976)
According to this lengthy contingency planning paper, the objective of these plans is to prevent a pattern in which Cuba and the USSR “arrogate to themselves the right to intervene with combat forces in local or regional conflicts.” The contingency plan outlines four courses of action that vary on a scale of seriousness for deterring continued Cuban intervention, including: political pressure, actions against the USSR, a scenario of actions (combining political, economic and military measures), and military steps. Any actions taken towards Cuba could spur greater tension with the USSR. “In short, confronting Cuba — the weaker partner — is an obvious step toward confronting the USSR.” Political measures are presented as the best option for dissuading Cuba because of the increased chances of a U.S.-Cuban “incident” stemming from military actions. Along with the possibility of an incident, this document notes that “one of Cuba’s main foreign policy objectives has been to normalize relations with the countries of this hemisphere.”
The document outlines the option for a quarantine. As Cuba is highly dependent on imports and foreign military equipment (from the USSR), especially by sea, the U.S. would be able to exacerbate Cuba’s greatest vulnerability. On that same theme, the paper points to the U.S. base at Guantanamo as the greatest vulnerability for a Cuban response to any U.S. military actions. Other military steps outlined in the plans include mining Cuban ports and conducting punitive strikes against selected targets.
Document 6: Cuban Contingency Plan Paper 2, (ca. April 1976)
This paper covers several categories of U.S. actions against Cuba: deterrence, pressure to cease and desist, interdiction of Cuban action under way, and retaliation. Any form of deterrence taken by the U.S. would have to be “predicated on a willingness to take some action if the deterrence failed.” However, and reiterated once again, any action taken to confront Cuba would also incite a confrontation with the USSR. The possible military measures presented include three forms of quarantine (selected war materiel, POL imports, maritime blockade excluding food and medicine), mining Cuban ports, and punitive airstrikes on selected targets.
The document notes two important ambiguities — the role of Cuban military involvement in Africa and the threshold to determine the U.S. response to a Cuban provocation. “In sum, there is a good chance the US will be confronted by an ambiguous situation, in which Cuban intervention is not clearly established.” As well, there is “no precise threshold” which would determine the U.S. response, except to state that the threshold would be low if Cuban action were directed against the US or its territories (Puerto Rico), higher in the Caribbean and Latin America, and highest in Africa.
The document states that “we should further make it clear that we are not reverting to the shenanigans of the early 1960’s” and that the U.S. is not violating any international agreements. While the Soviets in 1970 indicated that they regarded the 1962 U.S.-Soviet agreement as still in force, the “failure of the Cubans to permit the UN supervision renders the US pledge technically inoperative.”
Document 7: Kissinger Aide-Memoire to Cuba, January 11, 1975
This conciliatory message drafted by an aide to Kissinger, and approved by the Secretary of State, was given to the Cuban side at the first meeting between U.S. and Cuban representatives, which took place at a cafeteria in La Guardia airport. “We are meeting here to explore the possibilities for a more normal relationship between our two countries,” it begins. The objective is to “determine whether there exists an equal determination on both sides to settle the differences that exist between us.” While the ideological differences are wide, Kissinger expresses hope that such talks will “be useful in addressing concrete issues which it is in the interest of both countries to resolve.” As a gesture to the Cubans, the U.S. will permit Cuban diplomats (accredited to the UN) to travel from New York to Washington and may begin granting additional visas to Cubans for cultural, scientific and education meetings. For Kissinger, “no purpose is served in attempting to embargo ideas.”
Document 8: Memorandum for the Secretary, Meeting in New York with Cuban Representatives, January 11, 1975
In a briefing paper on the first secret meeting at La Guardia airport, Kissinger’s aide Lawrence Eagleburger reports on the tone and exchange of views. The Cubans stated they had no authority to negotiate at that time, but emphasized the importance of removing the embargo as a “sine qua non” for talks. Eagleburger reports that he wanted to “leave both Cubans with a clear understanding that while I had received their message, I was in no way prepared — even unofficially — to accept [removing the embargo] as a precondition to further talks.” Even though at times there was a seemingly difficult tone in the meeting, as Eagleburger explains, “the atmosphere of the meeting was extremely friendly.”
Document 9: Memorandum of Conversation, Pierre Hotel, U.S.-Cuba Meeting, July 9, 1975
This meeting marks the first formal negotiating session to explore normalized relations between the United States and Cuba. To break the ice, Eagleburger suggests that Kissinger is disposed to meet with the Cuban foreign minister during the upcoming UNGA meetings in September. Assistant Secretary of State William D. Rogers begins by explaining that Washington would support lifting multilateral sanctions at the OAS and that the United States would then begin to dismantle the trade embargo, piece by piece, in response to similar gestures from the Cubans. Over the course of the next three hours the U.S. and Cuban officials discuss a series of reciprocal and bilateral improvements of relations, with much of the meeting focused on the Cuban responses to the points raised by the U.S. side. Responding to the piece by piece approach of the U.S., the Cuban representatives reiterate that any precondition for talks remains the lifting of the embargo. “We cannot negotiate under the blockade,” Ramon Sánchez-Parodi argues; “until the embargo is lifted, Cuba and the United States cannot deal with each other as equals and consequently cannot negotiate.”
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa criticized on Saturday a new U.S. government plan to intervene and weaken Latin American governments.
Correa said that Obama’s intention to create six innovation centers for educating new “leaders” in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, and Asia, was clearly intended to interfere with Latin American countries.
“What they want is to intervene in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, because they say we attack freedom of speech; but go and see for yourselves who are the owners of media in United States,” said Correa.
On Tuesday President Barrack Obama said that his government will support civil society in countries where freedom of speech and association are threatened by the governments.
“We’re creating new innovation centers to empower civil society groups around the world,” said Obama during his speech in a plenary session of the Clinton Open Initiative. “Oppressive governments are sharing worst practices to weaken civil society. We’re going to help you share the best practices to stay strong and vibrant.”
President Correa hit back “This is part of the conservative restoration: the insolent announcement of intervention in other countries.” He added “Let us live in peace and respect the sovereignty of our countries.”
Correa also responded that he will propose the creation of an innovation center in the United States to teach the country “something about human rights,” so they might learn about true democracy and freedom of speech, revoke the death penalty and end the blockade on Cuba.
Correa has accused opposition movements in the country of trying to destabilize his government.
Raúl Castro, President of Cuba, said that he wants to start relations with the U.S., but first the U.S. must provide health insurance to all 46 million people who lack it; stop extrajudicial assassinations in sovereign countries through drone attacks; make higher education affordable for all; reform the prison system which has by far the highest incarceration rate in the entire world, with a drastically disproportionate amount of prisoners being minorities; grant Puerto Rico its sovereignty as required by the U.N. Charter, U.N. Declaration on Decolonization, and the popular referendum in Puerto Rico in 2012; halt the economic blockade, which has been ruled illegal for 22 straight years in the U.N.; close the detention facility and return the land to Cuba; turn over terrorists living freely in Miami who have bombed Cuban civilian airplanes, hotels and fishing boats; and free the three political prisoners who were investigating these groups to prevent further attacks.
Actually, he said: “We don’t demand that the U.S. change its political or social system and we don’t accept negotiations over ours. If we really want to move our bilateral relations forward, we’ll have to learn to respect our differences, if not, we’re ready to take another 55 years in the same situation.”
President Barack Obama has said Cuba: ”Has not yet observed basic human rights … I and the American people will welcome the time when the Cuban people have the freedom to live their lives, choose their leaders, and fully participate in this global economy and international institutions.” But he added: “We haven’t gotten there yet.”
Presumably Obama means when Cuba agrees to relinquish their right to self-determination, as guaranteed in the U.N. Charter, to join the U.S.-imposed neoliberal order. When Cuba agrees to gives up state control over industries like banking and telecommunications and opens them up to foreign investment, so more money can be shipped off the island instead of staying in the local economy and invested in the Cuban people. When Cuba agrees to “free trade” agreements, which would prevent labor and environmental safeguards while forcing local businesses to compete on an uneven playing field with multinational corporations that receive government subsidies, allowing them to undercut the price of local products. In short, when Cuba decides to respect private profit over the social welfare of its population.
U.S. calls for “democracy” and “human rights” in Cuba have an important historical connotation, which in reality has nothing to do with representative government nor human rights. The term is nothing more than a propaganda tool, instantly elevating the accuser to a superior moral status and subjecting the accused to an indefensible position regardless of the real facts, history and context.
The U.S. is not suggesting that Cuba should be judged by established human rights and international humanitarian laws — The Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (which the U.S. has never ratified); and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which the U.S. took more than 20 years to ratify); the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the U.S. has never ratified; and many others. It is suggesting Cuba abide by the criteria the U.S. sets out for them and sees fit to interpret itself.
The reality is that the United States does not get to serve as judge and jury for other countries’ internal affairs, just as they would laugh in the face of anyone who tried to do the same to them. To pretend that your demands are more important than the law that governs the international system is beyond condescending.
Incidentally, there is a United Nations Committee that impartially reviews compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of the few treaties which the U.S. has both signed and ratified. The committee, in its most recent annual report, found the U.S. non-compliant in many areas.
To start, they found that the U.S. “has only limited avenues to ensure that state and local governments respect and implement the Covenant, and that its provisions have been declared to be non-self-executing at the time of ratification,” which serves to “limit the legal reach and practical relevance of the Covenant.”
Among the many matters of concern is accountability for “unlawful killings during its international operations, the use of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees in United States custody.”
The committee also noted numerous domestic problems, including “racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” “racial profiling,” “excessive use of force by law enforcement officials,” “criminalization of homelessness,” “National Security Agency surveillance,” and even “voting rights.”
Obama’s sanctimonious remarks about Cuba demonstrate his disregard for the law that applies to both countries equally, and his unwillingness to be held to the same standard that he preaches to others.
Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy, and Latin America. You can follow him on twitter.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has endorsed a call by his Argentinean counterpart Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to curb Western dominance in international politics.
Putin gave his support during a meeting with Kirchner in the Argentinean capital, Buenos Aires, on Saturday.
The Russian leader also said Moscow and Buenos Aires share a close view on international relations.
During the meeting, Kirchner emphasized that global institutions must be overhauled and made more multilateral, adding, “We firmly believe in multipolarity, in multilateralism, in a world where countries don’t have a double standard.”
In addition, the two leaders discussed military cooperation and oversaw their delegations signing a series of bilateral deals, including one on nuclear energy.
Putin’s visit to Argentina is part of his six-day tour of Latin America aimed at boosting trade and ties in the region, according to Russian state media.
The Russian leader’s trip will next take him to Brazil, where he is scheduled to attend the gathering of the economic alliance, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), in Brazil on July 15 and 16.
Putin’s Latin American tour began on July 11 in Cuba, where he met with President Raul Castro and his brother, Fidel Castro. During his stay in the capital, Havana, Putin signed a law writing off 90 percent of Cuba’s USD 35-billion Soviet-era debt.
Following his visit to Cuba, Putin made a surprise visit to Nicaragua, where he held talks with President Daniel Ortega.
Havana – The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) denounced the U.S.-imposed fine against the French bank BNP Paribas as an outrage against state sovereignty and the rules of free trade and international law.
A MINREX statement warns that with this new fine, the government of President Barack Obama has gone further than all his predecessors, accumulating penalties that exceed $11 billion USD against scores of entities, applied under many different sanctions regimes.
According to the statement, the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Justice and the state of New York imposed a record fine on June 30 of $8.97 billion USD against the French bank BNP Paribas, for disobeying Washington’s unilateral sanctions regimes against many countries.
In the specific case of Cuba, this bank institution is accused, according to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, of having processed thousands of transactions with the island’s entities, totaling more than $1.7 billion USD.
This fine, the largest imposed in history by the U.S. government for violations of its blockade on Cuba and current sanctions against third countries, violates the rules of International Law, and is described as an extraterritorial and illegal application of U.S. legislation against a foreign entity.
MINREX said that as a Free Trade Agreement between the United States and the European Union is being negotiated, it might be asked whether this is how the U.S. government intends to continue treating its allies.
BNP Paribas joins a long list of U.S. and foreign financial, trade, economic and other entities that have been the object of punitive measures, in the context of the worsening of the blockade and, especially, the financial persecution of Cuba.
Once again, the U.S. government has ignored the overwhelming international rejection of this criminal and failed policy against our nation, the Ministry said, qualifying the fine as an outrage against state sovereignty, and the rules of free trade and international law.
France’s biggest bank has reportedly agreed an $8-9 billion settlement with US prosecutors over hiding $30 billion in money transfers to countries on the US sanctions blacklist. The fine against BNP Paribas could be a record for this type of violation.
In the proposed settlement, BNP Paribas will plead guilty to criminal charges in early July, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing a source close to the matter. After admitting violating the International Economic Powers Act, the bank will temporarily be banned from doing deals in US dollars. France has warned this could have a negative effect on the stability of the euro zone.
The US Department of Justice is negotiating with BNP Paribas over the infractions, and the penalty could be the biggest of its kind. French President Francois Hollande said the fines are ‘unfair’ and ‘disproportionate’.
In 2012, the US fined HSBC $1.9 billion over similar US sanctions violations, and Credit Suisse pled guilty to concealing sanctions data and paid $2.6 billion in fines.
After examining over $100 billion of transactions, US authorities found that $30 billion were illegally conducted with Iran, Cuba, and Sudan as they are countries sanctioned by the US.
The infraction will force the company to reshuffle its US-based management, according to several sources. The Wall Street Journal reports 30 bank employees have already left, or will soon exit, the company.
First set at $3 billion, the penalty later was rumored to have reached $16 billion before the latest $8-9 billion figure. The largest fine on record for a bank is the $13 billion JPMorgan Chase & Co paid out for pre-crisis mortgage frauds. BNP Paribas has only set aside over $1 billion to pay out any potential fines, and a fine between $8-9 billion could nearly wipe out the company’s entire pre-tax earnings of $11.2 billion.
Once again, the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) joins hands with the people of Cuba and justice-loving people in every nook and cranny of the planet, in demanding the immediate release of the three remaining prisoners from the Cuban Five who are still languishing in US jails, after 13 years.
Two were released after completing their prison terms — Rene Gonzales on the 7th of October 2011, and Fernando Gonzales on the 27th of February 2014. It is important to emphasize that they walked to freedom with their dignity intact. The three who are still in jail — Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labanino — deserve our fullest support and solidarity. We should continue to campaign for them with all our heart and soul.
To reiterate, the imprisonment of all five is a travesty of justice. The Cuban Five were monitoring Cuban exile groups in the US in the nineties who had a proven record of committing terrorist acts against the Cuban people. They were gathering information about the terrorist missions that these groups were planning and had informed the US authorities about what they (the Cuban Five) were doing. And yet they were arrested and jailed after an unfair and unjust trial.
If the Cuban Five working under the direction of the Cuban government was determined to expose terrorist activities being carried out against their motherland from US soil, it was mainly because Cuba and its leadership had been victims of US sponsored terror and violence for decades. In 1976, a Cuban commercial plane with 73 passengers on board, a number of them school children, was bombed, killing everyone. The alleged mastermind of this terrorist act, Luis Posada Carriles, is still alive, protected by the US government. There was also an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba by groups in the US in 1961, the infamous ‘Bay of Pigs’ fiasco. A series of terrorist attacks targeting hotels and tourists in the nineties sought to cripple the Cuban economy. And there have been innumerable attempts to assassinate the Leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, right through the 47 years that he was in power. Add to all this the crippling economic sanctions imposed upon Cuba by every US Administration since 1961 and we will get a complete picture of how a small nation of 11 million people has had to endure the terror unleashed against it by its superpower neighbor.
Why has Cuba been the target of terrorism in all its manifestations for so long? The reason is simple. The US elite will not accept in its neighborhood, a nation which is determined to choose its own path to the future without being dictated to, or dominated by, the US. It will not tolerate a people who are committed to defending their independence and sovereignty. To put it in another way, the US drive for hegemony does not permit another nation— especially a nation with a different worldview — to preserve and enhance its dignity.
This hegemonic attitude is borne out by the US’s treatment of other countries in Latin America. Whenever a nation steps out of line, the US line, it is clobbered. Sometimes through terror and violence. Look at Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Uruguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, at different times and in different circumstances. Even in West Asia, terror has been employed to both undermine governments which want to maintain a degree of independence from the US and the West and to create instability and chaos in society. This is the story of Somalia and Sudan, of Libya and Lebanon, of Iraq and Syria. In Southeast Asia too, the Vietnamese, the Cambodians and Laotians have all experienced US terror, just as the people of the Philippines had in the past. Weren’t the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also exposed to a US “rain of terror” in 1945?
Let’s be clear about this. Terrorism is a tool for dominance and control. Terrorism is a weapon of hegemony. The US — like some other states too—uses this weapon in both ways. It employs terror when it suits its interests. It also fights against terrorism when it serves its agenda. This is why for the US there are “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists.” It is quite happy to collude with the former and crush the latter.
This was obvious in Iraq following the Anglo-American occupation of the land in 2003. In the initial phase the occupier encouraged the Shia militias to fight the Sunni remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime. Once the Shias got into power through the democratic process and moved closer to Iran, the US became worried and backed Sunni militias fighting the Shia dominated government. Now of course, Sunni-Shia clashes, compounded by various other forces, have assumed a life of their own.
In Syria, it is an open secret that the US and other Western and regional actors have been actively involved in supporting the armed rebels against the Bashar al-Assad government in Damascus. Some of the rebels are favored more than others by the US just as other rebels are linked to some of the other external players. The good terrorists from the US perspective receive a lot of assistance including weapons and funds through channels connected to US allies in the region. Are there bad terrorists in the Syrian conflict? While the US may not approve of the tactics used by some of the rebels, it has refrained from strong denunciation of them since it shares their overriding objective of eliminating Assad. So it is Assad who is the bad terrorist in the eyes of the US. Assad is bad because he has been consistent in his opposition to US-Israeli hegemony over West Asia.
There is parallel of sorts to the Cuban situation. All those individuals and groups opposed to the Cuban government, however violent they may be, are good terrorists and have been bestowed with all kinds of aid by US agencies through various conduits. Fidel Castro, and his successor, Raul Castro, are the bad ones. Fidel in particular was demonized in the mainstream Western media as few other leaders had been. Needless to say, it was because of his principled position against US helmed hegemony, articulated with such depth and clarity, that a grossly negative image of the man was disseminated through the media.
But Fidel Castro and the Cuban Five have demonstrated that in the ultimate analysis truth will triumph. Today, Fidel commands a lot of respect and affection among ordinary men and women everywhere for what he has accomplished for his people and indeed for the people of Latin America and the Global South. Similarly, the cause of the Cuban Five has become one of the major rallying-points in the worldwide struggle for human freedom and human dignity because it symbolizes the struggle of the powerless against the powerful.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), an NGO based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The United States State Department, in its infinite wisdom, has once again designated Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. The newest Country Report on Terrorism, issued on April 30, 2014, includes Cuba in a list of nations that “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”. The island country in the Caribbean has been so designated since 1982.One reads about the U.S. calling any other nation a ‘sponsor of terrorism’ in shocked disbelief. That the U.S., the greatest purveyor of terrorism on the planet, has the audacity to accuse any other nation of sponsoring terrorism is beyond all credibility.
Just since the beginning of the new millennium, the U.S. has unleashed horrific terrorism on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of at least hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, and the displacement of millions, and is currently sending drones to Yemen and other nations, ostensibly to kill ‘terrorists’, but resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Is this not terrorism?
And what of the U.S.’s continued and unwavering financial support of Israeli terrorism against the Palestinians? Not only does the U.S. finance that apartheid regime, it blocks any attempt by the international community to put a halt to it.
So 1982 is the year that the U.S. first decided that Cuba was a state sponsor of terrorism. This, despite U.S. antagonism toward that country since 1959, when the repressive and widely hated, U.S.-supported regime of Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by a popular resistance movement, led by the young leftist, Fidel Castro. At that time, the U.S. controlled 80% of Cuban utilities, 90% of its mines and cattle ranches, and nearly all of its oil refineries. No wonder Mr. Castro has incurred the wrath of the U.S. since then: when the American bottom line is threatened, no efforts are too great to protect it.
And what has the U.S., that shining beacon of peace, freedom and democracy, been doing on the world stage since 1982, when it first singled out Cuba as a terrorist state? It has either invaded, or covertly or overtly worked for the overthrow of the governments of the following countries, sometimes on multiple occasions, and sometimes constantly:
If one were to go back just to the middle of the twentieth century, these countries could be added to the list:
Democratic Republic of the Congo
And what of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, including waterboarding, which the United Nations and every civilized country in the world, except for the U.S., condemns? By any but U.S. standards, these are acts of terrorism.
And while we’re talking about Cuba, let’s not forget Guantanamo, the U.S.’s, Cuban-based torture chamber. And the U.S. policy of ‘extraordinary rendition’, the practice of kidnapping suspected terrorists and sending them to foreign countries where prohibitions against torture don’t exist, can only be seen as terrorism.
So while the U.S. wages war, tortures political prisoners, holds prisoners for years without any concept of due process, destabilizes democratically-elected governments which displease it, and finances governments with long records of the most shocking human rights abuses, it actually has the nerve to accuse another country of supporting terrorism.
The Cuban response to this designation is milder than one might expect. A statement from that country’s foreign ministry said that Cuba “… energetically rejects the manipulation of a matter as sensitive as international terrorism by turning it into an instrument of policy against Cuba and it demands that our country be definitively excluded from this spurious, unilateral and arbitrary list.”
So what are the specific reasons the U.S. has for continuing to designate Cuba a sponsor of terrorism? It hardly matters, considering the U.S.’s own ongoing, horrific terrorist activities around the globe, but let’s note them anyway.
* Past support for the Basque separatist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna ( Basque Homeland and Freedom), and
* Support for Colombia’s FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels.
Yet the report concedes that Cuban ties to ETA ‘have become more distant’, and it points out that Cuba is hosting talks between the Colombian government and the FARC in Havana.
There are, of course, opposing views for why the U.S. actually has so designated Cuba:
Said Mauricio Claver-Carone, of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, an influential lobby group in Washington: Cuba “fails to meet the statutory criteria for being removed” (whatever that is).
Alana Tummino, director of policy at the Americas Society/Council for the Americas in New York, had a different view: “Sadly, unless the State Department has more evidence than it’s providing, it appears that political motivations have once again driven this determination.”
Can there be any doubt that political motivations are, in fact, behind the U.S.’s continuation of a policy that makes no logical sense? For nearly sixty years, the U.S. has embargoed, boycotted, sanctioned, blockaded and invaded Cuba, all because of ongoing resentment against the takeover by the government by Cubans from the Americans. The electoral vote in Florida is usually vital in presidential elections, and the importance of the Cuban-American voting bloc, although diminishing, is still worth courting. So such considerations as human rights, justice and statesmanship have no role in policy-making, when the goal is always re-election.
One looks in vain for any substantive change to U.S. policy towards Cuba.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Dill Press).