Again about NPR's interviews on Cuba

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Sun Jul 6 10:53:50 MDT 2003

Since sending out the transcript of the
NPR interview in which Howard Zinn
defending his signature on the Joanne
Landy statement. On re-listening to the
program (please do the same yourself)
I can see I mis-heard what Zinn said.

Two notes came to me telling me I'd
misunderstood, and looking back and
listening again, I now can see that
they were right. I'll put their notes
at the bottom of this whole message.

The NPR reporter framed the series of
interviews in a very hostile manner,
talking about a "wave of repression."
Cora Weiss's comments were totally
out of order, saying "executing fisher-
men is unacceptable" since they men
executed were armed and violent
hijackers, not "fishermen".

Unlike some individuals who have tried
to read Zinn, Chomsky and others out
of the left, I don't mind admitting my
error in this. Indeed, I'm glad to state
openly that I'd mis-heard what he said.

I have much, much more in common with
Howard Zinn and Chomsky, despite our
areas of disagreement, than I have with
those who are campaigning against
Cuba. Zinn and Chomsky are not now
campaigning against Cuba.

Also, while I wish they hadn't signed
that statement by Council on Foreign
Relations member Joanne Landy, they
did and that's now past history.

Interestingly, NPR didn't actually quote
what Zinn said about CUBA, but only
his comparison of Cuba to the United
States, which I didn't agree with, but
which also isn't quite the same thing.
I think he was basically making a
polemical point.

I wish Zinn had responded to my note,
but that didn't happen. Anyway, here
is the audio file of the NPR program,
which is only five minutes long. In any
case, I'm sending this note to Howard
Zinn as well as posting it to the lists.



From:   "Walter Lippmann" <walterlx at>
Date:  Wed Jul 2, 2003  2:24 am
Subject:  NPR: Leftist criticism of Cuba's policies

(Here's the transcript of Yesterday's
in which Howard Zinn defended having
signed the Joanne Landy petition on

(This is far worse than the impression
I got listening to the segment! And
Cora Weiss actually talks here about
"executing fisherman" as if they were

(Zinn is quoted implying Cuba's worse
than the US and China, if the quote is
actually legitimate! I have written to
Howard Zinn to ask if this quotation
of him is, indeed, accurate. I'm now
sending this out because it's what
NPR has sent out publicly.)

NPR--All Things Considered

Analysis: Leftist criticism of Cuba's policies

984 words

30 June 2003

Copyright 2003 National Public Radio, Inc. All Rights

MELISSA BLOCK, host: Since Fidel Castro's government
arrested and jailed some 75 critics and summarily executed
three men who tried to hijack a ferry to the United States,
there has been much rethinking among those who were seeking
to normalize relations with Cuba. The European Union is now
reviewing its relations with the island. In the US, efforts
on Capitol Hill to end the travel ban have been scaled back.
And the Cuba Policy Foundation, a bipartisan group dedicated
to improving US-Cuban relations, has closed up shop. Perhaps
most surprisingly, the harsh sentences given to dissident
writers and activists this spring have brought about intense
discussion and criticism among scholars and writers on the
left who have supported Cuba in the past. NPR's Margot Adler

MARGOT ADLER reporting:

After Castro's actions this spring, the Campaign for Peace
and Democracy released a complex statement. It denounced
Cuba's wave of repression, but it also criticized the United
States, both for the war in Iraq and for its history of
attacks on Cuba and the embargo. The statement has been
signed by a star-studded list of left intellectuals, from
Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn to Barbara Ehrenreich and
Edward Said. The Cuban government denounced the statement
and described it as the consequence of distance,
disinformation and the trauma of failed socialist
experiments, and some have said it's the end of
the left's romance with Cuba.

But the signers have a very different view. Relations may be
strained, they say, but they are not broken. Longtime peace
activist Cora Weiss is now president of an international
network of peace organizations called the Hague Appeal for

Ms. CORA WEISS (President, Hague Appeal for Peace):
Executing fishermen is not acceptable.

ADLER: For years, she said, she admired Cuba's strides in
education, science and health care. She still does.

Ms. WEISS: I tend not to use the word `left,' because I'm
not sure I know what it means today, but people who are
decent and who want freedom and rights respected for all
people are not breaking with Cuba. They're expressing a very
legitimate point of view when something goes wrong.
Something went badly wrong this time and had to be

ADLER: Cuba has always been seen by the left as a tiny
country of 11 million people that, against all odds, has
resisted the might of the United States. While they may have
bemoaned Cuba's persecution of gays and dissidents, it was a
brave little sardine facing a shark. Howard Zinn, the author
of "A People's History of the United States," said he signed
the statement because it criticized both Cuba and the United
States. Still, he has found himself receiving a number of
angry e-mail from Cuba's defenders on the left.

Mr. HOWARD ZINN (Author, "A People's History of the
United States"): I thought that, you know, we were taking
cognizance of the fact that Cuba was a beleaguered country,
but I think they're mistaking what we understand and
distorting, you know, our position.

ADLER: Zinn says it's totally appropriate for someone like
him to criticize the Cuban government for executions and
prison sentences, something he has opposed everywhere in the
world. If there is any irony here, he says, it is that Cuba
is acting like the United States.

Mr. ZINN: With its death penalties, with its punitive, you
know, justice system, with its, you know, incarceration of
huge numbers of people who is more in favor of capital
punishment than the American government, or maybe China.

ADLER: Sandra Levinson is the director of the Center for
Cuban Studies in New York City, which for 31 years has
promoted cultural exchanges between Cuba and the United
States. Levinson spends much of her time trying to explain
the Cuban position to people in the US. She admits that her
position is hard for people here to understand. She says
only those who have been to Cuba recently can believe that
Cuba feels threatened. When people tell her, `Look, so the
US gave dissidents some copying machines and tape recorders.
The dissidents didn't do anything serious,' she responds...

Ms. SANDRA LEVINSON (Center for Cuban Studies): Well,
you know, it's a little bit like our preemptive strike
Iraq. We don't want anyone to do anything serious to us. The
World Trade Center, that's enough for us. Well, you have to
understand that on a smaller scale it's enough for Cuba we
invaded during the Bay of Pigs. And people will say, `That
happened 40 years ago.' I know, but a country, a small
country, doesn't forget those things, especially if it's in
that small country's interest to continue reminding people
of their history. And I think it is, as long as we don't
have relations, as long as we have an embargo,
as long as we are so strong and Cuba is so weak.

ADLER: Levinson, who is strongly against the death penalty
herself, admits that much of the criticism of Cuba from the
left comes from people with very consistent positions
against the death penalty and long jail sentences. She says
the Cubans have been most upset with a statement against
Cuban repression by the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano,
who called Castro's acts `a sin against hope.' But he also
wrote that the fact that the Cuban revolution had lost the
wind of spontaneity and freshness was something to feel pain
about. One Cuban exile historian quoted in the Miami Herald
said the left's pact with Cuba has now been broken, but most
left critics of Cuba's policies simply believe Cuba has
failed in being the example they believe it still should be.
Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.


>From Art Heitzer of the National Lawyers Guild,
passing on a note from someone else:

I think Mr. Lippman is misreading the Zinn quote.
hen I first heard the story (while driving in my car)
I took Prof. Zinn to be referring to the United States
in  the entire paragraph.  Reading the transcript
confirms this.  He was illustrating the point that
now Cuba is acting like the United States, which
he believes is not a good thing.     He does not
mention Cuba at all in the  quoted paragraph.
Perhaps it would help to hear the intonation, i.e.,
"who is more in favor of capital punishment than
the American government?"

>From Sandra Levinson in New York:

I don't think Howard Zinn meant to say that.
If you listened to the program as opposed to
reading the transcript, it did not sound like he
was saying that Cuba is more in favor of the
death penalty than the United States, and
I would strongly doubt he thinks that. But
I am sure he will answer you on his own.


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