The Cuba-US conflict after Bush's partial retreat May 20

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Sun May 25 22:39:13 MDT 2003

An Assessment of U.S. Threats against the Cuban Revolution
Quiet May 20 in D.C. Marks Gain for Cuba in Clash

by Fred Feldman

(The following article was edited by George Saunders and appears on
the Labor Standard socialist magazine website. The introductory
comments in italics are by Saunders.)

(This is an edited version of an article posted by the author on May
21, 2003.
What does the date May 20 stand for? A few words on that are in order.

(May 20, 1902, was the day the U.S. "granted independence" to Cuba,
after taking it from Spain in the Spanish-American War of 1898. A
rebellion by Cubans against Spain had begun in 1895 and was on the
verge of succeeding when the U.S. intervened. Thus, May 20, 1902, was
a caricature of "independence," which Washington and its hangers-on
may celebrate but true Cuban patriots do not. It was marred by the
results of the Spanish-American War. For four years after that war,
from 1898 to 1902, Cuba remained under occupation by U.S. forces
(perhaps an example of what is in store for Iraq).

(As the price of U.S. withdrawal of forces in 1902 Cuba had the Platt
Amendment imposed on it, granting the Guantanomo naval base to the
U.S., along with the right to intervene in Cuban affairs in the
future. After U.S. forces withdrew in 1902, they returned four
times-in 1904, 1912, 1917, and 1920. U.S. occupation was succeeded by
a string of puppet governments in Cuba whose main job was to protect
the interests of U.S. corporations, banks, and investors. The real
independence that Cuba's heroes, José Martí, Antonio Maceo, and
others, fought for was won only on New Year's Day in 1959 when the
July 26 Movement led by Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and others marched
into Havana as the culmination of their guerrilla war against the
pro-U.S. dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.-George Saunders

After enormous rumbling, the imperialist monster barely squeaked at
the Cuban revolution on May 20. President Bush made an announcement
that he hoped Cubans could soon enjoy "the same freedoms we do" (like
the USA Patriot Act?). But the antirevolutionary Cubans in Miami had
been hoping for more-perhaps for an announcement that, after Iraq,
Cuba would be next on the hit list of the world's only superpower.

The unexpected caution displayed in Washington on May 20 is an
indication of the depth of the popularity and self-defense
organization of the revolution in Cuba, which-together with the
standing of Cuba on the world scene-continues to force U.S.
administrations to keep the option of invading Cuba on the back
burner, and this limits some of their other policies as well.

The low-key May 20 event also indicated Washington's continued
reluctance to engage in military conflicts where its forces are likely
to meet massive resistance. The "shock and awe" that U.S. military
commanders voiced over the stiff initial opposition they met in
southern Iraq was an indication of their unpreparedness for any really
intense fighting on the ground.

In the last 20 years, Washington has launched "victorious" wars
against Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq
again. None of the governments in those countries was capable of
effective resistance politically, militarily, or both. For the U.S.
military machine to attack the more important strategic targets in its
current war drive against the semicolonial world-Iran, North Korea,
Cuba, and, quietly creeping up the target list, Venezuela-would
require taking on countries where the people and military are more
likely to fight back effectively, countries that can be occupied but
would be difficult or impossible to pacify.

If on May 20, for example, Washington had escalated its attacks-say,
by eliminating the right of Cubans in the U.S. to send remittances to
their families in Cuba, or by canceling the migration agreements
agreed to between the U.S. and Cuba after the Mariel boatlift crisis
of 1980-that would have almost certainly forced the Cuban government
to permit a mass migration. That could have provoked a situation
leading to military confrontation. But for Washington to take such
measures without a plan for toppling the revolution would have risked
losing the Cuban American vote in 2004, a vote that was crucial for
Bush in the 2000 election.

The Havana government directly forced the present crisis into the
open-around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in mid-March-by
cracking down on mercenary dissidents, who were being paid with U.S.
funds to organize into opposition groups politically directed by the
head of the U.S. Interests Section (a virtual embassy in Havana);

The Cuban government also executed three violent hijackers who had
threatened the lives of dozens of Cubans on a ferry boat. Seven
hijackings of Cuban planes or vessels over seven months had resulted
in the hijackers being released by U.S. authorities in Florida and the
Cuban property confiscated. Hijackers who could make it to Florida
would be safe, and they would be lionized by the anti-Castro "Miami
Mafia." In effect, the U.S. government was encouraging hijackings in

While the Cuban leaders initially had to face a "firestorm" in world
public opinion, heavily manipulated by the corporate-controlled mass
media, revolutionary Cuba has been slowly regaining some of the lost
ground. The Cuban leadership has provided patient explanation of the
U.S. provocations, their situation, and their actions, and they have
responded with countermobilization of world public opinion.

Among other things the Cuban leaders have made their political
position on the death penalty more widely known-they consider it
vindictive and barbaric. Cuba regards itself as part of the
international effort to bring an end to capital punishment. The Cuban
government imposed a three-year moratorium on the death penalty, which
ended with the recent executions. However, the siege conditions which
Cuba has continually faced for the past 43 years of U.S. economic
blockade, terrorist attacks against Cuba, and military and diplomatic
pressure-siege conditions which are now intensifying-have made it
impossible to completely dispense with this admittedly barbaric
punishment at this time. Cuba still requires the death penalty today
as one of the ultimate measures of national self-defense.

If the Cubans had waited until a full-scale migration crisis was
forced on them before standing up to the mounting provocations, the
U.S. might have been able to take much stronger action in the initial
confusion and "emergency" atmosphere-since U.S. law proclaims that any
new wave of unauthorized immigration from Cuba (like the one from
Mariel) would be an "act of aggression" against the United States.

The Havana government explained the trials of the mercenary dissidents
in detail, showing the growing pattern of provocation from Washington
that was steadily rising-and still is. (See, for example, Fidel
Castro's April 25 explanations on Cuban television and his May Day
speech, available from Cuban sources in rough English translations;
these should be available soon on the Labor Standard web site.)

The Cuban leaders have countered the campaign to isolate Cuba as a
supposed violator of human rights by making known the facts and
organizing a countercampaign in defense of Cuban independence and
sovereignty, an example being the appeal "To the Conscience of the
World," which has now been signed by more than 3,500 people (including
Eduardo Galeano, who earlier criticized the trials of the
bought-and-paid-for dissidents and the execution of the three ferry
hijackers). Also, actor Danny Glover, who is under attack for signing
the statement "To the Conscience of the World," must be defended.

(The text of the appeal "To the Conscience of the World" appears
immediately below. Supporters and friends of Labor Standard are urged
to add their names as endorsers. The article continues after the



The international order has been violated as a consequence of the
invasion against Iraq. A single power is inflicting grave damage to
the norms of understanding, debate, and mediation among countries.
This power has invoked a series of unverified reasons in order to
justify its invasion. Unilateral action has led to massive loss of
civilian life and devastation of one of the cultural patrimonies of

We only possess our moral authority, with which we appeal to the
conscience of the world in order to avoid a new violation of the
principles which inform and guide the global community of nations. At
this very moment, a strong campaign of destabilization against a Latin
American nation has been unleashed. The harassment against Cuba could
serve as a pretext for an invasion. Therefore, we call upon citizens
and policy makers to uphold the universal principles of national
sovereignty, of respect for territorial integrity and
self-determination, essential to just and peaceful coexistence among

[This document was initiated in April by a group of Mexican citizens.
Among the more than 3,500 who have endorsed it are Danny Glover, Harry
Belafonte, Michael Albert, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Eduardo
Galeano, as well as four Nobel Prize winners: Rigoberta Menchu, Nadine
Gordimer, Gabriel Garcia Marques, and Adolfo Perez Esquivel.]


The U.S. failed to prevent Cuba's election to the UN Human Rights
Commission or to gain a vote condemning Cuba in the Organization of
American States. This confirms Cuba's continued high standing in the
eyes of most of the world.

Strong support in the United States for an end to the travel ban has
not been decisively shaken, with even anti-Cuban forces becoming more
divided over this.

Confrontation Far From Over

The confrontation is not over, however, not by a long shot. It seems
unlikely to end, in fact, as long as both the Cuban revolution and
U.S. imperialism exist in the Americas.

The rightist, prowar Brothers to the Rescue, who provoked the
Helms-Burton bill by violating Cuban airspace with hostile aircraft
and obliging Cuba to defend control of its airspace, are promising
more air raids into Cuba. The Cuban response to such violations and
threatening activities could be used to generate more propaganda, more
threats, and more economic/military anti-Cuba moves.

In addition, the U.S. government is still pursuing policies that, if
not modified, will make an explosive new migration crisis inevitable.
In the two years of the Bush administration, fewer than 2,000 visas
for Cubans to immigrate legally to the U.S. have been issued by
Washington. The current migration accords between the U.S. and Cuba
require that 20,000 be issued each year.

While the Cubans are policing their borders to prevent illegal, and
especially violent illegal departures, they will refuse as a matter of
principle-as they have done in the past-to turn the country into a
penitentiary. Those who want to emigrate legally, but are being
illegally denied the opportunity to do this by the U.S. government,
will at some point no longer be prevented from leaving the country.

The National Network on Cuba has called for local activities across
the country to educate people about Cuba, the Cuban revolution, and
the real issues in the clash with Washington.

The fact that Washington seems to have backed down somewhat, for now,
does not eliminate our duty to take its threats against Cuba or any
other country with the utmost seriousness. Washington is not
invincible-Cuba is showing that once again-but we must avoid any
temptation to replace the unfounded triumphalism of Washington and
Wall Street empire-builders with any triumphalism of our own.

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