DONNA EDWARDS , NOT EVEN A MEMBER OF CONGRESS YET, IS ALREADY BEING CALLED ON AS A PROGRESSIVE SPOKESPERSON-- TONIGHT: CUBA
-by Matthew Grimm
Dangerous Republican Madman
[Matthew Grimm is a freelance writer, foul-mouthed blogger and musician based in Iowa City, IA. His band, Red Smear, recently wrote and recorded this incredible anthem for Blue America. You can check out more of his compelling writing (and music) at his My Space Page. He watched Donna Edwards with Tweety on Hardball on MSNBC today.]
Castro's largely meaningless step-down from Cuba's helm gave reactionaries, Republican and Democrat, a chance to thump their chests again about "freedom" and "democracy" while continuing to work globally against their actual realization, not to mention raising one of the more odious bits of political triangulation of the Clinton years and its root in America's murderous covert past. And it speaks ill of both sides that it took a humble Congressional candidate, our own Donna Edwards (MD-4), to offer a lone, sensible perspective to the issue today on Hardball, and why we need more people like her to dispense with the triangulating, posturing policies of the 20th century.
Nothwithstanding that Cuba has represented absolutely no threat to the U.S. since Khrushchev scuttled his missiles, braying pols and official U.S. policy have continued to buttress Castro's status as a hemispheric bogeyman, oblivious to all measurable reality, much less simple reason. Sure, we've traded liberally all through the Clinton and Bush years with far more vicious authoritarian regimes, from Indonesia and China to Colombia-- which we've armed to the teeth largely to enable fascist paramility Klansmen to murder campesinos so that U.S. corporations can clear-cut their land -- but bring up Cuba, the notion of even relaxing nearly a half-century of teeth-gnashing hostility and economic strangulation, and you might as well be Neville Chamberlain in Munich. The reason, of course, is simple political triangulation: the much-contested Florida electorate and its population of right-wing Cubans.
The Florida cubano community [somewhat over half a million strong, over a third of all Florida Hispanics], seeded, in part, by the flight of a corrupt, wealthy elite of the island upon Castro's entry into Havana in 1959, has become the AIPAC of Florida; you cross them politically and God help you. The community has long lent True Believers to the most underhanded, chicane American endeavors in Latin America. The survivors of Kennedy's ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion went on to become
footsoldiers and drill sergeants of subsequent presidents' dirty wars in the region, what Lyndon Johnson admitted to was our "goddamn Murder Inc. in the Caribbean," not to mention the shocktroops of Nixon's Plumber organization. One veteran of both the Bay of Pigs and Reagan's
illegal contra mercenary operations in Central America, Jose Basulto, went on to found the anti-Castro propaganda organization, Hermanos Al Rescate, which conveniently played the lynchpin roll in re-demonizing Castro for a post-Cold War world. Cuban MiGs shot down two of the organization's leafletting planes curiously, reminiscent of the Tonkin Gulf Incident, just in time to galvanize both Bill Clinton and the Congress to enact the draconian, and until then moribund, Helms-Burton bill.
"Outrage over the shoot-down resurrected the Helms-Burton bill, the most punitive legislation on Cuba since the early 1960s," wrote Professor William Leogrande of American University. "...In addition to assorted sanctions aimed at foreigners doing business in Cuba, the most consequential provision incorporates the US economic embargo into law. Heretofore, the embargo was based on presidential executive orders; it could be tightened or loosened at the president's discretion
as conditions warranted. Under Helms-Burton, no president can lift or even relax the embargo until Fidel Castro and the existing Cuban regime fall from power. At a time when Cuba's domestic social and economic system is changing at break-neck speed, Washington's 35-year-old policy of hostility has just been chiselled in stone."
Helms-Burton not only codified the long-standing embargo of the island, its Title III is what has American elites drooling today. The provision gives U.S. nationals and corporations the right to sue foreign companies that have made money by way of "property" expropriated from any American entity, including now-American Cuban expatriates, in the wake of Castro's revolution-- essentially a latter-day iteration of the Platt Amendment that robbed the country of economic sovereignty for decades. So, in other words, all the assholes who made Cuba the corrupt laissez-faire hellhole that gave rise to Castro's revolution are champing at the bit to re-neoliberalize the island, including, presumably, the heirs of the Lansky estate.
Even today, Indiana's reactionary senator, Dan Burton, took to Hardball to growl out the usual acrimony towards the Castros, which he insists will continue in the form of the law that bears his
name, until Brother Raul finds Jesus and The Market. They are "terrorists," Burton brayed, they've maintained their grip on power with naught but an iron-hand and vast Pol Pot-esque Killing Fields,
and, hell, I don't know, they harvest babies to use their blood in their jacuzzis. Castro's faults are many, but the sheer indignation, the disproportionate demonization, can only be attributed to this long, utterly conditioned mania by America's most fascist elements and the bounty they and their sponsors see in a World Bank-colonized Cuba.
And curiously, Hardball turned to not-yet-even-elected Donna Edwards, of all the Democrats available, to counterpoint Burton. As yet unschooled on the triangulative realities of real politick, herself actually having been to Cuba, Edwards offered the simple admonishments that engaging a society and finding commonalities, versus demonizing them, versus playing global tough guy, might lead to the rudimentary markets and freedoms we'd like to encourage, especially after Helms-Burton had so plainly not worked-- and, by the way, after playing global tough guy combined with neolib trade dogma has nearly broken the damn country. "We need to re-establish relations with Cuba on issues of travel, even family travel," she told Tweety, " [to] establish dialogue on the ground so that when the transition happens, Cubans have information to make their own decision about their economic future."
American reactionaries, however, don't want Cubans making decisions about their economic future. That's a job for Americans, because, as always, Cubans' "freedom" and "democracy" can only be defined by what we dispense to them. Republican or Democrat, that's the kind of unconscionable demagogic thinking that needs to be left on the other side of the bridge to the last century, when Donna and a new wave of better Democrats help us burn the son of a bitch down.