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Ron Radosh

Today’s New York Times runs one of its usual idiotic op-eds from a contributor. It is not quite as bad as the time the paper ran the late Libyan dictator Gaddafi’s op-ed on how the world should deal with Israel, but it comes close.

This time it is from the pen of Harvard lecturer Jonathan M. Hansen and is titled “Give Guantanamo Back to Cuba.” Mr. Hansen’s argument is simple: We should give the base back to Cuba, from whom we leased it in 1901. He says it represents the American presence on the island that “has been more than a thorn in Cuba’s side.” The real issue is, Hansen claims, our continued occupation of Guantanamo itself, since the base is nothing more than an “imperialist enclave.”

Mr. Hansen’s very language is a give-away. It makes me wonder if the name is really a pseudonym for Fidel or Raul Castro, since it is the kind of article one expects to read in the Cuban regime’s propaganda sheet, Granma. The author condemns “America’s long history of interventionist militarism,” and he continues with the argument that our entrance into the Spanish-Cuban War was not one on the side of Cuba against its brutal Spanish rulers, but one meant to take over the island for the United States. As he writes: “The United States wanted dominion over Cuba, along with naval bases from which to exercise it.”

The rest of Mr. Hansen’s op-ed touts the usual leftist interpretation of U.S.-Cuban relations: our country exploited Cuba for our control of its resources, leaving the island as nothing but a giant plantation which the United States controlled and benefitted from. He notes that between 1900 and 1920 44,000 Americans flocked to the island, “boosting capital investment…to just over $1 billion from roughly $80 million.” Not one word from the author about the benefits to Cuba from this capital for industrial development, which made the island a place of prosperity with a growing middle class.

Hansen clearly does not know his history. As Mark Falcoff writes in his book Cuba:The Morning After, U.S. intervention had nothing to do with economic pressures. “American business interests in Cuba,” he points out, “had traditionally been on the side of the Spanish.” Unlike Mr. Hansen, who writes that the administration of Cuba by General Leonard Wood after the war’s end was a disaster for the Cubans, Falcoff writes that although Wood ruled “with arrogance and insensitivity, …the accomplishments of his administration were many.” He demobilized the Cuban army, improved public health, eradicated yellow fever, developed Cuba’s communication network, and set up its first public schools. In contrast, all Hansen wants his readers to learn is that there was “no real independence left Cuba” after the U.S. occupation under Wood took place.

As for the U.S. investment, Falcoff notes that “the economy was almost instantly revitalized by the massive entry of American capital, which invested not only in sugar, but railways, utilities, tobacco, minerals and other resources.” As Cuba developed, it actually was the one country in the region that had a higher standard of living than any other, including Mexico. But Cubans compared themselves not to their Latin neighbors, but to the standard of living in the United States, a comparison to which, of course, it suffered.

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