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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.

As for Guantanamo, Mr. Hansen takes the Cuban regime’s position that it “remains a glaring symbol of hypocrisy around the world.” Thus he urges President Obama to return it to the Castro government and “put the mistakes of the last 10 years behind us,” which would then “rectify an age-old grievance and lay the groundwork for new relations with Cuba.” Thus we would restore our integrity and show real leadership by admitting our wrongs in practice, and supposedly then win the friendship of the Castro brothers and the people of the entire world.

Actually, if the prison regime of the Castro brothers had free elections and a genuine free Cuba emerged as the result, the United States could then return the obsolete base to a new government, using the base, as Falcoff puts it, as part of the “agenda of normalization talks” and giving a new Cuban government “valuable negotiating leverage or even the potential for significantly more sizable compensation for continued use of the facility.”

But to give the base to the current repressive Cuban regime would be nothing less than to hand Fidel and Raul Castro a major political victory, which they would hold over everyone’s heads to prove how the American government was nothing but a paper tiger — as Chairman Mao once put it — that could be easily forced to bend to the will of its revolutionary enemies.

As the editors of the New York Sun wrote today in the website’s editorial, “The long record of Cuba will show that even though it has had far more than any nation’s fair share of injustice, the worst injustice of them all was that perpetrated by the Stalinist dictatorship of Fidel Castro. Why in the world would anyone want to give anything back to a regime that is still under the grip of his communist party?”

Of course, the rhetorical answer is that no one in their right mind would want to do that except, of course, if one is a leftist academic who currently teaches at Harvard University. So do not look for an op-ed in the paper of record soon that tells its readers about the continuing political repression and imprisonment of Cuban dissenters that regularly takes place and never seems to come to an end.

Rather, we can expect more op-eds on various issues showing how all the foreign policy dilemmas facing the United States stem from our own imperialist ventures and arrogance of power, and how they can easily be resolved by simply appeasing our enemies and giving them what they want in advance, without receiving any quid pro quo. After all, to ask anything of a country like Cuba is to the Times’ editors simply more of an example of imperial attitudes. I suspect they wish the late Herbert Matthews were still alive, so he could go to Cuba and publish reports about how the Cuban people love their government, and how wonderful Fidel and Raul Castro are. I guess since they no longer have such a reporter on their staff, we can be thankful for small things.

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