Ron Radosh

The Congressional Black Caucus Visits Cuba

Last week, as NRO columnist Mona Charen has pointed out, six members of the Congressional Black Caucus went to Cuba and got a grand reception. They came back delighted, proving Charen’s apt characterization, that they showed themselves to be part of the grand tradition of old communist fellow travelers, all of whom were “useful idiots.”

As one might expect, the Caucus members asked nothing about the Castro brothers’ political prisoners, or asked to see the conditions in the well documented abysmal prisons in which they put their critics. Nor did they seek to visit the Damas de Blanco, The Ladies in White, who demonstrate weekly in protest against the imprisonment of their relatives. These women have borrowed the tactics used by the opponents of the old Argentinean junta, whose female relatives of their victims  marched in front of government offices asking about the whereabouts of the “disappeared.”

Instead, the Black Caucus delegation cherished the chance to meet only with both Castros, and to sing their praises. They came back announcing that they would double their work to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba and restore travel without conditions to the island. No comment by them on the existing policy of tying any relaxation to Cuba’s lessening of its political repression.

Now there is a case for lifting the embargo, one that has been made by many conservatives as well as liberals. Essentially, the argument is that the embargo has lasted almost as long as the Cuban Revolution, and has proved ineffective in bringing down the regime. Instead, it has allowed Fidel Castro and now Raul to blame their shortcomings on the U.S. blockade, and given them ammunition to reinforce nationalist sentiment.

The corollary to the argument is that with free travel, trade and U.S. investment in the island, the free market would work to slowly erode the power of the regime, and loosen it up so that an opposition could emerge that could not be contained.

The problem with this argument is twofold. First, Cuba is not Poland in the 80’s or the other Eastern European Communist bloc nations. The impending Soviet collapse made it all but certain that the internal opposition would succeed.  The fact is that even though the Soviet Union no longer exists, the investment and trade with European nations has enabled Castro to bolster his regime. The nations who invest do so in collaboration with the Cuban government, and rather than weaken his government, it gives it control as well as hard currency. And, as we now, to some extent the help that used to come from the Soviets now comes from Venezuela and China, and may again come from Putin’s Russia.

 Moreover, an independent movement has in fact already emerged in Cuba, including the brave democracy movement whose petition for free elections has been summarily crushed, and whose leaders have been thrown in prison or neutralized.  The independent libraries, whose equally brave figures have created private lending libraries to allow Cubans to read forbidden books have also been crushed. Remarkably, they have been the subject of opposition by American left-wing librarians!

The Black Caucus members who traveled to Cuba do not even pretend to offer an argument about how lifting the blockade will help move Cuba towards democracy. Instead, they act as if the Cuban regime is already a full democracy, in contrast to the United States, which they clearly see as the sole bad actor. Thus one Congressman, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.)- came back and said that “for the past 50 years, the United States has been swimming in the Caribbean Sea of delusion,” becoming an “isolated nation” unlike those European nations that give Castro full diplomatic recognition.

Most outrageous was Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Illinois), who said of Raul Castro that what “endeared me to him was his keen sense of humor, his sense of history and his basic human qualities.”  Well we all have human qualities, which is why the oppression of the regime on its own citizens is particularly horrific. Somehow, the torture Rush and others have accused the Bush administration of inflicting on Al Qaeda detainees is something to be constantly brought up and condemned, while the documented torture of Castro’s regime is something to be denied, ignored, or simply supported.

Rush also said that when he met Castro, it was like being at home with members of his own friends and family. That isn’t surprising, since Rush’s family once was the notorious gang of revolutionary thugs, The Black Panther Party of the 1960’s, led by Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver. Meeting Castro obviously stirred up reminiscences on Rush’s part of those wonderful years as a Panther. Dismissing Cuba as any kind of a threat to our country, he gave an analogy: when he was a Panther, Rush pointed out, J. Edgar Hoover said his group was “the number one threat to national security.” Hoover may have exaggerated, but just because Hoover said it doesn’t mean it was not true. The Panthers were a threat, as anyone not blinded to their actual acts by their espousal of Marxist dogma knew full well.

But Rush says, “I know foolhardy approaches and asinine labels when I see them…American people need to be told the truth and they have been lied to for too long about the threat from Cuba.” Actually, Rush’s comments reveal that the only one who is appears to be playing the fool is Rush and his Congressional colleagues, who want to tell lies to the American people about the nature of the Castro brothers regime.

The group actually admitted that they had no attention to even raise the human rights issue with Raul or Fidel Castro, who despite his illness, met with some of the delegation. “We didn’t talk about it much,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio). “You don’t go into someone’s house and insult them.” Somehow, I do not think that if Rep. Fudge had traveled to apartheid South Africa in its heyday, she would have made that same argument.

When the trip was over, Fidel Castro released a statement to the Cuban press. The dictator said that one of the members of the Black Caucus- Castro did not name the member- said that the United States should “apologize” to Cuba. Another one, he added, told him that despite Obama’s victory in the election, the United States was still a “racist” country.

The delegates denied that such an exchange took place. If it did not, hopefully the Black Caucus delegation learned that Castro cannot be trusted to tell the truth, even when it entails apparent supporters of his regime.  But somehow, I suspect his statement bares the ring of truth. It is representative of the kind of political “wisdom” the left-wing Black Caucus members  believe. I can easily see how viewing Fidel as their friend and comrade in arms, they readily told him how they support his revolutionary agenda, and consider him a personal hero and blameless in the rupture between Cuba and the United States.  They just didn’t suspect that he would tell the world their thoughts.

Maybe now we should start calling them what they are, not useful idiots- but just idiots.