Decades ago, American political pilgrims traveled to the Soviet Union to witness the great “progress” the socialist country had made after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. When that experiment didn’t work out so well, the next generation of such seekers set their sights on Cuba, which, they believed, would without doubt point the way to a glorious utopian future that put their own country to shame.
Now, that desire has gone mainstream. Thanks to Obama, virtually anyone who claims an educational and cultural reason for their trip is free to visit. These visitors, however, are not going to experience the glories of the Cuban revolution, but instead will witness the deteriorated cities, a collapsed economy, and patched-together 1950s cars — which they will claim are so exotic and wonderful to behold.
Today, virtually every travel outlet, from National Geographic to Friendly Planet, offers their own Cuba trip, but for those on the left, none of them hold a candle to the ones organized by The Nation magazine. Only on their trips will participants sometimes get to visit with the Cuban Five, the Cuban spies convicted in a U.S. court for spying and released to Cuba as a result of the Obama opening. Only on one of The Nation‘s trips will visitors get to meet with Joanne Chesimard, a.k.a. Assata Shakur, who was convicted in 1977 of murdering a New Jersey trooper in cold blood, and who escaped from prison and went right to Cuba, where she was treated as a revolutionary hero and given asylum.
If you have any doubt about the purposes of The Nation‘s trips, the magazine printed a report of the first excursion it organized in 2014. What did the visitors learn? The answer came from the Cuban “interlocutor” assigned to accompany them on the first trip, Rafael Hernandez, editor of Temas, a magazine of culture, ideology and society approved by the Castro regime. The leader of the tour, Anna Theofilopoulou, writes that she was “skeptical of a system that allows somebody to stay in power for fifty years and then pass the presidency to his brother.” But not to worry. One seven-day visit cured her skepticism. After all, Hernandez explained:
Cubans are encouraged to express their views and even their complaints, they are polled regularly about what needs to improve and they are not hesitant to express their opinions. They are encouraged to participate in the policy making process and they are listened to. [Hernandez] claimed that Cuba has democracy and freedom but they are defined differently.
Somehow, The Nation forgot to take them to the prisons where political prisoners are held, like the one U.S. citizen Alan Gross was in for years where he almost died from the brutal treatment he received. Nor did they take them to view the weekly demonstrations by the Ladies in White, who, while protesting the imprisonment of their children, are regularly roughed up and arrested by the Cuban secret police. Sadly, all that was needed to dispel Anna Theofilopoulou’s reservations were the words from the regime’s propagandist that in the Cuban one-party state, democracy and freedom are simply “defined differently.” They don’t call them “useful idiots” for nothing.
Not content with trips to Cuba, The Nation recently expanded its tours to include Iran. Since Iran has never claimed to be a socialist utopia, we have to ask, why are they going to a country whose declared enemies are America and Israel? The answer is clear. The Nation doesn’t like America too much, so its editors evidently believe that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” “This trip,” the magazine’s online brochure explains, “will offer a rare opportunity to experience the people, politics, culture, and history of a country that has been at the very center of geopolitics for decades and that so few Americans have an opportunity to visit.” Perhaps the tour guide (someone likely in service to Iran’s secret police) will do his best to avoid the group witnessing an execution of individuals set to hang for the crime of homosexuality or adultery.
Just in time, however, the U.S. State Department has put a crimp in The Nation‘s tours of a regime which is the main state sponsor of terrorism in the world. On August 22,, the State Department updated its advice to American citizens desiring to travel to Iran. They have done so in order to “reiterate and highlight the risk of arrest and detention of U.S. citizens, particularly dual national Iranian-Americans.” Hypothetically, The Nation readers who sign up are at risk. What if the Revolutionary Guard or the ruling mullahs decide to teach the U.S. a lesson and detain all of The Nation travelers? It’s not out of the question. After all, the State Department states that “Iranian authorities continue to unjustly detain and imprison U.S. citizens.” Hence State advises:
U.S. citizens traveling to Iran should very carefully weigh the risks of travel and consider postponing their travel. U.S. citizens residing in Iran should closely follow media reports, monitor local conditions, and evaluate the risks of remaining in the country.
Somehow, that warning does not appear on The Nation website inviting readers to sign up. Perhaps they best buy one-way tickets.