Sunday, December 8, 2013

The anniversary of the Kennedy assasination

Everyone is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  There is a PBS special, a Presidential visit to the eternal flame at Arlington Cemetery, and his face is all over magazine covers.

But lost in the tributes to the President are comparisons of what happened to him to what he ordered, unprovoked, to be done other leaders, and innocent civilians in another country.  First, Kennedy signed off on a proposal to send 1,400 paramilitaries to Cuba to incite the overthrow of the government Fidel Castro.  Of course this would constitute a violation of the most fundamental tenets of international law that prohibit the use of force against a sovereign nation unless acting in self defense.  

Cuba was not a threat to the United States, nor to anyone else in the region.  The Mexican ambassador to the United States voiced the collective sentiment of the hemisphere, when he answered the Kennedy administration's call to military action against Cuba: "If we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, 40 million Mexicans will die laughing." 

Yet the U.S. administration had a different view of Cuba's sovereignty than the rest of the world.  The Monroe Doctrine, which dated to the early 19th century, held that Latin America belonged to the United States and the United States alone.  So when Castro led a successful rebellion against U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, Castro was attacking the United States.  The U.S. had taken advantage of its colonial rule to appropriate Cuban properties, create new opportunities for investment by American corporations, and turned the country into a playground and vacation destination for U.S. mafia and wealthy businessmen.  

Castro's victory, which nationalized land and property in the country, brought vast improvements in health care, education, housing, employment, sanitation services, and many other social reforms to a long-suffering people.  The U.S. did not recognize the Cubans right to choose their own future.  The overthrow of the dictatorship and the rejection of the U.S. imposed political-economic system was a direct blow against American interests.    

The great U.S. fear, which would create a hysterical and violent reaction, was vocalized by Castro's revolutionary partner Che Guevara: "Our revolution is endangering all American possessions in Latin America. We are telling these countries to make their own revolution."  

After the catastrophic failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the hysteria reached a fever pitch.  Proposals to punish Cuba spared no amount of brutality, but they lacked an important ingredient: a justification.  To get an idea of the extent national security officials were willing to go to obtain a sufficient pretext, consider Operation Northwoods, which reached President Kennedy's desk.  The plan called for bombings and hijackings in Cuba, that would be falsely linked to the Cuban government, as well as false flag attacks within the United States.  This is obviously full-scale terrorism, plain and simple, with the objective that: "The desired resultant from the execution of this plan would be to place the United States in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances from a rash and irresponsible government of Cuba and to develop an international image of a Cuban threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere."

The U.S. supported a vicious campaign of terrorism against Cuba at first, through the covert arms of government, and later by turning a blind eye and providing safe haven to the anti-communist rebels in Miami.  Cuban people suffered through raids on villages by men machine-gunning civilians, torture and murder of reading teachers in the rural fields, sabotage of ships in the harbor, bombing of factories, explosion of civilian airplanes carrying a national fencing team, attacks against fishermen, a vicious bombing campaign against hotels, restaurants and department stores, and biological attacks that brought dengue fever, posioning of tobacco crops, and many other atrocities.  You can read about some of their stories through accounts of relatives of victims and survivors in this incredible oral history.  

The bottom line is that the United States has never given Cuba a chance to determine its own fate without meddling, sabotaging, and trying in every conceivable way to force it's own political-economic system on a sovereign people. 

Kennedy is missed and still mourned to this day because no one had the right to take away his life.  The same way no one has the right to take away anyone's life, regardless of what political goals you believe you are trying to accomplish.