Year 501 Copyright 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 6: A "Ripe Fruit" Segment 5/6
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But for those who believe that there are limits to what the criminal mind might contemplate, there is still more. "With Cuban soldiers in Angola to support the Marxist Government, Mr. Castro made himself an obstacle to a negotiated settlement of that country's civil war in the 1980's." Connoisseurs who miss Pravda in the good old days will recognize this as the Times spin on Cuba's support for the government recognized by virtually everyone apart from the US, and its success in repelling US-backed South African aggression, thus setting the stage for a negotiated settlement, which Washington at once disrupted by continuing its support for its terrorist clients to ensure that the war, which had already cost hundreds of thousands of lives and destroyed the country, will leave the remains in the hands of South Africa and Western investors.16
Whatever one may think of Cuba, such performances provide an enlightening "exposure of the cynical, obsessive workings" of a propaganda system of mechanical predictability, run by an intellectual class of truly awe-inspiring moral cowardice. Matters have changed little since the days when the New York Times editors, 60 years ago, hailed our magnificent record in the Caribbean region, where we were acting with "the best motives in the world" as Marines pursued the "elusive bandit Sandino" with the cheers of Nicaraguans ringing in their ears, contrary to the whining of the "professional `liberals'" -- though it was unfortunate, the editors felt, that the clash "comes just at a time when the Department of State is breathing grace, mercy and peace for the whole world." In Cuba, we were able "to save the Cubans from themselves and instruct them in self-government," granting them "independence qualified only by the protective Platt amendment" -- which "protected" US corporations and their local allies. "Cuba is very near at hand," the editors proceed, "to refute" the charge of "the menace of American imperialism." We were "summoned" by the Cuban people who have, finally, "mastered the secret of stability" under our kind tutelage. And while "our commercial interests have not suffered in the island," "we have prospered together with a free Cuban people," so "no one speaks of American imperialism in Cuba."17
Commentators affect great anguish over Castro's crimes and abuses. Would that it were believable. Demonstrably, for most it is utterly cynical pretense. The conclusion is established conclusively by comparison of the hysterical outrage over Castro's human rights violations and the evasion or outright suppression of vastly worse atrocities right next door, at the very same time, by US clients, acting with US advice and support. History has been kind enough to provide some dramatic test cases to prove the point.18
The professed concern for "the true interests of the Cuban people" and for "democracy" need not detain us. Concern for the "true interests" of US business, in contrast, is real enough. The same is true of the concerns over public opinion in Cuba and Latin America. Kennedy knew what he was doing when he sought to block travel and communication. The fears are understandable in the light of the Cuban public opinion polls cited earlier, or the reaction to its Agrarian Reform Law of May 1959, acclaimed by one UN organization as "an example to follow" in all Latin America. Or by the conclusion of the World Health Organization's representative in Cuba in 1980 that "there is no question that Cuba has the best health statistics in Latin America," with the health organization "of a very much developed country" despite its poverty. Or by a UNICEF report on the "State of the World's Children 1990," reviewed in a Peruvian Church journal, which lists a series of Latin American countries as among those with the highest infant mortality rates in the world, though Costa Rica and Chile have low rates for the region, and "Cuba is the only country on a par with developed nations." Or by the interest in Brazil and other Latin American countries in Cuban biotechnology, unusual if not unique for a small and poor country. Or by the kind of discussion we can read in the Australian press, safely remote, reviewing the efforts to achieve the "historic strategic objective" of restoring Cuba "to Washington's sphere of influence":
That Cuba has survived at all under these circumstances is an achievement in itself. That it registered the highest per capita increase in gross social product (wages and social benefits) of any economy in Latin America -- and almost double that of the next highest country -- over the period 1981-1990 is quite remarkable. Moreover, despite the economic difficulties, the average Cuban is still better fed, housed, educated and provided for medically than other Latin Americans, and -- again atypically -- the Cuban Government has sought to spread the burden of the new austerity measures equally among its people.
Worse yet, such perceptions are hardly unusual in the region itself, a product of direct experience and relative freedom from the rigid doctrinal requirements that constrain US orthodoxy and its European camp-followers. They are commonly articulated by leading figures. To select one poignant example, Father Ignacio Ellacura, the rector of the Jesuit university of El Salvador (UCA), wrote in a Latin American Church journal in November 1989 that for all its abuses, "the Cuban model has achieved the best satisfaction of basic needs in all of Latin America in a relatively short time," while "Latin America's actual situation points out prophetically the capitalist system's intrinsic malice and the ideological falsehood of the semblance of democracy that accompanies, legitimates, and cloaks it."
It was for expressing such thoughts that he was assassinated by US-trained elite troops as the article appeared, and buried deep beneath shrouds of silence by those who feigned great indignation here.19
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16 On scholarly discipline, see, among others, NI, App. V.2 (on Walter Laqueur), and several articles in George, Western. NYT editorial, Sept. 8, 1991. French, NYT, April 19; Constable, BG, July 15, Oct. 26; Krauss, NYT Book Review, Aug. 30, 1992. See ch. 3.5.
17 See DD, 280-1.
18 For a particularly shameful example, see NI, App. I.1. On the general pattern, see PEHR, MC, and a voluminous further literature. On media coverage of Cuba, see Platt, Tropical Gulag.
19 Envo, op. cit.; Stavrianos, Global Rift, 747; Latinamerica press, April 5, 1990; Morris Morley and Chris McGillion, Sydney Morning Herald, Jan. 7, 1992. Ellacura, "Utopia and Prophecy in Latin America" (1989), in Hassett & Lacey, Towards a Society.