Fidel Castro; Historians Have
by Humberto Fontova
"You may pronounce me guilty," declared
Adolf Hitler during the trial in 1924 for his failed Rathaus putsch, "but the
eternal court of history will absolve me."
"Condemn me, it doesn't matter" declared Fidel Castro during the trial in 1953
for his failed Moncada putsch, "history will absolve me."
The young Fidel Castro was a keen student of Nazi pageantry, often seen around
campus with his well- thumbed copy of Mein Kampf, alongside his pistol. His
title of Lider Maximo perfectly mimics the German term Fuhrer.
Over the years a varied assortment of foreign fans and well-wishers have
showered Castro with accolades. "Cuba's Elvis!" (Dan Rather.) "Castro is the
most honest and courageous politician I've ever met! Viva Fidel!"(Jesse
Jackson.) "If you believe in freedom, justice and equality you have no choice
but to support Fidel Castro!" (Harry Belafonte.) "Castro is a genius and Cuba
is a Paradise!" (Jack Nicholson) "The greatest hero of the century!" (Norman
Mailer)"One helluva guy!" (Ted Turner.)
Sadly, lunacy on the subject of Fidel Castro is hardly confined to the lunatic
fringe. "Castro has done good things for Cuba," (Colin Powell.) "Castro
threw out an SOB and liberated Cuba's poor," (the late Stephen Ambrose,
America's best-selling historian.) A recent editorial on Castro's legacy in
the London Times, considered one of the world's wisest and most respected
newspapers, gives the "mainstream" or even the respectably conservative
view on Fidel Castro.
"Castro can look back on some unquestionable achievements," starts the London
Times article. "For a start he has defied the world's most powerful nation,
just 90 miles from his shores, and lived to tell the tale."
No discourse or screed about Castro-- in any language, from any medium, from
any point on the political compass-- omits this cliche'. Let's look at this
historical record of "defiance."
"We put Castro in power," flatly stated former U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, Earl
T. Smith during Congressional testimony in 1960. He refers to the U.S. State
Department and CIA's role in aiding the Castro rebels, also to the U.S. arms
embargo on Batista, also to the official U.S. order that Batista vacate Cuba.
Ambassador Smith knew something about these events because he had personally
delivered the messages to Batista.
Castro's "defiance" of the U.S. at the time also involved his group's
pocketing a check for $50,000 from the CIA operative in Santiago, Robert
Weicha. "Me and my staff were all Fidelistas," boasted Robert Reynolds, the
CIA's "Caribbean Desk's "specialist on the Cuban Revolution" from 1957-1960.
After Batista fled and Castro grabbed power the U.S. abruptly changed
diplomatic modes alright: never in history had we accorded diplomatic
recognition to a Latin American regime as quickly as we recognized
Castro's. The U.S. gave Castro's regime it's official benediction more rapidly
than it had recognized Batista's in 1952, and lavished it with $200 million in
subsidies. In August of 1959 the liberal U.S. ambassador to Cuba, Philip
Bonsal, alerted Castro to a conspiracy against his regime by Cubans. Thanks
in part to ambassador Bonsal's solicitude for a regime then insulting his
nation as "a vulture preying on humanity!" and poised to steal $2 billion from
U.S. stockholders, the anti-Castro plot was foiled, hundreds of the plotters
imprisoned or executed, and the regime that 3 years later came closest to
vaporizing many of America's biggest cities (including Bonsal's home) with
Nuclear missiles, survived.
"Nothing but refugee rumors," was how JFK's National Security Advisor and
former Harvard Dean, Mc George Bundy, referred to report of Soviet Missiles in
Cuba. Cuban exiles were risking their lives to obtain this intelligence. "Nothing
in Cuba poses a threat to the U.S.," he continued, barely masking his scorn at
those missile rumor-mongers."There's no likelihood that the Soviets or Cubans
would try and install an offensive capability in Cuba." The cocksure Bundy was
a guest on Face the Nation while thus assuring the American people. The date
was October 14, 1962.
Exactly 48 hours later U-2 photos sat on JFK's desk revealing those "refugee
rumors," sitting in Cuba, nuclear armed, and pointed directly at Bundy and
his entire staff of sagacious Ivy League wizards.
But don't think for a second that the Best and Brightest were knocked off
balance. No sir! The Camelot dream team set their jaws, rolled up their
sleeves and met the challenge head-on.
"We ended up getting exactly what we'd wanted all along," writes Nikita
Khrushchev about their bulldog bargaining. "Security for Fidel Castro's regime
and American missiles removed from Turkey. Until today the U.S. has complied
with her promise not to interfere with Castro and not to allow anyone else
to interfere with Castro (italics mine.) After Kennedy's death, his
successor Lyndon Johnson assured us that he would keep the promise not to
invade Cuba." Henry Kissinger, as Gerald Ford's Secretary of State, renewed
After the Missile Crisis "resolution" Castro's "defiance" of the U.S. took the
form of the U.S. Coast Guard and even the British Navy (when some intrepid
exile freedom-fighters moved their operation to the Bahamas) shielding him
from exile attacks. Far from "defying" a superpower, Castro hid behind the
skirts of two superpowers, plus the British Empire.
"(Castro) has some real accomplishments to point to," claims the London Times.
"Under his rule, the impoverished Caribbean island has created health and
education systems that would be the envy of far wealthier nations.... and
there is near full literacy on the island." From London to Tokyo, from Paris
to Bankock, from New York to Madrid-- this claim echoes through every media
mention of Castro.
For the record: in 1958 that "impoverished Caribbean island" had a higher
standard of living than Ireland and Austria, almost double Spain and Japan's
per-capita income, more doctors and dentists per capita than Britain and lower
infant mortality than France and Germany--the 13th lowest in the world, in
fact. Today Cuba's infant-mortality rate-- despite the hemisphere's highest
abortion rate which skews this figure downward-- is 24th from the top. So
relative to the rest of the world, Cuba's health care has worsened under
Castro and a nation with a formerly massive influx of European immigrants
needs machine guns, water cannons and Tiger sharks to keep it's people from
fleeing while half-starved Haitians a short 60 miles away turn up their nose
at any thought of immigrating to Cuba. In 1958 eighty per cent of Cubans were
literate and Cuba spent the most per capita on public education of any nation
in Latin America.
During its war of independence near the turn of the century Cuba was utterly
devastated, losing a quarter of it's population. So Cuba's achievements in
national prosperity, health and education came practically from scratch and in
only slightly more time than Castro's stint in power. Can any sane person
claim that given that record--and given Cuba's expenditures on public
education-- literacy would not have been eradicated in a few short years?
Better still, Cubans today would be, not just literate, but educated,
allowed to read George Orwell and Thomas Jefferson along with the arresting
wisdom and sparkling prose of Che Guevara. A specimen:
"To the extent that we achieve concrete successes on a theoretical plane - or,
vice versa, to the extent that we draw theoretical conclusions of a broad
character on the basis of our concrete research -we will have made a valuable
contribution to Marxism-Leninism, and to the cause of humanity."
I quote "this intellectual, this most complete human being of our time"(Jean
Paul Sartre's description of Che Guevara ) exactly. Cuba's prisons aren't its
only torture chambers. With such reading assignments Cuba's classrooms amply
qualify for an inspection by Amnesty International..
Without Castro, Cuba's full literacy would have come about probably as quickly
and without firing squads, mass graves and a political incarceration rate
higher than Stalin's. Most countries in Latin America with lower literacy
rates than Cuba in 1958 have done just that.
"During the 1980s," continues the Times editorial, "one could still
conceivably argue that Cuba's dictatorship was preferable to its US-backed
counterparts in Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua or El Salvador, which went one
step farther by murdering thousands of their citizens."
Here one blinks, looks again-- and gapes. Forget for a second that none of
those regimes, abolished private property, free travel, free speech. None
abolished free-enterprise and mandated food rations for its subjects. None
set up government snitch groups on every city block. Forget that far from
being "U.S. backed counterparts," Pinochet's Chile and Somoza's Nicaragua had
economic sanctions slapped on them by Jimmy Carter. Forget the peripheral
ignorance; let's look at the central stupidity.
You long to believe otherwise, you grope for an extenuation, you hope you
misread--but it's inescapable: the editorial staff of the world's most
prestigious newspaper is unaware that Castro's regime killed people.
Yet Castro's murder tally is not difficult to dig up. No need to consult the
ravings of some "crackpot" scandal sheet in Miami. Simply open The Black
Book of Communism, written by French scholars and published in English by
Harvard University Press, neither an outpost of the vast right-wing conspiracy
nor of Miami maniacs. Here you'll find a tally of 14,000 Castroite murders by
firing- squad. "The facts and figures are irrefutable. No one will any longer
be able to claim ignorance or uncertainty about the criminal nature of
Communism." wrote the New York Times (no less!) about the Black Book of
"(The Black Book of Communism's) cumulative impact is overwhelming," said a
review in a prestigious Newspaper named The London Times! So according to a
scholarly work that received gushy reviews in The Times itself,
Castro's regime almost quintupled the alleged murder rate of Pinochet's
(3000.) And this refers only to Communist Cuba's firing squad murders.
The Cuba Archive project headed by scholars Maria Werlau and Armando Lago put
the death toll from Castro's regime, including deaths at sea and the desperate
anti-Communist insurgency of the early 60's, at 102,000. This project has been
lauded by everyone from The Miami Herald (again, no right-wing outpost) to the
Wall Street Journal. The mind reels at the Times' ignorance until you recall
that such ignorance is practically universal on matters Cuban.
"Castro has clung on for so long in part because the US has provided him with
so many propaganda weapons to rally Cubans to his side," asserts the Times
For the record: a recent poll conducted clandestinely in Cuba by Spanish
pollsters regarding the impact of the "U.S. Blockade" revealed that fewer
than a third of the respondents blamed the so-called "Yankee blockade" for
Cuba's ills, proof that the Cuban people aren't nearly as stupid as the
scholars and reporters who continuously parrot The Times claim.
Finally the Times article brings down the hammer with another academic mantra
."El Comandante has clung on through nearly five decades of economic sanctions
and a US-sponsored invasion attempt."
For the record: while renewing the Kennedy-Khrushchev pledge in 1975,
Kissinger partly lifted the embargo, allowing all foreign subsidiaries of U.S.
companies to trade with Cuba. Even that avenue is now moot. U.S. companies
have recently done more than $1 billion dollars worth of direct business with
Cuba. Currently the U.S is Cuba's biggest food supplier and 4th biggest import
And anyone familiar with the details of the botched Bay of Pigs invasion,
knows that referring to it as "U.S. sponsored" truly debauches the definition
of "sponsorship." See here
Now, had Richard Nixon won the 1960 Presidential elections "U.S. sponsored"
would fit (though we'd see it named the "Trinidad Invasion" based on the
original--and better-- landing site.) Better still, no one would refer to it
as an invasion "attempt." Better even still, some obscure and long-dead Latin
American bandit named Fidel Castro would merit less encyclopedia space than
Pancho Villa-- and no mention whatsoever in the London Times.
Humberto Fontova is the author of
Fidel; Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant
a Conservative Book Club Main Selection..