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Viva el absurdo de profesores izquierdistas:

Via Mike Rappaport at The Right Coast, I discover the following ode to Castro from a self-described "egalitarian liberal."

So let's hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care. Let's hear it for the Cubans who help defeat the South Africans and their allies in Angola and thereby prepared the end of apartheid. Let's hear it for the middle-aged Cuban construction workers who held off the US forces for a while on Grenada. Let's hear it for Elian Gonzalez. Let's hear it for 49 years of defiance in the face of the US blockade. Hasta la victoria siempre!

I have to give Dr. Bertram credit of a sort, though. Even in my wildlest satirical imagination, it wouldn't have occurred to me to praise the heroic resistance of the "middle-aged Cuban construction workers" in Grenada.

ejo:
kind of like calling the armed thugs they sent to third world countries "medical workers". apparently, they had a physician population roughly the size of an army.
2.21.2008 12:21pm
therut:
What a stupid liar. I was in Grenada before the invasion. Those were not middle aged construction workers walking around and in the back of pick0up trucks with machine guns. Those were construction workers who had taken over the radio station standing guard outside. That was not a construction worker who walked up to me on the beach with a machine gun in military uniform and asked for money. Those Russians driving around in expensive cars and sitting next to me at a resturant were not construction workers. What a bunch of crap.
2.21.2008 12:23pm
Hoosier:
therut: Maybe they *were* construction workers, and just had a *really good* union . . . ?
2.21.2008 12:25pm
AntonK (mail):
John Derbyshire is right: “Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy.”
2.21.2008 12:26pm
Viceroy:
Castro's resilience definitely has a guttural appeal. That's pretty much all that needs to be said about him. Like all other leaders his policies were mixed. Probably on the bad side but he surely did something worthwhile. Otherwise he would not have stuck around for so long.

I for one definitely agree that he gets kudos telling one big superpower in particular to take a hike.

O yea and about that John Derbyshire comment - is he referring to our actions in Guantanamo . . . or elsewhere?
2.21.2008 12:36pm
Sigivald (mail):
Viceroy: He isn't referring to "our actions" at all. Does that help?

(And no, it does not follow that Castro must have done "something worthwhile" or the "would not have stuck around for so long".

Pure force backed by a ruling elite in a totalitarian state is quite capable of surviving for quite some time without any worth at all. This is especially true when another totalitarian state props it up for years.

If you disagree, please explain what "worthwhile" thing the Kims have done in North Korea?)
2.21.2008 12:41pm
JohnAnnArbor:
Grenada has a national holiday now celebrating the American invasion. They call it Thanksgiving Day.
2.21.2008 12:46pm
Edward M. Graham (mail):
Viceroy--there's an easy riposte but it violates Godwin's law. For once, Derb's got it right; you merely illustrate the point.
2.21.2008 12:48pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
Its merely anecdotal, but when I was in Havana, the prevalent feeling among people not in government was that they couldn't wait for Castro and the regime to pass into history, but at the same time they exhibited personal affection for home because (1) he destroyed the parasitic kleptocracy that preceded him, (2) he upended the traditional latin american political order of “white Spanish” ruling over afro-Caribbean or mestizo and (3) he provided the country a high profile. Again, they were ready for him to move on, fully understood the corruption and hypocrisy of his regime and wanted nothing of Raul, but they admired Castro for what he had done before it went bad.

I never really understood (2) because we also met with many communist party members and they all seemed to be Spanish white, but I’m just reporting what I heard in Havana.
2.21.2008 1:02pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
sorry, I should say, "the prevalent feeling among people not in government that we as a group talked to"...
2.21.2008 1:04pm
Hans Bader (mail):
I don't know why any "egalitarian" would support Castro.

Castro's regime tortured and jailed gay people.

And Cuba is a more racist, racially segregated society than most of Latin America, as Eli Lehrer's
Castro the Bigot" noted at Openmarket.org:

CASTRO THE BIGOT

Although about 65 percent of Cuba’s population would be thought of as “black” in the United States, almost all positions of true political power are held by people of distinctly European appearance. A 2005 report from the University of Miami describes the real state of blacks living in Cuba.

Even more complicated, nearly all of those blacks who do achieve positions of power are “mulattos” in the Cuban counting of things. (In his excellent book about Cuban music, Last Dance in Havana, The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, who describes himself as African-American, describes meeting a “mulatto” Cuban cabinet minister darker than he is. (Robinson, it should be noted, has also written a very interesting book about Brazil’s complex racial dynamics.)

Those Cubans who actually identify as black (negro) almost always occupy the very lowest rungs of society in every case. Essentially none of them occupy true positions of power and, unique in the Western hemisphere, Cuba practices a sort of Jim Crow by denying all but a few Afro-Cubans the passes they need to enter the island’s tourist areas where all the good jobs are. If anything, this is actually worse than the pre-Castro days when self-described negros but not mulattos were banned from some private beaches and clubs as a result of private action but were never the subject of formal state oppression.

In fact, I seriously wonder if the Cuban state’s racist policies are a major reason why it has fallen so far economically. The American South, after all, remained dirt poor in good part because Jim Crow laws stopped a large percentage of the population from taking part in the economy.

While centrally planned communism has never helped any nation’s economy in the long run, Cuba seems to have had it particularly bad: Between World War II and the 1960s, indeed, communist Eastern Europe rebuilt at roughly the same rate as the West only to see economic growth nosedive after that. Cuba, on the other hand, has seen its living standard drop from the third highest in the Americas (after the U.S. and Canada) to one of the lowest. It may be that central planning PLUS racism can help explain Cuba’s long-term economic malaise.
2.21.2008 1:07pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
I've spent a while trying to figure out if there's some better light in which to put Bertram's comments, but I can't think of one. Unfortunately, "good riddance" is hardly the right sentiment here: it's not as though Raúl is going to be any better.

We still ought to get rid of this lunatic blockade though.
2.21.2008 1:17pm
dearieme:
I understand that the army they sent to Angola consisted of black troops officered by whites. Rather wonderful, given that it was allegedly Apartheid that they were opposing.
2.21.2008 1:22pm
ramster:
That Castro and his mini-me, Che, were thugs is not in dispute. What I find curious about all this concern about jackboots stomping on human faces is its limited scope. Look around Cuba's neighborhood and the staggering brutality inflicted by regimes that the US was quite fond of (it's a long list, Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, etc.). I'm fairly sure Derb has little concern about the hundreds of thousands of dead in these countries. Apparently all right thinking people must reflexively condemn Fidel while those heroic anti-communists with innocent blood on their hands are welcome as comfortable, unapologetic members of the establishment (John Negroponte anyone?)

So the way I see it, either you condemn and oppose brutality regardless of the perpetrators. Or you hail Chile's booming economy while the other guy hails Cuban literacy. If you chose the latter, spare the bogus concern over jackboots.
2.21.2008 1:23pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
Hans—I hadn't known that stuff about race in Cuba. Plus totalitarian dictatorship produces the most economic stratification of all types of government. Those in the ruling elite are guaranteed lives of ease and luxury, while their subjects have terrible living standards and are given no opportunities for advancement.
2.21.2008 1:26pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
ramster—you're right about that one. Hopefully this space will not be flooded with apologia for "our" dictators in response to your comment.
2.21.2008 1:35pm
Happylee (mail):
His bio says he is a big shot professor on the northern edge of that little island off the north coast of france. Woohoo. It is very sad that after the complete collapse of the Soviet Union, and the final body count of the tens of millions who died for "egalitarian" dreams in countless other socialist countries, university faculties are still chock full of professors who believe in socialism. Unbelievable. And now these same pinkos are foisting manmade global warming on us. It's as if the dean of MIT professed to believe the earth is flat and gravity is a lie; or, for that matter, that mankind's carbon emissions need to be curtailed instead of encouraged.
2.21.2008 1:36pm
RowerinVa (mail):
Where does the idea of a U.S. "blockade" come from? The quoted passage uses the word, one of these posters uses the word, and I've even heard it from Britons who had just visited Cuba by cruise ship. By ship! I suppose Carnival Cruises operates blockade runners?

A blockade blocks traffic. The etymology there is pretty simple, folks. There is no U.S. blockade and, excepting a few weeks during the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 1960s, there never has been.

What the U.S. imposes is a limited embargo, preventing U.S. citizens and their business interests from trading with Cuba. The rest of the world is free to do trade with Cuba. Don't blame the fact of Cuba being a pit upon the United States, when all the rest of the world could trade with Cuba, and largely declines to do so for reasons having nothing to do with the U.S. and everything to do with Cuba's inefficiency, human rights abuses, and rampant corruption.
2.21.2008 1:40pm
Sebastian (mail) (www):
So the way I see it, either you condemn and oppose brutality regardless of the perpetrators. Or you hail Chile's booming economy while the other guy hails Cuban literacy. If you chose the latter, spare the bogus concern over jackboots.

I doubt most of the people who read here would make excuses for the brutality of non-communist South American dictators. The prime motivator for support of those regimes was containing Soviet influence in the Western Hemisphere. It a pragmatic alliance, not one of ideology, much the same way we deal with the Musharaff regime in Pakistan these days. Few would suggest that Musharaff isn't a thug, but he's not the Taliban either.

Too many leftist western intellectuals want to gloss over the horrors of Castro's Revolution because he supposedly gave the people great health care and education. To the extent that this is true, it doesn't make up for the human rights abuses, and dictatorial control over the country. If the average Cuban loves the regime so much, what does it have to fear from putting itself up for a Democratic vote?
2.21.2008 1:44pm
Hoosier:
Sebastian: Also worth noting--Castro didn't "give" Cubans education and health care. They were already ahead of the rest of the Caribbean basin in terms of both by the late 1950s. The unanswerable question is where they'd be were it not for half a century of Communist Party rule, given the 'head start' that they had when Castro took over. That is, unfortunatley, unanswerable. But it doesn't incline me to credit Castro as much as some would like.

As for US backing of some really horrid regimes in Latin America, I think you're right that it was a trade-off. The decision was made in Washington, time and again, that a non-communist dictator was preferable to a communist dictator, as long as he was friendly toward us.

I have studied many of these decisions, and I understand why they were made (generally; I just don't get the 1973 decision regarding Chile, for instance). But the damage that this approach has done us over the long term may never be fully undone.
2.21.2008 1:54pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
RowerinVa—the embargo is more robust than that nowadays, thanks to the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which bars companies that do business with Cuba from doing business in the U.S. (If you go down to look at the provisions, it becomes pretty clear that U.S. policy re Cuba has more to do with protecting U.S. economic interests than with protecting democracy or human rights: we're prohibited from recognizing a democratic Cuban government unless it gives U.S. nationals their plantations back.)
2.21.2008 1:58pm
ejo:
well, would there be less damage if we had backed leftist/communist dictators? if the alternative to our dictator was something approaching freedom, then we made the wrong decision. but if not, well, the world is not a pretty place and is full of thugs and murderers. I, for one, prefer the thuggishness of the Shah to that of Khomeini.
2.21.2008 2:01pm
ramster:
I wonder how Cuba would have turned out if the Bay of Pigs had been a success? Given the precedent of Arbenz's ouster in Guatemala, it probably wouldn't have been pretty. I'd pick today's Cuba over today's today's Guatemala. Of course that's not exactly much of a choice.

Castro ran Cuba into the ground. He built a cult of (long winded) personality within a totalitarian state. So why does he still get so much support? I think many will admit that it is somewhat irrational. The US had little regard for life and human suffering in Latin America and for all the ideological pretense of holding back the commies, it was much more a base defense of American commercial interests (e.g. the United Fruit Company) and the propping up of a fuedal status quo. The US never really stood up for freedom in Latin America and Castro successfully stood up to the US to the end. He's an underdog who lasted and that gives him his aura and mystique.

It's all bloody depressing. I imagine an alternate universe where the US had used its power to push forward democracy and human rights in its own back yard. This would have marginalized thugs like Castro. Instead, the US helped build him up to what he is.
2.21.2008 2:03pm
Thales (mail) (www):
To be fair, Bertram did preface the quoted portion of his remark with this passage:

I haven’t looked yet, but I’ve no doubt that there’ll be lots of posts in the blogosphere saying “good riddance” to Fidel Castro (especially from “left” US bloggers like Brad DeLong who never miss the chance to distance themselves). And, of course, Castro ran a dictatorship that has, since 1959, committed its fair share of crimes, repressions, denials of democratic rights etc. Still, I’m reminded of A.J.P. Taylor writing somewhere or other (reference please, dear readers?) that what the capitalists and their lackeys really really hated about Soviet Russia was not its tyrannical nature but the fact that there was a whole chunk of the earth’s surface where they were no longer able to operate. Ditto Cuba, for a much smaller chunk.

The latter two sentences, combined with the actuality of U.S. support for oppressive *right* wing governments the world over, does seem to put the matter in a bit of perspective. We embargo Cuba but actively trade with China, which engages in brutality on a scale far greater than Cuba could ever muster . . . because China allows some U.S. style economic freedom and foreign investment, at least since 1979. Let's not get too sanctimonious, even while properly morally condemning Cuba's regime.
2.21.2008 2:07pm
Fub:
Sebastian wrote at 2.21.2008 1:44pm:
I doubt most of the people who read here would make excuses for the brutality of non-communist South American dictators. The prime motivator for support of those regimes was containing Soviet influence in the Western Hemisphere. It a pragmatic alliance, not one of ideology, much the same way we deal with the Musharaff regime in Pakistan these days. Few would suggest that Musharaff isn't a thug, but he's not the Taliban either.
The succinct statement of that pragmatism, which goes back to the WWII era, is "He may be an SOB, but he's our SOB."
2.21.2008 2:13pm
BGates:
"Let's not get too sanctimonious," says the guy who approvingly quotes a statement about how "the capitalists and their lackeys" have no concern for human rights.
2.21.2008 2:54pm
Smokey:
Let's hear it for the Cubans who help defeat the South Africans and their allies in Angola and thereby prepared the end of apartheid.
This guy is attempting to spin history. Being mendacious, he can't admit that the South Africans soundly thrashed the Cubans in every single battle. Every one. Including the battles where the Cubans had the support of Russian pilots flying Migs. The South African forces kicked both their asses soundly, time after time.

If the scribbler will lie about recent historical fact, he will lie about anything.
2.21.2008 3:02pm
ramster:
Smokey, you're probably right. Attempts to spin the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale as anything but a sound thumping of the Cubans are pretty dubious. Of course the Cubans were the ones fighting and dying against the racist apartheid army. They sure look better losing than the SADF did winning.
2.21.2008 3:13pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
well, would there be less damage if we had backed leftist/communist dictators? if the alternative to our dictator was something approaching freedom, then we made the wrong decision. but if not, well, the world is not a pretty place and is full of thugs and murderers. I, for one, prefer the thuggishness of the Shah to that of Khomeini.
And what if we hadn't gone into the dictator-backing business at all? Or had used our influence to get "our" dictators to make their societies more open and democratic rather than to make their countries safe for American business? It's hard to say what would have happened in those alternate histories, of course, but we didn't even try.
2.21.2008 3:18pm
ramster:
"I, for one, prefer the thuggishness of the Shah to that of Khomeini."

Khomeni was a direct result of US support of the Shah. The real question is how would Mossadegh have compared to the Shah (or Khomeni) if the CIA hadn't ousted him? Similarly, how would Allende or Arbenz have been compared to Castro? The US picked dictators over leftist democrats every single time. And it was always about the money, whether it was oil in Iran or bananas in Guatemala. If the US wasn't primarily concerned with supporting corrupt business interests, it could have struck a bargain with the Latin American social democrats: experiment with your political and economic system as long as you keep it democratic and stay out of the Soviet orbit. Reneg and we'll crush you.
2.21.2008 3:26pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
And what if we hadn't gone into the dictator-backing business at all? Or had used our influence to get "our" dictators to make their societies more open and democratic rather than to make their countries safe for American business? It's hard to say what would have happened in those alternate histories, of course, but we didn't even try.
Actually, that's exactly what we were doing in Iran, which led to the Shah's overthrow.
2.21.2008 4:05pm
Thales (mail) (www):
""Let's not get too sanctimonious," says the guy who approvingly quotes a statement about how "the capitalists and their lackeys" have no concern for human rights."

I quoted the portion of Bertram's remark by which he prefaced the portion David Bernstein quoted in the blog post. I did so for a context I thought was lacking, not because I necessarily approve of the totality of Bertram's remark. However, I think it is defensible to say that Western capitalists (meaning the owners of capital, not an abstraction with a capital K) and Western governments as a whole have always not been particularly interested in the human rights records of other nations. Sometimes they have, but such interest has hardly been consistent (compare Cuba and China), and has often taken a back seat to the desire to purchase cheap goods and create a market for exports (again, compare Cuba and China). I'm not sure this is subject to reasonable dispute, and this is the point I take Bertram to have made in his preface, prior to his admiration of *some* achievements of the Cuban government--as his blog makes clear, he does not believe these achievements are connected by necessity to the human rights abuses of Cuba, nor does he anywhere that I have seen defend or apologize for such abuses.
2.21.2008 4:44pm
Hoosier:
ramster--The 'bananas' don't seem to have had much to do with the Arbenz ouster, at least from what I've read in recent years. I know that some scholars have sought to make the connection between Ike and UFCO. But it appears that Immerman has backed away from that conclusion, and he's the one who advanced it so strenuously in the '80s. He's always been a fair guy, so that's no surprise to me. But the evidence just doesn't seem to be there. (That doesn't mean that one has to join Fred Marks in finding good things to say about the Castillo-Armas crew. Just that historians need to present evidence just like everyone else.)

I'll defer to others on the Allende case. As I said in my previous post, the Nixon-Kissinger decision in that case has always puzzled me. There are scholars who have concluded that Allende was planning on (bloody) purges of his own, were he to consolidate power against the Army. But I don't know much about South American history, and have no way to evaluate this claim. If he was something on the order of a leftish Social Democrat--as I have understood him to be--then the decision to encourage the coup and to support the military dictatorship that arose from it is disturbing.
2.21.2008 4:45pm
ejo:
I am afraid I don't buy our omnipotence in terms of controlling these countries, particularly Iran. We did have a choice in the West with Khomeini-he didn't serve his exile in Saudi Arabia but flew in from Paris. We (the Carter Administration) made a decision to throw the Shah overboard, leading to the greater evil that we are still dealing with today. If your position is we are always going to have liberal democrats to back in foreign countries, you are, quite frankly, wrong. do you think there are any western style liberals to commit to in Pakistan? fantasies that ignore our interests sure didn't help us with Iran.
2.21.2008 5:20pm
Smokey:
ramster:

I've always remembered this quote concerning the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. It brings to mind the current attempts to propagandize Michelle Obama's words:
"If defeat for South Africa meant the loss of 31 men, three tanks, five armoured vehicles and three aircraft, then we'd lost. If victory for FAPLA and the Cubans meant the loss of 4600 men, 94 tanks, 100 armoured vehicles, 9 aircraft and other Soviet equipment valued at more than a billion rand, then they'd won."

—Colonel Dean Ferreira, CDR, SADF [South African Defense Forces] in Angola, March, 1989
2.21.2008 8:00pm
Gringo (mail):
Hoosier
I just don't get the 1973 decision regarding Chile, for instance.

Those who consider the democratically elected Allende a victim of the US do not realize that the US is not necessarily the be all and end all. The US is not the only actor in the world. Three weeks before the coup, the also democratically elected House of Deputies passed by 81-47 a resolution titled the “Declaration of the Breakdown of Chile’s Democracy.” An excerpt follows.

"5. That it is a fact that the current government of the Republic, from the beginning, has sought to conquer absolute power with the obvious purpose of subjecting all citizens to the strictest political and economic control by the state and, in this manner, fulfilling the goal of establishing a totalitarian system: the absolute opposite of the representative democracy established by the Constitution;
6. That to achieve this end, the administration has committed not isolated violations of the Constitution and the laws of the land, rather it has made such violations a permanent system of conduct, to such an extreme that it systematically ignores and breaches the proper role of the other branches of government…"


In general and in specific, the resolution could be interpreted as an invitation to a coup. Allende himself called it such. The democratically elected members of the House of Deputies would not have passed such a strongly-worded resolution by a commanding 63- 37% majority if their constituents, the Chilean people, were not also disgusted with the Allende government’s repeated violations of law and democratic procedure. The House of Deputies, by passing a resolution that was in effect an invitation to a coup, had much more to do with the coup than did Kissinger and Nixon. Contrary to the view of many Americans, the world does not necessarily revolve around the USA.
2.21.2008 8:08pm
Smokey:
ramster:
The US picked dictators over leftist democrats every single time. And it was always about the money, whether it was oil in Iran or bananas in Guatemala.
You're making a serious error here. Before the Berlin Wall came down, the world was divided into spheres of Soviet and American influence. That Cold War reality trumped any monetary considerations. Since the U.S. won the Cold War, however, priorities have changed.
2.21.2008 8:09pm
Gringo (mail):
Ramster
And it was always about the money, whether it was oil in Iran or bananas in Guatemala.

In the Central American Crisis Reader ( Robert S. Leikin and Barry Rubin, Eds., ISBN 0671600583),there is an excerpt which repeats an interesting conversation between President Arbenz of Guatemala and an American official. Arbenz says that the US is against my government because of my nationalizing United Fruit properties. The US official replies that the US can accept nationalizations. The US accepted the revolutionary Bolivian government's nationalizations of the mining companies, said the US official. What the US finds hard to deal with, he went on, was the presence of Communist Party officials in the Arbenz government.

It is of note that this conversation occurred several years after the salami techniques in Eastern Europe, where Communists gradually took over governments. Recall Jan Masaryk's suicide.For a while, Arbenz was in exile in Prague,though he ended up dying in Mexico City.

It would appear that in the case of Guatemala,the motive behind ordering the CIA in had more to do with Communism than it did with United Fruit.
2.21.2008 8:28pm
eyesay:
RowerinVa wrote: "What the U.S. imposes is a limited embargo, preventing U.S. citizens and their business interests from trading with Cuba. The rest of the world is free to do trade with Cuba."

Not exactly. There's also a rule that any ship, having docked in a Cuban port, is prohibited from docking in a U.S. port for six months. This limits international trade with Cuba to some extent.

In addition, we make it extremely difficult or impossible for U.S. artists and musicians to play in Cuba, and vice versa. Way to build understanding between peoples, right.
2.21.2008 11:33pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> In addition, we make it extremely difficult or impossible for U.S. artists and musicians to play in Cuba, and vice versa. Way to build understanding between peoples, right.

In other words, David Hasselhoff and Britney Spears are essential in helping non-Americans understand America.

Remind me - do you oppose "local content" policies like those of France and Canada? Or is this concern for "artists" limited only to when the US does something?
2.22.2008 11:28am
Fub:
Andy Freeman wrote at 2.22.2008 11:28am:
In other words, David Hasselhoff and Britney Spears are essential in helping non-Americans understand America.
Maybe eyesay at 2.21.2008 11:33p was referring to primarily pre-Castro musicians (and their musical progeny) who were stuck in Cuba after the revolution. For example, the artists recorded on Ry Cooder's Buena Vista Social Club release.
2.22.2008 12:13pm