Bush's Fidel, Fidel's Bush
This past Thursday, October 24, George W Bush again made it abundantly clear that he has no concept of recent history or of the present circumstances in Cuba.
In a speech Bush called on the Cuban Army, that's right, the Cuban Army to overthrow the Cuban government. London Times reported:
President Bush yesterday called on Cuba’s army to overthrow the “dying” regime of Fidel Castro and side with the forces of democracy, the latest attempt by a US president to end Havana’s half century of Communist rule.
Mr Bush, in his first major address on Cuba since Mr Castro fell ill and handed power to his brother Raul last July, laid out new steps to encourage democracy on the island. They included an international “freedom fund” funded by US allies to reconstruct Cuba if it ended one-party rule.
And that wasn't an isolated statement. Not by a long shot:
In a direct message to the Cuban military and police, Mr Bush said “when Cubans rise up to demand the liberty they deserve, you can defend a dying order by using force against your own people” or, he said, the military can embrace democracy.
“There’s a place for you in a free Cuba,” Mr Bush said.
A free Cuba. One hardly knows what Bush's conception of that place would be like. Would Cubans have to give up their free health care so they could have a system like ours? Would they have to give up their research into stem cells so that they could uphold fundamentalist values? Would they have to repatriate those who fled their prisons during the Mariel escapes? Would they continue to have to be spied upon, wiretapped, surveilled, data-mined without court supervision? Would they have to institute a regressive tax structure so that the poor supported the rich? Would they have to return to the US industries they nationalized? Would they have to return land that the Revolution distributed? Bush isn't saying.
The specifics be damned, Bush was full of tough talk:
In a reference to Raul Castro, Mr Bush said the US “will not support the old way with new faces.” He predicted that democracy was coming to Cuba, and that the people of Cuba can “hear the dying gasps of a dying regime.” Mr Bush is the tenth US president to call for the overthrow of Castro, who seized power in 1959. The policy of successive US governments, including Mr Bush’s, has been to isolate Cuba economically and diplomatically with the goal of undermining Castro’s rule.
That approach has yet to succeed, however. In recent years Castro has received significant economic aid from Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, and China.
Bush also offered internet access to Cubans and a scholarship program for Cuban youth if Havana moved toward democracy. But that's already coming from Venezuela and Beijing.
And when Bush says that democracy is coming, the usual comparison is to that bastion of recently overthrown dictatorship and instantly imposed democracy, Iraq.
Bush ended his speech by proclaiming, "Viva Cuba Libre!"
Immediately after the speech, Cuba, of course, accused Bush of encouraging violent uprisings against the government. That's no surprise. And it seems justifiable. After all, the US has encouraged uprisings in one way or another, ranging from overflights, and outright invasions, to exploding cigars, and attempted poisonings for almost 50 years. It's nothing new.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters today Fidel weighed in on the Bush speech.
Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro poked fun at President George W. Bush [today] for proclaiming "Long Live Free Cuba," likening it to Spain's king saying the same during his colonial rule over the island. /snip
The slogan was first used by Cuban independence fighters, known as Mambisis, in 1868 as they began their decades-long war against Spain's colonial rule. It was also the battle cry of Fidel Castro's guerrilla fighters in the late 1950s.
Raul Castro often ends speeches with the slogan instead of Fidel Castro's "Motherland or Death."
"I never imagined I would hear the words coming from the mouth of a U.S. president 139 years later," Castro said in an essay titled "Bush, Mambi?" carried by the official media.
"It's as if a king in those times, or his governor, proclaimed 'Viva Cuba Libre,'" Castro said.
According to Reuters, in his speech
Castro compared the Mambisis, who freed their slaves, with President Abraham Lincoln's abolition of slavery, then quoted Lincoln's famous words in reference to the Bush speech.
"You can fool some of the people all of the time or all of the people part of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time," Castro said.
Cuba on Sunday marked the 48th anniversary of the death of revolutionary hero Camilo Cienfuegos, who disappeared in a plane crash, and earlier this month that of Guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara.
"For what their names symbolize, we respond to the false Mambi: Viva Lincoln! Viva Che! Viva Camilo!" Castro concluded.
So, here we go again. A war of words. A show. The Republican politics of stupidity. Didn't anyone understand the origin of the quote? Has Republican cronyism displaced every government functionary with even moderate intelligence?
If Bush were serious about fostering democracy in Cuba, it would be irresistible in Cuba if he simply took down the blockade. That would allow trade and it would permit US citizens to visit. That would immediately move Cuba toward democracy. But fostering democracy isn't what this latest dust up is about. No. It's just Neanderthal politics. It's about Bush, Mr. 24%, hanging on to the last vestige of his dying support in South Florida, in the Cuban expat community.
It's nothing new. And, of course, it's just not helpful to US interests.