Wednesday, October 28, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
Cuban Embargo: Nothing
Succeeds Like Failure
by Saul Landau
Once again, Cuba has
asked the United Nations to help end the U.S. economic, financial and trade
embargo. Havana says this blockade cost it more than $242 million last year.
The embargo also stymies Cuban access to foreign capital from other nations,
because investors face possible U.S. sanctions for doing business with Cuba.
Polls show that most
Americans favor dropping the U.S. embargo and our ban on travel to Cuba.
Instead of scrapping it, however, President Barack Obama and Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton are clinging to the policies they inherited. In policy
terms, it's the equivalent of scientists insisting the world is flat.
Nothing succeeds like
failure in imperial Washington. So while Washington's failed Cuba policy has
endured for half a century, its proponents ask us to "give it time."
This policy has
flopped since its inception. In July1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower cut
Cuba's sugar quota to punish Cuba for expropriating U.S. companies. The Soviet
Union formally entered the U.S.-Cuban dispute to buy Cuban sugar. In October,
Ike imposed a partial embargo that President John F. Kennedy completed in February
1962, by which time Cuba had expropriated all U.S. companies.
Early U.S. pressure
on Cuba's revolutionary government wasn't just economic. Responding to Fidel
Castro's disobedience in early 1959, Eisenhower authorized Cuban exiles to
launch terrorist attacks on Cuba. He ordered the CIA to overthrow the regime
in early 1960, but withheld the order to unleash 1,500 Cuban exiles the CIA
had trained to invade the island.
In April 1961,
Kennedy succumbed to pressure and sent the exiles to their defeat at the Bay
of Pigs, staining the young president's reputation. Instead of trying to move
on from that fiasco by coming to terms with Cuba, Kennedy sought revenge. The
United States sponsored assassination attempts and thousands of armed attacks
against Cuba. Ironically, before Kennedy signed his tightened embargo order,
he ordered an ample supply of his favorite Cuban cigars.
Fidel has handed off
the reins of government to his brother, Raul Castro. They have survived the
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush,
Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations.
officials know better than to ask the obvious question: What exactly did Cuba
do to the United States to merit terrorism and economic strangulation? The
answer then and now: by being disobedient, refusing to abide by Washington's
interpretation of the 19th-centuryMonroe Doctrine
In August 1961, Fidel
offered an olive branch in response to the armed assaults. Che Guevara met
with Richard Goodwin, JFK's Latin America adviser. If Cuba cut military ties
with the Soviets, stopped exporting revolution, and compensated expropriated
U.S. companies, would Kennedy cease his violence?
According to Goodwin,
in an account he relayed during a Bay of Pigs seminar in Havana in 2001,
Kennedy -- puffing on a cigar from Che -- responded: "Weakness. Turn up
the heat." One month later, Fidel went to his last deterrent. Soviet
Premier Nikita Khrushchev stationed nuclear missiles on the island. In October
1962 came the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Gerald Ford and Jimmy
Carter relaxed the embargo and travel ban. Ronald Reagan tightened them again.
Succeeding presidents (including Obama) responding to various interests--but
not the national interest--diddled with the screws as well.
Cuba policy, transferring it from Washington to the Cuban American National
Foundation in Miami. Cuba survived. Cubans needing certain medicine or medical
equipment urgently from the United States suffered--as did the Cuban economy
and thus all Cubans. In the 1990s, I tried unsuccessfully to convince
then-Representative Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) to not pursue his
"Torricelli Bill." I said the embargo hurt most Cubans materially.
He said Cubans could buy supposedly banned equipment elsewhere, claiming Cuban
propaganda promoted "the pain argument." Logically, if the embargo
didn't hurt Cuba, why maintain it? To punish Fidel--symbolically.
define success by gloating over decades of consistent failure? Will Obama
remain stuck in this incongruous Cuba policy legacy or exhibit some spine?
is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive multi-issue
think tank that turns ideas into action for peace, justice, and the
environment. He's the producer of three films on Fidel