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GOP Cold War Time Warp on Cuba

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, and Newt Gingrich debate in Tampa [Reuters]by Jacob G. Hornberger

When I heard what Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum said about Cuba in last night’s Florida presidential debate, I felt like I was in a Cold War time warp and that we were about to see flower children, hippies, go-go girls, and CIA LSD experiments once again appear before our eyes.

Gingrich said that he wants the U.S. government to engage in new regime-change operations with what he calls “covert operations,” those in which the U.S. government keeps its role secret from the American people and the people of the world. You know, sort of like the CIA’s invasion at the Bay of Pigs.

Or maybe Gingrich was advocating more CIA state-sponsored terrorism against Cuban businesses, hotels, and enterprises. Or maybe just operations to destroy Cuba’s economy, much like the CIA did in Chile prior to the U.S.-supported coup that ousted Chile’s democratically elected president and installed an unelected military strongman in his place.

Or maybe he was telling us that under a Gingrich administration, the U.S. government’s current assassination program would be redirected toward Fidel Castro as a follow-up to the unsuccessful attempts by the CIA and Mafia, working together, to assassinate Castro during the 1960s.

Another fascinating aspect to this is that these three presidential candidates obviously believe that the Cuban people are eagerly waiting for the U.S. State Department, CIA, and Pentagon to show up in Cuba and declare, “We’re from the U.S. government and we’re here to help you.” At that point, their mindset goes, the Cuban people will supposedly embrace the U.S. government eagerly and enthusiastically.

Is that delusional or what? In fact, correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t that the type of delusional thinking that went into the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs? Weren’t the CIA and every right-wing anti-communist in America convinced that the Cuban people would rally to the cause of the U.S. invaders and join them in their quest to oust Castro from power?

It didn’t happen, and the reason it didn’t happen is that most Cubans were sick and tired of decades of U.S. control over their island. That’s what Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney just don’t get. The Cuban people are not interested in another U.S.-installed regime in their country. They’re not interested in sacrificing one bit of their hard-earned independence from U.S. control, not even in exchange for millions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid.

What Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney fail to realize in their Cold War la-la land is that while Cubans are undoubtedly disenchanted with their socialist economic system, they nonetheless revere Fidel Castro for finally bringing Cuba independence from U.S. government control.

The irony of all this is that Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney all support many of the socialist programs that Castro has brought to Cuba. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, free public education, income taxation, a managed economy, a regulated economy. All of them form the core of Cuba’s socialist system, and all of them are enthusiastically embraced by Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney here at home.

Let’s not forget the cruel embargo that the U.S. government has enforced against the Cuban people for more than half-a-century, an embargo that Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum wish to continue, no matter how much suffering it has brought — and continues to bring — to the Cuban people.

In fact, it’s funny to see Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney professing to be so concerned about the well-being of the Cuban people. The three of them know that the U.S. embargo on Cuba has helped squeeze the lifeblood out of the Cuban people, especially in combination with Cuba’s cruel socialist economic system.

Has all that suffering caused Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney to call for an end to the embargo? Are you kidding? Despite the fact that more than 50 years of embargo has failed to achieve its goal of regime change in Cuba, they want to continue it indefinitely into the future.

The Republicans who cheered Gingrich’s, Santorum’s, and Romney’s bellicose Cold War attitude toward Cuba no doubt failed to recognize that they were cheering infringements on their own economic liberty. After all, don’t forget how the embargo against Cuba (and Iran) apply to the American people. The embargo is a federal prohibition on Americans’ spending their money in the way they choose. If an American travels to Cuba and spends his money there without official permission, U.S. officials will prosecute, jail, and fine him for doing so. How is that reconcilable with such natural, God-given rights as freedom of travel, freedom of association, and freedom of commerce? Indeed, how is it different from the economic controls that communist Castro imposes on his own people?

In response to a hypothetical question about Castro’s dying, Gingrich responded, “I don’t think Fidel will meet his maker… He will go to another place.” I’m no theologian but that answer seems to be inconsistent with the Catholic faith to which Gingrich has converted. I thought that Catholicism holds that God, not Gingrich or anyone else, will judge who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell and that every person is capable of being saved, no matter the gravity of his sins prior to death.

But it’s also curious as to which of Castro’s sins Gingrich was referring that caused him to conclude that Castro is going to hell. If the sins to which Gingrich was referring involve such things as murder, assassination, torture, indefinite detention, or killing during wars of aggression, Newt might want to reflect on Matthew 7:1-3: Judge not lest ye be judged.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.


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