Today, May 29th, the U.S. has officially dropped Cuba from its blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism. This is a very big deal. In my opinion, it should never have been on it. The last time Cuba was involved in serious international activities was in the late 1980’s. Cuban military forces repealed an invasion of Angola by South Africa. (South Africa was supported by the U.S.) This ultimately led to a change of government in South Africa and the end of apartheid. As a result, Nelson Mandela was released from prison and eventually became president. After he was released, the first foreign leader and country he visited was Fidel Castro in Cuba to thank the nation, the people and military of Cuba. For its efforts, Cuba remained on the U.S. list of nations supporting terrorism. Meanwhile, the U.S. government eventually decided that Mandela was actually a good guy and began praising him for his sacrifice and leadership.
The Bush Administration removed two countries from the list of countries supporting terrorism—Libya in 2006 and North Korea in 2008. The government of Libya admitted blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, four days before Christmas in 1988. There were 259 passengers and crew members (mostly Americans) on board. All perished, along with 11 people on the ground. In contrast, a Cuban-American C.I.A. officer–Luis Posada Carriles– bragged about his role in blowing up a commercial Cuban airliner over the Caribbean. All 73 passengers on Cubana Flight #455 died–including several teenagers on the Cuban Junior Fencing Team. Today, Posada Carriles walks the streets of Miami as free man. (And yet, Cuba is still criticized for harboring fugitives from the United States.)
North Korea was removed from the list in 2008 because they promised to behave themselves. They have succeeded in making all American Presidents for the past few decades look foolish, gullible, and impotent. North Korea continues to this day to threaten the U.S. with nuclear missiles.
The above two paragraphs represent a small slice of U.S.-Cuba relations since 1898, when the U.S. entered the Cuban-Spanish War after the Cubans had essentially defeated Spain during the previous four years. The U.S. took credit for winning the war (after participating for less than four months in mopping-up operations). At the end, Cuba’s generals were prohibited from attending surrender ceremonies with Spain. The Cuban-Spanish war morphed into simply the Spanish-American War. Teddy Roosevelt became famous for leading his Rough Riders up San Juan Hill east of Santiago Cuba. This event propelled him into the office of Vice President in 1901. He became President at age 42 in September 1901 after President McKinley was assassinated.
Historians agree that the reports of Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill were a big factor in him eventually becoming president. However, the necessity of the charge is widely debated. Spanish historians claim that the war was essentially over by this time, and that Spanish troops on the hill were surrounded, trapped, isolated, and could have easily been starved into surrender. In spite of that, today there are many monuments on San Juan Hill which honor American soldiers who died in the Cuban-Spanish-American War. It is ironic that for over fifty years the U.S. Government has implemented policies that have made it very difficult for its own citizens to visit and honor the graves and monuments of fallen American soldiers.