HEADLINE— “Cuban troops now fighting alongside Russian military in Syria!” Did you read about this article? What’s going on?
I really want to focus on travel and tourism in Cuba, and minimize political commentary. However, I’ve received several questions and comments about this article from travelers scheduled on my November and December expeditions. Some of their friends and relatives have questioned why they would want to visit such a “communist enemy.”
More Americans are now traveling to Cuba, and there is increasing bi-partison support in Congress to continue normalizing of relations. However, there is still a serious hard-core group of individuals who want to slow down, stop, and eventually reverse current policies. They are very powerful, connected, and intelligent. They realize that by continuing the cold-war narrative, they can influence key uninformed political types and low-information Americans, including voters. Remember—in all things political, FOLLOW THE MONEY! Confusing, contradictory, irrational, and unexplainable reports and events will make a lot more sense to you. With regards to Cuba, hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake over the next decade. With this much money (and power) involved, anything can happen. Such articles are commonly written by authors who know better, but their goals are to sway opinion. They often have extensive resumés and work for impressive-sounding agencies or in academia, such as Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.
I’ve been following events in Cuba since my first visit there in 1999. Over the last decade and a half, I’ve noticed a pattern of many articles and reports designed to negatively influence public opinion. Here is what usually happens: Outrageous headline claims are made about Cuba, often loosely tied to unrelated current events. Then there is a flurry of other articles and commentaries over the next few days condemning the alleged activities. Uninformed officials and politicians add to the hysteria, even if well-intentioned. Then, a few weeks later, after responsible individuals have fact-checked the allegations, there might be a small “retraction” article published at the bottom of page 16 in the newspaper. But you usually won’t hear corrections by radio and television newscasters, who earlier were so excited to announce the unfounded allegations.
When we hear these first reports about Cuba, some of us pay attention and try to figure out what is more likely to have happened. Others simply hear the dramatic headline and file away in their memory just one more story about how mean and evil the Castros and Cubans are. They are absolutely convinced that their point of view is right and righteous. No amount of evidence will convince them to open their minds a little. They refuse to travel to Cuba, even though it would be easy for them to do. They don’t care or want to know that the vast majority of retired senior military officers, who were previously involved with Cuba policy, believe that normalization of relations with Cuba is important to the security interests of the United States. It doesn’t matter that today, some of the biggest supporters of normalization are conservative Republicans who have actually been to Cuba many times on trade missions and activities involving both nations.
In the last decade, I’ve heard the following dramatic headlines (paraphrased), which often coincided with more general reports about a current topic in the news. They all turned out to be unfounded: “Cuba pursuing nuclear weapons from North Korea.” “Cuba involved in cyber-warfare activities, designed to destroy America’s online infrastructure.” “Cuba involved in massive drug operations, smuggling hundreds of kilos of heroin into the U.S.” “Cuba involved with child sex slave operations.” “Cuban pharmaceutical research facilities reported to be developing biological weapons to be used against the United States.” (NOTE: Cuba’s fragile economy depends on billions of dollars sent by exiles living in the U.S., so it isn’t likely that they really want to destroy America.)
These reports go on and on. The latest such article was recently published in the Daily Beast: “Cuba Is Intervening in Syria to Help Russia. It’s Not the First Time Havana Assisted Moscow.” An attached 1960’s photo shows a young Fidel Castro in celebration with former Soviet Russian leader Nikita Kruschev. (Link to article below.)
So–my readers–you should now be able to interpret what’s really going on. Even though the title of the article is specific and clear, the author, James Bloodworth, later says it was reported by somebody: “On Wednesday, it was reported that a U.S. official had confirmed to Fox News that Cuban paramilitary and Special Forces units were on the ground in Syria. Reportedly transported to the region in Russian planes, the Cubans are rumored to be experts at operating Russian tanks.”
Most of the rest of the article tries to tie these allegations with unrelated anecdotes about Stalin and worldwide events in the 1980’s. However, I give the author credit for mentioning the last significant Cuban military adventure abroad, over 25 years ago. Although not supporting his narrative, he accurately states: “Largely thanks to the involvement of Cuban troops in the fight against Apartheid South Africa in Angola….Cuba has gained something of a reputation for internationalism. At one point the Cuban presence in Angola reached 55,000 soldiers, inflicting a defeat on South African forces which helped precipitate the end of apartheid.” (Let’s not forget that the U.S. was supporting South Africa at the time, but today we just love to praise the life of Nelson Mandela while overlooking the fact that we were in fact supporting the South African apartheid government.)
The author’s main point seems to be that because Cubans were involved in a foreign war 25 years ago (their last significant international military adventure), they must SOMEHOW today be involved with Russia in Syria. Gee–that seems logical!
This article could have been predicted–Russia’s involvement in Syria is in the news these days, and that makes many people nervous. So let’s just add Cuba to the topic-of-the-month and fabricate an article designed to scare uninformed Americans who will not critically look past such a ridiculous article by a so-called “journalist.” With Christmas coming up, you can soon expect to read, “It has been reported [by an unknown, unverified source] that Cuba has activated nuclear missiles with biological weapons that will target Santa’s sleigh on the holiest day of the year.” How DARE those Godless Commie Bastards!”
A later article indicates the original one was based on unverified allegations from an unknown individual. The Cuban government completely denies any involvement. Both the White House and U.S. military deny any evidence of Cuban involvement.