Lost in last weekend’s hubbub over the three year anniversary of the Iraq war was an anniversary from the Western hemisphere. March 18 marked the third year since the Cuban Black Spring of 2003. Tired of internal dissent, Fidel Castro dispatched his secret police that spring day to arrest 75 journalists, librarians, labor unionists and human rights activists on charges of “anti-state” activities. According to journalist Marc Masferrer of Uncommon Sense, fifteen of the 75 have been released for health reasons. The rest remain in Castro’s gulag.
It’s highly unlikely that you’ve heard of this if you rely solely on the mainstream media for your news. A simple Google search reveals the San Jose Mercury News was the only major traditional source to have even broached the subject. Right-wing blogs weren’t much better. The anniversary was only covered by four sites — Uncommon Sense, the Wall Street Cafe, Blog for Cuba, and Marathon Pundit. But at least it was covered somewhere.
On the other side of the blogosphere, liberals were conspicuously absent in their coverage. According to Marc Cooper, there was nary a peep from liberal bloggers on Fidel’s gulag. The same American Left that exults itself in “speaking truth to power” voluntarily silenced itself from speaking up for Cuban dissidents whose only crime, according to Masferrer, was that they “followed their conscience and spoke or wrote the truth about Cuba, a truth that made them the regime’s great foe.”
Why the silence? Instapundit claimed it would be “poor salesmanship”. Indeed, it would be for the neo-socialists on the kook fringes of the American left that have been defending Castro for years. Just this week, Louis Farrakhan is visiting Cuba to highlight differences in disaster management. He’s only echoing sentiments expressed on Democracy Now in November 2005, when show host and aspiring revolutionary Amy Goodman interviewed Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly, on the enlightened efficiencies of the Cuban disaster relief system.
Alarcon explained all to Goodman. “In the final analysis,” he said, “it has to do a lot with the concept of a society. I don’t want to join what they call here ‘the blame game.’ In a way, it’s difficult to be fair, because what is to be blamed I think, is a system. . . . If you have a society that is based on the idea of human solidarity, you may find 1,586 doctors that volunteer to go to a bad place to help others.”
Goodman lapped it up. Never mind the “human solidarity” of throwing dissenters in gulags — where Goodman would surely be in Cuba or Venezuela. Never mind that the Cuban evacuation for Hurricane Rita might have been more successful because Cuban “citizens” are treated as cattle, not independent entities with human rights. (Or, for another matter, that Rita was nothing compared to Katrina in New Orleans.) To Goodman’s credit, she asked Alarcon about the dissidents in a later interview but refrained from using her canines to tear into his response — canines she would no doubt use if the question involved a capitalist country.
Farrakhan and Goodman are definitely on the furthest fringe of the American left. But they’re not alone in their awe for Castro’s Cuba. Star New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof expressed his admiration for Cuban health care in a January 2005 column titled “Health Care? Ask Cuba.” He found that we could learn a few lessons from Cuba since it enjoyed lower infant mortality rates. A subsequent letter to the editor picked apart Kristof’s column. The discrepancy, it turns out, was due to methodology, not quality. Cuba can claim a lower infant mortality rate because it does not register low-weight births as live births. While Americans attempt expensive treatments for low-weight births, Cuban doctors rarely make the effort. They mark the death as a fetal death and move on. How’s that for progressive?
And don’t forget Elian. Liberals like Barney Frank (D-Mass.) celebrated when Janet Reno seized Elian from a relative’s house in Miami and sent him back to Cuba. After all, his father wanted him back home. Never mind the septuagenarian puppeteer with a hand up his father’s shirt-back. Never mind that Elian’s mother wanted so desperately to escape that she risked, and ultimately lost, her own life to get to the United States. Cuba was Elian’s home, and it wasn’t that bad. Communism itself isn’t that bad. Elian would be just fine in Havana. Never mind the thousands of would-be refugees who risk their lives every year to get a taste of freedom.
Finally, you’d be hard-pressed to find a college campus free from post-adolescent brats donning Che Guevera shirts to express their coolness and/or general desire to stick-it-to-the-man — all the while forking over $15 to budding capitalist t-shirt vendors and conforming to the oh-so-precise standards of the anti-conformity crowd.
Che, henchman for Fidel, has become the hippest icon on campus, and the Che-shirt wearer lets the world know he is for the oppressed — and that he knows a little bit about history too. Or does he? The ignorant Che-ites are about as likely to know Che’s actual history as they are to know who Milton Friedman is. And so they march, each making their own small contribution to the immortalization of the man behind the Cuban gulag and the systematic abuse of Cuban dissidents political, economic, and cultural; the man who should be infamous for putting bullets in the back of dissident skulls at El Paredon, a spot described by Jay Nordlinger as the “reddened wall against which so many innocents were killed.”
But the American Left is too romantic to be bothered with such pesky details. Details get in the way of understanding Che’s revolutionary spirit. What is important, one from the kook fringe might say, is what he stood for, and he stood for the rights of the oppressed. Never mind those victims.
So it is with Fidel’s gulag. It is an inconvenient truth that gets in the way of all too many on the left’s vision of wise-old Fidel. Never mind his Stalinist ways. Let’s focus on what he does right. He’s against capitalism and he’s against the United States. Never mind how he treats those pesky dissidents.
Don’t mention the gulag.
Whatever you do, don’t mention the gulag.
Jason Barnes is a freelance writer, and the editor of www.beltwayblitz.com in Arlington, Virginia.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Kathlyn Ehl
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Jacob Hayutin