Much ado is being made about President Obama’s decision to shake hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. People are wondering whether the handshake could be the start of a thaw in the fifty-year state of hostility between Cuba and the United States.
To no one’s surprise, Cold War anti-communist dead-enders are objecting to Obama’s handshake, no doubt thinking that Obama might have been infected by communism, which the dead-enders are still convinced is a contagious malady that could easily be spread throughout America and the rest of the world. They’re saying that there should be no change in U.S. policy toward Cuba.
But the dead-enders are wrong. Not only should there be a change in policy toward Cuba, which should be immediate and unilateral, there should also be a change in America’s governmental structure, one relating to the U.S. national-security state apparatus that was grafted onto our constitutional order in 1947.
The U.S. government should immediately lift its cruel and inhumane embargo against Cuba, which also operates as a severe infringement on fundamental rights of economic liberty, freedom of travel, and freedom of association of the American people. No negotiations are necessary. Just do the right thing. Lift the embargo, unilaterally and immediately.
Keep in mind the ostensible justification for the embargo: to effect regime change in Cuba, one in which the Castro dictatorship would be replaced by a U.S. dictatorship, such as the Batista dictatorship prior to Castro’s revolution. After 50 years, that objective has still not been achieved, despite the widespread misery that the embargo has caused the Cuban people. But both the CIA and the Pentagon are still hoping.
More fundamentally, however, is the question that the American people should have been asking themselves during the past 50 years: What business did the U.S. government have in imposing the embargo on Cuba in the first place, and what business did the U.S. government have in trying to effect regime change in Cuba (or anywhere else for that matter)?
The Cuban embargo is a perfect example of how the U.S. national-security state apparatus has warped and perverted the principles, values, and heritage of the American people. Inculcating Americans with a deep irrational fear of communism, national-security state officials convinced Americans that it was necessary to adopt and support communist methods and totalitarian methods to avoid having the United States go communist.
Thanks largely to the CIA and the Pentagon (and conservatives), the fear of communism became a national obsession, one bordering on extreme paranoia. Communists were everywhere — in the State Department, in Hollywood, even in the army. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were among those dangerous communists who were going to subjugate Americans. And hey, let’s not forget President Eisenhower. According to conservatives, he was a communist mole. And Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren was a communist dupe.
Everyone was encouraged to look under his bed for communists. There was no doubt in these people’s minds that the communists were definitely coming to get us. Even worse, communism was considered a contagious mental illness, one that could easily spread from mind to mind, just like the flu. If America didn’t fight fire with fire, our nation would ultimately find itself with communists running the IRS, the Interstate Highway System, and the public schools.
The national-security state took our nation down the road to assassination, which is really just legalized murder. The premier target of assassination was Cuba’s president Fidel Castro but there were many others, including Guatemala’s democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz, who was targeted by the CIA for assassination but was able to flee the country before the CIA was able to carry out the dirty deed. There was also the Congo’s popular nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba, who was not so lucky and ended up getting killed just before John Kennedy, who was stunned over Lumumba’s assassination, assumed the presidency.
There were also the many terrorist acts orchestrated or committed by CIA operatives in Cuba, including sabotage and destruction of Cuban businesses. And while we’re on the subject of perversion of values, let’s not forget the assassination partnership between the CIA and the Mafia, or the drug experiments on unsuspecting Americans, or the hiring of Nazi officials to serve the U.S. national-security state.
It was all justified under the rubric of saving America from the communists. And it was all rooted in the national-security state apparatus that Americans had brought into existence to fight a “cold war” against America’s WWII partner and ally (and Hitler’s enemy), the Soviet Union.
One glaring fact stands out for all those 50 years: It has always been the U.S. national-security state, guided by its extreme obsession and paranoia regarding communism, that has been the aggressor with respect to Cuba. At no time has Cuba ever attacked the United States or committed acts of terrorism against the United States. At no time has Cuba ever assassinated or tried to assassinate a U.S. official. It has never imposed an embargo on the American people.
From the very beginning of Castro’s rule in 1959, it’s always been the other way around. It’s always been the Pentagon and the CIA that imposed an embargo against Cuba, invaded Cuba, tried to assassinate Cuban officials, and committed acts of terrorism and sabotage within Cuba.
Even worse, they made Americans believe that all this U.S. aggression was moral and right because it was ostensibly being done to protect America from communism.
But it was never moral and it was never right. There was never any possibility that the United States was going to be conquered by Cuba or “the communists.” The whole anti-communist obsession, the Cuban embargo, the assassinations, the invasions, the regime-change operations, and the entire U.S. national-security state apparatus have been moral abominations from the beginning, and they continue to be a moral abominations. And they have all served to warp and pervert our values and our principles as Americans, even as it have inexorably led to ever-increasing enlargements of tax monies flowing into the military-industrial-intelligence complex.
Even the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, was brought about not by Cuba but by the U.S. national-security state. After all, the only reason that Soviet missiles were installed in Cuba was to deter an invasion by the CIA and the Pentagon, an invasion the Pentagon and CIA were continually exhorting Kennedy to undertake throughout his administration. As soon as Kennedy promised not to invade Cuba (and to remove U.S. nuclear missiles from Turkey aimed at the Soviet Union), a promise that earned him the everlasting enmity of the Pentagon and the CIA (who considered Kennedy’s guarantee a threat to “national security”), the Soviet Union removed its missiles from Cuba.
Ever since the adoption of the national-security state apparatus, Americans have been inculcated with a mindset of deference to authority. The things that CIA and the Pentagon do and did are not supposed to be questioned. The idea is that they are the ultimate guardians of America — of our “national security,” a term that isn’t even found in the U.S. Constitution. They know what’s best for us and for our nation. It is not up to us to question why.
But it’s high time for Americans to reject that mindset. It’s time to begin questioning the entire concept of a national-security state. What do we need a CIA for? What do we need an NSA for? What do we need an overseas military empire for? What do we need a vast military-industrial complex for?
To “keep us safe”? Don’t make me laugh, especially since it is their policies overseas that produce the enemies they purport to protect us from here at home.
All three of these institutions—the CIA, the military-industrial complex, and the NSA — are inherent to totalitarian regimes. They have no role in a free society. We can debate whether they should have been brought into existence in the first place (I say no) but one thing is certain: The Cold War, which was the original justification for embracing these totalitarian-like agencies, ended a long time ago.
As President Kennedy suggested 50 years ago in his famous Peace Speech at American University (see here for the video and here for the transcript), a speech that, not surprisingly, was hated by the Pentagon and the CIA, there is absolutely no reason why the United States cannot peacefully coexist with nations that are ruled by communist regimes or totalitarian regimes. He has been proven right. The United States lives in peaceful coexistence with China and Vietnam. The United States can and should do the same with Cuba.
It’s time for more than handshakes. It’s time for America to regain the high road, the road to freedom and morality. It’s time to unilaterally and immediately, without any negotiations, lift its 50-year old cruel and inhumane embargo against Cuba. It’s also time to dismantle the national-security state apparatus that has done so much damage to our principles, our freedom, our economic well-being, and our heritage of liberty and limited government.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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