By Johan Galtung
The immediate reaction to Obama’s Executive Order of 17 December 2014 – re-establishing diplomatic relations, easing travel, swapping prisoners – was a sense of relief: finally correcting a more than 50-year old stupidity. But why now? Later. First, back to June 1960.
We drove from New York to Key West, then a ferry – the captain was Norwegian – to La Habana; we wanted to drive all over, talk with everybody to understand. And the social picture was very clear: black, woman, low class overwhelmingly in favor of the revolution; white, man, middle-upper class ended up in Miami. Why gender? US imperialism was obvious but in addition Cuba was one big brothel for “puritan” US men. And one of the first acts of the revolution was to stop that, liberate the dirt poor girls, organize vocational training – give them dignity.
Hardly mentioned in the US; the media were then as now well filtered. What was mentioned had to with the US all time favorite – not misery, dignity, lives cut in half, dictatorships favoring USA – US property. Like Habana Hilton becoming Habana Libre.
We were there. A key symbol of imperialism; there they stayed, investing in exploitation, advising Batista repression, cultivating a tiny alienated elite. A key symbol of call-girl prostitution.
I came with a press card and a tape recorder for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and interviewed Fidel Castro. And Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, the head of the Communist Party. They were very different ideologically. Castro was a nationalist standing up for his people–the communist discourse came later, with the support of the Soviet Union. Questions made no impression on him; he went on his own machine, immensely knowledgeable with an amazing command of details.
Fidel has survived 11 US presidents – Eisenhower-Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon-Ford-Carter-Reagan-Bush Sr-Clinton-Bush Jr-Obama – most of them war criminals, some more than one term, most of them forgettable.
But not the Cuban revolution made by the black former slaves who had fought the Spaniards, by women, by the downtrodden; headed by an iconic white, man, very upper class. The alliance stuck, but may not survive the brothers Castro. One of the many US ways to misunderstand what happens is the construction of countries with only one inhabitant they hate: that also stuck. The revolution changed world history and will survive; there is no way back to US racism-genderism-classism.
But they want better lives for all. The US embargo–which the de facto single party US Congress may not lift–is not that important; Cuba has trade with many countries. But what Cuba is best at today, fantastic health services at home and abroad, literacy among the highest in the world, superb in many sports and the arts, not only music, record in material equality, are not among the big money-getters.
Nor their military defeat of the apartheid regime in Southern Africa, nor the incredible change from force to real soft power–not that Joseph Nye fraud. If any country deserved a money-pledging club–often abused to prop up US-created artificial regimes, that is Cuba.
But Cuba wants the trade that serves their economy and the USA wants to sit in judgment of that decision. There are troubles ahead.
Because USA is desperate. The “Asia-Pacific pivot” does not work; that is where most of BRICS is located. The EU has its own crisis. TAP-TPP (Trans Atlantic Partnership-Trans Pacific Partnership) may not work: all want to trade with China. So why not revive the Latin America backyard? They had three conditions: normalization with Cuba, legalizing marijuana, stop exporting arms. OK, OK, OK, so be it. Todos somos Americanos, we are all Americans Obama said in Spanish–but may find his “offer” too little, too late. Except for Mexico wanting access to the 53% USA stole in 1846-48.
Time will show. How about an Obama-centered theory? He wants to be remembered as being on the side of history, fighting stupidities, well knowing – even trusting – that the US Congress is on their side.
More stupidities are lining up, eagerly waiting for Executive Orders: like Palestine, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq-ISIS, Ukraine. Policies that do not work and never will.
Palestine: recognize Palestine, using the Arab League 2002 proposal – and take it from there, with a pre-June 1967 Israel.
Korea: normalize relations with North Korea, peace treaty and diplomatic relations, and take it from there.
Afghanistan: sponsor with the UNSC-UN Security Council a Conference on Security and Cooperation in Central Asia, aiming at an open border Community, and take it from there.
Iraq-ISIS: sponsor with the UNSC an international reconciliation conference declaring Sykes-Picot dead and void and take it from there. If a Sunni caliphate is wanted, it is not for others to stop it, but negotiate space for a reasonable Israel–see above.
Ukraine: recognize Crimea as a Russian 1954 gift under conditions that no longer obtain and recognize a Ukrainian federation with two parts, with good relations between them and with their neighbors.
Stop bombing, droning, sniping, killing, drop sanctions; starting with Executive Orders now that Obama policies have given him a one party Congress. After some time reason may prevail over stupidity.
Back to June 1960: What should Washington have done? Wake up to reality. Aha! This is what we have created: a brothel, importing raw sugar, exporting by plane wedding cakes for the rich. And so on, and so forth. Hmm. Maybe time for a change, even some apology. Let us be strong, invite that bearded one for an open dialogue; not escape.
We are almost there now. Let us celebrate whatever the motives and wish Cuba – and our readers!–a merry Christmas. Yes, Christ-mas – not Churchmas – that master of conscience with the command, compassion and Samaritan work – and recognize that there was more true Christianity in the Cuban revolution than in many of its adversaries.