ARE CUBAN AMERICANS AND NOT CASTRO THE ENEMY?
Por Ernesto F. Betancourt
AN EXCHANGE WITH THE DIRECTOR OF THE ARMY WAR COLLEGE
On 2/20/01 I got this incredible reponse from Dr. Steven Metz, head of the Army War College in Carlisle, PA, to a proposal I had made to him on my writing a paper on Cuba's asymmetric threat to the US. I intended to follow the approach he had presented in a monograph on the subject, on which he is a recognized authority.Mr. Betancourt,
Thank you for the comments on the monograph that Dr. Johnson and I recently published. You're certainly right that asymmetry is a tool of the weak against the strong. Were Castro engaged in a war or death struggle with the United States, he would have to do so asymmetrically. But while I wouldn't purport to be an expert on Cuba, I don't see any evidence at this time that he is doing so. I've long felt that the threat from Castro was overblown in American strategy. Given the current world situation, I can't think of any possible reason for him Castro to provoke or attempt to injure the United States other than irrational hate. I haven't seen any indication of this during his rule. I do not mean to deprecate the suffering of the Cuban people that Castro has brought nor suggest for a second that the United States should embrace him. I simply consider him an irritant who can do little to harm vital American national interests outside of potentially supporting terrorism, and I'm not aware of any actions of this sort. From the wider perspective of American strategy, there are other opponents who worry me much more.Steven Metz
Then, on 10/7/01, I mailed him Georgie Anne Geyer's attached article. This was his response:
Please remove me from your mailing list.Steven Metz
I answered him, in my most un-Dale Carnegie fashion:
I certainly will. However, I want to point out to you that you are unwilling to face the truth. You e-mailed to me that that there was no record of Castro threatening the US, apparently ignoring the Missile Crisis in 1962. Now, you are probably one of those pushing for cooperation with Castro on drug interdiction, like general McCaffrey. Your problem is that racial and organizational arrogance prevents you from accepting,one, that you were wrong; and, two, that you were taken to the cleaners by a Puerto Rican woman, Ana Belen Montes, Castro's spy at the DIA. In the end, your bias is making you act in a fashion derelict to the defense of the US. You are ideologically and emotionally unfit to be involved in the defense of the American people against the threat represented by men like Castro.Ernesto F. Betancourt
I expected a strong rebuke. Instead, I got this surprising response:
We'll agree to disagree. I consider Castro at best a minor irritatant today. I believe it is a travesty that U.S. policy toward Cuba has been hijacked by a small group bitter over their loss of privelege and property there and taken in a direction inemical to the interests of most Americans. I believe the Elian Gonzales circus illustrated this to most most Americans and hope it soon changes. The Cold War is over.
In the end, he compounded his initial ignoring of Castro's hostility to the US by resorting to a stereotyped racist cop-out against Cuban-Americans. His comments reflects the success of Ana Belen Montes in downplaying the Castro threat and of Castro's propaganda mantra about: The Cuban-American Miami maffia. Notice Castro is merely a "minor irritant" while we are a "bitter group" who has "hijacked" US policy. No exceptions are made, we are guilty by birthplace. Starting from these assumptions, it is logical to reach the conclusion we can cooperate with Castro on drug interdiction as a means to establish contacts with Cuban officers, if only we could get rid of those pesky Cuban-Americans. I have had no response to my answer.
OK, let us agree to disagree. But, if you associate me with the group in Miami, let me tell you that I was Castro's representative in Washington during the insurrection against Batista, I was never a batistiano. I was with Castro during his first visit to Washington in 1959 and a member of his government until Che was appointed to the National Bank in November that year. Legally, I am an American by birth, since my father and my grandfather were American citizens. My father was raised in Queens and joined the Marines after the end of the First World War. Once he ended his service, he went back to Cuba. I have no property to claim, nor do I aspire to any position in the post-Castro government. I opposed the Bay of Pigs, and almost stopped it through my contacts with the Kennedy people, mostly Charlie Bartlett at whose home Jack met Jacqueline. In fact, the slogan Alliance for Progress was suggested by me to Richard Goodwin for a speech during the presidential campaign. Despite those contacts, when I objected to the Bay of Pigs and predicted it was going to fail--as it did- Allen Dulles accused me of being associated with a pro-Communist organization. My concern at present comes from the fact that I perceive we are repeating the same historical mistake made in 1961, except this time the Pentagon approach is overestimating Castro's hold on the population, while in 1961 they underestimated it. I am willing to have my ideas discussed and challenged but your preconceived notions are blocking any dialogue. And, that was the reason for my initial approach to you, which you curtly rejected. In fact, after I realized you would not even consider listening to any idea outside what you had already concluded on Cuba. I proposed my idea to Alberto Coll, at the Naval War College. It was to form an alternative B group, formed by people like Norberto Fuentes, General Rafael del Pino, MINFAR Lt. Col. Jesus Renzoli, and MININT Colonel Castineiras, all of whom know personally the top military people around Fidel and Raul, as well as sociologists who have been doing research on Cuban civil society, like Juan Carlos Espinosa, Benigno Aguirre and Juan Jose Lopez to discuss possible behaviours during the transition using the model in my book Revolutionary Strategy: a Handbook for Practitioners.
I have had no response from Alberto for two months and I imagine he is scared out of his wits to raise such a proposal from an irreverent outcast such as me. Incidentally, in my proposal I mentioned that to avoid any security problems, no US data would be made available to the participants, but that people from any US agency would be able to raise whatever questions they had. It seems to me that such an exposure to Cubans interpreting possible Cuban behavior makes sense and could be a useful input. More so now that all judgments vetted by Ms Montes have to be questioned.
You talk about the Elian crisis. Well, I can tell you a different story from the one you seem to have set in concrete in your mind. No group in America today is so subject to racial prejudice as are Cuban-Americans. It amuses me that multimillionaires like Carlos Saladrigas (450 million) and Carlos Manuel de la Cruz (350 million) who where at Elian's house at the time of the raid talking to Janet Reno have been traumatized by the experience. Mrs. de la Cruz, a patron of the arts, was thrown to the floor and spread with tear gas. These people thought that the prominence they had earned with their financial success had made them part of the American elite. To their dismay, they discovered that when a crisis developed they were sent to the back of the bus.
That is why I question the accusation of spying against Mariano Faget, a man who is a Batistiano and I don't know. There is something very wrong when the Federal Judge presiding the case refused to sentence him for a whole year after he was found guilty and on January 19, 2001, the day before Bush's inauguration, stated that he was not going to sentence him until some points were clarified. Faget was railroaded through court in a kangaroo trial by the Clinton administration. Yet, that Miami Cuban elite you blame for our Cuba policy was so frightened by the Elian experience that they did not dare to protest this abuse of judicial power. I was the only idiot who raised the issue in the Miami media.
Finally, I challenge you as an academic and a scholar to look at the evidence involving the West Nile virus. Not following that track of inquiry may cause a much greater danger than the bin Laden attack. All I have asked is that the posssibility of a Castro/Saddam link be investigated. And, there is enough circumstancial evidence to warrant the inquiry. I am glad you have agreed to disagree. I am extremely concerned over the danger Castro represents to us in his final days. I have insights on him that few Americans have and just want to share them with those who have the power to make or influence decisions. But I cannot do anything if people are unwilling to listen and merely stereotype me.
Ernesto F Betancourt
The number one security problem we face today in relation to Cuba, is that, under the influence of Ana Belen Montes, the US military (At least the ones whose ideas I am familiar with: Kjonnerod, Metz, Coll, McCaffrey, Wilhem and Atkeson) appears to have a confused notion of who our enemy is. The naive notion that you can trust Castro and cooperate with him, has permeated the thinking of our military thinkers despite the overwhelming evidence that Castro has been and is a bitter enemy of our country.
This is a basic assumption implicit in several initiatives that have been advanced of late in US/Cuba relations. At the same time, advocates of these positions frequently accompany them with comments deriding the influence of the Cuban-American community on US policy.
For example, General McCaffrey said recently in a session at the Cuba Project in Georgetown: 1) that he had seen no evidence of higher level involvement in drug trafficking--of course this is based on a report vetted by Ana Belen Montes, Castro's spy at the DIA--and; 2), on the basis of that information, proposed to President Bush the creation of a Joint Caribbean Command for Drug Interdiction headed by a US Coast Guard Admiral with Cuban membership, including access to intelligence and equipment. When I offered him a paper documenting Castro's links with drug traffic, he rudely and adamantly refused to read anything about Cuba. The same arrogant mindset that led to the Bay of Pigs disaster.
The fact is that a similar effort by General McCaffrey in Mexico resulted in General Gutierrez Rebollo, the Mexican Drug Czar, sharing intelligence and equipment we provided with cartel leader, Amado Carrillo Fuentes, against his competitors. In the case of Cuba, our staff at the Special Interest Section, including the resident Coast Guard anti-drug officer, have no cooperation whatsoever from Cuban authorities. So, all we will accomplish through this cooperation is to strengthen the hand of Castro in his dealings with the drug cartels.
We should not forget that on June, 1958, six months before defeating Batista, Castro wrote to his secretary and confidant Celia Sanchez, that after that war was over, a much greater war was to start, the war against the United States and he concluded, "That is my destiny". That letter is exhibited in the Museum of the Revolution in Havana. In the pursuit of that destiny Castro has shown a persistent hostility to the US. Two examples suffice.
In the book Honor Bound, by Stuart Rochester and Frederick Kiley, on American prisoners of War in VietNam, which was published by the Naval Institute Press, there is a chapter on the Cuba program, during which Castro officers tortured our prisoners. One of the torturers was identified by some of the prisoners as General Fernando Vecino Alegret, at present Castro's Minister of Higher Education.
In chapter 8 of his forthcoming book, General Rafael del Pino, former Deputy Chief of the Cuban Air Force, who defected in 1987, narrates how in 1983, after the Grenada invasion, Castro ordered him to prepare plans for bombing the Turkey Point Nuclear plant South of Miami. When asked why? Castro stated, " I want to do something that they will remember for the rest of their lives and, then, when we are gone, history will remind them that we were the only ones who made them pay dearly for their imperialistic arrogance around the world."
So, before we buy any offers of cooperation with Castro on anything, we better ponder the mindset behind the above events. And, there are dozens more available that confirm he is still pursuing "his destiny."
It is urgent that a thorough review be made of all our policies in relation to Cuba to cleanse them of any influence from Ana Belen Montes, Castro's DIA spy. And, we must recognize that a stable post-Castro Cuba must be based on satisfying the needs of four stakeholders: i) people within the regime willing to join a future of freedom; ii) Cuban dissidents and the present silent majority of opponents; iii) overseas Cubans; and, iv) the US. We are only one of the stakeholders.
Any attempt by the US to intervene to save the Castro brothers for the sake of continuity at the expense of the other stakeholders is bound to fail and will end in a historical disaster similar to the Bay of Pigs. Only through a Cuba prosperous and free for all, can we avoid a US intervention, mass migration and drug trafficking, the three main US policy goals pursued by these misguided military thinkers.
Georgie Anne Geyer - U.S.-CUBA MELODRAMA CONTINUES
WASHINGTON -- While all eyes have been focused obsessively on Afghanistan and the Middle East, a drama over Cuba has been unraveling that dwarfs the earlier melodramas of the U.S.-Cuba relationship.The story has spies, conspiracy and secrecy, undergirded by human perfidy and overlaid by the threat of revelations to international terrorists. But it also has the unexpected: It has leading U.S. generals, now officially retired, testifying for Cuba in one spy trial in Miami and then going to Havana to help provide a "soft landing" to the Castro brothers' younger generals so they could retain control after Fidel is gone. No, I have not taken leave of my senses (at least, any more than usual). Let me offer a few facts, which will illuminate the rest of this strange, pivotal tale.
On Sept. 21, 10 days after the bombings in New York and Washington, FBI agents suddenly appeared at the offices of the Defense Intelligence Agency, walked up to the Pentagon desk of Ana Belen Montes, and arrested her for "providing classified information about military exercises and other sensitive operations" -- to the Cuban government! Within a few hours, the 44-year-old Puerto Rican American, who has been working in clandestine services all her life (we thought, for us) as the top DIA analyst on Cuba, was sitting in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors claimed that she had for years "knowingly compromised national defense information and harmed the United States" (her motivation is not yet known). She could face the death penalty or life in prison.In fact, the FBI had planned a longer reconnaissance of the stern, reclusive analyst. They arrested her prematurely, fearing that she would send information to Havana, which Fidel Castro would then send on to his "friends" in countries such as Iran, Libya and Iraq.
The first chapter was written three years ago with the apprehensions and then the trials of the so-called "Wasp Network" in southern Florida. After several years of observation, 10 Cuban spies were arrested in the Miami area and went on trial in September 1998. It was discovered that one of the spies had provided the Cuban government with the home addresses of hundreds of military personnel stationed at Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Florida. This makes sense when one notes that Jane's Defense Weekly of London, the definitive source on most military matters, reported in its March 6, 1996, issue that, since the early '90s, Cuba had been training commandos in Vietnam for a raid against just such an installation and its personnel.At the trial, two retired American generals, Charles Wilhelm and Edward Atkeson, actually appeared in court as witnesses against the prosecution -- and for the Cubans. Gen. Wilhelm, who had been head of the U.S. Southern Command, testified confidently that he had ignored the repeated warnings of the FBI about these men and women because the Cubans could not possibly have penetrated the security provisions of his command! Somehow this did not convince the jury (from which Cuban-Americans were deliberately excluded), which found all 10 guilty.The generals then visited Havana for apparently cordial, even emotional, meetings with the Castro brothers. Indeed, Gen. Atkeson wrote in Army Magazine this past May about the meetings: "The Comandante en Jefe appeared in the doorway. The well-pressed, upscale, fatigue uniform set him off immediately from his bland escorts. He paused for a moment to survey his guests. Next was the former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Southern Command. Our host began to show more animation. ... There were smiles all around as the poignancy of the moment became clear."Later in the article, which until then reads much like a love letter, Gen. Atkeson does mention that Cuba is somewhat of a police state.
But that doesn't seem to have quenched the enthusiasm these U.S. military men had for a total dictator, for a man who still offers a warm home to such terrorist organizations as the Irish IRA, the Spanish ETA and the Colombian FARC. By all accounts, he also has developed substantial production capabilities for biological and chemical warfare. Why the sudden bonding? First, some of the military officers, most of whom rose to their positions during the Clinton administration, want to do business in Cuba. (Cuba is today one of the most heavily indebted countries in the world, but they never claimed to be economists!) Second, the 75-year-old Fidel Castro is busy planning and manipulating, in his customary Machiavellian style, for his "succession," or more truthfully "transition." And so he formed a think-tank, with the pretense that it is "nongovernmental." The "Center of Study of Defense Information" puts forward the idea that Cuba is no longer an enemy of the United States, and so the United States should support Raul Castro and the Cuban generals now to avoid problems later. It is no accident that, of the generals Fidel is apparently preparing to pass power to, 65 percent hail from the same Eastern part of Cuba as the Castros and are essentially brother Raul's loyal minions.In 1999, the Pentagon issued a ground-breaking intelligence assessment that declared Cuba no longer a threat to the U.N. militarily. Building upon that, our agreeable and business-minded generals pushed the idea that we should work with Cuba.
It fit in well with a concomitant idea drifting around parts of the U.S. Defense establishment: In order to avoid, after Fidel's death, chaos within Cuba and waves of immigration from Cuba, the optimum transition would be controlled by the generals, both politically -- and economically.Those were the ideas constantly pushed from within by busy, quiet, hard-working Ana Belen Montes.
Ernesto F. Betancourt
UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE - 10/04/01