Anti-Empire Notes

The Cuban Punching Bag


The Committee to Protect Journalists, located in New York, calls itself "An Independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide". In December it issued a report that said that "China, Cuba, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are the world's leading jailers of journalists in 2005".

On January 7 I sent them the following email:

"Dear People,

"I have a question concerning your report on imprisoned journalists. You write that you consider journalists imprisoned when governments deprive them of their liberty because of their work. This implies that they've been imprisoned because of WHAT THEY'VE WRITTEN PER SE. You show Cuba with 24. And I would question whether your criterion applies to the Cuban cases. The arrests of these persons in Cuba had nothing to do with them being journalists, or even being dissidents, per se, but had everything to do with their very close, indeed intimate, political and financial connections to American government officials.

"The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer. During the period of the Cuban revolution, the United States and anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the US have inflicted upon Cuba damage greater than what happened in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. In 1999, Cuba filed a suit against the United States for $181.1 billion in compensation for victims of (at that time) forty years of aggression. The suit accused Washington policies of being responsible for the death of 3,478 Cubans and wounding or disabling 2,099 others.

"Would the US ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with known leaders of that organization inside the United States? Would it matter if these American dissidents claimed to be journalists? In the past few years, the American government has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba had with its dissidents' ties to the United States.

"Moreover, most of the arrested Cubans can hardly be called journalists. Their only published works have appeared on websites maintained by agencies of the United States."

On February 10, having received no reply, I sent another email referring them to my January 7 letter. As of March 21 I still have not received a reply. In the United States one does not have to defend attacking Cuba for any reason. You just do it, and if by some oddball chance, some oddball person asks you to defend what you've said ... Who cares? The sports section of the Washington Post today brings another mindless knee-reflex attack. Alfonso Soriano, the Washington National's new player, has refused to play left field, insisting on his regular second-base position. "Imagine," writes Thomas Boswell, "Soriano refusing to change positions if he played for the Cuban team in the WBC title game. Fidel Castro might have disposed of the body before game time."

Incidentally, it might also be noted that amongst America's prison population of more than two million, there are probably at least a few hundred who have practiced journalism at one time or other, in one manner or other.

September 11, 2001

Many readers have asked me why I haven't expressed any opinion about the events of that infamous day. The reason is that I preferred to not get entangled in all the complexity and controversy, the arguments and hard feelings, without any clear answers. But, very briefly, here goes.

Almost all of those who have asked me this believe that it was all planned and carried out by US government officials. I don't think so. Not that I would put it past the imperial mafia morally. I just think the complications would have made it next to impossible to stage with such "success", and without making it obvious to virtually everyone. I think what's more likely is that the government knew that some terrorist act involving aircraft was being planned and they let it happen so as to make use of it politically, or they watched the progress of the planning to see where it would lead, and perhaps capture other plotters, and they waited too long, which is apparently what happened in the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. There is an impressive body of evidence indicating that various government officials had knowledge of the broad outline of the 2001 planned deed, if not every detail.

I also think that some of the questions raised by 9-11 researchers are not very impressive. Like no one has given me a good explanation as to why the government would want to destroy building 7. And the fact that Bush quietly spent time in a class with young students after hearing about the first plane -- If it was being staged he would have reacted in a different way. Or that several of the hijackers turned up "alive" in the Middle East. Why couldn't their identity have been stolen? And more things like that.

There are numerous questions about the official version -- which leaves the government completely innocent, albeit incompetent -- that make it very difficult to take the story at face value, but one doesn't therefore have to jump to the other extreme of a government operation.

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World's Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.