you know that the Castro regime had an “attorney general” (that’s
part of what totalitarian regimes do: ape American and democratic
practices sham elections, etc.)? It does. And that “attorney
general,” Juan Escalona, had the following to say about the transfer
of al Qaeda prisoners to the American base at Guantanamo: “It’s
another provocation from the Americans. I hope 15 or 20 get out
and kill them.”
I love it when
Cuban officials talk that way so much more honest than the
propaganda ladled out to willing dupes. (Interesting question: Can
there be willing dupes? Probably not. There are outright
Castro apologists, then there are dupes.)
For years now, Yanqui entertainers, sports figures, and politicians
have trooped down to Havana, to hug and be hugged by the dictator
even as his victims writhe and cry out and rot in unseen
places. My fond hope is that one day there will be a general awakening,
and that these Americans will be ashamed. But if it hasn’t happened
by now, 43 years into the Castro nightmare, it probably never will.
After the publication
of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag
Archipelago, some people were embarrassed but not
all. After the publication of Armando Valladares’s Against
All Hope, some people were embarrassed but far from
all. G. B. Shaw’s admirers are a little embarrassed over the great
man’s love affair with the Bolsheviks. Charles Lindbergh’s admirers
are a little embarrassed over his fondness for the Third Reich.
Jane Fonda is a bit embarrassed, I believe, about her embrace of
the beasts of Hanoi. The admirers of John Kenneth Galbraith? Are
they a teeny bit embarrassed about his glee over Mao’s China? I
Castro fools (or knaves) take the cake. The other day, a group of
pols including Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter
flew down to Havana for a big soirée with the dictator. They
had in tow a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, Michael
Smerconish, all wide-eyed and impressed. The column
he produced is a classic in the genre of outrageous naïveté.
It has given Cuban democracy and human-rights advocates heartache
but then, they’re used to heartache.
I single out
Michael Smerconish and his column, not because they’re unusual
deserving of special opprobrium but because they’re so typical,
You’ll be happy
to know that “[Castro’s] laugh broke up the room.” “The conversation
was spellbinding.” “Castro was vibrant, animated, courteous [courteous!],
fully engaged, and unflinching in his views. He had an agenda and
a message to deliver to us. But no subject was off-limits. He was
the opposite of today’s sound-bite, blow-dried politicians.”
Oh, how it
must comfort Castro’s prisoners to know that their persecutor keeps
his hair natural!
here because the phenomenon is similar the infamous
words of Amb. Joseph Davies, about Joseph Stalin: “He gives the
impression of a strong mind which is composed and wise. His brown
eye is exceedingly kindly and gentle. A child would like to sit
in his lap, and a dog would sidle up to him.”)
all for anti-terrorism, of course. Writes Smerconish, “Castro said
the only difference he has with the Americans on terrorism is the
best way to eradicate the problem, adding that it is important to
attack it from a moral and ethical point of view, not the
bombing of innocent civilians.’”
I wonder if
Smerconish knows that Cuba is one of only seven regimes on the State
Department’s list of terror-sponsoring states, along with Iraq,
Iran, Syria, and the other lovelies. I wonder if he cares.
One of the
party had brought a little gift for Castro. Know what it was? A
New York Fire Department hat. Castro duly put the hat on
a perfect propaganda opportunity for him, handed to him by these
idiots “and in front of cameras for the world to see, Castro
for at least one moment looked no different from Rudy Giuliani.”
did press him on holding elections: After 43 years, isn’t it time
to have one? Castro parried, “You mean like you had in Florida?”
Michael Smerconish seems to have taken this as a great touché
In the course
of this mighty meeting of the minds, the dictator said, “How do
you define human rights? Is there any proof of torture in Cuba?
We don’t have much money, but we will give you all that we have
if you can prove anyone has been tortured here in the past 43 years.
There are no missing people in Cuba.”
In the face
of such lies and such evil, all one can do is . . . well, I’m not
Philadelphia guy is probably not a bad man. He’s probably just a
fool, a know-nothing, someone who thought it would be cool to meet
someone famous (although he is a journalist, and they’ve
given him a column). Yet his kind of gullibility has helped Castro
remain in power for over four decades. The great moral revulsion
in America against Castro will never come; any revulsion, at least
on the part of our elites, is directed at the exile community in
I have been
told a million times, “no one cares about Cuba.” Indeed, I titled
my piece for NR on this subject “Who Cares About Cuba?” (June
11, 2000). The other day, I received the following charming letter:
“I’ll save you some time: Cuba doesn’t matter. Cuba is a dead letter.
Nobody gives a sh** about Cuba. Nobody is going to give a sh** about
Yes, but a
few of us do not least the Cubans. “Who cares about the Jews?”
“Who cares about the Cubans?” Who cares about anybody who
is having his face kicked in by the boot of tyranny? The least we
can do, it seems, is not give aid and comfort to the tyrant, and
not cover for him. I’ve quoted it a hundred times, and will no doubt
quote it a hundred more. It comes from Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart,
who knows a thing or two about Cuban reality (and about the principles
of freedom as suggested by that first name): “For the life
of me, I just don’t know how Castro can seem cute after forty years
of torturing people.”
The other day, Bernard Lewis, the great Middle East scholar
and author of a magnificent piece in the December 17 NR
gave an interview to Brian Lamb, on C-SPAN. You noticed, he said,
those scenes of jubilation in Afghanistan, after the United States
took out the Taliban. Well, if the U.S. knocked off the regimes
in Iraq and Iran, he said, those scenes from Afghanistan would like
look funerals by comparison.
almost certainly right. I would very much like to see those scenes.
I trust you have read about the latest breathtaking operation by
the Israelis, locating, sneaking up on, and commandeering that ship
full of explosives bound, from Iran, for Yasser Arafat. The operation
was positively cinematic, or novelistic: Choppers go out into a
storm, the men throw rubber boats down into the churning sea, they
rappel down flimsy, swinging ladders, they silently scale the ship,
and they overwhelm the 14-man Palestinian crew without firing a
shot keeping 50 tons of matériel from the hands of
those who would destroy Israel.
Why do they
do this? Because they have to: The country is too small, and its
position is too perilous, for anything else. Necessity has made
the Jews of Israel such fighters, nothing else. Any people, which
wanted to survive, which determined to live despite all the nations
trying to kill it, would do it.
point I wish to make: Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who has long
apologized for Arafat or made excuses for him, angrily called this
moment the shipment of arms when Arafat was declaring a cease-fire
I love that. Arafat is always facing a watershed. We always
hear, “This is his moment of truth. It’s do-or-die. It’s put-up-or-shut-up.”
Then the next month comes, and we hear, “This is his moment of truth
. . .”
a real moment of truth, a real watershed. Arafat always manages
to get a pass. I, like many others, am, after these 40 years (about
as long as Castro), willing to take a chance on the next Palestinian
leadership. Let Arafat deal with a real watershed. We will see.
In Afghanistan, the men are having a particular problem: They can’t
find enough pants. Yes, there is a shortage of pants in that country,
and thousands of men are yearning to find and buy them. With the
end of the Taliban, they no longer have to wear traditional Islamic
dress; they are free to get back into pants (and recall that they
took advantage of the freedom to wear shorts on the soccer field
the very day after Kabul was liberated). The market will
have to get pants to Afghanistan in a hurry.
this: For women in the West, liberation meant the opportunity to
wear pants. For men in Afghanistan, liberation means the opportunity
to wear pants.
George F. Will had an interesting talk with, and wrote an
interesting column about, Al Sharpton. I wish to make a few
quick points about it.
to Will that Jesse Jackson had been “number two to Dukakis” in 1988.
That’s a fallacy I have long wished to correct. Jackson was the
last man in the race with Dukakis, it is true. But he wasn’t “number
two”: It’s just that the other Democratic candidates had dropped
out once it was clear that they couldn’t win. Jackson didn’t do
that, of course, because he wasn’t running to win, but running to
run he had nothing else to do, and the media attention was
mother’s milk. He was number two in the same way I could be number
two if I just hung around, heedless.
mentioned Sharpton’s participation in the Tawana Brawley hoax. As
part of that hoax, of course, Sharpton accused an innocent man named
Steven Pagones of raping Brawley (who was not raped by anyone, as
we soon knew). Pagones sued Sharpton for defamation, and, after
an excruciating ten years or so, he won. Sharpton was ordered to
pay damages but he refused to do so, citing poverty (despite
his fancy lifestyle). In time, rich supporters like Johnnie Cochrane
covered the bill, to free the Rev of the embarrassment and the obligation.
But Sharpton has always steadfastly refused to apologize to Pagones.
Sharpton, of course, is not a man. This didn’t stop Mayor Michael
Bloomberg from inviting him to his inauguration.
uttered a line that ought to go in a conservative Bartlett’s, if
there were one: “I never knew I was underprivileged until I went
to a sociology class at Brooklyn College.”
This is part
of Sharpton’s iniquity, which I’ve written about many times (see,
for example, “Power Dem,” NR, March 20, 2000): He’s charming.
A reader from Washington, D.C., writes, “Just something to share:
When I exited the Metro at Dupont Circle this morning, there was
a man at the top of the escalator with a coffee cup asking for change.
He said, Spare a little change? I lost my job and I won’t
be working anytime soon the president has already spent the
surplus.’” Obviously an Al Hunt reader.
Another reader comments on Walid Shater, the Secret Service agent
who hired a lawyer and called a press conference after he was kept
off an American Airlines flight: “Isn’t it rich that a member of
the Secret Service is the biggest squawker about profiling when
the agency he works for assumes that everyone is out to get
the president and treats us all like common criminals all the time?”
Another reader makes the following, extremely interesting point:
“You have noticed the proliferation of rages’: A correspondent
of yours cited air rage,’ and now we have rink rage,’
to refer to hockey incidents. Is there no end to this phenomenon’?
I am a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology, and am aware of
no syndrome that compels one to act in a violent, boorish, or hostile
manner as a result of high altitude, ice, or any other such factor.
I think the use of these terms subtly removes the burden of responsibility
from individuals and may prove detrimental in the future. Just a
And finally, please hear from Dave Taggart, a retired infantry captain.
In a recent column, I wrote about Reagan’s 1986 raid on Libya after
Qaddafi-ite terrorism, including an attack on a West Berlin discotheque
called La Belle, where two were killed and over 200 wounded:
commanding an infantry company in Berlin in 1986. I had five soldiers
wounded in the La Belle disco bombing. My daughter spent a month
afterwards having a gun Jeep’ escort her school bus to kindergarten.
we bombed the Libyans in retaliation, the French would not let the
F-111s overfly their airspace, making for a long and dangerous flight
for the pilots, flying out of England. For weeks afterwards, every
French officer in Berlin apologized for this every time they met
an American officer, any American officer. They even tried to do
it in English. Not the French we were used to. They were so embarrassed.
I hoped then I’d never have to apologize for the USA.
the media never brought out was the racist nature of the Libyans’
target selection. They wanted to bomb a nightclub frequented by
Americans. In Germany, the obvious choices were either discos (frequented
by black GIs) or cowboy bars (lots of Germans have always been into
the vild vest’). Had they bombed a cowboy bar, lots of Germans
would have been hurt or killed, and there would have been a huge
backlash. By targeting the La Belle disco, they ensured that the
main targets would be black American GIs, foreigners, and German
girls who dated the same (not popular in Germany).”