February 17, 2009

Dialogue with Cuba

An upcoming book by Peter Kornbluh and William LeoGrande examines efforts by prior U.S. Administrations to secretly establish a formal dialogue with Cuba. “Talking With Fidel: The Untold Story of Dialogue Between the United States and Cuba,” will focus on declassified memos and letters, some of which are now available at the National Security Archive web site.

While some (think of Don Quixote and his faithful companion Sancho Panza) continue to insist on a policy of hostility against the so-called “Generals of the July 26 Movement,” the forward motion of peace and co-existence that should exist between the two nations is clearly on the rise. It seems that whenever Americans encounter their colonial attitude towards Cuba and Latin America (which isn’t often enough) they don’t like how history portrays them. Now the possibility of doing the right thing arises, and we must encourage our new president to take the proper steps.

A memo written over thirty years ago (1975), by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Latin America Harry Shlaudeman to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, outlines a basic map for peace, suggesting that “we reestablish diplomatic and consular relations as part of an initial bargain including a partial lifting of the ‘blockade’ and mutual commitments on non-intervention and negotiations to settle claims.”

The trend in U.S. demands of Cuba has been for the island to make a series of concessions and agreements which include removing the Castro brothers, after which we would grant diplomatic relations.

The memo clearly shows that this was not the trend for similar negotiations involving Czechoslovakia and East Germany. It also states that “the U.S. would agree to discuss the status of Guantánamo at some time in the future.”

Guantánamo came under U.S. control at the beginning of the Spanish-American War in 1898, and became an official Navy base after a deal with the first U.S.-approved Cuban government in 1903. With all the current talk of “closing Guantánamo,” we should also be talking about “getting out of Guantánamo” altogether. Elsewhere in the memo, Shlaudeman asserts that “the base is now more of a burden than a blessing to the Navy.” Under President Bush, Guantánamo became a living symbol of all the things modern man would rather forget about his colonial past.

Now that we’ve endured and seen the end of what was possibly the worst presidency in modern times, it’s time to put our colonial inclinations to rest and take a growthful step forward.

Imagine all the people sharing all the world.