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Coziness with Cuba Places the United States at Risk

By: John Suarez - May 29, 2015, 6:15 pm

EspañolToday, the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it with North Korea, removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror, and ignored the ongoing terrorist nature of the Castro dictatorship. The regime in Cuba has a long history of sponsoring and training terrorism that the Obama administration has sought to minimize and ignore, in its drive to normalize relations with the regime.

There is clear evidence that the Castro regime is linked to drug trafficking and engaged in the smuggling of weapons to an outlaw regime (North Korea in July 15, 2013) and to terrorist guerrilla (Colombia February 28, 2015). In a previous post, I provided my top-10 reasons why Cuba should have remained on the list.

This is the latest example of the White House failing to communicate accurately the threats and dangers that exist in the world to US Americans, and it has been a profound disservice to the republic. Unfortunately, this pattern has been an ongoing one since the Clinton presidency.

A recent public discussion on US-Cuba policy at Florida International University revealed one reason why.  On February 5, 2015Frank Mora was confronted by the criticism that the Obama administration had only met with those who agreed with the president, and he responded that the White House wasn’t going to meet with critics to formulate policy.

This approach of only meeting with those who agree with you sounded familiar, and it was. Jim Wallis of Sojourners described President George W. Bush in a similar manner: “He doesn’t want to hear from anyone who doubts him.”

However, the similarity did not end there. In a October 17, 2004 article in the New York Times Magazine, Ron Suskind quoted a Bush administration official:

That’s not the way the world really works anymore … We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

The disaster in Iraq was predictable and indeed voices on the right outlined what was going to happen and were declared “unpatriotic” for their troubles.

The above statement, sadly not limited to the Bush administration, is a mark of hubris. Ignoring realities on the ground — in the belief that a new policy can change existing realities, and without taking into account the facts — is a recipe for failure.

When critics of Barack Obama’s policy pointed out that the swapping of Alan Gross for Cuban spies, who have taken part in state terrorism, would encourage other countries to repeat the practice of holding US hostages, the response was predictable.

The plight of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, being held hostage by the Iranian regime and placed on a show trial, is following the pattern laid out in Cuba by the Castro regime’s handling of Alan Gross. Read “Jason Rezaian Trial in Iran May Be More About Leverage Than Justice.”

Taking Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism will provide the dictatorship with more resources and greater international legitimacy to advance its agenda. That includes undermining democracies, as has been the case in Venezuela, and engaging with all sorts of nefarious regimes and transnational actors. As was seen in the case of North Korea, this did not improve relations but made the regime more aggressive.

Ignoring or pretending a threat does not exist, because it is perceived as unimportant, is a mistake.

When Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda declared war on August 23, 1996, the president of the United States did not make a big deal out of it. Nor was much public attention paid when Al Qaeda, on February 23, 1998, stated that Muslims should kill US Americans, including civilians, anywhere in the world where they can be found.

Although the information was available on a State Department Fact Sheet, the Clinton administration in its public statements referred to Al Qaeda as a terrorist threat overseas — ignoring the above declarations of war when communicating with the American public. This is part of the reason that US Americans were caught by surprise on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers and Pentagon were attacked. That the Clinton Foundation was taking funds from countries that bankrolled Al Qaeda raises disturbing questions.

The belief that the United States is a great power and need not concern itself with small players like Cuba or North Korea is a recipe for disaster. It was that arrogance that cost 3,000 lives on September 11, 2001, and many more afterwards over the next 14 years of war and terrorism. Let us pray that the decision to engage this toxic regime and remove it from the list of state sponsors of terrorism does not end in tears.

John Suarez John Suarez

John Suarez is a human rights activist who has spoken before the United Nations Human Rights Council on several occasions. He is a specialist on the human rights situation in Cuba. John hosts the blog Notes From the Cuban Exile Quarter. Follow him on Twitter @johnjsuarez.