30 November 2000 Edition
New in print: Cuba in fact and fiction
By Brendan DuBois.
The Cuban Exile Movement
Hernando Calvo and Katlijn Declercq
By Brendan DuBois.
The Cuban Exile Movement
Hernando Calvo and Katlijn Declercq
Remembering where I was when I heard that JFK had been shot is one of my earliest memories. I was five. I was sitting in our living room playing on the floor when the old 10'' B&W telly (which was the wonder of our street) turned everyone's head with a news flash. The first report said, ``President Kennedy has been shot in the head''. The room was full of my extended family on my mother's side, granddad, grannie, mum, aunt and uncles. They were having a ``night'' and I was allowed up. The room went silent. The next thing - it seems like it was about five or ten minutes - there was another news flash. ``President Kennedy is dead''. It was the first time I had seen a man cry. My grannie's sister's husband. He was probably in his 50s at the time. He was bald and to me he was absolutely ancient and huge - as adult as adult could be. He cried. I was five.
What plots hasn't the United States hatched to bring to its knees that hard-working, rum-drinking, dance-loving nation of men and women who express their solidarity in deeds, not words?
It would have been a few years later the Cuban missile crisis was mentioned on the TV and I asked my grandfather what this was about. I knew he would know-he knew everything as far as I was concerned. ``Oh son, that was when the world nearly ended, but Kennedy stood up to the Russians - they gave in -they had to because they were dealing with an Irishman!'' That simple affection for JFK and his memory would have been mirrored in many Irish houses both here and around the Irish Diaspora. No good house was complete without the JFK iconic porcelain plate in the front room.
This week, I read two books about Kennedy and Cuba, one fiction, one fact. The first was a finely crafted thriller. I bought it in the bus station for the strapline over the title ``Everyone remembers where they were the day President Kennedy tried to kill them''. Book bought. I read it all the way from Dublin to Donegal. I finally put down Brendan DuBois's brilliant thriller at 3am the next morning. It is set in 1972. In this ``what if'' historical thriller, there WAS a nuclear exchange between Russia and the USA over Cuba in 1962. The war cripples America and totally destroys Russia. The USA is placed under martial law with an ``Oversight Officer'' in every newspaper office to make sure that in the land of the free the press isn't.
The central character - Carl Landry - is a reporter with the Boston Globe - a once courageous paper that has become tame and meek under the scrutiny of government censors. Landry is a loner who won't conform. He is also easily the paper's best player - if given a free role. He is sent to cover the police investigation of a routine murder of a loner in bedsit land. He finds more, but the editor spikes his piece. Landry's ex-military background means that he knows the reality of the aftermath of the Cuban War. He reckons his editor is a good guy, if he would only stand up to the censor across the newsroom. Landry's personal life is a wasteland, but he is a junkie for a pretty face. He happily stumbles into a world of complications for a heart-stoppingly beautiful woman from another country who he meets in Boston.
Those who fought in the Cuban war for the US often end up street people - a despised underclass. Landry himself does what he can to look out for ``vets''. The once arrogant superpower is, economicall, on its knees. The USA has become dependent on British charity. The Brits keep US cities like Boston going with aid, but beware Brits bearing gifts! The Westminster elite, keen to re-establish the British Empire, conspires with the USA's military junta. The Brit Paras assemble in Canada for airborne invasion of the Big Apple to consolidate the hold of the American Junta and carry out an Anscluss of America into a re-formed British Empire.
Manhattan is a no go area run by Provo New Yorkers from their subway soviet. A central belief of many of America's dissidents is that JFK survived the war and didn't die in the White House. I won't spoil your read of this book by revealing anymore. DuBois makes the story whoosh along like an ICBM on its way to Armageddon. If you enjoy the type of thriller that goes back in history and changes a decisive event and then spins a tale on the basis of that change then you'll love this.
The other book I read about America's troublesome socialist backyard was paperback investigative journalism of the highest order. The role of the Cuban exile movement based in Miami has been well documented - specifically regarding the Kennedy assassination. The trial of Clay Shaw in New Orleans in 1969 by District Attorney Jim Garrison (upon which Oliver Stone's movie ``JFK'' was based) alleged that Cuban exiles were deeply involved with the CIA and they had targeted Kennedy as a problem after the Bay of Pigs debacle.
Calvo and Declercq's book is sub-titled ``Dissidents or Mercenaries?'' It is clear that the authors favour the latter description of this pseudo-political underworld, which inhabits Miami and the Keys. With forensic precision, they lift the lid on the nature of this ``community'' and its relationship with the American state. It examines the links between prominent Cuban exile groups and their involvement in terrorist activities against the Cuban people. The book also investigates these groups' track records of repression and intimidation against Cubans in the USA who do not agree with the Exile groups. It is glaringly clear that the Cuban Exile movement have a similar relationship with the American ``intelligence community'' that the Contras of Nicaragua had during the Reagan years.
In the final chapter the authors remind us: ``For almost 40 years, a small country without any great strategic resources had refused to yield, to be humilated, to get on its knees. Alone it was resisting. Its name was Cuba. What plots hasn't the United States hatched to bring to its knees that hard-working, rum-drinking, dance-loving nation of men and women who express their solidarity in deeds, not words?'' While compiling the book, prominent Catholic theologian Frei Betto sent the authors a letter. They reproduce part of it and as an explanation of why Irish republicans should support the regime in Cuba, it won't be bettered: ``A society is bad if it doesn't protect the lives of all its people. Thus Cuban society is good in the light of Christian faith and of the criteria of the Gospels, because it is the only one in Latin America that protects the lives of its people. Cuba constitutes a great threat to the United States, because it has shown the way of life to all the exploited in the Third World. With Europe as acolyte, the United States continues to impose the policy of death all over the world. Once a US journalist asked me why Cuba didn't have democracy and I replied `Do you know of any democratic countries?' He said `Yes, my country'. And I asked him, `How many millionaires are there in the United States and how many in Cuba? How many poor people lacking food, clothing and housing are there in the United States and how many in Cuba? How many blacks are discriminated against or shot down by police in the United Sates and how many in Cuba? How many children don't receive medical care or education in the United States, and how many in Cuba?' `Then' I asked him `in which of the two is there more democracy? For me, there's only one reply: `in Cuba'.''
If you come across anyone who thinks that the anti-Castro Cubans in Miami are anything other than the lumpen foot soldiers of US imperialism, then shove this book under their nose.
BY MICK DERRIG