Cuba Journal #2

Some readers wanted more on Cuba in the December Blog. Okay. What is critical to understand is that there is no separating Cuba, peace, and anti-imperialism. Thus the connections to Syria, the media “terrorizing” our people, the imperative to stop any and all military intervention in the Middle East and MLK Day. Here’s more.

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No sprawl. That was the first impression I had, as the U.S. delegation to the World Peace Council meeting and Foreign Military Bases Conference made its way for hundreds of miles by bus from Guantanamo to Havana. What a relief! We emerged out of urban areas to verdant hills, mountains in some cases, agricultural areas, and forests. In particular, surrounding Guantanamo are three large national parks and seven protected areas. The largest park is named after famed German explorer, Alexander von Humboldt.

Alejandro de Humboldt National Park is the largest in the Caribbean at 69,341 ha or 171,272 acres of forested, mountain and ocean ecosystem. How big is that? Central Park in NYC is 843 acres. Cuba’s largest river, the Toa, rises in the mountains here and its waters are teeming with biodiversity as is the area generally. The unique toxicity of some underlying rocks led to many endemic (evolved here and found only here) flora and fauna. This is where the controversial Ivory Billed Woodpecker was spotted.

All this raises an interesting question. Why would socialist Cuba honor an 18th-19th century German naturalist? Von Humboldt visited the Island in 1800-01. While he falls into the explorer category that we associate with some of the worst transgressions against Native Americans, it is a good lesson in that there is no “one size fits all” here.

In Cuba, Humboldt noted that the Spanish colonizers stripped the forests for sugar plantations, which rapidly replaced nutritious crops. He saw it leading to dependency, poverty and injustice. He reserved special venom for slavery. In his Personal Narrative, he described a slave market where slave owners examined the slaves’ teeth, “ . . . forcing open their mouths as we do those of horses.”

Along with his anti-colony, anti-slavery views, Humboldt was a dedicated naturalist/scientist who took a holistic approach to the environment and people. He noted that where there was more human suffering, there was also devastation of the environment. Humboldt was a considerable influence on Charles Darwin. He told Darwin at the one epic meeting they had, “You write a book so someone can write a better one.” The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism by Aaron Sachs

One benefit of the peace conferences in Cuba was updates from around the world. Some countries are following the bad example of Israel and the USA and building “walls” to keep people out. With the election of a progressive woman and communist in Nepal to its presidency, India is closing its border with Nepal. India is also closing its border with Bangladesh fearing climate migrants from rising sea-waters there. Ugh.

Climate and war migrants are coming to the USA. It will take awhile for them to reach our shores because of the stringent criteria now. How will they be greeted? The reaction of some to the events in San Bernardino, California was not good. Frenzied, reactionary Presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) has added venom to the mix. The Portuguese Delegate to the World Peace Council (WPC) Conference pointed out that the negative portrayals of those desperate to escape deteriorating conditions in their home countries due to war/climate change are being used to fan the flames of racism and xenophobia. It will take much work and vigilance in our communities to see that all are welcomed.

The Foreign Military Bases Conference that followed the WPC gathering was a real eye-opener. The Cuban peace group held an art contest for posters to represent our conference. They lined the walls of our meeting rooms. The below poster was selected to advertise and represent the Foreign Military Bases Conference.

About ten countries have an average of two military bases outside their borders. Unfortunately, the USA is the leader of the pack. The Japanese delegate reported that there were 131 US bases in Japan alone. Further pressure from the Obama Administration has led Japan to “reinterpret” article nine of its constitution enacted after WWII. That law prevented Japan from using military force outside its borders. It’s being scrapped. Dangerous stuff.

An Australian delegate and former railroad worker, who lives in Cuba, reported that there are 300 U.S. military bases in the Pacific. He reported there were 20 joint military facilities in Australia with the ‘joint” mostly a euphemism. They are under USA command. Later others mentioned that the resistance to these occupations was not limited to Okinawa. The fierce resistance of the people of Jeju Island in South Korea was highlighted.

These moves by the USA administration and Japan appear to be part of the military arm of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP). Much of it seems to be encircling China with military bases as NATO, with the USA its largest component, is encircling Russia in Europe.

Thomas Friedman, NYTimes writer and ideologue of the fossil fuel industry and militarization, summed up this direction best in 1999. “The hidden hand of the market will not work without a hidden fist” (of the military). So, according to Friedman, nuclear threats, occupations, and war should be accepted not only in the USA but by the world. No thanks. But what to do?

We can get direction from none other than Martin Luther King. In the second paragraph of his famous Riverside Church speech, he refers to the prophetic “words” of the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam and “the time has come to break the silence.”

So it is time to “break the silence” as Martin Luther King advised us in 1967 addressing the U.S. War in Vietnam. We must “move on” to oppose the so-called war on terror. War has not been the solution to individual terrorism. While criminal elements must be brought to justice, the 90% civilian casualty rate alone is good reason to oppose the state terror of NATO and the U.S. The bombing must stop.

American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr: A Time to Break …

 

What better day to bring this message forth than MLK day or week starting on Monday, January 18th, 2016.

 

Note – In my last blog, I mentioned that the Palestinian delegate to the conferences lives in Latin America. I was wrong. The other Palestinian attending the conferences, who was actually the official delegate, resides in the West Bank.