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Issue #1585      March 13, 2013

Re Culture and Life – “Dumb and Dumber”

Recently on a flight to Australia following a four week visit to Cuba where I participated in the Southern Cross Brigade, I had the opportunity to watch the Steven Spielberg directed film, Lincoln.

The movie may have dwelt on noble sentiments such as 13th Amendment to the US Constitution to ensure that slavery was abolished in all American states. And while the movie showed the fortitude and sacrifices which the 16th president of the US expended to achieve these aims, it all becomes a touch sanctimonious when one considers that less than 40 years later it tried to screw over the Cuban people who had essentially and valiantly been fighting for the same thing – to be independent from a colonial power, to free their slaves and become an independent republic.

In the late 1890s Cuba was engaged in a battle of independence with its then colonial masters Spain and at the time it looked like Cuba could win this war and gain its independence. In the book, “Guantánamo – why the illegal US base should be returned to Cuba”, Fidel Castro argues that the US interest in going to war against Spain to liberate Cuba, “was simply an expression of its determination to keep the island from becoming independent and to sweep Spain out of the Caribbean and seize that area of influence for itself. On February 15, 1898, the blowing up of the US battleship the Maine was engineered as a pretext to intervene in the war.”

Earlier on October 10, 1868, the lawyer and landowner from Bayamo in Granma province in Cuba’s east, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, had freed his slaves and asked them to join him in a war of independence against Spain. Though the struggle lasted ten years and was eventually won by the Spanish it did achieve freedom for some slaves and lit a long burning fuse that was to ignite next in the 1890s led by Cuba’s most luminary hero, Jose Marti.

The disrespect and utter contempt shown towards Cuba after the US won the war against Spain was shown in the manner in which they set up the Cuban state on their terms.

Firstly by setting up the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898, which set up the conditions of the surrender of Spain to the US and ignored the sovereign wishes of the Cuban people.

Secondly, the US established the Platt Amendment to ensure that the US could meddle in the affairs of the island so that the national security, commerce and health of the US were guaranteed.

Thirdly it established the Agreement on Coaling and Naval Stations to ensure a military presence on the island so that it had a permanent presence on the island. This presence has remained ever since through the 117 square kilometre excision of Cuban territory to create the notorious US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay.

Fourthly, in this century the US has used the naval base at Guantánamo Bay to establish a prison camp to hold prisoners in their so called “war on terror” and use torture and interrogation techniques that would not be tolerated by human rights monitors in their own mainland USA.

As I watched the film and how it tried to portray the noble and democratic ambitions of Lincoln, and any other number of movies which seek to glorify the moral and democratic virtues of President Abraham Lincoln, I was struck by how captivated the US state and its governments have become by vested interests.

In Lincoln’s day capitalism was in its ascendant phase and needed cheap labour to fuel its growth.

Today and after 50 years of maintaining an economic and financial blockade against Cuba, the US government still shows a lack of respect to Cuba and its people and system of government. Movies such as Lincoln, Birth of a Nation and Pearl Harbour ring hollow in such a scheme of things.   

Next article – Fracking: climate bomb is ticking

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