It was shortly after Japan bombed us into the war in 1941. I was a pre-teenager and the first to see the morning paper which carried the story that American planes had sunk a Japanese destroyer, killing 2,000 Japanese sailors. “Great news!” I shouted as I barged into my father’s room. “We killed two thousand Japs!”
“I know what you mean, son,” my father said, “But remember, it’s never good news when people die.” I thought of that philosophical offering when word arrived of the death of Fidel Castro. So let’s set him aside as a 90-year-old piece of human biology and rejoice together that a dictator has dictated his final orders for the execution of political foes, the torture of freedom-lovers, the imprisonment of those Cubans who don’t want to live in Communist Cuba and the repression of human rights to a degree rarely seen in this hemisphere. His poison pen will dictate no more.
Castro may resemble Santa Claus only in facial hair, but by dying he gave a big present to all those Americans too opaque to know the difference between our outgoing president and our president-elect. President Obama’s statement upon Fidel’s passing could have been written about a normal leader of a normal country. He offered condolences to the people of Cuba for the loss of a leader who “served his people for over half a century.” Whaddaya know! “Adolf Hitler served the German people for only 12 years!”
Donald Trump decried this monster dictator who murdered, lied, stole and shredded human rights like an angry coyote who’d found a baby kitten. Many Americans will learn for the very first time how different a nation America is about to become.
As a young journalist in the late 1950s, I could have been brought up on charges of gun-running for Fidel Castro. I was the producer of a New York radio talk show that considered the Cuban ruler whom Castro overthrew, Fulgencio Batista, as belonging to the Hitler-Mussolini-Stalin-Mao class of tyrants. All of us were for Castro. We interviewed many Cuban pro-Castro dissidents and begged the listeners to send money to Fidel Castro’s “Twenty-Sixth of July Movement” (the name came from Castro’s first “revolutionary” battle, when he attacked the Cuban Army barracks at Santiago de Cuba on that date in 1953). Back then, Castro’s movement promised widespread reform, including distribution of land to peasants and honest elections!
One night I went to the Paris Hotel in New York to escort a pro-Castro Cuban official to the broadcast. Castro chose this man to be his first “president” of Cuba once Batista were unseated. “You will win this revolution,” I told him as our cab rolled from the hotel to the broadcast studio. “There will be hundreds of foreign newspeople attending your first news conference. You will see me in the crowd. I ask you now to remember me and have your aides bring me into your office for an exclusive interview.”
And that’s exactly the way it came to pass. Castro’s first president, Manuel Urrutia from Yaguajay, pointed to me and welcomed me into his office and gave me my first real “scoop”! Why did Castro choose Urrutia as his “president”? Fidel had been arrested a few years earlier on treason charges. Judge Urrutia threw the case out, and Castro went free.
Batista was no Hitler, Stalin, Mao or anything near. He was a typical Latin American “strongman.” Real dictators don’t let armed revolutionaries go free.
Urrutia didn’t last long as president. But until he realized Fidel’s true intentions and became one of his opponents, Urrutia was sucker enough to believe what the rest of us believed – namely, that Fidel wanted to establish a democracy in Cuba and then train, aid and abet copycat revolutions in every single Latin American dictatorship. It was convincing. What a great dream! Castro would mobilize the youth of all the Americas and become the new “Simon Bolivar.” The next target after Cuba was to be the Dominican Republic run by Rafael Trujillo.
What happened to that dream? Castro had a different one. His true aim the whole time was to bring communism big-time to the Americas, and the celebratory cup I sip from now is not to rejoice over Fidel Castro’s physical departure. It’s to celebrate the bankruptcy of his dream. Venezuela is the latest country to fall into the Castro scam. I count 39 countries that have tried communist/socialist economies. All have failed. If you had a cat that tore up 39 sofas, would you provide sofa number 40 upon which he could cavort?
Castro may right now be saying to Abraham Lincoln [Go along with me here for a moment and presume – however unlikely – that both men are spending eternity in the same place!], “Abe, I may not have converted the Americas to communism, but I sure played havoc with that old chestnut of yours about fooling some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time. I think, Abe, I’ve proved that if you have enough liberals in the right places, mainly the media, you can sure-as-hell fool most of the people most of the time!
“And, Abe, if you need convincing, look at that wimp Justin Trudeau in Canada, who was even more effusive in his praise of me than Obama was.”
Castro leaves Cuba 100 percent Marx – 50 percent Karl and 50 percent Groucho!
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