By J Eskovitchl for Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
A chorus of reaction, singing from imperialism’s hymn sheet
On 1 May 2012, a week-long joint training seminar took place in Miami for members of the Cuban and Syrian ‘armed opposition’. A statement was signed which read,
‘the Cuban Resistance and Syrian Revolution jointly agree: to coordinate all of our political, diplomatic, logistic and humanitarian efforts in pursuit of the liberation of Cuba and Syria; hence constituting a United Front of Freedom and Democracy; therefore, the Cuban Resistance and the Syrian Revolution jointly declare: the people want the overthrow of the dictatorial regimes of Assad and Castro.’
On 1 June, Cuba joined Russia and China in voting against a UN Resolution condemning Syria and aimed at ratcheting up the pressure for western military intervention and forced regime change.
Violence in Syria continues to spiral in the wake of the Houla massacre and the killing of over 80 government troops by rebels over the weekend of 2-3 June. Imperialism, through NATO and the reactionary Gulf Cooperation Council, which is led by the Saudi and Qatari dictatorships, continues to flood arms and hundreds of millions of dollars to the ‘Free Syrian Army’. British and other foreign intelligence services train fighters in camps in Turkey while sanctions imposed by the US and EU cripple the Syrian people as the government can no longer subsidise bread and unemployment rises. In this context, the conference of the ‘oppositions’ of Cuba and Syria offers a salutary example of the United States’ strategy of destabilisation, perfected over decades of subversion, terror, black operations and military invasion against regimes which fail to fully comply with imperialism’s demands.
Taking place under the auspices of the CIA, in the midst of Miami’s fanatical right-wing Cuban exile community, the conference offered a roll call of reactionaries and corruption. ‘This offers an extraordinary opportunity: a united front bringing the peoples of Syria and Cuba together to fight for freedom and democracy,’ stated Silvia Iriondo, the president of Mothers and Women Against Repression (MAR por Cuba) and a signatory of the conference’s statement.
Just what this conception entails can be seen in Iriondo’s support for the fascistic military dictatorship of Roberto Micheletti in Honduras, which overthrew the democratic and ALBA-aligned government of Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Iriondo used MAR por Cuba to collect financial donations for the coup, as she wanted Honduras to ‘avoid the same fate as Cuba’ and stated that Micheletti was defending democracy. In November of that year she was one of the ‘observers’ who undertook the filthy task of legitimising the dictatorship’s general elections. Alongside her were the leader of the neo-fascist UnoAmerica organisation, the former rightist President of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, who engaged in murder and torture against the popular movements in 2001, and the former President of El Salvador in the 1980s during the years of CIA-backed death squads. Iriondo’s organisation receives millions of dollars from the US State Department through the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Between 2001 and 2008, under President Bush, USAID and other government agencies dedicated to capitalist restoration in Cuba channeled $166 million worth of funding; the Obama administration allocated $60 million to this end from 2009 to 2011.
Another of the joint statement’s signatories is Horacio Garcia, of the Council for the Freedom of Cuba (CLC), another USAID-funded group. A former director of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF). Garcia was proclaimed by the notorious CIA-trained terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, responsible for the bombing of a civilian Cuban airliner in 1976, as one of the major ‘financiers’ of his activities. The CANF was created by Ronald Reagan as a ‘respectable’ Cuban-American lobby and was a powerful instigator of the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts which tightened the US blockade on Cuba and aimed to starve the island into submission. Further to that, it operated a covert paramilitary arm which organised assassination attempts on Fidel Castro and planned further terrorist atrocities.
Not long after representatives of the Syrian uprising were aligning themselves with such ‘democratic’ forces in Cuba, a leading member of the Syrian National Council, Bassma Kodmani, was attending the Bilderberg 2012 conference – a shadowy meeting of the most privileged members of the industrial, security and political elites of the western world. One can only guess, but it is not unreasonable to assume that discussions on future intervention in Syria, and a lucrative division of the spoils in such an event were never far from conversation.
The ‘Axis of Evil’
Syria and Cuba were both included in the ‘Axis of Evil’ proclaimed by then Under-Secretary of State, John Bolton, in May 2002. Iraq and Libya, other members of the ‘Axis’, have so far this decade been drowned in blood, ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ visited upon them in the form of occupation, massacres and destruction. Yet all these nations have suffered a history of imperialist interference going back much farther, which enables us to see the real nature of the conflicts today.
In 1957, President Eisenhower and Britain’s Labour Prime Minister Harold MacMillan drew up plans for joint action between the CIA and SIS (forerunner to MI6) to overthrow Syria’s independent regime, increasingly anti-Western and pro-Soviet and ruled by an alliance of the Ba’ath party and the Communist party. Syria also maintained control over one of the key oil pipelines in the Middle East, connecting pro-western Iraq’s oilfields to Turkey. ‘Once a political decision is reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS will attempt, to mount minor sabotage and coup de main incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals.’ The plan further called for the creation of an atmosphere of fear, and the staging of frontier incidents and border clashes to provide a pretext for Iraqi and Jordanian intervention, with the CIA and SIS using their ‘capabilities in both the psychological and action fields to augment tension.’ Free Syria Committees were to be funded and the arming of ‘political factions with paramilitary or other actionists capabilities’ within Syria, and the Muslim Brotherhood to be stirred up in Damascus. The preferred outcome was the overthrow of the Syrian government and its replacement with a firmly pro-imperialist regime which ‘would probably need to rely first upon repressive measures and arbitrary exercise of power.’
At the same time as this plan of imperialist subversion was being hatched, across the Atlantic the popular forces of the Cuban revolution were gathering, and within two years would achieve a stunning victory over the brutal dictatorship of the US-backed Fulgencio Batista, coming to power on 1 January 1959. By March of that year, the National Security Council began considering methods of regime change and in May, the CIA began to arm guerrillas inside Cuba. CIA chief Allen Dulles, who had travelled to Britain to discuss plans for regime change in Syria, authorised an escalation in terrorist violence and bombing, while so-called ‘doves’ such as Arthur Schlesinger suggested the staging of ‘black operations’ in Haiti, in which Cuba would appear as an aggressor, in order to engineer the diplomatic cover for full-scale invasion.
Similar plans had been hatched in Eisenhower’s 1957 plan for Syria, and in March 1960 he developed a plan for the overthrow of Fidel Castro in favour of a regime ‘more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the US’. The plan included support for ‘military operation on the island’ and ‘development of an adequate paramilitary force outside of Cuba.’ In April 1961, under President Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs invasion was launched and crushed by the Cuban revolutionary forces: the first defeat of US imperialism in the western hemisphere.
Even this brief history makes clear that real solidarity between the peoples of Cuba and Syria is that which upholds a respect for national sovereignty and peace. It is not that of the power fantasies of the corrupt and well-fed mercenaries of US interests and personal privilege. ‘To coordinate all…political, diplomatic, logistic and humanitarian efforts in pursuit of the liberation of Cuba and Syria’ – this is indeed a lofty ideal, and one that is being pursued, not by the pro-imperialists, but by the Cuban Revolution and ALBA countries which have ranged themselves firmly on the side of non-intervention and self-determination for the oppressed. The Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, with Cuba and Venezuela in the lead, has since 2004 been the driving force for social change in Latin America, providing a concrete alternative to over a century of US exploitation and plunder. It is based on the ‘principles of self-determination, solidarity, social justice and complementary economic planning for sustained integration’ (see Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227). Those elements of the Syrian opposition which seek alliance not with the human, internationalist example of the Cuban Revolution and ALBA, but with its fiercest enemies, expose themselves as the tools of the same imperialist intrigue which has left its bloody marks over Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Honduras, Haiti, Guatemala and countless other countries in both the Middle East and Latin America over the past 60 years.