The conclusion of a most successful workshop“Thinking about and understanding policy” jointly organized by PORAD and the Open University of the UK. @MFA
Professor Mekonen Haddis
The conclusion of a most successful workshop“Thinking about and understanding policy” jointly organized by PORAD and the Open University of the UK. @MFA
Professor Mekonen Haddis
Cuba: Notes on a History of Best Intentions
The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship….every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba. If such a policy is adopted, it should be the result of a positive decision which would call forth a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.
-Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Lester D. Mallory.
In his Dec. 17, 2014 statement calling for normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Barak Obama paused to speak directly to the Cuban people. “We believe that you should be empowered to live with dignity and self-determination,” he said. No mention was made of Lester D. Mallory. 
Even while strenuously working to destroy the Cuban revolution, US presidents like to say that Cubans should decide their own future. But what if the Cuban people decided to choose communism?
Alluding to the sordid history of US efforts to dissuade Cubans from choosing communism, Obama said that it was all “rooted in the best of intentions.” Here is an example of one of those best intentions.
The Cuban project
From the early 1960s, sabotage and terrorist attacks against Cuba were carried out as direct action by the US government such as the guerrilla offensive in the Escambray Mountains in 1960 organized by the CIA. When it failed, the Eisenhower administration decided to arm and train an exile invasion force to land at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961.
After that failed, a more ambitious program of sabotage and political propaganda continued under the Cuban Project (Operation Mongoose), begun by order of President John F. Kennedy in November 1961. The operation was led by Air Force General Edward Lansdale and directed by Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. The objective was “to help the Cubans overthrow the Communist regime from within Cuba and institute a new government with which the United States can live in peace.” 
Although the schedule of actions required precision planning and execution with little room for error, Lansdale acknowledged that “We still know too little about the real situation inside Cuba,” but the Project went forward anyway into official uncertainty.
The Project’s central strategy was the promotion of civil discontent and social upheaval that would lead to a coup, a provisional government and US intervention. The United States would be justified in intervening militarily because of having suffered “justifiable grievances” from the false-flag operations it would have set in motion.
Lansdale’s counterrevolutionary plan – intentionally or not – mimicked the revolutionary strategy of Fidel Castro’s July 26 Movement. Both are based on winning popular support through “a strongly motivated political action movement”; a military arm (“an action arm for sabotage and armed resistance”) and communication with the population (“its own voice for psychological operations”).
Success depended on “the sympathetic support of the majority of the Cuban people” to set in motion the events leading to a revolt and foreign (US) intervention. Nevertheless, the plan recognized that such a popular movement did not exist and would have to be created by outside pressures to weaken the economy and enrage the population. Thus, “the political actions will be assisted by economic warfare to include an embargo and sabotage of Cuba’s sugar crop starting in 1961, to induce failure of the Communist regime’s ability to supply Cuba’s economic needs.” This was the Lester D. Mallory prescription.
To soften up Cuba for the Mongoose attack, the Joint Chiefs of Staff planned Operation Northwoods, which was an anthology of bizarre and odious false-flag operations designed to create real or faked terrorist incidents that would justify armed invasion. Northwoods was never implemented, but just think how the United States would suffer Lansdale’s planned “justifiable grievances” if one of these cunning plans had been carried out:
We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba. We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated).
Of course, any real Cuban killed in any of these operations would not be “empowered to live with dignity.”
Because of the intelligence failures in planning for the Bay of Pigs invasion, the new project called for the CIA to find hard information from Cuban exiles arriving in Miami. The CIA will recruit assets from among these Cubans at the Opa-locka Interrogation Center in Miami. The lack of available “political action agents” – saboteurs, assassins and other operatives – necessary for operations inside Cuba, led the CIA to recruit 30 candidates from among Cuban exiles. These were necessary to set up 20 bases inside Cuba to foment the required “popular movement.”
“The climactic moment of revolt,” in Lansdale’s fabricated popular movement of Cubans deciding their own destiny, was to be the point at which they would react in anger to some government action or process brought about by the Project – open revolt would follow. The “popular rebellion” would then take and hold areas of the country giving “the free nations of the Western Hemisphere” the opportunity to offer assistance.
Cubans and populations of other Latin American nations were to be enlisted in the Project by closely identifying the Soviet Union with the Cuban government. The CIA was to generate public demonstrations in Latin America against a Sovietized Cuba with the help of psychological operations funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The world outside of Cuba would be encouraged to view actions of the Cuban government as “foreign tyranny” imposed by the Soviet Union on a puppet government. In this way, the Project would redefine the Cuban revolution as an issue of the Cold War and accuse the Soviet Union with doing exactly what the United States was planning to do to Cuba.
Lansdale issued a follow-up report on February 20, 1962, proposing a more elaborate and meticulous timetable culminating in the overthrow of the Cuban government in October 1962. It ran from “Phase I, Action, March 1962. Start moving in,” to “Phase VI, Final, during month of October 1962. Establishment of new government.”
There you have it — just eight months to empower Cubans into a new government.
In the process, the plan lays out schedules for sabotage, radio propaganda, development of an underground, insertion of freedom fighters from abroad (Hungary, Poland, Latin America) and assassination of top Cuban leaders.
The United States would quickly grant recognition to a provisional government, “To give legality to the moral right of the Cuban revolt.” There would be an interregnum of indefinite length, presumably under US command.
The detailed schedule was of course never followed because of the ensuing missile crisis in October, but the general outlines of the Project will show up in a more political form in the 1996 Helms-Burton Act and reworked again in the proposals for Assistant to a Free Cuba during the George W. Bush administration.
Manuel Hevia, director of the history section of the Cuban State Security Archives, said in a 2002 radio interview that Mongoose was not suspended after the Missile Crisis but was “liquidated as a subversive operation by our people, even without knowing the name with which our enemies had baptized it.”
Lansdale’s expectation that a popular rebellion in Cuba could be manufactured lived on after the Project was dropped in the form of “democracy promotion” through funding of civil society organizations and the creation of a paid dissident movement. The George W. Bush administration reworked the theme that the United States did not intend to overthrow the Cuban government, but that the Cuban people would one day do it in the name of freedom and democracy.
Death by illusion
Had the Lansdale plan been fully successful and had Fidel Castro been ousted and assassinated, it would have been regime change by manipulation of illusions. Cubans and friendly countries would have had to believe that the Cuban revolution was a fiction disguising the expansion of international communism.
There is nothing in the thinking of Lansdale and the Joint Chiefs about what Cuba actually is — its history, culture and aspirations. Even what Cubans thought about their country was to be invented in Washington and pasted on the cardboard Cubans of Washington’s imagination.
In a sense, the US government and mass media have refused to acknowledge that there is a real country named Cuba. They deny the existence of the real country while forging elaborate plans to “free” the imagined one, where imagined Cubans are to be manipulated like pieces on a board game.
And what about the future for the Cubans Obama wants to empower? In 1988, Fidel Castro addressed the question of how some future renewed diplomatic relations might play out:
Even if one day, relations between socialist Cuba and the empire improve, that will not cause that empire to give up its idea of crushing the Cuban Revolution, and they do not hide it. Their theoreticians will explain it; the defenders of the imperial philosophy will explain it. There are some who say it is better to make certain changes in policy toward Cuba in order to penetrate it, to weaken it, to destroy it, if possible even peacefully.
1 Use of the word “empowerment” should probably be avoided. Anne-Emanuèle Calvès surveyed the term’s erosion: “It has come to equate power with individual and economic decision-making; it has de-politicized collective power into something seemingly harmonious; and has been employed to legitimize existing top-down policies and programs.” Anne-Emanuèle Calvès, “Empowerment: The History of a Key Concept in Contemporary Development Discourse,” Revue Tiers Monde, 4/2009 (No 200), p. 735-749,
2 Program Review by the Chief of Operations, Operation Mongoose (Lansdale), U.S., Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States 1961-1963, Volume X Cuba, 1961-1962, Washington, DC, 18 January 1962.
Robert Sandels writes on Cuba and Mexico. Nelson P. Valdés is Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of New Mexico.
Xi and Francis Expose US Nihilism: Rendezvous With Destiny
The two visits were not planned to coincide, yet they serve as book-ends between which US world policies stand exposed as the militarily dominant but emotionally-spiritually crippled hegemon thrashes about desperately seeking to hold on to its unilateral privileged status. American-sponsored (and defined) globalization no longer carries conviction among the peoples of the world, its very emphasis on the arrogance of power revealing the Leviathan has feet of clay. Of the two, Xi and Francis, it is the latter who poses an immediate, the former a more long-range, threat to American supremacy and smugness.
US certitude of its exceptionalism and greatness, license to act with impunity in international relations and on behalf of concentrated financial-industrial wealth domestically, faces a single voice of humility, but behind that, giving it cogency and power, the yearning of the world’s millions for peace on earth, the conservation of the planet, and the raising of living standards worldwide (not the sort of globalization America envisions!). Francis values the ascetic mental cast, which clashes directly with unrestrained capitalism; and whether he is too polite to say it directly on his visit, the anti-capitalist core of his pastoral message to America is loud and clear. His visit to Cuba did not provide a mouthpiece for regime change, much as the American media and US government sought to parse his words to come up with that conclusion. Whatever the differences between socialism and Catholicism in the past, they are being made aware of their commonality of interests by headlong pace of American capitalism to broadcast and expand its essential nihilism to all and sundry, whereby profit and cynicism and the abandonment of all moral obligation rule the roost, a steadily hardening amorality subjecting its own citizens and others to a corporatist framework in which society shall be hierarchically-arranged to suit the needs and ambitions of business.
The world sees this, and from another quarter, China sees this, fueling Xi’s confidence that America is incapable any longer of rational planning and discourse, thinking itself invulnerable under its nuclear umbrella. China, meanwhile, lives in the real world of constructing the social organization needed to serve a tremendous population heretofore existing under Third World conditions—patently, the economic miracle of our time. Xi, far more than Mao, is on top of the seemingly inevitable confrontation with America, inevitable because the latter’s exceptionalism has made socialism and even democratic working-class rights short of that anathema to the US psychology (read, ideology in petrified form) set on the superiority of capitalism as a closed system of values and practices. The US is not used to being talked back to, much less a counter-example and alternative modal pattern of development, which together demonstrate America’s basic thrust of wealth inequality, ethnic and racial tensions, and an internal regimen of massive surveillance, all indicative of a structural-cultural path toward fascism.
Neither Xi nor Francis has to be explicit on this direction, the US is doing that for them; but only the politically-morally blind ignore the living refutation each represents to the American social order. Let’s start with Francis, who, in his first social encyclical, Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home, (June 18), presents anti-capitalism not in Marxian prose and analysis, but in homiletic terms which nonetheless carry the same punch. He fuses concern over climate change with an indictment of poverty, granted, an indirect castigation of capitalism, yet as one looks closer, an additive process of moral scorn which relates the degradation of humanity and the environment to a common source, the deification of wealth and privilege. In his remarks at the White House ceremony today marking his visit (Sept. 23), preceded by Obama’s insipidity claiming their agreement on basic issues, Francis does not tip his hand on the other’s hypocrisy concerning treatment of the poor or climate change—as though both were walking on egg shells—but the record speaks loud and clear.
Let’s start with Laudato Si, and let the reader imagine Obama saying, believing, and acting upon the same statements. This first batch derives from June 18, and from there I’ll add more recent statements:
“We have to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
“Whatever is fragile like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified
“An integral ecology includes taking time to reflect on our lifestyle and our ideals.”
More recently, Francis said on July 2, “A great challenge: stop ruining the garden which God has entrusted to us so that we may enjoy it.” On July 15: “Now is the time for a change in mindset and to stop pretending that our actions do not affect those who suffer from hunger.” And on August 25: “A Christian who is attached to riches has lost his way.” This is similar to the Social Gospel and/or Christian Socialism in late 19th century America, albeit, non-revolutionary, eschewing mounting the barricades, yet far to the Left of current American beliefs and growing directly out of Francis’s experience with fascist dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s.
He knows what he is about, and in his references to “a deified market,” “an integral ecology,” and the “garden” facing spoliation, capitalism leaps out before us as the prime candidate for man’s inhumanity to man. Even in his visit to Cuba, the fact that he did not condemn Fidel and Raul must have proven disappointing to the Administration. Xi, on the other hand, is more assertive, for he is prepared to go head-to-head with Obama, who appears psychologically invested in the weakening and isolation of China. Obama readily demonized Putin; Xi appears to be a more elusive target, whose readiness to deal with American business does not fit the stereotype of a Communist devil. Xi arrived in Seattle the same day Francis arrived in Washington, and it would be instructive if both could have a frank discussion in New York about US global hegemony and its consequences for war, intervention, and world poverty, but I fear that will not happen.
We can see an adversarial edge to Xi’s visit, from Obama’s standpoint, from Jane Perlez’s New York Times article, “Xi Jinping Pledges to Work With U.S. to Stop Cybercrimes,” (Sept. 23), in which Xi repudiates US charges and calls for greater cybersecurity. He politely refrains from mentioning the US record on surveillance and eavesdropping, as well as attempts to wreak havoc upon Iran’s nuclear research. Instead, addressing American business executives, he said: “’The Chinese government will not in whatever form engage in commercial theft, and hacking against government networks are crimes that must be punished in accordance with the law and relevant international treaties.’” He added, “’China is ready to set up a high-level joint dialogue mechanism with the United States on fighting cybercrimes.’” An Obama senior China adviser promised “’very robust discussion.’”
Xi expressed confidence in China’s economy, the recent stock market decline being “’only a problem in the course of progress,’” to which his government was taking corrective steps to avoid “’systemic risk.’” Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, and Bill Gates, its founder, sat on either side of Xi’s senior adviser, Li Zhanshu, symbolizing what I believe to be Xi’s strategy of bypassing Washington as hopelessly ideological and connecting up directly with the business leadership. “’We are ready,’” Xi stated, “’to discuss rule-of-law issues with the U.S. side in a spirit of mutual learning for common progress.’” Penny Pritzker, Commerce Secretary, preceded him, warning that he should not expect “his meetings in Washington would be smooth going.” She spoke of “’the lack of a level playing field across a range of sectors.’” What she did not say, of course, is that Obama’s pivot, both his Pacific-first strategy of military containment and his Trans-Pacific Partnership of economic isolation, had put China on notice of America’s geopolitical framework of making China the new focus of a revitalized Cold War.
Whether “Communist” any longer characterizes China’s political economy and social order may be subject to debate, there and elsewhere, but America’s official response goes beyond mistrust to the need to assail an Enemy threatening US global pre-eminence. Ironically, the central issue for America may no longer be capitalism per se, but that which has historically been associated with it: the power to act with impunity in international relations, specifically, market penetration and financial dominance for purely hegemonic as well as capitalist reasons, as though the militarization of America’s world presence would insure against competition or displacement—a fear both Francis and Xi recognize as the US’s motivating force.
My New York Times Comment on the Perlez article, same date, follows:
Sec. Pritzker’s reference to a level playing field translates as a return to the Open Door policies of the late 19th century, when China was weak and could not counter US terms of market penetration. No longer can China be taken for granted as the arena for one-sided business arrangements.
Compared with Obama, Xi is a real mensch–no whining, no ballyhoo, and instead the straightforward analysis of problems. In time, China may well overtake America in economic power. Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has no parallel in the US, as witness the slap on the wrist for GM and its premeditated murder of upwards now of 200 with the defective ignition switch.
Consider the problems facing China and how it is attempting to provide for its huge population via urban resettlement. And consider Obama’s Pacific-first strategy, with carrier battle-groups adjacent to China–a clear act of HOSTILITY, along with the Trans-Pacific Partnership to isolate China, which should make Xi less accommodating to Obama than he is.
We see the paradox where business in America seeks greater reconciliation with China than does government, USG solidly entrenched in Cold War thinking that shows ideology (rigidly maintained) trumps both peace and pragmatism. The administration does not want improvement in relations. It has a vested interest in hate and backwardness. Xi is above such infantilism, and perhaps also are the two business communities.
President Obama one of the finest,gifted, charismatic speakers. Glad you were here in Ethiopia, you have inspired people immensely.
Professor Mekonen Haddis