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Cuba: Canada's Last Hope for an Independent Foreign Policy

By MURRAY DOBBIN, Jun. 11, 2004

Prime Minister Paul Martin chatted with George W. Bush at the G8 meeting this week and apparently talked about the same old topic - American bullying on the trade front - with predictable results. What he should have added to the list was the U.S. plan for military action against Cuba.

What plan, you ask? Good question. And it is one that Martin and his policy advisors and foreign affairs analysts ought to be asking themselves right now. Given the unending foreign policy catastrophe of Iraq, rational thinking would suggest that such a question need not even be posed. But rational thinking in the White House is an oxymoron. These people are not humbled or chastened by defeat - they seem emboldened by it.

While Martin can put his hands over his eyes on Iraq and hope it goes away because his predecessor made the key decision, he won't be able to do so with Cuba.

And he has a further problem. While he is desperate to please the U.S., and is under unrelenting pressure from the Bay Street's Canadian Council of Chief Executives (C.C.C.E.) to do whatever the U.S. asks, Martin is sitting on a long-standing Canadian policy regarding Cuba, a policy that differs dramatically from that of the U.S. Indeed, our Cuba policy is the single most dramatic expression of Canadian foreign policy independence. Will Paul Martin simply jettison this policy to please George W. Bush and C.C.C.E. president, Tom d'Aquino?

Would Bush actually invade Cuba or is he just playing tough guy to ensure he scoops Florida in the November election? What seems inconceivable is tragically quite possible given recent moves by Bush and his cabal of 'regime-changers.' They have already implemented moves that are clearly in violation of international law and transparently designed to provoke Cuba into an action that can be spun to justify an attack.

Bush has implemented a whole series of provocative actions on the advice of a Commission on Free Cuba. One of the most provocative initiatives, among many, is Bush's decision for an immediate deployment of the C-130 'Commando Solo' airborne platform, in coordination with the Office of Cuba Broadcasting for weekly airborne radio and T.V. transmissions into Cuba. In the medium term, the U.S. is to establish a 'dedicated airborne platform for full-time transmission of Radio and T.V. Martí into Cuba.'

If Paul Martin is serious about his promise to establish Canada's place in international affairs, a good start would be a phone call to Bush expressing concern about his deliberately provocative moves. If he does not, here is the scenario that Martin may face sooner rather than later. According to Halifax-based Cuba scholar and author Isaac Saney the plan for a broadcasting platform is an 'act patently illegal under international law, violating various treaties constituting a deliberate provocation aimed at creating the pretext for a military strike.' Cuba would be perfectly within its rights to shoot down any of these planes if they violate Cuban air space, as such a violation is an act of war in international law. That, of course, is exactly what the Bushites want.

What has Cuba done to bring on this renewed threat of U.S. military action? Nothing but having the misfortune of being the key issue for a powerful minority of Cuban exiles in Florida. That Bush caters to these thugs and terrorists is just one more piece of evidence that he does not really care that much about terrorism unless it serves his predetermined foreign policy objectives. If you doubt this, then you missed the T.V. broadcast of a speech given by Bush in Florida on May 20, 2002. On the platform behind Bush as one of his invited guests was none other than Cuban exile Sixto Reinaldo Aquit Manrique, a convicted terrorist and unrepentant advocate for violent regime change.

Perhaps the other reason George W. wants to end the Communist regime is that it has embarrassed the U.S. for so many years regarding its incredible achievements in human development even in the face of one of history's most ruthless embargoes. Cuba nearly matches the U.S. on a whole range of U.N. human development indexes; it sometimes surpasses it. While the U.S. has trouble graduating 85 per cent of its youth from high school, Cuba comes in at 99 per cent. Its student/teacher ratio is 12/one, less than half that of the U.S. Despite doing literally everything the U.S.-dominated World Bank says developing countries should not do, the Bank felt obliged to laud Cuba: 'Cuba has done a great job on education and health, [surpassing all other poor countries]' says Bank president James Wolfensohn.

Whatever the diagnosis of Bush and America's anti-Cuba pathology, Canada has proudly avoided contracting it. If Paul Martin is still prime minister after the election, he needs to let Bush know that Canada does not support regime change in Cuba. And he needs to do it before U.S. troops are mobilized, not after.