By Jane Franklin
MGM has bet millions of dollars that Die Another Day, the latest James Bond film, would find an audience programmed to embrace the idea that a clinic in Cuba could be - and would turn out to be - cover for a terrorist conspiracy. And they won their bet. Dying Another Day has been a box office success and will earn millions more on video.
Sneaking into a Cuban clinic, James Bond - Agent 007 - comes across a mural of Fidel Castro. What is Fidel hiding this time? 007 presses a worn place on the portrait. A hidden door opens and reveals what this clinic really is: a cover for a state-of-the-art laboratory that performs "DNA transfers." Guess what? Cuban scientists have supplied an identity change to the film's main villain, a North Korean whose goal is to take over the world with a weapon of mass destruction.
MGM has bet millions of dollars that Die Another Day, the latest James Bond film, would find an audience programmed to embrace the idea that a clinic in Cuba could be - and would turn out to be - cover for a terrorist conspiracy. Dying Another Day has been a box office success and will earn millions more on video. Critics who complain about the positive view of Fidel Castro featured in two recent documentaries - Comandante, by Oliver Stone, and Fidel, by Estela Bravo - do not seem to be concerned about the grotesque inventions of Die Another Day. Furthermore, the Stone and Bravo documentaries will not be projected on thousands of screens throughout the country, while the millions of people who see Die Another Day perceive an impressive image of Cuban clinics that fits very well in the current campaign to match biotechnology with terrorism.
This campaign is a paradigm of the Washington pattern accusing others of doing what Washington plans to do or has already done. Up to three New York Times reporters - Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad - acknowledge in their 2001 book Germs: Biological Weapons and the United States' Secret War the American contingency plans to use bioterrorism against Cuba soon after. of the revolution in 1959. One of the plans began with a "biological attack against the soldiers and civilians of Cuba." Speaking about these plans in 1999, Bill Patrick, who conducted biological research for two decades at Fort Detrick, Maryland (the main development base for biological warfare), told a military audience: "In a period of three days to a little over two weeks we were going to incapacitate the Cuban population. " He explained that only approximately two percent of Cuba's population of seven million (about 140,000 people) would die, and then "We could invade with our forces and take the country, and that would be it." This seems less unlikely and more frightening when we remember that the plans coincided with President Kennedy's massive use of chemical warfare in Viet Nam, the so-called Operation Hades, later renamed Operation Ranch Worker, which began in 1961. and it continued under Presidents Johnson and Nixon until 1971.
As the Cubans dedicated themselves to developing a system that could provide free health care to those seven million people whose disbarment was being scheduled at Fort Detrick, Washington responded with a total ban on trade, including food and medicine, sanctions that have continued for more than four decades.
The pro-embargo logic forms a vicious and grotesque cycle; Washington bans trade with Cuba, including drugs, forcing Cuba to develop its own advanced biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. Washington then points to that industry as proof of Cuba's ability to develop biological warfare. Washington, therefore, qualifies Cuba as a terrorist nation. In this way, the embargo is not only legitimate, but indispensable.
In 1965 Cuba created the first of its centers for scientific and biomedical research and development. About half of the Cuban doctors had fled the island at the time of the triumph of the revolution. Those who remained were teaching classes and learning the new techniques of a new era. In 1976, in a study called Changes in Health Care in Cuba: An Argument Against Technological Pessimism, United States health specialists came to the conclusion that: "Judging from what has happened in Cuba during the In the past 17 years, we believe that cynicism about humanitarian possibilities must give way to cautious optimism. Our study, "they wrote," has shown that the dehumanizing side effects of bureaucratic institutional care are subject to significant correction in a social context that can respond to such concern. "
Biotechnology took off in Cuba when Cuban scientists produced interferon in just six weeks during a dengue epidemic that was killing dozens of people, many of them children. This was a historic moment, when biotechnology was able to respond to what many believed was American bioterrorism. The suspicion that dengue was introduced into Cuba by the CIA received further credibility three years later through the testimony of the head of one of the most murderous Cuban-American terrorist groups, Eduardo Arocena of Omega 7, during his trial for various accusations, including the murder of a Cuban diplomat in New York. As reported at the time in The New York Times, "Mr. Arocena testified at trial that he had visited Cuba in 1980 in connection with a mission to introduce 'some germs' into the country." The New York Times did not report what Arocena said next: that what he had introduced in Cuba on that mission "produced results that were not what we expected, because we thought they were going to be used against Soviet forces and was used against our own people, and we disagreed with that. "
This testimony is just one example of a large body of evidence that the United States government has carried out multiple chemical and biological attacks in Cuba over decades against people, animals, and plants. In 1982, two years after Arocena's mission, the US State Department placed Cuba on a list of terrorist nations, where it still remains.
Successes such as the production of interferon during an epidemic led to the opening of the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in 1986, which, by the way, has a portrait of Fidel Castro on its walls. The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) evidently thought there were good reasons for such a portrait. In 1988, President Fidel Castro became the only head of state in the world to receive the Health for All medal awarded by the WHO in recognition of what he had done not only in Cuba, but throughout the world. Cuba was the only country that had met the goals set in 1988 and that the WHO hoped that Third World countries could achieve by 2000. Cuba had achieved those goals in 1983. The award was presented again to Fidel Castro in 1998. Among the many reasons for these awards, two should be mentioned (one national and the other international): by 1991 Cuba had more doctors providing aid abroad than the World Health Organization itself; and Cuba's infant mortality rate - that is, the number of babies who die before the age of one year for every thousand live births, decreased from 60 in 1959 to 6.5 in 2002.
Cuba's achievements in biotechnology have received recognition from around the world. For example, in June 2002, the Financial Times of London reported that half of the most promising cancer treatments from a Canadian company came from Cuba and noted that while laboratories in North America and Europe produce poor results, "Cuba is winning a reputation for his talent for drug discovery. "
Once the so-called Cold War ended, Washington could have lifted the sanctions, if only to help preserve Cuba's medical and educational systems. On the contrary, as Cuba's economy collapsed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington increased sanctions with the "Cuban Democracy Law" (the Torricelli law) devised by the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), the group richest Cuban-American and therefore more influential. The goal of the Democracy Law, as explained by its promoter, Rep. Robert Torricelli, is "to create chaos on that island."
The Democracy Law singled out biotechnology by prohibiting all exports "in which the article to be exported can be used in the production of any biotechnological product." Additionally, it prohibits subsidiaries of US companies from trading with Cuba. The evident cruelty of this law motivated many scientists to try to help Cuban clinics and hospitals. The Journal of the Florida Medical Association published in 1994 an article by Dr. Anthony Kirkpatrick that was a call to the conscience of the US health personnel, patiently explaining how sanctions caused death and illness. The March 1995 Scientific American reported that the American Academy of Neurology had sent a letter to President Clinton and every member of Congress urging them to end sanctions against the food and drug trade.
The continuation of this policy aimed at the destruction of the Cuban health system depends on keeping the people of the United States in ignorance. As noted in the 1994 Medical and Health Yearbook of the Encyclopedia Britannica, "In US newspapers, news about Cuba tends to focus on the negative. Meanwhile, the story of one of Cuba's most notable achievements - its extraordinary health care system - hardly mentioned. "
Or it is mentioned insidiously. Look at the vision that comes to our homes and offices. In 1997 an article in US News and World Report mentioned some of Cuba's biotechnological achievements: vaccines against meningitis B and against hepatitis B, streptokinase to dissolve blood clots, an epidermal growth factor for the treatment of burns, diagnostic equipment for the detection in children of various diseases, and so on. But all these achievements are reduced to manifestations of "Castro's ego." The overview is summarized in the title of the article: "The island of Dr. Castro". In case readers are unaware of the allusion, we are told that Cuba's position "on the frontier of biotechnology is a surprise to many scientists and to some it conjures up images of The Island of Dr. Moreau - the macabre story of a mad scientist who creates hybrids of animals and humans on a remote tropical island. "
"The Island of Dr. Castro", like many other articles, fairly accurately reports that Cubans are trying to make biotechnology an important source of income. Biotechnology exports increased in 2001 by 42 percent compared to the previous year. Those products were sold to more than 35 nations. US policy has consistently tried to destroy any industry that makes money for Cuba. In 1960 President Eisenhower abolished the sugar quota; when Cuba turned to tourism after the fall of the Soviet Union, US-based terrorists declared war on tourism and bombed and machine-gunned hotels; When foreign companies formed joint businesses with Cuba, the CANF designed the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 that sought to penalize those who trade with the island.
An endless stream of propaganda presents Cuba's biotech industry as a cover for terrorism. In a spate of such accusations, the Associated Press reported in December 1998 that "Cuba is suspected" of developing biological weapons: "The programs are easily concealed from spy satellites by disguising them as medical research." Two weeks later The New York Times reported that at least 17 nations "are suspected of having or trying to acquire germ weapons." The Times said that some, including Cuba, are also "considered architects of terrorism" - that is, they are on the State Department's list of terrorist nations. Two months later an article was published in The New York Times Review of Books praising Vincent Patrick's novel Smokescreen, which, according to critic James Polk, "satisfies on all novels." The reader can imagine exactly who and to what degree they are satisfied with the argument. "A deadly virus is smuggled into the United States and will be spread by a Cuban scientist, unless the US government bows to Fidel Castro's demands."
Last May, just six days before former President Jimmy Carter arrived in Havana for a scheduled visit, John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, made a speech at the Heritage Foundation that called " Beyond the axis of evil ", adding Cuba, Libya and Syria to the" Axis of evil "of President Bush (Iraq, North Korea and Iran). Bolton announced that "The United States has reason to believe that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort. Cuba has supplied dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states. We are concerned that such technology could be used to support programs. of GB (biological warfare) in those states. " That day and the next, Bolton's comments were broadcast to the world.
But this time something unusual happened. Although some media directly reported the news, ready to demonize Cuba again, others asked: Where is the evidence? The Florida Sun Sentinel brought up the issue of timeliness, following up with an editorial asking "Where's the thing?" New York's Newsday called the terrorism charge an "absurd suggestion," noting that the conclusion is that Cuba possesses "the most sophisticated biomedical resources in Latin America" and added: "So what?" The Guardian of England, noting that Bolton "did not present any evidence to his accusations" warned that "the US threatens to extend its war on terror to Cuba. The Baltimore Sun ran an editorial that said, "It's a tired old political stunt that more and more Americans reject." An editorial in The Chicago Tribune stated that such allegations "offered without a shred of proof" begin "to look like a political stunt."
When Jimmy Carter visited the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana together with Fidel Castro, he made his own announcement: during the briefings before his visit, he asked the White House, the State Department and the CIA if there was any some "possible terrorist activity that was supported by Cuba", and the answer was "No". But the White House doesn't need evidence. If President Bush and his clique do not approve of a government, they can simply declare that the regime has the potential for bioterrorism, since any laboratory has that potential. Like Dr. Joseph Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda, the State Department can rely on the Big Lie Technique: repeat the lie over and over again from a position of power and the message will become engraved in the mind of people. The lie does not go away. It returns in various forms. Last September, The Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady asked "Is Fidel Castro cooking viruses in Cuban laboratories to share them with Islamic fundamentalists?" On Halloween night Otto Reich, a Cuban-American who was then Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs was still embellishing the same indictments before the Heritage Foundation that his Undersecretary Bolton had said five months earlier.
On June 1, 2002 at West Point, George Bush delivered a message to new officers in his imperial army graduating, he said, "in a time of war." He alerted them that, with technology, "even weak states and small groups can gain catastrophic power to attack large nations." He told them: "We must take the battle to the enemy, derail his plans and face the worst threats before they arise." He declared: "Our security will require transforming the military that you will lead - military that must be ready to strike at any moment in any dark corner of the earth."
Will his medical achievements be the ones that make Cuba one of those targets?
* Published in Z Magazine, June 2003
and on The Jane Franklin website