The Great Divide

Correspondence from our readers

Have you absolutely no conscience? New Times has become the embodiment of what it hates and condemns in others.

Ricardo Pau-Llosa
Coral Gables

I carefully read Jim Mullin's article regarding Cuban-exile violence. He advises that "if Miami's Cuban exiles confront this shameful past -- and resolutely disavow it -- they will go a long way toward easing their neighbors' anxiety about a peaceful future."

I survive in the same community as my neighbors. I have a hunch, not a dream, that nonpolitical criminal activity causes my neighbors far more anxiety about a peaceful future than the demonstrators, overwhelmingly peaceful, recently conducted by the Cuban-exile community. Yet the real issue is to what extent civil disobedience or violent activities of a political nature can be morally justified.

Blocking bridges during rush hour, quite simply, is not morally abhorrent. It is just inefficient political action. On the other hand, the Nazi gas chambers were almost conclusively efficient but morally abhorrent, in the extreme. The Allied fire-bombing of Cologne, which was of no military value whatsoever and where some 80,000 civilians were incinerated, was also very efficient. But it would have been morally preferable to use those same bombs to destroy the train tracks leading to the death camps.

Mullin's long litany of exile violence begins with Dr. Orlando Bosch's bazooka assault upon a Polish freighter in 1968. Pointing out that he is a pediatrician has the effect of suggesting to your readers that if a pediatrician, of all people, could do that, what can we expect morally and intellectually from the rest of them? Perhaps Mullin has never met Dr. Bosch. He should. I think he would be impressed.

That year -- 1968 -- was a great one for violence. Under the color of law (the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed on evidence manufactured by the White House and for which President Johnson should have been impeached if discovered), B-52s and operatives of the Phoenix Program were indiscriminately and selectively murdering mostly innocent and unarmed civilians throughout Vietnam. If U.S. citizens had "resolutely disavowed" this "shameful past," would that have kept the U.S. from invading Panama at night by surprise, with the resulting death of several hundred innocent Panamanian civilians? I trust you will agree that if President Bush had ordered a similar action to capture a drug lord in Liberty City, the president and his entire cabinet would have had to tender their resignations (or their heads) the next day.

If U.S. citizens had "resolutely disavowed" their "shameful past," would that have kept the U.S. from carrying out Desert Storm in 1991? In all fairness, the U.N. resolution sufficed to legally justify the slaughter. But was it moral for the U.S. citizenry to celebrate with ticker-tape parades in New York and Washington the fact that they killed 150,000 Iraqi soldiers to "liberate" Kuwait's oil fields? There was nothing else to be liberated. Kuwait was, and still is, a reactionary monarchy.

Back to 1968. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated that same year the Polish freighter took a shot on its side. Since 1962 Bobby had been coordinating from the White House the CIA's secret war against Castro. Hundreds of Cubans were trained, risked their lives, and were often jailed or killed for the sake of liberating their country from a military dictatorship which many, unfortunately, find perfectly acceptable even to this day.

Thus Cuban-exile violence predates Dr. Bosch's bazooka attack by several years. Why didn't Mullin's litany of Cuban-exile violence, justifiably, start from the very beginning, perhaps as early as 1959? The reason is that before 1968 Cuban-exile violence was, in effect, state-sponsored, and therefore no one needed or bothered to raise a moral eyebrow.

Cuban-exile violence does not exist in a vacuum. The nature and extent of that violence has to be evaluated in a broader context, which is that the Cuban nation, both in Cuba and abroad, has been engaged in a low-grade civil war for 41 years. To ignore that historical reality would be intellectually dishonest. This is not to justify indiscriminate violence, which I would define as acts directed against noncombatants, even if they are military personnel. What it should suggest is that when peaceful means of changing any dictatorship are practically nonexistent, violence will be inevitable. Outsiders will view it as unjustified violence only because it is happening within their county's boundaries, a place from which that perceived unjustified violence can be sanctimoniously sanctioned. Oppressed people lack the luxury of such a perspective. Just to compare, I have little doubt the Kuwait monarchs had any moral qualms about the fate of the 150,000 dead Iraqi soldiers.

The Cuban-exile community does not have to disavow its violent past just to make claim to some sort of moral equality with one of the most violent societies and aggressive nations ever to roam the face of the Earth -- namely, these United States. Start with your very own Declaration of Independence and the conclusions just flow, rather naturally. Your pulpit is anchored on that paper.

Personally I don't think violence is radical enough, just stupid. In this world of high tech, it is inefficient and obsolete. But I do not question its morality under certain conditions and when peaceful means of change are denied. Therefore no apologies need be tendered.

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