The Castro Con - March 20, 2001
How much treachery does it take to disqualify one from the prospect of securing a Nobel Peace Prize? These days, apparently none. Yassar Arafat received one. Bill Clinton lobbied for one. And now, of all things, the name of Fidel Castro is being bandied about.
Hallgeir Langeland, a Norwegian politician, recently submitted the Cuban president's name for consideration. It seems that the deconstruction of language has gone global.
The Nobel Peace Prize is an award that is supposed to be conferred upon someone who demonstrates a proclivity to further "peace." A person allied with imprisonment, torture and extinction of an untold number of his own citizens hardly fits the bill. Then again, perverting our sensibilities remains a crusade for many of the world's most prominent leftists.
Castro is best known for gracing his people with cruel and degrading treatment, inhuman living conditions, religious persecution and ideological discrimination. As a world figure, he has fostered the suppression of free speech, assembly and peaceful association. His nation's justice system continues to dole out prison terms for such grave offenses as participation in public meetings, reporting of political events and practicing one's faith.
Abuse, repression and misery have accompanied his tenure. Castro's Cuba is a Stalinist state. The people have no access to unprocessed information about their government. There is little monitoring of human rights abuses. There is no independent press. The government even forbids its own citizens from engaging in business at establishments where contact with foreign tourists might occur.
Still, left-leaning ideologues, particularly in America, routinely fawn over Fidel. Such misguided devotion was on full display during the Elian Gonzalez drama. Then, as now, media elitists defended Castro with fervor and granted him excessive leeway to propagandize our major press outlets. Airbrushed descriptions of the despot continue to appear in respected newspapers and magazines.
A recent Sunday issue of The Chicago Tribune provides a case in point. After a news bureau was opened in Havana, the following headline appeared: "Durable leader shows wit, grasp of details." A reasonable person would generally refrain from using such glowing terms to describe an inveterate dictator.
Are people supposed to forget that this would be-honoree deployed Cuban soldiers to incite communist insurrections in a string of third world countries? Or that, despite thirty years of demands from the U.S. Congress, Cuba has yet to return even one of the 77 federal fugitives the FBI says are being protected by Castro? Arms dealers, swindlers and murderers comprise just a few of Fidel's guarded guests.
Is the public to ignore the fact that in late February of 1996, the international airspace over the Florida Straits was unexpectedly filled with the sounds of Cuban Air Force MIGs shooting at an intended target? Three unarmed civilian planes were attacked that day. Only one escaped harm. Four men were killed for their efforts in a mission for Brothers to the Rescue, a group of pilots who search for asylum seekers lost at sea. In a March 1996 interview with Time magazine, Castro himself said that he gave the Cuban Air Force the authority to shoot down the Brothers' flights. They somehow fell under the "acts of provocation" classification. Evidence from an espionage trial confirmed that premeditation was involved in the decision to shoot.
Should people dismiss the events of July 1994, when a tugboat was attacked and repeatedly rammed by agents of Castro? The small boat eventually sank, but not before high pressure water hoses were turned upon 41 men, women and children so as to ensure their watery demise.
Yes, Fidel Castro deserves recognition, but it is not of the type that great minds and souls have received in the past. He has reached a level of notoriety that few in history can claim. Castro is the antithesis of all things peaceful. The Nobel Peace Prize will suffer a steep loss of credibility if it pursues its current politicized course and, in the process, it will have designated a new venue for its award ceremonies - the theater of the absurd.