Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dodd has at least one really good idea...

Few things could do more to raise the stature of the United States Government and allay well-grounded fears of US hegemony held by most of the people of Latin America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean than a strong assertion that Americans will pull back from almost five decades of futility, that we will abandon the Cuba Travel Ban and Embargo.

The embargo has been the source of almost unanimous international criticism. Annual votes in the United Nations General Assembly--friend and foe alike--that call on the U.S. to lift its sanctions pass with exceptionally large margins (173 to 3 in 2002; 179 to 4 in 2004). In the 2006 vote, only the U.S., Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau voted against the resolution.

These policies do us no good at all. They persuade peoples and leaders all over our special sphere of interest--and clearly waning--influence that we are simply going to ignore any country that doesn't tag along on our assertion that Cuba is a "Sponsor of Terrorism".

It's transparent: American politicians look at the financial and voting support that a group of skilled and experienced haters in South Florida control. And they go there--Dem and GOP alike--slobbering all over the emigre Cubans (or the remnant of the once-overpowering first generation) promising to be Tougher than Thou on the 11 million Cubans.

A fair assessment is that the pivotal role of Florida in Presidential elections is the sole reason we continue and increase self-defeating policies on Cuba and the Cuban people.

Few events in this political season have been as interesting as the recent press conference in Miami, given by Connecticut Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd.

He lays out a plan for 1. Ending the embargo, 2. Ending the travel ban, 3. Establishing diplomatic relations. His rationale is purely pragmatic, aimed at undoing 45 years of policy that has been demonstrably counter-productive, replacing it with one that is likely to have much more influence on the Cuban people and their desire to control their own sovereignty.

Dodd's 30 minute appearance--half of it a prepared speech, the rest, questions posed by the full range of Miami and Caribbean and Latin American journalists, many of whom appeared to be aggressively skeptical of Dodd and his Cuba platform plank--is an uncommonly contrarian view.

It's really a treat to see an American politician answer about a third of the questions which were posed in Spanish (for broadcast and reportage in Spanish throughout the Spanish-speaking part of our hemisphere) in his own fluent Spanish. Dodd spent two years in the Dominican Republic as a Peace Corps Volunteer after college. His advocacy of this radical about-face on Cuba is nothing new. He has advocated it for decades. And it is a bold step to make it one of his principal issues as a candidate for the Democratic nomination.

Dodd, of course, has no chance of nomination, and carries some pretty toxic water on behalf of another group--AIPAC--that controls lots more votes and money than Cuban embargo supporters.

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.