Alexander Cockburn: The CIA failed to kill Castro. But the man himself
is succeeding in assassinating his own reputation
By Alexander Cockburn
LAST UPDATED 7:33 AM, SEPTEMBER 17, 2010
Some world leaders mature as they head into the sunset: Jimmy Carter
often makes more sense in his eighties than he did as president nearly
four decades ago. Others spare the world their midnight thoughts, not
always voluntarily. Ronald Reagan succumbed to Alzheimer's; Ariel Sharon
is still animate, albeit effectively dead to the world.
Alas, Fidel Castro only broke an arm and a kneecap when he tripped on
that fateful concrete step six years ago. Would that he had bitten off
his tongue and thus spared his erstwhile admirers, myself included, the
sound of this once great revolutionary plunging into kookdom.
If President Raul Castro wants to defend Cuba's record on human rights,
all he needs to do is point to the fact that his older brother has not
been deposed from his formal position as First Secretary of the
Communist Party and carted off to an isolation ward in the Casa de
Dementes, Havana's psychiatric hospital.
Instead he has unstinted access to the state radio and the Communist
Party newspaper Granma. In both of these media, Castro, now 84, has
spouted a steady stream of drivel.
Memorable among these forays was his outburst of conspiracism on the
sixth anniversary of the World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks, with the
whole slab of nonsense read out by a Cuban television presenter.
More recently, in early August, Castro touted to his audience in Cuba
and across the world his sympathy with one of the standard mantras of
nutdom - the belief that the world is run by the Bilderberg Club.
The 84-year-old former Cuban president published an article on August
18, spread across three of the eight pages of Granma, quoting in extenso
from the Lithuanian-born writer Daniel Estulin's 2006 book, The Secrets
of the Bilderberg Club.
This alleges that the Bilderbergers (past members include Henry
Kissinger and David Rockefeller) control everything, which must mean
that they pack a lot into the three-day session the Club holds each year
as its sole public activity. Of course, they probably skype each other a
lot too and rot out their brains plotting and planning on their cell phones.
On the evidence of his borrowed quotes, Castro is much taken by
Estulin's view that members of the Marxist Frankfurt School such as
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, who fled to the US from the Nazis
before World War Two, had been recruited by the Rockefellers to
popularise rock music to "control the masses" by seducing them from the
fight for civil rights and social justice.
According to Estulin, reverently quoted by Castro, "The man charged with
ensuring that the Americans liked the Beatles was Walter Lippmann himself".
So Fidel Castro believes that the Beatles were invented by the
Bilderberg Club, and that Walter Lippmann, the pundit who drafted
President Wilson's Fourteen Points in 1918, crowned his
literary/political career in 1968 by sending John Lennon the lyrics for
Revolution, with its demobilising message: "You say you want a
revolution /Well, you know /We all want to change the world /… But when
you talk about destruction /Don't you know that you can count me out."
And now Castro's latest outing into political asininity has been to give
an interview to Jeffrey Goldberg, of the Atlantic, allowing the man
Castro cordially describes as "a great journalist" to cite him as saying
that the Cuban economic model has been a disaster.
Goldberg is an appalling journalist, whose most notable achievement was
to run an enormous piece in the New Yorker in the run-up to the invasion
of Iraq in 2003, which was one of the most effective exercises in
disinformation designed to stoke up the Congress and public opinion in
favour of the war. The piece was billed as containing disclosures of
"Saddam Hussein's possible ties to al Qaeda".
This was at a moment when the FBI and CIA had
just shot down the war party's claim of a meeting between Mohammed Atta
and an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague before the 9/11 attacks.
Goldberg saved the day for the Bush crowd. At the core of his rambling,
16,000-word article was an interview conducted in prison in the
Kurdish-held Iraqi town of Sulaimaniya with Mohammed Mansour Shahab, who
offered the eager Goldberg a wealth of detail about his activities as a
link between Osama bin Laden and the Iraqis, shuttling arms and other
The piece was gratefully seized upon by the Bush administration as proof
of The Link.
The coup de grace to Goldberg's credibility came on February 9, 2003 in
the London Observer, administered by reporter Jason Burke.
Burke visited the same prison in Sulaimaniya, talked to Shahab and
established beyond doubt that Goldberg's great source was a clumsy liar,
not even knowing the physical appearance of Kandahar, whither he claimed
to have journeyed to deal with bin Laden. Shahab had confected his
fantasies in the hope of a shorter prison sentence.
Needless to say, Burke's demolition was not picked up in the US press,
nor has the New Yorker ever apologised for Goldberg's story.
Since Castro has been sounding tremendous alarums about a possible
attack on Iran, it's bizarre to find him lofting Goldberg, a former
member of the Israeli Defence Force, to the journalistic pantheon and
taking pains to paint his fellow 9/11 conspiracist, president
Ahmadinejad of Iran, as an anti-Semite.
Some on the left see Castro's deprecating remarks about the failure of
the Cuban economic model as part of a tactical manoeuvre to help his
brother institute the "reforms" that will see somewhere between half a
million and a million Cubans lose their jobs.
I see it as a spectacularly foolish misjudgment by Castro, who told
Goldberg, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore" and later
said he was misinterpreted and that he meant the exact opposite, which
is obvious nonsense.
Then Castro took Goldberg to – of all disgusting things – a dolphin
Lock the old fool up I say, free the dolphins and turn the exhibition
into a theme park for all the CIA's efforts to kill Castro, including
booby-trapping a coral reef. The ironies of history: the CIA failed, and
here's Castro taking up the task, methodically assassinating his
reputation, week after week.