Unsound excuses


Heavy equipment outside the US Embassy in Havana, between hurricanes

People have been asking me to write more about our recovery from Hurricane Irma, and I will, but first I want to say something about the other storm – the political one that blew through on Friday when Rex Tillerson announced that the State Department would be withdrawing all non-essential staff from the US Embassy in Havana, and urged Americans not to travel here, due to health problems resulting from mysterious alleged “acoustic attacks” on US diplomats.

If you want my honest opinion, the whole thing is nonsense. I certainly don’t mean to sound callous or unkind to any diplomats who may be suffering from health problems after working here, especially considering that some are personal friends. But consider a few things.

  1. We have heard no first-hand confirmation directly from any of the diplomats or their families regarding the “attacks” (What were they like? How did they unfold? What is the current state of their health, and prognosis? Will they now be saddled with a pre-existing condition?). We are simply left to take the State Department’s word for it. It’s ludicrous to think this is simply because it is a matter of medical privacy, in an environment where evidence of Cuban (or Russian) misbehavior is a financial goldmine. Where are the press? Why are they treating the whole thing so gingerly, behaving more like stenographers than actual investigative reporters? If you ask me, true investigative reporting is dead, but that’s another issue for another day.
  2. How many diplomats have abandoned the US Embassy in Havana since last November’s election, for natural reasons? The ambassador hightailed it out of here in July without bothering to wait for a replacement, after all. Everything I have heard and read suggests that the State Department is a ghost town. Might the Embassy already be a ghost town as well, with this story providing a convenient cover to leave it that way?
  3. In classic act first, investigate later (or not at all) fashion, Trump has stayed true to form, but everything points to this being a predetermined scenario to justify something that had already been decided, and not necessarily by Trump, but by the anti-Cuban troglodytes surrounding him. (Who couldn’t care less about Trump, by the way – Matt Taibbi’s description of Trump as “not the insurgent rebel any more, but a Caesar surrounded by knives” is particularly apt.) The monopolists in Miami who began to see their empires crumble with Obama’s opening are aching to turn back the clock. Whether they were dissatisfied with the bone tossed to them by Trump in June, and looking for more, or this was simply the second shoe to drop in a methodical plot planned from the outset is immaterial. The damage is done.

As for me, the damage at the moment is palpable. The media show in Miami in June was already a setback – fear is absolutely deadly to business, and I spent a fair amount of time calming people’s nerves and assuring them that Trump’s changes were totally insignificant as far as business is concerned. But if June was a chill, September was a blizzard. Again, nothing has really changed materially (see #2 above), but perception is reality, and that’s a different challenge altogether.

Take the 30,000 foot view, as objectively as possible, and you can appreciate the diabolical cleverness of it all. The Cubans were put in an impossible position: that of proving a negative. Diplomatically, they had no choice but to play along but they were being hustled down a dead-end street. In the end, I predict the matter will never be resolved, but the suspicion will remain, like mist in the air, and always hovering over the Cubans, never the other way around.

Last night Alien: Covenant screened on state-run TV. If you haven’t seen it, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by revealing the scene near the beginning where an astronaut unwittingly tramples some microscopic spores that then float heavenward. Through some magical endoscopic camera work we get a close up view of their passage down the astronaut’s ear canal, where they burrow into his eardrum and disappear. I didn’t watch much more. I presume an alien eventually makes an explosive entrance.

But I did think: what brilliant timing. Because for all the evidence we’ve been given, the culprit in this case may actually have been microscopic spores. Until I hear a more convincing explanation, that’s what I’m going with, though naturally for my friends’ sake I hope there’s no gestating alien.


2 Replies to “Unsound excuses”

  1. This is spot-on, Walter. How ridiculous to issue a travel advisory claiming that Cuba is dangerous, when there is still no evidence that anyone other than a few diplomats had an issue. Surely Trump and Tillerson were looking for a way to appease Marco and erase Obama detente.

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