Sunday, October 17, 2004

# Posted 1:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CUBA LIBRE: In a brief post I put up while in Vegas, I mocked the decision of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) to allow Cuban "scholars" to present their research at LASA's recent conference.

There is more to the story, however. As it turns out, there were no Cuban presentations at the conference because the State Department refused to let the Cuban presenters into the country. Moreover, according to a colleague of mine who is quite fair-minded, a fair number of the Cubans are serious scholars, even though others are unofficial propagandists.

If the State Department were smarter, it would have welcomed the opportunity to let the Cubans show themselves for what they are. Instead, it provided the pro-Cuban Americans at the conference another chance to vent their (self-)righteous indignation.

On the second day of the conference, I attended a panel on US-Latin American relations since the end of the Cold War. During his presentation, Prof. Philip Brenner of American University declared that what the United States really hates about Cuba is the fact it has "stood up with dignity" to American efforts at domination.

Whoa. Let me say that again. Whoa. Apparently, Brenner has a bad habit of making such remarks. On Sept. 6, 2001, Brenner suggested to his class that "perhaps Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are only bad from a Western perspective. Think about it." After the September 11th attacks, Brenner suggested that the US had also committed massive acts of terror.

Anyhow, the only one who came close to contradicting Brenner's remarks about Cuba was his colleague from American University, Dr. Robert Pastor. Pastor happens to have been the National Security Council's director for Latin American Affairs during the Carter Administration.

I think that Pastor would have kept quiet if not for Brenner's effort to directly provoke him by insisting that even the Carter Administration was blindly committed to humiliating Cuba at any cost. Pastor sharply and persuasively responded that Carter did his best to improve relations with Havana, but made it very clear to Fidel Castro that if he dispatched another Cuban expeditionary force to Africa, the Carter administration would not be the least bit forgiving.

Fidel sent the expeditionary force and Carter called off the pursuit of detente. As Pastor observed, America extended its hand in friendship, but Cuba consciously chose to slap it down.

So, in conclusion, what you really need to know about LASA is that its most jingoistic, right-wing members tend to be former officials in the Carter administration.
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