An article published on June 16 in the New York Jewish Daily Forward, and signed by Armstrong T. Fulton, former senior adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman and former U.S. national intelligence officer for Latin America, argues against Washington’s duplicitous policy regarding the negotiations to obtain the liberation of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, prisoner of the Taliban forces in Afghanistan, and of U.S. mercenary Alan Gross, who has been in prison in Havana for four and a half years as part of his sentence for proven crimes against the national security of the Cuban state.
“The activities Gross was conducting in Cuba when he was arrested at the end of 2009 were instigated, approved and fully funded by the U.S. government as part of the $45 million-a-year core of the Bush administration’s Cuba regime-change strategy. Washington cannot hide from that responsibility any more than it could deny that Bergdahl was an American soldier.
Armstrong believes that “the Cuban government arrested and convicted Gross for three main reasons: through his work in the “democracy-promotion program,” he violated Cuban law (and, as his trip reports made clear, knew he was doing so); Havana wanted to rein in activities similar to his, and the Cuban government, believing President Obama’s early rhetoric about a “new beginning” in bilateral relations, saw an opportunity to force Washington to engage in credible dialogue.”
With such actions, the Obama “administration rejected the Cuban objectives. It denigrated Cuban laws — even though a Cuban government agent would face serious charges if caught in the United States setting up sophisticated covert communications networks, as Gross was doing in Cuba.”
“After initially undertaking a series of reforms to clean up the regime-change programs against Cuba, Obama yielded to the pressure from the handful of Cuban-American legislators who want the operations to be as provocative and well-funded as possible,” Armstrong said.
“So, despite some possibly questionable personal behavior, Bergdahl comes home in exchange for five pretty tough Taliban commanders, but Gross sits and waits. How could the administration negotiate with a group like the Taliban but give Cuba, which poses no threat to the United States, a sharp elbow in the face.” Fulton asks?
“There are, of course, many differences between Bergdahl and Gross,” says the former high-ranking intelligence officer. “One wears a photogenic military uniform with an American flag on the shoulder, the other a ‘guayabera’ in need of ironing. One is a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, the other a civilian subcontractor. One was in the custody of terrorists known for cutting off limbs and committing torture, the other in the custody of a government we don’t like, in a prison hospital and with good medical care.”
According to Armstrong, “the arguments on their behalf in Washington, have also been radically different: Bergdahl’s advocates emphasized that a man should never be left behind by the military and that the administration should bring him home. Gross’s strongest advocates in Congress –the people who defend his secret activities and stridently demand his unconditional, unilateral release– have opposed negotiations and forcefully urged ramping up the regime-change programs to provoke Havana. (Senator Patrick Leahy is the outstanding exception; he’s called the programs “nuts” and suggested we talk to the Cubans.)
But Armstrong acknowledges that “the similarities between them are more important. Both were carrying out operations approved by, and on behalf of, the U.S. government. Both knew the risk of jail or, worse, that they were running as U.S. agents and both knew the limitations of what the government could do to help them. Both accepted special payments or allowances for that risk. Both were obviously conducting activities intended to undermine the legitimacy and authority of their captors.”
Armstrong asks and answers: “Why exclude Gross from this solemn contract? Because he wasn’t a full-time government employee? Because some in Washington don’t want to see progress in US relations with Cuba? The Cubans are tough, focused and (like us) often infuriatingly concerned about appearing weak. But they’re smart, know that our two countries’ interests can be served by the give-and-take of negotiations and have a good reputation for carrying out agreements.”
June 21, 2014.
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs4095.html